The Brothers – Act III
ACT THE THIRD
Enter Sostrata and Canthara, from the house of the former.
Sos. Prithee, my dear nurse, how is it like to end?
Can. Like to end, do you ask? I’troth, right well, I trust.
Sos. Her pains are just beginning, my dear.
Can. You are in a fright now, just as though you had never been present on such an occasion—never been in labor yourself.
Sos. Unfortunate woman that I am! I have not a person at home; we are quite alone; Geta too is absent. I have no one to go for the midwife, or to fetch Æschinus.
Can. I’faith, he’ll certainly be here just now, for he never lets a day pass without visiting us.
Sos. He is my sole comfort in my afflictions.
Can. Things could not have happened, mistress, more for the advantage of your daughter than they have, seeing that violence was offered her; so far as he is concerned, it is most lucky,—such a person, of such disposition and feelings, a member of so respectable a family.
Sos. It is indeed as you say; I entreat the Gods that he may be preserved to us.
They stand apart, on seeing Geta.
Enter Geta, on the other side of the stage.
Geta (to himself.) Now such is our condition, that if all were to combine all their counsels, and to seek a remedy for this mischief that has befallen myself, my mistress, and her daughter, they could find no relief. Oh wretched me! so many calamities beset us on a sudden, we can not possibly 216extricate ourselves. Violence, poverty, oppression, desertion, infamy! What an age is this! O shocking villainy! O accursed race! O impious man!—
Sos. Unhappy me! How is it that I see Geta hurrying along thus terrified?
Geta (continuing.) Whom neither promises, nor oaths, nor compassion could move or soften; nor yet the fact that the delivery was nigh at hand of the unfortunate woman on whom he had so shamefully committed violence.
Sos. (apart to Canthara.) I don’t well understand what he is talking about.
Can. Pray, let us go nearer to him, Sostrata.
Geta (continuing.) Ah wretched me! I am scarcely master of my senses, I am so inflamed with anger. There is nothing that I would like better than for all that family to be thrown in my way, that I might give vent to all my wrath upon them while this wound is still fresh. I could be content with any punishment, so I might only wreak my vengeance on them. First, I would stop the breath of the old fellow himself who gave being to this monster; then as for his prompter, Syrus, out upon him! how I would tear him piecemeal! I would snatch him by the middle up aloft, and dash him head downward upon the earth, so that with his brains he would bestrew the road: I would pull out the eyes of the young fellow himself, and afterward hurl him headlong over some precipice. The others I would rush upon, drive, drag, crush, and trample them under foot. But why do I delay at once to acquaint my mistress with this calamity? (Moves as if going.)
Sos. (to Canthara.) Let us call him back. Geta——
Geta. Well—leave me alone, whoever you are.
Sos. ’Tis I,—Sostrata.
Geta (turning round.) Why, where are you? You are the very person I am looking for. I was in quest of you; it’s very fortunate you have met me.
Sos. What’s the matter? Why are you trembling?
Geta. Alas! Alas!
Sos. My dear Geta, why in such haste? Do take breath.
Sos. Why, what means this “quite”?
Geta. Undone—It’s all over with us.
Sos. Say, then, I entreat you, what is the matter.
Sos. What “now,” Geta?
Sos. What about him?
Geta. Has abandoned our family.
Sos. Then I am undone! Why so?
Geta. He has attached himself to another woman.
Sos. Woe unto wretched me!
Geta. And he makes no secret of it; he himself has carried her off openly from a procurer.
Sos. Are you quite sure of this?
Geta. Quite sure; I saw it myself, Sostrata, with these same eyes.
Sos. Ah wretched me! What is one now to believe, or whom believe? Our own Æschinus, the very life of us all, in whom all our hopes and comforts were centred! Who used to swear he could never live a single day without her! Who used to say, that he would place the infant on his father’s knees, and thus entreat that he might be allowed to make her his wife!
Geta. Dear mistress, forbear weeping, and rather consider what must be done for the future in this matter. Shall we submit to it, or shall we tell it to any person?
Can. Pooh, pooh! are you in your senses, my good man? Does this seem to you a business to be made known to any one?
Geta. I, indeed, have no wish for it. In the first place, then, that his feelings are estranged from us, the thing itself declares. Now, if we make this known, he’ll deny it, I’m quite sure; your reputation and your daughter’s character will then be in danger. On the other hand, if he were fully to confess it, as he is in love with another woman, it would not be to her advantage to be given to him. Therefore, under either circumstance, there is need of silence.
Sos. Oh! by no means in the world! I’ll not do it.
Geta. What is it you say?
Sos. I’ll make it known.
Geta. Ha, my dear Sostrata, take care what you do!
Sos. The matter can not possibly be in a worse position than it is at present. In the first place, she has no portion; then, besides, that which was as good as a portion, her honor, is lost: she can not be given in marriage as a virgin. This resource is left; if he should deny it, I have a ring which he lost as evidence of the truth. In fine, Geta, as I am fully conscious that no blame attaches to me, and that neither interest nor any consideration unworthy of her or of myself has had a share in this matter, I will make trial——
Geta. What am I to say to this? I agree, as you speak for the best.
Sos. You be off as fast as possible, and relate all the matter just as it has happened to her kinsman Hegio; for he was the best friend of our lamented Simulus, and has shown especial regard for us.
Geta. (aside.) Aye, faith, because nobody else takes any notice of us.
Sos. Do you, my dear Canthara, run with all haste, and fetch the midwife, so that, when she is wanted, we may not have to wait for her.
Sostrata goes into the house, and exit Geta and Canthara.
Dem. (to himself.) Utterly undone! I hear that Ctesipho was with Æschinus at the carrying off of this girl. This sorrow stillremains for unhappy me, should Æschinus be able to seduce him, even him, who promises so fair, to a course of debauchery. Where am I to inquire for him? I doubt he has been carried off to some bad house; that profligate has persuaded him, I’m quite sure. But look—I see Syrus coming this way, I shall now know from him where he is. But, i’faith, he is one of the gang; if he perceives that I am looking for him, the rascal will never tell me. I’ll not let him know what I want.
Enter Syrus, at the other side of the stage.
Syr. (to himself.) We just now told the old gentleman the whole affair just as it happened; I never did see any one more delighted.
Dem. (apart.) O Jupiter! the folly of the man!
Syr. (continuing.) He commended his son. To me, who put them upon this project, he gave thanks——
Dem. (apart) I shall burst asunder.
Syr. (continuing.) He told down the money instantly, and gave me half a mina besides to spend. That was laid out quite to my liking.
Dem. (apart.) Very fine—if you would wish a thing to be nicely managed, intrust it to this fellow.
Syr. (overhearing him.) Ha, Demea! I didn’t see you; how goes it?
Dem. How should it go? I can not enough wonder at your mode of living here.
Syr. Why, really silly enough, and, to speak without disguise, altogether absurd. (Calls at the door of Micio’s house.) Dromo, clean the rest of the fish; let the largest conger-eel play a little in the water; when I come back it shall be boned; not before.
Dem. Is profligacy like this——
Syr. As for myself, it isn’t to my taste, and I often exclaim against it. (Calls at the door.) Stephanio, take care that the salt fish is well soaked.
Dem. Ye Gods, by our trust in you! is he doing this for any purpose of his own, or does he think it creditable to ruin his son? Wretch that I am! methinks I already see the day when Æschinus will be running away for want, to serve somewhere or other as a soldier.
Syr. O Demea! that is wisdom indeed,—not only to look at the present moment, but also to look forward to what’s to come.
Dem. Well—is this Music-girl still with you?
Syr. Why, yes, she’s in-doors.
Dem. How now—is he going to keep her at home?
Syr. I believe so; such is his madness!
Dem. Is it possible?
Syr. An imprudent lenity in his father, and a vicious indulgence.
Dem. Really, I am ashamed and grieved at my brother.
Syr. Demea! between you there is a great—I do not say it because you are here present—a too great difference. You are, every bit of you, nothing but wisdom; he a mere dreamer. Would you indeed have suffered that son of yours to act thus?
Dem. I, suffer him? Would I not have smelt it out six months before he attempted it?
Syr. Need I be told by you of your foresight?
Dem. I pray he may only continue the same he is at present!
Syr. Just as each person wishes his son to be, so he turns out.
Dem. What news of him? Have you seen him to-day?
Syr. What, your son? (Aside.) I’ll pack him off into the country. (To Demea.) I fancy he’s busy at the farm long before this.
Dem. Are you quite sure he is there?
Syr. What!—when I saw him part of the way myself——
Dem. Very good. I was afraid he might be loitering here.
Syr. And extremely angry too.
Dem. Why so?
Syr. He attacked his brother in the Forum with strong language about this Music-girl.
Dem. Do you really say so?
Syr. Oh dear, he didn’t at all mince the matter; for just as the money was being counted out, the gentleman came upon us by chance, and began exclaiming, “Oh Æschinus, that you should perpetrate these enormities! that you should be guilty of actions so disgraceful to our family!”
Dem. Oh, I shall weep for joy.
Syr. “By this you are not squandering your money only, but your reputation.”
Dem. May he be preserved to me! I trust he will be like his forefathers. (Weeping.)
Syr. (aside.) Heyday!
Dem. Syrus, he is full of these maxims.
Syr. (aside.) Strange, indeed! He had the means at home of learning them.
Dem. I do every thing I can; I spare no pains; I train him up to it: in fine, I bid him look into the lives of men, as though into a mirror, and from others to take an example for himself. Do this, I say——
Syr. Quite right.
Dem. Avoid that——
Syr. Very shrewd.
Dem. This is praiseworthy——
Syr. That’s the thing.
Dem. That is considered blamable——
Syr. Extremely good.
Dem. And then, moreover——
Syr. Upon my honor, I have not the leisure to listen to you just at present: I have got some fish just to my taste, and must take care they are not spoiled; for that would be as much a crime in me, as for you, Demea, not to observe those maxims which you have just been mentioning; and so far as I can, I lay down precepts for my fellow-servants on the very same plan; “this is too salt, that is quite burned up, this is not washed enough, that is very well done; remember and do so another time.” I carefully instruct them so far as I can to the best of my capacity. In short, Demea, I bid them look into their sauce-pans as though into a mirror, and suggest to them what they ought to do. I am sensible these things are trifling which we do; but what is one to do? According as the man is, so must you humor him. Do you wish any thing else?
Dem. That more wisdom may be granted you.
Syr. You will be going off into the country, I suppose?
Syr. For what should you do here, where, if you do give any good precepts, no one will regard them?
Goes into Micio’s house.
Dem. (to himself.) I certainly will be off, as he on whose account I came hither has gone into the country. I have a care for him: that alone is my own concern, since my brother will have it so; let him look to the other himself. But who is it I see yonder at a distance? Isn’t it Hegio of our tribe? If I see right, i’faith, it is he. Ah, a man I have been friendly with from a child! Good Gods! we certainly have a great dearth of citizens of that stamp nowadays, with the old-fashioned virtue and honesty. Not in a hurry will any misfortune accrue to the public from him. How glad I am to find some remnants of this race even still remaining; now I feel some pleasure in living. I’ll wait here for him, to ask him how he is, and have some conversation with him.
Enter Hegio and Geta, conversing, at a distance.
Heg. Oh immortal Gods! a disgraceful action, Geta! What is it you tell me?
Geta. Such is the fact.
Heg. That so ignoble a deed should come from that family! Oh Æschinus, assuredly you haven’t taken after your father in that!
Dem. (apart.) Why surely, he has heard this about the Music-girl; that gives him concern, though a stranger; this father of his thinks nothing of it. Ah me! I wish he were somewhere close at hand to overhear this.
Heg. Unless they do as they ought to do, they shall not come off so easily.
Geta. All our hopes, Hegio, are centred in you; you we have for our only friend; you are our protector, our father. The old man, Simulus, when dying, recommended us to you; if you forsake us, we are undone.
Heg. Beware how you mention that; I neither will do it, nor do I think thaat; with due regard to the ties of relationship, I could.
Dem. (apart.) I’ll accost him. (Approaches Hegio.) Hegio, I bid you welcome right heartily.
Heg. (starting.) Oh! I you are the very man I was looking for. Greetings to you, Demea.
Dem. Why, what’s the matter?
Heg. Your eldest son Æschinus, whom you gave to your brother to adopt, has been acting the part of neither an honest man nor a gentleman.
Dem. What has he been doing?
Heg. You knew my friend and year’s-mate, Simulus?
Dem. Why not?
Heg. He has debauched his daughter, a virgin.
Heg. Stay, Demea. You have not yet heard the worst.
Dem. Is there any thing still worse?
Heg. Worse, by far: for this indeed might in some measure have been borne with. The hour of night prompted him; passion, wine, young blood; ’tis human nature. When he was sensible of what he had done, he came voluntarily to the girl’s mother, weeping, praying, entreating, pledging his honor, vowing that he would take her home. The affair was pardoned, hushed, up, his word taken. The girl from that intercourse became pregnant: this is the tenth month. He, worthy fellow, has provided himself, if it please the Gods, with a Music-girl to live with; the other he has cast off.
Dem. Do you say this for certain?
Heg. The mother of the young woman is among us, the young woman too; the fact speaks for itself; this Geta, besides, according to the common run of servants, not a bad one or of idle habits; he supports them; alone, maintains the whole family; take him, bind him, examine him upon the matter.
Geta. Aye, faith, put me to the torture, Demea, if such is not the fact: besides, he will not deny it. Confront me with him.
Dem. (aside.) I am ashamed; and what to do, or how to answer him, I don’t know.
Pam. (crying out within the house of Sostrata.) Ah me! I am racked with pains! Juno Lucina, bring aid, save me, I beseech thee!
Heg. Hold; is she in labor, pray?
Geta. No doubt of it, Hegio.
Heg. Ah! she is now imploring your protection, Demea; let her obtain from you spontaneously what the power of the lawcompels you to give. I do entreat the Gods that what befits you may at once be done. But if your sentiments are otherwise, Demea, I will defend both them and him who is dead to the utmost of my power. He was my kinsman: we were brought up together from children, we were companions in the wars and at home, together we experienced the hardships of poverty. I will therefore exert myself, strive, use all methods, in fine lay down my life, rather than forsake these women. What answer do you give me?
Dem. I’ll go find my brother, Hegio: the advice he gives me upon this matter I’ll follow.
Heg. But, Demea, take you care and reflect upon this: the more easy you are in your circumstances, the more powerful, wealthy, affluent, and noble you are, so much the more ought you with equanimity to observe the dictates of justice, if you would have yourselves esteemed as men of probity.
Dem. Go back now; every thing shall be done that is proper to be done.
Heg. It becomes you to act thus. Geta, show me in to Sostrata.
Follows Geta into Sostrata’s house.
Dem. (to himself.) Not without warning on my part have these things happened: I only wish it may end here; but this immoderate indulgence will undoubtedly lead to some great misfortune. I’ll go find my brother, and vent these feelings upon him.
Enter Hegio, from Sostrata’s house, and speaking to her within.
Heg. Be of good heart, Sostrata, and take care and console her as far as you can. I’ll go find Micio, if he is at the Forum, and acquaint him with the whole circumstances in their order; if so it is that he will do his duty by you, let him do so; but if his sentiments are otherwise about this matter, let him give me his answer, that I may know at once what I am to do.