Ben. What means all this surveying, madam? You bristle up to me, and wheel about me, like a turkey-cock that is making love: Faith, how do you like my person, ha?
Lau. I dare not praise it, for fear of the old compliment, that you should tell me, it is at my service. But, pray, is your name Benito?
Ben. Signior Benito, at your service, madam.
Lau. And have you no brother, or any other of your name; one that is a wit, attending on signior Aurelian?
Ben. No, I can assure your ladyship; I myself am the only wit, who does him the honour,—not to attend him, but—to bear him company.
Lau. But sure it was another you, that waited on Camillo in the garden, last night?
Ben. It was no other me, but me signior Benito.
Lau. 'Tis impossible.
Ben. 'Tis most certain.
Lau. Then I would advise you to go thither again, and look for the wit which you have left there, for you have brought very little along with you. Your voice, methinks, too, is much altered.
Ben. Only a little overstrained, or so, with singing.
Lau. How slept you, after your adventure?
Ben. Faith, lady, I could not sleep one wink, for dreaming of you.
Lau. Not sleep for dreaming? When the place falls, you shall be bull-master-general at court.
Ben. Et tu, Brute! Do you mistake me for a fool too? Then, I find there's one more of that opinion besides my master.
Vio. Sister, look to yourself, my uncle is returning.
Lau. I am glad on't: He has done my business: He has absolutely cured me. Lord, that I could be so mistaken!
Vio. I told you what he was.
Lau. He was quite another thing last night: Never was man so altered in four-and-twenty hours. A pure clown, mere elementary earth, without the least spark of soul in him!
Ben. But, tell me truly, are not you in love with me? Confess the truth: I love plain-dealing: You shall not find me refractory.
Lau. Away, thou animal! I have found thee out for a high and mighty fool, and so I leave thee.
Mar. Come, now I am ready for you; as little devotion, and as much good huswifery as you please. Take example by me: I assure you, nobody debauches me to church, except it be in your company. [Exeunt.
Ben. I am undone for ever; What shall I do with myself? I'll run into some desart, and there I'll hide my opprobrious head. No, hang it, I wont neither; all wits have their failings sometimes, and have the fortune to be thought fools once in their lives. Sure this is but a copy of her countenance; for my heart is true to me, and whispers to me, she loves me still. Well, I'll trust in my own merits, and be confident. [A noise of throwing down water within.
Enter MARIO, FABIO, LAURA, and VIOLETTA.
Lau. [Shaking her clothes.] O, sir, I am wet quite through my clothes, and am not able to endure it.
Vio. Was there ever such an insolence?
Mar. Send in to see who lives there: I'll make an example of them.
Fab. Here is the woman of the house herself, sir.
Fron. Sir, I submit, most willingly, to any punishment you shall inflict upon me: For, though I intended nothing of an affront to these sweet ladies, yet I can never forgive myself the misfortune, of which I was the innocent occasion.
Vio. O, I am ready to faint away!
Fron. Alas, poor sweet lady, she's young and tender, sir. I beseech you, give me leave to repair my offence, with offering myself, and poor house, for her accommodation.
Ben. I know that woman: There's some villanous plot in this, I'll lay my life on't. Now, Benito, cast about for thy credit, and recover all again.
Mar. Go into the coach, nieces, and bid the coachman drive apace. As for you, mistress, your smooth tongue shall not excuse you.
Lau. By your favour, sir, I'll accept of the gentlewoman's civility; I cannot stir a step farther.
Fron. Come in, sweet buds of beauty, you shall have a fire in an inner chamber; and if you please to repose yourself a while, sir, in another room, they shall come out, and wait on you immediately.
Mar. Well, it must be so.
Fron. [Whispering the Ladies.] Your friends are ready in the garden, and will be with you as soon as we have shaken off your uncle.
Ben. A cheat, a cheat! a rank one! I smell it, old sir, I smell it.
Mar. What's the matter with the fellow? Is he distracted?
Ben. No, 'tis you are more likely to be distracted but that there goes some wit to the being mad; and you have not the least grain of wit, to be gulled thus grossly.
Fron. What does the fellow mean?
Ben. The fellow means to detect your villany, and to recover his lost reputation of a wit.
Fron. Why, friend, what villany? I hope my house is a civil house.
Ben. Yes, a very civil one; for my master lay in of his last clap there, and was treated very civilly, to my knowledge.
Mar. How's this, how's this?
Fron. Come, you are a dirty fellow, and I am known to be a person that—
Ben. Yes, you are known to be a person that—
Fron. Speak your worst of me; what person am I known to be?
Ben. Why, if you will have it, you are little better than a procuress: You carry messages betwixt party and party:—And, in one word, sir, she's as arrant a fruit-woman as any is about Rome.
Mar. Nay, if she be a fruit-woman, my nieces shall not enter her doors.
Ben. You had best let them enter, you do not know how they may fructify in her house: For I heard her, with these ears, whisper to them, that their friends were within call.
Mar. This is palpable, this is manifest; I shall remember you, lady fruiterer; I shall have your baskets searched when you bring oranges again.—Come away, nieces; and thanks, honest fellow, for thy discovery. [Exeunt MARIO and Women.
Ben. Hah couragio! Il diavolo e morto: Now, I think I have tickled it; this discovery has reinstated me into the empire of my wit again. Now, in the pomp of this achievement, will I present myself before madam Laura, with a—Behold, madam, the happy restoration of Benito!
Enter AURELIAN, CAMILLO, and FRONTONA, over-hearing him,
Oh, now, that I had the mirror, to behold myself in the fulness of my glory! and, oh, that the domineering fop, my master, were in presence, that I might triumph over him! that I might even contemn the wretched wight, the mortal of a grovelling soul, and of a debased understanding. [He looks about him, and sees his master.] How the devil came these three together? Nothing vexes me, but that I must stand bare to him, after such an enterprise as this is.
Aur. Nay, put on, put on again, sweet sir; why should you be uncovered before the fop your master, the wretched wight, the mortal of a grovelling soul?
Ben. Ay, sir, you may make bold with yourself at your own pleasure: But, for all that, a little bidding would make me take your counsel, and be covered, as affairs go now.
Aur. If it be lawful for a man of a debased understanding to confer with such an exalted wit, pray what was that glorious achievement, which wrapt you into such an ecstasy?
Ben. 'Tis a sign you know well how matters go, by your asking me so impertinent a question.
Aur. [Putting off his hat to him.] Sir, I beg of you, as your most humble master, to be satisfied.
Ben. Your servant, sir; at present I am not at leisure for conference. But hark you, sir, by the way of friendly advice, one word: Henceforward, tell me no more of the adventure of the garden, nor of the great looking-glass.
Aur. You mean the mirror.
Ben. Yes, the mirror; tell me no more of that, except you could behold in it a better, a more discreet, or a more able face for stratagem, than I can, when I look there.
Aur. But, to the business; What is this famous enterprise?
Ben. Be satisfied, without troubling me farther, the business is done, the rogues are defeated, and your mistress is secured: If you would know more, demand it of that criminal [Pointing to FRON.], and ask her, how she dares appear before you, after such a signal treachery, or before me, after such an overthrow?
Fron. I know nothing, but only that, by your master's order, I was to receive the two ladies into my house, and you prevented it.
Ben. By my master's order? I'll never believe it. This is your stratagem, to free yourself, and deprive me of my reward.
Cam. I'll witness what she says is true.
Ben. I am deaf to all asseverations, that make against my honour.
Aur. I'll swear it then. We two were the two rogues, and you the discoverer of our villany.
Ben. Then, woe, woe, to poor Benito! I find my abundance of wit has ruined me.
Aur. But come a little nearer: I would not receive a good office from a servant, but I would reward him for his diligence.
Ben. Virtue, sir, is its own reward: I expect none from you.
Aur. Since it is so, sir, you shall lose no further time in my service: Henceforward, pray know me for your humble servant; for your master I am resolved to be no longer.
Ben. Nay, rather than so, sir, I beseech you let a good, honest, sufficient beating atone the difference.
Aur. 'Tis in vain.
Ben. I am loth to leave you without a guide.
Aur. He's at it again! do you hear, Camillo?
Cam. Pr'ythee, Aurelian, be mollified, and beat him.
Fron. Pray, sir, hear reason, and lay it on, for my sake.
Aur. I am obdurate.
Cam. But what will your father say, if you part with him?
Aur. I care not.
Ben. Well, sir, since you are so peremptory, remember I have offered you satisfaction, and so long my conscience is at ease. What a devil, before I'll offer myself twice to be beaten, by any master in Christendom, I'll starve, and that is my resolution; and so your servant that was, sir. [Exit.
Aur. I am glad I am rid of him; he was my evil genius, and was always appearing to me, to blast my undertakings: Let me send him never so far off, the devil would be sure to put him in my way, when I had any thing to execute. Come, Camillo, now we have changed the dice, it may be we shall have better fortune. [Exeunt.
Enter the Duke of Mantua in masquerade, FREDERICK, VALERIO, and others. On the other side, enter LUCRETIA, HIPPOLITA, and ASCANIO.
Luc. [To ASCA.] The prince I know already, by your description of his masking habit; but, which is the duke, his father?
Asca. He whom you see talking with the prince, and looking this way. I believe he has observed us.
Luc. If he has not, I am resolved we'll make ourselves as remarkable as we can: I'll exercise my talent of dancing.
Hip. And I mine of singing.
Duke. [To FRED.] Do you know the company which came in last?
Fred. I cannot possibly imagine who they are.—At least I will not tell you. [Aside.
Duke. There's something very uncommon in the air of one of them.
Fred. Please you, sir, I'll discourse with her, and see if I can satisfy your highness.
Duke. Stay, there's a dance beginning, and she seems as if she would make one.
SONG AND DANCE.
Long betwixt love and fear Phyllis, tormented, Shunned her own wish, yet at last she consented: But loth that day should her blushes discover, Come, gentle night, she said, Come quickly to my aid, And a poor shamefaced maid Hide from her lover.
Now cold as ice I am, now hot as fire, I dare not tell myself my own desire; But let day fly away, and let night haste her: Grant, ye kind powers above, Slow hours to parting love; But when to bless we move, Bid them fly faster.
How sweet it is to love, when I discover That fire, which burns my heart, warming my lover! 'Tis pity love so true should be mistaken: But if this night he be False or unkind to me, Let me die, ere I see That I'm forsaken.
Duke [After the dance.] My curiosity redoubles; I must needs hail that unknown vessel, and enquire whither she's bound, and what freight she carries.
Fred. She's not worth your trouble, sir: She'll either prove some common courtezan in disguise, or, at best, some homely person of honour, that only dances well enough to invite a sight of herself, and would look ill enough to fright you.
Duke. That's maliciously said; all I see of her is charming, and I have reason to think her face is of the same piece; at least I'll try my fortune.
Fred. What an unlucky accident is this! If my father should discover her, she's ruined: If he does not, yet I have lost her conversation to-night.
Duke approaches LUCRETIA.
Asca. 'Tis the duke himself, who comes to court you.
Luc. Peace, I'll fit him; for I have been informed, to the least tittle, of his actions since he came to town.
Duke. [To Luc.] Madam, the duke of Mantua, whom you must needs imagine to be in this company, has sent me to you, to know what kind of face there is belonging to that excellent shape, and to those charming motions, which he observed so lately in your dancing.
Luc. Tell his highness, if you please, that there is a face within the mask, so very deformed, that, if it were discovered, it would prove the worst visor of the two; and that, of all men, he ought not to desire it should be exposed, because then something would be found amiss in an entertainment, which he has made so splendid and magnificent.
Duke. The duke, I am sure, would be very proud of your compliment, but it would leave him more unsatisfied than before; for, he will find in it so much of gallantry, as, being added to your other graces, will move him to a strange temptation of knowing you.
Luc. I should still have the same reason to refuse him; for 'twere a madness, when I had charmed him by my motion and converse, to hazard the loss of that conquest by my eyes.
Duke. I am on fire 'till I discover her. [Aside.]—At least, madam, tell me of what family you are.
Luc. Will you be satisfied, if I tell you I am of the Colonne? You have seen Julia of that house?
Duke. Then you are she.
Luc. Have I not her stature most exactly?
Duke. As near as I remember.
Luc. But, by your favour, I have nothing of her shape; for, if I may be so vain to praise myself, she's a little thicker in the shoulders, and, besides, she moves ungracefully.
Duke. Then you are not she again.
Luc. No, not she: But you have forgotten Emilia of the Ursini, whom the duke saluted yesterday at her balcony, when he entered. Her air and motion—
Duke. Are the very same with yours. Now I am sure I know you.
Luc. But there's too little of her to make a beauty: My stature is more advantageous.
Duke. You have cozened me again.
Luc. Well, I find at last I must confess myself: What think you of Eugenia Beata? The duke seemed to be infinitely pleased last night, when my brother presented me to him at the Belvidere.
Duke. Now I am certain you are she, for you have both her stature and her motion.
Luc. But, if you remember yourself a little better, there's some small difference in our wit; for she has indeed the air and beauty of a Roman lady, but all the dulness of a Dutch woman.
Duke. I see, madam, you are resolved to conceal yourself, and I am as fully resolved to know you.
Luc. See which of our resolutions will take place.
Duke. I come from the duke, and can assure you, he is of an humour to be obeyed.
Luc. And I am of an humour not to obey him. But why should he be so curious?
Duke. If you would have my opinion, I believe he is in love with you.
Luc. Without seeing me?
Duke. Without seeing all of you: Love is love, let it wound us from what part it please; and if he have enough from your shape and conversation, his business is done, the more compendiously, without the face.
Luc. But the duke cannot be taken with my conversation, for he never heard me speak.
Duke. [Aside.] 'Slife, I shall discover myself.—Yes madam, he stood by incognito, and heard me speak with you: But—
Luc. I wish he had trusted to his own courtship, and spoke himself; for it gives us a bad impression of a prince's wit, when we see fools in favour about his person.
Duke. Whatever I am, I have it in commission from him to tell you, he's in love with you.
Luc. The good old gentleman may dote, if he so pleases; but love, and fifty years old, are stark nonsense.
Duke. But some men, you know, are green at fifty.
Luc. Yes, in their understandings.
Duke. You speak with great contempt of a prince, who has some reputation in the world.
Luc. No; 'tis you that speak with contempt of him, by saying he is in love at such an age.
Duke. Then, madam, 'tis necessary you should know him better for his reputation; and that shall be, though he violate the laws of masquerade, and force you.
Fred. I suspected this from his violent temper. [Aside.] Sir, the emperor's ambassador is here in masquerade, and I believe this to be his lady: It were well if you inquired of him, before you forced her to discover.
Duke. Which is the ambassador?
Fred. That farthermost. [Duke retires farther.
Fred. to Luc. Take your opportunity to escape, while his back is turned, or you are ruined. Ascanio, wait on her.
Luc. I am so frighted, I cannot stay to thank you. [Exeunt LUC. ASCA. and HIP.
Duke to Fred. 'Tis a mistake, the ambassador knows nothing of her: I'm resolved I'll know it of herself, ere she shall depart.—Ha! Where is she? I left her here.
Fred. [Aside.] Out of your reach, father mine, I hope.
Duke. She has either shifted places, or else slipped out of the assembly.
Fred. I have looked round: She must be gone, sir.
Duke. She must not be gone, sir. Search for her every where: I will have her.
Fred. Has she offended your highness?
Duke. Peace, with your impertinent questions. Come hither, Valerio.
Duke. O, Valerio, I am desperately in love: That lady, with whom you saw me talking, has—But I lose time; she's gone; haste after her,— find her,—bring her back to me.
Val. If it be possible.
Duke. It must be possible; the quiet of my life depends upon it.
Val. Which way took she?
Duke. Go any way,—every way; ask no questions: I know no more, but that she must,—must be had. [Exit VALERIO.
Fred. Sir, the assembly will observe, that—
Duke. Damn the assembly; 'tis a dull insignificant crowd, now she is not here: Break it up, I'll stay no longer.
Fred. [Aside.] I hope she's safe, and then this fantastic love of my father's will make us sport to-momorrow. [Exeunt.
Enter LUCRETIA, ASCANIO, and HIPPOLITA.
Luc. Now that we are safe at the gate of our convent, methinks the adventure was not unpleasant.
Hip. And now that I am out of danger, brother, I may tell you what a novice you are in love, to tempt a young sister into the wide world, and not to show her the difference betwixt that and her cloister. I find I may venture safely with you another time.
Asca. O, sister, you play the brazen-head with me,—you give me warning when time's past. But that was no fit opportunity: I hate to snatch a morsel of love, and so away. I am for a set-meal, where I may enjoy my full gust; but, when I once fall on, you shall find me a brave man upon occasion.
Luc. 'Tis time we were in our cells. Quick, Hippolita; where's the key?
Hip. Here, in my pocket—No, 'tis in my other pocket:—Ha, 'tis not there neither. I am sure I put it in one of them.
Luc. What should we do, if it should be lost now?
Hip. I have searched myself all over, and cannot find it.
Asca. A woman can never search herself all over; let me search you, sister.
Luc. Is this a time for raillery? Oh, sweet heaven! speak comfort quickly; have you found it? [Here ASCANIO slips away.
Hip. Speak you comfort, madam, and tell me you have it, for I am too sure that I have none on't.
Luc. O, unfortunate that we are! day's breaking; the handicrafts' shops begin to open. [Clock strikes.
Hip. The clock strikes two: Within this half hour we shall be called up to our devotions. Now, good Ascanio—Alas, he's gone too! we are left miserable and forlorn.
Luc. We have not so much as one place in the town for a retreat.
Hip. O, for a miracle in our time of need! that some kind good-natured saint would take us up, and heave us over the wall into our cells.
Luc. Dear sister, pray, for I cannot: I have been so sinful in leaving my cloister for the world, that I am ashamed to trouble my friends above to help me.
Hip. Alas, sister, with what face can I pray then! Yours were but little vanities, but I have sinned swingingly against my vow; yes, indeed, sister, I have been very wicked,—for I wished the ball might be kept perpetually in our cloister, and that half the handsome nuns in it might be turned to men, for the sake of the other.
Luc. Well, if I were free from this disgrace, I would never more set foot beyond the cloister, for the sake of any man.
Hip. And here I vow, if I get safe within my cell, I will not think of man again these seven years.
Asca. Hold, Hippolita, and make no more rash vows: If you do, as I live, you shall not have the key.
Hip. The key! why, have you it, brother?
Luc. He does but mock us. I know you have it not, Ascanio.
Asca. Ecce signum; here it is for you.
Hip. O, sweet brother, let me kiss you.
Asca. Hands off, sweet sister, you must not be forsworn; you vowed you would not think of a man these seven years.
Hip. Aye, brother, but I was not so hasty but I had wit enough to cozen the saint to whom I vowed; for you are but a boy, brother, and will not be a man these seven years.
Luc. But where did you find the key, Ascanio?
Asca. To confess the truth, madam, I stole it out of Hippolita's pocket, to take the print of it in wax; for I'll suppose you'll give my master leave to wait on you in the nunnery-garden, after your abbess has walked the rounds.
Luc. Well, well, good-morrow. When you have slept, come to the grate for a letter to your lord. Now will I have the headach, or the megrim, or some excuse; for I'm resolved I'll not rise to prayers.
Hip. Pray, brother, take care of our masking-habits, that they may be forthcoming another time.
Asca. Sleep, sleep, and dream of me, sister: I'll make it good, if you dream not too unreasonably.
Luc. Thus dangers in our love make joys more dear; And pleasure's sweetest when 'tis mixed with fear. [Exeunt.
SCENE I.—A Dressing-chamber.
The Masking-habits of LUCRETIA and HIPPOLITA laid in a Chair.—Enter FREDERICK and ASCANIO.
Fred. I never thought I should have loved her. Is't come to this, after all my boastings and declarations against it? Sure I loved her before, and did not know it, till I feared to lose her: There's the reason. I had never desired her, if my father had not. This is just the longing of a woman: She never finds the appetite in herself, till she sees the meat on another's plate. I'm glad, however, you took the impression of the key; but 'twas not well to fright them.
Asca. Sir, I could not help it; but here's the effect on't: the workman sat up all night to make it. [Gives a key.
Fred. This key will admit me into the seraglio of the godly. The monastery has begun the war, in sallying out upon the world; and therefore 'tis but just that the world should make reprisals on the monastery.
Asca. Alas, sir, you and Lucretia do but skirmish; 'tis I and Hippolita that make the war: 'Tis true, opportunity has been wanting for a battle, but the forces have been stoutly drawn up on both sides. As for your concernment, I come just now from the monastery; and have orders from your Platonic mistress to tell you, she expects you this evening in the garden of the nunnery; withal, she delivered me this letter for you.
Fred. Give it me.
Asca. O, sir, the duke your father! [The Prince takes the letter, and, thinking to put it up hastily, drops it.
Duke. Now, Frederick, not abroad yet?
Fred. Your last night's entertainment left me so weary, sir, that I overslept myself this morning.
Duke. I rather envy you than blame you: Our sleep is certainly the most pleasant portion of our lives. For my own part, I spent the night waking and restless.
Fred. Has any thing of moment happened to discompose your highness?
Duke. I'll confess my follies to you: I am in love with a lady I saw last night in masquerade.
Fred. 'Tis strange she should conceal herself.
Duke. She has, from my best search; yet I took exact notice of her masking habit, and described it to those whom I employed to find her.
Fred. [Aside.] 'Sdeath, it lies there unremoved, and, if he turns himself, full in his eye. Now, now, 'twill be discovered.
Duke. For 'twas extremely remarkable. I remember very well, 'twas a loose long robe, streaked black and white, girt with a large silver ribband, and the vizor was a Moor's face.
Fred. [Running to the chair where the habits are sits down.] Sir, I beg pardon of your highness for this rudeness; I am—O, Oh!—
Duke. What's the matter?
Fred. I am taken so extremely ill o' the sudden, that I am forced to sit before you.
Duke. Alas, what's your distemper?
Fred. A most violent griping, which pulls me together on a heap.
Duke. Some cold, I fear, you took last night. [Runs to the door.] Who waits there? Call physicians to the prince.
Fred. Ascanio, remove these quickly. [ASCANIO takes away the habits, and Exit.
Duke. [Returning.] How do you find yourself?
Fred. [Arising.] Much better, sir: That which pained me is removed. As it came unexpectedly, so it went as suddenly.
Duke. The air, perhaps, will do you good. If you have health, you may see those troops drawn out, which I design for Milan.
Fred. Shall I wait your highness?
Duke. No, leave me here with Valerio; I have a little business, which dispatched, I'll follow you immediately.—Well, what success, Valerio? [Exit FREDERICK.
Val. Our endeavours are in vain, sir; there has been inquiry made about all the palaces in Rome, and neither of the masking habits can be discovered.
Duke. Yet it must be a woman of quality. What paper's that at my foot?
Val. [Taking up the letter.] 'Tis sealed, sir, and directed to the prince.
Duke. [Taking the letter.] 'Tis a woman's, hand. Has he got a mistress in town so soon? I am resolved to open it, though I do not approve my own curiosity. [Opens and reads it.
Now my fear is over, I can laugh at my last night's adventure. I find that at fifty all men grow incorrigible, and lovers especially; for, certainly, never any creature could be worse treated than your father; [How's this, Valerio? I am amazed.] and yet the good, old, out-of-fashion gentleman heard himself rallied and bore it with all the patience of a Christian prince. [Now, 'tis plain, the lady in masquerade is a mistress of my son's, and the undutiful wretch was in the plot to abuse me.] Ascanio will tell you the latter part of our misfortune, how hardly we got into the cloister. [A nun, too! Oh, the devil!] When we meet next, pray provide to laugh heartily; for there is subject sufficient for a plentiful fit, and fop enough to spare for another time. LUCRETIA.
Val. Lucretia! now the mystery is unfolded.
Duke. Do you know her?
Val. When I was last at Rome I saw her often; she is near kinswoman to the present Pope; and, before he placed her in this nunnery of Benedictines, was the most celebrated beauty of the town.
Duke. I know I ought to hate this woman, because she has affronted me thus grossly; but yet, I cannot help it, I must love her.
Val. But, sir, you come on too much disadvantage to be your son's rival.
Duke. I am deaf to all considerations: Pr'ythee do not think of giving a madman counsel. Pity me, and cure me, if thou canst; but remember, there's but one infallible medicine,—that's enjoyment.
Val. I had forgot to tell you, sir, that the governor, Don Mario, is without, to wait on you.
Duke. Desire him to come in.
Enter Don MARIO.
Mar. I am come, sir, to beg a favour from your highness; and 'tis on the behalf of my sister Sophronia, abbess of the Torr' di Specchi.
Val. Sir, she's abbess of that very monastery where your mistress is inclosed. [Aside to the Duke.
Duke. I should be glad to serve any relation of yours, Don Mario.
Mar. Her request is, that you would be pleased to grace her chapel this afternoon. There will be music, and some little ceremony, in the reception of my two nieces, who are to be placed on pension there.
Duke. Your nieces, I hear, are fair, and great fortunes.
Mar. Great vexations, I'm sure they are; being daily haunted by a company of wild fellows, who buzz about my house like flies.
Duke. Your design seems reasonable: women in hot countries are like oranges in cold; to preserve them, they must be perpetually housed. I'll bear you company to the monastery.—Come, Valerio; this opportunity is happy beyond our expectation. [Exeunt.
Enter CAMILLO and AURELIAN.
Cam. He has smarted sufficiently for this offence. Pr'ythee, dear Aurelian, forgive him. He waits without, and appears penitent; I'll be responsible for his future carriage.
Aur. For your sake, then, I receive him into grace.
Cam. [At the door.] Benito, you may appear; your peace is made.
Aur. But it must be upon conditions.
Ben. Any conditions, that are reasonable; for, as I am a wit, sir, I have not eaten—
Aur. You are in the path of perdition already; that's the principal of our conditions, you are to be a wit no more.
Ben. Pray, sir, if it be possible, let me be a little wit still.
Aur. No, sir; you can make a leg, and dance; those are no talents of a wit: you are cut out for a brisk fool, and can be no other.
Ben. Pray, sir, let me think I am a wit, or my heart will break.
Cam. That you will naturally do, as you are a fool.
Aur. Then no farther meddling with adventures, or contrivances of your own; they are all belonging to the territories of wit, from whence you are banished.
Ben. But what if my imagination should really furnish me with some—
Aur. Not a plot, I hope?
Ben. No, sir, no plot; but some expedient then, to mollify the word, when your invention has failed you?
Aur. Think it a temptation of the devil, and believe it not.
Ben. Then farewell all the happiness of my life.
Cam. You know your doom, Benito; and now you may take your choice, whether you will renounce wit, or eating.
Ben. Well, sir, I must continue my body, at what rate soever; and the rather, because now there's no farther need of me in your adventures; for I was assured by Beatrix, this morning, that her two mistresses are to be put in pension, in the nunnery of Benedictines, this afternoon.
Cam. Then I am miserable.
Aur. And you have deferred the telling it, till it is past time to study for prevention.
Cam. Let us run thither immediately, and either perish in't, or free them. You'll assist me with your sword?
Aur. Yes, if I cannot do it to more purpose with my counsel. Let us first play the fairest of our game; 'tis time enough to snatch when we have lost it. [Exeunt.
SCENE III.—A Chapel.
The DUKE, VALERIO, Attendants. At the other door, LAURA, VIOLETTA, BEATRIX, MARIO. Instrumental and vocal music; in the time of which, enter AURELIAN and CAMILLO. After the music, enter SOPHRONIA, LUCRETIA, HIPPOLITA, and other Nuns.
Duke. [To VALERIO, who had whispered to him.] I needed not those marks to know her. She's one continued excellence; she's all over miracle.
Soph. [To the DUKE.] We know, sir, we are not capable by our entertainment, of adding any thing to your pleasures; and therefore we must attribute this favour of your presence, to your piety and devotion.
Duke. You have treated me with harmony so excellent, that I believed myself among a choir of angels; especially when I beheld so fair a troop behind you.
Soph. Their beauty, sir, is wholly dedicated to heaven, and is no way ambitious of a commendation, which, from your mouth, might raise a pride in any other of the sex.
Cam. I am impatient, and can bear no longer. Let what will happen—
Aur. Do you not see your ruin inevitable? Draw in a holy place! and in the presence of the Duke!
Mar. I do not like Camillo's being here: I must cut short the ceremony. [Whispers SOPHRONIA.
Soph. [To LAURA and VIOLETTA.] Come, fair cousins, we hope to make the cloisteral life so pleasing, that it may be an inducement to you to quit the wicked world for ever.
Vio. [Passing by CAMILLO.] Take that, and read it at your leisure. [Conveys a note into his hand.
Cam. A ticket, as I live, Aurelian.
Aur. Steal off, and be thankful: if that be my Beatrix with Laura, she's most confoundedly ugly. If ever we had come to love-work, and a candle had been brought us, I had fallen back from that face, like a buck-rabbit in coupling. [Exeunt CAMILLO and AURELIAN.
Soph. Daughters, the time of our devotion calls us.—All happiness to your highness.
Luc. [To HIPPOLITA.] Little thinks my venerable old love there, that his mistress in masquerade is so near him. Now do I even long to abuse that fop-gravity again.
Hip. Methinks, he looks on us.
Luc. Farewell, poor love; I am she, I am, for all my demure looks, that treated thee so inhumanly last night. [She is going off, after SOPHRONIA.
Duke. [following her.] Stay, lady; I would speak with you.
Luc. Ah! [Shrieking.
Soph. How now, daughter? What's the meaning of that indecent noise you make?
Luc. [Aside.] If I speak to him, he will discover my voice, and then I am ruined.
Duke. If your name be Lucretia, I have some business of concernment with you.
Luc. [To SOPHRONIA.] Dear madam, for heaven's sake make haste into the cloister; the duke pursues me on some ill design.
Soph. [To the DUKE.] 'Tis not permitted, sir, for maids, once entered into religion, to hold discourses here of worldly things.
Duke. But my discourses are not worldly, madam; I had a vision in the dead of night, Which shewed me this fair virgin in my sleep, And told me, that from her I should be taught Where to bestow large alms, and great endowments, On some near monastery.
Soph. Stay, Lucretia; The holy vision's will must be obeyed. [Exeunt SOPHRONIA and Nuns.
Luc. [Aside.] He does not know me, sure; and yet I fear religion is the least of his business with me.
Duke. I see, madam, beauty will be beauty in any habit; Though, I confess, the splendour of a court Were a much fitter scene for yours, than is A cloistered privacy.
Luc. [counterfeiting her voice.] The world has no temptations for a mind So fixed and raised above it; This humble cell contains and bounds my wishes: My charity gives you my prayers, and that's All my converse with human kind.
Duke. Since when, madam, have the world and you been upon these equal terms of hostility? Time was, you have been better friends.
Luc. No doubt I have been vain, and sinful; but the remembrance of those days cannot be pleasant to me now, and therefore, if you please, do not refresh their memory.
Duke. Their memory! you speak as if they were ages past.
Luc. You think me still what I was once—a vain, fond, giddy creature: I see, sir, whither your discourses tend, and therefore take my leave.
Duke. Yes, madam, I know you see whither my discourses tend, and therefore 'twill not be convenient that you should take your leave. Disguise yourself no farther; you are known, as well as you knew me in masquerade.
Luc. I am not used enough to the world to interpret riddles; therefore, once more, heaven keep you.
Duke. This will not do; your voice, your mien, your stature, betray you for the same I saw last night: you know the time and place.
Luc. You were not in this chapel, and I am bound by vow to stir no farther.
Duke. But you had too much wit to keep that vow.
Luc. If you persist, sir, in this raving madness, I can bring witness of my innocence. [Is going.
Duke. To save that labour, see if you know that hand, and let that justify you. [Shows her letter.
Luc. What do I see! my ruin is inevitable.
Duke. You know you merit it: You used me ill, and now are in my power.
Luc. But you, I hope, are much too noble to Destroy the fame of a poor silly woman?
Duke. Then, in few words,—for I am bred a soldier, And must speak plain,—it is your love I ask; If you deny, this letter is produced; You know the consequence.
Luc. I hope I do not; For though there are appearances against me, Enough to give you hope I durst not shun you, Yet, could you see my heart, 'tis a white virgin-tablet, On which no characters of earthly love Were ever writ: And, 'twixt the prince and me, If there were any criminal affection, May heaven this minute—
Duke. Swear not; I believe you: For, could I think my son had e'er enjoyed you, I should not be his rival. Since he has not, I may have so much kindness for myself, To wish that happiness.
Luc. You ask me what I must not grant, Nor, if I loved you, would: you know my vow of chastity.
Duke. Yet again that senseless argument? The vows of chastity can ne'er be broken, Where vows of secrecy are kept. Those I'll swear with you. But 'tis enough at present, you know my resolution. I would persuade, not force, you to my love; And to that end I give you this night's respite. Consider all, that you may fear or hope; And think that on your grant, or your denial, Depends a double welfare, yours and mine. [Exit.
Luc. A double ruin, rather, if I grant; For what can I expect from such a father, When such a son betrays me! Could I think, Of all mankind, that Frederick would be base? And, with the vanity of vulgar souls, Betray a virgin's fame? One, who esteemed him, And I much fear did more than barely so—
But I dare note examine myself farther, for fear of confessing to my own thoughts, a tenderness of which he is unworthy.
Hip. I watched till your old gallant was gone, to bring you news of your young one. A mischief on these old dry lovers! they are good for nothing but tedious talking; well, yonder's the prince at the grate; I hope I need say no more to you.
Luc. I'll come when I've recovered myself a little. I am a wretched creature, Hippolita! the letter I writ to the prince—
Hip. I know it,—is fallen into his father's hands by accident. He's as wretched as you too. Well, well, it shall be my part to bring you together; and then, if two young people, that have opportunity, can be wretched and melancholy—I'll go before, and meet Ascanio. [Exit.
Luc. I am half unwilling to go, because I must be accessary to her assignation with Ascanio; but, for once, I'll meet the prince in the garden-walk: I am glad, however, that he is less criminal than I thought him. [Exeunt.
SCENE IV.—The Nunnery-Garden.
HIPPOLITA, ASCANIO, meeting LAURA and VIOLETTA.
Hip. I hear some walking this way.—Who goes there?
Lau. We are the two new pensioners, Laura and Violetta.
Hip. Go in, to your devotion: These undue hours of walking savour too much of worldly thoughts.
Lau. Let us retire to the arbour, where, by this time, I believe, our friends are.—Good-night, sister.
Hip. Good angels guard you. [Exeunt LAU. and VIO.] Now, brother, the coast is clear, and we have the garden to ourselves. Do you remember how you threatened me? But that's all one, how good soever the opportunity may be, so long as we two resolve to be virtuous.
Asca. Speak for yourself, sister, for I am wickedly inclined. Yet, I confess, I have some remorse when I consider you are in religion.
Hip. We should do very well to consider that, both of us; for, indeed, what should young people do, but think of goodness and religion; especially when they love one another, and are alone too, brother?
Asca. A curse on't! here comes my lord, and Lucretia. We might have accomplished all, and been repenting by this time; yet who the devil would have thought they should have come so soon—Ah! [Sets his teeth.
Hip. Who the devil would have put it to the venture? This is always the fault of you raw pages: You, that are too young, never use an opportunity; and we, that are elder, can seldom get one.—Ah! [Sets her teeth.
Enter FREDERICK and LUCRETIA.
Luc. I believe, indeed, it troubled you to lose that letter.
Fred. So much, madam, that I can never forgive myself that negligence.
Luc. Call it not so, 'twas but a casuality, though, I confess, the consequence is dangerous; and therefore have not both of us reason to defy love, when we see a little gallantry is able to produce so much mischief?
Fred. [Aside.] Now cannot I, for my heart, bring out one word against this love.
Luc. Come, you are mute upon a subject, that is both easy and pleasant. A man in love is so ridiculous a creature—
Fred. Especially to those that are not.
Luc. True; for to those that are, he cannot be so: They are like the citizens of Bethlehem, who never find out one another's madness, because they are all tainted. But for such ancient fops, as, with reverence, your father is, what reason can they have to be in love?
Fred. Nay, your old fop's unpardonable, that's certain. But—
Luc. But what? Come, laugh at him.
Fred. But I consider he is my father, I can't laugh at him.
Luc. But, if it were another, we should see how you would insult over him.
Fred. Ay, if it were another—And yet I don't know neither, 'tis no part of good nature to insult: A man may be overtaken with a passion, or so; I know it by myself.
Luc. How, by yourself! You are not in love, I hope?—Oh that he would confess first now! [Aside.
Fred. But, if I were, I should be loth to be laughed at.
Luc. Since you are not in love, you may the better counsel me: What shall we do with this same troublesome father of yours?
Fred. Any thing, but love him.
Luc. But you know he has me at a bay; my letter is in his possession, and he may produce it to my ruin: Therefore, if I did allow him some little favour, to mollify him—
Fred. How, madam? Would you allow him favours? I can never consent to it: Not the least look or smile; they are all too precious, though they were to save his life.
Luc. What, not your father? Oh that he would confess he loved me first! [Aside.
Fred. What have I done? I shall betray myself, and confess my love to be laughed at, by this hard-hearted woman. [Aside.] 'Tis true, madam, I had forgot; he is, indeed, my father, and therefore you may use him as kindly as you please.
Luc. He's insensible: Now he enrages me. [Aside.] What if he proposes to marry me? I am not yet professed, and 'twould be much to my advantage.
Fred. Marry you! I had rather die a thousand deaths, than suffer it.
Luc. This begins to please me. [Aside. But why should you be so much my enemy?
Fred. Your enemy, madam! Why, do you desire it?
Luc. Perhaps I do.
Fred. Do it, madam, since it pleases you so well.
Luc. But you had rather die, than suffer it.
Fred. No, I have changed my mind: I'll live, and not be concerned at it.
Luc. Do you contradict yourself so soon? Then know, sir, I did intend to do it; and I am glad you have given me advice so agreeable to my inclinations.
Fred. Heaven! that you should not find it out! I delivered your letter on purpose to my father, and 'twas my business, now, to come and mediate for him.
Luc. Pray, then, carry him the news of his good success. Adieu, sweet prince!
Fred. Adieu, dear madam.
Asca. Hey day! what will this come to? They have cozened one another into a quarrel; just like friends in fencing, a chance thrust comes, and then they fall to it in earnest.
Hip. You and I, brother, shall never meet upon even terms, if this be not pieced.—Face about, madam; turn quickly to your man, or, by all that's virtuous, I'll call the abbess.
Asca. I must not be so bold with you, sir; but, if you please, you may turn towards the lady: and, I suppose, you would be glad I durst speak to you with more authority, to save the credit of your willingness.
Fred. Well, I'll shew her I dare stay, if it be but to confront her malice.
Luc. I am sure I have done nothing to be ashamed of, that I should need to run away.
Asca. Pray give me leave, sir, to ask you but one question; Why were you so unwilling that she should be married to your father?
Fred. Because then her friendship must wholly cease.
Asca. But you may have her friendship, when she is married to him.
Fred. What! when another has enjoyed her?
Asca. Victoria, Victoria! he loves you, madam; let him deny it, if he can.
Luc. Fye, fye, loves me, Ascanio! I hope he would not forswear himself, when he has railed so much against it.
Fred. I hope I may love your mind, madam; I may love spiritually.
Hip. That's enough, that's enough: Let him love the mind without the body, if he can.
Asca. Ay, ay, when the love is once come so far, that spiritual mind will never leave pulling, and pulling, till it has drawn the beastly body after it.
Fred. Well, madam, since I must confess it,—though I expect to be laughed at, after my railing against love,—I do love you all over, both soul and body.
Asca. Lord, sir, what a tigress have you provoked! you may see she takes it to the death, that you have made this declaration.
Hip. I thought where all her anger was: Why do you not rail, madam? Why do you not banish him? the prince expects it; he has dealt honestly, he has told you his mind, and you may make your worst on't.
Luc. Because he does expect it, I am resolved, I'll neither satisfy him nor you: I will neither rail nor laugh: Let him make his worst of that, now.
Fred. If I understand you right, madam, I am happy beyond either my deserts or expectation.
Luc. You may give my words what interpretation you please, sir; I shall not envy you their meaning in the kindest sense. But we are near the jessamine walk, there we may talk with greater freedom, because 'tis farther from the house.
Fred. I wait you, madam. [Exeunt.
AURELIAN, with a dark lanthorn. CAMILLO and BENITO.
Cam. So, we are safe got over into the nunnery-garden; for what's to come, trust love and fortune.
Aur. This must needs be the walk she mentioned; yet, to be sure, I'll hold the lanthorn while you read the ticket.
Cam. [Reads.] I prepared this ticket, hoping to see you in the chapel: Come this evening over the garden wall, on the right hand, next the Tiber.
Aur. We are right, I see.
Cam. Bring only your discreet Benito with you, and I will meet you attended by my faithful Beatrix. VIOLETTA.
Ben. Discreet Benito! Did you hear, sir?
Aur. Mortify thyself for that vain thought; and, without enquiring into the mystery of these words, which I assure thee were not meant to thee, plant thyself by that ladder without motion, to secure our retreat; and be sure to make no noise.
Ben. But, sir, in case that—
Aur. Honest Benito, no more questions: Basta is the word. Remember, thou art only taken with us, because thou hast a certain evil daemon, who conducts thy actions, and would have been sure, by some damned accident or other, to have brought thee hither to disturb us.
Cam. I hear whispering not far from us, and I think 'tis Violetta's voice.
Aur. [To BEN.] Retire to your post; avoid, good Satan. [Exit BEN.
Enter LAURA, with a dark lanthorn hid, and VIOLETTA.
Cam. Ours is the honour of the field, madam; we are here before you.
Vio. Softly, dear friend; I think I hear some walking in the garden.
Cam. Rather, let us take this opportunity for your escape from hence; all things are here in readiness.
Vio. This is the second time we ever have met; let us discourse, and know each other better first; that's the way to make sure of some love beforehand; for, as the world goes, we know not how little we may have when we are married.
Cam. Losses of opportunity are fatal in war, you know, and love's a kind of warfare.
Vio. I shall keep you yet a while from close fighting.
Cam. But, do you know what an hour in love is worth? 'Tis more precious than an age of ordinary life; 'tis the very quintessence and extract of it.
Vio. I do not like your chemical preparation of love; yours is all spirit, and will fly too soon; I must see it fixed, before I trust you. But we are near the arbour: Now our out-guards are set, let us retire a little, if you please; there we may walk more freely. [Exit.
Aur. [To LAU.] My lady's woman, methinks you are very reserved to-night: Pray, advance into the lists; though I have seen your countenance by day, I can endure to hear you talk by night. Be cunning, and set your wit to show, which is your best commodity: It will help the better to put off that drug, your face.
Lau. The coarsest ware will serve such customers as you are: Let it suffice, Mr Serving-man, that I have seen you too. Your face is the original of the ugliest vizors about town; and for wit, I would advise you to speak reverently of it, as a thing you are never like to understand.
Aur. Sure, Beatrix, you came lately from looking in your glass, and that has given you a bad opinion of all faces; but since when am I become so notorious a fool?
Lau. Since yesterday; for t'other night you talked like a man of sense: I think your wit comes to you, as the sight of owls does, only in the dark.
Aur. Why, when did you discourse by day with me?
Lau. You have a short memory. This afternoon in the great street. Do you remember when you talked with Laura?
Aur. But what was that to Beatrix?
Lau. [Aside.] 'Slife, I had forgot that I am Beatrix. But pray, when did you find me out to be so ugly?
Aur. This afternoon, in the chapel.
Lau. That cannot be; for I well remember you were not there, Benito: I saw none but Camillo, and his friend, the handsome stranger.
Aur. [Aside] Curse on't, I have betrayed myself.
Lau. I find you are an impostor: you are not the same Benito: your language has nothing of the serving-man.
Aur. And yours, methinks, has not much of the waiting-woman.
Lau. My lady is abused, and betrayed by you: But I am resolved, I'll discover who you are. [Holds out a lanthorn to him.] How! the stranger?
Aur. Nay, madam, if you are good at that, I'll match you there too. [Holds out his lanthorn.] O prodigy! Is Beatrix turned to Laura?
Lau. Now the question is, which of us two is the greatest cheat?
Aur. That's hardly to be tried, at so short warning: Let's marry one another, and then, twenty to one, in a twelvemonth we shall know.
Lau. Marry! Are you at that so soon, signior? Benito and Beatrix, I confess, had some acquaintance; but Aurelian and Laura are mere strangers.
Aur. That ground I have gotten as Benito, I am resolved I'll keep as Aurelian. If you will take state upon you, I have treated you with ceremony already; for I have wooed you by proxy.
Lau. But you would not be contented to bed me so; or give me leave to put the sword betwixt us.
Aur. Yes, upon condition you'll remove it.
Lau. Pray let our friends be judge of it; if you please, we'll find them in the arbour.
Aur. Content; I am then sure of the verdict, because the jury is bribed already. [Exeunt.
BENITO meeting FREDERICK, ASCANIO, LUCRETIA, and HIPPOLITA.
Ben. Knowing my own merits, as I do, 'tis not impossible, but some of these harlotry nuns may love me. Oh, here's my master! now if I could but put this into civil terms, so as to ask his leave, and not displease him—
Asca. I hear one talking, sir, just by us.
Ben. I am stolen from my post, sir, but for one minute only, to demand permission of you, since it is not in our articles, that if any of these nuns should cast an eye, or so—
Fred. 'Slife, we are betrayed; but I'll make this rascal sure. [Draws and runs at him.
Ben. Help! murder, murder! [Runs off.
Enter AURELIAN and CAMILLO; LAURA and VIOLETTA after them.
Aur. That was Benito's voice: We are ruined.
Cam. O, here they are, we must make our way. [AUR. and the Prince make a pass or two confusedly, and fight off the stage. The Women shriek.
Asca. Never fear, ladies.—Come on, sir; I am your man.
Cam. [Stepping back.] This is the prince's page, I know his voice.—Ascanio?
Asca. Signior Camillo?
Cam. If the prince be here, 'tis Aurelian is engaged with him. Let us run in quickly, and prevent the mischief. [All go off. A little clashing within. After which they all re-enter.
Fred. [To AUR.] I hope you are not wounded.
Aur. No, sir; but infinitely grieved, that—
Fred. No more; 'twas a mistake: But which way can we escape? the abbess is coming; I see the lights.
Luc. You cannot go by the gate, then. Ah me, unfortunate!
Cam. But over the wall you may: We have a ladder ready.—Adieu, ladies.—Curse on this ill luck, when we had just persuaded them to go with us!
Fred. Farewell, sweet Lucretia.
Lau. Good-night, Aurelian.
Aur. Ay, it might have proved a good one: Faith, shall I stay yet, and make it one, in spite of the abbess, and all her works?
Lau. The abbess is just here; you will be Caught in the spiritual trap, if you should tarry.
Aur. That will be time enough, when we two marry. [Exeunt severally.
ACT V. SCENE I.
Enter SOPHRONIA, LUCRETIA, LAURA, and VIOLETTA.
Soph. By this, then, it appears you all are guilty; Only your ignorance of each others crimes Caused first that tumult, and this discovery. Good heavens, that I should live to see this day! Methinks these holy walls, the cells, the cloisters, Should all have struck a secret horror on you: And when, with unchaste thoughts, You trod these lonely walks, you should have looked, The venerable ghost of our first foundress Should, with spread arms, have met you in her shroud, And frighted you from sin.
Luc. Alas! you need not aggravate our crimes; We know them to be great beyond excuse, And have no hope, but only from your mercy.
Lau. Love is, indeed, no plea within these walls; But, since we brought it hither, and were forced, Not led by our own choice, to this strict life—
Vio. Too hard for our soft youth, and bands of love, Which we before had knit—
Lau. Pity your blood, Which runs within our veins; and since heav'n puts it In your sole power to ruin or to save, Protect us from the sordid avarice Of our domestic tyrant, who deserves not That we should call him uncle, or your brother.
Soph. If, as I might, with justice I should punish, No penance could be rigorous enough; But I am willing to be more indulgent. None of you are professed: And, since I see You are not fit for higher happiness, You may have what you think the world can give you.
Luc. Let us adore you, madam!
Soph. You, Lucretia, I shall advise within.
Vio. But for us, madam?
Soph. For you, dear nieces, I have long considered The injuries you suffer from my brother, And I rejoice it is in me to help you: I will endeavour, from this very hour, To put you both into your lovers' hands, Who, by your own confession, have deserved you; But so as (though 'tis done by my connivance) It shall not seem to be with my consent.
Lau. You do an act of noble charity, And may just heaven reward it!
Enter HIPPOLITA, and whispers LUCRETIA.
Soph. Oh, you're a faithful portress of a cloister! What is't you whisper to Lucretia? On your obedience tell me.
Luc. Since you must know, madam, I have received a courtship from the prince Of Mantua. The rest Hippolita may speak.
Hip. His page, Ascanio, is at the grate, To know, from him, how you had scaped this danger; And brings with him those habits—
Soph. I find that here has been a long commerce. What habits?
Luc. I blush to tell you, madam; they were masking habits, in which we went abroad.
Soph. O strange impiety! Well, I conclude You are no longer for religious clothing; You would infect our order.
Luc. [Kneeling.] Madam, you promised us forgiveness.
Soph. I have done; for 'tis indeed too late to chide.
Hip. With Ascanio there are two gentlemen; Aurelian and Camillo, I think they call themselves, who came to me, recommended from the prince, and desired to speak with Laura and Violetta.
Soph. I think they are your lovers, nieces.
Vio. Madam, they are.
Hip. But, for fear of discovery from your uncle, Mario, whose house, you know, joins to the monastery, are both in masquerade.
Soph. This opportunity must not be lost. [To LAURA and VIOLETTA. You two shall take the masking habits instantly, And, in them, scape your jealous uncle's eyes. When you are happy, make me so, by hearing your success. [Kisses them. Exeunt LAU. and VIO.
Luc. A sudden thought is sprung within my mind, Which, by the same indulgence you have shown, May make me happy too. I have not time To tell you now, for fear I lose this opportunity. When I return from speaking with Ascanio, I shall declare the secrets of my love, And crave your farther help.
Soph. In all that virtue will permit, you shall not fail to find it. [Exit LUCRETIA.
Hip. Madam, the foolish fellow, whom we took, grows troublesome; what shall we do with him?
Soph. Send for the magistrate; he must be punished— Yet, hold; that would betray the other secret. Let him be strait turned out, on this condition, That he presume not ever to disclose He was within these walls. I'll speak with him. Come, and attend me to him. [Exit SOPHRONIA.
Hip. You fit to be an abbess! We, that live out of the world, should, at least, have the common sense of those that live far from town; if a pedlar comes by them once a year, they will not let him go, without providing themselves with what they want. [Exit after SOPHRONIA.
SCENE II.—The Street.
Enter AURELIAN, CAMILLO, LAURA, VIOLETTA; all in Masking-habits.
Cam. This generosity of the abbess is never to be forgot; and it is the more to be esteemed, because it was the less to be expected.
Vio. At length, my Camillo, I see myself safe within your arms; and yet, methinks, I can never be enough secure of you; for now, I have nothing else to fear, I am afraid of you; I fear your constancy. They say possession is so dangerous to lovers, that more of them die of surfeits than of fasting.
Lau. You'll be rambling too, Aurelian; I do not doubt it, if I would let you; but I'll take care to be as little a wife, and as much a mistress to you, as is possible: I'll be sure to be always pleasant, and never suffer you to be cloyed.
Aur. You are certainly in the right: Pleasantness of humour makes a wife last in the sweetmeat, when it will no longer in the fruit. But, pray, let's make haste to the next honest priest that can say grace to us, and take our appetites while they are coming.
Cam. That way leads to the Austin-Friars; there lives a father of my acquaintance.
Lau. I have heard of him; he has a mighty stroke at matrimonies, and mumbles them over as fast, as if he were teaching us to forget them all the while.
Enter BENITO, and overhears the last speech.
Ben. Cappari; that is the voice of madam Laura. Now, Benito, is the time to repair the lost honour of thy wit, and to blot out the last adventure of the nunnery.
Vio. That way I hear company; let us go about by this other street, and shun them.
Ben. That voice I know too; 'tis the younger sister's, Violetta's, Now have these two most treacherously conveyed themselves out of the nunnery, for my master and Camillo, and given up their persons to those lewd rascals in masquerade; but I'll prevent them. Help there! thieves and ravishers! villainous maskers! stop, robbers! stop, ravishers!
Cam. We are pursued that way, let's take this street.
Lau. Save yourselves, and leave us.
Cam. We'll rather die, than leave you.
Enter, at several doors, Duke of MANTUA and Guards, and Don MARIO and Servants, with Torches.
Aur. So, now the way is shut up on both sides. We'll die merrily, however:—have at the fairest. [AURELIAN and CAMILLO fall upon the Duke's Guards, and are seized behind by MARIO'S Servants. At the drawing of Swords, BENITO runs off.
Duke. Are these insolencies usually committed in Rome by night? It has the fame of a well-governed city; and methinks, Don Mario, it does somewhat reflect on you to suffer these disorders.
Mar. They are not to be hindered in the Carnival: You see, sir, they have assumed the privilege of maskers.
Lau. [To AUR.] If my uncle know us, we are ruined; therefore be sure you do not speak.
Duke. How then can we be satisfied this was not a device of masking, rather than a design of ravishing?
Mar. Their accuser is fled, I saw him run at the beginning of the scuffle; but I'll examine the ladies.
Vio. Now we are lost. [Duke coming near LAURA, takes notice of her habit.
Duke. [Aside.] 'Tis the same, 'tis the same; I know Lucretia by her habit: I'm sure I am not mistaken.—Now, sir, you may cease your examination, I know the ladies.
Aur. [To CAM.] How the devil does he know them?
Cam. 'Tis alike to us; they are lost both ways.
Duke. [Taking LAURA aside.] Madam, you may confess yourself to me. Whatever your design was in leaving the nunnery, your reputation shall be safe. I'll not discover you, provided you grant me the happiness I last requested.
Lau. I know not, sir, how you could possibly come to know me, or of my design in quitting the nunnery; but this I know, that my sister and myself are both unfortunate, except your highness be pleased to protect us from our uncle; at least, not to discover us.
Duke. His holiness, your uncle, shall never be acquainted with your flight, on condition you will wholly renounce my son, and give yourself to me.
Lau. Alas, sir, for whom do you mistake me?
Duke. I mistake you not, madam: I know you for Lucretia. You forget that your disguise betrays you.
Lau. Then, sir, I perceive I must disabuse you: If you please to withdraw a little, that I may not be seen by others, I will pull off my mask, and discover to you, that Lucretia and I have no resemblance, but only in our misfortunes.
Duke. 'Tis in vain, madam, this dissembling: I protest, if you pull off your mask, I will hide my face, and not look upon you, to convince you that I know you.
Ben. So, now the fray is over, a man may appear again with safety.—Oh, the rogues are caught, I see, and the damsels delivered. This was the effect of my valour at the second hand.
Aur. Look, look, Camillo! it was my perpetual fool that caused all this; and now he stands yonder, laughing at his mischief, as the devil is pictured, grinning behind the witch upon the gallows.
Ben. [To MARIO.] I see, sir, you have got your women, and I am glad on't: I took them just flying from the nunnery.
Duke. [To LAU.] You see that fellow knows you too.
Mar. Were these women flying from a nunnery?
Ben. These women? heyday! then, it seems, you do not know they are your nieces.
Duke. His nieces, say you? Take heed, fellow, you shall he punished severely, if you mistake.
Cam. Speak to Benito in time, Aurelian.
Aur. The devil's in him; he's running down-hill full speed, and there's no stopping him.
Mar. My nieces?
Ben. Your nieces? Why, do you doubt it? I praise heaven I never met but with two half-wits in my life, and my master's one of them; I will not name the other at this time.
Duke. I say, they are not they.
Ben. I am sure they are Laura and Violetta; and that those two rogues were running away with them, and that, I believe, with their consent.
Vio. Sister, 'tis in vain to deny ourselves; you see our ill fortune pursues us unavoidably. [Turning up her mask.] Yes, sir, we are Laura and Violetta, whom you have made unhappy by your tyranny.
Lau. [Turning up her mask.] And these two gentlemen are no ravishers, but—
Ben. How, no ravishers? Yes, to my knowledge they are—[As he speaks, AURELIAN pulls off his mask.] No ravishers, as madam Laura was saying; but two as honest gentlemen as e'er broke bread. My own dear master, and so forth! [Runs to AUR. who thrusts him back.
Enter VALERIO, and whispers the Duke, giving him a paper; which he reads, and seems pleased.
Mar. Aurelian and Camillo! I'll see you in safe custody; and, for these fugitives, go, carry them to my sister, and desire her to have a better care of her kinswomen.
Vio. We shall live yet to make you refund our portions. Farewell, Camillo; comfort yourself; remember there's but a wall betwixt us.
Lau. And I'll cut through that wall with vinegar, but I'll come to you, Aurelian.
Aur. I'll cut through the grates with aquafortis, but I'll meet you. Think of these things, and despair, and die, old gentleman. [AURELIAN and CAMILLO are carried off on one side, and LAURA and VIOLETTA on the other.
Ben. All things go cross to men of sense: Would I had been born with the brains of a shop-keeper, that I might have thriven without knowing why I did so. Now, must I follow my master to the prison, and, like an ignorant customer that comes to buy, must offer him my backside, tell him I trust to his honesty, and desire him to please himself, and so be satisfied. [Exit.
Duke. [To VAL.] I am overjoyed; I'll see her immediately: Now my business with Don Mario is at an end, I need not desire his company to introduce me to the abbess; this assignation from Lucretia shows me a nearer way.—Noble Don Mario, it was my business, when this accident happened in the street, to have made you a visit; but now I am prevented by an occasion which calls me another way.
Mar. I receive the intention of that honour as the greatest happiness that could befal me: In the meantime, if my attendance—
Duke. By no means, sir, I must of necessity go in private; and therefore, if you please, you shall omit the ceremony.
Mar. A happy even to your highness.—Now will I go to my sister, the abbess, before I sleep, and desire her to take more care of her flock, or, for all our relation, I shall make complaint, and endeavour to ease her of her charge. [Exit.
Duke. So, now we are alone, what said Lucretia?
Val. When first I pressed her to this assignation, She spoke like one in doubt what she should do; She demurred much upon the decency of it, And somewhat too she seemed to urge, of her Engagement to the prince: In short, sir, I perceived her wavering, and closed with the opportunity.
Duke. O, when women are once irresolute, betwixt the former love and the new one, they are sure to come over to the latter. The wind, their nearest likeness, seldom chops about to return into the old corner.
Val. In conclusion, she consented to the interview; and for the rest, I urged it not, for I suppose she will hear reason sooner from your mouth than mine.
Duke. Her letter is of the same tenor with her discourse, full of doubts and doubles; like a hunted hare when she is near tired. The garden, you say, is the place appointed?
Val. It is, sir; and the next half hour the time. But, sir, I fear the prince your son will never bear the loss of her with patience.
Duke. 'Tis no matter; let the young gallant storm to-night, to-morrow he departs from Rome.
Val. That, sir, will be severe.
Duke. He has already received my commands to travel into Germany. I know it stung him to the quick, but he's too dangerous a rival: the soldiers love him too; when he's absent they will respect me more. But I defer my happiness too long; dismiss my guards there. [Exeunt Guards.
The pleasures of old age brook no delay; Seldom they come, and soon they fly away. [Exeunt.
Enter FREDERICK and ASCANIO.
Fred. 'Tis true, he is my father; but when nature Is dead in him, why should it live in me? What have I done that I am banished Rome, The world's delight, and my soul's joy, Lucretia, And sent to reel with midnight beasts in Almain! I cannot, will not, bear it.
Asca. I'm sure you need not, sir; the army is all yours; they wish a youthful monarch, and will resent your injuries.
Fred. Heaven forbid it! and yet I cannot lose Lucretia. There's something I would do, and yet would shun The ill, that must attend it.
Asca. You must resolve, for the time presses. She told me, this hour, she had sent for your father: what she means I know not, for she seemed doubtful, and would not tell me her intention.
Fred. If she be false—yet, why should I suspect her? Yet why should I not? She's a woman; that includes ambition and inconstancy; then, she's tempted high: 'twere unreasonable to expect she should be faithful: Well, something I have resolved, and will about it instantly; and if my friends prove faithful, I shall prevent the worst.
Enter AURELIAN and CAMILLO, guarded.
Aurelian and Camillo? How came you thus attended?
Cam. You may guess at the occasion, sir; pursuing the adventure which brought us to meet you in the garden, we were taken by Don Mario.
Aur. And, as the devil would have it, when both we and our mistresses were in expectation of a more pleasing lodging.
Fred. Faith, that's very hard, when a man has charged and primed, and taken aim, to be hindered of his shoot.—Soldiers, release these gentlemen, I'll answer it.
Cap. Sir, we dare not disobey our orders.
Fred. I'll stand betwixt you and danger. In the mean time take this, as an acknowledgment of the kindness you do me.
Cap. Ay, marry, there's rhetoric in gold: who can deny these arguments: Sir, you may dispose of our prisoners as you please; we'll use your name, if we are called in question.
Fred. Do so. Goodnight, good soldiers. [Exeunt soldiers.] Now, gentlemen, no thanks; you'll find occasion instantly to reimburse me of my kindness.
Cam. Nothing but want of liberty could have hindered us from serving you.
Fred. Meet me within this half hour, at our monastery; and if, in the mean time, you can pick up a dozen of good fellows, who dare venture their lives bravely, bring them with you.
Aur. I hope the cause is bad too, otherwise we shall not deserve your thanks. May it be for demolishing that cursed monastery!
Fred. Come, Ascanio, follow me. [Exeunt severally.
SCENE IV.—The Nunnery Garden.
Enter DUKE and LUCRETIA.
Luc. In making this appointment, I go too far, for one of my profession; But I have a divining soul within me, Which tells me, trust reposed in noble natures Obliges them the more.
Duke. I come to be commanded, not to govern: Those few soft words, you sent me, have quite altered My rugged nature; if it still be violent, 'Tis only fierce and eager to obey you; Like some impetuous flood, which, mastered once, With double force bends backward. The place of treaty shows you strongest here; For still the vanquished sues for peace abroad, While the proud victor makes his terms at home.
Luc. That peace, I see, will not be hard to make, When either side shows confidence of noble dealing From the other.
Duke. And this, sure, is our case, since both are met alone.
Luc. 'Tis mine, sir, more than yours. To meet you single, shows I trust your virtue; But you appear distrustful of my love.
Duke. You wrong me much; I am not.
Luc. Excuse me, sir, you keep a curb upon me; You awe me with a letter, which you hold As hostage of my love; and hostages Are ne'er required but from suspected faith.
Duke. We are not yet in terms of perfect peace; Whene'er you please to seal the articles, Your pledge shall be restored.
Luc. That were the way to keep us still at distance; For what we fear, we cannot truly love.
Duke. But how can I be then secure, that, when Your fear is o'er, your love will still continue?
Luc. Make trial of my gratitude; you'll find I can acknowledge kindness.
Duke. But that were to forego the faster hold, To take a loose, and weaker. Would you not judge him mad, who held a lion In chains of steel, and changed them for a twine?
Luc. But love is soft, Not of the lion's nature, but the dove's; An iron chain would hang too heavy on a tender neck.
Duke. Since on one side there must be confidence, Why may not I expect, as well as you, To have it plac'd in me? Repose your trust Upon my royal word.
Luc. As 'tis the privilege of womankind, That men should court our love, And make the first advances; so it follows, That you should first oblige; for 'tis our weakness Gives us more cause of fear, and therefore you, Who are the stronger sex, should first secure it.
Duke. But, madam, as you talk of fear from me, I may as well suspect design from you.
Luc. Design! of giving you my love more freely; Of making you a title to my heart, Where you by force would reign.
Duke. O that I could believe you! But your words Are not enough disorder'd for true love; They are not plain, and hearty, as are mine; But full of art, and close insinuation: You promise all, but give me not one proof Of love before; not the least earnest of it.
Luc. And what is then this midnight conversation? These silent hours divided from my sleep? Nay, more, stolen from my prayers with sacrilege, And here transferred to you? This guilty hand, Which should be used in dropping holy beads, But now bequeathed to yours? This heaving heart, Which only should be throbbing for my sins, But which now beats uneven time for you? These are my arts! and these are my designs!
Duke. I love you more, Lucretia, than my soul; Nay, than yours too; for I would venture both, That I might now enjoy you; and if what You ask me, did not make me fear to lose you, Though it were even my life, you should not be denied it.
Luc. Then I will ask no more. Keep still my letter, to upbraid me with it: To say, when I am sullied with your lust, And fit to be forsaken,—Go, Lucretia, To your first love; for this, for this, I leave you.
Duke. Oh, madam, never think that day can come!
Luc. It must, it will; I read it in your looks; You will betray me, when I'm once engaged.
Duke. If not my faith, your beauty will secure you.
Luc. My beauty is a flower upon the stalk, Goodly to see; but, gathered for the scent, And once with eagerness pressed to your nostrils, The sweets drawn out, 'tis thrown with scorn away. But I am glad I find you out so soon; I simply loved, and meant (with shame I own it) To trust my virgin honour in your hands. I asked not wealth for hire; and, but by chance, (I wonder that I thought on't) begged one trial, And, but for form, to have pretence to yield, And that you have denied me. Farewell! I could Have loved you, and yet, perhaps, I—
Duke. O speak, speak out, and do not drown that word; It seemed as if it would have been a kind one; And yours are much too precious to be lost.
Luc. Perhaps—I cannot yet leave loving you. There 'twas. But I recalled it in my mind, And made it false before I gave it air. Once more, farewell—I wo'not,— Now I can say I wo'not, wo'not love you. [Going.
Duke. You shall; and this shall be the seal of my affection. [Gives the letter. There take it, my Lucretia: I give it with more joy, Than I with grief received it.
Luc. Good night; I'll thank you for't some other time.
Duke. You'll not abuse my love?
Luc. No; but secure my honour.
Duke. I'll force it from your hands. [LUCRETIA runs.
Luc. Help, help, or I am ravished! help, for heaven's sake!
HIPPOLITA, LAURA, and VIOLETTA, within, at several places.
Within. Help, help Lucretia! they bear away Lucretia by force.
Duke. I think there's a devil in every corner.
Val. Sir, the design was laid on purpose for you, and all the women placed to cry. Make haste away; avoid the shame, for heaven's sake.
Duke. [going.] O, I could fire this monastery!
Enter FREDERICK and ASCANIO.
[FREDERICK, entering, speaks as to some behind him.]
Fred. Pain of your lives, let none of you presume to enter but myself.
Duke. My son!—O, I could burst with spite, and die with shame, to be thus apprehended! this is the baseness and cowardice of guilt: an army now were not so dreadful to me as that son, o'er whom the right of nature gives me power.
Fred. Sir, I am come—
Duke. To laugh at first, and then to blaze abroad, The weakness and the follies of your father.
Val. Sir, he has men in arms attending him.
Duke. I know my doom then. You have taken a popular occasion; I am now a ravisher of chastity, fit to be made prisoner first, and then deposed.
Fred. You will not hear me, sir.
Duke. No, I confess I have deserved my fate; For, what had these grey hairs to do with love? Or, if the unseemly folly would possess me, Why should I chuse to make my son my rival?
Fred. Sir, you may add, you banished me from Rome, And, from the light of it, Lucretia's eyes.
Duke. Nay, if thou aggravat'st my crimes, thou giv'st Me right to justify them: thou doubly art my slave, Both son and subject. I can do thee no wrong, Nor hast thou right to arraign or punish me: But thou inquir'st into thy father's years; Thy swift ambition could not stay my death, But must ride post to empire. Lead me now; Thy crimes have made me guiltless to myself, And given me face to bear the public scorn. You have a guard without?
Fred. I have some friends.
Duke. Speak plainly your intent. I love not a sophisticated truth, With an allay of lie in't.
Fred. [Kneeling.] This is not, sir, the posture of a rebel, But of a suppliant; if the name of son Be too much honour to me. What first I purpos'd, I scarce know myself. Love, anger, and revenge, then rolled within me, And yet, even then, I was not hurried farther Than to preserve my own.
Duke. Your own! What mean you?
Fred. My love, and my Lucretia, which I thought, In my then boiling passion, you pursued With some injustice, and much violence; This led me to repel that force by force. 'Twas easy to surprise you, when I knew Of your intended visit.
Duke. Thank my folly.
Fred. But reason now has reassumed its place, And makes me see how black a crime it is To use a force upon my prince and father.
Duke. You give me hope you will resign Lucretia.
Fred. Ah no; I never can resign her to you: But, sir, I can my life; which, on my knees, I tender, as the atoning sacrifice: Or if your hand (because you are a father) Be loth to take away that life you gave, I will redeem your crime, by making it My own: So you shall still be innocent, and I Die blessed, and unindebted for my being.
Duke. O Frederick, you are too much a son, [Embracing him. And I too little am a father: you, And you alone, have merited Lucretia; 'Tis now my only grief, I can do nothing to requite this virtue: For to restore her to you, Is not an act of generosity, But a scant, niggard justice; yet I love her So much, that even this little, which I do, Is like the bounty of an usurer; High to be priz'd from me, Because 'tis drawn from such a wretched mind.
Fred. You give me now a second, better life; [Kissing his hand. But,—that the gift may be more easy to you,— Consider, sir, Lucretia did not love you,— I fear to say, ne'er would.
Duke. You do well to help me to o'ercome that difficulty: I'll weigh that, too, hereafter. For a love, So violent as mine, will ask long time, And much of reason, to effect the cure. My present care shall be to make you happy; For that will make my wish impossible, And then the remedies will be more easy.
Enter SOPHRONIA, LUCRETIA, VIOLETTA, LAURA, HIPPOLITA.
Soph. I have, with joy, o'erheard this happy change, And come with blessings to applaud your conquest Over the greatest of mankind, yourself.
Duke. I hope 'twill be a full and lasting one.
Luc. Thus, let me kneel, and pay my thanks and duty, [Kneeling. Both to my prince and father.
Duke. Rise, rise, too charming maid, for yet I cannot Call you my daughter: that first name, Lucretia, Hangs on my lips, and would be still pronounced. Look not too kindly on me; one sweet glance, Perhaps, would ruin both: therefore, I'll go And try to get new strength to bear your eyes. 'Till then, farewell. Be sure you love my Frederick, And do not hate his father. [Exeunt Duke and VALERIO.
Fred. [At the door.] Now, friends, you may appear.
Enter AURELIAN, CAMILLO, BENITO.
Your pardon, madam, that we thus intrude On holy ground: yourself best know it could not Be avoided, and it shall be my care it be excused.
Soph. Though sovereign princes bear a privilege Of entering when they please within our walls, In others 'tis a crime past dispensation; And therefore, to avoid a public scandal, Be pleased, sir, to retire, and quit this garden.
Aur. We shall obey you, madam; but that we may do it with less regret, we hope you will give these ladies leave to accompany us.
Soph. They shall. And, nieces, for myself, I only ask you To justify my conduct to the world, That none may think I have betrayed a trust, But freed you from a tyranny.
Lau. Our duty binds us to acknowledge it.
Cam. And our gratitude to witness it.
Vio. With a holy and lasting remembrance of your favour.
Fred. And it shall be my care, either by reason to bend your uncle's will, or, by my father's interest, to force your dowry from his hands.
Ben. [To AUR.] Pray, sir, let us make haste over these walls again; these gardens are unlucky to me; I have lost my reputation of music in one of them, and of wit in the other.
Aur. [To LAU.] Now, Laura, you may take your choice betwixt the two Benito's, and consider whether you had rather he should serenade you in the garden, or I in bed to-night.
Lau. You may be sure I shall give sentence for Benito; for the effect of your serenading would be to make me pay the music nine months hence.
Hip. [To ASCA.] You see, brother, here's a general gaol-delivery: there has been a great deal of bustle and disturbance in the cloister to-night; enough to distract a soul which is given up, like me, to contemplation: and therefore, if you think fit, I could even be content to retire, with you, into the world; and, by way of penance, to marry you; which, as husbands and wives go now, is a greater mortification than a nunnery.