The Double - Dealer by William Congreve - HTML preview
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LADY FROTH and CYNTHIA.
CYNT. Indeed, madam! Is it possible your ladyship could have been so much in love?
LADY FROTH. I could not sleep; I did not sleep one wink for three weeks together.
CYNT. Prodigious! I wonder want of sleep, and so much love and so much wit as your ladyship has, did not turn your brain.
LADY FROTH . Oh, my dear Cynthia, you must not rally your friend. But really, as you say, I wonder too. But then I had a way. For, between you and I, I had whimsies and vapours, but I gave them vent.
CYNT. How, pray, madam?
LADY FROTH. Oh, I writ, writ abundantly. Do you never write?
CYNT. Write what?
LADY FROTH. Songs, elegies, satires, encomiums, panegyrics, lampoons, plays, or heroic poems?
CYNT. O Lord, not I, madam; I'm content to be a courteous reader.
LADY FROTH . Oh, inconsistent! In love and not write! If my lord and I had been both of your temper, we had never come together. Oh, bless me! What a sad thing would that have been, if my lord and I should never have met!
CYNT. Then neither my lord nor you would ever have met with your match, on my conscience.
LADY FROTH . O' my conscience, no more we should; thou say'st right. For sure my Lord Froth is as fine a gentleman and as much a man of quality! Ah! nothing at all of the common air. I think I may say he wants nothing but a blue ribbon and a star to make him shine, the very phosphorus of our hemisphere. Do you understand those two hard words? If you don't, I'll explain 'em to you.
CYNT . Yes, yes, madam, I'm not so ignorant.--At least I won't own it, to be troubled with your instructions. [Aside.]
LADY FROTH. Nay, I beg your pardon; but being derived from the Greek, I thought you might have escaped the etymology. But I'm the more amazed to find you a woman of letters and not write! Bless me! how can Mellefont believe you love him?
CYNT. Why, faith, madam, he that won't take my word shall never have it under my hand.
LADY FROTH. I vow Mellefont's a pretty gentleman, but methinks he wants a manner.
CYNT. A manner! What's that, madam?
LADY FROTH . Some distinguishing quality, as, for example, the BEL AIR or BRILLANT of Mr. Brisk; the solemnity, yet complaisance of my lord, or something of his own that should look a little JE-NE-SAIS- QUOISH; he is too much a mediocrity, in my mind.
CYNT. He does not indeed affect either pertness or formality; for which I like him. Here he comes.
LADY FROTH. And my lord with him. Pray observe the difference.
[To them] LORD FROTH, MELLEFONT, and BRISK.
CYNT. Impertinent creature! I could almost be angry with her now. [Aside.]
LADY FROTH . My lord, I have been telling Cynthia how much I have been in love with you; I swear I have; I'm not ashamed to own it now. Ah! it makes my heart leap, I vow I sigh when I think on't. My dear lord! Ha, ha, ha, do you remember, my lord? [Squeezes him by the hand, looks kindly on him, sighs, and then laughs out.]
LORD FROTH . Pleasant creature! perfectly well, ah! that look, ay, there it is; who could resist? 'twas so my heart was made a captive first, and ever since t'has been in love with happy slavery.
LADY FROTH . Oh, that tongue, that dear deceitful tongue! that charming softness in your mien and your expression, and then your bow! Good my lord, bow as you did when I gave you my picture; here, suppose this my picture. [Gives him a pocket-glass.] Pray mind, my lord; ah! he bows charmingly; nay, my lord, you shan't kiss it so much; I shall grow jealous, I vow now. [He bows profoundly low, then kisses the glass.]
LORD FROTH. I saw myself there, and kissed it for your sake.
LADY FROTH. Ah! Gallantry to the last degree. Mr. Brisk, you're a judge; was ever anything so well bred as my lord?
BRISK. Never anything, but your ladyship; let me perish.
LADY FROTH. Oh, prettily turned again; let me die, but you have a great deal of wit. Mr. Mellefont, don't you think Mr. Brisk has a world of wit?
MEL. O yes, madam.
BRISK. O dear, madam -
LADY FROTH. An infinite deal!
BRISK. O heav'ns, madam -
LADY FROTH. More wit than anybody.
BRISK. I'm everlastingly your humble servant, deuce take me, madam.
LORD FROTH. Don't you think us a happy couple?
CYNT . I vow, my lord, I think you the happiest couple in the world, for you're not only happy in one another, and when you are together, but happy in yourselves, and by yourselves.
LORD FROTH. I hope Mellefont will make a good husband too.
CYNT. 'Tis my interest to believe he will, my Lord.
LORD FROTH. D'ye think he'll love you as well as I do my wife? I'm afraid 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. Oh, your humble servant for that, dear madam. Well, Mellefont, you'll be a happy creature.
MEL. Ay, my lord, I shall have the same reason for my happiness that your lordship has, I shall think myself happy.
LORD FROTH. Ah, that's all.
BRISK . [To LADY FROTH.] Your ladyship is in the right; but, i'gad, I'm wholly turned into satire. I confess I write but seldom, but when I do--keen iambics, i'gad. But my lord was telling me your ladyship has made an essay toward an heroic poem.
LADY FROTH. Did my lord tell you? Yes, I vow, and the subject is my lord's love to me. And what do you think I call it? I dare swear you won't guess--THE SILLABUB, ha, ha, ha.
BRISK. Because my lord's title's Froth, i'gad, ha, ha, ha, deuce take me, very e propos and surprising, ha, ha, ha.
LADY FROTH. He, ay, is not it? And then I call my lord Spumoso; and myself, what d'ye think I call myself?
BRISK. Lactilla, may be,--i'gad, I cannot tell.
LADY FROTH. Biddy, that's all; just my own name.
BRISK . Biddy! I'gad, very pretty. Deuce take me if your ladyship has not the art of surprising the most naturally in the world. I hope you'll make me happy in communicating the poem.
LADY FROTH. Oh, you must be my confidant, I must ask your advice.
BRISK. I'm your humble servant, let me perish. I presume your ladyship has read Bossu?
LADY FROTH. Oh yes, and Racine, and Dacier upon Aristotle and Horace. My lord, you must not be jealous, I'm communicating all to Mr. Brisk.
LORD FROTH. No, no, I'll allow Mr. Brisk; have you nothing about you to shew him, my dear?
LADY FROTH. Yes, I believe I have. Mr. Brisk, come, will you go into the next room? and there I'll shew you what I have.
LORD FROTH. I'll walk a turn in the garden, and come to you.
MEL. You're thoughtful, Cynthia?
CYNT. I'm thinking, though marriage makes man and wife one flesh, it leaves 'em still two fools; and they become more conspicuous by setting off one another.
MEL . That's only when two fools meet, and their follies are opposed. CYNT. Nay, I have known two wits meet, and by the opposition of their wit render themselves as ridiculous as fools. 'Tis an odd game we're going to play at. What think you of drawing stakes, and giving over in time?
MEL. No, hang't, that's not endeavouring to win, because it's possible we may lose; since we have shuffled and cut, let's even turn up trump now.
CYNT. Then I find it's like cards, if either of us have a good hand it is an accident of fortune.
MEL . No, marriage is rather like a game at bowls: fortune indeed makes the match, and the two nearest, and sometimes the two farthest, are together, but the game depends entirely upon judgment.
CYNT. Still it is a game, and consequently one of us must be a loser.
MEL . Not at all; only a friendly trial of skill, and the winnings to be laid out in an entertainment. What's here, the music? Oh, my lord has promised the company a new song; we'll get 'em to give it us by the way. [Musicians crossing the stage.] Pray let us have the favour of you, to 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:
Thus, in doubting, she refuses;
And not winning, thus she loses.
Prithee, Cynthia, look behind you,
Age and wrinkles will o'ertake you;
Then too late desire will find you,
When the power must forsake you:
Think, O think o' th' sad condition,
To be past, yet wish fruition.
MEL. You shall have my thanks below. [To the musicians, they go out.] SCENE IV.
[To them] SIR PAUL PLYANT and LADY PLYANT.
SIR PAUL. Gadsbud! I am provoked into a fermentation, as my Lady Froth says; was ever the like read of in story?
LADY PLYANT. Sir Paul, have patience, let me alone to rattle him up.
SIR PAUL. Pray, your ladyship, give me leave to be angry. I'll rattle him up, I warrant you, I'll firk him with a CERTIORARI.
LADY PLYANT. You firk him, I'll firk him myself; pray, Sir Paul, hold you contented.
CYNT. Bless me, what makes my father in such a passion? I never saw him thus before.
SIR PAUL. Hold yourself contented, my Lady Plyant. I find passion coming upon me by inflation, and I cannot submit as formerly, therefore give way.
LADY PLYANT. How now! will you be pleased to retire and -
SIR PAUL. No, marry will I not be pleased: I am pleased to be angry, that's my pleasure at this time.
MEL. What can this mean?
LADY PLYANT . Gads my life, the man's distracted; why, how now, who are you? What am I? Slidikins, can't I govern you? What did I marry you for? Am I not to be absolute and uncontrollable? Is it fit a woman of my spirit and conduct should be contradicted in a matter of this concern?
SIR PAUL . It concerns me and only me. Besides, I'm not to be governed at all times. When I am in tranquillity, my Lady Plyant shall command Sir Paul; but when I am provoked to fury, I cannot incorporate with patience and reason: as soon may tigers match with tigers, lambs with lambs, and every creature couple with its foe, as the poet says.
LADY PLYANT. He's hot-headed still! 'Tis in vain to talk to you; but remember I have a curtain-lecture for you, you disobedient, headstrong brute.
SIR PAUL . No, 'tis because I won't be headstrong, because I won't be a brute, and have my head fortified, that I am thus exasperated. But I will protect my honour, and yonder is the violator of my fame.
LADY PLYANT. 'Tis my honour that is concerned, and the violation was intended to me. Your honour! You have none but what is in my keeping, and I can dispose of it when I please: therefore don't provoke me.
SIR PAUL . Hum, gadsbud, she says true. Well, my lady, march on; I will fight under you, then: I am convinced, as far as passion will permit. [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! Sir, madam, what mean you?
SIR PAUL . Thy, Thy, come away, Thy; touch him not. Come hither, girl; go not near him, there's nothing but deceit about him. Snakes are in his peruke, and the crocodile of Nilus is in his belly; he will eat thee up alive.
LADY PLYANT. Dishonourable, impudent creature!
MEL. For heav'n's sake, madam, to whom do you direct this language?
LADY PLYANT . Have I behaved myself with all the decorum and nicety befitting the person of Sir Paul's wife? Have I preserved my honour as it were in a snow-house for these three years past? Have I been white and unsullied even by Sir Paul himself?
SIR PAUL. Nay, she has been an invincible wife, even to me; that's the truth on't.
LADY PLYANT. Have I, I say, preserved myself like a fair sheet of paper for you to make a blot upon?
SIR PAUL. And she shall make a simile with any woman in England.
MEL. I am so amazed, I know not what to say.
SIR PAUL . Do you think my daughter, this pretty creature--gadsbud, she's a wife for a cherubim!--do you think her fit for nothing but to be a stalking horse, to stand before you, while you take aim at my wife? Gadsbud, I was never angry before in my life, and I'll never be appeased again.
MEL. Hell and damnation! This is my aunt; such malice can be engendered nowhere else. [Aside.]
LADY PLYANT. Sir Paul, take Cynthia from his sight; leave me to strike him with the remorse of his intended crime.
CYNT. Pray, sir, stay, hear him; I dare affirm he's innocent.
SIR PAUL . Innocent! Why, hark'ee--come hither, Thy--hark'ee, I had it from his aunt, my sister Touchwood. Gadsbud, he does not care a farthing for anything of thee but thy portion. Why, he's in love with my wife. He would have tantalised thee, and made a cuckold of thy poor father, and that would certainly have broke my heart. I'm sure, if ever I should have horns, they would kill me; they would never come kindly--I should die of 'em like a child that was cutting his teeth--I should indeed, Thy--therefore come away; but providence has prevented all, therefore come away when I bid you.
CYNT. I must obey.
LADY PLYANT, MELLEFONT.
LADY PLYANT . Oh, such a thing! the impiety of it startles me--to wrong so good, so fair a creature, and one that loves you tenderly-- 'tis a barbarity of barbarities, and nothing could be guilty of it -
MEL . But the greatest villain imagination can form, I grant it; and next to the villainy of such a fact is the villainy of aspersing me with the guilt. How? which way was I to wrong her? For yet I understand you not.
LADY PLYANT . Why, gads my life, cousin Mellefont, you cannot be so peremptory as to deny it, when I tax you with it to your face? for now Sir Paul's gone, you are CORUM NOBUS.
MEL. By heav'n, I love her more than life or -
LADY PLYANT . Fiddle faddle, don't tell me of this and that, and everything in the world, but give me mathemacular demonstration; answer me directly. But I have not patience. Oh, the impiety of it, as I was saying, and the unparalleled wickedness! O merciful Father! How could you think to reverse nature so, to make the daughter the means of procuring the mother?
MEL. The daughter to procure the mother!
LADY PLYANT. Ay, for though I am not Cynthia's own mother, I am her father's wife, and that's near enough to make it incest.
MEL . Incest! O my precious aunt, and the devil in conjunction. [Aside.]
LADY PLYANT. Oh, reflect upon the horror of that, and then the guilt of deceiving everybody; marrying the daughter, only to make a cuckold of the father; and then seducing me, debauching my purity, and perverting me from the road of virtue in which I have trod thus long, and never made one trip, not one FAUX PAS. Oh, consider it! What would you have to answer for if you should provoke me to frailty? Alas! humanity is feeble, heav'n knows! very feeble, and unable to support itself.
MEL. Where am I? is it day? and am I awake? Madam -
LADY PLYANT . And nobody knows how circumstances may happen together. To my thinking, now I could resist the strongest temptation. But yet I know, 'tis impossible for me to know whether I could or not; there's no certainty in the things of this life.
MEL. Madam, pray give me leave to ask you one question.
LADY PLYANT . O Lord, ask me the question; I'll swear I'll refuse it, I swear I'll deny it--therefore don't ask me; nay, you shan't ask me, I swear I'll deny it. O Gemini, you have brought all the blood into my face; I warrant I am as red as a turkey-cock. O fie, cousin Mellefont!
MEL. Nay, madam, hear me; I mean -
LADY PLYANT . Hear you? No, no; I'll deny you first and hear you afterwards. For one does not know how one's mind may change upon hearing. Hearing is one of the senses, and all the senses are fallible. I won't trust my honour, I assure you; my honour is infallible and uncomeatable.
MEL. For heav'n's sake, madam -
LADY PLYANT . Oh, name it no more. Bless me, how can you talk of heav'n, and have so much wickedness in your heart? May be you don't think 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; indeed, if I did not think it a sin--But still my honour, if it were no sin. But then, to marry my daughter for the conveniency of frequent opportunities, I'll never consent to that; as sure as can be, I'll break the match.
MEL. Death and amazement! Madam, upon my knees -
LADY PLYANT . Nay, nay, rise up; come, you shall see my good-nature. I know love is powerful, and nobody can help his passion. 'Tis not your fault; nor, I swear, it is not mine. How can I help it, if I have charms? And how can you help it, if you are made a captive? I swear it is pity it should be a fault. But my honour,--well, but your honour, too -but the sin!--well, but the necessity--O Lord, here's somebody coming, I dare not stay. Well, you must consider of your crime; and strive as much as can be against it,--strive, be sure. But don't be melancholic; don't despair. But never think that I'll grant you anything. O Lord, no. But be sure you lay aside all thoughts of the marriage, for though I know you don't love Cynthia, only as a blind for your passion to me, yet it will make me jealous. O Lord, what did I say? Jealous! no, no, I can't be jealous, for I must not love you; therefore don't hope,--but don't despair neither. Oh, they're coming, I must fly.
MEL . [After a pause.] So then, spite of my care and foresight, I am caught, caught in my security. Yet this was but a shallow artifice, unworthy of my Machiavellian aunt. There must be more behind: this is but the first flash, the priming of her engine. Destruction follows hard, if not most presently prevented.
[To him] MASKWELL.
MEL . Maskwell, welcome, thy presence is a view of land, appearing to my shipwrecked hopes. The witch has raised the storm, and her ministers have done their work: you see the vessels are parted.
MASK. I know it. I met Sir Paul towing away Cynthia. Come, trouble not your head; I'll join you together ere to-morrow morning, or 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 sinking, nor no danger. Come, cheer up; why, you don't know that while I plead for you, your aunt has given me a retaining fee. Nay, I am your greatest enemy, and she does but journey-work under me.
MEL. Ha! how's this?
MASK . What d'ye think of my being employed in the execution of all her plots? Ha, ha, ha, by heav'n, it's true: I have undertaken to break the match; I have undertaken to make your uncle disinherit you; to get you turned out of doors; and to--ha, ha, ha, I can't tell you for laughing. Oh, she has opened her heart to me! I am to turn you a-grazing, and to-ha, ha, ha, marry Cynthia myself. There's a plot for you.
MEL. Ha! Oh, see, I see my rising sun! Light breaks through clouds upon me, and I shall live in day--Oh, my Maskwell! how shall I thank or praise thee? Thou hast outwitted woman. But, tell me, how couldst thou thus get into her confidence? Ha! How? But was it her contrivance to persuade my Lady Plyant to this extravagant belief?
MASK . It was; and to tell you the truth, I encouraged it for your diversion. Though it made you a little uneasy for the present, yet the reflection of it must needs be entertaining. I warrant she was very violent at first.
MEL. Ha, ha, ha, ay, a very fury; but I was most afraid of her violence at last. If you had not come as you did, I don't know what she might have attempted.
MASK . Ha, ha, ha, I know her temper. Well, you must know, then, that all my contrivances were but bubbles, till at last I pretended to have been long secretly in love with Cynthia; that did my business, that convinced your aunt I might be trusted; since it was as much my interest as hers to break the match. Then, she thought my jealousy might qualify me to assist her in her revenge. And, in short, in that belief, told me the secrets of her heart. At length we made this agreement, if I accomplish her designs (as I told you before) she has engaged to put Cynthia with all her fortune into my power.
MEL. She is most gracious in her favour. Well, and, dear Jack, how hast thou contrived?
MASK . I would not have you stay to hear it now; for I don't know but she may come this way. I am to meet her anon; after that, I'll tell 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 then, success will attend me; for when I meet you, I meet the only obstacle to my fortune. Cynthia, let thy beauty gild my crimes; and whatsoever I commit of treachery or deceit, shall be imputed to me as a merit. Treachery? What treachery? Love cancels all the bonds of friendship, and sets men right upon their first foundations.
Duty to kings, piety to parents, gratitude to benefactors, and fidelity to friends, are different and particular ties. But the name of rival cuts 'em all asunder, and is a general acquittance. Rival is equal, and love like death an universal leveller of mankind. Ha! But is there not such a thing as honesty? Yes, and whosoever has it about him, bears an enemy in his breast. For your honest man, as I take it, is that nice, scrupulous, conscientious person, who will cheat nobody but himself; such another coxcomb as your wise man, who is too hard for all the world, and will be made a fool of by nobody but himself; ha, ha, ha. Well, for wisdom and honesty give me cunning and hypocrisy; oh, 'tis such a pleasure to angle for fair-faced fools! Then that hungry gudgeon credulity will bite at anything. Why, let me see, I have the same face, the same words and accents when I speak what I do think, and when I speak what I do not think, the very same; and dear dissimulation is the only art not to be known from nature.
Why will mankind be fools, and be deceived,
And why are friends' and lovers' oaths believed,
When each, who searches strictly his own mind,
May so much fraud and power of baseness find?