The Double - Dealer by William Congreve - HTML preview
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MELLEFONT and CYNTHIA.
CYNT. I heard him loud as I came by the closet-door, and my lady with him, but she seemed to moderate his passion.
MEL. Ay, hell thank her, as gentle breezes moderate a fire; but I shall counter-work her spells, and ride the witch in her own bridle.
CYNT. It's impossible; she'll cast beyond you still. I'll lay my life it will never be a match.
CYNT. Between you and me.
MEL. Why so?
CYNT . My mind gives me it won't, because we are both willing. We each of us strive to reach the goal, and hinder one another in the race. I swear it never does well when the parties are so agreed; for when people walk hand in hand there's neither overtaking nor meeting. We hunt in couples, where we both pursue the same game but forget one another; and 'tis because we are so near that we don't think of coming together.
MEL. Hum, 'gad I believe there's something in it. Marriage is the game that we hunt, and while we think that we only have it in view, I don't see but we have it in our power.
CYNT. Within reach; for example, give me your hand. You have looked through the wrong end of the perspective all this while, for nothing has been between us but our fears.
MEL. I don't know why we should not steal out of the house this very moment and marry one another, without consideration or the fear of repentance. Pox o' fortune, portion, settlements, and jointures.
CYNT. Ay, ay, what have we to do with 'em? You know we marry for love.
MEL. Love, love, downright, very villainous love.
CYNT . And he that can't live upon love deserves to die in a ditch. Here then, I give you my promise, in spite of duty, any temptation of wealth, your inconstancy, or my own inclination to change -
MEL. To run most wilfully and unreasonably away with me this moment and be married.
CYNT. Hold. Never to marry anybody else.
MEL. That's but a kind of negative consent. Why, you won't baulk the frolic?
CYNT . If you had not been so assured of your own conduct I would not. But 'tis but reasonable that since I consent to like a man without the vile consideration of money, he should give me a very evident demonstration of his wit: therefore let me see you undermine my Lady Touchwood, as you boasted, and force her to give her consent, and then -
MEL. I'll do't.
CYNT. And I'll do't.
MEL. This very next ensuing hour of eight o'clock is the last minute of her reign, unless the devil assist her IN PROPRIA PERSONA.
CYNT. Well, if the devil should assist her, and your plot miscarry -
MEL. Ay, what am I to trust to then?
CYNT . Why, if you give me very clear demonstration that it was the devil, I'll allow for irresistible odds. But if I find it to be only chance, or destiny, or unlucky stars, or anything but the very devil, I'm inexorable: only still I'll keep my word, and live a maid for your sake.
MEL. And you won't die one, for your own, so still there's hope.
CYNT. Here's my mother-in-law, and your friend Careless; I would not have 'em see us together yet.
CARELESS and LADY PLYANT.
LADY PLYANT . I swear, Mr. Careless, you are very alluring, and say so many fine things, and nothing is so moving to me as a fine thing. Well, I must do you this justice, and declare in the face of the world, never anybody gained so far upon me as yourself. With blushes I must own it, you have shaken, as I may say, the very foundation of my honour. Well, sure, if I escape your importunities, I shall value myself as long as I live, I swear.
CARE . And despise me. [Sighing.]
LADY PLYANT. The last of any man in the world, by my purity; now you make me swear. O gratitude forbid, that I should ever be wanting in a respectful acknowledgment of an entire resignation of all my best wishes for the person and parts of so accomplished a person, whose merit challenges much more, I'm sure, than my illiterate praises can description.
CARE . [In a whining tone.] Ah heavens, madam, you ruin me with kindness. Your charming tongue pursues the victory of your eyes, while at your feet your poor adorer dies.
LADY PLYANT. Ah! Very fine.
CARE . [Still whining.] Ah, why are you so fair, so bewitching fair? O let me grow to the ground here, and feast upon that hand; O let me press it to my heart, my trembling heart: the nimble movement shall instruct your pulse, and teach it to alarm desire. (Zoons, I'm almost at the end of my cant, if she does not yield quickly.) [Aside.]
LADY PLYANT. O that's so passionate and fine, I cannot hear. I am not safe if I stay, and must leave you.
CARE . And must you leave me! Rather let me languish out a wretched life, and breath my soul beneath your feet. (I must say the same thing over again, and 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 of the heart.
CARE. Can you be so cruel -
LADY PLYANT . O rise, I beseech you, say no more till you rise. Why did you kneel so long? I swear I was so transported, I did not see it. Well, to show you how far you have gained upon me, I assure you, if Sir Paul should die, of all mankind there's none I'd sooner make my second choice.
CARE . O Heaven! I can't out-live this night without your favour; I feel my spirits faint, a general dampness overspreads my face, a cold deadly dew already vents through all my pores, and will to- morrow wash me for ever from your sight, and drown me in my tomb.
LADY PLYANT . Oh, you have conquered, sweet, melting, moving sir, you have conquered. What heart of marble can refrain to weep, and yield to such sad sayings! [Cries.]
CARE . I thank Heaven, they are the saddest that I ever said. Oh! (I shall never contain laughter.) [Aside.]
LADY PLYANT. Oh, I yield myself all up to your uncontrollable embraces. Say, thou dear dying man, when, where, and how. Ah, there's Sir Paul.
CARE. 'Slife, yonder's Sir Paul, but if he were not come, I'm so transported I cannot speak. This note will inform you. [Gives her a note.]
LADY PLYANT, SIR PAUL, CYNTHIA.
SIR PAUL. Thou art my tender lambkin, and shalt do what thou wilt. But endeavour to forget this Mellefont.
CYNT. I would obey you to my power, sir; but if I have not him, I have sworn never to marry.
SIR PAUL . Never to marry! Heavens forbid! must I neither have sons nor grandsons? Must the family of the Plyants be utterly extinct for want of issue male? O impiety! But did you swear, did that sweet creature swear? ha! How durst you swear without my consent, ah? Gads-bud, who am I?
CYNT. Pray don't be angry, sir, when I swore I had your consent; and therefore I swore.
SIR PAUL. Why then the revoking my consent does annul, or make of none effect your oath; so you may unswear it again. The law will allow it.
CYNT. Ay, but my conscience never will.
SIR PAUL. Gads-bud, no matter for that, conscience and law never go together; you must not expect that.
LADY PLYANT . Ay, but, Sir Paul, I conceive if she has sworn, d'ye mark me, if she has once sworn, it is most unchristian, inhuman, and obscene that she should break it. I'll make up the match again, because Mr. Careless said it would oblige him. [Aside.]
SIR PAUL . Does your ladyship conceive so? Why, I was of that opinion once too. Nay, if your ladyship conceives so, I'm of that opinion again; but I can neither find my lord nor my lady to know what they intend.
LADY PLYANT. I'm satisfied that my cousin Mellefont has been much wronged.
CYNT . [Aside.] I'm amazed to find her of our side, for I'm sure she loved him.
LADY PLYANT. I know my Lady Touchwood has no kindness for him; and besides I have been informed by Mr. Careless, that Mellefont had never anything more than a profound respect. That he has owned himself to be my admirer 'tis true, but he was never so presumptuous to entertain any dishonourable notions of things; so that if this be made plain, I don't see how my daughter can in conscience, or honour, or anything in the world -
SIR PAUL. Indeed if this be made plain, as my lady, your mother, says, child -
LADY PLYANT. Plain! I was informed of it by Mr. Careless. And I assure you, Mr. Careless is a person that has a most extraordinary respect and honour for you, Sir Paul.
CYNT. [Aside.] And for your ladyship too, I believe, or else you had not changed sides so soon; now I begin to find it.
SIR PAUL. I am much obliged to Mr. Careless really; he is a person that I have a great value for, not only for that, but because he has a great veneration for your ladyship.
LADY PLYANT. O las, no indeed, Sir Paul, 'tis upon your account.
SIR PAUL. No, I protest and vow, I have no title to his esteem, but in having the honour to appertain in some measure to your ladyship, that's all.
LADY PLYANT. O law now, I swear and declare it shan't be so; you're too modest, Sir Paul.
SIR PAUL. It becomes me, when there is any comparison made between -
LADY PLYANT. O fie, fie, Sir Paul, you'll put me out of countenance. Your very obedient and affectionate wife; that's all. And highly honoured in that title.
SIR PAUL. Gads-bud, I am transported! Give me leave to kiss your ladyship's hand.
CYNT. That my poor father should be so very silly! [Aside.]
LADY PLYANT. My lip indeed, Sir Paul, I swear you shall. [He kisses her, and bows very low.]
SIR PAUL . I humbly thank your ladyship. I don't know whether I fly on ground, or walk in air. Gads-bud, she was never thus before. Well, I must own myself the most beholden to Mr. Careless. As sure as can be, this is all his doing, something that he has said; well, 'tis a rare thing to have an ingenious friend. Well, your ladyship is of opinion that the match may go forward.
LADY PLYANT . By all means. Mr. Careless has satisfied me of the matter. SIR PAUL. Well, why then, lamb, you may keep your oath, but have a care about making rash vows; come hither to me, and kiss papa.
LADY PLYANT . I swear and declare, I am in such a twitter to read Mr. Careless his letter, that I can't forbear any longer. But though I may read all letters first by prerogative, yet I'll be sure to be unsuspected this time, Sir Paul.
SIR PAUL. Did your ladyship call?
LADY PLYANT . Nay, not to interrupt you, my dear. Only lend me your letter, which you had from your steward to-day; I would look upon the account again, and may be increase your allowance.
SIR PAUL. There it is, madam, do you want a pen and ink? [Bows and gives the letter.]
LADY PLYANT. No, no, nothing else, I thank you, Sir Paul. So, now I 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 upon the rogue as soon as ever he looks me in the face, I will, gads-bud. I'm overjoyed to think I have any of my family that will bring children into the world. For I would fain have some resemblance of myself in my posterity, he, Thy? Can't you contrive that affair, girl? Do, gads-bud, think on thy old father, heh? Make the young rogue as like as you can.
CYNT. I'm glad to see you so merry, sir.
SIR PAUL . Merry, gads-bud, I'm serious; I'll give thee five hundred pounds for every inch of him that resembles me; ah, this eye, this left eye! A thousand pounds for this left eye. This has done execution in its time, girl; why, thou hast my leer, hussey, just thy father's leer. Let it be transmitted to the young rogue by the help of imagination; why, 'tis the mark of our family, Thy; our house is distinguished by a languishing eye, as the house of Austria is by a thick lip. Ah! when I was of your age, hussey, I would have held fifty to one, I could have drawn my own picture--gads-bud I could have done--not so much as you, neither; but--nay, don't blush.
CYNT. I don't blush, sir, for I vow I don't understand.
SIR PAUL . Pshaw, pshaw, you fib, you baggage, you do understand, and you shall understand; come, don't be so nice. Gads-bud, don't learn after your mother-in-law my lady here. Marry, heaven forbid that you should follow her example; that would spoil all indeed. Bless us! if you should take a vagary and make a rash resolution on your wedding night, to die a maid, as she did; all were ruined, all my hopes lost. My heart would break, and my estate would be left to the wide world, he? I hope you are a better Christian than to think of living a nun, he? Answer me?
CYNT. I'm all obedience, sir, to your commands.
LADY PLYANT . [Having read the letter.] O dear Mr. Careless, I swear he writes charmingly, and he looks charmingly, and he has charmed me, as much as I have charmed him; and so I'll tell him in the wardrobe when 'tis dark. O criminy! I hope Sir Paul has not seen both letters. [Puts the wrong letter hastily up, and gives him her own.] Sir Paul, here's your letter; to-morrow morning I'll settle accounts to your advantage.
[To them] BRISK.
BRISK. Sir Paul, gads-bud, you're an uncivil person, let me tell you, and all that; and I did not think it had been in you.
SIR PAUL. O law, what's the matter now? I hope you are not angry, Mr. Brisk.
BRISK. Deuce take me, I believe you intend to marry your daughter yourself; you're always brooding over her like an old hen, as if she were not well hatched, egad, he.
SIR PAUL. Good strange! Mr. Brisk is such a merry facetious person, he, he, he. No, no, I have done with her, I have done with her now.
BRISK. The fiddles have stayed this hour in the hall, and my Lord Froth wants a partner, we can never begin without her.
SIR PAUL. Go, go child, go, get 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 them, I know where he is.
BRISK. Sir Paul, will you send Careless into the hall if you meet him?
SIR PAUL. I will, I will, I'll go and look for him on purpose.
BRISK . So now they are all gone, and I have an opportunity to practice. Ah! My dear Lady Froth, she's a most engaging creature, if she were not so fond of that damned coxcombly lord of hers; and yet I am forced to allow him wit too, to keep in with him. No matter, she's a woman of parts, and, egad, parts will carry her. She said she would follow me into the gallery. Now to make my approaches. Hem, hem! Ah ma- [bows.] dam! Pox on't, why should I disparage my parts by thinking what to say? None but dull rogues think; witty men, like rich fellows, are always ready for all expenses; while your blockheads, like poor needy scoundrels, are forced to examine their stock, and forecast the charges of the day. Here she comes, I'll seem not to see her, and try to win her with a new airy invention of my own, hem!
[To him] LADY FROTH.
BRISK [Sings, walking about.] 'I'm sick with love,' ha, ha, ha, 'prithee, come cure me. I'm sick with,' etc. O ye powers! O my Lady Froth, my Lady Froth, my Lady Froth! Heigho! Break heart; gods, I thank you. [Stands musing with his arms across.]
LADY FROTH. O heavens, Mr. Brisk! What's the matter?
BRISK . My Lady Froth! Your ladyship's most humble servant. The matter, madam? Nothing, madam, nothing at all, egad. I was fallen into the most agreeable amusement in the whole province of contemplation: that's all--(I'll seem to conceal my passion, and that will look like respect.) [Aside.]
LADY FROTH. Bless me, why did you call out upon me so loud?
BRISK. O Lord, I, madam! I beseech your ladyship--when?
LADY FROTH. Just now as I came in, bless me, why, don't you know it?
BRISK . Not I, let me perish. But did I? Strange! I confess your ladyship was in my thoughts; and I was in a sort of dream that did in a manner represent a very pleasing object to my imagination, but- -but did I indeed?--To see how love and murder will out. But did I really name my Lady Froth?
LADY FROTH . Three times aloud, as I love letters. But did you talk of love? O Parnassus! Who would have thought Mr. Brisk could have been in love, ha, ha, ha. O heavens, I thought you could have no mistress but the Nine Muses.
BRISK . No more I have, egad, for I adore 'em all in your ladyship. Let me perish, I don't know whether to be splenetic, or airy upon't; the deuce take me if I can tell whether I am glad or sorry that your ladyship has made the discovery.
LADY FROTH. O be merry by all means. Prince Volscius in love! Ha, ha, ha.
BRISK . O barbarous, to turn me into ridicule! Yet, ha, ha, ha. The deuce take me, I can't help laughing myself, ha, ha, ha; yet by heavens, I have a violent passion for your ladyship, seriously.
LADY FROTH. Seriously? Ha, ha, ha.
BRISK. Seriously, ha, ha, ha. Gad I have, for all I laugh.
LADY FROTH. Ha, ha, ha! What d'ye think I laugh at? Ha, ha, ha.
BRISK. Me, egad, ha, ha.
LADY FROTH. No, the deuce take me if I don't laugh at myself; for hang me if I have not a violent passion for Mr. Brisk, ha, ha, ha.
LADY FROTH. Seriously, ha, ha, ha.
BRISK. That's well enough; let me perish, ha, ha, ha. O miraculous; 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! madam, there's my lord. [Softly to her.]
LADY FROTH . Take no notice, but observe me. Now, cast off, and meet me at the lower end of the room, and then join hands again; I could teach my lord this dance purely, but I vow, Mr. Brisk, I can't tell how to come so near any other man. Oh here's my lord, now you shall see me do it with him. [They pretend to practise part of a country dance.]
LORD FROTH. Oh, I see there's no harm yet, but I don't like this familiarity. [Aside.]
LADY FROTH. Shall you and I do our close dance, to show Mr. Brisk?
LORD FROTH. No, my dear, do it with him.
LADY FROTH. I'll do it with him, my lord, when you are out of the way.
BRISK. That's good, egad, that's good. Deuce take me, I can hardly hold laughing in his face. [Aside.]
LORD FROTH. Any other time, my dear, or we'll dance it below.
LADY FROTH. With all my heart.
BRISK. Come, my lord, I'll wait on you. My charming witty angel! [To her.]
LADY FROTH. We shall have whispering time enough, you know, since we are partners.
LADY PLYANT and CARELESS.
LADY PLYANT. Oh, Mr. Careless, Mr. Careless, I'm ruined, I'm undone.
CARE. What's the matter, madam?
LADY PLYANT. Oh, the unluckiest accident, I'm afraid I shan't live to tell it you.
CARE. Heaven forbid! What is it?
LADY PLYANT . I'm in such a fright; the strangest quandary and premunire! I'm all over in a universal agitation; I dare swear every circumstance of me trembles. O your letter, your letter! By an unfortunate mistake I have given Sir Paul your letter instead of his own.
CARE. That was unlucky.
LADY PLYANT. Oh, yonder he comes reading of it; for heaven's sake step in here and advise me quickly before he sees.
SIR PAUL with the Letter.
SIR PAUL . O Providence, what a conspiracy have I discovered. But let me see to make an end on't. [Reads.] Hum--After supper in the wardrobe by the gallery. If Sir Paul should surprise us, I have a commission from him to treat with you about the very matter of fact. Matter of fact! Very pretty; it seems that I am conducting to my own cuckoldom. Why, this is the very traitorous position of taking up arms by my authority, against my person! Well, let me see. Till then I languish in expectation of my adored charmer.--Dying Ned Careless. Gads-bud, would that were matter of fact too. Die and be damned for a Judas Maccabeus and Iscariot both. O friendship! what art thou but a name? Henceforward let no man make a friend that would not be a cuckold: for whomsoever he receives into his bosom will find the way to his bed, and there return his caresses with interest to his wife. Have I for this been pinioned, night after night for three years past? Have I been swathed in blankets till I have been even deprived of motion? Have I approached the marriage bed with reverence as to a sacred shrine, and denied myself the enjoyment of lawful domestic pleasures to preserve its purity, and must I now find it polluted by foreign iniquity? O my Lady Plyant, you were chaste as ice, but you are melted now, and false as water. But Providence has been constant to me in discovering this conspiracy; still, I am beholden to Providence. If it were not for Providence, sure, poor Sir Paul, thy heart would break.
[To him] LADY PLYANT.
LADY PLYANT . So, sir, I see you have read the letter. Well, now, Sir Paul, what do you think of your friend Careless? Has he been treacherous, or did you give his insolence a licence to make trial of your wife's suspected virtue? D'ye see here? [Snatches the letter as in anger.] Look, read it. Gads my life, if I thought it were so, I would this moment renounce all communication with you. Ungrateful monster! He? is it so? Ay, I see it, a plot upon my honour; your guilty cheeks confess it. Oh, where shall wronged virtue fly for reparation? I'll be divorced this instant.
SIR PAUL. Gads-bud, what shall I say? This is the strangest surprise. Why, I don't know anything at all, nor I don't know whether there be anything at all in the world, or no.
LADY PLYANT . I thought I should try you, false man. I, that never dissembled in my life, yet to make trial of you, pretended to like that monster of iniquity, Careless, and found out that contrivance to let you see this letter, which now I find was of your own inditing--I do, heathen, I do. See my face no more; I'll be divorced presently.
SIR PAUL. O strange, what will become of me? I'm so amazed, and so overjoyed, so afraid, and so sorry. But did you give me this letter on purpose, he? Did you?
LADY PLYANT. Did I? Do you doubt me, Turk, Saracen? I have a cousin that's a proctor in the Commons; I'll go to him instantly.
SIR PAUL. Hold, stay, I beseech your ladyship. I'm so overjoyed, stay, I'll confess all.
LADY PLYANT. What will you confess, Jew?
SIR PAUL . Why, now, as I hope to be saved, I had no hand in this letter--nay, hear me, I beseech your ladyship. The devil take me now if he did not go beyond my commission. If I desired him to do any more than speak a good word only just for me; gads-bud, only for poor Sir Paul, I'm an Anabaptist, or a Jew, or what you please to call me.
LADY PLYANT. Why, is not here matter of fact?
SIR PAUL . Ay, but by your own virtue and continency that matter of fact is all his own doing. I confess I had a great desire to have some honours conferred upon me, which lie all in your ladyship's breast, and he being a well-spoken man, I desired him to intercede for me.
LADY PLYANT. Did you so? presumption! Oh, he comes, the Tarquin comes; I cannot bear his sight.
CARELESS, SIR PAUL.
CARE. Sir Paul, I'm glad I've met with you, 'gad, I have said all I could, but can't prevail. Then my friendship to you has carried me a little farther in this matter.
SIR PAUL. Indeed; well sir, I'll dissemble with him a little. [Aside.]
CARE . Why, faith I have in my time known honest gentlemen abused by a pretended coyness in their wives, and I had a mind to try my lady's virtue. And when I could not prevail for you, gad, I pretended to be in love myself; but all in vain, she would not hear a word upon that subject. Then I writ a letter to her; I don't know what effects that will have, but I'll be sure to tell you when I do, though by this light I believe her virtue is impregnable.
SIR PAUL. O Providence! Providence! What discoveries are here made? Why, this is better and more miraculous than the rest.
CARE. What do you mean?
SIR PAUL. I can't tell you, I'm so overjoyed; come along with me to my lady, I can't contain myself; come, my dear friend.
CARE. So, so, so, this difficulty's over. [Aside.]
MELLEFONT, MASKWELL, from different doors.
MEL. Maskwell! I have been looking for you--'tis within a quarter of eight.
MASK . My lady is just gone into my lord's closet, you had best steal into her chamber before she comes, and lie concealed there, otherwise she may lock the door when we are together, and you not easily get in to surprise us.
MEL. He? You say true.
MASK. You had best make haste, for after she has made some apology to the company for her own and my lord's absence all this while, she'll retire to her chamber instantly.
MEL. I go this moment. Now, fortune, I defy thee. SCENE XIII.
MASK . I confess you may be allowed to be secure in your own opinion; the appearance is very fair, but I have an after-game to play that shall turn the tables, and here comes the man that I must manage.
[To him] LORD TOUCHWOOD.
LORD TOUCH. Maskwell, you 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 anything that has concerned me or my family.
MASK. I were a villain else. I am bound by duty and gratitude, and my own inclination, to be ever your lordship's servant.
LORD TOUCH. Enough. You are my friend; I know it. Yet there has been a thing in your knowledge, which has concerned me nearly, that you have concealed from me.
MASK. My lord!
LORD TOUCH . Nay, I excuse your friendship to my unnatural nephew thus far. But I know you have been privy to his impious designs upon my wife. This evening she has told me all. Her good nature concealed it as long as was possible; but he perseveres so in villainy, that she has told me even you were weary of dissuading him, though you have once actually hindered him from forcing her.
MASK. I am sorry, my lord, I can't make you an answer; this is an occasion in which I would not willing be silent.
LORD TOUCH. I know you would excuse him--and I know as well that you can't.
MASK. Indeed I was in hopes it had been a youthful heat that might have soon boiled over; but -
LORD TOUCH. Say on.
MASK . I have nothing more to say, my lord; but to express my concern; for I think his frenzy increases daily.
LORD TOUCH. How! Give me but proof of it, ocular proof, that I may justify my dealing with him to the world, and share my fortunes.
MASK. O my lord! consider; that is hard. Besides, time may work upon him. Then, for me to do it! I have professed an everlasting friendship 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 his, and fortune's power, and for that thou art scrupulously honest, I will secure thy fidelity to him, and give my honour never to own any discovery that you shall make me. Can you give me a demonstrative proof? Speak.
MASK . I wish I could not. To be plain, my lord, I intended this evening to have tried all arguments to dissuade him from a design which I suspect; and if I had not succeeded, to have informed your lordship of what I knew.
LORD TOUCH. I thank you. What is the villain's purpose?
MASK . He has owned nothing to me of late, and what I mean now, is only a bare suspicion of my own. If your lordship will meet me a quarter of an hour hence there, in that lobby by my lady's bed- chamber, I shall be able to tell you more.
LORD TOUCH. I will.
MASK. My duty to your lordship makes me do a severe piece of justice.
LORD TOUCH. I will be secret, and reward your honesty beyond your hopes.
Scene opening, shows Lady Touchwood's chamber.
MEL . Pray heaven my aunt keep touch with her assignation. O that her lord were but sweating behind this hanging, with the expectation of what I shall see. Hist, she comes. Little does she think what a mine is just ready to spring under her feet. But to my post. [Goes behind the hangings.]
LADY TOUCH . 'Tis eight o'clock; methinks I should have found him here. Who does not prevent the hour of love, outstays the time; for to be dully punctual is too slow. I was accusing you of neglect.
LADY TOUCHWOOD, MASKWELL, MELLEFONT absconding.
MASK. I confess you do reproach me when I see you here before me; but 'tis fit I should be still behindhand, still to be more and more indebted to your goodness.
LADY TOUCH. You can excuse a fault too well, not to have been to blame. A ready answer shows you were prepared.
MASK. Guilt is ever at a loss, and confusion waits upon it; when innocence and bold truth are always ready for expression.
LADY TOUCH. Not in love: words are the weak support of cold indifference; love has no language to be heard.
MASK. Excess of joy has made me stupid! Thus may my lips be ever closed. [Kisses her.] And thus--O who would not lose his speech, upon condition to have joys above it?
LADY TOUCH. Hold, let me lock the door first. [Goes to the door.]
MASK. [Aside.] That I believed; 'twas well I left the private passage open.
LADY TOUCH. So, that's safe.
MASK. And so may all your pleasures be, and secret as this kiss -
MEL. And may all treachery be thus discovered. [Leaps out.]
LADY TOUCH. Ah! [Shrieks.]
MEL. Villain! [Offers to draw.]
MASK. Nay, then, there's but one way. [Runs out.]
LADY TOUCHWOOD, MELLEFONT.
MEL. Say you so, were you provided for an escape? Hold, madam, you have no more holes to your burrow; I'll stand between you and this sally-port.
LADY TOUCH . Thunder strike thee dead for this deceit, immediate lightning blast thee, me, and the whole world! Oh! I could rack myself, play the vulture to my own heart, and gnaw it piecemeal, for not boding to me this misfortune.
MEL. Be patient.
LADY TOUCH. Be damned.
MEL. Consider, I have you on the hook; you will but flounder yourself a-weary, and be nevertheless my prisoner.
LADY TOUCH. I'll hold my breath and die, but I'll be free.
MEL. O madam, have a care of dying unprepared, I doubt you have some unrepented sins that may hang heavy, and retard your flight.
LADY TOUCH. O! what shall I do? say? Whither shall I turn? Has hell no remedy?
MEL . None; hell has served you even as heaven has done, left you to yourself.--You're in a kind of Erasmus paradise, yet if you please you may make it a purgatory; and with a little penance and my absolution all this may turn to good account.
LADY TOUCH . [Aside.] Hold in my passion, and fall, fall a little, thou swelling heart; let me have some intermission of this rage, and one minute's coolness to dissemble. [She weeps.]
MEL. You have been to blame. I like those tears, and hope they are of the purest kind,-penitential tears.
LADY TOUCH . O the scene was shifted quick before me,--I had not time to think. I was surprised to see a monster in the glass, and now I find 'tis myself; can you have mercy to forgive the faults I have imagined, but never put in practice?--O consider, consider how fatal you have been to me, you have already killed the quiet of this life. The love of you was the first wandering fire that e'er misled my steps, and while I had only that in view, I was betrayed into unthought of ways of ruin.
MEL. May I believe this true?
LADY TOUCH. O be not cruelly incredulous.--How can you doubt these streaming eyes? Keep the severest eye o'er all my future conduct, and if I once relapse, let me not hope forgiveness; 'twill ever be in your power to ruin me. My lord shall sign to your desires; I will myself create your happiness, and Cynthia shall be this night your bride. Do but conceal my failings, and forgive.
MEL. Upon such terms I will be ever yours in every honest way.
MASKWELL softly introduces LORD TOUCHWOOD, and retires.
MASK. I have kept my word, he's here, but I must not be seen.
LADY TOUCHWOOD, LORD TOUCHWOOD, MELLEFONT.
LORD TOUCH. Hell and amazement, she's in tears.
LADY TOUCH. [Kneeling.] Eternal blessings thank you.--Ha! my lord listening! O fortune has o'erpaid me all, all! all's my own! [Aside.]
MEL. Nay, I beseech you rise.
LADY TOUCH. [Aloud.] Never, never! I'll grow to the ground, be buried quick beneath it, e'er I'll be consenting to so damned a sin as incest! unnatural incest!
LADY TOUCH. O cruel man, will you not let me go? I'll forgive all that's past. O heaven, you will not ravish me?
LORD TOUCH. Monster, dog! your life shall answer this! [Draws and runs at MELLEFONT, is held by LADY TOUCHWOOD.]
LADY TOUCH. O heavens, my lord! Hold, hold, for heaven's sake.
MEL. Confusion, my uncle! O the damned sorceress.
LADY TOUCH. Moderate your rage, good my lord! He's mad, alas, he's mad. Indeed he is, my lord, and knows not what he does. See how wild he looks.
MEL. By heaven, 'twere senseless not to be mad, and see such witchcraft.
LADY TOUCH. My lord, you hear him, he talks idly.
LORD TOUCH. Hence from my sight, thou living infamy to my name; when next I see that face, I'll write villain in't with my sword's point.
MEL . Now, by my soul, I will not go till I have made known my wrongs. Nay, till I have made known yours, which, if possible, are greater,--though she has all the host of hell her servants.
LADY TOUCH. Alas, he raves! Talks very poetry! For heaven's sake away, my lord, he'll either tempt you to extravagance, or commit some himself.
MEL . Death and furies, will you not hear me?--Why by heaven she laughs, grins, points to your back; she forks out cuckoldom with her fingers, and you're running horn-mad after your fortune. [As she is going 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. Come, come, good my lord, my heart aches so, I shall faint if I stay.
MEL . Oh, I could curse my stars, fate, and chance; all causes and accidents of fortune in this life! But to what purpose? Yet, 'sdeath, for a man to have the fruit of all his industry grow full and ripe, ready to drop into his mouth, and just when he holds out his hand to gather it, to have a sudden whirlwind come, tear up tree and all, and bear away the very root and foundation of his hopes:- what temper can contain? They talk of sending Maskwell to me; I never had more need of him. But what can he do? Imagination cannot form a fairer and more plausible design than this of his which has miscarried. O my precious aunt, I shall never thrive without I deal with the devil, or another woman.
Women, like flames, have a destroying power,
Ne'er to be quenched, till they themselves devour.