The Old Bachelor/Act IV
SCENE: The Street.
Bellmour, in fanatic habit, Setter.
BELL. ’Tis pretty near the hour. [Looking on his watch.] Well, and how, Setter, hae, does my hypocrisy fit me, hae? Does it sit easy on me?
SET. Oh, most religiously well, sir.
BELL. I wonder why all our young fellows should glory in an opinion of atheism, when they may be so much more conveniently lewd under the coverlet of religion.
SET. S’bud, sir, away quickly: there’s Fondlewife just turned the corner, and ’s coming this way.
BELL. Gad’s so, there he is: he must not see me.
FOND. I say I will tarry at home.
BAR. But, sir.
FOND. Good lack! I profess the spirit of contradiction hath possessed the lad—I say I will tarry at home, varlet.
BAR. I have done, sir; then farewell five hundred pound.
FOND. Ha, how’s that? Stay, stay, did you leave word, say you, with his wife? With Comfort herself?
BAR. I did; and Comfort will send Tribulation hither as soon as ever he comes home. I could have brought young Mr. Prig to have kept my mistress company in the meantime. But you say—
FOND. How, how, say, varlet! I say let him not come near my doors. I say, he is a wanton young Levite, and pampereth himself up with dainties, that he may look lovely in the eyes of women. Sincerely, I am afraid he hath already defiled the tabernacle of our sister Comfort; while her good husband is deluded by his godly appearance. I say that even lust doth sparkle in his eyes and glow upon his cheeks, and that I would as soon trust my wife with a lord’s high-fed chaplain.
BAR. Sir, the hour draws nigh, and nothing will be done here until you come.
FOND. And nothing can be done here until I go; so that I’ll tarry, de’e see.
BAR. And run the hazard to lose your affair, sir!
FOND. Good lack, good lack—I profess it is a very sufficient vexation for a man to have a handsome wife.
BAR. Never, sir, but when the man is an insufficient husband. ’Tis then, indeed, like the vanity of taking a fine house, and yet be forced to let lodgings to help pay the rent.
FOND. I profess a very apt comparison, varlet. Go and bid my Cocky come out to me; I will give her some instructions, I will reason with her before I go.
FOND. And in the meantime I will reason with myself. Tell me, Isaac, why art thee jealous? Why art thee distrustful of the wife of thy bosom? Because she is young and vigorous, and I am old and impotent. Then why didst thee marry, Isaac? Because she was beautiful and tempting, and because I was obstinate and doting; so that my inclination was (and is still) greater than my power. And will not that which tempted thee, also tempt others, who will tempt her, Isaac? I fear it much. But does not thy wife love thee, nay, dote upon thee? Yes. Why then! Ay, but to say truth, she’s fonder of me than she has reason to be; and in the way of trade, we still suspect the smoothest dealers of the deepest designs. And that she has some designs deeper than thou canst reach, thou hast experimented, Isaac. But, mum.
LÆT. I hope my dearest jewel is not going to leave me—are you, Nykin?
FOND. Wife—have you thoroughly considered how detestable, how heinous, and how crying a sin the sin of adultery is? Have you weighed it, I say? For it is a very weighty sin; and although it may lie heavy upon thee, yet thy husband must also bear his part. For thy iniquity will fall upon his head.
LÆT. Bless me, what means my dear?
FOND. [Aside.] I profess she has an alluring eye; I am doubtful whether I shall trust her, even with Tribulation himself. Speak, I say, have you considered what it is to cuckold your husband?
LÆT. [Aside.] I’m amazed. Sure he has discovered nothing. Who has wronged me to my dearest? I hope my jewel does not think that ever I had any such thing in my head, or ever will have.
FOND. No, no, I tell you I shall have it in my head—
LÆT. [Aside.] I know not what to think. But I’m resolved to find the meaning of it. Unkind dear! Was it for this you sent to call me? Is it not affliction enough that you are to leave me, but you must study to increase it by unjust suspicions? [Crying.] Well—well—you know my fondness, and you love to tyrannise—Go on, cruel man, do: triumph over my poor heart while it holds, which cannot be long, with this usage of yours. But that’s what you want. Well, you will have your ends soon. You will—you will. Yes, it will break to oblige you. [Sighs.]
FOND. Verily, I fear I have carried the jest too far. Nay, look you now if she does not weep—’tis the fondest fool. Nay, Cocky, Cocky, nay, dear Cocky, don’t cry, I was but in jest, I was not, ifeck.
LÆT. [Aside.] Oh then, all’s safe. I was terribly frighted. My affliction is always your jest, barbarous man! Oh, that I should love to this degree! Yet—
FOND. Nay, Cocky.
LÆT. No, no, you are weary of me, that’s it—that’s all, you would get another wife—another fond fool, to break her heart—Well, be as cruel as you can to me, I’ll pray for you; and when I am dead with grief, may you have one that will love you as well as I have done: I shall be contented to lie at peace in my cold grave—since it will please you. [Sighs.]
FOND. Good lack, good lack, she would melt a heart of oak—I profess I can hold no longer. Nay, dear Cocky—ifeck, you’ll break my heart—ifeck you will. See, you have made me weep—made poor Nykin weep. Nay, come kiss, buss poor Nykin—and I won’t leave thee—I’ll lose all first.
LÆT. [Aside.] How! Heaven forbid! that will be carrying the jest too far indeed.
FOND. Won’t you kiss Nykin?
LÆT. Go, naughty Nykin, you don’t love me.
FOND. Kiss, kiss, ifeck, I do.
LÆT. No, you don’t. [She kisses him.]
FOND. What, not love Cocky!
LÆT. No-h. [Sighs.]
FOND. I profess I do love thee better than five hundred pound—and so thou shalt say, for I’ll leave it to stay with thee.
LÆT. No you sha’n’t neglect your business for me. No, indeed, you sha’n’t, Nykin. If you don’t go, I’ll think you been dealous of me still.
FOND. He, he, he, wilt thou, poor fool? Then I will go, I won’t be dealous. Poor Cocky, kiss Nykin, kiss Nykin, ee, ee, ee. Here will be the good man anon, to talk to Cocky and teach her how a wife ought to behave herself.
LÆT. [Aside.] I hope to have one that will show me how a husband ought to behave himself. I shall be glad to learn, to please my jewel. [Kiss.]
FOND. That’s my good dear. Come, kiss Nykin once more, and then get you in. So—get you in, get you in. Bye, bye.
LÆT. Bye, Nykin.
FOND. Bye, Cocky.
LÆT. Bye, Nykin.
FOND. Bye, Cocky, bye, bye.
SHARP. How! Araminta lost!
VAIN. To confirm what I have said, read this. [Gives a letter.]
SHARP. [Reads.] Hum, hum! And what then appeared a fault, upon reflection seems only an effect of a too powerful passion. I’m afraid I give too great a proof of my own at this time. I am in disorder for what I have written. But something, I know not what, forced me. I only beg a favourable censure of this and your Araminta.
SHARP. Lost! Pray heaven thou hast not lost thy wits. Here, here, she’s thy own, man, signed and sealed too. To her, man—a delicious melon, pure and consenting ripe, and only waits thy cutting up: she has been breeding love to thee all this while, and just now she’s delivered of it.
VAIN. ’Tis an untimely fruit, and she has miscarried of her love.
SHARP. Never leave this damned ill-natured whimsey, Frank? Thou hast a sickly, peevish appetite; only chew love and cannot digest it.
VAIN. Yes, when I feed myself. But I hate to be crammed. By heaven, there’s not a woman will give a man the pleasure of a chase: my sport is always balked or cut short. I stumble over the game I would pursue. ’Tis dull and unnatural to have a hare run full in the hounds’ mouth, and would distaste the keenest hunter. I would have overtaken, not have met, my game.
SHARP. However, I hope you don’t mean to forsake it; that will be but a kind of mongrel cur’s trick. Well, are you for the Mall?
VAIN. No; she will be there this evening. Yes, I will go too, and she shall see her error in—
SHARP. In her choice, I-gad. But thou canst not be so great a brute as to slight her.
VAIN. I should disappoint her if I did not. By her management I should think she expects it.
All naturally fly what does pursue: ’Tis fit men should be coy when women woo.
A Room in Fondlewife’s House.
A Servant introducing Bellmour, in fanatic habit, with a patch upon one eye and a book in his hand.
SERV. Here’s a chair, sir, if you please to repose yourself. My mistress is coming, sir.
BELL. Secure in my disguise I have out-faced suspicion and even dared discovery. This cloak my sanctity, and trusty Scarron’s novels my prayer-book; methinks I am the very picture of Montufar in the Hypocrites. Oh! she comes.
So breaks Aurora through the veil of night, Thus fly the clouds, divided by her light, And every eye receives a new-born sight. [Throwing off his cloak, patch, etc.]
LÆT. Thus strewed with blushes, like—Ah! Heaven defend me! Who’s this? [Discovering him, starts.]
BELL. Your lover.
LÆT. Vainlove’s friend! I know his face, and he has betrayed me to him. [Aside.]
BELL. You are surprised. Did you not expect a lover, madam? Those eyes shone kindly on my first appearance, though now they are o’ercast.
LÆT. I may well be surprised at your person and impudence: they are both new to me. You are not what your first appearance promised: the piety of your habit was welcome, but not the hypocrisy.
BELL. Rather the hypocrisy was welcome, but not the hypocrite.
LÆT. Who are you, sir? You have mistaken the house sure.
BELL. I have directions in my pocket which agree with everything but your unkindness. [Pulls out the letter.]
LÆT. My letter! Base Vainlove! Then ’tis too late to dissemble. [Aside.] ’Tis plain, then, you have mistaken the person. [Going.]
BELL. If we part so I’m mistaken. Hold, hold, madam! I confess I have run into an error. I beg your pardon a thousand times. What an eternal blockhead am I! Can you forgive me the disorder I have put you into? But it is a mistake which anybody might have made.
LÆT. What can this mean? ’Tis impossible he should be mistaken after all this. A handsome fellow if he had not surprised me. Methinks, now I look on him again, I would not have him mistaken. [Aside.] We are all liable to mistakes, sir. If you own it to be so, there needs no farther apology.
BELL. Nay, faith, madam, ’tis a pleasant one, and worth your hearing. Expecting a friend last night, at his lodgings, till ’twas late, my intimacy with him gave me the freedom of his bed. He not coming home all night, a letter was delivered to me by a servant in the morning. Upon the perusal I found the contents so charming that I could think of nothing all day but putting ’em in practice, until just now, the first time I ever looked upon the superscription, I am the most surprised in the world to find it directed to Mr. Vainlove. Gad, madam, I ask you a million of pardons, and will make you any satisfaction.
LÆT. I am discovered. And either Vainlove is not guilty, or he has handsomely excused him. [Aside.]
BELL. You appear concerned, madam.
LÆT. I hope you are a gentleman;—and since you are privy to a weak woman’s failing, won’t turn it to the prejudice of her reputation. You look as if you had more honour—
BELL. And more love, or my face is a false witness and deserves to be pilloried. No, by heaven, I swear—
LÆT. Nay, don’t swear if you’d have me believe you; but promise—
BELL. Well, I promise. A promise is so cold: give me leave to swear, by those eyes, those killing eyes, by those healing lips. Oh! press the soft charm close to mine, and seal ’em up for ever.
LÆT. Upon that condition. [He kisses her.]
BELL. Eternity was in that moment. One more, upon any condition!
LÆT. Nay, now—I never saw anything so agreeably impudent. [Aside.] Won’t you censure me for this, now?—but ’tis to buy your silence. [Kiss.] Oh, but what am I doing!
BELL. Doing! No tongue can express it—not thy own, nor anything, but thy lips. I am faint with the excess of bliss. Oh, for love-sake, lead me anywhither, where I may lie down —quickly, for I’m afraid I shall have a fit.
LÆT. Bless me! What fit?
BELL. Oh, a convulsion—I feel the symptoms.
LÆT. Does it hold you long? I’m afraid to carry you into my chamber.
BELL. Oh, no: let me lie down upon the bed; the fit will be soon over.
SCENE: St. James’s Park.
Araminta and Belinda meeting.
BELIN. Lard, my dear, I am glad I have met you; I have been at the Exchange since, and am so tired—
ARAM. Why, what’s the matter?
BELIN. Oh the most inhuman, barbarous hackney-coach! I am jolted to a jelly. Am I not horribly touzed? [Pulls out a pocket-glass.]
ARAM. Your head’s a little out of order.
BELIN. A little! O frightful! What a furious phiz I have! O most rueful! Ha, ha, ha. O Gad, I hope nobody will come this way, till I have put myself a little in repair. Ah! my dear, I have seen such unhewn creatures since. Ha, ha, ha. I can’t for my soul help thinking that I look just like one of ’em. Good dear, pin this, and I’ll tell you—very well—so, thank you, my dear—but as I was telling you—pish, this is the untowardest lock—so, as I was telling you—how d’ye like me now? Hideous, ha? Frightful still? Or how?
ARAM. No, no; you’re very well as can be.
BELIN. And so—but where did I leave off, my dear? I was telling you—
ARAM. You were about to tell me something, child, but you left off before you began.
BELIN. Oh; a most comical sight: a country squire, with the equipage of a wife and two daughters, came to Mrs. Snipwel’s shop while I was there—but oh Gad! two such unlicked cubs!
ARAM. I warrant, plump, cherry-cheeked country girls.
BELIN. Ay, o’ my conscience, fat as barn-door fowl: but so bedecked, you would have taken ’em for Friesland hens, with their feathers growing the wrong way. O such outlandish creatures! Such Tramontanæ, and foreigners to the fashion, or anything in practice! I had not patience to behold. I undertook the modelling of one of their fronts, the more modern structure—
ARAM. Bless me, cousin; why would you affront anybody so? They might be gentlewomen of a very good family—
BELIN. Of a very ancient one, I dare swear, by their dress. Affront! pshaw, how you’re mistaken! The poor creature, I warrant, was as full of curtsies, as if I had been her godmother. The truth on’t is, I did endeavour to make her look like a Christian—and she was sensible of it, for she thanked me, and gave me two apples, piping hot, out of her under-petticoat pocket. Ha, ha, ha: and t’other did so stare and gape, I fancied her like the front of her father’s hall; her eyes were the two jut-windows, and her mouth the great door, most hospitably kept open for the entertainment of travelling flies.
ARAM. So then, you have been diverted. What did they buy?
BELIN. Why, the father bought a powder-horn, and an almanac, and a comb-case; the mother, a great fruz-towr, and a fat amber necklace; the daughters only tore two pairs of kid-leather gloves, with trying ’em on. O Gad, here comes the fool that dined at my Lady Freelove’s t’other day.
[To them] Sir Joseph and Bluffe.
ARAM. May be he may not know us again.
BELIN. We’ll put on our masks to secure his ignorance. [They put on their masks.]
SIR JO. Nay, Gad, I’ll pick up; I’m resolved to make a night on’t. I’ll go to Alderman Fondlewife by and by, and get fifty pieces more from him. Adslidikins, bully, we’ll wallow in wine and women. Why, this same Madeira wine has made me as light as a grasshopper. Hist, hist, bully, dost thou see those tearers? [Sings.] Look you what here is—look you what here is—toll—loll—dera—toll—loll—agad, t’other glass of Madeira, and I durst have attacked ’em in my own proper person, without your help.
BLUFF. Come on then, knight. But do you know what to say to them?
SIR JO. Say: pooh, pox, I’ve enough to say—never fear it—that is, if I can but think on’t: truth is, I have but a treacherous memory.
BELIN. O frightful! cousin, what shall we do? These things come towards us.
ARAM. No matter. I see Vainlove coming this way—and, to confess my failing, I am willing to give him an opportunity of making his peace with me—and to rid me of these coxcombs, when I seem opprest with ’em, will be a fair one.
BLUFF. Ladies, by these hilts you are well met.
ARAM. We are afraid not.
BLUFF. What says my pretty little knapsack carrier. [To Belinda.]
BELIN. O monstrous filthy fellow! good slovenly Captain Huffe, Bluffe (what is your hideous name?) be gone: you stink of brandy and tobacco, most soldier-like. Foh. [Spits.]
SIR JO. Now am I slap-dash down in the mouth, and have not one word to say! [Aside.]
ARAM. I hope my fool has not confidence enough to be troublesome. [Aside.]
SIR JO. Hem! Pray, madam, which way is the wind?
ARAM. A pithy question. Have you sent your wits for a venture, sir, that you enquire?
SIR JO. Nay, now I’m in, I can prattle like a magpie. [Aside.]
[To them] Sharper and Vainlove at some distance.
BELIN. Dear Araminta, I’m tired.
ARAM. ’Tis but pulling off our masks, and obliging Vainlove to know us. I’ll be rid of my fool by fair means.—Well, Sir Joseph, you shall see my face; but, be gone immediately. I see one that will be jealous, to find me in discourse with you. Be discreet. No reply; but away. [Unmasks.]
SIR JO. The great fortune, that dined at my Lady Freelove’s! Sir Joseph, thou art a made man. Agad, I’m in love up to the ears. But I’ll be discreet, and hushed. [Aside.]
BLUFF. Nay, by the world, I’ll see your face.
BELIN. You shall. [Unmasks.]
SHARP. Ladies, your humble servant. We were afraid you would not have given us leave to know you.
ARAM. We thought to have been private. But we find fools have the same advantage over a face in a mask that a coward has while the sword is in the scabbard, so were forced to draw in our own defence.
BLUFF. My blood rises at that fellow: I can’t stay where he is; and I must not draw in the park. [To Sir Joseph.]
SIR JO. I wish I durst stay to let her know my lodging.
Araminta, Belinda, Vailove, Sharper.
SHARP. There is in true beauty, as in courage, somewhat which narrow souls cannot dare to admire. And see, the owls are fled, as at the break of day.
BELIN. Very courtly. I believe Mr. Vainlove has not rubbed his eyes since break of day neither, he looks as if he durst not approach. Nay, come, cousin, be friends with him. I swear he looks so very simply—ha, ha, ha. Well, a lover in the state of separation from his mistress is like a body without a soul. Mr. Vainlove, shall I be bound for your good behaviour for the future?
VAIN. Now must I pretend ignorance equal to hers, of what she knows as well as I. [Aside.] Men are apt to offend (’tis true) where they find most goodness to forgive. But, madam, I hope I shall prove of a temper not to abuse mercy by committing new offences.
ARAM. So cold! [Aside.]
BELIN. I have broke the ice for you, Mr. Vainlove, and so I leave you. Come, Mr. Sharper, you and I will take a turn, and laugh at the vulgar—both the great vulgar and the small. O Gad! I have a great passion for Cowley. Don’t you admire him?
SHARP. Oh, madam! he was our English Horace.
BELIN. Ah so fine! so extremely fine! So everything in the world that I like—O Lord, walk this way—I see a couple; I’ll give you their history.
VAIN. I find, madam, the formality of the law must be observed, though the penalty of it be dispensed with, and an offender must plead to his arraignment, though he has his pardon in his pocket.
ARAM. I’m amazed! This insolence exceeds t’other; whoever has encouraged you to this assurance, presuming upon the easiness of my temper, has much deceived you, and so you shall find.
VAIN. Hey day! Which way now? Here’s fine doubling. [Aside.]
ARAM. Base man! Was it not enough to affront me with your saucy passion?
VAIN. You have given that passion a much kinder epithet than saucy, in another place.
ARAM. Another place! Some villainous design to blast my honour. But though thou hadst all the treachery and malice of thy sex, thou canst not lay a blemish on my fame. No, I have not erred in one favourable thought of mankind. How time might have deceived me in you, I know not; my opinion was but young, and your early baseness has prevented its growing to a wrong belief. Unworthy and ungrateful! be gone, and never see me more.
VAIN. Did I dream? or do I dream? Shall I believe my eyes, or ears? The vision is here still. Your passion, madam, will admit of no farther reasoning; but here’s a silent witness of your acquaintance. [Takes our the letter, and offers it: she snatches it, and throws it away.]
ARAM. There’s poison in everything you touch. Blisters will follow—
VAIN. That tongue, which denies what the hands have done.
ARAM. Still mystically senseless and impudent; I find I must leave the place.
VAIN. No, madam, I’m gone. She knows her name’s to it, which she will be unwilling to expose to the censure of the first finder.
ARAM. Woman’s obstinacy made me blind to what woman’s curiosity now tempts me to see. [Takes up the letter.]
BELIN. Nay, we have spared nobody, I swear. Mr. Sharper, you’re a pure man; where did you get this excellent talent of railing?
SHARP. Faith, madam, the talent was born with me:—I confess I have taken care to improve it, to qualify me for the society of ladies.
BELIN. Nay, sure, railing is the best qualification in a woman’s man.
[To them] Footman.
SHARP. The second best, indeed, I think.
BELIN. How now, Pace? Where’s my cousin?
FOOT. She’s not very well, madam, and has sent to know if your ladyship would have the coach come again for you?
BELIN. O Lord, no, I’ll go along with her. Come, Mr. Sharper.
SCENE: A chamber in Fondlewife’s house.
LÆTITIA and BELLMOUR, his cloak, hat, etc., lying loose about the chamber.
BELL. Here’s nobody, nor no noise—’twas nothing but your fears.
LÆT. I durst have sworn I had heard my monster’s voice. I swear I was heartily frightened; feel how my heart beats.
BELL. ’Tis an alarm to love—come in again, and let us—
FOND. [Without.] Cocky, Cocky, where are you, Cocky? I’m come home.
LÆT. Ah! There he is. Make haste, gather up your things.
FOND. Cocky, Cocky, open the door.
BELL. Pox choke him, would his horns were in his throat. My patch, my patch. [Looking about, and gathering up his things.]
LÆT. My jewel, art thou there?—No matter for your patch.—You s’an’t tum in, Nykin—run into my chamber, quickly, quickly—You s’an’t tum in.
FOND. Nay, prithee, dear, i’feck I’m in haste.
LÆT. Then I’ll let you in. [Opens the door.]
Lætitia, Fondlewife, Sir Joseph.
FOND. Kiss, dear—I met the master of the ship by the way, and I must have my papers of accounts out of your cabinet.
LÆT. Oh, I’m undone! [Aside.]
SIR JO. Pray, first let me have fifty pound, good Alderman, for I’m in haste.
FOND. A hundred has already been paid by your order. Fifty? I have the sum ready in gold in my closet.
Lætitia, Sir Joseph.
SIR JO. Agad, it’s a curious, fine, pretty rogue; I’ll speak to her.—Pray, Madam, what news d’ye hear?
LÆT. Sir, I seldom stir abroad. [Walks about in disorder.]
SIR JO. I wonder at that, Madam, for ’tis most curious fine weather.
LÆT. Methinks ’t has been very ill weather.
SIR JO. As you say, madam, ’tis pretty bad weather, and has been so a great while.
[To them] Fondlewife.
FOND. Here are fifty pieces in this purse, Sir Joseph; if you will tarry a moment, till I fetch my papers, I’ll wait upon you down-stairs.
LÆT. Ruined, past redemption! what shall I do—ha! this fool may be of use. [Aside.] [As Fondlewife is going into the chamber, she runs to Sir Joseph, almost pushes him down, and cries out.] Stand off, rude ruffian. Help me, my dear. O bless me! Why will you leave me alone with such a Satyr?
FOND. Bless us! What’s the matter? What’s the matter?
LÆT. Your back was no sooner turned, but like a lion he came open mouthed upon me, and would have ravished a kiss from me by main force.
SIR JO. O Lord! Oh, terrible! Ha, ha, ha. Is your wife mad, Alderman?
LÆT. Oh! I’m sick with the fright; won’t you take him out of my sight?
FOND. O traitor! I’m astonished. O bloody-minded traitor!
SIR JO. Hey-day! Traitor yourself. By the Lord Harry, I was in most danger of being ravished, if you go to that.
FOND. Oh, how the blasphemous wretch swears! Out of my house, thou son of the whore of Babylon; offspring of Bel and the Dragon.—Bless us! ravish my wife! my Dinah! Oh, Shechemite! Begone, I say.
SIR JO. Why, the devil’s in the people, I think.
LÆT. Oh! won’t you follow, and see him out of doors, my dear?
FOND. I’ll shut this door to secure him from coming back—Give me the key of your cabinet, Cocky. Ravish my wife before my face? I warrant he’s a Papist in his heart at least, if not a Frenchman.
LÆT. What can I do now! [Aside.] Oh! my dear, I have been in such a fright, that I forgot to tell you, poor Mr. Spintext has a sad fit of the colic, and is forced to lie down upon our bed—you’ll disturb him; I can tread softlier.
FOND. Alack, poor man—no, no—you don’t know the papers—I won’t disturb him; give me the key. [She gives him the key, goes to the chamber door and speaks aloud.]
LÆT. ’Tis nobody but Mr. Fondlewife, Mr. Spintext, lie still on your stomach; lying on your stomach will ease you of the colic.
FOND. Ay, ay, lie still, lie still; don’t let me disturb you.
LÆT. Sure, when he does not see his face, he won’t discover him. Dear fortune, help me but this once, and I’ll never run in thy debt again. But this opportunity is the Devil.
Fondlewife returns with Papers.
FOND. Good lack! good lack! I profess the poor man is in great torment; he lies as flat—Dear, you should heat a trencher, or a napkin.—Where’s Deborah? Let her clap some warm thing to his stomach, or chafe it with a warm hand rather than fail. What book’s this? [Sees the book that Bellmour forgot.]
LÆT. Mr. Spintext’s prayer-book, dear. Pray Heaven it be a prayer-book. [Aside.]
FOND. Good man! I warrant he dropped it on purpose that you might take it up and read some of the pious ejaculations. [Taking up the book.] O bless me! O monstrous! A prayer-book? Ay, this is the devil’s paternoster. Hold, let me see: The Innocent Adultery.
LÆT. Misfortune! now all’s ruined again. [Aside.]
BELL. [Peeping.] Damned chance! If I had gone a-whoring with the Practice of Piety in my pocket I had never been discovered.
FOND. Adultery, and innocent! O Lord! Here’s doctrine! Ay, here’s discipline!
LÆT. Dear husband, I’m amazed. Sure it is a good book, and only tends to the speculation of sin.
FOND. Speculation! No no; something went farther than speculation when I was not to be let in.—Where is this apocryphal elder? I’ll ferret him.
LÆT. I’m so distracted, I can’t think of a lie. [Aside.]
Lætitia and Fondlewife haling out Bellmour.
FOND. Come out here, thou Ananias incarnate. Who, how now! Who have we here?
LÆT. Ha! [Shrieks as surprised.]
FOND. Oh thou salacious woman! Am I then brutified? Ay, I feel it here; I sprout, I bud, I blossom, I am ripe-horn-mad. But who in the devil’s name are you? Mercy on me for swearing. But—
LÆT. Oh! goodness keep us! Who are you? What are you?
LÆT. In the name of the—O! Good, my dear, don’t come near it; I’m afraid ’tis the devil; indeed, it has hoofs, dear.
FOND. Indeed, and I have horns, dear. The devil, no, I am afraid ’tis the flesh, thou harlot. Dear, with the pox. Come Syren, speak, confess, who is this reverend, brawny pastor.
LÆT. Indeed, and indeed now, my dear Nykin, I never saw this wicked man before.
FOND. Oh, it is a man then, it seems.
LÆT. Rather, sure it is a wolf in the clothing of a sheep.
FOND. Thou art a devil in his proper clothing—woman’s flesh. What, you know nothing of him, but his fleece here! You don’t love mutton? you Magdalen unconverted.
BELL. Well, now, I know my cue.—That is, very honourably to excuse her, and very impudently accuse myself. [Aside.]
LÆT. Why then, I wish I may never enter into the heaven of your embraces again, my dear, if ever I saw his face before.
FOND. O Lord! O strange! I am in admiration of your impudence. Look at him a little better; he is more modest, I warrant you, than to deny it. Come, were you two never face to face before? Speak.
BELL. Since all artifice is vain. And I think myself obliged to speak the truth in justice to your wife.—No.
LÆT. No, indeed, dear.
FOND. Nay, I find you are both in a story; that I must confess. But, what—not to be cured of the colic? Don’t you know your patient, Mrs. Quack? Oh, ‘lie upon your stomach; lying upon your stomach will cure you of the colic.’ Ah! answer me, Jezebel?
LÆT. Let the wicked man answer for himself: does he think I have nothing to do but excuse him? ’tis enough if I can clear my own innocence to my own dear.
BELL. By my troth, and so ’tis. I have been a little too backward; that’s the truth on’t.
FOND. Come, sir, who are you, in the first place? And what are you?
BELL. A whore-master.
FOND. Very concise.
LÆT. O beastly, impudent creature.
FOND. Well, sir, and what came you hither for?
BELL. To lie with your wife.
FOND. Good again. A very civil person this, and I believe speaks truth.
LÆT. Oh, insupportable impudence.
FOND. Well, sir; pray be covered—and you have—Heh! You have finished the matter, heh? And I am, as I should be, a sort of civil perquisite to a whore-master, called a cuckold, heh? Is it not so? Come, I’m inclining to believe every word you say.
BELL. Why, faith, I must confess, so I designed you; but you were a little unlucky in coming so soon, and hindered the making of your own fortune.
FOND. Humph. Nay, if you mince the matter once and go back of your word you are not the person I took you for. Come, come, go on boldly.—What, don’t be ashamed of your profession.—Confess, confess; I shall love thee the better for’t. I shall, i’feck. What, dost think I don’t know how to behave myself in the employment of a cuckold, and have been three years apprentice to matrimony? Come, come; plain dealing is a jewel.
BELL. Well, since I see thou art a good, honest fellow, I’ll confess the whole matter to thee.
FOND. Oh, I am a very honest fellow. You never lay with an honester man’s wife in your life.
LÆT. How my heart aches! All my comfort lies in his impudence, and heaven be praised, he has a considerable portion. [Aside.]
BELL. In short, then, I was informed of the opportunity of your absence by my spy (for faith, honest Isaac, I have a long time designed thee this favour). I knew Spintext was to come by your direction. But I laid a trap for him, and procured his habit, in which I passed upon your servants, and was conducted hither. I pretended a fit of the colic, to excuse my lying down upon your bed; hoping that when she heard of it, her good nature would bring her to administer remedies for my distemper. You know what might have followed. But, like an uncivil person, you knocked at the door before your wife was come to me.
FOND. Ha! This is apocryphal; I may choose whether I will believe it or no.
BELL. That you may, faith, and I hope you won’t believe a word on’t—but I can’t help telling the truth, for my life.
FOND. How! would not you have me believe you, say you?
BELL. No; for then you must of consequence part with your wife, and there will be some hopes of having her upon the public; then the encouragement of a separate maintenance—
FOND. No, no; for that matter, when she and I part, she’ll carry her separate maintenance about her.
LÆT. Ah, cruel dear, how can you be so barbarous? You’ll break my heart, if you talk of parting. [Cries.]
FOND. Ah, dissembling vermin!
BELL. How can’st thou be so cruel, Isaac? Thou hast the heart of a mountain-tiger. By the faith of a sincere sinner, she’s innocent for me. Go to him, madam, fling your snowy arms about his stubborn neck; bathe his relentless face in your salt trickling tears. [She goes and hangs upon his neck, and kisses him. Bellmour kisses her hand behind Fondlewife’s back.] So, a few soft words, and a kiss, and the good man melts. See how kind nature works, and boils over in him.
LÆT. Indeed, my dear, I was but just come down stairs, when you knocked at the door; and the maid told me Mr. Spintext was ill of the colic upon our bed. And won’t you speak to me, cruel Nykin? Indeed, I’ll die, if you don’t.
FOND. Ah! No, no, I cannot speak, my heart’s so full—I have been a tender husband, a tender yoke-fellow; you know I have.—But thou hast been a faithless Delilah, and the Philistines—Heh! Art thou not vile and unclean, heh? Speak. [Weeping.]
LÆT. No-h. [Sighing.]
FOND. Oh that I could believe thee!
LÆT. Oh, my heart will break. [Seeming to faint.]
FOND. Heh, how! No, stay, stay, I will believe thee, I will. Pray bend her forward, sir.
LÆT. Oh! oh! Where is my dear?
FOND. Here, here; I do believe thee. I won’t believe my own eyes.
BELL. For my part, I am so charmed with the love of your turtle to you, that I’ll go and solicit matrimony with all my might and main.
FOND. Well, well, sir; as long as I believe it, ’tis well enough. No thanks to you, sir, for her virtue.—But, I’ll show you the way out of my house, if you please. Come, my dear. Nay, I will believe thee, I do, i’feck.
BELL. See the great blessing of an easy faith; opinion cannot err.
No husband, by his wife, can be deceived;
She still is virtuous, if she’s so believed.