The Step-Mother, by Terence

Act the Third.

Scene I.

Enter Pamphilus and Parmeno .

Pam. Never did man experience greater ills,
More miseries in love than I. — Distraction!
Was it for this I held my life so dear?
For this was I so anxious to return?
Better, much better were it to have liv’d
In any place, than come to this again!
To feel and know myself a wretch! — For when
Mischance befalls us, all the interval
Between its happening, and our knowledge of it,
May be esteem’d clear gain.

Par. But as it is,
You’ll sooner be deliver’d from your troubles:
For had you not return’d, the breach between them
Had been made wider. But now, Pamphilus,
Both will, I doubt not, reverence your presence.
You’ll know the whole, make up their difference,
And reconcile them to each other. — These
Are all mere trifles, which you think so grievous.

Pam. Ah, why will you attempt to comfort me?
Was ever such a wretch? — Before I married,
My heart, you know, was wedded to another.
— But I’ll not dwell upon that misery,
Which may he easily conceiv’d: and yet
I had not courage to refuse the match
My father forc’d upon me. — Scarcely wean’d
From my old love, my lim’d soul scarcely freed
From Bacchis, and devoted to my wife,
Than, lo, a new calamity arises,
Threatening to tear me from Philumena.
For either I shall find my mother faulty,
Or else my wife: In either case unhappy.
For duty, Parmeno, obliges me
To bear with all the failings of a mother:
And then I am so bounden to my wife,
Who, calm as patience, bore the wrongs I did her,
Nor ever murmur’d a complaint. — But sure
’Twas somewhat very serious, Parmeno,
That could occasion such a lasting quarrel.

Par. Rather some trifle, if you knew the truth.
The greatest quarrels do not always rise
From deepest injuries. We often see
That what would never move another’s spleen
Renders the choleric your worst of foes.
Observe how lightly children squabble. — Why?
Because they’re govern’d by a feeble mind.
Women, like children, too, are impotent,
And weak of soul. A single word, perhaps,
Has kindled all this enmity between them.

Pam. Go, Parmeno, and let them know I’m come.

Noise within.

Par. Ha! what’s all this?

Pam. Hush!

Par. I perceive a bustle,
And running to and fro. — Come this way, Sir!
— To the door! — nearer still! — There, there, d’ye hear?

Noise continues.

Pam. Peace; hush! (Shriek within.) Oh Jupiter, I heard
a shriek!

Par. You talk yourself, and bid me hold my tongue.

Myrrhina (within). Hush, my dear child, for Heaven’s sake!

Pam. It seem’d
The voice of my wife’s mother. I am ruin’d!

Par. How so?

Pam. Undone!

Par. And why?

Pam. Ah, Parmeno,
They hide some terrible misfortune from me!

Par. They said your wife Philumena was ill:
Whether ’tis that, I can not tell.

Pam. Death, Sirrah!
Why did you not inform me that before?

Par. Because I could not tell you all at once.

Pam. What’s her disorder?

Par. I don’t know.

Pam. But tell me,
Has she had no physician?

Par. I don’t know.

Pam. But why do I delay to enter straight,
That I may learn the truth, be what it will?
— Oh my Philumena, in what condition
Shall I now find thee? — If there’s danger of thee,
My life’s in danger too.


Scene II.

Parmeno alone.

It were not good
That I should follow him into the house:
For all our family are odious to them.
That’s plain from their denying Sostrata
Admittance yesterday. — And if by chance
Her illness should increase (which Heav’n forbid,
For my poor master’s sake!), they’ll cry directly,
“Sostrata’s servant came into the house:”
Swear, — “that I brought the plague along with me,
Put all their lives in danger, and increas’d
Philumena’s distemper.” — By which means
My mistress will be blam’d, and I be beaten.

Scene III.

Enter Sostrata .

Sostra. Alas, I hear a dreadful noise within.
Philumena, I fear, grows worse and worse:
Which Æsculapius, and thou, Health, forbid!
But now I’ll visit her. (Goes toward the house.)

Par. Ho, Sostrata!

Sostra. Who’s there?

Par. You’ll be shut out a second time.

Sostra. Ha, Parmeno, are you there? — Wretched woman!
What shall I do? — Not visit my son’s wife,
When she lies sick at next door!

Par. Do not go;
No, nor send any body else; for they
That love the folks, to whom themselves are odious,
I think are guilty of a double folly:
Their labor proves but idle to themselves,
And troublesome to those for whom ’tis meant.
Besides, your son, the moment he arriv’d,
Went in to visit her.

Sostra. How, Parmeno!
Is Pamphilus arriv’d?

Par. He is.

Sostra. Thank Heav’n!
Oh, how my comfort is reviv’d by that!

Par. And therefore I ne’er went into the house.
For if Philumena’s complaints abate,
She’ll tell him, face to face, the whole affair,
And what has pass’d between you to create
This difference. — But here he comes — how sad!

Scene IV.

Enter Pamphilus .

Sostra. My dear boy, Pamphilus!

Pam. My mother, save you! (Disordered.)

Sostra. I’m glad to see you safe return’d — How does
Your wife!

Pam. A little better.

Sostra. Grant it, Heav’n!
— But why d’ye weep, and why are you so sad?

Pam. Nothing, good mother.

Sostra. What was all that bustle?
Tell me, did pain attack her suddenly?

Pam. It did.

Sostra. And what is her complaint?

Pam. A fever.

Sostra. What! a quotidian?

Par. So they say. — But in,
Good mother, and I’ll follow.

Sostra. Be it so.


Pam. Do you run, Parmeno, to meet the servants,
And give your help in bringing home the baggage.

Par. As if they did not know the road!

Pam. Away!

Exit Parmeno .

Scene V.

Pamphilus alone.

Which way shall I begin the wretched tale
Of my misfortunes, which have fall’n upon me
Thus unexpectedly? which even now
These very eyes have seen, these ears have heard?
And which, discover’d, drove me out o’doors.
Cover’d with deep confusion? — For but now
As I rush’d in, all anxious for my wife,
And thinking to have found her visited,
Alas! with a far different complaint;
Soon as her women saw me, at first sight
Struck and o’erjoy’d, they all exclaim’d, “He’s come!”
And then as soon each countenance was chang’d,
That chance had brought me so unseasonably.
Meanwhile one of them ran before, to speak
Of my arrival. I, who long’d to see her,
Directly follow’d; and no sooner enter’d,
Than her disorder was, alas! too plain:
For neither had they leisure to disguise it,
Nor could she silence the loud cries of travail.
Soon as I saw it, “Oh shame, shame!” I cried,
And rush’d away in tears and agony,
O’erwhelm’d with horror at a stroke so grievous.
The mother follows me, and at the threshold
Falls on her knees before me all in tears.
This touch’d me to the soul. And certainly
’Tis in the very nature of our minds,
To rise and fall according to our fortunes.
Thus she address’d me. — “Oh, my Pamphilus,
The cause of her removal from your house
You’ve now discover’d. To my virgin-daughter
Some unknown villain offer’d violence;
And she fled hither to conceal her labor
From you and from your family.” — Alas!
When I but call her earnest prayers to mind,
I can not choose but weep. — “Whatever chance,”
Continued she, “whatever accident,
Brought you to-day thus suddenly upon us,
By that we both conjure you — if in justice
And equity we may — to keep in silence,
And cover her distress. — Oh, Pamphilus,
If e’er you witness’d her affection for you,
By that affection she implores you now
Not to refuse us! — for recalling her,
Do as your own discretion shall direct.
That she’s in labor now, or has conceiv’d
By any other person, is a secret
Known but to you alone. For I’ve been told,
The two first months you had no commerce with her,
And it is now the seventh since your union.
Your sentiments on this are evident.
But now, my Pamphilus, if possible,
I’ll call it a miscarriage: no one else
But will believe, as probable, ’tis yours.
The child shall be immediately expos’d.
No inconvenience will arise to you;
While thus you shall conceal the injury
That my poor girl unworthily sustain’d.”
— I promis’d her; and I will keep my word.
But to recall her would be poor indeed:
Nor will I do it, though I love her still.
And former commerce binds me strongly to her.
— I can’t but weep, to think how sad and lonely
My future life will be. — Oh fickle fortune!
How transient are thy smiles! — But I’ve been school’d
To patience by my former hapless passion,
Which I subdued by reason: and I’ll try
By reason to subdue this too. — But yonder
Comes Parmeno, I see, with th’ other slaves!
He must by no means now be present, since
To him alone I formerly reveal’d
That I abstain’d from her when first we married:
And if he hears her frequent cries, I fear
That he’ll discover her to be in labor.
I must dispatch him on some idle errand,
Until Philumena’s deliver’d.

Scene VI.

Enter at a distance Parmeno, Sosia, and other slaves with baggage.

Par. (to Sosia). Aye?
And had you such a wretched voyage, say you?

Sosia. Oh Parmeno, words can’t express how wretched
A sea-life is.

Par. Indeed?

Sosia. Oh happy Parmeno!
You little know the dangers you’ve escap’d,
Who’ve never been at sea. — For not to dwell
On other hardships, only think of this!
I was on shipboard thirty days or more,
In constant fear of sinking all the while,
The winds so contrary, such stormy weather!

Par. Dreadful!

Sosia. I found it so, I promise you.
In short, were I assur’d I must return,
’Fore Heaven, Parmeno, I’d run away,
Rather than go on board a ship again.

Par. You have been apt enough to think of that
On slighter reasons, Sosia, before now.
— But yonder’s my young master Pamphilus
Standing before that door. — Go in! I’ll to him,
And see if he has any business for me.

Exeunt Sosia, and the rest of the slaves with the baggage.
Master, are you here still? (To Pamphilus .)

Pam. Oh Parmeno!
I waited for you.

Par. What’s your pleasure, Sir?

Pam. Run to the Citadel.

Par. Who?

Pam. You.

Par. The Citadel!
For what?

Pam. Find out one Callidemides,
My landlord of Mycone, who came over
In the same ship with me.

Par. A plague upon it!
Would not one swear that he had made a vow
To break my wind, if he came home in safety,
With running on his errands?

Pam. Away, Sirrah!

Par. What message? must I only find him out?

Pam. Yes; tell him that it is not in my power
To meet him there to-day, as I appointed;
That he mayn’t wait for me in vain. — Hence; fly!

Par. But I don’t know him, if I see him, Sir.

Pam. (impatiently). Well; I’ll describe him, so you can not miss him.
— A large, red, frizzle-pated, gross, blear-eyed,
Ill-looking fellow.

Par. Plague on him, say I!
— What if he should not come, Sir, must I wait
Till evening for him?

Pam. Wait. — Be quick!

Par. Be quick?
I can’t be quick, — I’m so much tir’d.


Scene VII.

Pamphilos alone.

He’s gone.
What shall I do? Alas! I scarcely know
How to conceal, as Myrrhina desir’d,
Her daughter’s labor. Yet I pity her;
And what I can, consistent with my duty,
I am resolv’d to do: and yet my parents
Must be obey’d before my love. — But see!
My father and Phidippus come this way.
How I shall act, Heav’n knows.

Scene VIII.

Enter at a distance Laches and Phidippus .

Lach. Did not you say
She only waited my son’s coming?

Phid. Aye.

Lach. They say that he’s arriv’d. Let us return then!

Pam. (behind). What reason I shall frame to give my father,
For not recalling her, I can not tell.

Lach. (overhearing). Whose voice was that?

Pam. (to himself). And yet I am resolv’d
To stand to my first purpose.

Lach. (seeing Pamphilus). He himself,
Whom I was speaking of!

Pam. (going up). My father, save you!

Lach. Save you, my son!

Phid. Pamphilus, welcome home!
I’m glad to see you safe, and in good health.

Pam. I do believe it.

Lach. Are you just now come?

Pam. Just now, Sir.

Lach. Well; and tell me, Pamphilus,
What has our kinsman Phania left us?

Pam. Ah, Sir,
He, his whole lifetime, was a man of pleasure,
And such men seldom much enrich their heirs.
Yet he has left at least this praise behind him,
“While he liv’d, he liv’d well.”

Lach. And have you brought
Nothing home with you but this single sentence?

Pam. What he has left, though small, is of advantage.

Lach. Advantage? No, it is a disadvantage:
For I could wish he was alive and well.

Phid. That you may safely; for your wishing for’t
Will never bring the man to life again:
Yet I know well enough which you’d like best. (Aside.)

Lach. (to Pamphilus). Phidippus order’d that Philumena
Should be sent over to him yesterday.
— Say that you order’d it. (Aside to Phidippus, thrusting him.)

Phid. (aside to Laches). Don’t thrust me so. —
I did. (Aloud.)

Lach. But now he’ll send her home again.

Phid. I will.

Pam. Nay, nay, I know the whole affair.
Since my arrival, I have heard it all.

Lach. Now plague upon these envious tale-bearers,
Who are so glad to fetch and carry news!

Pam. (to Phidippus). That I’ve endeavor’d to deserve no blame
From any of the family, I’m conscious.
Were it my inclination to relate
How true I’ve been, how kind and gentle tow’rd her,
I well might do it: but I rather choose
You should collect it from herself. For when
She, although now there’s enmity between us,
Bespeaks me fair, you will the sooner credit
My disposition tow’rd her. And I call
The Gods to witness that this separation
Has not arisen from my fault. But since
She thinks it is beneath her to comply
With Sostrata, and bear my mother’s temper;
And since no other means are to be found
Of reconciliation, I, Phidippus,
Must leave my mother or Philumena.
Duty then calls me to regard my mother.

Lach. My Pamphilus, I can not be displeas’d
That you prefer to all the world a parent.
But take heed your resentment don’t transport you
Beyond the bounds of reason, Pamphilus.

Pam. Ah, what resentment can I bear to her,
Who ne’er did any thing I’d wish undone,
But has so often deserv’d well of me?
I love her, own her worth, and languish for her;
For I have known her tenderness of soul:
And Heaven grant that with some other husband
She find that happiness she miss’d in me;
From whom the strong hand of necessity
Divorces her forever!

Phid. That event
’Tis in your pow’r to hinder.

Lach. If you’re wise,
Take your wife home again!

Pam. I can not, father.
I must not slack my duty to my mother. (Going.)

Lach. Where are you going?

Exit Pamphilus .

Scene IX.

Manent Laches and Phidippus .

Phid. How perverse is this! (Angrily.)

Lach. Did not I say he’d take it ill, Phidippus,
And therefore begg’d you to send back your daughter?

Phid. ’Fore Heaven I did not think him such a churl.
What! does he fancy I’ll go cringing to him?
No; — if he’ll take his wife he may:— if not,
Let him refund her portion; — there’s an end!

Lach. See there now! you’re as fractious as himself.

Phid. You’re come back obstinate and proud enough
In conscience, Pamphilus! (Angrily.)

Lach. This anger will subside,
Though he has had some cause to be disturb’d.

Phid. Because you’ve had a little money left you,
Your minds are so exalted!

Lach. What, d’ye quarrel
With me too?

Phid. Let him take to-day to think on’t,
And send me word if he shall have her home
Or not: that if she don’t remain his wife,
She may be given to another.

Exit hastily.

Scene X.

Laches alone.

Hear me! one word, Phidippus! Stay! — He’s gone.
— What is’t to me? (Angrily.) E’en let them settle it
Among themselves; since nor my son, nor he
Take my advice, nor mind one word I say.
— This quarrel shall go round, I promise them:
I’ll to my wife, the author of this mischief,
And vent my spleen and anger upon her.


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