Miss Vardill

or, I’m Very Sorry!!

A New Tragedy

According to the Art of Sinking
Martinus Scriblerus

Scene: Whitechapel

Enter Groanilda and Melissa

Melissa: The evening star now trembles in the sky
  As loth to take his ling’ring, last farewell — 
  Sweet friend, the shop is closed — we’ll wander here
  While the soft blackbird chants its hymn to May — 
  Mother of cheerfulness, whose cradle rocks
  The youthful poet in his dreams of love!

Groanilda: Alas! no blackbird chants — no cradle rocks
  To soothe the anguish of a widow’d bride!
  These plumbs are all the solace, all the wealth
  My Tancred left me!

Melissa: Gods! no settlement?

Groanilda: Dire deeds find wondrous tongues — attend, Melissa!
  Late at the hour of twilight as I watch’d
  The candles clustered round my Tancred’s door,
  Methought his dark and silent desk unclos’d
  And his blest spirit stood in earthly shape
  Strip’d cotton vest and hose of speckled blue!
  He smil’d — a husband’s smile! then sad and stern
  His eyes roll’d on me, and his golden hair
  Hung loose and stain’d with blood!

Melissa: Mysterious tale!

Groanilda: The glimm’ring tapers sunk; a shadowy hand
  Unveil’d his awful forehead and disclos’d
  Beneath the velvet circle of his cap
  A wide and ghastly wound!

Melissa: ’Tis strange! Go on!

Groanilda: Deep thunder shook the shelves — the spectre cried
  “Remember me! remember!” when I knelt
  And crav’d its will, it vanish’d with a howl — 
  O seek to know no more!

Enter Teapottus and Bertram

  What, moping still?
  Evermore show’ring for a lover’s death?
  Tancred is food for worms — but here is Bertram
  Bertram, the sage, the valiant, the renown’d!
  Heir of my wealth and foreman of my shop!
  Why scorn the living to adore the dead?
  The widow’s soul to witless grief resign’d
  Wastes like the tapers doom’d to burn in tombs,
  Or like the tea-dust held in infant hands,
  Unseen and unenjoy’d!

Groanilda: ’Tis true, my father!
  But let me nurse the glorious grief I love;
  Grief is my wealth, my company, my pride!
  And it is sweet to sit behind this board
  Counting the papers twirl’d by Tancred’s hand
  Or the white glossy leaves he lov’d to clip,
  Till my soul sinks in that delicious trance
  Which never had a name!

Bertram: Such trance is mine
  When on thy downcast eyes I sit and gaze
  While from their gold-fring’d lids a tear descends
  On the faint roses of thy faded cheek.
  O! as that tear-drop represents a pearl
  Tho’ but a wat’ry image, cold and weak,
  So let thy pity now resemble love
  And I will bless the gracious counterfeit,
  Though the true gem lies buried with my Brother!

Teapottus: Yes, wed him, Daughter! — think how oft and long
  His hose have slept undarn’d, his frill unsmooth’d,
  While his fond heart drank poison from thine eye.
  Think too what gorgeous bales of new-spun silk,
  What precious rings and watches unredeem’d
  From Dobree’s sale he brought home yesterday:— 
  All these are pack’d for thee!

Groanilda: You urge me sorely;
  But if this frozen heart can yield a spark
  Of Love’s electric fire, he may expect it — 
  And take the tissue to my milliner’s!

Teapottus: Why, this is wisely said — come, fill the bowl
  With spicy arrack and the lemon’s juice:
  We will be glad — then bring the caitiff-minstrel
  Who with grim face and engine of strange sound
  Chants forth “Galanty Show!” — haste, call him hither.

Enter Showman

  My eldest hope, my brave, my buried Tancred
  Lov’d music when a boy — before the frock
  Of childhood was cut short, and wond’rous oft
  With plumbs purloin’d or new-coin’d halfpenny
  We found him greeting the brown ballad-nymphs:
  My long-lost Tancred! (weeps and sobs)

Showman: If it pleases you
  To see the long-lost dead reviv’d again
  In shape corporeal and in known attire,
  My lanthorn and old clothes-bag will supply
  Both vest and visage.

Groanilda: Has thine art such pow’r?
  Then it would cheer my widow’d soul to see
  My Tancred, my betroth’d, my soul’d espous’d,
  E’en as he look’d, in apron of pure white,
  Fill’d with the tears he carried when he fell
  Alas! to rise no more!

Showman: Let all be silent
  While from its mansion in the sev’n-fold spheres
  I call his wand’ring shadow — Soul of Tancred!
  Come from the crystalline and convex orb
  Bright with ethereal gas-light, where thou sittest
  Drinking the fragrant and nectareous tea
  Assign’d to those who weigh it well below!
  If midst the interminable flood of sound
  Too fine for ears to hear or tongue to name,
  Thou heedest ought on earth, descend and answer!
  Come in thy mortal robes of Tyrian blue
  Spun from Merino’s fleece and sold in Holborn — 
  Then with thy fleshless arms and shadowy thumbs
  Show us the ghastly, deep and yawning wound
  From whence thy pure innocuous life escap’d
  Like a white pigeon thro’ a crimson net!

An invisible chorus of groans — 
Displays his magic lantern

Bertram: A wound! what wound! — he died of bruises dire — 
  His coat was without stain — I have it here — 
  Here in the garret-chest!

Groanilda: Behold and see!
  It is, it is my Tancred! ’tis his vest — 
  I bought it second-hand — lo! there the patch
  I put upon his sleeve!

Bertram: The caitiff mocks us — 
  My Brother sleeps in peace — his spirit rests — 
  If it could visit us, it would return
  As the fond dove returns to bless its mate,
  A messenger of peace and joy and love!

Showman: Perhaps thou seest him now! perhaps he looks
  E’en thus, on thee, his murd’rer!

Drops his mask. A very loud scream heard. Teapottus leaps upon the counter. Bertram creeps under it and enter — 

Bow Street Officers: Seize th’ impostor!
  His robe is borrow’d and this vehicle
  Of painted witchcraft and prismatic light
  He filch’d from Sidney’s Alley.

Showman: Sirs, I bought it
  Of Benjamin the Jew.

Bertram: Believe him not!
  He is a crafty vagrant, and he came
  To pour his tales of fortune in the ear
  Of this fair dame whose conscious blushes vie
  With the soft folding of the damask rose.

Bow St. Off.: Sir Bertram fairly met! — within that draw’r
  Lie stores of newspun silk and pearls and toys
  Won by your wily hand from Dobree’s shop.
  Justice has pois’d her scales — her red right arm
  Is stretch’d to crush ye all — prepare and tremble!

Teapottus: What, both my sons! — both felons and both captives!
  Have these few hairs been blanch’d by threescore years
  Without a stain, and must I rend them now
  In ruin and despair? — The King of light
  Ne’er stopp’d his blazing chariot wheels to view
  A Grocer’s shop more honest!

Bow St. Off.: Rev’rend sage,
  A father’s tears look beauteous on thy cheek
  Like balmy incense on a silver shrine.
  We know the sun of wisdom gilds the age
  And wealth improves its brightness — follow us — 
  The Judge will take thy bail.

Groanilda: My Sire and Husband!
  Alas! — I’m very sorry!!!

Exeunt Omnes