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The Double-Dealer by William Congreve

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CARE. Alas-a-day, this is a lamentable story. My lady must be told
on't. She must i'faith, Sir Paul; 'tis an injury to the world.

SIR PAUL. Ah! would to heaven you would, Mr. Careless; you are
mightily in her favour.

CARE. I warrant you, what! we must have a son some way or other.

SIR PAUL. Indeed I should be mightily bound to you if you could
bring it about, Mr. Careless.

LADY PLYANT. Here, Sir Paul, it's from your steward. Here's a
return of 600 pounds; you may take fifty of it for the next half
year. [Gives him the letter.]



SIR PAUL. How does my girl? Come hither to thy father, poor lamb:
thou'rt melancholic.

LORD FROTH. Heaven, Sir Paul, you amaze me, of all things in the
world. You are never pleased but when we are all upon the broad
grin: all laugh and no company; ah, then 'tis such a sight to see
some teeth. Sure you're a great admirer of my Lady Whifler, Mr.
Sneer, and Sir Laurence Loud, and that gang.

SIR PAUL. I vow and swear she's a very merry woman; but I think she
laughs a little too much.

LORD FROTH. Merry! O Lord, what a character that is of a woman of
quality. You have been at my Lady Whifler's upon her day, madam?

CYNT. Yes, my lord. I must humour this fool. [Aside.]

LORD FROTH. Well, and how? hee! What is your sense of the

CYNT. Oh, most ridiculous, a perpetual comfort of laughing without
any harmony; for sure, my lord, to laugh out of time, is as
disagreeable as to sing out of time or out of tune.

LORD FROTH. Hee, hee, hee, right; and then, my Lady Whifler is so
ready--she always comes in three bars too soon. And then, what do
they laugh at? For you know laughing without a jest is as
impertinent, hee! as, as -

CYNT. As dancing without a fiddle.

LORD FROTH. Just i'faith, that was at my tongue's end.

CYNT. But that cannot be properly said of them, for I think they
are all in good nature with the world, and only laugh at one
another; and you must allow they have all jests in their persons,
though they have none in their conversation.

LORD FROTH. True, as I'm a person of honour. For heaven's sake let
us sacrifice 'em to mirth a little. [Enter BOY and whispers SIR

SIR PAUL. Gads so.--Wife, wife, my Lady Plyant, I have a word.

LADY PLYANT. I'm busy, Sir Paul, I wonder at your impertinence.

CARE. Sir Paul, harkee, I'm reasoning the matter you know. Madam,
if your ladyship please, we'll discourse of this in the next room.

SIR PAUL. O ho, I wish you good success, I wish you good success.
Boy, tell my lady, when she has done, I would speak with her below.



LADY FROTH. Then you think that episode between Susan, the dairy-
maid, and our coachman is not amiss; you know, I may suppose the
dairy in town, as well as in the country.

BRISK. Incomparable, let me perish. But then, being an heroic
poem, had you not better call him a charioteer? Charioteer sounds
great; besides, your ladyship's coachman having a red face, and you
comparing him to the sun--and you know the sun is called Heaven's

LADY FROTH. Oh, infinitely better; I'm extremely beholden to you
for the hint; stay, we'll read over those half a score lines again.
[Pulls out a paper.] Let me see here, you know what goes before,--
the comparison, you know. [Reads.]

For as the sun shines ev'ry day,
So of our coachman I may say.

BRISK. I'm afraid that simile won't do in wet weather; because you
say the sun shines every day.

LADY FROTH. No; for the sun it won't, but it will do for the
coachman, for you know there's most occasion for a coach in wet

BRISK. Right, right, that saves all.

LADY FROTH. Then I don't say the sun shines all the day, but that
he peeps now and then; yet he does shine all the day too, you know,
though we don't see him.

BRISK. Right, but the vulgar will never comprehend that.

LADY FROTH. Well, you 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 does, more or less.

BRISK. That's right, all's well, all's well. 'More or less.'


And when at night his labour's done,
Then too, like Heav'n's charioteer the sun:

Ay, charioteer 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 him, and he sets in milk.

For Susan you know, is Thetis, and so -

BRISK. Incomparable well and proper, egad--but I have one exception
to make--don't you think bilk--(I know it's good rhyme)--but don't
you think BILK and FARE too like a hackney coachman?

LADY FROTH. I swear and vow I'm afraid so. And yet our Jehu was a
hackney coachman, when my lord took him.

BRISK. Was he? I'm answered, if Jehu was a hackney coachman. You
may put that in the marginal notes though, to prevent criticism--
only mark it with a small asterism, and say, 'Jehu was formerly a
hackney coachman.'

LADY FROTH. I will. You'd oblige me extremely to write notes to
the whole poem.

BRISK. With all my heart and soul, and proud of the vast honour,
let me perish.

LORD FROTH. Hee, hee, hee, my dear, have you done? won't you join
with us? We were laughing at my Lady Whifler and Mr. Sneer.

LADY FROTH. Ay, my dear, were you? Oh, filthy Mr. Sneer; he's a
nauseous figure, a most fulsamic fop, foh! He spent two days
together in going about Covent Garden to suit the lining of his
coach with his complexion.

LORD FROTH. O silly! yet his aunt is as fond of him as if she had
brought the ape into the world herself.

BRISK. Who, my Lady Toothless? Oh, she's a mortifying spectacle;
she's always chewing the cud like an old ewe.

CYNT. Fie, Mr. Brisk, eringo's for her cough.

LADY FROTH. I have seen her take 'em half chewed out of her mouth,
to laugh, and then put 'em in again. Foh!


LADY FROTH. Then she's always ready to laugh when Sneer offers to
speak, and sits in expectation of his no jest, with her gums bare,
and her mouth open -

BRISK. Like an oyster at low ebb, egad. Ha, ha, ha!

CYNT. [Aside] Well, I find there are no fools so inconsiderable in
themselves but they can render other people contemptible by exposing
their infirmities.

LADY FROTH. Then that t'other great strapping lady--I can't hit of
her name; the old fat fool that paints so exorbitantly.

BRISK. I know whom you mean--but deuce take me, I can't hit of her
name neither. Paints, d'ye say? Why, she lays it on with a trowel.
Then she has a great beard that bristles through it, and makes her
look as if she were plastered with lime and hair, let me perish.

LADY FROTH. Oh, you made a song upon her, Mr. Brisk.

BRISK. He! egad, so I did. My lord can sing it.

CYNT. O good, my lord, let's hear it.

BRISK. 'Tis not a song neither, it's a sort of an epigram, or
rather an epigrammatic sonnet; I don't know what to call it, but
it's satire. Sing it, my lord.


Ancient Phyllis has young graces,
'Tis a strange thing, but 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. Short, but there's salt in't; my way of writing, egad.


[To them] FOOTMAN.

LADY FROTH. How now?

FOOT. Your ladyship's chair is come.

LADY FROTH. Is nurse and the child in it?

FOOT. Yes, madam.

LADY FROTH. O the dear creature! Let's go see it.

LORD FROTH. I swear, my dear, you'll spoil that child, with sending
it to and again so often; this is the seventh time the chair has
gone for her to-day.

LADY FROTH. O law! I swear it's but the sixth--and I haven't seen
her these two hours. The poor creature--I swear, my lord, you don't
love poor little Sapho. Come, my dear Cynthia, Mr. Brisk, we'll go
see Sapho, though my lord won't.

CYNT. I'll wait upon your ladyship.

BRISK. Pray, madam, how old is Lady Sapho?

LADY FROTH. Three-quarters, but I swear she has a world of wit, and
can sing a tune already. My lord, won't you go? Won't you? What!
not to see Saph? Pray, my lord, come see little Saph. I knew you
could not stay.


CYNTHIA alone.

CYNT. 'Tis not so hard to counterfeit joy in the depth of
affliction, as to dissemble mirth in company of fools. Why should I
call 'em fools? The world thinks better of 'em; for these have
quality and education, wit and fine conversation, are received and
admired by the world. If not, they like and admire themselves. And
why is not that true wisdom? for 'tis happiness: and for ought I
know, we have misapplied the name all this while, and mistaken the
thing: since

If happiness in self-content is placed,
The wise are wretched, and fools only bless'd.



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.

MEL. What?

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

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.



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.]



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

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

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

SIR PAUL. I will, I will, I'll go and look for him on purpose.


BRISK alone.

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

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.

BRISK. Seriously?

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

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. Oh, Mr. Careless, Mr. Careless, I'm ruined, I'm

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.



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.



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.

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.



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



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 -


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.


MASK. My duty to your lordship makes me do a severe piece of

LORD TOUCH. I will be secret, and reward your honesty beyond your


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.



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.]



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

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.



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!

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!

MEL. Ha!

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?

MEL. Damnation!

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

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

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.



LADY TOUCH. Was't not lucky?

MASK. Lucky! Fortune is your own, and 'tis her interest so to be.
By heaven I believe you can control her power, and she fears it:
though chance brought my lord, 'twas your own art that turned it to

LADY TOUCH. 'Tis true it might have been my ruin. But yonder's my
lord. I believe he's coming to find you: I'll not be seen.



MASK. So; I durst not own my introducing my lord, though it
succeeded well for her, for she would have suspected a design which
I should have been puzzled to excuse. My lord is thoughtful. I'll
be so too; yet he shall know my thoughts: or think he does.



MASK. What have I done?

LORD TOUCH. Talking to himself!

MASK. 'Twas honest--and shall I be rewarded for it? No, 'twas
honest, therefore I shan't. Nay, rather therefore I ought not; for
it rewards itself.

LORD TOUCH. Unequalled virtue! [Aside.]

MASK. But should it be known, then I have lost a friend! He was an
ill man, and I have gained; for half myself I lent him, and that I
have recalled: so I have served myself, and what is yet better, I
have served a worthy lord to whom I owe myself.

LORD TOUCH. Excellent man! [Aside.]

MASK. Yet I am wretched. Oh, there is a secret burns within this
breast, which, should it once blaze forth, would ruin all, consume
my honest character, and brand me with the name of villain.


MASK. Why do I love! Yet heaven and my waking conscience are my
witnesses, I never gave one working thought a vent, which might
discover that I loved, nor ever must. No, let it prey upon my
heart; for I would rather die, than seem once, barely seem,
dishonest. Oh, should it once be known I love fair Cynthia, all
this that I have done would look like rival's malice, false
friendship to my lord, and base self-interest. Let me perish first,
and from this hour avoid all sight and speech, and, if I can, all
thought of that pernicious beauty. Ha! But what is my distraction
doing? I am wildly talking to myself, and some ill chance might
have directed malicious ears this way. [Seems to start, seeing my

LORD TOUCH. Start not; let guilty and dishonest souls start at the
revelation of their thoughts, but be thou fixed, as is thy virtue.

MASK. I am confounded, and beg your Lordship's pardon for those
free discourses which I have had with myself.

LORD TOUCH. Come, I beg your pardon that I overheard you, and yet
it shall not need. Honest Maskwell! Thy and my good genius led me
hither. Mine, in that I have discovered so much manly virtue;
thine, in that thou shalt have due reward of all thy worth. Give me
thy hand. My nephew is the alone remaining branch of all our
ancient family: him I thus blow away, and constitute thee in his
room to be my heir -

MASK. Now heaven forbid -

LORD TOUCH. No more--I have resolved. The writings are ready
drawn, and wanted nothing but to be signed, and have his name
inserted. 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 assume
authority. Hereafter, you shall rule where I have power.

MASK. I humbly would petition -

LORD TOUCH. Is't for yourself? [MASKWELL pauses.] I'll hear of
nought for anybody else.

MASK. Then witness heaven for me, this wealth and honour was not of
my seeking, nor would I build my fortune on another's ruin. I had
but one desire -

LORD TOUCH. Thou shalt enjoy it. If all I'm worth in wealth or
interest can purchase Cynthia, she is thine. I'm sure Sir Paul's
consent will follow fortune. I'll quickly show him which way that
is going.

MASK. You oppress me with bounty. My gratitude is weak, and
shrinks beneath the weight, and cannot rise to thank you. What,
enjoy my love! Forgive the transports of a blessing so unexpected,
so unhoped for, so unthought of!

LORD TOUCH. I will confirm it, and rejoice with thee.



MASK. This is prosperous indeed. Why let him find me out a
villain, settled in possession of a fair estate, and full fruition
of my love, I'll bear the railings of a losing gamester. But should
he find me out before! 'Tis dangerous to delay. Let me think.
Should my lord proceed to treat openly of my marriage with Cynthia,
all must be discovered, and Mellefont can be no longer blinded. It
must not be; nay, should my lady know it--ay, then were fine work
indeed! Her fury would spare nothing, though she involved herself
in ruin. No, it must be by stratagem. I must deceive Mellefont
once more, and get my lord to consent to my private management. He
comes opportunely. Now will I, in my old way, discover the whole
and real truth of the matter to him, that he may not suspect one
word on't.

No mask like open truth to cover lies,
As to go naked is the best disguise.



MEL. O Maskwell, what hopes? I am confounded in a maze of
thoughts, each leading into one another, and all ending in
perplexity. My uncle will not see nor hear me.

MASK. No matter, sir, don'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. How
the devil she wrought my lord into this dotage, I know not; but he's
gone to Sir Paul about my marriage with Cynthia, and has appointed
me his heir.

MEL. The devil he has! What's to be done?

MASK. I have it, it must be by stratagem; for it's in vain to make
application to him. I think I have that in my head that cannot
fail. Where's Cynthia?

MEL. In the garden.

MASK. Let us go and consult her: my life for yours, I cheat my



LADY TOUCH. Maskwell your heir, and 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 so
suddenly resolved. Why Cynthia? Why must he be married? Is there
not reward enough in raising his low fortune, but he must mix his
blood with mine, and wed my niece? How know you that my brother
will consent, or she? Nay, he himself perhaps may have affections

LORD TOUCH. No, I 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 of
Mellefont would have made him still conceal it. But by
encouragement, I wrung the secret from him, and know he's no way to
be rewarded but in her. I'll defer my farther proceedings in it
till you have considered it; but remember how we are both indebted
to him.



LADY TOUCH. Both indebted to him! Yes, we are both indebted to
him, if you knew all. Villain! Oh, I am wild with this surprise of
treachery: it is impossible, it cannot be. He love Cynthia! What,
have I been bawd to his designs, his property only, a baiting place?
Now I see what made him false to Mellefont. Shame and distraction!
I cannot bear it, oh! what woman can bear to be a property? To be
kindled to a flame, only to light him to another's arms; oh! that I
were fire indeed that I might burn the vile traitor. What shall I
do? How shall I think? I cannot think. All my designs are lost,
my love unsated, my revenge unfinished, and fresh cause of fury from
unthought of plagues.


[To her] SIR PAUL.

SIR PAUL. Madam, sister, my lady sister, did you see my lady my

LADY TOUCH. Oh! Torture!

SIR PAUL. Gads-bud, I can't find her high nor low; where can she
be, think you?

LADY TOUCH. Where she's serving you, as all your sex ought to be
served, making you a beast. Don't you know you're a fool, brother?

SIR PAUL. A fool; he, he, he, you're merry. No, no, not I, I know
no such matter.

LADY TOUCH. Why, then, you don't know half your happiness.

SIR PAUL. That's a jest with all my heart, faith and troth. But
harkee, my lord told me something of a revolution of things; I don't
know what to make on't. Gads-bud, I must consult my wife:- he talks
of disinheriting his nephew, and I don't know what. Look you,
sister, I must know what my girl has to trust to, or not a syllable
of a wedding, gads-bud!--to show you that I am not a fool.

LADY TOUCH. Hear me: consent to the breaking off this marriage,
and the promoting any other without consulting me, and I'll renounce
all blood, all relation and concern with you for ever; nay, I'll be
your enemy, and pursue you to destruction: I'll tear your eyes out,
and tread you under my feet.

SIR PAUL. Why, what's the matter now? Good Lord, what's all this
for? Pooh, here's a joke indeed. Why, where's my wife?

LADY TOUCH. With Careless, in the close arbour; he may want you by
this time, as much as you want her.

SIR PAUL. Oh, if she be with Mr. Careless, 'tis well enough.

LADY TOUCH. Fool, sot, insensible ox! But remember what I said to
you, or you had better eat your own horns, by this light you had.

SIR PAUL. You're a passionate woman, gads-bud! But to say truth
all our family are choleric; I am the only peaceable person amongst



MEL. I know no other way but this he has proposed: if you have
love enough to run the venture.

CYNT. I don't know whether I have love enough, but I find I have
obstinacy enough to pursue whatever I have once resolved; and a true
female courage to oppose anything that resists my will, though
'twere reason itself.

MASK. That's right. Well, I'll secure the writings and run the
hazard along with you.

CYNT. But how can the coach and six horses be got ready without

MASK. Leave it to my care; that shall be so far from being
suspected, that it shall be got ready by my lord's own order.

MEL. How?

MASK. Why, I intend to tell my lord the whole matter of our
contrivance; that's my way.

MEL. I don't understand you.

MASK. Why, I'll tell my lord I laid this plot with you on purpose
to betray you; and that which put me upon it, was the finding it
impossible to gain the lady any other way, but in the hopes of her
marrying you.

MEL. So.

MASK. So, why so, while you're busied in making yourself ready,
I'll wheedle her into the coach; and instead of you, borrow my
lord's chaplain, and so run away with her myself.

MEL. Oh, I conceive you; you'll tell him so.

MASK. Tell him so! ay; why, you don't think I mean to do so?

MEL. No, no; ha, ha, I dare swear thou wilt not.

MASK. Therefore, for our farther security, I would have you
disguised like a parson, that if my lord should have curiosity to
peep, he may not discover you in the coach, but think the cheat is
carried on as he would have it.

MEL. Excellent Maskwell! Thou wert certainly meant for a statesman
or a Jesuit; but thou art too honest for one, and too pious for the

MASK. Well, get yourself ready, and meet me in half-an-hour, yonder
in my lady's dressing-room; go by the back stairs, and so we may
slip down without being observed. I'll send the chaplain to you
with his robes: I have made him my own, and ordered him to meet us
to-morrow morning at St. Albans; there we will sum up this account,
to all our satisfactions.

MEL. Should I begin to thank or praise thee, I should waste the
little time we have.



MASK. Madam, you will be ready?

CYNT. I will be punctual to the minute. [Going.]

MASK. Stay, I have a doubt. Upon second thoughts, we had better
meet in the chaplain's chamber here, the corner chamber at this end
of the gallery, there is a back way into it, so that you need not
come through this door, and a pair of private stairs leading down to
the stables. It will be more convenient.

CYNT. I am guided by you; but Mellefont will mistake.

MASK. No, no, I'll after him immediately, and tell him.

CYNT. I will not fail.



MASK. Why, QUI VULT DECIPI DECIPIATUR.--'Tis no fault of mine: I
have told 'em in plain terms how easy 'tis for me to cheat 'em, and
if they will not hear the serpent's hiss, they must be stung into
experience and future caution. Now to prepare my lord to consent to
this. But first I must instruct my little Levite; there is no plot,
public or private, that can expect to prosper without one of them
has a finger in't: he promised me to be within at this hour,--Mr.
Saygrace, Mr. Saygrace! [Goes to the chamber door and knocks.]



SAYGRACE [looking out.] Sweet sir, I will but pen the last line of
an acrostic, and be with you in the twinkling of an ejaculation, in
the pronouncing of an Amen, or before you can -

MASK. Nay, good Mr. Saygrace, do not prolong the time by describing
to me the shortness of your stay; rather if you please, defer the
finishing of your wit, and let us talk about our business; it shall
be tithes in your way.

SAYGRACE. [Enters.] You shall prevail: I would break off in the
middle 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 chamber, together with a
clean starched band and cuffs.

MASK. Good, let them be carried to him; have you stitched the gown
sleeve, that he may be puzzled, and waste time in putting it on?

SAYGRACE. I have: the gown will not be indued without perplexity.

MASK. Meet me in half-an-hour, here in your own chamber. When
Cynthia comes, let there be no light, and do not speak, that she may
not distinguish you from Mellefont. I'll urge haste to excuse your

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 should
command. My very slaves will shortly give me rules how I shall
govern them.

MASK. I am concerned to see your lordship discomposed.

LORD TOUCH. Have you seen my wife lately, or disobliged her?

MASK. No, my 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 bounds
of patience.

MASK. This I feared. [Aside.] Did not your lordship tell her of
the honours you designed me?


MASK. 'Tis that; you know my lady has a high spirit; she thinks I
am 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 be
so, and that should be convincing to her as much as reason. By
Heaven, I'll not be wife-ridden; were it possible, it should be done
this night.

MASK. By Heaven, he meets my wishes! [Aside.] Few things are
impossible to willing minds.

LORD TOUCH. Instruct me how this may be done, you shall see I want
no inclination.

MASK. I had laid a small design for to-morrow (as love will be
inventing) which I thought to communicate to your lordship. But it
may be as well done to-night.

LORD TOUCH. Here's company. Come this way and tell me.



CARE. Is not that he now gone out with my lord?

CYNT. Yes.

CARE. By heaven, there's treachery. The confusion that I saw your
father in, my Lady Touchwood's passion, with what imperfectly I
overheard between my lord and her, confirm me in my fears. Where's

CYNT. Here he comes.


[To them] MELLEFONT.

CYNT. Did Maskwell tell you anything of the chaplain's chamber?

MEL. No. My dear, will you get ready? The things are all in my
chamber; I want nothing but the habit.

CARE. You are betrayed, and Maskwell is the villain I always
thought him.

CYNT. When you were gone, he said his mind was changed, and bid me
meet him in the chaplain's room, pretending immediately to follow
you and give you notice.

MEL. How?

CARE. There's Saygrace tripping by with a bundle under his arm. He
cannot be ignorant that Maskwell means to use his chamber; let's
follow and examine him.

MEL. 'Tis loss of time; I cannot think him false.



CYNT. My lord musing!

LORD TOUCH. He has a quick invention, if this were suddenly
designed. Yet he says he had prepared my chaplain already.

CYNT. How's this? Now I fear indeed.

LORD TOUCH. Cynthia here! Alone, fair cousin, and melancholy?

CYNT. Your lordship was thoughtful.

LORD TOUCH. My thoughts were on serious business not worth your

CYNT. Mine were on treachery concerning you, and may be worth your

LORD TOUCH. Treachery concerning me? Pray be plain. Hark! What

MASK. (within) Will you not hear me?

LADY TOUCH. (within) No, monster! traitor! No.

CYNT. My lady and Maskwell! This may be lucky. My lord, let me
entreat you to stand behind this screen and listen: perhaps this
chance may give you proof of what you ne'er could have believed from
my suspicions.


abscond, listening.

LADY TOUCH. You want but leisure to invent fresh falsehood, and
soothe me to a fond belief of all your fictions: but I will stab
the lie that's forming in your heart, and save a sin, in pity to
your soul.

MASK. Strike then, since you will have it so.

LADY TOUCH. Ha! A steady villain to the last.

MASK. Come, why do you dally with me thus?

LADY TOUCH. Thy stubborn temper shocks me, and you knew it would;
this is cunning all, and not courage. No; I know thee well, but
thou shalt miss thy aim.

MASK. Ha, ha, ha!

LADY TOUCH. Ha! Do you mock my rage? Then this shall punish your
fond, rash contempt. Again smile! [Goes to strike.] And such a
smile as speaks in ambiguity! Ten thousand meanings lurk in each
corner of that various face.

Oh! that they were written in thy heart,
That I, with this, might lay thee open to my sight!
But then 'twill be too late to know -

Thou hast, thou hast found the only way to turn my rage. Too well
thou knowest my jealous soul could never bear uncertainty. Speak,
then, and tell me. Yet are you silent. Oh, I am wildered in all
passions. But thus my anger melts. [Weeps.] Here, take this
poniard, for my very spirits faint, and 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 you
have temper, tell me.

LADY TOUCH. Now, now, now I am calm and can hear you.

MASK. [Aside.] Thanks, my invention; and now I have it for you.
First, tell me what urged you to this violence: for your passion
broke in such imperfect terms, that yet I am to learn the cause.

LADY TOUCH. My lord himself surprised me with the news you were to
marry Cynthia, that you had owned our love to him, and his
indulgence would assist you to attain your ends.

CYNT. How, my lord?

LORD TOUCH. Pray forbear all resentments for a while, and let us
hear the rest.

MASK. I grant you in appearance all is true; I seemed consenting to
my lord--nay, transported with the blessing. But could you think
that I, who had been happy in your loved embraces, could e'er be
fond of an inferior slavery?

LORD TOUCH. Ha! Oh, poison to my ears! What do I hear?

CYNT. Nay, good my lord, forbear resentment; let us hear it out.

LORD TOUCH. Yes, I will contain, though I could burst.

MASK. I, that had wantoned in the rich circle of your world of
love, could be confined within the puny province of a girl? No.
Yet though I dote on each last favour more than all the rest, though
I would give a limb for every look you cheaply throw away on any
other object of your love: yet so far I prize your pleasures o'er
my own, that all this seeming plot that I have laid has been to
gratify your taste and cheat the world, to prove a faithful rogue to

LADY TOUCH. If this were true. But how can it be?

MASK. I have so contrived that Mellefont will presently, in the
chaplain's habit, wait for Cynthia in your dressing-room; but I have
put the change upon her, that she may be other where employed. Do
you procure her night-gown, and with your hoods tied over your face,
meet him in her stead. You may go privately by the back stairs,
and, unperceived, there you may propose to reinstate him in his
uncle's favour, if he'll comply with your desires--his case is
desperate, and I believe he'll yield to any conditions. If not
here, take this; you may employ it better than in the heart of one
who is nothing when not yours. [Gives the dagger.]

LADY TOUCH. Thou can'st deceive everybody. Nay, thou hast deceived
me; but 'tis as I would wish. Trusty villain! I could worship

MASK. No more; it wants but a few minutes of the time; and
Mellefont's love will carry him there before his hour.

LADY TOUCH. I go, I fly, incomparable Maskwell!



MASK. So, this was a pinch indeed, my invention was upon the rack,
and made discovery of her last plot. I hope Cynthia and my chaplain
will be ready; I'll prepare for the expedition.



CYNT. Now, my lord?

LORD TOUCH. Astonishment binds up my rage! Villainy upon villainy!
Heavens, what a long track of dark deceit has this discovered! I am
confounded when I look back, and want a clue to guide me through the
various mazes of unheard-of treachery. My wife! Damnation! My

CYNT. My lord, have patience, and be sensible how great our
happiness is, that this discovery was not made too late.

LORD TOUCH. I thank you, yet it may be still too late, if we don't
presently prevent the execution of their plots;--ha, I'll do't.
Where's Mellefont, my poor injured nephew? How shall I make him
ample satisfaction?

CYNT. I dare answer for him.

LORD TOUCH. I do him fresh wrong to question his forgiveness; for I
know him to be all goodness. Yet my wife! Damn her:- she'll think
to meet him in that dressing-room. Was't not so? And Maskwell will
expect you in the chaplain's chamber. For once, I'll add my plot
too:- let us haste to find out, and inform my nephew; and do you,
quickly as you can, bring all the company into this gallery. I'll
expose the strumpet, and the villain.



LORD FROTH. By heavens, I have slept an age. Sir Paul, what
o'clock is't? Past eight, on my conscience; my lady's is the most
inviting couch, and a slumber there is the prettiest amusement! But
where's all the company?

SIR PAUL. The company, gads-bud, I don't know, my lord, but here's
the strangest revolution, all turned topsy turvy; as I hope for

LORD FROTH. O heavens, what'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. What, my wife?

SIR PAUL. No, no, I mean the family. Your lady's affairs may be in
a very good posture; I saw her go into the garden with Mr. Brisk.

LORD FROTH. How? Where, when, what to do?

SIR PAUL. I suppose they have been laying their heads together.


SIR PAUL. Nay, only about poetry, I suppose, my lord; making

LORD FROTH. Couplets.

SIR PAUL. Oh, here they come.



BRISK. My lord, your humble servant; Sir Paul, yours,--the finest

LADY FROTH. My dear, Mr. Brisk and I have been star-gazing, I don't
know how long.

SIR PAUL. Does it not tire your ladyship? Are not you weary with
looking up?

LADY FROTH. Oh, no, I love it violently. My dear, you're

LORD FROTH. No, my dear; I'm but just awake.

LADY FROTH. Snuff some of my spirit of hartshorn.

LORD FROTH. I've some of my own, thank you, dear.

LADY FROTH. Well, I swear, Mr. Brisk, you understood astronomy like
an old Egyptian.

BRISK. Not comparably to your ladyship; you are the very Cynthia of
the skies, and queen of stars.

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