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The Way of the World by William Congreve

Part 3 out of 3

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resignation; nor, Sir Wilfull, your right. You may draw your fox if
you please, sir, and make a bear-garden flourish somewhere else; for
here it will not avail. This, my Lady Wishfort, must be subscribed,
or your darling daughter's turned adrift, like a leaky hulk to sink
or swim, as she and the current of this lewd town can agree.

LADY. Is there no means, no remedy, to stop my ruin? Ungrateful
wretch! Dost thou not owe thy being, thy subsistance, to my
daughter's fortune?

FAIN. I'll answer you when I have the rest of it in my possession.

MIRA. But that you would not accept of a remedy from my hands--I
own I have not deserved you should owe any obligation to me; or
else, perhaps, I could devise -

LADY. Oh, what? what? To save me and my child from ruin, from
want, I'll forgive all that's past; nay, I'll consent to anything to
come, to be delivered from this tyranny.

MIRA. Ay, madam; but that is too late, my reward is intercepted.
You have disposed of her who only could have made me a compensation
for all my services. But be it as it may, I am resolved I'll serve
you; you shall not be wronged in this savage manner.

LADY. How? Dear Mr. Mirabell, can you be so generous at last? But
it is not possible. Harkee, I'll break my nephew's match; you shall
have my niece yet, and all her fortune, if you can but save me from
this imminent danger.

MIRA. Will you? I take you at your word. I ask no more. I must
have leave for two criminals to appear.

LADY. Ay, ay, anybody, anybody.

MIRA. Foible is one, and a penitent.



MRS. MAR. O my shame! [MIRABELL and LADY go to MRS. FAINALL and
FOIBLE.] These currupt things are brought hither to expose me. [To

FAIN. If it must all come out, why let 'em know it, 'tis but the
way of the world. That shall not urge me to relinquish or abate one
tittle of my terms; no, I will insist the more.

FOIB. Yes, indeed, madam; I'll take my bible-oath of it.

MINC. And so will I, mem.

LADY. O Marwood, Marwood, art thou false? My friend deceive me?
Hast thou been a wicked accomplice with that profligate man?

MRS. MAR. Have you so much ingratitude and injustice to give
credit, against your friend, to the aspersions of two such mercenary

MINC. Mercenary, mem? I scorn your words. 'Tis true we found you
and Mr. Fainall in the blue garret; by the same token, you swore us
to secrecy upon Messalinas's poems. Mercenary? No, if we would
have been mercenary, we should have held our tongues; you would have
bribed us sufficiently.

FAIN. Go, you are an insignificant thing. Well, what are you the
better for this? Is this Mr. Mirabell's expedient? I'll be put off
no longer. You, thing, that was a wife, shall smart for this. I
will not leave thee wherewithal to hide thy shame: your body shall
be naked as your reputation.

MRS. FAIN. I despise you and defy your malice. You have aspersed
me wrongfully--I have proved your falsehood. Go, you and your
treacherous--I will not name it, but starve together. Perish.

FAIN. Not while you are worth a groat, indeed, my dear. Madam,
I'll be fooled no longer.

LADY. Ah, Mr. Mirabell, this is small comfort, the detection of
this affair.

MIRA. Oh, in good time. Your leave for the other offender and
penitent to appear, madam.


[To them] WAITWELL with a box of writings.

LADY. O Sir Rowland! Well, rascal?

WAIT. What your ladyship pleases. I have brought the black box at
last, madam.

MIRA. Give it me. Madam, you remember your promise.

LADY. Ay, dear sir.

MIRA. Where are the gentlemen?

WAIT. At hand, sir, rubbing their eyes,--just risen from sleep.

FAIN. 'Sdeath, what's this to me? I'll not wait your private



PET. How now? What's the matter? Whose hand's out?

WIT. Hey day! What, are you all got together, like players at the
end of the last act?

MIRA. You may remember, gentlemen, I once requested your hands as
witnesses to a certain parchment.

WIT. Ay, I do, my hand I remember--Petulant set his mark.

MIRA. You wrong him; his name is fairly written, as shall appear.
You do not remember, gentlemen, anything of what that parchment
contained? [Undoing the box.]

WIT. No.

PET. Not I. I writ; I read nothing.

MIRA. Very well, now you shall know. Madam, your promise.

LADY. Ay, ay, sir, upon my honour.

MIRA. Mr. Fainall, it is now time that you should know that your
lady, while she was at her own disposal, and before you had by your
insinuations wheedled her out of a pretended settlement of the
greatest part of her fortune -

FAIN. Sir! Pretended?

MIRA. Yes, sir. I say that this lady, while a widow, having, it
seems, received some cautions respecting your inconstancy and
tyranny of temper, which from her own partial opinion and fondness
of you she could never have suspected--she did, I say, by the
wholesome advice of friends and of sages learned in the laws of this
land, deliver this same as her act and deed to me in trust, and to
the uses within mentioned. You may read if you please [holding out
the parchment], though perhaps what is written on the back may serve
your occasions.

FAIN. Very likely, sir. What's here? Damnation! [Reads] A DEED

MIRA. Even so, sir: 'tis the way of the world, sir; of the widows
of the world. I suppose this deed may bear an elder date than what
you have obtained from your lady.

FAIN. Perfidious fiend! Then thus I'll be revenged. [Offers to
run at MRS. FAINALL.]

SIR WIL. Hold, sir; now you may make your bear-garden flourish
somewhere else, sir.

FAIN. Mirabell, you shall hear of this, sir; be sure you shall.
Let me pass, oaf.

MRS. FAIN. Madam, you seem to stifle your resentment. You had
better give it vent.

MRS. MAR. Yes, it shall have vent, and to your confusion, or I'll
perish in the attempt.

SCENE the Last.


LADY. O daughter, daughter, 'tis plain thou hast inherited thy
mother's prudence.

MRS. FAIN. Thank Mr. Mirabell, a cautious friend, to whose advice
all is owing.

LADY. Well, Mr. Mirabell, you have kept your promise, and I must
perform mine. First, I pardon for your sake Sir Rowland there and
Foible. The next thing is to break the matter to my nephew, and how
to do that -

MIRA. For that, madam, give yourself no trouble; let me have your
consent. Sir Wilfull is my friend: he has had compassion upon
lovers, and generously engaged a volunteer in this action, for our
service, and now designs to prosecute his travels.

SIR WIL. 'Sheart, aunt, I have no mind to marry. My cousin's a
fine lady, and the gentleman loves her and she loves him, and they
deserve one another; my resolution is to see foreign parts. I have
set on't, and when I'm set on't I must do't. And if these two
gentlemen would travel too, I think they may be spared.

PET. For my part, I say little. I think things are best off or on.

WIT. I'gad, I understand nothing of the matter: I'm in a maze yet,
like a dog in a dancing school.

LADY. Well, sir, take her, and with her all the joy I can give you.

MILLA. Why does not the man take me? Would you have me give myself
to you over again?

MIRA. Ay, and over and over again. [Kisses her hand.] I would
have you as often as possibly I can. Well, heav'n grant I love you
not too well; that's all my fear.

SIR WIL. 'Sheart, you'll have time enough to toy after you're
married, or, if you will toy now, let us have a dance in the
meantime; that we who are not lovers may have some other employment
besides looking on.

MIRA. With all my heart, dear Sir Wilfull. What shall we do for

FOIB. Oh, sir, some that were provided for Sir Rowland's
entertainment are yet within call. [A dance.]

LADY. As I am a person, I can hold out no longer: I have wasted my
spirits so to-day already that I am ready to sink under the fatigue;
and I cannot but have some fears upon me yet, that my son Fainall
will pursue some desperate course.

MIRA. Madam, disquiet not yourself on that account: to my
knowledge his circumstances are such he must of force comply. For
my part I will contribute all that in me lies to a reunion. In the
meantime, madam [to MRS. FAINALL], let me before these witnesses
restore to you this deed of trust: it may be a means, well managed,
to make you live easily together.

From hence let those be warned, who mean to wed,
Lest mutual falsehood stain the bridal-bed:
For each deceiver to his cost may find
That marriage frauds too oft are paid in kind.

[Exeunt Omnes.]

EPILOGUE--Spoken by Mrs. Bracegirdle.

After our Epilogue this crowd dismisses,
I'm thinking how this play'll be pulled to pieces.
But pray consider, e'er you doom its fall,
How hard a thing 'twould be to please you all.
There are some critics so with spleen diseased,
They scarcely come inclining to be pleased:
And sure he must have more than mortal skill
Who pleases anyone against his will.
Then, all bad poets we are sure are foes,
And how their number's swelled the town well knows
In shoals, I've marked 'em judging in the pit;
Though they're on no pretence for judgment fit,
But that they have been damned for want of wit.
Since when, they, by their own offences taught,
Set up for spies on plays, and finding fault.
Others there are whose malice we'd prevent:
Such, who watch plays, with scurrilous intent
To mark out who by characters are meant:
And though no perfect likeness they can trace,
Yet each pretends to know the copied face.
These, with false glosses, feed their own ill-nature,
And turn to libel what was meant a satire.
May such malicious fops this fortune find,
To think themselves alone the fools designed:
If any are so arrogantly vain,
To think they singly can support a scene,
And furnish fool enough to entertain.
For well the learned and the judicious know,
That satire scorns to stoop so meanly low,
As any one abstracted fop to show.
For, as when painters form a matchless face,
They from each fair one catch some diff'rent grace,
And shining features in one portrait blend,
To which no single beauty must pretend:
So poets oft do in one piece expose
Whole BELLES ASSEMBLEES of coquettes and beaux.

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