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Sir P. 'Fore heaven, madam, if they were to consider the sporting with reputation of as much importance as poaching on manors, and pass an act for the preservation of fame, as well as game, I believe many would thank them for the bill.
Lady S. O Lud! Sir Peter; would you deprive us of our privileges?
Sir P. Ay, madam; and then no person should be permitted to kill characters and run down reputations, but qualified old maids and disappointed widows.
Lady S. Go, you monster!
Mrs. C. But, surely, you would not be quite so severe on those who only report what they hear?
Sir P. Yes, madani, I would have law merchant for them too; and in all cases of slander currency, whenever the drawer of the lie was not to be found, the injured parties should have a right to come on any of the endorsers.
[Servant enters and whispers Sir Peter. Crab. Well, for my part, 1 believe there never was a scandalous tale without some foundation.
Lady S. Come, ladies, shall we sit down to cards in the next room?
Sir P. [To the Servant.] l'll be with them directly. -I'll get away unperceived. [Apart.] [Exit Servant.
Lady S. Sir Peter, you are not going to leave us ?
Sir P. Your ladyship must excuse me; I'm called away by particular business. But I leave my character behind me.
[Exit Sir Peter. Sir B. Well-certainly, Lady Teazle, that Lord of yours is a strange being : I could tell you some stories of him would make you laugh heartily, if he were not your husband.
Ludy T. 0, pray don't mind that;—why don't you? come, do let's hear them. [Joins the rest of the company going into the next room. SURFACE and
MARIA advance. Joseph S. Maria, I see you have no satisfaction in this society.
Maria. How is it possible I should?--If to raise ma
licious smiles at the infirmities or misfortunes of those who have never injured us, be the province of witor humour, Heaven grant me a double portion of dulness!
Joseph S. Yet they appear more ill-natured than they are,—they have no malice at heart.
Maria. Then is their conduct still more contemptible; for, in my opinion, nothing could excuse the intemperance of their tongues, but a natural and uncontrolable bitlerness of mind.
Joseph S. But can you, Maria, feel thus for others, and be unkind to me alone?-Is hope to be denied the tenderest passion ?
Maria. Why will you distress me by renewing this subject?
Joseph S. Ah, Maria! you would not treat me thus, and oppose your guardian, Sir Peter's will, but that I see that profligate Charles is still a favoured rival.
Maria. Ungenerously urged !-But, whatever my sentiments are for that unfortunate young man, be assured I shall not feel more bound to give him up, because his distresses have lost him the regard even of a brother.
Joseph S. Nay, but Maria, do not leave me with a frown: by all that's honest, I swear.- Gad's life,'here's Lady Teazle!—[ Aside.]—You must not-no, you shall not-for, though I have the greatest regard for Lady Teazle
Maria. Lady Teazle!
Enter LADY TEAZle and comes forward. Lady T. What is this, pray? Does he take her for me?-Child, you are wanted in the next room.[Exit Maria.)-What is all this, pray?
Joseph S. O, the most unlucky circumstance in nature! Maria has somehow suspected the tender concern I have for your happiness, and threatened to acquaint Sir Peter with her suspicions, and I was just endeavouring to reason with her when you came in.
Lady T. Indeed! but you seemed to adopt a very tender method of reasoning—do you usually argue on
Joseph S. O, she's a child, and I thought a lillle bombast-But, Lady Teazle, when are you to give me your judgment on my library, as you promised?
Lady T. No, no; I begin to think it would be imprudent, and you know I admit you as a lover no farther than fashion requires.
Joseph S. True-a mere platonic cicisbeo-what every London wife is entitled to.
Lady T. Certainly, one must not be out of the fashion. However, I have so many of my country prejudices left, that, though Sir Peter's ill-humour may vex me ever so, it never shall provoke me to
Joseph S. The only revenge in your power. Well - I applaud your moderation.
Lady T. Go-you are an insinuating wretch-But we shall be missed-let us join the company.
Joseph S. But we had best not return together.
Lady T'. Well-don't stay; for Maria sha’nt come to hear any more of your reasoning, I promise you.
[Exit LADY TEAZLE. Joseph S. A curious dilemma, truly, my politics have run me into! I wanted, at first, only to ingratiate myself with Lady Teazle, that she might not be my enemy with Maria; and I have, I don't know how, become her serious lover. Sincerely, I begin to wish I had never made such a point of gaining so very good a character, for it has led me into so many damn'd rogueries, that I doubt I shall be exposed at last. [Exit.
SCENE III.—Sir Peter Teazle's.
Enter SIR OLIVER SURFACE and ROWLEY.
Sir O. Ha! ha! ha! So my old friend is married, hey?-a
-a young wife out of the country. - Ha! ha! ha! That he should have stood bluff to old bachelor so long, and sink into a husband at last.
Row. But you must not rally him on the subject, Sir Oliver: 'tis a tender point, I assure you, though he has been married only seven months.
Sir 0. Then he has been just half a year on the stool of repentance !-Poor Peter !- --but you say he has entirely given up Charles,- -never sees him, hey?
Row. His prejudice against him is astonishing, and I am sure, greatly increased by a jealousy of him with Lady Teazle, which he has been industriously lcd into by a scandalous society in the neighbourhood, who have contributed not a little to Charles's ill name. Whereas, the truth is, I believe, if the lady is partial to either of them, his brother is the favourite.
Sir O. Ay, I know there are a set of malicious, prating prudent gossips, both male and female, who murder characters to kill time; and will rob a young fellow of his good name, before he has years to know the value of it. But I am not to be prejudiced against my nephew by such, I promise you.—No, no,-if Charles has done nothing false or mean, I shall compound for his extravagance.
Row. Then, my life on't, you will reclaim him. Ah, sir ! it gives me new life to find that your heart is not turned against him; and that the son of my good old master has one friend, however, left.
Sir O. What, shall I forget, Master Rowley, when I was at his years myself?—Egad, my brother and I were neither of us very prudent youths; and yet, I believe, you have not seen many better men than your old master was.
Row. Sir, 'tis this reflection gives me assurance that Charles may yet be a credit to his family.--But here comes Sir Peter.
Sir O. Egad, so he does.—Mercy on me!-he's greatly altered--and seems to have a settled married look! One may read husband in his face at this distance!
Enter SiR PETER TEAZLE. : Sir P. Hah! Sir Oliver-my old friend! Welcome to England a thousand times!
Sir O. Thank you-thank you, Sir Peter! and 'faith I am glad to find you well, believe me.
Sir P. Oh! 'tis a long time since we met-fifteen years, I doubt, Sir Oliver, and many a cross accident in the time.
Sir O. Ay, I have had my share. - But, what! I find you are married, hey, my old boy ?-Well, well-it can't be helped -and so I wish you joy with all my heart.
Sir P. Thank you, thank you, Sir Oliver.-Yes, I have entered into the happy state;—but we'll not talk of that now.
Sir O. True, true, Sir Peter: old friends should not begin on grievances at first meeling-no, no,
Row. Take care, pray, sir.
Sir O. Well--so one of my nephews is a wild rogue, I find, hey?
Sir P. Wild! -Ah! my old friend, I grieve for your disappointment there; he's a lost young man, indeed. However, his brother will make you amends; Joseph is, indeed, what a youth should be. Every body in the world speaks well of him.
Şir 0. I am sorry to hear it; he has too good a character to be an honest fellow. Every body speaks well of him! - Pshaw! then he has bowed as low to knaves and fools as to the honest dignity of genius and virtue.
Sir P. What, Sir Oliver! do you blame him for not making enemies ?
Sir 0. Yes, if he has merit enough to deserve them.
Sir P. Well, well-you'll be convinced when you know him. 'Tis edification to hear him converse; he professes the noblest sentiments.
Sir O. Oh! plague of his sentiments! If he salutes me with a scrap of morality in his mouth, I shall be sick directly.-But, however, don't mistake me, Sir Peter; I don't mean to defend Charles's errors : but before I form my judgment of either of them, I