The Miser's Fate by Osborne

In the year 1762 a miser, of the name of Foscue, in France, having amassed enormous wealth by habits of extortion and the most sordid parsimony, was requested by the government to advance a sum of money as a loan. The miser demurred, pretending that he was poor. In order to hide his gold effectually, he dug a deep cave in his cellar, the descent to which was by a ladder, and which was entered by means of a trap-door, to which was attached a spring-lock.

He entered this cave one day to gloat over his gold, when the door fell upon him, and the spring-lock, the key to which he had left on the outside, snapped, and held him a prisoner in the cave, where he perished miserably. Some months afterwards a search was made, and his body was found in the midst of his money-bags, with a candlestick lying beside it on the floor. In the following lines the miser is supposed to have just entered his cave, and to be soliloquizing.


  SO, so! all safe! Come forth, my pretty sparklers—

Come forth, and feast my eyes! Be not afraid!

No keen-eyed agent of the government

Can see you here. They wanted me, forsooth,

To lend you, at the lawful rate of usance,

For the state's needs. Ha, ha! my shining pets,

My yellow darlings, my sweet golden circlets!

Too well I loved you to do that—and so

I pleaded poverty, and none could prove

My story was not true.

Ha! could they see

These bags of ducats, and that precious pile

Of ingots, and those bars of solid gold,

Their eyes, methinks, would water. What a comfort

Is it to see my moneys in a heap

 

All safely lodged under my very roof!

Here's a fat bag—let me untie the mouth of it.

What eloquence! What beauty! What expression!

Could Cicero so plead? Could Helen look

One-half so charming?                       [The trap-door falls.]

Ah! what sound was that?

The Trap-door fallen—and the spring-lock caught!

Well, have I not the key? Of course I have.

'Tis in this pocket. No. In this? No. Then

I left it at the bottom of the ladder.

Ha! 'tis not there. Where then? Ah! mercy, Heaven!

'Tis in the lock outside!

What's to be done?

Help, help! Will no one hear? Oh, would that I

Had not discharged old Simon! but he begged

Each week for wages—would not give me credit.

I'll try my strength upon the door. Despair!

I might as soon uproot the eternal rocks

As force it open. Am I here a prisoner,

And no one in the house? no one at hand,

Or likely soon to be, to hear my cries?

Am I entombed alive? Horrible fate!

I sink—I faint beneath the bare conception!

[Awakes.]   Darkness? Where am I? I remember, now,

This is a bag of ducats—'tis no dream—

No dream! The trap-door fell, and here am I

Immured with my dear gold—my candle out—

All gloom—all silence—all despair! What, ho!

Friends! Friends? I have no friends. What right have I

To use the name? These money-bags have been

The only friends I've cared for—and for these

I've toiled, and pinched, and screwed—shutting my heart

To charity, humanity and love!

Detested traitors! Since I gave you all—

Aye, gave my very soul—can ye do naught

For me in this extremity? Ho! Without there!

A thousand ducats for a loaf of bread!

Ten thousand ducats for a glass of water!

A pile of ingots for a helping hand!

Was that a laugh? Aye, 'twas a fiend that laughed

 

To see a miser in the grip of death.

Offended Heaven, have mercy! I will give

In alms all this vile rubbish; aid me thou

In this most dreadful strait! I'll build a church—

A hospital! Vain, vain! Too late, too late!

Heaven knows the miser's heart too well to trust him!

Heaven will not hear! Why should it? What have I

Done to enlist Heaven's favor—to help on

Heaven's cause on earth, in human hearts and homes?

Nothing! God's kingdom will not come the sooner

For any work or any prayer of mine.

But must I die here—in my own trap caught?

Die—die? and then! Oh, mercy! Grant me time—

Thou who canst save—grant me a little time,

And I'll redeem the past—undo the evil

That I have done—make thousands happy with

This hoarded treasure—do Thy will on earth

As it is done in Heaven—grant me but time!

Nor man nor God will heed my shrieks! All's lost!