Act 4, Scene I

Scene: The Apartment of Evadne in the Palace.

Enter MELANTIUS, EVADNE, and Ladies.

Melantius.
Save you!
Evadne.
Save you, sweet brother!
Melantius.
In my blunt eye, methinks, you look, Evadne——
Evadne.
Come, you will make me blush.
Melantius.
I would, Evadne;
I shall displease my ends else.
Evadne.
You shall, if you commend me; I am bashful.
Come, sir, how do I look?
Melantius.
I would not have your women hear me
Break into commendation of you; 'tis not seemly.
Evadne.
Go, wait in the gallery.—Now speak.
[Exeunt Ladies.
Melantius.
I'll lock the door first.
Evadne.
Why?
Melantius.
I will not have your gilded things, that dance
In visitation with their Milan skins,
Choke up my business.
Evadne.
You are strangely disposed, sir.
Melantius.
Good madam, not to make you merry.
Evadne.
No; If you praise me it will make me sad.
Melantius.
Such a sad commendation I have for you.
Evadne.
Brother, the court hath made you witty,
And learn to riddle.
Melantius.
I praise the Court for't: Has it learnt you nothing?
Evadne.
Me?
Melantius.
Ay, Evadne; thou art young and handsome,
A lady of a sweet complexion,
And such a flowing carriage, that it cannot
Chuse but inflame a kingdom.
Evadne.
Gentle brother!
Melantius.
'Tis yet in thy repentance, foolish woman,
To make me gentle.
Evadne.
How is this?
Melantius.
'Tis base;
And I could blush, at these years, thorough all
My honour'd scars, to come to such a parley.
Evadne.
I understand you not.
Melantius.
You dare not, fool!
They, that commit thy faults, fly the remembrance.
Evadne.
My faults, sir! I would have you know, I care not
If they were written here, here in my forehead.
Melantius.
Thy body is too little for the story;
The lusts of which would fill another woman,
Though she had twins within her.
Evadne.
This is saucy:
Look you intrude no more! There lies your way.
Melantius.
Thou art my way, and I will tread upon thee,
Till I find truth out.
Evadne.
What truth is that you look for?
Melantius.
Thy long-lost honour. 'Would the gods had set me
Rather to grapple with the plague, or stand
One of their loudest bolts! Come, tell me quickly,
Do it without enforcement, and take heed.
You swell me not above my temper.
Evadne.
How, sir.
Where got you this report?
Melantius.
Where there were people,
In every place.
Evadne.
They, and the seconds of it are base people:
Believe them not, they lied.
Melantius.
Do not play with mine anger, do not, wretch!
[Seizes her.
I come to know that desperate fool that drew thee
From thy fair life: Be wise and lay him open.
Evadne.
Unhand me, and learn manners! Such another
Forgetfulness forfeits your life.
Melantius.
Quench me this mighty humour, and then tell me
Whose whore you are; for you are one, I know it.
Let all mine honours perish, but I'll find him,
Though he lie lock'd up in thy blood! Be sudden;
There is no facing it, and be not flatter'd!
The burnt air, when the Dog reigns, is not fouler
Than thy contagious name, till thy repentance
(If the gods grant thee any) purge thy sickness.
Evadne.
Be gone! you are my brother; that's your safety.
Melantius.
I'll be a wolf first! 'Tis, to be thy brother,
An infamy below the sin of coward.
I am as far from being part of thee,
As thou art from thy virtue: Seek a kindred
'Mongst sensual beasts, and make a goat thy brother?
A goat is cooler. Will you tell me yet?
Evadne.
If you stay here and rail thus, I shall tell you,
I'll have you whipp'd! Get you to your command,
And there preach to your sentinels, and tell them
What a brave man you are: I shall laugh at you.
Melantius.
You are grown a glorious whore! Where be your fighters?
What mortal fool durst raise thee to this daring,
And I alive! By my just sword, he had safer
Bestride a billow, when the angry North
Plows up the sea, or made Heaven's fire his food!
Work me no higher. Will you discover yet?
Evadne.
The fellow's mad: Sleep, and speak sense.
Melantius.
Force my swoll'n heart no further: I would save thee.
Your great maintainers are not here, they dare not:
Would they were all, and arm'd! I would speak loud;
Here's one should thunder to 'em! will you tell me?
Thou hast no hope to 'scape: He that dares most,
And damns away his soul to do thee service,
Will sooner snatch meat from a hungry lion,
Than come to rescue thee; thou hast death about thee.
Who has undone thine honour, poison'd thy virtue,
And, of a lovely rose, left thee a canker?
Evadne.
Let me consider.
Melantius.
Do, whose child thou wert,
Whose honour thou hast murder'd, whose grave open'd,
And so pull'd on the gods, that in their justice
They must restore him flesh again, and life,
And raise his dry bones to revenge this scandal.
Evadne.
The gods are not of my mind; they had better
Let 'em lie sweet still in the earth; they'll stink here.
Melantius.
Do you raise mirth out of my easiness?
[Draws.
Forsake me, then, all weaknesses of nature
That make men women! Speak, you whore, speak truth!
Or, by the dear soul of thy sleeping father,
This sword shall be thy lover! Tell, or I'll kill thee;
And, when thou hast told all, thou wilt deserve it.
Evadne.
You will not murder me?
Melantius.
No; 'tis a justice, and a noble one,
To put the light out of such base offenders.
Evadne.
Help!
Melantius.
By thy foul self, no human help shall help thee,
If thou criest! When I have kill'd thee as I
Have vow'd to do if thou confess not, naked,
As thou hast left thine honour, will I leave thee;
That on thy branded flesh the world may read
Thy black shame, and my justice. Wilt thou bend yet?
Evadne.
Yes.
Melantius.
Up, and begin your story.
Evadne.
Oh, I am miserable!
Melantius.
'Tis true, thou art. Speak truth still.
Evadne.
I have offended: Noble sir, forgive me.
Melantius.
With what secure slave?
Evadne.
Do not ask me, sir:
Mine own remembrance is a misery
Too mighty for me.
Melantius.
Do not fall back again:
My sword's unsheathed yet.
Evadne.
What shall I do?
Melantius.
Be true, and make your fault less.
Evadne.
I dare not tell.
Melantius.
Tell, or I'll be this day a-killing thee.
Evadne.
Will you forgive me then?
Melantius.
Stay; I must ask mine honour first.—
I have too much foolish nature in me: Speak.
Evadne.
Is there none else here?
Melantius.
None but a fearful conscience; that's too many.
Who is't?
Evadne.
Oh, hear me gently. It was the king.
Melantius.
No more. My worthy father's and my services
Are liberally rewarded.—King, I thank thee!
For all my dangers and my wounds, thou hast paid me
In my own metal: These are soldiers' thanks!—
How long have you lived thus, Evadne?
Evadne.
Too long.
Melantius.
Too late you find it. Can you be sorry?
Evadne.
Would I were half as blameless.
Melantius.
Evadne, thou wilt to thy trade again!
Evadne.
First to my grave.
Melantius.
'Would gods thou hadst been so blest.
Dost thou not hate this king now? pr'ythee hate him.
Couldst thou not curse him? I command thee, curse him.
Curse till the gods hear, and deliver him
To thy just wishes! Yet, I fear, Evadne,
You had rather play your game out.
Evadne.
No. I feel
Too many sad confusions here, to let in
Any loose flame hereafter.
Melantius.
Dost thou not feel, 'mongst all those, one brave anger
That breaks out nobly, and directs thine arm
To kill this base king?
Evadne.
All the gods forbid it!
Melantius.
No; all the gods require it:
They are dishonour'd in him.
Evadne.
'Tis too fearful.
Melantius.
You are valiant in his bed, and bold enough
To be a stale whore, and have your madam's name
Discourse for grooms and pages; and, hereafter,
When his cool majesty hath laid you by,
To be at pension with some needy sir,
For meat and coarser clothes; Thus far you know
No fear. Come, you shall kill him.
Evadne.
Good sir!
Melantius.
An 'twere to kiss him dead, thou shouldst smother him.
Be wise, and kill him. Canst thou live, and know
What noble minds shall make thee, see thyself
Found out with every finger, made the shame
Of all successions, and in this great ruin
Thy brother and thy noble husband broken?
Thou shalt not live thus. Kneel, and swear to help me,
When I shall call thee to it; or, by all
Holy in Heaven and earth, thou shalt not live
To breathe a full hour longer; not a thought!
Come, 'tis a righteous oath. Give me thy hands,
And, both to Heaven held up, swear, by that wealth
This lustful thief stole from thee, when I say it,
To let his foul soul out.
Evadne.
Here I swear it;
And, all you spirits of abused ladies,
Help me in this performance!
Melantius.
Enough. This must be known to none
But you and I, Evadne; not to your lord,
Though he be wise and noble, and a fellow
Dares step as far into a worthy action
As the most daring: ay, as far as justice.
Ask me not why. Farewell.
[Exit Melantius.
Evadne.
'Would I could say so to my black disgrace!
Oh, where have I been all this time? how 'friended,
That I should lose myself thus desperately,
And none for pity show me how I wandered?
There is not in the compass of the light
A more unhappy creature: Sure, I am monstrous!
For I have done those follies, those mad mischiefs,
Would dare a woman. Oh, my loaden soul,
Be not so cruel to me; choke not up
The way to my repentance! Oh, my lord!

Enter AMINTOR.

Amintor.
How now?
Evadne.
My much-abused lord!
[Kneels.
Amintor.
This cannot be!
Evadne.
I do not kneel to live; I dare not hope it;
The wrongs I did are greater. Look upon me,
Though I appear with all my faults.
Amintor.
Stand up.
This is a new way to beget more sorrow:
Heaven knows I have too many! Do not mock me:
Though I am tame, and bred up with my wrongs,
Which are my foster-brothers, I may leap,
Like a hand-wolf, into my natural wildness,
And do an outrage. Pr'ythee, do not mock me.
Evadne.
My whole life is so leprous, it infects
All my repentance. I would buy your pardon,
Though at the highest set; even with my life.
That slight contrition, that's no sacrifice
For what I have committed.
Amintor.
Sure I dazzle:
There cannot be a faith in that foul woman,
That knows no god more mighty than her mischiefs.
Thou dost still worse, still number on thy faults,
To press my poor heart thus. Can I believe
There's any seed of virtue in that woman
Left to shoot up, that dares go on in sin,
Known, and so known as thine is. Oh, Evadne!
'Would there were any safety in thy sex,
That I might put a thousand sorrows off,
And credit thy repentance! But I must not:
Thou hast brought me to that dull calamity,
To that strange misbelief of all the world,
And all things that are in it, that I fear
I shall fall like a tree, and find my grave,
Only remembering that I grieve.
Evadne.
My lord,
Give me your griefs: You are an innocent,
A soul as white as heaven; let not my sins
Perish your noble youth. I do not fall here
To shadow, by dissembling with my tears,
(As, all say, women can), or to make less,
What my hot will hath done, which Heaven and you
Know to be tougher than the hand of time
Can cut from man's remembrance. No, I do not:
I do appear the same, the same Evadne,
Drest in the shames I lived in: the same monster!
But these are names of honour, to what I am:
I do present myself the foulest creature,
Most poisonous, dangerous, and despised of men,
Lerna e'er bred, or Nilus! I am hell,
Till you, my dear lord, shoot your light into me,
The beams of your forgiveness. I am soul-sick,
And wither with the fear of one condemn'd,
Till I have got your pardon.
Amintor.
Rise, Evadne.
Those heavenly powers that put this good into thee,
Grant a continuance of it! I forgive thee:
Make thyself worthy of it; and take heed,
Take heed, Evadne, this be serious.
Mock not the powers above, that can and dare
Give thee a great example of their justice
To all ensuing eyes, if thou playest
With thy repentance, the best sacrifice.
Evadne.
I have done nothing good to win belief,
My life hath been so faithless. All the creatures,
Made for Heaven's, honours, have their ends, and good ones,
All but the cozening crocodiles, false women!
They reign here like those plagues, those killing sores,
Men pray against; and when they die, like tales
Ill told and unbelieved, they pass away
And go to dust forgotten! But, my lord,
Those short days I shall number to my rest
(As many must not see me) shall, though too late,
Though in my evening, yet perceive a will;
Since I can do no good, because a woman,
Reach constantly at something that is near it:
I will redeem one minute of my age,
Or, like another Niobe, I'll weep
Till I am water.
Amintor.
I am now dissolved:
My frozen soul melts. May each sin thou hast
Find a new mercy! Rise; I am at peace.
Hadst thou been thus, thus excellently good,
Before that devil king tempted thy frailty,
Sure thou hadst made a star! Give me thy hand.
From this time I will know thee; and, its far
As Honour gives me leave, be thy Amintor.
When we meet next, I will salute thee fairly,
And pray the gods to give thee happy days.
My charity shall go along with thee,
Though my embraces must be far from thee.
I should have kill'd thee, but this sweet repentance
Locks up my vengeance; for which thus I kiss thee—
The last kiss we must take! And 'would to Heaven
The holy priest, that gave our hands together,
Had given us equal virtues! Go, Evadne;
The Gods thus part our bodies. Have a care
My honour falls no farther: I am well then.
Evadne.
All the dear joys here, and, above, hereafter,
Crown thy fair soul! Thus I take leave, my lord;
And never shall you see the foul Evadne,
Till she have tried all honour'd means, that may
Set her in rest, and wash her stains away.
[Exeunt.