PET. 'Slife, Witwoud, were you ever an attorney's clerk? Of the family of the Furnivals? Ha, ha, ha!
WIT. Ay, ay, but that was but for a while. Not long, not long; pshaw, I was not in my own power then. An orphan, and this fellow was my guardian; ay, ay, I was glad to consent to that man to come to London. He had the disposal of me then. If I had not agreed to that, I might have been bound prentice to a feltmaker in Shrewsbury: this fellow would have bound me to a maker of felts.
SIR WIL. 'Sheart, and better than to be bound to a maker of fops, where, I suppose, you have served your time, and now you may set up for yourself.
MRS. MAR. You intend to travel, sir, as I'm informed?
SIR WIL. Belike I may, madam. I may chance to sail upon the salt seas, if my mind hold.
PET. And the wind serve.
SIR WIL. Serve or not serve, I shan't ask license of you, sir, nor the weathercock your companion. I direct my discourse to the lady, sir. 'Tis like my aunt may have told you, madam? Yes, I have settled my concerns, I may say now, and am minded to see foreign parts. If an how that the peace holds, whereby, that is, taxes abate.
MRS. MAR. I thought you had designed for France at all adventures.
SIR WIL. I can't tell that; 'tis like I may, and 'tis like I may not. I am somewhat dainty in making a resolution, because when I make it I keep it. I don't stand shill I, shall I, then; if I say't, I'll do't. But I have thoughts to tarry a small matter in town, to learn somewhat of your lingo first, before I cross the seas. I'd gladly have a spice of your French as they say, whereby to hold discourse in foreign countries.
MRS. MAR. Here's an academy in town for that use.
SIR WIL. There is? 'Tis like there may.
MRS. MAR. No doubt you will return very much improved.
WIT. Yes, refined like a Dutch skipper from a whale-fishing.
[To them] LADY WISHFORT and FAINALL.
LADY. Nephew, you are welcome.
SIR WIL. Aunt, your servant.
FAIN. Sir Wilfull, your most faithful servant.
SIR WIL. Cousin Fainall, give me your hand.
LADY. Cousin Witwoud, your servant; Mr. Petulant, your servant. Nephew, you are welcome again. Will you drink anything after your journey, nephew, before you eat? Dinner's almost ready.
SIR WIL. I'm very well, I thank you, aunt. However, I thank you for your courteous offer. 'Sheart, I was afraid you would have been in the fashion too, and have remembered to have forgot your relations. Here's your cousin Tony, belike, I mayn't call him brother for fear of offence.
LADY. Oh, he's a rallier, nephew. My cousin's a wit: and your great wits always rally their best friends to choose. When you have been abroad, nephew, you'll understand raillery better. [FAINALL and MRS. MARWOOD talk apart.]
SIR WIL. Why, then, let him hold his tongue in the meantime, and rail when that day comes.
[To them] MINCING.
MINC. Mem, I come to acquaint your laship that dinner is impatient.
SIR WIL. Impatient? Why, then, belike it won't stay till I pull off my boots. Sweetheart, can you help me to a pair of slippers? My man's with his horses, I warrant.
LADY. Fie, fie, nephew, you would not pull off your boots here? Go down into the hall:- dinner shall stay for you. My nephew's a little unbred: you'll pardon him, madam. Gentlemen, will you walk? Marwood?
MRS. MAR. I'll follow you, madam,—before Sir Wilfull is ready.
MRS. MARWOOD, FAINALL.
FAIN. Why, then, Foible's a bawd, an errant, rank match-making bawd. And I, it seems, am a husband, a rank husband, and my wife a very errant, rank wife,—all in the way of the world. 'Sdeath, to be a cuckold by anticipation, a cuckold in embryo! Sure I was born with budding antlers like a young satyr, or a citizen's child, 'sdeath, to be out-witted, to be out-jilted, out-matrimonied. If I had kept my speed like a stag, 'twere somewhat, but to crawl after, with my horns like a snail, and be outstripped by my wife—'tis scurvy wedlock.
MRS. MAR. Then shake it off: you have often wished for an opportunity to part, and now you have it. But first prevent their plot:- the half of Millamant's fortune is too considerable to be parted with to a foe, to Mirabell.
FAIN. Damn him, that had been mine—had you not made that fond discovery. That had been forfeited, had they been married. My wife had added lustre to my horns by that increase of fortune: I could have worn 'em tipt with gold, though my forehead had been furnished like a deputy-lieutenant's hall.
MRS. MAR. They may prove a cap of maintenance to you still, if you can away with your wife. And she's no worse than when you had her:- I dare swear she had given up her game before she was married.
FAIN. Hum! That may be -
MRS. MAR. You married her to keep you; and if you can contrive to have her keep you better than you expected, why should you not keep her longer than you intended?
FAIN. The means, the means?
MRS. MAR. Discover to my lady your wife's conduct; threaten to part with her. My lady loves her, and will come to any composition to save her reputation. Take the opportunity of breaking it just upon the discovery of this imposture. My lady will be enraged beyond bounds, and sacrifice niece, and fortune and all at that conjuncture. And let me alone to keep her warm: if she should flag in her part, I will not fail to prompt her.
FAIN. Faith, this has an appearance.
MRS. MAR. I'm sorry I hinted to my lady to endeavour a match between Millamant and Sir Wilfull; that may be an obstacle.
FAIN. Oh, for that matter, leave me to manage him; I'll disable him for that, he will drink like a Dane. After dinner I'll set his hand in.
MRS. MAR. Well, how do you stand affected towards your lady?
FAIN. Why, faith, I'm thinking of it. Let me see. I am married already; so that's over. My wife has played the jade with me; well, that's over too. I never loved her, or if I had, why that would have been over too by this time. Jealous of her I cannot be, for I am certain; so there's an end of jealousy. Weary of her I am and shall be. No, there's no end of that; no, no, that were too much to hope. Thus far concerning my repose. Now for my reputation: as to my own, I married not for it; so that's out of the question. And as to my part in my wife's—why, she had parted with hers before; so, bringing none to me, she can take none from me: 'tis against all rule of play that I should lose to one who has not wherewithal to stake.
MRS. MAR. Besides you forget, marriage is honourable.
FAIN. Hum! Faith, and that's well thought on: marriage is honourable, as you say; and if so, wherefore should cuckoldom be a discredit, being derived from so honourable a root?
MRS. MAR. Nay, I know not; if the root be honourable, why not the branches?
FAIN. So, so; why this point's clear. Well, how do we proceed?
MRS. MAR. I will contrive a letter which shall be delivered to my lady at the time when that rascal who is to act Sir Rowland is with her. It shall come as from an unknown hand—for the less I appear to know of the truth the better I can play the incendiary. Besides, I would not have Foible provoked if I could help it, because, you know, she knows some passages. Nay, I expect all will come out. But let the mine be sprung first, and then I care not if I am discovered.
FAIN. If the worst come to the worst, I'll turn my wife to grass. I have already a deed of settlement of the best part of her estate, which I wheedled out of her, and that you shall partake at least.
MRS. MAR. I hope you are convinced that I hate Mirabell now? You'll be no more jealous?
FAIN. Jealous? No, by this kiss. Let husbands be jealous, but let the lover still believe: or if he doubt, let it be only to endear his pleasure, and prepare the joy that follows, when he proves his mistress true. But let husbands' doubts convert to endless jealousy; or if they have belief, let it corrupt to superstition and blind credulity. I am single and will herd no more with 'em. True, I wear the badge, but I'll disown the order. And since I take my leave of 'em, I care not if I leave 'em a common motto to their common crest.
All husbands must or pain or shame endure; The wise too jealous are, fools too secure.
ACT IV.—SCENE I.
LADY WISHFORT and FOIBLE.
LADY. Is Sir Rowland coming, say'st thou, Foible? And are things in order?
FOIB. Yes, madam. I have put wax-lights in the sconces, and placed the footmen in a row in the hall, in their best liveries, with the coachman and postillion to fill up the equipage.
LADY. Have you pulvilled the coachman and postillion, that they may not stink of the stable when Sir Rowland comes by?
FOIB. Yes, madam.
LADY. And are the dancers and the music ready, that he may be entertained in all points with correspondence to his passion?
FOIB. All is ready, madam.
LADY. And—well—and how do I look, Foible?
FOIB. Most killing well, madam.
LADY. Well, and how shall I receive him? In what figure shall I give his heart the first impression? There is a great deal in the first impression. Shall I sit? No, I won't sit, I'll walk,—ay, I'll walk from the door upon his entrance, and then turn full upon him. No, that will be too sudden. I'll lie,—ay, I'll lie down. I'll receive him in my little dressing-room; there's a couch—yes, yes, I'll give the first impression on a couch. I won't lie neither, but loll and lean upon one elbow, with one foot a little dangling off, jogging in a thoughtful way. Yes; and then as soon as he appears, start, ay, start and be surprised, and rise to meet him in a pretty disorder. Yes; oh, nothing is more alluring than a levee from a couch in some confusion. It shows the foot to advantage, and furnishes with blushes and re-composing airs beyond comparison. Hark! There's a coach.
FOIB. 'Tis he, madam.
LADY. Oh dear, has my nephew made his addresses to Millamant? I ordered him.
FOIB. Sir Wilfull is set in to drinking, madam, in the parlour.
LADY. Ods my life, I'll send him to her. Call her down, Foible; bring her hither. I'll send him as I go. When they are together, then come to me, Foible, that I may not be too long alone with Sir Rowland.
MRS. MILLAMANT, MRS. FAINALL, FOIBLE.
FOIB. Madam, I stayed here to tell your ladyship that Mr. Mirabell has waited this half hour for an opportunity to talk with you; though my lady's orders were to leave you and Sir Wilfull together. Shall I tell Mr. Mirabell that you are at leisure?
MILLA. No. What would the dear man have? I am thoughtful and would amuse myself; bid him come another time.
There never yet was woman made, Nor shall, but to be cursed. [Repeating and walking about.]
MRS. FAIN. You are very fond of Sir John Suckling to-day, Millamant, and the poets.
MILLA. He? Ay, and filthy verses. So I am.
FOIB. Sir Wilfull is coming, madam. Shall I send Mr. Mirabell away?
MILLA. Ay, if you please, Foible, send him away, or send him hither, just as you will, dear Foible. I think I'll see him. Shall I? Ay, let the wretch come.
Thyrsis, a youth of the inspired train. [Repeating]
Dear Fainall, entertain Sir Wilfull:- thou hast philosophy to undergo a fool; thou art married and hast patience. I would confer with my own thoughts.
MRS. FAIN. I am obliged to you that you would make me your proxy in this affair, but I have business of my own.
[To them] SIR WILFULL.
MRS. FAIN. O Sir Wilfull, you are come at the critical instant. There's your mistress up to the ears in love and contemplation; pursue your point, now or never.
SIR WIL. Yes, my aunt will have it so. I would gladly have been encouraged with a bottle or two, because I'm somewhat wary at first, before I am acquainted. [This while MILLAMANT walks about repeating to herself.] But I hope, after a time, I shall break my mind—that is, upon further acquaintance.—So for the present, cousin, I'll take my leave. If so be you'll be so kind to make my excuse, I'll return to my company -
MRS. FAIN. Oh, fie, Sir Wilfull! What, you must not be daunted.
SIR WIL. Daunted? No, that's not it; it is not so much for that— for if so be that I set on't I'll do't. But only for the present, 'tis sufficient till further acquaintance, that's all—your servant.
MRS. FAIN. Nay, I'll swear you shall never lose so favourable an opportunity, if I can help it. I'll leave you together and lock the door.
SIR WILFULL, MILLAMANT.
SIR WIL. Nay, nay, cousin. I have forgot my gloves. What d'ye do? 'Sheart, a has locked the door indeed, I think.—Nay, cousin Fainall, open the door. Pshaw, what a vixen trick is this? Nay, now a has seen me too.—Cousin, I made bold to pass through as it were—I think this door's enchanted.
I prithee spare me, gentle boy, Press me no more for that slight toy.
SIR WIL. Anan? Cousin, your servant.
MILLA. That foolish trifle of a heart - Sir Wilfull!
SIR WIL. Yes—your servant. No offence, I hope, cousin?
I swear it will not do its part, Though thou dost thine, employ'st thy power and art.
Natural, easy Suckling!
SIR WIL. Anan? Suckling? No such suckling neither, cousin, nor stripling: I thank heaven I'm no minor.
MILLA. Ah, rustic, ruder than Gothic.
SIR WIL. Well, well, I shall understand your lingo one of these days, cousin; in the meanwhile I must answer in plain English.
MILLA. Have you any business with me, Sir Wilfull?
SIR WIL. Not at present, cousin. Yes, I made bold to see, to come and know if that how you were disposed to fetch a walk this evening; if so be that I might not be troublesome, I would have sought a walk with you.
MILLA. A walk? What then?
SIR WIL. Nay, nothing. Only for the walk's sake, that's all.
MILLA. I nauseate walking: 'tis a country diversion; I loathe the country and everything that relates to it.
SIR WIL. Indeed! Hah! Look ye, look ye, you do? Nay, 'tis like you may. Here are choice of pastimes here in town, as plays and the like, that must be confessed indeed -
MILLA. Ah, L'ETOURDI! I hate the town too.
SIR WIL. Dear heart, that's much. Hah! that you should hate 'em both! Hah! 'tis like you may! There are some can't relish the town, and others can't away with the country, 'tis like you may be one of those, cousin.
MILLA. Ha, ha, ha! Yes, 'tis like I may. You have nothing further to say to me?
SIR WIL. Not at present, cousin. 'Tis like when I have an opportunity to be more private—I may break my mind in some measure- -I conjecture you partly guess. However, that's as time shall try. But spare to speak and spare to speed, as they say.
MILLA. If it is of no great importance, Sir Wilfull, you will oblige me to leave me: I have just now a little business.
SIR WIL. Enough, enough, cousin. Yes, yes, all a case. When you're disposed, when you're disposed. Now's as well as another time; and another time as well as now. All's one for that. Yes, yes; if your concerns call you, there's no haste: it will keep cold as they say. Cousin, your servant. I think this door's locked.
MILLA. You may go this way, sir.
SIR WIL. Your servant; then with your leave I'll return to my company.
MILLA. Ay, ay; ha, ha, ha!
Like Phoebus sung the no less am'rous boy.
MRS. MILLAMANT, MIRABELL.
MIRA. Like Daphne she, as lovely and as coy.
Do you lock yourself up from me, to make my search more curious? Or is this pretty artifice contrived, to signify that here the chase must end, and my pursuit be crowned, for you can fly no further?
MILLA. Vanity! No—I'll fly and be followed to the last moment; though I am upon the very verge of matrimony, I expect you should solicit me as much as if I were wavering at the grate of a monastery, with one foot over the threshold. I'll be solicited to the very last; nay, and afterwards.
MIRA. What, after the last?
MILLA. Oh, I should think I was poor and had nothing to bestow if I were reduced to an inglorious ease, and freed from the agreeable fatigues of solicitation.
MIRA. But do not you know that when favours are conferred upon instant and tedious solicitation, that they diminish in their value, and that both the giver loses the grace, and the receiver lessens his pleasure?
MILLA. It may be in things of common application, but never, sure, in love. Oh, I hate a lover that can dare to think he draws a moment's air independent on the bounty of his mistress. There is not so impudent a thing in nature as the saucy look of an assured man confident of success: the pedantic arrogance of a very husband has not so pragmatical an air. Ah, I'll never marry, unless I am first made sure of my will and pleasure.
MIRA. Would you have 'em both before marriage? Or will you be contented with the first now, and stay for the other till after grace?
MILLA. Ah, don't be impertinent. My dear liberty, shall I leave thee? My faithful solitude, my darling contemplation, must I bid you then adieu? Ay-h, adieu. My morning thoughts, agreeable wakings, indolent slumbers, all ye DOUCEURS, ye SOMMEILS DU MATIN, adieu. I can't do't, 'tis more than impossible—positively, Mirabell, I'll lie a-bed in a morning as long as I please.
MI RA. Then I'll get up in a morning as early as I please.
MILLA. Ah! Idle creature, get up when you will. And d'ye hear, I won't be called names after I'm married; positively I won't be called names.
MILLA. Ay, as wife, spouse, my dear, joy, jewel, love, sweet-heart, and the rest of that nauseous cant, in which men and their wives are so fulsomely familiar—I shall never bear that. Good Mirabell, don't let us be familiar or fond, nor kiss before folks, like my Lady Fadler and Sir Francis; nor go to Hyde Park together the first Sunday in a new chariot, to provoke eyes and whispers, and then never be seen there together again, as if we were proud of one another the first week, and ashamed of one another ever after. Let us never visit together, nor go to a play together, but let us be very strange and well-bred. Let us be as strange as if we had been married a great while, and as well-bred as if we were not married at all.
MIRA. Have you any more conditions to offer? Hitherto your demands are pretty reasonable.
MILLA. Trifles; as liberty to pay and receive visits to and from whom I please; to write and receive letters, without interrogatories or wry faces on your part; to wear what I please, and choose conversation with regard only to my own taste; to have no obligation upon me to converse with wits that I don't like, because they are your acquaintance, or to be intimate with fools, because they may be your relations. Come to dinner when I please, dine in my dressing- room when I'm out of humour, without giving a reason. To have my closet inviolate; to be sole empress of my tea-table, which you must never presume to approach without first asking leave. And lastly, wherever I am, you shall always knock at the door before you come in. These articles subscribed, if I continue to endure you a little longer, I may by degrees dwindle into a wife.
MIRA. Your bill of fare is something advanced in this latter account. Well, have I liberty to offer conditions:- that when you are dwindled into a wife, I may not be beyond measure enlarged into a husband?
MILLA. You have free leave: propose your utmost, speak and spare not.
MIRA. I thank you. IMPRIMIS, then, I covenant that your acquaintance be general; that you admit no sworn confidant or intimate of your own sex; no she friend to screen her affairs under your countenance, and tempt you to make trial of a mutual secrecy. No decoy-duck to wheedle you a FOP-SCRAMBLING to the play in a mask, then bring you home in a pretended fright, when you think you shall be found out, and rail at me for missing the play, and disappointing the frolic which you had to pick me up and prove my constancy.
MILLA. Detestable IMPRIMIS! I go to the play in a mask!
MIRA. ITEM, I article, that you continue to like your own face as long as I shall, and while it passes current with me, that you endeavour not to new coin it. To which end, together with all vizards for the day, I prohibit all masks for the night, made of oiled skins and I know not what—hog's bones, hare's gall, pig water, and the marrow of a roasted cat. In short, I forbid all commerce with the gentlewomen in what-d'ye-call-it court. ITEM, I shut my doors against all bawds with baskets, and pennyworths of muslin, china, fans, atlases, etc. ITEM, when you shall be breeding -
MILLA. Ah, name it not!
MIRA. Which may be presumed, with a blessing on our endeavours -
MILLA. Odious endeavours!
MIRA. I denounce against all strait lacing, squeezing for a shape, till you mould my boy's head like a sugar-loaf, and instead of a man-child, make me father to a crooked billet. Lastly, to the dominion of the tea-table I submit; but with proviso, that you exceed not in your province, but restrain yourself to native and simple tea-table drinks, as tea, chocolate, and coffee. As likewise to genuine and authorised tea-table talk, such as mending of fashions, spoiling reputations, railing at absent friends, and so forth. But that on no account you encroach upon the men's prerogative, and presume to drink healths, or toast fellows; for prevention of which, I banish all foreign forces, all auxiliaries to the tea-table, as orange-brandy, all aniseed, cinnamon, citron, and Barbadoes waters, together with ratafia and the most noble spirit of clary. But for cowslip-wine, poppy-water, and all dormitives, those I allow. These provisos admitted, in other things I may prove a tractable and complying husband.
MILLA. Oh, horrid provisos! Filthy strong waters! I toast fellows, odious men! I hate your odious provisos.
MIRA. Then we're agreed. Shall I kiss your hand upon the contract? And here comes one to be a witness to the sealing of the deed.
[To them] MRS. FAINALL.
MILLA. Fainall, what shall I do? Shall I have him? I think I must have him.
MRS. FAIN. Ay, ay, take him, take him, what should you do?
MILLA. Well then—I'll take my death I'm in a horrid fright— Fainall, I shall never say it. Well—I think—I'll endure you.
MRS. FAIN. Fie, fie, have him, and tell him so in plain terms: for I am sure you have a mind to him.
MILLA. Are you? I think I have; and the horrid man looks as if he thought so too. Well, you ridiculous thing you, I'll have you. I won't be kissed, nor I won't be thanked.—Here, kiss my hand though, so hold your tongue now; don't say a word.
MRS. FAIN. Mirabell, there's a necessity for your obedience: you have neither time to talk nor stay. My mother is coming; and in my conscience if she should see you, would fall into fits, and maybe not recover time enough to return to Sir Rowland, who, as Foible tells me, is in a fair way to succeed. Therefore spare your ecstasies for another occasion, and slip down the back stairs, where Foible waits to consult you.
MILLA. Ay, go, go. In the meantime I suppose you have said something to please me.
MIRA. I am all obedience.
MRS. MILLAMANT, MRS. FAINALL.
MRS. FAIN. Yonder Sir Wilfull's drunk, and so noisy that my mother has been forced to leave Sir Rowland to appease him; but he answers her only with singing and drinking. What they may have done by this time I know not, but Petulant and he were upon quarrelling as I came by.
MILLA. Well, if Mirabell should not make a good husband, I am a lost thing: for I find I love him violently.
MRS. FAIN. So it seems; for you mind not what's said to you. If you doubt him, you had best take up with Sir Wilfull.
MILLA. How can you name that superannuated lubber? foh!
[To them] WITWOUD from drinking.
MRS. FAIN. So, is the fray made up that you have left 'em?
WIT. Left 'em? I could stay no longer. I have laughed like ten Christ'nings. I am tipsy with laughing—if I had stayed any longer I should have burst,—I must have been let out and pieced in the sides like an unsized camlet. Yes, yes, the fray is composed; my lady came in like a NOLI PROSEQUI, and stopt the proceedings.
MILLA. What was the dispute?
WIT. That's the jest: there was no dispute. They could neither of 'em speak for rage; and so fell a sputt'ring at one another like two roasting apples.
[To them] PETULANT drunk.
WIT. Now, Petulant? All's over, all's well? Gad, my head begins to whim it about. Why dost thou not speak? Thou art both as drunk and as mute as a fish.
PET. Look you, Mrs. Millamant, if you can love me, dear Nymph, say it, and that's the conclusion—pass on, or pass off—that's all.
WIT. Thou hast uttered volumes, folios, in less than decimo sexto, my dear Lacedemonian. Sirrah, Petulant, thou art an epitomiser of words.
PET. Witwoud,—you are an annihilator of sense.
WIT. Thou art a retailer of phrases, and dost deal in remnants of remnants, like a maker of pincushions; thou art in truth (metaphorically speaking) a speaker of shorthand.
PET. Thou art (without a figure) just one half of an ass, and Baldwin yonder, thy half-brother, is the rest. A Gemini of asses split would make just four of you.
WIT. Thou dost bite, my dear mustard-seed; kiss me for that.
PET. Stand off—I'll kiss no more males—I have kissed your Twin yonder in a humour of reconciliation till he [hiccup] rises upon my stomach like a radish.
MILLA. Eh! filthy creature; what was the quarrel?
PET. There was no quarrel; there might have been a quarrel.
WIT. If there had been words enow between 'em to have expressed provocation, they had gone together by the ears like a pair of castanets.
PET. You were the quarrel.
PET. If I have a humour to quarrel, I can make less matters conclude premises. If you are not handsome, what then? If I have a humour to prove it? If I shall have my reward, say so; if not, fight for your face the next time yourself—I'll go sleep.
WIT. Do, wrap thyself up like a woodlouse, and dream revenge. And, hear me, if thou canst learn to write by to-morrow morning, pen me a challenge. I'll carry it for thee.
PET. Carry your mistress's monkey a spider; go flea dogs and read romances. I'll go to bed to my maid.
MRS. FAIN. He's horridly drunk—how came you all in this pickle?
WIT. A plot, a plot, to get rid of the knight—your husband's advice; but he sneaked off.
SIR WILFULL, drunk, LADY WISHFORT, WITWOUD, MRS. MILLAMANT, MRS. FAINALL.
LADY. Out upon't, out upon't, at years of discretion, and comport yourself at this rantipole rate!
SIR WIL. No offence, aunt.
LADY. Offence? As I'm a person, I'm ashamed of you. Fogh! How you stink of wine! D'ye think my niece will ever endure such a Borachio? You're an absolute Borachio.
SIR WIL. Borachio?
LADY. At a time when you should commence an amour, and put your best foot foremost -
SIR WIL. 'Sheart, an you grutch me your liquor, make a bill.—Give me more drink, and take my purse. [Sings]:-
Prithee fill me the glass, Till it laugh in my face, With ale that is potent and mellow; He that whines for a lass Is an ignorant ass, For a bumper has not its fellow.
But if you would have me marry my cousin, say the word, and I'll do't. Wilfull will do't, that's the word. Wilfull will do't, that's my crest,—my motto I have forgot.
LADY. My nephew's a little overtaken, cousin, but 'tis drinking your health. O' my word, you are obliged to him -
SIR WIL. IN VINO VERITAS, aunt. If I drunk your health to-day, cousin,—I am a Borachio.—But if you have a mind to be married, say the word and send for the piper; Wilfull will do't. If not, dust it away, and let's have t'other round. Tony—ods-heart, where's Tony?- -Tony's an honest fellow, but he spits after a bumper, and that's a fault.
We'll drink and we'll never ha' done, boys, Put the glass then around with the sun, boys, Let Apollo's example invite us; For he's drunk every night, And that makes him so bright, That he's able next morning to light us.
The sun's a good pimple, an honest soaker, he has a cellar at your antipodes. If I travel, aunt, I touch at your antipodes—your antipodes are a good rascally sort of topsy-turvy fellows. If I had a bumper I'd stand upon my head and drink a health to 'em. A match or no match, cousin with the hard name; aunt, Wilfull will do't. If she has her maidenhead let her look to 't; if she has not, let her keep her own counsel in the meantime, and cry out at the nine months' end.
MILLA. Your pardon, madam, I can stay no longer. Sir Wilfull grows very powerful. Egh! how he smells! I shall be overcome if I stay. Come, cousin.
LADY WISHFORT, SIR WILFULL WITWOUD, MR. WITWOUD, FOIBLE.
LADY. Smells? He would poison a tallow-chandler and his family. Beastly creature, I know not what to do with him. Travel, quotha; ay, travel, travel, get thee gone, get thee but far enough, to the Saracens, or the Tartars, or the Turks—for thou art not fit to live in a Christian commonwealth, thou beastly pagan.
SIR WIL. Turks? No; no Turks, aunt. Your Turks are infidels, and believe not in the grape. Your Mahometan, your Mussulman is a dry stinkard. No offence, aunt. My map says that your Turk is not so honest a man as your Christian—I cannot find by the map that your Mufti is orthodox, whereby it is a plain case that orthodox is a hard word, aunt, and [hiccup] Greek for claret. [Sings]:-
To drink is a Christian diversion, Unknown to the Turk or the Persian. Let Mahometan fools Live by heathenish rules, And be damned over tea-cups and coffee. But let British lads sing, Crown a health to the King, And a fig for your Sultan and Sophy.
Ah, Tony! [FOIBLE whispers LADY W.]
LADY. Sir Rowland impatient? Good lack! what shall I do with this beastly tumbril? Go lie down and sleep, you sot, or as I'm a person, I'll have you bastinadoed with broomsticks. Call up the wenches with broomsticks.
SIR WIL. Ahey! Wenches? Where are the wenches?
LADY. Dear Cousin Witwoud, get him away, and you will bind me to you inviolably. I have an affair of moment that invades me with some precipitation.—You will oblige me to all futurity.
WIT. Come, knight. Pox on him, I don't know what to say to him. Will you go to a cock-match?
SIR WIL. With a wench, Tony? Is she a shake-bag, sirrah? Let me bite your cheek for that.
WIT. Horrible! He has a breath like a bagpipe. Ay, ay; come, will you march, my Salopian?
SIR WIL. Lead on, little Tony. I'll follow thee, my Anthony, my Tantony. Sirrah, thou shalt be my Tantony, and I'll be thy pig.
And a fig for your Sultan and Sophy.
LADY. This will never do. It will never make a match,—at least before he has been abroad.
LADY WISHFORT, WAITWELL disguised as for SIR ROWLAND.
LADY. Dear Sir Rowland, I am confounded with confusion at the retrospection of my own rudeness,—I have more pardons to ask than the pope distributes in the year of jubilee. But I hope where there is likely to be so near an alliance, we may unbend the severity of decorum, and dispense with a little ceremony.
WAIT. My impatience, madam, is the effect of my transport; and till I have the possession of your adorable person, I am tantalised on the rack, and do but hang, madam, on the tenter of expectation.
LADY. You have excess of gallantry, Sir Rowland, and press things to a conclusion with a most prevailing vehemence. But a day or two for decency of marriage -
WAIT. For decency of funeral, madam! The delay will break my heart—or if that should fail, I shall be poisoned. My nephew will get an inkling of my designs and poison me—and I would willingly starve him before I die—I would gladly go out of the world with that satisfaction. That would be some comfort to me, if I could but live so long as to be revenged on that unnatural viper.
LADY. Is he so unnatural, say you? Truly I would contribute much both to the saving of your life and the accomplishment of your revenge. Not that I respect myself; though he has been a perfidious wretch to me.
WAIT. Perfidious to you?
LADY. O Sir Rowland, the hours that he has died away at my feet, the tears that he has shed, the oaths that he has sworn, the palpitations that he has felt, the trances and the tremblings, the ardours and the ecstasies, the kneelings and the risings, the heart- heavings and the hand-gripings, the pangs and the pathetic regards of his protesting eyes!—Oh, no memory can register.
WAIT. What, my rival? Is the rebel my rival? A dies.
LADY. No, don't kill him at once, Sir Rowland: starve him gradually, inch by inch.
WAIT. I'll do't. In three weeks he shall be barefoot; in a month out at knees with begging an alms; he shall starve upward and upward, 'till he has nothing living but his head, and then go out in a stink like a candle's end upon a save-all.
LADY. Well, Sir Rowland, you have the way,—you are no novice in the labyrinth of love,—you have the clue. But as I am a person, Sir Rowland, you must not attribute my yielding to any sinister appetite or indigestion of widowhood; nor impute my complacency to any lethargy of continence. I hope you do not think me prone to any iteration of nuptials?
WAIT. Far be it from me -
LADY. If you do, I protest I must recede, or think that I have made a prostitution of decorums, but in the vehemence of compassion, and to save the life of a person of so much importance -
WAIT. I esteem it so -
LADY. Or else you wrong my condescension -
WAIT. I do not, I do not -
LADY. Indeed you do.
WAIT. I do not, fair shrine of virtue.
LADY. If you think the least scruple of causality was an ingredient -
WAIT. Dear madam, no. You are all camphire and frankincense, all chastity and odour.
LADY. Or that -
[To them] FOIBLE.
FOIB. Madam, the dancers are ready, and there's one with a letter, who must deliver it into your own hands.
LADY. Sir Rowland, will you give me leave? Think favourably, judge candidly, and conclude you have found a person who would suffer racks in honour's cause, dear Sir Rowland, and will wait on you incessantly.
WAIT. Fie, fie! What a slavery have I undergone; spouse, hast thou any cordial? I want spirits.
FOIB. What a washy rogue art thou, to pant thus for a quarter of an hour's lying and swearing to a fine lady?
WAIT. Oh, she is the antidote to desire. Spouse, thou wilt fare the worse for't. I shall have no appetite to iteration of nuptials- -this eight-and-forty hours. By this hand I'd rather be a chairman in the dog-days than act Sir Rowland till this time to-morrow.
[To them] LADY with a letter.
LADY. Call in the dancers; Sir Rowland, we'll sit, if you please, and see the entertainment. [Dance.] Now, with your permission, Sir Rowland, I will peruse my letter. I would open it in your presence, because I would not make you uneasy. If it should make you uneasy, I would burn it—speak if it does—but you may see, the superscription is like a woman's hand.
FOIB. By heaven! Mrs. Marwood's, I know it,—my heart aches—get it from her! [To him.]
WAIT. A woman's hand? No madam, that's no woman's hand: I see that already. That's somebody whose throat must be cut.
LADY. Nay, Sir Rowland, since you give me a proof of your passion by your jealousy, I promise you I'll make a return by a frank communication. You shall see it—we'll open it together. Look you here. [Reads.] MADAM, THOUGH UNKNOWN TO YOU (look you there, 'tis from nobody that I know.) I HAVE THAT HONOUR FOR YOUR CHARACTER, THAT I THINK MYSELF OBLIGED TO LET YOU KNOW YOU ARE ABUSED. HE WHO PRETENDS TO BE SIR ROWLAND IS A CHEAT AND A RASCAL. O heavens! what's this?
FOIB. Unfortunate; all's ruined.
WAIT. How, how, let me see, let me see. [Reading.] A RASCAL, AND DISGUISED AND SUBORNED FOR THAT IMPOSTURE—O villainy! O villainy!— BY THE CONTRIVANCE OF -
LADY. I shall faint, I shall die. Oh!
FOIB. Say 'tis your nephew's hand. Quickly, his plot, swear, swear it! [To him.]
WAIT. Here's a villain! Madam, don't you perceive it? Don't you see it?
LADY. Too well, too well. I have seen too much.
WAIT. I told you at first I knew the hand. A woman's hand? The rascal writes a sort of a large hand: your Roman hand.—I saw there was a throat to be cut presently. If he were my son, as he is my nephew, I'd pistol him.
FOIB. O treachery! But are you sure, Sir Rowland, it is his writing?
WAIT. Sure? Am I here? Do I live? Do I love this pearl of India? I have twenty letters in my pocket from him in the same character.
FOIB. Oh, what luck it is, Sir Rowland, that you were present at this juncture! This was the business that brought Mr. Mirabell disguised to Madam Millamant this afternoon. I thought something was contriving, when he stole by me and would have hid his face.
LADY. How, how? I heard the villain was in the house indeed; and now I remember, my niece went away abruptly when Sir Wilfull was to have made his addresses.
FOIB. Then, then, madam, Mr. Mirabell waited for her in her chamber; but I would not tell your ladyship to discompose you when you were to receive Sir Rowland.
WAIT. Enough, his date is short.
FOIB. No, good Sir Rowland, don't incur the law.
WAIT. Law? I care not for law. I can but die, and 'tis in a good cause. My lady shall be satisfied of my truth and innocence, though it cost me my life.
LADY. No, dear Sir Rowland, don't fight: if you should be killed I must never show my face; or hanged,—oh, consider my reputation, Sir Rowland. No, you shan't fight: I'll go in and examine my niece; I'll make her confess. I conjure you, Sir Rowland, by all your love not to fight.
WAIT. I am charmed, madam; I obey. But some proof you must let me give you: I'll go for a black box, which contains the writings of my whole estate, and deliver that into your hands.
LADY. Ay, dear Sir Rowland, that will be some comfort; bring the black box.
WAIT. And may I presume to bring a contract to be signed this night? May I hope so far?
LADY. Bring what you will; but come alive, pray come alive. Oh, this is a happy discovery.
WAIT. Dead or alive I'll come—and married we will be in spite of treachery; ay, and get an heir that shall defeat the last remaining glimpse of hope in my abandoned nephew. Come, my buxom widow:
E'er long you shall substantial proof receive That I'm an arrant knight -
FOIB. Or arrant knave.
ACT V.—SCENE I.
LADY WISHFORT and FOIBLE.
LADY. Out of my house, out of my house, thou viper, thou serpent that I have fostered, thou bosom traitress that I raised from nothing! Begone, begone, begone, go, go; that I took from washing of old gauze and weaving of dead hair, with a bleak blue nose, over a chafing-dish of starved embers, and dining behind a traver's rag, in a shop no bigger than a bird-cage. Go, go, starve again, do, do!
FOIB. Dear madam, I'll beg pardon on my knees.
LADY. Away, out, out, go set up for yourself again, do; drive a trade, do, with your threepennyworth of small ware, flaunting upon a packthread, under a brandy-seller's bulk, or against a dead wall by a balladmonger. Go, hang out an old frisoneer-gorget, with a yard of yellow colberteen again, do; an old gnawed mask, two rows of pins, and a child's fiddle; a glass necklace with the beads broken, and a quilted night-cap with one ear. Go, go, drive a trade. These were your commodities, you treacherous trull; this was the merchandise you dealt in, when I took you into my house, placed you next myself, and made you governant of my whole family. You have forgot this, have you, now you have feathered your nest?
FOIB. No, no, dear madam. Do but hear me, have but a moment's patience—I'll confess all. Mr. Mirabell seduced me; I am not the first that he has wheedled with his dissembling tongue. Your ladyship's own wisdom has been deluded by him; then how should I, a poor ignorant, defend myself? O madam, if you knew but what he promised me, and how he assured me your ladyship should come to no damage, or else the wealth of the Indies should not have bribed me to conspire against so good, so sweet, so kind a lady as you have been to me.
LADY. No damage? What, to betray me, to marry me to a cast serving-man; to make me a receptacle, an hospital for a decayed pimp? No damage? O thou frontless impudence, more than a big- bellied actress!
FOIB. Pray do but hear me, madam; he could not marry your ladyship, madam. No indeed, his marriage was to have been void in law; for he was married to me first, to secure your ladyship. He could not have bedded your ladyship, for if he had consummated with your ladyship, he must have run the risk of the law, and been put upon his clergy. Yes indeed, I enquired of the law in that case before I would meddle or make.
LADY. What? Then I have been your property, have I? I have been convenient to you, it seems, while you were catering for Mirabell; I have been broker for you? What, have you made a passive bawd of me? This exceeds all precedent. I am brought to fine uses, to become a botcher of second-hand marriages between Abigails and Andrews! I'll couple you. Yes, I'll baste you together, you and your Philander. I'll Duke's Place you, as I'm a person. Your turtle is in custody already. You shall coo in the same cage, if there be constable or warrant in the parish.
FOIB. Oh, that ever I was born! Oh, that I was ever married! A bride? Ay, I shall be a Bridewell bride. Oh!
MRS. FAINALL, FOIBLE.
MRS. FAIN. Poor Foible, what's the matter?
FOIB. O madam, my lady's gone for a constable; I shall be had to a justice, and put to Bridewell to beat hemp. Poor Waitwell's gone to prison already.
MRS. FAIN. Have a good heart, Foible: Mirabell's gone to give security for him. This is all Marwood's and my husband's doing.
FOIB. Yes, yes; I know it, madam: she was in my lady's closet, and overheard all that you said to me before dinner. She sent the letter to my lady, and that missing effect, Mr. Fainall laid this plot to arrest Waitwell, when he pretended to go for the papers; and in the meantime Mrs. Marwood declared all to my lady.
MRS. FAIN. Was there no mention made of me in the letter? My mother does not suspect my being in the confederacy? I fancy Marwood has not told her, though she has told my husband.
FOIB. Yes, madam; but my lady did not see that part. We stifled the letter before she read so far. Has that mischievous devil told Mr. Fainall of your ladyship then?
MRS. FAIN. Ay, all's out: my affair with Mirabell, everything discovered. This is the last day of our living together; that's my comfort.
FOIB. Indeed, madam, and so 'tis a comfort, if you knew all. He has been even with your ladyship; which I could have told you long enough since, but I love to keep peace and quietness by my good will. I had rather bring friends together than set 'em at distance. But Mrs. Marwood and he are nearer related than ever their parents thought for.
MRS. FAIN. Say'st thou so, Foible? Canst thou prove this?
FOIB. I can take my oath of it, madam; so can Mrs. Mincing. We have had many a fair word from Madam Marwood to conceal something that passed in our chamber one evening when you were at Hyde Park, and we were thought to have gone a-walking. But we went up unawares—though we were sworn to secrecy too: Madam Marwood took a book and swore us upon it: but it was but a book of poems. So long as it was not a bible oath, we may break it with a safe conscience.
MRS. FAIN. This discovery is the most opportune thing I could wish. Now, Mincing?
[To them] MINCING.
MINC. My lady would speak with Mrs. Foible, mem. Mr. Mirabell is with her; he has set your spouse at liberty, Mrs. Foible, and would have you hide yourself in my lady's closet till my old lady's anger is abated. Oh, my old lady is in a perilous passion at something Mr. Fainall has said; he swears, and my old lady cries. There's a fearful hurricane, I vow. He says, mem, how that he'll have my lady's fortune made over to him, or he'll be divorced.
MRS. FAIN. Does your lady or Mirabell know that?
MINC. Yes mem; they have sent me to see if Sir Wilfull be sober, and to bring him to them. My lady is resolved to have him, I think, rather than lose such a vast sum as six thousand pound. Oh, come, Mrs. Foible, I hear my old lady.
MRS. FAIN. Foible, you must tell Mincing that she must prepare to vouch when I call her.
FOIB. Yes, yes, madam.
MINC. Oh, yes mem, I'll vouch anything for your ladyship's service, be what it will.
MRS. FAINALL, LADY WISHFORT, MRS. MARWOOD.
LADY. O my dear friend, how can I enumerate the benefits that I have received from your goodness? To you I owe the timely discovery of the false vows of Mirabell; to you I owe the detection of the impostor Sir Rowland. And now you are become an intercessor with my son-in-law, to save the honour of my house and compound for the frailties of my daughter. Well, friend, you are enough to reconcile me to the bad world, or else I would retire to deserts and solitudes, and feed harmless sheep by groves and purling streams. Dear Marwood, let us leave the world, and retire by ourselves and be shepherdesses.
MRS. MAR. Let us first dispatch the affair in hand, madam. We shall have leisure to think of retirement afterwards. Here is one who is concerned in the treaty.
LADY. O daughter, daughter, is it possible thou shouldst be my child, bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh, and as I may say, another me, and yet transgress the most minute particle of severe virtue? Is it possible you should lean aside to iniquity, who have been cast in the direct mould of virtue? I have not only been a mould but a pattern for you, and a model for you, after you were brought into the world.
MRS. FAIN. I don't understand your ladyship.
LADY. Not understand? Why, have you not been naught? Have you not been sophisticated? Not understand? Here I am ruined to compound for your caprices and your cuckoldoms. I must pawn my plate and my jewels, and ruin my niece, and all little enough -
MRS. FAIN. I am wronged and abused, and so are you. 'Tis a false accusation, as false as hell, as false as your friend there; ay, or your friend's friend, my false husband.
MRS. MAR. My friend, Mrs. Fainall? Your husband my friend, what do you mean?
MRS. FAIN. I know what I mean, madam, and so do you; and so shall the world at a time convenient.
MRS. MAR. I am sorry to see you so passionate, madam. More temper would look more like innocence. But I have done. I am sorry my zeal to serve your ladyship and family should admit of misconstruction, or make me liable to affronts. You will pardon me, madam, if I meddle no more with an affair in which I am not personally concerned.
LADY. O dear friend, I am so ashamed that you should meet with such returns. You ought to ask pardon on your knees, ungrateful creature; she deserves more from you than all your life can accomplish. Oh, don't leave me destitute in this perplexity! No, stick to me, my good genius.
MRS. FAIN. I tell you, madam, you're abused. Stick to you? Ay, like a leech, to suck your best blood; she'll drop off when she's full. Madam, you shan't pawn a bodkin, nor part with a brass counter, in composition for me. I defy 'em all. Let 'em prove their aspersions: I know my own innocence, and dare stand a trial.
LADY WISHFORT, MRS. MARWOOD.
LADY. Why, if she should be innocent, if she should be wronged after all, ha? I don't know what to think, and I promise you, her education has been unexceptionable. I may say it, for I chiefly made it my own care to initiate her very infancy in the rudiments of virtue, and to impress upon her tender years a young odium and aversion to the very sight of men; ay, friend, she would ha' shrieked if she had but seen a man till she was in her teens. As I'm a person, 'tis true. She was never suffered to play with a male child, though but in coats. Nay, her very babies were of the feminine gender. Oh, she never looked a man in the face but her own father or the chaplain, and him we made a shift to put upon her for a woman, by the help of his long garments, and his sleek face, till she was going in her fifteen.
MRS. MAR. 'Twas much she should be deceived so long.
LADY. I warrant you, or she would never have borne to have been catechised by him, and have heard his long lectures against singing and dancing and such debaucheries, and going to filthy plays, and profane music meetings, where the lewd trebles squeak nothing but bawdy, and the basses roar blasphemy. Oh, she would have swooned at the sight or name of an obscene play-book—and can I think after all this that my daughter can be naught? What, a whore? And thought it excommunication to set her foot within the door of a playhouse. O dear friend, I can't believe it. No, no; as she says, let him prove it, let him prove it.
MRS. MAR. Prove it, madam? What, and have your name prostituted in a public court; yours and your daughter's reputation worried at the bar by a pack of bawling lawyers? To be ushered in with an OH YES of scandal, and have your case opened by an old fumbling leacher in a quoif like a man midwife; to bring your daughter's infamy to light; to be a theme for legal punsters and quibblers by the statute; and become a jest, against a rule of court, where there is no precedent for a jest in any record, not even in Doomsday Book. To discompose the gravity of the bench, and provoke naughty interrogatories in more naughty law Latin; while the good judge, tickled with the proceeding, simpers under a grey beard, and fidges off and on his cushion as if he had swallowed cantharides, or sate upon cow-itch.
LADY. Oh, 'tis very hard!
MRS. MAR. And then to have my young revellers of the Temple take notes, like prentices at a conventicle; and after talk it over again in Commons, or before drawers in an eating-house.
LADY. Worse and worse.
MRS. MAR. Nay, this is nothing; if it would end here 'twere well. But it must after this be consigned by the shorthand writers to the public press; and from thence be transferred to the hands, nay, into the throats and lungs, of hawkers, with voices more licentious than the loud flounder-man's. And this you must hear till you are stunned; nay, you must hear nothing else for some days.
LADY. Oh 'tis insupportable. No, no, dear friend, make it up, make it up; ay, ay, I'll compound. I'll give up all, myself and my all, my niece and her all, anything, everything, for composition.
MRS. MAR. Nay, madam, I advise nothing, I only lay before you, as a friend, the inconveniences which perhaps you have overseen. Here comes Mr. Fainall; if he will be satisfied to huddle up all in silence, I shall be glad. You must think I would rather congratulate than condole with you.
FAINALL, LADY WISHFORT, MRS. MARWOOD.
LADY. Ay, ay, I do not doubt it, dear Marwood. No, no, I do not doubt it.
FAIN. Well, madam, I have suffered myself to be overcome by the importunity of this lady, your friend, and am content you shall enjoy your own proper estate during life, on condition you oblige yourself never to marry, under such penalty as I think convenient.
LADY. Never to marry?
FAIN. No more Sir Rowlands,—the next imposture may not be so timely detected.
MRS. MAR. That condition, I dare answer, my lady will consent to, without difficulty; she has already but too much experienced the perfidiousness of men. Besides, madam, when we retire to our pastoral solitude, we shall bid adieu to all other thoughts.
LADY. Ay, that's true; but in case of necessity, as of health, or some such emergency -
FAIN. Oh, if you are prescribed marriage, you shall be considered; I will only reserve to myself the power to choose for you. If your physic be wholesome, it matters not who is your apothecary. Next, my wife shall settle on me the remainder of her fortune, not made over already; and for her maintenance depend entirely on my discretion.
LADY. This is most inhumanly savage: exceeding the barbarity of a Muscovite husband.
FAIN. I learned it from his Czarish Majesty's retinue, in a winter evening's conference over brandy and pepper, amongst other secrets of matrimony and policy, as they are at present practised in the northern hemisphere. But this must be agreed unto, and that positively. Lastly, I will be endowed, in right of my wife, with that six thousand pound, which is the moiety of Mrs. Millamant's fortune in your possession, and which she has forfeited (as will appear by the last will and testament of your deceased husband, Sir Jonathan Wishfort) by her disobedience in contracting herself against your consent or knowledge, and by refusing the offered match with Sir Wilfull Witwoud, which you, like a careful aunt, had provided for her.
LADY. My nephew was NON COMPOS, and could not make his addresses.
FAIN. I come to make demands—I'll hear no objections.
LADY. You will grant me time to consider?
FAIN. Yes, while the instrument is drawing, to which you must set your hand till more sufficient deeds can be perfected: which I will take care shall be done with all possible speed. In the meanwhile I will go for the said instrument, and till my return you may balance this matter in your own discretion.
LADY WISHFORT, MRS. MARWOOD.
LADY. This insolence is beyond all precedent, all parallel. Must I be subject to this merciless villain?
MRS. MAR. 'Tis severe indeed, madam, that you should smart for your daughter's wantonness.
LADY. 'Twas against my consent that she married this barbarian, but she would have him, though her year was not out. Ah! her first husband, my son Languish, would not have carried it thus. Well, that was my choice, this is hers; she is matched now with a witness- -I shall be mad, dear friend; is there no comfort for me? Must I live to be confiscated at this rebel-rate? Here come two more of my Egyptian plagues too.
[To them] MRS. MILLAMANT, SIR WILFULL.
SIR WIL. Aunt, your servant.
LADY. Out, caterpillar, call not me aunt; I know thee not.
SIR WIL. I confess I have been a little in disguise, as they say. 'Sheart! and I'm sorry for't. What would you have? I hope I committed no offence, aunt—and if I did I am willing to make satisfaction; and what can a man say fairer? If I have broke anything I'll pay for't, an it cost a pound. And so let that content for what's past, and make no more words. For what's to come, to pleasure you I'm willing to marry my cousin. So, pray, let's all be friends, she and I are agreed upon the matter before a witness.
LADY. How's this, dear niece? Have I any comfort? Can this be true?
MILLA. I am content to be a sacrifice to your repose, madam, and to convince you that I had no hand in the plot, as you were misinformed. I have laid my commands on Mirabell to come in person, and be a witness that I give my hand to this flower of knighthood; and for the contract that passed between Mirabell and me, I have obliged him to make a resignation of it in your ladyship's presence. He is without and waits your leave for admittance.
LADY. Well, I'll swear I am something revived at this testimony of your obedience; but I cannot admit that traitor,—I fear I cannot fortify myself to support his appearance. He is as terrible to me as a Gorgon: if I see him I swear I shall turn to stone, petrify incessantly.
MILLA. If you disoblige him he may resent your refusal, and insist upon the contract still. Then 'tis the last time he will be offensive to you.
LADY. Are you sure it will be the last time? If I were sure of that—shall I never see him again?
MILLA. Sir Wilfull, you and he are to travel together, are you not?
SIR WIL. 'Sheart, the gentleman's a civil gentleman, aunt, let him come in; why, we are sworn brothers and fellow-travellers. We are to be Pylades and Orestes, he and I. He is to be my interpreter in foreign parts. He has been overseas once already; and with proviso that I marry my cousin, will cross 'em once again, only to bear me company. 'Sheart, I'll call him in,—an I set on't once, he shall come in; and see who'll hinder him. [Goes to the door and hems.]
MRS. MAR. This is precious fooling, if it would pass; but I'll know the bottom of it.
LADY. O dear Marwood, you are not going?
MRS. MAR. Not far, madam; I'll return immediately.
LADY WISHFORT, MRS. MILLAMANT, SIR WILFULL, MIRABELL.
SIR WIL. Look up, man, I'll stand by you; 'sbud, an she do frown, she can't kill you. Besides—harkee, she dare not frown desperately, because her face is none of her own. 'Sheart, an she should, her forehead would wrinkle like the coat of a cream cheese; but mum for that, fellow-traveller.
MIRA. If a deep sense of the many injuries I have offered to so good a lady, with a sincere remorse and a hearty contrition, can but obtain the least glance of compassion. I am too happy. Ah, madam, there was a time—but let it be forgotten. I confess I have deservedly forfeited the high place I once held, of sighing at your feet; nay, kill me not by turning from me in disdain, I come not to plead for favour. Nay, not for pardon: I am a suppliant only for pity:- I am going where I never shall behold you more.
SIR WIL. How, fellow-traveller? You shall go by yourself then.
MIRA. Let me be pitied first, and afterwards forgotten. I ask no more.
SIR WIL. By'r lady, a very reasonable request, and will cost you nothing, aunt. Come, come, forgive and forget, aunt. Why you must an you are a Christian.
MIRA. Consider, madam; in reality you could not receive much prejudice: it was an innocent device, though I confess it had a face of guiltiness—it was at most an artifice which love contrived- -and errors which love produces have ever been accounted venial. At least think it is punishment enough that I have lost what in my heart I hold most dear, that to your cruel indignation I have offered up this beauty, and with her my peace and quiet; nay, all my hopes of future comfort.
SIR WIL. An he does not move me, would I may never be o' the quorum. An it were not as good a deed as to drink, to give her to him again, I would I might never take shipping. Aunt, if you don't forgive quickly, I shall melt, I can tell you that. My contract went no farther than a little mouth-glue, and that's hardly dry; one doleful sigh more from my fellow-traveller and 'tis dissolved.
LADY. Well, nephew, upon your account. Ah, he has a false insinuating tongue. Well, sir, I will stifle my just resentment at my nephew's request. I will endeavour what I can to forget, but on proviso that you resign the contract with my niece immediately.
MIRA. It is in writing and with papers of concern; but I have sent my servant for it, and will deliver it to you, with all acknowledgments for your transcendent goodness.
LADY. Oh, he has witchcraft in his eyes and tongue; when I did not see him I could have bribed a villain to his assassination; but his appearance rakes the embers which have so long lain smothered in my breast. [Aside.]
[To them] FAINALL, MRS. MARWOOD.
FAIN. Your date of deliberation, madam, is expired. Here is the instrument; are you prepared to sign?
LADY. If I were prepared, I am not impowered. My niece exerts a lawful claim, having matched herself by my direction to Sir Wilfull.
FAIN. That sham is too gross to pass on me, though 'tis imposed on you, madam.
MILLA. Sir, I have given my consent.
MIRA. And, sir, I have resigned my pretensions.
SIR WIL. And, sir, I assert my right; and will maintain it in defiance of you, sir, and of your instrument. 'Sheart, an you talk of an instrument sir, I have an old fox by my thigh shall hack your instrument of ram vellum to shreds, sir. It shall not be sufficient for a Mittimus or a tailor's measure; therefore withdraw your instrument, sir, or, by'r lady, I shall draw mine.
LADY. Hold, nephew, hold.
MILLA. Good Sir Wilfull, respite your valour.
FAIN. Indeed? Are you provided of your guard, with your single beef-eater there? But I'm prepared for you, and insist upon my first proposal. You shall submit your own estate to my management, and absolutely make over my wife's to my sole use, as pursuant to the purport and tenor of this other covenant. I suppose, madam, your consent is not requisite in this case; nor, Mr. Mirabell, your resignation; nor, Sir Wilfull, your right. You may draw your fox if you please, sir, and make a bear-garden flourish somewhere else; for here it will not avail. This, my Lady Wishfort, must be subscribed, or your darling daughter's turned adrift, like a leaky hulk to sink or swim, as she and the current of this lewd town can agree.
LADY. Is there no means, no remedy, to stop my ruin? Ungrateful wretch! Dost thou not owe thy being, thy subsistance, to my daughter's fortune?
FAIN. I'll answer you when I have the rest of it in my possession.
MIRA. But that you would not accept of a remedy from my hands—I own I have not deserved you should owe any obligation to me; or else, perhaps, I could devise -
LADY. Oh, what? what? To save me and my child from ruin, from want, I'll forgive all that's past; nay, I'll consent to anything to come, to be delivered from this tyranny.
MIRA. Ay, madam; but that is too late, my reward is intercepted. You have disposed of her who only could have made me a compensation for all my services. But be it as it may, I am resolved I'll serve you; you shall not be wronged in this savage manner.
LADY. How? Dear Mr. Mirabell, can you be so generous at last? But it is not possible. Harkee, I'll break my nephew's match; you shall have my niece yet, and all her fortune, if you can but save me from this imminent danger.
MIRA. Will you? I take you at your word. I ask no more. I must have leave for two criminals to appear.
LADY. Ay, ay, anybody, anybody.
MIRA. Foible is one, and a penitent.
[To them] MRS. FAINALL, FOIBLE, MINCING.
MRS. MAR. O my shame! [MIRABELL and LADY go to MRS. FAINALL and FOIBLE.] These currupt things are brought hither to expose me. [To FAINALL.]
FAIN. If it must all come out, why let 'em know it, 'tis but the way of the world. That shall not urge me to relinquish or abate one tittle of my terms; no, I will insist the more.
FOIB. Yes, indeed, madam; I'll take my bible-oath of it.
MINC. And so will I, mem.
LADY. O Marwood, Marwood, art thou false? My friend deceive me? Hast thou been a wicked accomplice with that profligate man?
MRS. MAR. Have you so much ingratitude and injustice to give credit, against your friend, to the aspersions of two such mercenary trulls?
MINC. Mercenary, mem? I scorn your words. 'Tis true we found you and Mr. Fainall in the blue garret; by the same token, you swore us to secrecy upon Messalinas's poems. Mercenary? No, if we would have been mercenary, we should have held our tongues; you would have bribed us sufficiently.
FAIN. Go, you are an insignificant thing. Well, what are you the better for this? Is this Mr. Mirabell's expedient? I'll be put off no longer. You, thing, that was a wife, shall smart for this. I will not leave thee wherewithal to hide thy shame: your body shall be naked as your reputation.
MRS. FAIN. I despise you and defy your malice. You have aspersed me wrongfully—I have proved your falsehood. Go, you and your treacherous—I will not name it, but starve together. Perish.
FAIN. Not while you are worth a groat, indeed, my dear. Madam, I'll be fooled no longer.
LADY. Ah, Mr. Mirabell, this is small comfort, the detection of this affair.
MIRA. Oh, in good time. Your leave for the other offender and penitent to appear, madam.
[To them] WAITWELL with a box of writings.
LADY. O Sir Rowland! Well, rascal?
WAIT. What your ladyship pleases. I have brought the black box at last, madam.
MIRA. Give it me. Madam, you remember your promise.
LADY. Ay, dear sir.
MIRA. Where are the gentlemen?
WAIT. At hand, sir, rubbing their eyes,—just risen from sleep.
FAIN. 'Sdeath, what's this to me? I'll not wait your private concerns.
[To them] PETULANT, WITWOUD.
PET. How now? What's the matter? Whose hand's out?
WIT. Hey day! What, are you all got together, like players at the end of the last act?
MIRA. You may remember, gentlemen, I once requested your hands as witnesses to a certain parchment.
WIT. Ay, I do, my hand I remember—Petulant set his mark.
MIRA. You wrong him; his name is fairly written, as shall appear. You do not remember, gentlemen, anything of what that parchment contained? [Undoing the box.]
PET. Not I. I writ; I read nothing.
MIRA. Very well, now you shall know. Madam, your promise.
LADY. Ay, ay, sir, upon my honour.
MIRA. Mr. Fainall, it is now time that you should know that your lady, while she was at her own disposal, and before you had by your insinuations wheedled her out of a pretended settlement of the greatest part of her fortune -
FAIN. Sir! Pretended?
MIRA. Yes, sir. I say that this lady, while a widow, having, it seems, received some cautions respecting your inconstancy and tyranny of temper, which from her own partial opinion and fondness of you she could never have suspected—she did, I say, by the wholesome advice of friends and of sages learned in the laws of this land, deliver this same as her act and deed to me in trust, and to the uses within mentioned. You may read if you please [holding out the parchment], though perhaps what is written on the back may serve your occasions.
FAIN. Very likely, sir. What's here? Damnation! [Reads] A DEED OF CONVEYANCE OF THE WHOLE ESTATE REAL OF ARABELLA LANGUISH, WIDOW, IN TRUST TO EDWARD MIRABELL. Confusion!
MIRA. Even so, sir: 'tis the way of the world, sir; of the widows of the world. I suppose this deed may bear an elder date than what you have obtained from your lady.
FAIN. Perfidious fiend! Then thus I'll be revenged. [Offers to run at MRS. FAINALL.]
SIR WIL. Hold, sir; now you may make your bear-garden flourish somewhere else, sir.
FAIN. Mirabell, you shall hear of this, sir; be sure you shall. Let me pass, oaf.
MRS. FAIN. Madam, you seem to stifle your resentment. You had better give it vent.
MRS. MAR. Yes, it shall have vent, and to your confusion, or I'll perish in the attempt.
SCENE the Last.
LADY WISHFORT, MRS. MILLAMANT, MIRABELL, MRS. FAINALL, SIR WILFULL, PETULANT, WITWOUD, FOIBLE, MINCING, WAITWELL.
LADY. O daughter, daughter, 'tis plain thou hast inherited thy mother's prudence.
MRS. FAIN. Thank Mr. Mirabell, a cautious friend, to whose advice all is owing.
LADY. Well, Mr. Mirabell, you have kept your promise, and I must perform mine. First, I pardon for your sake Sir Rowland there and Foible. The next thing is to break the matter to my nephew, and how to do that -
MIRA. For that, madam, give yourself no trouble; let me have your consent. Sir Wilfull is my friend: he has had compassion upon lovers, and generously engaged a volunteer in this action, for our service, and now designs to prosecute his travels.
SIR WIL. 'Sheart, aunt, I have no mind to marry. My cousin's a fine lady, and the gentleman loves her and she loves him, and they deserve one another; my resolution is to see foreign parts. I have set on't, and when I'm set on't I must do't. And if these two gentlemen would travel too, I think they may be spared.
PET. For my part, I say little. I think things are best off or on.
WIT. I'gad, I understand nothing of the matter: I'm in a maze yet, like a dog in a dancing school.
LADY. Well, sir, take her, and with her all the joy I can give you.
MILLA. Why does not the man take me? Would you have me give myself to you over again?
MIRA. Ay, and over and over again. [Kisses her hand.] I would have you as often as possibly I can. Well, heav'n grant I love you not too well; that's all my fear.
SIR WIL. 'Sheart, you'll have time enough to toy after you're married, or, if you will toy now, let us have a dance in the meantime; that we who are not lovers may have some other employment besides looking on.
MIRA. With all my heart, dear Sir Wilfull. What shall we do for music?
FOIB. Oh, sir, some that were provided for Sir Rowland's entertainment are yet within call. [A dance.]
LADY. As I am a person, I can hold out no longer: I have wasted my spirits so to-day already that I am ready to sink under the fatigue; and I cannot but have some fears upon me yet, that my son Fainall will pursue some desperate course.
MIRA. Madam, disquiet not yourself on that account: to my knowledge his circumstances are such he must of force comply. For my part I will contribute all that in me lies to a reunion. In the meantime, madam [to MRS. FAINALL], let me before these witnesses restore to you this deed of trust: it may be a means, well managed, to make you live easily together.
From hence let those be warned, who mean to wed, Lest mutual falsehood stain the bridal-bed: For each deceiver to his cost may find That marriage frauds too oft are paid in kind.
EPILOGUE—Spoken by Mrs. Bracegirdle.
After our Epilogue this crowd dismisses, I'm thinking how this play'll be pulled to pieces. But pray consider, e'er you doom its fall, How hard a thing 'twould be to please you all. There are some critics so with spleen diseased, They scarcely come inclining to be pleased: And sure he must have more than mortal skill Who pleases anyone against his will. Then, all bad poets we are sure are foes, And how their number's swelled the town well knows In shoals, I've marked 'em judging in the pit; Though they're on no pretence for judgment fit, But that they have been damned for want of wit. Since when, they, by their own offences taught, Set up for spies on plays, and finding fault. Others there are whose malice we'd prevent: Such, who watch plays, with scurrilous intent To mark out who by characters are meant: And though no perfect likeness they can trace, Yet each pretends to know the copied face. These, with false glosses, feed their own ill-nature, And turn to libel what was meant a satire. May such malicious fops this fortune find, To think themselves alone the fools designed: If any are so arrogantly vain, To think they singly can support a scene, And furnish fool enough to entertain. For well the learned and the judicious know, That satire scorns to stoop so meanly low, As any one abstracted fop to show. For, as when painters form a matchless face, They from each fair one catch some diff'rent grace, And shining features in one portrait blend, To which no single beauty must pretend: So poets oft do in one piece expose Whole BELLES ASSEMBLEES of coquettes and beaux.