by Walter Savage Landor
Henry. Dost thou know me, Nanny, in this yeoman's dress? 'S blood! does it require so long and vacant a stare to recollect a husband after a week or two? No tragedy-tricks with me! a scream, a sob, or thy kerchief a trifle the wetter, were enough. Why, verily the little fool faints in earnest. These whey faces, like their kinsfolk the ghosts, give us no warning. (Sprinkling water over her) Hast had water enough upon thee? take that then . . . art thyself again?
Anne. Father of mercies! do I meet again my husband, as was my last prayer on earth! do I behold my beloved lord . . . in peace . . . and pardoned, my partner in eternal bliss! It was his voice. I can not see him . . . why can not I? O why do these pangs interrupt the transports of the blessed!
Henry. Thou openest thy arms: faith! I came for that: Nanny, thou art a sweet slut: thou groanest, wench: art in labour? Faith! among the mistakes of the night, I am ready to think almost that thou hast been drinking, and that I have not.
Anne. God preserve your highness: grant me your forgiveness for one slight offence. My eyes were heavy; I fell asleep while I was reading; I did not know of your presence at first, and when I did I could not speak. I strove for utterance; I wanted no respect for my liege and husband.
Henry. My pretty warm nestling, thou wilt then lie! Thou wert reading and aloud too, with thy saintly cup of water by thee, and . . . what! thou art still girlishly fond of those dried cherries!
Anne. I had no other fruit to offer your highness the first time I saw you, and you wore then pleased to invent for mc some reason why they should ho acceptable. I did not dry these: may I present them, such as they are? We shall have fresh next month.
Henry. Thou art always driving away from the discourse. Ono moment it suits thee to know me, another not.
Anne. Remember, it is hardly three months since I miscarried; I am weak and liable to swoons.
Henry. Thou hast however thy bridal cheeks, with lustre upon them when there is none elsewhere, and obstinate lips resisting all impression: but now thou talkest about miscarrying, who is the father of that boy?
Anne. The father is yours and mine; he who hath taken him to his own home, before (like me) he could struggle or cry for it.
Henry. Pagan, or worse, to talk so! He did not come into the world alive: there was no baptism.
Anne. I thought only of our loss: my senses are confounded. I did not give him my milk, and yet I loved him tenderly; for I often fancied, had he lived, how contented and joyful he would have made you and England.
Henry. No subterfuges and escapes. I warrant, thou canst not say whether at my entrance thou wert waking or wandering.
Anne. Faintness and drowsiness came upon me suddenly.
Henry. Well, since thou really and truly sleepedst, what didst dream of?
Anne. I begin to doubt whether I did indeed sleep.
Henry. Ha! false one. . . never two sentences of truth together. . . but come, What didst think about, asleep or awake?
Anne. I thought that God had pardoned mo my offences, and had received me unto him.
Henry. And nothing more?
Anne. That my prayers had been heard and my wishes were accomplishing: the angels alone can enjoy more beatitude than this.
Henry. Vexatious little devil! she says nothing now about me, merely from perverseness. Hast thou never thought about me, nor about thy falsehood and adultery?
Anne. If I had committed any kind of falsehood, in regard to you or not, I should never have rested until I had thrown myself at your feet and obtained your pardon but if ever I had been guilty of that other crime, I know not whether I should have dared to implore it, even of God's mercy.
Henry. Thou hast heretofore cast some soft glances upon Smeaton; hast thou not?
Anne. He taught me to play on the virginals, as you know, when I was little, and thereby to please your highness.
Henry. And Brereton and Norris, what have they taught thee?
Anne. They are your servants, and trusty ones
Henry. Has not Weston told thee plainly that he loved thee?
Anne. Yes; and . . .
Henry. What didst thou?
Anne. I defied him.
Henry. Is that all?
Anne. I could have done no more if he had told me that he hated me. Then indeed I should have incurred more justly the reproaches of your highness: I should leave smiled.
Henry. We have proofs abundant: the fellows shall one and all confront thee . . . ay, clap thy bands and kiss my sleeve, harlot!
Anne. O that so great a favour is vouchsafed me! my honour is secure; nay husband will be happy again; he will see my innocence.
Henry. Give me now an account of the monies thou hast received from me within those nine months: I want them not back: they are letters of gold in record of thy guilt. Thou hast had no fewer than fifteen thousand pounds in that period, without even thy asking; what hast done with it, wanton?
Anne. I have regularly placed it out to interest.
Henry. Where? I demand of thee,
Anne. Among the needy and ailing. My lord archbishop has the account of it, sealed by him weekly: I also had a copy myself: those who took away my papers may easily find it, for there are few others, and they lie open.
Henry. Think on my munificence to thee; recollect who made thee. Dost sigh for what thou hast lost?
Anne. I do indeed.
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Page created 12 December 2002 and last
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