Page:Pieces People Ask For.djvu/243

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125
THE READING-CLUB.

E'en such a burthen Julia were to me
Had fortune let rue wear her.

Jul. (Aside.) On the brink
Of what a precipice I'm standing! Back,
Back! while the faculty remains to do't!
A minute longer, not the whirlpool's self
More sure to suck thee down! One effort! (Sits.) There!
(Recovers her self-possession, takes up the letter, and reads.)
To wed to-morrow night! Wed whom? A man
Whom I can never love! I should before
Have thought of that. To-morrow night. This hour
To-morrow,—how I tremble!
At what means
Will not the desperate snatch! What's honor's price?
Nor friends, nor lovers,—no, nor life itself!
Clifford, this moment leave me! (Clifford retires up the stage
out of her sight.)
Is he gone?
Oh, docile lover! Do his mistress' wish
That went against his own! Do it so soon,
Ere well 'twas uttered! No good-by to her!
No word, no look! 'Twas best that so he went.
Alas the strait of her who owns that best
Which last she'd wish were done! What's left me now?
To weep, to weep! (Leans her head upon her arm, which rests upon the table, her other arm hanging listless at her side. Clifford comes down the stage, looks a moment at her, approaches her, and, kneeling, takes her hand.)
Clif. My Julia!
Jul. Here again?
Up, up! By all thy hopes of heaven go hence!
To stay's perdition to me! Look you, Clifford!
Were there a grave where thou art kneeling now,
I'd walk into't and be inearthed alive
Ere taint should touch my name! Should some one come
And see thee kneeling thus! Let go my hand!—
Remember, Clifford, I'm a promised bride—
And take thy arm away! It has no right
To clasp my waist! Judge you so poorly of me
As think I'll suffer this? My honor, sir!
(She breaks from him, quitting her seat.)
I'm glad you've forced me to respect myself:
You'll find that I can do so.
Clif. There was a time I held your hand unchid;
There was a time I might have clasped your waist:
I had forgot that time was past and gone.
I pray you, pardon me.
Jul. (Softened.) I do so, Clifford.
Clif. I shall no more offend.
Jul. Make sure of that.
No longer is it fit thou keep'st thy post
In's lordship's household. Give it up! A day,