The Step-Mother, by Terence

Act the Fourth.

Scene I.

Enter Myrrhina hastily.

Myrr. What shall I do? — Confusion! — which way turn?
Alas! what answer shall I make my husband?
For I dare say he heard the infant’s cries,
He ran so hastily, without a word,
Into my daughter’s chamber. If he finds
That she has been deliver’d, what excuse
To make, for having thus conceal’d her labor,
I can’t devise. — But our door creaks! — ’tis he.
I am undone.

Scene II.

Enter Phidippus .

Phid. Soon as my wife perceiv’d
That I was going to my daughter’s chamber,
She stole directly out o’doors. — But there
She stands. — Why, how now, Myrrhina?
Holo, I say! (She affects not to see him.)

Myrr. D’ye call me, husband?

Phid. Husband!
Am I your husband? am I ev’n a man?
For had you thought me to be either, woman,
You would not dare to play upon me thus.

Myrr. How!

Phid. How? — My daughter has been brought to bed.
— Ha! are you dumb? — By whom?

Myrr. Is that a question
For you, who are her father, to demand?
Alas! by whom d’ye think, unless her husband?

Phid. So I believe: nor is it for a father
To suppose otherwise. But yet I wonder
That you have thus conceal’d her labor from us,
Especially as she has been deliver’d
At her full time, and all is as it should be.
What! Is there such perverseness in your nature,
As rather to desire the infant’s death,
Than that his birth should knit the bond of friendship
Closer betwixt us; rather than my daughter,
Against your liking, should remain the wife
Of Pamphilus? — I thought all this
Had been their fault, while you’re alone to blame.

Myrr. How wretched am I!

Phid. Would to Heav’n you were!
— But now I recollect your conversation
When first we made this match, you then declar’d
You’d not endure she should remain the wife
Of Pamphilus, who follow’d mistresses,
And pass’d the nights abroad.

Myrr. I had much rather
He should think any reason than the true one. (Aside.)

Phid. I knew he kept a mistress; knew it long
Ere you did, Myrrhina; but I could never
Think that offense so grievous in a youth,
Seeing ’tis natural to them all: and soon
The time shall come when he’ll stand self-reprov’d.
But you, perverse and willful as at first,
Could take no rest till you had brought away
Your daughter, and annull’d the match I made:
There’s not a circumstance but loudly speaks
Your evil disposition to the marriage.

Myrr. D’ye think me then so obstinate, that I,
Who am her mother, should betray this spirit,
Granting the match were of advantage to us?

Phid. Is it for you then to foresee, or judge
What’s of advantage to us? You perhaps
Have heard from some officious busy-body,
That they have seen him going to his mistress,
Or coming from her house: and what of that,
So it were done discreetly, and but seldom?
Were it not better that we should dissemble
Our knowledge of it, than pry into things
Which to appear to know would make him hate us?
For could he tear her from his heart at once,
To whom he’d been so many years attach’d,
I should not think he were a man, or likely
To prove a constant husband to my daughter.

Myrr. No more of Pamphilus or my offense;
Since you will have it so! — Go, find him out;
Confer with him alone, and fairly ask him,
Will he, or no, take back Philumena?
If he avows his inclination to’t,
Restore her; but if he refuses it,
Allow, I’ve ta’en good counsel for my child.

Phid. Grant, he should prove repugnant to the match,
Grant, you perceiv’d this in him, Myrrhina;
Was not I present! had not I a right
To be consulted in’t? — It makes me mad.
That you should dare to act without my order:
And I forbid you to remove the child
Out of this house. — But what a fool am I,
Enjoining her obedience to my orders!
I’ll in, and charge the servants not to suffer
The infant to be carried forth.


Scene III.

Myrrhina alone.

No woman more unhappy than myself:
For how he’d bear it, did he know the whole,
When he has taken such offense at this,
Which is of much less consequence, is plain.
Nor by what means to reconcile him to it,
Can I devise. After so many ills,
This only misery there yet remain’d,
To be oblig’d to educate the child,
Ignorant of the father’s quality.
For he, the cruel spoiler of her honor,
Taking advantage of the night and darkness,
My daughter was not able to discern
His person; nor to force a token from him,
Whereby he might be afterward discover’d:
But he, at his departure, pluck’d by force
A ring from off her finger. — I fear too,
That Pamphilus will not contain himself,
Nor longer keep our secret, when he finds
Another’s child acknowledg’d for his own.


Scene IV.

Sostrata, Pamphilus .

Sostra. Dear son, I’m not to learn that you suppose,
Though you dissemble your suspicions to me,
That my ill-humor caus’d your wife’s departure.
But by my trust in Heav’n, and hopes in you,
I never knowingly did any thing
To draw her hatred and disgust upon me.
I always thought you lov’d me, and to-day
You have confirm’d my faith: for even now
Your father has been telling me within,
How much you held me dearer than your love.
Now therefore, on my part, I am resolv’d
To equal you in all good offices;
That you may know your mother ne’er withholds
The just rewards of filial piety;
Finding it then both meet, my Pamphilus,
For your repose, as well as my good name,
I have determin’d to retire directly
From hence into the country with your father;
So shall my presence be no obstacle,
Nor any cause remain, but that your wife
Return immediately.

Pam. What thoughts are these?
Shall her perverseness drive you out of town?
It shall not be: Nor will I draw, good mother,
That censure on me, that my obstinacy,
Not your good-nature, was the cause. — Besides,
That you should quit relations, friends, diversions,
On my account, I can’t allow.

Sostra. Alas!
Those things have no allurements for me now.
While I was young, and ’twas the season for them,
I had my share, and I am satisfied.
’Tis now my chief concern to make my age
Easy to all, that no one may regret
My lengthen’d life, nor languish for my death.
Here, although undeservedly, I see
My presence odious: I had best retire:
So shall I best cut off all discontent,
Absolve myself from this unjust suspicion,
And humor them. Permit me then to shun
The common scandal thrown upon the sex.

Pam. How fortunate in every thing but one,
Having so good a mother, — such a wife!

Sostra. Patience, my Pamphilus! Is’t possible
You can’t endure one inconvenience in her?
If in all else, as I believe, you like her,
Dear son, be rul’d by me, and take her home!

Pam. Wretch that I am!

Sostra. And I am wretched too:
For this grieves me, my son, no less than you.

Scene V.

Enter Laches .

Lach. I have been standing at a distance, wife,
And overheard your conversation with him.
You have done wisely to subdue your temper,
And freely to comply with what, perhaps,
Hereafter must be done.

Sostra. And let it be!

Lach. Now then retire with me into the country:
There I shall bear with you, and you with me.

Sostra. I hope we shall.

Lach. Go in then, and pack up
The necessaries you would carry with you.

Sostra. I shall obey your orders.


Pam. Father!

Lach. Well, Pamphilus?

Pam. My mother leave the town?
By no means.

Lach. Why?

Pam. Because I’m yet uncertain
What I shall do about my wife.

Lach. How’s that?
What would you do but take her home again?

Pam. ’Tis what I wish for, and can scarce forbear.
But I’ll not alter what I first design’d.
What’s best I’ll follow: and I’m well convinc’d
No other means remain to make them friends,
But that I should not take her home again.

Lach. You don’t know that: but ’tis of no importance
Whether they’re friends or not, when Sostrata
Is gone into the country. We old folks
Are odious to the young. We’d best retire.
In short, we’re grown a by-word, Pamphilus,
“The old man and old woman.” — But I see
Phidippus coming in good time. Let’s meet him!

Scene VI.

Enter Phidippus .

Phid. (to Philumena within). I’m angry with you — ’fore Heaven, very angry,
Philumena! — You’ve acted shamefully.
Though you indeed have some excuse for’t, seeing
Your mother urg’d you to’t; but she has none.

Lach. You’re come upon us in good time, Phidippus;
Just in the time we wanted you.

Phid. What now?

Pam. What answer shall I give them! how explain? (Aside.)

Lach. Inform your daughter, Sostrata will hence
Into the country; so Philumena
Need not dread coming home again.

Phid. Ah, friend!
Your wife has never been in fault at all:
All this has sprung from my wife Myrrhina.
The case is alter’d. She confounds us, Laches.

Pam. So that I may not take her home again,
Confound affairs who will! (Aside.)

Phid. I, Pamphilus,
Would fain, if possible, make this alliance
Perpetual between our families.
But if you can not like it, take the child.

Pam. He knows of her delivery. Confusion! (Aside.)

Lach. The child! what child?

Phid. We’ve got a grandson, Laches.
For when my daughter left your house, she was
With child, it seems, although I never knew it
Before this very day.

Lach. ’Fore Heav’n, good news!
And I rejoice to hear a child is born,
And that your daughter had a safe delivery.
But what a woman is your wife, Phidippus?
Of what a disposition? to conceal
Such an event as this? I can’t express
How very much I think she was to blame.

Phid. This pleases me no more than you, good Laches.

Pam. Although my mind was in suspense before,
My doubts all vanish now. I’ll ne’er recall her,
Since she brings home with her another’s child. (Aside.)

Lach. There is no room for choice now, Pamphilus.

Pam. Confusion! (Aside.)

Lach. We’ve oft wish’d to see the day
When you should have a child to call you father.
That day’s now come. The Gods be thank’d!

Pam. Undone! (Aside.)

Lach. Recall your wife, and don’t oppose my will.

Pam. If she had wish’d for children by me, father,
Or to remain my wife, I’m very sure
She never would have hid this matter from me:
But now I see her heart divorc’d from me,
And think we never can agree hereafter,
Wherefore should I recall her?

Lach. A young woman
Did as her mother had persuaded her.
Is that so wonderful? and do you think
To find a woman without any fault?
— Or is’t because the men are ne’er to blame? (Ironically.)

Phid. Consider with yourselves then, gentlemen,
Whether you’ll part with her, or call her home.
What my wife does, I can not help, you know.
Settle it as you please, you’ve my consent,
But for the child, what shall be done with him?

Lach. A pretty question truly! come what may,
Send his own bantling home to him of course,
That we may educate him.

Pam. When his own
Father abandons him, I educate him?

Lach. What said you? how! not educate him, say you?
Shall we expose him rather, Pamphilus?
What madness is all this? — My breath and blood!
I can contain no longer. You oblige me
To speak, against my will, before Phidippus:
Think you I’m ignorant whence flow those tears?
Or why you’re thus disorder’d and distress’d?
First, when you gave as a pretense, you could not
Recall your wife from reverence to your mother,
She promis’d to retire into the country.
But now, since that excuse is taken from you,
You’ve made her private lying-in another.
You are mistaken if you think me blind
To your intentions — That you might at last
Bring home your stray affections to your wife,
How long a time to wean you from your mistress
Did I allow? your wild expense upon her
How patiently I bore? I press’d, entreated,
That you would take a wife. ’Twas time, I said.
At my repeated instances, you married,
And, as in duty bound to do, complied:
But now your heart is gone abroad again
After your mistress, whom to gratify,
You throw this wanton insult on your wife.
For I can plainly see you are relaps’d
Into your former life again.

Pam. Me?

Lach. You.
And ’tis base in you to invent false causes
Of quarrel with your wife, that you may live
In quiet with your mistress, having put
This witness from you. This your wife perceiv’d.
For was there any other living reason
Wherefore she should depart from you?

Phid. He’s right,
That was the very thing.

Pam. I’ll take my oath
’Twas none of those that you have mention’d.

Lach. Ah!
Recall your wife: or tell me why you will not.

Pam. ’Tis not convenient now.

Lach. Take home the child then;
For he at least is not in fault. I’ll see
About the mother afterward.

Pam. (to himself). Ev’ry way
I am a wretch, nor know I what to do:
My father has me in the toils, and I,
By struggling to get loose, am more entangled.
I’ll hence, since present I shall profit little.
For I believe they’ll hardly educate
The child against my will; especially
Seeing my step-mother will second me.


Scene VII.

Manent Phidippus, Laches .

Lach. Going? how’s that? and give me no plain answer!
— D’ye think he’s in his senses? — Well — send home
The child to me, Phidippus. I’ll take care on’t.

Phid. I will. — I can not wonder that my wife
Took this so ill. Women are passionate,
And can’t away with such affronts as these.
This was their quarrel: nay she told me so,
Though before him I did not care to speak on’t:
Nor did I credit it at first; but now
’Tis evident, and I can plainly see
He has no stomach to a wife.

Lach. Phidippus,
How shall I act? What’s your advice?

Phid. How act?
I think ’twere best to seek this wench, his mistress.
Let us expostulate the matter with her,
Speak to her roundly, nay, e’en threaten her,
If she has aught to do with him hereafter.

Lach. I’ll follow your advice. — Ho, boy! (Enter a boy) run over
To Bacchis. Tell her to come forth to me.

Exit boy.
— I must beseech you also to continue
Your kind assistance to me in this business.

Phid. Ah, Laches! I have told you all along.
And I repeat it now, that ’tis my wish
To render our alliance firm and lasting,
If possible, as I have hopes it will be.
— But would you have me present at your conference
With Bacchis?

Lach. No; go, seek the child a nurse.

Exit Phidippus .

Scene VIII.

Enter Bacchis attended by her Women.

Bacch. (to herself). ’Tis not for nothing Laches wants to see me;
And, or I’m much deceiv’d, I guess the cause.

Lach. (to himself). I must take care my anger don’t transport me
Beyond the bounds of prudence, which may hinder
My gaining my design on her, and urge me
To do what I may afterward repent.
I’ll to her. — (Going up.) Save you, Bacchis!

Bacch. Save you, Laches!

Lach. Bacchis, I do not doubt but you’re surpris’d
That I should send the boy to call you forth.

Bacch. Aye, and I’m fearful too, when I reflect
Both who and what I am: lest my vocation
Should prejudice me in your good opinion.
My conduct I can fully justify.

Lach. Speak but the truth, you’re in no danger, woman.
For I’m arriv’d at that age when a trespass
Would not be easily forgiven in me.
Wherefore I study to proceed with caution,
And to do nothing rashly. If you act,
And will continue to act honestly,
It were ungenerous to do you wrong,
And seeing you deserve it not, unjust.

Bacch. Truly, this conduct asks my highest thanks;
For he who does the wrong, and then asks pardon,
Makes but a sorry reparation for it.
But what’s your pleasure?

Lach. You receive the visits
Of my son Pamphilus —

Bacch. Ah! —

Lach. Let me speak.
Before he married I endur’d your love.
— Stay! I’ve not finish’d all I have to say. —
He is now married. You then, while ’tis time,
Seek out another and more constant friend.
For he will not be fond of you forever,
Nor you, good faith, forever in your bloom.

Bacch. Who tells you that I still receive the visits
Of Pamphilus?

Lach. His step-mother.

Bacch. I?

Lach. You.
And therefore has withdrawn her daughter: therefore
Meant secretly to kill the new-born child.

Bacch. Did I know any thing, to gain your credit,
More sacred than an oath, I’d use it, Laches,
In solemn protestation to assure you
That I have had no commerce with your son
Since he was married.

Lach. Good girl! but dy’e know
What I would farther have you do?

Bacch. Inform me.

Lach. Go to the women here, and offer them
The same oath. Satisfy their minds, and clear
Yourself from all reproach in this.

Bacch. I’ll do’t;
Although I’m sure no other of my calling
Would show herself before a married woman
Upon the same occasion. — But it hurts me
To see your son suspected on false grounds;
And that, to those who owe him better thoughts,
His conduct should seem light. For he deserves
All my best offices.

Lach. Your conversation has much wrought upon me,
Gain’d my good-will, and alter’d my opinion.
For not the women only thought thus of you,
But I believ’d it too. Now therefore, since
I’ve found you better than my expectation,
Prove still the same, and make my friendship sure.
If otherwise — But I’ll contain myself. I’ll not
Say any thing severe. — But I advise you,
Rather experience what a friend I am,
Than what an enemy.

Bacch. I’ll do my best.

Scene IX.

Enter Phidippus and a Nurse.

Phid. (to the Nurse). Nay, you shall want for nothing at my house;
I’ll give you all that’s needful in abundance;
But when you’ve eat and drank your fill yourself,
Take care to satisfy the infant too.

Lach. I see the father of Philumena
Coming this way. He brings the child a nurse.
— Phidippus, Bacchis swears most solemnly —

Phid. Is this she?

Lach. Aye.

Phid. They never mind the Gods,
Nor do I think the Gods mind them.

Bacch. Here are
My waiting-women: take them, and extort
By any kind of torment the truth from them.
— Our present business is, I take it, this:
That I should win the wife of Pamphilus
To return home; which so I but effect,
I sha’n’t regret the same of having done
What others of my calling would avoid.

Lach. Phidippus, we’ve discover’d that in fact
We both suspected our wives wrongfully.
Let’s now try her: for if your wife perceives
Her own suspicions also are unjust,
She’ll drop her anger. If my son’s offended
Because his wife conceal’d her labor from him,
That’s but a trifle; he’ll be soon appeas’d.
— And truly I see nothing in this matter
That need occasion a divorce.

Phid. ’Fore Heaven,
I wish that all may end well.

Lach. Here she is:
Examine her; she’ll give you satisfaction.

Phid. What needs all this to Me! You know my mind
Already, Laches: do but make them easy.

Lach. Bacchis, be sure you keep your promise with me.

Bacch. Shall I go in then for that purpose?

Lach. Aye.
Go in; remove their doubts, and satisfy them.

Bacch. I will; although I’m very sure my presence
Will be unwelcome to them; for a wife,
When parted from her husband, to a mistress
Is a sure enemy.

Lach. They’ll be your friends,
When once they know the reason of your coming.

Phid. Aye, aye, they’ll be your friends, I promise you,
When they once learn your errand; for you’ll free
Them from mistake, yourself from all suspicion.

Bacch. I’m cover’d with confusion. I’m asham’d
To see Philumena. — (To her women.) You two in after me.

Exeunt Phidippus, Bacchis, etc.

Laches alone.
What is there that could please me more than this,
That Bacchis, without any loss, should gain
Favor from them, and do me service too?
For if she really has withdrawn herself
From Pamphilus, it will increase, she knows,
Her reputation, interest, and honor:
Since by this generous act she will at once
Oblige my son, and make us all her friends.


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