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by James Sheridan Knowles
(AS ORIGINALLY PERFORMED AT THE HAYMARKET, IN l837.)
Sir William Fondlove, an old Baronet
Waller, in love with Lydia
Wildrake, a Sportsman
Trueworth, a Friend of Sir William
Neville, Friend to Waller
Humphreys, Friend to Waller
Chargewell, a Landlord
George, a Waiter
Constance, Daughter to Sir William Fondlove
Lydia, lady's Maid to Widow Green
Alice, Housekeeper to Master Waller
Phoebe, Maid to Constance,
SCENE I.--The Lobby of an Inn.
[Enter CHARGEWELL, hurriedly.]
Charg. What, hoa there! Hoa, sirrahs! More wine! Are the knaves asleep? Let not our guests cool, or we shall starve the till! Good waiting, more than viands and wine, doth help to make the inn!-- George!--Richard!--Ralph!--Where are you?
George. Here am I, sir!
Charg. Have you taken in more wine to that company?
George. Yes, sir.
Charg. That's right. Serve them as quick as they order! A fair company! I have seen them here before. Take care they come again. A choice company! That Master Waller, I hear, is a fine spirit-- leads the town. Pay him much duty. A deep purse, and easy strings.
George. And there is another, sir;--a capital gentleman, though from the country. A gentleman most learned in dogs and horses! He doth talk wondrous edification: --one Master Wildrake. I wish you could hear him, sir.
Charg. Well, well!--attend to them. Let them not cool o'er the liquor, or their calls will grow slack. Keep feeding the fire while it blazes, and the blaze will continue. Look to it well!
George. I will, sir.
Charg. And be careful, above all, that you please Master Waller. He is a guest worth pleasing. He is a gentleman. Free order, quick pay!
George. And such, I'll dare be sworn, is the other. A man of mighty stores of knowledge--most learned in dogs and horses! Never was I so edified by the discourse of mortal man.
[They go out severally.]
SCENE II.--A Room.
[MASTER WALLER, MASTER WILDRAKE, MASTER TRUEWORTH, MASTER NEVILLE, and MASTER HUMPHREYS, sitting round a table.]
Wal. Well, Master Wildrake, speak you of the chase! To hear you one doth feel the bounding steed; You bring the hounds and game, and all to view - All scudding to the jovial huntsman's cheer! And yet I pity the poor crowned deer, And always fancy 'tis by fortune's spite, That lordly head of his, he bears so high - Like Virtue, stately in calamity, And hunted by the human, worldly hound - Is made to fly before the pack, that straight Burst into song at prospect of his death. You say their cry is harmony; and yet The chorus scarce is music to my ear, When I bethink me what it sounds to his; Nor deem I sweet the note that rings the knell Of the once merry forester!
Nev. The same things Please us or pain, according to the thought We take of them. Some smile at their own death, Which most do shrink from, as beast of prey It kills to look upon. But you, who take Such pity of the deer, whence follows it You hunt more costly game?--the comely maid, To wit, that waits on buxom Widow Green?
Hum. The comely maid! Such term not half the sum Of her rich beauty gives! Were rule to go By loveliness, I knew not in the court, Or city, lady might not fitly serve That lady serving-maid!
True. Come! your defence? Why show you ruth where there's least argument, Deny it where there's most? You will not plead? Oh, Master Waller, where we use to hunt We think the sport no crime!
Hum. I give you joy, You prosper in your chase.
Wal. Not so! The maid In simple honesty I must pronounce A miracle of virtue, well as beauty.
Nev. And well do I believe you, Master Waller; Those know I who have ventured gift and promise But for a minute of her ear--the boon Of a poor dozen words spoke through a chink - And come off bootless, save the haughty scorn That cast their bounties back to them again.
True. That warrants her what Master Waller speaks her. Is she so very
Nev. Yes, Master Trueworth; And I believe indeed an honest maid: But Love's the coin to market with for love, And that knows Master Waller. On pretence Of sneaking kindness for gay Widow Green, He visits her, for sake of her fair maid! To whom a glance or word avails to hint His proper errand; and--as glimpses only Do only serve to whet the wish to see - Awakens interest to hear the tale So stintingly that's told. I know his practice - Luck to you, Master Waller! If you win, You merit it, who take the way to win!
Wal. Good Master Neville!
True. I should laugh to see The poacher snared!--the maid, for mistress sought, Turn out a wife.
Nev. How say you, Master Waller? Things quite as strange have fallen!
True. Impossible! Most possible of things - If thou'rt in love! Where merit lies itself, What matters it to want the name, which weighed, Is not the worth of so much breath as it takes To utter it! If, but from Nature's hand, She is all you could expect of gentle blood, Face, form, mien, speech; with these, what to belong To lady more behoves--thoughts delicate, Affections generous, and modesty - Perfectionating, brightening crown of all! - If she hath these--true titles to thy heart - What does she lack that's title to thy hand? The name of lady, which is none of these, But may belong without? Thou mightst do worse Than marry her. Thou wouldst, undoing her, Yea, by my mother's name, a shameful act Most shamefully performed!
Wal. [Starting up and drawing.] Sir!
Nev. [And the others, interposing.] Gentlemen!
True. All's right! Sit down!--I will not draw again. A word with you: If--as a man--thou sayest, Upon thy honour, I have spoken wrong, I'll ask thy pardon!--though I never hold Communion with thee more!
Wal. [After a pause, putting up his sword.] My sword is sheathed? Wilt let me take thy hand?
True. 'Tis thine, good sir, And faster than before--A fault confessed
Is a new virtue added to a man! Yet let me own some blame was mine. A truth May be too harshly told--but 'tis a theme I am tender on--I had a sister, sir, You understand me!--'Twas my happiness To own her once--I would forget her now! - I have forgotten!--I know not if she lives! - Things of such strain as we were speaking of, Spite of myself, remind me of her!--So! -
Nev. Sit down! Let's have more wine.
Wild. Not so, good sirs. Partaking of your hospitality, I have overlooked good friends I came to visit, And who have late become sojourners here - Old country friends and neighbours, and with whom I e'en take up my quarters. Master Trueworth, Bear witness for me.
True. It is even so. Sir William Fondlove and his charming daughter.
Wild. Ay, neighbour Constance. Charming, does he say? Yes, neighbour Constance is a charming girl To those that do not know her. If she plies me As hard as was her custom in the country, I should not wonder though, this very day, I seek the home I quitted for a month! [Aside.]
Good even, gentlemen.
Hum. Nay, if you go, We all break up, and sally forth together.
Wal. Be it so--Your hand again, good Master Trueworth! I am sorry I did pain you.
True. It is thine, sir.
[They go out.]
SCENE III.--Sir William Fondlove's House.--A Room.
[Enter SIR WILLIAM FONDLOVE.]
Sir Wil. At sixty-two, to be in leading-strings, Is an old child--and with a daughter, too! Her mother held me ne'er in check so strait As she. I must not go but where she likes, Nor see but whom she likes, do anything But what she likes!--A slut bare twenty-one! Nor minces she commands! A brigadier More coolly doth not give his orders out Than she! Her waiting-maid is aide-de-camp; My steward adjutant; my
lacqueys serjeants; That bring me her high pleasure how I march And counter-march--when I'm on duty--when I'm off--when suits it not to tell it me Herself--"Sir William, thus my mistress says!" As saying it were enough--no will of mine Consulted! I will marry. Must I serve, Better a wife, my mistress, than a daughter! And yet the vixen says, if I do marry, I'll find she'll rule my wife, as well as me!
Ah, Master Trueworth! Welcome, Master Trueworth!
True. Thanks, sir; I am glad to see you look so well!
Sir Wil. Ah, Master Trueworth, when one turns the hill, 'Tis rapid going down! We climb by steps; By strides we reach the bottom. Look at me, And guess my age.
True. Turned fifty.
Sir Wil. Ten years more! How marvellously well I wear! I think You would not flatter me!--But scan me close, And pryingly, as one who seeks a thing He means to find--What signs of age dost see?
Sir Wil. None about the corners of the eyes? Lines that diverge like to the spider's joists, Whereon he builds his airy fortalice? They call them crow's feet--has the ugly bird Been perching there?--Eh?--Well?
True. There's something like, But not what one must see, unless he's blind Like steeple on a hill!
Sir Wil. [After a pause.] Your eyes are good! I am certainly a wonder for my age; I walk as well as ever! Do I stoop?
True. A plummet from your head would find your heel.
Sir Wil. It is my make--my make, good Master Trueworth; I do not study it. Do you observe The hollow in my back? That's natural. As now I stand, so stood I when a child, A rosy, chubby boy!--I am youthful to A miracle! My arm is firm as 'twas At twenty. Feel it!
True. [Feeling SIR WILLIAM'S arm.] It is deal!
Sir Wil. Oak--oak, Isn't it, Master Trueworth? Thou hast known me Ten years and upwards. Thinkest my leg is shrunk?
Sir Wil. No! not in the calf?
True. As big a calf As ever!
Sir Wil. Thank you, thank you--I believe it! When others waste, 'tis growing-time with me! I feel it, Master Trueworth! Vigour, sir, In every joint of me--could run!--could leap! Why shouldn't I marry? Knife and fork I play Better than many a boy of twenty-five - Why shouldn't I marry? If they come to wine, My brace of bottles can I carry home, And ne'er a headache. Death! why shouldn't I marry?
True. I see in nature no impediment.
Sir Wil. Impediment? She's all appliances! - And fortune's with me, too! The Widow Green Gives hints to me. The pleasant Widow Green Whose fortieth year, instead of autumn, brings, A second summer in. Odds bodikins, How young she looks! What life is in her eyes! What ease is in her gait!--while, as she walks, Her waist, still tapering, takes it pliantly! How lollingly she bears her head withal: On this side now--now that! When enters she A drawing-room, what worlds of gracious things Her curtsey says!--she sinks with such a sway, Greeting on either hand the company, Then slowly rises to her state again! She is the empress of the card-table! Her hand and arm!--Gods, did you see her deal - With curved and pliant wrist dispense the pack, Which, at the touch of her fair fingers fly! How soft she speaks--how very soft! Her voice Comes melting from her round and swelling throat, Reminding you of sweetest, mellowest things - Plums, peaches, apricots, and nectarines - Whose bloom is poor to paint her cheeks and lips. By Jove, I'll marry!
True. You forget, Sir William, I do not know the lady.
Sir Wil. Great your loss. By all the gods I'll marry!--but my daughter Must needs be married first. She rules my house; Would rule it still, and will not have me wed. A clever, handsome, darling, forward minx! When I became a widower, the reins Her mother dropped she caught,--a hoyden girl; Nor, since, would e'er give up; howe'er I strove To coax or catch them from her. One way still Or t'other she would keep them--laugh, pout, plead; Now vanquish me with water, now with fire; Would box my face, and, ere I well could ope My mouth to chide her,
stop it with a kiss! The monkey! What a plague she's to me! How I love her! how I love the Widow Green!
True. Then marry her!
Sir Wil. I tell thee, first of all Must needs my daughter marry. See I not A hope of that; she nought affects the sex: Comes suitor after suitor--all in vain. Fast as they bow she curtsies, and says, "Nay!" Or she, a woman, lacks a woman's heart, Or hath a special taste which none can hit.
True. Or taste, perhaps, which is already hit.
Sir Wil. Eh!--how?
True. Remember you no country friend, Companion of her walks--her squire to church, Her beau whenever she went visiting - Before she came to town?
Sir Wil. No!
True. None?--art sure? No playmate when she was a girl?
Sir Wil. O! ay! That Master Wildrake, I did pray thee go And wait for at the inn; but had forgotten. Is he come?
True. And in the house. Some friends that met him, As he alighted, laid strong hands upon Him, And made him stop for dinner. We had else Been earlier with you.
Sir Wil. Ha! I am glad he is come.
True. She may be smit with him.
Sir Wil. As cat with dog!
True. He heard her voice as we did mount the stairs, And darted straight to join her.
Sir Wil. You shall see What wondrous calm and harmony take place, When fire meets gunpowder!
Con. [Without.] Who sent for you? What made you come?
Wild. [Without.] To see the town, not you! A kiss!
Con. I vow I'll not.
Wild. I swear you shall.
Con. A saucy cub! I vow, I had as lief Your whipper-in had kissed me.
Sir Wil. Do you hear?
True. I do. Most pleasing discords!
[Enter CONSTANCE and WILDRAKE.]
Con. Father, speak To neighbour Wildrake!
Sir Wil. Very glad to see him!
Wild. I thank you, good Sir William! Give you joy Of your good looks!
Con. What, Phoebe!--Phoebe!--Phoebe!
Sir Wil. What wantest thou with thy lap-dog?
Con. Only, sir, To welcome neighbour Wildrake! What a figure To show himself in town!
Sir Wil. Wilt hold thy peace?
Con. Yes; if you'll lesson me to hold my laughter! Wildrake.
Con. Let me walk thee in the Park - How they would stare at thee!
Sir Wil. Wilt ne'er give o'er?
Wild. Nay, let her have her way--I heed her not! Though to more courteous welcome I have right; Although I am neighbour Wildrake! Reason is reason!
Con. And right is right! so welcome, neighbour Wildrake, I am very, very, very glad to see you! Come, for a quarter of an hour we'll e'en Agree together! How do your horses, neighbour?