Page images
PDF
EPUB

This cold and creeping kinsman, who so long
Kept his eye on me, as the snake upon
The fluttering bird, hath ere this time outstept me,
Become the master of my rights, and lord
Of that which lifts him up to princes in
Dominion and domain.

JOSEPHINE.

Who knows? our son May have return'd back to his grandsire, and Even now uphold thy rights for thee?

WERNER.

'Tis hopeless, Since his strange disappearance from

my

father's,
Entailing, as it were, my sins upon
Himself, no tidings have reveal'd his course.
I parted with him to his grandsire, on
The promise that his anger would stop short
Of the third generation; but Heaven seems
To claim her stern prerogative, and visit
Upon my boy his father's faults and follies.

JOSEPHINE.

I must hope better still,—at least we have yet
Baffled the long pursuit of Stralenheim.

WERNER.

We should have done, but for this fatal sickness,
More fatal than a mortal malady,
Because it takes not life, but life's sole solace:
Even now I feel my spirit girt about
By the snares of this avaricious fiend;-
How do I know he hath not track'd us here?

JOSEPHINE.

He does not know thy person; and his spies,

[graphic]

Who so long watch'd thee, have been left at Hamburgh.
Our unexpected journey, and this change
Of name, leaves all discovery far behind:
None hold us here for aught save what we seem.

WERNER.

Save what we seem! save what we are—sick beggars, Even to our very hopes. -Ha! ha!

JOSEPHINE.

Alas! That bitter laugh!

WERNER.

Who would read in this form
The high soul of the son of a long line?
Who, in this garb, the heir of princely lands?
Who, in this sunken, sickly eye, the pride
Of rank and ancestry! in this worn cheek,
And famine-hollow'd brow, the lord of halls,
Which daily feast a thousand vassals?

JOSEPHINE.

You
Ponder'd not thus upon these worldly things,
My Werner! when you deign'd to choose for bride
The foreign daughter of a wandering exile.

WERNER.

An exile's daughter with an outcast son
Were a fit marriage; but I still had hopes
To lift thee to the state we both were born for.
Your father's house was noble, though decay'd;
And worthy by its birth to match with ours.

JOSEPHINE.

Your father did not think so, though 't was noble;
But had my birth been all my claim to match

With thee, I should have deem'd it what it is.

WERNER.
And what is that in thine eyes?

JOSEPHINE.

All which it
Has done in our behalf,-nothing.

WERNER.

How,—nothing?

JOSEPHINE.
Or worse; for it has been a canker in
Thy heart from the beginning: but for this,
We had not felt our poverty, but as
Millions of myriads feel it-cheerfully;
But for these phantoms of thy feudal fathers,
Thou might'st have earn'd thy bread, as thousands earn it;
Or, if that seem too humble, tried by commerce,
Or other civic means, to amend thy fortunes.

WERNER (Ironically.)
And been an Hanseatic burgher? Excellent!

JOSEPHINE.
Whate'er thou might'st have been, to me thou art,
What no state high or low can ever change,
My heart's first choice;—which chose thee, knowing neither
Thy birth, thy hopes, thy pride; nought, save thy sorrows;
While they last, let me comfort or divide them;
When they end, let mine end with them, or thee!

WERNER.

My better angel! such I have ever found thee;
This rashness, or this weakness of my temper,
Ne'er raised a thought to injure thee or thine.
Thou didst not mar my fortunes : my own nature
In youth was such as to unmake an empire,

ఈ ఉ న నా న న

Had such been my inheritance; but now,
Chasten'd, subdued, out-worn, and taught to know
Myself,—to lose this for our son and thee!
Trust me, when, in my two-and-twentieth spring
My father barr'd me from my father's house,
The last sole scion of a thousand sires,
(For I was then the last) it hurt me less
Than to behold my boy and my boy's mother
Excluded in their innocence from what
My faults deserved-exclusion; although then
My passions were all living serpents, and
Twined like the gorgon's round me.

(A knocking is heard.

JOSEPHINE.

Hark!

WERNER.

A kpocking!

JOSEPHINE.
Who can it be at this lone hour? we have
Few visitors.

WERNER.

And poverty hath none, Save those who come to make it poorer

still. Well, I am prepared. (WERNER puts his hand into his bosom as if to search for some weapon.

JOSEPHINE.

Oh! do not look so. I
Will to the door, it cannot be of import
In this lone spot of wintry desolation-
The very desert saves man from mankind.

(She goes to the door.

Enter IDENSTEIN.

IDENSTEIN.

A fair good evening to my fairer hostess
And worthy——what's your name, my

friend?

WERNER.

Are you

Not afraid to demand it?

IDENSTEIN.

Not afraid?
Egad! I am afraid. You look as if
I ask'd for something better than your name,
By the face you put on it.

WERNER

Better, sir!

IDENSTEIN.
Better or worse, like matrimony, what
Shall I say more? You have been a guest this month
Here in the prince's palace“-(to be sure,
His highness had resign’d it to the ghosts
And rats these twelve years—but 't is still a palace)
I say you have been our lodger, and as yet
We do not know

your
WERNER.

My name is Werner.

name.

IDENSTEIN.

A goodly name, a very worthy name
As e’er was gilt upon a trader's board;
I have a cousin in the lazaretto
Of Hamburgh, who has got a wife who bore
The same.

He is an officer of trust,
Surgeon's assistant (hoping to be surgeon),

« PreviousContinue »