A Prison in one of the Towers of the Castle.
Frederick: How a few moments destroy the happiness of man! When I, this morning, set out from my inn, and saw the sun rise, I sung with joy.--Flattered with the hope of seeing my mother, I formed a scheme how I would with joy surprize her. But, farewell all pleasant prospects--I return to my native country, and the first object I behold, is my dying parent; my first lodging, a prison; and my next walk will perhaps be--oh, merciful providence! have I deserved all this?
Enter Amelia with a small basket covered with a napkin.--She speaks to some one without.
Amelia: Wait there, Francis, I shall soon be back.
Frederick [hearing the door open, and turning round]: Who's there?
Amelia: You must be both hungry and thirsty, I fear.
Frederick: Oh, no! neither.
Amelia: Here is a bottle of wine, and something to eat. [Places the basket on the table]. I have often heard my father say, that wine is quite a cordial to the heart.
Frederick: A thousand thanks, dear stranger. Ah! could I prevail on you to have it sent to my mother, who is upon her death-bed, under the roof of an honest peasant, called Hubert! Take it hence, my kind benefactress, and save my mother.
Amelia: But first assure me that you did not intend to murder my father.
Frederick: Your father! heaven forbid.--I meant but to preserve her life, who gave me mine.--Murder your father! No, no--I hope not.
Amelia: And I thought not--Or, if you had murdered any one, you had better have killed the Count; nobody would have missed him.
Frederick: Who, may I enquire, were those gentlemen, whom I hoped to frighten into charity?
Amelia: Ay, if you only intended to frighten them, the Count was the very person for your purpose. But you caught hold of the other gentleman.--And could you hope to intimidate Baron Wildenhaim?
Frederick: Baron Wildenhaim!--Almighty powers!
Amelia: What 's the matter?
Frederick: The man to whose breast I held my sword--[trembling].
Amelia: Was Baron Wildenhaim--the owner of this estate--my father!
Frederick [with the greatest emotion]: My father!
Amelia: Good heaven, how he looks! I am afraid he's mad. Here! Francis, Francis. [Exit, calling
Frederick [all agitation]: My father! Eternal judge! thou do'st not slumber! The man, against whom I drew my sword this day was my father! One moment longer, and provoked, I might have been the murderer of my father! my hair stands on end! my eyes are clouded! I cannot see any thing before me. [Sinks down on a chair]. If Providence had ordained that I should give the fatal blow, who, would have been most in fault?--I dare not pronounce--[after a pause] That benevolent young female who left me just now, is, then, my sister--and I suppose that fop, who accompanied my father--
Enter Mr. Anhalt.
Welcome, Sir! By your dress you are of the church, and consequently a messenger of comfort. You are most welcome, Sir.
Anhalt: I wish to bring comfort and avoid upbraidings: for your own conscience will reproach you more than the voice of a preacher. From the sensibility of your countenance, together with a language, and address superior to the vulgar, it appears, young man, you have had an education, which should have preserved you from a state like this.
Frederick: My education I owe to my mother. Filial love, in return, has plunged me into the state you see. A civil magistrate will condemn according to the law--A priest, in judgment, is not to consider the act itself, but the impulse which led to the act.
Anhalt: I shall judge with all the lenity my religion dictates: and you are the prisoner of a nobleman, who compassionates you for the affection which you bear towards your mother; for he has sent to the village where you directed him, and has found the account you gave relating to her true.--With this impression in your favour, it is my advice, that you endeavour to see and supplicate the Baron for your release from prison, and all the peril of his justice.
Frederick [starting]. I--I see the Baron! I!--I supplicate for my deliverance.--Will you favour me with his name?-Is it not Baron--
Anhalt: Baron Wildenhaim.
Frederick: Baron Wildenhaim! He lived formerly in Alsace.
Anhalt: The same.--About a year after the death of his wife, he left Alsace; and arrived here a few weeks ago to take possession of this his paternal estate.
Frederick: So! his wife is dead;--and that generous young lady who came to my prison just now is his daughter?
Anhalt: Miss Wildenhaim, his daughter.
Frederick: And that young gentleman, I saw with him this morning, is his son?
Anhalt: He has no son.
Frederick [hastily]: Oh, yes, he has-[recollecting himself]--I mean him that was out shooting to-day.
Anhalt: He is not his son.
Frederick [to himself]: Thank Heaven!
Anhalt: He is only a visitor.
Frederick: I thank you for this information; and if you will undertake to procure me a private interview with Baron Wildenhaim--
Anhalt: Why private? However, I will venture to take you for a short time from this place, and introduce you; depending on your innocence, or your repentance--on his conviction in your favour, or his mercy towards your guilt. Follow me.
Frederick [following]: I have beheld an affectionate parent in deep adversity.--Why should I tremble thus?--Why doubt my fortitude, in the presence of an unnatural parent in prosperity? [Exit.
A Room in the Castle.
Enter Baron Wildenhaim and Amelia:
Baron: I hope you judge more favourably of Count Cassel's understanding since the private interview you have had with him. Confess to me the exact effect of the long conference between you.
Amelia: To make me hate him.
Baron: What has he done?
Amelia: Oh! told me of such barbarous deeds he has committed.
Baron: What deeds?
Amelia: Made vows of love to so many women, that, on his marriage with me, a hundred female hearts will at least be broken.
Baron: Psha! do you believe him?
Amelia: Suppose I do not; is it to his honour that I believe he tells a falsehood?
Baron: He is mistaken merely.
Amelia: Indeed, my Lord, in one respect I am sure he speaks truth. For our old Butler told my waiting-maid of a poor young creature who has been deceived, undone; and she, and her whole family, involved in shame and sorrow by his perfidy.
Baron: Are you sure the Butler said this?
Amelia: See him and ask him. He knows the whole story, indeed he does; the names of the persons, and every circumstances.
Baron: Desire he may be sent to me.
Amelia [goes to the door and calls]: Order old Verdun to come to the Baron directly.
Baron: I know tale-bearers are apt to be erroneous. I'll hear from himself, the account you speak of.
Amelia: I believe it is in verse.
Baron [angry]: In verse!
Amelia: But, then, indeed it's true.
Amelia: Verdun, pray have not you some true poetry?
Butler: All my poetry is true--and so far, better than some people's prose.
Baron: But I want prose on this occasion, and command you to give me nothing else. [Butler bows.] Have you heard of an engagement which Count Cassel is under to any other woman than my daughter?
Butler: I am to tell your honour in prose?
Baron: Certainly. [Butler appears uneasy and loath to speak.] Amelia, he does not like to divulge what he knows in presence of a third person--leave the room.
Butler: No, no--that did not cause my reluctance to speak.
Baron: What then?
Butler: Your not allowing me to speak in verse--for here is the poetic poem. [Holding up a paper.]
Baron: How dare you presume to contend with my will? Tell in plain language all you know on the subject I have named.
Butler: Well then, my Lord, if You must have the account in quiet prose, thus it was--Phoebus, one morning, rose in the East, and having handed in long-expected day, he called up his brother Hymen--
Baron: Have done with your rhapsody.
Butler: Ay; I knew you'd like it best in verse--
There lived a lady in this land,
Whose charms the heart made tingle;
At church she had not given her hand,
And therefore still was single.
Baron: Keep to prose.
Butler: I will, my Lord; but I have repeated it so often in verse, I scarce know how.--Count Cassel, influenced by the designs of Cupid in his very worst humour,
"Count Cassel wooed this maid so rare,
And in her eye found grace;
And if his purpose was not fair,"
Baron: No verse.
" It probably was base."
I beg your pardon, my Lord; but the verse will intrude in spite of my efforts to forget it. 'Tis as difficult for me at times to forget, as 'tis for other men at times to remember. But in plain truth, my Lord, the Count was treacherous, cruel, forsworn.
Baron: I am astonished!
Butler: And would be more so if you would listen to the whole poem. [Most earnestly.] Pray, my Lord, listen to it.
Baron: You know the family? All the parties?
Butler: I will bring the father of the damsel to prove the veracity of my muse. His name is Baden--poor old man!
"The sire consents to bless the pair,
And names the nuptial day,
When, lo! the bridegroom was not there,
Because he was away."
Baron: But tell me--Had the father his daughter's innocence to deplore?
Butler: Ah! my Lord, ah! and you must hear that part in rhyme. Loss of innocence never sounds well except in verse.
"For ah! the very night before,
No prudent guard upon her,
The Count he gave her oaths a score.
And took in change her honour.
Then you, who now lead single lives,
From this sad tale beware;
And do not act as you were wives,
Before you really are."
Enter Count Cassel.
Baron [to the Butler]: Leave the room instantly.
Count: Yes, good Mr. family poet, leave the room, and take your doggerels with you.
Butler: Don't affront my poem, your honour; for I am indebted to you for the plot.
The Count he gave her oaths a score
And took in change her honour."
Baron: Count, you see me agitated.
Count: What can be the cause?
Baron: I'll not keep you in doubt a moment. You are accused, young man, of being engaged to another woman while you offer marriage to my child.
Count: To only one other woman?
Baron: What do you mean?
Count: My meaning is, that when a man is young and rich, has travelled, and is no personal object of disapprobation, to have made vows but to one woman, is an absolute slight upon the rest of the sex.
Baron: Without evasion, Sir, do you know the name of Baden? Was there ever a promise of marriage made by you to his daughter? Answer me plainly: or must I take a journey to inquire of the father?
Count: No--he can tell you no more than, I dare say, you already know; and which I shall not contradict.
Baron: Amazing insensibility! And can you hold your head erect while you acknowledge perfidy?
Count: My dear baron,--if every man, who deserves to have a charge such as this brought against him, was not permitted to look up--it is a doubt whom we might not meet crawling on all fours. [he accidently taps the Baron's shoulder.]
Baron [starts--recollects himself--then in a faultering voice]: Yet--nevertheless--the act is so atrocious--
Count: But nothing new.
Baron [faintly]: Yes--I hope--I hope it is new.
Count: What, did you never meet with such a thing before?
Baron [agitated]: If I have--I pronounced the man who so offended--a villain.
Count: You are singularly scrupulous. I question if the man thought himself so.
Baron: Yes he did.
Count: How do you know?
Baron [hesitating]: I have heard him say so.
Count: But he ate, drank, and slept, I suppose?
Baron [confused]: Perhaps he did.
Count: And was merry with his friends; and his friends as fond of him as ever?
Baron: Perhaps [confused]--perhaps they were.
Count: And perhaps he now and then took upon him to lecture young men for their gallantries?
Baron: Perhaps he did.
Count: Why, then, after all, Baron, your villain, is a mighty good, prudent, honest fellow; and I have no objection to your giving me that name.
Baron: But do you not think of some atonement to the unfortunate girl?
Count: Did your villain atone?
Baron: No: when his reason was matured, he wished to make some recompense; but his endeavours were too late.
Count: I will follow his example, and wait till my reason is matured, before I think myself competent to determine what to do.
Baron: And 'till that time I defer your marriage with my daughter.
Count: Would you delay her happiness so long? Why, my dear Baron, considering the fashionable life I lead, it may be these ten years before my judgment arrives to its necessary standard.
Baron: I have the head-ache Count--These tidings have discomposed, disordered me--I beg your absence for a few minutes.
Count: I obey--And let me assure you, my Lord, that, although, from the extreme delicacy of your honour, you have ever through life shuddered at seduction; yet, there are constitutions, and there are circumstances, in which it can be palliated.
Baron: Never [violently].
Count: Not in a grave, serious, reflecting man such as you, I grant. But in a gay, lively, inconsiderate, flimsy, frivolous coxcomb, such as myself, it is excusable: for me to keep my word to a woman, would be deceit: 'tis not expected of me. It is in my character to break oaths in love; as it is in your nature, my Lord, never to have spoken any thing but wisdom and truth. [Exit.
Baron: Could I have thought a creature so insignificant as that, had power to excite sensations such as I feel at present! I am, indeed, worse than he is, as much as the crimes of a man exceed those of an idiot.
Amelia: I heard the Count leave you, my Lord, and so I am come to enquire--
Baron [sitting down, and trying to compose himself]: You are not to marry count Cassel--And now, mention his name to me no more.
Amelia: I won't--indeed I won't--for I hate his name.--But thank you, my dear father, for this good news [draws a chair, and sits on the opposite side of the table on which he leans.--After a pause] And who am I to marry?
Baron [his head on his hand]: I can't tell.
[Amelia appears to have something on her mind which she wishes to disclose.]
Amelia: I never liked the Count.
Baron: No more did I.
Amelia [after a pause]: I think love comes just as it pleases, without being asked.
Baron: It does so [in deep thought].
Amelia [after another pause]: And there are instances where, perhaps, the object of love makes the passion meritorious.
Baron: To be sure there are.
Amelia: For example; my affection for Mr. Anhalt as my tutor.
Amelia [after another pause]: I should like to marry. [sighing.]
Baron: So you shall [a pause]. It is proper for every body to marry.
Amelia: Why, then, does not Mr. Anhalt marry?
Baron: You must ask him that question yourself.
Amelia: I have.
Baron: And what did he say?
Amelia: Will you give me leave to tell you what he said?
Amelia: And what I said to him?
Amelia: And won't you be angry?
Baron: Undoubtedly not.
Amelia: Why, then--you know you commanded me never to disguise or conceal the truth.
Baron: I did so.
Amelia: Why, then he said--
Baron: What did he say?
Amelia: He said-he would not marry me without your consent for the world.
Baron [starting from his chair]: And pray, how came this the subject of your conversation?
Amelia [rising]: I brought it up.
Baron: And what did you say?
Amelia: I said that birth and fortune were such old-fashioned things to me, I cared nothing about either: and that I had once heard my father declare, he should consult my happiness in marrying me, beyond any other consideration.
Baron: I will once more repeat to you my sentiments. It is the custom in this country for the children of nobility to marry only with their equals; but as my daughter's content is more dear to me than an ancient custom, I would bestow you on the first man I thought calculated to make you happy: by this I do not mean to say that I should not be severely nice in the character of the man to whom I gave you; and Mr. Anhalt, from his obligations to me, and his high sense of honour, thinks too nobly--
Amelia: Would it not be noble to make the daughter of his benefactor happy?
Baron: But when that daughter is a child, and thinks like a child--
Amelia: No, indeed, papa, I begin to think very like a woman. Ask him if I don't.
Baron: Ask him! You feel gratitude for the instructions you have received from him, and you fancy it love.
Amelia: Are there two gratitudes?
Baron: What do you mean?
Amelia: Because I feel gratitude to you; but that is very unlike the gratitude I feel towards him.
Amelia: Yes; and then he feels another gratitude towards me. What 's that?
Baron: Has he told you so?
Baron: That was not right of him.
Amelia: Oh! if you did but know how I surprized him!
Baron: Surprized him?
Amelia: He came to me by your command, to examine my heart respecting Count Cassel. I told him that I would never marry the Count.
Baron: But him?
Amelia: Yes, him.
Baron: Very fine indeed! And what was his answer?
Amelia: He talked of my rank in life; of my aunts and cousins; of my grandfather, and great-grandfather; of his duty to you; and endeavoured to persuade me to think no more of him.
Baron: He acted honestly.
Amelia: But not politely.
Baron: No matter.
Amelia: Dear father! I shall never be able to love another--Never be happy with any one else. [Throwing herself on her knees.]
Baron: Rise, I command you.
[As she rises, enter Anhalt.]
Anhalt: My Lord, forgive me! I have ventured, on the privilege of my office, as a minister of holy charity, to bring the poor soldier, whom your justice has arrested, into the adjoining room; and I presume to entreat you will admit him to your presence, and hear his apology, or his supplication.
Baron: Anhalt, you have done wrong. I pity the unhappy boy; but you know I cannot, must not forgive him.
Anhalt: I beseech you then, my Lord, to tell him so yourself. From your lips he may receive his doom with resignation.
Amelia: Oh father! See him and take pity on him; his sorrows have made him frantic.
Baron: Leave the room, Amelia. [on her attempting to speak, he raises his voice.] Instantly.--[Exit Amelia.]
Anhalt: He asked a private audience: perhaps he has some confession to make that may relieve his mind, and may be requisite for you to hear.
Baron: Well, bring him in, and do you wait in the adjoining room, till our conference is over. I must then, Sir, have a conference with you.
Anhalt: I shall obey your commands. [He goes to the door, and re-enters with Frederick. Anhalt then retires at the same door.]
Baron [haughtily to Frederick]: I know, young man, you plead your mother's wants in excuse for an act of desperation: but powerful as this plea might be in palliation of a fault, it cannot extenuate a crime like yours.
Frederick: I have a plea for my conduct even more powerful than a mother's wants.
Baron: What's that?
Frederick: My father's cruelty.
Baron: You have a father then?
Frederick: I have, and a rich one--Nay, one that 's reputed virtuous, and honourable. A great man, possessing estates and patronage in abundance; much esteemed at court, and beloved by his tenants; kind, benevolent, honest, generous--
Baron: And with all those great qualities, abandons you?
Frederick: He does, with all the qualities I mention.
Baron: Your father may do right; a dissipated, desperate youth, whom kindness cannot draw from vicious habits, severity may.
Frederick: You are mistaken--My father does not discard me for my vices--He does not know me--has never seen me--He abandoned me, even before I was born.
Baron: What do you say?
Frederick: The tears of my mother are all that I inherit from my father. Never has he protected or supported me--never protected her.
Baron: Why don't you apply to his relations?
Frederick: They disown me, too--I am, they say, related to no one--All the world disclaim me, except my mother--and there again, I have to thank my father.
Baron: How so?
Frederick: Because I am an illegitimate son.--My seduced mother has brought me up in patient misery. Industry enabled her to give me an education; but the days of my youth commenced with hardship, sorrow, and danger.--My companions lived happy around me, and had a pleasing prospect in their view, while bread and water only were my food, and no hopes joined to sweeten it. But my father felt not that!
Baron [to himself]: He touches my heart.
Frederick: After five years' absence from my mother, I returned this very day, and found her dying in the streets for want--Not even a hut to shelter her, or a pallet of straw--But my father, he feels not that! He lives in a palace, sleeps on the softest down, enjoys all the luxuries of the great; and when he dies, a funeral sermon will praise his great benevolence, his Christian charities.
Baron [greatly agitated]: What is your father's name?
Frederick: --He took advantage of an innocent young woman, gained her affection by flattery and false promises; gave life to an unfortunate being, who was on the point of murdering his father.
Baron [shuddering]: Who is he?
Frederick: Baron Wildenhaim.
[The Baron's emotion expresses the sense of amazement, guilt, shame, and horror.]
Frederick: In this house did you rob my mother of her honour; and in this house I am a sacrifice for the crime. I am your prisoner--I will not be free--I am a robber--I give myself up.--You shall deliver me into the hands of justice--You shall accompany me to the spot of public execution. You shall hear in vain the chaplain's consolation and injunctions. You shall find how I, in despair, will, to the last moment, call for retribution on my father.
Baron: Stop! Be pacified--
Frederick: --And when you turn your head from my extended corse, you will behold my weeping mother--Need I paint how her eyes will greet you?
Baron: Desist--barbarian, savage, stop!
Enter Anhalt alarmed.
Anhalt: What do I hear? What is this? Young man, I hope you have not made a second attempt.
Frederick: Yes; I have done what it was your place to do. I have made a sinner tremble [points to the Baron, and exit.]
Anhalt: What can this mean?--I do not comprehend--
Baron: He is my son!--He is my son!--Go, Anhalt,--advise me--help me--Go to the poor woman, his mother--He can show you the way--make haste--speed to protect her--
Anhalt: But what am I to?
Baron: Go.--Your heart will tell you how to act. [Exit Anhalt.]
[Baron distractedly]: Who am I? What am I? Mad--raving--no--I have a son--A son! The bravest--I will--I must--oh! [with tenderness.] Why have I not embraced him yet? [increasing his voice.] why not pressed him to my heart? Ah! see--[looking after him] --He flies from the castle--Who's there? Where are my attendants? [Enter two servants]. Follow him--bring the prisoner back.--But observe my command--treat him with respect--treat him as my son--and your master. [Exit.