Pauline. And am lost!
M. Deschap. Come, let me hope that Beauseant's love—
Pauline. His love! Talk not of love. Love has no thought of self! Love buys not with the ruthless usurer's gold The loathsome prostitution of a hand Without a heart? Love sacrifices all things To bless the thing it loves! He knows not love. Father, his love is hate—his hope revenge! My tears, my anguish, my remorse for falsehood— These are the joys that he wrings from our despair!
M. Deschap. If thou deem'st thus, reject him! Shame and ruin Were better than thy misery;—think no more on't. My sand is wellnigh run—what boots it when The glass is broken? We'll annul the contract: And if to-morrow in the prisoner's cell These aged limbs are laid, why still, my child, I'll think thou art spared; and wait the Liberal Hour That lays the beggar by the side of kings!
Pauline, No—no—forgive me! You, my honor'd father,— You, who so loved, so cherish'd me, whose lips Never knew one harsh word! I'm not ungrateful; I am but human!—hush! Now, call the bridegroom— You see I am prepared—no tears—all calm; But, father, talk no more of love
M. Deschap. My child, Tis but one struggle; he is young, rich, noble; Thy state will rank first 'mid the dames of Lyons; And when this heart can shelter thee no more, Thy youth will not be guardianless.
Pauline. I have set My foot upon the ploughshare—I will pass The fiery ordeal. [Aside.] Merciful Heaven, support me; And on the absent wanderer shed the light Of happier stars—lost evermore to me!
Enter MADAME DESCHAPPELLES, BEAUSEANT, GLAVIS, and Notary.
Mme. Deschap. Why, Pauline, you are quite in deshabille—you ought to be more alive to the importance of this joyful occasion. We had once looked higher, it is true; but you see, after all, Monsieur Beauseant's father was a Marquis, and that's a great comfort. Pedigree and jointure!—you have them both in Monsieur Beauseant. A young lady decorously brought up should only have two considerations in her choice of a husband; first, is his birth honorable? secondly, will his death be advantageous? All other trifling details should be left to parental anxiety.
Beau. [approaching and waving aside Madame]. Ah, Pauline! let me hope that you are reconciled to an event which confers such rapture upon me.
Pauline. I am reconciled to my doom.
Beau. Doom is a harsh word, sweet lady.
Pauline [aside.] This man must have some mercy—his heart cannot be marble. [Aloud.] Oh, sir, be just—be generous! Seize a noble triumph—a great revenge! Save the father, and spare the child.
Beau. [aside.] joy—joy alike to my hatred and my passion! The haughty Pauline is at last my suppliant. [Aloud.] You ask from me what I have not the sublime virtue to grant—a virtue reserved only for the gardener's son! I cannot forego my hopes in the moment of their fulfilment! I adhere to the contract—your father's ruin or your hand.
Pauline. Then all is over. Sir, I have decided.
[The clock strikes one.
Enter DAMAS and MELNOTTE.
Damas. Your servant, cousin Deschappelles. Let me introduce Colonel Morier.
Mme. Deschap. [curtsying very low]. What, the celebrated hero? This is, indeed, an honor! [MELNOTTE bows, and remains in the background.
Damas [to Pauline]. My little cousin, I congratulate you. What, no smile—no blush? You are going to be divorced from poor Melnotte, and marry this rich gentleman. You ought to be excessively happy!
Damas. Why, how pale you are, child!—Poor Pauline! Hist—confide in me! Do they force you to this?
Damas. You act with your own free consent?
Pauline. My own consent—yes.
Damas. Then you are the most—I will not say what you are.
Pauline. You think ill of me—be it so—yet if you knew all—
Damas. There is some mystery—speak out, Pauline.
Pauline [suddenly]. Oh, perhaps you can save me! you are our relation—our friend. My father is on the verge of bankruptcy—this day he requires a large sum to meet demands that cannot be denied; that sum Beauseant will advance—this hand the condition of the barter. Save me if you have the means—save me! You will be repaid above!
Damas. aside. I recant—Women are not so bad after all! [Aloud.] Humph, child! I cannot help you—I am too poor.
Pauline. The last plank to which I clung is shivered.
Damas. Hold—you see my friend Morier: Melnotte is his most intimate friend—fought in the same fields—slept in the same tent. Have you any message to send to Melnotte? any word to soften this blow?
Pauline. He knows Melnotte—he will see him—he will bear to him my last farewell—[approaches MELNOTTE] He has a stern air—he turns away from me—he despises me!—Sir one word I beseech you.
Mel. Her voice again! How the old time comes o'er me!
Damas [to Madame.] Don't interrupt them.—He is going to tell her what a rascal young Melnotte is; he knows him well, I promise you.
Mme. Deschap. So considerate in you, cousin Damas!
[DAMAS approaches DESCHAPPELLES; converses apart with hint in dumb show—DESCHAPPELLES shows him a paper, which he inspects and takes.
Pauline. Thrice have I sought to speak; my courage fails me.— Sir, is it true that you have known—nay, are The friend of—Melnotte.
Mel. Lady, yes!— Myself And misery know the man!
Pauline. And you will see him, And you will bear to him—ay—word for word, All that this heart, which breaks in parting from him, Would send, ere still for ever?
Mel. He hath told me You have the right to choose from out the world A worthier bridegroom;—he forgoes all claim, Even to murmur at his doom. Speak on!
Pauline. Tell him, for years I never nursed a thought That was not his;—that on his wandering way, Daily and nightly, pour'd a mourner's prayers. Tell him ev'n now that I would rather share His lowliest lot,—walk by his side, an outcast— Work for him, beg with him,—live upon the light Of one kind smile from him,—than wear the crown The Bourbon lost!
Mel. [aside.] Am I already mad? And does delirium utter such sweet words Into a dreamer's ear? [Aloud]. You love him thus, And yet desert him?
Pauline. Say, that, if his eye— Could read this heart,—its struggles, its temptations,— His love itself would pardon that desertion! Look on that poor old man,—he is my father; He stands upon the verge of an abyss!— He calls his child to save him! Shall I shrink From him who gave me birth?—withhold my hand, And see a parent perish? Tell him this, And say—that we shall meet again in Heaven!
Mel. Lady—I—I—what is this riddle?—what The nature of this sacrifice?
Pauline [pointing to DAMAS]. Go, ask him!
Beau. [from the table]. The papers are prepared—we only need Your hand and seal.
Mel. Stay, lady—one word more. Were but your duty with your faith united, Would you still share the low-born peasant's lot?
Pauline. Would I? Ah, better death with him I love Than all the pomp—which is but as the flowers That crown the victim!—[Turning away.] I am ready.
[MELNOTTE rushes to DAMAS.
Damas. There—This is the schedule—this the total.
Beau. [to DESCHAPPELLES, showing notes]. These Are yours the instant she has sign'd; you are Still the great House of Lyons!
[The Notary is about to hand the contract to PAULINE, when MELNOTTE seizes it and tears it.
Beau. Are you mad?
M. Deschap. How, Sir! What means this insult?
Mel. Peace, old man! I have a prior claim. Before the face Of man and Heaven I urge it; I outbid Yon sordid huckster for your priceless jewel. [Giving a pocket-book. There is the sum twice told! Blush not to take it: There's not a coin that is not bought and hallow'd In the cause of nations with a soldier's blood!
Beau. Torments and death!
Pauline. That voice! Thou art—
Mel. Thy husband!
[PAULINE rushes into his arms.
Look up! Look up, Pauline!—for I can bear Thine eyes! The stain is blotted from my name. I have redeem'd mine honor. I can call On France to sanction thy divine forgiveness! Oh, joy!—Oh, rapture! By the midnight watchfires Thus have I seen thee! thus foretold this hour! And 'midst the roar of battle, thus have heard The beating of thy heart against my own!
Beau. Fool'd, duped, and triumph'd over in the hour Of mine own victory! Curses on ye both! May thorns be planted in the marriage-bed! And love grow sour'd and blacken'd into hate Such as the hate that gnaws me!
Damas. Curse away And let me tell thee, Beauseant, a wise proverb The Arabs have,—"Curses are like young chickens, [Solemnly.] And still come home to roost!"
Beau. Their happiness Maddens my soul! I am powerless and revengeless! [To MADAME. I wish you joy! Ha! ha! the gardener's son! [Exit.
Damas [to GLAVIS]. Your friend intends to hang himself! Methinks You ought to be his travelling companion!
Gla. Sir, you are exceedingly obliging! [Exit.
Pauline. Oh My father, you are saved,—and by my husband! Ah, blessed hour!
Mel. Yet you weep still, Pauline.
Pauline. But on thy breast!—these tears are sweet and holy!
M. Deschap. You have won love and honor nobly, sir! Take her;—be happy both!
Mme. Deschap. I'm all astonish'd! Who, then, is Colonel Morier?
Damas. You behold him!
Mel. Morier no more after this happy day! I would not bear again my father's name Till I could deem it spotless! The hour's come! Heaven smiled on conscience! As the soldier rose From rank to rank, how sacred was the fame That cancell'd crime, and raised him nearer thee!
Mme. Deschap. A Colonel and a hero! Well, that's something! He's wondrously improved! I wish you joy, sir!
Mel. Ah! the same love that tempts us into sin, If it be true love, works out its redemption; And he who seeks repentance for the Past Should woo the Angel Virtue in the Future.