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Mar. I am very sorry, ma'am, the town has so little to do.
Mrs. Can. True, true, child: but there's no stopping people's tongues. I own I was hurt to hear it, as I indeed was to learn, from the same quarter, that your guardian, Sir Peter, and Lady Teazle have not agreed lately as well as could be wished.
Mar. 'Tis strangely impertinent for people to busy themselves so.
Mrs. Can. Very true, child : but what's to be done? People will talk—there's no preventing it. Why, it was but yesterday I was told that Miss Gadabout' had eloped with Sir Filagree Flirt. But, Lord ! there's no minding what one hears; though, to be sure, I had this from very good authority.
Mar. Such reports are highly scandalous.
Mrs. Can. So they are, child-shameful, shameful! But the world is so censorious, no character escapes. Lord, now who would have suspected your friend, Miss Prim, of an indiscretion? Yet such is the ill-nature of people, that they say her uncle stopped her last week, just as she was stepping into the York mail with her dancing-master.
Mar. I'll answer for't there are no grounds for that report.
Mrs. Can. Ah, no foundation in the world, I dare swear : no more, probably, than for the story circulated last month, of Mrs. Festino's affair with Colonel Cassino-though, to be sure, that matter was never rightly cleared up.
Jos. Surf. The licence of invention some people take is monstrous indeed.
Mar. 'Tis so; but, in my opinion, those who report such things are equally culpable.
Mrs. Can. To be sure they are ; tale-bearers are as bad as the tale-makers—'tis an old observation, and a very true one : but what's to be done, as I said before ? how will you prevent people from talking ? To-day, Mrs. Clackitt assured me, Mr. and Mrs. Honeymoon were at last become mere man and wife, like the rest of their acquaintance. She likewise hinted that a certain widow, in the next street, had got rid of her dropsy and recovered her shape in a most surprising manner.) And at the same time Miss Tattle, who was by, affirmed, that Lord Buffalo had discovered his lady at a house of no extraordinary fame; and that Sir Harry Bouquet and Tom Saunter were to measure swords on a similar provocation. But, Lord, do you think I would report these things ! No, no ! tale-bearers, as I said before, are just as bad as the tale-makers.
Jos. Surf. Ah! Mrs. Candour, if everybody had your forbearance and good nature !
Mrs. Can. I confess, Mr. Surface, I cannot bear to bear people attacked behind their backs; and when ugly circum. stances come out against our acquaintance I own I always love to think the best. By-the-by, I hope 'tis not true that your brother is absolutely ruined ?
Jos. Surf. I am afraid his circumstances are very bad indeed, ma'am.
Mrs. Can. Ah! I heard so—but you must tell him to keep up his spirits ; everybody almost is in the same way : Lord Spindle, Sir Thomas Splint, Captain Quinze, and Mr. Nickit -all up, I hear, within this week ; so, if Charles is undone, he'll find half his acquaintance ruined too, and that, you know, is a consolation. Jos. Surf. Doubtless, ma'am--a very great one.
Re-enter SERVANT. Ser. Mr. Crabtree and Sir Benjamin Backbite. [Exit.
Lady Sneer. So, Maria, you see your lover pursues you ; positively you shan't escape.
Enter CRABTREE and SIR BENJAMIN BACKBITE. Crab. Lady Sneerwell, I kiss your hand. Mrs. Candour, I don't believe you are acquainted with my nephew, Sir Benjamin Backbite ? Egad, ma'am, he has a pretty wit, and is a pretty poet too.
Isn't he, Lady Sneerwell? Sir Ben. Oh, fie, uncle !
Crab. Nay, egad it's true; I back him at a rebus or a charade against the best rhymer in the kingdom. Has your ladyship heard the epigram he wrote last week on Lady Frizzle's feather catching fire ?-Do, Benjamin, repeat it, or the charade you made last night extempore at Mrs. Drowzie's conversazione. Come now; your first is the name of a fish, your second a great naval commander, and
Sir Ben. Uncle, now-prythee
Crab. I'faith, ma'am, 'twould surprise you to hear how ready he is at all these sort of things.
Lady Sneer. I wonder, Sir Benjamin, you never publish anything
Sir Ben. To say truth, ma'am, 'tis 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, madam, 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. 'Tis 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 be lieve such a story of so prudent a lady as Miss Nicely.
Sir Ben. O Lud! ma'am, that's the very reason 'twas believed at once. 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 hear how 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.
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 knows 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 a post), “has Miss Piper had twins ?" This mistake, as you may imagine, threw the whole company into a fit of laughter. However, 'twas 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 a 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!
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. O 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. 'Twas 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 own verses. 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 ever man was-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! 'tis very hard for them to leave a sub ject 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 further 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 op. portunity of observing further ; in the meantime, I'll go and plot mischief, and you shall study sentiment. [Exeunt 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