Act V.

A parlor at Mrs. Voluble’s.
Mrs. Voluble, Mrs. Wheedle, Miss Jenny & Bob are seated at a round table at supper; Betty is waiting.
Mrs. Voluble. Well, this is a sad thing indeed!— Betty, give me some beer. Come, Miss Jenny, here’s your love & mine.
Mrs. Wheedle. I do believe there’s more misfortunes in our way of business than in any in the world; the fine ladies have no more conscience than a Jew,— they keep ordering & ordering, & think no more of paying than if one could live upon a needle & thread.
Mrs. Voluble. Ah, the times are very bad! Very bad, indeed!— all the gentlefolks breaking,— why, Betty, the meat i’n’t half done!— poor Mr. Mite, the rich cheesemonger at the corner is quite knocked up.
Mrs. Wheedle. You don’t say so?
Mrs. Voluble. Very true, indeed.
Mrs. Wheedle. Well, who’d have thought of that? Pray, Mrs. Betty, give me some bread.
Miss Jenny. Why, it is but a week ago that I met him a-driving his own whiskey.
Mrs. Voluble. Ah, this is a sad world! A very sad world, indeed! Nothing but ruination going forward from one end of the town to the other. My dear Mrs. Wheedle, you don’t eat; pray let me help you to a little slice more.
Mrs. Wheedle. O, I shall do very well; I only wish you’d take care of yourself.
Mrs. Voluble. There, that little bit can’t hurt you, I’m sure. As to Miss Jenny, she’s quite like a crocodile, for she lives upon air.
Mrs. Wheedle. No, ma’am, the thing is she laces so tight that she can’t eat half her natural victuals.
Mrs. Voluble. Ay, ay, that’s the way with all the young ladies; they pinch for fine shapes.
Bob. Mother, I wish you’d help me,— I’m just starved.
Mrs. Voluble. Would you have me help you before I’ve helped the company, you greedy fellow, you? Stay till we’ve done, can’t you? & then if there’s any left, I’ll give you a bit.
Miss Jenny. I’ll give Master Bobby a piece of mine, if you please, ma’am.
Mrs. Voluble. No, no, he can’t be very hungry, I’m sure, for he eat a dinner to frighten a horse. And so, as I was telling you, she has agreed to stay here all night, & to be sure, poor thing, she does nothing in the world but cry, all as ever I can say to her, & I believe I was talking to her for a matter of an hour before you came, without her making so much as a word of answer. I declare it makes one as melancholy as a cat to see her. I think this is the nicest cold beef I ever tasted,— you must eat a bit, or I shall take it quite ill.
Mrs. Wheedle. Well, it must be leetle tiny morsel, then.
Mrs. Voluble. I shall cut you quite a fox-hall slice.
Bob. Mother, if Mrs. Wheedle’s had enough, you’d as good give it me.
Mrs. Voluble. I declare I don’t believe there’s such another fellow in the world for gourmandizing!— There,— take that, & be quiet. So, as I was saying
Bob. Lord, Mother, you’ve given me nothing but fat!
Mrs. Voluble. Ay, & too good for you, too. I think, at your age, you’ve no right to know fat from lean.
Mrs. Wheedle. Ah, Master Bobby, these are no times to be dainty! One ought to be glad to get bread to eat. I’m sure, for my part, I find it as hard to get my bills paid, as if the fine ladies had no money but what they earned.
Mrs. Voluble. If you’ll take my advice, Mrs. Wheedle, you’ll send in your account directly, & then, if the young lady has any money left, you’ll get it at once.
Mrs. Wheedle. Why that’s just what I thought myself, so I made out the bill, & brought it in my pocket.
Mrs. Voluble. That’s quite right. But, good lack, Mrs. Wheedle, who’d have thought of such a young lady’s being brought to such a pass?— I shall begin soon to think there’s no trusting in any body.
Miss Jenny. For my part, if I was to choose, I should like best to be a lady at once, & follow no business at all.
Bob. And for my part, I should like best to be a duke.
Mrs. Voluble. A duke? You a duke, indeed! You great numskull, I wish you’d learn to hold your tongue. I’ll tell you what, Mrs. Wheedle, you must know it’s my notion this young lady expects something in the money way out of the City, for she gave me a letter, just before you came, to send by a porter; so as I was coming down stairs, I just peeped in at the sides
Enter Cecilia.
O Law!— I hope she did not hear me!
Cecilia. I beg your pardon, Mrs. Voluble for this intrusion, but I rang my bell three times, & I believe nobody heard it.
Mrs. Voluble. I’m sure, ma’am, I’m quite sorry you’ve had such a trouble; but I dare say it was all my son Bobby’s fault, for he keeps such a continual jabbering, that there’s no hearing any thing in the world for him.
Bob. Lord, mother, I’ll take my oath I ha’n’t spoke three words the whole time! I’m sure I’ve done nothing but gnaw that nasty fat this whole night.
Mrs. Voluble. What, you are beginning again, are you?—
Cecilia. I beg I may occasion no disturbance; I merely wished to know if my messenger were returned.
Mrs. Voluble. Dear no, ma’am, not yet.
Cecilia. Then he has certainly met with some accident. If you will be so good as to lend me your pen & ink once more, I will send another man after him.
Mrs. Voluble. Why, ma’am, he could not have got back so soon, let him go never so fast.
Cecilia. [Walking apart.] So soon! Oh, how unequally are we affected by the progress of time! Winged with the gay plumage of hope, how rapid seems its flight,— oppressed with the burden of misery, how tedious its motion!— yet it varies not,— insensible to smiles, & callous to tears, its acceleration & its tardiness are mere phantasms of our disordered imaginations. How strange that that which in its course is most steady & uniform, should, to our deluded senses, seem most mutable & irregular!
Miss Jenny. I believe she’s talking to herself.
Mrs. Voluble. Yes, she has a mighty way of musing. I have a good mind to ask her to eat a bit, for, poor soul, I dare say she’s hungry enough. Bobby, get up, & let her have your chair.
Bob. What, & then a’n’t I to have any more?
Mrs. Voluble. Do as you’re bid, will you, & be quiet. I declare I believe you think of nothing but eating & drinking all day long. Ma’am, will it be agreeable to you to eat a bit of supper with us?
Mrs. Wheedle. The young lady does not hear you; I’ll go to her myself. [Rises & follows Cecilia.] I hope, Miss Stanley, you’re very well? I hope my lady’s well? I believe, ma’am, you don’t recollect me?
Cecilia. Mrs. Wheedle?— yes, I do.
Mrs. Wheedle. I’m very sorry, I’m sure, ma’am, to hear of your misfortunes, but I hope things a’n’t quite so bad as they’re reported?
Cecilia. I thank you. Mrs. Voluble, is your pen & ink here?
Mrs. Voluble. You shall have it directly; but pray, ma’am, let me persuade you to eat a morsel first.
Cecilia. I am obliged to you, but I cannot.
Mrs. Voluble. Why now here’s the nicest little minikin bit you ever saw;— it’s enough to tempt you to look at it.
Bob. Mother, if the lady don’t like it, can’t you give it me?
Mrs. Voluble. I was just this minute going to help you, but now you’re so greedy, you shan’t have a bit.
Cecilia. Mrs. Voluble, can I find the pen & ink myself?
Mrs. Voluble. I’ll fetch it in two minutes. But, dear ma’am, don’t fret, for bad things of one sort or other are always coming to pass; & as to breaking, & so forth, why I think it happens to everybody. I’m sure there’s Mr. Grease, the tallow chandler, one of my most particular acquaintance, that’s got as genteel a shop as any in all London, is quite upon the very point of ruination: & Miss Moggy Grease, his daughter
Cecilia. I’ll step up stairs, & when you are at leisure, you will be so good as to send me the standish.
Mrs. Wheedle. [Stopping her.] Ma’am, as I did not know when I might have the pleasure of seeing you again, I took the liberty just to make out my little account, & bring it in my pocket; & I hope, ma’am, that when you make up your affairs, you’ll be so good as to let me be the first person that’s considered, for I’m a deal out of pocket, & should be very glad to have some of the money as soon as possible.
Cecilia. Dunned already! Good heaven, what will become of me! [Bursts into tears.]
Mrs. Voluble. Dear ma’am, what signifies fretting?— better eat a bit of supper, & get up your spirits. Betty, go for a clean plate.
[Exit Betty.
Mrs. Wheedle. Won’t you please, ma’am, to look at the bill?
Cecilia. Why should I look at it?— I cannot pay it,— I am a destitute creature,— without friend or resource!
Mrs. Wheedle. But, ma’am, I only mean
Cecilia. No matter what you mean!— all application to me is fruitless,— I possess nothing The beggar who sues to you for a penny is not more powerless & wretched,— a tortured & insulted heart is all that I can call my own!
Mrs. Wheedle. But sure, ma’am, when there comes to be a division among your creditors, your debts won’t amount to more than
Cecilia. Forbear, forbear!— I am not yet inured to disgrace, & this manner of stating my affairs is insupportable. Your debt, assure yourself, is secure, for sooner will I famish with want, or perish with cold,— faint with the fatigue of labour, or consume with unassisted sickness, than appropriate to my own use the smallest part of my shattered fortune, till your —& every other claim upon it is answered.
Mrs. Wheedle. Well, ma’am, that’s as much as one can expect.
Re-enter Betty, with a plate & a letter.
Betty. Ma’am, is your name Miss Stanley?
Cecilia. Yes; is that letter for me? [Takes it.]
Mrs. Voluble. Betty, why did not you bring the letter first to me? Sure I’m the mistress of my own house. Come, Mrs. Wheedle, come & finish your supper.
Mrs. Wheedle returns to the table.
Cecilia. I dread to open it! Does anybody wait?
Betty. Yes, ma’am, a man in a fine lace livery.
Cecilia. [Reading.]
“Since you would not hear my message from Mr. Censor, I must try if you will read it from myself. I do most earnestly exhort you to go instantly & privately into the country, & you may then depend upon my support & protection. Beaufort now begins to listen to reason —”
Oh Heaven!
“and, therefore, if you do not continue in town with a view to attract his notice, or, by acquainting him with your retirement, seduce him to follow you —”
Insolent, injurious woman!
“I have no doubt but he will be guided by one whose experience & studies entitle her to direct him. I shall call upon you very soon, to know your determination, & to supply you with cash for your journey, being, with the utmost sorrow for your misfortunes, dear Miss Stanley,
“Yours &c
Judith Smatter.”
What a letter!
Betty. Ma’am, if you please, is there any answer?
Cecilia. No, none.
Betty. Then, ma’am, what am I to say to the footman?
Cecilia. Nothing.— yes,— tell him I have read this letter, but if he brings me another, it will be returned unopened.
Betty. Yes, ma’am. Laws! What a comical answer!
Mrs. Voluble. I wonder who that letter was from!
Miss Jenny. I dare say I can guess. I’ll venture something it’s from her sweetheart.
Mrs. Voluble. That’s just my thought! [They whisper.]
Cecilia. Is then every evil included in poverty? & is the deprivation of wealth what is has least to regret? Are Contempt, Insult, & Treachery its necessary attendants?— Is not the loss of affluence sufficiently bitter,— the ruin of all Hope sufficiently severe, but that Reproach, too, must add her stings, & Scorn her daggers?
Mrs. Voluble. When I’ve eat this, I’ll ask her if we guessed right.
Cecilia. “Beaufort begins to listen to reason,”— mercenary Beaufort! Interest has taken sole possession of thy heart,— weak & credulous that I was to believe I had ever any share in it!
Mrs. Voluble. I’m of ten minds whether to speak to her, or leave her to her own devices.
Cecilia. “To listen to reason,”— is, then, reason another word for baseness, falsehood & inconstancy?
Mrs. Wheedle. I only wish my money was once safe in my pocket.
Cecilia. Attract his notice? Seduce him to follow!— am I already so sunk? Already regarded as a designing, interested wretch? I cannot bear the imputation,— my swelling heart seems too big for its mansion,— O that I could quit them all!
Mrs. Voluble. [Rising & approaching Cecilia.] Ma’am, I’m quite sorry to see you in such trouble; I’m afraid that letter did not bring you agreeable news;— I’m sure I wish I could serve you with all my heart, & if you’re distressed about a lodging, I’ve just thought of one in Queen Street, that, in a week’s time,—
Cecilia. In a week’s time I hope to be far away from Queen Street,— far away from this hated city,— far away, if possible, from all to whom I am known!
Mrs. Voluble. Dear ma’am, sure you don’t think of going beyond seas?
Mrs. Wheedle. If you should like, ma’am, to go abroad, I believe I can help you to a thing of that sort myself.
Cecilia. How?
Mrs. Wheedle. Why, ma’am, I know a lady who’s upon the very point of going, & the young lady who was to have been her companion, all of a sudden married a young gentleman of fortune, & left her without any notice.
Cecilia. Who is the lady?
Mrs. Wheedle. Mrs. Hollis, ma’am; she’s a lady of very good fortunes.
Cecilia. I have heard of her.
Mrs. Wheedle. And she wants a young lady very much. She sets off the beginning of next week. If it’s agreeable to you to go to her, I shall be proud to show you the way.
Cecilia. I know not what to do!
Mrs. Voluble. Dear ma’am, I would not have you think of such a desperation scheme; things may be better soon, & who knows but Mr. Beaufort may prove himself a true lover at the last? Lord, if you could but once get the sight of him, I dare say, for all my lady, the day would be your own.
Cecilia. What odious interpretations! To what insults am I exposed!— yes, I had indeed better quit the kingdom,— Mrs. Wheedle, I am ready to attend you.
Mrs. Wheedle. Then, Master Bobby, bid Betty call a coach.
Cecilia. No,— stay!—
Mrs. Wheedle. What, ma’am, won’t you go?
Cecilia. [Walking apart.] Am I not too rash?— expose myself, like a common servant, to be hired?— submit to be examined, & hazard being rejected!— no, no, my spirit is not yet so broken.
Mrs. Voluble. I hope, ma’am, you are thinking better of it. For my part, if I might be free to advise you, I should say send to the young gentleman, & see first what is to be done with him.
Cecilia. What humiliating suggestions! Yes, I see I must be gone,— I see I must hide myself from the world, or submit to be suspected of views & designs I disdain to think of. Mrs. Wheedle, I cannot well accompany you to this lady myself, but if you will go to her in my name,— tell her my unhappy situation, as far as your knowledge of it goes —& that, alas, includes but half its misery!— you will much oblige me. When did you say she leaves England?
Mrs. Wheedle. Next week, ma’am.
Cecilia. I shall have time, then, to arrange my affairs. Tell her I know not, yet, in what capacity to offer myself, but that, at all events, it is my first wish to quit this country.
Mrs. Wheedle. Yes, ma’am. I’ll get my hat & cloak, & go directly.
Cecilia. Alas, to what abject dependence may I have exposed myself!
Mrs. Voluble. Come, ma’am, let me persuade you to taste my raison wine,— I do believe it’s the best that
Cecilia. I thank you, but I can neither eat nor drink.
Re-enter Mrs. Wheedle.
Mrs. Wheedle. I suppose, ma’am, I may tell Mrs. Hollis you will have no objection to doing a little work for the children, & things of that sort, as the last young lady did?
Cecilia. Oh heavy hour!— down, down, proud heart!— Tell her what you will!— I must submit to my fate, not choose it; & should servility & dependence be my lot, I trust, at least, that I shall not only find them new,— not only find them heart-breaking & cruel but short & expeditious.
Mrs. Voluble. But, ma’am, had not you best
Cecilia. I have no more directions to give, & I can answer no more questions. The sorrows of my situation seem every moment to be aggravated,— Oh Beaufort! Faithless, unfeeling Beaufort! To have rescued you from distress & mortification such as this would have been my heart’s first joy,— my life’s only pride!
Mrs. Voluble. She’s quite in a sad taking, that’s the truth of it.
Miss Jenny. Poor young lady! I’m so sorry for her you can’t think.
Mrs. Voluble. Come, Mrs. Wheedle, you shan’t go till you’ve drunk a glass of wine, so let’s sit down a little while & be comfortable. [They seat themselves at the table.] You need not be afraid of the dark, for Bobby shall go with you.
Bob. Mother, I’d rather behalf not.
Mrs. Voluble. Who wants to know whether you’d rather or not? I suppose there’s no need to consult all your rather-nesses. Well, ma’am, so, as I was going to tell you, poor Miss Moggy Grease — [A violent knocking at the door.] Lord bless me, who’s at the door? Why, they’ll knock the house down! Somebody to Mr. Dabler, I suppose; but he won’t be home this two hours.
Bob. Mother, may I help myself to a drop of wine? [Takes the bottle.]
Mrs. Voluble. Wine, indeed! No,— give me the bottle this minute. [Snatches & overturns it.] Look here, you nasty fellow, see how you’ve made me spill it!
Enter Betty.
Betty. Laws, ma’am, here’s a fine lady all in her coach, & she asks for nobody but you.
Mrs. Voluble. For me? Well, was ever the like! Only see, Betty, what a slop Bobby’s made! There’s no such a thing as having it seen. Come, folks, get up all of you, & let’s move away the table. Bob, why don’t you stir? One would think you were nailed to your seat.
Bob. Why, I’m making all the haste I can, a’n’t I?
They all rise, & Bob overturns the table.
Mrs. Voluble. Well, if this is not enough to drive one mad! I declare I could flee the boy alive! Here’s a room to see company! You great, nasty, stupid dolt, you, get out of my sight this minute.
Bob. Why, mother, I did not do it for the purpose.
Mrs. Voluble. But you did, you great loggerhead, I know you did! Get out of my sight this minute, I say! [Drives him off the stage.] Well, what’s to be done now?— Did ever any body see such a room?— I declare I was never in such a pucker in my life. Mrs. Wheedle, do help to put some of the things into the closet. Look here, if my china bowl i’n’t broke! I vow I’ve a great mind to make that looby eat it for his supper.— Betty, why don’t you get a mop?— you’re as helpless as a child.— No, a broom,— get a broom, & sweep them all away at once.— Why, you a’n’t going empty handed, are you?— I declare you have not half the head you was born with.
Betty. I’m sure I don’t know what to do no more than the dog. [Gets a broom.]
Mrs. Voluble. What do you talk so for? Have you a mind to have the company hear you? [The knocking is repeated.] There, they’re knocking like mad!— Miss Jenny, what signifies your staring? Can’t you make yourself a little useful? I’m sure if you won’t at such a time as this why, Betty, why don’t you make haste? Come, poke every thing into the closet,— I wonder why Bobby could not have took some of the things himself,— but as soon as ever he’s done the mischief he thinks of nothing but running away.
They clear the stage, & Miss Jenny runs to a looking glass.
Miss Jenny. Dear me, what a figure I’ve made of myself!
Mrs. Voluble. There, now we shall do pretty well. Betty, go & ask the lady in. [Exit Betty.] I declare I’m in such a flustration!
Miss Jenny. So am I, I’m sure, for I’m all of a tremble.
Mrs. Wheedle. Well, if you can spare master Bobby, we’ll go to Mrs. Hollis’s directly.
Mrs. Voluble. Spare him? Ay, I’m sure it would have been good luck for me if you had taken him an hour ago.
Mrs. Wheedle. Well, good by, then. I shall see who the lady is as I go along.
Miss Jenny. It’s very unlucky I did not put on my Irish muslin.
Mrs. Voluble. It’s prodigious odd what can bring any company at this time of night.
Enter Mrs. Sapient.
Mrs. Sapient! Dear ma’am, I can hardly believe my eyes!
Mrs. Sapient. I am afraid my visit is unseasonable, but I beg I may not incommode you.
Mrs. Voluble. Incommode me? Dear ma’am no, not the least in the world; I was doing nothing but just sitting here talking with Miss Jenny, about one thing or another.
Mrs. Sapient. I have a question to ask you, Mrs. Voluble, which
Mrs. Voluble. I’m sure, ma’am, I shall be very proud to answer it; but if I had but known of the pleasure of seeing you, I should not have been in such a pickle; but it happened so that we’ve been a little busy today,— you know, ma’am, in all families there will be some busy days,—& I’ve the misfortune of a son, ma’am, who’s a little unlucky, so that puts one a little out of sorts, but he’s so unmanageable, ma’am, that really
Mrs. Sapient. Well, well, I only want to ask if you know any thing of Miss Stanley?
Mrs. Voluble. Miss Stanley? To be sure I do, ma’am; why she’s now in my own house here.
Mrs. Sapient. Indeed?— And pray what, I suppose, she is chiefly with Mr. Dabler?—
Mrs. Voluble. No, ma’am, no, she keeps prodigiously snug; she bid me not tell anybody she was here, so I make it a rule to keep it secret,— unless, indeed, ma’am, to such a lady as you.
Mrs. Sapient. O, it’s very safe with me. But, pray, don’t you think Mr. Dabler rather admires her?
Mrs. Voluble. O no, ma’am, not half so much as he admires another lady of your acquaintance. Ha! Ha!
Mrs. Sapient. Fie, Mrs. Voluble!— but pray, does not he write a great deal?
Mrs. Voluble. Dear ma’am yes; he’s in one continual scribbling from morning to night.
Mrs. Sapient. Well, &— do you know if he writes about any particular person?
Mrs. Voluble. O yes, ma’am, he writes about Celia, & Daphne, & Cleora, &—
Mrs. Sapient. You never see his poems, do you?
Mrs. Voluble. O dear yes, ma’am, I see them all. Why I have one now in my pocket about Cleora, that I happened to pick up this morning. [Aside to Miss Jenny.] Miss Jenny, do pray put me in mind to put it up before he comes home. [To Mrs. Sapient.] Should you like to see it, ma’am?—
Mrs. Sapient. Why if you have it at hand
Mrs. Voluble. Dear ma’am, if I had not, I’m sure I’d fetch it, for I shall be quite proud to oblige you. As to any common acquaintance, I would not do such a thing upon any account, because I should scorn to do such a baseness to Mr. Dabler, but to such a lady as you it’s quite another thing. For, whenever I meet with a lady of quality, I make it a point to behave in the genteelist manner I can. Perhaps, ma’am, you’d like to see Mr. Dabler’s study?
Mrs. Sapient. O no, not upon any account.
Mrs. Voluble. Because, upon his table, there’s a matter of an hundred of his miniscrips.
Mrs. Sapient. Indeed?— But when do you expect him home?
Mrs. Voluble. O not this good while.
Mrs. Sapient. Well then if you are certain we shall not be surprised
Mrs. Voluble. O, I’m quite certain of that.
Mrs. Sapient. But, then, for fear of accidents, let your maid order my coach to wait in the next street.
Mrs. Voluble. Yes, ma’am. Here, Betty!
Mrs. Sapient. This is not quite right, but this woman would show them to somebody else if not to me. And now perhaps I may discover whether any of his private papers contain my name. She will not, for her own sake, dare betray me.
Re-enter Mrs. Voluble.
Mrs. Voluble. Now, ma’am, I’ll wait upon you. I assure you, ma’am, I would not do this for every body, only a lady of your honour I’m sure would be above
[Exit talking, with Mrs. Sapient.
Miss Jenny. She’s said never a word to me all the time, & I dare say she knew me as well as could be; but fine ladies seem to think their words are made of gold, they are so afraid of bestowing them.
Re-enter Mrs. Voluble.
Mrs. Voluble. O Miss Jenny, only look here! My apron’s all stained with the wine! I never see it till this minute, & now — [A knocking at the door.] [Screams.] Oh! that’s Mr. Dabler’s knock! What shall we all do?— run up stairs & tell the lady this minute,—
[Exit Miss Jenny.
Betty! Betty! Don’t go to the door yet,— I can’t think what brings him home so soon!— here’s nothing but ill luck upon ill luck!
Enter Mrs. Sapient with Miss Jenny.
Come, ma’am, come in! Betty!— you may go to the door now.
Mrs. Sapient. But are you sure he will not come in here?
Mrs. Voluble. O quite, ma’am; he always goes to his own room. Hush!— ay, he’s gone up,— I heard him pass.
Mrs. Sapient. I am quite surprised, Mrs. Voluble, you should have deceived me thus; did not you assure me he would not return this hour? I must tell you, Mrs. Voluble, that, whatever you may think of it, I shall always regard a person who is capable of deceit to be guilty of insincerity.
Mrs. Voluble. Indeed, ma’am, I knew no more of his return than you did, for he makes it a sort of a rule of a ’Sprit night
Miss Jenny. Ma’am, ma’am, I hear him on the stairs!
Mrs. Sapient. O hide me,— hide me this instant anywhere,— And don’t say I am here for the universe!
[She runs into the closet.
Mrs. Voluble. No, ma’am, that I won’t if it costs me my life!— you may always depend upon me.
[Shuts her in.
Miss Jenny. Laws, what a pickle she’ll be in! She’s got all among the broken things.
Enter Dabler.
Dabler. Mrs. Voluble, you’ll please to make out my account, for I shall leave your house directly.
Mrs. Voluble. Leave my house? Lord, sir, you quite frighten me!
Dabler. You have used me very ill, Mrs. Voluble, & curse me if I shall put up with it!
Mrs. Voluble. Me, sir? I’m sure, sir, I don’t so much as know what you mean.
Dabler. You have been rummaging all my papers.
Mrs. Voluble. I?— no, sir,— I’m sorry, sir, you suspect me of such a mean proceeding.
Dabler. ’Tis in vain to deny it; I have often had reason to think it, but now my doubts are confirmed, for my last new song, which I called Cleora, is nowhere to be found.
Mrs. Voluble. Nowhere to be found?— you surprise me!— [Aside.] Good Lank, I quite forgot to put it up!
Dabler. I’m certain I left it at the top of my papers.
Mrs. Voluble. Did you indeed, sir? Well, I’m sure it’s the oddest thing in the world what can be come of it!
Dabler. There is something so gross, so scandalous in this usage, that I am determined not to be duped by it. I shall quit my lodgings directly;— take your measures accordingly.
Mrs. Voluble. O pray, sir, stay,—& if you won’t be so angry, I’ll tell you the whole truth of the matter.
Dabler. Be quick, then.
Mrs. Voluble. [In a low voice.] I’m sorry, sir, to betray a lady, but when one’s own reputation is at stake
Dabler. What lady? I don’t understand you.
Mrs. Voluble. Hush, hush, sir!— she’ll hear you.
Dabler. She?— Who?
Mrs. Voluble. [Whispering.] Why, Mrs. Sapient, sir, she’s in that closet.
Dabler. What do you mean?
Mrs. Voluble. I’ll tell you all, sir, by & by,— but you must know she came to me, &—&—& begged just to look at your study, sir,— So, sir, never supposing such a lady as that would think of looking at your papers, I was persuaded to agree to it,— but, sir, as soon as ever we got into the room, she fell to reading them without so much as saying a word!— while I, all the time, stood in this manner!— staring with stupification. So, sir, when you knocked at the door, she ran down to the closet.
Dabler. And what has induced her to do all this?
Mrs. Voluble. Ah, sir, you know well enough! Mrs. Sapient is a lady of prodigious good taste; everybody knows how she admires Mr. Dabler.
Dabler. Why yes, I don’t think she wants taste.
Mrs. Voluble. Well but, sir, pray don’t stay, for she is quite close crammed in the closet.
Dabler. I think I’ll speak to her.
Mrs. Voluble. Not for the world, sir! If she knows I’ve betrayed her, she’ll go beside herself. &, I’m sure, sir, I would not have told anybody but you upon no account. If you’ll wait up stairs till she’s gone, I’ll come & tell you all about it,— but pray, dear sir, make haste.
Dabler. Yes, She’s a good agreeable woman, & really has a pretty knowledge of poetry. Poor soul!— I begin to be half sorry for her.
Mrs. Voluble. I thought he’d never have gone. How do do now, ma’am?
[Opens the closet door.
Enter Mrs. Sapient.
Mrs. Sapient. Crampt to death! What a strange place have you put me in! Let me begone this instant,— but are you sure, Mrs. Voluble, you have not betrayed me?
Mrs. Voluble. I’m surprised, ma’am, you should suspect me! I would not do such a false thing for never so much, for I always — [A knocking at the door.] Why now who can that be?
Mrs. Sapient. How infinitely provoking!— let me go back to this frightful closet till the coast is clear.
[Returns to the closet.
Mrs. Voluble. Well, I think I’ve managed matters like a Matchwell.
Enter Mrs. Wheedle.
Mrs. Wheedle. O, I’m quite out of breath,— I never walked so fast in my life.
Mrs. Voluble. Where have you left Bobby?
Mrs. Wheedle. He’s gone into the kitchen. I must see Miss Stanley directly.
Mrs. Voluble. We’ve been in perilous danger since you went. [In a low voice.] Do you know, Mrs. Sapient is now in the closet? Be sure you don’t tell anybody.
Mrs. Wheedle. No, not for the world. Miss Jenny, pray step & tell Miss Stanley I’m come back.
[Exit Miss Jenny.
Mrs. Voluble. Well, & while you speak to her, I’ll go & talk over Mr. Dabler, & contrive to poke this nasty song under the table. But first I’ll say something to the poor lady in the closet. [Opens the door.] Ma’am! if you’ve a mind to keep still, you’ll hear all what Miss Stanley says presently, for she’s coming down.
Mrs. Sapient. Are you mad, Mrs. Voluble?— what do you hold the door open for?— Would you have that woman see me?
Mrs. Voluble. Ma’am, I beg your pardon! [Shuts the door.] I won’t help her out this half hour for that crossness.
Mrs. Wheedle. These fine ladies go through any thing for the sake of curiosity.
Enter Cecilia.
Cecilia. Well, Mrs. Wheedle, have you seen Mrs. Hollis?
Mrs. Wheedle. Yes, ma’am, & she’s quite agreeable to your proposal: but as she’s going very soon, & will be glad to be fixed, she says she shall take it as a particular favour if you will go to her house to night.
Cecilia. Impossible! I must consult some friend ere I go at all.
Mrs. Wheedle. But, ma’am, she begs you will, for she says she’s heard of your misfortunes, & shall be glad to give you her advice what to do.
Cecilia. Then I will go to her!— for never yet did poor creature more want advice & assistance!
Mrs. Wheedle. [Calls at the door.] Betty! go & get a coach. I’ll just go speak to Mrs. Voluble, ma’am, & come again.
Cecilia. Perhaps I may repent this enterprise,— my heart fails me already;—& yet, how few are those human actions that repentance may not pursue! Error precedes almost every step, & sorrow follows every error. I who to happiness have bid a long, a last farewell, must content myself with seeking peace in retirement & solitude, & endeavour to contract all my wishes to preserving my own innocence from the contagion of this bad & most diseased world’s corruptions.
Enter Betty.
Betty. Ma’am, the coach is at the Door.
Cecilia. Alas!
Betty. Mrs. Wheedle, ma’am, is gone up stairs to my missus, but she says she’ll be ready in a few minutes.
Cecilia. Oh cease, fond, suffering, feeble heart! to struggle thus with misery inevitable. Beaufort is no longer the Beaufort he appeared, & since he has lost even the semblance of his worth, why should this sharp regret pursue his image? But, alas, that semblance which he has lost, I must ever retain! Fresh, fair & perfect it is still before me!— Oh, why must woe weaken all faculties but the memory?— I will reason no longer,— I will think of him no more,— I will offer myself to servitude, for labour itself must be less insupportable than this gloomy indolence of sorrowing reflection where is this woman?—
Enter Beaufort, who stops her.
Beaufort. My Cecilia!—
Cecilia. Oh good Heaven!
Beaufort. My lov’d, lost, injured,— my adored Cecilia!
Cecilia. Am I awake?
Beaufort. Whence this surprise?— my love, my heart’s sweet partner
Cecilia. Oh forbear!— these terms are no longer Mr. Beaufort, let me pass!
Beaufort. What do I hear?
Cecilia. Leave me, sir,— I cannot talk with you,— leave me, I say!
Beaufort. Leave you?— [Offering to take her hand.]
Cecilia. Yes,— [Turning from him.] for I cannot bear to look at you!
Beaufort. Not look at me? What have I done? How have I offended you? Why are you thus dreadfully changed?
Cecilia. I changed? Comes this well from you?— but I will not recriminate, neither will I converse with you any longer. You see me now perhaps for the last time,— I am preparing to quit the kingdom.
Beaufort. To quit the kingdom?
Cecilia. Yes; it is a step which your own conduct has compelled me to take.
Beaufort. My conduct?— who has belied me to you?— what villain
Cecilia. No one, sir; you have done your work yourself.
Beaufort. Cecilia, do you mean to distract me?— if not, explain, & instantly, your dark, your cruel meaning.
Cecilia. Can it want explanation to you? Have you shocked me in ignorance, & irritated me without knowing it?
Beaufort. I shocked?— I irritated you?—
Cecilia. Did you not, in the very first anguish of a calamity which you alone had the power to alleviate neglect & avoid me? Send me a cold message by a friend? Suffer me to endure indignities without support, & sorrows without participation? Leave me, defenseless, to be crushed by impending ruin? & abandon my aching heart to all the torture of new-born fears, unprotected, unassured, & uncomforted?
Beaufort. Can I have done all this?
Cecilia. I know not,— but I am sure it has seem’d so.
Beaufort. Oh wretched policy of cold, unfeeling prudence, had I listened to no dictates but those of my heart, I had never been wounded with suspicions & reproaches so cruel.
Cecilia. Rather say, had your heart sooner known it’s own docility, you might have permitted Lady Smatter to dispose of it ere the deluded Cecilia was known to you.
Beaufort. Barbarous Cecilia! Take not such a time as this to depreciate my heart in your opinion, for now —’tis all I have to offer you.
Cecilia. You know too well —’tis all I ever valued.
Beaufort. Oh take it then,— receive it once more, & with that confidence in its faith which it never deserved to forfeit! Painfully I submitted to advice I abhorred, but though my judgement has been overpowered, my truth has been inviolate. Turn not from me, Cecilia!— if I have temporised, it has been less for my own sake than for yours; but I have seen the vanity of my expectations,— I have disobeyed Lady Smatter,— I have set all consequences at defiance, & flown in the very face of ruin,—& now, will you, Cecilia, [Kneeling.] reject, disdain & spurn me?
Cecilia. Oh Beaufort is it possible I can have wronged you?
Beaufort. Never, my sweetest Cecilia, if now you pardon me.
Cecilia. Pardon you?— too generous Beaufort ah! Rise.
Enter Lady Smatter & Mr. Codger.
Beaufort. [Rising.] Lady Smatter!
Lady Smatter. How, Beaufort here?—& kneeling, too!
Codger. Son Beaufort, I cannot deny but I think it is rather an extraordinary thing that you should choose to be seen kneeling to that young lady, knowing, I presume, that your Aunt Smatter disaffects your so doing.
Lady Smatter. Beaufort, I see you are resolved to keep no terms with me. As to Miss Stanley, I renounce her with contempt; I came hither with the most generous views of assisting her, & prevailed with Mr. Codger to conduct her to her friends in the country; but since I find her capable of so much baseness, since I see that all her little arts are at work
Cecilia. Forbear, madam, these unmerited reproaches; believe me, I will neither become a burthen to you, nor a scorn to myself; the measures I have taken I doubt not will meet with your Ladyship’s approbation, though it is by no means incumbent upon me, thus contemptuously accused, to enter into any defence or explanation.
Beaufort. Stay, my Cecilia,— hear me
[Follows her.
Lady Smatter. How? Pursue her in defiance of my presence? Had I a pen & ink I should disinherit him incontinently. Who are all these people?
Enter Miss Jenny, Mrs. Voluble, & Mrs. Wheedle.
Miss Jenny. [As she enters.] Law, only look! Here’s Lady Smatter & an old gentleman!
Mrs. Voluble. What, in my parlor? Well, I declare, & so there is! Why how could they get in?
Mrs. Wheedle. I suppose the door’s open because of the hackney coach. But as to Miss Stanley, I believe she’s hid herself.
Codger. Madam, I can give your Ladyship no satisfaction.
Lady Smatter. About what?
Codger. About these people, madam, that your Ladyship was enquiring after, for, to the best of my knowledge, madam, I apprehend I never saw any of them before.
Lady Smatter. I see who they are myself, now.
Mrs. Voluble. [Advancing to Lady Smatter.] My Lady, I hope your Ladyship’s well; I am very glad, my lady, to pay my humble duty to your Ladyship in my poor house, & I hope
Lady Smatter. Pray is Mr. Dabler at home?
Mrs. Voluble. Yes, my lady, & indeed
Lady Smatter. Tell him, then, I shall be glad to see him.
Mrs. Voluble. Yes, my lady. [Aside to Miss Jenny.] I suppose, Miss Jenny, you little thought of my having such a genteel acquaintance among the quality!
Miss Jenny. [Aside to Mrs. Wheedle.] I’m afraid that poor lady in the closet will spoil all her things.
Lady Smatter. Yes, I’ll consult with Mr. Dabler; for as to this old soul, it takes him half an hour to recollect whether two & three make five or six.
Enter Censor.
Censor. I have, with some difficulty, traced your Ladyship hither.
Lady Smatter. Then, sir, you have traced me to a most delightful spot; & you will find your friend as self-willed, refractory & opinionated as your amplest instructions can have rendered him.
Censor. I would advise your Ladyship to think a little less for him, & a little more for yourself, lest in your solicitude for his fortune, you lose all care for your own fame.
Lady Smarter. My fame? I don’t understand you.
Censor. Nay, if you think such lampoons may spread without doing you injury
Lady Smatter. Lampoons? What lampoons?— sure nobody has dared
Enter Dabler & Mrs. Voluble.
Mrs. Voluble. Why here’s Mr. Censor too! I believe there’ll be company coming in all night.
Lady Smatter. Mr. Censor, I say, if there is any lampoon that concerns me, I insist upon hearing it directly.
Censor. I picked it up just now at a coffee house. [Reads.]
Yes, Smatter is the Muse’s Friend,
She knows to censure or commend;
And has of faith & truth such store
She’ll ne’er desert you till you’re poor.
Lady Smatter. What insolent impertinence!
Dabler. Poor stuff! Poor stuff indeed! Your Ladyship should regard these little squibs as I do, mere impotent efforts of envy.
Lady Smatter. O I do; I’d rather hear them than not.
Dabler. And ill done, too; most contemptibly ill done. I think I’ll answer it for your Ladyship.
Censor. [Takes him aside.] Hark ye, Mr. Dabler, do you know this paper?
Dabler. That paper?
Censor. Yes, sir; it contains the lines which you passed off at Lady Smatter’s as made at the moment.
Dabler. Why, sir, that was merely it happened
Censor. It is too late for equivocation, sir; your reputation is now wholly in my power, & I can instantly blast it, alike with respect to poetry & to veracity.
Dabler. Surely, sir
Censor. If, therefore, you do not, with your utmost skill, assist me to reconcile Lady Smatter to her nephew & his choice, I will show this original copy of your extemporary abilities to everybody who will take the trouble to read it: otherwise, I will sink the whole transaction, & return you this glaring proof of it.
Dabler. To be sure, sir,— as to Mr. Beaufort’s choice it’s the thing in the world I most approve,—& so
Censor. Well, sir, you know the alternative, & must act as you please.
Dabler. [Aside.] What cursed ill luck!
Lady Smatter. Mr. Censor, I more than half suspect you are yourself the author of that pretty lampoon.
Censor. Nay, madam, you see this is not my writing.
Lady Smatter. Give it me.
Censor. Hold,— here’s something on the other side which I did not see. [Reads.]
  Were madness stinted to Moorfields
The world elsewhere would be much thinner;
  To time now Smatter’s beauty yields
Lady Smatter. How!
Censor. [Reading.]
She fain in wit would be a winner.
  At thirty she began to read,—
Lady Smatter. That’s false!— entirely false!
Censor. [Reads.]
At forty, it is said, could spell,—
Lady Smatter. How’s that? At forty?— sir, this is your own putting in.
Censor. [Reads.] At fifty
Lady Smatter. At fifty?— ha! ha! ha!— this is droll enough!
Censor. [Reads.]
  At fifty, ‘twas by all agreed
A common school girl she’d excel.
Lady Smatter. What impertinent nonsense!
Censor. [Reads.]
Such wonders did the world presage
Lady Smatter. Mr. Censor, I desire you’ll read no more,—’tis such rubbish it makes me quite sick.
Censor. [Reads.]
  Such wonders did the world presage
From blossoms which such fruit invited,—
  When Avarice,— the vice of age,—
Stept in,—& all expectance blighted.
Lady Smatter. Of age!— I protest this is the most impudent thing I ever heard in my life! Calculated for no purpose in the world but to insinuate I am growing old.
Censor. You have certainly some secret enemy, who avails himself of your disagreement with Miss Stanley to prejudice the world against you.
Lady Smatter. O, I’m certain I can tell who it is.
Censor. Who?
Lady Smatter. Mrs. Sapient.
Miss Jenny. [Aside.] Law, I’m afraid she’ll hear them.
Lady Smatter. Not that I suspect her of the writing, for miserable stuff as it is, I know her capacity is yet below it; but she was the first to leave my house when the affair was discovered, & I suppose she has been tailing it about the town ever since.
Mrs. Voluble. [Aside.] Ah, poor lady, it’s all to fall upon her!
Censor. Depend upon it, madam, this will never rest here; your Ladyship is so well known, that one satire will but be the prelude to another.
Lady Smatter. Alas, how dangerous is popularity! O Mr. Dabler, that I could but despise these libels as you do!— but this last is insufferable,— yet you, I suppose, would think it nothing?
Dabler. No, really, ma’am, I can’t say that,— no, not as nothing,— that is, not absolutely as nothing,— for for libels of this sort are rather
Lady Smatter. How? I thought you held them all in contempt?
Dabler. So I do, ma’am, only
Censor. You do, sir?—
Dabler. No, sir, no; I don’t mean to absolutely say that,— that is, only in regard to myself,— for we men do not suffer in the world by lampoons as the poor ladies do;— they, indeed, may be quite quite ruined by them.
Lady Smatter. Nay, Mr. Dabler, now you begin to distress me.
Enter Jack, singing.
Jack. She has ta’en such a dose of incongruous matter
That Bedlam must soon hold the carcase of Smatter
Lady Smatter. How?— what?— the carcase of who?—
Jack. Ha! Ha! Ha! Faith, madam, I beg your pardon, but who’d have thought of meeting your Ladyship here?— O Dabler, I have such a thing to tell you! [Whispers him & laughs.]
Lady Smatter. I shall go mad!— What were you singing, Jack,— what is it you laugh at?— why won’t you speak?
Jack. I’m so much hurried I can’t stay to answer your Ladyship now. Dabler, be sure keep counsel. Ha! Ha! Ha,— I must go & sing it to Billy Skip & Will. Scamper, or I shan’t sleep a wink all night.
Lady Smatter. This is intolerable! Stay, Jack, I charge you! Mr. Codger, how unmoved you stand! Why don’t you make him stay?
Codger. Madam I will. Son Jack, stay.
Jack. Lord, sir,—
Lady Smatter. I am half choked!— Mr. Codger, you would provoke a saint! Why don’t you make him tell you what he was singing?
Codger. Madam, he is so giddy pated he never understands me. Son Jack, you attend to nothing! Don’t you perceive that her Ladyship seems curious to know what song you were humming?
Jack. Why, sir, it was only a new ballad.
Lady Smatter. A ballad with my name in it? Explain yourself instantly!
Jack. Here it is,— shall I sing it or say it?
Lady Smatter. You shall do neither,— give it me!
Censor. No, no, sing it first for the good of the company.
Jack. Your Ladyship won’t take it ill?
Lady Smatter. Ask me no questions,— I don’t know what I shall do.
Jack. [Sings.]
I call not to swains to attend to my song;
Nor call I to damsels, so tender & young;
To critics, & pedants, & doctors I clatter,
For who else will heed what becomes of poor Smatter.
    With a down, down, derry down.
Lady Smatter. How? Is my name at full length?
Jack. [Sings.]
This lady with study has muddled her head;
Sans meaning she talk’d, & sans knowledge she read,
And gulp’d such a dose of incongruous matter
That Bedlam must soon hold the carcase of Smatter.
    With a down, down, derry down.
Lady Smatter. The carcase of Smatter?— it can’t be,— no one would dare
Jack. Ma’am, if you stop me so often, I shall be too late to go & sing it any where else to night. [Sings.]
She thought wealth esteem’d by the foolish alone,
So, shunning offence, never offer’d her own;
And when her young friend dire misfortune did batter,
Too wise to relieve her was kind Lady Smatter.
    With a down, down, derry down.
Lady Smatter. I’ll hear no more!
[Walks about in disorder.
Censor. Sing on, however, Jack; we’ll hear it out.
Jack. [Sings.]
Her nephew she never corrupted with pelf,
Holding starving a virtue for all but herself
Of gold was her goblet, of silver, her platter,
To show how such ore was degraded by Smatter.
    With a down, down, derry down.
A club she supported of witlings & fools,
Who, but for her dinners, had scoff’d at her rules;
The reason, if any she had, these did shatter
Of poor empty-headed, & little-soul’d Smatter.
    With a down, down, derry down.
Lady Smatter. Empty-headed?— little souled?— who has dared write this?— Where did you get it?
Jack. From a man who was carrying it to the printers.
Lady Smatter. To the printers?— O insupportable!— are they going to print it?— Mr. Dabler, why don’t you assist me?— how can I have it suppressed?— Speak quick, or I shall die.
Dabler. Really, ma’am, I I
Censor. There is but one way,— make a friend of the writer.
Lady Smatter. I detest him from my soul,—& I believe ’tis yourself!
Censor. [Bowing.] Your Ladyship is not deceived;— I have the honour to be the identical person.
Lady Smatter. Nay, then, I see your drift,— but depend upon it, I will not be duped by you.
Censor. Hear me, madam!—
Lady Smatter. No, not a word!
Censor. You must! [Holds the door.] You have but one moment for reflection, either to establish your fame upon the firmest foundation, or to consign yourself for life to irony & contempt.
Lady Smatter. I will have you prosecuted with the utmost severity of the law.
Censor. You will have the thanks of my printer for your reward.
Lady Smatter. You will not dare
Censor. I dare do any thing to repel the injuries of innocence! I have already shown you my power, & you will find my courage undaunted, & my perseverance indefatigable. If you any longer oppose the union of your nephew with Miss Stanley, I will destroy the whole peace of your life.
Lady Smatter. You cannot!— I defy you!
[Walks from him.
Censor. I will drop lampoons in every coffee-house,—
[Following her.
Lady Smatter. You are welcome, sir.—
Censor. Compose daily epigrams for all the papers,—
Lady Smatter. With all my heart,—
Censor. Send libels to every corner of the town,—
Lady Smatter. I care not!—
Censor. Make all the ballad singers resound your deeds,
Lady Smatter. You cannot!—shall not!
Censor. And treat the Patagonian Theatre with a poppet to represent you.
Lady Smatter. [Bursting into tears.] This is too much to be borne, Mr. Censor, you are a daemon!
Censor. But, if you relent,— I will burn all I have written, & forget all I have planned; lampoons shall give place to panegyric, & libels, to songs of triumph; the liberality of your soul, & the depth of your knowledge shall be recorded by the Muses, & echoed by the whole nation!
Lady Smatter. I am half distracted!— Mr. Dabler, why don’t you counsel me?— how cruel is your silence!
Dabler. Why, certainly, ma’am, what what Mr Censor says
Censor. Speak out, man!— Tell Lady Smatter if she will not be a lost woman to the literary world, should she, in this trial of her magnanimity, disgrace its expectations? Speak boldly!
Dabler. Hem!— you,— you have said, sir,— just what I think.
Lady Smatter. How? Are you against me?— nay then
Censor. Everybody must be against you; even Mr. Codger, as I can discern by his looks. Are you not, sir?
Codger. Sir, I can by no means decide upon so important a question, without maturely pondering upon the several preliminaries.
Censor. Come, madam, consider what is expected from the celebrity of your character,— consider the applause that awaits you in the world;— you will be another Sacharissa, a second Sappho,— a tenth muse.
Lady Smatter. I know not what to do!— allow me, at least, a few days for meditation, & forbear these scandalous libels till
Censor. No, madam, not an hour!— there is no time so ill spent as that which is passed in deliberating between meanness & generosity! You may now not only gain the esteem of the living, but if it is not Mr. Dabler’s fault,— consign your name with honour to posterity.
Lady Smatter. To posterity?— why, where is this girl gone?— what has Beaufort done with himself?—
Censor. Now, madam, you have bound me yours forever!— here, Beaufort!— Miss Stanley!—
[Goes out.
Jack. Huzzah!—
Codger. Madam, to confess the verity, I must acknowledge that I do not rightly comprehend what it is your Ladyship has determined upon doing?
Lady Smatter. No; nor would you, were I to take an hour to tell you.
Re-enter Censor, with Beaufort & Cecilia.
Beaufort. O madam, is it indeed true that
Lady Smatter. Beaufort, I am so much flurried, I hardly know what is true;— save, indeed, that pity, as a certain author says, will ever, in noble minds, conquer prudence. Miss Stanley
Censor. Come, come, no speeches; this whole company bears witness to your consent to their marriage, [In a low voice.] & your Ladyship may depend upon not losing sight of me till the ceremony is over.
Cecilia. Lady Smatter’s returning favour will once more devote me to her service; but I am happy to find, by this letter, that my affairs are in a less desperate situation than I had apprehended. [Gives a letter to Lady Smatter.] But here, Mr. Censor, is another letter which I do not quite so well understand; it contains an order for £5000, & is signed with your name?
Censor. Pho, pho, we will talk of that another time.
Cecilia. Impossible! Liberality so undeserved
Censor. Not a word more, I entreat you!
Cecilia. Indeed I can never accept it.
Censor. Part with it as you can! I have got rid of it. I merit no thanks, for I mean it not in service to you, but in spite to Lady Smatter, that she may not have the pleasure of boasting, to her wondering Witlings, that she received a niece wholly unportioned. Beaufort, but for his own stubbornness, had long since possessed it,— from a similar motive.
Cecilia. Dwells benevolence in so rugged a garb?— Oh Mr. Censor —!
Beaufort. Noble, generous Censor! You penetrate my heart,— yet I cannot consent
Censor. Pho, pho, never praise a man for only gratifying his own humour.
Enter Bob, running.
Bob. Mother, mother, I believe there’s a cat in the closet!
Mrs. Voluble. Hold your tongue, you great oaf!
Bob. Why, mother, as I was in the back parlor, you can’t think what a rustling it made.
Miss Jenny. [Aside.] Dear me!— it’s the poor lady!—
Mrs. Wheedle. Well, what a thing is this!
Mrs. Voluble. Bob, I could beat your brains out!
Bob. Why, Lord, mother, where’s the great harm of saying there’s a cat in the closet?
Jack. The best way is to look.
[Goes toward the closet.
Dabler. Not for the world! I won’t suffer it!
Jack. You won’t suffer it?— Pray, sir, does the cat belong to you?
Bob. Mother, I dare say she’s eating up all the victuals.
Jack. Come then, my lad, you & I’ll hunt her.
Brushes past Dabler, & opens the door.
All. Mrs. Sapient!
Mrs. Sapient. [Coming forward.] Sir, this impertinent curiosity
Jack. Lord, ma’am, I beg your pardon! I’m sure I would not have opened the door for the world, only we took you for the cat. If you please, ma’am, I’ll shut you in again.
Lady Smatter. That’s a pretty snug retreat you have chosen, Mrs. Sapient.
Censor. To which of the Muses, madam, may that temple be dedicated?
Jack. I hope, ma’am, you made use of your time to mend your furbelows?
Codger. Madam, as I don’t understand this quick way of speaking, I should be much obliged if you would take the trouble to make plain to my comprehension the reason of your choosing to be shut up in that dark closet?
Censor. Doubtless, sir, for the study of the occult sciences.
Lady Smatter. Give me leave, madam, to recommend to your perusal this passage of Addison; Those who conceal themselves to hear the counsels of others, commonly have little reason to be satisfied with what they hear of themselves.
Mrs. Sapient. And give me leave, ma’am, to observe,— though I pretend not to assert it positively,— that, in my opinion, those who speak ill of people in their absence, give no great proof of a sincere friendship.
Censor. [Aside.] I begin to hope these Witlings will demolish their Club.
Dabler. [Aside.] Faith, if they quarrel, I’ll not speak till they part.
Beaufort. Allow me, ladies, with all humility, to mediate, & to entreat that the calm of an evening succeeding a day so agitated with storms, may be enjoyed without allay. Terror, my Cecilia, now ceases to alarm, & sorrow, to oppress us; gratefully let us receive returning happiness, & hope that our example,— should any attend to it,— may inculcate this most useful of all practical precepts: That self-dependence is the first of earthly blessings; since those who rely solely on others for support & protection are not only liable to the common vicissitudes of human life, but exposed to the partial caprices & infirmities of human nature.