MILLER, MRS. MILLER, LOUISA, FERDINND.
(All speaking together).
FERDINAND (rushes in, terrified, and out of breath). Has my father
LOUISA (starts back in horror). His father? Gracious heaven!
MRS. MILLER (wringing her hands). The minister here? Then it's all
over with us!
MILLER (laughs bitterly). Thank God! Thank God! Now comes our
FERDINAND (rushing towards LOUISA, and clasping her in his arms). Mine thou art, though heaven and hell were placed between us!
LOUISA. I am doomed! Speak, Ferdinand! Did you not utter that dreaded name? Your father?
FERDINAND. Be not alarmed! the danger has passed! I have thee again! again thou hast me! Let me regain my breath on thy dear bosom. It was a dreadful hour!
LOUISA. What was a dreadful hour? Answer me, Ferdinand! I die with apprehension!
FERDINAND (drawing back, gazing upon her earnestly, then in a solemn tone). An hour, Louisa, when another's form stepped between my heart and thee—an hour in which my love grew pale before my conscience—when Louisa ceased to be all in all to Ferdinand!
[LOUISA sinks back upon her chair, and conceals her face.
(FERDINAND stands before her in speechless agitation, then turns away from her suddenly and exclaims). Never, never! Baroness, 'tis impossible! you ask too much! Never can I sacrifice this innocence at your shrine. No, by the eternal God! I cannot recall my oath, which speaks to me from thy soul—thrilling eyes louder than the thunders of heaven! Behold, lady! Inhuman father, look on this! Would you have me destroy this angel? Shall my perfidy kindle a hell in this heavenly bosom? (turning towards her with firmness). No! I will bear her to thy throne, Almighty Judge! Thy voice shall declare if my affection be a crime. (He grasps her hand, and raises her from the sofa.) Courage, my beloved!—thou hast conquered—and I come forth a victor from the terrible conflict!
LOUISA. No, no, Ferdinand, conceal nothing from me! Declare boldly the dreadful decree! You named your father! You spoke of the baroness! The shivering of death seizes my heart! 'Tis said she is about to be married!
FERDINAND (quite overcome, throws himself at her feet). Yes, and to me, dear unfortunate. Such is my father's will!
LOUISA (after a deep pause, in a tremulous voice, but with assumed resignation). Well! Why am I thus affrighted? Has not my dear father often told me that you never could be mine? But I was obstinate, and believed him not. (A second pause; she falls weeping into her father's arms.) Father, thy daughter is thine own again! Father, forgive me! 'Twas not your child's fault that the dream was so heavenly—the waking so terrible!
MILLER. Louisa! Louisa! O merciful heaven! she has lost her senses! My daughter! My poor child! Curses upon thy seducer! Curses upon the pandering mother who threw thee in his way!
MRS. MILLER (weeping on LOUISA'S neck). Daughter, do I deserve this curse? God forgive you, major! What has this poor lamb done that you bring this misery upon her?
FERDINAND (with resolution). I will unravel the meshes of these intrigues. I will burst asunder these iron chains of prejudice. As a free-born man will I make my choice, and crush these insect souls with the colossal force of my love! [Going.
LOUISA (rises trembling from the sofa, and attempts to follow him). Stay, oh, stay! Whither are you going? Father! Mother! He deserts us in this fearful hour!
MRS. MILLER (hastens towards him, and detains him). The president is coming hither? He will ill-use my child! He will ill-use us all,—and yet, major, you are going to leave us.
MILLER (laughs hysterically). Leave us. Of course he is! What should hinder him? The girl has given him all she had. (Grasping FERDINAND with one hand, and LOUISA with the other.) Listen to me, young gentleman. The only way out of my house is over my daughter's body. If you possess one single spark of honor await your father's coming; tell him, deceiver, how you stole her young and inexperienced heart; or, by the God who made me! (thrusting LOUISA towards him with violence and passion) you shall crush before my eyes this trembling worm whom love for you has brought to shame and infamy!
FERDINAND (returns, and walks to and fro in deep thought). 'Tis true, the President's power is great—parental authority is a mighty word—even crimes claim respect when concealed within its folds. He may push that authority far—very far! But love goes beyond it. Hear me, Louisa; give me thy hand! (clasping it firmly). As surely as I hope for Heaven's mercy in my dying hour, I swear that the moment which separates these hands shall also rend asunder the thread that binds me to existence!
LOUISA. You terrify me! Turn from me! Your lips tremble! Your eyes roll fearfully!
FERDINAND. Nay, Louisa! fear nothing! It is not madness which prompts my oath! 'tis the choicest gift of Heaven, decision, sent to my aid at that critical moment, when an oppressed bosom can only find relief in some desperate remedy. I love thee, Louisa! Thou shalt be mine! 'Tis resolved! And now for my father!
[He rushes out, and is met by the PRESIDENT.