Interdum tamen et vocem Comoedia tollit.
Huic equidem consilio palmam do: hic me magnifice efferoqui vim tantam in me etpotestatem habeam tantae astutiaevera dicendo ut eos ambos fallam.
SYR. in TERENT. Heaut.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE CHARLES MONTAGUE
ONE OF THE LORDS OF THE TREASURY.
Sir--I heartily wish this play were as perfect as I intended itthat it might be more worthy your acceptanceand that my dedicationof it to you might be more becoming that honour and esteem which Iwith everybody who is so fortunate as to know youhave for you. Ithad your countenance when yet unknown; and now it is made publicitwants your protection.
I would not have anybody imagine that I think this play without itsfaultsfor I am conscious of several. I confess I designed(whatever vanity or ambition occasioned that design) to have writtena true and regular comedybut I found it an undertaking which putme in mind of SUDET MULTUMFRUSTRAQUE LABORET AUSUS IDEM. And nowto make amends for the vanity of such a designI do confess boththe attempt and the imperfect performance. Yet I must take theboldness to say I have not miscarried in the wholefor themechanical part of it is regular. That I may say with as littlevanity as a builder may say he has built a house according to themodel laid down before himor a gardener that he has set hisflowers in a knot of such or such a figure. I designed the moralfirstand to that moral I invented the fableand do not know thatI have borrowed one hint of it anywhere. I made the plot as strongas I could because it was singleand I made it single because Iwould avoid confusionand was resolved to preserve the threeunities of the drama. Sirthis discourse is very impertinent toyouwhose judgment much better can discern the faults than I canexcuse them; and whose good naturelike that of a loverwill findout those hidden beauties (if there are any such) which it would begreat immodesty for me to discover. I think I don't speakimproperly when I call you a LOVER of poetry; for it is very wellknown she has been a very kind mistress to you: she has not deniedyou the last favourand she has been fruitful to you in a mostbeautiful issue. If I break off abruptly hereI hope everybodywill understand that it is to avoid a commendation whichas it isyour duewould be most easy for me to payand too troublesome foryou to receive.
I have since the acting of this play harkened after the objectionswhich have been made to itfor I was conscious where a true criticmight have put me upon my defence. I was prepared for the attackand am pretty confident I could have vindicated some parts andexcused others; and where there were any plain miscarriagesI wouldmost ingenuously have confessed 'em. But I have not heard anythingsaid sufficient to provoke an answer. That which looks most like anobjection does not relate in particular to this playbut to all ormost that ever have been writtenand that is soliloquy. ThereforeI will answer itnot only for my own sakebut to save others thetroubleto whom it may hereafter be objected.
I grant that for a man to talk to himself appears absurd andunnaturaland indeed it is so in most cases; but the circumstanceswhich may attend the occasion make great alteration. It oftentimeshappens to a man to have designs which require him to himselfandin their nature cannot admit of a confidant. Such for certain isall villainyand other less mischievous intentions may be veryimproper to be communicated to a second person. In such a casethereforethe audience must observe whether the person upon thestage takes any notice of them at all or no. For if he supposes anyone to be by when he talks to himselfit is monstrous andridiculous to the last degree. Naynot only in this casebut inany part of a playif there is expressed any knowledge of anaudienceit is insufferable. But otherwisewhen a man insoliloquy reasons with himselfand PRO'S and CON'Sand weighs allhis designswe ought not to imagine that this man either talks tous or to himself; he is only thinkingand thinking such matter aswere inexcusable folly in him to speak. But because we areconcealed spectators of the plot in agitationand the poet finds itnecessary to let us know the whole mystery of his contrivancehe iswilling to inform us of this person's thoughts; and to that end isforced to make use of the expedient of speechno other better waybeing yet invented for the communication of thought.
Another very wrong objection has been made by some who have nottaken leisure to distinguish the characters. The hero of the playas they are pleased to call him (meaning Mellefont)is a gullandmade a fooland cheated. Is every man a gull and a fool that isdeceived? At that rate I'm afraid the two classes of men will bereduced to oneand the knaves themselves be at a loss to justifytheir title. But if an open-hearted honest manwho has an entireconfidence in one whom he takes to be his friendand whom he hasobliged to be soand whoto confirm him in his opinionin allappearance and upon several trials has been so: if this man bedeceived by the treachery of the othermust he of necessitycommence fool immediatelyonly because the other has proved avillain? Aybut there was caution given to Mellefont in the firstact by his friend Careless. Of what nature was that caution? Onlyto give the audience some light into the character of Maskwellbefore his appearanceand not to convince Mellefont of histreachery; for that was more than Careless was then able to do: henever knew Maskwell guilty of any villainy; he was only a sort ofman which he did not like. As for his suspecting his familiaritywith my Lady Touchwoodlet 'em examine the answer that Mellefontmakes himand compare it with the conduct of Maskwell's characterthrough the play.
I would beg 'em again to look into the character of Maskwell beforethey accuse Mellefont of weakness for being deceived by him. Forupon summing up the enquiry into this objectionit may be foundthey have mistaken cunning in one character for folly in another.
But there is one thing at which I am more concerned than all thefalse criticisms that are made upon meand that issome of theladies are offended. I am heartily sorry for itfor I declare Iwould rather disoblige all the critics in the world than one of thefair sex. They are concerned that I have represented some womenvicious and affected. How can I help it? It is the business of acomic poet to paint the vices and follies of humankind; and thereare but two sexesmale and femaleMEN and WOMENwhich have atitle to humanityand if I leave one half of them outthe workwill be imperfect. I should be very glad of an opportunity to makemy compliment to those ladies who are offended; but they can no moreexpect it in a comedy than to be tickled by a surgeon when he'sletting 'em blood. They who are virtuous or discreet should not beoffendedfor such characters as these distinguish THEMand maketheir beauties more shining and observed; and they who are of theother kind may nevertheless pass for suchby seeming not to bedispleased or touched with the satire of this COMEDY. Thus havethey also wrongfully accused me of doing them a prejudicewhen Ihave in reality done them a service.
You will pardon mesirfor the freedom I take of making answers toother people in an epistle which ought wholly to be sacred to you;but since I intend the play to be so tooI hope I may take the moreliberty of justifying it where it is in the right.
I must nowsirdeclare to the world how kind you have been to myendeavours; for in regard of what was well meantyou have excusedwhat was ill performed. I beg you would continue the same method inyour acceptance of this dedication. I know no other way of making areturn to that humanity you shewedin protecting an infantbut byenrolling it in your servicenow that it is of age and come intothe world. Therefore be pleased to accept of this as anacknowledgment of the favour you have shewn meand an earnest ofthe real service and gratitude of
Siryour most obligedhumble servant
TO MY DEAR FRIEND MR. CONGREVE
ON HIS COMEDY CALLED THE DOUBLE-DEALER.
Well thenthe promised hour is come at last;
The present age of wit obscures the past.
Strong were our sires; and as they fought they writ
Conqu'ring with force of arms and dint of wit.
Theirs was the giant racebefore the flood;
And thuswhen Charles returnedour empire stood.
Like Janus he the stubborn soil manured
With rules of husbandry the rankness cured
Tamed us to mannerswhen the stage was rude
And boist'rous English wit with art indued.
Our age was cultivated thus at length;
But what we gained in skill we lost in strength.
Our builders were with want of genius curst;
The second temple was not like the first:
Till youthe best Vitruviuscome at length
Our beauties equalbut excel our strength.
Firm Doric pillars found your solid base
The fair Corinthian crowns the higher space;
Thus all below is strengthand all above is grace.
In easy dialogue is Fletcher's praise:
He moved the mindbut had no power to raise.
Great Johnson did by strength of judgment please
Yet doubling Fletcher's forcehe wants ease.
In diff'ring talents both adorned their age;
One for the studyt'other for the stage.
But both to Congreve justly shall submit
One matched in judgmentboth o'er-matched in wit.
In him all beauties of this age we see
Etherege his courtshipSouthern's purity
The satirewitand strength of manly Wycherly.
All this in blooming youth you have achieved
Nor are your foiled contemporaries grieved;
So much the sweetness of your manners move
We cannot envy youbecause we love.
Fabius might joy in Scipiowhen he saw
A beardless consul made against the law
And join his suffrage to the votes of Rome;
Though he with Hannibal was overcome.
Thus old Romano bowed to Raphael's fame
And scholar to the youth he taught became.
O that your brows my laurel had sustained
Well had I been deposed if you had reigned!
The father had descended for the son
For only you are lineal to the throne.
Thus when the state one Edward did depose
A greater Edward in his room arose.
But nownot Ibut poetry is cursed;
For Tom the Second reigns like Tom the First.
But let 'em not mistake my patron's part
Nor call his charity their own desert.
Yet this I prophesy: Thou shalt be seen
(Though with some short parenthesis between)
High on the throne of wit; and seated there
Not mine (that's little) but thy laurel wear.
Thy first attempt an early promise made;
That early promise this has more than paid.
So boldyet so judiciously you dare
That your least praise is to be regular.
Timeplaceand action may with pains be wrought
But genius must be bornand never can be taught.
This is your portionthis your native store
Heav'nthat but once was prodigal before
To Shakespeare gave as much; she could not give him more.
Maintain your post: that's all the fame you need;
For 'tis impossible you should proceed.
Already I am worn with cares and age
And just abandoning th' ungrateful stage:
Unprofitably kept at heav'n's expense
I live a rent-charge on his providence.
But youwhom every muse and grace adorn
Whom I foresee to better fortune born
Be kind to my remains; and ohdefend
Against your judgmentyour departed friend!
Let not th' insulting foe my fame pursue;
But shade those laurels which descend to you:
And take for tribute what these lines express:
You merit more; nor could my love do less.
PROLOGUE--Spoken by Mrs. Bracegirdle.
Moors have this way (as story tells) to know
Whether their brats are truly got or no;
Into the sea the new-born babe is thrown
Thereas instinct directsto swim or drown.
A barbarous deviceto try if spouse
Has kept religiously her nuptial vows.
Such are the trials poets make of plays
Only they trust to more inconstant seas;
So does our authorthis his child commit
To the tempestuous mercy of the pit
To know if it be truly born of wit.
Critics avauntfor you are fish of prey
And feedlike sharksupon an infant play.
Be ev'ry monster of the deep away;
Let's have a fair trial and a clear sea.
Let nature workand do not damn too soon
For life will struggle long e'er it sink down:
And will at least rise thrice before it drown.
Let us considerhad it been our fate
Thus hardly to be proved legitimate:
I will not saywe'd all in danger been
Were each to suffer for his mother's sin:
But by my troth I cannot avoid thinking
How nearly some good men might have 'scaped sinking.
Butheav'n be praisedthis custom is confined
Alone to th' offspring of the muses kind:
Our Christian cuckolds are more bent to pity;
I know not one Moor-husband in the city.
I' th' good man's arms the chopping bastard thrives
For he thinks all his own that is his wives'.
Whatever fate is for this play designed
The poet's sure he shall some comfort find:
For if his muse has played him falsethe worst
That can befall himisto be divorced:
You husbands judgeif that be to be cursed.
MASKWELLa villain; pretended friend to Mellefontgallant to LadyTouchwoodand in love with Cynthia--Mr. Betterton
LORD TOUCHWOODuncle to Mellefont--Mr. Kynaston
MELLEFONTpromised toand in love with Cynthia--Mr. Williams
CARELESShis friend--Mr. Verbruggen
LORD FROTHa solemn coxcomb--Mr. Bowman
BRISKa pert coxcomb--Mr. Powell
SIR PAUL PLYANTan uxoriousfoolish old knight; brother to LadyTouchwoodand father to Cynthia--Mr. Dogget
LADY TOUCHWOODin love with Mellefont--Mrs. Barry
CYNTHIAdaughter to Sir Paul by a former wifepromised toMellefont--Mrs. Bracegirdle
LADY FROTHa great coquette; pretender to poetrywitandlearning--Mrs. Mountfort
LADY PLYANTinsolent to her husbandand easy to any pretender--Mrs. Leigh
THE SCENE: A gallery in the Lord Touchwood's housewith chambersadjoining.
THE DOUBLE-DEALER--ACT I.--SCENE I.
A gallery in the Lord Touchwood's homewith chambers adjoining.
Enter CARELESScrossing the stagewith his hatglovesand swordin his hands; as just risen from table: MELLEFONT following him.
MEL. NedNedwhither so fast? Whatturned flincher! Whyyouwo' not leave us?
CARE. Where are the women? I'm weary of guzzlingand begin tothink them the better company.
MEL. Then thy reason staggersand thou'rt almost drunk.
CARE. Nofaithbut your fools grow noisy; and if a man mustendure the noise of words without senseI think the women have moremusical voicesand become nonsense better.
MEL. Whythey are at the end of the gallery; retired to their teaand scandalaccording to their ancient customafter dinner. But Imade a pretence to follow youbecause I had something to say to youin privateand I am not like to have many opportunities thisevening.
CARE. And here's this coxcomb most critically come to interruptyou.
[To them] BRISK.
BRISK. Boysboysladswhere are you? Whatdo you give ground?Mortgage for a bottleha? Carelessthis is your trick; you'realways spoiling company by leaving it.
CARE. And thou art always spoiling company by coming in o't.
BRISK. PoohhahahaI know you envy me. Spiteproud spiteby the gods! and burning envy. I'll be judged by Mellefont herewho gives and takes raillery better than you or I. PshawmanwhenI say you spoil company by leaving itI mean you leave nobody forthe company to laugh at. I think there I was with you. HaMellefont?
MEL. O' my wordBriskthat was a home thrust; you have silencedhim.
BRISK. Ohmy dear Mellefontlet me perish if thou art not thesoul of conversationthe very essence of wit and spirit of wine.The deuce take me if there were three good things saidor oneunderstoodsince thy amputation from the body of our society. HeI think that's pretty and metaphorical enough; i'gad I could nothave said it out of thy company. Carelessha?
CARE. Humaywhat is't?
BRISK. O MON COEUR! What is't! NaygadI'll punish you for wantof apprehension. The deuce take me if I tell you.
MEL. Nonohang himhe has no taste. Butdear BriskexcusemeI have a little business.
CARE. Prithee get thee gone; thou seest we are serious.
MEL. We'll come immediatelyif you'll but go in and keep up goodhumour and sense in the company. Prithee dothey'll fall asleepelse.
BRISK. I'gadso they will. WellI willI will; gadyou shallcommand me from the Zenith to the Nadir. But the deuce take me if Isay a good thing till you come. But pritheedear roguemakehasteprithee make hasteI shall burst else. And yonder yourunclemy Lord Touchwoodswears he'll disinherit youand Sir PaulPlyant threatens to disclaim you for a son-in-lawand my Lord Frothwon't dance at your wedding to-morrow; northe deuce take meIwon't write your Epithalamium--and see what a condition you're liketo be brought to.
MEL. WellI'll speak but three wordsand follow you.
BRISK. Enoughenough. Carelessbring your apprehension alongwith you.
CARE. Pert coxcomb.
MEL. Faith'tis a good-natured coxcomband has very entertainingfollies. You must be more humane to him; at this juncture it willdo me service. I'll tell youI would have mirth continued this dayat any rate; though patience purchase follyand attention be paidwith noisethere are times when sense may be unseasonable as wellas truth. Prithee do thou wear none to-daybut allow Brisk to havewitthat thou may'st seem a fool.
CARE. Whyhow nowwhy this extravagant proposition?
MEL. OhI would have no room for serious designfor I am jealousof a plot. I would have noise and impertinence keep my LadyTouchwood's head from working: for hell is not more busy than herbrainnor contains more devils than that imaginations.
CARE. I thought your fear of her had been over. Is not to-morrowappointed for your marriage with Cynthiaand her fatherSir PaulPlyantcome to settle the writings this day on purpose?
MEL. True; but you shall judge whether I have not reason to bealarmed. None besides you and Maskwell are acquainted with thesecret of my Aunt Touchwood's violent passion for me. Since myfirst refusal of her addresses she has endeavoured to do me all illoffices with my uncleyet has managed 'em with that subtiltythatto him they have borne the face of kindness; while her malicelikea dark lanthornonly shone upon me where it was directed. Stillit gave me less perplexity to prevent the success of her displeasurethan to avoid the importunities of her loveand of two evils Ithought myself favoured in her aversion. But whether urged by herdespair and the short prospect of time she saw to accomplish herdesigns; whether the hopes of revengeor of her loveterminated inthe view of this my marriage with CynthiaI know notbut thismorning she surprised me in my bed.
CARE. Was there ever such a fury! 'Tis well nature has not put itinto her sex's power to ravish. Wellbless usproceed. Whatfollowed?
MEL. What at first amazed me--for I looked to have seen her in allthe transports of a slighted and revengeful woman--but when Iexpected thunder from her voiceand lightning in her eyesI sawher melted into tears and hushed into a sigh. It was long beforeeither of us spoke: passion had tied her tongueand amazementmine. In shortthe consequence was thusshe omitted nothing thatthe most violent love could urgeor tender words express; whichwhen she saw had no effectbut still I pleaded honour and nearnessof blood to my unclethen came the storm I feared at firstforstarting from my bed-side like a furyshe flew to my swordandwith much ado I prevented her doing me or herself a mischief.Having disarmed herin a gust of passion she left meand in aresolutionconfirmed by a thousand cursesnot to close her eyestill they had seen my ruin.
CARE. Exquisite woman! But what the devildoes she think thouhast no more sense than to get an heir upon her body to disinheritthyself? for as I take it this settlement upon you iswith aprovisothat your uncle have no children.
MEL. It is so. Wellthe service you are to do me will be apleasure to yourself: I must get you to engage my Lady Plyant allthis eveningthat my pious aunt may not work her to her interest.And if you chance to secure her to yourselfyou may incline her tomine. She's handsomeand knows it; is very sillyand thinks shehas senseand has an old fond husband.
CARE. I confessa very fair foundation for a lover to build upon.
MEL. For my Lord Frothhe and his wife will be sufficiently takenup with admiring one another and Brisk's gallantryas they call it.I'll observe my uncle myselfand Jack Maskwell has promised me towatch my aunt narrowlyand give me notice upon any suspicion. Asfor Sir Paulmy wise father-in-law that is to bemy dear Cynthiahas such a share in his fatherly fondnesshe would scarce make hera moment uneasy to have her happy hereafter.
CARE. So you have manned your works; but I wish you may not havethe weakest guard where the enemy is strongest.
MEL. Maskwellyou mean; prithee why should you suspect him?
CARE. Faith I cannot help it; you know I never liked him: I am alittle superstitious in physiognomy.
MEL. He has obligations of gratitude to bind him to me: hisdependence upon my uncle is through my means.
CARE. Upon your auntyou mean.
MEL. My aunt!
CARE. I'm mistaken if there be not a familiarity between them youdo not suspectnotwithstanding her passion for you.
MEL. Poohpooh! nothing in the world but his design to do meservice; and he endeavours to be well in her esteemthat he may beable to effect it.
CARE. WellI shall be glad to be mistaken; but your aunt'saversion in her revenge cannot be any way so effectually shown as inbringing forth a child to disinherit you. She is handsome andcunning and naturally wanton. Maskwell is flesh and blood at bestand opportunities between them are frequent. His affection to youyou have confessedis grounded upon his interestthat you havetransplanted; and should it take root in my ladyI don't see whatyou can expect from the fruit.
MEL. I confess the consequence is visiblewere your suspicionsjust. But seethe company is broke uplet's meet 'em.
[To them] LORD TOUCHWOODLORD FROTHSIR PAUL PLYANTand BRISK.
LORD TOUCH. Out upon'tnephew. Leave your father-in-law and me tomaintain our ground against young people!
MEL. I beg your lordship's pardon. We were just returning.
SIR PAUL. Were youson? Gadsbudmuch better as it is. Goodstrange! I swear I'm almost tipsy; t'other bottle would have beentoo powerful for me--as sure as can be it would. We wanted yourcompanybut Mr. Brisk--where is he? I swear and vow he's a mostfacetious personand the best company. Andmy Lord Frothyourlordship is so merry a manhehehe.
LORD FROTH. OhfoySir Paulwhat do you mean? Merry! Ohbarbarous! I'd as lieve you called me fool.
SIR PAUL. NayI protest and vow now'tis true; when Mr. Briskjokesyour lordship's laugh does so become youhehehe.
LORD FROTH. Ridiculous! Sir Paulyou're strangely mistakenIfind champagne is powerful. I assure youSir PaulI laugh atnobody's jest but my ownor a lady'sI assure youSir Paul.
BRISK. How? howmy lord? whataffront my wit! Let me perishdoI never say anything worthy to be laughed at?
LORD FROTH. Ohfoydon't misapprehend me; I don't say sofor Ioften smile at your conceptions. But there is nothing moreunbecoming a man of quality than to laugh; 'tis such a vulgarexpression of the passion; everybody can laugh. Then especially tolaugh at the jest of an inferior personor when anybody else of thesame quality does not laugh with one--ridiculous! To be pleasedwith what pleases the crowd! Now when I laughI always laughalone.
BRISK. I suppose that's because you laugh at your own jestsi'gadhahaha.
LORD FROTH. HeheI swear thoughyour raillery provokes me to asmile.
BRISK. Aymy lordit's a sign I hit you in the teethif you show'em.
LORD FROTH. HeheheI swear that's so very prettyI can'tforbear.
CARE. I find a quibble bears more sway in your lordship's face thana jest.
LORD TOUCH. Sir Paulif you please we'll retire to the ladiesanddrink a dish of tea to settle our heads.
SIR PAUL. With all my heart. Mr. Briskyou'll come to usor callme when you joke; I'll be ready to laugh incontinently.
MEL. But does your lordship never see comedies?
LORD FROTH. Oh yessometimes; but I never laugh.
LORD FROTH. Oh no; never laugh indeedsir.
CARE. No! whywhat d'ye go there for?
LORD FROTH. To distinguish myself from the commonalty and mortifythe poets; the fellows grow so conceitedwhen any of their foolishwit prevails upon the side-boxes. I swear--heheheI haveoften constrained my inclinations to laugh--heheheto avoidgiving them encouragement.
MEL. You are cruel to yourselfmy lordas well as malicious tothem.
LORD FROTH. I confess I did myself some violence at firstbut nowI think I have conquered it.
BRISK. Let me perishmy lordbut there is something veryparticular in the humour; 'tis true it makes against witand I'msorry for some friends of mine that write; buti'gadI love to bemalicious. Naydeuce take methere's wit in'ttoo. And wit mustbe foiled by wit; cut a diamond with a diamondno other wayi'gad.
LORD FROTH. OhI thought you would not be long before you foundout the wit.
CARE. Wit! In what? Where the devil's the wit in not laughingwhen a man has a mind to't?
BRISK. O Lordwhy can't you find it out? Whythere 'tisin thenot laughing. Don't you apprehend me? My lordCareless is a veryhonest fellowbut harkeeyou understand mesomewhat heavyalittle shallowor so. WhyI'll tell you nowsuppose now you comeup to me--naypritheeCarelessbe instructed. Supposeas I wassayingyou come up to me holding your sidesand laughing as if youwould--well--I look graveand ask the cause of this immoderatemirth. You laugh on stilland are not able to tell mestill Ilook gravenot so much as smile.
CARE. Smilenowhat the devil should you smile atwhen yousuppose I can't tell you!
BRISK. Pshawpshawprithee don't interrupt me. But I tell youyou shall tell me at lastbut it shall be a great while first.
CARE. Wellbut prithee don't let it be a great whilebecause Ilong to have it over.
BRISK. Well thenyou tell me some good jest or some very wittythinglaughing all the while as if you were ready to dieand Ihear itand look thus. Would not you be disappointed?
CARE. No; for if it were a witty thing I should not expect you tounderstand it.
LORD FROTH. OhfoyMr. Carelessall the world allows Mr. Briskto have wit; my wife says he has a great deal. I hope you think hera judge.
BRISK. Poohmy lordhis voice goes for nothing; I can't tell howto make him apprehend. Take it t'other way. Suppose I say a wittything to you?
CARE. Then I shall be disappointed indeed.
MEL. Let him aloneBriskhe is obstinately bent not to beinstructed.
BRISK. I'm sorry for himthe deuce take me.
MEL. Shall we go to the ladiesmy lord?
LORD FROTH. With all my heart; methinks we are a solitude without'em.
MEL. Or what say you to another bottle of champagne?
LORD FROTH. Ohfor the universe not a drop moreI beseech you.Ohintemperate! I have a flushing in my face already. [Takes outa pocket-glass and looks in it.]
BRISK. Let me seelet me seemy lordI broke my glass that wasin the lid of my snuff-box. Hum! Deuce take meI have encourageda pimple here too. [Takes the glass and looks.]
LORD FROTH. Then you must mortify him with a patch; my wife shallsupply you. ComegentlemenALLONShere is company coming.
LADY TOUCHWOOD and MASKWELL.
LADY TOUCH. I'll hear no more. You are false and ungrateful; comeI know you false.
MASK. I have been frailI confessmadamfor your ladyship'sservice.
LADY TOUCH. That I should trust a man whom I had known betray hisfriend!
MASK. What friend have I betrayed? or to whom?
LADY TOUCH. Your fond friend Mellefontand to me; can you deny it?
MASK. I do not.
LADY TOUCH. Have you not wronged my lordwho has been a father toyou in your wantsand given you being? Have you not wronged him inthe highest mannerin his bed?
MASK. With your ladyship's helpand for your serviceas I toldyou before. I can't deny that neither. Anything moremadam?
LADY TOUCH. More! Audacious villain! Ohwhat's moreis most myshame. Have you not dishonoured me?
MASK. Nothat I deny; for I never told in all my life: so thataccusation's answered; on to the next.
LADY TOUCH. Deathdo you dally with my passion? Insolent devil!But have a care--provoke me not; forby the eternal fireyoushall not 'scape my vengeance. Calm villain! How unconcerned hestandsconfessing treachery and ingratitude! Is there a vice moreblack? OhI have excuses thousands for my faults; fire in mytemperpassions in my soulapt to ev'ry provocationoppressed atonce with loveand with despair. But a sedatea thinking villainwhose black blood runs temperately badwhat excuse can clear?
MASK. Will you be in tempermadam? I would not talk not to beheard. I have been [she walks about disordered] a very great roguefor your sakeand you reproach me with it; I am ready to be a roguestillto do you service; and you are flinging conscience and honourin my faceto rebate my inclinations. How am I to behave myself?You know I am your creaturemy life and fortune in your power; todisoblige you brings me certain ruin. Allow it I would betray youI would not be a traitor to myself: I don't pretend to honestybecause you know I am a rascal; but I would convince you from thenecessity of my being firm to you.
LADY TOUCH. Necessityimpudence! Can no gratitude incline younoobligations touch you? Have not my fortune and my person beensubjected to your pleasure? Were you not in the nature of aservantand have not I in effect made you lord of allof meandof my lord? Where is that humble lovethe languishingthatadorationwhich once was paid meand everlastingly engaged?
MASK. Fixtrooted in my heartwhence nothing can remove 'emyetyou -
LADY TOUCH. Yetwhat yet?
MASK. Naymisconceive me notmadamwhen I say I have had agen'rous and a faithful passionwhich you had never favouredbutthrough revenge and policy.
LADY TOUCH. Ha!
MASK. Look youmadamwe are alone--pray contain yourself andhear me. You know you loved your nephew when I first sighed foryou; I quickly found it: an argument that I lovedfor with thatart you veiled your passion 'twas imperceptible to all but jealouseyes. This discovery made me bold; I confess it; for by it Ithought you in my power. Your nephew's scorn of you added to myhopes; I watched the occasionand took youjust repulsed by himwarm at once with love and indignation; your dispositionmyargumentsand happy opportunity accomplished my design; I pressedthe yielding minuteand was blest. How I have loved you sincewords have not shownthen how should words express?
LADY TOUCH. Wellmollifying devil! And have I not met your lovewith forward fire?
MASK. Your zealI grantwas ardentbut misplaced; there wasrevenge in view; that woman's idol had defiled the temple of thegodand love was made a mock-worship. A son and heir would haveedged young Mellefont upon the brink of ruinand left him none butyou to catch at for prevention.
LADY TOUCH. Again provoke me! Do you wind me like a larumonly torouse my own stilled soul for your diversion? Confusion!
MASK. NaymadamI'm goneif you relapse. What needs this? Isay nothing but what you yourselfin open hours of lovehave toldme. Why should you deny it? Nayhow can you? Is not all thispresent heat owing to the same fire? Do you not love him still?How have I this day offended youbut in not breaking off his matchwith Cynthia? whichere to-morrowshall be donehad you butpatience.
LADY TOUCH. Howwhat said youMaskwell? Another caprice tounwind my temper?
MASK. By heav'nno; I am your slavethe slave of all yourpleasures; and will not rest till I have given you peacewould yousuffer me.
LADY TOUCH. O Maskwell! in vain I do disguise me from theethouknow'st meknowest the very inmost windings and recesses of mysoul. O Mellefont! I burn; married to morrow! Despair strikes me.Yet my soul knows I hate him too: let him but once be mineandnext immediate ruin seize him.
MASK. Compose yourselfyou shall possess and ruin him too--willthat please you?
LADY TOUCH. Howhow? Thou dearthou precious villainhow?
MASK. You have already been tampering with my Lady Plyant.
LADY TOUCH. I have: she is ready for any impression I think fit.
MASK. She must be throughly persuaded that Mellefont loves her.
LADY TOUCH. She is so credulous that way naturallyand likes himso wellthat she will believe it faster than I can persuade her.But I don't see what you can propose from such a trifling designfor her first conversing with Mellefont will convince her of thecontrary.
MASK. I know it. I don't depend upon it. But it will preparesomething elseand gain us leisure to lay a stronger plot. If Igain a little timeI shall not want contrivance.
One minute gives invention to destroy
What to rebuild will a whole age employ.
ACT II.--SCENE I.
LADY FROTH and CYNTHIA.
CYNT. Indeedmadam! Is it possible your ladyship could have beenso much in love?
LADY FROTH. I could not sleep; I did not sleep one wink for threeweeks together.
CYNT. Prodigious! I wonder want of sleepand so much love and somuch wit as your ladyship hasdid not turn your brain.
LADY FROTH. Ohmy dear Cynthiayou must not rally your friend.But reallyas you sayI wonder too. But then I had a way. Forbetween you and II had whimsies and vapoursbut I gave them vent.
LADY FROTH. OhI writwrit abundantly. Do you never write?
CYNT. Write what?
LADY FROTH. Songselegiessatiresencomiumspanegyricslampoonsplaysor heroic poems?
CYNT. O Lordnot Imadam; I'm content to be a courteous reader.
LADY FROTH. Ohinconsistent! In love and not write! If my lordand I had been both of your temperwe had never come together. Ohbless me! What a sad thing would that have beenif my lord and Ishould never have met!
CYNT. Then neither my lord nor you would ever have met with yourmatchon my conscience.
LADY FROTH. O' my conscienceno more we should; thou say'st right.For sure my Lord Froth is as fine a gentleman and as much a man ofquality! Ah! nothing at all of the common air. I think I may sayhe wants nothing but a blue ribbon and a star to make him shinethevery phosphorus of our hemisphere. Do you understand those two hardwords? If you don'tI'll explain 'em to you.
CYNT. YesyesmadamI'm not so ignorant.--At least I won't ownitto be troubled with your instructions. [Aside.]
LADY FROTH. NayI beg your pardon; but being derived from theGreekI thought you might have escaped the etymology. But I'm themore amazed to find you a woman of letters and not write! Bless me!how can Mellefont believe you love him?
CYNT. Whyfaithmadamhe that won't take my word shall neverhave it under my hand.
LADY FROTH. I vow Mellefont's a pretty gentlemanbut methinks hewants a manner.
CYNT. A manner! What's thatmadam?
LADY FROTH. Some distinguishing qualityasfor examplethe BELAIR or BRILLANT of Mr. Brisk; the solemnityyet complaisance of mylordor something of his own that should look a little JE-NE-SAIS-QUOISH; he is too much a mediocrityin my mind.
CYNT. He does not indeed affect either pertness or formality; forwhich I like him. Here he comes.
LADY FROTH. And my lord with him. Pray observe the difference.
[To them] LORD FROTHMELLEFONTand BRISK.
CYNT. Impertinent creature! I could almost be angry with her now.[Aside.]
LADY FROTH. My lordI have been telling Cynthia how much I havebeen in love with you; I swear I have; I'm not ashamed to own itnow. Ah! it makes my heart leapI vow I sigh when I think on't.My dear lord! Hahahado you remembermy lord? [Squeezes himby the handlooks kindly on himsighsand then laughs out.]
LORD FROTH. Pleasant creature! perfectly wellah! that lookaythere it is; who could resist? 'twas so my heart was made a captivefirstand ever since t'has been in love with happy slavery.
LADY FROTH. Ohthat tonguethat dear deceitful tongue! thatcharming softness in your mien and your expressionand then yourbow! Good my lordbow as you did when I gave you my picture; heresuppose this my picture. [Gives him a pocket-glass.] Pray mindmylord; ah! he bows charmingly; naymy lordyou shan't kiss it somuch; I shall grow jealousI vow now. [He bows profoundly lowthen kisses the glass.]
LORD FROTH. I saw myself thereand kissed it for your sake.
LADY FROTH. Ah! Gallantry to the last degree. Mr. Briskyou're ajudge; was ever anything so well bred as my lord?
BRISK. Never anythingbut your ladyship; let me perish.
LADY FROTH. Ohprettily turned again; let me diebut you have agreat deal of wit. Mr. Mellefontdon't you think Mr. Brisk has aworld of wit?
MEL. O yesmadam.
BRISK. O dearmadam -
LADY FROTH. An infinite deal!
BRISK. O heav'nsmadam -
LADY FROTH. More wit than anybody.
BRISK. I'm everlastingly your humble servantdeuce take memadam.
LORD FROTH. Don't you think us a happy couple?
CYNT. I vowmy lordI think you the happiest couple in the worldfor you're not only happy in one anotherand when you are togetherbut happy in yourselvesand by yourselves.
LORD FROTH. I hope Mellefont will make a good husband too.
CYNT. 'Tis my interest to believe he willmy Lord.
LORD FROTH. D'ye think he'll love you as well as I do my wife? I'mafraid not.
CYNT. I believe he'll love me better.
LORD FROTH. Heav'ns! that can never be. But why do you think so?
CYNT. Because he has not so much reason to be fond of himself.
LORD FROTH. Ohyour humble servant for thatdear madam. WellMellefontyou'll be a happy creature.
MEL. Aymy lordI shall have the same reason for my happinessthat your lordship hasI shall think myself happy.
LORD FROTH. Ahthat's all.
BRISK. [To LADY FROTH.] Your ladyship is in the right; buti'gadI'm wholly turned into satire. I confess I write but seldombutwhen I do--keen iambicsi'gad. But my lord was telling me yourladyship has made an essay toward an heroic poem.
LADY FROTH. Did my lord tell you? YesI vowand the subject ismy lord's love to me. And what do you think I call it? I dareswear you won't guess--THE SILLABUBhahaha.
BRISK. Because my lord's title's Frothi'gadhahahadeucetake mevery e propos and surprisinghahaha.
LADY FROTH. Heayis not it? And then I call my lord Spumoso;and myselfwhat d'ye think I call myself?
BRISK. Lactillamay be--i'gadI cannot tell.
LADY FROTH. Biddythat's all; just my own name.
BRISK. Biddy! I'gadvery pretty. Deuce take me if your ladyshiphas not the art of surprising the most naturally in the world. Ihope you'll make me happy in communicating the poem.
LADY FROTH. Ohyou must be my confidantI must ask your advice.
BRISK. I'm your humble servantlet me perish. I presume yourladyship has read Bossu?
LADY FROTH. Oh yesand Racineand Dacier upon Aristotle andHorace. My lordyou must not be jealousI'm communicating all toMr. Brisk.
LORD FROTH. NonoI'll allow Mr. Brisk; have you nothing aboutyou to shew himmy dear?
LADY FROTH. YesI believe I have. Mr. Briskcomewill you gointo the next room? and there I'll shew you what I have.
LORD FROTH. I'll walk a turn in the gardenand come to you.
MEL. You're thoughtfulCynthia?
CYNT. I'm thinkingthough marriage makes man and wife one fleshit leaves 'em still two fools; and they become more conspicuous bysetting off one another.
MEL. That's only when two fools meetand their follies areopposed.
CYNT. NayI have known two wits meetand by the opposition oftheir wit render themselves as ridiculous as fools. 'Tis an oddgame we're going to play at. What think you of drawing stakesandgiving over in time?
MEL. Nohang'tthat's not endeavouring to winbecause it'spossible we may lose; since we have shuffled and cutlet's eventurn up trump now.
CYNT. Then I find it's like cardsif either of us have a good handit is an accident of fortune.
MEL. Nomarriage is rather like a game at bowls: fortune indeedmakes the matchand the two nearestand sometimes the twofarthestare togetherbut the game depends entirely upon judgment.
CYNT. Still it is a gameand consequently one of us must be aloser.
MEL. Not at all; only a friendly trial of skilland the winningsto be laid out in an entertainment. What's herethe music? Ohmylord has promised the company a new song; we'll get 'em to give itus by the way. [Musicians crossing the stage.] Pray let us havethe favour of youto practise the song before the company hear it.
Cynthia frowns whene'er I woo her
Yet she's vext if I give over;
Much she fears I should undo her
But much more to lose her lover:
Thusin doubtingshe refuses;
And not winningthus she loses.
PritheeCynthialook behind you
Age and wrinkles will o'ertake you;
Then too late desire will find you
When the power must forsake you:
ThinkO think o' th' sad condition
To be pastyet wish fruition.
MEL. You shall have my thanks below. [To the musiciansthey goout.]
[To them] SIR PAUL PLYANT and LADY PLYANT.
SIR PAUL. Gadsbud! I am provoked into a fermentationas my LadyFroth says; was ever the like read of in story?
LADY PLYANT. Sir Paulhave patiencelet me alone to rattle himup.
SIR PAUL. Prayyour ladyshipgive me leave to be angry. I'llrattle him upI warrant youI'll firk him with a CERTIORARI.
LADY PLYANT. You firk himI'll firk him myself; praySir Paulhold you contented.
CYNT. Bless mewhat makes my father in such a passion? I neversaw him thus before.
SIR PAUL. Hold yourself contentedmy Lady Plyant. I find passioncoming upon me by inflationand I cannot submit as formerlytherefore give way.
LADY PLYANT. How now! will you be pleased to retire and -
SIR PAUL. Nomarry will I not be pleased: I am pleased to beangrythat's my pleasure at this time.
MEL. What can this mean?
LADY PLYANT. Gads my lifethe man's distracted; whyhow nowwhoare you? What am I? Slidikinscan't I govern you? What did Imarry you for? Am I not to be absolute and uncontrollable? Is itfit a woman of my spirit and conduct should be contradicted in amatter of this concern?
SIR PAUL. It concerns me and only me. BesidesI'm not to begoverned at all times. When I am in tranquillitymy Lady Plyantshall command Sir Paul; but when I am provoked to furyI cannotincorporate with patience and reason: as soon may tigers match withtigerslambs with lambsand every creature couple with its foeasthe poet says.
LADY PLYANT. He's hot-headed still! 'Tis in vain to talk to you;but remember I have a curtain-lecture for youyou disobedientheadstrong brute.
SIR PAUL. No'tis because I won't be headstrongbecause I won'tbe a bruteand have my head fortifiedthat I am thus exasperated.But I will protect my honourand yonder is the violator of my fame.
LADY PLYANT. 'Tis my honour that is concernedand the violationwas intended to me. Your honour! You have none but what is in mykeepingand I can dispose of it when I please: therefore don'tprovoke me.
SIR PAUL. Humgadsbudshe says true. Wellmy ladymarch on; Iwill fight under youthen: I am convincedas far as passion willpermit. [LADY PLYANT and SIR PAUL come up to MELLEFONT.]
LADY PLYANT. Inhuman and treacherous -
SIR PAUL. Thou serpent and first tempter of womankind.
CYNT. Bless me! Sirmadamwhat mean you?
SIR PAUL. ThyThycome awayThy; touch him not. Come hithergirl; go not near himthere's nothing but deceit about him. Snakesare in his perukeand the crocodile of Nilus is in his belly; hewill eat thee up alive.
LADY PLYANT. Dishonourableimpudent creature!
MEL. For heav'n's sakemadamto whom do you direct this language?
LADY PLYANT. Have I behaved myself with all the decorum and nicetybefitting the person of Sir Paul's wife? Have I preserved my honouras it were in a snow-house for these three years past? Have I beenwhite and unsullied even by Sir Paul himself?
SIR PAUL. Nayshe has been an invincible wifeeven to me; that'sthe truth on't.
LADY PLYANT. Have II saypreserved myself like a fair sheet ofpaper for you to make a blot upon?
SIR PAUL. And she shall make a simile with any woman in England.
MEL. I am so amazedI know not what to say.
SIR PAUL. Do you think my daughterthis pretty creature--gadsbudshe's a wife for a cherubim!--do you think her fit for nothing butto be a stalking horseto stand before youwhile you take aim atmy wife? GadsbudI was never angry before in my lifeand I'llnever be appeased again.
MEL. Hell and damnation! This is my aunt; such malice can beengendered nowhere else. [Aside.]
LADY PLYANT. Sir Paultake Cynthia from his sight; leave me tostrike him with the remorse of his intended crime.
CYNT. Praysirstayhear him; I dare affirm he's innocent.
SIR PAUL. Innocent! Whyhark'ee--come hitherThy--hark'eeI hadit from his auntmy sister Touchwood. Gadsbudhe does not care afarthing for anything of thee but thy portion. Whyhe's in lovewith my wife. He would have tantalised theeand made a cuckold ofthy poor fatherand that would certainly have broke my heart. I'msureif ever I should have hornsthey would kill me; they wouldnever come kindly--I should die of 'em like a child that was cuttinghis teeth--I should indeedThy--therefore come away; but providencehas prevented alltherefore come away when I bid you.
CYNT. I must obey.
LADY PLYANT. Ohsuch a thing! the impiety of it startles me--towrong so goodso fair a creatureand one that loves you tenderly--'tis a barbarity of barbaritiesand nothing could be guilty of it -
MEL. But the greatest villain imagination can formI grant it; andnext to the villainy of such a fact is the villainy of aspersing mewith the guilt. How? which way was I to wrong her? For yet Iunderstand you not.
LADY PLYANT. Whygads my lifecousin Mellefontyou cannot be soperemptory as to deny itwhen I tax you with it to your face? fornow Sir Paul's goneyou are CORUM NOBUS.
MEL. By heav'nI love her more than life or -
LADY PLYANT. Fiddle faddledon't tell me of this and thatandeverything in the worldbut give me mathemacular demonstration;answer me directly. But I have not patience. Ohthe impiety ofitas I was sayingand the unparalleled wickedness! O mercifulFather! How could you think to reverse nature soto make thedaughter the means of procuring the mother?
MEL. The daughter to procure the mother!
LADY PLYANT. Ayfor though I am not Cynthia's own motherI am herfather's wifeand that's near enough to make it incest.
MEL. Incest! O my precious auntand the devil in conjunction.[Aside.]
LADY PLYANT. Ohreflect upon the horror of thatand then theguilt of deceiving everybody; marrying the daughteronly to make acuckold of the father; and then seducing medebauching my purityand perverting me from the road of virtue in which I have trod thuslongand never made one tripnot one FAUX PAS. Ohconsider it!What would you have to answer for if you should provoke me tofrailty? Alas! humanity is feebleheav'n knows! very feebleandunable to support itself.
MEL. Where am I? is it day? and am I awake? Madam -
LADY PLYANT. And nobody knows how circumstances may happentogether. To my thinkingnow I could resist the strongesttemptation. But yet I know'tis impossible for me to know whetherI could or not; there's no certainty in the things of this life.
MEL. Madampray give me leave to ask you one question.
LADY PLYANT. O Lordask me the question; I'll swear I'll refuseitI swear I'll deny it--therefore don't ask me; nayyou shan'task meI swear I'll deny it. O Geminiyou have brought all theblood into my face; I warrant I am as red as a turkey-cock. O fiecousin Mellefont!
MEL. Naymadamhear me; I mean -
LADY PLYANT. Hear you? Nono; I'll deny you first and hear youafterwards. For one does not know how one's mind may change uponhearing. Hearing is one of the sensesand all the senses arefallible. I won't trust my honourI assure you; my honour isinfallible and uncomeatable.
MEL. For heav'n's sakemadam -
LADY PLYANT. Ohname it no more. Bless mehow can you talk ofheav'nand have so much wickedness in your heart? May be you don'tthink it a sin--they say some of you gentlemen don't think it a sin.May be it is no sin to them that don't think it so; indeedif I didnot think it a sin--But still my honourif it were no sin. Butthento marry my daughter for the conveniency of frequentopportunitiesI'll never consent to that; as sure as can beI'llbreak the match.
MEL. Death and amazement! Madamupon my knees -
LADY PLYANT. Naynayrise up; comeyou shall see my good-nature.I know love is powerfuland nobody can help his passion. 'Tis notyour fault; norI swearit is not mine. How can I help itif Ihave charms? And how can you help itif you are made a captive? Iswear it is pity it should be a fault. But my honour--wellbutyour honourtoo--but the sin!--wellbut the necessity--O Lordhere's somebody comingI dare not stay. Wellyou must consider ofyour crime; and strive as much as can be against it--strivebesure. But don't be melancholic; don't despair. But never thinkthat I'll grant you anything. O Lordno. But be sure you layaside all thoughts of the marriagefor though I know you don't loveCynthiaonly as a blind for your passion to meyet it will make mejealous. O Lordwhat did I say? Jealous! nonoI can't bejealousfor I must not love you; therefore don't hope--but don'tdespair neither. Ohthey're comingI must fly.
MEL. [After a pause.] So thenspite of my care and foresightIam caughtcaught in my security. Yet this was but a shallowartificeunworthy of my Machiavellian aunt. There must be morebehind: this is but the first flashthe priming of her engine.Destruction follows hardif not most presently prevented.
[To him] MASKWELL.
MEL. Maskwellwelcomethy presence is a view of landappearingto my shipwrecked hopes. The witch has raised the stormand herministers have done their work: you see the vessels are parted.
MASK. I know it. I met Sir Paul towing away Cynthia. Cometrouble not your head; I'll join you together ere to-morrow morningor drown between you in the attempt.
MEL. There's comfort in a hand stretched out to one that's sinking;though ne'er so far off.
MASK. No sinkingnor no danger. Comecheer up; whyyou don'tknow that while I plead for youyour aunt has given me a retainingfee. NayI am your greatest enemyand she does but journey-workunder me.
MEL. Ha! how's this?
MASK. What d'ye think of my being employed in the execution of allher plots? Hahahaby heav'nit's true: I have undertaken tobreak the match; I have undertaken to make your uncle disinherityou; to get you turned out of doors; and to--hahahaI can'ttell you for laughing. Ohshe has opened her heart to me! I am toturn you a-grazingand to--hahahamarry Cynthia myself.There's a plot for you.
MEL. Ha! OhseeI see my rising sun! Light breaks throughclouds upon meand I shall live in day--Ohmy Maskwell! how shallI thank or praise thee? Thou hast outwitted woman. Buttell mehow couldst thou thus get into her confidence? Ha! How? But wasit her contrivance to persuade my Lady Plyant to this extravagantbelief?
MASK. It was; and to tell you the truthI encouraged it for yourdiversion. Though it made you a little uneasy for the presentyetthe reflection of it must needs be entertaining. I warrant she wasvery violent at first.
MEL. Hahahaaya very fury; but I was most afraid of herviolence at last. If you had not come as you didI don't know whatshe might have attempted.
MASK. HahahaI know her temper. Wellyou must knowthenthat all my contrivances were but bubblestill at last I pretendedto have been long secretly in love with Cynthia; that did mybusinessthat convinced your aunt I might be trusted; since it wasas much my interest as hers to break the match. Thenshe thoughtmy jealousy might qualify me to assist her in her revenge. Andinshortin that belieftold me the secrets of her heart. At lengthwe made this agreementif I accomplish her designs (as I told youbefore) she has engaged to put Cynthia with all her fortune into mypower.
MEL. She is most gracious in her favour. Wellanddear Jackhowhast thou contrived?
MASK. I would not have you stay to hear it now; for I don't knowbut she may come this way. I am to meet her anon; after thatI'lltell you the whole matter. Be here in this gallery an hour hence;by that time I imagine our consultation may be over.
MEL. I will; till then success attend thee.
Till thensuccess will attend me; for when I meet youI meet theonly obstacle to my fortune. Cynthialet thy beauty gild mycrimes; and whatsoever I commit of treachery or deceitshall beimputed to me as a merit. Treachery? What treachery? Love cancelsall the bonds of friendshipand sets men right upon their firstfoundations.
Duty to kingspiety to parentsgratitude to benefactorsandfidelity to friendsare different and particular ties. But thename of rival cuts 'em all asunderand is a general acquittance.Rival is equaland love like death an universal leveller ofmankind. Ha! But is there not such a thing as honesty? Yesandwhosoever has it about himbears an enemy in his breast. For yourhonest manas I take itis that nicescrupulousconscientiouspersonwho will cheat nobody but himself; such another coxcomb asyour wise manwho is too hard for all the worldand will be made afool of by nobody but himself; hahaha. Wellfor wisdom andhonesty give me cunning and hypocrisy; oh'tis such a pleasure toangle for fair-faced fools! Then that hungry gudgeon credulity willbite at anything. Whylet me seeI have the same facethe samewords and accents when I speak what I do thinkand when I speakwhat I do not thinkthe very same; and dear dissimulation is theonly art not to be known from nature.
Why will mankind be foolsand be deceived
And why are friends' and lovers' oaths believed
When eachwho searches strictly his own mind
May so much fraud and power of baseness find?
ACT III.--SCENE I.
LORD TOUCHWOOD and LADY TOUCHWOOD.
LADY TOUCH. My lordcan you blame my brother Plyant if he refusehis daughter upon this provocation? The contract's void by thisunheard-of impiety.
LORD TOUCH. I don't believe it true; he has better principles.Pho'tis nonsense. ComecomeI know my Lady Plyant has a largeeyeand would centre everything in her own circle; 'tis not thefirst time she has mistaken respect for loveand made Sir Pauljealous of the civility of an undesigning personthe better tobespeak his security in her unfeigned pleasures.
LADY TOUCH. You censure hardlymy lord; my sister's honour is verywell known.
LORD TOUCH. YesI believe I know some that have been familiarlyacquainted with it. This is a little trick wrought by some pitifulcontriverenvious of my nephew's merit.
LADY TOUCH. Naymy lordit may be soand I hope it will be foundso. But that will require some time; for in such a case as thisdemonstration is necessary.
LORD TOUCH. There should have been demonstration of the contrarytoobefore it had been believed.
LADY TOUCH. So I suppose there was.
LORD TOUCH. How? Where? When?
LADY TOUCH. That I can't tell; nayI don't say there was. I amwilling to believe as favourably of my nephew as I can.
LORD TOUCH. I don't know that. [Half aside.]
LADY TOUCH. How? Don't you believe thatsay youmy lord?
LORD TOUCH. NoI don't say so. I confess I am troubled to findyou so cold in his defence.
LADY TOUCH. His defence! Bless mewould you have me defend an illthing?
LORD TOUCH. You believe itthen?
LADY TOUCH. I don't know; I am very unwilling to speak my thoughtsin anything that may be to my cousin's disadvantage: besidesIfindmy lordyou are prepared to receive an ill impression fromany opinion of mine which is not consenting with your own. Butsince I am like to be suspected in the endand 'tis a pain anylonger to dissembleI own it to you; in short I do believe itnayand can believe anything worseif it were laid to his charge.Don't ask me my reasonsmy lordfor they are not fit to be toldyou.
LORD TOUCH. I'm amazed: there must be something more than ordinaryin this. [Aside.] Not fit to be told memadam? You can have nointerests wherein I am not concernedand consequently the samereasons ought to be convincing to mewhich create your satisfactionor disquiet.
LADY TOUCH. But those which cause my disquiet I am willing to haveremote from your hearing. Good my lorddon't press me.
LORD TOUCH. Don't oblige me to press you.
LADY TOUCH. Whatever it was'tis past. And that is better to beunknown which cannot be prevented; therefore let me beg you to restsatisfied.
LORD TOUCH. When you have told meI will.
LADY TOUCH. You won't.
LORD TOUCH. By my lifemy dearI will.
LADY TOUCH. What if you can't?
LORD TOUCH. How? Then I must knownayI will. No more trifling.I charge you tell me. By all our mutual peace to come; upon yourduty -
LADY TOUCH. Naymy lordyou need say no moreto make me lay myheart before youbut don't be thus transported; compose yourself.It is not of concern to make you lose one minute's temper. 'Tisnotindeedmy dear. Nayby this kiss you shan't be angry. OLordI wish I had not told you anything. Indeedmy lordyou havefrighted me. Naylook pleasedI'll tell you.
LORD TOUCH. Wellwell.
LADY TOUCH. Naybut will you be calm? Indeed it's nothing but -
LORD TOUCH. But what?
LADY TOUCH. But will you promise me not to be angry? Nayyoumust--not to be angry with Mellefont? I dare swear he's sorryandwere it to do againwould not -
LORD TOUCH. Sorry for what? 'Deathyou rack me with delay.
LADY TOUCH. Nayno great matteronly--wellI have your promise.Phowhy nothingonly your nephew had a mind to amuse himselfsometimes with a little gallantry towards me. NayI can't think hemeant anything seriouslybut methought it looked oddly.
LORD TOUCH. Confusion and hellwhat do I hear?
LADY TOUCH. Ormay behe thought he was not enough akin to meupon your accountand had a mind to create a nearer relation on hisown; a lover you knowmy lord. Hahaha. Wellbut that's all.Now you have it; well remember your promisemy lordand don't takeany notice of it to him.
LORD TOUCH. Nonono. Damnation!
LADY TOUCH. NayI swear you must not. A little harmless mirth;only misplacedthat's all. But if it were more'tis over nowandall's well. For my part I have forgot itand so has heI hope--for I have not heard anything from him these two days.
LORD TOUCH. These two days! Is it so fresh? Unnatural villain!DeathI'll have him stripped and turned naked out of my doors thismomentand let him rot and perishincestuous brute!
LADY TOUCH. Ohfor heav'n's sakemy lordyou'll ruin me if youtake such public notice of it; it will be a town talk. Consideryour own and my honour; nayI told you you would not be satisfiedwhen you knew it.
LORD TOUCH. Before I've done I will be satisfied. Ungratefulmonster! how long?
LADY TOUCH. LordI don't know; I wish my lips had grown togetherwhen I told you. Almost a twelvemonth. NayI won't tell you anymore till you are yourself. Praymy lorddon't let the companysee you in this disorder. YetI confessI can't blame you; for Ithink I was never so surprised in my life. Who would have thoughtmy nephew could have so misconstrued my kindness? But will you gointo your closetand recover your temper. I'll make an excuse ofsudden business to the companyand come to you. Praygooddearmy lordlet me beg you do now. I'll come immediately and tell youall; will youmy lord?
LORD TOUCH. I will--I am mute with wonder.
LADY TOUCH. Wellbut go nowhere's somebody coming.
LORD TOUCH. WellI go. You won't stay? for I would hear more ofthis.
LADY TOUCH. I follow instantly. So.
MASK. This was a masterpieceand did not need my helpthough Istood ready for a cue to come in and confirm allhad there beenoccasion.
LADY TOUCH. Have you seen Mellefont?
MASK. I have; and am to meet him here about this time.
LADY TOUCH. How does he bear his disappointment?
MASK. Secure in my assistancehe seemed not much afflictedbutrather laughed at the shallow artificewhich so little time must ofnecessity discover. Yet he is apprehensive of some farther designof yoursand has engaged me to watch you. I believe he will hardlybe able to prevent your plotyet I would have you use caution andexpedition.
LADY TOUCH. Expedition indeedfor all we do must be performed inthe remaining part of this eveningand before the company break uplest my lord should cool and have an opportunity to talk with himprivately. My lord must not see him again.
MASK. By no means; therefore you must aggravate my lord'sdispleasure to a degree that will admit of no conference with him.What think you of mentioning me?
LADY TOUCH. How?
MASK. To my lordas having been privy to Mellefont's design uponyoubut still using my utmost endeavours to dissuade himthough myfriendship and love to him has made me conceal it; yet you may sayI threatened the next time he attempted anything of that kind todiscover it to my lord.
LADY TOUCH. To what end is this?
MASK. It will confirm my lord's opinion of my honour and honestyand create in him a new confidence in mewhich (should this designmiscarry) will be necessary to the forming another plot that I havein my head.--To cheat you as well as the rest. [Aside.]
LADY TOUCH. I'll do it--I'll tell him you hindered him once fromforcing me.
MASK. Excellent! Your ladyship has a most improving fancy. Youhad best go to my lordkeep him as long as you can in his closetand I doubt not but you will mould him to what you please; yourguests are so engaged in their own follies and intriguesthey'llmiss neither of you.
LADY TOUCH. When shall we meet?--at eight this evening in mychamber? There rejoice at our successand toy away an hour inmirth.
MASK. I will not fail.
I know what she means by toying away an hour well enough. PoxIhave lost all appetite to her; yet she's a fine womanand I lovedher once. But I don't know: since I have been in a great measurekept by herthe case is altered; what was my pleasure is become mydutyand I have as little stomach to her now as if I were herhusband. Should she smoke my design upon CynthiaI were in a finepickle. She has a damned penetrating headand knows how tointerpret a coldness the right way; therefore I must dissembleardour and ecstasy; that's resolved. How easily and pleasantly isthat dissembled before fruition! Pox on't that a man can't drinkwithout quenching his thirst. Ha! yonder comes Mellefontthoughtful. Let me think. Meet her at eight--hum--ha! By heav'n Ihave it.--If I can speak to my lord before. Was it my brain orprovidence? No matter which--I will deceive 'em alland yet securemyself. 'Twas a lucky thought! Wellthis double-dealing is ajewel. Here he comesnow for me. [MASKWELLpretending not to seehimwalks by himand speaks as it were to himself.]
[To him] MELLEFONTmusing.
MASK. Mercy on uswhat will the wickedness of this world come to?
MEL. How nowJack? Whatso full of contemplation that you runover?
MASK. I'm glad you're comefor I could not contain myself anylongerand was just going to give vent to a secretwhich nobodybut you ought to drink down. Your aunt's just gone from hence.
MEL. And having trusted thee with the secrets of her soulthou artvillainously bent to discover 'em all to meha?
MASK. I'm afraid my frailty leans that way. But I don't knowwhether I can in honour discover 'em all.
MEL. Allallman! Whatyou may in honour betray her as far asshe betrays herself. No tragical design upon my personI hope.
MASK. Nobut it's a comical design upon mine.
MEL. What dost thou mean?
MASK. Listen and be dumb; we have been bargaining about the rate ofyour ruin -
MEL. Like any two guardians to an orphan heiress. Well?
MASK. And whereas pleasure is generally paid with mischiefwhatmischief I do is to be paid with pleasure.
MEL. So when you've swallowed the potion you sweeten your mouthwith a plum.
MASK. You are merrysirbut I shall probe your constitution. Inshortthe price of your banishment is to be paid with the person of-
MEL. Of Cynthia and her fortune. Whyyou forget you told me thisbefore.
MASK. Nono. So far you are right; and I amas an earnest ofthat bargainto have full and free possession of the person of--your aunt.
MEL. Ha! Phoyou trifle.
MASK. By this lightI'm serious; all raillery apart. I knew'twould stun you. This evening at eight she will receive me in herbedchamber.
MEL. Hell and the devilis she abandoned of all grace? Whythewoman is possessed.
MASK. Wellwill you go in my stead?
MEL. By heav'ninto a hot furnace sooner.
MASK. Noyou would not; it would not be so convenientas I canorder matters.
MEL. What d'ye mean?
MASK. Mean? Not to disappoint the ladyI assure you. Hahahahow gravely he looks. ComecomeI won't perplex you. 'Tis theonly thing that providence could have contrived to make me capableof serving youeither to my inclination or your own necessity.
MEL. Howhowfor heav'n's sakedear Maskwell?
MASK. Whythus. I'll go according to appointment; you shall havenotice at the critical minute to come and surprise your aunt and metogether. Counterfeit a rage against meand I'll make my escapethrough the private passage from her chamberwhich I'll take careto leave open. 'Twill be hard if then you can't bring her to anyconditions. For this discovery will disarm her of all defenceandleave her entirely at your mercy--nayshe must ever after be in aweof you.
MEL. Let me adore theemy better genius! By heav'n I think it isnot in the power of fate to disappoint my hopes--my hopes? Mycertainty!
MASK. WellI'll meet you herewithin a quarter of eightand giveyou notice.
MEL. Good fortune ever go along with thee.
CARE. Mellefontget out o' th' waymy Lady Plyant's comingand Ishall never succeed while thou art in sight. Though she begins totack about; but I made love a great while to no purpose.
MEL. Whywhat's the matter? She's convinced that I don't care forher.
CARE. I can't get an answer from herthat does not begin with herhonouror her virtueher religionor some such cant. Then shehas told me the whole history of Sir Paul's nine years courtship;how he has lain for whole nights together upon the stairs before herchamber-door; and that the first favour he received from her was apiece of an old scarlet petticoat for a stomacherwhich since theday of his marriage he has out of a piece of gallantry convertedinto a night-capand wears it still with much solemnity on hisanniversary wedding-night.
MEL. That I have seenwith the ceremony thereunto belonging. Foron that night he creeps in at the bed's feet like a gulled bassathat has married a relation of the Grand Signiorand that night hehas his arms at liberty. Did not she tell you at what a distanceshe keeps him? He has confessed to me thatbut at some certaintimesthat isI supposewhen she apprehends being with childhenever has the privilege of using the familiarity of a husband with awife. He was once given to scrambling with his handsand sprawlingin his sleepand ever since she has him swaddled up in blanketsand his hands and feet swathed downand so put to bed; and there helies with a great beardlike a Russian bear upon a drift of snow.You are very great with himI wonder he never told you hisgrievances: he willI warrant you.
CARE. Excessively foolish! But that which gives me most hopes ofher is her telling me of the many temptations she has resisted.
MEL. Naythen you have her; for a woman's bragging to a man thatshe has overcome temptations is an argument that they were weaklyofferedand a challenge to him to engage her more irresistibly.'Tis only an enhancing the price of the commodityby telling youhow many customers have underbid her.
CARE. NayI don't despair. But still she has a grudging to you.I talked to her t'other night at my Lord Froth's masqueradewhenI'm satisfied she knew meand I had no reason to complain of myreception; but I find women are not the same bare-faced and inmasksand a vizor disguises their inclinations as much as theirfaces.
MEL. 'Tis a mistakefor women may most properly be said to beunmasked when they wear vizors; for that secures them from blushingand being out of countenanceand next to being in the darkoralonethey are most truly themselves in a vizor mask. Here theycome: I'll leave you. Ply her closeand by and by clap a BILLETDOUX into her hand; for a woman never thinks a man truly in lovewith hertill he has been fool enough to think of her out of hersightand to lose so much time as to write to her.
CARELESSSIR PAULand LADY PLYANT.
SIR PAUL. Shan't we disturb your meditationMr. Careless? Youwould be private?
CARE. You bring that along with youSir Paulthat shall be alwayswelcome to my privacy.
SIR PAUL. O sweet siryou load your humble servantsboth me andmy wifewith continual favours.
LADY PLYANT. Sir Paulwhat a phrase was there? You will be makinganswersand taking that upon you which ought to lie upon me. Thatyou should have so little breeding to think Mr. Careless did notapply himself to me. Pray what have you to entertain anybody'sprivacy? I swear and declare in the face of the world I'm ready toblush for your ignorance.
SIR PAUL. I acquiescemy lady; but don't snub so loud. [Aside toher.]
LADY PLYANT. Mr. Carelessif a person that is wholly illiteratemight be supposed to be capable of being qualified to make asuitable return to those obligationswhich you are pleased toconfer upon one that is wholly incapable of being qualified in allthose circumstancesI'm sure I should rather attempt it thananything in the world[Courtesies] for I'm sure there's nothing inthe world that I would rather. [Courtesies] But I know Mr.Careless is so great a criticand so fine a gentlemanthat it isimpossible for me -
CARE. O heavens! madamyou confound me.
SIR PAUL. Gads-budshe's a fine person.
LADY PLYANT. O Lord! sirpardon mewe women have not thoseadvantages; I know my imperfections. But at the same time you mustgive me leave to declare in the face of the world that nobody ismore sensible of favours and things; for with the reserve of myhonour I assure youMr. CarelessI don't know anything in theworld I would refuse to a person so meritorious. You'll pardon mywant of expression.
CARE. Oyour ladyship is abounding in all excellenceparticularlythat of phrase.
LADY PLYANT. You are so obligingsir.
CARE. Your ladyship is so charming.
SIR PAUL. Sonownow; nowmy lady.
LADY PLYANT. So well bred.
CARE. So surprising.
LADY PLYANT. So well dressedso BONNE MINEso eloquentsounaffectedso easyso freeso particularso agreeable.
SIR PAUL. Aysosothere.
CARE. O LordI beseech you madamdon't.
LADY PLYANT. So gayso gracefulso good teethso fine shapesofine limbsso fine linenand I don't doubt but you have a verygood skinsir
CARE. For heaven's sakemadamI'm quite out of countenance.
SIR PAUL. And my lady's quite out of breath; or else you shouldhear--Gads-budyou may talk of my Lady Froth.
CARE. O fiefienot to be named of a day. My Lady Froth is verywell in her accomplishments. But it is when my Lady Plyant is notthought of. If that can ever be.
LADY PLYANT. Oyou overcome me. That is so excessive.
SIR PAUL. NayI swear and vow that was pretty.
CARE. OSir Paulyou are the happiest man alive. Such a lady!that is the envy of her own sexand the admiration of ours.
SIR PAUL. Your humble servant. I amI thank heavenin a fine wayof livingas I may saypeacefully and happilyand I think neednot envy any of my neighboursblessed be providence. AytrulyMr. Carelessmy lady is a great blessinga finediscreetwell-spoken woman as you shall seeif it becomes me to say soand welive very comfortably together; she is a little hasty sometimesandso am I; but mine's soon overand then I'm so sorry.--O Mr.Carelessif it were not for one thing -
CARELESSSIR PAULLADY PLYANTBOY with a letter.
LADY PLYANT. How often have you been told of thatyou jackanapes?
SIR PAUL. Gad sogad's-bud. Timcarry it to my ladyyou shouldhave carried it to my lady first.
BOY. 'Tis directed to your worship.
SIR PAUL. Wellwellmy lady reads all letters first. Childdoso no more; d'ye hearTim.
BOY. Noand please you.
CARELESSSIR PAULLADY PLYANT.
SIR PAUL. A humour of my wife's: you know women have littlefancies. But as I was telling youMr. Carelessif it were not forone thingI should think myself the happiest man in the world;indeed that touches me nearvery near.
CARE. What can that beSir Paul?
SIR PAUL. WhyI haveI thank heavena very plentiful fortuneagood estate in the countrysome houses in townand some moneyapretty tolerable personal estate; and it is a great grief to meindeed it isMr. Carelessthat I have not a son to inherit this.'Tis true I have a daughterand a fine dutiful child she isthoughI say itblessed be providence I may say; for indeedMr. CarelessI am mightily beholden to providence. A poor unworthy sinner. Butif I had a son! Ahthat's my afflictionand my only affliction;indeed I cannot refrain tears when it comes in my mind. [Cries.]
CARE. Whymethinks that might be easily remedied--my lady's a finelikely woman -
SIR PAUL. Oha fine likely woman as you shall see in a summer'sday. Indeed she isMr. Carelessin all respects.
CARE. And I should not have taken you to have been so old -
SIR PAUL. Alasthat's not itMr. Careless; ah! that's not it; nonoyou shoot wide of the mark a mile; indeed you dothat's not itMr. Careless; nonothat's not it.
CARE. No? What can be the matter then?
SIR PAUL. You'll scarcely believe me when I shall tell you--my ladyis so nice. It's very strangebut it's true; too true--she's sovery nicethat I don't believe she would touch a man for the world.At least not above once a year; I'm sure I have found it so; andalaswhat's once a year to an old manwho would do good in hisgeneration? Indeed it's trueMr. Carelessit breaks my heart. Iam her husbandas I may say; though far unworthy of that honouryet I am her husband; but alas-a-dayI have no more familiaritywith her person--as to that matter--than with my own mother--noindeed.
CARE. Alas-a-daythis is a lamentable story. My lady must be toldon't. She must i'faithSir Paul; 'tis an injury to the world.
SIR PAUL. Ah! would to heaven you wouldMr. Careless; you aremightily in her favour.
CARE. I warrant youwhat! we must have a son some way or other.
SIR PAUL. Indeed I should be mightily bound to you if you couldbring it aboutMr. Careless.
LADY PLYANT. HereSir Paulit's from your steward. Here's areturn of 600 pounds; you may take fifty of it for the next halfyear. [Gives him the letter.]
[To them] LORD FROTHCYNTHIA.
SIR PAUL. How does my girl? Come hither to thy fatherpoor lamb:thou'rt melancholic.
LORD FROTH. HeavenSir Paulyou amaze meof all things in theworld. You are never pleased but when we are all upon the broadgrin: all laugh and no company; ahthen 'tis such a sight to seesome teeth. Sure you're a great admirer of my Lady WhiflerMr.Sneerand Sir Laurence Loudand that gang.
SIR PAUL. I vow and swear she's a very merry woman; but I think shelaughs a little too much.
LORD FROTH. Merry! O Lordwhat a character that is of a woman ofquality. You have been at my Lady Whifler's upon her daymadam?
CYNT. Yesmy lord. I must humour this fool. [Aside.]
LORD FROTH. Welland how? hee! What is your sense of theconversation?
CYNT. Ohmost ridiculousa perpetual comfort of laughing withoutany harmony; for suremy lordto laugh out of timeis asdisagreeable as to sing out of time or out of tune.
LORD FROTH. Heeheeheeright; and thenmy Lady Whifler is soready--she always comes in three bars too soon. And thenwhat dothey laugh at? For you know laughing without a jest is asimpertinenthee! asas -
CYNT. As dancing without a fiddle.
LORD FROTH. Just i'faiththat was at my tongue's end.
CYNT. But that cannot be properly said of themfor I think theyare all in good nature with the worldand only laugh at oneanother; and you must allow they have all jests in their personsthough they have none in their conversation.
LORD FROTH. Trueas I'm a person of honour. For heaven's sake letus sacrifice 'em to mirth a little. [Enter BOY and whispers SIRPAUL.]
SIR PAUL. Gads so.--Wifewifemy Lady PlyantI have a word.
LADY PLYANT. I'm busySir PaulI wonder at your impertinence.
CARE. Sir PaulharkeeI'm reasoning the matter you know. Madamif your ladyship pleasewe'll discourse of this in the next room.
SIR PAUL. O hoI wish you good successI wish you good success.Boytell my ladywhen she has doneI would speak with her below.
CYNTHIALORD FROTHLADY FROTHBRISK.
LADY FROTH. Then you think that episode between Susanthe dairy-maidand our coachman is not amiss; you knowI may suppose thedairy in townas well as in the country.
BRISK. Incomparablelet me perish. But thenbeing an heroicpoemhad you not better call him a charioteer? Charioteer soundsgreat; besidesyour ladyship's coachman having a red faceand youcomparing him to the sun--and you know the sun is called Heaven'scharioteer.
LADY FROTH. Ohinfinitely better; I'm extremely beholden to youfor the hint; staywe'll read over those half a score lines again.[Pulls out a paper.] Let me see hereyou know what goes before--the comparisonyou know. [Reads.]
For as the sun shines ev'ry daySo of our coachman I may say.
BRISK. I'm afraid that simile won't do in wet weather; because yousay the sun shines every day.
LADY FROTH. No; for the sun it won'tbut it will do for thecoachmanfor you know there's most occasion for a coach in wetweather.
BRISK. Rightrightthat saves all.
LADY FROTH. Then I don't say the sun shines all the daybut thathe peeps now and then; yet he does shine all the day tooyou knowthough we don't see him.
BRISK. Rightbut the vulgar will never comprehend that.
LADY FROTH. Wellyou shall hear. Let me see. [Reads.]
For as the sun shines ev'ry day
So of our coachman I may say
He shows his drunken fiery face
Just as the sun doesmore or less.
BRISK. That's rightall's wellall's well. 'More or less.'
LADY FROTH reads:
And when at night his labour's done
Then toolike Heav'n's charioteer the sun:
Aycharioteer does better.
Into the dairy he descends
And there his whipping and his driving ends;
There he's secure from danger of a bilk
His fare is paid himand he sets in milk.
For Susan you knowis Thetisand so -
BRISK. Incomparable well and properegad--but I have one exceptionto make--don't you think bilk--(I know it's good rhyme)--but don'tyou think BILK and FARE too like a hackney coachman?
LADY FROTH. I swear and vow I'm afraid so. And yet our Jehu was ahackney coachmanwhen my lord took him.
BRISK. Was he? I'm answeredif Jehu was a hackney coachman. Youmay put that in the marginal notes thoughto prevent criticism--only mark it with a small asterismand say'Jehu was formerly ahackney coachman.'
LADY FROTH. I will. You'd oblige me extremely to write notes tothe whole poem.
BRISK. With all my heart and souland proud of the vast honourlet me perish.
LORD FROTH. Heeheeheemy dearhave you done? won't you joinwith us? We were laughing at my Lady Whifler and Mr. Sneer.
LADY FROTH. Aymy dearwere you? Ohfilthy Mr. Sneer; he's anauseous figurea most fulsamic fopfoh! He spent two daystogether in going about Covent Garden to suit the lining of hiscoach with his complexion.
LORD FROTH. O silly! yet his aunt is as fond of him as if she hadbrought the ape into the world herself.
BRISK. Whomy Lady Toothless? Ohshe's a mortifying spectacle;she's always chewing the cud like an old ewe.
CYNT. FieMr. Briskeringo's for her cough.
LADY FROTH. I have seen her take 'em half chewed out of her mouthto laughand then put 'em in again. Foh!
LORD FROTH. Foh!
LADY FROTH. Then she's always ready to laugh when Sneer offers tospeakand sits in expectation of his no jestwith her gums bareand her mouth open -
BRISK. Like an oyster at low ebbegad. Hahaha!
CYNT. [Aside] WellI find there are no fools so inconsiderable inthemselves but they can render other people contemptible by exposingtheir infirmities.
LADY FROTH. Then that t'other great strapping lady--I can't hit ofher name; the old fat fool that paints so exorbitantly.
BRISK. I know whom you mean--but deuce take meI can't hit of hername neither. Paintsd'ye say? Whyshe lays it on with a trowel.Then she has a great beard that bristles through itand makes herlook as if she were plastered with lime and hairlet me perish.
LADY FROTH. Ohyou made a song upon herMr. Brisk.
BRISK. He! egadso I did. My lord can sing it.
CYNT. O goodmy lordlet's hear it.
BRISK. 'Tis not a song neitherit's a sort of an epigramorrather an epigrammatic sonnet; I don't know what to call itbutit's satire. Sing itmy lord.
LORD FROTH sings.
Ancient Phyllis has young graces
'Tis a strange thingbut a true one;
Shall I tell you how?
She herself makes her own faces
And each morning wears a new one;
Where's the wonder now?
BRISK. Shortbut there's salt in't; my way of writingegad.
[To them] FOOTMAN.
LADY FROTH. How now?
FOOT. Your ladyship's chair is come.
LADY FROTH. Is nurse and the child in it?
LADY FROTH. O the dear creature! Let's go see it.
LORD FROTH. I swearmy dearyou'll spoil that childwith sendingit to and again so often; this is the seventh time the chair hasgone for her to-day.
LADY FROTH. O law! I swear it's but the sixth--and I haven't seenher these two hours. The poor creature--I swearmy lordyou don'tlove poor little Sapho. Comemy dear CynthiaMr. Briskwe'll gosee Saphothough my lord won't.
CYNT. I'll wait upon your ladyship.
BRISK. Praymadamhow old is Lady Sapho?
LADY FROTH. Three-quartersbut I swear she has a world of witandcan sing a tune already. My lordwon't you go? Won't you? What!not to see Saph? Praymy lordcome see little Saph. I knew youcould not stay.
CYNT. 'Tis not so hard to counterfeit joy in the depth ofafflictionas to dissemble mirth in company of fools. Why should Icall 'em fools? The world thinks better of 'em; for these havequality and educationwit and fine conversationare received andadmired by the world. If notthey like and admire themselves. Andwhy is not that true wisdom? for 'tis happiness: and for ought Iknowwe have misapplied the name all this whileand mistaken thething: since
If happiness in self-content is placedThe wise are wretchedand fools only bless'd.
ACT IV.--SCENE I.
MELLEFONT and CYNTHIA.
CYNT. I heard him loud as I came by the closet-doorand my ladywith himbut she seemed to moderate his passion.
MEL. Ayhell thank heras gentle breezes moderate a fire; but Ishall counter-work her spellsand ride the witch in her own bridle.
CYNT. It's impossible; she'll cast beyond you still. I'll lay mylife it will never be a match.
CYNT. Between you and me.
MEL. Why so?
CYNT. My mind gives me it won'tbecause we are both willing. Weeach of us strive to reach the goaland hinder one another in therace. I swear it never does well when the parties are so agreed;for when people walk hand in hand there's neither overtaking normeeting. We hunt in coupleswhere we both pursue the same game butforget one another; and 'tis because we are so near that we don'tthink of coming together.
MEL. Hum'gad I believe there's something in it. Marriage is thegame that we huntand while we think that we only have it in viewI don't see but we have it in our power.
CYNT. Within reach; for examplegive me your hand. You havelooked through the wrong end of the perspective all this whilefornothing has been between us but our fears.
MEL. I don't know why we should not steal out of the house thisvery moment and marry one anotherwithout consideration or the fearof repentance. Pox o' fortuneportionsettlementsand jointures.
CYNT. Ayaywhat have we to do with 'em? You know we marry forlove.
MEL. Lovelovedownrightvery villainous love.
CYNT. And he that can't live upon love deserves to die in a ditch.Here thenI give you my promisein spite of dutyany temptationof wealthyour inconstancyor my own inclination to change -
MEL. To run most wilfully and unreasonably away with me this momentand be married.
CYNT. Hold. Never to marry anybody else.
MEL. That's but a kind of negative consent. Whyyou won't baulkthe frolic?
CYNT. If you had not been so assured of your own conduct I wouldnot. But 'tis but reasonable that since I consent to like a manwithout the vile consideration of moneyhe should give me a veryevident demonstration of his wit: therefore let me see youundermine my Lady Touchwoodas you boastedand force her to giveher consentand then -
MEL. I'll do't.
CYNT. And I'll do't.
MEL. This very next ensuing hour of eight o'clock is the lastminute of her reignunless the devil assist her IN PROPRIA PERSONA.
CYNT. Wellif the devil should assist herand your plot miscarry-
MEL. Aywhat am I to trust to then?
CYNT. Whyif you give me very clear demonstration that it was thedevilI'll allow for irresistible odds. But if I find it to beonly chanceor destinyor unlucky starsor anything but the verydevilI'm inexorable: only still I'll keep my wordand live amaid for your sake.
MEL. And you won't die onefor your ownso still there's hope.
CYNT. Here's my mother-in-lawand your friend Careless; I wouldnot have 'em see us together yet.
CARELESS and LADY PLYANT.
LADY PLYANT. I swearMr. Carelessyou are very alluringand sayso many fine thingsand nothing is so moving to me as a fine thing.WellI must do you this justiceand declare in the face of theworldnever anybody gained so far upon me as yourself. Withblushes I must own ityou have shakenas I may saythe veryfoundation of my honour. Wellsureif I escape yourimportunitiesI shall value myself as long as I liveI swear.
CARE. And despise me. [Sighing.]
LADY PLYANT. The last of any man in the worldby my purity; nowyou make me swear. O gratitude forbidthat I should ever bewanting in a respectful acknowledgment of an entire resignation ofall my best wishes for the person and parts of so accomplished apersonwhose merit challenges much moreI'm surethan myilliterate praises can description.
CARE. [In a whining tone.] Ah heavensmadamyou ruin me withkindness. Your charming tongue pursues the victory of your eyeswhile at your feet your poor adorer dies.
LADY PLYANT. Ah! Very fine.
CARE. [Still whining.] Ahwhy are you so fairso bewitchingfair? O let me grow to the ground hereand feast upon that hand; Olet me press it to my heartmy trembling heart: the nimblemovement shall instruct your pulseand teach it to alarm desire.(ZoonsI'm almost at the end of my cantif she does not yieldquickly.) [Aside.]
LADY PLYANT. O that's so passionate and fineI cannot hear. I amnot safe if I stayand must leave you.
CARE. And must you leave me! Rather let me languish out a wretchedlifeand breath my soul beneath your feet. (I must say the samething over againand can't help it.) [Aside.]
LADY PLYANT. I swear I'm ready to languish too! O my honour!Whither is it going? I protest you have given me the palpitation ofthe heart.
CARE. Can you be so cruel -
LADY PLYANT. O riseI beseech yousay no more till you rise. Whydid you kneel so long? I swear I was so transportedI did not seeit. Wellto show you how far you have gained upon meI assureyouif Sir Paul should dieof all mankind there's none I'd soonermake my second choice.
CARE. O Heaven! I can't out-live this night without your favour; Ifeel my spirits fainta general dampness overspreads my faceacold deadly dew already vents through all my poresand will to-morrow wash me for ever from your sightand drown me in my tomb.
LADY PLYANT. Ohyou have conqueredsweetmeltingmoving siryou have conquered. What heart of marble can refrain to weepandyield to such sad sayings! [Cries.]
CARE. I thank Heaventhey are the saddest that I ever said. Oh!(I shall never contain laughter.) [Aside.]
LADY PLYANT. OhI yield myself all up to your uncontrollableembraces. Saythou dear dying manwhenwhereand how. Ahthere's Sir Paul.
CARE. 'Slifeyonder's Sir Paulbut if he were not comeI'm sotransported I cannot speak. This note will inform you. [Gives hera note.]
LADY PLYANTSIR PAULCYNTHIA.
SIR PAUL. Thou art my tender lambkinand shalt do what thou wilt.But endeavour to forget this Mellefont.
CYNT. I would obey you to my powersir; but if I have not himIhave sworn never to marry.
SIR PAUL. Never to marry! Heavens forbid! must I neither have sonsnor grandsons? Must the family of the Plyants be utterly extinctfor want of issue male? O impiety! But did you sweardid thatsweet creature swear? ha! How durst you swear without my consentah? Gads-budwho am I?
CYNT. Pray don't be angrysirwhen I swore I had your consent;and therefore I swore.
SIR PAUL. Why then the revoking my consent does annulor make ofnone effect your oath; so you may unswear it again. The law willallow it.
CYNT. Aybut my conscience never will.
SIR PAUL. Gads-budno matter for thatconscience and law never gotogether; you must not expect that.
LADY PLYANT. AybutSir PaulI conceive if she has swornd'yemark meif she has once swornit is most unchristianinhumanandobscene that she should break it. I'll make up the match againbecause Mr. Careless said it would oblige him. [Aside.]
SIR PAUL. Does your ladyship conceive so? WhyI was of thatopinion once too. Nayif your ladyship conceives soI'm of thatopinion again; but I can neither find my lord nor my lady to knowwhat they intend.
LADY PLYANT. I'm satisfied that my cousin Mellefont has been muchwronged.
CYNT. [Aside.] I'm amazed to find her of our sidefor I'm sureshe loved him.
LADY PLYANT. I know my Lady Touchwood has no kindness for him; andbesides I have been informed by Mr. Carelessthat Mellefont hadnever anything more than a profound respect. That he has ownedhimself to be my admirer 'tis truebut he was never so presumptuousto entertain any dishonourable notions of things; so that if this bemade plainI don't see how my daughter can in conscienceorhonouror anything in the world -
SIR PAUL. Indeed if this be made plainas my ladyyour mothersayschild -
LADY PLYANT. Plain! I was informed of it by Mr. Careless. And Iassure youMr. Careless is a person that has a most extraordinaryrespect and honour for youSir Paul.
CYNT. [Aside.] And for your ladyship tooI believeor else youhad not changed sides so soon; now I begin to find it.
SIR PAUL. I am much obliged to Mr. Careless really; he is a personthat I have a great value fornot only for thatbut because he hasa great veneration for your ladyship.
LADY PLYANT. O lasno indeedSir Paul'tis upon your account.
SIR PAUL. NoI protest and vowI have no title to his esteembutin having the honour to appertain in some measure to your ladyshipthat's all.
LADY PLYANT. O law nowI swear and declare it shan't be so; you'retoo modestSir Paul.
SIR PAUL. It becomes mewhen there is any comparison made between-
LADY PLYANT. O fiefieSir Paulyou'll put me out ofcountenance. Your very obedient and affectionate wife; that's all.And highly honoured in that title.
SIR PAUL. Gads-budI am transported! Give me leave to kiss yourladyship's hand.
CYNT. That my poor father should be so very silly! [Aside.]
LADY PLYANT. My lip indeedSir PaulI swear you shall. [Hekisses herand bows very low.]
SIR PAUL. I humbly thank your ladyship. I don't know whether I flyon groundor walk in air. Gads-budshe was never thus before.WellI must own myself the most beholden to Mr. Careless. As sureas can bethis is all his doingsomething that he has said; well'tis a rare thing to have an ingenious friend. Wellyour ladyshipis of opinion that the match may go forward.
LADY PLYANT. By all means. Mr. Careless has satisfied me of thematter.
SIR PAUL. Wellwhy thenlambyou may keep your oathbut have acare about making rash vows; come hither to meand kiss papa.
LADY PLYANT. I swear and declareI am in such a twitter to readMr. Careless his letterthat I can't forbear any longer. Butthough I may read all letters first by prerogativeyet I'll be sureto be unsuspected this timeSir Paul.
SIR PAUL. Did your ladyship call?
LADY PLYANT. Naynot to interrupt youmy dear. Only lend me yourletterwhich you had from your steward to-day; I would look uponthe account againand may be increase your allowance.
SIR PAUL. There it ismadamdo you want a pen and ink? [Bows andgives the letter.]
LADY PLYANT. Nononothing elseI thank youSir Paul. SonowI can read my own letter under the cover of his. [Aside.]
SIR PAUL. He? And wilt thou bring a grandson at nine months end--he? A brave chopping boy. I'll settle a thousand pound a year uponthe rogue as soon as ever he looks me in the faceI willgads-bud.I'm overjoyed to think I have any of my family that will bringchildren into the world. For I would fain have some resemblance ofmyself in my posterityheThy? Can't you contrive that affairgirl? Dogads-budthink on thy old fatherheh? Make the youngrogue as like as you can.
CYNT. I'm glad to see you so merrysir.
SIR PAUL. Merrygads-budI'm serious; I'll give thee five hundredpounds for every inch of him that resembles me; ahthis eyethisleft eye! A thousand pounds for this left eye. This has doneexecution in its timegirl; whythou hast my leerhusseyjustthy father's leer. Let it be transmitted to the young rogue by thehelp of imagination; why'tis the mark of our familyThy; ourhouse is distinguished by a languishing eyeas the house of Austriais by a thick lip. Ah! when I was of your agehusseyI would haveheld fifty to oneI could have drawn my own picture--gads-bud Icould have done--not so much as youneither; but--naydon't blush.
CYNT. I don't blushsirfor I vow I don't understand.
SIR PAUL. Pshawpshawyou fibyou baggageyou do understandand you shall understand; comedon't be so nice. Gads-buddon'tlearn after your mother-in-law my lady here. Marryheaven forbidthat you should follow her example; that would spoil all indeed.Bless us! if you should take a vagary and make a rash resolution onyour wedding nightto die a maidas she did; all were ruinedallmy hopes lost. My heart would breakand my estate would be left tothe wide worldhe? I hope you are a better Christian than to thinkof living a nunhe? Answer me?
CYNT. I'm all obediencesirto your commands.
LADY PLYANT. [Having read the letter.] O dear Mr. CarelessIswear he writes charminglyand he looks charminglyand he hascharmed meas much as I have charmed him; and so I'll tell him inthe wardrobe when 'tis dark. O criminy! I hope Sir Paul has notseen both letters. [Puts the wrong letter hastily upand gives himher own.] Sir Paulhere's your letter; to-morrow morning I'llsettle accounts to your advantage.
[To them] BRISK.
BRISK. Sir Paulgads-budyou're an uncivil personlet me tellyouand all that; and I did not think it had been in you.
SIR PAUL. O lawwhat's the matter now? I hope you are not angryMr. Brisk.
BRISK. Deuce take meI believe you intend to marry your daughteryourself; you're always brooding over her like an old henas if shewere not well hatchedegadhe.
SIR PAUL. Good strange! Mr. Brisk is such a merry facetiouspersonhehehe. NonoI have done with herI have done withher now.
BRISK. The fiddles have stayed this hour in the halland my LordFroth wants a partnerwe can never begin without her.
SIR PAUL. Gogo childgoget you gone and dance and be merry;I'll come and look at you by and by. Where's my son Mellefont?
LADY PLYANT. I'll send him to themI know where he is.
BRISK. Sir Paulwill you send Careless into the hall if you meethim?
SIR PAUL. I willI willI'll go and look for him on purpose.
BRISK. So now they are all goneand I have an opportunity topractice. Ah! My dear Lady Frothshe's a most engaging creatureif she were not so fond of that damned coxcombly lord of hers; andyet I am forced to allow him wit tooto keep in with him. Nomattershe's a woman of partsandegadparts will carry her.She said she would follow me into the gallery. Now to make myapproaches. Hemhem! Ah ma- [bows.] dam! Pox on'twhy should Idisparage my parts by thinking what to say? None but dull roguesthink; witty menlike rich fellowsare always ready for allexpenses; while your blockheadslike poor needy scoundrelsareforced to examine their stockand forecast the charges of the day.Here she comesI'll seem not to see herand try to win her with anew airy invention of my ownhem!
[To him] LADY FROTH.
BRISK [Singswalking about.] 'I'm sick with love' hahaha'pritheecome cure me. I'm sick with' etc. O ye powers! O myLady Frothmy Lady Frothmy Lady Froth! Heigho! Break heart;godsI thank you. [Stands musing with his arms across.]
LADY FROTH. O heavensMr. Brisk! What's the matter?
BRISK. My Lady Froth! Your ladyship's most humble servant. Themattermadam? Nothingmadamnothing at allegad. I was falleninto the most agreeable amusement in the whole province ofcontemplation: that's all--(I'll seem to conceal my passionandthat will look like respect.) [Aside.]
LADY FROTH. Bless mewhy did you call out upon me so loud?
BRISK. O LordImadam! I beseech your ladyship--when?
LADY FROTH. Just now as I came inbless mewhydon't you knowit?
BRISK. Not Ilet me perish. But did I? Strange! I confess yourladyship was in my thoughts; and I was in a sort of dream that didin a manner represent a very pleasing object to my imaginationbut--but did I indeed?--To see how love and murder will out. But did Ireally name my Lady Froth?
LADY FROTH. Three times aloudas I love letters. But did you talkof love? O Parnassus! Who would have thought Mr. Brisk could havebeen in lovehahaha. O heavensI thought you could have nomistress but the Nine Muses.
BRISK. No more I haveegadfor I adore 'em all in your ladyship.Let me perishI don't know whether to be spleneticor airy upon't;the deuce take me if I can tell whether I am glad or sorry that yourladyship has made the discovery.
LADY FROTH. O be merry by all means. Prince Volscius in love! Hahaha.
BRISK. O barbarousto turn me into ridicule! Yethahaha.The deuce take meI can't help laughing myselfhahaha; yet byheavensI have a violent passion for your ladyshipseriously.
LADY FROTH. Seriously? Hahaha.
BRISK. Seriouslyhahaha. Gad I havefor all I laugh.
LADY FROTH. Hahaha! What d'ye think I laugh at? Hahaha.
LADY FROTH. Nothe deuce take me if I don't laugh at myself; forhang me if I have not a violent passion for Mr. Briskhahaha.
LADY FROTH. Seriouslyhahaha.
BRISK. That's well enough; let me perishhahaha. Omiraculous; what a happy discovery. Ah my dear charming Lady Froth!
LADY FROTH. Oh my adored Mr. Brisk! [Embrace.]
[To them] LORD FROTH.
LORD FROTH. The company are all ready. How now?
BRISK. Zoons! madamthere's my lord. [Softly to her.]
LADY FROTH. Take no noticebut observe me. Nowcast offandmeet me at the lower end of the roomand then join hands again; Icould teach my lord this dance purelybut I vowMr. BriskI can'ttell how to come so near any other man. Oh here's my lordnow youshall see me do it with him. [They pretend to practise part of acountry dance.]
LORD FROTH. OhI see there's no harm yetbut I don't like thisfamiliarity. [Aside.]
LADY FROTH. Shall you and I do our close danceto show Mr. Brisk?
LORD FROTH. Nomy deardo it with him.
LADY FROTH. I'll do it with himmy lordwhen you are out of theway.
BRISK. That's goodegadthat's good. Deuce take meI can hardlyhold laughing in his face. [Aside.]
LORD FROTH. Any other timemy dearor we'll dance it below.
LADY FROTH. With all my heart.
BRISK. Comemy lordI'll wait on you. My charming witty angel![To her.]
LADY FROTH. We shall have whispering time enoughyou knowsincewe are partners.
LADY PLYANT and CARELESS.
LADY PLYANT. OhMr. CarelessMr. CarelessI'm ruinedI'mundone.
CARE. What's the mattermadam?
LADY PLYANT. Ohthe unluckiest accidentI'm afraid I shan't liveto tell it you.
CARE. Heaven forbid! What is it?
LADY PLYANT. I'm in such a fright; the strangest quandary andpremunire! I'm all over in a universal agitation; I dare swearevery circumstance of me trembles. O your letteryour letter! Byan unfortunate mistake I have given Sir Paul your letter instead ofhis own.
CARE. That was unlucky.
LADY PLYANT. Ohyonder he comes reading of it; for heaven's sakestep in here and advise me quickly before he sees.
SIR PAUL with the Letter.
SIR PAUL. O Providencewhat a conspiracy have I discovered. Butlet me see to make an end on't. [Reads.] Hum--After supper in thewardrobe by the gallery. If Sir Paul should surprise usI have acommission from him to treat with you about the very matter of fact.Matter of fact! Very pretty; it seems that I am conducting to myown cuckoldom. Whythis is the very traitorous position of takingup arms by my authorityagainst my person! Welllet me see. Tillthen I languish in expectation of my adored charmer.--Dying NedCareless. Gads-budwould that were matter of fact too. Die and bedamned for a Judas Maccabeus and Iscariot both. O friendship! whatart thou but a name? Henceforward let no man make a friend thatwould not be a cuckold: for whomsoever he receives into his bosomwill find the way to his bedand there return his caresses withinterest to his wife. Have I for this been pinionednight afternight for three years past? Have I been swathed in blankets till Ihave been even deprived of motion? Have I approached the marriagebed with reverence as to a sacred shrineand denied myself theenjoyment of lawful domestic pleasures to preserve its purityandmust I now find it polluted by foreign iniquity? O my Lady Plyantyou were chaste as icebut you are melted nowand false as water.But Providence has been constant to me in discovering thisconspiracy; stillI am beholden to Providence. If it were not forProvidencesurepoor Sir Paulthy heart would break.
[To him] LADY PLYANT.
LADY PLYANT. SosirI see you have read the letter. WellnowSir Paulwhat do you think of your friend Careless? Has he beentreacherousor did you give his insolence a licence to make trialof your wife's suspected virtue? D'ye see here? [Snatches theletter as in anger.] Lookread it. Gads my lifeif I thought itwere soI would this moment renounce all communication with you.Ungrateful monster! He? is it so? AyI see ita plot upon myhonour; your guilty cheeks confess it. Ohwhere shall wrongedvirtue fly for reparation? I'll be divorced this instant.
SIR PAUL. Gads-budwhat shall I say? This is the strangestsurprise. WhyI don't know anything at allnor I don't knowwhether there be anything at all in the worldor no.
LADY PLYANT. I thought I should try youfalse man. Ithat neverdissembled in my lifeyet to make trial of youpretended to likethat monster of iniquityCarelessand found out that contrivanceto let you see this letterwhich now I find was of your owninditing--I doheathenI do. See my face no more; I'll bedivorced presently.
SIR PAUL. O strangewhat will become of me? I'm so amazedand sooverjoyedso afraidand so sorry. But did you give me this letteron purposehe? Did you?
LADY PLYANT. Did I? Do you doubt meTurkSaracen? I have acousin that's a proctor in the Commons; I'll go to him instantly.
SIR PAUL. HoldstayI beseech your ladyship. I'm so overjoyedstayI'll confess all.
LADY PLYANT. What will you confessJew?
SIR PAUL. Whynowas I hope to be savedI had no hand in thisletter--nayhear meI beseech your ladyship. The devil take menow if he did not go beyond my commission. If I desired him to doany more than speak a good word only just for me; gads-budonly forpoor Sir PaulI'm an Anabaptistor a Jewor what you please tocall me.
LADY PLYANT. Whyis not here matter of fact?
SIR PAUL. Aybut by your own virtue and continency that matter offact is all his own doing. I confess I had a great desire to havesome honours conferred upon mewhich lie all in your ladyship'sbreastand he being a well-spoken manI desired him to intercedefor me.
LADY PLYANT. Did you so? presumption! Ohhe comesthe Tarquincomes; I cannot bear his sight.
CARE. Sir PaulI'm glad I've met with you'gadI have said all Icouldbut can't prevail. Then my friendship to you has carried mea little farther in this matter.
SIR PAUL. Indeed; well sirI'll dissemble with him a little.[Aside.]
CARE. Whyfaith I have in my time known honest gentlemen abused bya pretended coyness in their wivesand I had a mind to try mylady's virtue. And when I could not prevail for yougadIpretended to be in love myself; but all in vainshe would not heara word upon that subject. Then I writ a letter to her; I don't knowwhat effects that will havebut I'll be sure to tell you when I dothough by this light I believe her virtue is impregnable.
SIR PAUL. O Providence! Providence! What discoveries are heremade? Whythis is better and more miraculous than the rest.
CARE. What do you mean?
SIR PAUL. I can't tell youI'm so overjoyed; come along with me tomy ladyI can't contain myself; comemy dear friend.
CARE. Sososothis difficulty's over. [Aside.]
MELLEFONTMASKWELLfrom different doors.
MEL. Maskwell! I have been looking for you--'tis within a quarterof eight.
MASK. My lady is just gone into my lord's closetyou had beststeal into her chamber before she comesand lie concealed thereotherwise she may lock the door when we are togetherand you noteasily get in to surprise us.
MEL. He? You say true.
MASK. You had best make hastefor after she has made some apologyto the company for her own and my lord's absence all this whileshe'll retire to her chamber instantly.
MEL. I go this moment. NowfortuneI defy thee.
MASK. I confess you may be allowed to be secure in your ownopinion; the appearance is very fairbut I have an after-game toplay that shall turn the tablesand here comes the man that I mustmanage.
[To him] LORD TOUCHWOOD.
LORD TOUCH. Maskwellyou are the man I wished to meet.
MASK. I am happy to be in the way of your lordship's commands.
LORD TOUCH. I have always found you prudent and careful in anythingthat has concerned me or my family.
MASK. I were a villain else. I am bound by duty and gratitudeandmy own inclinationto be ever your lordship's servant.
LORD TOUCH. Enough. You are my friend; I know it. Yet there hasbeen a thing in your knowledgewhich has concerned me nearlythatyou have concealed from me.
MASK. My lord!
LORD TOUCH. NayI excuse your friendship to my unnatural nephewthus far. But I know you have been privy to his impious designsupon my wife. This evening she has told me all. Her good natureconcealed it as long as was possible; but he perseveres so invillainythat she has told me even you were weary of dissuadinghimthough you have once actually hindered him from forcing her.
MASK. I am sorrymy lordI can't make you an answer; this is anoccasion in which I would not willing be silent.
LORD TOUCH. I know you would excuse him--and I know as well thatyou can't.
MASK. Indeed I was in hopes it had been a youthful heat that mighthave soon boiled over; but -
LORD TOUCH. Say on.
MASK. I have nothing more to saymy lord; but to express myconcern; for I think his frenzy increases daily.
LORD TOUCH. How! Give me but proof of itocular proofthat I mayjustify my dealing with him to the worldand share my fortunes.
MASK. O my lord! consider; that is hard. Besidestime may workupon him. Thenfor me to do it! I have professed an everlastingfriendship to him.
LORD TOUCH. He is your friend; and what am I?
MASK. I am answered.
LORD TOUCH. Fear not his displeasure; I will put you out of hisand fortune's powerand for that thou art scrupulously honestIwill secure thy fidelity to himand give my honour never to own anydiscovery that you shall make me. Can you give me a demonstrativeproof? Speak.
MASK. I wish I could not. To be plainmy lordI intended thisevening to have tried all arguments to dissuade him from a designwhich I suspect; and if I had not succeededto have informed yourlordship of what I knew.
LORD TOUCH. I thank you. What is the villain's purpose?
MASK. He has owned nothing to me of lateand what I mean nowisonly a bare suspicion of my own. If your lordship will meet me aquarter of an hour hence therein that lobby by my lady's bed-chamberI shall be able to tell you more.
LORD TOUCH. I will.
MASK. My duty to your lordship makes me do a severe piece ofjustice.
LORD TOUCH. I will be secretand reward your honesty beyond yourhopes.
Scene openingshows Lady Touchwood's chamber.
MEL. Pray heaven my aunt keep touch with her assignation. O thather lord were but sweating behind this hangingwith the expectationof what I shall see. Histshe comes. Little does she think what amine is just ready to spring under her feet. But to my post. [Goesbehind the hangings.]
LADY TOUCH. 'Tis eight o'clock; methinks I should have found himhere. Who does not prevent the hour of loveoutstays the time; forto be dully punctual is too slow. I was accusing you of neglect.
LADY TOUCHWOODMASKWELLMELLEFONT absconding.
MASK. I confess you do reproach me when I see you here before me;but 'tis fit I should be still behindhandstill to be more and moreindebted to your goodness.
LADY TOUCH. You can excuse a fault too wellnot to have been toblame. A ready answer shows you were prepared.
MASK. Guilt is ever at a lossand confusion waits upon it; wheninnocence and bold truth are always ready for expression.
LADY TOUCH. Not in love: words are the weak support of coldindifference; love has no language to be heard.
MASK. Excess of joy has made me stupid! Thus may my lips be everclosed. [Kisses her.] And thus--O who would not lose his speechupon condition to have joys above it?
LADY TOUCH. Holdlet me lock the door first. [Goes to the door.]
MASK. [Aside.] That I believed; 'twas well I left the privatepassage open.
LADY TOUCH. Sothat's safe.
MASK. And so may all your pleasures beand secret as this kiss -
MEL. And may all treachery be thus discovered. [Leaps out.]
LADY TOUCH. Ah! [Shrieks.]
MEL. Villain! [Offers to draw.]
MASK. Naythenthere's but one way. [Runs out.]
MEL. Say you sowere you provided for an escape? Holdmadamyouhave no more holes to your burrow; I'll stand between you and thissally-port.
LADY TOUCH. Thunder strike thee dead for this deceitimmediatelightning blast theemeand the whole world! Oh! I could rackmyselfplay the vulture to my own heartand gnaw it piecemealfornot boding to me this misfortune.
MEL. Be patient.
LADY TOUCH. Be damned.
MEL. ConsiderI have you on the hook; you will but flounderyourself a-wearyand be nevertheless my prisoner.
LADY TOUCH. I'll hold my breath and diebut I'll be free.
MEL. O madamhave a care of dying unpreparedI doubt you havesome unrepented sins that may hang heavyand retard your flight.
LADY TOUCH. O! what shall I do? say? Whither shall I turn? Hashell no remedy?
MEL. None; hell has served you even as heaven has doneleft you toyourself.--You're in a kind of Erasmus paradiseyet if you pleaseyou may make it a purgatory; and with a little penance and myabsolution all this may turn to good account.
LADY TOUCH. [Aside.] Hold in my passionand fallfall a littlethou swelling heart; let me have some intermission of this rageandone minute's coolness to dissemble. [She weeps.]
MEL. You have been to blame. I like those tearsand hope they areof the purest kind--penitential tears.
LADY TOUCH. O the scene was shifted quick before me--I had nottime to think. I was surprised to see a monster in the glassandnow I find 'tis myself; can you have mercy to forgive the faults Ihave imaginedbut never put in practice?--O considerconsider howfatal you have been to meyou have already killed the quiet of thislife. The love of you was the first wandering fire that e'er misledmy stepsand while I had only that in viewI was betrayed intounthought of ways of ruin.
MEL. May I believe this true?
LADY TOUCH. O be not cruelly incredulous.--How can you doubt thesestreaming eyes? Keep the severest eye o'er all my future conductand if I once relapselet me not hope forgiveness; 'twill ever bein your power to ruin me. My lord shall sign to your desires; Iwill myself create your happinessand Cynthia shall be this nightyour bride. Do but conceal my failingsand forgive.
MEL. Upon such terms I will be ever yours in every honest way.
MASKWELL softly introduces LORD TOUCHWOODand retires.
MASK. I have kept my wordhe's herebut I must not be seen.
LADY TOUCHWOODLORD TOUCHWOODMELLEFONT.
LORD TOUCH. Hell and amazementshe's in tears.
LADY TOUCH. [Kneeling.] Eternal blessings thank you.--Ha! my lordlistening! O fortune has o'erpaid me allall! all's my own![Aside.]
MEL. NayI beseech you rise.
LADY TOUCH. [Aloud.] Nevernever! I'll grow to the groundbeburied quick beneath ite'er I'll be consenting to so damned a sinas incest! unnatural incest!
LADY TOUCH. O cruel manwill you not let me go? I'll forgive allthat's past. O heavenyou will not ravish me?
LORD TOUCH. Monsterdog! your life shall answer this! [Draws andruns at MELLEFONTis held by LADY TOUCHWOOD.]
LADY TOUCH. O heavensmy lord! Holdholdfor heaven's sake.
MEL. Confusionmy uncle! O the damned sorceress.
LADY TOUCH. Moderate your ragegood my lord! He's madalashe'smad. Indeed he ismy lordand knows not what he does. See howwild he looks.
MEL. By heaven'twere senseless not to be madand see suchwitchcraft.
LADY TOUCH. My lordyou hear himhe talks idly.
LORD TOUCH. Hence from my sightthou living infamy to my name;when next I see that faceI'll write villain in't with my sword'spoint.
MEL. Nowby my soulI will not go till I have made known mywrongs. Naytill I have made known yourswhichif possiblearegreater--though she has all the host of hell her servants.
LADY TOUCH. Alashe raves! Talks very poetry! For heaven's sakeawaymy lordhe'll either tempt you to extravaganceor commitsome himself.
MEL. Death and furieswill you not hear me?--Why by heaven shelaughsgrinspoints to your back; she forks out cuckoldom with herfingersand you're running horn-mad after your fortune. [As she isgoing she turns back and smiles at him.]
LORD TOUCH. I fear he's mad indeed.--Let's send Maskwell to him.
MEL. Send him to her.
LADY TOUCH. Comecomegood my lordmy heart aches soI shallfaint if I stay.
MEL. OhI could curse my starsfateand chance; all causes andaccidents of fortune in this life! But to what purpose? Yet'sdeathfor a man to have the fruit of all his industry grow fulland ripeready to drop into his mouthand just when he holds outhis hand to gather itto have a sudden whirlwind cometear up treeand alland bear away the very root and foundation of his hopes:-what temper can contain? They talk of sending Maskwell to me; Inever had more need of him. But what can he do? Imagination cannotform a fairer and more plausible design than this of his which hasmiscarried. O my precious auntI shall never thrive without I dealwith the devilor another woman.
Womenlike flameshave a destroying powerNe'er to be quenchedtill they themselves devour.
ACT V.--SCENE I.
LADY TOUCHWOOD and MASKWELL.
LADY TOUCH. Was't not lucky?
MASK. Lucky! Fortune is your ownand 'tis her interest so to be.By heaven I believe you can control her powerand she fears it:though chance brought my lord'twas your own art that turned it toadvantage.
LADY TOUCH. 'Tis true it might have been my ruin. But yonder's mylord. I believe he's coming to find you: I'll not be seen.
MASK. So; I durst not own my introducing my lordthough itsucceeded well for herfor she would have suspected a design whichI should have been puzzled to excuse. My lord is thoughtful. I'llbe so too; yet he shall know my thoughts: or think he does.
[To him] LORD TOUCHWOOD.
MASK. What have I done?
LORD TOUCH. Talking to himself!
MASK. 'Twas honest--and shall I be rewarded for it? No'twashonesttherefore I shan't. Nayrather therefore I ought not; forit rewards itself.
LORD TOUCH. Unequalled virtue! [Aside.]
MASK. But should it be knownthen I have lost a friend! He was anill manand I have gained; for half myself I lent himand that Ihave recalled: so I have served myselfand what is yet betterIhave served a worthy lord to whom I owe myself.
LORD TOUCH. Excellent man! [Aside.]
MASK. Yet I am wretched. Ohthere is a secret burns within thisbreastwhichshould it once blaze forthwould ruin allconsumemy honest characterand brand me with the name of villain.
LORD TOUCH. Ha!
MASK. Why do I love! Yet heaven and my waking conscience are mywitnessesI never gave one working thought a ventwhich mightdiscover that I lovednor ever must. Nolet it prey upon myheart; for I would rather diethan seem oncebarely seemdishonest. Ohshould it once be known I love fair Cynthiaallthis that I have done would look like rival's malicefalsefriendship to my lordand base self-interest. Let me perish firstand from this hour avoid all sight and speechandif I canallthought of that pernicious beauty. Ha! But what is my distractiondoing? I am wildly talking to myselfand some ill chance mighthave directed malicious ears this way. [Seems to startseeing mylord.]
LORD TOUCH. Start not; let guilty and dishonest souls start at therevelation of their thoughtsbut be thou fixedas is thy virtue.
MASK. I am confoundedand beg your Lordship's pardon for thosefree discourses which I have had with myself.
LORD TOUCH. ComeI beg your pardon that I overheard youand yetit shall not need. Honest Maskwell! Thy and my good genius led mehither. Minein that I have discovered so much manly virtue;thinein that thou shalt have due reward of all thy worth. Give methy hand. My nephew is the alone remaining branch of all ourancient family: him I thus blow awayand constitute thee in hisroom to be my heir -
MASK. Now heaven forbid -
LORD TOUCH. No more--I have resolved. The writings are readydrawnand wanted nothing but to be signedand have his nameinserted. Yours will fill the blank as well. I will have no reply.Let me command this time; for 'tis the last in which I will assumeauthority. Hereafteryou shall rule where I have power.
MASK. I humbly would petition -
LORD TOUCH. Is't for yourself? [MASKWELL pauses.] I'll hear ofnought for anybody else.
MASK. Then witness heaven for methis wealth and honour was not ofmy seekingnor would I build my fortune on another's ruin. I hadbut one desire -
LORD TOUCH. Thou shalt enjoy it. If all I'm worth in wealth orinterest can purchase Cynthiashe is thine. I'm sure Sir Paul'sconsent will follow fortune. I'll quickly show him which way thatis going.
MASK. You oppress me with bounty. My gratitude is weakandshrinks beneath the weightand cannot rise to thank you. Whatenjoy my love! Forgive the transports of a blessing so unexpectedso unhoped forso unthought of!
LORD TOUCH. I will confirm itand rejoice with thee.
MASK. This is prosperous indeed. Why let him find me out avillainsettled in possession of a fair estateand full fruitionof my loveI'll bear the railings of a losing gamester. But shouldhe find me out before! 'Tis dangerous to delay. Let me think.Should my lord proceed to treat openly of my marriage with Cynthiaall must be discoveredand Mellefont can be no longer blinded. Itmust not be; nayshould my lady know it--aythen were fine workindeed! Her fury would spare nothingthough she involved herselfin ruin. Noit must be by stratagem. I must deceive Mellefontonce moreand get my lord to consent to my private management. Hecomes opportunely. Now will Iin my old waydiscover the wholeand real truth of the matter to himthat he may not suspect oneword on't.
No mask like open truth to cover lies
As to go naked is the best disguise.
[To him] MELLEFONT.
MEL. O Maskwellwhat hopes? I am confounded in a maze ofthoughtseach leading into one anotherand all ending inperplexity. My uncle will not see nor hear me.
MASK. No mattersirdon't trouble your head: all's in my power.
MEL. How? For heaven's sake?
MASK. Little do you think that your aunt has kept her word. Howthe devil she wrought my lord into this dotageI know not; but he'sgone to Sir Paul about my marriage with Cynthiaand has appointedme his heir.
MEL. The devil he has! What's to be done?
MASK. I have itit must be by stratagem; for it's in vain to makeapplication to him. I think I have that in my head that cannotfail. Where's Cynthia?
MEL. In the garden.
MASK. Let us go and consult her: my life for yoursI cheat mylord.
LORD TOUCHWOODLADY TOUCHWOOD.
LADY TOUCH. Maskwell your heirand marry Cynthia!
LORD TOUCH. I cannot do too much for so much merit.
LADY TOUCH. But this is a thing of too great moment to be sosuddenly resolved. Why Cynthia? Why must he be married? Is therenot reward enough in raising his low fortunebut he must mix hisblood with mineand wed my niece? How know you that my brotherwill consentor she? Nayhe himself perhaps may have affectionsotherwhere.
LORD TOUCH. NoI am convinced he loves her.
LADY TOUCH. Maskwell love Cynthia? Impossible!
LORD TOUCH. I tell you he confessed it to me.
LADY TOUCH. Confusion! How's this? [Aside.]
LORD TOUCH. His humility long stifled his passion. And his love ofMellefont would have made him still conceal it. But byencouragementI wrung the secret from himand know he's no way tobe rewarded but in her. I'll defer my farther proceedings in ittill you have considered it; but remember how we are both indebtedto him.
LADY TOUCHWOOD alone.
LADY TOUCH. Both indebted to him! Yeswe are both indebted tohimif you knew all. Villain! OhI am wild with this surprise oftreachery: it is impossibleit cannot be. He love Cynthia! Whathave I been bawd to his designshis property onlya baiting place?Now I see what made him false to Mellefont. Shame and distraction!I cannot bear itoh! what woman can bear to be a property? To bekindled to a flameonly to light him to another's arms; oh! that Iwere fire indeed that I might burn the vile traitor. What shall Ido? How shall I think? I cannot think. All my designs are lostmy love unsatedmy revenge unfinishedand fresh cause of fury fromunthought of plagues.
[To her] SIR PAUL.
SIR PAUL. Madamsistermy lady sisterdid you see my lady mywife?
LADY TOUCH. Oh! Torture!
SIR PAUL. Gads-budI can't find her high nor low; where can shebethink you?
LADY TOUCH. Where she's serving youas all your sex ought to beservedmaking you a beast. Don't you know you're a foolbrother?
SIR PAUL. A fool; heheheyou're merry. Nononot II knowno such matter.
LADY TOUCH. Whythenyou don't know half your happiness.
SIR PAUL. That's a jest with all my heartfaith and troth. Butharkeemy lord told me something of a revolution of things; I don'tknow what to make on't. Gads-budI must consult my wife:- he talksof disinheriting his nephewand I don't know what. Look yousisterI must know what my girl has to trust toor not a syllableof a weddinggads-bud!--to show you that I am not a fool.
LADY TOUCH. Hear me: consent to the breaking off this marriageand the promoting any other without consulting meand I'll renounceall bloodall relation and concern with you for ever; nayI'll beyour enemyand pursue you to destruction: I'll tear your eyes outand tread you under my feet.
SIR PAUL. Whywhat's the matter now? Good Lordwhat's all thisfor? Poohhere's a joke indeed. Whywhere's my wife?
LADY TOUCH. With Carelessin the close arbour; he may want you bythis timeas much as you want her.
SIR PAUL. Ohif she be with Mr. Careless'tis well enough.
LADY TOUCH. Foolsotinsensible ox! But remember what I said toyouor you had better eat your own hornsby this light you had.
SIR PAUL. You're a passionate womangads-bud! But to say truthall our family are choleric; I am the only peaceable person amongst'em.
MEL. I know no other way but this he has proposed: if you havelove enough to run the venture.
CYNT. I don't know whether I have love enoughbut I find I haveobstinacy enough to pursue whatever I have once resolved; and a truefemale courage to oppose anything that resists my willthough'twere reason itself.
MASK. That's right. WellI'll secure the writings and run thehazard along with you.
CYNT. But how can the coach and six horses be got ready withoutsuspicion?
MASK. Leave it to my care; that shall be so far from beingsuspectedthat it shall be got ready by my lord's own order.
MASK. WhyI intend to tell my lord the whole matter of ourcontrivance; that's my way.
MEL. I don't understand you.
MASK. WhyI'll tell my lord I laid this plot with you on purposeto betray you; and that which put me upon itwas the finding itimpossible to gain the lady any other waybut in the hopes of hermarrying you.
MASK. Sowhy sowhile you're busied in making yourself readyI'll wheedle her into the coach; and instead of youborrow mylord's chaplainand so run away with her myself.
MEL. OhI conceive you; you'll tell him so.
MASK. Tell him so! ay; whyyou don't think I mean to do so?
MEL. Nono; hahaI dare swear thou wilt not.
MASK. Thereforefor our farther securityI would have youdisguised like a parsonthat if my lord should have curiosity topeephe may not discover you in the coachbut think the cheat iscarried on as he would have it.
MEL. Excellent Maskwell! Thou wert certainly meant for a statesmanor a Jesuit; but thou art too honest for oneand too pious for theother.
MASK. Wellget yourself readyand meet me in half-an-houryonderin my lady's dressing-room; go by the back stairsand so we mayslip down without being observed. I'll send the chaplain to youwith his robes: I have made him my ownand ordered him to meet usto-morrow morning at St. Albans; there we will sum up this accountto all our satisfactions.
MEL. Should I begin to thank or praise theeI should waste thelittle time we have.
MASK. Madamyou will be ready?
CYNT. I will be punctual to the minute. [Going.]
MASK. StayI have a doubt. Upon second thoughtswe had bettermeet in the chaplain's chamber herethe corner chamber at this endof the gallerythere is a back way into itso that you need notcome through this doorand a pair of private stairs leading down tothe stables. It will be more convenient.
CYNT. I am guided by you; but Mellefont will mistake.
MASK. NonoI'll after him immediatelyand tell him.
CYNT. I will not fail.
MASK. WhyQUI VULT DECIPI DECIPIATUR.--'Tis no fault of mine: Ihave told 'em in plain terms how easy 'tis for me to cheat 'emandif they will not hear the serpent's hissthey must be stung intoexperience and future caution. Now to prepare my lord to consent tothis. But first I must instruct my little Levite; there is no plotpublic or privatethat can expect to prosper without one of themhas a finger in't: he promised me to be within at this hour--Mr.SaygraceMr. Saygrace! [Goes to the chamber door and knocks.]
SAYGRACE [looking out.] Sweet sirI will but pen the last line ofan acrosticand be with you in the twinkling of an ejaculationinthe pronouncing of an Amenor before you can -
MASK. Naygood Mr. Saygracedo not prolong the time by describingto me the shortness of your stay; rather if you pleasedefer thefinishing of your witand let us talk about our business; it shallbe tithes in your way.
SAYGRACE. [Enters.] You shall prevail: I would break off in themiddle of a sermon to do you a pleasure.
MASK. You could not do me a greater--except the business in hand.Have you provided a habit for Mellefont?
SAYGRACE. I have; they are ready in my chambertogether with aclean starched band and cuffs.
MASK. Goodlet them be carried to him; have you stitched the gownsleevethat he may be puzzledand waste time in putting it on?
SAYGRACE. I have: the gown will not be indued without perplexity.
MASK. Meet me in half-an-hourhere in your own chamber. WhenCynthia comeslet there be no lightand do not speakthat she maynot distinguish you from Mellefont. I'll urge haste to excuse yoursilence.
SAYGRACE. You have no more commands?
MASK. None: your text is short.
SAYGRACE. But pithy: and I will handle it with discretion.
MASK. It will be the first you have so served.
LORD TOUCH. Sure I was born to be controlled by those I shouldcommand. My very slaves will shortly give me rules how I shallgovern them.
MASK. I am concerned to see your lordship discomposed.
LORD TOUCH. Have you seen my wife latelyor disobliged her?
MASK. Nomy lord. What can this mean? [Aside.]
LORD TOUCH. Then Mellefont has urged somebody to incense her.Something she has heard of you which carries her beyond the boundsof patience.
MASK. This I feared. [Aside.] Did not your lordship tell her ofthe honours you designed me?
LORD TOUCH. Yes.
MASK. 'Tis that; you know my lady has a high spirit; she thinks Iam unworthy.
LORD TOUCH. Unworthy! 'Tis an ignorant pride in her to think so.Honesty to me is true nobility. However'tis my will it shall besoand that should be convincing to her as much as reason. ByHeavenI'll not be wife-ridden; were it possibleit should be donethis night.
MASK. By Heavenhe meets my wishes! [Aside.] Few things areimpossible to willing minds.
LORD TOUCH. Instruct me how this may be doneyou shall see I wantno inclination.
MASK. I had laid a small design for to-morrow (as love will beinventing) which I thought to communicate to your lordship. But itmay be as well done to-night.
LORD TOUCH. Here's company. Come this way and tell me.
CARELESS and CYNTHIA.
CARE. Is not that he now gone out with my lord?
CARE. By heaventhere's treachery. The confusion that I saw yourfather inmy Lady Touchwood's passionwith what imperfectly Ioverheard between my lord and herconfirm me in my fears. Where'sMellefont?
CYNT. Here he comes.
[To them] MELLEFONT.
CYNT. Did Maskwell tell you anything of the chaplain's chamber?
MEL. No. My dearwill you get ready? The things are all in mychamber; I want nothing but the habit.
CARE. You are betrayedand Maskwell is the villain I alwaysthought him.
CYNT. When you were gonehe said his mind was changedand bid memeet him in the chaplain's roompretending immediately to followyou and give you notice.
CARE. There's Saygrace tripping by with a bundle under his arm. Hecannot be ignorant that Maskwell means to use his chamber; let'sfollow and examine him.
MEL. 'Tis loss of time; I cannot think him false.
CYNT. My lord musing!
LORD TOUCH. He has a quick inventionif this were suddenlydesigned. Yet he says he had prepared my chaplain already.
CYNT. How's this? Now I fear indeed.
LORD TOUCH. Cynthia here! Alonefair cousinand melancholy?
CYNT. Your lordship was thoughtful.
LORD TOUCH. My thoughts were on serious business not worth yourhearing.
CYNT. Mine were on treachery concerning youand may be worth yourhearing.
LORD TOUCH. Treachery concerning me? Pray be plain. Hark! Whatnoise?
MASK. (within) Will you not hear me?
LADY TOUCH. (within) Nomonster! traitor! No.
CYNT. My lady and Maskwell! This may be lucky. My lordlet meentreat you to stand behind this screen and listen: perhaps thischance may give you proof of what you ne'er could have believed frommy suspicions.
LADY TOUCHWOOD with a dagger; MASKWELL; CYNTHIA and LORD TOUCHWOODabscondlistening.
LADY TOUCH. You want but leisure to invent fresh falsehoodandsoothe me to a fond belief of all your fictions: but I will stabthe lie that's forming in your heartand save a sinin pity toyour soul.
MASK. Strike thensince you will have it so.
LADY TOUCH. Ha! A steady villain to the last.
MASK. Comewhy do you dally with me thus?
LADY TOUCH. Thy stubborn temper shocks meand you knew it would;this is cunning alland not courage. No; I know thee wellbutthou shalt miss thy aim.
LADY TOUCH. Ha! Do you mock my rage? Then this shall punish yourfondrash contempt. Again smile! [Goes to strike.] And such asmile as speaks in ambiguity! Ten thousand meanings lurk in eachcorner of that various face.
Oh! that they were written in thy heart
That Iwith thismight lay thee open to my sight!
But then 'twill be too late to know -
Thou hastthou hast found the only way to turn my rage. Too wellthou knowest my jealous soul could never bear uncertainty. Speakthenand tell me. Yet are you silent. OhI am wildered in allpassions. But thus my anger melts. [Weeps.] Heretake thisponiardfor my very spirits faintand I want strength to hold it;thou hast disarmed my soul. [Gives the dagger.]
LORD TOUCH. Amazement shakes me. Where will this end?
MASK. So'tis well--let your wild fury have a vent; and when youhave tempertell me.
LADY TOUCH. Nownownow I am calm and can hear you.
MASK. [Aside.] Thanksmy invention; and now I have it for you.Firsttell me what urged you to this violence: for your passionbroke in such imperfect termsthat yet I am to learn the cause.
LADY TOUCH. My lord himself surprised me with the news you were tomarry Cynthiathat you had owned our love to himand hisindulgence would assist you to attain your ends.
CYNT. Howmy lord?
LORD TOUCH. Pray forbear all resentments for a whileand let ushear the rest.
MASK. I grant you in appearance all is true; I seemed consenting tomy lord--naytransported with the blessing. But could you thinkthat Iwho had been happy in your loved embracescould e'er befond of an inferior slavery?
LORD TOUCH. Ha! Ohpoison to my ears! What do I hear?
CYNT. Naygood my lordforbear resentment; let us hear it out.
LORD TOUCH. YesI will containthough I could burst.
MASK. Ithat had wantoned in the rich circle of your world oflovecould be confined within the puny province of a girl? No.Yet though I dote on each last favour more than all the restthoughI would give a limb for every look you cheaply throw away on anyother object of your love: yet so far I prize your pleasures o'ermy ownthat all this seeming plot that I have laid has been togratify your taste and cheat the worldto prove a faithful rogue toyou.
LADY TOUCH. If this were true. But how can it be?
MASK. I have so contrived that Mellefont will presentlyin thechaplain's habitwait for Cynthia in your dressing-room; but I haveput the change upon herthat she may be other where employed. Doyou procure her night-gownand with your hoods tied over your facemeet him in her stead. You may go privately by the back stairsandunperceivedthere you may propose to reinstate him in hisuncle's favourif he'll comply with your desires--his case isdesperateand I believe he'll yield to any conditions. If notheretake this; you may employ it better than in the heart of onewho is nothing when not yours. [Gives the dagger.]
LADY TOUCH. Thou can'st deceive everybody. Naythou hast deceivedme; but 'tis as I would wish. Trusty villain! I could worshipthee.
MASK. No more; it wants but a few minutes of the time; andMellefont's love will carry him there before his hour.
LADY TOUCH. I goI flyincomparable Maskwell!
MASK. Sothis was a pinch indeedmy invention was upon the rackand made discovery of her last plot. I hope Cynthia and my chaplainwill be ready; I'll prepare for the expedition.
CYNTHIA and LORD TOUCHWOOD.
CYNT. Nowmy lord?
LORD TOUCH. Astonishment binds up my rage! Villainy upon villainy!Heavenswhat a long track of dark deceit has this discovered! I amconfounded when I look backand want a clue to guide me through thevarious mazes of unheard-of treachery. My wife! Damnation! Myhell!
CYNT. My lordhave patienceand be sensible how great ourhappiness isthat this discovery was not made too late.
LORD TOUCH. I thank youyet it may be still too lateif we don'tpresently prevent the execution of their plots;--haI'll do't.Where's Mellefontmy poor injured nephew? How shall I make himample satisfaction?
CYNT. I dare answer for him.
LORD TOUCH. I do him fresh wrong to question his forgiveness; for Iknow him to be all goodness. Yet my wife! Damn her:- she'll thinkto meet him in that dressing-room. Was't not so? And Maskwell willexpect you in the chaplain's chamber. For onceI'll add my plottoo:- let us haste to find outand inform my nephew; and do youquickly as you canbring all the company into this gallery. I'llexpose the strumpetand the villain.
LORD FROTH and SIR PAUL.
LORD FROTH. By heavensI have slept an age. Sir Paulwhato'clock is't? Past eighton my conscience; my lady's is the mostinviting couchand a slumber there is the prettiest amusement! Butwhere's all the company?
SIR PAUL. The companygads-budI don't knowmy lordbut here'sthe strangest revolutionall turned topsy turvy; as I hope forprovidence.
LORD FROTH. O heavenswhat's the matter? Where's my wife?
SIR PAUL. All turned topsy turvy as sure as a gun.
LORD FROTH. How do you mean? My wife?
SIR PAUL. The strangest posture of affairs!
LORD FROTH. Whatmy wife?
SIR PAUL. NonoI mean the family. Your lady's affairs may be ina very good posture; I saw her go into the garden with Mr. Brisk.
LORD FROTH. How? Wherewhenwhat to do?
SIR PAUL. I suppose they have been laying their heads together.
LORD FROTH. How?
SIR PAUL. Nayonly about poetryI supposemy lord; makingcouplets.
LORD FROTH. Couplets.
SIR PAUL. Ohhere they come.
[To them] LADY FROTHBRISK.
BRISK. My lordyour humble servant; Sir Paulyours--the finestnight!
LADY FROTH. My dearMr. Brisk and I have been star-gazingI don'tknow how long.
SIR PAUL. Does it not tire your ladyship? Are not you weary withlooking up?
LADY FROTH. OhnoI love it violently. My dearyou'remelancholy.
LORD FROTH. Nomy dear; I'm but just awake.
LADY FROTH. Snuff some of my spirit of hartshorn.
LORD FROTH. I've some of my ownthank youdear.
LADY FROTH. WellI swearMr. Briskyou understood astronomy likean old Egyptian.
BRISK. Not comparably to your ladyship; you are the very Cynthia ofthe skiesand queen of stars.
LADY FROTH. That's because I have no light but what's by reflectionfrom youwho are the sun.
BRISK. Madamyou have eclipsed me quitelet me perish. I can'tanswer that.
LADY FROTH. No matter. Hark 'eeshall you and I make an almanactogether?
BRISK. With all my soul. Your ladyship has made me the man in'talreadyI'm so full of the wounds which you have given.
LADY FROTH. O finely taken! I swear now you are even with me. OParnassusyou have an infinite deal of wit.
SIR PAUL. So he hasgads-budand so has your ladyship.
[To them] LADY PLYANTCARELESSCYNTHIA.
LADY PLYANT. You tell me most surprising things; bless mewhowould ever trust a man? Oh my heart aches for fear they should beall deceitful alike.
CARE. You need not fearmadamyou have charms to fix inconstancyitself.
LADY PLYANT. O dearyou make me blush.
LORD FROTH. Comemy dearshall we take leave of my lord and lady?
CYNT. They'll wait upon your lordship presently.
LADY FROTH. Mr. Briskmy coach shall set you down.
ALL. What's the matter? [A great shriek from the corner of thestage.]
[To them] LADY TOUCHWOOD runs out affrightedmy lord after herlike a parson.
LADY TOUCH. OhI'm betrayed. Save mehelp me!
LORD TOUCH. Now what evasionstrumpet?
LADY TOUCH. Stand offlet me go.
LORD TOUCH. Goand thy own infamy pursue thee. You stare as youwere all amazed--I don't wonder at it--but too soon you'll knowmineand that woman's shame.
SCENE the last.
LORD TOUCHWOODLORD FROTHLADY FROTHLADY PLYANTSIR PAULCYNTHIAMELLEFONTMASKWELLMELLEFONT disguised in a parson'shabit and pulling in MASKWELL.
MEL. Nayby heaven you shall be seen. Carelessyour hand. Doyou hold down your head? YesI am your chaplainlook in the faceof your injured friend; thou wonder of all falsehood.
LORD TOUCH. Are you silentmonster?
MEL. Good heavens! How I believed and loved this man! Take himhencefor he's a disease to my sight.
LORD TOUCH. Secure that manifold villain. [Servants seize him.]
CARE. Miracle of ingratitude!
BRISK. This is all very surprisinglet me perish.
LADY FROTH. You know I told you Saturn looked a little more angrythan usual.
LORD TOUCH. We'll think of punishment at leisurebut let me hastento do justice in rewarding virtue and wronged innocence. NephewIhope I have your pardonand Cynthia's.
MEL. We are your lordship's creatures.
LORD TOUCH. And be each other's comfort. Let me join your hands.Unwearied nightsand wishing days attend you both; mutual lovelasting healthand circling joystread round each happy year ofyour long lives.
Let secret villany from hence be warned;
Howe'er in private mischiefs are conceived
Torture and shame attend their open birth;
Like vipers in the wombbase treachery lies
Still gnawing thatwhence first it did arise;
No sooner bornbut the vile parent dies.
EPILOGUE--Spoken by Mrs. Mountford.
Could poets but foresee how plays would take
Then they could tell what epilogues to make;
Whether to thank or blame their audience most.
But that late knowledge does much hazard cost:
Till dice are thrownthere's nothing wonnor lost.
Sotill the thief has stolenhe cannot know
Whether he shall escape the lawor no.
But poets run much greater hazards far
Than they who stand their trials at the bar.
The law provides a curb for it's own fury
And suffers judges to direct the jury:
But in this courtwhat difference does appear!
For every one's both judge and jury here;
Nayand what's worsean executioner.
All have a right and title to some part
Each choosing that in which he has most art.
The dreadful men of learning all confound
Unless the fable's goodand moral sound.
The vizor-masksthat are in pit and gallery
Approveor damnthe repartee and raillery.
The lady criticswho are better read
Inquire if characters are nicely bred;
If the soft things are penned and spoke with grace;
They judge of action tooand timeand place;
In which we do not doubt but they're discerning
For that's a kind of assignation learning.
Beaus judge of dress; the witlings judge of songs;
The cuckoldomof ancient rightto cits belongs.
Thus poor poets the favour are denied
Even to make exceptionswhen they're tried
.'Tis hard that they must every one admit:
Methinks I see some faces in the pit
Which must of consequence be foes to wit.
You who can judgeto sentence may proceed;
But though he cannot writelet him be freed
At least from their contempt who cannot read.