Mrs. Bev. I gave them to a husband.
Stu. Who gave them to a—
Mrs. Bev. What? Whom did he give them to?
Stu. A mistress.
Mrs. Bev. No; on my life he did not.
Stu. Himself confessed it, with curses on her avarice.
Mrs. Bev. I’ll not believe it. He has no mistress—or if he has, why is it told to Me?
Stu. To guard you against insults. He told me, that to move you to compliance, he forged that letter, pretending I was ruined; ruined by Him too. The fraud succeeded; and what a trusting wife bestowed in pity, was lavished on a wanton.
Mrs. Bev. Then I am lost indeed; and my afflictions are too powerful for me. His follies I have borne without upbraiding, and saw the approach of poverty without a tear. My affections, my strong affections supported me through every trial.
Stu. Be patient, madam.
Mrs. Bev. Patient! The barbarous man! And does he think my tenderness of heart is his security for wounding it? But he shall find that injuries such as these, can arm my weakness for vengeance and redress.
Stu. Ha! then I may succeed. (Aside.) Redress is in your power.
Mrs. Bev. What redress?
Stu. Forgive me, madam, if in my zeal to serve you, I hazard your displeasure. Think of your wretched state. Already want surrounds you. Is it in patience to bear That? To see your helpless little one robbed of his birth-right? A sister too, with unavailing tears, lamenting her lost fortune? No comfort left you, but ineffectual pity from the Few, out-weighed by insults from the Many?
Mrs. Bev. Am I so lost a creature? Well, Sir, my redress?
Stu. To be resolved is to secure it. The marriage vow, once violated, is in the sight of heaven dissolved—Start not, but hear me! ’Tis now the summer of your youth; time has not cropt the roses from your cheek, though sorrow long has washed them. Then use your beauty wisely; and, freed by injuries, fly from the cruellest of men, for shelter with the kindest.
Mrs. Bev. And who is He?
Stu. A friend to the unfortunate; a bold one too; who while the storm is bursting on your brow, and lightening flashing from your eyes, dares tell you that he loves you.
Mrs. Bev. Would that these eyes had heaven’s own lightening! that with a look, thus I might blast thee! Am I then fallen so low? Has poverty so humbled me, that I should listen to a hellish offer, and sell my soul for bread? O, villain! villain!—But now I know thee, and thank thee for the knowledge.
Stu. If you are wife, you shall have cause to thank me.
Mrs. Bev. An injured husband too shall thank thee.
Stu. Yet know, proud woman, I have a heart as stubborn as your own; as haughty and imperious: and as it loves, so can it hate.