Act III.

The scene changes to an apartment at Mrs. Voluble’s;
Dabler is discovered writing.
Dabler. The pensive maid, with saddest sorrow sad, no, hang it, that won’t do!—saddest sad will never do. With,— with with mildest,— ay that’s it!—The pensive maid with mildest sorrow sad, I should like, now, to hear a man mend that line!— I shall never get another equal to it.— Let’s see,— sad, bad, lad, dad,— curse it, there’s never a rhyme will do!— Where’s The Art of Poetry?— O, here,— now we shall have it; [Reads.] Add,— hold, that will do at once,—with mildest sorrow sad, Shed crystal tears, & sigh to sigh did add. Admirable! Admirable by all that’s good! Now let’s try the first stanza. [Reads.]
Ye gentle nymphs, whose hearts are prone to love,
Ah, hear my song, & ah! my song approve;
And ye, ye glorious, mighty sons of fame,
Ye mighty warriors
How’s this, two mightys?— hang it, that won’t do!— let’s see,— ye glorious warriors,— no, there’s glorious before,— O curse it, now I’ve got it all to do over again!— just as I thought I had finished it!— ye fighting,— no,— ye towering, no;— ye,— ye ye I have it, by Apollo!
Enter Betty.
Betty. Sir, here’s a person below who
Dabler. [Starting up in a rage.] Now curse me if this is not too much! What do you mean by interrupting me at my studies? How often have I given orders not to be disturbed?
Betty. I’m sure, sir, I thought there was no harm in just telling you
Dabler. Tell me nothing!— get out of the room directly!—& take care you never break in upon me again,— no, not if the house be on fire!— Go, I say!
Betty. Yes, sir. [Aside.] Lord, how masters & missusses do love scolding!
Dabler. What a provoking intrusion! Just as I had worked myself into the true spirit of poetry!— I shan’t recover my ideas this half hour. ’Tis a most barbarous thing that a man’s retirement cannot be sacred. (Sits down to write.) Ye fighting,— no, that was not it,— ye ye ye O curse it, [Stamping.] if I have not forgot all I was going to say! That unfeeling, impenetrable fool has lost me more ideas than would have made a fresh man’s reputation. I’d rather have given a hundred guineas than have seen her. I protest, I was upon the point of making as good a poem as any in the language,— my numbers flowed,— my thoughts were ready,— my words glided,— but now, all is gone!— all gone & evaporated! [Claps his hand on his forehead.] Here’s nothing left! Nothing in the world!— What shall I do to compose myself? Suppose I read?— Why, where the deuce are all the things gone? [Looking over his papers.] O, here,— I wonder how my epigram will read today,— I think I’ll show it to Censor,— he has seen nothing like it of late;— I’ll pass it off for some dead poet’s, or he’ll never do it justice;— let’s see, suppose Pope?— no, it’s too smart for Pope,— Pope never wrote any thing like it!— well then, suppose
Enter Mrs. Voluble.
O curse it, another interruption!
Mrs. Voluble. I hope, sir, I don’t disturb you?— I’m sure I would not disturb you for the world, for I know nothing’s so troublesome; & I know you gentlemen writers dislike it of all things; but I only just wanted to know if the windows were shut, for fear of the rain, for I asked Betty if she had been in to see about them, but she said
Dabler. They’ll do very well,— pray leave them alone,— I am extremely busy;— [Aside.] I must leave these lodgings, I see!
Mrs. Voluble. O sir, I would not stay upon any account, but only sometimes there are such sudden showers, that if the windows are left open, half one’s things may be spoilt, before one knows any thing of the matter. And if so much as a paper of yours was to be damaged, I should never forgive myself, for I’d rather all the poets in the world should be burnt in one great bonfire, than lose so much as the most minikin bit of your writing, though no bigger than my nail.
Dabler. My dear Mrs. Voluble, you are very obliging. [Aside.] She’s a mighty good sort of woman,— I’ve a great mind to read her that song:— no, this will be better. [To Mrs. Voluble.] Mrs. Voluble, do you think you can keep a secret?
Mrs. Voluble. O dear sir, I’ll defy any body to excel me in that! I am more particular scrupulous about secrets than anybody.
Dabler. Well, then, I’ll read you a little thing I’ve just been composing, & you shall tell me your opinion of it. [Reads.] On a Young Lady Blinded by Lightning.
  Fair Cloris, now depriv’d of sight,
To error ow’d her fate uneven;
  Her eyes were so refulgent bright
The blundering lightning thought them heaven.
What do you think of it, Mrs. Voluble?
Mrs. Voluble. O, I think it the prettiest, most moving thing I ever heard in my life.
Dabler. Do you indeed?— pray sit down, Mrs. Voluble, I protest I never observed you were standing.
Mrs. Voluble. Dear sir, you’re vastly polite.
[Seats herself.
Dabler. So you really think it’s pretty good, do you?
Mrs. Voluble. O dear yes, sir; I never heard any thing I liked so well in my life. It’s prodigious fine, indeed!
Dabler. Pray don’t sit so near the door, Mrs. Voluble; I’m afraid you will take cold. [Aside.] ’Tis amazing to me where this woman picked up so much taste!
Mrs. Voluble. But I hope, sir, my being here is of no hindrance to you, because, if it is, I’m sure
Dabler. [Looking at his watch.] No, Mrs. Voluble, I am obliged to go out myself now. I leave my room in your charge; let care be taken that no human being enters it in my absence, & don’t let one of my papers be touched or moved upon any account.
Mrs. Voluble. Sir, I shall lock the door, & put the key in my pocket. Nobody shall so much as know there’s a paper in the house.
[Exit Dabler.
Mrs. Voluble. I believe it’s almost a week since I’ve had a good rummage of them myself. Let’s see, is not this ’Sprit Night? Yes; & he won’t come home till very late, so I think I may as well give them a fair look over at once. [Seats herself at the table.] Well, now, how nice & snug this is! What’s here?
[Takes up a paper.
Enter Bob.
Bob. Mother, here’s Miss Jenny, the milliner maker.
Mrs. Voluble. Is there? Ask her to come up.
Bob. Lord, mother, why you would not have her come into Mr. Dabler’s room? Why, if he
Mrs. Voluble. What’s that to you? Do you suppose I don’t know what I’m about? You’re never easy but when you’re a-talking,— always prate, prate, prate about something or other. Go & ask her to come up, I say.
Bob. Lord, one can’t speak a word!
Mrs. Voluble. Have done, will you? Mutter, mutter, mutter;— It will be a prodigious treat to Miss Jenny to come into this room.
Enter Miss Jenny.
Miss Jenny, how do do, my dear? This is very obliging of you. Do you know whose room you are in?
Miss Jenny. No, ma’am.
Mrs. Voluble. Mr. Dabler’s own room, I assure you! And here’s all his papers; these are what he calls his miniscrips.
Miss Jenny. Well, what a heap of them!
Mrs. Voluble. And he’s got five or six boxes brimful besides.
Miss Jenny. Dear me! Well, I could not do so much if I was to have the Indies!
Mrs. Voluble. Now if you’ll promise not to tell a living soul a word of the matter, I’ll read you some of them: but be sure, now, you don’t tell.
Miss Jenny. Dear no, I would not for ever so much.
Mrs. Voluble. Well, then, let’s see,— what’s this? [Takes up a paper.] Elegy on the Slaughter of a Lamb.
Miss Jenny. O, pray let’s have that.
Mrs. Voluble. I’ll put it aside, & look out some more. A Dialogue between a Tear & a Sigh,—Verses on a Young Lady’s Fainting Away
Miss Jenny. That must be pretty indeed! I dare say it will make us cry.
Mrs. Voluble. An Epitaph on a Fly killed by a Spider; an
Enter Bob.
Bob. Mother, here’s a young gentlewoman wants you.
Mrs. Voluble. A young gentlewoman?— who can it be?
Bob. I never see her before. She’s a deal smarter than Miss Jenny.
Miss Jenny. I’m sure I’d have come more dressed, if I’d known of seeing anybody.
Mrs. Voluble. Well, I can’t imagine who it is. I’m sure I’m in a sad pickle. Ask her into the parlor.
Miss Jenny. Dear ma’am, you’d better by half see her here; all the fine folks have their company up stairs, for I see a deal of the quality, by carrying things home.
Mrs. Voluble. Well then, ask her to come up.
Bob. But suppose Mr. Dabler
Mrs. Voluble. Mind your own business, sir, & don’t think to teach me. Go & ask her up this minute.
Bob. I’m going, a’n’t I?
Mrs. Voluble. I do verily believe that boy has no equal for prating; I never saw the like of him,— his tongue’s always a-running.
Re-enter Bob, followed by Cecilia.
Bob. Mother, here’s the young gentlewoman.
Cecilia. I presume, ma’am, you are Mrs. Voluble?
Mrs. Voluble. Yes, ma’am.
Cecilia. I hope you will excuse this intrusion; & I must beg the favour of a few minutes private conversation with you.
Mrs. Voluble. To be sure, ma’am. Bobby, get the lady a chair. I hope, ma’am, you’ll excuse Bobby’s coming in before you; he’s a sad rude boy for manners.
Bob. Why the young gentlewoman bid me herself; ’twas no fault of mine.
Mrs. Voluble. Be quiet, will you? Jabber, jabber, jabber,— there’s no making you hold your tongue a minute. Pray, ma’am, do sit down.
Cecilia. I thank you, I had rather stand. I have but a few words to say to you, & will not detain you five minutes.
Miss Jenny. Suppose Master Bobby & I go down stairs till the lady has done? [Apart to Mrs. Voluble.] Why Lord, Mrs. Voluble, I know who that lady is as well as I know you! Why, it’s Miss Stanley, that we’ve been making such a heap of things for.
Mrs. Voluble. Why you don’t say so! What, the bride?
Miss Jenny. Yes.
Mrs. Voluble. Well, I protest I thought I’d seen her some where before. [To Cecilia.] Ma’am, I’m quite ashamed of not recollecting you sooner, but I hope your goodness will excuse it. I hope, ma’am, the good lady your aunt is well?— that is, your aunt that is to be?
Cecilia. If you mean Lady Smatter,— I believe she is well.—
Mrs. Voluble. I’m sure, ma’am, I’ve the greatest respect in the world for her Ladyship, though I have not the pleasure to know her; but I hear all about her from Mrs. Hobbins,— to be sure, ma’am, you know Mrs. Hobbins, my lady’s house-keeper?
Cecilia. Certainly: it was by her direction I came hither.
Mrs. Voluble. That was very obliging of her, I’m sure, & I take your coming as a very particular favour. I hope, ma’am, all the rest of the family’s well? And Mrs. Simper, my lady’s woman? But I beg pardon for my ill manners, ma’am, for to be sure, I ought first to have asked for Mr. Beaufort. I hope he’s well, ma’am?
Cecilia. I I don’t know I believe,— I fancy he is.—
Mrs. Voluble. Well, he’s a most agreeable gentleman indeed, ma’am, & I think
Cecilia. If it is inconvenient for me to speak to you now
Mrs. Voluble. Not at all, ma’am; Miss Jenny & Bobby can as well divert themselves in the parlor.
Miss Jenny. Dear me, yes, I’ll go directly.
Bob. And I’ll go & sit in the kitchen, & look at the clock, & when it’s five minutes, I’ll tell Miss Jenny.
Miss Jenny. Come, then, Master Bobby. [Aside.] She’s very melancholic, I think, for a young lady just going to be married.
[Exit with Bob.
Cecilia. The motive which has induced me to give you this trouble, Mrs. Voluble
Mrs. Voluble. Dear ma’am, pray don’t talk of trouble, for I’m sure I think it none. I take it quite as a favour to receive a visit from such a young lady as you. But pray, ma’am, sit down; I’m quite ashamed to see you standing,— it’s enough to tire you to death.
Cecilia. It is not of the least consequence. A very unexpected & unhappy event has obliged me, most abruptly, to quit the house of Lady Smatter, & if
Mrs. Voluble. Dear ma’am, you surprise me! But I hope you have not parted upon account of any disagreement?
Cecilia. I must beg you to hear me. I have, at present, insuperable objections to visiting any of my friends; & Mrs. Hobbins, who advised me to apply to you, said she believed you would be able to recommend me to some place where I can be properly accommodated till my affairs are settled.
Mrs. Voluble. To be sure, ma’am, I can. But pray, ma’am, may I make bold to ask the reason of your parting?
Cecilia. I am not, at present, at liberty to tell it. Do you recollect any place that
Mrs. Voluble. O dear yes, ma’am, I know many. Let’s see,— there’s one in King Street,—& there’s one in Charles Street,—& there’s another in Lord, I dare say I know an hundred! Only I shall be very cautious of what I recommend, for it is not every place will do for such a lady as you. But pray, ma’am, where may Mr. Beaufort be? I hope he has no hand in this affair?
Cecilia. Pray ask me no questions!
Mrs. Voluble. I’m sure, ma’am, I don’t mean to be troublesome; & as to asking questions, I make a point not to do it, for I think that curiosity is the most impertinent thing in the world. I suppose, ma’am, he knows of your being here?
Cecilia. No, no,— he knows nothing about me.
Mrs. Voluble. Well, that’s quite surprising, upon my word! To be sure, poor gentleman, it must give him a deal of concern, that’s but natural, & besides
Cecilia. Can you name no place to me, Mrs. Voluble, that you think will be eligible?
Mrs. Voluble. Yes sure, I can, ma’am. I know a lady in the very next street, who has very genteel apartments, that will come to about five or six guineas a week, for, to be sure, a young lady of your fortune would not choose to give less.
Cecilia. Alas!
Mrs. Voluble. Dear ma’am, don’t vex so; I dare say my lady will think better of it; besides, it’s for her interest, for though, to be sure, Mr. Beaufort will have a fine income, yet young ladies of forty thousand pounds fortune a’n’t to be met with every day; & the folks say, ma’am, that yours will be full that.
Cecilia. I must entreat you, Mrs. Voluble, not to speak of my affairs at present; my mind is greatly disordered, & I cannot bear the subject.
Mrs. Voluble. Dear ma’am, I won’t say another word. To be sure, nothing’s so improper as talking of private affairs,— it’s a thing I never do, for really
Enter Miss Jenny & Bob.
Miss Jenny. May we come in?
Mrs. Voluble. Lord no; why I ha’n’t heard one single thing yet.
Bob. It’s a great deal past the five minutes. I’ve been looking at the clock all the time.
Miss Jenny. Well, then, shall we go again?
Cecilia. No, it is not necessary. Mrs. Voluble, you can be so good as to answer my question, without troubling anybody to leave the room.
Miss Jenny. Then we’ll keep at this side, & we shan’t hear what you say.
[Miss Jenny & Bob walk aside.
Mrs. Voluble. What think you, ma’am, of that place I mentioned?
Cecilia. I mean to be quite private, & should wish for a situation less expensive.
Mrs. Voluble. Why sure, ma’am, you would not think of giving less than five guineas a week? That’s just nothing out of such a fortune as yours.
Cecilia. Talk to me no more of my fortune, I beseech you,— I have none!— I have lost it all!—
Mrs. Voluble. Dear ma’am, why, you put me quite in a cold sweat! Lost all your fortune?
Cecilia. I know not what I say!— I can talk no longer;— pray excuse my incoherence;—& if you can allow me to remain here for half an hour, I may, in that time perhaps hear from my friends, & know better how to guide myself.
Mrs. Voluble. Yes, sure, ma’am, I shall be quite proud of your company. But I hope, ma’am, you was not in earnest about losing fortune?
Cecilia. Let nothing I have said be mentioned, I beseech you; converse with your friends as if I was not here, & suffer me to recover my composure in silence. [Walks away.] [Aside.] Oh Beaufort, my only hope & refuge! Hasten to my support, ere my spirits wholly sink under the pressure of distressful suspense.
Mrs. Voluble. Well, this is quite what I call a nigma! Miss Jenny, my dear, come here; I’ll tell you how it is,— do you know she’s come away from Lady Smatter’s?
Miss Jenny. Dear me!
Mrs. Voluble. Yes; & what’s worse, she says she’s lost all her fortune.
Miss Jenny. Lost all her fortune? Lack a daisy! Why, then who's to pay for all our things? Why, we’ve got such a heap as will come to a matter of I don’t know how much.
Mrs. Voluble. Well, to be sure it’s a sad thing; but you’re to know I don’t much believe it, for she said it in a sort of a pet; & my notion is she has been falling out with her sweetheart, & if so may be her head’s a little touched. Them things often happens in the quarrels of lovers.
Enter Betty.
Betty. Ma’am, here’s a gentleman wants the young lady.
Cecilia. [Starting.] Tis surely Beaufort!— Beg him to walk up stairs.— Mrs. Voluble, will you excuse this liberty?
Mrs. Voluble. Yes, sure, ma’am.
[Exit Betty.
Cecilia. [Aside.] Dear, constant Beaufort!— how grateful to my heart is this generous alacrity!
Mrs. Voluble. [Aside to Miss Jenny.] I dare say this is her sweetheart.
Miss Jenny. Dear me, how nice! We shall hear all they say!
Enter Censor.
Cecilia. Mr. Censor!— good heaven!
Censor. Miss Stanley, I will not say I rejoice,— for, in truth, in this place I grieve to see you.
Mrs. Voluble. Pray, sir, won’t you sit down?
Censor. I thank you, madam, I had rather stand. Miss Stanley, I must beg the honour of speaking to you alone.
Mrs. Voluble. O sir, if you like it, I’m sure we’ll go.
Censor. Ay, pray do.
Mrs. Voluble. [Aside to Miss Jenny.] This gentleman is by no means what I call a polite person, [To Censor.] Sir, I hope you’ll put the young lady in better spirits; she has been very low indeed since she came; &, sir, if you should want for any thing, I beg
Censor. Do, good madam, be quick. I am in haste.
Mrs. Voluble. We’re going directly, sir. Come, Miss Jenny. Bobby, you great oaf, what do you stand gaping there for? Why don’t you go?
Bob. Why, you would not have me go faster than I can, would you?
Mrs. Voluble. I would have you hold your tongue, Mr. prate-apace! Always wrangling & wrangling. Come, Miss Jenny!
Miss Jenny. I don’t see why we might not as well have stayed here.
Cecilia. By what means, sir, have you discovered me?— have you been at Lady Smatter’s?— does anybody there know where I am, except her Ladyship?
Censor. First let me ask you what possible allurement could draw you under this roof? Did you mean, by the volubility of folly, to over-power the sadness of recollection? Did you imagine that nonsense has the same oblivious quality as the waters of Lethe? & flatter yourself that, by swallowing large draughts, you should annihilate all remembrance of your misfortunes?
Cecilia. No, no! I came hither by the dire guidance of necessity. I wish to absent myself from my friends till the real state of my affairs is better known to me. I have sent my servant into the City, whence I expect speedy intelligence. Lady Smatter’s housekeeper assured me that the character of this woman was unblemished, & I was interested in no other enquiry. But tell me, I beseech you, whence you had your information of the calamity that has befallen me? & who directed you hither? & whether my letter has been shown or concealed?—& what I am to infer from your being the first to seek me?
Censor. Pray go on!
Cecilia. Sir!
Censor. Nay, if you ask forty more questions without waiting for an answer, I have messages that will more than keep pace with your enquiries; therefore ask on, & spare not!
Cecilia. [Disconcerted.] No, sir, I have done!
Censor. How! Have I, then, discovered the art of silencing a lover? Hasten to me, ye wearied guardians of pining youth, I will tell ye a secret precious to ye as repose! Fly hither, ye sad & solemn confidants of the love-lorn tribe, for I can point out relief to exhausted patience!
Cecilia. Spare this raillery, I beseech you;—& keep me not in suspense as to the motive of your visit.
Censor. My first motive is the desire of seeing,— my second of serving you; if indeed, the ill-usage you have experienced from one banker, will not intimidate you from trusting in another.
Cecilia. How am I to understand you?
Censor. As an honest man! Or, in other words, as a man to whose friendship distressed innocence has a claim indisputable.
Cecilia. You amaze me!
Censor. It must be some time ere your affairs can be settled, & the loss of wealth will speedily, & roughly make you know its value. Consider me, therefore, as your banker, & draw upon me without reserve. Your present situation will teach you many lessons you are ill prepared to learn; but experience is an unfeeling master, whose severity is neither to be baffled by youth, nor softened by innocence. Suppose we open our account today? [Presenting a paper.] This may serve for a beginning; I will call again to-morrow for fresh orders.
Cecilia. Stay, stay Mr. Censor!— amazement has, indeed, silenced me, but it must not make me forget myself. Take back, I entreat you, this paper
Censor. Probably you suspect my motives? &, if you do, I am the last man whom your doubts will offend; they are authorized by the baseness of mankind, &, in fact, suspicion, in worldly transactions, is but another word for common sense.
Cecilia. Is it, then, possible you can think so ill of all others, & yet be so generous, so benevolent yourself?
Censor. Will any man follow an example he abhors to look at? Will you, for instance, because you see most women less handsome than yourself, ape deformity in order to resemble them?
Cecilia. O how little are you known, & how unjustly are you judged! For my own part, I even regarded you as my enemy, & imagined that, if you thought of me at all, it was with ill-will.
Censor. In truth, madam, my character will rather increase than diminish your surprise as you become more acquainted with it. You will, indeed, find me an odd fellow; a fellow who can wish you well without loving you, &, without any sinister view, be active in your service; a fellow, in short, unmoved by beauty, yet susceptible of pity,— invulnerable to love, yet zealous in the cause of distress. If you accept my good offices, I shall ever after be your debtor for the esteem your acceptance will manifest,— if you reject them, I shall but conclude you have the same indignant apprehensions of the depravity of your fellow creatures that I harbour in my own breast.
Cecilia. If, hitherto I have escaped misanthropy, think you, sir, an action such as this will teach it me? No; I am charmed with your generous offer, & shall henceforward know better how to value you; but I must beg you to take back this paper. [Returns it.] I have at present no occasion for assistance, & I hope but tell me, for uncertainty is torture, have you, or have you not been at Lady Smatter’s?
Censor. I have; & I come hither loaded with as many messages as ever abigail was charged with for the milliner of a fantastic bride. The little sense, however, comprised in their many words, is briefly this; Lady Smatter offers you her protection,— which is commonly the first step towards the insolence of avowed superiority: & Beaufort
Cecilia. Beaufort?— Good Heaven!— did Mr. Beaufort know whither you were coming?
Censor. He did; & charged with as many vows, supplications, promises, & tender nonsenses, as if he took my memory for some empty habitation that his fancy might furnish at it’s pleasure. He commissioned me
Cecilia. Oh heaven! [Weeps.]
Censor. Why how now? He commissioned me, I say
Cecilia. Oh faithless Beaufort! Lost, lost Cecilia!
Censor. To sue for him,— kneel for him,—
Cecilia. Leave me, leave me, Mr. Censor!— I can hear no more.
Censor. Nay, prithee, madam, listen to his message.
Cecilia. No, sir, never! At such a time as this, a message is an insult! He must know I was easily to be found, or he would not have sent it, &, knowing that, whose was it to have sought me?— Go, go, hasten to your friend,— tell him I heard all that it became me to hear, & that I understood him too well to hear more: tell him that I will save both him & myself the disgrace of a further explanation,— tell him, in short, that I renounce him for ever!
Censor. Faith, madam, this is all beyond my comprehension.
Cecilia. To desert me at such a time as this! To know my abode, yet fail to seek it! To suffer my wounded heart, bleeding in all the anguish of recent calamity, to doubt his faith, & suspect his tenderness!
Censor. I am so totally unacquainted with the laws & maxims necessary to be observed by fine ladies, that it would ill become me to prescribe the limits to which their use of reason ought to be contracted; I can only
Cecilia. Once more, Mr. Censor, I must beg you to leave me. Pardon my impatience, but I cannot converse at present. Ere long, perhaps, indignation may teach me to suppress my sorrow, & time & reason may restore my tranquility.
Censor. Time, indeed, may possibly stand your friend, because Time will be regardless of your impetuosity, but faith, madam, I know not what right you have to expect succour from Reason, if you are determined not to hear it. Beaufort, I say
Cecilia, Why will you thus persecute me? Nothing can extenuate the coldness, the neglect, the insensibility of his conduct. Tell him that it admits no palliation, & that henceforth no, tell him nothing,— I will send him no message,— I will receive none from him,— I will tear his image from my heart,— I will forget, if possible, that there I cherished it!—
Enter Mrs. Voluble.
Mrs. Voluble. I hope I don’t disturb you, sir? Pray, ma’am, don’t let me be any hindrance to you; I only just come to ask if you would not have a bit of fire, for I think it’s grown quite cold. What say you, sir? Pray make free if you like it. I’m sure I would have had one before if I had known of having such company; but really the weather’s so changeable at this time of the year, that there’s no knowing what to do. Why, this morning I declare it was quite hot. We breakfasted with both the windows open. As to Bobby, I verily thought he’d have caught his death, for he would not so much as put his coat on.
Censor. Intolerable! The man who could stand this, would sing in the stocks, & laugh in the pillory!— Will you, Miss Stanley, allow me five minutes conversation to explain
Mrs. Voluble. I beg that my being here may not be any stop to you, for I’ll go directly if I’m in the way. I’ve no notion of prying into other people’s affairs,— indeed, I quite make it a rule not to do it, for I’m sure I’ve business enough of my own, without minding other peoples. Why now, sir, how many things do you think I’ve got to do before night? Why, I’ve got to
Censor. O pray, good madam, don’t make your complaints to me,— I am hard of heart, & shall be apt to hear them without the least compassion. Miss Stanley
Mrs. Voluble. Nay, sir, I was only going
Censor. Do prithee, good woman, give me leave to speak. Miss Stanley, I say
Mrs. Voluble. Good woman! I assure you, sir, I’m not used to be spoke to in such a way as that.
Censor. If I have called you by an appellation opposite to your character, I beg your pardon; but
Mrs. Voluble. I can tell you, sir, whatever you may think of it, I was never called so before; besides,—
Censor. Miss Stanley, some other time
Mrs. Voluble. Besides, sir, I say, I think in one’s own house it’s very hard if
Censor. Intolerable! Surely this woman was sent to satirize the use of speech! Once more
Mrs. Voluble. I say, sir, I think it’s very hard if
Censor. Miss Stanley, your most obedient!
[Exit abruptly.
Mrs. Voluble. Well, I must needs say, I think this is the rudest fine gentleman among all my acquaintance. Good woman, indeed! I wonder what he could see in me to make use of such a word as that! I won’t so much as go down stairs to open the street door for him,— yes I will, too, for I want to ask him about
[Exit talking.
Cecilia. Hast thou not, Fortune, exhausted, now, thy utmost severity?— reduced to poverty,— abandoned by the world,— betrayed by Beaufort,— what more can I fear?— Beaufort, on whose constancy I relied,— Beaufort, from whose sympathy I expected consolation,— Beaufort, on whose honour, delicacy & worth I founded hopes of sweetest tranquility, of lasting happiness, of affection unalterable! Oh, hopes forever blighted! Oh, expectations eternally destroyed! Oh, fair & lovely tranquility thou hast flown this bosom, never, never more to revisit it!
Re-enter Mrs. Voluble
Mrs. Voluble. I could not overtake him all that ever I could do, & yet I went as fast as Lord, ma’am, sure you a’n’t a crying?
Cecilia. Loss of fortune I could have borne with patience,— change of situation I could have suffered with fortitude,— but such a stroke as this!—
Mrs. Voluble. Poor young lady!— I declare I don’t know what to think of to entertain her.
Cecilia. Oh Beaufort! Had our situations been reversed, would such have been my conduct?
Mrs. Voluble. Come, dear ma’am, what signifies all this fretting? If you’ll take my advice
Enter Betty.
Betty. Do pray, ma’am, speak to Master Bobby,— he’s a turning the house out of windows, as a body may say.
Mrs. Voluble. Well, if I don’t believe that boy will be the death of me at last!— only think, ma’am, what a plague he is to me! I’m sure I have my misfortunes as well as other people, so you see, ma’am, you a’n’t the only person in trouble.— Why ma’am, I say!— did not you hear Betty?— She says that Bobby
Cecilia. O for a little repose!— leave me to myself, I beseech you! I can neither speak or listen to you;— pray go,— pray alas, I know not what I say!— I forget that this house is yours, & that I have no right even to the shelter its roof affords me.
Mrs. Voluble. Dear ma’am, pray take a little comfort,—
Cecilia. Have you, madam, any room which for a few hours you can allow me to call my own?— where, unmolested & alone, I may endeavour to calm my mind, & settle some plan for my future conduct?
Mrs. Voluble. Why, ma’am, the room over-head is just such another as this, & if it’s agreeable
Cecilia. Pray show it me,— I’m sure it will do.
Mrs. Voluble. I only wish, ma’am, it was better for your sake; however, I’ll make it as comfortable as ever I can, & as soon
[Exit, talking, with Cecilia.
Betty. I’ll be hanged, now, if it is not enough to provoke a stork to live in such a house as this! One may clean & clean for-ever, & things look never the better for it. As to Master Bobby, he does more mischief than his head’s worth; & as to my missus, if she can but keep talk, talk, talk, she don’t care a pin’s point for nothing else.
Re-enter Mrs. Voluble.
Mrs. Voluble. Why Betty, what do you stand there for?— Do you think I keep you to look at?
Betty. You won’t keep me for nothing long.
[Exit Betty.
Mrs. Voluble. There, now, that’s the way with all of them! If one does but say the least thing in the world, they’re ready to give one warning. I declare servants are the plague of one’s lives. I’ve got a good mind to Lord, I’ve got so many things to do, I don’t know what to set about first! Let me see, [Seats herself.] now I’ll count them over. In the first place, I must see after a porter to carry the lady’s message;— then I must get the best plates ready against Mrs. Wheedle comes;— after that, I must put Mr. Dabler’s papers in order, for fear of a surprise;— then I must get in a little bit of something nice for supper;— then Oh Lord, if I had not forgot that ’scapegrace Bobby!
[Runs off.
End of Act the Third.