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!