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Scene I.—Lord Townly's Apartment.
Lord TOWNI y, solus. Why did I marry ?-Was it not evident, my plain, rational, scheme of life was impracticable with a woman of so different a way of thinking? Is there one article of it that she has not broke in upon ?-Yes—let me do her justice-her reputation-That I have no reason to believe, is in question-But then, how long her profligate course of pleasures may make her able to keep it-is a shocking consideration ! and her presumption, while she keeps it, insupportable! for, on the pride of that single virtue, she seems to lay it down as a fundamental point, that the free indulgence of every other vice this fertile town affords, is the birthright prerogative of a woman of quality.--Amazing! that a creature, so warm in the pursuit of her pleasures, should never cast one thought towards her happiness—Thus, while she admits of no lover, she thinks it a greater merit still, in her chastity, not to care for her husband; and, while she herself is solacing in one continual round of cards and good company, he, poor wretch, is left at large, to take care of his own contentment—'Tis time, indeed, some care were taken, and speedily there there--call them by their christian names_talk louder than the players : from thence, jaunt into the citytake a frolicsome supper at an India House-perhaps, in her gaieté de cæur, toast a pretty fellow; then clatter again to this end of the town-break, with the morning, into an assembly-crowd to the hazard-tablethrow a familiar levant upon some sharp, lurching, man of quality, and, if he demands his money, turn it off with a loud laugh, and cry, you'll owe it him, to vex him, ha! ha! Lord T. Prodigious!
[Aside. Lady T. These, now, my lord, are some few of the many modish amusements that distinguish the privilege of a wife from that of a single woman.
Lord T. Death, madam! what law has made these liberties less scandalous in a wife than in an unmarried woman?
Lady T. Why, the strongest law in the world, custom-custom, time out of mind, my lord. · Lord T. Custom, madam, is the law of fools; but it shall never govern me.
Lady T. Nay, then, my lord, 'tis time for me to observe the laws of prudence.
Lord T. I wish I could see an instance of it.
Lady T. You shall have one this moment, my lord ; for I think, when a man begins to lose his temper at home, if a woman has any prudence, why, she'll go abroad till he comes to himself again. [Going.
Lord T. Hold, madam; I am amazed you are not more uneasy at the life we lead. You don't want sense, and yet seem void of all humanity; for, with a blush I say it, I think I have not wanted love.
Lady T. Oh, don't say that, my lord, if you suppose I have my senses.
Lord T. What is it I have done to you? What can you complain of?
Lady T. Oh, nothing, in the least! 'Tis trụe, you
have heard me say, I have owed my Lord Lurcher an hundred pounds, these three weeks; but what then? a husband is not liable to his wife's debts of honour, you know; and if a silly woman will be uneasy about money she can't be sued for, what's that to him? As long as he loves her, to be şure, she can have nothing to complain of.
Lord T. By heaven, if my whole fortune, thrown into your lap, could make you delight in the cheerful duties of a wife, I should think myself a gainer by the purchase.
Lady T. That is, my lord, I might receive your whole estate, provided you were sure I would not spend a shilling of it.
Lord T. No, madam ; were I master of your heart, your pleasures would be mine; but, different as they are, I'll feed even your follies, to deserve it-Perhaps you may have some other trifling debts of honour abroad, that keep you out of humour at home—at least, it shall not be my fault, if I have not more of your company- There, there's a bill of five hundred-and now, madam
Lady T. And now, my lord, down to the ground, I thank you.
Lord T. If it be no offence, madam
Lady T. Say what you please, my lord; I am in that harmony of spirits, it is impossible to put me out of humour.
Lord T. How long, in reason, then, do you think that sum ought to last you?
Lady T. Oh, my dear, dear lord, now you have spoiled all again! how is it possible I should answer for an event, that so utterly depends upon fortune? But to show you that I am more inclined to get money than to throw it away, I have a strong possession, that, with this five hundred, I shall win five thousand.
Lord T. Madam, if you were to win ten thousand, it would be no satisfaction to me.
Lady T. Oh, the churl! ten thousand : what! not so much as wish I might win ten thousand !- Ten thousand! Oh, the charming sum! what infinite pretty things might a woman of spirit do with ten thousand guineas! O’my conscience, if she were a woman of true spirit,sheshe might lose them all again.
Lord T. And I had rather it should be so, madam, provided I could be sure, that were the last you would lose.
Lady T. Well, my lord, to let you see I design to play all the good housewife I can; I am now going to a party at quadrille, only to trifle with a little of it, at poor two guineas a fish, with the Duchess of Quiteright.
(Exit. Lord T. Insensible creature! neither reproaches nor indulgence, kindness nor severity, can wake her to the least reflection! Continual licence has lulld her into such a lethargy of care, that she speaks of her excesses with the same easy confidence, as if they were so many virtues. What a turn has her head taken !- But how to cure it — take my friend's opinion-Manly will speak freely-my sister with tenderness to both sides. They know my case-I'll talk with them.
: Enter Williams. Wil. Mr. Manly, my lord, has sent to know if your lordship was at home.
Lord T. They did not deny me?
Lord T. Very well ; step up to my sister, and say,
Enter Lady Grace. Lord T. So, lady fair; what pretty weapon have you been killing your time with ?
Lady G. A huge folio, that has almost killed me-I think I have half read my eyes out.
Lord T. Oh! you should not pore so much just after dinner, child.
Lady G. That's true; but any body's thoughts are better than always one's own, you know. Lord T. Who's there?
Enter Williams. Leave word at the door, I am at home to nobody but Mr. Manly...
[Exit Williams. Lady G. And why is he excepted, pray, my lord ?
Lord T. I hope, madam, you have no objection to his company?
Lady G. Your particular orders, upon my being here, look, indeed, as if you thought I had not. ;
Lord T. And your ladyship’s inquiry into the rea- son of those orders, shows, at least, it was not a matter indifferent to you.
Lady G. Lord, you make the oddest constructions, brother!
Lord T. Look you, my grave Lady Grace-in one serious word—I wish you had him.
Lady G. I can't help that.
Lord T. Ha! you can't help it, ha! ha! The flat simplicity of that reply was admirable.
Lady G. Pooh, you tease one, brother!
Lord T. Come, I beg pardon, child-this is not a point, I grant you, to trifle upon; therefore, I hope you'll give me leave to be serious.
Lady G. If you desire it, brother, though, upon my word, as to Mr. Manly's having any serious thoughts of me I know nothing of it.