The Way of the World by William Congreve - HTML preview
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A room in Lady Wishfort's house.
LADY WISHFORT at her toilet, PEG waiting.
LADY. Merciful! No news of Foible yet?
PEG. No, madam.
LADY . I have no more patience. If I have not fretted myself till I am pale again, there's no veracity in me. Fetch me the red--the red, do you hear, sweetheart? An errant ash colour, as I'm a person. Look you how this wench stirs! Why dost thou not fetch me a little red? Didst thou not hear me, Mopus?
PEG. The red ratafia, does your ladyship mean, or the cherry brandy?
LADY . Ratafia, fool? No, fool. Not the ratafia, fool--grant me patience!--I mean the Spanish paper, idiot; complexion, darling. Paint, paint, paint, dost thou understand that, changeling, dangling thy hands like bobbins before thee? Why dost thou not stir, puppet? Thou wooden thing upon wires!
PEG. Lord, madam, your ladyship is so impatient.--I cannot come at the paint, madam: Mrs. Foible has locked it up, and carried the key with her.
LADY. A pox take you both.--Fetch me the cherry brandy then.
I'm as pale and as faint, I look like Mrs. Qualmsick, the curate's wife, that's always breeding. Wench, come, come, wench, what art thou doing? Sipping? Tasting? Save thee, dost thou not know the bottle?
LADY WISHFORT, PEG with a bottle and china cup.
PEG. Madam, I was looking for a cup.
LADY . A cup, save thee, and what a cup hast thou brought! Dost thou take me for a fairy, to drink out of an acorn? Why didst thou not bring thy thimble? Hast thou ne'er a brass thimble clinking in thy pocket with a bit of nutmeg? I warrant thee. Come, fill, fill. So, again. See who that is. [One knocks.] Set down the bottle first. Here, here, under the table:- what, wouldst thou go with the bottle in thy hand like a tapster? As I'm a person, this wench has lived in an inn upon the road, before she came to me, like Maritornes the Asturian in Don Quixote. No Foible yet?
PEG. No, madam; Mrs. Marwood.
LADY. Oh, Marwood: let her come in. Come in, good Marwood.
[To them] MRS MARWOOD.
MRS. MAR. I'm surprised to find your ladyship in DESHABILLE at this time of day.
LADY. Foible's a lost thing; has been abroad since morning, and never heard of since.
MRS. MAR. I saw her but now, as I came masked through the park, in conference with Mirabell.
LADY . With Mirabell? You call my blood into my face with mentioning that traitor. She durst not have the confidence. I sent her to negotiate an affair, in which if I'm detected I'm undone. If that wheedling villain has wrought upon Foible to detect me, I'm ruined. O my dear friend, I'm a wretch of wretches if I'm detected.
MRS. MAR. O madam, you cannot suspect Mrs. Foible's integrity.
LADY . Oh, he carries poison in his tongue that would corrupt integrity itself. If she has given him an opportunity, she has as good as put her integrity into his hands. Ah, dear Marwood, what's integrity to an opportunity? Hark! I hear her. Dear friend, retire into my closet, that I may examine her with more freedom-- you'll pardon me, dear friend, I can make bold with you--there are books over the chimney--Quarles and Pryn, and the SHORT VIEW OF THE STAGE, with Bunyan's works to entertain you.--Go, you thing, and send her in. [To PEG.]
LADY WISHFORT, FOIBLE.
LADY. O Foible, where hast thou been? What hast thou been doing?
FOIB. Madam, I have seen the party.
LADY. But what hast thou done?
FOIB . Nay, 'tis your ladyship has done, and are to do; I have only promised. But a man so enamoured--so transported! Well, if worshipping of pictures be a sin--poor Sir Rowland, I say.
LADY . The miniature has been counted like. But hast thou not betrayed me, Foible? Hast thou not detected me to that faithless Mirabell? What hast thou to do with him in the park? Answer me, has he got nothing out of thee?
FOIB . So, the devil has been beforehand with me; what shall I say?- -Alas, madam, could I help it, if I met that confident thing? Was I in fault? If you had heard how he used me, and all upon your ladyship's account, I'm sure you would not suspect my fidelity. Nay, if that had been the worst I could have borne: but he had a fling at your ladyship too, and then I could not hold; but, i'faith I gave him his own.
LADY. Me? What did the filthy fellow say?
FOIB . O madam, 'tis a shame to say what he said, with his taunts and his fleers, tossing up his nose. Humh, says he, what, you are a-hatching some plot, says he, you are so early abroad, or catering, says he, ferreting for some disbanded officer, I warrant. Half pay is but thin subsistence, says he. Well, what pension does your lady propose? Let me see, says he, what, she must come down pretty deep now, she's superannuated, says he, and -
LADY . Ods my life, I'll have him--I'll have him murdered. I'll have him poisoned. Where does he eat? I'll marry a drawer to have him poisoned in his wine. I'll send for Robin from Locket's-- immediately.
FOIB. Poison him? Poisoning's too good for him. Starve him, madam, starve him; marry Sir Rowland, and get him disinherited. Oh, you would bless yourself to hear what he said.
LADY. A villain; superannuated?
FOIB . Humh, says he, I hear you are laying designs against me too, says he, and Mrs. Millamant is to marry my uncle (he does not suspect a word of your ladyship); but, says he, I'll fit you for that, I warrant you, says he, I'll hamper you for that, says he, you and your old frippery too, says he, I'll handle you -
LADY. Audacious villain! Handle me? Would he durst? Frippery? Old frippery? Was there ever such a foul-mouthed fellow? I'll be married to-morrow, I'll be contracted tonight.
FOIB. The sooner the better, madam.
LADY. Will Sir Rowland be here, say'st thou? When, Foible?
FOIB . Incontinently, madam. No new sheriff's wife expects the return of her husband after knighthood with that impatience in which Sir Rowland burns for the dear hour of kissing your ladyship's hand after dinner.
LADY . Frippery? Superannuated frippery? I'll frippery the villain; I'll reduce him to frippery and rags, a tatterdemalion!--I hope to see him hung with tatters, like a Long Lane pent-house, or a gibbet thief. A slander-mouthed railer! I warrant the spendthrift prodigal's in debt as much as the million lottery, or the whole court upon a birthday. I'll spoil his credit with his tailor. Yes, he shall have my niece with her fortune, he shall.
FOIB. He? I hope to see him lodge in Ludgate first, and angle into Blackfriars for brass farthings with an old mitten.
LADY . Ay, dear Foible; thank thee for that, dear Foible. He has put me out of all patience. I shall never recompose my features to receive Sir Rowland with any economy of face. This wretch has fretted me that I am absolutely decayed. Look, Foible.
FOIB. Your ladyship has frowned a little too rashly, indeed, madam. There are some cracks discernible in the white vernish.
LADY . Let me see the glass. Cracks, say'st thou? Why, I am arrantly flayed: I look like an old peeled wall. Thou must repair me, Foible, before Sir Rowland comes, or I shall never keep up to my picture.
FOIB. I warrant you, madam: a little art once made your picture like you, and now a little of the same art must make you like your picture. Your picture must sit for you, madam.
LADY . But art thou sure Sir Rowland will not fail to come? Or will a not fail when he does come? Will he be importunate, Foible, and push? For if he should not be importunate I shall never break decorums. I shall die with confusion if I am forced to advance--oh no, I can never advance; I shall swoon if he should expect advances. No, I hope Sir Rowland is better bred than to put a lady to the necessity of breaking her forms. I won't be too coy neither--I won't give him despair. But a little disdain is not amiss; a little scorn is alluring.
FOIB. A little scorn becomes your ladyship.
LADY . Yes, but tenderness becomes me best--a sort of a dyingness. You see that picture has a sort of a--ha, Foible? A swimmingness in the eyes. Yes, I'll look so. My niece affects it; but she wants features. Is Sir Rowland handsome? Let my toilet be removed-I'll dress above. I'll receive Sir Rowland here. Is he handsome? Don't answer me. I won't know; I'll be surprised. I'll be taken by surprise.
FOIB. By storm, madam. Sir Rowland's a brisk man.
LADY . Is he? Oh, then, he'll importune, if he's a brisk man. I shall save decorums if Sir Rowland importunes. I have a mortal terror at the apprehension of offending against decorums. Oh, I'm glad he's a brisk man. Let my things be removed, good Foible.
MRS. FAINALL, FOIBLE.
MRS. FAIN. O Foible, I have been in a fright, lest I should come too late. That devil, Marwood, saw you in the park with Mirabell, and I'm afraid will discover it to my lady.
FOIB. Discover what, madam?
MRS. FAIN. Nay, nay, put not on that strange face. I am privy to the whole design, and know that Waitwell, to whom thou wert this morning married, is to personate Mirabell's uncle, and, as such winning my lady, to involve her in those difficulties from which Mirabell only must release her, by his making his conditions to have my cousin and her fortune left to her own disposal.
FOIB . O dear madam, I beg your pardon. It was not my confidence in your ladyship that was deficient; but I thought the former good correspondence between your ladyship and Mr. Mirabell might have hindered his communicating this secret.
MRS. FAIN. Dear Foible, forget that.
FOIB . O dear madam, Mr. Mirabell is such a sweet winning gentleman. But your ladyship is the pattern of generosity. Sweet lady, to be so good! Mr. Mirabell cannot choose but be grateful. I find your ladyship has his heart still. Now, madam, I can safely tell your ladyship our success: Mrs. Marwood had told my lady, but I warrant I managed myself. I turned it all for the better. I told my lady that Mr. Mirabell railed at her. I laid horrid things to his charge, I'll vow; and my lady is so incensed that she'll be contracted to Sir Rowland to-night, she says; I warrant I worked her up that he may have her for asking for, as they say of a Welsh maidenhead.
MRS. FAIN. O rare Foible!
FOIB . Madam, I beg your ladyship to acquaint Mr. Mirabell of his success. I would be seen as little as possible to speak to him-- besides, I believe Madam Marwood watches me. She has a month's mind; but I know Mr. Mirabell can't abide her. [Calls.] John, remove my lady's toilet. Madam, your servant. My lady is so impatient, I fear she'll come for me, if I stay.
MRS. FAIN. I'll go with you up the back stairs, lest I should meet her.
MRS. MARWOOD alone.
MRS. MAR . Indeed, Mrs. Engine, is it thus with you? Are you become a go-between of this importance? Yes, I shall watch you. Why this wench is the PASSE-PARTOUT, a very master-key to everybody's strong box. My friend Fainall, have you carried it so swimmingly? I thought there was something in it; but it seems it's over with you. Your loathing is not from a want of appetite then, but from a surfeit. Else you could never be so cool to fall from a principal to be an assistant, to procure for him! A pattern of generosity, that I confess. Well, Mr. Fainall, you have met with your match.--O man, man! Woman, woman! The devil's an ass: if I were a painter, I would draw him like an idiot, a driveller with a bib and bells. Man should have his head and horns, and woman the rest of him. Poor, simple fiend! 'Madam Marwood has a month's mind, but he can't abide her.' 'Twere better for him you had not been his confessor in that affair, without you could have kept his counsel closer. I shall not prove another pattern of generosity; he has not obliged me to that with those excesses of himself, and now I'll have none of him. Here comes the good lady, panting ripe, with a heart full of hope, and a head full of care, like any chymist upon the day of projection.
[To her] LADY WISHFORT.
LADY. O dear Marwood, what shall I say for this rude forgetfulness? But my dear friend is all goodness.
MRS. MAR. No apologies, dear madam. I have been very well entertained.
LADY . As I'm a person, I am in a very chaos to think I should so forget myself. But I have such an olio of affairs, really I know not what to do. [Calls.] Foible!--I expect my nephew Sir Wilfull ev'ry moment too.--Why, Foible!--He means to travel for improvement.
MRS. MAR. Methinks Sir Wilfull should rather think of marrying than travelling at his years. I hear he is turned of forty.
LADY . Oh, he's in less danger of being spoiled by his travels. I am against my nephew's marrying too young. It will be time enough when he comes back, and has acquired discretion to choose for himself.
MRS. MAR. Methinks Mrs. Millamant and he would make a very fit match. He may travel afterwards. 'Tis a thing very usual with young gentlemen.
LADY. I promise you I have thought on't--and since 'tis your judgment, I'll think on't again. I assure you I will; I value your judgment extremely. On my word, I'll propose it.
[To them] FOIBLE.
LADY. Come, come, Foible--I had forgot my nephew will be here before dinner--I must make haste.
FOIB. Mr. Witwoud and Mr. Petulant are come to dine with your ladyship.
LADY . Oh dear, I can't appear till I am dressed. Dear Marwood, shall I be free with you again, and beg you to entertain em? I'll make all imaginable haste. Dear friend, excuse me.
MRS. MARWOOD, MRS. MILLAMANT, MINCING.
MILLA. Sure, never anything was so unbred as that odious man. Marwood, your servant.
MRS. MAR. You have a colour; what's the matter?
MILLA. That horrid fellow Petulant has provoked me into a flame--I have broke my fan -Mincing, lend me yours.--Is not all the powder out of my hair?
MRS. MAR. No. What has he done?
MILLA . Nay, he has done nothing; he has only talked. Nay, he has said nothing neither; but he has contradicted everything that has been said. For my part, I thought Witwoud and he would have quarrelled.
MINC. I vow, mem, I thought once they would have fit.
MILLA. Well, 'tis a lamentable thing, I swear, that one has not the liberty of choosing one's acquaintance as one does one's clothes.
MRS. MAR . If we had that liberty, we should be as weary of one set of acquaintance, though never so good, as we are of one suit, though never so fine. A fool and a doily stuff would now and then find days of grace, and be worn for variety.
MILLA . I could consent to wear 'em, if they would wear alike; but fools never wear out. They are such DRAP DE BERRI things! Without one could give 'em to one's chambermaid after a day or two.
MRS. MAR . 'Twere better so indeed. Or what think you of the playhouse? A fine gay glossy fool should be given there, like a new masking habit, after the masquerade is over, and we have done with the disguise. For a fool's visit is always a disguise, and never admitted by a woman of wit, but to blind her affair with a lover of sense. If you would but appear barefaced now, and own Mirabell, you might as easily put off Petulant and Witwoud as your hood and scarf. And indeed 'tis time, for the town has found it, the secret is grown too big for the pretence. 'Tis like Mrs. Primly's great belly: she may lace it down before, but it burnishes on her hips. Indeed, Millamant, you can no more conceal it than my Lady Strammel can her face, that goodly face, which in defiance of her Rhenishwine tea will not be comprehended in a mask.
MILLA . I'll take my death, Marwood, you are more censorious than a decayed beauty, or a discarded toast:- Mincing, tell the men they may come up. My aunt is not dressing here; their folly is less provoking than your malice.
MRS. MILLAMANT, MRS. MARWOOD.
MILLA . The town has found it? What has it found? That Mirabell loves me is no more a secret than it is a secret that you discovered it to my aunt, or than the reason why you discovered it is a secret.
MRS. MAR. You are nettled.
MILLA. You're mistaken. Ridiculous!
MRS. MAR . Indeed, my dear, you'll tear another fan, if you don't mitigate those violent airs.
MILLA. O silly! Ha, ha, ha! I could laugh immoderately. Poor Mirabell! His constancy to me has quite destroyed his complaisance for all the world beside. I swear I never enjoined it him to be so coy. If I had the vanity to think he would obey me, I would command him to show more gallantry: 'tis hardly well-bred to be so particular on one hand and so insensible on the other. But I despair to prevail, and so let him follow his own way. Ha, ha, ha! Pardon me, dear creature, I must laugh; ha, ha, ha! Though I grant you 'tis a little barbarous; ha, ha, ha!
MRS. MAR. What pity 'tis so much fine raillery, and delivered with so significant gesture, should be so unhappily directed to miscarry.
MILLA. Heh? Dear creature, I ask your pardon. I swear I did not mind you.
MRS. MAR. Mr. Mirabell and you both may think it a thing impossible, when I shall tell him by telling you -
MILLA. Oh dear, what? For it is the same thing, if I hear it. Ha, ha, ha!
MRS. MAR. That I detest him, hate him, madam.
MILLA . O madam, why, so do I. And yet the creature loves me, ha, ha, ha! How can one forbear laughing to think of it? I am a sibyl if I am not amazed to think what he can see in me. I'll take my death, I think you are handsomer, and within a year or two as young. If you could but stay for me, I should overtake you--but that cannot be. Well, that thought makes me melancholic.--Now I'll be sad.
MRS. MAR. Your merry note may be changed sooner than you think.
MILLA. D'ye say so? Then I'm resolved I'll have a song to keep up my spirits.
[To them] MINCING.
MINC. The gentlemen stay but to comb, madam, and will wait on you.
MILLA . Desire Mrs.--that is in the next room, to sing the song I would have learnt yesterday. You shall hear it, madam. Not that there's any great matter in it--but 'tis agreeable to my humour.
Set by Mr. John Eccles.
Love's but the frailty of the mind
When 'tis not with ambition joined;
A sickly flame, which if not fed expires,
And feeding, wastes in self-consuming fires.
'Tis not to wound a wanton boy
Or am'rous youth, that gives the joy;
But 'tis the glory to have pierced a swain
For whom inferior beauties sighed in vain.
Then I alone the conquest prize,
When I insult a rival's eyes;
If there's delight in love, 'tis when I see
That heart, which others bleed for, bleed for me.
[To them] PETULANT, WITWOUD.
MILLA. Is your animosity composed, gentlemen?
WIT . Raillery, raillery, madam; we have no animosity. We hit off a little wit now and then, but no animosity. The falling out of wits is like the falling out of lovers:- we agree in the main, like treble and bass. Ha, Petulant?
PET. Ay, in the main. But when I have a humour to contradict -
WIT . Ay, when he has a humour to contradict, then I contradict too. What, I know my cue. Then we contradict one another like two battledores; for contradictions beget one another like Jews.
PET. If he says black's black--if I have a humour to say 'tis blue- -let that pass--all's one for that. If I have a humour to prove it, it must be granted.
WIT. Not positively must. But it may; it may.
PET . Yes, it positively must, upon proof positive.
WIT. Ay, upon proof positive it must; but upon proof presumptive it only may. That's a logical distinction now, madam.
MRS. MAR. I perceive your debates are of importance, and very learnedly handled.
PET. Importance is one thing and learning's another; but a debate's a debate, that I assert.
WIT. Petulant's an enemy to learning; he relies altogether on his parts.
PET. No, I'm no enemy to learning; it hurts not me.
MRS. MAR. That's a sign, indeed, it's no enemy to you.
PET. No, no, it's no enemy to anybody but them that have it.
MILLA. Well, an illiterate man's my aversion; I wonder at the impudence of any illiterate man to offer to make love.
WIT. That I confess I wonder at, too.
MILLA. Ah, to marry an ignorant that can hardly read or write!
PET . Why should a man be any further from being married, though he can't read, than he is from being hanged? The ordinary's paid for setting the psalm, and the parish priest for reading the ceremony. And for the rest which is to follow in both cases, a man may do it without book. So all's one for that.
MILLA. D'ye hear the creature? Lord, here's company; I'll begone.
SIR WILFULL WITWOUD in a riding dress, MRS. MARWOOD, PETULANT, WITWOUD, FOOTMAN.
WIT. In the name of Bartlemew and his Fair, what have we here?
MRS. MAR. 'Tis your brother, I fancy. Don't you know him?
WIT. Not I:- yes, I think it is he. I've almost forgot him; I have not seen him since the revolution.
FOOT . Sir, my lady's dressing. Here's company, if you please to walk in, in the meantime.
SIR WIL. Dressing! What, it's but morning here, I warrant, with you in London; we should count it towards afternoon in our parts down in Shropshire:- why, then, belike my aunt han't dined yet. Ha, friend?
FOOT. Your aunt, sir?
SIR WIL . My aunt, sir? Yes my aunt, sir, and your lady, sir; your lady is my aunt, sir. Why, what dost thou not know me, friend? Why, then, send somebody hither that does. How long hast thou lived with thy lady, fellow, ha?
FOOT. A week, sir; longer than anybody in the house, except my lady's woman.
SIR WIL. Why, then, belike thou dost not know thy lady, if thou seest her. Ha, friend?
FOOT. Why, truly, sir, I cannot safely swear to her face in a morning, before she is dressed. 'Tis like I may give a shrewd guess at her by this time.
SIR WIL. Well, prithee try what thou canst do; if thou canst not guess, enquire her out, dost hear, fellow? And tell her her nephew, Sir Wilfull Witwoud, is in the house.
FOOT. I shall, sir.
SIR WIL. Hold ye, hear me, friend, a word with you in your ear: prithee who are these gallants?
FOOT. Really, sir, I can't tell; here come so many here, 'tis hard to know 'em all.
SIR WILFULL WITWOUD, PETULANT, WITWOUD, MRS. MARWOOD.
SIR WIL. Oons, this fellow knows less than a starling: I don't think a knows his own name.
MRS. MAR. Mr. Witwoud, your brother is not behindhand in forgetfulness. I fancy he has forgot you too.
WIT. I hope so. The devil take him that remembers first, I say.
SIR WIL. Save you, gentlemen and lady.
MRS. MAR. For shame, Mr. Witwoud; why won't you speak to him?--And you, sir. WIT. Petulant, speak.
PET. And you, sir.
SIR WIL. No offence, I hope? [Salutes MARWOOD.]
MRS. MAR. No, sure, sir.
WIT. This is a vile dog, I see that already. No offence? Ha, ha, ha. To him, to him, Petulant, smoke him.
PET. It seems as if you had come a journey, sir; hem, hem. [Surveying him round.]
SIR WIL. Very likely, sir, that it may seem so.
PET. No offence, I hope, sir?
WIT. Smoke the boots, the boots, Petulant, the boots; ha, ha, ha!
SIR WILL. Maybe not, sir; thereafter as 'tis meant, sir.
PET. Sir, I presume upon the information of your boots.
SIR WIL. Why, 'tis like you may, sir: if you are not satisfied with the information of my boots, sir, if you will step to the stable, you may enquire further of my horse, sir.
PET. Your horse, sir! Your horse is an ass, sir!
SIR WIL. Do you speak by way of offence, sir?
MRS. MAR. The gentleman's merry, that's all, sir. 'Slife, we shall have a quarrel betwixt an horse and an ass, before they find one another out.--You must not take anything amiss from your friends, sir. You are among your friends here, though it--may be you don't know it. If I am not mistaken, you are Sir Wilfull Witwoud?
SIR WIL. Right, lady; I am Sir Wilfull Witwoud, so I write myself; no offence to anybody, I hope? and nephew to the Lady Wishfort of this mansion.
MRS. MAR. Don't you know this gentleman, sir?
SIR WIL . Hum! What, sure 'tis not--yea by'r lady but 'tis-- 'sheart, I know not whether 'tis or no. Yea, but 'tis, by the Wrekin. Brother Antony! What, Tony, i'faith! What, dost thou not know me? By'r lady, nor I thee, thou art so becravated and so beperiwigged. 'Sheart, why dost not speak? Art thou o'erjoyed?
WIT. Odso, brother, is it you? Your servant, brother.
SIR WIL . Your servant? Why, yours, sir. Your servant again-- 'sheart, and your friend and servant to that--and a--[puff] and a flap-dragon for your service, sir, and a hare's foot and a hare's scut for your service, sir, an you be so cold and so courtly!
WIT. No offence, I hope, brother?
SIR WIL. 'Sheart, sir, but there is, and much offence. A pox, is this your inns o' court breeding, not to know your friends and your relations, your elders, and your betters?
WIT . Why, brother Wilfull of Salop, you may be as short as a Shrewsbury cake, if you please. But I tell you 'tis not modish to know relations in town. You think you're in the country, where great lubberly brothers slabber and kiss one another when they meet, like a call of sergeants. 'Tis not the fashion here; 'tis not, indeed, dear brother.
SIR WIL . The fashion's a fool and you're a fop, dear brother. 'Sheart, I've suspected this -by'r lady I conjectured you were a fop, since you began to change the style of your letters, and write in a scrap of paper gilt round the edges, no bigger than a subpoena. I might expect this when you left off 'Honoured brother,' and 'Hoping you are in good health,' and so forth, to begin with a 'Rat me, knight, I'm so sick of a last night's debauch.' Ods heart, and then tell a familiar tale of a cock and a bull, and a whore and a bottle, and so conclude. You could write news before you were out of your time, when you lived with honest Pumple-Nose, the attorney of Furnival's Inn. You could intreat to be remembered then to your friends round the Wrekin. We could have Gazettes then, and Dawks's Letter, and the Weekly Bill, till of late days.
PET. 'Slife, Witwoud, were you ever an attorney's clerk? Of the family of the Furnivals? Ha, ha, ha!
WIT . Ay, ay, but that was but for a while. Not long, not long; pshaw, I was not in my own power then. An orphan, and this fellow was my guardian; ay, ay, I was glad to consent to that man to come to London. He had the disposal of me then. If I had not agreed to that, I might have been bound prentice to a feltmaker in Shrewsbury: this fellow would have bound me to a maker of felts.
SIR WIL. 'Sheart, and better than to be bound to a maker of fops, where, I suppose, you have served your time, and now you may set up for yourself.
MRS. MAR . You intend to travel, sir, as I'm informed? SIR WIL. Belike I may, madam. I may chance to sail upon the salt seas, if my mind hold.
PET. And the wind serve.
SIR WIL . Serve or not serve, I shan't ask license of you, sir, nor the weathercock your companion. I direct my discourse to the lady, sir. 'Tis like my aunt may have told you, madam? Yes, I have settled my concerns, I may say now, and am minded to see foreign parts. If an how that the peace holds, whereby, that is, taxes abate.
MRS. MAR. I thought you had designed for France at all adventures.
SIR WIL . I can't tell that; 'tis like I may, and 'tis like I may not. I am somewhat dainty in making a resolution, because when I make it I keep it. I don't stand shill I, shall I, then; if I say't, I'll do't. But I have thoughts to tarry a small matter in town, to learn somewhat of your lingo first, before I cross the seas. I'd gladly have a spice of your French as they say, whereby to hold discourse in foreign countries.
MRS. MAR. Here's an academy in town for that use.
SIR WIL. There is? 'Tis like there may.
MRS. MAR. No doubt you will return very much improved.
WIT. Yes, refined like a Dutch skipper from a whale-fishing.
[To them] LADY WISHFORT and FAINALL.
LADY. Nephew, you are welcome.
SIR WIL. Aunt, your servant.
FAIN. Sir Wilfull, your most faithful servant.
SIR WIL. Cousin Fainall, give me your hand.
LADY . Cousin Witwoud, your servant; Mr. Petulant, your servant. Nephew, you are welcome again. Will you drink anything after your journey, nephew, before you eat? Dinner's almost ready.
SIR WIL. I'm very well, I thank you, aunt. However, I thank you for your courteous offer. 'Sheart, I was afraid you would have been in the fashion too, and have remembered to have forgot your relations. Here's your cousin Tony, belike, I mayn't call him brother for fear of offence.
LADY . Oh, he's a rallier, nephew. My cousin's a wit: and your great wits always rally their best friends to choose. When you have been abroad, nephew, you'll understand raillery better. [FAINALL and MRS. MARWOOD talk apart.]
SIR WIL. Why, then, let him hold his tongue in the meantime, and rail when that day comes.
[To them] MINCING.
MINC. Mem, I come to acquaint your laship that dinner is impatient.
SIR WIL. Impatient? Why, then, belike it won't stay till I pull off my boots. Sweetheart, can you help me to a pair of slippers? My man's with his horses, I warrant.
LADY . Fie, fie, nephew, you would not pull off your boots here? Go down into the hall:- dinner shall stay for you. My nephew's a little unbred: you'll pardon him, madam. Gentlemen, will you walk? Marwood?
MRS. MAR. I'll follow you, madam,--before Sir Wilfull is ready.
MRS. MARWOOD, FAINALL.
FAIN. Why, then, Foible's a bawd, an errant, rank match-making bawd. And I, it seems, am a husband, a rank husband, and my wife a very errant, rank wife,--all in the way of the world. 'Sdeath, to be a cuckold by anticipation, a cuckold in embryo! Sure I was born with budding antlers like a young satyr, or a citizen's child, 'sdeath, to be out-witted, to be out-jilted, out-matrimonied. If I had kept my speed like a stag, 'twere somewhat, but to crawl after, with my horns like a snail, and be outstripped by my wife--'tis scurvy wedlock.
MRS. MAR . Then shake it off: you have often wished for an opportunity to part, and now you have it. But first prevent their plot:- the half of Millamant's fortune is too considerable to be parted with to a foe, to Mirabell.
FAIN. Damn him, that had been mine--had you not made that fond discovery. That had been forfeited, had they been married. My wife had added lustre to my horns by that increase of fortune: I could have worn 'em tipt with gold, though my forehead had been furnished like a deputy-lieutenant's hall.
MRS. MAR . They may prove a cap of maintenance to you still, if you can away with your wife. And she's no worse than when you had her:- I dare swear she had given up her game before she was married.
FAIN. Hum! That may be -
MRS. MAR. You married her to keep you; and if you can contrive to have her keep you better than you expected, why should you not keep her longer than you intended?
FAIN. The means, the means?
MRS. MAR . Discover to my lady your wife's conduct; threaten to part with her. My lady loves her, and will come to any composition to save her reputation. Take the opportunity of breaking it just upon the discovery of this imposture. My lady will be enraged beyond bounds, and sacrifice niece, and fortune and all at that conjuncture. And let me alone to keep her warm: if she should flag in her part, I will not fail to prompt her.
FAIN. Faith, this has an appearance.
MRS. MAR. I'm sorry I hinted to my lady to endeavour a match between Millamant and Sir Wilfull; that may be an obstacle.
FAIN. Oh, for that matter, leave me to manage him; I'll disable him for that, he will drink like a Dane. After dinner I'll set his hand in.
MRS. MAR. Well, how do you stand affected towards your lady?
FAIN . Why, faith, I'm thinking of it. Let me see. I am married already; so that's over. My wife has played the jade with me; well, that's over too. I never loved her, or if I had, why that would have been over too by this time. Jealous of her I cannot be, for I am certain; so there's an end of jealousy. Weary of her I am and shall be. No, there's no end of that; no, no, that were too much to hope. Thus far concerning my repose. Now for my reputation: as to my own, I married not for it; so that's out of the question. And as to my part in my wife's--why, she had parted with hers before; so, bringing none to me, she can take none from me: 'tis against all rule of play that I should lose to one who has not wherewithal to stake.
MRS. MAR . Besides you forget, marriage is honourable. FAIN. Hum! Faith, and that's well thought on: marriage is honourable, as you say; and if so, wherefore should cuckoldom be a discredit, being derived from so honourable a root?
MRS. MAR. Nay, I know not; if the root be honourable, why not the branches?
FAIN. So, so; why this point's clear. Well, how do we proceed?
MRS. MAR . I will contrive a letter which shall be delivered to my lady at the time when that rascal who is to act Sir Rowland is with her. It shall come as from an unknown hand -for the less I appear to know of the truth the better I can play the incendiary. Besides, I would not have Foible provoked if I could help it, because, you know, she knows some passages. Nay, I expect all will come out. But let the mine be sprung first, and then I care not if I am discovered.
FAIN . If the worst come to the worst, I'll turn my wife to grass. I have already a deed of settlement of the best part of her estate, which I wheedled out of her, and that you shall partake at least.
MRS. MAR. I hope you are convinced that I hate Mirabell now? You'll be no more jealous?
FAIN . Jealous? No, by this kiss. Let husbands be jealous, but let the lover still believe: or if he doubt, let it be only to endear his pleasure, and prepare the joy that follows, when he proves his mistress true. But let husbands' doubts convert to endless jealousy; or if they have belief, let it corrupt to superstition and blind credulity. I am single and will herd no more with 'em. True, I wear the badge, but I'll disown the order. And since I take my leave of 'em, I care not if I leave 'em a common motto to their common crest.
All husbands must or pain or shame endure;
The wise too jealous are, fools too secure.