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third word you say is on my side of the question. But, Mrs. Malaprop, to the more important point in debate. You say you have no objection to my proposal?
Mrs. Mal. None, I assure you. I am under no positive engagement with Mr. Acres, and as Lydia is so obstinate against him, perhaps your son may have better success.
Sir Anth. Well, madam, I will write for the boy directly. He knows not a syllable of this yet, though I have for some time had the proposal in my head. He is at present with his regiment.
Mrs. Mal. We have never seen your son, Sir Anthony; but I hope no objection on his side.
Sir Anth. Objection! Let him object, if he dare! No, no, Mrs. Malaprop, Jack knows that the least demur puts me in a frenzy directly. My process was always very simple. In their younger days, 'twas "Jack, do this." If he demurred, I knocked him down; and if he grumbled at that, I always sent him out of the room.
Mrs. Mal. Aye, and the properest way, o' my conscience! Nothing is so conciliating to young people as severity. Well, Sir Anthony, I shall give Mr. Acres his discharge, and prepare Lydia to receive your son's invocations; and I hope you will represent her to the captain as an object not altogether illegible.
Sir Anth. Madam, I will handle the subject prudently. Well, I must leave you; and let me beg you, Mrs. Malaprop, to enforce this matter roundly to the girl. Take my advice: keep a tight hand. If she rejects this proposal, clap her under lock and key; and if you were just to let the servants forget to bring her dinner for three or four days, you can't conceive how she'd come about.—" The Rivals."
Boy Acres Sends a Challenge
SIR LUCIUS O'TRIGGER and ACRES.
Sir Luc. Mr. Acres, I am delighted to embrace you!
Sir Luc. Pray, my friend, what has brought you so suddenly to Bath?
Acres. Faith, I have followed Cupid's Jack-a-lantern, and find myself in a quagmire at last. In short, I have been very ill-used, Sir Lucius. I don't choose to mention names, but look on me as on a very ill-used gentleman.
Sir Luc. Pray, what is the case? I ask no names.
Acres. Mark me, Sir Lucius: I fall as deep as need be in love with a young lady; her friends take my part; I follow her to Bath; send word of my arrival; and receive answer that the lady is to be otherwise disposed of. This, Sir Lucius, I call being ill-used.
Sir Luc. Very ill, upon my conscience. Pray, can you divine the cause of it?
Acres. Why, there's the matter: she has another lover, one Beverley, who, I am told, is now in Bath. Odds slanders and lies! he must be at the bottom of it.
Sir Luc. A rival in the case, is there? 'And you think he has supplanted you unfairly?
Acres. Unfairly! To be sure he has. He never could have done it fairly.
Sir Luc. Then sure you know what is to be done!
Acres. Not I, upon my soul !
Sir Luc. We wear no swords here, but you
Acres. What! fight him?
Sir Luc. Aye, to be sure. What can I mean else?
Sir Luc. Now, I think he has given you the greatest provocation in the world. Can a man commit a more heinous offence against another than to fall in love with the same woman? Oh, by my soul! it is the most unpardonable breach of friendship.
Acres. Breach of friendship! Aye, aye; but I have no acquaintance with this man. I never saw him in my life.
Sir Luc. That's no argument at all; he has the less right, then, to take such a liberty.
Acres. Gad, that's true! I grow full of anger, Sir Lucius ! I fire apace! Odds hilts and blades! I find a man may have a deal of valour in him, and not know it. But couldn't I contrive to have a little right on my side?
Sir Luc. What the devil signifies right, when your honour is concerned? Do you think Achilles, or my little Alexander the Great ever inquired where the right lay? No, by my soul, they drew their broad-swords, and left the lazy sons of peace to settle the justice of it.
Acres. Your words are a grenadier's march to my heart. I believe courage must be catching. I certainly do feel a kind of valour rising, as it were-a kind of courage, as I may say. Odds flints, pans, and triggers! I'll challenge him directly.
Sir Luc. Ah, my little friend, if I had Blunderbuss Hall here, I could show you a range of ancestry, in the O'Trigger line, that would furnish the new room; every one of whom had killed his man! For, though the mansion-house and dirty acres have slipped through my fingers, I thank Heaven our honour and the family pictures are as fresh as ever.
Acres. Oh, Sir Lucius! I have had ancestors, too—every man of 'em colonel or captain in the militia! Odds balls and barrels! Say no more; I'm braced for it. The thunder of your words has soured the milk of human kindness in my breast. Zounds! as the man in the play says, "I could do such deeds."
Sir Luc. Come, come, there must be no passion at all in the case; these things should always be done civilly.
Acres. I must be in a passion, Sir Lucius-I must be in a rage. Dear Sir Lucius, let me be in a rage, if you love me. Come, here's pen and paper. (Sits down to write.) I would the ink were red! Indite, I say, indite! How shall I begin? Odds bullets and blades! I'll write a good bold hand, however.
Sir Luc. Pray, compose yourself.
Acres. Come, now, shall I begin with an oath? Do, Sir Lucius, let me begin with a damme.
Sir Luc. Pho! pho! do the thing decently, and like a Christian. Begin now: Sir
Acres. That's too civil by half.
Sir Luc. To prevent the confusion that might arise-
Sir Luc. From our both addressing the same lady—
Acres. Well, then, honour of your company
Sir Luc. To settle our pretensions
Sir Luc. Let me see-aye, King's-Mead Fields will doin King's-Mead Fields.
Acres. So, that's done. Well, I'll fold it up presently; my own crest-a hand and a dagger-shall be the seal.
Sir Luc. You see, now, this little explanation will put a stop at once to all confusion or misunderstanding that might arise between you.
Acres. Aye, we fight to prevent any misunderstanding. Sir Luc. Now, I'll leave you to fix your own time. Take my advice, and you'll decide it this evening, if you can; then let the worst come of it, 'twill be off your mind to-morrow. Acres. Very true.
Sir Luc. So I shall see nothing more of you, unless it be by letter, till the evening. I would do myself the honour to carry your message; but, to tell you a secret, I believe I shall have just such another affair on my own hands. There is a gay captain here, who put a jest on me lately, at the expense of my country, and I only want to fall in with the gentleman to call him out.
Acres. By my valour, I should like to see you fight first! Odds life! I should like to see you kill him, if it was only to get a little lesson.
Sir Luc. I shall be very proud of instructing you. Well, for the present- But remember, now, when you meet your antagonist, do everything in a mild and agreeable manner. Let your courage be as keen, but at the same time as polished, as your sword.
ACRES and David.
Dav. Then, by the mass, sir, I would do no such thing! Ne'er a Sir Lucius O'Trigger in the kingdom should make me fight when I wa'n't so minded. Oons! what will the old lady say when she hears o't?