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The Old Bachelor by William Congreve

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toy, at these years! Death, a bearded baby for a girl to dandle.
O dotage, dotage! That ever that noble passion, lust, should ebb
to this degree. No reflux of vigorous blood: but milky love
supplies the empty channels; and prompts me to the softness of a
child--a mere infant and would suck. Can you love me, Silvia?

SILV. I dare not speak until I believe you, and indeed I'm afraid
to believe you yet.

HEART. Death, how her innocence torments and pleases me! Lying,
child, is indeed the art of love, and men are generally masters in
it: but I'm so newly entered, you cannot distrust me of any skill
in the treacherous mystery. Now, by my soul, I cannot lie, though
it were to serve a friend or gain a mistress.

SILV. Must you lie, then, if you say you love me?

HEART. No, no, dear ignorance, thou beauteous changeling--I tell
thee I do love thee, and tell it for a truth, a naked truth, which
I'm ashamed to discover.

SILV. But love, they say, is a tender thing, that will smooth
frowns, and make calm an angry face; will soften a rugged temper,
and make ill-humoured people good. You look ready to fright one,
and talk as if your passion were not love, but anger.

HEART. 'Tis both; for I am angry with myself when I am pleased
with you. And a pox upon me for loving thee so well--yet I must
on. 'Tis a bearded arrow, and will more easily be thrust forward
than drawn back.

SILV. Indeed, if I were well assured you loved; but how can I be
well assured?

HEART. Take the symptoms--and ask all the tyrants of thy sex if
their fools are not known by this party-coloured livery. I am
melancholic when thou art absent; look like an ass when thou art
present; wake for thee when I should sleep; and even dream of thee
when I am awake; sigh much, drink little, eat less, court solitude,
am grown very entertaining to myself, and (as I am informed) very
troublesome to everybody else. If this be not love, it is madness,
and then it is pardonable. Nay, yet a more certain sign than all
this, I give thee my money.

SILV. Ay, but that is no sign; for they say, gentlemen will give
money to any naughty woman to come to bed to them. O Gemini, I
hope you don't mean so--for I won't be a whore.

HEART. The more is the pity. [Aside.]

SILV. Nay, if you would marry me, you should not come to bed to
me--you have such a beard, and would so prickle one. But do you
intend to marry me?

HEART. That a fool should ask such a malicious question! Death, I
shall be drawn in before I know where I am. However, I find I am
pretty sure of her consent, if I am put to it. [Aside.] Marry
you? No, no, I'll love you.

SILV. Nay, but if you love me, you must marry me. What, don't I
know my father loved my mother and was married to her?

HEART. Ay, ay, in old days people married where they loved; but
that fashion is changed, child.

SILV. Never tell me that; I know it is not changed by myself: for
I love you, and would marry you.

HEART. I'll have my beard shaved, it sha'n't hurt thee, and we'll
go to bed -

SILV. No, no, I'm not such a fool neither, but I can keep myself
honest. Here, I won't keep anything that's yours; I hate you now,
[throws the purse] and I'll never see you again, 'cause you'd have
me be naught. [Going.]

HEART. Damn her, let her go, and a good riddance. Yet so much
tenderness and beauty and honesty together is a jewel. Stay,
Silvia--But then to marry; why, every man plays the fool once in
his life. But to marry is playing the fool all one's life long.

SILV. What did you call me for?

HEART. I'll give thee all I have, and thou shalt live with me in
everything so like my wife, the world shall believe it. Nay, thou
shalt think so thyself--only let me not think so.

SILV. No, I'll die before I'll be your whore--as well as I love

HEART. [Aside.] A woman, and ignorant, may be honest, when 'tis
out of obstinacy and contradiction. But, s'death, it is but a may
be, and upon scurvy terms. Well, farewell then--if I can get out
of sight I may get the better of myself.

SILV. Well--good-bye. [Turns and weeps.]

HEART. Ha! Nay, come, we'll kiss at parting. [Kisses her.] By
heaven, her kiss is sweeter than liberty. I will marry thee.
There, thou hast done't. All my resolves melted in that kiss--one

SILV. But when?

HEART. I'm impatient until it be done; I will not give myself
liberty to think, lest I should cool. I will about a licence
straight--in the evening expect me. One kiss more to confirm me
mad; so.

SILV. Ha, ha, ha, an old fox trapped -


[To her] Lucy.

Bless me! you frighted me; I thought he had been come again, and
had heard me.

LUCY. Lord, madam, I met your lover in as much haste as if he had
been going for a midwife.

SILV. He's going for a parson, girl, the forerunner of a midwife,
some nine months hence. Well, I find dissembling to our sex is as
natural as swimming to a negro; we may depend upon our skill to
save us at a plunge, though till then, we never make the
experiment. But how hast thou succeeded?

LUCY. As you would wish--since there is no reclaiming Vainlove. I
have found out a pique she has taken at him, and have framed a
letter that makes her sue for reconciliation first. I know that
will do--walk in and I'll show it you. Come, madam, you're like to
have a happy time on't; both your love and anger satisfied! All
that can charm our sex conspire to please you.

That woman sure enjoys a blessed night,
Whom love and vengeance both at once delight.


SCENE: The Street.

BELLMOUR, in fanatic habit, SETTER.

BELL. 'Tis pretty near the hour. [Looking on his watch.] Well,
and how, Setter, hae, does my hypocrisy fit me, hae? Does it sit
easy on me?

SET. Oh, most religiously well, sir.

BELL. I wonder why all our young fellows should glory in an
opinion of atheism, when they may be so much more conveniently lewd
under the coverlet of religion.

SET. S'bud, sir, away quickly: there's Fondlewife just turned the
corner, and 's coming this way.

BELL. Gad's so, there he is: he must not see me.



FOND. I say I will tarry at home.

BAR. But, sir.

FOND. Good lack! I profess the spirit of contradiction hath
possessed the lad--I say I will tarry at home, varlet.

BAR. I have done, sir; then farewell five hundred pound.

FOND. Ha, how's that? Stay, stay, did you leave word, say you,
with his wife? With Comfort herself?

BAR. I did; and Comfort will send Tribulation hither as soon as
ever he comes home. I could have brought young Mr. Prig to have
kept my mistress company in the meantime. But you say -

FOND. How, how, say, varlet! I say let him not come near my
doors. I say, he is a wanton young Levite, and pampereth himself
up with dainties, that he may look lovely in the eyes of women.
Sincerely, I am afraid he hath already defiled the tabernacle of
our sister Comfort; while her good husband is deluded by his godly
appearance. I say that even lust doth sparkle in his eyes and glow
upon his cheeks, and that I would as soon trust my wife with a
lord's high-fed chaplain.

BAR. Sir, the hour draws nigh, and nothing will be done here until
you come.

FOND. And nothing can be done here until I go; so that I'll tarry,
de'e see.

BAR. And run the hazard to lose your affair, sir!

FOND. Good lack, good lack--I profess it is a very sufficient
vexation for a man to have a handsome wife.

BAR. Never, sir, but when the man is an insufficient husband.
'Tis then, indeed, like the vanity of taking a fine house, and yet
be forced to let lodgings to help pay the rent.

FOND. I profess a very apt comparison, varlet. Go and bid my
Cocky come out to me; I will give her some instructions, I will
reason with her before I go.



And in the meantime I will reason with myself. Tell me, Isaac, why
art thee jealous? Why art thee distrustful of the wife of thy
bosom? Because she is young and vigorous, and I am old and
impotent. Then why didst thee marry, Isaac? Because she was
beautiful and tempting, and because I was obstinate and doting; so
that my inclination was (and is still) greater than my power. And
will not that which tempted thee, also tempt others, who will tempt
her, Isaac? I fear it much. But does not thy wife love thee, nay,
dote upon thee? Yes. Why then! Ay, but to say truth, she's
fonder of me than she has reason to be; and in the way of trade, we
still suspect the smoothest dealers of the deepest designs. And
that she has some designs deeper than thou canst reach, thou hast
experimented, Isaac. But, mum.



LAET. I hope my dearest jewel is not going to leave me--are you,

FOND. Wife--have you thoroughly considered how detestable, how
heinous, and how crying a sin the sin of adultery is? Have you
weighed it, I say? For it is a very weighty sin; and although it
may lie heavy upon thee, yet thy husband must also bear his part.
For thy iniquity will fall upon his head.

LAET. Bless me, what means my dear?

FOND. [Aside.] I profess she has an alluring eye; I am doubtful
whether I shall trust her, even with Tribulation himself. Speak, I
say, have you considered what it is to cuckold your husband?

LAET. [Aside.] I'm amazed. Sure he has discovered nothing. Who
has wronged me to my dearest? I hope my jewel does not think that
ever I had any such thing in my head, or ever will have.

FOND. No, no, I tell you I shall have it in my head -

LAET. [Aside.] I know not what to think. But I'm resolved to
find the meaning of it. Unkind dear! Was it for this you sent to
call me? Is it not affliction enough that you are to leave me, but
you must study to increase it by unjust suspicions? [Crying.]
Well--well--you know my fondness, and you love to tyrannise--Go on,
cruel man, do: triumph over my poor heart while it holds, which
cannot be long, with this usage of yours. But that's what you
want. Well, you will have your ends soon. You will--you will.
Yes, it will break to oblige you. [Sighs.]

FOND. Verily, I fear I have carried the jest too far. Nay, look
you now if she does not weep--'tis the fondest fool. Nay, Cocky,
Cocky, nay, dear Cocky, don't cry, I was but in jest, I was not,

LAET. [Aside.] Oh then, all's safe. I was terribly frighted. My
affliction is always your jest, barbarous man! Oh, that I should
love to this degree! Yet -

FOND. Nay, Cocky.

LAET. No, no, you are weary of me, that's it--that's all, you
would get another wife--another fond fool, to break her heart--
Well, be as cruel as you can to me, I'll pray for you; and when I
am dead with grief, may you have one that will love you as well as
I have done: I shall be contented to lie at peace in my cold
grave--since it will please you. [Sighs.]

FOND. Good lack, good lack, she would melt a heart of oak--I
profess I can hold no longer. Nay, dear Cocky--ifeck, you'll break
my heart--ifeck you will. See, you have made me weep--made poor
Nykin weep. Nay, come kiss, buss poor Nykin--and I won't leave
thee--I'll lose all first.

LAET. [Aside.] How! Heaven forbid! that will be carrying the
jest too far indeed.

FOND. Won't you kiss Nykin?

LAET. Go, naughty Nykin, you don't love me.

FOND. Kiss, kiss, ifeck, I do.

LAET. No, you don't. [She kisses him.]

FOND. What, not love Cocky!

LAET. No-h. [Sighs.]

FOND. I profess I do love thee better than five hundred pound--and
so thou shalt say, for I'll leave it to stay with thee.

LAET. No you sha'n't neglect your business for me. No, indeed,
you sha'n't, Nykin. If you don't go, I'll think you been dealous
of me still.

FOND. He, he, he, wilt thou, poor fool? Then I will go, I won't
be dealous. Poor Cocky, kiss Nykin, kiss Nykin, ee, ee, ee. Here
will be the good man anon, to talk to Cocky and teach her how a
wife ought to behave herself.

LAET. [Aside.] I hope to have one that will show me how a husband
ought to behave himself. I shall be glad to learn, to please my
jewel. [Kiss.]

FOND. That's my good dear. Come, kiss Nykin once more, and then
get you in. So--get you in, get you in. Bye, bye.

LAET. Bye, Nykin.

FOND. Bye, Cocky.

LAET. Bye, Nykin.

FOND. Bye, Cocky, bye, bye.



SHARP. How! Araminta lost!

VAIN. To confirm what I have said, read this. [Gives a letter.]

SHARP. [Reads.] Hum, hum! And what then appeared a fault, upon
reflection seems only an effect of a too powerful passion. I'm
afraid I give too great a proof of my own at this time. I am in
disorder for what I have written. But something, I know not what,
forced me. I only beg a favourable censure of this and your

SHARP. Lost! Pray heaven thou hast not lost thy wits. Here,
here, she's thy own, man, signed and sealed too. To her, man--a
delicious melon, pure and consenting ripe, and only waits thy
cutting up: she has been breeding love to thee all this while, and
just now she's delivered of it.

VAIN. 'Tis an untimely fruit, and she has miscarried of her love.

SHARP. Never leave this damned ill-natured whimsey, Frank? Thou
hast a sickly, peevish appetite; only chew love and cannot digest

VAIN. Yes, when I feed myself. But I hate to be crammed. By
heaven, there's not a woman will give a man the pleasure of a
chase: my sport is always balked or cut short. I stumble over the
game I would pursue. 'Tis dull and unnatural to have a hare run
full in the hounds' mouth, and would distaste the keenest hunter.
I would have overtaken, not have met, my game.

SHARP. However, I hope you don't mean to forsake it; that will be
but a kind of mongrel cur's trick. Well, are you for the Mall?

VAIN. No; she will be there this evening. Yes, I will go too, and
she shall see her error in -

SHARP. In her choice, I-gad. But thou canst not be so great a
brute as to slight her.

VAIN. I should disappoint her if I did not. By her management I
should think she expects it.

All naturally fly what does pursue:
'Tis fit men should be coy when women woo.


A Room in Fondlewife's House.

A SERVANT introducing BELLMOUR, in fanatic habit, with a patch upon
one eye and a book in his hand.

SERV. Here's a chair, sir, if you please to repose yourself. My
mistress is coming, sir.

BELL. Secure in my disguise I have out-faced suspicion and even
dared discovery. This cloak my sanctity, and trusty Scarron's
novels my prayer-book; methinks I am the very picture of Montufar
in the Hypocrites. Oh! she comes.



So breaks Aurora through the veil of night,
Thus fly the clouds, divided by her light,
And every eye receives a new-born sight.
[Throwing off his cloak, patch, etc.]

LAET. Thus strewed with blushes, like--Ah! Heaven defend me!
Who's this? [Discovering him, starts.]

BELL. Your lover.

LAET. Vainlove's friend! I know his face, and he has betrayed me
to him. [Aside.]

BELL. You are surprised. Did you not expect a lover, madam?
Those eyes shone kindly on my first appearance, though now they are

LAET. I may well be surprised at your person and impudence: they
are both new to me. You are not what your first appearance
promised: the piety of your habit was welcome, but not the

BELL. Rather the hypocrisy was welcome, but not the hypocrite.

LAET. Who are you, sir? You have mistaken the house sure.

BELL. I have directions in my pocket which agree with everything
but your unkindness. [Pulls out the letter.]

LAET. My letter! Base Vainlove! Then 'tis too late to dissemble.
[Aside.] 'Tis plain, then, you have mistaken the person. [Going.]

BELL. If we part so I'm mistaken. Hold, hold, madam! I confess I
have run into an error. I beg your pardon a thousand times. What
an eternal blockhead am I! Can you forgive me the disorder I have
put you into? But it is a mistake which anybody might have made.

LAET. What can this mean? 'Tis impossible he should be mistaken
after all this. A handsome fellow if he had not surprised me.
Methinks, now I look on him again, I would not have him mistaken.
[Aside.] We are all liable to mistakes, sir. If you own it to be
so, there needs no farther apology.

BELL. Nay, faith, madam, 'tis a pleasant one, and worth your
hearing. Expecting a friend last night, at his lodgings, till
'twas late, my intimacy with him gave me the freedom of his bed.
He not coming home all night, a letter was delivered to me by a
servant in the morning. Upon the perusal I found the contents so
charming that I could think of nothing all day but putting 'em in
practice, until just now, the first time I ever looked upon the
superscription, I am the most surprised in the world to find it
directed to Mr. Vainlove. Gad, madam, I ask you a million of
pardons, and will make you any satisfaction.

LAET. I am discovered. And either Vainlove is not guilty, or he
has handsomely excused him. [Aside.]

BELL. You appear concerned, madam.

LAET. I hope you are a gentleman;--and since you are privy to a
weak woman's failing, won't turn it to the prejudice of her
reputation. You look as if you had more honour -

BELL. And more love, or my face is a false witness and deserves to
be pilloried. No, by heaven, I swear -

LAET. Nay, don't swear if you'd have me believe you; but promise -

BELL. Well, I promise. A promise is so cold: give me leave to
swear, by those eyes, those killing eyes, by those healing lips.
Oh! press the soft charm close to mine, and seal 'em up for ever.

LAET. Upon that condition. [He kisses her.]

BELL. Eternity was in that moment. One more, upon any condition!

LAET. Nay, now--I never saw anything so agreeably impudent.
[Aside.] Won't you censure me for this, now?--but 'tis to buy your
silence. [Kiss.] Oh, but what am I doing!

BELL. Doing! No tongue can express it--not thy own, nor anything,
but thy lips. I am faint with the excess of bliss. Oh, for love-
sake, lead me anywhither, where I may lie down --quickly, for I'm
afraid I shall have a fit.

LAET. Bless me! What fit?

BELL. Oh, a convulsion--I feel the symptoms.

LAET. Does it hold you long? I'm afraid to carry you into my

BELL. Oh, no: let me lie down upon the bed; the fit will be soon


SCENE: St. James's Park.


BELIN. Lard, my dear, I am glad I have met you; I have been at the
Exchange since, and am so tired -

ARAM. Why, what's the matter?

BELIN. Oh the most inhuman, barbarous hackney-coach! I am jolted
to a jelly. Am I not horribly touzed? [Pulls out a pocket-glass.]

ARAM. Your head's a little out of order.

BELIN. A little! O frightful! What a furious phiz I have! O
most rueful! Ha, ha, ha. O Gad, I hope nobody will come this way,
till I have put myself a little in repair. Ah! my dear, I have
seen such unhewn creatures since. Ha, ha, ha. I can't for my soul
help thinking that I look just like one of 'em. Good dear, pin
this, and I'll tell you--very well--so, thank you, my dear--but as
I was telling you--pish, this is the untowardest lock--so, as I was
telling you--how d'ye like me now? Hideous, ha? Frightful still?
Or how?

ARAM. No, no; you're very well as can be.

BELIN. And so--but where did I leave off, my dear? I was telling
you -

ARAM. You were about to tell me something, child, but you left off
before you began.

BELIN. Oh; a most comical sight: a country squire, with the
equipage of a wife and two daughters, came to Mrs. Snipwel's shop
while I was there--but oh Gad! two such unlicked cubs!

ARAM. I warrant, plump, cherry-cheeked country girls.

BELIN. Ay, o' my conscience, fat as barn-door fowl: but so
bedecked, you would have taken 'em for Friesland hens, with their
feathers growing the wrong way. O such outlandish creatures! Such
Tramontanae, and foreigners to the fashion, or anything in
practice! I had not patience to behold. I undertook the modelling
of one of their fronts, the more modern structure -

ARAM. Bless me, cousin; why would you affront anybody so? They
might be gentlewomen of a very good family -

BELIN. Of a very ancient one, I dare swear, by their dress.
Affront! pshaw, how you're mistaken! The poor creature, I warrant,
was as full of curtsies, as if I had been her godmother. The truth
on't is, I did endeavour to make her look like a Christian--and she
was sensible of it, for she thanked me, and gave me two apples,
piping hot, out of her under-petticoat pocket. Ha, ha, ha: and
t'other did so stare and gape, I fancied her like the front of her
father's hall; her eyes were the two jut-windows, and her mouth the
great door, most hospitably kept open for the entertainment of
travelling flies.

ARAM. So then, you have been diverted. What did they buy?

BELIN. Why, the father bought a powder-horn, and an almanac, and a
comb-case; the mother, a great fruz-towr, and a fat amber necklace;
the daughters only tore two pairs of kid-leather gloves, with
trying 'em on. O Gad, here comes the fool that dined at my Lady
Freelove's t'other day.


[To them] SIR JOSEPH and BLUFFE.

ARAM. May be he may not know us again.

BELIN. We'll put on our masks to secure his ignorance. [They put
on their masks.]

SIR JO. Nay, Gad, I'll pick up; I'm resolved to make a night on't.
I'll go to Alderman Fondlewife by and by, and get fifty pieces more
from him. Adslidikins, bully, we'll wallow in wine and women.
Why, this same Madeira wine has made me as light as a grasshopper.
Hist, hist, bully, dost thou see those tearers? [Sings.] Look you
what here is--look you what here is--toll--loll--dera--toll--loll--
agad, t'other glass of Madeira, and I durst have attacked 'em in my
own proper person, without your help.

BLUFF. Come on then, knight. But do you know what to say to them?

SIR JO. Say: pooh, pox, I've enough to say--never fear it--that
is, if I can but think on't: truth is, I have but a treacherous

BELIN. O frightful! cousin, what shall we do? These things come
towards us.

ARAM. No matter. I see Vainlove coming this way--and, to confess
my failing, I am willing to give him an opportunity of making his
peace with me--and to rid me of these coxcombs, when I seem opprest
with 'em, will be a fair one.

BLUFF. Ladies, by these hilts you are well met.

ARAM. We are afraid not.

BLUFF. What says my pretty little knapsack carrier. [To BELINDA.]

BELIN. O monstrous filthy fellow! good slovenly Captain Huffe,
Bluffe (what is your hideous name?) be gone: you stink of brandy
and tobacco, most soldier-like. Foh. [Spits.]

SIR JO. Now am I slap-dash down in the mouth, and have not one
word to say! [Aside.]

ARAM. I hope my fool has not confidence enough to be troublesome.

SIR JO. Hem! Pray, madam, which way is the wind?

ARAM. A pithy question. Have you sent your wits for a venture,
sir, that you enquire?

SIR JO. Nay, now I'm in, I can prattle like a magpie. [Aside.]


[To them] SHARPER and VAINLOVE at some distance.

BELIN. Dear Araminta, I'm tired.

ARAM. 'Tis but pulling off our masks, and obliging Vainlove to
know us. I'll be rid of my fool by fair means.--Well, Sir Joseph,
you shall see my face; but, be gone immediately. I see one that
will be jealous, to find me in discourse with you. Be discreet.
No reply; but away. [Unmasks.]

SIR JO. The great fortune, that dined at my Lady Freelove's! Sir
Joseph, thou art a made man. Agad, I'm in love up to the ears.
But I'll be discreet, and hushed. [Aside.]

BLUFF. Nay, by the world, I'll see your face.

BELIN. You shall. [Unmasks.]

SHARP. Ladies, your humble servant. We were afraid you would not
have given us leave to know you.

ARAM. We thought to have been private. But we find fools have the
same advantage over a face in a mask that a coward has while the
sword is in the scabbard, so were forced to draw in our own

BLUFF. My blood rises at that fellow: I can't stay where he is;
and I must not draw in the park. [To SIR JOSEPH.]

SIR JO. I wish I durst stay to let her know my lodging.



SHARP. There is in true beauty, as in courage, somewhat which
narrow souls cannot dare to admire. And see, the owls are fled, as
at the break of day.

BELIN. Very courtly. I believe Mr. Vainlove has not rubbed his
eyes since break of day neither, he looks as if he durst not
approach. Nay, come, cousin, be friends with him. I swear he
looks so very simply--ha, ha, ha. Well, a lover in the state of
separation from his mistress is like a body without a soul. Mr.
Vainlove, shall I be bound for your good behaviour for the future?

VAIN. Now must I pretend ignorance equal to hers, of what she
knows as well as I. [Aside.] Men are apt to offend ('tis true)
where they find most goodness to forgive. But, madam, I hope I
shall prove of a temper not to abuse mercy by committing new

ARAM. So cold! [Aside.]

BELIN. I have broke the ice for you, Mr. Vainlove, and so I leave
you. Come, Mr. Sharper, you and I will take a turn, and laugh at
the vulgar--both the great vulgar and the small. O Gad! I have a
great passion for Cowley. Don't you admire him?

SHARP. Oh, madam! he was our English Horace.

BELIN. Ah so fine! so extremely fine! So everything in the world
that I like--O Lord, walk this way--I see a couple; I'll give you
their history.



VAIN. I find, madam, the formality of the law must be observed,
though the penalty of it be dispensed with, and an offender must
plead to his arraignment, though he has his pardon in his pocket.

ARAM. I'm amazed! This insolence exceeds t'other; whoever has
encouraged you to this assurance, presuming upon the easiness of my
temper, has much deceived you, and so you shall find.

VAIN. Hey day! Which way now? Here's fine doubling. [Aside.]

ARAM. Base man! Was it not enough to affront me with your saucy

VAIN. You have given that passion a much kinder epithet than
saucy, in another place.

ARAM. Another place! Some villainous design to blast my honour.
But though thou hadst all the treachery and malice of thy sex, thou
canst not lay a blemish on my fame. No, I have not erred in one
favourable thought of mankind. How time might have deceived me in
you, I know not; my opinion was but young, and your early baseness
has prevented its growing to a wrong belief. Unworthy and
ungrateful! be gone, and never see me more.

VAIN. Did I dream? or do I dream? Shall I believe my eyes, or
ears? The vision is here still. Your passion, madam, will admit
of no farther reasoning; but here's a silent witness of your
acquaintance. [Takes our the letter, and offers it: she snatches
it, and throws it away.]

ARAM. There's poison in everything you touch. Blisters will
follow -

VAIN. That tongue, which denies what the hands have done.

ARAM. Still mystically senseless and impudent; I find I must leave
the place.

VAIN. No, madam, I'm gone. She knows her name's to it, which she
will be unwilling to expose to the censure of the first finder.

ARAM. Woman's obstinacy made me blind to what woman's curiosity
now tempts me to see. [Takes up the letter.]



BELIN. Nay, we have spared nobody, I swear. Mr. Sharper, you're a
pure man; where did you get this excellent talent of railing?

SHARP. Faith, madam, the talent was born with me:--I confess I
have taken care to improve it, to qualify me for the society of

BELIN. Nay, sure, railing is the best qualification in a woman's


[To them] FOOTMAN.

SHARP. The second best, indeed, I think.

BELIN. How now, Pace? Where's my cousin?

FOOT. She's not very well, madam, and has sent to know if your
ladyship would have the coach come again for you?

BELIN. O Lord, no, I'll go along with her. Come, Mr. Sharper.


SCENE: A chamber in Fondlewife's house.

LAETITIA and BELLMOUR, his cloak, hat, etc., lying loose about the

BELL. Here's nobody, nor no noise--'twas nothing but your fears.

LAET. I durst have sworn I had heard my monster's voice. I swear
I was heartily frightened; feel how my heart beats.

BELL. 'Tis an alarm to love--come in again, and let us -

FOND. [Without.] Cocky, Cocky, where are you, Cocky? I'm come

LAET. Ah! There he is. Make haste, gather up your things.

FOND. Cocky, Cocky, open the door.

BELL. Pox choke him, would his horns were in his throat. My
patch, my patch. [Looking about, and gathering up his things.]

LAET. My jewel, art thou there?--No matter for your patch.--You
s'an't tum in, Nykin--run into my chamber, quickly, quickly--You
s'an't tum in.

FOND. Nay, prithee, dear, i'feck I'm in haste.

LAET. Then I'll let you in. [Opens the door.]



FOND. Kiss, dear--I met the master of the ship by the way, and I
must have my papers of accounts out of your cabinet.

LAET. Oh, I'm undone! [Aside.]

SIR JO. Pray, first let me have fifty pound, good Alderman, for
I'm in haste.

FOND. A hundred has already been paid by your order. Fifty? I
have the sum ready in gold in my closet.



SIR JO. Agad, it's a curious, fine, pretty rogue; I'll speak to
her.--Pray, Madam, what news d'ye hear?

LAET. Sir, I seldom stir abroad. [Walks about in disorder.]

SIR JO. I wonder at that, Madam, for 'tis most curious fine

LAET. Methinks 't has been very ill weather.

SIR JO. As you say, madam, 'tis pretty bad weather, and has been
so a great while.



FOND. Here are fifty pieces in this purse, Sir Joseph; if you will
tarry a moment, till I fetch my papers, I'll wait upon you down-

LAET. Ruined, past redemption! what shall I do--ha! this fool may
be of use. (Aside.) [As FONDLEWIFE is going into the chamber, she
runs to SIR JOSEPH, almost pushes him down, and cries out.] Stand
off, rude ruffian. Help me, my dear. O bless me! Why will you
leave me alone with such a Satyr?

FOND. Bless us! What's the matter? What's the matter?

LAET. Your back was no sooner turned, but like a lion he came open
mouthed upon me, and would have ravished a kiss from me by main

SIR JO. O Lord! Oh, terrible! Ha, ha, ha. Is your wife mad,

LAET. Oh! I'm sick with the fright; won't you take him out of my

FOND. O traitor! I'm astonished. O bloody-minded traitor!

SIR JO. Hey-day! Traitor yourself. By the Lord Harry, I was in
most danger of being ravished, if you go to that.

FOND. Oh, how the blasphemous wretch swears! Out of my house,
thou son of the whore of Babylon; offspring of Bel and the Dragon.-
-Bless us! ravish my wife! my Dinah! Oh, Shechemite! Begone, I

SIR JO. Why, the devil's in the people, I think.



LAET. Oh! won't you follow, and see him out of doors, my dear?

FOND. I'll shut this door to secure him from coming back--Give me
the key of your cabinet, Cocky. Ravish my wife before my face? I
warrant he's a Papist in his heart at least, if not a Frenchman.

LAET. What can I do now! (Aside.) Oh! my dear, I have been in
such a fright, that I forgot to tell you, poor Mr. Spintext has a
sad fit of the colic, and is forced to lie down upon our bed--
you'll disturb him; I can tread softlier.

FOND. Alack, poor man--no, no--you don't know the papers--I won't
disturb him; give me the key. [She gives him the key, goes to the
chamber door and speaks aloud.]

LAET. 'Tis nobody but Mr. Fondlewife, Mr. Spintext, lie still on
your stomach; lying on your stomach will ease you of the colic.

FOND. Ay, ay, lie still, lie still; don't let me disturb you.



LAET. Sure, when he does not see his face, he won't discover him.
Dear fortune, help me but this once, and I'll never run in thy debt
again. But this opportunity is the Devil.


FONDLEWIFE returns with Papers.

FOND. Good lack! good lack! I profess the poor man is in great
torment; he lies as flat--Dear, you should heat a trencher, or a
napkin.--Where's Deborah? Let her clap some warm thing to his
stomach, or chafe it with a warm hand rather than fail. What
book's this? [Sees the book that BELLMOUR forgot.]

LAET. Mr. Spintext's prayer-book, dear. Pray Heaven it be a
prayer-book. [Aside.]

FOND. Good man! I warrant he dropped it on purpose that you might
take it up and read some of the pious ejaculations. [Taking up the
book.] O bless me! O monstrous! A prayer-book? Ay, this is the
devil's paternoster. Hold, let me see: The Innocent Adultery.

LAET. Misfortune! now all's ruined again. [Aside.]

BELL. [Peeping]. Damned chance! If I had gone a-whoring with the
Practice of Piety in my pocket I had never been discovered.

FOND. Adultery, and innocent! O Lord! Here's doctrine! Ay,
here's discipline!

LAET. Dear husband, I'm amazed. Sure it is a good book, and only
tends to the speculation of sin.

FOND. Speculation! No no; something went farther than speculation
when I was not to be let in.--Where is this apocryphal elder? I'll
ferret him.

LAET. I'm so distracted, I can't think of a lie. [Aside.]



FOND. Come out here, thou Ananias incarnate. Who, how now! Who
have we here?

LAET. Ha! [Shrieks as surprised.]

FOND. Oh thou salacious woman! Am I then brutified? Ay, I feel
it here; I sprout, I bud, I blossom, I am ripe-horn-mad. But who
in the devil's name are you? Mercy on me for swearing. But -

LAET. Oh! goodness keep us! Who are you? What are you?

BELL. Soh!

LAET. In the name of the--O! Good, my dear, don't come near it;
I'm afraid 'tis the devil; indeed, it has hoofs, dear.

FOND. Indeed, and I have horns, dear. The devil, no, I am afraid
'tis the flesh, thou harlot. Dear, with the pox. Come Syren,
speak, confess, who is this reverend, brawny pastor.

LAET. Indeed, and indeed now, my dear Nykin, I never saw this
wicked man before.

FOND. Oh, it is a man then, it seems.

LAET. Rather, sure it is a wolf in the clothing of a sheep.

FOND. Thou art a devil in his proper clothing--woman's flesh.
What, you know nothing of him, but his fleece here! You don't love
mutton? you Magdalen unconverted.

BELL. Well, now, I know my cue.--That is, very honourably to
excuse her, and very impudently accuse myself. [Aside.]

LAET. Why then, I wish I may never enter into the heaven of your
embraces again, my dear, if ever I saw his face before.

FOND. O Lord! O strange! I am in admiration of your impudence.
Look at him a little better; he is more modest, I warrant you, than
to deny it. Come, were you two never face to face before? Speak.

BELL. Since all artifice is vain. And I think myself obliged to
speak the truth in justice to your wife.--No.

FOND. Humph.

LAET. No, indeed, dear.

FOND. Nay, I find you are both in a story; that I must confess.
But, what--not to be cured of the colic? Don't you know your
patient, Mrs. Quack? Oh, 'lie upon your stomach; lying upon your
stomach will cure you of the colic.' Ah! answer me, Jezebel?

LAET. Let the wicked man answer for himself: does he think I have
nothing to do but excuse him? 'tis enough if I can clear my own
innocence to my own dear.

BELL. By my troth, and so 'tis. I have been a little too
backward; that's the truth on't.

FOND. Come, sir, who are you, in the first place? And what are

BELL. A whore-master.

FOND. Very concise.

LAET. O beastly, impudent creature.

FOND. Well, sir, and what came you hither for?

BELL. To lie with your wife.

FOND. Good again. A very civil person this, and I believe speaks

LAET. Oh, insupportable impudence.

FOND. Well, sir; pray be covered--and you have--Heh! You have
finished the matter, heh? And I am, as I should be, a sort of
civil perquisite to a whore-master, called a cuckold, heh? Is it
not so? Come, I'm inclining to believe every word you say.

BELL. Why, faith, I must confess, so I designed you; but you were
a little unlucky in coming so soon, and hindered the making of your
own fortune.

FOND. Humph. Nay, if you mince the matter once and go back of
your word you are not the person I took you for. Come, come, go on
boldly.--What, don't be ashamed of your profession.--Confess,
confess; I shall love thee the better for't. I shall, i'feck.
What, dost think I don't know how to behave myself in the
employment of a cuckold, and have been three years apprentice to
matrimony? Come, come; plain dealing is a jewel.

BELL. Well, since I see thou art a good, honest fellow, I'll
confess the whole matter to thee.

FOND. Oh, I am a very honest fellow. You never lay with an
honester man's wife in your life.

LAET. How my heart aches! All my comfort lies in his impudence,
and heaven be praised, he has a considerable portion. [Aside.]

BELL. In short, then, I was informed of the opportunity of your
absence by my spy (for faith, honest Isaac, I have a long time
designed thee this favour). I knew Spintext was to come by your
direction. But I laid a trap for him, and procured his habit, in
which I passed upon your servants, and was conducted hither. I
pretended a fit of the colic, to excuse my lying down upon your
bed; hoping that when she heard of it, her good nature would bring
her to administer remedies for my distemper. You know what might
have followed. But, like an uncivil person, you knocked at the
door before your wife was come to me.

FOND. Ha! This is apocryphal; I may choose whether I will believe
it or no.

BELL. That you may, faith, and I hope you won't believe a word
on't--but I can't help telling the truth, for my life.

FOND. How! would not you have me believe you, say you?

BELL. No; for then you must of consequence part with your wife,
and there will be some hopes of having her upon the public; then
the encouragement of a separate maintenance -

FOND. No, no; for that matter, when she and I part, she'll carry
her separate maintenance about her.

LAET. Ah, cruel dear, how can you be so barbarous? You'll break
my heart, if you talk of parting. [Cries.]

FOND. Ah, dissembling vermin!

BELL. How can'st thou be so cruel, Isaac? Thou hast the heart of
a mountain-tiger. By the faith of a sincere sinner, she's innocent
for me. Go to him, madam, fling your snowy arms about his stubborn
neck; bathe his relentless face in your salt trickling tears. [She
goes and hangs upon his neck, and kisses him. BELLMOUR kisses her
hand behind FONDLEWIFE'S back.] So, a few soft words, and a kiss,
and the good man melts. See how kind nature works, and boils over
in him.

LAET. Indeed, my dear, I was but just come down stairs, when you
knocked at the door; and the maid told me Mr. Spintext was ill of
the colic upon our bed. And won't you speak to me, cruel Nykin?
Indeed, I'll die, if you don't.

FOND. Ah! No, no, I cannot speak, my heart's so full--I have been
a tender husband, a tender yoke-fellow; you know I have.--But thou
hast been a faithless Delilah, and the Philistines--Heh! Art thou
not vile and unclean, heh? Speak. [Weeping.]

LAET. No-h. [Sighing.]

FOND. Oh that I could believe thee!

LAET. Oh, my heart will break. [Seeming to faint.]

FOND. Heh, how! No, stay, stay, I will believe thee, I will.
Pray bend her forward, sir.

LAET. Oh! oh! Where is my dear?

FOND. Here, here; I do believe thee. I won't believe my own eyes.

BELL. For my part, I am so charmed with the love of your turtle to
you, that I'll go and solicit matrimony with all my might and main.

FOND. Well, well, sir; as long as I believe it, 'tis well enough.
No thanks to you, sir, for her virtue.--But, I'll show you the way
out of my house, if you please. Come, my dear. Nay, I will
believe thee, I do, i'feck.

BELL. See the great blessing of an easy faith; opinion cannot err.

No husband, by his wife, can be deceived;
She still is virtuous, if she's so believed.


SCENE: The Street.


BELL. Setter! Well encountered.

SET. Joy of your return, sir. Have you made a good voyage? or
have you brought your own lading back?

BELL. No, I have brought nothing but ballast back--made a
delicious voyage, Setter; and might have rode at anchor in the port
till this time, but the enemy surprised us--I would unrig.

SET. I attend you, sir.

BELL. Ha! Is it not that Heartwell at Sylvia's door? Be gone
quickly, I'll follow you--I would not be known. Pox take 'em, they
stand just in my way.



HEART. I'm impatient till it be done.

LUCY. That may be, without troubling yourself to go again for your
brother's chaplain. Don't you see that stalking form of godliness?

HEART. O ay; he's a fanatic.

LUCY. An executioner qualified to do your business. He has been
lawfully ordained.

HEART. I'll pay him well, if you'll break the matter to him.

LUCY. I warrant you.--Do you go and prepare your bride.



BELL. Humph, sits the wind there? What a lucky rogue am I! Oh,
what sport will be here, if I can persuade this wench to secrecy!

LUCY. Sir: reverend sir.

BELL. Madam. [Discovers himself.]

LUCY. Now, goodness have mercy upon me! Mr. Bellmour! is it you?

BELL. Even I. What dost think?

LUCY. Think! That I should not believe my eyes, and that you are
not what you seem to be.

BELL. True. But to convince thee who I am, thou knowest my old
token. [Kisses her.]

LUCY. Nay, Mr. Bellmour: O Lard! I believe you are a parson in
good earnest, you kiss so devoutly.

BELL. Well, your business with me, Lucy?

LUCY. I had none, but through mistake.

BELL. Which mistake you must go through with, Lucy. Come, I know
the intrigue between Heartwell and your mistress; and you mistook
me for Tribulation Spintext, to marry 'em--Ha? are not matters in
this posture? Confess: come, I'll be faithful; I will, i'faith.
What! diffide in me, Lucy?

LUCY. Alas-a-day! You and Mr. Vainlove, between you, have ruined
my poor mistress: you have made a gap in her reputation; and can
you blame her if she make it up with a husband?

BELL. Well, is it as I say?

LUCY. Well, it is then: but you'll be secret?

BELL. Phuh, secret, ay. And to be out of thy debt, I'll trust
thee with another secret. Your mistress must not marry Heartwell,

LUCY. How! O Lord!

BELL. Nay, don't be in passion, Lucy:- I'll provide a fitter
husband for her. Come, here's earnest of my good intentions for
thee too; let this mollify. [Gives her money.] Look you,
Heartwell is my friend; and though he be blind, I must not see him
fall into the snare, and unwittingly marry a whore.

LUCY. Whore! I'd have you to know my mistress scorns -

BELL. Nay, nay: look you, Lucy; there are whores of as good
quality. But to the purpose, if you will give me leave to acquaint
you with it. Do you carry on the mistake of me: I'll marry 'em.
Nay, don't pause; if you do, I'll spoil all. I have some private
reasons for what I do, which I'll tell you within. In the
meantime, I promise--and rely upon me--to help your mistress to a
husband: nay, and thee too, Lucy. Here's my hand, I will; with a
fresh assurance. [Gives her more money.]

LUCY. Ah, the devil is not so cunning. You know my easy nature.
Well, for once I'll venture to serve you; but if you do deceive me,
the curse of all kind, tender-hearted women light upon you!

BELL. That's as much as to say, the pox take me. Well, lead on.



SHARP. Just now, say you; gone in with Lucy?

SET. I saw him, sir, and stood at the corner where you found me,
and overheard all they said: Mr. Bellmour is to marry 'em.

SHARP. Ha, ha; it will be a pleasant cheat. I'll plague Heartwell
when I see him. Prithee, Frank, let's tease him; make him fret
till he foam at the mouth, and disgorge his matrimonial oath with
interest. Come, thou'rt musty -

SET. [To SHARPER.] Sir, a word with you. [Whispers him.]

VAIN. Sharper swears she has forsworn the letter--I'm sure he
tells me truth;--but I'm not sure she told him truth: yet she was
unaffectedly concerned, he says, and often blushed with anger and
surprise: and so I remember in the park. She had reason, if I
wrong her. I begin to doubt.

SHARP. Say'st thou so?

SET. This afternoon, sir, about an hour before my master received
the letter.

SHARP. In my conscience, like enough.

SET. Ay, I know her, sir; at least, I'm sure I can fish it out of
her: she's the very sluice to her lady's secrets: 'tis but
setting her mill agoing, and I can drain her of 'em all.

SHARP. Here, Frank, your bloodhound has made out the fault: this
letter, that so sticks in thy maw, is counterfeit; only a trick of
Sylvia in revenge, contrived by Lucy.

VAIN. Ha! It has a colour; but how do you know it, sirrah?

SET. I do suspect as much; because why, sir, she was pumping me
about how your worship's affairs stood towards Madam Araminta; as,
when you had seen her last? when you were to see her next? and,
where you were to be found at that time? and such like.

VAIN. And where did you tell her?

SET. In the Piazza.

VAIN. There I received the letter--it must be so--and why did you
not find me out, to tell me this before, sot?

SET. Sir, I was pimping for Mr. Bellmour.

SHARP. You were well employed: I think there is no objection to
the excuse.

VAIN. Pox of my saucy credulity--if I have lost her, I deserve it.
But if confession and repentance be of force, I'll win her, or
weary her into a forgiveness.

SHARP. Methinks I long to see Bellmour come forth.



SET. Talk of the devil: see where he comes.

SHARP. Hugging himself in his prosperous mischief--no real fanatic
can look better pleased after a successful sermon of sedition.

BELL. Sharper! Fortify thy spleen: such a jest! Speak when thou
art ready.

SHARP. Now, were I ill-natured would I utterly disappoint thy
mirth: hear thee tell thy mighty jest with as much gravity as a
bishop hears venereal causes in the spiritual court. Not so much
as wrinkle my face with one smile; but let thee look simply, and
laugh by thyself.

BELL. Pshaw, no; I have a better opinion of thy wit. Gad, I defy

SHARP. Were it not loss of time you should make the experiment.
But honest Setter, here, overheard you with Lucy, and has told me

BELL. Nay, then, I thank thee for not putting me out of
countenance. But, to tell you something you don't know. I got an
opportunity after I had married 'em, of discovering the cheat to
Sylvia. She took it at first, as another woman would the like
disappointment; but my promise to make her amends quickly with
another husband somewhat pacified her.

SHARP. But how the devil do you think to acquit yourself of your
promise? Will you marry her yourself?

BELL. I have no such intentions at present. Prithee, wilt thou
think a little for me? I am sure the ingenious Mr. Setter will

SET. O Lord, sir!

BELL. I'll leave him with you, and go shift my habit.



SHARP. Heh! Sure fortune has sent this fool hither on purpose.
Setter, stand close; seem not to observe 'em; and, hark ye.

BLUFF. Fear him not. I am prepared for him now, and he shall find
he might have safer roused a sleeping lion.

SIR JO. Hush, hush! don't you see him?

BLUFF. Show him to me. Where is he?

SIR JO. Nay, don't speak so loud. I don't jest as I did a little
while ago. Look yonder! Agad, if he should hear the lion roar,
he'd cudgel him into an ass, and his primitive braying. Don't you
remember the story in AEsop's Fables, bully? Agad, there are good
morals to be picked out of AEsop's Fables, let me tell you that,
and Reynard the Fox too.

BLUFF. Damn your morals.

SIR JO. Prithee, don't speak so loud.

BLUFF. Damn your morals; I must revenge the affront done to my
honour. [In a low voice.]

SIR JO. Ay; do, do, captain, if you think fitting. You may
dispose of your own flesh as you think fitting, d'ye see, but, by
the Lord Harry, I'll leave you. [Stealing away upon his tip-toes.]

BLUFF. Prodigious! What, will you forsake your friend in
extremity? You can't in honour refuse to carry him a challenge.
[Almost whispering, and treading softly after him.]

SIR JO. Prithee, what do you see in my face that looks as if I
would carry a challenge? Honour is your province, captain; take
it. All the world know me to be a knight, and a man of worship.

SET. I warrant you, sir, I'm instructed.

SHARP. Impossible! Araminta take a liking to a fool? [Aloud.]

SET. Her head runs on nothing else, nor she can talk of nothing

SHARP. I know she commanded him all the while we were in the Park;
but I thought it had been only to make Vainlove jealous.

SIR JO. How's this! Good bully, hold your breath and let's
hearken. Agad, this must be I.

SHARP. Death, it can't be. An oaf, an idiot, a wittal.

SIR JO. Ay, now it's out; 'tis I, my own individual person.

SHARP. A wretch that has flown for shelter to the lowest shrub of
mankind, and seeks protection from a blasted coward.

SIR JO. That's you, bully back. [BLUFFE frowns upon SIR JOSEPH.]

SHARP. She has given Vainlove her promise to marry him before to-
morrow morning. Has she not? [To SETTER.]

SET. She has, sir; and I have it in charge to attend her all this
evening, in order to conduct her to the place appointed.

SHARP. Well, I'll go and inform your master; and do you press her
to make all the haste imaginable.



SET. Were I a rogue now, what a noble prize could I dispose of! A
goodly pinnace, richly laden, and to launch forth under my
auspicious convoy. Twelve thousand pounds and all her rigging,
besides what lies concealed under hatches. Ha! all this committed
to my care! Avaunt, temptation! Setter, show thyself a person of
worth; be true to thy trust, and be reputed honest. Reputed
honest! Hum: is that all? Ay; for to be honest is nothing; the
reputation of it is all. Reputation! what have such poor rogues as
I to do with reputation? 'tis above us; and for men of quality,
they are above it; so that reputation is even as foolish a thing as
honesty. And, for my part, if I meet Sir Joseph with a purse of
gold in his hand, I'll dispose of mine to the best advantage.

SIR JO. Heh, heh, heh: Here 'tis for you, i'faith, Mr. Setter.
Nay, I'll take you at your word. [Chinking a purse.]

SET. Sir Joseph and the captain, too! undone! undone! I'm undone,
my master's undone, my lady's undone, and all the business is

SIR JO. No, no; never fear, man; the lady's business shall be
done. What, come, Mr. Setter, I have overheard all, and to speak
is but loss of time; but if there be occasion, let these worthy
gentlemen intercede for me. [Gives him gold.]

SET. O lord, sir, what d'ye mean? Corrupt my honesty? They have
indeed very persuading faces. But -

SIR JO. 'Tis too little, there's more, man. There, take all. Now

SET. Well, Sir Joseph, you have such a winning way with you -

SIR JO. And how, and how, good Setter, did the little rogue look
when she talked of Sir Joseph? Did not her eyes twinkle and her
mouth water? Did not she pull up her little bubbies? And--agad,
I'm so overjoyed--And stroke down her belly? and then step aside to
tie her garter when she was thinking of her love? Heh, Setter!

SET. Oh, yes, sir.

SIR JO. How now, bully? What, melancholy because I'm in the
lady's favour? No matter, I'll make your peace: I know they were
a little smart upon you. But I warrant I'll bring you into the
lady's good graces.

BLUFF. Pshaw, I have petitions to show from other-guess toys than
she. Look here; these were sent me this morning. There, read.
[Shows letters]. That--that's a scrawl of quality. Here, here's
from a countess too. Hum--No, hold--that's from a knight's wife--
she sent it me by her husband. But here, both these are from
persons of great quality.

SIR JO. They are either from persons of great quality, or no
quality at all, 'tis such a damned ugly hand. [While SIR JOSEPH
reads, BLUFFE whispers SETTER.]

SET. Captain, I would do anything to serve you; but this is so

BLUFF. Not at all. Don't I know him?

SET. You'll remember the conditions?

BLUFF. I'll give it you under my hand. In the meantime, here's
earnest. [Gives him money.] Come, knight, I'm capitulating with
Mr. Setter for you.

SIR JO. Ah, honest Setter; sirrah, I'll give thee anything but a
night's lodging.



SHARP. Nay, prithee leave railing, and come along with me. May be
she mayn't be within. 'Tis but to yond corner-house.

HEART. Whither? Whither? Which corner-house.

SHARP. Why, there: the two white posts.

HEART. And who would you visit there, say you? (O'ons, how my
heart aches.)

SHARP. Pshaw, thou'rt so troublesome and inquisitive. My, I'll
tell you; 'tis a young creature that Vainlove debauched and has
forsaken. Did you never hear Bellmour chide him about Sylvia?

HEART. Death, and hell, and marriage! My wife! [Aside.]

SHARP. Why, thou art as musty as a new-married man that had found
his wife knowing the first night.

HEART. Hell, and the Devil! Does he know it? But, hold; if he
should not, I were a fool to discover it. I'll dissemble, and try
him. [Aside.] Ha, ha, ha. Why, Tom, is that such an occasion of
melancholy? Is it such an uncommon mischief?

SHARP. No, faith; I believe not. Few women but have their year of
probation before they are cloistered in the narrow joys of wedlock.
But, prithee, come along with me or I'll go and have the lady to
myself. B'w'y George. [Going.]

HEART. O torture! How he racks and tears me! Death! Shall I own
my shame or wittingly let him go and whore my wife? No, that's
insupportable. O Sharper!

SHARP. How now?

HEART. Oh, I am married.

SHARP. (Now hold, spleen.) Married!

HEART. Certainly, irrecoverably married.

SHARP. Heaven forbid, man! How long?

HEART. Oh, an age, an age! I have been married these two hours.

SHARP. My old bachelor married! That were a jest. Ha, ha, ha.

HEART. Death! D'ye mock me? Hark ye, if either you esteem my
friendship, or your own safety--come not near that house--that
corner-house--that hot brothel. Ask no questions.

SHARP. Mad, by this light.

Thus grief still treads upon the heels of pleasure:
Married in haste, we may repent at leisure.



SET. Some by experience find these words misplaced:
At leisure married, they repent in haste.

As I suppose my master Heartwell.

SHARP. Here again, my Mercury!

SET. Sublimate, if you please, sir: I think my achievements do
deserve the epithet--Mercury was a pimp too, but, though I blush to
own it, at this time, I must confess I am somewhat fallen from the
dignity of my function, and do condescend to be scandalously
employed in the promotion of vulgar matrimony.

SHARP. As how, dear, dexterous pimp?

SET. Why, to be brief, for I have weighty affairs depending--our
stratagem succeeded as you intended--Bluffe turns errant traitor;
bribes me to make a private conveyance of the lady to him, and put
a shame-settlement upon Sir Joseph.

SHARP. O rogue! Well, but I hope -

SET. No, no; never fear me, sir. I privately informed the knight
of the treachery, who has agreed seemingly to be cheated, that the
captain may be so in reality.

SHARP. Where's the bride?

SET. Shifting clothes for the purpose, at a friend's house of
mine. Here's company coming; if you'll walk this way, sir, I'll
tell you.



VAIN. Oh, 'twas frenzy all: cannot you forgive it? Men in
madness have a title to your pity. [To ARAMINTA.]

ARAM. Which they forfeit, when they are restored to their senses.

VAIN. I am not presuming beyond a pardon.

ARAM. You who could reproach me with one counterfeit, how insolent
would a real pardon make you! But there's no need to forgive what
is not worth my anger.

BELIN. O' my conscience, I could find in my heart to marry thee,
purely to be rid of thee--at least thou art so troublesome a lover,
there's hopes thou'lt make a more than ordinary quiet husband. [To

BELL. Say you so? Is that a maxim among ye?

BELIN. Yes: you fluttering men of the MODE have made marriage a
mere French dish.

BELL. I hope there's no French sauce. [Aside.]

BELIN. You are so curious in the preparation, that is, your
courtship, one would think you meant a noble entertainment--but
when we come to feed, 'tis all froth, and poor, but in show. Nay,
often, only remains, which have been I know not how many times
warmed for other company, and at last served up cold to the wife.

BELL. That were a miserable wretch indeed, who could not afford
one warm dish for the wife of his bosom. But you timorous virgins
form a dreadful chimaera of a husband, as of a creature contrary to
that soft, humble, pliant, easy thing, a lover; so guess at plagues
in matrimony, in opposition to the pleasures of courtship. Alas!
courtship to marriage, is but as the music in the play-house, until
the curtain's drawn; but that once up, then opens the scene of

BELIN. Oh, foh,--no: rather courtship to marriage, as a very
witty prologue to a very dull play.


[To them] SHARPER.

SHARP. Hist! Bellmour. If you'll bring the ladies, make haste to
Sylvia's lodgings, before Heartwell has fretted himself out of

BELL. You have an opportunity now, madam, to revenge yourself upon
Heartwell, for affronting your squirrel. [To BELINDA.]

BELIN. Oh, the filthy rude beast.

ARAM. 'Tis a lasting quarrel; I think he has never been at our
house since.

BELL. But give yourselves the trouble to walk to that corner-
house, and I'll tell you by the way what may divert and surprise


SCENE: Sylvia's Lodgings.


HEART. Gone forth, say you, with her maid?

BOY. There was a man too, that fetched them out--Setter, I think
they called him.

HEART. So-h--that precious pimp too--damned, damned strumpet!
could she not contain herself on her wedding-day? not hold out till
night? Oh, cursed state! how wide we err, when apprehensive of the
load of life.

We hope to find
That help which Nature meant in womankind,
To man that supplemental self-designed;
But proves a burning caustic when applied,
And Adam, sure, could with more ease abide
The bone when broken, than when made a bride.



BELL. Now George, what, rhyming! I thought the chimes of verse
were past, when once the doleful marriage-knell was rung.

HEART. Shame and confusion, I am exposed. [VAINLOVE and ARAMINTA
talk apart.]

BELIN. Joy, joy, Mr. Bridegroom; I give you joy, sir.

HEART. 'Tis not in thy nature to give me joy. A woman can as soon
give immortality.

BELIN. Ha, ha, ha! oh Gad, men grow such clowns when they are

BELL. That they are fit for no company but their wives.

BELIN. Nor for them neither, in a little time. I swear, at the
month's end, you shall hardly find a married man that will do a
civil thing to his wife, or say a civil thing to anybody else. How
he looks already, ha, ha, ha.

BELL. Ha, ha, ha!

HEART. Death, am I made your laughing-stock? For you, sir, I
shall find a time; but take off your wasp here, or the clown may
grow boisterous; I have a fly-flap.

BELIN. You have occasion for't, your wife has been blown upon.

BELL. That's home.

HEART. Not fiends or furies could have added to my vexation, or
anything, but another woman. You've racked my patience; begone, or
by -

BELL. Hold, hold. What the devil--thou wilt not draw upon a

VAIN. What's the matter?

ARAM. Bless me! what have you done to him?

BELIN. Only touched a galled beast until he winced.

VAIN. Bellmour, give it over; you vex him too much. 'Tis all
serious to him.

BELIN. Nay, I swear, I begin to pity him myself.

HEART. Damn your pity!--but let me be calm a little. How have I
deserved this of you? any of ye? Sir, have I impaired the honour
of your house, promised your sister marriage, and whored her?
Wherein have I injured you? Did I bring a physician to your father
when he lay expiring, and endeavour to prolong his life, and you
one and twenty? Madam, have I had an opportunity with you and
baulked it? Did you ever offer me the favour that I refused it?
Or -

BELIN. Oh foh! what does the filthy fellow mean? Lord, let me be

ARAM. Hang me, if I pity you; you are right enough served.

BELL. This is a little scurrilous though.

VAIN. Nay, 'tis a sore of your own scratching--well, George?

HEART. You are the principal cause of all my present ills. If
Sylvia had not been your mistress, my wife might have been honest.

VAIN. And if Sylvia had not been your wife, my mistress might have
been just. There, we are even. But have a good heart, I heard of
your misfortune, and come to your relief.

HEART. When execution's over, you offer a reprieve.

VAIN. What would you give?

HEART. Oh! Anything, everything, a leg or two, or an arm; nay, I
would be divorced from my virility to be divorced from my wife.


[To them] SHARPER.

VAIN. Faith, that's a sure way: but here's one can sell you
freedom better cheap.

SHARP. Vainlove, I have been a kind of a godfather to you yonder.
I have promised and vowed some things in your name which I think
you are bound to perform.

VAIN. No signing to a blank, friend.

SHARP. No, I'll deal fairly with you. 'Tis a full and free
discharge to Sir Joseph Wittal and Captain Bluffe; for all injuries
whatsoever, done unto you by them, until the present date hereof.
How say you?

VAIN. Agreed.

SHARP. Then, let me beg these ladies to wear their masks, a
moment. Come in, gentlemen and ladies.

HEART. What the devil's all this to me?

VAIN. Patience.

SCENE the Last


BLUFF. All injuries whatsoever, Mr. Sharper.

SIR JO. Ay, ay, whatsoever, Captain, stick to that; whatsoever.

SHARP. 'Tis done, these gentlemen are witnesses to the general

VAIN. Ay, ay, to this instant moment. I have passed an act of

BLUFF. 'Tis very generous, sir, since I needs must own -

SIR JO. No, no, Captain, you need not own, heh, heh, heh. 'Tis I
must own -

BLUFF.--That you are over-reached too, ha, ha, ha, only a little
art military used--only undermined, or so, as shall appear by the
fair Araminta, my wife's permission. Oh, the devil, cheated at
last! [Lucy unmasks.]

SIR JO. Only a little art-military trick, captain, only
countermined, or so. Mr. Vainlove, I suppose you know whom I have
got--now, but all's forgiven.

VAIN. I know whom you have not got; pray ladies convince him.
[ARAM. and BELIN. unmask.]

SIR JO. Ah! oh Lord, my heart aches. Ah! Setter, a rogue of all

SHARP. Sir Joseph, you had better have pre-engaged this
gentleman's pardon: for though Vainlove be so generous to forgive
the loss of his mistress, I know not how Heartwell may take the
loss of his wife. [SYLVIA unmasks.]

HEART. My wife! By this light 'tis she, the very cockatrice. O
Sharper! Let me embrace thee. But art thou sure she is really
married to him?

SET. Really and lawfully married, I am witness.

SHARP. Bellmour will unriddle to you. [HEARTWELL goes to

SIR JO. Pray, madam, who are you? For I find you and I are like
to be better acquainted.

SYLV. The worst of me is, that I am your wife -

SHARP. Come, Sir Joseph, your fortune is not so bad as you fear.
A fine lady, and a lady of very good quality.

SIR JO. Thanks to my knighthood, she's a lady -

VAIN. That deserves a fool with a better title. Pray use her as
my relation, or you shall hear on't.

BLUFF. What, are you a woman of quality too, spouse?

SET. And my relation; pray let her be respected accordingly.
Well, honest Lucy, fare thee well. I think, you and I have been
play-fellows off and on, any time this seven years.

LUCY. Hold your prating. I'm thinking what vocation I shall
follow while my spouse is planting laurels in the wars.

BLUFF. No more wars, spouse, no more wars. While I plant laurels
for my head abroad, I may find the branches sprout at home.

HEART. Bellmour, I approve thy mirth, and thank thee. And I
cannot in gratitude (for I see which way thou art going) see thee
fall into the same snare out of which thou hast delivered me.

BELL. I thank thee, George, for thy good intention; but there is a
fatality in marriage, for I find I'm resolute.

HEART. Then good counsel will be thrown away upon you. For my
part, I have once escaped; and when I wed again, may she be--ugly,
as an old bawd.

VAIN. Ill-natured, as an old maid -

BELL. Wanton, as a young widow -

SHARP. And jealous, as a barren wife.

HEART. Agreed.

BELL. Well; 'midst of these dreadful denunciations, and
notwithstanding the warning and example before me, I commit myself
to lasting durance.

BELIN. Prisoner, make much of your fetters. [Giving her hand.]

BELL. Frank, will you keep us in countenance?

VAIN. May I presume to hope so great a blessing?

ARAM. We had better take the advantage of a little of our friend's
experience first.

BELL. O' my conscience she dares not consent, for fear he should
recant. [Aside.] Well, we shall have your company to church in
the morning. May be it may get you an appetite to see us fall to
before you. Setter, did not you tell me? -

SET. They're at the door: I'll call 'em in.


BELL. Now set we forward on a journey for life. Come take your
fellow-travellers. Old George, I'm sorry to see thee still plod on

HEART. With gaudy plumes and jingling bells made proud,
The youthful beast sets forth, and neighs aloud.
A morning-sun his tinselled harness gilds,
And the first stage a down-hill greensward yields.
But, oh -
What rugged ways attend the noon of life!
Our sun declines, and with what anxious strife,
What pain we tug that galling load, a wife.
All coursers the first heat with vigour run;
But 'tis with whip and spur the race is won.
[Exeunt Omnes.]

Spoken by MRS. BARRY.

As a rash girl, who will all hazards run,
And be enjoyed, though sure to be undone,
Soon as her curiosity is over,
Would give the world she could her toy recover,
So fares it with our poet; and I'm sent
To tell you he already does repent:
Would you were all as forward to keep Lent.
Now the deed's done, the giddy thing has leisure
To think o' th' sting, that's in the tail of pleasure.
Methinks I hear him in consideration:
What will the world say? Where's my reputation?
Now that's at stake. No, fool, 'tis out o' fashion.
If loss of that should follow want of wit,
How many undone men were in the pit!
Why that's some comfort to an author's fears,

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