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King. Ha, ha, ha! What turn'd highwaymen, my lords ? or deer-stealers ?
First Courtier. I am very glad to find your Majesty in health and safety.
Second Courtier. We have run thro' a great many perils and dangers to-night : but the joy of finding your Majesty so unexpectedly, will make us forget all we have suffer'd. Miller and Rich. What! is this the King ?
King. I am very glad to see you, my lords, I con. fess; and particularly you, my Lord Lurewell.
Lurewell. Your Majesty does me honour.
King. Yes, my lord, and I will do you justice too; your honour has been highly wrong'd by this young man.
Lurewell. Wrong'd, my liege!
King. I hope so, my lord; for I would fain believe you cannot be guilty of baseness and treachery.
Lurewell. I hope your Majesty will never find me so. What dares this villain say?
Rich. I am not to be frighted, my lord. I dare speak truth at any time.
Lurewell. Whatever stains my honour must be false.
King. I know it must, my lord; yet has this man, not knowing who I was, presum'd to charge your lordship, not only with great injustice to himself, but also with ruining an innocent virgin whom he lov'd, and who was to have been his wife; which, if true, were base and treacherous; but I know 'tis false, and therefore leave it to your lordship to say what punishment I shall inflict upon him, for the injury done to your honour. *
* Lurewell. I thank your Majesty, I will not be severe; he shall only ask my pardon, and to-morrow morning be oblig'd to marry the creature he has traduc'd me with.
King. This is mild. Well, you hear your sentence.
* See the Editor's Preface, p. 139, on the moral character of the King,
Rich. May I not have leave to speak before your Majesty ?
King. What canst thou say?
Rich. If I had your Majesty's permission, I believe I have certain witnesses which will undeniably prove the truth of all I have accus'd his lordship of.
King. Produce them.
Lurewell. I know her, please your Majesty, by sight; she is a tenant's daughter.
Peggy. [Aside.] Majesty! What, is this the king ?
Lurewell. Hum“ I have not seen her these several months.
Rich. True, my lord; and that is part of your accu. sation ; for, I believe, I have some letters wbich will prove your lordship once had a more particular acquaint. ance with her. Here is one of the first his lordship wrote to her, full of the tenderest and most solemn protestations of love and constancy; here is another which will inform your Majesty of the pains he took to ruin her; there is an absolute promise of marriage before he could accomplish it.
King. What say you, my lord, are these your hand ?
Lurewell. I believe, please yonr Majesty, I might have a little affair of gallantry with the girl some time
King. It was a little affair, my lord ; a mean affair ; and what you call gallantry, I call INFAMY. Do you think, my lord, that greatness gives a sanction to wickedness? Or that it is the prerogative of lords to be unjust and inhumane? You remember the sentence which yourself pronounc'd upon this innocent man; you cannot think it hard that it should pass on you who are guilty.
Lurewell. I hope your Majesty will consider my rank, and not oblige me to marry her.
King. Your rank? my lord. Greatness that stoops to actions base and low, deserts its rank, and pulls its honours down. What makes your lordship great! Is it your gilded equipage and dress? Then put it on your meanest slave, and he's as great as you. Is it your riches or estate? The villain that should plunder you of all, would then be as great as you. No, my lord, he that acts greatly, is the truly great man. I therefore think you ought, in justice, to marry her you thus have wrong'd.
Peggy. Let my tears thank your Majesty. But alas! I am afraid to marry this young lord : that would only give him power to use me worse, and still increase my misery : I therefore beg your Majesty will not command him to do it.
King. Rise, then, and hear me. My lord, you see how low the greatest nobleman may be reduced by ungenerous actions. Here is, under your own hand, an absolute promise of marriage to this young woman, which, from a thorough knowledge of your unworthia ness, she has prudently declin’d to make you fulfil. I shall therefore not insist upon it; but I command you, upon pain of my displeasure, immediately to settle on her three hundred pounds a year.
Peggy. May Heaven reward your Majesty's goodness! 'Tis too much for me; but, if your Majesty thinks fit; let it be settled upon this much-injur'd man, to make some satisfaction for the wrongs which have been done him. As to myself, I only sought to clear the innocence of him I lov'd and wrong'd, then hide me from the world, and die forgiven.
Rich. This act of gen?rous virtue cancels all past failings; give me thy hand, and be as dear as ever.
Peggy. You cannot sure forgive me!
Peggy. 0!. why did I ever wrong such generous Lave?
Rich. Talk no more of it. Here let us kneel, and thank the goodness which has made us blest.
King. May you be happy.
Miller. [Kneels.] After I have seen so much of your Majesty's goodness, I cannot despair of pardon, even for the rough usage your Majesty received from me.
[The King draws his sword, the Miller is frighted,
and rises up, thinking he was going to kill him. What have I done that I should lose my life?
King. Kneel without fear. No, my good host, so far are you from having any thing to pardon, that I am much your debtor. I cannot think but so good and ho. nest a man will make a worthy and honourable knight; so rise up, Sir John Cocklc : and to support your state, and in some sort requite the pleasure you have done us, a thousand marks a year shall be your revenue.
Miller. Your Majesty's bounty I receive with thankfulness; I have been guilty of no meanness to obtain it, and hope I shall not be obliged to keep it upon base conditions ; for tho' I am willing to be a faithful subject, I am resolved to be a free, and an honest man,
King. I rely upon your being so: and, to gain the friendship of such a one, I shall always think an addition to my happiness, tho’a King.
Worth, in whatever State, is sure a Prize,