"Not So Bad As We Seem," an 18th pastiche written by Lord Lytton, played an important role in Victorian literature. Bulwer-Lytton and Dickens hoped to use the proceeds of the play to help finance their recently-established Guild of Literature and Art. Although the Guild itself was never successful, the play did bring an enormous amount of talent together. The cast reads like a who's who of Victorian arts and letters. (The original cast is listed below.)
Dickens and Wilkie Collins met for the first time during a reading of the play in March, 1851. Wilkie had the minor part of Smart, the valet. In 1852 Wilkie took over the important part of Shadowly Softhead when the company took the play on a successful tour.
I am indebted to Robert Tracy, author of Trollope's Later Novels and editor of several Victorian novels in the Oxford World's Classics series for permission to reprint the following note:
Bulwer-Lytton's play was written to be performed by a cast of authors as a benefit for the newly founded Guild of Literature and Art, which would provide assistance to authors in need. In the play Bulwer-Lytton emphasizes the dignity of the author's profession.
Since Queen Victoria was present on opening night, there is even a flattering remark about how much better off and respected authors would be in her reign, in contrast with the days of Queen Anne. There is an agreeable amount of intrigue, private and political, including the thwarting of a Jacobite plot against George I. A noble duke (of Middlesex) serves to compliment the Duke of Devonshire, in whose town house the play was performed.
The running Latin joke involves the phrase Animae dimidium meæ, addressed by Lord Wilmot (Dickens), the hero, to Softhead (Douglas Jerrold), a City man eager to associate with and imitate noblemen of fashion. Wilmot addresses Softhead in scene 1 as "my Pylades--my second self!" and the Latin phrase can be translated as "the half of my soul" or even "the half of myself." It is a tag from Horace, Odes, Book 1:3, line 8: Horace is wishing a good voyage to Virgil (probably not the poet), "the half of my soul," who is going off to Greece.
Softhead has not had the benefits of a classical education and so does not understand the phrase, nor recognize it as Latin. He is troubled by Animæ because he thinks Wilmot has called him an enemy, and believes that the dimi of dimidium is "the oath last [i.e. latest] in fashion," which he then adopts and uses inappropriately throughout the play. Bulwer-Lytton is thus able to get away with having a character say "damn me" on stage and before the Queen, without the women in the audience--some of them anyway--getting it.
Bulwer-Lytton's hero, Lord Wilmot, poses as a rake and a wastrel, but it is only a pose. Bulwer-Lytton has named him for John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-80), duellist, wit, crony of Charles II, and notorious among Victorians for his "indecent" verses. The Queen would not have been amused.
MANY SIDES TO A CHARACTER.
HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE, K. G.
MY LORD DUKE,
This play is respectfully dedicated to your Grace in token of the earnest gratitude, both of Author and Performers, for the genial and noble sympathy which has befriended their exertions in the cause of their brotherhood.
The debt that we can but feebly acknowledge, may those who come after us seek to repay; and may each loftier Cultivator of Art and Letters, whom the Institution established under your auspices may shelter from care and penury, see on its corner-stone your princely name,--and perpetuate to distant times the affectionate homage it commands from ourselves.
It is this hope that can alone render worthy the tribute which, in my own name as Author, and in the names of my companions the Performers, of the Play first represented at Devonshire House, I now offer to your Grace, with every sentiment that can deepen and endear the respect and admiration
With which I have the honor to be,
My Lord Duke,
Your Grace's most obedient and faithful Servant,
E. BULWER LYTTON
THE DUKE OF MIDDLESEX (Mr. Frank Stone).
THE EARL OF LOFTUS (Mr. Dudley Costello).
Peers attached to the son of James II., commonly called the First Pretender
LORD WILMOT (Mr. Charles Dickens.)
a young man at the head of the Mode more than a century ago, son to Lord Loftus
MR. SHADOWLY SOFTHEAD (Mr. Douglas Jerrold).
a young gentleman from the city, friend and double to Lord Wilmot
HARDMAN (Mr. John Forster).
a rising member of Parliament, and adherent to Sir Robert Walpole
SIR GEOFFREY THORNSIDE (Mr. Mark Lemon).
a gentleman of good family and estate
MR. GOODENOUGH EASY (Mr. E. W. Topham).
in business, highly respectable, and a friend of Sir Geoffrey
LORD LE TRIMMER (Mr. Peter Cunningham).
SIR THOMAS TIMID (Mr. Westland Marston).
COLONEL FLINT, a Fire-eater (Mr. R. H. Horne).
Frequenters of Will's Coffee House
MR. JACOB TONSON (Mr. Charles Knight).
SMART (Mr. Wilkie Collins).
Valet to Lord Wilmot
HODGE (Mr. John Tenniel).
Servant to Sir Geoffrey Thornside
PADDY O'SULLIVAN (Mr. Robert Bell).
Mr. Fallen's Landlord
MR. DAVID FALLEN (Mr. Augustus Egg, A.R.A.)
Grub Street Author and pamphleteer
LUCY (Mrs. Compton).
Daughter to Sir Geoffrey Thornside
BARBARA (Miss Ellen Chaplin).
daughter to Mr. Easy
THE SILENT LADY OF DEADMAN'S LANE (LADY THORNSIDE)
Time supposed to be occupied, from the noon of the first day to the afternoon of the second.
First performed on Friday, the 16th of May, 1851, before the Queen and the Prince Consort at Devonshire House, Piccadilly.
MANY SIDES TO A CHARACTER.
ACT I.--SCENE I.
LORD WILMOT'S Apartment in St. James's.
Smart [showing in a Masked Lady]. My Lord is dressing. As you say, madam, it is late. But though he never wants sleep more than once a week, yet when he does. sleep, I am proud to say he sleeps better than any man in the three kingdoms.
Lady. I have heard much of Lord Wilmot's eccentricities--but also of his generosity and honor.
Smart. Yes, madam, nobody like him for speaking ill of himself and doing good to another,
Wil. "And sleepless lovers just at twelve awake." Any duels to-day, Smart? No--I see something more dangerous--a woman. [To SMART.] Vanish. [Placing a chair for Lady.] Madam, have I the honor to know you? Condescend to remove your vizard. [Lady lifts her mask.] Very fine woman, still--decidedly dangerous. Madam, allow me one precautionary observation--My affections are engaged.
Lady. So I conjectured; for I have noticed you from the window of my house, walking in the garden of Sir Geoffrey Thornside with his fair daughter: and she seems worthy to fix the affections of the most fickle.
Wil. My dear madam, do you know Sir Geoffrey? Bind me to you for life, and say a kind word to him in my favor.
Lady. Can you need it?--young, highborn, accomplished--
Wil. Sir Geoffrey's very objections against me. He says I am a fine gentleman, and has a vehement aversion to that section of mortals, because he implies that a fine gentleman once did him a mortal injury. But you seem moved--dear lady, what is your interest in Sir Geoffrey or myself?
Lady. You shall know later. Tell me, did Lucy Thornside ever speak to you of her mother?
Wil. Only to regret, with tears in her eyes, that she had never known a mother--that lady died, I believe, while Lucy was but an infant.
Lady. When you next have occasion to speak to her, say that you have seen a friend of her mother, who has something to impart that may contribute to her father's happiness and her own.
Wil. I will do your bidding this day, and--
Soft. [without.] Oh, never mind announcing me, Smart.
Lady. [starting up] I would not be seen here--I must be gone. Call on me at nine o'clock this evening; this is my address.
Wil. [aside]. Do not fear him--best little fellow in the world, ambitious to be thought good for nothing, and frightened out of his wits at the sight of a petticoat. [Aloud, as he attends her out.] Allow me to escort your Ladyship.
Soft. Ladyship!--lucky dog. But then he's such a villain!
Wil. [returning, and looking at the address]. Very mysterious visitor--sign of Crown and Portcullis, Deadman's Lane--a very funeral residence. Ha, Softhead! my Pylades--my second self! Animæ--
Wil. Dimidium meæ.
Soft. Dimi! that's the oath last in fashion, I warrant. [With a swagger and a slap on the back.] Dimidum meæ, how d'ye do? But what is that lady?--masked too? Oh, Fred, Fred, you are a monster!
Wil. Monster! ay, horrible! That lady may well wear a mask. She has poisoned three husbands.
Soft. Dimidum meæ.
Wil. A mere harmless gallantry has no longer a charm for me.
Soft. Nor for me either! [Aside.] Never had.
Wil. Nothing could excite us true men of pleasure but some colossal atrocity, to bring our necks within an inch of the gallows!
Soft. He's a perfect demon! Alas, I shall never come up to his mark!
Smart. Mr. Hardman, my Lord.
Wil. Hush! Must not shock Mr. Hardman, the most friendly, obliging man, and so clever--will be a minister some day. But not one of our set.
Hard. And how fares my dear Lord?
Wil. Bravely--and you? Ah! you men who live for others have a hard life of it. Let me present you to my friend, Mr. Shadowly Softhead.
Hard. The son of the great clothier who has such weight in the Guild? I have heard of you from Mr. Easy and others, though never so fortunate as to meet you before, Mr. Softhead.
Soft. Shadowly Softhead:--my grandmother was one of the Shadowlys--a genteel family that move about Court. She married a Softhead--
Wil. A race much esteemed in the city.
Hard. A new picture, my lord? I'm no very great judge--but it seems to me quite a master-piece.
Wil. I've a passion for art. Sold off my stud to buy that picture. [Aside.] And please my poor father. 'Tis a Murillo.
Hard. A Murillo! you know that Walpole, too, has a passion for pictures.--In despair at this moment that he can't find a Murillo to hang up in his gallery. If ever you want to corrupt the Prime Minister's virtue, you have only to say, "I have got a Murillo."
Wil. Well, if, instead of the pictures, he'll just hang up the men he has bought, you may tell him he shall have my Murillo for nothing,!
Hard. Bought! now really, my Lord, this is so vulgar a scandal against Sir Robert. Let me assure your Lordship--
Wil. Lordship! Plagues on these titles among friends. Why, if the Duke of Middlesex himself--commonly styled "The Proud Duke"--who said to his Duchess, when she astonished his dignity one day with a kiss, "Madam, my first wife was a Percy, and she never took such a liberty;" ------*
* This well-known anecdote of the Proud Duke of Somerset, and some other recorded traits of, the same eminent personage, have been freely applied to the character, intended to illustrate the humor of pride, in the comedy. None of our English memoirs afford, however, instances of that infirmity so extravagant as are to be found in the French. Tallamant has on anecdote of the celebrated Duchesse de Longueville, which enlivens the burlesque by a bull that no Irish imagination ever surpassed. A surgeon having probably saved her life by bleeding her too suddenly and without sufficient ceremonial--the Duchesse said, on recovering herself, that "he was an insolent fellow to have bled her--in her presence."
Hard. Ha! ha! well, "if the Proud Duke"--
Wil. Could deign to come here, we would say, "How d'ye do, my dear Middlesex!"
Soft. So we would, Fred, Middlesex.--Shouldn't you like to know a Duke, Mr. Hardman?
Hard. I have known one or two--in opposition: and had rather too much of 'em.
Soft. Too much of a Duke! La! I could never have eno' of a Duke?
Hard. You may live to think otherwise.
Smart. His grace the Duke of Middlesex.
Duke. My Lord Wilmot, your most obedient servant.
Wil. [Aside. Now then courage!] How d'ye do, my dear Middlesex?
Duke. "How d'ye do?" "Middlesex!" Gracious Heaven; what will this age come to?
Hard. [to SOFTHEAD]. Well, it may be the fashion,--yet I can hardly advise you to adopt it.
Soft. But if Fred.--
Hard. Oh! certainly Fred is an excellent model--
Soft. Yet there's something very awful in a live Duke!
Hard. Tut! a mere mortal like ourselves, after all.
Soft. D'ye really think so!--upon your honor?
Hard. Sir, I'm sure of it,--upon my honor, a mortal!
Duke [turning stiffly round, and half rising from his chair in majestic condescension]. Your Lordship's friends? A good day to you, gentlemen!
Soft. And a good day to yourself. My Lord Du----I mean, my dear boy!--Middlesex, how--d'ye do?
Duke. "Mid!" -- "boy" -- "sex!" -- "dear!" I must be in a dream.
Wil. [to SOFTHEAD]. Apologise to the Duke. [To HARDMAN.] Then hurry him off into the next room. Allow me to explain to your Grace.
Soft. But what shall I say?
Hard. Anything most civil and servile.
Soft. I--I--my Lord Duke, I really most humbly entreat your Grace's pardon I,--
Duke. Small man, your pardon is granted, for your existence is effaced. So far as my recognition is necessary to your sense of being, consider yourself henceforth annihilated!
Soft. I humbly thank your Grace! Annihilated! what's that?
Hard. Duke's English for excused. [SOFTHEAD wants to get back to the DUKE.] What! have not you had enough of the Duke?
Soft. No, now we've made it up. I never bear malice. I should like to know more of him; one can't get at a Duke every day. If he did call me "small man" he is a Duke,--and such a remarkably fine one!
Hard. [drawing him away]. You deserve to be haunted by him! No--no! Come into the next room.
[Exeunt through side-door. SOFTHEAD very reluctant to leave the DUKE.
Duke. There's something portentous in that small man's audacity.--Quite an aberration of nature! But we are alone now, we two gentlemen. Your father is my friend, and his son must have courage and honor.
Wil. Faith, I had the courage to say I would call your Grace "Middlesex," and the honor to keep to my word. So I've given good proof that I've courage and honor enough for anything!
Duke. [affectionately]. You're a wild boy. You have levities and follies. But alas! even rank does not exempt its possessor from the faults of humanity. Very strange! My own dead brother--[with a look of disgust].
Wil. Your brother, Lord Henry de Mowbray? My dear Duke, pray forgive me; but I hope there's no truth in what Tonson, the bookseller, told me at Will's,--that your brother had left behind certain Confessions or Memoirs, which are all that might be apprehended from a man of a temper so cynical, and whose success in the gay world was so--terrible. [Aside. Determined seducer and implacable cut-throat!]
Duke. Ha! then those Memoirs exist! My brother kept his profligate threat. I shall be ridiculed, lampooned. I, the head of the Mowbrays. Powers above, is nothing on earth, then, left sacred! Can you learn in whose hands is this scandalous record?
Wil. I will try. Leave it to me. I know Lord Henry bore you a grudge for renouncing his connection, on account of his faults--of humanity! I remember an anecdote how he fought with a husband, some poor devil named Morland, for a boast in a tavern, which--Oh, but we'll not speak of that. We must get the Memoir. We gentlemen have all common cause here.
Duke [taking his hand]. Worthy son of your father. You deserve, indeed, the trust that I come to confide to you. Listen. His Majesty, King James, having been deceived by vague promises in the Expedition of 'Fifteen, has very properly refused to imperil his rights again, unless upon the positive pledge of a sufficient number of persons of influence, to risk life and all in his service. Myself and some others, not wholly unknown to you, propose to join in a pledge which our King with such reason exacts. Your assistance, my lord, would be valuable, for you are the idol of the young. Doubts were entertained of your royalty. I have come to dispel them--a word will suffice. If we succeed, you restore the son of a Stuart; if we fail,--you will go to the scaffold by the side of John Duke of Middlesex! Can you hesitate? or is silence assent?
Wil. My dear Duke, forgive me that I dismiss with a jest a subject so fatal, if gravely entertained. I have so many other engagements at present that, just to recollect them, I must keep my head on my shoulders. Accept my humblest excuses.
Duke. Accept mine for mistaking the son of Lord Loftus. [Goes up to C. D.
Wil. Lord Loftus again! Stay. Your Grace spoke of persons not wholly unknown to me. I entreat you to explain.
Duke. My Lord, I have trusted you with my own life; but to compromise by a word the life of another!--permit me to remind your Lordship that I am John Duke of Middlesex.
Wil. Can my father have entangled himself in some Jacobite plot? How shall I find out?--Ha! Hardman, Hardman, I say! Here's a man who finds everything out.
Softhead, continue annihilated for the next five minutes or so. These books will help to the cessation of your existence, mental and bodily, Mr. Locke, on the Understanding, will show that you have not an innate idea; and the Essay of Bishop Berkeley will prove you have not an atom of matter.
Wil. No buts!--they're the fashion.
Soft. Oh, if they're the fashion--
[Seats himself at the further end of the room; commences vigorously with Berkeley and Locke, first one and then the other, and after convincing himself that they are above his comprehension, gradually subsides from despair into dozing.
Wil. [to HARDMAN]. My dear Hardman, you are the only one of my friends whom, in spite of your politics, my high Tory father condescends to approve of. Every one knows that his family were stout cavaliers attached, to the Stuarts.
Hard. [aside]. Ah! I guess why the Jacobite Duke has been here. I must look up David Fallen; he is in all the schemes for the Stuarts. Well--and--
Wil. And the Jacobites are daring and numerous; and,--in short, I should just like to know that my father views things with the eyes of our more wise generation.
Hard. Why not ask him yourself?
Wil. Alas! I'm in disgrace; he even begs me not to come to his house. You see he wants me to marry.
Hard. But your father bade me tell you, he would leave your choice to yourself;--would marriage then seem so dreadful a sacrifice?
Wil. Sacrifice! Leave my choice to myself? My dear father. [Rings the hand-bell.] Smart! [Enter SMART.] Order my coach.
Hard. This impatience looks very like love.
Wil. Pooh! what do you know about love?--you,--who love only ambition? Solemn old jilt, with whom one's never safe from a rival.
Hard. Yes;--always safe from a rival, both in love and ambition, if one will watch to detect, and then scheme to destroy him.
Wil. Destroy--ruthless exterminator! May we never be rivals? Pray keep to ambition.
Hard. [aside]. But ambition lures me to love. This fair Lucy Thornside, as rich as she's fair! woe indeed to the man who shall be my rival with her. I will call there to-day.
Wil. Then, you'll see my father, and sound him?
Hard. I will do so.
Wil. You are the best friend I have. If ever I can serve you in return-- [Exit.
Hard. Tut! in serving my friends, 'tis myself that I serve.
Wil. [after a moment's thought]. Now to Lucy. Ha! Softhead.
Soft. [waking up]. Heh!
Wil. [aside]. I must put this suspicious Sir Geoffrey on a wrong scent. If Softhead were to make love to the girl--violently--desperately.
Soft. [yawning] I would give the world to be tucked up in bed now.
Wil. I've a project--an intrigue--be all life and all fire! Why you tremble--
Soft. With excitement. Proceed!
Wil. There's a certain snarling, suspicious Sir Geoffrey Thornside, with a beautiful daughter, to whom he is a sort of a one-sided bear of a father--all growl and no hug.
Soft. I know him!
Wil. You. How?
Soft. Why, his most intimate friend is Mr. Goodenough Easy.
Wil. Lucy presented me to a Mistress Barbara Easy. Pretty girl.
Soft. You are not courting her?
Wil. Not at present. Are you?
Soft. Why, my father wants me to marry her.
Wil. You refused?
Soft. No. I did not.
Wil. Had she that impertinence?
Soft. No; but her father had. He wished for it once; but since I've become à la mode, and made a sensation at St. James's, he says that his daughter shall be courted no more by a man of such fashion. Oh! he's low, Mr. Easy: very good-humored and hearty, but respectable, sober, and square-toed;--decidedly low!--City bred! So I can't go much to his house; but I see Barbara sometimes at Sir Geoffrey's.
Wil. Excellent! Listen: I am bent upon adding Lucy Thornside to the list of my conquests. But her churl of a father has already given me to understand that he hates a lord--
Soft. Hates a lord! Can such men be?
Wil. And despises a man à la mode.
Soft. I knew he was eccentric, but this is downright insanity.
Wil. Brief. I see very well that he'll soon shut his doors in my face, unless I make him believe that it is not his daughter who attracts me to his house; so I tell you what we will do;--you shall make love to Lucy--violent love; you rogue.
Soft. But Sir Geoffrey knows I'm in love with the other.
Wil. That's over. Father refused you--transfer of affection; natural pique and human inconstancy. And, in return, to oblige you, I'll make love just as violent to Mistress Barbara Easy.
Soft. Stop, stop; I don't see the necessity of that.
Wil. Pooh! nothing more clear. Having thus duped the two lookers on, we shall have ample opportunity to change partners, and hands across, then down the middle and up again.
Smart. Your coach waits, my Lord.
Wil. Come along. Fie! that's not the way to conduct a cane. Has not Mr. Pope, our great poet of fashion, given you the nicest instructions in that art?
"Sir Plume, of amber snuff-box justly vain,
And the nice conduct of a clouded cane."
The cane does not conduct you; you conduct the cane. Thus with a debonnair swing. Now, t'other hand on your haunch; easy, dégagé--impudently graceful; with the air of a gentleman, and the heart of a--monster! Allons! Vive la joie.
Soft. Vive la jaw, indeed. I feel as if I were going to be hanged. Allons! Vive la jaw!
ACT II.--SCENE I.
Library in the house of SIR GEOFFREY THORNSIDE--At the back a large window opening nearly to the ground--Side-door to an adjoining room--Style of decoration, that introduced from the Dutch in the reign of William III. (old-fashioned, therefore, at the date assigned to the Play)--rich and heavy; oak panels, partly guilt; high-backed chairs, etc.
Sir Geof. But I say the dog did howl last night, and it is a most suspicious circumstances.
Hodge. Fegs, my dear Measter, if you'se think that these Lunnon thieves have found out that your honor's rents were paid last woik, mayhap I'd best sleep here in the loibery.
Sir Geof. [aside]. How does he know I keep my moneys here?
Hodge. Zooks! I'se the old blunderbuss, and that will boite better than any dog, I'se warrant
Sir Geof. [Aside. I begin to suspect him. For ten years have I nursed that viper at my hearth, and now he wants to sleep in my library, with a loaded blunderbuss, in case I should come in and detect him. I see murder in his very face. How blind I've been!] Hodge, you are very good--very; come closer. [Aside. What a felon step he has!] But I don't keep my rents here, they're all gone to the banker's.
Hodge. Mayhap I'd best go and lock up the plate; or will you send that to the banker's.
Sir Geof. [Aside. I wonder if he has got an accomplice at the banker's! It looks uncommonly like it.] No, I'll not send the plate to the bankers, I'll--consider. You've not detected the miscreant who has been flinging flowers into the library the last four days?--or observed any one watching your master when he walks in his garden, from the window of that ugly old house in Deadman's Lane?
Hodge. With the sign of the Crown and Poor Culley! Why, it maun be very leately. 'Tint a week ago 'sint it war empty.
Sir Geof. [Aside. How he evades the question!--just as they do at the Old Bailey.] Get along with you and feed the house-dog--he's honest!
Hodge. Yes, your honor. [Exit.
Sir Geof. I'm a very unhappy man, very. Never did harm to any one--done good to many. And ever since I was a babe in the cradle, all the world have been conspiring and plotting against me. It certainly is an exceedingly wicked world; and what its attraction can be to the other worlds, that they should have kept it spinning through space for six thousand years, I can't possibly conceive--unless they are as bad as itself; I should not wonder. That new theory of attraction is a very suspicious circumstance against the planets--there's a gang of 'em! [A bunch of flowers is thrown in at the window.] Heaven defend me! There it is again! This is the fifth bunch of flowers that's been thrown at me through the window--what can it possibly mean?--the most alarming circumstance.
[Cautiously poking at the flowers with his sword.
Mr. Goodenough Easy [without]. Yes, Barbara, go and find Mistress Lucy. [Entering.] How d'ye do, my hearty?
Sir Geof. Ugh! hearty, indeed!
Easy. Why, what's the matter? what are you poking at those flowers for?--is there a snake in them?
Sir Geof. Worse than that, I suspect! Hem! Goodenough Easy, I believe I may trust you--
Easy. You trusted me once with five thousand pounds.
Sir Geof. Dear, dear, I forgot that. But you paid me back, Easy?
Easy. Of course: but the loan saved my credit, and made my fortune: so the favor's the same.
Sir Geof. Ugh! Don't say that; favors and perfidy go together! a truth I learned early in life. What favors I heaped on my foster-brother. And did not he conspire with my cousin to set my own father against me; and trick me out of my heritage?
Easy. But you've heaped favors as great on the son of that scamp of a foster-brother; and he--
Sir Geof. Ay! but he don't know of them. And then there was my--that girl's mother--
Easy. Ah! that was an affliction which might well turn a man, pre-inclined to suspicion, into a thorough self-tormentor for the rest of his life. But she loved you dearly once old friend; and were she yet alive, and could be proved guiltless after all--
Sir Geof. Guiltless! Sir?
Easy. Well--well! we agreed never to talk upon that subject. Come, come, what of the nosegay?
Sir Geof. Yes, yes, the nosegay! Hark! I suspect some design on my life. The dog howled last night. When I walk in the garden, somebody or something (can't see what it is) seems at the watch in a window in Deadman's Lane--pleasant name for a street at the back of one's premises! And what looks blacker than all, for five days running, has been thrown in at me, yonder, surreptitiously and anonymously, what you call--a nosegay!
Easy. Ha! ha! you lucky dog!--you are still not bad-looking! Depend on it the flowers come from a woman.
Sir Geof. A woman!--my worse fears are confirmed? In the small city of Placentia, in one year, there were no less than seven hundred cases of slow poisoning, and all by women. Flowers were among the instruments they employed, steeped in laurel water and other mephitic preparations. Those flowers are poisoned. Not a doubt of it!--how very awful!
Easy. But why should any one take the trouble to poison you, Geoffrey?
Sir Geof. I don't know. But I don't know why seven hundred people in one year were poisoned in Placentia. Hodge! Hodge!
Sweep away those flowers!--lock 'em up with the rest in the coal-hole. I'll examine them all chemically, by and by, with precaution. [Exit HODGE.] Don't smell at 'em; and, above all, don't let the house-dog smell at 'em.
Easy. Ha! ha!
Sir Geof. [Aside. Ugh!--that brute's laughing!--no more feeling than a brick-bat!] Goodenough Easy, you are a very happy man.
Easy. Happy, yes. I could be happy on bread and water.
Sir Geof. And would toast your bread at a conflagration, and fill your jug from a deluge! Ugh! I've a trouble you are more likely to feel for, as you've a girl of your own to keep out of mischief. A man named Wilmot, and styled "my Lord," has called here a great many times; he pretends he saved my--ahem!--that is, Lucy, from footpads, when she was coming home from your house in a sedan chair. And I suspect that man means to make love to her!--
Easy. Egad! that's the only likely suspicion you've hit on this many a day. I've heard of Lord Wilmot. Softhead professes to copy him. Softhead, the son of a trader! he be a lounger at White's and Will's, and dine with wits and fine gentlemen! He lives with lords!--he mimic fashion! No! I've respect for even the faults of a man; but I've none for the tricks of a monkey.
Sir Geof. Ugh! you're so savage on Softhead, I suspect 'tis from envy. Man and monkey, indeed! If a ribbon is tied to the tail of a monkey, it is not the man it enrages; it is some other monkey whose tail has no ribbon!
Easy [angrily]. I disdain your insinuations. Do you mean to imply that I am a monkey? I will not praise myself; but at least a more steady, respectable, sober--
Sir Geof. Ugh! sober!--I suspect you'd get as drunk as a lord, if a lord passed the bottle.
Easy. Now, now, now. Take care; you'll put me in a passion.
Sir Geof. There--there--beg pardon. But I fear you've a sneaking respect for a lord.
Easy. Sir, I respect the British Constitution and the House of Peers as a part of it; but as for a lord in himself, with a mere handle to his name, a paltry title! That can have no effect on a Briton of independence and sense. And that's just the difference between Softhead and me. But as you don't like for a son-in-law the real fine gentleman; perhaps you've a mind to the copy. I am sure you are welcome to Softhead.
Sir Geof. Ugh! I've other designs for the girl.
Easy. Have you? What? Perhaps your favorite, young Hardman?--by the way, I've not met him here lately.
Lucy. O, my dear father, forgive me if I disturb you; but I did so long to see you!
Sir Geof. Why?
Lucy. Ah, father is it so strange that your child--
Sir Geof. [interrupting her]. Why?
Lucy. Because Hodge told me you'd been alarmed last night,--the dog howled! But it was full moon last night, and he will howl at the moon!
Sir Geof [aside]. How did she know it was full moon? I suspect she was looking out of the window--
[Enter HODGE, announcing LORD WILMOT and MR. SHADOWLY SOFTHEAD].--Wilmot! my suspicions are confirmed; she was looking out of the window! This comes of Shakspeare having written that infernal incendiary trash about Romeo and Juliet!
Wil. Your servant, ladies;-- Sir Geoffrey, your servant. I could not refuse Mr. Softhead's request to inquire after your health.
Sir Geof. I thank your lordship; but when my health wants inquiring after I send for the doctor.
Wil. Is it possible you can do anything so dangerous and rash?
Sir Geof. How?--how?
Wil. Send for the very man who has an interest in your being ill!
Sir Geof [aside]. That's very true. I did not think he had so much sense in him!
[SIR GEOFFREY and EASY retire up the stage.
Wil. I need not inquire how you are, ladies. When Hebe retired from the world, she divided her bloom between you. Mistress Barbara, vouchsafe me the honor a queen accords to the meanest of her gentlemen.
[Kisses BARBARA'S hand, and leads her aside, conversing in dumb show.
Soft. Ah, Mistress Lucy. vouchsafe me the honor which--[Aside. But she don't hold her hand in the same position].
Easy. Bravo!--bravo! Master Softhead!--Encore!
Soft. Bravo!--Encore! I don't understand you, Mr. Easy.
Easy. That bow of yours! Perfect. Plain to see you have not forgotten the old Dancing Master in Crooked Lane.
Soft. [Aside. I'm not an inconstant man; but I'll show that City fellow, there are other ladies in town besides his daughter.]--Dimidum meæ, how pretty you are, Mistress Lucy!
[Walks aside with her.
Sir Geof. That popinjay of a lord is more attentive to Barbara than ever he was to the other.
Easy. Hey! hey! D'ye think so?
Sir Geof. I suspect he has heard how rich you are.
Bar. Papa, Lord Wilmot begs to be presented to you.
[Bows interchanged. WILMOT offers snuff-box. EASY at first declines, then accepts--sneezes violently; unused to snuff.
Sir Geof. He! he! quite clear!--titled fortune-hunter. Over head and ears in debt, I dare say. [Takes WILMOT aside.] Pretty girl, Mistress Barbara! Eh?
Wil. Pretty! Say beautiful!
Sir Geof. He! he! Her father will give her fifty thousand pounds down on the wedding-day.
Wil. I venerate the British merchant who can give his daughter fifty thousand pounds! What a smile she has! [Hooking his arm into SIR GEOFFREY'S.] I say, Sir Geoffrey, you see I'm very shy--bashful, indeed--and Mr. Easy is watching every word I say to his daughter: so embarrassing! Couldn't you get him out of the room?
Sir Geof. Mighty bashful, indeed! Turn the oldest friend I have out of my room, in order that you may make love to his daughter! [Turns away.
Wil. [to EASY]. I say, Mr. Easy. My double, there, Softhead, is so shy--bashful, indeed--and that suspicious Sir Geoffrey is watching every word he says to Mistress Lucy: so embarrassing! Do get your friend out of the room, will you!
Easy. Ha! ha! Certainly, my lord. [Aside. I see he wants to be alone with my Barbara. What will they say in Lombard-street, when she's my lady? Shouldn't wonder if they returned me M.P. for the city.] Come into the next room, Geoffrey; and tell me your designs for Lucy.
Sir Geof. Oh, very well! You wish to encourage that pampered young--Satrap! How he does love a lord, and how a lord does love fifty thousand pounds! He! he!
[Exeunt SIR GEOFFREY and SOFTHEAD.
Wil. [running to LUCY and pushing aside SOFTHEAD]. Return to your native allegiance. Truce with the enemy and exchange of prisoners.
[Leads LUCY aside--she rather grave and reluctant.
Bar. So, you'll not speak to me, Mr. Softhead; words are too rare with you fine gentlemen to throw away upon old friends.
Bar. You don't remember the winter evenings you used to pass at our fire-side? nor the mistletoe bough at Christmas? nor the pleasant games at Blind-man's Buff and Hunt the Slipper? nor the strong tea I made you when you had the migraine? Nor how I prevented your eating Banbury cake at supper, when you know it always disagrees with you?--But I suppose you are so hardened that you can eat Banbury cake every night now!--I'm sure 'tis nothing to me!
Soft. Those recollections of one's early innocence are very melting! One renounces a great deal of happiness for renown and ambition.--Barbara!
Soft. However one may rise in life--however the fashion may compel one to be a monster--
Bar. A monster!
Soft. Yes, Fred and I are both monsters! Still--still--still--'Ecod, I do love you with all my heart, and that's the truth of it.
Lucy. A friend of my lost mother's. Oh! yes, dear Lord Wilmot, do see her again--learn what she has to say. There are times when I so long to speak of that--my mother; but my father shuns even to mention her name. Ah, he must have loved her well!
Wil. What genuine susceptibility! I have found what I have sought all my life, the union of womanly feeling and childlike innocence.
[Attempts to take her hand: LUCY withdraws it coyly.
Nay, nay, if the renunciation of all youthful levities and follies, if the most steadfast adherence to your side--despite all the chances of life, all temptations, all dangers--
[HARDMAN'S voice without.
Bar. Hist! some one coming.
Wil. Change partners; hands across. My angel Barbara!
Hard. Lord Wilmot here!
Wil. What! does he know Sir Geoffrey?
Bar. Oh yes. Sir Geoffrey thinks there's nobody like him.
Wil. Well met, my dear Hardman. So you are intimate here?
Hard. Ay; and you?
Wil. An acquaintance in its cradle. Droll man, Sir Geoffrey; I delight in odd characters. Besides, here are other attractions. [Returning to BARBARA.
Hard. [aside.] If he be my rival! Hum! I hear from David Fallen that his father's on the brink of high treason! That secret gives a hold on the son. [Joins LUCY.
Wil. [to BARBARA]. You understand; 'tis a compact. You will favor my stratagem?
Bar. Yes; and you'll engage to cure Softhead of his taste for the fashion, and send him back to----the City.
Wil. Since you live in the City, and condescend to regard such a monster!
Bar. Why, we were brought up together. His health is so delicate; I should like to take care of him. Heigho! I am afraid 'tis too late, and papa will never forgive his past follies.
Wil. Yet papa seems very good-natured. Perhaps there's another side to his character?
Bar. Oh yes! He is such a very independent man, my papa! and has such a contempt for people who go out of their own rank, and make fools of themselves for the sake of example.
Wil. Never fear; I'll ask him to dine, and open his heart with a cheerful glass.
Bar. Cheerful glass! You don't know papa--the soberest man! If there's, anything on which he's severe, 'tis a cheerful glass.
Wil. So, so! does not he ever--get a little excited?
Bar. Excited! Don't think of it? Besides, he is so in awe of Sir Geoffrey, who would tease him out of his life, if he could but hear that papa was so inconsistent as to--as to--
Wil. As to get--a little excited? [Aside. These hints should suffice me! 'Gad, if I could make him tipsy for once in a way! I'll try.] Adieu, my sweet Barbara, and rely on the zeal of your faithful ally. Stay; tell Mr. Easy that he must lounge into Will's. I will look out for him there in about a couple of hours. He'll meet many friends from the City, and all the wits and fine gentlemen. Allons! Vive la joie! Softhead, we'll have a night of it!
Soft. Ah! those were pleasant nights when one went to bed at half after ten. Heigho!
[As HARDMAN kisses LUCY'S hand, WILMOT gaily kisses BARBARA'S--HARDMAN observes him with a little suspicion--WILMOT returns his look lightly and carelessly--LUCY and BARBARA conscious.
ACT III.--SCENE I.
Will's Coffee-house; occupying the depth of the stage. . Various groups; some seated in boxes, some standing. In a box at the side, DAVID FALLEN seated writing.
How d'ye do?--Have you seen my Lord Wilmot?--Good day.--Yes; I seldom come here; but I've promised to meet an intimate friend of mine--Lord Wilmot.--Servant, sir!--looking for my friend Wilmot:--Oh! not come yet!--hum--ha!--charming young man, Wilmot: head of the mode; generous, but prudent. I know all his affairs.
Great news! great news! Suspected Jacobite Plot! Fears of ministers!--Army to be increased!--Great news!
[Coffee-house frequenters gather round Newsman--take papers--form themselves into fresh groups.
Hard. I have sent off my letter to Sir Robert Walpole. This place, he must give it; the first favor I have asked. Hope smiles; I am at peace with all men. Now to save Wilmot's father. [Approaches the box at which DAVID FALLEN is writing, and stoops down, as if arranging his buckle.] [To FALLEN. Hist! Whatever the secret, remember, not a word save to me.] [Passes down the stage, and is eagerly greeted by various frequenters of the Coffee-house.
Lord Lof. Drawer, I engage this box; give me the newspaper. So--"Rumored Jacobite plot--"
Duke. My dear Lord, I obey your appointment. But is not the place you select rather strange?
Lof. Be seated, I pray you. No place so fit for our purpose. First, because its very publicity prevents all suspicion. We come to a coffee-house, where all ranks and all parties assemble, to hear the news, like the rest. And, secondly, we could scarcely meet our agent anywhere else. He is a Tory pamphleteer: was imprisoned for our sake in the time of William and Mary. If we, so well known to be Tories, are seen to confer with him here, 'twill only be thought that we are suggesting some points in a pamphlet. May I beckon our agent!
Duke. Certainly. He risks his life for us; he shall be duly rewarded. Let him sit by our side--[LORD LOFTUS motions to DAVID FALLEN, who takes up his pamphlet and approaches openly.]--I have certainly seen somewhere before that very thin man. Be seated, sir. Honorable danger makes all men equal.
Fal. No, my Lord Duke. I know not you. It is the Earl I confer with. [Aside. I never stood in his hall, with lacqueys and porters.]
Duke. Powers above! That scare-crow rejects my acquaintance! Portentous! [Stunned and astonished.
Lof. Observe, Duke, we speak in a sort of jargon. Pamphlet means messenger. [To FALLEN aloud.] Well, Mr. Fallen, when will the pamphlet be ready?
Fal. [aloud]. To-morrow, my Lord, exactly at one o'clock.
Duke [still bewildered]. I don't understand--
Lof. Hush! Walpole laughs at pamphlets, but would hang messengers. [Aloud.] To-morrow, not to-day! Well, more time for--
Fal. Subscribers. Thank you, my Lord. [Whispering]. Where shall the messenger meet you?
Lof. At the back of the Duke's new house, there a quiet, lone place---
Fal. [whispering]. By the old mill near the Thames? I know it. The messenger shall be there. The signal word, "Marston Moor." No conversation should pass. But who brings the packet? That's the first step of danger.
Duke [suddenly rousing himself, and with dignity]. Then 'tis mine, sir, in right of my birth.
Fal. [aloud]. I'll attend to all your Lordship's suggestions; they're excellent, and will startle this vile administration. Many thanks to your Lordship.
[Returns to his table and resume his writing. Groups point and murmur. JACOB TONSON advances.
Easy. That pestilent scribbler, David Fallen! Another libellous pamphlet as bitter as the last, I'll swear.
Ton. Bitter as gall, sir, I am proud to say. Your servant; Jacob Tonson, the bookseller,--at your service. I advanced a pound upon it.
Duke. I will meet you in the Mall to-morrow, a quarter after one precisely. We may go now? Powers above!--his mind's distracted--he walks out before me!
Lof. [drawing back at the door]. I follow you, Duke.
Duke. My dear friend--if you really insist on it? [Exeunt bowing.
Hard. [as the Drawer places the wine, etc., on the table]. Let me offer you a glass of wine, Mr. Fallen--[Aside. Well?--] [FALLEN, who has been writing, pushes the paper towards him.
Hard. [reading]. "At one to-morrow--by the old mill near the Thames--Marston Moor--the Duke in person"--So! We must save these men.--I will call on you in the morning, and concert the means.
Fal. Yes, save, not destroy, these. enthusiasts. I'm resigned to the name of a hireling--not to that of a butcher!
Hard. You serve both Whig and Jacobite; do you care then for either?
Fal. Sneering politician! what has either cared for me? I entered the world, devoted heart and soul to two causes--the throne of the Stuart, the glory of Letters. I saw them both as a poet. My father left me no heritage, but loyalty, and learning. Charles the Second praised my verse, and I starved; James the Second praised my prose, and I starved; the reign of King William--I passed that in prison!
Hard. But the ministers of Anne were gracious to writers.
Pal. And offered me a pension to belie my past life, and write Odes on the Queen who had dethroned her own father. I was not then disenchanted--I refused. That's years ago. If I starved, I had fame. Now came my worst foes, my own fellow-writers. What is fame but a fashion? A jest upon Grub Street, a rhyme from young Pope, could jeer a score of gray laborers like me out of their last consolation. Time and hunger tame all. I could still starve myself; I have six children at home--they must live.
Hard. [Aside. This man has genius--he might have been a grace to his age.] I'm perplexed; Sir Robert--
Fal. Disdains letters--I've renounced them. He pays services like these. Well--I serve him. Leave me; go.
Hard. [rising]. Not so bad as he seems--another side to the character.
Hard. [Aside]. From Walpole! Now then! my fate--my love--my fortunes!
Easy [peeping over HARDMAN'S shoulder]. He has got a letter from the Prime Minister, marked "private and confidential." [Great agitation.] After all, he is a very clever fellow.
[Coffee-house frequenters evince the readiest assent, and the liveliest admiration.
Hard. [advancing and reading the letter]. "My dear Hardman,--Extremely sorry. Place in question absolutely wanted to conciliate some noble family otherwise dangerous.* Another time, more fortunate. Fully sensible of your valuable service.--ROBERT WALPOLE." --Refused! Let him look to himself! I will--I will--Alas! he is needed by my country; and I am powerless against him. [Seats himself.
*As Walpole was little inclined to make it a part of his policy to conciliate those whose opposition might be dangerous, while he was so fond of power as to be jealous of talent not wholly subservient to him, the reluctance to promote Mr. Hardman, implied to the insincerity of his excuse, may be supposed to arise from his knowledge of that gentleman's restless ambition and determined self-will.
Wil. Drawer! a private room--covers for six--dinner in an hour!* And--Drawer! Tell Mr. Tonson not to go yet.--Softhead, we'll have an orgy to-night, worthy the days of King Charles the Second.
* It was not the custom at Will's to serve dinners; and the exception in favor of my Lord Wilmot proves his influence as a man à la mode.
Softhead, let me present you to our boon companions;--my friend, Lord Strongbow (hardest drinker in England); Sir John Bruin, best boxer in England--threshed Figg; quarrelsome but pleasant; Colonel Flint--finest gentleman in England, and, out and out, the best fencer; mild as a lamb, but can't bear contradiction, and, on the point of honor, inexorable, Now, for the sixth. Ha, Mr. Easy! (I ask him to serve you.) Easy, your hand! So charmed that you've come. You'll dine with us--give up five invitations on purpose. Do--sans cérémonie.
Easy. Why, really, my Lord, a plain sober man like me would be out of place--
Wil. If that's all, never fear. Live with us, and we'll make another man of you, Easy!
Easy. What captivating familiarity! Well, I cannot resist your lordship. [Strutting down the room, and speaking to his acquaintances.] Yes, my friend Wilmot--Lord Wilmot--will make me dine with him. Pleasant man, my friend Wilmot. We dine together to-day.
[SOFTHEAD retires to the background with the other invited guests; but trying hard to escape SIR JOHN BRUIN, the boxer, and COL. FLINT, the fencer, fastens himself on EASY with an air of patronage.
Wil. [Aside. Now to serve the dear Duke.] You have not yet brought the memoir of a late Man of Quality.
Ton. Not yet, My Lord; just been trying; hard work. [Wipes his forehead.] But the person who has it is luckily very poor! one of my own authors.
Wil. [Aside. His eye turns to that forlorn-looking spectre I saw him tormenting.] That must be one of your authors: he looks so lean, Mr. Tonson?
Ton. Hush; that's the man! made a noise in his day; David Fallen.
Wil. David Fallen, whose books, when I was but a schoolboy, made me first take to reading,--not as taskwork, but pleasure. How much I do owe him!
[Bows very low to MR. FALLEN.
Ton. My Lord bows very low! Oh, if your lordship knows Mr. Fallen, pray tell him not to stand in his own light. I would give him a vast sum for the memoir,--two hundred guineas; on my honor I would! [Whispering.] Scandal, my Lord, sell like wild-fire.---I say, Mr. Hardman, I observed you speak to poor David. Can't you help me here? [Whispering]. Lord Henry de Mowbray's Private Memoirs! Fallen has them, and refuses to sell. Love Adventures; nuts for the public. Only just got a peep myself. But such a confession about the beautiful Lady Morland.
Hard. Hang Lady Morland!
Ton. Besides--shows up his own brother! Jacobite family secrets. Such a card for the Whigs!
Hard. Confound the Whigs! What do I care?
Wil. I'll see to it, Tonson. Give me Mr. Fallen's private address.
Ton. But pray be discreet, my Lord. If that knave Curll should get wind of the scent, he'd try to spoil my market with my own author. The villain!
Wil. [Aside. Curll? Why, I have mimick'd Curll so exactly that Pope himself was deceived, and, stifling with rage, ordered me out of the room. I have it! Mr. Curll shall call upon Fallen the first thing in the morning and outbid Mr. Tonson. Thank you, sir. [Taking the address.] Moody, my Hardman? some problem in political ethics? You turn away,-- you have a grief you'll not tell me--why, this morning I asked you a favor; from that moment I had a right to your confidence, for a favor degrades when it does not come from a friend.
Hard. You charm, you subdue me, and I feel for once how necessary to a man is the sympathy of another. Your hand, Wilmot. This is secret--I, too, then presume to love. One above me in fortune ; it may be in birth. But a free state lifts those it employs to a par with its nobles. A post in the Treasury of such nature is vacant; I have served the minister, men say, with some credit; and I asked for the gift without shame--'twas my due. Walpole needs the office, not for reward to the zealous, but for bribe to the doubtful. See, [giving letter] "Noble family to conciliate." Ah, the drones have the honey!
Wil. [reading and returning the letter]. And had you this post, you think you could gain the lady you love?
Hard. At least it would have given me courage to ask. Well, well, well,--a truce with my egotism,--you at least, my fair Wilmot, fair in form, fair in fortune, you need fear no rebuff where you place your affections.
Wil. Why, the lady's father sees only demerits in what you think my advantages.
Hard. You mistake, I know the man much better than you do; and look, even now he is gazing upon you as fondly as if on the coronet that shall blazon the coach of my lady, his daughter.
Wil. Gazing on me?--where?
Hard. Yonder--Ha! is it not Mr. Easy, whose--
Wil. Mr. Easy! you too taken in! Hark, secret for secret--'tis Lucy Thornside I love.
Hard. You--stun me!
Wil. But what a despot love is, allows no thought, not its slave! They told me below that my father had been here; have you seen him?
Wil. And sounded?
Hard. No--better than that--I have taken precautions. I must leave you now; you shall know the result to-morrow afternoon. [Aside. Your father's life in these hands--his ransom what I please to demand.--Ah, joy! I am myself once again. Fool to think man could be my friend! Ah, joy! born but for the strife and the struggle, it is only 'mid foes that my invention is quickened! Half-way to my triumph, now that I know the rival to vanquish!] [To FALLEN. Engage the messenger at one, forget not. Nothing else till I see you.] [To WILMOT.] Your hand once again. To-day I'm your envoy; [Aside. to-morrow your master.]
[FALLEN folds up papers and exit.
Wil. The friendliest man that ever lived since the days of Damon and Pythias: I'm a brute if I don't serve him in return. To lose the woman he loves, for want of this pitiful place. Saint Cupid forbid! Let me consider! Many sides to a character--I think I could here hit the right one better than the Hardman. Ha! ha! Excellent! My Murillo! I'll not sell myself, but I'll buy the Prime Minister! Excuse me, my friends; urgent business; I shall be back ere the dinner hour; the room is prepared. Drawer, show in these gentlemen: Hardman shall have his place and his wife, and I'll bribe the arch-briber! Ho! my lackies, my coach, there! Ha, ha! bribe the Prime Minister! There never was such a fellow as I am for crime and audacity. [Exit WILMOT
Colonel Flint. Your arm, Mr. Softhead.
Soft. And Fred leaves me in the very paws of this tiger! [Exeunt.
The Library in SIR GEOFFREY'S House.
Enter SIR GEOFFREY.
I'm followed! I'm dogged! I go out for a walk unsuspiciously; and behind creeps a step, pit, pat; feline and stealthy; I turn, not a soul to be seen--I walk on; pit, pat, stealthy and feline! turn again; and lo! a dark form like a phantom, muffled and masked--just seen and just gone. Ouf! The plot thickens around me--I can struggle no more. [Sinks into a seat.
Who is there?
Lucy. But your child, my dear father.
Sir Geof. Child, ugh! what do you want?
Lucy. Ah, speak to me gently. It is your heart that I want!
Sir Geof. Heart--I suspect I'm to be coaxed out of something!--Eh; eh! Why she's weeping. What ails thee, poor darling?
Lucy. So kind. Now I have courage to tell you. I was sitting alone, and I thought to myself--"my father often doubts of me--doubts of all"--
Sir Geof. Ugh--what now?
Lucy. "Yet his true nature is generous--it could not always have been so. Perhaps in old times he has been deceived where he loved. Ah, his Lucy, at least, shall never deceive him." So I rose and listened for your footstep--I heard it--and I am here, on your bosom, my own father!
Sir Geof. You'll never deceive me--right, right--go on, pretty one, go on. [Aside. If she should be my child after all?]
Lucy. There is one who has come here lately--one who appears to displease you--one whom you've been led to believe comes not on my account, but my friend's. It is not so, my father; it is for me that he comes. Let him come no more--let me see him no more--for--I feel that his presence might make me too happy--and that would grieve you, O my father!
[Mask appears at the window watching.
Sir Geof. [Aside. She must be my child! Bless her!] I'll never doubt you again. I'll bite out my tongue if it says a harsh word to you. I'm not so bad as I seem. Grieve me?--yes, it would break my heart. You don't know these gay courtiers--I do!--tut--tut--tut--don't cry. How can I console her?
Lucy. Shall I say?--let me speak to you of my mother.
Sir Geof. [recoiling]. Ah!
Lucy. Would it not soothe you to hear that a friend of hers was in London, who--
Sir Geof. [rising, and a change in his whole deportment]. I forbid you to speak to me of your mother,--she dishonored me--
Mask in a low voice of emotion]. It is false! [Mask disappears.
Sir Geof. [starting.] Did you say "false?"
Lucy [sobbing]. No--no--but my heart said it!
Sir Geof. Strange; or was it but my own fancy?
Lucy. Oh, father, father!--How I shall pity you if you discover that your suspicions erred. And again I say--I feel--feel in my heart of woman--that the mother of the child who so loves and honors you, was innocent.
HARDMAN'S voice without. Is Sir Geoffrey at home?
[LUCY starts up, and exit.--Twilight.--During the preceding dialogue in the scene, the stage has gradually darkened.
Hard. Sir Geoffrey, you were deceived; Lord Wilmot has no thought of Mr. Easy's daughter.
Sir Geof. I know that--Lucy has told me all, and begged me not to let him come here again.
Hard. [joyfully]. She has! Then she does not love this Lord Wilmot?--But still be on your guard against him. Remember the arts of corruption--the emissary--the letter--the go-between--the spy!
Sir Geof. Arts! Spy! Ha! if Easy was right after all. If those flowers thrown in at the window; the watch from that house in the lane; the masked figure that followed me; all bode designs but on Lucy--
Hard. Flowers have been thrown in at the window? You've been watched? A masked figure has followed you? One question more. All this since Lord Wilmot knew Lucy?
Sir Geof. Yes, to be sure; how blind I have been! [Masked figure appears.
Hard. Ha! look yonder! Let me track this mystery [Figure disappears]: and if it conceal a scheme of Lord Wilmot's against your daughter's honor, it shall need not your sword to protect her. [Leaps from the window.
Sir Geof. What does he mean? Not my sword? Zounds! he don't think of his own! If he does, I'd discard him. I'm not a coward, to let other men risk their lives in my quarrel. Served as a volunteer under Marlbro', at Blenheim; and marched on a cannon! Whatever my faults, no one can say I'm not brave. [Starting.] Ha! bless my life! What is that? I thought I heard something--I'm all on a tremble! Who the deuce can be brave when he's surrounded by poisoners--followed by phantoms; with an ugly black face peering in at his window?--Hodge, come and bar up the shutters--lock the door--let out the house-dog! Hodge! Hodge! Where on earth is that scoundrel? [Exit
The Streets--in perspective, an Alley inscribed Deadman's Lane--a large, old-fashioned. gloomy House in the Corner, with the door on the stage, above which is impanelled a sign of the Crown and Portcullis. Enter a Female Figure, masked--looks round; pauses, and enters the door.--Dark--Lights down.
Hard. Ha! enters that house. I have my hand on the clue! some pretext to call on the morrow, and I shall quickly unravel the skein. [Exit.
Goodenough Easy [singing without].--
"Old King Cole
Was a jolly old soul,
And a jolly old soul was he--
[Entering, with LORD WILMOT and SOFTHEAD, EASY, his dress disordered, a pipe in his mouth, in a stale of intoxication, hilarious, musical and oratorical.-- SOFTHEAD in a state of intoxication, abject, remorseful, and lachrymose-- WILMOT sober, but affecting inebriety.
"He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl
And he called for his fiddlers three."
Wil. Ha! ha! I imagine myself like Bacchus between Silenus and his--ass!
Easy. Wilmot, you're a jolly old soul, and I'll give you my Barbara.
Soft. [blubbering]. Hegh! hegh! hegh! Betrayed in my tenderest affections.
Wil. My dear Mr. Easy, I've told you already that I'm pre-engaged.
Easy. Pre-engaged! that's devilish unhandsome! But now I look at you, you do seem double: and if you're double, you're not single; and if you're not single, why you can't marry Barbara, for that would be bigamy! But I don't care; you're a jolly old soul!
Wil. Not a bit of it. Quite mistaken, Mr. Easy. But if you want, for a son-in-law, a jolly old soul--there he is!
Soft. [bursting out afresh]. Hegh! hegh! hegh!
Easy. Hang a lord! What's a lord? I'm a respectable, independent family Briton!-- Softhead, give us your fist: you're a jolly old soul, and you shall have Barbara!
Soft. Hegh! hegh! I'm not a jolly old soul. I'm a sinful, wicked miserable monster! Hegh! hegh!
Easy. What's a monster? I like a monster? My girl shan't go a-begging any farther. You're a precious good fellow, and your father's an alderman, and has got a great many votes, and I'll stand for the City: and you shall have my Barbara.
Soft. I don't deserve her, Mr. Easy; I don't deserve such an angel! I'm not precious good. Lords and tigers have corrupted my innocence. Hegh! hegh! I'm going to be hanged.
Watch. [without]. Half-past eight o'clock!
Wil. Come along, gentlemen; we shall have the watch on us!
"And the bands that guard the City,
Cried--'Rebels, yield or die!'"
Watch. Half-past eight o'clock!--move on! move on!
Easy. Order, order! Mr. Vice and gentlemen, here's a stranger disturbing the harmony of the evening. I knock him down for a song. [Seizes the Watchman's rattle.] Half-past Eight, Esq., on his legs! Sing, sir; I knock you down for a song.
Watch. Help! help! Watch! watch! [Cries within "Watch!"
Soft. Hark! the officers of justice! My wicked career is approaching its close!
Easy [who has got astride on the Watchman's head, and persuades himself that the rest of the Watchman is the table]. Mr. Vice and gentleman, the toast of the evening--what's the matter with the table? 'Tis bobbing up and down. The table's drunk! Order for the chair--you table, you! [Thumps the Watchman with the rattle.] Fill your glasses--a bumper toast. Prosperity to the City of London--nine times nine--Hip, hip, hurrah! [Waves the rattle over his head; the rattle springs, and makes all the noise of which rattles are capable.] [Amazed.] Why, the Chairman's hammer is as drunk as the table!
Wil. [drawing SOFTHEAD off into a corner]. Hold your tongue--they'll not see us here!
Watch. [escaping]. Murder!--murder!--this is the fellow!--most desperate ruffian.
[EASY is upset by the escape of the Watchman, and, after some effort to remove him otherwise, the Guardians of the Night hoist him on their shoulders.
Easy. I'm being chaired member for the City! Freemen and Electors! For this elevation to the post of member for your metropolis, I return you my heartfelt thanks! Steady there, steady! The proudest day of my life.--'Tis the boast of the British Constitution that a plain, sober man like me may rise to honors the most exalted! Long live the British Constitution. Hip--hip--hurrah!
[Is carried off waving the rattle. SOFTHEAD continues to weep in speechless sorrow.
Wil. [coming forth]. Ha! ha! ha!--My family Briton being chaired for the City! "So severe on a cheerful glass." Well, he has chosen a son-in-law drunk; and, egad! he shall keep to him sober! Stand up; how do you feel?
Soft. Feel! I'm a ruin!
Wil. Faith, I never saw a more mournful one! It must be near Sir Geoffrey's!--Led them here--on my way to this sepulchral appointment, Deadman's Lane. Where the plague can it be? Ha! the very place. Looks like it! How get rid of Softhead.--Ha, ha! I have it. Softhead, awake! the night has begun--the time for monsters and their prey. Now will I lift the dark veil from the mysteries of London. Behold that house, Deadman's Lane!
Soft. Deadman's Lane! I'm in a cold perspiration!
Wil. In that house--under the antique sign of Crown and Portcullis--are such delightful horrors at work as would make the wigs of holy men stand on end! The adventure is dangerous; but deliriously exciting. Into that abode which woman were lost did she enter, which man is oft hanged when he leaves--into that abode will we plunge, and gaze, like Macbeth, "on deeds without a name."
[Enter Masked Figure from the door in Deadman's Lane, and approaches WILMOT, who has, till now, hold of SOFTHEAD.
Soft. Hegh? hegh! hegh! I won't gaze on deeds without a name! I won't plunge into Deadman's abodes! [Perceiving the figure.] Ha! Look there! Dark veil, indeed! Mysteries of London! Horrible apparition, avaunt! [Breaks from WILMOT, who releases him here, and not till now, as he sees the figure.] Hegh! hegh! I'll go home to my mother. [Exit.
[Mask motions to WILMOT, who follows her into the house.]
[Exeunt Mask and WILMOT within the house.
ACT IV.--SCENE I.
The Library in SIR GEOFFREY'S house
HARDMAN and SIR GEOFFREY.
Sir Geof. Yes! I've seen that you're not indifferent to Lucy. But before I approve or discourage, just tell me more of yourself,--your birth, your fortune, past life. Of course, you are the son of a gentleman? [Aside.] Now as he speaks truly or falsely I will discard him as a liar, or reward him with Lucy's hand.--He turns aside. He will lie!
Hard. Sir, at the risk of my hopes, I will speak the hard truth. "The son of a gentleman!" I think not. My infancy passed in the house of a farmer; the children with whom I played told me I was an orphan. I was next dropped, how I know not, in the midst of that rough world called school. "You have talent," said the master, "but you're idle; you have no right to holidays; you must force your way through life; you are sent here by charity!"
Sir Geof. Charity! There, the old fool was wrong!
Hard. My idleness vanished--I became the head of the school. Then I resolved no longer to be the pupil of--Charity. At the age of sixteen I escaped, and took for my motto--the words of the master--"You must force your way through life." Hope and pride whispered--"You'll force it!"
Sir Geof. Poor fellow! What then?
Hard. Eight years of wandering, adventure, hardship, and trial. I often wanted bread--never courage. At the end of those years I had risen--to what? A desk at a lawyer's office in Norfolk.--
Sir Geof. [Aside]. My own lawyer? where I first caught trace of him again.
Hard. Party spirit ran high in town. Politics began to bewitch me. There was a Speaking Club, and I spoke. My ambition rose higher--took the flight of an author. I came up to London with ten pounds in my pocket, and a work on the "State of the Nation." It sold well; the publisher brought me four hundred pounds. "Vast fortunes," said he, "are made in the South Sea Scheme. Venture your hundreds,--I'll send you a broker."--
Sir Geof. He! he! I hope he was clever, that broker!
Hard. Clever indeed; in a fortnight he said to me, "Your hundreds have swelled into thousands. For this money I can get you an Annuity on land, just enough for a parliamentary qualification." The last hint fired me--I bought the Annuity. You now know my fortune, and how it was made.
Sir Geof. [Aside]. He! he! I must tell this to Easy: how he'll enjoy it.
Hard. Not long after, at a political coffee-house, a man took me aside. "Sir," said he, "you are Mr. Hardman who wrote the famous work on 'The State of the Nation.' Will you come into Parliament! We want a man like you for our borough; we'll return you free of expense; not a shilling of bribery."
Sir Geof. He! he! Wonderful! not a shilling of bribery.
Hard. The man kept his word, and I came into Parliament--inexperienced and friendless. I spoke, and was laughed at; spoke again, and was listened to; failed often; succeeded at last. Here, yesterday, in ending my tale I must have said, looking down, "Can you give your child to a man of birth more than doubtful; and of fortunes so humble?" Yet aspiring even then to the hand of your heiress, I wrote to Sir Robert for a place just vacated by a man of high rank, who is raised to the peerage. He refused.
Sir Geof. Of course. [Aside.] I suspect he's very rash and presuming.
Hard. To-day the refusal is retracted--the office is mine.
Sir Geof. [astonished and aside]. Ha! I had no hand in that!
Hard. I am now one--if not of the highest--yet still one of that Government through which the Majesty of England administers her laws. And, with front erect, I say to you--as I would to the first peer of the realm--"I have no charts of broad lands, and no roll of proud fathers. But alone and unfriended, I have fought my way against Fortune. Did your ancestors more? My country has trusted the new man in her councils, and the man whom she honors is the equal of all."
Sir Geof. Brave fellow; your hand. Win Lucy's consent, and you have mine. Hush! no thanks! Now listen; I have told you my dark story--these flowers cannot come from Wilmot. I have examined them again--they are made up in the very form of the posies I had the folly to send, in the days of our courtship, to the wife who afterwards betrayed me--
Hard. Be not so sure that she betrayed. No proof but the boast of a profligate.
Sir Geof. Who had been my intimate friend for years--so that, O torture! I am haunted with the doubt whether my heiress be my own child! and to whom (by the confession of a servant) she sent a letter in secret the very day on which I struck the mocking boast from the villain's lips, in a public tavern. Ah, he was always a wit and a scoffer--perhaps it is from him that these flowers are sent, in token of gibe and insult. He has discovered the man he dishonored, in spite of the change of name--
Hard. You changed your name for an inheritance. You have not told me that which you formerly bore.
Sir Geof. Morland?
Hard. Morland--Ha--and the seducer's--
Sir Geof. Lord Henry de Mowbray--
Hard. The reprobate brother of the Duke of Middlesex! He died a few months since.
Sir Geof. [sinking down]. Died too! Both dead!
Hard. [Aside]. Tonson spoke of Lord Henry's Memoir--Confession about Lady Morland in Fallen's hands--I will go to Fallen at once. [Aloud.] You have given me a new clue. I will follow it up.--When can I see you again?
Sir Geof. I'm going to Easy's--you'll find me there all the morning. But don't forget Lucy,--we must save her from Wilmot.
Hard. Fear Wilmot no more.---This day he shall abandon his suit. [Exit HARDMAN.
Sir Geof. Hodge!--Well--well--
--Hodge take your hat and your bludgeon--attend me to the City. [Aside.] She'll be happy with Hardman. And if she were my own child after all! [Exeunt SIR GEOFFREY and HODGE.
DAVID FALLEN'S Garret. The scene resembling that of Hogarth's "The Distressed Poet."
Fal. [opening the casement]. So, the morning air breathes fresh! One moment's respite from drudgery. Another line to this poem, my grand bequest to my country! Ah! this description; unfinished; good, good.
"Methinks we walk in dreams on fairy land
Where--golden ore--lies mix'd with--"*
* As It would be obviously presumptuous to assign to an author so eminent as Mr. David Fallen, any verses composed by a living writer, the two lines in the text are taken from Mr. Dryden's Indian Emperor.
Paddy. Please, sir, the milkwoman's score!
Fal. Stay, stay;--
"Lies mixed with--common sand!"
Eh? Milkwoman? She must be paid, or the children--I--I--[Fumbling in his pocket, and looking about the table]. There's another blanket on the bed; pawn it.
Paddy. Agh, now! don't be so ungratful to your ould friend, the blanket. When Mr. Tonson, the great book-shiller, tould me, says he, "Paddy, I'd giv you two hunder gould guineas for the papursh Mr. Fallen has in his disk!"
Fal. Go, go! [Knock.
Paddy. Agh, murther! Who can that be distarbin' the door at the top of the mornin'? [Exit.
Fal. Oh! that fatal Memoir! My own labors scarce keep me from starving, and this wretched scrawl of a profligate worth what to me were Golconda! Heaven sustain me! I'm tempted.
Paddy. Stoop your head, sir. 'Tis not a dun, sir; 'tis Mr. Curll; says he's come to outbid Mr. Tonson, sir.
Fal. Go quick; pawn the blanket. Let me think my children are fed. [Exit PADDY.] Now, sir, what do you want?
Wil. [taking out his handkerchief and whimpering]. My dear good Mr. Fallen--no offence--I do so feel for the distress of genius. I am a bookseller, but I have a heart--and I'm come to buy--
Fal. Have you? this poem? it is nearly finished--twelve books--twenty years' labor--twenty-four thousand lines!--ten pounds, Mr. Curll, ten pounds?
Wil. Price of Paradise Lost! Can't expect such prices for poetry now-a-days, my dear Mr. Fallen. Nothing takes that is not sharp and spicy. Hum! I hear you have some most interesting papers; private Memoirs and Confessions of a Man of Quality recently deceased. Nay, nay, Mr. Fallen! don't shrink back; I'm not like that shabby dog, Tonson. Three hundred guineas for the Memoir of Lord Henry de Mowbray.
Fal. Three hundred guineas for that garbage!--not ten for the Poem!--and--the children! Well! [Takes out the Memoir in a portfolio, splendidly bound; with the arms and supporters of the Mowbrays blazoned on the sides.] Ah!--but the honor of a woman--the secrets of a family--the--
Wil. [grasping at the portfolio which FALLEN still detains]. Nothing sells better, my dear, dear Mr. Fallen! But how, how did you come by these treasures, my excellent friend?
Fal. How? Lord Henry gave them to me himself on his death-bed.
Wil. Nay; what could he give them for, but to publish, my sweet Mr. Fallen ; no doubt to immortalize all the ladies who loved him.
Fal. No, sir; profligate as he was, and vile as may be much in this Memoir, that was not his dying intention, though it might be his first. There was a lady he had once foully injured--the sole woman he had ever loved eno' for remorse. This Memoir contains a confession that might serve to clear the name he himself had aspersed; and in the sudden repentance of his last moments, he bade me seek the lady, and place the whole in her hands, to use as best might serve to establish her innocence.
Wil. How could you know the lady, my benevolent friend?
Fal. I did not; but she was supposed to be abroad with her father,--a Jacobite exile,-- and I, then a Jacobite agent, had the best chance to trace her.
Wil. And you did?
Fal. But to hear she had died somewhere in France.
Wil. Then, of course you may now gratify our intelligent Public for your own personal profit. Clear as day, my magnanimous friend! Three hundred guineas! I have 'em here in a bag!
Fal. Begone! I will not sell man's hearth to the public.
Wil. [Aside. Noble fellow!] Gently, gently, my too warm, but high-spirited friend! To say the truth, I don't come on my own account. To whom, my dear sir, since the lady is dead, should be given these papers, if unfit for a virtuous, but inquisitive public? Why, surely to Lord Henry's nearest relation. I am employed by the rich Duke of Middlesex. Name your terms.
Fal. Ha! ha! Then at last he comes crawling to me, your proud Duke? Sir, years ago, when a kind word from his Grace, a nod of his head, a touch of his hand, would have turned my foes into flatterers, I had the meanness to name him my patron--inscribed to him a work, took it to his house, and waited in his hall among porters and lackeys--till, sweeping by to his carriage, he said, "Oh! you are the poet? take this."--and extending his alms, as if to a beggar. "You look very thin, sir; stay and dine with my people." People--his servants!
Wil. Calm yourself, my good Mr. Fallen! 'tis his Grace's innocent way with us all.
Fal. Go! let him know what these Memoirs contain! They would make the proud Duke the butt of the town--the jeer of the lackeys, who jeered at my rags; expose his frailties, his follies, his personal secrets. Tell him this; and then say that my poverty shall not be the tool of his brother's revenge: but my pride shall not stoop from its pedestal to take money from him. Now, sir, am I right? Reply, not as tempter to pauper; but if one spark of manhood be in you, as man speaks to man.
Wil. [resuming his own manner]. I reply, sir, as man to man, and gentleman to gentleman. I am Frederick, Lord Wilmot. Pardon this imposture. The Duke is my father's friend. I am here to obtain, what is clear that he alone should possess. Mr. Fallen, your works first raised me from the world of the senses, and taught me to believe in such nobleness as I now hope for in you. Give me this record to take to the Duke--no price, sir; for such things are priceless--and let me go hence with the sight of this poverty before my eyes, and on my soul the grand picture of the man who has spurned the bribe to his honor, and can humble by a gift the great prince who insulted him by alms.
Fal. Take it--take it! [Gives the portfolio.] I am saved from temptation. God bless you, young man!
Wil. Now you indeed make me twofold your debtor--in your books, the rich thought; in yourself the heroic example. Accept from my superfluities, in small part of such debt, a yearly sum equal to that which your poverty refused as a bribe from Mr. Tonson.
Fal. My Lord--my Lord-- [Bursts into tears.
Wil. Oh, trust me the day shall come, when men will feel that it is not charity we owe to the ennoblers of life--it is tribute! When your Order shall rise with the civilization it called into being; and shall refer its claim to just rank among freemen, to some Queen whom even Milton might have sung, and even a Hampden have died for.
Fal. O dream of my youth! My heart swells and chokes me!
Hard. What's this? Fallen weeping?--Ah! is not that the tyrannical sneak, Edmund Curll?--
Wil. [changing his tone to FALLEN into one of imperiousness]. Can't hear of the poem, Mr. Fallen. Don't tell me. Ah! Mr. Hardman [concealing the portfolio], your most humble! Sir--sir--if you want to publish something smart and spicy--Secret Anecdotes of Cabinets--Sir Robert Walpole's Adventures with the Ladies--I'll come down as handsomely as any man in the Row--smart and spicy--
Hard. Offer to bribe me, you insolent rascal!
Wil. Oh, my dear good Mr. Hardman, I've bribed the Premier himself. Ha! ha! Servant, sir; servant. [Exit.
Hard. Loathsome vagabond! My dear Mr. Fallen, you have the manuscript Memoir of Lord Henry de Mowbray. I know its great value. Name your own price to permit me just to inspect it.
Fal. It is gone; and to the hands of his brother, the Duke,
Hard. The Duke! This is a thunder-stroke! Say, sir: you have read this Memoir--does it contain aught respecting a certain Lady Morland?
Fal. It does. It confesses that Lord Henry slandered her reputation as woman in order to sustain his own as a seducer. That part of the Memoir was writ on his death-bed.
Hard. His boast, then--
Fal. Was caused by the scorn of her letter rejecting his suit.
Hard. What joy for Sir Geoffrey! And that letter?
Fal. Is one of the documents that make up the Memoir.
Hard. And these documents are now in the hands of the Duke?
Fal. They are. For, since Lady Morland is dead--
Hard. Are you sure she is dead?
Fal. I only go by report--
Hard. Report often lies. [Aside. Who but Lady Morland can this mask be? I will go at once to the house and clear up that doubt myself. But the Duke's appointment! Ah! that must not be forgotten; my rival must be removed ere Lucy can be won. And what hold on the Duke himself to produce the Memoir, if I get the Despatch.] Well, Mr. Fallen, there is no more to be said as to the Memoir. Your Messenger will meet his Grace, as we settled. I shall be close at hand; and mark! the messenger must give me the despatch which is meant for the Pretender. [Exit HARDMAN.
Paddy. Plase, sur, an' I've paid the milk-score--
Fal. [interrupting him]. I'm to be rich--so rich! 'Tis my turn now. I've shared your pittance, you shall share my plenty! [Scene closes.
Enter SOFTHEAD, his arms folded, and in deep thought. He is forming a virtuous resolution.
Soft. Little did I foresee, in the days of my innocence, when Mr. Lillo read to me his affecting tragedy of George Barnwell,* how I myself was to be led on, step by step, to the brink of deeds without a name. Deadman's Lane!--the funeral apparition in black!--a warning to startle the most obdurate conscience!
* We have only, I fear, Mr. Softhead's authority for supposing George Barnwell to be then written: it was not acted till some years afterwards.
Easy. Not a coach on the stand! A pretty pickle I'm in if any one sees me! A sober, respectable man like me, to wake in the watch-house, be kept there till noon among thieves and pickpockets, and at last to be fined five shillings for drunkenness and disorderly conduct; all from dining with a lord who had no thoughts of making Barbara my Lady after all!--Deuce take him!
Easy. [discovering SOFTHEAD]. Softhead! how shall I escape him?
Soft. [discovering EASY]. Easy! WHAT A FALL! I'll appear not to remember. Barbara's father should not feel degraded in the eyes of a wretch like myself! How d'ye do Mr. Easy? You're out early to-day.
Easy. [aside. Ha! He was so drunk himself he has forgotten all about it.] Yes, a headache. You were so pleasant at dinner. I wanted the air of the park.
Soft. Why, you look rather poorly, Mr. Easy!
Easy. Indeed, I feel so. A man in business can't afford to be laid up--so I thought, before I went home to the City, that I'd just look into--Ha, ha, a seasoned toper like you will laugh when I tell you--I thought I'd just look into the 'pothecary's!
Soft. Just been there myself. Mr. Easy. [Showing a phial.
Easy. [regarding it with mournful disgust]. Not taken physic since I was a boy! It looks very nasty!
Soft. 'Tis worse than it looks! And this is called Pleasure! Ah! Mr. Easy, don't give way to Fred's fascination; you don't know how it ends.
Easy. Indeed I do [Aside. It ends in the watch-house]. And I'm shocked to think what will become of yourself, if you are thus every night led away by a lord, who--
Soft. Hush! talk of the devil--look! he's coming up the Mall!
Easy. He is? then I'm off; I see a sedan-chair. Chair! chair! stop!--chair! chair! [Exit.
Duke. [looking at portfolio]. Infamous indeed! His own base lie against that poor lady, whose husband he wounded. Her very letter attached to it. Ha!--what is this?--Such ribaldry on me! Gracious Heaven! My name thus dragged through the dirt, and by a son of my house! Oh, my Lord, how shall I thank you?
Wil. Thank not me; but the poet, whom your Grace left in the hall.
Duke. Name it not--I'll beg his pardon myself! Adieu; I must go home and lock up this scandal till I've leisure to read and destroy it; never again shall it come to the day! And then, sure that no blot shall be seen in my 'scutcheon, I can peril my life without fear in the cause of my king. [Exit DUKE.
"Gather you rosebuds while you may,
For time is still a-flying."
Since my visit last night to Deadman's Lane, and my hope to give Lucy such happiness, I feel as if I trod upon air. Ah, Softhead! why, you stand there as languid and lifeless, as if you were capable of--fishing!
Soft. I've been thinking--
Wil. Thinking! you do look fatigued! What a horrid exertion it must have been to you!
Soft. Ah! Fred, Fred, don't be so hardened. What atrocity did you perpetrate last night?
Wil. Last night? Oh, at Deadman's Lane: monstrous, indeed. And this morning, too, another! Never had so many atrocities on my hands as within the last twenty-four hours. But they are all nothing to that which I perpetrated yesterday, just before dinner. Hark! I bribed the Prime Minister.
Soft. Saints in Heaven!
Wil. Ha! ha! Hit him plump on the jolly blunt side of his character! I must tell you about it. Drove home from Will's; put my Murillo in the carriage, and off to Sir Robert's--shown into his office,--"Ah! my Lord Wilmot," says he, with that merry roll of his eye; "this is an honor, what can I do for you?"--"Sir Robert," says I, "we men of the world soon come to the point; 'tis a maxim of yours that all have their price."--"Not quite that," says Sir Robert, "but let us suppose that it is." Another roll of his eye, as much as to say, "I shall get this rogue a bargain!" "So, Sir Robert," quoth I, with a bow, "I've come to buy the Prime Minister."--"Buy me," cried Sir Robert, and he laughed till I thought he'd have choked; "my price is rather high, I'm afraid." Then I go to the door, bid my lackeys bring in the Murillo. "Look at that, if you please; about the mark, is it not?"--Sir Robert runs to the picture, his breast heaves, his eyes sparkle: "A Murillo!" cries he, name your price!" "I have named it." Then he looks at me so, and I look at him so!--turn out the lackeys, place pen, ink, and paper before him; "That place in the Treasury just vacant, and the Murillo is yours."--"for yourself?--I am charmed," cried Sir Robert. "No, 'tis for a friend of your own, who's in want of it."--"Oh, that alters the case: I've so many troubled with the same sort of want."--"Yes, but the Murillo is genuine,--pray what are the friends?" Out laughed Sir Robert, "There's no resisting you and the Murillo together! There's the appointment. And now, since your Lordship has bought me, I must insist upon buying your Lordship. Fair play is a jewel." Then I take my grand holiday air: "Sir Robert," said I, "you've bought me long ago! you've given us peace where we feared civil war; and a Constitutional King instead of a despot. And if that's not enough to buy the vote of an Englishman, believe me, Sir Robert, he's not worth the buying." Then he stretched out his bluff hearty hand, and I gave it a bluff hearty shake. He got the Murillo--Hardman the place. And here stand I, the only man in all England, who can boast that he bought the Prime Minister! Faith, you may well call me hardened: I don't feel the least bit of remorse.
Soft. Hardman! you got Hardman the place?
Wil. I did not say Hardman--
Soft. You did say Hardman. But as 'tis a secret that might get you into trouble, I'll keep it--Yet, Dimidum meæ, that's not behaving much like a monster?
Wil. Why, it does seem betraying the Good Old Cause;--but if there's honor among thieves, there is among monsters; and Hardman is in the same scrape as ourselves--in love;--this place may secure him the hand of the lady. But mind--he's not to know I've been meddling with his affairs. Hang it! no one likes that. Not a word then--
Soft. Not a word. My dear Fred, I'm so glad you're not so bad as you seem. I'd half a mind to desert you; but I have not the heart; and I'll stick by you as long as I live!
Wil. [Aside]. Whew? This will never do! Poor dear little fellow! I'm sorry to lose him; but my word's passed to Barbara; and 'tis all for his good. [Aloud.] As long as you live? Alas! that reminds me of your little affair. I'm to be your second, you know.
Wil. With that fierce Colonel Flint. I warned you against him; but you have such a deuce of a spirit. Don't you remember?
Soft. No; why, what was it all about?
Wil. Let me see--oh, Flint said something insolent about Mistress Barbara.
Soft. He did?--Ruffian!
Wil. So--you called him out! But if you'll empower me in your name to retract and apologize--
Soft. Not a bit of it. Insolent to Barbara! Dimidum meæ. I'd fight him if he were the first swordsman in England.
Wil. Why, that's just what he is!
Soft. Don't care; I'm his man--though a dead one.
Wil. [Aside. Hang it--he's as brave as myself, on that side of his character. I must turn to another.] No, Softhead, that was not the cause of the quarrel--said it to rouse you, as you seemed rather low. The fact is that it was a jest on yourself, that you took up rather warmly.
Soft. Was that all--only myself?
Wil. No larger subject; and Flint is such a good fencer!
Soft. My dear Fred; I retract, I apologize; I despise duelling--absurd and unchristianlike.
Wil. Leave all to me. Dismiss the subject. I'll settle it; only, Softhead, you see our set has very stiff rules on such matters. And if you apologize to a bravo like Flint; nay, if you don't actually, cheerfully, rapturously fight him--though sure to be killed--I fear you must resign all ideas of high life!
Soft. Dimidum meæ, but low life is better than no life at all!
Wil. There's no denying that proposition. It will console you to think that Mr. Easy's kind side is Cheapside. And you may get upon one, if you return to the other.
Soft. I was thinking so, when you found me--thinking [hesitatingly]--But to leave you--
Wil. Oh, not yet! Retire at least with éclat. Share with me one grand, crowning, last, daring, and desperate adventure.
Soft. Deadman's Lane again, I suppose? I thank you for nothing. Fred, I have long been, your faithful follower. [With emotion.] Now, my Lord, I'm your humble servant.* [Aside. Barbara will comfort me. She's perhaps at Sir Geoffrey's.] [Exit.
* A play upon words plagiarized from Farquhar. The reader must regret that the author had not the courage to plagiarize more from Farquhar.
Wil. Well! his love will repay him, and the City of London will present me with her freedom, in a gold box for restoring her prodigal son to her Metropolitan bosom. Deadman's Lane--that was an adventure, indeed. Lucy's mother still living--implores me to get her the sight of her child. Will Lucy believe me? Will--
--Ha, Smart? Well--Well?--You--baffled Sir Geoffrey?
Smart. He was out.
Wil. And you gave the young lady my letter?
Smart. Hist! my Lord, it so affected her--that--here she comes. [Exit SMART.
Lucy. Oh, my Lord, is this true? Can it be? A mother lives! Do you wonder that. I forget all else?--that I am here--and with but one prayer, lead me to that mother! She says, too, she has been slandered--blesses me--that my heart defended her,--but--but--this is no snare--you do not deceive me?
Wil. Deceive you! Oh, Lucy--I have a sister myself at the hearth of my father.
Lucy. Forgive me--lead on--quick, quick--oh, mother, mother! [Exeunt LUCY and WILMOT.
ACT V.--SCENE I.
Old Mill near the Thames.
Hard. The Despatch to the Pretender [opening it]. Ho! Wilmot is in my power; here ends his rivalry. The Duke's life, too, in exchange for the Memoir? No! Fear is not his weak point; but how can this haughtiest of men ever yield such memorials? Even admit the base lie of his brother? Still her story has that which may touch him. Since I have seen her, I feel sure of her innocence. The Duke comes; now all depends on my chance to hit the right side of a character.
Duke. Lord Loftus not here yet! Strange!
Hard. My Lord Duke--forgive this intrusion!
Duke. T'other man I met at Lord Wilmot's. Sir, your servant; I'm somewhat in haste.
Hard. Still I presume to delay your Grace; for it is on a question of honor!
Duke. Honor! that goes before all! Sir, my time is your own.
Hard. Your Grace is the head of a house, whose fame is a part of our history; it is therefore that I speak to you boldly, since it may be that wrongs were inflicted by one of its members--
Duke. How, sir!
Hard. Assured that if so (and should it be still in your power), your Grace will frankly repair them, as a duty you took with the ermine and coronet.
Duke. You speak well, sir.-- [Aside. Very much like a gentleman!]
Hard. Your Grace had a brother, Lord Henry de Mowbray.
Duke. Ah! Sir, to the point.
Hard. At once, my Lord Duke. Many years ago a duel took place between Lord Henry and Sir Geoffrey Morland--your Grace knows the cause.
Duke. Hem! yes; a lady--who--who--
Hard. Was banished her husband's home, and her infant's cradle, on account of suspicions based, my Lord Duke, on--what your Grace cannot wonder that the husband believed--the word of a Mowbray!
Duke. [Aside. Villain!] But what became of the husband, never since heard of? He--
Hard. Fled abroad from men's tongues, and dishonor. He did not return to his native land, till he had changed for another the name that a Mowbray had blighted. Unhappy man! he lives still.
Duke. And the lady--the lady--
Hard. Before the duel, had gone to the house of her father, who was forced that very day to fly the country. His life was in danger.
Hard. He was loyal to the Stuarts,--and--a Plot was discovered.
Duke. Brave, noble gentleman! Go on, sir.
Hard. Her other ties wrenched from her, his daughter went with him into exile--his stay, his hope, his all. His lands were confiscated. She was high-born: she worked for a father's bread. Conceive yourself, my Lord Duke, in the place of that father--loyal and penniless; noble; proscribed; dependent on the toils of a daughter; and that daughter's name sullied by--
Duke. A word?--
Hard. From the son of that house to which all the chivalry of England looked for example.
Duke. [Aside. Oh, Heaven; can my glory thus be turned to my shame?] But they said she had died, sir.
Hard. When her father had gone to the grave, she herself spread or sanctioned that rumor--for she resolved to die to the world. She entered a convent, prepared to take the noviciate--when she suddenly learned that a person had been inquiring for her at Paris, who stated that Lord Henry de Mowbray had left behind him a Memoir--
Hard. Which acquits her. She learned, too, the clue to her husband--resolved to come hither--arrived six days since. No proof of her innocence save those for which I now appeal to your Grace!
Duke. O pride, be my succour! [Haughtily.] Appeal to me, sir, and wherefore?
Hard. The sole evidence alleged against this lady are the fact of a letter sent from herself to Lord Henry, and the boast of a man now no more. She asserts that that letter would establish her innocence. She believes that, on his deathbed, your brother retracted his boast: and that the Memoir he left will attest to its falsehood.
Duke. Asserts--believes--go on--go on.
Hard. No, my Lord Duke, I have done. I know that that letter, that Memoir exist; that they are now in your hands. If her assertion be false--if they prove not her innocence--a word, nay, a sign, from the chief of a house so renowned for its honor, suffices. I take my leave, and condemn her. But if her story be true, you have heard the last chance of a wife and a mother to be restored to the husband she loves and forgives, to the child who has grown into womanhood remote from her care; and these blessings I pledged her my faith to obtain, if that letter, that Memoir, should prove that the boast was--
Duke. A lie, sir, a lie, a black lie!--the coward's worst crime--a lie on the fair name of a woman! Sir, this heat, perhaps, is unseemly; thus to brand my own brother! But if we, the peers of England, and the representatives of her gentlemen, can hear, can think, of vile things done, whoever the doer, with calm pulse and cold heart--perish our titles; where would be the use of a Duke?
Hard. [Aside]. A very bright side of his character.
Duke. Sir, you are right. The Memoir you speak of is in my hands; and with it, Lady Morland's own letter. Much in that Memoir relates to myself; and so galls all the pride I am said to possess, that not ten minutes since methought I had rather my duchy were forfeit than have exposed its contents to the pity or laugh of a stranger. I think no more of myself. A woman has appealed for her name to mine honor as a man. Now, sir, your commands?
Hard. No passage is needed, save that which acquits Lady Morland. Let the Memoir still rest in your hands. Condescend but to bring it forthwith to my house; and may I hope that my Lord Loftus may accompany you--there is an affair of moment on which I would speak to you both.
Duke. Your address, sir; I will but return home for the documents, and proceed at once to your house. Hurry not; I will wait. Allow me to take your hand, sir. You know how to speak to the heart of a gentleman. [Exit.
Hard. [Aside.] Yet how ignorant we are of men's hearts till we see them lit up by a passion! This noble has made what is honor so clear to my eyes. Let me pause--let me think--let me choose! I feel as if I stood at the crisis of life.
Soft. What have I seen!--Where go?--Whom consult? Oh, Mr. Hardman! You're a friend of Lord Wilmot's, of Sir Geoffrey's, of Lucy's?
Hard. Speak--quick--to the purpose.
Soft. On my way to Sir Geoffrey's, I passed by a house of the most villanous character. I dare not say how Wilmot himself has described it. [Earnestly.] Oh, sir, you know Wilmot! you know his sentiments on marriage. I saw Wilmot and Lucy Thornside enter that infamous house!--Deadman's Lane!
Hard. [Aside]. Deadman's Lane? He takes her to the arms of her mother! forestalls my own plan, will reap my reward. Have I schemed, then, for him! No, by yon heavens!
Soft. I ran on to Sir Geoffrey's--he was out.
Hard. [who has been writing in his tablets, tears out a page]. Take this to Justice Kite's, hard by; he will send two special officers, placed at the door, Deadman's Lane, to wait my instructions. They must go instantly--arrive as soon as myself. Then hasten to Mr. Easy's; Sir Geoffrey is there. Break your news with precaution, and bring him straight to that house. Leave the rest to my care. Away with you; quick.
Soft. I know he will kill me! But I'm right. And when I'm right,--Dimidum meæ! [Exit.
Hard. Ho! ho! It is war! My choice is made. I am armed at all points, and strike for the victory. [Exit.
Apartment in the house, Deadman's Lane, Crown and Portcullis, very old-fashioned and sombre, faded tapestry on the walls, high mantel-piece, with deep ingles; furniture rude and simple; general air of the room not mean, but forlorn, as of that in some house neglected and little inhabited since the days of Elizabeth; the tapestry, drawn aside at the back, shows a door into an inner room--LUCY and her mother.--WILMOT seated.
Lady Thorn. And you believe me. Dear child--this indeed is happiness.--Ah! if your cruel father--
Lucy. Hush--he will believe you, too.
Lady Thorn. No; I could not venture into his presence, without the proof that he had wronged me.
Wil. Oh, that I had known before what interest you had in this Memoir!--how can I recover it from the Duke!--
Lucy. You will--you must--dear--dear Lord Wilmot--you have restored me to my mother; restore my mother to her home.
Wil. Ah--and this hand--would you withdraw it then?
Lucy. Never from him who reunites my parents.
Lady Thorn. Ha!--a voice without--steps!
Wil. If it should be Sir Geoffrey--in some rash violence he might--retire--quick--quick.
[Exeunt LADY THORNSIDE and LUCY in the inner room.
Hard. Alone! Where is Lucy, my lord?
Wil. In the next room with--
Hard. Her mother?
Wil. What! you know?
Hard. I know that between us two there is a strife, and I am come to decide it; you love Lucy Thornside.
Wil. Well! I told you so.
Hard. You told it, my Lord, to a rival. Ay, smile. You have wealth, rank, fashion, and wit; I have none of these, and I need them not. But I say to you--that ere the hand on this dial moves to that near point in time, your love will be hopeless and your suit be withdrawn.
Wil. The man's mad. Unless, sir, you wish me to believe that my life hangs on your sword, I cannot quite comprehend why my love should go by your watch.
Hard. I. command you, Lord Wilmot, to change this tone of levity: I command it in the name of a life which, I think, you prize more than your own; a life that is now in my hands. You told me to sound your father. I have not done so--I have detected--
Wil. Detected! Hold, sir! That word implies crime.
Hard. Ay, the crime of the great. History calls it ZEAL. Law styles it HIGH TREASON.
Wil. What do I hear? Heavens!--my father! Sir, your word is no proof.
Hard. But this is! [Producing the Requisition to the Pretender.] 'Tis high treason, conspiring to levy arms against the King on the throne--here called the Usurper. High treason to promise to greet with banner and trump a pretender--here called James the Third. Such is the purport of the paper I hold--and here is the name of your father.
Wil. [Aside]. Both are armed and alone. [Locks the outer door by which he is standing
Hard. [Aside]. So, I guess his intention. [Opens the window.] Good, the officers are come.
Wil. What the law calls high treason I know not; what the honest call treason I know. Traitor, thou who hast used the confidence of a son against the life of a father, thou shalt not quit these walls with that life in thy grasp--yield the proof thou hast plundered or forged. [Seizes him.
Hard. 'St! the officers of justice are below; loose thine hold, or the life thou demandest falls from these hands into theirs!
Wil. [recoiling]. Foiled! Foiled! How act! what do? And thy son set yon bloodhound on thy track, O my father! Sir, you say you are my rival; I guess the terms you now come to impose!
Hard. I impose no terms. What needs the demand? Have you an option? I think better of you. We both love the same woman; I have loved her a year, you a week; you have her father's dislike, I his consent. One must yield--why should I? Rude son of the people though I be, why must I be thrust from the sunshine because you cross my path as the fair and the high-born? What have I owed to your order or you?
Wil. To me, sir? Well, if to me you owed some slight favor, I should scorn at this moment to speak it.
Hard. I owe favor, the slightest to no man; 'tis my boast. Listen still, I schemed to save your father, not to injure. Had you rather this scroll had fallen into the hands of a spy? And now, if I place it in yours--save your name from attainder, your fortunes from confiscation, your father from the axe of the headsman--why should I ask terms? Would it be possible for you to say, "Sir, I thank you; and in return I would do my best to rob your life of the woman you love, and whom I have just known a week?" Could you, peer's son, and gentleman, thus reply,--when, if I know aught of this grand people of England, not a mechanic who walks thro' yon streets, from the loom to the hovel, but what would cry "Shame!" on such answer?
Wil. Sir, I cannot argue with, I cannot rival the man who has my father's life at his will, whether to offer it as a barter, or to yield it as a boon Either way, rivalry between us is henceforth impossible. Fear mine no more! Give me the scroll--I depart.
Hard. [Aside. His manliness moves me!] Nay let me pray your permission to give it myself to your father, and with such words as will save him, and others whose names are hereto attached, from such perilous hazards in future.
Wil. In this too I fear that you leave me no choice; I must trust as I may to your honor! but heed well if--
Hard. Menace not; you doubt, then, my honor?
Wil. [with suppressed passion]. Plainly, I do; our characters differ. I had held myself dishonored for ever if our positions had been reversed,--if I had taken such confidence as was placed in you,--concealed the rivalry,--prepared the scheme,--timed the moment,--forced the condition in the guise of benefit. No, sir, no; that may be talent, it is not honor.
Hard. [Aside. This stings! scornful fool that he is, not to see that I was half relenting. And now I feel but the foe! How sting again? I will summon him back to witness himself my triumph.] Stay, my Lord! [Writing at the table.] You doubt that I should yield up the document to your father? Bring him hither at once! He is now at my house with the Duke of Middlesex; pray them both to come here, and give this note to the Duke. [With a smile.] You will do it, my Lord.
Wil. Ay, indeed,--and when my father is safe, I will try to think that I wronged you. [Aside. And not one parting word to--to--S'death--I am unmanned. Show such emotion to him--No, no!--And if I cannot watch over that gentle life, why the angels will!] I--I go, sir,--fulfil the compact; I have paid the price. [Exit.
Hard. He loves her more than I thought for. But she? Does she love him? [Goes to the door.] Mistress Lucy! [Leads forth Lucy.
Lucy. Lord Wilmot gone!
Hard. Nay, speak not of him. If ever he hoped that your father could have overcome a repugnance to his suit, he is now compelled to resign that hope, and for ever. [LUCY turns aside, and weeps quietly.] Let us speak of your parents--your mother--
Lucy. Oh, yes--my dear mother--I so love her already.
Hard. You have heard her tale! Would you restore her, no blot on her name, to the hearth of your father?
Lucy. Speak!--speak!--can it be so?
Hard. If it cost you some sacrifice?
Lucy. Life has none for an object thus holy.
Hard. Hear, and decide. It is the wish of your father that I should ask for this hand--
Hard. Is the sacrifice so hard? Wait and hear the atonement. You come from the stolen embrace of a mother; I will make that mother the pride of your home. You have yearned for the love of a father; I will break down the wall between yourself and his heart--I will dispel all the clouds that have darkened his life.
Lucy. You will--you will! O blessings upon you!
Hard. Those blessings this hand can confer!
Lucy. But--but--the heart--the heart--that does not go with the hand.
Hard. Later, it will. I only pray for a trial. I ask but to conquer that heart, not to break it. Your father will soon be here--every moment I expect him. He comes in the full force of suspicion--deeming you lured here by Wilmot--fearing (pardon the vile word) your dishonor. How explain? You cannot speak of your mother til I first prove her guiltless. Could they meet till I do, words would pass that would make even union hereafter too bitter to her pride as a woman. Give me the power at once to destroy suspicion, remove fear, delay other explanations. Let me speak--let me act as your betrothed, your accepted. Hark! voices below--your father comes!--I have no time to plead; excuse what is harsh--seems ungenerous--
Sir Geof. [without]. Out of my way!--loose my sword!
Lucy. Oh save my mother!--Let him not see my mother.
Hard. Grant me this trial--pledge this hand now--retract hereafter if you will. Your mother's name--your parents' reunion! Ay or no!--will you pledge it?
Lucy. Can you doubt their child's answer? I pledge it!
Sir Geof. Where is he? where is this villain? let me get at him! What, what, gone? [Falling on HARDMAN'S breast.] Oh Hardman! You came, you came! I dare not look at her yet. Is she saved.
Hard. Your daughter is innocent in thought as in deed--I speak in the name of the rights she has given me; you permitted me to ask for her hand; and here she has pledged it!
Sir Geof. O my child! my child! I never called you that name before. Did I? Hush! I know now that thou art my child; know it by my anguish; know it by my joy. Who could wring from me tears like these, but a child!
Easy. But how is it all, Mr. Hardman? you know everything! That fool Softhead, with his cock-and-bull story, frightened us out of our wits.
Soft. That's the thanks I get! How is it all, Mr. Hardman?
Sir Geof. Ugh, what so clear? He came here--he saved her! My child was grateful. Approach, Hardman, near, near. Forgive me, if your childhood was lonely; forgive me, if you seemed so unfriended. Your father made me promise that you should not know the temptations that he thought had corrupted himself,--should not know of my favors, to be galled by what he called my suspicions,--should not feel the yoke of dependence;--should believe that you forced your own way through the world--till it was made. Now it is so. Ah, not in vain did I pardon him his wrongs against me; not in vain fulfil that sad promise which gave a smile to his lips in dying; not in vain have I bestowed benefits on you. You have saved--I know it--I feel it; saved from infamy--my child.
Lucy. Hush, sir, hush! [Throws herself into BARBARA'S arms.
Hard. My father? Benefits? You smile, Mr. Easy. What means he? No man on this earth ever bestowed benefits on me!
Easy. Ha! ha! ha! Nay, excuse me; but when I think that that's said by a clever fellow like you--ha!--ha!--the jest is too good; as if any one ever drove a coach through this world but what some other one built the carriage, or harnessed the horse! Why, who gave you the education that helped to make you what you are? Who slily paid Tonson, the publisher, to bring out the work that first raised you into notice? Who sent you the broker with the tale of the South-Sea Scheme? From whose purse came the sum that bought your annuity? Whose land does the annuity burthen? Who told Fleece'em, the boroughmonger, to offer you a seat in Parliament? Who paid for the election that did not cost you a shilling?--who, but my suspicious, ill-tempered, good-hearted friend there? And you are the son of his foster-brother, the man who first wronged and betrayed him!
Soft. And this is the gentleman who knows everybody and everything? Did not even know his own father! Ha! why he's been quite a taken-in! Ha! ha!
Easy. Ha! ha! ha!
Hard. And all the while I thought I was standing apart from others,--needing none; served by none; mastering men; moulding them,--the men whom my father had wronged went before me with noiseless beneficence, and opened my path through the mountain I fancied this right hand had hewn!
Sir Geof. Tut! I did but level the ground; till you were strong eno' to rise of yourself; I did not give you the post that you named with so manly a pride; I did not raise you to the councils of your country as the "Equal of All!"
Soft. No! for that you'll thank Fred. He bribed the Prime Minister with his favorite Murillo. He said you wanted the post to win the lady you loved. Dimidium mei,--I think you might have told him what lady it was.
Hard. So! Wilmot!--It needed but this!
Easy. Pooh, Mr. Softhead! Sir Geoffrey would never consent to a lord. Quite right. Practical, steady fellow is Mr. Hardman; and as to his father, a disreputable connection--quite right not to know him! All you want, Geoffrey, is to secure Lucy's happiness.
Sir Geof. All! That, now, is his charge.
Hard. I accept it. But first I secure yours, O my benefactor! This house, in which you feared to meet infamy, is the home of sorrow and virtue; the home of a woman unsullied, but slandered,--of her who, loving you still, followed your footsteps; watched you night and day from yon windows; sent you those flowers, the tokens of innocence and youth; in romance, it is true--the romance only known to woman--the romance only known to the pure! Lord Wilmot is guiltless! He led your child to the arms of a mother!
Sir Geof. Silence him!--silence him!--'tis a snare! I retract! He shall not have this girl! Her house? Do I breathe the same air as the woman so loved and so faithless?
Lucy. Pity, for my mother!--No, no; justice for her! Pity for yourself and for me!
Sir Geof. Come away, or you shall not be my child, I'll disown you. That man speaks--
Hard. I speak, and I prove--[To the DUKE]--The Memoirs--[Glancing over them.] Here is the very letter that the menial informed you your wife sent to Lord Henry. Read it; and judge if such scorn would not goad such a man to revenge. What revenge could he wield? Why, a boast!
Sir Geof. [reading]. The date of the very day that he boasted. Ha! brave words! proud heart! I suspect! I suspect!
Hard. Lord Henry's confession! It was writ on his deathbed.
Lord Lof. 'Tis his hand. I attest it.
Duke. I, too, John, Duke of Middlesex.
Sir Geof. [who has been reading the confession]. Heaven forgive me! Can she? The flowers; the figure; the-- How blind I've been! Where is she? where is she? You said she was here! [LADY THORNSIDE appears at the door.] Ellinor! Ellinor! to my arms--to my heart--O my wife! Pardon! Pardon!
Lady Thorn. Nay, all was forgiven when I once more embraced our child.
Hard. [to LOFTUS and DUKE]. My Lords destroy this Requisition! When you signed it, you doubtless believed that the Prince you would serve was of the Church of your Protestant fathers? You are safe evermore; for your honor is freed. The Prince has retired to Rome, and abjured your faith. I will convince you of this later.
[DUKE and SOFTHEAD continue to shun each other with mutual apprehension.
Easy [to WILMOT]. Glad to find you are not so bad as you seemed, my Lord; and now that Lucy is engaged to Mr. Hardman--
Wil. Engaged already! [Aside. So! he asked me here to insult me with his triumph!] Well!
Hard. Lucy, your parents are united--my promise fulfilled; permit me--[Takes her hand.] Sir Geoffrey, the son of him who so wronged you, and whose wrongs you pardoned, now reminds you, that he is entrusted with the charge to ensure the happiness of your child! Behold the man of her choice, and take from his presence your own cure of distrust. With his faults on the surface, and with no fault that is worse than that of concealing his virtues;--Here she loves and is loved! And thus I discharge the trust, and ensure the happiness! [Placing her hand in WILMOT'S.
Sir Geof. How?
Lady Thorn. It is true--do you not read in her blush the secret of her heart?
Wil. How can I accept at the price of--
Hard. Hush! For the third time to-day, you have but one option. You cannot affect to be generous to me at the cost of a heart all your own. Take your right. Come, my Lord, less I tell all the world how you bribed the Prime Minister.
Soft. [who has taken EASY aside]. But, indeed, Mr. Easy, I reform; I repent: Mr. Hardman will have a bride in the country--let me have a bride in the city. After all, I was not such a very bad monster.
Easy. Pooh! Won't hear of it! Want to marry only just to mimic my Lord.
Bar. Dear Lord Wilmot; do say a good word for us.
Easy. No, sir; no! Your head's been turned by a lord.
Wil. Not the first man whose head has been turned by a lord, with the help of the Duke of Burgundy--eh, Mr. Easy? I'll just appeal to Sir Geoffrey.
Easy. No--no--hold your tongue, my Lord.
Wil. And you insisted upon giving your daughter to Mr. Softhead; forced her upon him.
Easy. I never--!--When?
Wil. Last night, when you were chaired member for the City of London. I'll just explain the case to Sir Geoffrey--
Easy. Confound it--hold--hold!--You like this young reprobate, Barbara?
Bar. Dear Papa, his health is so delicate! I should like to take care of him.
Easy. There, go, and take care of each other. Ha! ha! I suppose it is all for the best.
[DUKE takes forth, and puts on, his spectacles; examines SOFTHEAD curiously--is convinced that he is human, approaches, and offers his hand, which SOFTHEAD, emboldened by BARBARA, though not without misgivings, accepts.
A great deal of dry stuff, called philosophy, is written about life. But the grand thing is to take it coolly, and have a good-humored indulgence--
Wil. For the force of example, Mr. Easy!
Soft. Ha! ha! ha!
Wil. For the follies of fashion, and the crimes of monsters like myself, and that terrible Softhead!
Sir Geof. Ha! ha!
Hard. You see, my dear Wilmot, many sides to a character!
Wil. Plague on it, yes! But get at them all, and we're not so bad as we seem--
Soft. No, Fred, not quite so bad!
Wil. Taking us as we stand--ALTOGETHER!
A KEY TO THE PLAY.
(AN AFTER-SCENE, BY WAY OF AN EPILOGUE.)
(Intended to have been spoken by the Original Amateur Performers.)
WILMOT'S Apartment.--WILMOT, SIR GEOFFREY, SOFTHEAD, EASY, and HARDMAN, seated at a Table. Wine, Fruits, etc.
Wil. Pass the wine--what's the news?
Easy. Funds have risen to-day.
Sir Geof. I suspect it will rain.
Easy. Well, I've got in my hay.
Hard. DAVID FALLEN IS DEAD!
Omnes. DAVID FALLEN!
Wil. Poor fellow!
Sir Geof. I should like to have seen him!
Soft. I saw him! So yellow!
Hard. Your annuity killed him!
Wil. How--how? to the point.
Hard. By the shock on his nerves--at the sight of a joint.
A very great genius--
Easy. I own--now he's dead,
That a writer more charming--
Wil. Was never worse fed!
Hard. His country was grateful--
Soft. [surprised]. He looked very shabby!
Hard. His bones--
Soft. You might count them!--
Hard. Repose in the Abbey!
Soft. [after a stare of astonishment]. So THAT is the way that a country is grateful!
Ere his nerves grew so weak,--if she'd sent him a plateful.
Easy [hastily producing a long paper]. MY TAXES!
Your notions are perfectly hateful!
[Pause.--Evident feeling that there's no getting over MR. EASY'S paper
Wil. Pope's epigram stung him.
Hard. Yes, Pope has a sting.
Wil. But who writes the epitaph?
Hard. Pope: a sweet thing!
Wil. 'Gad, if I were an author, I'd rather, instead,
Have the epitaph living--the epigram dead.
If Pope had but just considered that matter,
Soft. Had gone to the Abbey much fatter!
Easy. He was rather a scamp!
Wil. Put yourself in his place.
Easy [horror struck]. Heaven forbid!
Hard. Let us deem him the Last of a Race
Sir Geof. But the race that succeeds may have little more pelf.
Hard. Ay; and trials as sharp. I'm an author myself.
But the remedy ? Wherefore should authors not build--
Easy. An alms house?
Hard. No, merchant, their own noble Guild!
Some fortress for youth in the battle for fame;
Some shelter that Age is not humbled to claim;
Some roof from the storm for the Pilgrim of Knowledge;--
Wil. Not unlike what our ancestors meant by--a College;
Where teacher and student alike the subscriber,
Untaxing the Patron,--
Easy. The State--
Hard. Or the briber,--
Wil. The son of proud Learning shall knock at the door
And cry This* is rich, and not whine That** is poor.
* The head.
Hard. Oh right! For these men govern earth from their graves--
Shall the dead be as kings, and the living as slaves!
Easy. It is all their own fault--they so slave one another;
Not a son of proud Learning but knocks--down his brother!
Wil. Yes! other vocations, from Thames to the Border,
Have some esprit de corps, and some pride in their order;
Lawyers, soldiers, and doctors, if quarrels do pass,
Still soften their spite from respect to their class;
Why should authors be spitting and scratching like tabbies,
To leave but dry bones--
Soft. For those grateful cold Abbeys!
Hard. Worst side of their character!
Wil. True to the letter.
Are their sides, then, so fat, we can't hit on a better?
Hard. Why--the sticks in the fable!--our Guild be the tether.
Wil. Ay: the thorns are rubbed off when the sticks cling together.
Soft. [musingly]. I could be--yes--I could be a Pilgrim of Knowledge,
If you'd change Deadman's Lane to a snug little College.
Sir Geof. Ugh! stuff!--it takes money a College to found.
Easy. I will head the subscription myself--with a pound.
Hard. Quite enough from a friend: for we authors should feel
We must put our own shoulders like men to the wheel.
Be thrifty when thriving--take heed of the morrow,--
Easy. And not get in debt--
Sir Geof. Where the deuce could they borrow?
Hard. Let us think of a scheme.
Easy. He is always so knowing.
Wil. A scheme! I have got one; the wheel's set are going!
A play from one author.
Hard. With authors for actors.--
Wil. And some benefit nights,--
Both. For the world's benefactors.
Sir Geof. Who'll give you the play? it will not be worth giving,
Authors now are so bad; always are while they're living!
Easy. Ah! if David Fallen, great genius, were here--
Omnes. Great genius!
Hard. A man whom all time shall revere!
Soft. [impatiently]. But he's dead.
Omnes. [lugubriously]. He is dead!
Easy. The true Classical School, sir
Ah! could he come back!
Wil. He'll not be such a fool, sir.
[Taking HARDMAN aside, whispers.
We know of an author.
Hard. [doubtfully]. Ye--s--s, David was brighter.
Omnes. But he's dead.
Hard. This might do--as a live sort of writer.
Easy. Alive! that looks bad.
Soft. Must we take a live man?
Wil. To oblige us he'll be, sir,--as dead as he can!
Soft. Alive; and will write, sir?
Hard. With pleasure, sir.
Hard. With less than your wit, he has more than your leisure.
Coquets with the Muse--
Sir Geof. Lucky dog to afford her!
Wil. Can we get his good side?
Hard. Yes, he's proud of his order.
Wil. Then he'll do!
Sir Geof. As for wit--he has books on his shelves.
Hard. Now the actors?
Wil. By Jove, we will act it ourselves.
[Omnes, at first surprised into enthusiasm, succeeded by great consternation.
Sir Geof. Ugh, not I!
Soft. Lord ha' mercy!
Easy. A plain, sober, steady--
Wil. I'll appeal to Sir Geoffrey. There's one caught already!
This suspicious old knight; to his blind side, direct us.
Hard. Your part is to act--
Wil. True; and his to suspect us.
I rely upon you.
Hard. [looking at his watch]. Me! I have not a minute!
Wil. If the Play has a plot, he is sure to be in it.
Soft. I won't. I'll go home to my mother.
Wil. Pooh! monsters like us always help one another.
Sir Geof. I suspect you will act.
Soft. Well, I've this consolation--
Still to imitate one--
Hard. Who defies imitation.
Wil. Let the public but favor the plan we have hit on,
And we'll chair through all London,--our Family Briton.
Sir Geof. What?--what? Look at Easy! He's drunk, or I dream--
Easy [rising]. The toast of the evening--SUCCESS TO THE SCHEME!
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From The Works of Edward Bulwer Lytton (Lord Lytton) in 8 volumes, published by Peter Fenelon Collier, New York, c. 1900