A Series of Plays in which it is attempted to delineate The Stronger Passions of the Mind, Volume One/The Tryal Act 3
ACT III.— SCENE I.
Mr. Withrington's house. A loud laughing without. Enter Royston, in a great rage.
Roys. Ay, ay, laugh away, laugh away, madam, you'll weep by-and-by, mayhap. (Pauses and listens, laughing still heard.) What an infernal noise the jade makes. I wish she had a peck of chaff in her mouth, I am sure it is wide enough to hold it.
Humph. I have been seeking your honour every where—Lord, sir! I have something to tell you.
Roys. Confound your tales! dont trouble me with a parcel of nonsense.
Humph. (Staring at him and hearing the laughing without.) For certain, your honour, there's somebody in this house merrier than you or I.
Roys. Damn you, sir! how do you know I am not merry? Go home, and do what I ordered you directly. If that fellow Jonathan is not in the way, I'll horse-whip him within an inch of his life. Begone, I say, why do you stand staring at me, like a madman?[Exeunt.
Enter Mariane and Agnes, by opposite sides.
Mar. (holding her sides.) Oh how my poor sides ache. I shan't be able to laugh again for a month.
Ag. You have got rid of one lover who will scarcely attempt you a second time. I have met him hurrying through the hall, and muttering to himself like a madman. It is not your refusal of his son that has so roused him.
Mar. No, no, he began his courtship in a doubtful way, as if he would recommend a gay young husband to my choice, but a sly compliment to agreeable men of a middle age, brought him soon to speak plainly for himself.
Ag. But how did you provoke him so?
Mar. I will tell you another time. It is later than I thought. (Looking at her watch.)
Ag. Dont go yet. How stands it with you and a certain gentleman I recommended to your notice?
Mar. O! he does not know whether I am tall or short, brown or fair, foolish or sensible, after all the pains I have taken with him: he has eyes, ears, and understanding, for nobody but you, Agnes, and I will attempt him no more. He spoke to me once with animation in his countenance, and I turned round to listen to him eagerly, but it was only to repeat to me something you had just said, which, to deal plainly with you, had not much wit in it neither, I dont know how it is, he seemed to me at first a pleasanter man than he proves to be.
Ag. Oh! say not so, Mariane! he proves to be most admirable!
Mar. Well, be it so, he cannot prove better than I wish him to do, and I can make up my list without him. I have a love letter from an Irish baronet in my pocket, and Opal will declare himself presently.—I thought once he meant only to plead for his friend, but I would not let him off so, for I know he is a mercenary creature. I have flattered him a little at the expence of Sir Loftus, and I hope ere long to see him set up for a great man upon his own bottom.
Ag. So it was only to repeat to you something that I had been saying?
Mar. Ha! you are thinking of this still. I believe indeed he sets down every turn of your eye in his memory, and acts it all over in secret.
Ag. Do you think so? give me your hand, my dear Mariane, you are a very good cousin to me—Marks every turn of mine eye! I am not quite such an ordinary girl as my uncle says—My complexion is as good as your own, Mariane, if it were not a little sun-burnt. (Mariane smiles.) Yes, smile at my vanity as you please, for what makes me vain, makes me so good humoured too, that I will forgive you. But here comes uncle. (Skipping as she goes to meet him.) O! I am light as an air-ball! (Enter Mr Withrington.) My dear sir, how long you have been away from us this morning! I am delighted to see you so pleased and so happy.
With. (with a very sour face.) You are mistaken, young lady, I am not so pleased as you think.
Ag. O no, sir! you are very good humoured. Is'nt he, Mariane?
With. But I say I am in very bad humour. Get along with your foolery!
Ag. Is it really so? Let me look in your face, uncle? To be sure your brows are a little knit, and your eyes a little gloomy, but poo! that is nothing to be called bad humour; if I could not contrive to look crabbeder than all this comes to, I would never pretend to be ill humoured in my life. (Mariane and Agnes take him by the hands and begin to play with him.)
With. No, no, young ladies, I am not in a mood to be played with. I can't approve of every farce you please to play off in my family, nor to have my relations affronted, and driven from my house for your entertainment.
Mar. Indeed, sir, I treated Royston better than he deserved, for he would not let me have time to give a civil denial, but ran on planning settlements and jointures, and a hundred things besides; I could just get in my word to stop his career with a flat refusal, as he was about to provide for our descendants of the third generation. O! if you had seen his face then, uncle!
With. I know very well how you have treated him.
Ag. Dont be angry, sir. What does a man like Royston care for a refusal? he is only angrv that he can't take the law of her for laughing at him.
With. Let this be as it may, I dont chuse to have my house in a perpetual bustle from morning till night, with your plots and your pastimes. There is no more order nor distinction kept up in my house, than if it were a cabin in Kamschatka, and common to a whole tribe. I can't set my nose into a room of it but I find some visitor, or showman, or millener's apprentice, loitering about: my best books are cast upon footstools and window-seats, and my library is littered over with work-bags: dogs, cats, and kittens, take possession of every chair, and refuse to be disturbed: kitchen wenches flaunt up stairs with their new top-knots on, to look at themselves in the pier glasses; and the very beggar children go hopping about my hall, with their half-eaten scraps in their hands, as though it were the entry to a work-house.
Ag. (Clapping his shoulder gently.) Now dont be impatient, my dear sir, and every thing shall be put into such excellent order as shall delight you to behold. And as for the beggar children, if any of them dare but to set their noses within the door, I'll—What shall I do with them, sir? (Pauses and looks in his face, which begins to relent.) I believe we must e'en give them a little pudding after all. (Both take his hands and coax him.)
With. Come, come, off hands and let me sit down. I am tired of this.
Ag. Yes, uncle, and here is one seat, you see, with no cat upon it. (Withrington sits down, and Agnes takes a little stool and sits down at his feet, curling her nose as she looks up to him, and making a good humoured face.)
With. Well, it may be pleasant enough, girls, but allow me to say all this playing, and laughing, and hoidening about is not gentlewomanlike, nay, I might say, is not maidenly. A high bred elegant woman is a creature which man approaches with awe and respect; but nobody would think of accosting you with such impressions, any more than if your were a couple of young female tinkers.
Ag. Dont distress yourself about this, sir, we shall get the men to bow to us, and tremble before us too, as well as e'er a hoop-petticoat or long ruffles of them all.
With. Tremble before you! ha, ha, ha! (to Agnes) Who would tremble before thee dost thou think?
Ag. No despicable man perhaps: What think you of your favourite, Harwood?
With. Poo, poo, poo! he is pleased with thee as an amusing and good natured creature, and thou thinkest he is in love with thee, forsooth.
Ag. A good natured creature! he shall think me a vixen and be pleased with me.
With. No, no, not quite so far gone, I believe.
Ag. I'll bet you two hundred pounds that it is so. If I win you shall pay it to Mariane for wedding trinkets, and if you win you may build a couple of alms-houses.
With. Well, be it so. We shall see, we shall see.
Mar. Indeed we shall see you lose your bet, uncle.
With. to Mar. Yes, baggage, I shall have your prayers against me I know.
Enter Servant, and announces Mr. Opal. Enter Opal.
Op. to Mar. I hope I have the pleasure of seeing Miss Withrington well this morning. (Bows distantly to Withrington, and still more so to Agnes, after the manner of Sir Loftus.)
With. Your servant, sir.
Mar. to Op. How did you like the ball last night? There was a gay, genteel looking company.
Op. (With affected superiority.) Excepting Lord Saunter, and Lord Poorly, and Sir Loftus, and one or two more of us, I did not know a soul in the room.
With. There were some pretty girls there, Mr. Opal?
Op. I am very glad to hear it, 'pon honour. I did not—(Mumbling.)
With. (aside.) Affected puppy, I can't bear to look at him.[Exit.
Mar. (Assuming a gayer air as Withrington goes out.) You will soon have a new beau to enrich your circle, Mr. Opal, the handsome and accomplished Colonel Beaumont. He is just returned from abroad, and is now quite the fashion at court. (To Agnes.) Dont you think Mr. Opal resembles him?
Ag. O! very much indeed.
Op. (Bowing very graciously.) Does he not resemble Sir Loftus too? I mean in his air and his manner.
Mar. O! not at all! That haughty coldness of his is quite old fashioned now; so unlike the affable frankness so much admired in the Colonel: you have seen him I presume?
Op. I have never had that honour.
Mar. Then you will not be displeased at the likeness we have traced, when you do.
Op. (Relaxing from his dignity, and highly pleased.) The greatest pleasure of my life, ma'am, will be to resemble what pleases you. (Mariane tips Agnes the wink, and she retires to the bottom of the stage.)
Mar. You flatter me infinitely.
Op. Ah! call it not flattery, charming Miss Withrington! for now I will have the boldness to own to you frankly, I have been, since the first moment I beheld you, your most sincere, your most passionate admirer. Upon hon—(correcting himself) 'faith I have!
Mar. Nothing but my own want of merit can make me doubt of any thing Mr. Opal asserts upon his honour or his faith. (Turning and walking towards the bottom of the stage, whilst Opal follows her stalking in dumb show; then Agnes joins them, and they all come forward to the front.)
Ag. to Mar. How much that turn of his head puts me mind of the Colonel.
Mar. So it does, my Agnes. (To Opal.) Pray have the goodness to hold it so for a moment! There now, it is just the very thing. (Opal holds his head in a constrained ridiculous posture, and then makes a conceited bow.) His very manner of bowing too! one would swear it was the Colonel!
Ag. Yes, only the Colonel is more familiar, more easy in his carriage.
Op. O! Ma'am! I assure you I have formerly—It is my natural manner to be remarkably easy—But I—(pauses.)
Mar. Have never condescended to assume any other than your natural manner, I hope.
Op. O! not at all, I detest affectation; there is nothing I detest so much—But upon my soul! I can't tell how it is, I have been graver of late. I am, indeed, sometimes thoughtful.
Mar. O fye upon it! dont be so any more. It is quite old fashioned and ridiculous now. (To Agnes, winking at her.) Did you see my gloves any where about the room, cousin?
Op. I'll find them. (Goes to look for them with great briskness.—Servant announces Miss Eston.)
Op. Pest take her! I stared at her once in a mistake, and she has ogled and followed me ever since.
Enter Miss Eston, running up to Mariane and Agnes, and pretending not to see Opal, though she cannot help looking askance at him while she speaks.
Est. O my dear creatures! you can't think how I have longed to see you. Mrs. Thomson kept me so long this morning, and you know she is an intolerable talker. (Pretending to discover Opal) O! how do you do, Mr. Opal? I declare I did not observe you!
Op. (With a distant haughty bow.) I am obliged to you, ma'am.
Est. I did see your figure, indeed, but I mistook it for Sir Loftus.
Op. (Correcting himself, and assuming a cheerful frank manner.) O ma'am! you are very obliging to observe me at all. I believe Prettyman and I may be nearly of the same height. (Looking at his watch.) I am beyond my appointment I see. Excuse me: I must hurry away.[Exit, hastily.
Est. (Looking after him with marks of disappointment.) I am very glad he is gone. He does so haunt me, and stare at me, I am quite tired of it. The first time I ever saw him, you remember how he looked me out of countenance. I was resolved before I came not to take notice of him.
Mar. So you knew you should find him here, then.
Est. O la! one dont know of a morning who one may meet; as likely him as any body else, you know. I really wonder now what crotchet he has taken in his head about me. Do you know, last night, before twilight, I peeped past the blind, and saw him walking with slow pensive steps, under my window.
Mar. Well, what happened then?
Est. I drew in my head, you may be sure; but a little while after, I peeped out again, and, do you know, I saw him come out of the perfumer's shop, just opposite to my dressing-room, where he had been all the while.
Mar. Very well, and what happened next?
Est. La! nothing more. But was it not very odd? What should he be doing all that time in that little paltry shop? The great shop near the Circus is the place where every body buys perfumery.
Ag. No, there is nothing very odd in Mr. Opal's buying perfumes at a very paltry shop, where he might see and be seen by a very pretty lady.
Est. (With her face brightning up.) Do you think so? O no! you dont?
Ag. To be sure I do. But I know what is very strange.
Est. O la! dear creature! What is it?
Ag. He bought his perfumes there before you came, when there was no such inducement. Is not that very odd? (Eston pauses, and looks silly.)
Enter Mr. Withrington, but upon perceiving Eston, bows and retreats again.
Est. (Recovering herself.) Ha! how do you do, Mr. Withrington? I have just seen your friend, Lady Fade. Poor dear soul! she says—
With. I am sorry, ma'am, it is not in my power at present—I am in a hurry, I have an appointment. Your servant, ma'am.[Exit.
Est. Well, now this is very odd! Wherever I go, I find all the men just going out to some appointment. O, I forgot to tell you, Mrs. Thomson has put a new border to her drawing room, just like the one up stairs. Has it not a dark blue ground? (To Mariane.)
Mar. I'm sure I cannot tell, let us go up stairs and see.[Exeunt.
Before Mr. Withrington's House. Enter Harwood.
Well, here I am again, yet devil take me if I can muster up resolution enough to take the knocker in my hand! What a fool was I to call twice this morning! for with what face can I now visit her again? The old gentleman will look strangely at me; the fine heiress her cousin will stare at me; nay, the very servants begin already to smile with impertinent significance, as I enquire with conscious foolishness, if the ladies are at home. Then Agnes herself will look so drolly at me—Ah! but she will look so pleasantly too!—'Faith! I'll e'en go. (Goes to the door, puts his hand up to the knocker, stops short, and turns from it again. Pauses.) What a fool am I, to stand thinking about it here! If I were but fairly in the room with her, and the first salutation over, I should not care if the devil himself made faces at me. Oh no! every body is good humoured, every thing is happy that is near her! the kitten who plays by her side takes hold of her gown unchidden. How pleasant it is to love what is so blessed! I would hate the fairest woman on earth if she were not of a sweet temper. Come away, come away, every thing favours me here, but my own foolish fancies.
(As he goes to the door again, it opens, and enters from the house, Betty, crying with a bundle in her hand.)
Bet. O dear me! O dear me!
Har. What is the matter with you, my good girl?
Bet. I'm sure it was not my fault, and she has abused me worser than a heathen.
Har. That is hard indeed.
Bet. Indeed it is, sir; and all for a little nasty essence bottle, which was little better than a genteel kind of a stink at the best, and I am sure I did but take out the stopper to smell to it, when it came to pieces in my hand like an egg shell; if bottles will break, how can I help it; but la! sir, there is no speaking reason to my mistress, she is as furious and as ill tempered as a dragon.
Har. Dont distress yourself, Miss Agnes Withrington will make amends to you for the severity of your mistress.
Bet. She truly! she is my mistress herself, and she has abused me, O dear me,—If it had been Miss Withrington, she would not have said a word to me, but Miss Agnes is so cross, and so ill natured, there is no living in the house with her.
Har. Girl, you are beside yourself.
Bet. No, sir, god be praised! but she is beside herself, I believe. Does she think I am going to live in her service to be call'd names so, and compared to a blackamoor too? if I had been waiting maid to the queen, she would not have compared me to a blackamoor, and will I take such usage from her? what do I care for her cast gowns.
Har. Well, but she is liberal to you?
Bet. She liberal! she'll keep every thing that is worth keeping to herself, I warrant; and lord pity those who are bound to live with her! I'll seek out a new place for myself, and let the devil, if he will, wait upon her next, in the shape of blackamoor; they will befit company for one another, and if he gets the better of her for scolding, he is a better devil than I take him for: and I am sure, sir, if you were to see her—
Har. Get along! get along! you are too passionate yourself, to be credited.
Bet. I know what I know, I dont care what nobody says, no more I do; I know who to complain to.[Exit, grumbling.
Har. (alone.) What a malicious toad it is! I dare say now, she has done something very provoking, I cannot bear these pert chamber-maids, the very sight of them is offensive to me.
Jon. Good evening to your honour, can you tell me if Mr. Withrington be at home? for as how, my master has sent me with a message to him.
Har. (Impatiently.) Go to the house and enquire, I know nothing about it. (Jonathon goes into the house.)
Har. (Alone, after musing some time.) That girl has put me out of all heart though, with her cursed stories,—No, no, it cannot be—it is impossible!
Re-enter Jonathan from the house, scratching his head, and looking behind.
Jon. 'Faith there is hot work going on amongst them! thank heaven I am out again!
Har. What do you mean?
Jon. 'Faith! that little lady, in that there house, is the best hand at a scold, saving Mary Macmurrock, my wife's mother, that ever my too blessed eyes looked upon, lord sir! (going nearer him) her tongue goes ting, ting, ting, as shrill as the bell of any pieman, and then, sir, (going nearer him) her two eyes look out of her head, as though they were a couple of glow-worms, and then sir, he, he, he! (laughing, and going close up to him) she claps her little hands so, as if—
Har. Shut your fool's mouth and be damn'd to you! (Kicks Jonathan off the stage in a violent passion; then leans his back to a tree, and seems thoughtful for some time, and very much troubled)
Enter Agnes from the house, with a stormy look on her face.
Ag. So you are still loitering here, Harwood? you have been very much amused I suppose, with the conversation of those good folks, you have talked with.
Har. No, not much amused, madam, though somewhat astonished, I own; too much astonish'd indeed, to give it any credit.
Ag. O! it is true though, I have been very cross with the girl, and very cross with everybody, and if you dont clear up that dismal face of yours, I shall be cross with you too: what could possess you to stay so long under that chesnut-tree a little while ago, always appearing as if you were coming to the house, and always turning back again?
Har. (eagerly.) And is it possible, you were then looking at me, and observing my motions?
Ag. Indeed I was just going to open my window and beckon to you, when that creature broke my phial of sweet essence, and put me quite out of temper.
Har. Hang the stupid jade! I could—
Ag. So you are angry too? O! well done! we are fit company for one another, come along with me, come, come, (impatiently. As she turns to go something catches hold of her gown.) What is this? confounded thing! (Pulls away her gown in a passion, and tears it.)
Har. (aside.) Witch that she is, she should be beaten for her humours. I will not go with her.
Ag. (Looking behind.) So you wont go in with me? good evening to you then: we did want a fourth person to make up a party with us, but since you dont like it we shall send to Sir Loftus or Opal, or Sir Ulock O'Grady, or some other good creature; I dare say Sir Loftus will come.
Har. (Half aside.) Cursed Coxcomb! If he sets his snout within the door, I'll pistol him.
Ag. (Overhearing him.) Ha! well said! you will make the best company in the world, come along, come along, (he follows her half unwillingly,) why dont you offer your arm here? dont you see how rough it is? (He offers his arm.) Poo, not that arm. (Offers her the other.) Poo, not so neither, on t'other side of me.
Har. What a humoursome creature you are! I have offer'd you two arms, and neither of them will do, do you think I have a third to offer you?
Ag. You are a simpleton, or you would have half a dozen at my service.
[Exeunt into the house.