A Series of Plays in which it is attempted to delineate The Stronger Passions of the Mind, Volume One/The Tryal Act 1

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Mr. Withrington's house: Enter Withrington and his two Nieces hanging upon his arms, coaxing him in a playful manner as they advance towards the front of the Stage.

With. Poo, poo, get along, young gipsies, and dont teaze me any more.

Ag. So we will, my good sir, when you have granted our suit.

Mar. Do, dear uncle, it will be so pleasant!

With. Get along, get along. Dont think to wheedle me into it. It would be very pleasant, truly, to see an old fellow, with a wig upon his bald pate, making one in a holy-day mummery with a couple of mad caps.

Ag. Nay, dont lay the fault upon the wig, good sir, for it is as youthful, and as sly, and as saucy looking as the best head of hair in the county. As for your old wig indeed, there was so much curmudgeon-like austerity about it, that young people fled from before it, as, I dare say, the birds do at present, for I am sure that it is stuck up in some cherry orchard, by this time, to frighten the sparrows.

With. You are mistaken, young mistress, it is up stairs in my wig-box.

Ag. Well I am glad it is any where but upon your pate, uncle. (Turning his face towards Mariane.) Look at him, pray! is he not ten years younger since he wore it? Is there one bit of an old grumbler to be seen about him now?

Mar. He is no more like the man he was than I am like my god-mother. (Clapping his shoulder.) You must even do as we have bid you, sir, for this excuse will never bring you off.

With. Poo, poo, it is a foolish girl's whimsy: I'lI have nothing to do with it.

Ag. It is a reasonable woman's desire, gentle guardian, and you must consent to it. For if I am to marry at all, I am resolved to have a respectable man, and a man who is attached to me, and to find out such a one, in my present situation, is impossible. I am provoked beyond all patience with your old greedy lords, and match-making aunts, introducing their poor noodle heirs-apparent to me, like so many dolts dressed our for a race ball. Your ambitious esquires, and proud obsequious baronets are intolerable, and your rakish younger brothers are nauseous: such creatures only surround me, whilst men of sense keep at a distance, and think me as foolish as the company I keep. One would swear I were made of amber, to attract all the dust and chaff of the community.

With. There is some truth in this 'faith.

Ag. You see how it is with me; so my dear loving good uncle (Coaxing him) do let Mariane take my place for a little while. We are newly come to Bath, no body knows us : we have been but at one ball, and as I went in plain dress, and Mariane looks so much better than me, she has already been mistaken for the heiress, and I for her portionless cousin: I have told you how we shall manage it, do lend us your assistance!

With. So in the disguise of a portionless spinster, you are to captivate some man of sense, I suppose.

Ag. I would fain have it so.

With. Go, go, thou art a fool, Agnes! who will fall in love with a little ordinary girl like thee? why there is not one feature in thy face that a man would give a farthing for.

Mar. You are very saucy, uncle.

Ag. I should despair of my beauty to be sure, since I am reckoned so much like you, my dear uncle; yet old nurse told me that a rich lady, a great lady, and the prettiest lady that ever wore silk, fell in love, once on a time, with Mr. Anthony, and would have followed him to the world's end too, if it had not been for an old hunks of a father, who deserved to be drubed for his pains. Don't you think he did, sir?

With. (endeavouring to look angry.) Old nurse is a fool, and you are an impudent hussy. I'll hear no more of this nonsense. (Breaks from them and goes towards the door: they run after him, and draw him hack again.)

Ag. Nay, good sir, we have not quite done with you yet: grant our request, and then scamper off as you please.

Mar. I'll hold both your arms till you grant it.

With. to Mar. And what makes you so eager about it, young lady? you expect, I suppose, to get a husband by the trick. O fy, fy! the poorest girl in England would blush at such a thought, who calls herself an honest one.

Ag. And Mariane would reject the richest man in England who could harbour such a suspicion. But give yourself no uneasiness about this, sir, she need not go a husband-hunting, for she is already engaged.—(Mariane looks frightened, and makes signs to Agnes over her uncle's shoulder, which she answers with a smile of encouragement.)

With. Engaged! she is very good, truly, to manage all this matter herself, being afraid to give me any trouble, I suppose. And pray what fool has she picked out from the herd, to enter into this precious engagement with!

Ag. A foolish enough fellow to be sure, your favourite nephew, cousin Edward.

With. Hang, the silly booby! how could he be such an ideot? but it can't be, it shan't be,—it is folly to put myself into a passion about it. (To Mariane, who puts her hand on his shoulder to soothe him.) Hold off your hands, ma'am. This is news indeed to amuse me with of a morning.

Ag. Yes, uncle, and I can tell you more news; for they are not only engaged, but as soon as he returns from abroad they are to be married.

With. Well, well, let them marry, in the devil's name, and go a begging if they please..

Ag. No, gentle guardian, they need not go a begging; they will have a good fortune to support them.

With. Yes, yes, they will get a prize in the lottery, or find out the philosopher's stone, and coin their old shoes into guineas.

Ag. No, sir, it is not that way the fortune is to come.

With. No; he has been following some knight-errant then, I suppose, and will have an island in the South Sea for his pains.

Ag. No, you have not guessed it yet. (Stroaking his hand gently.) Did you never hear of a good, kind, rich uncle of theirs, the generous Mr. Withrington? he is to settle a handsome provision upon them as soon as they are married, and leave them his fortune at last.

With. (lifting up his hands.) Well, I must say thou art the impudentest little jade in the kingdom. But did you never hear that this worthy uncle of theirs, having got a new wig, which makes him ten years younger than he was, is resolved to embrace the opportunity, and seek out a wife for himself?

Ag. O! that is nothing to the purpose; for what I have said about the fortune must happen, though he should seek out a score of wives.

With. Must happen! but I say it shall not happen. Whether should you or I know best?

Ag. Why me, to be sure.

With. Ha, ha, ha! how so baggage?

Ag. (resting her arm on his shoulder, looking archly in his face.) You don't know perhaps, that when I went to Scotland last summer, I travelled far, and far, as the tale says, and farther than I can tell, till I came to the Isle of Sky, where every body has the second sight, and has nothing to do but tear a little hole in a tartan plaidy, and peering through it, in this manner, sees every thing past, present, and to come. Now, you must know, I gave an old woman half a crown and a roll of tobacco for a peep or two through her plaid, and what do you think I saw, uncle;

With. The devil dancing a hornpipe, I suppose.

Ag. There was somebody dancing to be sure, but it was not the devil though. Who do you think it was now?

With. Poo, poo!

Ag. It was uncle himself, at Mariane's wedding, leading down the first dance, with the bride. I saw a sheet of parchment in a corner too, signed with his own blessed hand, and a very handsome settlement it was. So he led down the first dance himself, and we all followed after him, as merry as so many hay-makers.

With. Thou hast had a sharp sight, faith!

Ag. And I took a second peep through the plaidy, and what do you think I saw then, sir?

With. Nay, prate on as thou wilt.

Ag. A genteel family house, where Edward and Mariane dwelt, and several little brats running up and down in it. Some of them so tall, and so tall, and some of them no taller than this. And there came good uncle amongst them, and they all flocked about him so merrily! every body was so glad to see him, the very scullions from the kitchen were glad; and methought he looked as well pleased himself as any of them. Don't you think he did, sir?

With. Have done with thy prating.

Ag. I have not done yet, good sir; for I took another peep still, and then I saw a most dismal changed family indeed. There was a melancholy sick bed set out, in the best chamber, every face was sad, and all the children were weeping. There was one dark eyed rogue amongst them, called little Anthony, and he threw away his bread and butter, and roared like a young bull, for woe's me! old uncle was dying. (Observing Withrington affected.) But old uncle recovered though, and looked as stout as a veteran again. So I gave the old woman her plaidy, and would not look through any more.

With. Thou art the wildest little witch in the world, and wilt never be at rest till thou hast got every thing thine own way, I believe.

Ag. I thank you, I thank you, dear uncle! (leaping round his neck,) it shall be even so, and I shall have my own little boon into the bargain.

With. I did not say so.

Ag. But I know it will be so, and many thanks to you, my dear good uncle! (Mariane ventures to come from hehind,— Withrington looks gently to her, she holds out her hand, he hesitates, and Agnes joins their hands together, giving them a hearty shake.)

With. Come, come, let me get away from you now: you are a couple of insinuating gipsies.
[Exit, hastily.

Mar. (embracing Agnes.) Well, heaven bless thee, my sweet Agnes! thou hast done marvels for me. You gave me a fright though; I thought we were ruined.

Ag. O! I knew I should get the better of him some way or other. What a good worthy heart he has! you dont know how dearly I love this old uncle of ours.

Mar. I wonder how it is. I used to think him severe and unreasonable, with his fiddle faddle fancies about delicacy and decorum; but since you came amongst us, Agnes, you have so coaxed him, and laughed at him, and played with him, that he has become almost as frolicksorne as ourselves.

Ag. Let us set about our project immediately. No body knows us here but lady Fade and Miss Eston: We must let them both into the secret: Lady Fade is confined with bad health, and though Miss Eston, I believe, would rather tell a secret than hold her tongue, yet as long as there are streets and carriages, and balls and ribbons, and parlours and pantries to talk of, there can be no great danger from her.

Mar. O! we shall do very well. How I long to frolick it away, in all the rich trappings of heirship, amongst those sneaking wretches the fortune-hunters! They have neglected me as a poor girl, but I will play the deuce amongst them as a rich one.

Ag. You will acquit yourself very handsomely, I dare say, and find no lack of admirers.

Mar. I have two or three in my eye just now, but of all men. living I have set my heart upon humbling Sir Loftus. He insulted a friend of mine last winter, to ingratiate himself with an envious woman of quality, but I will be revenged upon him, O! how I will scorn him, and toss up my nose at him! I hate him like a toad.

Ag. That is not the way to be revenged upon him, silly girl! He is haughty and reserved in his manners; and though not altogether without understanding, has never suffered a higher idea to get footing in his noddle than that of appearing a man of consequence and fashion, and though he has no happiness but in being admired as a fine gentleman, and no existence but at an assembly, he appears there with all the haughty gravity, and careless indifference of a person superiour to such paltry amusements. Such a man as this must be laughed at, not scorned, familiarity and contempt must be his portion.

Mar. He shall have it then. And as for his admirer and imitator, Jack Opal, who has for these ten years past, so successfully performed every kind of fine gentlemanship, which every new fool brought into fashion, any kind of bad treatment, I suppose, that happens to come into my head will be good enough for him.

Ag. Quite good enough. You have set him down for one of your admirers too?

Mar. Yes, truly, and a great many more besides.

Ag. Did you observe in the ball-room last night, a genteel young man, with a dark grey eye, and a sensible countenance, but with so little of the foppery of the fashion about him, that one took him at a distance for a much older man?

Mar. Wore he not a plain brownish coat? and stood he not very near us great part of the evening?

Ag. Yes, the very same. Pray endeavour to attract him, Mariane.

Mar. If you are very desirous to see him in my train, I'll try him.

Ag. No, not desirous, neither.

Mar. Then wherefore should I try?

Ag. Because I would have you try every art to win him, and I would not have him to be won.

Mar. O! I comprehend it now! This is the sensible man we are in quest of.

Ag. I shall not be sorry if it proves so. I have enquired who he is, as I shall tell you by and by, and what I have learned of him I like. Is not his appearance prepossessing, cousin Mariane?

Mar. I dot know, he is too grave and dignified for such a girl as thou art; I fear we shall waste our labour upon him.

Ag. But he does not look always so. He kept very near me, if it did not look vain I should say followed me all the evening, and many a varied expression his countenance assumed. But when I went away arm in arm with my uncle, in our usual good humoured way, I shall never forget the look of pleasant approbation with which he followed me. I had learnt but a little while before the mistake which the company made in regard to us, and at that moment the idea of this project came across my mind like a flash of lightning.

Mar. Very well, gentle cousin; the task you assign me is pleasing to my humour; and the idea of promoting your happiness at the same time will make it delightful. Let me see, how many lovers shall I have, one, two, three. (Counting on her fingers.)

Ag. I can tell you of one lover more than you wot of.

Mar. Pray who is he?

Ag. Our distant cousin the great 'squire, and man of business, from ——shire, he writes to my uncle that he will be in Bath to-day, upon business of the greatest importance, which he explains to him in three pages of close written paper; but whether it is to court me for himself, or for his son, or to solicit a great man, who is here, for a place, no mortal on earth can discover.

Mar. Well, let him come, I shall manage them all. O! if my Edward were here just how, how he would laugh at us!

Enter Servant.

Ser. Miss Eston.

Mar. Let us run out of her way, and say we are not at home. She will sit and talk these two hours.

Ag. But you forgot we have something to say to her. (To the servant.) Shew her up stairs to my dressing-room.
[Exit servant.

Mar. Pray let us run up stairs before her, or she will arrest us here with her chat.

Miss Eston (without.) And it is a very bad thing for all that; I never could abide it. I wonder your master don't stop (Enters walking straight across the stage , still speaking) up those nasty chinks, there is such a wind in the hall, 'tis enough to give one a hoarseness. Bye the bye Mrs. Mumblecake is sadly to-day; has your lady sent to enquire for her William? I wonder if her (Exit, still talking without) old coachman has left her; I saw a new face on the, &c. &c.


The fields before Mr. Withrington's house. Enter Agnes, Mariane, and Miss Eston, who seems still busy talking, from the house, and passing over the Stage arm in arm, Exeunt. Enter, by the same side by which they went out, Sir Loftus Prettyman, and Harwood, who stands looking behind him, as if he followed something with his eyes very eagerly.

Sir Loft. (Advancing to the front of the stage, and speaking to himself.) How cursedly unlucky this is now! if she had come out but a few moments sooner, I should have passed her walking arm in arm with a British peer. How provokingly these things always happen with me; (observing Harwood.) What! is he staring after her too? (aloud) What are you looking at, Harwood? does she walk well?

Har. I can't tell how she walks, but I could stand and gaze after her till the sun went down upon me.

Sir Loft. She is a fine woman, I grant you.

Har. (vastly pleased.) I knew she would please, it is impossible she should not! There is something so delightful in the play of her countenance, it would even make a plain woman beautiful.

Sir Loft. She is a fine woman, and that is no despicable praise from one who is accustomed to the elegance of fashionable beauty.

Har. I would not compare her to any thing so trifling and insipid.

Sir Loft. She has one advantage which fashionable beauty seldom possesses.

Har. What do you mean?

Sir Loft. A large fortune.

Har. (looking disappointed.) Poo, it is not the heiress I mean.

Sir Loft. Is it t'other girl you are raving about, she is showy at a distance, I admit, but as awkward as a dairy maid when near you; and her tongue goes as fast as if she were repeating a pater noster.

Har. What, do you think I am silly enough to be caught with that magpie?

Sir Loft. Who is it then, Harwood? I see no body with Miss Withrington but Miss Eston, and that poor little creature her cousin.

Har. Good god! what a contemptible perversion of taste do interest and fashion create! But it is all affectation. (Looking contemptuously at him.)

Sir Loft. (smiling contemptuously in return.) Ha, ha, ha! I see how it is with you, Harwood, and I beg pardon too. The lady is very charming, I dare say; upon honour I never once looked in her face. She is a dependant relation of Miss Withrington's, I believe: now I never take notice of such girls, for if you do it once they expect you to do it again. I dont choose that every little creature should say she is acquainted with Sir Loftus Prettyman; I am sparing of my attentions, that she on whom I really bestow them may have the more reason to boast.

Har. You are right, Prettyman, she who boasts of your attentions should receive them all herself, that nobody else may know how little worth they are.

Sir Loft. You are severe this morning, Mr. Harwood, but you do not altogether comprehend me, I believe. I know perhaps more of the polite world than a studious templar can be supposed to do, and I assure you, men of fashion, upon this principle, are sparing of their words too, that they may be listened to more attentively when they do speak.

Har. You are very right still, Sir Loftus, for if they spoke much, I'll be hang'd if they would get any body to listen to them at all.

Sir Loft. (haughtily.) There is another reason why men of fashion are not profuse of their words, inferior people are apt to forget themselves, and despise what is too familiar.

Har. Dont take so much pains to make me comprehend that the more fools speak the more people will despise them; I never had a clearer conviction of it in my life.

Sir Loft. (haughtily.) Good morning, sir, I see Lord Saunter in the other walk, and I must own I prefer the company of one who knows, at least, the common rules of politeness. [Exit.

Har. (alone.) What a contemptible creature it is! He would prefer the most affected ideot, who boasts a little fashion or consequence, as he calls it, to the most beautiful native character in the world. Here comes another fool, who has been gazing too, but I will not once mention her before him.

Enter Opal.

Op. Good morning, Harwood, I have been fortunate just now! I have met some fine girls, 'faith!

Har. I am glad you have met with any thing so agreeable; they are all equally charming to you, I suppose.

Op. Nay, Harwood, I know how to distinguish. There is a little animated creature amongst them, all life and spirit, on my soul I could almost be in love with her.

Har. Ha! thou hast more discernment than I reckoned upon. If that goose. Sir Loftus, did not spoil thee, Jack, thou would'st be a very good fellow after all. Why I must tell you, my good Opal, that lady whom you admire, is the sweetest little gipsey in England.

Op. Is she indeed? I wish I had taken a better look of her face then; but she wears such a cursed plume of blue feathers nodding over her nose, there is scarcely one half of it to be seen.

Har. (staring at him with astonishment.) As I breathe! he has fallen in love with the magpie!

Op. And what is so surprising in this pray? Does not all the world allow Miss Withrington the heiress to be a fine woman?

Har. That is not the heiress, Jack, (pointing off the stage) the tall lady in the middle is she. But if your Dulcinea could coin her words into farthings, she would be one of the best matches in the kingdom.

Op. Pest take it! she was pointed out to me as Miss Withrington. Pest take my stupidity! the girl is well enough, but she is not altogether— (Mumbling to himself.)

Har. So you bestowed all your attention on this blue feathered lady, and let the other two pass by unnoticed.

Op. No, not unnoticed neither: Miss Withrington is too fine a figure to be overlooked any where, and for the other poor little creature, who hung upon her arm so familiarly, I could not help observing her too, because I wondered Miss Withrington allowed such a dowdy looking thing to walk with her in publick. Faith? Prettyman and I locked a vulgar looking devil up in the stable the other morning, who insisted upon going with us to the pump-room: men of fashion, you know, are always plagued with paltry fellows dangling after them.

Har. Hang your men of fashion! mere paltry fellows are too good company for them.

Op. Damn it, Harwood! speak more respectfully of that class of men to whom I have the honour to belong.

Har. You mistake me. Opal, it was only the men of fashion I abused, I am too well bred to speak uncivilly in your presence of the other class you mentioned.

Op. I scorn your insinuation, sir; but whatever class of men I belong to, I praise heaven, I have nothing of the sour plodding book-worm about me.

Har. You do well to praise heaven for the endowments it has bestowed upon you, Opal; if all men were as thankful as you for this blessed gift of ignorance, we could not be said to live in an ungrateful generation.

Op. Talk away, laugh at yuor own wit as much as you please, I dont mind it. I dont trouble my head to find out bons mots of a morning.

Har. You are very right, Jack, for it would be to no purpose if you did.

Op. I speak whatever comes readiest to me: I dont study speeches for company, Harwood.

Har. I hope so, Opal; you would have a laborious life of it indeed, if you could not speak nonsense extempore.

Op. (Drawing himself up, and walking haughtily to the other side of the stage.) I had no business to be so familiar with him. Sir Loftus is right; a reserved manner keeps impertinent people at a distance. (aside—Turns about, makes a very stiff bow to Harwood, and Exit.J

Har. (alone.) I am glad he is gone. What do I see! (here Mariane, Agnes, and Miss Eston walk over the bottom of the stage, attended by Sir Loftus and Opal, and Exeunt by the opposite side. Har, looking after them.) Alas, now! that such impudent fellows should be so successful, whilst I stand gazing at a distance! how lightly she trips! does she not look about to me? by heaven I'll run to her! (Runs to the bottom of the stage, and stops short.) Oh no! I cannot do it! but see, her uncle comes this way. He look'd so kindly at her, I could not help loving him; he must be a good man. I'll make up to him, and he perhaps will join the ladies afterwards.[Exit.