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Cor. Time shall unfold what plaited cunning
Come, my fair Cordelia.
[Exeunt France and Cordelia. Gon. Sister, it is not a little I have to say of what most nearly appertains to us both. I think our father will hence to-night.
Re. That's most certain, and with you; next month with us. Gon. You see how full of changes his age
the observation we have made of it hath not been little : he always loved our sister most; and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her off, appears too grossly.
Re. 'Tis the infirmity of his age : yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.
Gon. The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash; then must we look to receive from his age, not alone the imperfections of long-ingrafted condition, but, therewithal, the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them.
Re. Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him, as this of Kent's banishment.
Gon. There is farther compliment of leave-taking between France and him. Pray you, let us hit together: if our father carry authority with such
i Qualities of mind.
dispositions as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us.
Re. We shall farther think of it.
A hall in the Earl of Gloster's castle.
Enter EDMUND, with a letter. Edm. Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law My services are bound. Wherefore should I Stand in the plague of custom; and permit The curiosity of nations 1 to deprive me, For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon
shines Lag of a brother? Why bastard ? wherefore base ? When my dimensions are as well compact, My mind as generous, and my shape as true, As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us With base ? with baseness ? bastardy ? base, base ? Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take More composition and fierce quality, Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed, Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops, Got 'tween asleep and wake ?--Well then, Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land. Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund
1 The scrupulous nicety of civil institutions.
As to the legitimate : fine word,legitimate !
[putting up the letter. Glos. Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?
Edm. I know no news, my lord.
Glos. No? What needed then that terrible despatch of it into your pocket? the quality of nothing hath not such need to hide itself. Let's see: come; if it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles.
Edm. I beseech you, sir, pardon me: it is a letter from my brother, that I have not all o'er
i Yielded, surrendered. 3 Suddenly.
read; for so much as I have perused, I find it not fit for your overlooking.
Glos. Give me the letter, sir.
Edm. I shall offend, either to detain or give it. The contents, as in part I understand them, are to blame.
Glos. Let's see, let's see.
Edm. I hope, for my brother's justification, he wrote this but as an essay 1 or taste of my virtue.
Glos. [reads.] This policy, and reverence of age, makes the world bitter to the best of our times; keeps our fortunes from us, till our oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fondo bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny; who sways, not as it hath power, but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue for ever, and live the beloved of your brother, EDGAR.'—Humph !--conspiracy!— Sleep till I waked him,---you should enjoy half his revenue.'—My son Edgar! Had he a hand to write this ? a heart and brain to breed it in ?-When came this to you? Who brought it?
Edm. It was not brought me, my lord; there's the cunning of it: I found it thrown in at the casement of my closet.
Glos. You know the character to be your brother's ?
Edm. If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear it were his; but, in respect of that, I would fain think it were not.
Glos. It is his.
Edm. It is his hand, my lord; but, I hope, his heart is not in the contents.
Glos. Hath he never heretoforé sounded you in this business?
Edm. Never, my lord: but I have often heard him maintain it to be fit, that sons at perfect age, and fathers declining, the father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage
his revenue. Glos. O villain, villain !-his very opinion in the letter! Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain! worse than brutish!-Go, sirrah, seek him ; I'll apprehend him ;-abominable villain ! Where is he?
Edm. I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please you to suspend your indignation against my brother till you can derive from him better testimony of his intent, you shall run a certain course ; where,1 if you violently proceed against him, mistaking his purpose, it would make a great gap in your own honor, and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience. I dare pawn down my life for him, that he hath writ this to feel my affection to your honor, and to no other pretence of danger. Glos. Think you