Page:Pieces People Ask For.djvu/241

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123
THE READING-CLUB.

His business? Stopped his business till I spoke,
I'd hold my peace forever! (Clifford kneels, presenting a letter.)
Does he kneel?
A lady am I to my heart's content!
Could he unmake me that which claims his knee,
I'd kneel to him,—I would, I would! Your will?

Clif. This letter from my lord.
Jul. Oh, fate! who speaks?
Clif. The secretary of my lord. (Rises.)
Jul. I breathe!
I could have sworn 'twas he!
(Makes an effort to look at him, but is unable.)
So like the voice!—
I dare not look lest there the form should stand.
How came he by that voice? 'Tis Clifford's voice
If ever Clifford spoke! My fears come back.
Clifford, the secretary of my lord!
Fortune hath freaks, but none so mad as that.It cannot be!—it should not be! A look,
And all were set at rest. (Tries to look at him again, but cannot.)
So strong my fears,
Dread to confirm them takes away the power
To try and end them. Come the worst, I'll look.
(She tries again, and is again unequal to the task.)
I'd sink before him if I met his eye!
Clif. Wilt please your ladyship to take the letter?
Jul. There, Clifford speaks again! Not Clifford's breath
Could more make Clifford's voice; not Clifford's tongue
And lips more frame it into Clifford's speech.
A question, and 'tis over! Know I you?
Clif. Reverse of fortune, lady, changes friends:
It turns them into strangers. What I am
I have not always been.
Jul. Could I not name you?
Clif. If your disdain for one, perhaps too bold
When hollow fortune called him favorite,
Now by her fickleness perforce reduced
To take an humble tone, would suffer you—
Jul. I might?
Clif. You might.
Jul. O Clifford! is it you?
Clif. Your answer to my lord. (Gives the letter.)
Jul. Your lord!
Clif. Wilt write it?
Or, will it please you send a verbal one?
I'll bear it faithfully.
Jul. You'll bear it?
Clif. Madam,
Your pardon; but my haste is somewhat urgent.
My lord's impatient, and to use despatch
Were his repeated orders.
Jul. Orders? Well (takes letter),