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Lady Sneer. I wonder, Sir Benjamin, you never publish anything.
Sir Ben. To say truth, ma'am, 't is very vulgar to print; and as my little productions are mostly satires and lampoons on particular people, I find they circulate more by giving copies in confidence to the friends of the parties. However, I have some love elegies, which, when favoured with this lady's smiles, I mean to give the public.
[Pointing to MARIA. Crab. [TO MariA.] 'Fore heaven, ma'am, they'll immortalize you ! — you will be handed down to posterity, like Petrarch's Laura, or Waller's Sacharissa.
Sir Ben. [To Maria.] Yes, ma'am, I think you will like them, when you shall see them on a beautiful quarto page where a neat rivulet of text shall meander through a meadow of margin. 'Fore Gad they will be the most elegant things of their kind !
Crab. But, ladies, that's true - have you heard the news?
Crab. No, ma'am that's not it. — Miss Nicely is going to be married to her own footman.
Mrs. Can. Impossible.
Sir Ben. 'T is very true, ma'am : everything is fixed, and the wedding liveries bespoke.
Crab. Yes — and they do say there were pressing reasons for it. Lady Sneer. Why, I have heard something of this before.
Mrs. Can. It can't be and I wonder any one should believe such a story of so prudent a lady as Miss Nicely. Sir Ben. O Lud! ma'am, that's the very reason 't was believed at
She has always been so cautious and so reserved, that everybody was sure there was some reason for it at bottom.
Mrs. Can. Why, to be sure, a tale of scandal is as fatal to the credit of a prudent lady of her stamp as a fever is generally to those of the strongest constitutions. But there is a sort of puny sickly reputation, that is always ailing, yet will outlive the robuster characters of a hundred prudes.
Sir Ben. True, madam, there are valetudinarians in reputation as well as constitution, who, being conscious of their weak part, avoid the least breath of air, and supply their want of stamina by care and circumspection.
Mrs. Can. Well, but this may be all a mistake. You know, Sir
Benjamin, very trifling circumstances often give rise to the most injurious tales.
Crab. That they do, I'll be sworn, ma'am. Did you ever hearhow Miss Piper came to lose her lover and her character last summer at Tunbridge? — Sir Benjamin, you remember it?
Sir. Ben. Oh, to be sure ! the most whimsical circumstance. Lady Sneer. How was it, pray?
Crab. Why, one evening, at Mrs. Ponto's assembly, the conversation happened to turn on the breeding Nova Scotia sheep in this country. Says a young lady in company, I have known instances of it; for Miss Letitia Piper, a first cousin of mine, had a Nova Scotia sheep that produced her twins. “What!” cries the Lady Dowager Dundizzy (who you know is as deaf as a post), “has Miss Piper had twins ?” This mistake, as you may imagine, threw the whole company into a fit of laughter. However, 't was the next morning everywhere reported, and in a few days believed by the whole town, that Miss Letitia Piper had actually been brought to bed of a fine boy and girl : and in less than a week there were some people who could name the father, and the farm-house where the babies were put to
Lady Sneer. Strange indeed!
Crab. Matter of fact, I assure you. O Lud! Mr. Surface, pray is it true that your uncle, Sir Oliver, is coming home? Jos. Surf. Not that I know of, indeed, sir.
Crab. He has been in the East Indies a long time. You can scarcely remember him, I believe? Sad comfort, whenever he returns, to hear how your brother has gone on!
Jos. Surf. Charles has been imprudent, sir, to be sure; but I hope no busy people have already prejudiced Sir Oliver against him. He may reform.
Sir Ben. To be sure he may : for my part, I never believed him to be so utterly void of principle as people say; and, though he has lost all his friends, I am told nobody is better spoken of by the Jews.
Crab. That's true, egad, nephew. If the Old Jewry was a ward, I believe Charles would be an alderman: no man more popular there, 'fore Gad! I hear he pays as many annuities as the Irish tontine ; and that, whenever he is sick, they have prayers for the recovery of his health in all the synagogues.
Sir Ben. Yet no man lives in greater splendour. They tell me, when he entertains his friends he will sit down to dinner with a dozen of his own securities; have a score of tradesmen waiting in the antechamber, and an officer behind every guest's chair.
Jos. Surf. This may be entertainment to you, gentlemen, but you pay very little regard to the feelings of a brother.
Mar. [Aside.] Their malice is intolerable ! - [Aloud.] Lady Sneerwell, I must wish you a good morning ; I'm not very well.
[Exit. Mrs. Can. Oh dear! she changes colour very much.
Lady Sneer. Do, Mrs. Candour, follow her : she may want your assistance.
Mrs. Can. That I will, with all my soul, ma'am. Poor dear girl, who knows what her situation may be?
[Exit. Lady Sneer. 'T was nothing but that she could not bear to hear Charles reflected on, notwithstanding their difference.
Sir Ben. The young lady's penchant is obvious.
Crab. But, Benjamin, you must not give up the pursuit for that: follow her, and put her into good humour. Repeat her some of your
Come, I'll assist you. Sir Ben. Mr. Surface, I did not mean to hurt you; but depend on 't your brother is utterly undone. Crab. O Lud, ay! undone as
can't raise a guinea.
Sir Ben. And everything sold, I'm told, that was movable.
Crab. I have seen one that was at his house. Not a thing left but some empty bottles that were overlooked, and the family pictures, which I believe are framed in the wainscots.
Sir Ben. And I'm very sorry also to hear some bad stories against him.
[Going. Crab. Oh, he has done many mean things, that's certain. Sir Ben. But, however, as he's your brother
[Going. Crab. We'll tell you all another opportunity.
Exeunt CRABTREE and SIR BENJAMIN. Lady Sneer. Ha! ha! 't is very hard for them to leave a subject they have not quite run down.
Jos. Surf. And I believe the abuse was no more acceptable to your ladyship than Maria.
Lady Sneer. I doubt her affections are farther engaged than we
imagine. But the family are to be here this evening, so you may as well dine where you are, and we shall have an opportunity of observing farther; in the meantime, I'll go and plot mischief, and you shall study sentiment.
SCENE II.-A ROOM IN SIR PETER TEAZLE'S HOUSE.
Enter SIR PETER TEAZLE. Sir Pet. When an old bachelor marries a young wife, what is he to expect? 'Tis now six months since Lady Teazle made me the happiest of men and I have been the most miserable dog ever since. We tift a little going to church, and fairly quarrelled before the bells had done ringing. I was more than once nearly choked with gall during the honeymoon, and had lost all comfort in life before my friends had done wishing me joy. Yet I chose with caution
a girl bred wholly in the country, who never knew luxury beyond one silk gown, nor dissipation above the annual gala of a race ball. Yet she now plays her part in all the extravagant fopperies of fashion and the town with as ready a grace as if she never had seen a bush or a grass-plot out of Grosvenor Square ! I am sneered at by all my acquaintance, and paragraphed in the newspapers. She dissipates my fortune, and contradicts all my humours; yet the worst of it is, I doubt I love her, or I should never bear all this. However, I'll never be weak enough to own it.
Row. Oh! Sir Peter, your servant; how is it with you, sir?
Sir. Pet. Very bad, Master Rowley, very bad. I meet with nothing but crosses and vexations.
Row. What can have happened since yesterday?
Row. Nay, I'm sure, Sir Peter, your lady can't be the cause of your uneasiness.
Sir Pet. Why, has anybody told you she was dead?
Row. Come, come, Sir Peter, you love her, notwithstanding your tempers don't exactly agree.
Sir Pet. But the fault is entirely hers, Master Rowley. I am, myself, the sweetest-tempered man alive, and hate a teasing temper; and so I tell her a hundred times a day.
Row. Indeed !
Sir Pet. Ay; and what is very extraordinary, in all our disputes she is always in the wrong. But Lady Sneerwell, and the set she meets at her house, encourage the perverseness of her disposition. Then, to complete my vexation, Maria, my ward, whom I ought to have the power of a father over, is determined to turn rebel too, and absolutely refuses the man whom I have long resolved on for her husband; meaning, I suppose, to bestow herself on his profligate brother.
Row. You know, Sir Peter, I have always taken the liberty to differ with you on the subject of these two young gentlemen. I only wish you may not be deceived in your opinion of the elder. For Charles, my life on 't! he will retrieve his errors yet. Their worthy father, once my honoured master, was, at his years, nearly as wild a spark; yet, when he died, he did not leave a more benevolent heart to lament his loss.
Sir Pet. You are wrong, Master Rowley. On their father's death, you know, I acted as a kind of guardian to them both, till their uncle Sir Oliver's liberality gave them an early independence: of course, no person could have more opportunities of judging of their hearts, and I was never mistaken in my life. Joseph is indeed a model for the young men of the age. He is a man of sentiment, and acts up to the sentiments he professes ; but, for the other, take my word for 't, if he had any grain of virtue by descent, he has dissipated it with the rest of his inheritance. Ah ! my old friend, Sir Oliver, will be deeply mortified when he finds how part of his bounty has been misapplied.
Row. I am sorry to find you so violent against the young man, because this may be the most critical period of his fortune. I came hither with news that will surprise you.
Sir Pet. What ! let me hear.
Sir Pet. How; you astonish me! I thought you did not expect him this month.
Row. I did not; but his passage has been remarkably quick.
Sir Pet. Egad, I shall rejoice to see my old friend. 'Tis sixteen years since we met. We have had many a day together ; but does he still enjoin us not to inform his nephews of his arrival?
Row. Most strictly. He means, before it is known, to make some trial of their dispositions.