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ACT I.

SCENE 1.-Coast of Lincolnshire that overlooks the Wash.

TIME, EVENING.

Enter LESTER BURTON and PERCY MANLEY.

PERCY.

LESTER, thou art so melancholy, I do believe thy heart is sick to death, and thou art musing remedies for its recovery. I never now behold thy once right merry face but what I fancy thou hast enlisted thyself with that chosen band of disappointed poets whose flowery writings never produce fruit !

LESTER.

Percy!
Thy heart is far too light for heavy grief
To lie upon it. Thou art like the threads
Which summer insects spin upon the air,
That look so soft, and shine so silvery bright
(When sunny skies have hushed the storms to sleep);
But no more fit to brave the hurricane
Than thou art formed to bear the grief I feel.

B

PERCY.

Oh, lovesick youth !-Oh, martyr to that love! An' I do not drive thee to thy wits' end (if any end there be to that which lacks beginning) for comparing me to a gossamer thread, I am no true friend !

LESTER.

Yesterday, you were dull as any lead;
To-day, light, even as a feather !-
I

pray you, peace !

PERCY.

By my faith, some blue-eyed beauty in this little spot has made strange havoc with thy heart !

LESTER.

Oh, that my heart were but as light as thine !

house?

Dost see yon

PERCY.

And know it well,—too well!

LESTER.

To whom does it belong?

PERCY.

usurer

Ah, ah! art there ?—To a miser-a very miser-a

La miserable man! A man who is afraid to venture from his door lest that the dust compel him to use soap and water ! As strange a being as the world e'er saw! His very visage would turn new milk sour.

LESTER.

Does any dwell with him ?

PERCY.

A poor, withered autumnal leaf, in the shape of an old

woman.

She is his bedmaker, clothesmaker, and washerwoman,—although she has never been known to exercise her skill in the latter department under his roof! He has a house in Town, where thoughtless youths obtain supplies of gold: of late, his business has been managed by another screw; some cousin, I presume; for seldom does this man—this Grimes—this Master Grimes-leave e'en his door!

LESTER.

Has he committed any crime ?

PERCY.

Committed crime !he's ruined the noblest blood of England! They say he's bitten even Charles himself! His life is one dark mystery. There he lives—in that black hole, close as a scorpion, and as venomous ! In the rear, a vast garden, surrounded by tremendous walls, defies the curious eye; and there, by night, he ruminates o'er plans, which ripen in the darkness of his heart by

day!

LESTER.

But, Percy, art thou sure none other dwell
Within those walls? Has he no child—no niece
No fair girl—to cheer his lonely hours ?
'Tis strange that I, a visiter to thee
Of five days old, should seem to know far more
Than you, a native of this place.

PERCY.

Ah! then thou art run mad; more mad than seas
Which rage against the granite-bounded coast !
Oh, fie! to fall in love with poor old Margaret !

LESTER.

Mock on-mock on! Last eve,—'twas on this spot,-
As I was gazing on the orb of day,
Which in a world of living glory sank,
’Midst purple clouds, that shadowed the far west,
A voice rich as the nightingale's, and as clear,
Clothed words of love in robes of melody!
Music most exquisite! The very sky
Caught the warm breathing, for in rosy light
It seemed to blush for very consciousness !
Oh, Fancy's much, but Fancy ne'er could paint,
Form, or imagine, with her magic power,
A voice like that I heard last eve!

PERCY.

If thou hast wrecked thy heart upon a sound —

LESTER.

Would that were all ! Too soon a vision rose,
And, like a burst of unexpected light,
Blinded my wondering eyes to all beside.

Percy!
As sure as yonder stream of living gold
Pours its bright radiance on the trembling sea,
So sure saw I the magic form of her
Who breathed that music!

PERCY.

Was she a mortal, or a thing of air ?

(Mockingly.)

LESTER.

She was all light! and, oh, her glorious face
Was like a sunbeam columned upon snow !

PERCY.

If this be true, as true it needs must be,

Or else some witchcraft has been played on thee,
From my true heart I pity thy sad hap.
Stern fate, like to an Alpine barrier,
Stands between thy love and its possession.
Beyond the room where Master Grimes pours forth
His golden flood, you do not pass :
Or, if you pass, your life may answer it.

LESTER.

'T were nobler, then, to die in the attempt,
Than thus to live--a prey to wild despair !
That was the very casement; there she stood,
A sparkling star, shining 'mid golden clouds !
Around her ivory neck her lustrous hair
Fell like the light upon a glacier.
Anon, she lifted up
Her starry eyes, which too soon lit on me!
And then she fled away, as though a crowd
Of hideous phantoms suddenly burst forth !
Now all is darkness and despair !

PERCY (crossing, and speaking very slowly). To me it is :—yet from the dismal night Of my sad heart I may assist thee unto peace.

LESTER.

What spirit over thee has spread its wings?
What horrid change is here? The ghastly hue
And strange appearance of thy altered face
Speak of a heart but ill at ease.

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