Mrs. Bev. Not an old man’s death. Yet if it troubles you, I wish him living.
Bev. And I, with all my heart.
Char. Why, what’s the matter?
Bev. Nothing. How heard you of his death?
Mrs. Bev. His steward came express. Would I had never known it!
Bev. Or had heard it one day sooner—For I have a tale to tell, shall turn you into stone; or if the power of speech, remain, you shall kneel down and curse me.
Mrs. Bev. Alas! what tale is this? And why are we to curse you? I’ll bless you for ever.
Bev. No; I have deserved no blessings. The world holds not such another wretch. All this large fortune, this second bounty of heaven, that might have healed our sorrows, and satisfied our utmost hopes, in a curst hour I sold last night.
Char. Sold! How sold?
Mrs. Bev. Impossible! It cannot be!
Bev. That devil Stukely, with all hell to aid him, tempted me to the deed. To pay false debts of honour, and to redeem past errors, I sold the reversion—sold it for a scanty sum, and lost it among villains.
Char. Why, farewel all then.
Bev. Liberty and life. Come, kneel and curse me.
Mrs. Bev. Then hear me heaven! (Kneels)
Look down with mercy on his sorrows! Give softness
to his looks, and quiet to his heart! Take from
his memory the sense of what is past, and cure him
of despair! On Me, on Me, if misery must be the
lot of either, multiply misfortunes! I’ll
bear them patiently, so He is happy! These hands
shall toil for his support! These eyes be lifted
up for hourly blessings on him! And every duty
of a fond and faithful wife, be doubly done to chear
and comfort him!—So hear me! so reward
Bev. I would kneel too, but that offended heaven would turn my prayers to curses. What have I to ask for? I, who have shook hands with hope? Is it for length of days that I should kneel? No; My time is limited. Or is it for this world’s blessings upon You and Yours? To pour out my heart in wishes for a ruined wife, a child and sister? O! no! For I have done a deed to make you miserable.
Mrs. Bev. Why miserable? Is poverty so miserable?—The real wants of life are few: a little industry will supply them all; and chearfulness will follow. It is the privilege of honest industry; and we’ll enjoy it fully.
Bev. Never, never! O, I have told you but in part. The irrevocable deed is done.
Mrs. Bev. What deed? And why do you look so at me?
Bev. A deed, that dooms my soul to vengeance; that seals Your misery here, and Mine hereafter.
Mrs. Bev. No, no; You have a heart too good for’t— Alas! he raves, Charlotte—his looks too terrify me—Speak comfort to him—He can have done no deed of wickedness.