I well remember it.
That letter did confirm the truth (she said)
Of a friend’s death, which she had long fear’d true,
But knew not for a fact. A youth of promise
She gave him out—a hot adventurous spirit—
That had set sail in quest of golden dreams,
And cities in the heart of Central Afric;
But named no names, nor did I care to press
My question further, in the passionate grief
She shew’d at the receipt. Might this be he?
Tears were not all. When that first shower was past,
With clasped hands she raised her eyes to Heav’n,
As if in thankfulness for some escape,
Or strange deliverance, in the news implied,
Which sweeten’d that sad news.
Something of that
I noted also—
In her closet once,
Seeking some other trifle, I espied
A ring, in mournful characters deciphering
The death of “Robert Halford, aged two
And twenty.” Brother, I am not given
To the confident use of wagers, which I hold
Unseemly in a woman’s argument;
But I am strangely tempted now to risk
A thousand pounds out of my patrimony,
(And let my future husband look to it
If it be lost,) that this immodest Widow
Shall name the name that tallies with that ring.
That wager lost, I should be rich indeed—
Rich in my rescued Kate—rich in my honour,
Which now was bankrupt. Sister, I accept
Your merry wager, with an aching heart
For very fear of winning. ’Tis the hour
That I should meet my Widow in the walk,
The south side of the garden. On some pretence
Lure forth my Wife that way, that she may witness
Our seeming courtship. Keep us still in sight,
Yourselves unseen; and by some sign I’ll give,
(A finger held up, or a kerchief waved,)
You’ll know your wager won—then break upon us,
As if by chance.
I apprehend your meaning—
SELBY And may you prove a true Cassandra here, Though my poor acres smart for’t, wagering sister. [Exeunt.]
SCENE.-Mrs. Selby’s Chamber.
Did I express myself in terms so strong?
As nothing could have more affrighted me.
Think it a hurt friend’s jest, in retribution
Of a suspected cooling hospitality.
And, for my staying here, or going hence,
(Now I remember something of our argument,)
Selby and I can settle that between us.
You look amazed. What if your husband, child,
Himself has courted me to stay?