British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan

By George Henry Nettleton; Arthur Eillicot Case | Go to book overview
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THE WAY OF THE WORLD

By WILLIAM CONGREVE.


ACT I

SCENE I

A chocolate-house.

MIRABELLand FAINALL, rising from cards.
BETTY waiting.

MIRA. You are a fortunate man, Mr. Fainall.

FAIN. Have we done?

MIRA. What you please. I'll play on to entertain you.

FAIN. No, I'll give you your revenge another 5
time, when you are not so indifferent; you are thinking of something else now, and play too negligently; the coldness of a losing gamester lessens the pleasure of the winner: I'd no more play with a man that
slighted his ill fortune, than I'd make love to a 10
woman who undervalued the loss of her reputation.

MIRA. You have a taste extremely delicate, and are for refining on your pleasures.

FAIN. Prithee, why so reserved? Something has

put you out of humor. 15

MIRA. Not at all: I happen to be grave today; and you are gay; that's all.

FAIN. Confess, Millamant and you quarrelled last night, after I left you; my fair cousin has some

humors that would tempt the patience of a 20
Stoic. What! some coxcomb came in, and was well received by her, while you were by.

MIRA. Witwoud and Petulant; and what was worse, her aunt, your wife's mother, my evil genius;

or to sum up all in her own name, my old Lady 25
Wishfort came in.

FAIN. Oh, there it is then! She has a lasting passion for you, and with reason. What! then my wife was there?

MIRA. Yes, and Mrs. Marwood and three or 30
four more, whom I never saw before; seeing me, they all put on their grave faces, whispered one another, then complained aloud of the vapors, and after fell into a profound silence.

FAIN. They had a mind to be rid of you. 35

MIRA. For which reason I resolved not to stir. At last the good old lady broke through her painful taciturnity, with an invective against long visits. I would not have understood her, but Millamant

joining in the argument, I rose and with a con­ 40
strained smile told her I thought nothing was so easy as to know when a visit began to be troublesome; she reddened and I withdrew, without expecting1 her reply.

FAIN. You were to blame to resent what she 45
spoke only in compliance with her aunt.

MIRA. She is more mistress of herself than to be under the necessity of such a resignation.

FAIN. What? though half her fortune depends

upon her marrying with my lady's approbation? 50

MIRA. I was then in such a humor, that I should have been better pleased if she had been less discreet.

FAIN. Now I remember, I wonder not they were

weary of you; last night was one of their cabal­ 55
nights; they have 'em three times a week, and meet by turns, at one another's apartments, where they come together like the coroner's inquest, to sit upon the murdered reputations of the week. You and I
are excluded; and it was once proposed that all 60
the male sex should be excepted; but somebody moved that to avoid scandal there might be one man of the community; upon which motion Witwoud and Petulant were enrolled members.

MIRA. And who may have been the foundress 65
of this sect? My Lady Wishfort, I warrant, who publishes her detestation of mankind; and full of the vigor of fifty-five, declares for a friend and ratafia;2 and let posterity shift for itself, she'll breed no
more. 70

FAIN. The discovery of your sham addresses to her, to conceal your love to her niece, has provoked this separation: had you dissembled better, things might have continued in the state of nature.

MIRA. I did as much as man could, with any 75
reasonable conscience; I proceeded to the very last act of flattery with her, and was guilty of a song in her commendation. Nay, I got a friend to put her into a lampoon, and compliment her with the im
putation of an affair with a young fellow, which 80
I carried so far, that I told her the malicious town took notice that she was grown fat of a sudden; and when she lay in of a dropsy, persuaded her she was reported to be in labor. The devil's in't, if an old
woman is to be flattered further, unless a man 85
should endeavor downright personally to debauch her; and that my virtue forbade me. But for the discovery of that amour, I am indebted to your friend, or your wife's friend, Mrs. Marwood.

____________________
88] Q2W1 this amour.
1
Awaiting.
2
A variety of brandy.

-313-

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