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Dialogue following No. 17
Fairfax. So my mysterious bride is no other than this winsome Elsie! By my hand, 'tis no such ill plunge in Fortune's lucky bag! I might have fared worse with my eyes open! But she comes. Now to test her principles. 'Tis not every husband who has a chance of wooing his own wife!
Fairfax. Mistress Elsie! Elsie. Master Leonard! Fairfax. So thou leavest us to-night?
Elsie. Yes. Master Leonard. I have been kindly tended, and I almost fear I am loth to go.
Fairfax. And this Fairfax. Wast thou glad when he escaped?
Elsie. Why, truly, Master Leonard, it is a sad thing that a young and gallant gentleman should die in the very fullness of his life.
Fairfax. Then when thou didst faint in my arms, it was for joy at his safety?
Elsie. It may be so. I was highly wrought, Master Leonard, and I am but a girl, and so, when I am highly wrought, I faint.
Fairfax. Now, dost thou know, I am consumed with a parlous jealousy?
Elsie. Thou? And of whom?
Fairfax. Why, of this Fairfax, surely!
Elsie. Of Colonel Fairfax?
Fairfax. Aye. Shall I be frank with thee? Elsie — I love thee, ardently, passionately! (Elsie. alarmed and surprised.) Elsie, I have loved thee these two days — which is a long time — and I would fain join my life to thine!
Elsie. Master Leonard! Thou art jesting!
Fairfax. Jesting? May I shrivel into raisins if I jest! I love thee with a love that is a fever — with a love that is a frenzy — with a love that eateth up my heart! What sayest thou? Thou wilt not let my heart be eaten up?
Elsie. (aside) Oh, mercy! What am I to say?
Fairfax. Dost thou love me, or hast thou been insensible these two days?
Elsie. I love all brave men.
Fairfax. Nay, there is love in excess. I thank heaven there are many brave men in England; but if thou lovest them all, I withdraw my thanks.
Elsie. I love the bravest best. But, sir, I may not listen — I am not free — I — I am a wife!
Fairfax. Thou a wife? Whose? His name? His hours are numbered — nay, his grave is dug and his epitaph set up! Come, his name?
Elsie. Oh, sir! keep my secret — it is the only barrier that Fate could set up between us. My husband is none other than Colonel Fairfax!
Fairfax. The greatest villain unhung! The most ill-favoured, ill-mannered, ill-natured, ill-omened, ill-tempered dog in Christendom!
Elsie. It is very like. He is naught to me — for I never saw him. I was blindfolded, and he was to have died within the hour; and he did not die — and I am wedded to him, and my heart is broken!
Fairfax. He was to have died, and he did not die? The scoundrel! The perjured, traitorous villain! Thou shouldst have insisted on his dying first, to make sure. 'Tis the only way with these Fairfaxes.
Elsie. I now wish I had!
Fairfax. (aside) Bloodthirsty little maiden! (aloud) A fig for this Fairfax! Be mine — he will never know — he dares not show himself; and if he dare, what art thou to him? Fly with me, Elsie — we will be married tomorrow, and thou shalt be the happiest wife in England!
Elsie. Master Leonard! I am amazed! Is it thus that brave soldiers speak to poor girls? Oh! for shame, for shame! I am wed — not the less because I love not my husband. I am a wife, sir, and I have a duty. and — oh, sir! — thy words terrify me — they are not honest — they are wicked words, and unworthy thy great and brave heart! Oh, shame upon thee! shame upon thee!
Fairfax. Nay, Elsie, I did but jest. I spake but to try thee —
Page Created 18 January, 2006