Act I.

A milliner’s shop.
A counter is spread with caps, ribbons, fans & band boxes.
Miss Jenny & several young women at work.
Enter Mrs. Wheedle.
Mrs. Wheedle. So, young ladies! Pray, what have you done today? [She examines their work.] Has anybody been in yet?
Miss Jenny. No, ma’am, nobody to signify;— only some people a-foot.
Mrs. Wheedle. Why, Miss Sally, who is this cap for?
Miss Sally. Lady Mary Megrim, ma’am.
Mrs. Wheedle. Lady Mary Megrim, child? Lord, she’ll no more wear it than I shall! Why, how have you done the lappets? They’ll never set while it’s a-cap;— one would think you had never worked in a Christian land before. Pray, Miss Jenny, set about a cap for Lady Mary yourself.
Miss Jenny. Ma’am, I can’t; I’m working for Miss Stanley.
Mrs. Wheedle. O ay, for the wedding.
Miss Sally. Am I to go on with this cap, ma’am?
Mrs. Wheedle. Yes, to be sure, & let it be sent with the other things to Mrs. Apeall in the Minories; it will do well enough for the City.
Enter a Footman.
Footman. Is Lady Whirligig’s cloak ready?
Mrs. Wheedle. Not quite, sir, but I’ll send it in five minutes.
Footman. My Lady wants it immediately; it was bespoke a week ago, & my lady says you promised to let her have it last Friday.
Mrs. Wheedle. Sir, it’s just done, & I’ll take care to let her Ladyship have it directly.
[Exit Footman.
Miss Jenny. I don’t think it’s cut out yet.
Mrs. Wheedle. I know it i’n’t. Miss Sally, you shall set about it when you’ve done that cap. Why, Miss Polly, for goodness’ sake, what are you doing?
Miss Potty. Making a tippet, ma’am, for Miss Lollop.
Mrs. Wheedle. Miss Lollop would as soon wear a halter: ’twill be fit for nothing but the window, & there the Miss Notables who work for themselves may look at it for a pattern.
Enter a Young Woman.
Young Woman. If you please, ma’am, I should be glad to look at some ribbons.
Mrs. Wheedle. We’ll show you some presently.
Enter Mrs. Voluble.
Mrs. Voluble. Mrs. Wheedle, how do do? I’m vastly glad to see you. I hope all the young ladies are well. Miss Jenny, my dear, you look pale; I hope you a’n’t in love, child? Miss Sally, your servant. I saw your uncle the other day, & he’s very well, & so are all the children; except, indeed, poor Tommy, & they’re afraid he’s going to have the whooping cough. I don’t think I know that other young lady? O Lord, yes, I do,— it’s Miss Polly Dyson! I beg your pardon, my dear, but I declare I did not recollect you at first.
Mrs. Wheedle. Won’t you take a chair, Mrs. Voluble?
Mrs. Voluble. Why yes, thank you, ma’am; but there are so many pretty things to look at in your shop, that one does not know which way to turn oneself. I declare it’s the greatest treat in the world to me to spend an hour or two here in a morning; one sees so many fine things, & so many fine folks,— Lord, who are all these sweet things here for?
Mrs. Wheedle. Miss Stanley, ma’am, a young lady just going to be married.
Mrs. Voluble. Miss Stanley? Why, I can tell you all about her. Mr. Dabler, who lives in my house, makes verses upon her.
Miss Jenny. Dear me! Is that gentleman who dresses so smart a poet?
Mrs. Voluble. A poet? Yes, my dear, he’s one of the first wits of the age. He can make verses as fast as I can talk.
Miss Jenny. Dear me! Why, he’s quite a fine gentleman; I thought poets were always as poor as Job.
Mrs. Voluble. Why so they are, my dear, in common; your real poet is all rags & atoms: but Mr. Dabler is quite another thing; he’s what you may call a poet of fashion. He studies, sometimes, by the hour together. O he’s quite one of the great geniuses, I assure you! I listened at his door, once, when he was at it,— for he talks so loud when he’s by himself, that we can hear him quite down stairs: but I could make nothing out, only a heap of words all in a chime, as one may say,— mean, lean, Dean, wean Lord, I can’t remember half of them! At first when he came, I used to run in his room, & ask what was the matter? But he told me I must not mind him, for it was only the Fit was on him, I think he called it, & so
Young Woman. I wish somebody would show me some ribbons, I have waited this half hour.
Mrs. Wheedle. O, ay, I forgot; do show this young gentlewoman some ribbons. [In a low voice.] Take last year’s. [To Young Woman.] You shall see some just out of the loom.
Mrs. Voluble. Well, but, Mrs. Wheedle, I was going to tell you about Miss Stanley; you must know she’s a young lady with a fortune all in her own hands, for she’s just come of age, & she’s got neither papa nor mama, & so
Enter a Footman.
Footman. Lady Bab Vertigo desires Mrs. Wheedle will come to the coach door.
Mrs. Wheedle goes out.
Mrs. Voluble. [Turning herself to Miss Jenny.] And so, Miss Jenny, as I was saying, this young lady came to spend the winter in town with Lady Smatter, & so she fell in love with my lady’s nephew, Mr. Beaufort, & Mr. Beaufort fell in love with her, & so
Re-enter Mrs. Wheedle.
Mrs. Wheedle. Miss Jenny, take Lady Bab the new trimming.
Mrs. Voluble. [Turning to Miss Sally.] And so, Miss Sally, the match is all agreed upon, & they are to be married next week, & so, as soon as the ceremony is over
Mrs. Wheedle. Miss Sally, put away those ribbons.
Mrs. Voluble. [Turning to Miss Polly.] And so, Miss Polly, as soon as the ceremony’s over, the bride & bridegroom
Censor. [Within.] No, faith, not I! Do you think I want to study the fashion of a lady’s top knot?
Beaufort. Nay, prithee, Censor, in compassion to me
Enter Beaufort and Censor struggling.
Censor. Why how now, Beaufort? Is not a man’s person his own property? Do you conclude that, because you take the liberty to expose your own to a ridiculous & unmanly situation, you may use the same freedom with your friend’s?
Beaufort. Pho, prithee don’t be so churlish. [Advancing to Mrs. Wheedle.] Pray, ma’am, has Miss Stanley been here this Morning?
Mrs. Wheedle. No, sir; but I expect her every moment.
Beaufort. Then, if you’ll give me leave, I’ll wait till she comes.
Censor. Do as you list, but, for my part, I am gone.
Beaufort. How! Will you not stay with me?
Censor. No, sir; I’m a very stupid fellow,— I take no manner of delight in tapes & ribbons. I leave you, therefore, to the unmolested contemplation of this valuable collection of dainties: & I doubt not but you will be equally charmed & edified by the various curiosities you will behold, & the sagacious observations you will hear. Sir, I heartily wish you well entertained.
Beaufort. [Holding him.] Have you no bowels, man?
Censor. Yes, for myself,—& therefore it is I leave you.
Beaufort. You shan’t go, I swear!
Censor. With what weapons will you stay me? Will you tie me to your little finger with a piece of ribbon, like a lady’s sparrow? Or will you enthral me in a net of Brussels lace? Will you raise a fortification of caps? Or barricade me with furbelows? Will you fire at me a broad side of pompons? Or will you stop my retreat with a fan?
Miss Jenny. Dear, how odd the gentleman talks!
Mrs. Wheedle. I wonder they don’t ask to look at something.
Mrs. Voluble. I fancy I know who they are. [Whispers.]
Beaufort. Are you not as able to bear the place as I am? If you had any grace, you would blush to be thus out-done in forbearance.
Censor. But, my good friend, do you not consider that there is some little difference in our situations? I, for which I bless my stars! am a free man, & therefore may be allowed to have an opinion of my own, to act with consistency, & to be guided by the light of Reason: you, for which I most heartily pity you, are a lover, &, consequently, can have no pretensions to similar privileges. With you, therefore, the practice of patience, the toleration of impertinence, & the study of nonsense, are become duties indispensable; & where can you find more ample occasion to display these acquirements, than in this region of foppery, extravagance & folly?
Beaufort. Ought you not, in justice, to acknowledge some obligation to me for introducing you to a place which abounds in such copious materials to gratify your splenetic humour?
Censor. Obligation? What, for showing me new scenes of the absurdities of my fellow creatures?
Beaufort. Yes, since those new scenes give fresh occasion to exert that spirit of railing which makes the whole happiness of your life.
Censor. Do you imagine, then, that, like Spenser’s Strife, I seek occasion? Have I not eyes? & can I open them without becoming a spectator of dissipation, idleness, luxury & disorder? Have I not ears? & can I use them without becoming an auditor of malevolence, envy, futility & detraction? O Beaufort, take me where I can avoid occasion of railing, & then, indeed, I will confess my obligation to you!
Mrs. Voluble. [Whispering Mrs. Wheedle.] It’s the youngest that’s the bridegroom, that is to be; but I’m pretty sure I know the other too, for he comes to see Mr. Dabler; I’ll speak to him. [Advances to Censor.] Sir, your humble servant.
Censor. Madam!
Mrs. Voluble. I beg your pardon, sir, but I think I’ve had the pleasure of seeing you at my house, sir, when you’ve called upon Mr. Dabler.
Censor. Mr. Dabler?— O, yes, I recollect.— Why, Beaufort, what do you mean? Did you bring me hither to be food to this magpie?
Beaufort. Not I, upon my honour; I never saw the woman before. Who is she?
Censor. A fool, a prating, intolerable fool. Dabler lodges at her house, & whoever passes through her hall to visit him, she claims for her acquaintance. She will consume more words in an hour than ten men will in a year; she is infected with a rage for talking, yet has nothing to say, which is a disease of all others the most pernicious to her fellow creatures, since the method she takes for her own relief proves their bane. Her tongue is as restless as scandal, &, like that, feeds upon nothing, yet attacks & tortures every thing; & it vies, in rapidity of motion, with the circulation of the blood in a frog’s foot.
Miss Jenny. [To Mrs. Voluble.] I think the gentleman’s very proud, ma’am, to answer you so short.
Mrs. Voluble. O, but he won’t get off so, I can tell him! I’ll speak to him again. [To Censor.] Poor Mr. Dabler, sir, has been troubled with a very bad head ache lately; I tell him he studies too much, but he says he can’t help it; however, I think it’s a friend’s part to advise him against it, for a little caution can do no harm, you know, sir, if it does no good, & Mr. Dabler’s such a worthy, agreeable gentleman, & so much the scholar, ’twould be a thousand pities he should come to any ill. Pray, sir, do you think he’ll ever make a match of it with Mrs. Sapient? She’s ready enough, we all know, & to be sure, for the matter of that, she’s no chicken. Pray, sir, how old do you reckon she may be?
Censor. Really, madam, I have no talents for calculating the age of a lady. What a torrent of impertinence! Upon my honour, Beaufort, if you don’t draw this woman off, I shall decamp.
Beaufort. I cannot imagine what detains Cecilia; however, I will do any thing rather than wait with such gossips by myself. I hope, ma’am, we don’t keep you standing?
Mrs. Voluble. O no, sir, I was quite tired of sitting. What a polite young gentleman, Miss Jenny! I’m sure he deserves to marry a fortune. I’ll speak to him about the ’Sprit Party; he’ll be quite surprised to find how much I know of the matter. I think, sir, your name’s Mr. Beaufort?
Beaufort. At your service, ma’am.
Mrs. Voluble. I was pretty sure it was you, sir, for I happened to be at my window one morning when you called in a coach; & Mr. Dabler was out,— that is, between friends, he was only at his studies, but he said he was out, & so that’s all one. So you gave in a card, & drove off. I hope, sir, your good aunt, my Lady Smatter, is well? For though I have not the pleasure of knowing her Ladyship myself, I know them that do. I suppose you two gentlemen are always of the ’Sprit Party, at my Lady’s house.
Censor. ’Sprit Party? Prithee, Beaufort, what’s that?
Beaufort. O, the most fantastic absurdity under heaven. My good aunt has established a kind of club at her house, professedly for the discussion of literary subjects; & the set who compose it are about as well qualified for the purpose, as so many dirty cabin boys would be to find out the longitude. To a very little reading, they join less understanding & no judgement, yet they decide upon books & authors with the most confirmed confidence in their abilities for the task. And this club they have had the modesty to nominate the Esprit Party.
Censor. Nay, when you have told me Lady Smatter is President, you need add nothing more to convince me of its futility. Faith, Beaufort, were you my enemy instead of my friend, I should scarce forbear commiserating your situation in being dependant upon that woman. I hardly know a more insufferable being, for having, unfortunately, just tasted the Pierian Spring, she has acquired that little knowledge, so dangerous to shallow understandings, which serves no other purpose than to stimulate a display of ignorance.
Mrs. Voluble. I always know, sir, when there’s going to be a ’Sprit party, for Mr. Dabler shuts himself up to study. Pray, sir, did you ever see his Monody on the Birth of Miss Dandie’s Lap Dog?
Censor. A monody on a birth?
Mrs. Voluble. Yes, sir; a monody, or elegy, I don’t exactly know which you call it, but I think it’s one of the prettiest things he ever wrote; there he tells us O dear, is not that Mrs. Sapient’s coach? I’m pretty sure I know the cipher.
Censor. Mrs. Sapient? Nay, Beaufort, if she is coming hither
Beaufort. Patience, man; she is one of the set, & will divert you.
Censor. You are mistaken; such consummate folly only makes me melancholy. She is more weak & superficial even than Lady Smatter, yet she has the same facility in giving herself credit for wisdom; & there is a degree of assurance in her conceit that is equally wonderful & disgusting, for as Lady Smatter, from the shallowness of her knowledge, upon all subjects forms a wrong judgement, Mrs. Sapient, from extreme weakness of parts, is incapable of forming any; but, to compensate for that deficiency, she retails all the opinions she hears, & confidently utters them as her own. Yet, in the most notorious of her plagiarisms, she affects a scrupulous modesty, & apologizes for troubling the company with her poor opinion!
Beaufort. She is, indeed, immeasurably wearisome.
Censor. When she utters a truth self-evident as that the sun shines at noon day, she speaks it as a discovery resulting from her own peculiar penetration & sagacity.
Beaufort. Silence! She is here.
Enter Mrs. Sapient.
Mrs. Sapient. O Mrs. Wheedle, how could you disappoint me so of my short apron? I believe you make it a rule never to keep to your time; & I declare, for my part, I know nothing so provoking as people’s promising more than they perform.
Mrs. Wheedle. Indeed, ma’am, I beg ten thousand pardons, but really, ma’am, we’ve been so hurried, that upon my word, ma’am but you shall certainly have it this afternoon. Will you give me leave to show you any caps, ma’am? I have some exceeding pretty ones just finished.
Mrs. Sapient. [Looking at the caps.] O, for heaven’s sake, don’t show me such flaunting things, for, in my opinion, nothing can be really elegant that is tawdry.
Mrs. Wheedle. But here, ma’am, is one I’m sure you’ll like; it’s in the immediate taste,— only look at it, ma’am! What can be prettier?
Mrs. Sapient. Why yes, this is well enough, only I’m afraid it’s too young for me; don’t you think it is?
Mrs. Wheedle. Too young? Dear ma’am, no, I’m sure it will become you of all things: only try it. [Holds it over her head.] O ma’am, you can’t think how charmingly you look in it! & it sets so sweetly! I never saw any thing so becoming in my life.
Mrs. Sapient. Is it? Well, I think I’ll have it,— if you are sure it is not too young for me. You must know, I am mightily for people’s consulting their time of life in their choice of clothes: &, in my opinion, there is a wide difference between fifteen & fifty.
Censor. [To Beaufort.] She’ll certainly tell us next that, in her opinion, a man who has but one eye, would look rather better if he had another!
Mrs. Wheedle. O, I’m sure, ma’am, you’ll be quite in love with this cap when you see how well you look in it. Shall I show you some of our new ribbons, ma’am?
Mrs. Sapient. O, I know, now, you want to tempt me; but I always say the best way to escape temptation is to run away from it: however, as I am here
Mrs. Voluble. Had not you better sit down, ma’am? [Offering a chair.]
Mrs. Sapient. O Mrs. Voluble, is it you? How do ? Lord, I don’t like any of these ribbons. Pray how does Mr. Dabler do?
Mrs. Voluble. Very well, thank you, ma’am; that is, not very well, but pretty well considering, for to be sure, ma’am, so much study’s very bad for the health; it’s pity he don’t take more care of himself, & so I often tell him; but your great wits never mind what little folks say, if they talk never so well, & I’m sure I’ve sometimes talked to him by the hour together about it, for I’d never spare my words to serve a friend; however, it’s all to no purpose, for he says he has a kind of a Fury, I think he calls it, upon him, that makes him write whether he will or not. And, to be sure, he does write most charmingly! & he has such a collection of miniscrips! Lord, I question if a pastry cook or a cheesemonger could use them in a year! For he says he never destroyed a line he ever wrote in his life. All that he don’t like, he tells me he keeps by him for his Postimus works, as he calls them, & I’ve some notion he intends soon to print them.
Mrs. Wheedle. Do, ma’am, pray let me put this cloak up for you, & I’ll make you a hat for it immediately.
Mrs. Sapient. Well, then, take great care how you put in the ribbon, for you know I won’t keep it if it does not please me. Mr. Beaufort!— Lord bless me, how long have you been here? O heavens! Is that Mr. Censor? I can scarce believe my eyes! Mr. Censor in a milliner’s shop! Well, this does, indeed, justify an observation I have often made, that the greatest geniuses sometimes do the oddest things.
Censor. Your surprise, madam, at seeing me here today will bear no comparison to what I must myself experience should you ever see me here again.
Mrs. Sapient. O, I know well how much you must despise all this sort of business, &, I assure you, I am equally averse to it myself: indeed I often think what pity it is so much time should be given to mere show;— for what are we the better tomorrow for what we have worn today? No time, in my opinion, turns to so little account as that which we spend in dress.
Censor. [To Beaufort.] Did you ever hear such an impudent falsehood?
Mrs. Sapient. For my part, I always wear just what the milliner & mantua-maker please to send me; for I have a kind of maxim upon this subject which has some weight with me, though I don’t know if any body else ever suggested it: but it is, that the real value of a person springs from the mind, not from the outside appearance. So I never trouble myself to look at anything till the moment I put it on. [Turning quick to the milliners.] Be sure you take care how you trim the hat! I shan’t wear it else.
Censor. Prithee, Beaufort, how long will you give a man to decide which is greatest, her folly, or her conceit?
Mrs. Sapient. Gentlemen, good morning; Mrs. Voluble, you may give my compliments to Mr. Dabler. Mrs. Wheedle, pray send the things in time, for, to me, nothing is more disagreeable than to be disappointed.
As she is going out, Jack enters abruptly, & brushes past her.
Mrs. Sapient. O heavens!
Jack. Lord, ma’am, I beg you a thousand pardons! I did not see you, I declare. I hope I did not hurt you?
Mrs. Sapient. No, sir, no; but you a little alarmed me,—& really an alarm, when one does not know how to account for it, gives one a rather odd sensation,— at least I find it so.
Jack. Upon my word, ma’am, I’m very sorry,— I’m sure if I’d seen you but I was in such monstrous haste, I had no time to look about me.
Mrs. Sapient. O, sir, ’tis of no consequence; yet, allow me to observe that, in my opinion, too much haste generally defeats its own purpose. Sir, good morning.
Beaufort. Why, Jack, won’t you see her to her coach?
Jack. O ay, true, so I must!
[Follows her.
Censor. This brother of yours, Beaufort, is a most ingenious youth,
Beaufort. He has foibles which you, I am sure, will not spare; but he means well, & is extremely good-natured.
Censor. Nay, but I am serious, for without ingenuity no man, I think, could continue to be always in a hurry who is never employed.
Re-enter Jack.
Jack. Plague take it, brother, how unlucky it was that you made me go after her! In running up to her, my deuced spurs caught hold of some of her falaldrums, & in my haste to disengage myself, I tore off half her trimming. She went off in a very ill humour, telling me that, in her opinion, a disagreeable accident was very very very disagreeable, I think, or something to that purpose.
Beaufort. But, for heaven’s sake, Jack, what is the occasion of all this furious haste?
Jack. Why, Lord, you know I’m always in a hurry; I’ve no notion of dreaming away life: how the deuce is any thing to be done without a little spirit?
Beaufort. Pho, prithee, Jack, give up this idle humour.
Jack. Idle? Nay, brother, call me what else you please, but you can never charge me with idleness.
Beaufort. Why, with all your boasted activity, I question if there is a man in England who would be more embarrassed how to give any account of his time.
Jack. Well, well, I can’t stay now to discourse upon these matters,— I have too many things to do to stand here talking.
Beaufort. Nay, don’t go till you tell us what you have to do this morning.
Jack. Why more things than either of you would do in a month, but I can’t stop now to tell you any of them, for I have three friends waiting for me in Hyde Park, & twenty places to call at in my way.
Mrs. Wheedle. [Following him.] Sir, would you not choose to look at some ruffles?
Jack. O, ay,— have you any thing new? What do you call these?
Mrs. Wheedle. O pray, sir, take care! They are so delicate they’ll hardly bear to be touched.
Jack. I don’t like them at all! Show me some others.
Mrs. Wheedle. Why, sir, only see! You have quite spoilt this pair.
Jack. Have I? Well, then, you must put them up for me. But pray have you got no better?
Mrs. Wheedle. I’ll look some directly, sir,— but, dear sir, pray don’t put your switch upon the caps! I hope you’ll excuse me, sir, but the set is all in all in these little tasty things.
Censor. And pray, Jack, are all your hurries equally important & equally necessary as those of this morning?
Jack. Lord, you grave fellows, who plod on from day to day without any notion of life & spirit, spend half your lives in asking people questions they don’t know how to answer.
Censor. And we might consume the other half to as little purpose, if we waited to find out questions which such people do know how to answer.
Jack. Severe, very severe, that! However, I have not time now for repartee, but I shall give you a Rowland for your Oliver when we meet again.
Mrs. Wheedle. Sir, I’ve got the ruffles,— won’t you look at them?
Jack. O, the ruffles! Well, I’m glad you’ve found them, but I can’t stay to look at them now. Keep them in the way against I call again.
Mrs. Wheedle. Miss Jenny, put these ruffles up again. That gentleman never knows his own mind.
Miss Jenny. I’m sure he’s tumbled & tossed the things about like mad.
Censor. ’Tis to be much regretted, Beaufort, that such a youth as this was not an elder brother.
Beaufort. Why so?
Censor. Because the next heir might so easily get rid of him; for, if he was knocked down, I believe he would think it loss of time to get up again, & if he were pushed into a river, I question if he would not be drowned, ere he could persuade himself to swim long enough in the same direction to save himself.
Beaufort. He is young, & I hope this ridiculous humour will wear away.
Censor. But how came you so wholly to escape its infection? I find not, in you, any portion of this inordinate desire of action, to which all power of thinking must be sacrificed.
Beaufort. Why we are but half brothers, & our educations were as different as our fathers, for my mother’s second husband was no more like her first, than am I to Hercules,— though Jack, indeed, has no resemblance even to his own father.
Censor. Resemblance? An hare & a tortoise are not more different; for Jack is always running, without knowing what he pursues, & his father is always pondering, without knowing what he thinks of.
Beaufort. The truth is, Mr. Codger’s humour of perpetual deliberation so early sickened his son, that the fear of inheriting any share of it, made him rush into the opposite extreme, & determine to avoid the censure of inactive meditation, by executing every plan he could form at the very moment of projection.
Censor. And pray, sir,— if such a question will not endanger a challenge,— what think you, by this time, of the punctuality of your mistress?
Beaufort. Why,— to own the truth I fear I must have made some mistake.
Censor. Bravo, Beaufort! Ever doubt your own senses in preference to suspecting your mistress of negligence or caprice.
Beaufort. She is much too noble minded, too just in her sentiments, & too uniform in her conduct, to be guilty of either.
Censor. Bravissimo, Beaufort! I commend your patience, &, this time twelvemonth I’ll ask you how it wears! In the mean time, however, I would not upon any account interrupt your contemplations either upon her excellencies, or your own mistakes, but, as I expect no advantage from the one, you must excuse my any longer suffering from the other: &, ere you again entangle me in such a wilderness of frippery, I shall take the liberty more closely to investigate the accuracy of your appointments.
Beaufort. My situation begins to grow as ridiculous as it is disagreeable. Surely Cecilia cannot have forgotten me!
Mrs Voluble. [Advancing to him.] To be sure, sir, it’s vastly incommodious to be kept waiting so, but, sir, if I might put in a word, I think
Enter Jack running.
Jack. Lord, brother, I quite forgot to tell you Miss Stanley’s message.
Beaufort. Message! What message?
Jack. I declare I had got half way to Hyde Park, before I ever thought of it.
Beaufort. Upon my honour, Jack, this is too much!
Jack. Why, I ran back the moment I recollected it, & what could I do more? I would not even stop to tell Will. Scamper what was the matter, so he has been calling & bawling after me all the way I came. I gave him the slip when I got to the shop,— but I’ll just step & see if he’s in the street.
Beaufort. Jack, you’ll provoke me to more anger than you are prepared for! What was the message? Tell me quickly!
Jack. O ay, true! Why, she said she could not come.
Beaufort. Not come? But why? I’m sure she told you why?
Jack. O yes, she told me a long story about it,— but I’ve forgot what it was.
Beaufort. [Warmly.] Recollect, then!
Jack. Why, so I will. O, it was all your aunt Smatter’s fault,— somebody came in with the new Ranelagh songs, so she stayed at home to study them; & Miss Stanley bid me say she was very sorry, but she could not come by herself.
Beaufort. And why might I not have been told this sooner?
Jack. Why, she desired me to come & tell you of it an hour or two ago, but I had so many places to stop at by the way I could not possibly get here sooner: & when I came, my head was so full of my own appointments that I never once thought of her message. However, I must run back to Will. Scamper, or he’ll think me crazy.
Beaufort. Hear me, Jack! If you do not take pains to correct this absurd rage to attempt every thing, while you execute nothing, you will render yourself as contemptible to the world, as you are useless or mischievous to your family.
Jack. What a passion he’s in! I’ve a good mind to run to Miss Stanley, & beg her to intercede for me.
Mrs. Wheedle. Sir, won’t you please to look at the ruffles?
Jack. O ay, true,— where are they?
Mrs. Wheedle. Here, sir. Miss Jenny, give me those ruffles again.
Jack. O if they a’n’t ready, I can’t stay.
Mrs. Voluble. Well, Mrs. Wheedle, I’m sure you’ve a pleasant life of it here, in seeing so much of the world. I’d a great mind to have spoke to that young gentleman, for I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him before, though I can’t tell where. But he was in such a violent hurry, I could not get in a word. He’s a fine lively young gentleman, to be sure. But now, Mrs. Wheedle, when will you come & drink a snug dish of tea with me? You, & Miss Jenny, & any of the young ladies that can be spared? I’m sure if you can all come
Enter Bob.
Bob. I ask pardon, ladies & gentlemen, but pray is my mother here?
Mrs. Voluble. What’s that to you, sirrah? Who gave you leave to follow me? Get home, directly, you dirty figure you! Go, go, I say!
Bob. Why, Lord, mother, you’ve been out all the morning, & never told Betty what was for dinner!
Mrs. Voluble. Why, you great, tall, greedy, gourmandizing, lubberly cub, you, what signifies whether you have any dinner or no? Go, get away, you idle, good for nothing, dirty, greasy, hulking, tormenting
She drives him off, & the scene closes.
End of Act the First.