by Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Sir Anthony Absolute, a wealthy baronet
Captain Jack Absolute, his son, disguised as Ensign Beverley
Faulkland, friend of Jack Absolute
Bob Acres, friend of Jack Absolute
Sir Lucius O’Trigger, an Irish baronet
Fog, Captain Absolute’s servant
David, Bob Acres’ servant
Thomas, Sir Anthony’s servant
Lydia Languish, in love with “Ensign Beverley”
Mrs. Malaprop, Lydia’s middle-aged guardian
Julia Melville, in love with Faulkland
Lucy, Lydia’s conniving maid
Act I, Scene I
FOG: What! David?
DAVID: Hey! Odd’s life! Mr. Fog! Give us your hand, my old fellow servant.
FOG: I’m devilish glad to see you, my lad.
DAVID: But tell us, Mr. Fog, how does young master?
FOG: I do not serve Captain Absolute now.
DAVID: Why sure!
FOG: At present I am employed by Ensign Beverley.
DAVID: I doubt, Mr. Fog, you ha’n’t changed for the better.
FOG: I have not changed, David.
DAVID: No! Why didn’t you say you had left young master?
FOG: No. — Well, honest David, I must puzzle you no farther: briefly then, Captain Absolute and Ensign Beverley are one and the same person.
DAVID: The devil they are!
FOG: The cause of all this is — Love, — Love, David, who has been a masquerader ever since the days of Jupiter.
DAVID: Aye, aye; I guessed there was a lady in the case: but pray, why does your master pass only for an ensign? Now if he had shammed general indeed —
FOG: Ah! David, there lies the mystery o’ the matter. My master is in love with a lady of a very singular taste: a lady who likes him better as a half pay ensign than if she knew he was son and heir to Sir Anthony Absolute, a baronet of three thousand a year.
DAVID: That is an odd taste indeed! May one hear her name?
FOG: Miss Lydia Languish. But there is an old tough aunt in the way; though, by the by, she has never seen my master for we got acquainted with miss while on a visit in Gloucestershire.
DAVID: Well I wish they were once harnessed together in matrimony.
FOG: We’ll not quarrel about that.
DAVID: Well, Mr. Fog —
FOG: Goodbye, David. I have an appointment in Gyde’s porch this evening at eight; meet me there, and we’ll make a little party.
Act I, Scene II
A dressing room in Mrs. Malaprop’s lodgings
LUCY: Indeed, ma’am, I traversed half the town in search of it! I don’t believe there’s a circulating library in Bath I han’t been at.
LYDIA: And could not you get The Reward of Constancy?
LUCY: No, indeed, ma’am.
LYDIA: Nor The Fatal Connexion?
LUCY: No, indeed, ma’am.
LYDIA: Nor The Mistakes of the Heart?
LUCY: Ma’am, as ill luck would have it, Mr. Bull said Miss Sukey Saunter had just fetched it away.
LYDIA: Heigh-ho! Well, child, what have you brought me?
LUCY: Oh! here, ma’am. This is The Gordian Knot, and this Peregrine Pickle. Here are The Tears of Sensibility, and Humphrey Clinker.
LYDIA: Heigh-ho! Very well, give me the sal volatile.
LUCY: Is it in a blue cover, ma’am?
LYDIA: My smelling bottle, you simpleton!
LUCY: Oh, the drops — here, ma’am.
LYDIA: Hold! Here’s some one coming. Quick! see who it is.
LUCY: Lud! ma’am, here is Miss Melville.
LYDIA: Is it possible! —
Exit Lucy, enter Julia
LYDIA: My dearest Julia, how delighted am I! How unexpected was this happiness!
JULIA: True, Lydia, and our pleasure is the greater.
LYDIA: Ah, Julia, I have a thousand things to tell you! Let me impart to you some of my distress! My letters have informed you of my whole connection with Beverley; but I have lost him, Julia! My aunt has discovered our intercourse by a note she intercepted, and has confined me ever since! Yet, would you believe it? She has absolutely fallen in love with a tall Irish baronet.
JULIA: You jest, Lydia!
LYDIA: No, upon my word. She really carries on a kind of correspondence with him, under a feigned name though, it is a Delia or a Celia, I assure you.
JULIA: Then, surely, she is now more indulgent to her niece.
LYDIA: Quite the contrary. Since she has discovered her own frailty, she is become more suspicious of mine. Then I must inform you of another plague! That odious Acres is to be in Bath today: so that I protest I shall be teased out of all spirits!
JULIA: Come, come, Lydia, hope for the best Sir Anthony shall use his interest with Mrs. Malaprop.
LYDIA: But you have not heard the worst. Unfortunately I had quarreled with my poor Beverley, just before my aunt made the discovery, and I have not seen him since to make it up.
JULIA: What was his offence?
LYDIA: Nothing at all! But, I don’t know how it was, as often as we had been together, we had never had a quarrel, and, somehow, I was afraid he would never give me an opportunity. So, last Thursday, I wrote a letter to myself, to inform myself that Beverley was at that time paying his addresses to another woman. I signed it your friend unknown, showed it to Beverley, charged him with his falsehood, put myself in a violent passion, and vowed I’d never see him more.
JULIA: And you let him depart so, and have not seen him since?
LYDIA: ‘Twas the next day my aunt found the matter out. I intended only to have teased him three days and a half, and now I’ve lost him forever.
JULIA: If he is as deserving and sincere as you have represented him to me, he will never give you up so. Yet, consider, Lydia, you tell me he is but an ensign, and you have thirty thousand pounds.
LYDIA: But you know I lose most of my fortune if I marry without my aunt’s consent; and that is what I have determined to do. Nor could I love the man who would wish to wait a day for the alternative.
JULIA: Nay, this is caprice!
LYDIA: What, does Julia tax me with caprice? I thought her lover Faulkland had inured her to it.
JULIA: I do not love even his faults. Unused to the fopperies of love, he is negligent of the little duties expected from a lover, but his affection is ardent and sincere. His temper, I must own, has cost me many unhappy hours; but I have learned to think myself his debtor, for those imperfections which arise from the ardor of his attachment.
LYDIA: But tell me candidly, Julia, had he never saved your life, do you think you should have been attached to him as you are? Believe me, the rude blast that overset your boat was a prosperous gale of love to him.
JULIA: Gratitude may have strengthened my attachment to Mr. Faulkland, but I loved him before he had preserved me; yet surely that alone were an obligation sufficient.
LYDIA: Obligation! why a water spaniel would have done as much! Well, I should never think of giving my heart to a man because he could swim.
Re-enter Lucy in a hurry
LUCY: O ma’am, here is Sir Anthony Absolute just come home with your aunt.
JULIA: I must go. I’ll take another opportunity of paying my respects to Mrs. Malaprop, when she shall treat me, as long as she chooses, with her select words so ingeniously misapplied, without being mispronounced.
LUCY: O Lud! ma’am, they are both coming upstairs.
LYDIA: Well, I’ll not detain you, coz. Adieu, my dear Julia. I’m sure you are in haste to send to Faulkland. There, through my room you’ll find another staircase.
Embraces Lydia, and exits
LYDIA: Here, my dear Lucy, hide these books. Quick, quick! Put The Innocent Adultery into The Whole Duty of Man, thrust Lord Aimworth under the sofa, cram Ovid behind the bolster, there, put The Man of Feeling into your pocket, so, so. Fling me Fordyce’s Sermons.
Enter Mrs. Malaprop and Sir Anthony Absolute
MALAPROP: There, Sir Anthony, there sits the deliberate simpleton who wants to disgrace her family, and lavish herself on a fellow not worth a shilling.
LYDIA: Madam, I thought you once —
MALAPROP: You thought, miss! I don’t know any business you have to think at all; thought does not become a young woman. But the point we would request of you is, that you will promise to forget this fellow — to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.
LYDIA: Ah, madam! Our memories are independent of our wills. It is not so easy to forget.
MALAPROP: But I say it is, miss; there is nothing on earth so easy as to forget, if a person chooses to set about it. I’m sure I have as much forgot your poor dear uncle as if he had never existed; and I thought it my duty so to do.
SIR ANTHONY: Why sure she won’t pretend to remember what she’s ordered not! Aye, this comes of her reading.
LYDIA: What crime, madam, have I committed, to be treated thus?
MALAPROP: Now don’t attempt to extirpate yourself from the matter; you know I have proof controvertible of it. But tell me, will you promise to do as you’re bid? Will you take a husband of your friends’ choosing?
LYDIA: Madam, I must tell you plainly, that had I no preferment for any one else, the choice you have made would be my aversion.
MALAPROP: What business have you, miss, with preference and aversion? They don’t become a young woman; and you ought to know, that as both always wear off, ’tis safest in matrimony to begin with a little aversion. I am sure I hated your poor dear uncle before marriage as if he’d been a blackamoor! But suppose we were going to give you another choice, will you promise us to give up this Beverley?
LYDIA: Could I belie my thoughts so far as to give that promise, my actions would certainly as far belie my words.
MALAPROP: Take yourself to your room. You are fit company for nothing but your own ill-humours.
LYDIA: Willingly, ma’am, I cannot change for the worse. [exits]
MALAPROP: There’s a little intricate hussy for you!
SIR ANTHONY: It is not to be wondered at, ma’am. All this is the natural consequence of teaching girls to read. Had I a thousand daughters, by Heaven! I’d as soon have them taught the black art as their alphabet!
MALAPROP: Nay, nay, Sir Anthony, you are an absolute misanthropy.
SIR ANTHONY: In my way hither, Mrs. Malaprop, I observed your niece’s maid coming forth from a circulating library! From that moment I guessed how full of duty I should see her mistress!
MALAPROP: Those are vile places, indeed!
SIR ANTHONY: Madam, a circulating library in a town is as an evergreen tree of diabolical knowledge! And depend on it, Mrs. Malaprop, that they who are so fond of handling the leaves, will long for the fruit at last.
MALAPROP: Fie, fie, Sir Anthony! you surely speak laconically.
SIR ANTHONY: Why, Mrs. Malaprop, in moderation now, what would you have a woman know?
MALAPROP: Observe me, Sir Anthony. I would by no means wish a daughter of mine to be a progeny of learning; I don’t think so much learning becomes a young woman; for instance, I would never let her meddle with Greek, or Hebrew, or algebra, or simony, or fluxions, or paradoxes, or such inflammatory branches of learning; neither would it be necessary for her to handle any of your mathematical, astronomical, diabolical instruments. But, Sir Anthony, she should have a supercilious knowledge in geometry, that she might know something of the contagious countries; but above all, Sir Anthony, she should not misspell, and mispronounce words so shamefully as girls usually do; and likewise that she might reprehend the true meaning of what she is saying. This, Sir Anthony, is what I would have a woman know; and I don’t think there is a superstitious article in it.
SIR ANTHONY: Well, well, Mrs. Malaprop, I will dispute the point no further with you; though I must confess that you are a truly moderate and polite arguer, for almost every third word you say is on my side of the question. But, Mrs. Malaprop, you say you have no objection to my proposal?
MALAPROP: None, I assure you. I am under no positive engagement with Mr. Acres, and as Lydia is so obstinate against him, perhaps your son may have better success. We have never seen your son, Sir Anthony; but I hope no objection on his side.
SIR ANTHONY: Objection! Let him object if he dare! No, no, Mrs. Malaprop, Jack knows that the least demur puts me in a frenzy directly.
MALAPROP: Well, Sir Anthony, I shall give Mr. Acres his discharge, and prepare Lydia to receive your son’s invocations; and I hope you will represent her to the captain as an object not altogether illegible.
SIR ANTHONY: Madam, I must leave you; and let me beg you, Mrs. Malaprop, to enforce this matter roundly to the girl. Take my advice; keep a tight hand; if she rejects this proposal, clap her under lock and key; and if you were just to let the servants forget to bring her dinner for three or four days, you can’t conceive how she’d come about. [exits]
MALAPROP: Well, at any rate, I shall be glad to get her from under my intuition. She has somehow discovered my partiality for Sir Lucius O’Trigger — sure, Lucy can’t have betrayed me! No, the girl is such a simpleton, I should have made her confess it. Lucy! Lucy! Had she been one of your artificial ones, I should never have trusted her.
LUCY: Did you call, ma’am?
MALAPROP: Yes, girl. Did you see Sir Lucius while you was out?
LUCY: No, indeed, ma’am, not a glimpse of him.
MALAPROP: You are sure, Lucy, that you never mentioned —
LUCY: Oh, gemini! I’d sooner cut my tongue out.
MALAPROP: Well, don’t let your simplicity be imposed on.
LUCY: No ma’am.
MALAPROP: So, come to me presently, and I’ll give you another letter to Sir Lucius; but mind, Lucy, if ever you betray what you are entrusted with (unless it be other people’s secrets to me), you forfeit my malevolence for ever, and your being a simpleton shall be no excuse for your locality. [exits]
LUCY: Ha! ha! ha! So, my dear Simplicity, let me give you a little respite. Let girls in my station be as fond as they please of appearing expert, and knowing in their trusts; commend me to a mask of silliness, and a pair of sharp eyes for my own interest under it! Let me see to what account have I turned my simplicity lately. [Looks at a paper.] For abetting Miss Lydia Languish in a design of running away with an ensign! in money, sundry times, twelve pound twelve. From the said ensign, within this last month, six guineas and a half. Item, from Mrs. Malaprop, for betraying the young people to her — when I found matters were likely to be discovered — two guineas. Item, from Mr. Acres, for carrying divers letters — which I never delivered — two guineas, and a pair of buckles. Item, from Sir Lucius O’Trigger, three crowns, two gold pocket pieces, and a silver snuff-box! Well done, Simplicity! Yet I was forced to make my Hibernian believe that he was corresponding, not with the aunt, but with the niece; for though not over rich, I found he had too much pride and delicacy to sacrifice the feelings of a gentleman to the necessities of his fortune.
Act II, Scene I
Captain Absolute’s Lodgings
FOG: Sir, while I was there, Sir Anthony came in: I told him you had sent me to inquire after his health, and to know if he was at leisure to see you.
JACK: And what did he say, on hearing I was at Bath?
FOG: Sir, in my life I never saw an elderly gentleman more astonished! He started back two or three paces, rapped out a dozen oaths, and asked what the devil had brought you here.
JACK: Well, sir, and what did you say?
FOG: Oh, I lied, sir. I forgot the precise lie; but you may depend on’t, he got no truth from me. Sir Anthony’s servants were curious, sir, very curious indeed.
JACK: You have said nothing to them?
FOG: Oh, not a word, sir, not a word! Mr. David, indeed, the coachman (whom I take to be the discreetest of whips) —
JACK: ‘Sdeath! you rascal! You have not trusted him!
FOG: Oh, no, sir, no, no, not a syllable, upon my veracity! I was sly, sir, devilish sly! I told him, “Honest David (you know, sir, one says honest to one’s inferiors,) my master is come to Bath to recruit.”
JACK: Well, recruit will do, let it be so.
FOG: Oh, indeed, sir, I told David that your honor had already enlisted five disbanded chairmen, seven minority waiters, and thirteen billiard-markers.
JACK: You blockhead, never say more than is necessary.
FOG: I beg pardon, sir, but a lie is nothing unless one supports it. Sir, whenever I draw on my invention for a good current lie, I always forge endorsements as well as the bill.
JACK: Well, take care you don’t hurt your credit by offering too much security. Is Mr. Faulkland returned?
FOG: He is above, sir.
JACK: Go tell him I am here.
FOG: Yes, sir. I beg pardon, sir, but should Sir Anthony call, you will do me the favor to remember that we are recruiting, if you please.
JACK: Well, well.
FOG: And, in tenderness to my character, if your honor could bring in the chairmen and waiters, I should esteem it as an obligation; for though I never scruple a lie to serve my master, yet it hurts one’s conscience to be found out. [exits]
JACK: Now for my whimsical friend. If he does not know that his mistress is here, I’ll tease him a little before I tell him.
JACK: Faulkland, you are punctual in your return.
FAULKLAND: Yes; I had nothing to detain me. Well, what news since I left you? How stand matters between you and Lydia?
JACK: Faith, much as they were; I have not seen her since our quarrel; however, I expect to be recalled every hour.
FAULKLAND: Why don’t you persuade her to go off with you at once?
JACK: What, and lose two-thirds of her fortune? You forget that, my friend.
FAULKLAND: Nay, then, you trifle too long. If you are sure of her, propose to the aunt in your own character, and write to Sir Anthony for his consent.
JACK: Softly, softly; for though I am convinced my little Lydia would elope with me as Ensign Beverley, yet am I by no means certain that she would take me with the impediment of our friends’ consent, a regular humdrum wedding, and the reversion of a good fortune on my side. No, no, I must prepare her gradually for the discovery, and make myself necessary to her, before I risk it. Well, but Faulkland, you’ll dine with us today at the hotel?
FAULKLAND: Indeed, I cannot; I am not in spirits to be of such a party.
JACK: By heavens! I shall forswear your company. You are the most teasing, captious, incorrigible lover! Do love like a man.
FAULKLAND: I own I am unfit for company.
JACK: Am I not a lover; aye, and a romantic one too? Yet do I carry everywhere with me such doubts, fears, hopes, wishes … ?
FAULKLAND: Ah! Jack, your heart and soul are not, like mine, fixed immutably on one only object. You throw for a large stake, but losing, you could stake and throw again: but I have set my sum of happiness on this cast, and not to succeed were to be stripped of all.
JACK: But, for heaven’s sake! what grounds for apprehension can your whimsical brain conjure up at present?
FAULKLAND: What grounds for apprehension, did you say? Heavens! are there not a thousand! I fear for her spirits, her health, her life! My absence may fret her; her anxiety for my return, her fears for me, may oppress her gentle temper: and for her health, does not every hour bring me cause to be alarmed? If it rains, some shower may even then have chilled her delicate frame! If the wind be keen, some rude blast may have affected her! The heat of noon, the dews of the evening, may endanger the life of her for whom only I value mine. O Jack! when delicate and feeling souls are separated, there is not a feature in the sky, not a movement of the elements, not an aspiration of the breeze, but hints some cause for a lover’s apprehension!
JACK: So, then, Faulkland, if you were convinced that Julia were well and in spirits, you would be entirely content?
FAULKLAND: I should be happy beyond measure.
JACK: Then to cure your anxiety at once, Miss Melville is in perfect health, and is at this moment in Bath.
FAULKLAND: Nay, Jack, don’t trifle with me.
JACK: She is arrived here with my father within this hour.
FAULKLAND: Can you be serious? My dear friend! Now nothing on earth can give me a moment’s uneasiness.
FOG: Sir, Mr. Acres, just arrived, is below.
JACK: Stay, Faulkland, this Acres lives within a mile of Sir Anthony, and he shall tell you how your mistress has been ever since you left her. Fog, show this gentleman up.
FAULKLAND: What, is he much acquainted in the family?
JACK: Oh, very intimate: I insist on your not going: besides, his character will divert you.
FAULKLAND: Well, I should like to ask him a few questions.
JACK: He is likewise a rival of mine — that is, of my other self, and it is ridiculous enough to hear him complain to me of one Beverley, a concealed skulking rival, who —
FAULKLAND: Hush! he’s here.
ACRES: Ha! my dear friend, noble captain, and honest Jack, how dost thou? Just arrived, faith, as you see. Sir, your humble servant. Warm work on the roads, Jack! Odds whips and wheels! I’ve traveled like a comet, with a tail of dust all the way.
JACK: Ah! Bob, you are indeed an eccentric planet. Give me leave to introduce Mr. Faulkland to you; Mr. Faulkland, Mr. Acres.
ACRES: Sir, I am most heartily glad to see you: sir, I solicit your connections. — Hey, Jack, what, this is Mr. Faulkland, who —
JACK: Ay, Bob, Miss Melville’s Mr. Faulkland.
ACRES: Odso! Ah, Mr. Faulkland, you are indeed a happy man.
FAULKLAND: I have not seen Miss Melville yet, sir; I hope she enjoyed full health and spirits in Devonshire?
ACRES: Never knew her better in my life, sir, never better. Odds blushes and blooms! she has been as healthy as the German Spa.
FAULKLAND: Indeed! I did hear that she had been a little indisposed.
ACRES: False, false, sir; only said to vex you: quite the reverse, I assure you.
FAULKLAND: There, Jack, you see she has the advantage of me; I had almost fretted myself ill.
JACK: Now are you angry with your mistress for not having been sick?
FAULKLAND: No, no, you misunderstand me: yet surely a little trifling indisposition is not an unnatural consequence of absence from those we love. Now confess, isn’t there something unkind in this violent, robust, unfeeling health?
JACK: Oh, it was very unkind of her to be well in your absence, to be sure!
ACRES: Good apartments, Jack.
FAULKLAND: Well, sir, but you were saying that Miss Melville has been so exceedingly well, what then she has been merry and gay, I suppose? Always in spirits, hey?
ACRES: Merry, odds crickets! she has been the belle and spirit of the company wherever she has been, so lively and entertaining! so full of wit and humor!
FAULKLAND: There, Jack, there. Oh, by my soul! there is an innate levity in woman that nothing can overcome. What! happy, and I away!
JACK: Have done! How foolish this is! just now you were only apprehensive for your mistress’ spirits.
FAULKLAND: Why, Jack, have I been the joy and spirit of the company?
JACK: No, indeed, you have not.
FAULKLAND: Have I been lively and entertaining?
JACK: Oh, upon my word, I acquit you.
FAULKLAND: Have I been full of wit and humor?
JACK: No, faith, to do you justice, you have been confoundedly stupid indeed.
ACRES: What’s the matter with the gentleman?
JACK: He is only expressing his great satisfaction at hearing that Julia has been so well and happy — that’s all, hey, Faulkland?
FAULKLAND: Oh! I am rejoiced to hear it; yes, yes, she has a happy disposition!
ACRES: That she has indeed. Then she is so accomplished, so sweet a voice, so expert at her harpsichord, such a mistress of flat and sharp, squallante, rumblante, and quiverante! — There was this time month — odds minims and crotchets! how she did chirrup at Mrs. Piano’s concert!
FAULKLAND: There again, what say you to this? you see she has been all mirth and song — not a thought of me!
JACK: Pho! man, is not music the food of love?
FAULKLAND: Well, well, it may be so. Pray, Mr. Acres. Do you remember what songs Miss Melville sung?
ACRES: Not I indeed.
JACK: Stay, now, they were some pretty melancholy airs, I warrant; did she sing, “When absent from my soul’s delight”?
ACRES: No, that wa’n’t it. Odds! now I recollect one of them. [sings] “My heart’s my own, my will is free. And so shall be my bosom.”
FAULKLAND: Fool! Fool that I am! To fix all my happiness on such a trifler! What can you say to this, sir?
JACK: Why, that I should be glad to hear my mistress had been so merry, sir.
FAULKLAND: Nay, nay, nay. I’m not sorry that she has been happy, no, no, I am glad of that. I would not have had her sad or sick — yet surely a sympathetic heart would have shown itself even in the choice of a song. She might have been temperately healthy, and somehow, plaintively gay; but she has been dancing too, I doubt not!
ACRES: Aye, truly, does she. There was at our last race ball —
FAULKLAND: The devil! There! there, I told you so! I told you so! Oh! she thrives in my absence! Dancing! But her whole feelings have been in opposition with mine; I have been anxious, silent, pensive, sedentary, my days have been hours of care, my nights of watchfulness. She has been all health! spirit! laugh! song! dance!
JACK: For heaven’s sake, Faulkland, don’t expose yourself so! Suppose she has danced, what then? Does not the ceremony of society often oblige —
FAULKLAND: Well, well, I’ll contain myself; perhaps as you say, for form sake. What, Mr. Acres, you were praising Miss Melville’s manner of dancing a minuet, hey?
ACRES: Oh, I dare insure her for that, but what I was going to speak of was her country dancing. Odds swimmings! she has such an air with her!
FAULKLAND: Now disappointment on her! Defend this, Absolute; why don’t you defend this? Country dances! jigs and reels! Am I to blame now? A minuet I could have forgiven. I should not have minded that, I say I should not have regarded a minuet — but country dances! If there be but one vicious mind in the set, ’twill spread like a contagion. The action of their pulse beats to the lascivious movement of the jig, their quivering, warm-breathed sighs impregnate the very air, the atmosphere becomes electrical to love, and each amorous spark darts through every link of the chain! — I must leave you. I own I am somewhat flurried and that confounded booby has perceived it.
JACK: Nay, but stay, Faulkland, and thank Mr. Acres for his good news.
FAULKLAND: Damn his news!
JACK: Ha! ha! ha! Poor Faulkland.
ACRES: The gentleman wa’n’t angry at my praising his mistress, was he?
JACK: A little jealous, I believe, Bob.
ACRES: You don’t say so? Ha! ha! jealous of me — that’s a good joke.
JACK: There’s nothing strange in that, Bob! let me tell you, that sprightly grace and insinuating manner of yours will do some mischief among the girls here.
ACRES: Ah! you joke — ha! ha! mischief — ha! ha! but you know I am not my own property, my dear Lydia has forestalled me. She could never abide me in the country, because I used to dress so badly. But odds frogs and tambours! I shan’t take matters so here. I shall straightway cashier the hunting-frock, and render my leather breeches incapable. My hair has been in training some time.
ACRES: Aye, and tho’ff the side curls are a little restive, my hind-part takes it very kindly.
JACK: Oh, you’ll polish, I doubt not.
ACRES: Absolutely I propose so; then if I can find out this Ensign Beverley, odds triggers and flints! I’ll make him know the difference o’t.
JACK: Spoken like a man!
FOG: Sir, there is a gentleman below desires to see you. Shall I show him into the parlor?
JACK: Aye, you may.
ACRES: Well, I must be gone.
JACK: Stay; who is it, Fog?
FOG: Your father, sir.
JACK: You puppy, why didn’t you show him up directly? [Exit Fog]
ACRES: You have business with Sir Anthony. I expect a message from Mrs. Malaprop at my lodgings. I have sent also to my dear friend, Sir Lucius O’Trigger. Adieu, Jack! we must meet at night, when you shall give me a dozen bumpers to little Lydia.
JACK: That I will with all my heart.
Exit Acres, enter Sir Anthony
JACK: Now for a parental lecture. — Sir I am delighted to see you here; looking so well! Your sudden arrival at Bath made me apprehensive for your health.
SIR ANTHONY: Very apprehensive, I dare say, Jack. What, you are recruiting here, hey?
JACK: Yes, sir, I am on duty.
SIR ANTHONY: Well, Jack, I am glad to see you, though I did not expect it, for I was going to write to you on a little matter of business. Jack, I have been considering that I grow old and infirm, and shall probably not trouble you long.
JACK: Pardon me, sir, I never saw you look more strong and hearty; and I pray frequently that you may continue so.
SIR ANTHONY: I hope your prayers may be heard, with all my heart. Well, then, Jack, I have been considering that I am so strong and hearty I may continue to plague you a long time. I am sensible that the income of your commission is but a small pittance for a lad of your spirit.
JACK: Sir, you are very good.
SIR ANTHONY: And it is my wish to have my boy make some figure in the world. I have resolved, therefore, to fix you at once in a noble independence.
JACK: Sir, your kindness overpowers me.
SIR ANTHONY: You shall be master of a large estate in a few weeks.
JACK: Let my future life, sir, speak my gratitude. Yet, sir, I presume you would not wish me to quit the army?
SIR ANTHONY: Oh, that shall be as your wife chooses.
JACK: My wife, sir!
SIR ANTHONY: Aye, aye, settle that between you, settle that between you.
JACK: A wife, sir, did you say?
SIR ANTHONY: Aye, a wife — why, did I not mention her before?
JACK: Not a word of her, sir.
SIR ANTHONY: Odd so! I mustn’t forget her though. Yes, Jack, the independence I was talking of is by marriage. The fortune is saddled with a wife — but I suppose that makes no difference.
JACK: Sir! sir! You amaze me!
SIR ANTHONY: Why, what the devil’s the matter with the fool? Just now you were all gratitude and duty.
JACK: I was, sir — you talked to me of independence and a fortune, but not a word of a wife.
SIR ANTHONY: Why, what difference does that make? Odds life, sir! if you have the estate, you must take it with the live stock on it, as it stands.
JACK: If my happiness is to be the price, I must beg leave to decline the purchase. Pray, sir, who is the lady?
SIR ANTHONY: What’s that to you, sir? Come, give me your promise to love, and to marry her directly.
JACK: Sure, sir, this is not very reasonable, to summon my affections for a lady I know nothing of!
SIR ANTHONY: I am sure, sir, ’tis more unreasonable in you to object to a lady you know nothing of.
JACK: You must excuse me, sir, if I tell you, once for all, that in this point I cannot obey you.
SIR ANTHONY: Hark’ee, Jack; I have heard you for some time with patience. I have been cool, quite cool; but take care. You know I am compliance itself, when I am not thwarted; no one more easily led when I have my own way; but don’t put me in a frenzy.
JACK: Sir, I must repeat; in this I cannot obey you.
SIR ANTHONY: Now curse me, if ever I call you Jack again while I live!
JACK: Nay, sir, but hear me.
SIR ANTHONY: Sir, I won’t hear a word — not a word! not one word! Give me your promise by a nod, and I’ll tell you what, Jack — I mean, you dog — if you don’t, by —
JACK: What, sir, promise to link myself to some mass of ugliness! to —
SIR ANTHONY: Zounds! sirrah! The lady shall be as ugly as I choose: she shall have a hump on each shoulder; she shall be as crooked as the crescent; her one eye shall roll like the bull’s in Cox’s Museum; she shall have a skin like a mummy, and the beard of a Jew. She shall be all this, sirrah! yet I will make you ogle her all day, and sit up all night to write sonnets on her beauty.
JACK: This is reason and moderation indeed!
SIR ANTHONY: None of your sneering, puppy! no grinning, jackanapes!
JACK: Indeed, sir, I never was in a worse humor for mirth in my life.
SIR ANTHONY: I give you six hours and a half to consider of this: if you then agree, without any condition, to do everything on earth that I choose, why — confound you! I may in time forgive you. If not, zounds! don’t enter the same hemisphere with me! Don’t dare to breathe the same air, or use the same light with me; but get an atmosphere and a sun of your own! I’ll strip you of your commission; I’ll disown you, I’ll disinherit you, I’ll unget you! and curse me! if ever I call you Jack again! [exits]
Act II, Scene II
LUCY: So, I shall have another rival to add to my mistress’s list: Captain Absolute. However, I shall not enter his name till my purse has received notice in form. Sir Lucius is generally more punctual, when he expects to hear from his dear Dalia, as he calls her: I wonder he’s not here!
LUCIUS: Ha! my little ambassadress, upon my conscience, I have been looking for you; I have been on the South Parade this half hour.
LUCY: O gemini! and I have been waiting for your lordship here on the North.
LUCIUS: Faith! maybe that was the reason we did not meet. Well, but my little girl, have you got nothing for me?
LUCY: Yes, but I have. I’ve got a letter for you in my pocket.
LUCIUS: O faith! I guessed you weren’t come empty-handed. Well, let me see what the dear creature says.
LUCY: There, Sir Lucius.
LUCIUS: “Sir, there is often a sudden incentive impulse in love, that has a greater induction than years of domestic combination: such was the commotion I felt at the first superfluous view of Sir Lucius O’Trigger.” Very pretty, upon my word. “Female punctuation forbids me to say more; yet let me add, that it will give me joy infallible to find Sir Lucius worthy the last criterion of my affections. Delia.” Upon my conscience! Lucy, your lady is a great mistress of language. Faith, she’s quite the queen of the dictionary!
LUCY: Aye, sir, a lady of her experience —
LUCIUS: Experience! what, at seventeen?
LUCY: O true, sir — but then she reads so — my stars!
LUCIUS: Faith, she must be very deep read to write this way, though she is rather an arbitrary writer too —
LUCY: Ah! Sir Lucius, if you were to hear how she talks of you!
LUCIUS: Oh, tell her I’ll make her the best husband in the world, and Lady O’Trigger into the bargain! But we must get the old gentlewoman’s consent, and do everything fairly.
LUCY: Nay, Sir Lucius, I thought you wa’n’t rich enough to be so nice.
LUCIUS: Upon my word, young woman, you have hit it: I am so poor, that I can’t afford to do a dirty action. If I did not want money, I’d steal your mistress and her fortune with a great deal of pleasure. However, my pretty girl, here’s a little something to buy you a ribbon; and meet me in the evening, and I’ll give you an answer to this. So, hussy, take a kiss beforehand to put you in mind.
LUCY: O Lud! Sir Lucius, I never seed such a gemman! My lady won’t like you if you’re so impudent.
LUCIUS: Faith she will, Lucy! That same modesty is a quality in a lover more praised by the woman than liked; so, if your mistress asks you whether Sir Lucius ever gave you a kiss, tell her fifty, my dear.
LUCY: What, would you have me tell her a lie?
LUCIUS: Ah, then, you baggage! I’ll make it a truth presently.
LUCY: For shame now! here is someone coming.
LUCIUS: Oh, faith, I’ll quiet your conscience! [exits]
FOG: [enters] So, so, ma’am! I humbly beg pardon.
LUCY: O Lud! now, Mr. Fog, you flurry one so.
FOG: Come, come, Lucy, here’s no one by — so a little less simplicity, if you please. You play false with us, madam. I saw you give the baronet a letter.
LUCY: Ha! ha! ha! you gentlemen’s gentlemen are so hasty. That letter was from Mrs. Malaprop, simpleton. She is taken with Sir Lucius’s address.
FOG: How! what tastes some people have! But what says our young lady? any message to my master?
LUCY: Sad news, Mr. Fog. A worse rival than Acres! Sir Anthony Absolute has proposed his son.
FOG: What, Captain Absolute?
LUCY: Even so — I overheard it all.
FOG: Ha! ha! ha! very good, faith. Good bye, Lucy, I must away with this news.
LUCY: Well, you may laugh — but it is true, I assure you. But Mr. Fog, tell your master not to be cast down by this.
FOG: Oh, he’ll be so disconsolate!
LUCY: And charge him not to think of quarreling with young Absolute.
FOG: Never fear! never fear!
LUCY: Be sure — bid him keep up his spirits.
FOG: We will — we will!
Act III, Scene I
JACK: ‘Tis just as Fog told me, indeed. Whimsical enough, faith! My father wants to force me to marry the very girl I am plotting to run away with! So, so, here he comes. He looks plaguey gruff.
SIR ANTHONY: No, I’ll die sooner than forgive him. Die, did I say! I’ll live these fifty years to plague him.
JACK: [Aside, coming forward] Now for a penitential face.
SIR ANTHONY: Fellow, get out of my way.
JACK: Sir, you see a penitent before you.
SIR ANTHONY: I see an impudent scoundrel before me.
JACK: A sincere penitent. I am come, sir, to acknowledge my error, and to submit entirely to your will.
SIR ANTHONY: What’s that?
JACK: I have been revolving, and reflecting, and considering on your past goodness, and kindness, and condescension to me.
SIR ANTHONY: Well, sir?
JACK: I have been likewise weighing and balancing what you were pleased to mention concerning duty, and obedience, and authority.
SIR ANTHONY: Well, puppy?
JACK: Why, then, sir, the result of my reflections is — a resolution to sacrifice every inclination of my own to your satisfaction.
SIR ANTHONY: Why now you talk sense, absolute sense. I never heard anything more sensible in my life. Confound you! you shall be Jack again.
JACK: I am happy in the appellation.
SIR ANTHONY: Why, then, Jack, my dear Jack, I will now inform you who the lady really is. Prepare, Jack, for wonder and rapture, prepare. What think you of Miss Lydia Languish?
JACK: Languish! What, the Languishes of Worcestershire?
SIR ANTHONY: Worcestershire! no. Did you ever meet Mrs. Malaprop and her niece, Miss Languish, who came into our country just before you were last ordered to your regiment?
JACK: Malaprop! Languish! I don’t remember ever to have heard the names before. Yet, stay — I think I do recollect something. Languish! Languish! She squints, don’t she? A little red- haired girl?
SIR ANTHONY: Squints! Zounds! no.
JACK: Then I must have forgot; it can’t be the same person.
SIR ANTHONY: Jack! Jack! what think you of blooming, love-breathing seventeen?
JACK: As to that, sir, I am quite indifferent. If I can please you in the matter, ’tis all I desire.
SIR ANTHONY: Nay, but Jack, such eyes! such eyes! so innocently wild! so bashfully irresolute! not a glance but speaks and kindles some thought of love! Then, Jack, her cheeks! her cheeks, Jack! so deeply blushing at the insinuations of her tell tale eyes! Then, Jack, her lips! O, Jack, lips smiling at their own discretion; and if not smiling, more sweetly pouting; more lovely in sullenness. Then, Jack, her neck! O Jack! Jack!
JACK: And which is to be mine, sir; the niece or the aunt?
SIR ANTHONY: Why, you unfeeling, insensible puppy, I despise you! When I was of your age, such a description would have made me fly like a rocket! The aunt, indeed! Odds life! when I ran away with your mother, I would not have touched anything old or ugly to gain an empire.
JACK: Not to please your father, sir?
SIR ANTHONY: To please my father! zounds! not to please — Oh, my father — odd so! — yes — yes; if my father indeed had desired — that’s quite another matter. Though he wa’n’t the indulgent father that I am, Jack.
JACK: I dare say not, sir.
SIR ANTHONY: But, Jack, you are not sorry to find your mistress is so beautiful?
JACK: Sir, I repeat it — if I please you in this affair, ’tis all I desire. Not that I think a woman the worse for being handsome; but, sir, if you please to recollect, you before hinted something about a hump or two, one eye, and a few more graces of that kind — now, without being very nice, I own I should rather choose a wife of mine to have the usual number of limbs, and a limited quantity of back: and though one eye may be very agreeable, yet as the prejudice has always run in favor of two, I would not wish to affect a singularity in that article.
SIR ANTHONY: Why, sirrah, you’re an anchorite! Odds life! I have a great mind to marry the girl myself!
JACK: I am entirely at your disposal, sir: if you should think of addressing Miss Languish yourself, I suppose you would have me marry the aunt; or if you should change your mind, and take the old lady — ’tis the same to me — I’ll marry the niece.
SIR ANTHONY: Upon my word, Jack, thou’rt either a very great hypocrite, or — but, come, now, confess Jack, you have been lying, ha’n’t you? You have been playing the hypocrite, hey! — I’ll never forgive you, if you ha’n’t been lying and playing the hypocrite.
JACK: I’m sorry, sir, that the respect and duty which I bear to you should be so mistaken.
SIR ANTHONY: Hang your respect and duty! But come along with me, I’ll write a note to Mrs. Malaprop, and you shall visit the lady directly. I’ll never forgive you, if you don’t come back stark mad with rapture and impatience, if you don’t, egad, I will marry the girl myself!
Act III, Scene II
Mrs. Malaprop’s Lodgings
MALAPROP: Your being Sir Anthony’s son, captain, would itself be a sufficient accommodation; but from the ingenuity of your appearance, I am convinced you deserve the character here given of you.
JACK: Permit me to say, madam, that as I never yet have had the pleasure of seeing Miss Languish, my principal inducement in this affair at present is the honor of being allied to Mrs. Malaprop; of whose intellectual accomplishments, elegant manners, and unaffected learning, no tongue is silent.
MALAPROP: Sir, you do me infinite honor! I beg, captain, you’ll be seated. Ah! few gentlemen, now-a-days, know how to value the ineffectual qualities in a woman! Few think how a little knowledge becomes a gentlewoman. Men have no sense now but for the worthless flower of beauty!
JACK: It is but too true, indeed, ma’am; yet I fear our ladies should share the blame. They think our admiration of beauty so great, that knowledge in them would be superfluous. Thus, like garden trees, they seldom show fruit, till time has robbed them of more specious blossom. Few, like Mrs. Malaprop and the orange tree, are rich in both at once!
MALAPROP: Sir, you overpower me with good breeding. — He is the very pineapple of politeness! — You are not ignorant, captain, that this giddy girl has somehow contrived to fix her affections on a beggarly, strolling, eaves-dropping ensign, whom none of us have seen, and nobody knows anything of.
JACK: Oh, I have heard the silly affair before. I’m not at all prejudiced against her on that account.
MALAPROP: You are very good and very considerate, captain. I am sure I have done everything in my power since I exploded the affair; long ago I laid my positive conjunctions on her, never to think on the fellow again; I have since laid Sir Anthony’s preposition before her; but, I am sorry to say, she seems resolved to decline every particle that I enjoin her.
JACK: It must be very distressing, indeed, ma’am.
MALAPROP: Oh! it gives me the hydrostatics to such a degree. I thought she had persisted from corresponding with him; but, behold, this very day, I have interceded another letter from the fellow; I believe I have it in my pocket.
JACK: [aside] Oh, the devil! my last note.
MALAPROP: Aye, here it is.
JACK: [aside] Aye, my note indeed! Oh, the little traitress Lucy!
MALAPROP: There, perhaps you may know the writing.
JACK: I think I have seen the hand before; yes, I certainly must have seen this hand before —
MALAPROP: Nay, but read it, captain.
JACK: “My soul’s idol, my adored Lydia!” Very tender, indeed!
MALAPROP: Tender, aye, and profane too, o’ my conscience.
JACK: “I am excessively alarmed at the intelligence you send me, the more so as my new rival” —
MALAPROP: That’s you, sir.
JACK: “ … has universally the character of being an accomplished gentleman and a man of honor.” Well, that’s handsome enough.
MALAPROP: Oh, the fellow has some design in writing so.
JACK: That he had, I’ll answer for him, ma’am.
MALAPROP: But go on, sir, you’ll see presently.
JACK: “As for the old weather-beaten she-dragon who guards you” — Who can he mean by that?
MALAPROP: Me, sir! me! he means me! There, what do you think now? but go on a little further.
JACK: Impudent scoundrel! “It shall go hard but I will elude her vigilance, as I am told that the same ridiculous vanity, which makes her dress up her coarse features, and deck her dull chat with hard
words which she don’t understand” —
MALAPROP: There, sir, an attack upon my language! what do you think of that? an aspersion upon my parts of speech! Was ever such a brute! Sure, if I reprehend any thing in this world it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!
JACK: He deserves to be hanged and quartered! Let me see — “some ridiculous vanity” —
MALAPROP: You need not read it again, sir.
JACK: I beg pardon, ma’am. “– does also lay her open to the grossest deceptions from flattery and pretended admiration” — an impudent coxcomb! “so that I have a scheme to see you shortly with the old harridan’s consent, and even to make her a go-between in our interview.” Was ever such assurance!
MALAPROP: Did you ever hear anything like it? He’ll elude my vigilance, will he? Yes, yes! ha! ha! he’s very likely to enter these doors; we’ll try who can plot best!
JACK: So we will, ma’am, so we will! Ha! ha! ha! a conceited puppy, ha! ha! ha! Well, but, Mrs. Malaprop, as the girl seems so infatuated by this fellow, suppose you were to wink at her corresponding with him for a little time; let her even plot an elopement with him, then do you connive at her escape, while I, just in the nick, will have the fellow laid by the heels, and fairly contrive to carry her off in his stead.
MALAPROP: I am delighted with the scheme; never was anything better perpetrated!
JACK: But, pray, could not I see the lady for a few minutes now? I should like to try her temper a little.
MALAPROP: Why, I don’t know, I doubt she is not prepared for a visit of this kind. There is a decorum in these matters.
JACK: O Lord! she won’t mind me, only tell her Beverley —
JACK: [aside] Gently, good tongue.
MALAPROP: What did you say of Beverley?
JACK: Oh, I was going to propose that you should tell her, by way of jest, that it was Beverley who was below; she’d come down fast enough then — ha! ha! ha!
MALAPROP: ‘Twould be a trick she well deserves; besides, you know the fellow tells her he’ll get my consent to see her — ha! ha! Let him if he can, I say again. Lydia, come down here! — He’ll make me a go-between in their interviews! — ha! ha! ha! Come down, I say, Lydia! I don’t wonder at your laughing, ha! ha! ha! his impudence is truly ridiculous.
JACK: ‘Tis very ridiculous, upon my soul, ma’am, ha! ha! ha!
MALAPROP: The little hussy won’t hear. Well, I’ll go and tell her at once who it is; she shall know that Captain Absolute is come to wait on her. And I’ll make her behave as becomes a young woman.
JACK: As you please, madam.
MALAPROP: For the present, captain, your servant. Ah! you’ve not done laughing yet, I see. Elude my vigilance; yes, yes; ha! ha! ha! [exits]
JACK: Ha! ha! ha! one would think now that I might throw off all disguise at once, and seize my prize with security; but such is Lydia’s caprice, that to undeceive were probably to lose her. I’ll see whether she knows me.
LYDIA: What a scene am I now to go through! Surely nothing can be more dreadful than to be obliged to listen to the loathsome addresses of a stranger to one’s heart. I have heard of girls persecuted as I am, who have appealed in behalf of their favored lover to the generosity of his rival; suppose I were to try it. There stands the hated rival, an officer too; but oh, how unlike my Beverley! I wonder he don’t begin. Truly he seems a very negligent wooer! I’ll speak first — Mr. Absolute.
LYDIA: O heavens! Beverley!
JACK: Hush; hush, my life! softly! be not surprised!
LYDIA: I am so astonished! and so terrified! and so overjoyed! For Heaven’s sake! how came you here?
JACK: I have deceived your aunt, and have passed myself on her for Captain Absolute.
LYDIA: O charming! And she really takes you for young Absolute.
JACK: Oh, she’s convinced of it.
LYDIA: Ha! ha! ha! I can’t forbear laughing to think how her sagacity is overreached!
JACK: But we trifle with our precious moments; such another opportunity may not occur; then let me conjure my kind, my condescending angel, to fix the time when I may rescue her from undeserving persecution, and with a licensed warmth plead for my reward.
LYDIA: Will you then, Beverley, consent to forfeit that portion of my paltry wealth? That burden on the wings of love?
JACK: Oh, come to me, rich only thus, in loveliness! Bring no portion to me but thy love; ’twill be generous in you, Lydia, for well you know it is the only dower your poor Beverley can repay.
LYDIA: [aside] How persuasive are his words! How charming will poverty be with him!
Re-enter Mrs. Malaprop, listening
MALAPROP: [aside] I am impatient to know how the little hussy deports herself.
JACK: So pensive, Lydia! Is then your warmth abated?
MALAPROP: [aside] Warmth abated! so! She has been in a passion, I suppose.
LYDIA: No, nor ever can, while I have life.
MALAPROP: [aside] An ill-tempered little devil! She’ll be in a passion all her life, will she?
LYDIA: Think not the idle threats of my ridiculous aunt can ever have any weight with me.
MALAPROP: [aside] Very dutiful, upon my word!
LYDIA: Let her choice be Captain Absolute, but Beverley is mine.
MALAPROP: [aside] I am astonished at her assurance! To his face — this is to his face!
JACK: Thus then let me enforce my suit. [kneeling]
MALAPROP: [aside] Aye, poor young man! Down on his knees entreating for pity! I can contain no longer. [Coming forward] Why, thou vixen! I have overheard you.
JACK: [aside] Oh, confound her vigilance!
MALAPROP: Captain Absolute, I know not how to apologize for her shocking rudeness.
JACK: [aside] So all’s safe, I find. — I have hopes, madam, that time will bring the young lady –MALAPROP: Oh, there’s nothing to be hoped for from her! She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of Nile.
LYDIA: Nay, madam, what do you charge me with now?
MALAPROP: Why, thou unblushing rebel, didn’t you tell this gentleman to his face that you loved another better? Didn’t you say you never would be his?
LYDIA: No, madam, I did not.
MALAPROP: Good heavens! what assurance! Didn’t you boast that Beverley, that stroller Beverley, possessed your heart?
LYDIA: ‘Tis true, ma’am, and none but Beverley —
MALAPROP: Hold! hold, Assurance! You shall not be so rude.
JACK: Nay, pray, Mrs. Malaprop, don’t stop the young lady’s speech: she’s very welcome to talk thus; it does not hurt me in the least, I assure you.
MALAPROP: You are too good, captain, too amiably patient, but come with me, miss. Let us see you again soon, captain, remember what we have fixed.
JACK: I shall, ma’am.
MALAPROP: Come, take a graceful leave of the gentleman.
LYDIA: May every blessing wait on my Beverley, my loved Bev —
MALAPROP: Hussy! I’ll choke the word in your throat! — come along — come along.
Act IV, Scene I
Bob Acres’ Lodgings
DAVID: Here is Sir Lucius O’Trigger to wait on you, sir.
ACRES: Show him in.
LUCIUS: Mr. Acres, I am delighted to embrace you.
ACRES: My dear Sir Lucius, I kiss your hands.
LUCIUS: Pray, my friend, what has brought you so suddenly to Bath?
ACRES: Faith! I have been very ill used, Sir Lucius. I don’t choose to mention names, but look on me as on a very ill-used gentleman.
LUCIUS: Pray what is the case?
ACRES: Mark me, Sir Lucius, I fall as deep as need be in love with a young lady. I follow her to Bath, send word of my arrival, and receive answer, that the lady is to be otherwise disposed of. This, Sir Lucius, I call being ill-used.
LUCIUS: Very ill, upon my conscience. Pray, can you divine the cause of it?
ACRES: Why, there’s the matter; she has another lover, one Beverly. Odds slanders and lies!
LUCIUS: A rival in the case, is there? and you think he has supplanted you unfairly?
ACRES: Unfairly! To be sure he has. He never could have done it fairly.
LUCIUS: Then sure you know what is to be done!
ACRES: Not I, upon my soul!
LUCIUS: We wear no swords here, but you understand me.
ACRES: What! fight him?
LUCIUS: Aye, to be sure: what can I mean else?
ACRES: But he has given me no provocation.
LUCIUS: Now, I think he has given you the greatest provocation in the world. Can a man commit a more heinous offence against another than to fall in love with the same woman? Oh, by my soul! It is the most unpardonable breach of friendship.
ACRES: Breach of friendship! aye, aye; but I have no acquaintance with this man. I never saw him in my life.
LUCIUS: That’s no argument at all. He has the less right then to take such a liberty.
ACRES: Gad, that’s true. I grow full of anger, Sir Lucius! Fire apace! Odds hilts and blades! I find a man may have a deal of valor in him, and not know it! But couldn’t I contrive to have a little right on my side?
LUCIUS: What the devil signifies right, when your honor is concerned? Do you think Achilles, or my little Alexander the Great, ever inquired where the right lay? No, by my soul, they drew their broad-swords, and left the lazy sons of peace to settle the justice of it.
ACRES: Your words are a grenadier’s march to my heart! I believe courage must be catching! I certainly do feel a kind of valor rising as it were, a kind of courage, as I may say. Odds flints, pans, and triggers! I’ll challenge him directly.
LUCIUS: Ah, my little friend, if I had Blunderbuss Hall here, I could show you a range of ancestry, in the old O’Trigger line, that would furnish the new room; every one of whom had killed his man!
ACRES: Odds balls and barrels! Say no more. I’m braced for it. The thunder of your words has soured the milk of human kindness in my breast. Zounds! as the man in the play says, I could do such deeds!
LUCIUS: Come, come, there must be no passion at all in the case. These things should always be done civilly.
ACRES: I must be in a passion, Sir Lucius, I must be in a rage. Dear Sir Lucius, let me be in a rage, if you love me. Come, here’s pen and paper. I would the ink were red! Indite, I say, indite! How shall I begin? Odds bullets and blades! I’ll write a good bold hand, however.
LUCIUS: Pray compose yourself.
ACRES: Come now, shall I begin with an oath? Do, Sir Lucius, let me begin with an oath.
LUCIUS: Pho! pho! Do the thing decently, and like a Christian. Begin now — Sir —
ACRES: That’s too civil by half.
LUCIUS: To prevent the confusion that might arise —
ACRES: Well —
LUCIUS: From our both addressing the same lady —
ACRES: Aye, there’s the reason — same lady — well —
LUCIUS: I shall expect the honor of your company —
ACRES: Zounds! I’m not asking him to dinner.
LUCIUS: Pray be easy.
ACRES: Well, then, honor of your company —
LUCIUS: To settle our pretensions —
LUCIUS: Let me see, aye, King’s Mead Fields will do, in King’s Mead Fields.
ACRES: So, that’s done. Well, I’ll fold it up presently; my own crest, a hand and dagger shall be the seal.
LUCIUS: You see now this little explanation will put a stop at once to all confusion or misunderstanding that might arise between you.
ACRES: Aye, we fight to prevent any misunderstanding.
LUCIUS: Now, I’ll leave you to fix your own time. Take my advice, and you’ll decide it this evening if you can; then let the worst come of it, ’twill be off your mind tomorrow.
ACRES: Very true.
LUCIUS: So I shall see nothing of you, unless it be by letter, till the evening. I would do myself the honor to carry your message; but, to tell you a secret, I believe I shall have just such another affair on my own hands. There is a captain here, who put a jest on me lately, at the expense of my country, and I only want to fall in with the gentleman, to call him out.
ACRES: By my valor, I should like to see you fight first! Odds life! I should like to see you kill him, if it was only to get a little lesson.
LUCIUS: I shall be very proud of instructing you. Well for the present, but remember now, when you meet your antagonist, do every thing in a mild and agreeable manner. Let your courage be as keen, but at the same time as polished, as your sword.
Exit Sir Lucius, enter David who reads Acres’ letter over his shoulder
DAVID: By the mass, sir! I would do no such thing, ne’er a St. Lucius O’Trigger in the kingdom should make me fight, when I wasn’t so minded.
ACRES: Ah! David, if you had heard Sir Lucius! Odds sparks and flames! He would have roused your valor.
DAVID: Not he, indeed. I hate such bloodthirsty deeds.
ACRES: But my honor, David, my honor! I must be very careful of my honor.
DAVID: Aye, by the mass! and I would be very careful of it; and I think in return my honor couldn’t do less than to be very careful of me.
ACRES: Odds blades! David, no gentleman will ever risk the loss of his honor!
DAVID: I say then, it would be but civil in honor never to risk the loss of a gentleman. Look’ee, master, this honor seems to me to be a marvelous false friend: aye, truly, a very courtier-like servant. Put the case, I was a gentleman (which, thank God, no one can say of me;) well — my honor makes me quarrel with another gentleman of my acquaintance. So we fight. (Pleasant enough that!) Boh; I kill him (the more’s my luck!) now, pray who gets the profit of it? Why, my honor. But put the case that he kills me! by the mass! I go to the worms, and my honor whips over to my enemy.
ACRES: No, David, in that case, odds crowns and laurels! Your honor follows you to the grave.
DAVID: Now, that’s just the place where I could make a shift to do without it.
ACRES: Zounds! David, you are a coward! It doesn’t become my valor to listen to you. What, shall I disgrace my ancestors? Think of that, David, think what it would be to disgrace my ancestors!
DAVID: Under favor, the surest way of not disgracing them, is to keep as long as you can out of their company. Look’ee now, master, to go to them in such haste, with an ounce of lead in your brains, I should think might as well be let alone. Our ancestors are very good kind of folks; but they are the last people I should choose to have a visiting acquaintance with.
ACRES: But, David, now, you don’t think there is such very, very, very great danger, hey? Odds life! People often fight without any mischief done!
DAVID: By the mass, I think ’tis ten to one against you! Oons! Here to meet some lionhearted fellow, I warrant, with his double-barrelled swords, and cut-and-thrust pistols! Lord bless us! It makes me tremble to think o’t! Those be such desperate bloody-minded weapons! Well, I never could abide ’em! from a child I never could fancy ’em! I suppose there an’t been so merciless a beast in the world as your loaded pistol!
ACRES: Zounds! I won’t be afraid! Odds fire and fury! You shan’t make me afraid. Here is the challenge, and I have sent for my dear friend Jack Absolute to carry it for me.
DAVID: Aye, i’ the name of mischief, let him be the messenger. For my part I wouldn’t lend a hand to it for the best horse in your stable. By the mass! it don’t look like another letter! It is, as I may say, a designing and malicious — looking letter; and I warrant smells of gunpowder like a soldier’s pouch! Oons! I wouldn’t swear it mayn’t go off!
ACRES: Out, you poltroon! You han’t the valor of a grasshopper.
DAVID: Well, I say no more [whimpering] ’twill be sad news, to be sure, at Clod Hall!
ACRES: It won’t do, David. I am determined to fight, so get along, you coward, while I’m in the mind.
SERVANT. Captain Absolute, sir.
ACRES: Oh! show him up.
DAVID: Well, Heaven send we be all alive this time tomorrow.
ACRES: What’s that? Don’t provoke me, David!
DAVID: Goodbye, master.
ACRES: Get along, you cowardly, dastardly, croaking raven!
Exit David, enter Jack
JACK: What’s the matter, Bob?
ACRES: A vile, sheep-hearted blockhead! If I hadn’t the valor of St. George and the dragon to boot.
JACK: But what did you want with me, Bob?
ACRES: Oh! There. [Gives him the challenge]
JACK: [aside] To Ensign Beverley. So, what’s going on now? — Well, what’s this?
ACRES: A challenge!
JACK: Indeed! Why, you won’t fight him, will you, Bob?
ACRES: Egad, but I will, Jack. Sir Lucius has wrought me to it. He has left me full of rage, and I’ll fight this evening, that so much good passion mayn’t be wasted.
JACK: But what have I to do with this?
ACRES: Why, as I think you know something of this fellow, I want you to find him out for me, and give him this mortal defiance.
JACK: Well, give it to me, and trust me he gets it.
ACRES: Thank you, my dear friend, my dear Jack; but it is giving you a great deal of trouble.
JACK: Not in the least, I beg you won’t mention it. No trouble in the world, I assure you.
ACRES: You are very kind. What it is to have a friend! You couldn’t be my second, could you, Jack?
JACK: Why no, Bob, not in this affair. It would not be quite so proper.
ACRES: Well, then, I must get my friend Sir Lucius. I shall have your good wishes, however, Jack?
JACK: Whenever he meets you, believe me.
DAVID: Sir Anthony Absolute is below, inquiring for the captain.
JACK: I’ll come instantly. — Well, my little hero, success attend you.
ACRES: Stay, stay, Jack. If Beverley should ask you what kind of a man your friend Acres is, do tell him I am a devil of a fellow — will you, Jack?
JACK: To be sure I shall. I’ll say you are a determined dog, hey, Bob?
ACRES: Ah, do, do — and if that frightens him, egad, perhaps he mayn’t come. So tell him I generally kill a man a week, will you, Jack?
JACK: I will, I will. I’ll say you are called in the country Fighting Bob.
ACRES: Right, right, ’tis all to prevent mischief; for I don’t want to take his life if I clear my honor.
JACK: No! that’s very kind of you.
ACRES: Why, you don’t wish me to kill him, do you, Jack?
JACK: No, upon my soul, I do not. But a devil of a fellow, hey?
ACRES: True, true — but stay, stay Jack, you may add, that you never saw me in such a rage before, a most devouring rage!
JACK: I will, I will.
ACRES: Remember, Jack, a determined dog!
JACK: Aye, aye, Fighting Bob!
Act IV, Scene II
Mrs. Malaprop’s Lodgings
MALAPROP: Why, thou perverse one! Tell me what you can object to him? Isn’t he a handsome man? Tell me that. A genteel man? A pretty figure of a man?
LYDIA: [aside] She little thinks whom she is praising! — So is Beverley, ma’am.
MALAPROP: No caparisons, miss, if you please. No! Captain Absolute is indeed a fine gentleman!
LYDIA: [aside] Aye, the Captain Absolute you have seen.
LUCY: Sir Anthony and Captain Absolute are below, ma’am.
MALAPROP: Show them up here. Now, Lydia, I insist on your behaving as becomes a young woman, Show your good breeding, at least, though you have forgot your duty.
LYDIA: Madam, I have told you my resolution! I shall not only give him no encouragement, but I won’t even speak to, or look at him.
Flings herself into a chair, with her face from the door
Enter Sir Anthony Absolute and Jack
SIR ANTHONY: Here we are, Mrs. Malaprop; come to mitigate the frowns of unrelenting beauty. [pulls Jack reluctantly inside]
MALAPROP: You have infinite trouble, Sir Anthony, in the affair. I am ashamed for the cause! Lydia, Lydia, rise, I beseech you! Pay your respects!
SIR ANTHONY: I hope, madam, that Miss Languish has reflected on the worth of this gentleman, and the regard due to her aunt’s choice. [Aside to Captain Absolute] Now, Jack, speak to her.
JACK: [Aside to Sir Anthony] You see, sir, she won’t even look at me whilst you are here. I knew she wouldn’t! I told you so. Let me entreat you, sir, to leave us together!
MALAPROP: I am sorry to say, Sir Anthony, that my affluence over my niece is very small. Turn round, Lydia: I blush for you!
LYDIA: [aside] I wonder I han’t heard my aunt exclaim yet! Sure she can’t have looked at him! Perhaps the uniforms are alike, and she is something blind.
SIR ANTHONY: May I not flatter myself, that Miss Languish will assign what cause of dislike she can have to my son! Why don’t you begin, Jack? Speak, you puppy, speak!
MALAPROP: It is impossible, Sir Anthony, she can have any. She will not say she has. Answer, hussy! Why don’t you answer?
SIR ANTHONY: Then, madam, I trust that a childish and hasty predilection will be no bar to Jack’s happiness. Zounds, sirrah! Why don’t you speak?
JACK: Hem! hem! madam — hem! — [Attempts to speak, then returns to Sir Anthony] Faith! sir, I am so confounded! — and — so — so — confused! — I told you I should be so, sir — I knew it. — The — the — tremor of my passion entirely takes away my presence of mind.
SIR ANTHONY: But it don’t take away your voice, fool, does it? — Go up, and speak to her directly!
MALAPROP: Sir Anthony, shall we leave them together? Ah! you stubborn little vixen!
SIR ANTHONY: Not yet, ma’am, not yet! What the devil are you at? unlock your jaws, sirrah, or —
JACK: [aside] Now Heaven send she may be too sullen to look round! I must disguise my voice. — Will not Miss Languish lend an ear to the mild accents of true love? Will not —
SIR ANTHONY: What the devil ails the fellow? why don’t you speak out? not stand croaking like a frog in a quinsy!
JACK: The — the — excess of my awe, and my — my — modesty quite choke me!
SIR ANTHONY: Ah! your modesty again! I’ll tell you what, Jack, if you don’t speak out directly, and glibly too, I shall be in such a rage! — Mrs. Malaprop, I wish the lady would favor us with something more than a side-front.
JACK: [aside] So all will out, I see! [Goes up to Lydia, speaks softly] Be not surprised, my Lydia, suppress all surprise at present.
LYDIA: Heavens! ’tis Beverley’s voice! Sure he can’t have imposed on Sir Anthony too! Is this possible! my Beverley! how can this be? my Beverley?
JACK: Ah! ’tis all over.
SIR ANTHONY: Beverley! the devil! Beverley! What can the girl mean? This is my son, Jack Absolute.
MALAPROP: For shame, hussy! for shame! your head runs so on that fellow, that you have him always in your eyes! Beg Captain Absolute’s pardon directly.
LYDIA: I see no Captain Absolute, but my loved Beverley!
SIR ANTHONY: Zounds! the girl’s mad! Her brain’s turned by reading.
MALAPROP: O’ my conscience, I believe so! What do you mean by Beverley, hussy? You saw Captain Absolute before today; there he is, your husband that shall be.
LYDIA: With all my soul, ma’am, when I refuse my Beverley —
SIR ANTHONY: Oh! she’s as mad as Bedlam! or has this fellow been playing us a rogue’s trick! Come here, sirrah – who the devil are you?
JACK: Faith, sir, I am not quite clear myself; but I’ll endeavor to recollect.
SIR ANTHONY: Are you my son or not? Answer for your mother, you dog, if you won’t for me.
MALAPROP: Aye, sir, who are you? O mercy! I begin to suspect!
JACK: [aside] Ye powers of impudence, befriend me! Sir Anthony, most assuredly I am your wife’s son; and that I sincerely believe myself to be yours also, I hope my duty has always shown. Mrs. Malaprop, I am your most respectful admirer, and shall be proud to add affectionate nephew. I need not tell my Lydia, that she sees her faithful Beverley, who, knowing the singular generosity of her temper, assumed that name and station, which has proved a test of the most disinterested love, which he now hopes to enjoy in a more elevated character.
LYDIA: So! There will be no elopement after all!
SIR ANTHONY: Upon my soul, Jack, thou art a very impudent fellow! To do you justice, I think I never saw a piece of more consummate assurance!
JACK: Oh, you flatter me, sir; you compliment; ’tis my modesty, you know, sir, my modesty that has stood in my way.
SIR ANTHONY: Well, I am glad you are not the dull, insensible varlet you pretended to be, however! So this was your penitence, your duty and obedience! I thought it was sudden! You never heard their names before, not you! what, the Languishes of Worcestershire, hey? if you could please me in the affair it was all you desired! Ah! you dissembling villain! What! she squints don’t she? a little red-haired girl! hey? Why, you hypocritical young rascal! I wonder you ain’t ashamed to hold up your head!
JACK: ‘Tis with difficulty, sir. I am confused, very much confused, as you must perceive.
MALAPROP: O Lud! Sir Anthony! A new light breaks in upon me! hey! how! what! Captain, did you write the letters then? What! Am I to thank you for the elegant compilation of an old weather-beaten she-dragon, hey?
SIR ANTHONY: Did you call her an old weather-beaten she-dragon? [Jack nods, they both laugh]
MALAPROP: O mercy! Was it you that reflected on my parts of speech?
JACK: Dear sir! my modesty will be overpowered at last, if you don’t assist me. I shall certainly not be able to stand it.
SIR ANTHONY: Come, come, Mrs. Malaprop, we must forget and forgive; odds life! Matters have taken so clever a turn all of a sudden, that I could find in my heart to be so good-humored! and so gallant! hey! Mrs. Malaprop!
MALAPROP: Well, Sir Anthony, since you desire it, we will not anticipate the past! So mind, young people, our retrospection will be all to the future.
SIR ANTHONY: Come, we must leave them together; they long to fly into each other’s arms, I warrant! Come, Mrs. Malaprop, we’ll not disturb their tenderness. Theirs is the time of life for happiness! [both exit]
JACK: [aside] So much thought bodes me no good. — So grave, Lydia!
JACK: [aside] So! egad! I thought as much! That monosyllable has froze me! — What, Lydia, now that we are as happy in our friends’ consent, as in our mutual vows —
LYDIA: Friends’ consent indeed!
JACK: Come, come, we must lay aside some of our romance; a little comfort may be endured after all. And for your fortune, the lawyers shall make such settlements as —
LYDIA: Lawyers! I hate lawyers!
JACK: Nay, then, we will not wait for their lingering forms, but instantly procure the license, and —
LYDIA: The license! I hate license!
JACK: Oh my love! be not so unkind! Thus let me entreat —
LYDIA: Psha! — what signifies kneeling, when you know I must have you?
JACK: [Rising] Nay, madame, there shall be no constraint upon your inclinations, I promise you. If I have lost your heart. I resign the rest. [aside] ‘Gad, I must try what a little spirit will do.
LYDIA: Then, sir, let me tell you, the interest you had there was acquired by a mean, unmanly imposition, and deserves the punishment of fraud. What, you have been treating me like a child! Humoring my romance! and laughing, I suppose, at your success!
JACK: You wrong me, Lydia, you wrong me; only hear —
LYDIA: So, while I fondly imagined we were deceiving my relations, and flattered myself that I should outwit and incense them all, behold my hopes are to be crushed at once, by my aunt’s consent and approbation, and I am myself the only dupe at last! But here, sir, here is the picture, Beverley’s picture which I have worn, night and day, in spite of threats and entreaties! There, sir; and be assured I throw the original from my heart as easily.
JACK: Nay, nay, ma’am, we will not differ as to that. Here, here is Miss Lydia Languish. What a difference! Aye, there is the heavenly assenting smile that first gave soul and spirit to my hopes! Those are the lips which sealed a vow, as yet scarce dry in Cupid’s calendar! Well, all that’s past? All over indeed! There, madame, in beauty, that copy is not equal to you, but in my mind its merit over the original, in being still the same, is such that I cannot find in my heart to part with it.
LYDIA: [Softening] ‘Tis your own doing, sir. I, I, I suppose you are perfectly satisfied.
JACK: O, most certainly, sure, now, this is much better than being in love! ha! ha! ha! There’s some spirit in this! What signifies breaking some scores of solemn promises: all that’s of no consequence, you know. To be sure people will say, that miss don’t know her own mind, but never mind that! Or, perhaps, they may be ill-natured enough to hint, that the gentleman grew tired of the lady and forsook her, but don’t let that fret you.
LYDIA: There is no bearing his insolence. [Bursts into tears]
Re-enter Mrs. Malaprop and Sir Anthony Absolute
MALAPROP: Come, we must interrupt your billing and cooing awhile.
LYDIA: This is worse than your treachery and deceit, you base ingrate!
SIR ANTHONY: What the devil’s the matter now? Zounds! Mrs. Malaprop, this is the oddest billing and cooing I ever heard! But what the deuce is the meaning of it? I am quite astonished!
JACK: Ask the lady, sir.
MALAPROP: O mercy! I’m quite analyzed, for my part! Why, Lydia, what is the reason of this?
LYDIA: Ask the gentleman, ma’am.
SIR ANTHONY: Zounds! I shall be in a frenzy! Why, Jack, you are not come out to be any one else, are you?
MALAPROP: Aye, sir, there’s no more trick, is there? You are not like Cerberus, three gentlemen at once, are you?
JACK: You’ll not let me speak. I say the lady can account for this much better than I can.
LYDIA: Ma’am, you once commanded me never to think of Beverley again. There is the man. I now obey you: for, from this moment, I renounce him for ever. [exits]
MALAPROP: O mercy and miracles! What a turn here is? Why, sure, captain, you haven’t behaved disrespectfully to my niece?
SIR ANTHONY: Ha! ha! ha! — ha! ha! ha! Now I see it. Ha! ha! ha! You have been too lively, Jack.
JACK: Nay, sir, upon my word —
SIR ANTHONY: Come, no lying, Jack. I’m sure ’twas so.
MALAPROP: O Lud! Sir Anthony! O fie, captain!
JACK: Upon my soul, ma’am —
SIR ANTHONY: Come, no excuse, Jack; why, your father, you rogue, was so before you! The blood of the Absolutes was always impatient. Ha! ha! ha! poor little Lydia! Why, you’ve frightened her, you dog, you have.
JACK: By all that’s good, sir —
SIR ANTHONY: Zounds! say no more, I tell you Mrs. Malaprop shall make your peace. You must make his peace, Mrs. Malaprop: you must tell her ’tis Jack’s way. Tell her ’tis all our ways. It runs in the blood of our family! Come away, Jack Ha! ha! ha! Mrs. Malaprop, a young villain!
MALAPROP: O! Sir Anthony! O fie, captain!
Act IV, Scene III
LUCIUS: I wonder where this Captain Absolute hides himself! Upon my conscience! Ha! isn’t this the captain coming? Faith it is! Who the devil is he talking to?
JACK: [aside] To what fine purpose I have been plotting! A noble reward for all my schemes, upon my soul! A little gypsy! ‘Sdeath, I never was in a worse humor in my life! I could cut my own throat, or any other person’s with the greatest pleasure in the world!
LUCIUS: [aside] Oh, faith! I’m in the luck of it. I never could have found him in a sweeter temper for my purpose! [Goes up to Jack] With regard to that matter, captain, I must beg leave to differ in opinion with you.
JACK: Upon my word, then, you must be a very subtle disputant, because, sir, I happened just then to be giving no opinion at all.
LUCIUS: That’s no reason. For give me leave to tell you, a man may think an untruth as well as speak one.
JACK: Very true, sir; but if a man never utters his thoughts, I should think they might stand a chance of escaping controversy.
LUCIUS: Then, sir, you differ in opinion with me, which amounts to the same thing.
JACK: Hark’ee, Sir Lucius; if I had not before known you to be a gentleman, upon my soul, I should not have discovered it at this interview: for what you can drive at, unless you mean to quarrel with me, I cannot conceive!
LUCIUS: I humbly thank you, sir, for the quickness of your apprehension. You have named the very thing I would be at.
JACK: Very well, sir. But I should be glad you would be pleased to explain your motives.
LUCIUS: Pray, sir, be easy; the quarrel is a very pretty quarrel as it stands; we should only spoil it by trying to explain it. However, your memory is very short, or you could not have forgot an affront you passed on me within this week. So, no more, but name your time and place.
JACK: Well, sir, since you are so bent on it, the sooner the better; let it be this evening; here, by the Spring Gardens.
LUCIUS: If it’s the same to you, I should take it as a particular kindness if you’d let us meet in King’s Mead Fields, as a little business will call me there about six o’clock, and I may dispatch both matters at once.
JACK: ‘Tis the same to me exactly. A little after six, then, we will discuss this matter more seriously.
LUCIUS: If you please, sir.
Exit Sir Lucius, enter Faulkland
JACK: I was going to look for you. O Faulkland! All the demons of spite and disappointment have conspired against me!
FAULKLAND: What can you mean? Has Lydia changed her mind? I should have thought her duty and inclination would now have pointed to the same object.
JACK: Aye, just as the eyes do of a person who squints: when her love-eye was fixed on me, t’other, her eye of duty, was finely obliqued: but when duty bid her point that the same way, off t’other turned on a swivel, and secured its retreat with a frown! What’s more, to wind up the whole, a good-natured Irishman here has [mimicking Sir Lucius] begged leave to have the pleasure of cutting my throat; and I mean to indulge him — that’s all.
FAULKLAND: Prithee, be serious!
JACK: ‘Tis fact, upon my soul! Sir Lucius O’Trigger for some affront, which I am sure I never intended, has obliged me to meet him this evening at six o’clock: ’tis on that account I wished to see you; you must go with me.
FAULKLAND: But I am myself a good deal ruffled by a difference I have had with Julia. My vile tormenting temper has made me treat her so cruelly, that I shall not be myself till we are reconciled.
JACK: By heavens! Faulkland, you don’t deserve her!
Enter servant, gives Faulkland a letter and exits
FAULKLAND: Oh, Jack! this is from Julia. I dread to open it! I fear it may be to take a last leave! Oh, how I suffer for my folly!
JACK: Here, let me see. [Takes the letter and opens it] Aye, a final sentence, indeed! ’tis all over with you, faith!
FAULKLAND: Nay, Jack, don’t keep me in suspense!
JACK: Here then [reads] “As I am convinced that my dear Faulkland’s own reflections have already upbraided him for his last unkindness to me, I will not add a word on the subject. I wish to speak with you as soon as possible. Yours ever and truly, Julia.” There’s stubbornness and resentment for you! [Gives him the letter] Why, man, you don’t seem one whit happier at this!
FAULKLAND: O yes, I am; but — but —
JACK: Confound your buts! you never hear anything that would make another man bless himself, but you immediately damn it with a but!
FAULKLAND: Now, Jack, don’t you think there is something forward, something indelicate, in this haste to forgive? Women should never sue for reconciliation: that should always come from us. They should retain their coldness till wooed to kindness; and their pardon …
JACK: I have not patience to listen to you! Thou’rt incorrigible! [exits]
FAULKLAND: His engaging me in this duel has started an idea in my head, which I will instantly pursue. I’ll use it as the touchstone of Julia’s sincerity and disinterestedness. If her love proves pure and sterling ore, my name will rest on it with honor!
Act V, Scene I
Julia’s Dressing Room
Faulkland enters wearing a meager disguise
JULIA: What means this? Why this caution, Faulkland?
FAULKLAND: Alas! Julia, I am come to take a long farewell.
JULIA: Heavens! what do you mean?
FAULKLAND: You see before you a wretch, whose life is forfeited. An untoward accident drew me into a quarrel. I must fly this kingdom instantly.
JULIA: My heart has long known no other guardian. I now entrust my person to your honor; we will fly together.
FAULKLAND: Yet am I grieved to think what numberless distresses will press heavy on your gentle disposition!
JULIA: The little I have will be sufficient to support us; and exile never should be splendid.
FAULKLAND: [removing his disguise] Julia, I have proved you to the quick! and with this useless device I throw away all my doubts.
JULIA: What? Has no such disaster happened as you related?
FAULKLAND: I am ashamed to own that it was pretended; but sealing my pardon, let me tomorrow, in the face of Heaven, receive my future guide and expiate my past folly by years of tender adoration.
JULIA: Hold, Faulkland! That you are free from a crime, Heaven knows how sincerely I rejoice! But that your cruel doubts should have urged you to an imposition that has wrung my heart, gives me now a pang more keen than I can express.
FAULKLAND: By Heavens! Julia —
JULIA: Yet hear me. I will not upbraid you, by repeating how you have trifled with my sincerity —
FAULKLAND: I confess it all! Yet hear —
JULIA: After such a year of trial, I might have flattered myself that I should not have been insulted with a new probation of my sincerity, as cruel as unnecessary! I now see it is not in your nature to be content or confident in love. With this conviction — I never will be yours. [exits]
FAULKLAND: She’s gone — forever! There was an awful resolution in her manner, that riveted me to my place. O fool! dolt! barbarian! I have driven her from my side! [exits]
LYDIA: Heigh ho! Though he has used me so, this fellow runs strangely in my head. I believe one lecture from my grave cousin will make me recall him. [Re-enter Julia] O Julia, I have come to you with such an appetite for consolation. Lud! child, what’s the matter with you? You have been crying! I’ll be hanged if that Faulkland has not been tormenting you.
JULIA: You mistake the cause of my uneasiness! Something has flurried me a little.
LYDIA: Ah! Whatever vexations you may have, I can assure you mine surpass them. You know who Beverley proves to be?
JULIA: I will now own to you, Lydia, that Mr. Faulkland had before informed me of the whole affair.
LYDIA: So, then, I see I have been deceived by every one! But I don’t care. I’ll never have him.
JULIA: Nay, Lydia —
LYDIA: Why, is it not provoking? When I thought we were coming to the prettiest distress imaginable, to find myself made a mere bargain of at last! There, had I projected one of the most sentimental elopements! So becoming a disguise! so amiable a ladder of ropes! Conscious moon, four horses, Scotch parson, with such surprise to Mrs. Malaprop, and such paragraphs in the newspapers! Oh, I shall die with disappointment!
JULIA: I don’t wonder at it.
LYDIA: Now, sad reverse! What have I to expect, but, after a deal of flimsy preparation, with a bishop’s license, and my aunt’s blessing to go simpering up to the altar; or perhaps be cried three times in a country church, and have an unmannerly fat clerk ask the consent of every butcher in the parish to join John Absolute and Lydia Languish, spinster! Oh that I should live to hear myself called spinster!
JULIA: Melancholy, indeed!
LYDIA: How mortifying, to remember the dear delicious shifts I used to be put to, to gain half a minute’s conversation with this fellow! How often have I stole forth, in the coldest night in January, and found him in the garden, stuck like a dripping statue! There would he kneel to me in the snow, and sneeze and cough so pathetically! He shivering with cold and I with apprehension! and while the freezing blast numbed our joints, how warmly would he press me to pity his flame, and glow with mutual ardour! Ah, Julia, that was something like being in love. — O Lud! what has brought my aunt here?
Enter Mrs. Malaprop, Fog, and David
MALAPROP: So! so! here’s fine work! Here’s fine suicide, parricide, and simulation, going on in the fields! and Sir Anthony not to be found to prevent the antistrophe!
JULIA: For Heaven’s sake, madam, what’s the meaning of this?
MALAPROP: That gentleman can tell you — ’twas he enveloped the affair to me.
LYDIA: Do, sir, will you, inform us?
MALAPROP: Why, murder’s the matter! slaughter’s the matter! killing’s the matter! — but he can tell you the perpendiculars.
LYDIA: But who is this? who? who? who?
FOG: My master, ma’am — I speak of my master.
LYDIA: Heavens! What, Captain Absolute!
MALAPROP: Oh, to be sure, you are frightened now!
JULIA: But who are with him, sir?
DAVID: My poor master, Squire Acres. Then comes Squire Faulkland.
JULIA: Do, ma’am, let us instantly endeavor to prevent mischief.
MALAPROP: O fie! It would be very inelegant in us. We should only participate things.
DAVID: Ah, do, Mrs. Aunt, save a few lives! They are desperately given, believe me. Above all, there is that bloodthirsty Philistine, Sir Lucius O’Trigger.
MALAPROP: Sir Lucius O’Trigger? O mercy! Have they drawn poor little dear Sir Lucius into the scrape? Why how you stand, girl! You have no feeling!
LYDIA: What are we to do, madam?
MALAPROP: Why, fly with the utmost felicity, to be sure, to prevent mischief! Here, friend, you can show us the place?
FOG: If you please, ma’am, I will conduct you. David, do you look for Sir Anthony.
MALAPROP: Come, girls! this gentleman will exhort us. Come, sir, you’re our envoy, lead the way, and we’ll precede.
Act V, Scene II
JACK: How provoking this is in Faulkland! Never punctual! I shall be obliged to go without him at last. Oh, the devil! here’s Sir Anthony!
SIR ANTHONY: I could have sworn that was Jack! Hey! Gad’s life! it is. Why Jack, Jack!
JACK: Really, sir, you have the advantage of me: I don’t remember ever to have had the honor. My name is Saunderson, at your service.
SIR ANTHONY: Sir, I beg your pardon, I took you — hey? why, zounds! it is. Why, you scoundrel, what tricks are you after now?
JACK: Oh, a joke, sir, a joke! I came here on purpose to look for you, sir.
SIR ANTHONY: You did! well, I am glad you were so lucky: but what are you muffled up so for? What’s this for, hey?
JACK: ‘Tis cool, sir, isn’t it? Rather chilly somehow: but I shall be late. I have a particular engagement.
SIR ANTHONY: Stay! Why, I thought you were looking for me? Pray, Jack, where is’t you are going?
JACK: Going, sir?
SIR ANTHONY: Aye, where are you going?
JACK: I was going, sir, to — to — to — to Lydia — sir, to Lydia — to make matters up if I could; and I was looking for you, sir, to — to —
SIR ANTHONY: To go with you, I suppose. Well, come along.
JACK: Oh! Zounds! No, sir, not for the world! I wished to meet with you, sir, — to — to — to — You find it cool, I’m sure, sir, you’d better not stay out.
SIR ANTHONY: Cool? Not at all. Well, Jack, and what will you say to Lydia?
JACK: Oh, sir, beg her pardon, humor her, promise and vow: but I detain you, sir; consider the cold air on your gout.
SIR ANTHONY: Oh, not at all! Not at all! I’m in no hurry. Ah! Jack, you youngsters, when once you are wounded here [taps his chest and hears the clink of the sword under his cape] — Hey! what the deuce have you got here?
JACK: Nothing, sir, nothing.
SIR ANTHONY: What’s this? Here’s something.
JACK: Oh, trinkets, sir, trinkets! A bauble for Lydia.
SIR ANTHONY: Nay, let me see your taste. Trinkets! A bauble for Lydia! Zounds! sirrah, you are not going to cut her throat, are you?
JACK: Ha! ha! ha! I thought it would divert you, sir, though I didn’t mean to tell you till afterwards.
SIR ANTHONY: You didn’t? Yes, this is a very diverting trinket, truly!
JACK: Sir, I’ll explain to you. You know, sir, Lydia is romantic, devilish romantic, and very absurd of course: now, sir, I intend, if she refuses to forgive me, to unsheathe this sword, and swear I’ll fall upon its point, and expire at her feet!
SIR ANTHONY: Fall upon a fiddlestick’s end! Why, I suppose it is the very thing that would please her. Get along, you fool!
JACK: Well, sir, you shall hear of my success, you shall hear. O Lydia! Forgive me, or this pointed steel, says I.
SIR ANTHONY: Get along!
Exit Jack, enter David running
DAVID: Stop him! Stop him! Murder! Thief! Fire! Stop fire! Stop fire! O Sir Anthony, call! Call! Bid’m stop! Murder! Fire!
SIR ANTHONY: Fire! Murder! Where?
DAVID: Oons! He’s out of sight! and I’m out of breath for my part! O Sir Anthony, why didn’t you stop him? Why didn’t you stop him?
SIR ANTHONY: Zounds! The fellow’s mad! Stop whom? Stop Jack?
DAVID: Aye, the captain, sir! There’s murder and slaughter —
SIR ANTHONY: Murder!
DAVID: Aye, please you, Sir Anthony, there’s all kinds of murder, all sorts of slaughter to be seen in the fields: there’s fighting going on, sir, bloody sword and gun fighting!
SIR ANTHONY: Who are going to fight, dunce?
DAVID: Everybody that I know of, Sir Anthony: everybody is going to fight, my poor master, Sir Lucius O’Trigger, your son, the captain —
SIR ANTHONY: Oh, the dog! I see his tricks. Do you know the place?
DAVID: King’s Mead Fields.
SIR ANTHONY: Come along, we’ll get assistance as we go. The lying villain! Well, I shall be in such a frenzy! So this was the history of his trinkets! I’ll bauble him!
Act V, Scene III
King’s Mead Fields
ACRES: By my valor! then, Sir Lucius, forty yards is a good distance. Odds levels and aims! I say it is a good distance.
LUCIUS: Upon my conscience, Mr. Acres, you must leave those things to me. Stay now, I’ll show you. There now, that is a very pretty distance, a pretty gentleman’s distance.
ACRES: Zounds! We might as well fight in a sentry box! I tell you, Sir Lucius, the farther he is off, the cooler I shall take my aim.
LUCIUS: Faith! Then I suppose you would aim at him best of all if he was out of sight!
ACRES: No, Sir Lucius; but I should think forty or eight and thirty yards —
LUCIUS: Pho! pho! Nonsense! three or four feet between the mouths of your pistols is as good as a mile.
ACRES: Odds bullets, no! By my valor! There is no merit in killing him so near; do, my dear Sir Lucius, let me bring him down at a long shot — a long shot, Sir Lucius, if you love me.
LUCIUS: Well, the gentleman’s friend and I must settle that. But tell me now, Mr. Acres, in case of an accident, is there any little will or commission I could execute for you?
ACRES: I am much obliged to you, Sir Lucius, but I don’t understand —
LUCIUS: Why, you may think there’s no being shot at without a little risk, and if an unlucky bullet should carry a quietus with it, I say it will be no time then to be bothering you about family matters.
ACRES: A quietus!
LUCIUS: For instance, now if that should be the case, would you choose to be pickled and sent home? or would it be the same to you to lie here in the Abbey? I’m told there is very snug lying in the Abbey.
ACRES: Pickled! Snug lying in the Abbey! Odds tremors! Sir Lucius, don’t talk so!
LUCIUS: I suppose, Mr. Acres, you never were engaged in an affair of this kind before?
ACRES: No, Sir Lucius, never before.
LUCIUS: Ah! That’s a pity! There’s nothing like being used to a thing. Pray now, how would you receive the gentleman’s shot?
ACRES: Odds files! I’ve practiced that. There, Sir Lucius, there. A side-front, hey? Odd! I’ll make myself small enough? I’ll stand edgeways.
LUCIUS: Now you’re quite out, for if you stand so when I take my aim —
ACRES: Zounds! Sir Lucius, are you sure it is not cocked?
LUCIUS: Never fear. Well, now if I hit you in the body, my bullet has a double chance, for if it misses a vital part of your right side, ’twill be very hard if it don’t succeed on the left!
ACRES: A vital part!
LUCIUS: But, there, fix yourself so; let him see the broadside of your full front there. Now a ball or two may pass clean through your body, and never do any harm at all.
ACRES: Clean through me! A ball or two clean through me!
LUCIUS: Aye, may they, and it is much the genteelest attitude into the bargain.
ACRES: Look’ee, Sir Lucius, I’d just as lieve be shot in an awkward posture as a genteel one; so, by my valor! I will stand edgeways.
LUCIUS: Sure they don’t mean to disappoint us. Hah! no, faith, I think I see them coming.
ACRES: Hey, what! Coming!
LUCIUS: Aye. Who are those yonder getting over the stile?
ACRES: There are two of them indeed! Well, let them come. Hey, Sir Lucius! we — we — we — we — won’t run.
ACRES: No, I say — we won’t run, by my valor!
LUCIUS: What the devil’s the matter with you?
ACRES: Nothing — nothing — my dear friend — my dear Sir Lucius — but I — I — I don’t feel quite so bold, somehow, as I did.
LUCIUS: O fie! Consider your honor.
ACRES: Aye, true, my honor. Do, Sir Lucius, edge in a word or two every now and then about my honor.
LUCIUS: Well, here they’re coming.
ACRES: Sir Lucius, if I wa’n’t with you, I should almost think I was afraid. If my valor should leave me! Valor will come and go.
LUCIUS: Then pray keep it fast while you have it.
ACRES: Sir Lucius, I fear it is going. Yes, my valor is certainly going! It is sneaking off! I feel it oozing out as it were at the palms of my hands!
LUCIUS: Your honor, your honor. Here they are.
ACRES: O mercy! Now that I was safe at Clod Hall! or could be shot before I was aware!
Enter Faulkland and Jack
LUCIUS: Gentlemen, your most obedient — Hah! What, Captain Absolute! So, I suppose, sir, you are come here, just like myself, to do a kind office, first for your friend, then to proceed to business on your own account.
ACRES: What, Jack! My dear Jack! My dear friend!
JACK: Hark’ee, Bob, Beverley’s at hand.
LUCIUS: Well, Mr. Acres, I don’t blame your saluting the gentleman civilly. [to Faulkland] So, Mr. Beverley, if you’ll choose your weapons, the captain and I will measure the ground.
FAULKLAND: My weapons, sir!
ACRES: Odds life! Sir Lucius, I’m not going to fight Mr. Faulkland; these are my particular friends.
LUCIUS: What, sir, did you not come here to fight Mr. Acres?
FAULKLAND: Not I, upon my word, sir.
LUCIUS: Well, now, that’s mighty provoking! But I hope, Mr. Faulkland, as there are three of us come on purpose for the game, you won’t be so cantankerous as to spoil the party by sitting out.
JACK: O pray, Faulkland, fight to oblige Sir Lucius.
FAULKLAND: Nay, if Mr. Acres is so bent on the matter —
ACRES: No, no, Mr. Faulkland; I’ll bear my disappointment like a Christian. Look’ee, Sir Lucius, there’s no occasion at all for me to fight; and if it is the same to you, I’d as lieve let it alone.
LUCIUS: Observe me, Mr. Acres, I must not be trifled with. You have certainly challenged somebody, and you came here to fight him. Now, if that gentleman is willing to represent him, I can’t see, for my soul, why it isn’t just the same thing.
ACRES: Why no, Sir Lucius, I tell you, ’tis one Beverley I’ve challenged, a fellow, you see, that dare not show his face! If he were here, I’d make him give up his pretensions directly!
JACK:Hold, Bob, let me set you right. There is no such man as Beverley in the case. The person who assumed that name is before you; and as his pretensions are the same in both characters, he is ready to support them in whatever way you please.
LUCIUS: Well, this is lucky. Now you have an opportunity.
ACRES: What, quarrel with my dear friend, Jack Absolute? Not if he were fifty Beverleys! Zounds! Sir Lucius, you would not have me so unnatural.
LUCIUS: Upon my conscience, Mr. Acres, your valor has oozed away with a vengeance!
ACRES: Not in the least! Odds backs and abettors! I’ll be your second with all my heart, and if you should get a quietus, you may command me entirely. I’ll get you snug lying in the Abbey here; or pickle you, and send you over to Blunderbuss hall, or anything of the kind, with the greatest pleasure.
LUCIUS: Pho! pho! You are little better than a coward.
ACRES: Mind, gentlemen, he calls me a coward; coward was the word, by my valor!
LUCIUS: Well, sir?
ACRES: ook’ee, Sir Lucius, ’tisn’t that I mind the word coward; coward may be said in joke. But if you had called me a poltroon, odds daggers and balls —
LUCIUS: Well, sir?
ACRES: I should have thought you a very ill-bred man.
LUCIUS: Pho! You are beneath my notice.
JACK: Nay, Sir Lucius, you can’t have a better second than my friend Acres. He is a most determined dog, called in the country, Fighting Bob. He generally kills a man a week, don’t you Bob?
ACRES: Aye, at home!
LUCIUS: Well, then, captain, ’tis we must begin; so come out, my little counselor [Draws his sword] and ask the gentleman, whether he will resign the lady, without forcing you to proceed against him?
JACK: Come on then, sir [Draws]; since you won’t let it be an amicable suit, here’s my reply.
Enter Sir Anthony Absolute, David, Mrs. Malaprop, Lydia, and Julia
DAVID: Knock ’em all down, sweet Sir Anthony; knock down my master in particular!
SIR ANTHONY: Put up, Jack, put up, or I shall be in a frenzy! How came you in a duel, sir?
JACK: Sir! I tell you, that gentleman called me out, without explaining his reasons.
SIR ANTHONY: Gad! Sir, how came you to call my son out without explaining your reasons!
LUCIUS: Your son, sir, insulted me in a manner which my honor could not brook.
SIR ANTHONY: Zounds! Jack, how durst you insult the gentleman in a manner which his honor could not brook?
MALAPROP: Come, come, let’s have no honor before ladies. Captain Absolute, come here. How could you intimidate us so? Here’s Lydia has been terrified to death for you.
JACK: For fear I should be killed, or escape, ma’am?
MALAPROP: Nay, no delusions to the past. Lydia is convinced; speak, child.
LUCIUS: With your leave, ma’am, I must put in a word here: I believe I could interpret the young lady’s silence. Now mark —
LYDIA: What is it you mean, sir?
LUCIUS: Come, come, Delia, we must be serious now. This is no time for trifling.
LYDIA: ‘Tis true, sir; and your reproof bids me offer this gentleman my hand, and solicit the return of his affections.
JACK: O, my little angel, say you so? Sir Lucius, I perceive there must be some mistake here, with regard to the affront which you affirm I have given you. I ask your pardon. But for this lady, I will support my claim against any man whatever.
SIR ANTHONY: Well said, Jack, and I’ll stand by you, my boy.
ACRES: Mind, I give up all my claim. I make no pretensions to any thing in the world; and if I can’t get a wife without fighting for her, by my valor! I’ll live a bachelor.
LUCIUS: Captain, give me your hand: an affront handsomely acknowledged becomes an obligation; and as for the lady, if she chooses to deny her own handwriting, here — [takes out letters]
MALAPROP: O, he will dissolve my mystery! — Sir Lucius, perhaps there’s some mistake; perhaps I can illuminate —
LUCIUS: Pray, old gentlewoman, don’t interfere where you have no business. Miss Languish, are you my Delia or not?
LYDIA: Indeed, Sir Lucius, I am not.
MALAPROP: Sir Lucius O’Trigger, ungrateful as you are, I own the soft impeachment. Pardon my blushes, I am Delia.
LUCIUS: You Delia — pho! pho! Be easy.
MALAPROP: Why, thou barbarous Vandyke! Those letters are mine. When you are more sensible of my benignity, perhaps I may be brought to encourage your addresses.
LUCIUS: Mrs. Malaprop, I am extremely sensible of your condescension; and whether you or Lucy have put this trick on me, I am equally beholden to you. And, to show you I am not ungrateful, Captain Absolute, since you have taken that lady from me, I’ll give you my Delia into the bargain.
JACK: I am much obliged to you, Sir Lucius; but here’s my friend, Fighting Bob, unprovided for.
LUCIUS: Hah! Little Valor here, will you make your fortune?
ACRES: Odds wrinkles! No. But give me your hand, Sir Lucius, forget and forgive; but if ever I give you a chance of pickling me again, say Bob Acres is a dunce, that’s all.
SIR ANTHONY: Come, Mrs. Malaprop, don’t be cast down. You are in your bloom yet.
MALAPROP: O Sir Anthony! Men are all barbarians.
SIR ANTHONY: [to Julia and Faulkland] What’s going on here? So you have been quarrelling too, I warrant? Come, Julia, I never interfered before; but let me have a hand in the matter at last. All the faults I have ever seen in my friend Faulkland seemed to proceed from what he calls the delicacy and warmth of his affection for you. There, marry him directly, Julia; you’ll find he’ll mend surprisingly!
FAULKLAND: Now I shall be blest indeed.
LUCIUS: Come, now, I hope there is no dissatisfied person, but what is content; for as I have been disappointed myself, it will be very hard if I have not the satisfaction of seeing other people succeed better.
ACRES: You are right, Sir Lucius. So Jack, I wish you joy. Mr. Faulkland the same. Ladies, come now, to show you I’m neither vexed nor angry, odds tabors and pipes! I’ll order the fiddles in half an hour to the New Rooms — and I insist on your all meeting me there.
SIR ANTHONY: ‘Gad! sir, I like your spirit; and at night we single lads will drink a health to the young couples, and a husband to Mrs. Malaprop.