THE WIFE’S TRIAL;
THE INTRUDING WIDOW.
A Dramatic poem.
FOUNDED ON MR. CRABBE’S TALE OF “THE CONFIDANT.”
* * * * *
MR. SELBY, A Wiltshire Gentleman.
KATHERINE, Wife to Selby.
LUCY, Sister to Selby.
MRS. FRAMPTON, A Widow.
SCENE—At Mr. Selby’s House, or in the grounds adjacent.
* * * * *
MR. SELBY. KATHERINE.
Selby. Do not too far mistake me, gentlest
I meant to chide your virtues, not yourself,
And those too with allowance. I have not
Been blest by thy fair side with five white years
Of smooth and even wedlock, now to touch
With any strain of harshness on a string
Hath yielded me such music. ’Twas the quality
Of a too grateful nature in my Katherine,
That to the lame performance of some vows,
And common courtesies of man to wife,
Attributing too much, hath sometimes seem’d
To esteem as favors, what in that blest union
Are but reciprocal and trivial dues,
As fairly yours as mine: ’twas this I thought
Gently to reprehend.
Kath. In friendship’s barter
The riches we exchange should hold some level,
And corresponding worth. Jewels for toys
Demand some thanks thrown in. You look me, sir,
To that blest haven of my peace, your bosom,
An orphan founder’d in the world’s black storm.
Poor, you have made me rich; from lonely maiden,
Your cherish’d and your full-accompanied wife.
Selby. But to divert the subject: Kate
I would not wrest your meanings; else that word
Accompanied, and full-accompanied too,
Might raise a doubt in some men, that their wives
Haply did think their company too long;
And over-company, we know by proof,
Is worse than no attendance.
Kath. I must guess, You speak this of the Widow—
Selby. ’Twas a bolt
At random shot; but if it hit, believe me,
I am most sorry to have wounded you
Through a friend’s side. I know not how we have swerved
From our first talk. I was to caution you
Against this fault of a too grateful nature:
Which, for some girlish obligations past,
In that relenting season of the heart,
When slightest favors pass for benefits
Of endless binding, would entail upon you
An iron slavery of obsequious duty
To the proud will of an imperious woman.
Kath. The favors are not slight to her I owe.
Selby. Slight or not slight, the tribute
Cancels all dues— [A voice within.
even now I hear her call you
In such a tone, as lordliest mistresses
Expect a slave’s attendance. Prithee, Kate.
Let her expect a brace of minutes or so.
Say you are busy. Use her by degrees
To some less hard exactions.