SCENE I.—A chamber
in Miss Spindle's house.—LAWYER CRIBBS
and MISS SPINDLE
discovered, seated, C.
explicit, my dear madam; this is a most serious affair: breach of promise, marriage
promise. How my heart bleeds for you, dear young lady, suffering virtue. But
tell me the particulars.
sir, why will you cause me to narrow up my feelings; my bleeding heart, by the
recital of my afflictions. I have "let concealment like a" caterpillar on
a button-wood, feed on my cambric cheek—and—[Aside.] I can't remember
the rest of it.
Alas, poor lady! pray go on.
The first of our acquaintance was down at a corn-husking. Not that I make
a practice of attending such vulgar places, Squire, but—
Oh, certainly not—certainly not.
Well, I was over-persuaded. I set up and stripped the dry coatings from
the yellow corn—only two years—I husked no more, Squire.
Indeed, indeed! two ears—you are certain it was but two ears? It is best
to be particular. We shall make out a prima faciæ case.
Well, I got hold of a red ear, it was the last I husked. I think it was
a red ear; so I was obliged to be kissed. Oh, Squire, think of my
mortification, when I was told that such was the invariable rule—the custom
at a husking.
[With energy.] Your sufferings must have been intolerable.
Oh, sir, you know how to feel for delicate timidity. A big coarse young man,
Bill Bullus, rose up to snatch the fragrance from my unwilling cheek—
I put up my kerchief—it was a cambric, a fine
cambric, Squire Cribbs, and said I had a choice in those things—looking at
Edward, whom I took to be a gentleman, you know. He took the hint immediately.
Bullus fell back appalled at my manner, and Edward—oh, sir! spare my blushes.
I understand—he—yes. I understand.
He did it, sir. I felt the pressure of his warm lip upon—
Your cheek, of course.
Oh, no, no, sir. It was said, by my friend, the Chelsea Beach Bard, that
from my lips he stole ambrosical blisses.
Enormous! but go on.
You may judge what was my confusion.
Certainly, Miss Spindle.
The ear of corn was not more red than was my burnished cheek.
I do not know, my dear young lady, but you might make out a case
for assault and battery.
It was very rude for a college-bred. Well, after that he bowed to
me as we were coming out of church.
Aha! the evidence comes in. Have you got proof of that, most injured
Oh, sir, no proof would be required. I trust that a person of my
respectability need bring no proof of what they know. Well, after that I
was agoing down to Mr. Simmons', and lo, a cow stood in the road. I must
pass within twenty feet of the ferocious animal if I continued my route;
providentially, at the very instant, Edward came down the road that turns
up by Wollcott's mill. He saw my strait. He saw that I stood trembling
like some fragile flower tossed by the winds of heaven. Like Sir William
Wallace flying to the rescue of the Greeks, he came, panting on the wings
of love. He rushed like an armed castle to the side of the cow, and
she wheeled about like the great leviathan of the deep, and trotted down
towards the school-house.
I can imagine your feelings, Miss Spindle—a delicate young lady in
imminent danger. But he did no more than any man would have done.
Well, sir, you may judge what were the feelings of my palpitating heart,
tender as it always was—
Have any letters passed between you?
Oh, yes, yes; five or six, sir.
We've got him there, aha! If Miss Spindle would be so condescending as
just to show me one of those letters.
He's got them all in his possession.
Unfortunate! horrible! How did he obtain possession of those letters?
Oh! I sent them—sometimes by one person, sometimes by another.
How, madam? His letters, I mean—how did he get—
Oh, sir, mark his ingratitude. I sent him half a dozen—
[Discouraged.] Oh! I understand. The correspondence was all on one side, then?
Not one letter did he write to me. Ah! sir, think of it; all my tenderness, all
my devotion. Oh! my breaking heart.
[Aside.] Oh! humbug! Well, good day, Miss Spindle. I have a pressing engagement,
Well, but, lawyer Cribbs, what is your advice? How ought I to proceed?
Get your friends to send you to the insane hospital, and place you among the
incurable, as the most fusty, idiotic old maid that ever knit stockings.
Spirit of Lucretia Borgia! Polish pattern of purity—was there ever such
a Yankee hedgehog! [Exit
WILLIAM DOWTON, R., FARMER GATES, and FARMER STEVENS,
day, good day. Mr. Edward was not at church last sabbath.
I heard tell where he was in the afternoon.
Aye, Stevens, you told me. Well, well, I'm right sorry. We used to consider
Mr. Edward a promising young man, and when we seed him get married and settle
among us, we thought to have a respectable man like his father for a neighbor, and
that like him, he'd go
to the general court one of these days. I earnestly hope he han't agoing to stick
to these bad ways.
(R.) I don't
exactly know what you mean, Farmer Gates. Mr. Middleton is about the same free
kind-hearted fellow that he ever was, it appears to me. No longer ago than this blessed
morning, he says to me, Bill, says he, your birth-day comes this day week, go to Ned
Grogran's, the tailor, next the post office, and get yourself measured for a new
suit of clothes at my expense. Now if I that lives with him, and sees everything
he does, think well of him, I don't know as other folks need be so very
perpendicular about it.
Well, well, I'll tell you what I have heard; you know Squire Cribbs?
In course I does.
Well, he says that if your foster brother doesn't attend a little more to his
He'll do it for him, I suppose! Now, Mr. Stevens, I'll tell you what I think of
that sly old fox, Squire Cribbs. He takes to wickedness just as natural as young ducks
take to water. I think, really, if Mr. Edward's soul was put in a great box, that seven
thousand such souls as that black beetle's wouldn't fill up the chinks—the spare room
around the edges.
Give us your hand. Bill, my man, lawyer Cribbs bears but a middling character
hereabout. He has got a prodigious sight of larning, and 'tis not for the likes
of me to pretend to decide between you; but I'll be darned if I don't like the man
that stands up for him whose bread he eats; and so, Bill, any time you want a drink
of cider, just call up our way, and you shall have what you can drink, if it's a
Well, well, William, after all neighbor Gates has said, I fear the young man's
in a dangerous way—spending his Sabbaths going about the country from one tavern
to another. I don't say that he does take too much liquor—but there's a great
many that has began that way. [Exit, R.
[Rather serious.] Well, good-bye to you, and thank'ye. I don't think Mr. Edward drinks
any too much—at least I hope not. For my part I wish he'd never seen anything
stronger than milk or green tea. I
wish I hadn't seen them two fellers, they've just made me feel as bad as ever, when
I thought I was getting well over it, and beginning to see daylight again. What,
dear Mr. Edward, with such a sweet lamb of a wife, and the prettiest little girl
that ever drew breath—oh, no, it's nothing. I won't borrow trouble—he just took
part of a bowl of punch with a friend at the Flying Horse—but that's no more than
the parson himself might do, and there's Deacon Whit-leather, he never sits down to
dinner without a stiff horn of something to wash it down. Well, now, I think it's
better let alone altogether—for if a man doesn't put his hand in the fire, he runs
a better chance of not burning his fingers. [Exit, R.
Country Bar-Room.—Old-fashioned gun hung up.—Cow notices, &c.,
&c.—STEVENS, the Drover
seated at table.—Several loafers.—Landlord behind Bar at L.
attending.—Decanters filled with different liquors, on bar.—Stools,
benches, &c., &c.
R. C.] Well, I don't know, Mr. Landlord, them are
'counts we have about Queen Victory, amounts to just about as much as the frogs
Oh, that's Pope; we've got the book in the house now—the battle of frogs and
Landlord, will you just score up another three-center—I feel deuced bad.
No, thank'ye, Sam; rub off old sores, and then—
EDWARD MIDDLETON, dress rather shabby,
from door, R.—All look at him; he walks up to
Give me some brandy. [Drinks] How much, landlord!
A six-pence, sir. This is something 'sperior; a bottle I keep for those who
are willing to pay a little more—are you quite well, sir?
Well, well, quite well, I thank you—this is good, landlord, another glass.
CRIBBS, R. D.
Ha! Mr. Middleton, you here! He! he! he! Well, come, that's a good one. First
time I was ever
here except on business—dare say you can say the same. Well, this is fine. Now,
my young friend, since we have met each other, we'll honor the house.
Squire, how are you; glad to see you. [Shakes hand across the bar.] What's it to be,
gentlemen. The same, Mr. Middleton?
Oh! I must be excused; you know I just drank.
Well, well, I'll leave it to him. Landlord, how long is it since I've seen
Why, Squire, it must be full ten years ago; you remember the day Si Morton had
his raising? the day I saw you digging in the woods.
[Starts violently.] Go on, go on—nothing but the cramp. I'm subject to it.
Well, Squire, I've never seed you since then."
Well, come, let's drink; come, Edward.
Oh, take a little more, Mr. Middleton—the Squire wouldn't advise you to what
Well, come, here's whiskey—good whiskey.
I believe I drank—
Mr. Middleton drank brandy before.
Not half so healthy as good whiskey.
Oh, whiskey be it. It can't be stronger than the other was. [Stevens looks up and shakes his head.
this is pleasant, ha! ha! this goes to the right place, eh, Cribbs. Is this Irish
Yes, sir; pure Innishowen.
Well, the Irish are a noble people, ain't they, Cribbs? [Slightly intoxicated.] Friend Cribbs,
I think I may call you. I never doubted it.
Oh! I might have suspected; but "suspicion's but at best a coward's virtue;" the
sober second thought—
Oh, exactly. [Shaking his
I have a heart, Cribbs—[Getting
tipsey.] I have a heart; landlord, more whiskey; come gentlemen, come one,
come all. Landlord!
In one minute, sir.
Landlord, give them all anything they want, come—a bumper—here's the health of my
old friend Cribbs. [Drinks it
[Throwing away his liquor
unseen.] Well, here goes.
I have a heart, Cribbs. We know how to do the handsome thing, landlord.
fills Edward's glass.
Don't we? It takes us, sir.
I think, landlord, a little spirit hurts no man.
Oh, no, sir; no—does him good.
I have a heart, Squibbs—a heart, my old boy; come, let's have another horn.—
[1st loafer falls asleep on
bench R. against partition.]—Come, boys, trot up, I'll pay.
Well, I don't want to hurt the house.
Oh, no—musn't hurt the house.
up to bar.
Come, don't you hear the news?
1st loafer with whip, and he falls on ground.
Well—[Lazily.]—I don't want to hurt the house. [Tumbles against the wall.
You will hurt the house, if you butt off the plastering at that rate.
A bumper—well, in the absence of Burgundy, whiskey will do, eh, old Ribbs—
[Hitting Cribbs.]—why don't you join us, old sulky. [To Stevens.
I drink when I'm dry, and what I drink I pay for.
—You're saucy, old fellow.
Do you think I'm a sponge, to put my hands into another man's pocket? Go
away, you make a fool of yourself.
A fool! say that again, and I'll knock you down—a fool!
want nothing to say to you—be off—you're drunk.
Death and fury! drunk!
Take that, then—[Cribbs
and others sneak off—struggle—Stevens hits him down with whip.]—Landlord,
you see I was not to blame for this. [Exit Stevens, R. D.
Well, he's got in any how—serve him right, quarrelsome young fool. House was quiet
enough till he came in disturbing honest people. This is too bad. How to get this
fellow home? He lives two miles from here, at least.
WILLIAM DOWTON, R. D.
Mr. Middleton—where is he? Lord ha' mercy! what is this? Speak! [Seizes Landlord.] If you have done this,
I'll tear our your cursed windpipe, old heathen.
In my own house? Let go my throat.
Who did this.
Let go; it wasn't me, it was drover Stevens.
[Throws him off, kneels by
Middleton.] Blood on his forehead—Mr. Edward, speak to me, oh, speak—his
poor wife—poor old sick Mrs. Wilson, too.
is this? what's been the matter here?
Don't you know me, sir? It's William, sir; poor Bill, come to help you home. Sam
Stanhope told me you were in a row at the tavern, sir.
Oh, yes, I remember; where are they all? where's Cribbs? where's Cribbs?
Cribbs! was he with him?
Why, yes, I guess the Squire was here a short spell. Well, you can walk, sir, can't
Walk, yes, I can walk—what's the matter with my head? Blood? I must have fallen
against the corner of the bench.
Don't you remember Mr. Stevens?
I don't know what you mean by Stevens; what the devil have I been about?
Why, Stevens said you were drunk, and you hit him, and he knocked you down with his
And if I get a hold of Mr. Stevens, I'll make him smell something nastier than
peaches, or my name's not Bill. Come, sir, come home.
Drunk! fighting! Oh, shame, shame!
Lean on me, Mr. Edward. You go sand your sugar, and water your bad brandy, old
corkscrew! His poor wife!
Hush, William, hush.
Pray give me pardon, sir; oh, I wish I had died before I had seen this.
Drunk, fighting—my wife, my children! Oh, agony! agony!
on William, L. D.—Landlord
retires behind bar.
So far the scheme works admirably. I know his nature well. He has tasted, and
will not stop now short of madness or oblivion. I mostly fear his wife, she will
have great influence over him. Ah, who's this, Bill Dowton? Where then is
WILLIAM DOWTON, L.
Well, I don't know but he's right; poor fellow, if he were to appear before
his wife, without her being warned, it might frighten her to death, poor thing,
and as he says, the walk alone may do him good, and sober him a bit. The old
woman takes on most cruel, too, and she is so very, very ill. Here he comes.
I guess he'll follow me. I'll hasten on, for if he sees me, he'll be angry, and
swear I'm watching him. That old sarpent Cribbs, he'd better keep out of my
track. I'd think no more of wringing his old neck, than I would twisting a tough
Thanksgiving turkey. [Exit,
cautiously.] I'm much obliged to you, most valiant Billy Dowton. I
shall hold myself non est inventus, I promise you; here
comes Edward. Caution, caution. [Retires, L.
Is this to be the issue of my life? Oh, must I ever yield to the fell tempter,
and bending like a weak bulrush to the blast, still bow my manhood lower than
the brute? Why, surely I have eyes to see, hands to work with, feet to walk, and
brain to think, yet the best gifts of Heaven I abuse, lay aside her bounties, and
with my own hand, willingly put out the light of reason. I recollect my mother
said, my dear, dying mother, they were the last words I ever heard her
utter—"whoever lifts his fallen brother is greater far, than the conqueror of the
world." Oh how my poor brain burns! my hand trembles! my knees shake beneath
me! I cannot, will not appear before them thus; a little, a very little will
revive and strengthen me. No one sees; William must be there ere
this. Now, for my hiding place. Oh! the arch cunning
of the drunkard! [Goes to
tree R., and from the hollow
draws forth a bottle; looks round and drinks. Cribbs behind exulting.] So,
so! it relieves! it strengthens! oh, glorious liquor! Why did I rail against
thee? Ha, ha! [Drinks
and draws bottle.] All gone! all! [Throws the bottle away.] Of what
use the casket when the jewels gone? Ha, ha! I can face them, now. [Turns and meets Cribbs.] He here!
Middleton! Edward, my dear friend, what means this?
begone! Pretend not ignorance! Were you not there when that vile fray occurred?
Did you not desert me?
As I am a living man, I know not what you mean. Business called me out. I left
you jovial and merry, with your friends.
Friends! Ha! ha! the drunkard's friends! Well, well, you may speak truth;—my
brain wanders;—I'll go home!—Oh, misery! Would I were dead.
Come, come; a young man like you should not think of dying. I am old enough to
be your father, and I don't dream of such a thing.
You are a single man, Cribbs. You don't know what it is to see your little
patrimony wasted away;—to feel that you are the cause of sufferings you would
die to alleviate.
Pooh, pooh! Suffering—your cottage is worth full five hundred dollars. It
was but yesterday Farmer Anson was inquiring how much it could be bought for.
Bought for! Cribbs—
Well, Edward, well.
You see yon smoke curling up among the trees?
Yes, Edward. It rises from your own cottage.
You know who built that cottage, Cribbs?
Your father built it. I recollect the day. It was—
It was the very day I was born that yon cottage was first inhabited. You
know who lives there now?
Yes. You do.
No one else, Cribbs?
Your family, to be sure—
And you counsel me to sell it!—to take the warm nest from that mourning
bird and her young, to strip them of all that remains of hope or comfort, to
make them wanderers in the wide world, and for what? To put a little pelf
into my leprous hands, and then squander it for rum. [Crosses, R.
You don't understand me, Edward. I am your sincere friend; believe me, come—
Leave me, leave me—
Why, where would you go thus, Edward?
Home! Home!—to my sorrowing wife—her dying mother, and my poor, poor child.
But not thus, Edward, not thus. Come to my house, my people are all out.
We'll go in the back way,—no one will see you. Wash your face, and I'll give
you a little—something to refresh you. I'll take care it shall not hurt you.
Come, now, come.
Ought I—dare I? Oh, this deadly sickness. Is it indeed best?
To be sure it is. If the neighbors see you thus—I'll take good care of you.
Come, come, a little brandy,—good—good brandy.
That's right—come. [Aside.] He's lost. Come, my dear friend, come. [Exeunt, L.
SCENE V.—Interior of
the cottage as in Act 1st.—The furniture very plain.—A
want of comfort and order.—Table and two chairs, R. C.
MARY from set door, R. S. E.—Her dress plain and patched, but put on with neatness
and care.—She is weeping.
Oh, Heaven, have mercy on me!—aid me!—strengthen me! Weigh not thy poor creature
down with woes beyond her strength to bear. Much I fear my suffering mother never can
survive the night, and Edward comes not, and when he does arrive, how will it be? Alas,
alas! my dear, lost husband! I think I could nerve myself against every thing but—Oh,
misery! this agony of suspense! it is too horrible.
JULIA from room, R. S. E.—She is barefooted.—Dress clean, but very poor.
Mother! dear mother, what makes you cry? I feel so sorry when you cry—don't cry
any more, dear mother.
cannot help it, dearest. Do not tell your poor father what has happened in his
No, dear mother, if you wish me not. Will it make him cry, mother? When I see
you cry it makes me cry, too.
Hush, dear one, hush! Alas, he is unhappy enough already.
Yes. Poor father! I cried last night when father came home, and was so sick.
Oh, he looked so pale, and when I kissed him for good night, his face was as hot
as fire. This morning he could not eat his breakfast, could he? What makes him
sick so often, mother?
Hush, sweet one!
Dear grandma so sick, too. Doctor and nurse both looked so sorry. Grandma
won't die to-night, will she, mother?
Father of mercies! This is too much. [Weeps.] Be very quiet, Julia, I am going in to
see poor grandma, [Crossing,
R.] Oh, Religion! sweet solace
of the wretched heart! Support me! aid me, in this dreadful trial.
room, R. S. E.
Poor, dear mother. When grandma dies, she'll go to live in heaven, for she's
good. Parson Heartall told me so, and he never tells fibs, for he is good, too.
WILLIAM gently, D.
Julia, where is your mother, darling?
[Julia puts her
finger on her lip, and points to door.
Ah, she comes.
MARY, R. S. E.
How is poor Mrs. Wilson now, madam?
Near the end of all earthly trouble, William. She lies in broken slumber.
But where is my poor Edward? Have you not found him?
Yes, ma'am, I found him in the ta—in the village—he had fallen, and
slightly hurt his forehead; he bade me come before, so as you should not be
frightened. He'll be here soon now.
Faithful friend. I wish you had not left him. Was he—Oh, what a question
for a doating wife—was he sober, William?
I must not lie, dear lady. He had been taking some liquor, but I think not
much—all I hope will be well.
[Sings without.] "Wine cures the gout," &c., Ha! ha!
Oh, great Heaven! [William
rushes out, C. D. and off,
L. U. E., and re-enters with Edward
drunk and noisy.—William trying to soothe him, he staggers as he passes
I've had a glorious time, Bill. Old Cribbs—
Why should I be silent? I am not a child. I—
My mother, Edward, my dear mother!
[Sinks in chair.] Heaven's wrath on my hard heart. I—I—forgot. How is she? Poor woman;
how is she?
Worse, Edward, worse. [Trying to
hide her tears.
And I in part the cause. Oh, horrid vice! Bill, I remember my father's death-bed;
it was a Christian's;
faith in his heart; hope in his calm, blue eye; a smile upon his lip; he had never
seen his Edward drunk. Oh, had he seen it—had he seen it!
[Crossing to her father
from R. to C.] Father, dear father? [Striving to kiss him.
Leave me, child, leave me. I am hot enough already. [She weeps, he kisses her.] Bless
you, Julia, dear, bless you. Bill, do you remember the young elm tree by the
arbor in the garden?
Well, I slipped and fell against it, as I passed the gate. My father planted
it on the very day I saw the light. It has grown with my growth; I seized the axe
and felled it to the earth. Why should it flourish when I am lost forever?
Why should it lift its head to smiling heaven while I am prostrate? Ha, ha, ha!
[A groan is heard, R. D.—Exit Mary.—A pause;—a shriek.
Edward, my mother—
She is dead!
Horror! And I the cause? Death in the house, and I without doubt the means. I
cannot bear this; let me fly—
[Springing forward and
clasping his neck.] Edward, dear Edward, do not leave me. I will work,
I will slave, anything; we can live, but do not abandon me in misery; do not desert
me, Edward! love! husband!
Call me not husband—curse me as your destroyer; loose your arms—leave me.
No, no! do not let him go. William, hold him.
[Holding him.] Edward, dear brother!
[Clinging to him.] Father! father!
You will be abused. No one near to aid you. Imprisoned, or something worse,
Loose me; leave me; why fasten me down on fire? Madness is my strength; my
brain is liquid flame! [Breaks
from her.—William is obliged to catch her.] Ha! I am free. Farewell,
forever. [Rushes off,
Husband! Oh, Heaven! [Faints.
[Bursting into tears.] Edward! brother!
Father, father! [Runs to the
door and falls on the threshold.
END OF ACT II.