The Step-Mother, by Terence

Act the First.

Scene I.

Philotis, Syra .

Phi. Now, by my troth, a woman of the town
Scarce ever finds a faithful lover, Syra.
This very Pamphilus, how many times
He swore to Bacchis, swore so solemnly
One could not but believe him, that he never
Would, in her lifetime, marry. See! he’s married.

Syra. I warn you, therefore, and most earnestly
Conjure you, to have pity upon none.
But plunder, fleece, and beggar ev’ry man
That falls into your pow’r.

Phi. What! spare none?

Syra. None.
For know, there is not one of all your sparks
But studies to cajole you with fine speeches,
And have his will as cheaply as he can.
Should not you, then, endeavor to fool them?

Phi. But to treat all alike is wrong.

Syra. What! wrong?
To be reveng’d upon your enemies?
Or to snare those who spread their snares for you?
— Alas! why have not I your youth and beauty,
Or you my sentiments?

Scene II.

Enter Parmeno .

Par. (to Scritus within). If our old gentleman
Asks for me, tell him I’m this very moment
Gone to the Port to seek for Pamphilus.
D’ye understand my meaning, Scritus? If he asks,
Tell him that; if he should not ask, say nothing;
That this excuse may serve another time. (Comes forward.)
— But is not that Philotis? Whence comes she?
Philotis, save you!

Phi. Save you, Parmeno!

Syra. Save you, good Parmeno!

Par. And save you, Syra!
— Tell me, Philotis, where have you been gadding?
Taking your pleasure this long time?

Phi. I’ve taken
No pleasure, Parmeno, indeed. I went
With a most brutal Captain hence to Corinth,
There have I led a wretched life with him
For two whole years.

Par. Aye, aye, I warrant you
That you have often wish’d to be in Athens;
Often repented of your journey.

Phi. Oh,
’Tis quite impossible to tell how much
I long’d to be at home, how much I long’d
To leave the Captain, see you, revel with you,
After the good old fashion, free and easy.
For there I durst not speak a single word,
But what, and when the mighty Captain pleas’d.

Par. ’Twas cruel in him thus to tie your tongue:
At least, I’ll warrant, that you thought it so.

Phi. But what’s this business, Parmeno? this story
That Bacchis has been telling me within?
I could not have believ’d that Pamphilus
Would in her lifetime marry.

Par. Marry truly!

Phi. Why he is married: is not he?

Par. He is.
But I’m afraid ’twill prove a crazy match,
And will not hold together long.

Phi. Heav’n grant it.
So it turn out to Bacchis’s advantage!
But how can I believe this, Parmeno?
Tell me.

Par. It is not fit it should be told.
Inquire no more.

Phi. For fear I should divulge it?
Now Heav’n so prosper me, as I inquire,
Not for the sake of telling it again,
But to rejoice within myself.

Par. No, no:
Fair words, Philotis, sha’n’t prevail on me
To trust my back to your discretion.

Phi. Well;
Don’t tell me, Parmeno. — As if you had not
Much rather tell this secret than I hear it.

Par. She’s in the right: I am a blab, ’tis true,
It is my greatest failing. — Give your word
You’ll not reveal it, and I’ll tell you.

Phi. Now
You’re like yourself again. I give my word.

Par. Listen then.

Phi. I’m all ear.

Par. Pamphilus
Doted on Bacchis still as much as ever,
When the old gentleman began to tease him
To marry, in the common cant of fathers;
— “That he was now grown old; and Pamphilus
His only child; and that he long’d for heirs,
As props of his old age.” At first my master
Withstood his instances, but as his father
Became more hot and urgent, Pamphilus
Began to waver in his mind, and felt
A conflict betwixt love and duty in him.
At length, by hammering on marriage still,
And daily instances, th’ old man prevail’d,
And made a match with our next neighbor’s daughter.
Pamphilus did not take it much to heart,
Till just upon the very brink of wedlock:
But when he saw the nuptial rites prepar’d,
And, without respite, he must many; then
It came so home to him, that even Bacchis,
Had she been present, must have pitied him.
Whenever he could steal from company,
And talk to me alone, — “Oh Parmeno,
What have I done?” he’d cry. — “I’m lost forever.
Into what ruin have I plung’d myself!
I can not bear it, Parmeno. Ah wretch!
I am undone.”

Phi. Now all the powers of heav’n
Confound you, Laches, for thus teasing him?

Par. In short, he marries, and brings home his wife.
The first night he ne’er touch’d her! nor the next.

Phi. How! he a youth, and she a maidenhead!
Tipsy, and never touch her! ’Tis not likely;
Nor do I think it can be true.

Par. No wonder.
For they that come to you come all desire:
But he was bound to her against his will.

Phi. What followed upon this?

Par. A few days after,
Pamphilus, taking me aside, informs me,
“That the maid still remain’d a maid for him;
That he had hop’d, before he brought her home,
He might have borne the marriage:— but resolving
Within myself not to retain her long,
I held it neither honesty in me,
Nor of advantage to the maid herself,
That I should throw her off to scorn:— but rather
Return her to her friends, as I receiv’d her,
Chaste and inviolate.”

Phi. A worthy youth,
And of great modesty!

Par. “To make this public
Would not, I think, do well: and to return her
Upon her father’s hands, no crime alleg’d,
Is arrogant: but she, I hope, as soon
As she perceives she can not live with me,
Will of her own accord depart.”

Phi. But tell me;
Went he meanwhile to Bacchis?

Par. Every day.
But she, as is the way you know, perceiving
He was another’s property, became
More cross and mercenary.

Phi. Troth, no wonder.

Par. Aye, but ’twas that detach’d him chiefly from her.
For when he had examined well himself,
Bacchis, and her at home; and had compar’d
Their different manners; seeing that his bride,
After the fashion of a lib’ral mind,
Was decent, modest, patient of affronts,
And anxious to conceal the wrongs he did her;
Touch’d partly with compassion for his wife,
And partly tir’d with t’other’s insolence,
He by degrees withdrew his heart from Bacchis,
Transferring it to her, whose disposition
Was so congenial to his own. Meanwhile
An old relation of the family
Dies in the isle of Imbrus. His estate
Comes by the law to them; and our old man
Dispatching thither, much against his will,
The now-fond Pamphilus, he leaves his wife
Here with his mother. The old gentleman
Retir’d into the country, and but seldom
Comes up to town.

Phi. But what is there in this
That can affect the marriage?

Par. You shall hear
Immediately. At first, for some few days,
The women seem’d to live on friendly terms:
Till all at once the bride, forsooth, conceiv’d
A wonderful disgust to Sostrata:
And yet there was no open breach between them,
And no complaints on either side.

Phi. What then?

Par. If Sostrata, for conversation’ sake,
Went to the bride, she instantly withdrew,
Shunning her company. At length, unable
To bear it any longer, she pretends
Her mother had sent for her to assist
At some home-sacrifice. Away she went.
After a few days’ absence, Sostrata
Sent for her back. They made some lame excuse,
I know not what. She sends again. No lady.
Then after several messages, at last
They say the gentlewoman’s sick. My mistress
Goes on a visit to her: not let in.
Th’ old gentleman, inform’d of all this, came
On this occasion yesterday to town;
And waited on the father of the bride.
What pass’d between them, I as yet can’t tell;
And yet I long to know the end of this.
— There’s the whole business. Now I’ll on my way.

Phi. And I: for there’s a stranger here, with whom
I have an assignation.

Par. Speed the plow!

Phi. Parmeno, fare you well!

Par. Farewell, Philotis!

Exeunt severally.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01