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THE SCREEN SCENE
THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL.-ACT IV.
Enter JOSEPH SURFACE and SERVANT.
Jos. Surf. No letter from Lady Teazle?
Jos. Surf. [Aside.) I am surprised she has not sent, if she is prevented from coming, Sir Peter certainly does not suspect me.
Yet I wish I may not lose the heiress, through the scrape I have drawn myself into with the wife; however, Charles's imprudence and bad character are great points in my favor.
[Knocking without. Ser. Sir, I believe that must be Lady Teazle.
Jos. Surf. Hold! See whether it is or not, before you go to the door: I have a particular message for you if it should be my brother.
Ser. 'Tis her ladyship, sir; she always leaves her chair at the milliner's in the next street.
Jos. Surf. Stay, stay: draw that screen before the window—that will do ;—my opposite neighbor is a maiden lady of so curious a temper.--[SERVANT draws the screen, and exit.] I have a difficult hand to play in this affair. Lady Teazle has lately suspected my views on Maria;
but she must by no means be let into that secret,—at least, till I have her more in my power.
Enter LADY TEAZLE.
Lady Teas. What, sentiment in soliloquy now? Have you been very impatient? 0 Lud! don't pretend to look grave.
I vow I couldn't come before.
Jos. Surf. O madam, punctuality is a species of constancy very unfashionable in a lady of quality.
[Places chairs and sits after LADY
TEAZLE is seated. Lady Teaz. Upon my word, you ought to pity me. Do you know Sir Peter is grown so ill-natured to me of late, and so jealous of Charles too—that's the best of the story, isn't it?
Jos. Surf. I am glad my scandalous friends keep that up.
[Aside Lady Team. I am sure I wish he would let Maria marry him, and then perhaps he would be convinced ; don't you, Mr. Surface? Jos. Surf. [Aside.]
Indeed I do not.[Aloud.] Oh, certainly I do! for then my dear Lady Teazle would also be convinced how wrong her suspicions were of my having any design on the silly girl.
Lady Teas. Well, well, I'm inclined to believe you. But isn't it provoking, to have the most ill-natured things said of one? And there's my friend Lady Sneerwell has circulated I don't know how many scandalous tales of me, and all without any foundation too; that's what vexes me.
Jos. Surf. Ay, madam, to be sure, that is the provoking circumstance—without foundation; yes, yes, there's the mortification, indeed; for, when a scandalous story is believed against one, there certainly is no comfort like the consciousness of having deserved it.
Lady Teas. No, to be sure, then I'd forgive their malice; but to attack me, who am really so innocent, and who never say an ill-natured thing of anybody—that is, of any friend; and then Sir Peter, too, to have him so peevish, and so suspicious, when I know the integrity of my own heart-indeed 'tis monstrous !
Jos. Surf. But, my dear Lady Teazle, 'tis your own fault if you suffer it. When a husband entertains a groundless suspicion of his wife, and withdraws his confidence from her, the original compact is broken, and she owes it to the honor of her sex to endeavor to outwit him.
Lady Teas. Indeed! So that, if he suspects me without cause, it follows, that the best way of curing his jealousy is to give him reason for't ?
Jos. Surf. Undoubtedly--for your husband should never be deceived in you; and in that
case it becomes you to be frail in compliment to his discernment.
Lady Teas. To be sure, what you say is very reasonable, and when the consciousness of my innocence
Jos. Surf. Ah, my dear madam, there is the great mistake! 'Tis this very conscious innocence that is of the greatest prejudice to you.
What is it makes you negligent of forms, and careless of the world's opinion? why, the consciousness of your own inno
What makes you thoughtless in your conduct, and apt to run into a thousand little imprudences? why, the consciousness of your own innocence. What makes you impatient of St. Peter's temper, and outrageous at his suspicions? why, the consciousness of your own innocence.
Lady Teaz. 'Tis very true !
Jos. Surf. Now, my dear Lady Teazle, if you would but once make a trifling faux pas, you can't conceive how cautious you would grow, and how ready to humor and agree with your husband.
Lady Toas. Do you think so?
Jos. Surf. Oh, I'm sure on't; and then you would find all scandal would cease at once, for-in short, your character at present is like a person in a plethora, absolutely dying from too much health.
Lady Teas. So, so; then I perceive your prescription is, that I must sin in my own defence, and part with my virtue to preserve my reputation ?
Jos. Surf. Exactly so, upon my credit, ma'am.
Lady Teas. Well, certainly this is the oddest doctrine, and the newest receipt for avoiding calumny!
Jos. Surf. An infallible one, believe me Prudence, like experience, must be paid for.
Lady Team. Why, if my understanding were once convinced
Jos. Surf. Oh, certainly, madam, your understanding should be convinced. Yes, yesHeaven forbid I should persuade you to do anything you thought wrong. No, no, I have too much honor to desire it.
Lady Teaz. Don't you think we may as well leave honor out of the argument? [Riscs.
Jos. Surf. Ah, the ill effects of your country education, I see, still remain with you.
Lady Team. I doubt they do, indeed; and I will fairly own to you that, if I could be persuaded to do wrong, it would be by Sir Peter's ill-usage sooner than your honorable logic, after all.
Jos. Surf. Then, by this hand, which he is unworthy of
[Taking her hand, Re-enter SERVANT. 'Sdeath, you blockhead—what do you want?
Ser. I beg your pardon, sir, but I thought you would not choose Sir Peter to come up without announcing him.