As Acted at the Theatre Royal, Hay-Market,
on Tuesday, June 18, 1844.
|EARL OF HUNSDON (a retired statesman)||MR. STUART.|
|LORD BELLAMONT, (his Son, a public schoolboy)||MRS. NISBETT.|
|JEREMY GRIGSON, (a retired tradesman)||MR. STRICKLAND.|
|HENRY, (a Lieutenant R.N., his nephew)||MR. H. HOLL.|
|CAPTAIN SIPPET, (a tuft-hunter)||MR. BUCKSTONE.|
|SIR GEORGE MORDENT, (kinsman to the Earl)||MR. W. FARREN.|
|RIVERS, (kinsman to the Earl)||MR. HOWE.|
|COGIT, (agent to the Earl)||MR. TILBURY.|
|SPRAGGS, (servant to Grigson)||MR. H. WIDDICOMB.|
|CHARLES, (page to the Earl)||MR. CLARK.|
Carpenters, Scene Painters, Dressers,
Messrs. ENNIS, IRELAND, WORRELL, GALLOT, MITCHENSON, &c.
|COUNTESS OF HUNSDON (wife to the Earl)||MRS. W. CLIFFORD.|
|LADY MARY RIVERS, (her daughter)||MISS JULIA BENNETT.|
|MRS. GRIGSON, (wife to the cit.)||MRS. GLOVER.|
|ELLEN, (her daughter)||MRS. EDWIN YARNOLD.|
|BRIDGET PRIM, (servant to Mrs. Grigson)||MRS. HUMBY.|
SPOKEN BY MR. WEBSTER.
If, as established rule from age to age|
Hath authorised the lessons of the stage,
With comedy the pleasant duty lies
To paint 'the manners living as they rise;'
Present fair folly's face reflected here,—
School with a smile, and chasten by a sneer;—
'Tis time to turn some newer page, and show
Life as it is, and manners as they go!—
"The way to keep him" keeps no lover now;
"All in the wrong' forestals no broken vow;
Tie-wigs and stiff brocades our faith defeat,
And trite moralities are obsolete!—
Sententious prose hath said its parting say;
Steam, with a thousand arms, hath clear'd the way;
No railroad waits for speechifying man,—
The world's a game of 'Catch him if you can!'—
But if, in its perplex'd and motley scene,
Some pleasant interludes there intervene,
The stage should show—a true and wise recorder,
Confusion worse confounded, brought to order!
Such is our aim!—To-night, our cost and care,
Would picture—English manners as they are.
Be yours the kind requital of our task,—
A patient audience is the boon we ask,—
Submitted long to your supreme behest,
Writer and manager have done their best.
Should you condemn,—to your decree we bow,—
But oh! in justice, here us,—HEAR US NOW.
QUID PRO QUO.
SCENE I.—Road before the Inn of the Hunsdon Arms. The Inn R.
Enter HENRY and CAPTAIN SIPPET, 2 E. L. with Countrymen, who carry baggage into the Inn.
Captain Sippet. * This way, my dear sir!—I told you it was but a step from the station.
Henry. A step for a pair of seven-leagued boots!—Why 'tis nearly a mile.
Captain Sippet. A mile it would be hard to miss, for 'tis straight in our road. (points) Neat little country inn, eh?—The Hunsdon Arms used to afford good entertainment for man and horse; but men are the only brutes now left on the road to entertain;— quadrupeds, divided by two, eh?
Henry. How then are you to proceed to Hunsdon Castle, where you told me you were going on a visit?
Captain Sippet. Why mails being no longer horsed here, the charming Countess's son, Lord Bellamont, will drive over and fetch me.
Henry. Your charming Countess, old enough to have a grown-up son?
Captain Sippet. The heir apparent to an Earldom, is a man in his teens. Public school-boys have become rising young men! 'Tis but a step from leading strings to the ribbons,—from the swaddling clothes to a pea jacket! My angel has a brace of precocious cherubs.—But surely you spoke of having an engagement in the neighbourhood?
Henry. I have relations residing hereabouts.
Captain Sippet. Whom you've just arrived in England to visit, eh?
Henry. My ship has been three years on the India station. (Aside.) How the deuce shall I get rid of this inquisitive fellow! My aunt Grigson must be arrived!
Captain Sippet. Your relations visit, of course, their neighbours, at Hunsdon Castle?
Henry. I really can't say! My uncle purchased his property during my absence.
Captain Sippet. Purchased it?—Young man! if you respect yourself never talk of buying a seat—unless in Parliament. The ancestors of the Hunsdons gave a dejeunèr à la fourchette at their castle to William the Conqueror, on his landing from Normandy.
Henry. The more sneaks they!
Captain Sippet. Sneaks—sir!—The Earl of Hunsdon is the most considerable man, and his castle the most considerable castle, in this part of the country.
Henry. With all my heart! They may be the Elephant and Castle, for what I care to the contrary. (Aside.) How shall I shake the fellow off?
Captain Sippet. (seizing him by the button.) Between friends (HENRY shows surprise)—that is, between acquaintances—I'm come here to organize the dear Countess's private theatricals! As if all theatricals were not private enough in these days, the drama gives herself the airs of retiring into private life, enjoying her otium cum dignitate, and so forth.
Henry. Come, come, if steam have done up the mail, don't let us blow up the stage.
Captain Sippet. (aside. ) Not so bad for a snob! Mem., book that for the Castle. In short, I'm here to enjoy a month's shooting and rehearsals. We men about town, are entitled to quarter ourselves nine months of the twelve in country-houses. Last autumn I'd a touch at the pheasants of forty-two noblemen and gentlemen's seats (Houses of Lords and Commons,) betwixt Alnwick Castle and St. Michael's Mount.
Henry. (aside.) Would he were safe at either! The old lady will be out of patience.
[A window opens, MRS. GRIGSON appears, and retreats on seeing SIPPET.
My aunt, by Jupiter!
Captain Sippet. That dear fanciful creature, Lady Hunsdon, brings down some new craze with her every season from town; the last new folly in vogue—guano—the Polka—the unknown tongues—teetotalism—capering or vapouring for the million—mesmersism—hydropathy! This year, she is all for theatricals.—The dear creature has turned decidedly blue—
Henry. A curious complexion for an angel!
Captain Sippet. In fashionable parlance, my dear fellow, a blue means any literary lady who is not deep read.
[A carriage heard without, and crash.
Hark! Bellamont, for a thousand!—Carried off a post.—Needs must, when a school-boy drives.
Lord Bellamont. (without) Give them their heads, and be hanged to ye!—Easy, easy!
Enter LORD BELLAMONT, (R.)—dressed in the extreme of the slang fashion, cutting thro' a crowd of stable boys.
Lord Bellamont. Out of the way, rascals!—Where the deuce has this marmozet of my lady mother's hid himself?—Oh, there you are, Sippet! How are you? (extends a finger.)
Captain Sippet. (Greeting him eagerly.) Not hurt, I hope?
Lord Bellamont. Not I!—Hard as nails. Expected though to have been brought to you in pieces like a dissected map. I vow to God, all the old women 'twixt this and our shop, made it a point to thrust themselves under my horses' feet,—to the imminent peril of —
Captain Sippet. Their lives?—
Lord Bellamont. No, mine!—I suppose somebody picked 'em up. We'll enquire, as we go back. My team has so much a will of its own, there was no stopping to ask idle questions.
Henry. (aside.) A pretty specimen truly, of the rising youth of Britain!—A diamond edition of the slang dictionary,—a monkey miniature of man!—
Lord Bellamont. (aside to SIPPET showing HENRY.) Your fellow, I presume?—Queer cut of a livery!—Moses, of course!—
Captain Sippet. (aside.) No, an Indian curiosity, I picked up in the train!
Lord Bellamont. (walking round HENRY.) Singular animal, upon my soul;—not in bad condition tho' to have been fed on currie and kibaubs!
Captain Sippet. (drawing him away.) My dear Bell, hadn't we better be going?—
Henry. (restraining himself.) 'Twere beneath the dignity of a man to inflict chastisement on a school-boy!
Captain Sippet. (aside to LORD BELLAMONT.) Don't push the joke too far,— he's going on a visit to a gentleman, who resides near the castle.
Lord Bellamont. Pas possible!— We've nothing of the genus gentleman residing within a dozen miles of the castle! Of the genus snob, there's an old fellow, named Grigson—
Captain Sippet. (interrupting.) Hush, 'tis his uncle!
Lord Bellamont. I could have wagered the balance of my book on the Derby, they were of the same stock.
Henry. His book, when he out to be in his spelling-book! Playing on the turf, when he should be playing at marbles!
Lord Bellamont. (taking off his hat, and approaching HENRY, with mock respect.) May I take the liberty of enquiring, sir, whether your venerable uncle is aware of your being out?
Henry. 'Tis a pity but your tutor were, my young highflyer, and let me tell you—
[threatens—SIPPET comes between them.
Captain Sippet. Now my dear fellow!—my dear Bell! Remember, we are waited for at the castle. (Drags him away.)
Lord Bellamont. (resisting and turning towards HENRY.) Take my advice, sir!—Deposit at your uncle's, the bad habits in which you at present indulge. Reform your tailor's bills, sir, and drop the Bengal tiger as soon as you can!—
HENRY is about to rush upon him,—sees MRS. GRIGSON at the window, motioning him to desist.
Henry. This is not to be borne!—
Lord Bellamont. Bear, sir, and forbear, like a bear as you are.
Captain Sippet. Bell, Bell! (Points off.) Those fellows are pulling at the mouths of your horses, as if—
Lord Bellamont. (shouting.) Hillo! there!—Let go the horses this moment!—Let me only catch you, and I'll—
[Exeunt LORD BELLAMONT and CAPTAIN SIPPET, R.—shouting.
[MRS. GRIGSON closes the window.
Henry. At last!—But what can the old lady mean by interfering? The little whipper-snapper deserved that I should break every bone in his skin, if indeed his delicate skin have bones in it. (Carriage heard.) Hark!—there they go!—I owe him some gratitude for ridding me of my stickfast of a fellow traveller.
Enter MRS. GRIGSON, from the Inn, cautiously.
No breakers ahead, my dear aunt, the coast is clear.
Mrs. Grigson. (meeting him.) Harry, my dear Harry! (Examining him.) Bless your dear heart alive! How well you're looking. Why you've grown like a weed since we parted at Oldfield, seven years ago!—Come, come,—give me a kiss, my lad, as you did then. (They embrace.)
Henry. Ever the same kind soul!
Mrs. Grigson. I'm not grown a fine lady, tho' some folks fancy themselves fine gentlemen.
Henry. (shaking hands.) Still a plain spoken sailor, and your affectionate nephew!
Mrs. Grigson. Now that's hearty!—That's what I call English! No two sides to that.
Henry. But in pity to my curiosity, dear aunt, tell me why did you afford your protection to that saucy boy?—
Mrs. Grigson. Wouldn't it better become you, Harry, to inquire why, after hurrying you home from India to complete the match with your cousin Nelly, resolved on when you were both babies, I insisted on your meeting me here on the sly (a rendyvoo, as the French call it) instead of proceeding openly to Hollyhock Lodge?—
Henry. The orders I received from you on landing at Portsmouth, certainly surprised me. But I obeyed them, as those of my superior officer.
Mrs. Grigson. Your best chance, I can tell you, of obtaining your cousin Nelly and her £50,000!—
Henry. Surely my uncle's promises—
Mrs. Grigson. Your uncle, child!—(I don't mean to alarm you)—is one of the craziest old gentlemen at present loose out of a straight waistcoat!
Henry. Gracious Heavens!
Mrs. Grigson. So long as Jeremy Grigson was a sober, painstaking, wholesale stationer in Gracechurch-street, he was a credit to his family and the city of London. But that unlucky mayoralty of his cousin Snookham's was the undoing of him. He couldn't bear to stay in the city and hear him called Sir Gregory, and he—plain Jeremiah!
Henry. Such, then, was the motive of his retiring from business to his native town of Oldfield?
Mrs. Grigson. That,—and inheriting his country seat.
Henry. Country seat!—Now, my dear aunt! A staring red-brick house in the middle of a grass plot, like a lobster garnished with parsley, standing behind iron gates in the market-place!—own brother to a preparatory school!
Mrs. Grigson. No matter!—We lived as merry in it as crickets in an oven! Jeremy Grigson was leading man of the corporation; and might have lived and died there respected, like his father before him;—but, as the plague would have it, he got acquainted, last election, with a great lord, who turned out a great humbug; and did him out of his interest in borough, with a sort of cousin-come-over-me that might have coaxed the mischief out of a crocodile!—
Henry. Lord Hunsdon, of course!
Mrs. Grigson. From that day to this, your poor uncle's head has been running wild about earls and countesses—coronets and supporters—or, argent, gules, and fess—as if he'd been brought up a herald painter.
Henry. Poor old gentleman!
Mrs. Grigson. But that is not the worst! He goes and gives a mint of money for Hollyhock Lodge, (only because, from its drawing-room windows, you see the chimnies smoking of Hunsdon castle) and lets our comfortable mansion in the market-place to Ephraim Cogit, Lord Hunsdon's cunning steward. If his poor old father, the attorney, could only rise from his grave in Oldfieldchurch-yard—if he could only rise from his grave!—
Henry. But surely you find your lawns and shrubberies pleasanter than the market-place?
Mrs. Grigson. Not I! I cant abide them! People must be lord and lady born, to put up with such grumphy solitude! When we retired from business, to live genteel at Oldfield, how I did miss the pleasant cheerful rumble of Gracechurch-street! As to Hollyhock Lodge, Harry, 'twixt you and me, the stillness of the country makes my ears sing!
Henry. But my cousin Ellen's society?
Mrs. Grigson. Will not long be mine. Her father is bent on marrying her among the fine gentlemen at Hunsdon Castle. He wants to make a ladyship o' poor Nelly!—Bless you! he might as well attempt to make a lady of me.
Henry. Has he quite forgotten, then, his engagements with myself?
Mrs. Grigson. Out of sight, out of mind! He remembers you only as a little middy, who used to tie crackers to his pigtail! Jeremy Grigson has not set eyes on you these seven years, and don't expect you home for half-a-dozen more.
Henry. So, so, my good uncle Jeremy! This is the value of your word.
Mrs. Grigson. But be guided by me, Harry, and we'll give him a QUID for his PRO, (as his father, the attorney, used to say.) Since he fancies you still safe in India, make your appearance at Hollyhock Lodge as some great lord, instead a Lieutenant of Her Majesty's ship the Artaxerxes, and I warrant you, he will snap you up, as a gudgeon does a worm.
Henry. As if he would not recognise his own nephew.
Mrs. Grigson. I should not have known you from Adam, if I had not given you a rendyvoo! You was such a good-looking boy.
Henry. And you think that, prospered by this assumed rank, I might regain my place in my uncle's affections?
Mrs. Grigson. Why he would make friends with the black gentleman himself, if old Scratch presented himself under the name of the Marquis of Brimstone.
Henry. He deserves, then, to be imposed on. My old messmate, Lord Algernon Fitz-Urse (whom I left safe in the Artaxerxes) shall lend me his name, as I have lent him mine before now, to get him out a of a scrape.
Mrs. Grigson. Lord Algernon Fitz-Urse! It carries a good kind of Magna Charta sound with it! But the name without the nature is worse then nothing.
Henry. I don't quite understand you.
Mrs. Grigson. Can you do the thing in style? I've brought yonder (points to inn) everything that Gracechurch-street can furnish, to rig out a fine gentleman; and quarter-deck manners will be no go.
Henry. (piqued.) As I have been living like a brother with Lord Algernon these three years past, I may surely undertake to represent him; and since you have thoughtfully enabled me to throw off my old uniform—
Mrs. Grigson. I vow you put me into heart! (Going.) And now I will make the best of my way back to Hollyhock Lodge, to prepare the way for you. Lose no time.
Henry. As soon as I have written my letter of introduction, Lord Algernon shall deliver it in person.—I long to see thy knowing ones taken in. Ha! ha! ha!
Mrs. Grigson. Ha! ha! ha! If our allied forces do not beat out of the field the united peerage of the United Kingdom, my name is not Dorothy Grigson—that's all!—
[Exit into inn, R.
Henry. So! Instead of the pretty wife and handsome fortune I thought were waiting my acceptance, a pleasant piece of work have I got upon my hands!—Hoist false colours, and sail under a forged certificate?—Well, well! since my uncle is no longer true blue, he deserves to be boarded by a pirate; and my cousin and £50,000, are worth some hazard! I'm only afraid, my friend Fitz-Urse's sober gentlemanly cut would scarcely satisfy an old gentleman and young lady accustomed to such swaggering impudence as I witnessed just now!—Ha! ha! ha! I must not only reform my tailor's bills, it seems but reform my manners!
[MRS. GRIGSON calls from window "HARRY!"
Coming, my dear aunt!—Since she chooses to create me a peer, she might surely have called me the Lord Harry, to begin with—Coming!
SCENE II.—A Library, hung with pictures, at Hunsdon Castle.
The EARL discovered writing, Servant waiting.
Earl of Hunsdon. Let Mr. Cogit be shown in.
[Exit Servant, L., and re-enter with COGIT, bowing profoundly.
Cogit. I fear I intrude upon your Lordship's avocations.
Earl of Hunsdon. (not rising.) Not at all, Cogit, not at all.—Take a seat.—I will attend to you immediately.
[COGIT draws a chair in front L., but stands behind it.
The leisure of my rural retirement cannot, of course, be sacred from the claims of business.
[seals a letter.
Cogit. Your lordship has the art of making business a pleasure to all who have the happiness of approaching you. (Aside.) How much longer will he potter over that letter?
Earl of Hunsdon. Why, certainly, twenty years' familiarity with the arduous business of the nation renders the management of an estate like mine, or a borough like Oldfield, mere play-work in my hands.
[arranges his papers.
Cogit. (Aside, sighing.) Ay! you've made pretty play-work of your estates!—I wish I found its management a trifle!—£10,000 to be raised on a property mortgaged over head and ears, might puzzle a Chancellor of the Exchequer!
[The EARL rises and cames forward R., COGIT assumes an obsequious attitude.
I waited on your lordship to—
Earl of Hunsdon. Take a seat Cogit!—take a seat!
[COGIT places a chair for the EARL, they sit.
Cogit. I waited upon your lordship to state that this day's post has brought an answer from Messrs. Leechwell and Fang, concerning the further little loan your lordship was desirous of proposing.
Earl of Hunsdon. Well?
Cogit. Twelve per cent. my lord, is the minimum of their terms.
Earl of Hunsdon. Twelve per cent!
Cogit. (watching him.) Money, my lord, is unprecedentedly scarce at this moment!
Earl of Hunsdon. (peevishly.) Money is always unprecedentedly scarce.
Cogit. And six years having still to elapse before your lordship's son, Lord Bellamont, attains his majority—these monied cormorants—
Earl of Hunsdon. To the point, Cogit,—to the point!—Is the money forthcoming, or is it not?
Cogit. That must depend on your lordship's occasion for submitting to extortion.
Earl of Hunsdon. The urgency, you can judge, as well as myself.
[COGIT makes signs of ignorance.
Though, (thanks to my vulgar neighbour yonder, at Hollyhock Lodge,) I have the borough of Oldfield snug in my pocket, the county can only be carried by hard money.
Cogit. The mortgage, then, must be effected before the approaching election? (watches anxiously.)
Earl of Hunsdon. Of course it must.
Cogit. Considering the little interest your lordship has shown of late in politics—
Earl of Hunsdon. Politics!—What have polititics to do with the matter?
Cogit. I thought your lordship alluded to the Oldfield election?—
Earl of Hunsdon. Harkye, Cogit! That you may fully understand the importance of this loan, to my interests, I will open my whole mind to you.
[COGIT rises, bows, and sits again.
—There are two sorts of men, with whom honesty is the best policy—one's physician and one's man of business.
Cogit. An axiom, my lord, worthy of the great Bacon.
Earl of Hunsdon. (more familiarly.) When I suddenly retired last session from my post in the cabinet, the public decided (as the organs of government instructed it to decide) that my health was impaired by the cares of state, and that I sighed after the relaxation of domestic life.
—FUDGE!—I was jockeyed out of my place by my colleagues!—craftily piqued into the feint of resignation, which was accepted in earnest.
Cogit. (turning up his eyes.) The hypocrisy of this world!—I am astonished!
Earl of Hunsdon. On finding myself thus stranded by false lights thrown out by the wreckers, I had only to make a virtue of necessity, and retire with dignity into the country, bowing like a Lord Chamberlain, towards the throne.
Cogit. And I, who in the simplicity of my heart, imagined your Lordship's abandonment of office a voluntary retreat!
Earl of Hunsdon. (sententiously.) Lay this to your heart, Cogit, as a grand principle of public life;—no man ever yet resigned a good place (pauses) who did not foresee the probability of being turned out of it.—However, my time in the interim has not been thrown away:—I have taken care the great letters shall ring with elegies over my untimely retirement; and my honourable colleagues having managed, by the blessing of their own blunders, to leave the machine of the state sticking fast in the mire, with the nation, the absent have had the best of it.
Cogit. (rises.) Yet, your Lordship seems to entertain hopes of again forming part of the administration?
Earl of Hunsdon. Or of being ordered to form a new one,—eh Cogit? (Rises.) But hopes are unknown qualities. This is a matter of simple arithmetic. My vote in the Lords and my family borough, were insufficient to keep me in office. But by securing the representation of the county, and the borough of Oldfield, (both hitherto belonging to the opposition) my claims are doubled. Political influence you know, is a question of two and two make four!
Cogit. Simple addition! (aside.) I always fancied it a matter of division.
Earl of Hunsdon. To secure this object, I have submitted to the intrusions of my tuft-hunting neighbour, the retired cit. To secure this object, I have been perpetrating for these twelve months past, what the county papers call the princely hospitalities of the house of Hunsdon.
Cogit. Three oxen roasted whole on family birth-days, and three hundred pair of blankets distributed at Christmas to the poor; besides chaldrons of the best Wallsend enough to furnish the Transatlantic steamers with their annual fuel!
Earl of Hunsdon. If the tax thus paid do but secure my immediate object!—
Cogit. Your lordship's object?—
Earl of Hunsdon. Can you not guess? Did it never occur to you, Cogit, when you saw me presiding over the said "princely hospitalities," or at county meetings,—that something was wanting to complete my dignity?
Cogit. (aside.) A plaguy deal, if that were all! (aloud, bowing profoundly.) My memory my lord suggests nothing!
Earl of Hunsdon. (taking him by the sleeve.) Look, Cogit! (points to the pictures.) "John sixth Earl of Hunsdon" (the rival of Walpole)—"Thomas eighth Earl of Hunsdon" (my father the Ambassador)
Cogit. I have often admired the pictures, my lord, as well as their singular family likeness to your lordship.
Earl of Hunsdon. It must be a degree closer, Cogit! or I shall not rest my grave! Do you not perceive that each of these eminent statesmen is graced with a blue riband?—(points to his shoulder.) Here it is wanting!
Cogit. But that you point it out, I could have dreamed of no deficiency in your lordship.
Earl of Hunsdon. It must be remedied, Cogit! Let the money of these cormorants be forthcoming. Let me bear with fortitude the vulgarity of the Grigson horde. Let Lady Hunsdon assemble the whole county as guests under my roof. Let the papers rave of the brilliancy of her fêtes,—the loyalty of my tenantry,—the gratitude of my poor. Let my popularity create an influence—an influence, not even the cabinet can withstand—for the Garter must be mine!—(seizes COGIT's hand.) Can I count upon your zeal?
Cogit. (Kisses his hand.) Were it equally by my means, your lordship should command a whole galaxy of stars.
Earl of Hunsdon. Cogit, you're a discerning man,—you're a staunch adherent,—you're a faithful friend!—You must stay and dine with us, Cogit.
Enter Servant, C.
The EARL resumes his air of dignity—COGIT his distance.
Servant. My lady desired me to announce Sir George Mordent and Captain Sippet, to wait upon your lordship.
Earl of Hunsdon. Two of our party already arrived?—
COGIT takes his hat.
Cogit. (going.) For the present, my lord, I take my leave.
Earl of Hunsdon. (with affability.) From what are you running away, my good friend?—The flippant sallies of Captain Sippet, which the interests of Lady Hunsdon's theatricals force me to tolerate; or the pungencies which my venerable kinsman, Mordent, appends to them, like the bitter moral tacked to one of Æsop's Fables?—
Cogit. Sir George Mordent is entitled to the utmost respect of every every well-wisher of your lordship, as an old bachelor cousin, whose estate is unentailed.—I know no stronger bond of family affection.
[laughter without, C.
Enter COUNTESS OF HUNSDON, CAPTAIN SIPPET, SIR GEORGE MORDENT, C.
Captain Sippet. (advances flippantly to shake hands with the EARL.) My dear lord!
Earl of Hunsdon. (passes him.) Mordent! how are you? (shakes hands.) Good morning, Captain Sippet.
[Exit COGIT, raising his hands and eyes, L.
Countess of Hunsdon. (throws herself into a chair.) I insist, my dear Captain Sippet, on your repeating the whole story for Lord Hunsdon's entertainment! Ha! ha! ha!
Captain Sippet. The story of the stationer's nephew?—Ay, my lord, 'I could a tale unfold!'
Sir George Mordent. (aside.) This must be the theatrical chap,—the prompter of their clap-trap and stage tricks!
Countess of Hunsdon. One can never hear too much of the enormities of these horrible Grigsons. (To EARL.) On his journey hither, my dear lord, he fell in with a new branch of that exquisite family tree.
Earl of Hunsdon. Indeed!
Countess of Hunsdon. And I shall never forgive him for not having recruited the monster for our theatricals.
Sir George Mordent. Are your theatricals in want of monsters?—I thought your ladyship's company was complete!
Earl of Hunsdon. (coldly.) Any guests staying at Hollyhock Lodge will of course accompany the family.
Captain Sippet. "But will he come when you do call for him? That is the question!" The fellow was so roasted to rags by Lord Bellamont, that I doubt whether there remain a morsel presentable at the fastidious table of Hunsdon Castle.
Sir George Mordent. Why, we are not very nice here, surely?—
Earl of Hunsdon. (stiffly to Sippet.) I trust, sir, my son has not treated with unbecoming levity, a relation of my friend, Mr. Grigson?
Countess of Hunsdon. Your friend? Now my dear lord, call him your dupe—your tool—your parasite—your shadow—your echo! but do not profane the sacred name of friend, by applying it to a wholesale stationer from Gracechurch-street.
Sir George Mordent. (smiling.) Elections, madam, like misery, "make a man acquainted with strange bed-fellows!"
Earl of Hunsdon. I know not what you mean by strange! Mr. Grigson is a man of the right way of thinking in politics,—Mr. Grigson is a man with a stake in the country,—Mr. Grigson is a man with influence in a borough,—Mr. Grigson is a man who, in the present fusion of classes produced by the march of enlightenment, is fully entitled to the notice and protection of —
Sir George Mordent. Come, come! If you talk so strenuously you may end by convincing yourself. You are not on the hustings of Oldfield, or in the chair of a mechanics' institute!—There is not a soul here to be taken in.
Earl of Hunsdon. You are privileged, my dear sir! But to show you that I am not blind to the follies of my poor neighbour, I am free to confess that his good qualities are balanced by one monstrous fault! For ambition is a fault as well as a weakness;—"by that sin fell the angels."
Captain Sippet. Well, hang me, if I see anything angelic in the common-councilman pretension of a retired cit.
Earl of Hunsdon. Few of us, sir, take a just estimate of our deserts.—The retired cit. aims at nothing less than Parliament and a baronetcy.
(CAPTAIN SIPPET and the COUNTESS OF HUNSDON laugh heartily—SIR GEORGE MORDENT shrugs his shoulders.)
Sir George Mordent. Why should'nt he be as great an ass as his betters?—
Earl of Hunsdon. (pathetically.) But it is not lamentable, my dear Mordent, amid the purest attributes of nature, the vernal seclusions of the fields and forests, to behold the human mind swayed by such frivolous consideration as—
Sir George Mordent. (cooly.) Stars and garters, and First Lordships of the Treasury!—Lamentable!
Earl of Hunsdon. (discountenanced.) Ahem!
Enter LADY MARY RIVERS running.
Lady Mary Rivers. Dear mamma! the scene painters engaged by Captain Sippet have arrived from town; and the carpenters have hung up the green curtain! (claps her hands.) It is beginning to look like a real theatre.—Such fun!
[Goes to the EARL, who kisses her forehead.
Good morning, papa.
Earl of Hunsdon. Where is your brother, my dear?
Lady Mary Rivers. Bell is gone out shooting, papa, with the keepers.
Captain Sippet. (looking at his watch.) He promised to be in the way for a rehearsal.
Countess of Hunsdon. To-morrow, you know, we begin in earnest. Surely, my dear Sippet, 'twill be safer to have in the servants, and the Grigsons, to see how the machinery works, before we invite the neighbourhood?
Sir George Mordent. The servants and the Grigsons! For an aspirant to the honour of parliament and a baronetcy, the classification is flattering,
Earl of Hunsdon. But if Bellamont have given offence to the family?
Countess of Hunsdon. I should like to see Mr. Jeremy Grigson take offence at the conduct of a son of mine!—However, it may be better to secure an audience by carrying an olive branch to Hollyhock Lodge.
Lady Mary Rivers. Yes, do, dear mama, let us drive over and invite them. I am always so glad of an excuse to visit my friend Ellen.
Sir George Mordent. (aside.) Good!—The first humane instinct I have noticed in the family!—The girl seems to have some heart.
Countess of Hunsdon. Sippet, you shall escort us.
Captain Sippet. And the theatre?
Countess of Hunsdon. The stage must wait!
Lady Mary Rivers. The carriage is already at the door.
Countess of Hunsdon. Then go, my dear Sippet, and fetch Fido for me, out of the drawing-room. The poor little fellow can not do without his airing.
Captain Sippet. Does Fido condescend to visit the Grigsons?—
Sir George Mordent. (aside.) The toady and the lapdog! "Arcades ambo." Ho! ho! ho!
Earl of Hunsdon. My dear lady Hunsdon, you will be late. (aside to her angrily.) Let me advise you to keep this jackal of yours under decent restraint.—Remember the Oldfield election,—remember the interests of your family!—During your absence, Mordent and I will enjoy a saunter through the home farm.—Come, Sir George.
Lady Mary Rivers. Yes! pray, papa, show my cousin the improvements of Hunsdon Castle.
Sir George Mordent. With all my heart! for at present I own I have seen none of them.
Countess of Hunsdon. Improvements are often like strawberry-beds—they do not come into bearing for the first three years.
Sir George Mordent. And sometimes like our national buildings, they are only the worse when completed!
Countess of Hunsdon. Now then for our triumphal entry into Hollyhock Lodge!
[CAPTAIN SIPPET hands the Ladies out L., the EARL and SIR GEORGE MORDENT exeunt C.
END OF ACT I.
SCENE I.—A Drawing-room, with books and musical instruments at Hollyhock Lodge, opening to a lawn. ELLEN discovered reading on a sofa.
Enter MRS. GRIGSON.
Mrs. Grigson. Still at your studies, child? For full two hours have you been poring over that silly poetry-book!
Ellen. I took up a book, mamma, to beguile the time of your absence. (Lays it down.) I am now at your orders.
Mrs. Grigson. Then go and make yourself fit to be seen;—for we've company coming;—a young gentleman, coming to court a certain young lady.
Ellen. If you mean me, dear mamma, I have neither heart nor hand to dispose of.
Mrs. Grigson. (patting her on the back.) Your mother's girl, every inch of you! I knew my Nelly would not imitate her father's nonsensicalities about lords and ladies;—fine things enough at a coronation! But folks ain't always processioning through doorways, to make precedence of such mighty consequence.
Ellen. (aside.) To what can she allude so warmly?
Mrs. Grigson. Rank, child, like water, must find its level; and those who lose their time in trying to make rivers run up hill, served to lie drowned at the bottom.
Ellen. Believe me, I have no undue pretension to the pomps of life.
Mrs. Grigson. To be sure not! no more than your mother before you. 'Tis not my own Nelly would turn her back on her cousin Harry, 'cause he's only a poor lieutenant.
Ellen. Not on that account. But I trust he thinks as little of me as I of him.
Mrs. Grigson. As if he were likely to forget the kiss you gave him at parting, eight year ago, last Candlemas.
Ellen. (aside.) If I had only courage to confide to her my engagement to Rivers!—
Mrs. Grigson. Now, look ye here, Nelly.
Ellen. (looking out.) My father! dear mamma.
Mrs. Grigson. Psha! Well, step into the shrubbery for a few minutes, my dear, while I've a bit o' talk with him, (aside,) for kittens should never see the old cats come to the scratch.
[Exit ELLEN, C. into the garden.
Enter JEREMY GRIGSON, pompously, L.
Jeremy Grigson. Ha! my lady fair! (as Lord Hunsdon would say,) so soon returned from your drive?—
Mrs. Grigson. Soon, Mr. G.!—Why it's three o'clock.
Jeremy Grigson. (looking at his watch.) God bless my soul! And at four, I've an appointment with the corporation of Oldfield.
Mrs. Grigson. Then they'll have to wait, I can tell them, for the horses are baiting.—Ah! G., When you were settled in your father's comfortable house in the Market-place, no need of coach-horses every time you had a bit of business at the town-hall! If I were you, when I cut the house I was born in, I would have cut the corporation.
Jeremy Grigson. Cut the corporation? On the eve of the election? Mrs. G., you are a wag!
Mrs. Grigson. You are to give a lift again, I suppose, to my Lord Hunsdon's candidate?
Jeremy Grigson. (chuckling.) Perhaps I am.
Mrs. Grigson. Jeremy Grigson, you are an old gander.
Jeremy Grigson. (chuckling.) Mrs. G., as I said before, you are a wag!
Mrs. Grigson. (furious.) Not too old though, to be caught with chaff!—Squandering your time, your money, and your credit on a pack of strangers!—What is Lord Hunsdon's candidate to you, I should like to know?
Jeremy Grigson. (squeaks.) Oh, nothing! Lord Hunsdon's candidate is nothing to me—nothing!—Ho! ho! ho!—nothing, and nobody.
Mrs. Grigson. Yes, I will tell you what he is. Some ruined honourable, who wishes to hide behind the Speaker's gown from the sheriff's officers.
Jeremy Grigson. Mrs. G., you are a wag!
Mrs. Grigson. Or some mean place-hunter, who wants to play at cat's cradle with ministers, from the opposition benches.
Jeremy Grigson. (angry.) Mrs. G.! (Alters his tone.) You are a wag!
Mrs. Grigson. Or some ape with a riband across its shoulder, that would fain thrust Jeremy Grigson's paw into the fire, to secure its chestnuts.
Jeremy Grigson. (furious.) Mrs. G., you are—I won't say what you are!
Mrs. Grigson. Why I am a plain speaker of plain sense;—the wisdom handed down from one old woman to another, since the days of mother Eve,—and worth whole libraries of dictionary-flourish!
Jeremy Grigson. And if, madam, this future member for Oldfield, whom it is your pleasure to disparage, were neither more nor less than—(assumes LORD HUNSDON'S attitude)—the man it is your bounden duty to honour and obey—I said honour and obey, MRS. GRIGSON,—what should you say then?
Mrs. Grigson. That it was my duty to honour and obey a numskull!—You, a parliament man?—You?
Jeremy Grigson. Why not pray?
Mrs. Grigson. Better find out why! What in the name of goodness, or badness, ever put such a—(slaps him on the back.)—But you are joking with me, G.!—you are only joking!
Jeremy Grigson. (solemnly.) Madam, I am not a wag.
Mrs. Grigson. (stoutly.) Jeremy Grigson!—let us come to a right understanding! Are—you—going to contest the representation of Oldfield?
Jeremy Grigson. (bows formally.)
Mrs. Grigson. By uniting your interest with Lord Hunsdon's—and spending your own money?—
Jeremy Grigson. I am about, madam, to offer myself to the suffrages of the free and independent electors of Oldfield—(vide advertisement.)
Mrs. Grigson. This man will bring my grey hairs in sorrow to a wig!
Jeremy Grigson. Mrs. G., I hop you won't deny that you are a wag? (chuckles.)
Mrs. Grigson. Or you, that you are a lunatic! Why, in Gracechurch-street you had not nous enough to get through your business in the shop without my finger in the pie;—and now, you fancy you can manage the affairs of the nation!—(GRIGSON represses his desire to reply)—And when you see 568 honourable gentlemen—(trumps, I suppose—as they are picked out of the whole pack)—contriving to keep the country in hot water from one end of the year to the other, you must needs add your pig-headedness to theirs, in order to—(shoves him.)—Go along with you, you foolish old man!—You have been making game of me all this time!—
Jeremy Grigson. Have you quite done, Mrs. G.?—Quite sure, ma'am, that you have quite done? Now, listen to me.—I rise to explain! In the first place, did you ever hear the Countess of Hunsdon address her liege lord in the tone you presume to adopt towards your unfortunate husband?
Mrs. Grigson. What need have plain Darby-and-Joan folks, like you and me, to take pattern by earls and countesses, 'twixt whom there is a fence of buckram and whalebone as thick as London Wall?—Did not we slave together like a pair of horses in the same yoke, Jeremy Grigson, to put money into the same till? Did not we—
Jeremy Grigson. (stopping her.) Madam, madam! if the servants should be at the door!—
Mrs. Grigson. And if they should,—do ye think they'd hear nothing worse through the keyholes at Hunsdon Castle?—
Jeremy Grigson. That a woman on the eve of becoming Lady Grigson, should be so callous to the decorums of life!
Mrs. Grigson. Eh?—What?—Lady Grigson?—(he bows.)—Bethlem is not strong enough to hold him!—(curtsies.)—My humble service to you, Sir Jeremiah Grigson, knight,—member of parliament,—and non compos!
Jeremy Grigson. What do you mean, pray, by knight?—A knighthood, madam, smells of the city a mile off!—Sheriff of London—men in armour—Old Bailey—white gloves—and the tolling of the bell of St. Sepulchre!—A knighthood!—Faugh!
Mrs. Grigson. You have widened your swallow to a baronetcy, have you, among the Lord Grizzles of Hunsdon Castle? All I know is, that the first time you had to call your cousin Snookham Sir Gregory, the word had like to have choked you.
Jeremy Grigson. (forcing a laugh.) Choked me!—Ho! ho! ho!—hi! hi! hi!—Mrs. G. you are a very great wag!
Mrs. Grigson. I am half out of my wits at your folly!—going to ruin yourself, horse, foot, and dragoons, in order to make yourself a warming-pan for the Earl of Hunsdon!
Enter ELLEN, hastily, from the garden, with a letter.
Ellen. There is the strangest gentleman in the garden, mamma, who begged me to deliver this letter to my father.
Mrs. Grigson. (aside.) Harry!—as sure as a gun!—(aloud, pointing to JEREMY GRIGSON.) Well, my dear, there he stands!
[ELLEN delivers the letter.
Jeremy Grigson. How does my little Ellen this morning?—(aside)—I think that is Lord Hunsdon's way of doing the paternal?—ten degrees below freezing point!—(opens the letter.)—A petition, I dare say, from one of my future constituents at Oldfield!—
[ELLEN and MRS. GRIGSON talk eagerly in dumb show, looking out into the garden.
(reads)—"Henry Grigson!"—my nephew, the lieutenant!—I was in hopes he "was climbing pagodas at Hong Kong!—(reads)—"My dear uncle!"—hum!—hum!—"commend to your well-known hospitality"—confound his impudence!—"An old messmate of mine"—Messmate?—vulgar dog!—the very word savours of pigtail and a hornpipe!—"an old messmate of mine"—Hilloa!—what's here?—"Lord Algernon Fitz-Urse?—son of"—Harry Grigson's messmate a lord!—Who'd ever have thought it!—"son of the Marquis of Plantagenet!"—Bless my soul and body!—"the Marquis of —"—(loud)—Who brought this letter?
[Rings the bell violently, L.
Mrs. Grigson. Flustrated out of your wits by a single sheet of paper?—You, who used to handle reams of foolscap with perfect composure! (Laughs.)
Jeremy Grigson. Mrs. G!—
Mrs. Grigson. A pretty fellow you will be for the reading of a bill in parliament! (Laughs.)
Jeremy Grigson. Will you hold your confounded nonsense! (Reads agitated.) The marquis of —
Enter SPRAGGS in a fine livery.
Who brought this letter?
Spraggs. Ee dun know sur!
Jeremy Grigson. (reading.) "Lord Algernon Fitz—" What's the fellow staring at?—Send the butler here!
Spraggs. Ees, sur.
[Exit SPRAGGS, L.
Ellen. (who has been pulling him by the sleeve.) Dear papa! The gentleman is in the garden, waiting for an answer.
Jeremy Grigson. Lord Algernon waiting in the garden of my humble abode? Let me hasten to— (going.)
Mrs. Grigson. (pulling him back.) Now G. When you know you've an appointment in the town-hall of Oldfield, at four o'clock!—Let me receive the gentleman! (Stifles a laugh.)
Jeremy Grigson. You do the honours of Hollyhock Lodge to the son of the Marquis of Plantagenet! (going.)
Mrs. Grigson. But the corporation, my dear?
Jeremy Grigson. Curse the corporation!
Mrs. Grigson. What! on the eve of the election?
Jeremy Grigson. (furiously.) Mrs. G.!
Mrs. Grigson. (curtseying.) Lady G.—if your baronetship pleases!
Ellen. The gentleman seems tired of waiting, papa,—for here he comes.
Enter HENRY, as Lord Algernon, in a slang costume.
Jeremy Grigson. (obsequiously.) Your lordship's very obedient humble servant! (aside.) What a distinguished looking young man! (aloud.) I scarcely know how sufficiently to apologize to your lordship—
Henry. Confound your apologies! (aside.) Neither my uncle nor Ellen entertain the least suspicion!
Mrs. Grigson. (aside.) Well!—he has done it handsome! (aside to ELLEN.) Did not I tell you there was a smart young man coming?
Ellen. (aside to MRS. GRIGSON.) I never saw so strange a person!
Mrs. Grigson. (aside to ELLEN.) Strange? Why he is the very moral of that little hop-o-my-thumb young Bellamont, magnified in an aromatic microscope!
Ellen. One feels indulgent towards the affectations of a school-boy, who plays at dandy as he would play at leapfrog.
Jeremy Grigson. (bowing.) I trust your lordship enjoyed a pleasant voyage home, and journey hither?
Henry. No!—demned disagreeable! My voyage was by land—my journey, by steam;—no great shakes, though the deuce of a rattle. (looks round.) Curious little mousetrap of a villa you have got here?
Jeremy Grigson. (bowing.) We do not presume to rival, my lord, the halls of your lordship's ancestors!—
Mrs. Grigson. (aside, laughing.) The halls of his ancestors! To be sure, they did belong to the stationer's hall. (aloud.) Mr. G.—you don't introduce me to your friend?—
Jeremy Grigson. (keeping her back.—aside.) A moment, my dear! I can't call to mind exactly, how Lord Hunsdon hitches in the Countess on these occasions. (aloud.) May I presume to present to your lordships attention—
Henry. Better half, eh? Fine woman! (Nods.) (MRS. GRIGSON curtseys with mock reverence.) Many a time, on board of the Artaxerxes, has Harry beguiled the watch, by talking to me about his kind aunt Grigson.
Mrs. Grigson. (naturally.) Bless your dear honest heart.
Jeremy Grigson. (shocked.) Mrs. G!
Henry. And the charms of his pretty cousin!
[Looks round at ELLEN, who is seated near the window, C.
Jeremy Grigson. Ay, by the way!—Ellen, my love!
Let me introduce you to—
Ellen. (curtseying coldly.) I have already made Lord Algernon's acquaintance.
Henry. (aside.) She's vastly pretty! (aloud.) Yes, old gentleman! I met your daughter in the garden, taking the shine out of the roses.
Mrs. Grigson. (aside.) Lord love him!—how well he does it!— Would not any one swear he was born a lord! (aloud, curtseying.) I hope, my lord, your lordship means to stay and take potluck with us to day.
[Crosses to L. to HENRY.
Jeremy Grigson. Potluck!—That woman will be the death of me! May I hope for the honour of welcoming your lordship to my humble board?
[Goes up to ELLEN, R.
Henry. Stay dinner?—Of course.
Tries to enter into conversation with ELLEN, who shows signs of disgust.
Enter SPRAGGS, L.
Spraggs. Please, sur, there be a cartful of portmantles coom from the Hundson Arms, and carter says they be for a greae lord, that do boide here. So I sent he up at castle; but he do persist in—
Henry. My traps, for a thousand!
Jeremy Grigson. Your lordship's "traps?—"
Henry. Your nephew would not hear of my spending less than a month with you; and considering the attractions of the place—
[Tries to accost ELLEN, who crosses to L.
Mrs. Grigson. A month?—Well! I must say, that for a youngster who's only a heir-presumptive, Harry Grigson makes more free than welcome.
Jeremy Grigson. Mrs. G. I blush for you!
Mrs. Grigson. To take the liberty of billetting his friends upon us, as if Hollyhock Lodge was an inn—
Jeremy Grigson. Silence, madam! Would you violate the rites of hospitality towards one of the most distinguished young noblemen in the realm?—If your lordship would only deign to overlook—
Henry. Anything in reason, old gentleman—if your cook be not too plain,—and your wine as fair as your daughter!
[Tries to take ELLEN's hand.
Ellen. (aside.) Impertinent coxcomb! (Crosses to R.
Mrs. Grigson. (stifling a laugh.) How, my dear? Violate the rites of hospitality towards of one of the most distinguished young noblemen in the realm?—
[Reproves her in dumb show, HENRY kisses her hand.
Re-enter SPRAGGS, L.
Spraggs. Where be I to put the gentleman's traps, sur; Missus Bridget do want to know?
Henry. (interrupting him.) Into the best bed-room! I am anchored here for a month!
Jeremy Grigson. (aside to MRS. GRIGSON.) You hear, Mrs. G.!—We are to be honoured for a month!—Apprise the whole establishment! Let the fatted calf be killed!
Mrs. Grigson. Then give me the key of the plate chest. I suppose I am to get out the epergne?—
Jeremy Grigson. For the love of mercy, Mrs. G.!—
[They dispute in dumb show. The house-bell rings.
Visitors?—How unlucky!—Some of your vulgar acquaintance from Oldfield!
Enter SPRAGGS, L.
Spraggs. The Countess of Hounsdin and Lady Mary Rough-horse.
Jeremy Grigson. God bless my soul!
Mrs. Grigson. Some of your troublesome acquaintances from Hunsdon Castle!
Enter the COUNTESS OF HUNSDON and LADY MARY RIVERS, L.
Countess of Hunsdon. My dear MRS. GRIGSON!
Mrs. Grigson. (to her formally.) I am proud to see your ladyship at Hollyhock Lodge,—for the first time in these twelve months!
[ELLEN welcomes LADY MARY RIVERS.
Countess of Hunsdon. Is it so long?
Jeremy Grigson. (bowing.) That is—every month of your ladyship's absence, counts for twelve!
Countess of Hunsdon. Bravo, Mr. Grigson! Positively the only copy of Sir Charles Grandison now extant. Pray let me introduce his friend, Captain Sippet, to you. (looks round.) But where is Sippet?
Lady Mary Rivers. I sent him back to the carriage with Fido—who was following us in. But here he comes!
Enter CAPTAIN SIPPET with a lap-dog under his arm.
Captain Sippet. The dear little treasure would not hear of being left behind—so I complied to his wishes.
[Bows to the GRIGSONS.
Jeremy Grigson. (obsequiously.) Any friend, or any lap-dog of the Countess of Hunsdon's, will always be most welcome, sir, to Hollyhock Lodge!
Countess of Hunsdon. Thank you, thank you, Mr. Grigson! But Captain Sippet knows my orders are imperative. (To CAPTAIN SIPPET, peevishly.) You are stifling the poor little fellow. (Fondles it.) Since you have chosen to bring him here, pray go and take him a turn on the lawn!
[Exit CAPTAIN SIPPET to the garden. LADY MARY RIVERS, ELLEN, and HENRY laugh as he passes the sofa.
But I must not neglect the object of my visit. Lord Hunsdon and myself, my dear madam, hope for the honour of your company to morrow, to witness the first rehearsal of our private theatricals!
Jeremy Grigson. Your ladyship and his lordship are all goodness—
Mrs. Grigson. (interposing.) But all the same, we can't come! A young man is staying in the house.
Jeremy Grigson. (interrupting.) That is a young—
Countess of Hunsdon. (stopping him.) I know it, I know it! I am quite aware of it!
Jeremy Grigson. (aside.) Bless me, how these lords and ladies know all about each other's affairs! I verily believe there's an electric telegraph always at work among 'em!
Countess of Hunsdon. You must bring him with you to the castle. My friend Captain Sippet tells me he will be a charming addition to our party! But I do not see him,—or your daughter?
Mrs. Grigson. (nudging her to turn round.) The young folks have got together, yonder, as thick as thieves! (COUNTESS OF HUNSDON looks round to the sofa.)
Jeremy Grigson. Mrs. G. you forget yourself!
Countess of Hunsdon. I see—I see!—a family love affair!—A very suitable connexion!
Jeremy Grigson. Suitable?—You do me a thousand times too much honour.—If I might presume to—
[MRS. GRIGSON beckons HENRY and ELLEN, who advance, LADY MARY RIVERS following.
Countess of Hunsdon. Miss Grigson, my dear, I am charmed to see you in such good looks! (Bows to HENRY in a patronising manner, and examines him through her glass, aside. ) What a perfection of a tiger!
Mrs. Grigson. (aside to JEREMY GRIGSON.) Her ladyship is struck all of a heap!
Jeremy Grigson. (aside to MRS. GRIGSON.) No wonder;—she don't see such a young nobleman every day of the week!
Countess of Hunsdon. (to HENRY.) To judge from appearances, young man, you must have spent a great part of your life in India?—
Henry. (half aside. ) To judge from appearances, old lady, you must spend a great portion of yours at Coventry!
Countess of Hunsdon. Coventry?—Really, Mr. Grigson, this nephew of yours—
Mrs. Grigson and Henry. Nephew?
Jeremy Grigson. Your lordship, if I may presume to say so, is under a mistake! This young gentleman—nobleman—I should say—
Mrs. Grigson. Bless your heart, 'tis my Lord Algernon Fitz-Urse.
Countess of Hunsdon. Lord Algernon Fitz-Urse?
Jeremy Grigson. Second son of the Most Noble the Marquis of Plantagenet.
Countess of Hunsdon. (seizing HENRY's hand.) Then you are son to the most intimate friend I have in the world!
Henry. (aside.) The deuce I am!
Countess of Hunsdon. My dear, dear Lord Algernon. (Aside.) And his elder brother is in a decline!—What a fortunate coincidence! (Aloud.) Here, Mary—Mary, my dear child, where are you? (LADY MARY RIVERS advances.) Let me make you acquainted, my love, with the son of our dear Lady Plantagenet!
Lady Mary Rivers. We have already had a good laugh together, mamma,—the best way of making an acquaintance.
Countess of Hunsdon. How little we thought, in closing our letter yesterday, to the dear Marchioness, we were on the eve of an introduction so interesting to all parties!
Mrs. Grigson. (aside.) Here's a pretty kettle of fish!
Lady Mary Rivers. Do you see any likeness, mamma, between Lord Algernon and his sister, Lady Clara?
[The COUNTESS OF HUNSDON examines him through her glass.
Henry. (aside.) She's out with her quadrant, and taking an observation!
Countess of Hunsdon. A great resemblance about the eyes! And pray, my dear Lord Algernon, how is your excellent uncle, the bishop?
Henry. (aside.) What shall I say now? (Aloud.) Why—at our last flare-up, the bishop was voted a trifle too strong.
Countess of Hunsdon. Strong!
Henry. Spicy, but too strong.
Countess of Hunsdon. (sighs.) Thanks to Tractarianism, I was afraid his lordship's see was becoming a leetle stormy.
Henry. I don't know about his lordship's see; but it blew great guns in ours t'other day, in the Bay of Biscay!
Countess of Hunsdon. Ha! ha! ha! (Aside to LADY MARY RIVERS.) Why don't you laugh, child? His brother is in a decline! (Aloud.) When you write to him, pray tell him that his old friend my father, Lord Clantagget, is to have the vacant thistle.
Henry. (aside.) A thistle? that sounds as if he were an old donkey!—(aloud)—I can only say, (bows knowingly) that I wish he may get it!
Countess of Hunsdon and Lady Mary Rivers. Ha! ha! ha! ha! All the charming sprightliness of my friend, Lady Plantagenet!
Mrs. Grigson. (aside.) Go it, my boy,—keep up the steam!
Countess of Hunsdon. You positively must return with us to Hunsdon Castle! We cannot think of leaving you here!
Henry. Heave anchor already?—I have only just got into port!
Jeremy Grigson. We cannot possibly part with your lordship on such short notice. (aside to ELLEN.) Why don't you say something civil, child! (pushes her.)
Countess of Hunsdon. Lord Hunsdon will be distracted when he finds you have neglected us for Hollyhock Lodge. (aside to LADY MARY RIVERS.) Do not let him slip through your fingers. (pushes her.)
Henry. (between ELLEN and LADY MARY RIVERS, sings.) "How happy could I be with either."—
Countess of Hunsdon. Charming tenor!
[MRS. GRIGSON laughs.
Henry. (glancing at the COUNTESS OF HUNSDON.) "Were t'other dear charmer away."
Jeremy Grigson. Indeed, my dear lord, you must not leave us!
Mrs. Grigson. Nay! Since we shall all meet together to-morrow at the play acting, (to HENRY,) go, by all means, my lord—stand on no ceremony with us.
Henry. (to the COUNTESS OF HUNSDON.) Well, then, since you're so pressing, (buttoning his coat) here goes.
Re-enter CAPTAIN SIPPET from the Garden, C.
Countess of Hunsdon. Wish me joy, my dear Sippet, on having enlisted into our company my friend,—Lord Algernon Fitz-Urse.
[CAPTAIN SIPPET starts back on seeing HENRY.
Captain Sippet. Lord—what? (To JEREMY GRIGSON.) Your sailor-nephew from India,—is'nt it?
Jeremy Grigson. The friend, sir, of my sailor-nephew! The son of the Marquis of Plantagenet!
Captain Sippet. The son of a—Marquis?
Henry. And nephew of a bishop! ahem!
Captain Sippet. This is the most unaccountable mistake!
Countess of Hunsdon. (angrily.) No need to puzzle your head about the matter! We understand it,—and that is enough!
Lady Mary Rivers. Yes!—we understand it, and that is enough!
Captain Sippet. (aside.) Et tu Brute!—Fickle, ungrateful sex!—
[HENRY flirts with ELLEN.
Countess of Hunsdon. Lord Algernon! (a pause,) my dear Lord Algernon!—(HENRY starts. ) We are on the move! Sippet, go and ask for the carriage;—and put Fido on his cushion before we get in.
Captain Sippet. (aside, going,) I have a great mind to put him into the horse-pond!
Countess of Hunsdon. (taking leave of the GRIGSONS, who are R.) To-morrow, then, my dear madam, we shall expect you!
Lady Mary Rivers. And pray, dearest Ellen, be punctual!—
Countess of Hunsdon. Yes; pray be punctual!—
Mrs. Grigson. I think I can promise, on this occasion, to be beforehand with your ladyship.
[SPRAGGS appears at the door.
Spraggs. (bawling.) The Countess of Houndsdin's carriage stops the way!
Jeremy Grigson. (offering his arm.) Your ladyship's carriage is announced.
[HENRY tries to kiss ELLEN's hand.
Countess of Hunsdon. My dear Lord Algernon!—Don't you see that my daughter is waiting for your arm?
END OF ACT II.
SCENE I.—The grounds of Hollyhock Lodge. On one side a Summer-house.
Enter ELLEN, hurriedly, with a book in her hand.
Ellen. At length I have escaped the watchful eyes of Bridget! (Looks round anxiously.) Rivers not yet arrived?—I begin to repent having promised to meet him here!—But at present, I dare not reveal our engagement to my mother. He comes!—
Enter RIVERS, L.
Rivers. Dearest, kindest Ellen! (takes her hand.)
Ellen. I complied so readily with your request, only because this first meeting must be the last!
Rivers. Nay, dearest, nay,—I will not hear you despond. A little patience,—a little courage,—and all will be well.
Ellen. Alas! new difficulties have arisen. From our first acquaintance, I confided to you my engagement to my cousin Henry—
Rivers. A cousin you have not seen these eight years!—
Ellen. Intent as my poor father is upon my worldly aggrandizement, I trusted that your connexion with Lord Hunsdon's family might reconcile him to my choice.—(sighs.)—But these hopes have vanished!—There arrived here yesterday a bosom friend of my cousin Henry, dazzled by whose attentions, my father and mother seem to have set their hearts on my becoming Lady Algernon Fitz-Urse.
Rivers. (With indignation.) Your guest, then, has been forcing his attentions upon you? (Looks round.) Perhaps I may be so fortunate as to meet him, and give him my opinion of his conduct!
Ellen. Lord Algernon is gone on a visit to Hunsdon Castle.
Rivers. Then, thank heaven, we are sure to meet!—I am now on my road thither.
Ellen. You assured me you were not even acquainted with your noble relatives?—
Rivers. Nor was I! But finding that your father resided in their neighbourhood, I addressed myself to a kinsman, (who, from his large fortune, has great influence with the Hunsdons) to get me invited to the castle, where a long residence abroad has made me a stranger. Mordent not only complied with my request, but has already arrived there to introduce me.
Ellen. In a few hours, then, we shall meet; and amid the confusion of their private theatricals, enjoy opportunities for unmolested conversation. Here, I am in momentary terror of interruption!—Promise me, meanwhile, that you will get into no quarrel with this odious Lord Algernon!—
Rivers. That must depend upon—
[MRS. GRIGSON's voice without.
Mrs. Grigson. I see nothing of her.
Ellen. My mother!—Fly, fly!—
[RIVERS kisses her hand.
Rivers. Everything you desire! (going.)
Ellen. (about to enter the summer-house.) Farewell, then, for the present!
Rivers. Sans adieu!
Ellen. (watching him from the summer-house.) I was certain Bridget was on the watch, and would apprize mamma. Should they catch a glimpse of him, we are lost!—In a moment he will gain the road.—(Takes a seat, and opens her book.) I dare not look my mother in the face!—
[BRIDGET PRIM's voice behind the scenes.
This way, mem, this way!—I protest I heard voices.
Enter BRIDGET PRIM and MRS. GRIGSON, panting.
Mrs. Grigson. (looking round.) Perhaps you see them too, for I am sure there is nothing else to be seen.
Bridget Prim. (aside. ) Umph! The other voice has escaped.—
Mrs. Grigson. (pointing to ELLEN.) There she sits, poor dear, as quiet as a little lamb, and as lonesome as a hermit.
Bridget Prim. All I know is, she was talking fast enough, mem, just now.
Mrs. Grigson. Ay, ay!—poetry-stuff, to the flowers and the dicky birds.—Book-learned ladies are always after some nonsense of that kind!
Bridget Prim. And do the flowers and the dicky-birds answer 'em, mem?—There was a bass voice as well as a treble!—
Mrs. Grigson. A pack of nonsense. (Calls.) Ellen, child! (To BRIDGET PRIM.) There! she is so lost in her studies, you see, that she don't hear a syllable!—Nelly, I say!
Ellen. (coming forward with an air of surprise.) Have you been long here, mamma?
Bridget Prim. (aside.) Oh! the abominable hypocrisy of your quiet little lambs! (Looks on the ground.) Footprints, as I am a sinner! A boot—a boot of the masculine gender!—I said so! I knew I heard voices. (To MRS. GRIGSON.) Mem, mem—the print of a man's foot on the sand!
Mrs. Grigson. And what then? Are we on Robinson Crusoe's Island, that you seem so overjoyed?
Bridget Prim. (aside.) Infatuated parent! What it is to have been indeckorously brought up, and have no scruples!
Mrs. Grigson. I have been looking for you, far and near, Nelly,—to tell you there is a letter arrived express from Hunsdon Castle!
Ellen. Not to put us off, I hope?—
Mrs. Grigson. On the contrary—they want you to take a part in their play-acting!—Some ladyship or other has disappointed them, and they think you will do for a makeshift.
Ellen. But surely, madam, you would not consent?
Mrs. Grigson. Your father insists upon it, my dear. If they were to take to rope-dancing at Hunsdon Castle, I should soon see you with a balancing pole in your hands!
Bridget Prim. (aside, peeping about.) Not a vestige of a man, that I can see. I'll make bold to follow the foot-marks, till they come to a stand-still.
[Stealing off, L.
Ellen. (seeing her.) Dearest mamma, do not let Bridget saunter out of the way!—I shall want her to arrange my dress.
[Exit BRIDGET PRIM.
Mrs. Grigson. (carelessly.) To be sure you will.
Ellen. I cannot possibly do without her!—Pray, pray, call her back!
Mrs. Grigson. Here, Bridget,—Bridget Prim!
Re-enter BRIDGET PRIM, sulkily.
Mrs. Grigson. Here is Miss Ellen in a pucker, lest you should give us the slip!—Hurry back to the house, Bridget, like a good soul, and pack up our things.
Bridget Prim. Mem, I only—
Ellen. (leading her towards the house.) Do not you hear mamma's orders, Bridget?—
Bridget Prim. Miss Ellen, I only—(resisting)
Ellen. There is not a moment to be lost!—Go!
[Pushes her out, R., BRIDGET PRIM puts back her head.
Bridget Prim. (aside.) I'll see the last of them foot prints though, if they lead me to Man Demon's land!
Mrs. Grigson. And now, Nelly, that we are alone, before we start for the castle, I have a word to say to you, about—
Ellen. The old story, I suppose! My cousin Henry.
Mrs. Grigson. No, my dear,—a bran new story. The young gentleman who was here yesterday.
Ellen. Captain Sippet?—
Mrs. Grigson. What!—the lapdog carrying—scene-shifting—eaves' dropping, dirty-dog of all-work to the Countess of Hunsdon?—Quite another sort of person!—(Stifles a laugh.) The son of the Marquis of Plantagenet!—
Ellen. Thank goodness.
Mrs. Grigson. You like Lord Algernon then, my dear?—
Ellen. No, mamma! I was congratulating myself on your having at length deserted the cause of your protégé.
Mrs. Grigson. My what?—
Ellen. Of Henry Grigson!
Mrs. Grigson. Have I! That's all! I promise you, Nelly, that (recollecting herself)—why, as times go, child I really think that with fifty thousand pounds, you might do better.
Ellen. (seizing her hand. ) I might, indeed, mamma,—by uniting myself with one to whom my whole heart—
Mrs. Grigson. What, what, what?—At your poetry stuff again?
Ellen. (aside. ) Alas! I cannot venture to entrust any secret to her! (aloud.) You wish me then, madam, to encourage the attentions of this strange young man?
Mrs. Grigson. Why should you be nicer than your betters? You saw how much your friend, Lady Mary, made of him?
Ellen. I do not see with her eyes, or feel with her heart.
Mrs. Grigson. Her heart indeed! 'Tis my belief, Nelly, that if you were to anatomize half the fine ladies in the land, you would not find as much heart among them as would weigh against a fourpenny piece.
Enter SPRAGGS, R.
Spraggs. Please, mam, measter do want to knaw at what o'clock coach be to be harnished?
Mrs. Grigson. I will be with him in a jiffy! Come, Nelly. Your father will not rest till we are off. And I am dying to see how our dear Lord Algernon is getting on. I suppose they will announce him in their play-bills—"the son of the Marquis of Fitz-Plantagenet,—his first appearance on any stage."
[Exeunt laughing, R.
SCENE II.—Gallery at Hunsdon Castle.
Enter, in front, SIR GEORGE MORDENT and RIVERS, C.
Rivers. Believe me, my dear sir, you mistook the whole purport of my letter.
Sir George Mordent. Likely enough! People write so wondrous well, now-a-days, that it is not always easy to understand their meaning.
Rivers. I told you, I admit, that love was the motive of my eagerness to visit Hunsdon castle. But I never hinted that the object of my attachment was Lady Mary Rivers.
Sir George Mordent. I don't understand hints! People should speak out! The object of my visit to this house, is to ascertain whether my cousin Hunsdon's daughter be a worthy wife for my cousin Rivers's son. The match would suit my projects.
Rivers. (eagerly.) But not mine!
Sir George Mordent. So much the better—for you're cut out. Lady Mary and her stage-struck mamma have lost their hearts, at first sight, to one of the most flagrant specimens of the slang school it was ever my ill-luck to encounter.—But great people are privileged, you know, to have extraordinary animals in their arms—
Rivers. And monsters for supporters!—(laughs.) But tell me, dear sir! How is this wretched mistake to be rectified?—You have announced me, you say, to Lord Hunsdon, as a suitor to his daughter; and he expresses the utmost eagerness for the match?
Sir George Mordent. He would do as much for the Hoppo of Canton, if he were heir to my estates! Hunsdon is miserably out at elbows; and fancies that decay in families, as in teeth, may be stopped by gold!—
Rivers. But I cannot leave him in error as to my intentions; and should he resent my seeming change of mind—
Sir George Mordent. He was too long a member of the cabinet for changes of mind to surprise him!
Rivers. What steps, then, would you advise me to take, sir?
Sir George Mordent. Your carriage steps!—Make the best of your way back to town!—An honest man has no chance against the clap-trap and stage-tricks of this house!
Rivers. But when I tell you that the object of my affections is coming here on a visit,—that she is, perhaps, already in the house,—that I am all anxiety you should become acquainted with my dearest Ellen,—that you should plead my cause with her family,—to whom I am still a stranger?
Sir George Mordent. Are the Hunsdons acquainted with you by sight? (RIVERS makes a sign in the negative. ) No? Then all may be accommodated!—Hunsdon Castle, like most theatrical houses now-a-days, is turned upside down, and the proprietors out of their wits!—You nearly drove me out of mine last year at Mordent Hall, by your piping—
Rivers. I am sorry to hear it!
Sir George Mordent. I can introduce you therefore as a musical protégé—an artist—
Rivers. But, my dear sir—
Sir George Mordent. Or as the suitor of Lady Mary!—Take your choice!—
Rivers. Really, I—
Enter the EARL OF HUNSDON, R.
Earl of Hunsdon. Thank heaven, there is still one room in my house undisturbed by the scene-painters!—Ha! Mordent!
Sir George Mordent. I was looking for you, to solicit your patronage for this young gentleman,—an artist of merit, ambitions to figure in Lady Hunsdon's orchestra.
[RIVERS bows irresolutely.
Earl of Hunsdon. As vocal or instrumental performer?
Sir George Mordent. Whichever your please!—His issue of notes is unlimited as that of Threadneedle-street!
Earl of Hunsdon. And his name is—
Sir George Mordent. His name?—Let me see!—(To RIVERS.) Is your name N. or M.?
Rivers. (embarrassed.) My name is Francis.
Earl of Hunsdon. My wife and daughter, Mr. Francis, will be glad of such an addition to their company—I will not answer for the manager!—Managers are apt to be jealous;—and Sippet fancies himself a man of prodigious taste!
Sir George Mordent. Prodigious indeed!—Plenty of taste,—and as bad as need be.
Earl of Hunsdon. (haughtily to RIVERS, pointed to the back ground.) The servants will show you the way to the music-room, till Lady Hunsdon is at leisure to attend to you.
Rivers. (aside. ) A pleasant situation to find oneself in, among one's nearest relations!—I suppose I shall be sent to dine in the steward's room.
[Retires. Hammering heard without.
Earl of Hunsdon. Those infernal carpenters! (To SIR GEORGE MORDENT.) But a house like this, if desirous to be popular in the county, must go through these miseries!—I suppose you sometimes condemn yourself to a month's hard labour at Mordent Hall, for the benefit of your country neighbours?—
Sir George Mordent. No! I can afford to enjoy their society as friends—for I don't want to convert them into constituents.
Earl of Hunsdon. But, surely, you might amuse even your friends with private theatricals?
Sir George Mordent. By forcing them into extacies at seeing vilely performed, what, when admirably acted in public, they will not condescend to witness?—
Earl of Hunsdon. (piqued.) Lady Mary is considered an incomparable actress!
Sir George Mordent. So I heard Lord Algernon whisper to her just now, as they were rehearsing together in—what do you call your new piece?
Earl of Hunsdon. Faith, I hardly know! But 'tis taken from the French!
Sir George Mordent. Of course!—Formerly we took forts and frigates from the French;—now, fashions and farces!
Earl of Hunsdon. Bravo,—bravissimo! A famous sentiment for the Oldfield hustings.—Come and second me to-morrow in proposing the new candidate.
Sir George Mordent. No. I thank you!—I resigned my seat in parliament, because, after fancying myself in my youth, a staunch Whig, I found myself in my age, always voting with the Tories!
Earl of Hunsdon. No uncommon mistake!
Sir George Mordent. But how did you manage, pray, to extricate the borough of Oldfield out of the hands of the opposition?
Earl of Hunsdon. By soothing round to my interests a once adverse neighbour; and establishing in the heart of the corporation, a perpetual Ædile.
Sir George Mordent. Cogit, the ex-attorney!—(aside)—I guessed as much!
Earl of Hunsdon. My agent—and the best that ever man was blest with!— I don't know how I should get on without Cogit!
Sir George Mordent. So much the worse! People eager to get on, are apt to go too fast! I never yet saw the ruined nobleman that had not been blest with the best agent in the world!—like an oak, drained of its sap by the specious miseltoe flourishing on its withered branches!
Earl of Hunsdon. A most illiberal comparison surely! But you will not put me out of conceit with poor Cogit.
Sir George Mordent. Far be it from me to decry him! I have no doubt he's a rogue of some genius.—But here come the ladies, and their new favourite, Lord Algernon!
[A laugh, R.
Earl of Hunsdon. A charming addition to our party!
Enter the COUNTESS OF HUNSDON, D.R., LADY MARY RIVERS and HENRY, with written parts in their hands.
Henry. (entering theatrically, to LADY MARY RIVERS.) What can I refuse to the most exquisite,—the most beloved of her sex!—(kisses her hand.)
Countess of Hunsdon. Come, come, come!—you are not rehearsing now. You will turn her head, my dear Lord Algernon, by your outrageous compliments.
Henry. I am sure her ladyship has turned mine.
Lady Mary Rivers. Make haste, then and get it right again; for if you put me out in my part by and by I will never forgive you.
The EARL approaches them, and converses familiarly with LADY MARY RIVERS and HENRY.
Countess of Hunsdon. Sir George Mordent, I am come to carry off Lord Hunsdon from you! His Ancient Concert experience will be most useful to us in organizing our orchestra.
Sir George Mordent. I am happy to be able to supply your ladyship with a more valuable auxiliary—(beckons forward RIVERS)—a young musician, of first-rate talent, to whom my friend Hunsdon has promised his patronage.
Countess of Hunsdon. (nods patronizingly. ) Professional, of course?
Sir George Mordent. Accustomed to play the first fiddle.—(aside to RIVERS.)—Eh! Francis? (aloud.)—A capital bow!
Countess of Hunsdon. The very person we were wanting!—Our Hunsdon band is sadly in need of a conductor.
Sir George Mordent. So I should imagine!—
Countess of Hunsdon. We are this moment about to hold a council with our stage manager.—(To RIVERS.)—Follow me, and I will introduce you to Captain Sippet.—(RIVERS bows.)
Sir George Mordent. Will you admit me, also, behind the scenes?
Earl of Hunsdon. Of course!—We all belong to the council of management.
Sir George Mordent. I wish you joy!—Between a theatre and an election you will soon have your hands full and your pockets empty!—Next to possessing the best agent in the world, I know no better prologue to "The Road to Ruin!"
SCENE III.—Behind the scenes of a private theatre.—Green curtain down.—In front, scenes painting and carpenters at work—noise and confusion—LORD BELLAMONT on a ladder painting a scene.—CAPTAIN SIPPET below, giving orders.—The work-people surround him vociferating.
All. Please, sir, we're all a stand still!
Captain Sippet. Go to the devil!
All. Please, sir, we want your instructions!
Captain Sippet. One at a time, if you please!—(they struggle.)
1st Carpenter. Please, sir, how high am I to run up my flies?
2nd Carpenter. I've no more twelve-inch deals.
3rd Carpenter. Please, sir, the clerk of the works has shirked off to Oldfield!
4th Carpenter. Please, sir, I'm non-plussed for want of pullies!—(Hammering.)
Captain Sippet. Are you in league, fellows, to drive me to distraction?
1st Painter. I can't nohow get two windows, sir, into the Louis XIV saloon, sir!
2nd Painter. How many flats, sir, is wanted for the forest?
3rd Painter. Is my door in the cottage, sir, PS. or OP., sir?
Captain Sippet. Which of you am I to answer?—
All. How are we to get on, if we've no instructions?
Captain Sippet. Do you suppose—(sound of trumpets behind the scenes)—Silence that confounded braying!
Servant. It's the gentleman in the hall, sir, rehearsing for the hunting scene!
All. We're waiting for orders!—(surrounding him.)
Property-Man. Is there a sofa wanted, sir, with the blue chairs, for the red drawing-room?
Captain Sippet. —(stunned)—What the deuce does the man say?
Property-Man. I asked, sir, if you wanted a sofa for the red drawing-room?
Captain Sippet. Two sofas!—two!
Property-Man. And if you could give me an idea of the banquet scene, sir?
All. But, sir!—sir!—
Captain Sippet. An idea!—I have not one left that is not topsy-turvy!—I wonder whether there is such a thing as a manager's ward in any of the lunatic asylums?
Lord Bellamont. (from the ladder.) Bravo, old fellow!—Encore, Encore!
Captain Sippet. (looking up.) Silence! What on earth are you at up there, Bell?
Lord Bellamont. (painting.) Adding a few Claude Lorrain-touches to this rosy sunset!
Captain Sippet. Making even the canvas blush for you, eh?—
Lord Bellamont. (painting.) There's freedom of touch;—there's a bold stroke for a Cartoon!—I'll adopt that line of business!—It's coming up, they say!—
Captain Sippet. I wish you would come down, you will spoil the scene.
Lord Bellamont. I wish you would come down from your high horse, or you will spoil the fun.
All. Sir, we're still waiting for orders. (LORD BELLAMONT descends.)
Captain Sippet. (To PROPERTY-MAN.) You, sir, have your properties ready for my inspection in half an hour. (To painters. ) The fisherman's hut is to be thrown over, and we must re-furnish the Louis XIV saloon. As to—
Enter several DRESSERS, with Costumes.
1st Dresser. Sir, we haven't a minute to lose with the costumes! The courtiers are still only basted—
2nd Dresser. And, please, sir, I'm neither here nor there with the liveries. (They surround him with dresses.)
[Hammering and trumpets.
All. Sir, we're still waiting for orders.
Lord Bellamont. Ha! ha! ha! ha! Bravo! bravo! (Applauds violently. ) "End of act I." Bravo!—
Enter the EARL and COUNTESS OF HUNSDON, SIR GEORGE MORDENT and RIVERS, HENRY and LADY MARY RIVERS. Noise ceases. LORD BELLAMONT meets them, with a dress on each arm, R.
Lord Bellamont. Just in time, mother, to settle about trimming our jackets.—
Countess of Hunsdon. (indignantly. ) Have you got on no further than this?—You are terribly behind hand!—
All. My lady, we've been waiting for orders!
Lord Bellamont. Mutiny in the camp, Mr. Manager!
Countess of Hunsdon. Captain Sippet, I relied entirely upon you.
Henry. (insolently.) Yes: we relied implicitly upon you!
Captain Sippet. Really, Lord Algernon, I—
Countess of Hunsdon. Nothing has been done since yesterday.
Henry. (insolently.) Nothing since yesterday!—
Captain Sippet. Upon my soul, Lord Algernon, I—
Henry. You don't understand your business, my dear sir, understand that!—Better go and try a forty-third touch at the pheasants, at Alnwick Castle.
Captain Sippet. (furious. ) Oh! I dont understand my business, don't I?—
Lord Bellamont. There does not seem a very good understanding between you!
Lady Mary Rivers. (bringing forward her dress. ) How do you like my new dress, dear Lord Algernon?
Henry. New dress!—The most abominable thing I ever saw in my life.
Countess of Hunsdon. Captain Sippet! how could you let them make up anything so odious?
Captain Sippet. I assure your ladyship, it is perfectly correct.
Lord Bellamont. What! when you hear Lord Algernon say 'tis the most abominable thing he ever saw in his life?
Earl of Hunsdon. I have sent those poor fellows off to dinner, Lady Hunsdon!—They have been at work since daybreak! (pathetically. ) We must have some consideration for the lower classes.
Sir George Mordent. Especially on the eve of an election!—Clap-trap!
Earl of Hunsdon. Should these worthy men fancy themselves ill-used under my roof—
Sir George Mordent. The poor devils might "Waft a growl from Hunsdon to the poll!" Clap-trap.
Countess of Hunsdon. Really all this mis-management alarms me!—
Henry. The thing will be a dead failure!—
Lord Bellamont. (to CAPTAIN SIPPET.) Do you hear THAT, old fellow?—Lord Algernon is going to overturn your stage!
Captain Sippet. Just as his lordship—that is, just as Lady Hunsdon pleases. (aside.) Insolent blockhead.
Countess of Hunsdon. At all events, my dear Lord Algernon, pray undertake the musical department.—I put the orchestra entirely into your hands—Here, you! Mr. Francis!—Where is Mr. Francis.
Sir George Mordent. (pushes forward RIVERS.) Don't you hear yourself called?
Countess of Hunsdon. You will have the goodness, sir, implicitly to obey the instructions of this gentleman, Lord Algernon Fitz-Urse.
Henry. (insolently. ) Yes!—you will please to obey my instructions and—
Enter Servants, preceding MR. and MRS. GRIGSON and ELLEN. The EARL and COUNTESS OF HUNSDON receive them. LADY MARY RIVERS takes ELLEN's hand.
Jeremy Grigson. We have hastened to comply with your ladyship's wishes. (Bows obsequiously.)
Earl of Hunsdon. My dear GRIGSON—my excellent FRIEND Grigson.
Jeremy Grigson. (aside.) His friend Grigson!—and before the face of the son of the Marquis of Plantagenet.
Lady Mary Rivers. (giving a paper to ELLEN.) Here is your part, my dear Ellen—two lengths.—You will learn it before the rehearsal begins.
Ellen. (opening it.) But it contains a song?—
Lady Mary Rivers. You can skip it, if you like. But we have a professional man here—(a chorus singer, or something of that kind)—who will run it over for you in the music-room—(beckons RIVERS)—Here, sir! Be so obliging as to hum over this song for the young lady.
Ellen. This—a chorus singer?—(both embarrassed.)
Mrs. Grigson. (looking round. ) Well, if ever!—For a lord's castle, I never saw anything look more like Sadler's Wells!
Countess of Hunsdon. Our friends, my dear Mrs. Grigson, are assembled in the drawing-room. Give me leave to show you the way.—(movement.)
PROPERTY-MAN enters with a basket of properties.
Sir George Mordent. (aside, shrugging his shoulders, going.) Comedians!—all comedians,—and sorry ones of their kind!—Luckily, their plot is susceptible of a counterplot:
And ere their curtain falls, as matters go,
The SEEMING dupes may give them QUID PRO QUO.
END OF ACT III.
SCENE I.—Gallery at Hunsdon Castle. LADY MARY RIVERS and ELLEN, as if rehearsing.
Lady Mary Rivers. Brava—bravissima, my dear! You are better up in your part than any of us! As to the song, suppose we send for the new leader to accompany you?—He seems a decentish sort of person.
Ellen. (embarrassed.) If free from interruption, why not try it in the music-room?
Lady Mary Rivers. With all my heart!—(looks out. ) But here comes Sir George,
Enter SIR GEORGE MORDENT, L.
in time to plead the cause of his protégé! Ellen will not hear of his assistance in our rehearsals.
Sir George Mordent. (watching ELLEN.) Indeed!
Lady Mary Rivers. She has no great opinion of your recommendation, or his abilities.
Sir George Mordent. Or, perhaps, estimating them too highly, your fair friend fears his criticism?—
Ellen. (embarrased.) I have no doubt, sir, that Mr. Francis is—
Lady Mary Rivers. A very tolerable scraper,—who will never set the philharmonic into ecstacies,—or the Thames on fire!
Sir George Mordent. (aside. ) Poor Frank!—(Aloud)—Yet I promise you, he is of a somewhat fiery temperament. For I left him, just now, in the green-room, fighting a hard battle with Lord Algernon;—and his notes be only half as high as their words—
Ellen. (eagerly.) A quarrel with Lord Algernon?
Sir George Mordent. I dare say it will end without bloodshed.
Ellen. Bloodshed!—Oh! sir, return,—I beseech—I entreat of you, return!
Sir George Mordent. (aside.) No clap-trap here. She loves him!
Ellen. They may proceed to some fatal extremity!
Lady Mary Rivers. Now, my dear Ellen! As if our friend, Lord Algernon, would risk his life against a poor musician!
Ellen. The musician, if a man of spirit, may compel him!
Sir George Mordent. (aside. ) A girl of sense and feeling!—
Ellen. If left together, the dispute may be renewed. You are said to be kind and generous; show it, dear sir, by exercising your authority over Mr. Francis!
Sir George Mordent. Nay,—since you are so anxious, I will fetch him hither to receive your orders. (aside.) Amid all their artifice and stage-trick, 'tis some comfort to discover a trace of feelings that are genuine!
Lady Mary Rivers. And since we have managed to rid of him, now for the song!
Ellen. (agitated.) The song? Dearest Lady Mary, I am so ill,—so nervous—
Servants. (without.) I tell you the young ladies musn't be interrupted.
Bridget Prim. (without.) Fellow, I know my duty!
Lady Mary Rivers. Who have we here?
Enter BRIDGET PRIM, rushing past the Servant, with a costume on her arm, L.
Ellen. Bridget?—Retire, I beg of you!
Bridget Prim. Miss Ellen, mem,—
Ellen. I will speak to you in my own room.
Lady Mary Rivers. (coming down.) No, no, no!—I will not have her sent away. This is my business as well as yours. 'Tis your dress for to-night!
Bridget Prim. Dress, my lady?—Does your ladyship call this a dress? Where's the rest of it?—Mother Eve would have blushed to appear in it!—Petticoat half-a-yard long!—Excuse me, my lady!—I've been deckorously brought up, and I have my scruples.
Lady Mary Rivers. Ha! ha! ha!—This woman is a perfect treat! Why, 'tis a Spanish costume!—Go and consult the manager; you will find it quite correct.
Bridget Prim. The manager, my lady?—Consult one of the masculine gender about the length of a petticoat?—No, my lady!— I have my scruples!
Lady Mary Rivers. Ha! ha! ha!
Enter CAPTAIN SIPPET and RIVERS.
—Come and answer for yourself, Captain Sippet! Here are sad complaints of the impropriety of Donna Floranthe's costume! How say you?—Guilty, or not guilty?
Captain Sippet. (sullenly.) Your ladyship must apply to Lord Algernon Fitz-Urse. I have no further voice in the matter.—I am a cipher—a dumbmy.
Lady Mary Rivers. Superseded in your office of manager, in favour of Lord Algernon? Then, pray, Mr. Francis, run and tell him I must speak to him immediately!
Rivers. (irresolute.) Fetch Lord Algernon hither?
Lady Mary Rivers. Tell him I want him to help me in relieving the scruples of an over deckorous lady of the bed-chamber.
Ellen. (eagerly.) Dear Lady Mary!—You cannot be in earnest!—(aside.)—Pray, pray, do not bring them together!
Lady Mary Rivers. And why not, pray?
Ellen. I am enchanted with my dress!—It is perfect.—I would not have it altered for the world!
Bridget Prim. Miss Ellen, mem,—I—(interposing,)
Ellen. I entreat you not to send for Lord Algernon!
Bridget Prim. My lady,—I—(interposing,)
Lady Mary Rivers. Nay!—since you are so afraid of interrupting his managerial duties, let us go and consult him on the stage.
Bridget Prim. My lady—
Lady Mary Rivers. Follow us!
Bridget Prim. Does your ladyship mean me to go on the stage?—Allow me to say, that I have been deckorously brought up—
Lady Mary Rivers. And, I suppose, you have your scruples?—(laughs.)—Do not be alarmed! Our theatre is the most deckorously managed of any now extant. Allons!
[Exeunt LADY MARY RIVERS and ELLEN.
Bridget Prim (aside, going.) If yonder's not the young gentleman who printed the length of his foot in our gravel-walks, my name's not Bridget Prim!—So much for the quiet little lamb! But I'll keep my eye upon him!—Coming, my lady, coming!
MANENT RIVERS and SIPPET, both furious.
Rivers. Not even a glance of recognition!—Going in pursuit of Lord Algernon, before my very face!—
Captain Sippet. Consult an animal like that, on the matters of taste?—
Rivers. I, that followed her from Brighton, at her express desire.
Captain Sippet. I, that have worked like a galley-slave at their cursed theatricals.
Rivers. I might have spent a happy autumn at Mordent Hall.
Captain Sippet. I refused a pressing invitation from the Duchess of Drumstick.
[Both gradually draw near each other, and talk together till they meet.
Rivers. As to that insolent Lord Algernon—
Captain Sippet. The most disgusting brute on earth!
Captain Sippet. I beg your pardon.
Rivers. I spoke of the new manager, sir.
Captain Sippet. (shaking hands.) Sir! You are a sensible man, I see you understand something of theatricals. Delighted to make your acquaintance. We are agreed, I find, that this fellow knows no more of management than my cab horse.
Enter LORD BELLAMONT, laughing immoderately.
What the deuce has happened!
Lord Bellamont. The most capital fun!
Captain Sippet. What amuses you, Bell!
Lord Bellamont. There is an imposter in the house!
Captain Sippet. An imposter?—
Lord Bellamont. A fellow come under a feigned name to take part in our private theatricals.
Captain Sippet. You don't say so!
Lord Bellamont. I have set Cogit to follow up his track, and if my suspicions prove true, let the fellow look to himself.
Captain Sippet. But how and where did you detect him?
Lord Bellamont. Don't you remember that, when you first introduced him to me at the Hunsdon Arms, you—
Captain Sippet. (overjoyed.) What the deuce?—You don't mean that 'tis the new manager!
Rivers. Lord Algernon Fitz-Urse?
Captain Sippet. The son of Marquis of Plantagenet?
Lord Bellamont. No more son to the Marquis of Plantagenet than my friend Tweedledum, here—(slaps RIVERS on the back)—is son to Donizetti!
Captain Sippet. Did not I tell you, from the first, I had my suspicions?
Lord Bellamont. Not you—or I never should have mistrusted the fellow!
Captain Sippet. But how came you to surmise—
Lord Bellamont. I heard with my ears! Seeing's not believing,—but hearing is. While Mary and her pretty friend were consulting him, just now, about the dresses, I heard the old mother whisper to him—"Harry, Harry!—you are almost as great a goose as your uncle!"—Now, Lord Algernon Fitz-Urse may be a goose!—but, hang me, if he answers to the name of "Harry!"
Rivers. (aside.) The hateful cousin, Henry Grigson, in disguise!—
Captain Sippet. I was certain he announced himself in the railroad as nephew to Hollyhock Lodge! (To RIVERS.) Don't you hate and abominate such imposition?
Lord Bellamont. I've employed Cogit to ascertain, through the servants, whether the fellow's clothes are branded with the mark of "H. G.;"—and if so, woe betide him!—
Captain Sippet. If one could only ascertain it before the play!
Rivers. (aside.) If I could only force him to quit the field!
Enter COGIT, L.
Lord Bellamont. Well! old pounce-and-parchment! What news? Patrician or plebeian?—
Cogit. I lament to say, my lord, that, with the most zealous desire to serve the cause of truth—(bows)—and your lordship, the mysteries of the young gentleman's portmanteau defy my penetration!
Lord Bellamont. Bramah's lock—eh?—Lord Algernon, (alias the lord knows who,) seems up to trap!
Captain Sippet and Rivers. Provoking!
Cogit. But, with your lordship's sanction, I will send up my clerk to town, by the early train, to ascertain at the Admiralty whether Lord Algernon Fitz-Urse or Lieutenant Grigson, be absent from H. M. S. the Artaxerxes.
Lord Bellamont. (slapping him on the back.) You're a brick!—But even the fast train's too slow when there's fun in the wind! Sippet, my boy, let us have a shy at the fellow, in our own way?
Captain Sippet. A moment! My dramatic experience suggests a counterplot! What if we spread a report in the castle that Lord Algernon has returned home from India, after mortally wounding a gallant brother officer in a duel?—Under such an aspersion, take my word for it, the ass will throw off his lion's skin!
Lord Bellamont. Absconded from a coroner's verdict, eh?—The very thing!
Cogit. If I may be pardoned, my lord, for expressing an opinion, I doubt whether the earl, my noble patron, would sanction, just now, any measure tending to provoke reprisals on the part of Mr. Grigson, of Oldfield.
Lord Bellamont. Oldfield be—ahem!—What's the election to me?—Sippet! I'm your man! We'll spring the mine to-night at the rehearsal.
Captain Sippet. "The play—the play's the thing!"—Come along, and let us see the manager's last kick!—his last appearance upon any stage!
[Takes LORD BELLAMONT's arm.
Lord Bellamont. (going to RIVERS.) Here, you—Signor Six Octave!—What's your name?—An't you of the party?
Rivers. (starting.) My lord?
Captain Sippet. Never mind him—his head is full of crotchets.
Lord Bellamont. No; by Jove! he's paid to accompany us.—(To RIVERS.)—So, con spirito! Mr. Leader!—(dragging him)—March! and in double quick time.
[Exeunt laughing LORD BELLAMONT, CAPTAIN SIPPET, and RIVERS.
Cogit. Here is a discovery!—Here is an unexpected stroke of fortune! If I can only manage to disgust the earl with old Grigson, and detain him to-morrow from the town-hall—(no matter by what means)—I might still carry my point. Once in parliament, the wheel of fortune would run with a patent axle.—Parliament is the first step of the ladder, reaching from the mire to the throne!—(pauses.)—It shall be done! The earl has furnished me with the means of marring his projects; and my chairing may yet damp the spirits of "mine host of the garter!"
SCENE II.—Theatre at Hunsdon Castle—Green curtain and foot-lights.—Ranged on one side, BRIDGET PRIM, SPRAGGS, and Servants; arm chairs vacant on the other.—
Enter the EARL and COUNTESS OF HUNSDON, MR. and MRS. GRIGSON, SIR GEORGE MORDENT, HENRY, CAPTAIN SIPPET, and guests.
Mrs. Grigson. (entering.) Well, I declare! If one had only to pay at the doors, one might fancy oneself in a playhouse!
Jeremy Grigson. (aside.) Mrs. G.!
Mrs. Grigson. (to SIR GEORGE MORDENT.) Could not you fancy, sir, you smelt orange-peel, and heard "Buy a bill of the play?"
Sir George Mordent. Permit me, madam, to officiate as box-keeper, and conduct you to a place.—(All sit.)
Mrs. Grigson. (sitting down.) I am in such a fluster as never was, to think of my Nelly turning up her pipes before all these fine folks!
Earl of Hunsdon. My dear Grigson! I trust you have a comfortable seat?
Jeremy Grigson. (half rising.) Any seat secured to me by your lordship—(pardon the little allusion)—is most gratifying to my feelings!
Mrs. Grigson. Well! to be sure, how real it does sound!
Countess of Hunsdon. (rising and looking round.) I fancy we are all ready?—But where is dear Lord Algernon?
Captain Sippet. Officiating as prompter behind the scenes.
Countess of Hunsdon. No, no, no!—I must have him in front to-night, or he will never be able to judge the effects!—Anybody will do for prompter. Here, Sippet!—there's a good soul!—do you go and prompt them!
Captain Sippet. (coughing. ) I've a most severe cold.—I foresee a terrible influenza.—Your ladyship must excuse me! Though I've eaten a box of Stolberg's lozenges since dinner, I'm as hoarse as a raven!—(coughs.)
Sir George Mordent. Allow me to supply his place.
Earl of Hunsdon. You, my dear Mordent?—Not for worlds!
Sir George Mordent. (going) Lady Mary has rehearsed to me till I am up in every cue. When Lord Algernon comes round, let him give the signal to the orchestra.—(aside, going)—To get at the secrets of any house, the best place is behind the scenes.
Mrs. Grigson. If there are not our folks among the servants! (Calls.) Bridget! got a good place, Bridget?—You will see Miss Ellen, bye and bye, Bridget!—
Bridget Prim. Of course, mem. (Aside. ) Was ever conduct so indeckorous?
Captain Sippet. (drawing the Earl to the front. ) I entreat your lordship's pardon. I could not have commanded my feelings, my dear lord, to act as prompter! The astounding—the afflicting news that has just arrived—
Earl of Hunsdon. From Oldfield?—
Captain Sippet. From Madras!
Earl of Hunsdon. (relieved.) I have no interest, sir, in India.
Captain Sippet. That is—not since HE—absconded.
Earl of Hunsdon. Absconded! Of whom are you talking?
Captain Sippet. The unfortunate Lord Algernon Fitz-Urse! To-morrow's Times will doubtless contain an extract from the Hurkaru! It arrived at the India House by the Overland Mail! (Sighs.) Eleven days from the Red Sea!
Earl of Hunsdon. What arrived by the Overland Mail?
Captain Sippet. The verdict—WILFUL MURDER!—Quite right!—They cannot do too much to put down the barbarous practice of duelling!
Earl of Hunsdon. Do you mean to say that—
Captain Sippet. The victim was one of the most promising officers in Her Majesty's service!—
Enter HENRY; the COUNTESS OF HUNSDON makes room.
Countess of Hunsdon. Stand aside, there, pray! This way, my dear Lord Algernon, I have kept a chair for you by my side.
Henry. Letter H.! Front row!
Countess of Hunsdon. Have you been able to reduce the chaos of our green-room to something like order?
Henry. Why, thanks to the manager's blunders, the Spanish is still in arrear. The young peer, like the Hungerford, is waiting for a finishing touch.
Earl of Hunsdon. (aside to CAPTAIN SIPPET.) But he surely cannot be apprised that—
Captain Sippet. Hush, hush!—the piece is going to begin!
Earl of Hunsdon. Nay, but I must insist that—
Captain Sippet. Order, order! my dear lord. (Very loud.) SILENCE!
Mrs. Grigson. Now, mind you all applaud when the curtain draws up!—It puts the performers into heart. (A laugh.)
[Short overture—bell rings—curtain draws up—applause.
SCENE.—A gaudy Dressing-room. LADY MARY RIVERS (as the Duchess of Segovia) at her toilet. ELLEN (as Donna Floranthe) in front.
Lady Mary Rivers. (with affected enunciation.) "I own, my charming Floranthe, I am all amazement at your courage? How, my dear?—After escaping from your convent, you have actually traversed the enemy's lines, in order to throw yourself into the arms of your guardian, the Duke of Segovia?"
Mrs. Grigson. Now for Nelly!
Ellen. (very low.) "Even so, my dear duchess."
Mrs. Grigson. (loud.) Speak up, my dear!—Louder!—
Captain Sippet. (loud.) SILENCE!
Ellen. "Even so, my dear duchess! My only hope is in your kindness and protection!"
Lady Mary Rivers. "Rely upon my friendship"—
Mrs. Grigson. Turn you face this way, my dear!
Ellen. "I do, I do! My confidence in you has enabled me to support with patience the unexampled perils and inexpressible anguish of my miserable lot."
Mrs. Grigson. (rising.) Mr. G.!—Where's G.?—Don't she do it beautiful?
Lady Mary Rivers. "Believe me, my ever lovely friend."—
Enter LORD BELLAMONT, as a Page (applause.)
Lord Bellamont. (on one knee, awkwardly.) "A letter from the king."
Lady Mary Rivers. (starts affectedly.) "From the king."
Lord Bellamont. (rising.) "Ha! Whom do my eyes behold? It must—it must be the amiable Donna—Donna Floranthe—di—di"
Sir George Mordent. (behind, as prompter.) "Donna Floranthe di Villa Franca"—
Lord Bellamont. "Ay! that's it! Donna Floranthe di Villa Franca."
Lady Mary Rivers. "These cruel tidings cut me to the soul!—My sweet Floranthe, I beseech you to take your lute, and let its dulcet notes dissipate the cares of your unhappy friend! (To the Page.) For you! return to your royal master, and tell him, whatever the issue of this unjust and cruel war, the Duchess of Segovia will remain true to the faith of her ancestors!"
[Music, while ELLEN fetches the lute.
Enter Servant, and whispers to CAPTAIN SIPPET and the EARL.
Earl of Hunsdon. God bless my soul!—But let them at least wait till the close of the performance.
Servant. My lord, they say the warrant admits of no delay.
Earl of Hunsdon. Was there ever anything so annoying?—A warrant, by a special train, for the apprehension of poor Lord Algernon!
Captain Sippet. His apprehension? (Aside.) I like a joke as well as anybody! But really, upon my soul, this is carrying the joke too far! This must be old Cogit's doing!
Earl of Hunsdon. Conceive the scandal such an arrest will produce in the county,—and on the eve of the election!
Re-enter Servant, with Officers, who remain at the door.
(To Sip.) For heaven's sake, go and stop the performance!
[Exit CAPTAIN SIPPET.
(To Servant.) Desire the establishment to withdraw.
[Music ceases—curtain descends.
Mrs. Grigson. Hillo!—what are you about?—don't let down the curtain. Nelly is going to give us a song.
This is too bad! Why she sings it like a little nightingale.
Earl of Hunsdon. Madam! I must request your indulgence!
[All rise. Confusion.
Earl of Hunsdon. (to HENRY.) My dear young friend. It is my painful duty to apprise you, that the officers of justice are in the house.
Henry. The officers of justice?—In what I have done, surely there is nothing criminal? I meant it for a lark.
Earl of Hunsdon. A lark, my lord?
[Shakes his head, gravely.
Henry. I'm not the first who has made use of another man's name.
Earl of Hunsdon. Another man's name? What! forgery as well as murder?—My lord, I feel for you. But it is not for an ex-minister of the crown to oppose any obstacle to the execution of the laws of the realm.
[Beckons Officers, who advance.
Re-enter CAPTAIN SIPPET.
Mrs. Grigson. (whimpering.) Lord, lord!—what are they a going to do to our Harry.
Captain Sippet. (aside to MRS. GRIGSON.) Clap him into Newgate, ma'am, as a reward for his bad management.
Mrs. Grigson. (screams.) Newgate? (Calls JEREMY GRIGSON.)—Where's G!—You won't let them carry off to prison your poor unfortunate nephew?
Jeremy Grigson. My nephew?
Mrs. Grigson. He is no more Lord Algernon anything, than he is Lord Mayor of London!—Tis only Harry Grigson!
Jeremy Grigson. Mrs. G.,—you are a wag.
Mrs. Grigson. You are an unnatural uncle,—that's what you are.
Jeremy Grigson. Do not embroil me, pray, with my noble patron, by advancing such accursed absurdity.
Earl of Hunsdon. Madam!—this subterfuge arises from an impulse of humanity that does you honour—but it is useless.
Henry. But, when I swear to you, my lord, on the honour of a British sailor—
Earl of Hunsdon. Young man—young man!—profane not that glorious name, by enlisting it in the cause of deception.
Countess of Hunsdon. (pathetically.) Be not too hard upon him, my dear lord. (Aside, familiarly.) Remember, his elder brother is in a decline!
[Officers take him.
Henry. But I'll be hanged if I submit to this!
Captain Sippet. Hanged, whether or no,—like George Barnwell!
Henry. The whole thing is a hoax,—a joke,—an imposition!
Captain Sippet. My lord, my lord!—At this awful moment, recollect yourself!—Be composed!—
Mrs. Grigson. (roars.) Oh dear—oh dear—oh! dear!
Countess of Hunsdon. The poor Marchioness of Plantagenet!
[Sinks fainting into a chair.
Henry. I vow to heaven, I—
Earl of Hunsdon. Officers! Remove your prisoner!
END OF ACT IV.
SCENE I.—Hall at Hunsdon Castle, opening in the centre to the park.
CHARLES crosses, BRIDGET follows with a letter.
Charles. It's no mortal use, I tell you! You're the most owdacious woman ever entered this house,—and that's no trifle to say of you!
Bridget Prim. (coaxing.) Just for five minutes!
Charles. Not a jiffy! I'd plague enough with your imperence in the music-room, yesterday.
Bridget Prim. But, dear Mr. Charles—
Charles. Don't Mr. Charles me! Mind your distance, and I'll mind my dooty!
Bridget Prim. (stops him.) I respect your scruples, for I was deckorously brought up! But if you could convey this bit of a note to my Lord Algernon—
Charles. I'm not going to lose my place by meddling in what don't consarn me,—as my lord lost his!
Bridget Prim. Look!—'tis so small 'tis not worth speaking of.—Come! act like a good Samaritan, and put half-a-crown in your pocket!
Charles. Half-a-crown, indeed? I might have had a five pound note from our young lady, for the self-same job! But how was I to manage it? The justice-room door's locked, and the key in Sir George Mordent's pocket!
Bridget Prim. (changing her tone.) Why couldn't you say so at first, stupid blockhead?—and not keep me losing my time!
Charles. (going.) Well, Mrs. Griffin, I must say, if you was deckorously brought up, you've taken French leave of your manners!
Bridget Prim. Umph! Not a chance, then, of the suv'reign promised me by missus! I've a mind to turn Queen's evidence, and see what's to be got by delivering the letter to master! From the first, I'd my scruples about carrying billet doux for a lady of her years and dimensions; and why shouldn't he be an Othello as well as she a Desdemonia?—But here he comes.
Enter JEREMY GRIGSON with his hat, as if going out.
Jeremy Grigson. The whole castle is at sixes and sevens;—not a bell answered,—not a servant in the way! Mrs. G. as sulky as a bear,—Nelly whimpering in her own room!
[going, BRIDGET stops him.
Bridget Prim. With your permission, sir,—
Jeremy Grigson. Get out of the way!—
Bridget Prim. I wish to—
Jeremy Grigson. Don't you see I'm in a hurry?—Lord Hunsdon, who was off to town by the early train, promised to be back at twelve, to meet me at Oldfield,—and I am going to order the carriage.
Bridget Prim. If you value your honour, sir, quit not the castle! (Takes out her handkerchief.) Oh! sir!—
Jeremy Grigson. Here's another of them beginning to whimper!
Bridget Prim. That I should behold so good a master wronged in such a pint.
Jeremy Grigson. Wronged? Hey day! (Aside.) May be she has some inkling about the election?
Bridget Prim. (giving the letter.) Read, sir,—and, if you can, forgive.
Jeremy Grigson. A letter for me? From my lord, I suppose! Why couldn't you give it me at first? (Reads.) "Keep up your spirits!" So I do! "We shall jockey them at last." Hurrah! "In half an hour the poor dupe will be off to the town hall." Hallo? "And then, I will hasten to you, and devise means of setting you at liberty; Your own, D. G." that is, "Dorothy Grigson." My wife's D. and G., as I am a christian man! (Looks at the address.) And addressed "to the Lord Algernon Fitz-Urse."—That I should not have recognised the hand-writing I have reverenced so long in my family recipe book! His own D. G. A woman born Anno Domini seventeen hundred and —No matter! She must be in her dotage!—This then was her iniquitous motive for trying to pass off the young lord as my nephew?—And I fancied it zeal to make a lady of her daughter!—Oh! woman, woman! (Sees BRIDGET crying.) And you, too, crocodile! (seizes her) with all your scruples, you must needs be carrying love-letters for your misguided old missus! (Shakes her.) Answer me!—How long has this affair been going on?
Bridget Prim. Goodness, gracious, sur,—If I'd ha' thought you'd ha' took it in this light—
Jeremy Grigson. Light, woman? Darkness, utter darkness. My faithful partner of Gracechurch Street;—the fond companion of my annual trips to Margate;—she, whom I cherished in my bosom, as an ornament to the name of Grigson.
Bridget Prim. (roars.) Oh! sir!
Jeremy Grigson. I shall never get over it. Let the House o' Commons go to the devil!—Farewell the corporation—the hustings—the returning officer!—Farewell the Oldfield band and National anthem.—Farewell the banners and cockades, and the cries of "Grigson for ever!"
Bridget Prim. (aside.) Jeremiah's occupation's gone!
Jeremy Grigson. Root and branch, the honour of my house has departed!
Bridget Prim. Some mischievous knave then has acquainted you with the affair between Miss Ellen and the young musician? The young man she used to meet on the sly, sir, in the gardens at Hollyhock Lodge, and who is now fiddling here in the orchestra.
Jeremy Grigson. My daughter too?—My daughter?—
Bridget Prim. Restrain your feelings, sir. Here's some of the Castle company. Retire, retire!
[Draws him back.
Enter CAPTAIN SIPPET, SIR GEORGE MORDENT, and LORD BELLAMONT.
Sir George Mordent. Impossible!—quite impossible! I officiate as janitor during Lord Hunsdon's absence; and not a soul must obtain access to the prisoner. I expect him every moment. He is gone to ascertain at the Admiralty whether this affair be not an impertinent hoax.—(showing a key)—Here are my credentials; and not a human being shall enter the justice-room.
Jeremy Grigson. (bursting from BRIDGET, and rushing forward.) Stick to that, sir,—stick to it, if you would preserve a respectable family from destruction!
Sir George Mordent. You are beginning, then, to sympathize with the distress of your nephew?
Jeremy Grigson. No more my nephew than the Pope's!
Lord Bellamont. Come, come, old Wirewove! Don't disown your own flesh and blood.
Jeremy Grigson. My flesh and blood?
Captain Sippet. A nephew, as like you as two quires of Bath post!
Jeremy Grigson. I tell you the only nephew I have to call my own, is cruising off the island of Loo Tchoo!
Lord Bellamont. And I tell you he is kicking his heels in the justice-room!
Jeremy Grigson. I would pay five thousand pounds on the counter, and ask no discount, to any nobleman or gentleman who could prove as much.
Sir George Mordent. (aside.) That sounds like earnest? No clap-trap in that!
Lord Bellamont. (To CAPTAIN SIPPET.) If it should prove the real Lord Algernon after all!—what a couple of spoons we should look!
Captain Sippet. (To LORD BELLAMONT.) I give it up!—The affair is getting as confused and complicated as an act of parliament!
Jeremy Grigson. (To SIR GEORGE MORDENT.) You are his jailor, sir, and to you I am ready to make oath, that he is not only Lord Algernon Fitz-Urse, but deserves to be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law!—Hanging's too good for him!—"I'd have him twenty years a-killing!"
Sir George Mordent. Here's a revolution! Hollyhock Lodge declare war against the aristocracy of the realm?—
Lord Bellamont. Jeremy Grigson vote for hanging a lord?—Ha! ha! ha!
Jeremy Grigson. May I never set eyes on one again!—unless it be the Lord Mayor. So long as I've breath in my body, I'll—
Sir George Mordent. Come, come! You are excited, my dear sir—you are excited! (Aside to GRIGSON, going.) Let the Earl himself be made answerable for the mischiefs fostered by his folly.
[Leads off GRIGSON, soothing him. Aside, going.
—Yonder foolish boy is beneath your notice.
Lord Bellamont. I say, old fellow, here is a pretty go!
Captain Sippet. I tell you what, Bell! matters are beginning to look screwy! I have a mind to be off to the Duchess of Drumstick's, before your father comes back.
Lord Bellamont. You are beginning to flinch, eh? about your forged warrant?
Captain Sippet. (returns.) Mine? What do you mean? I had no hand in the arrest.
Lord Bellamont. Come, come! If old Cogit signed, sealed, and delivered the writ, 'tis my belief that you wrote every line of it.
Captain Sippet. No more than I wrote Coningsby!—
Lord Bellamont. Then, egad there is a deeper plot afoot than we knew of! For the arrest was all Greek to me, and I need not tell you that Greek is neither here nor there!
[Touching his heart and head.
Captain Sippet. I would advise you to say as much to Lord Hunsdon!—For my part, I'm off like a Congreve.
Lord Bellamont. Not you, by Jupiter, till you have owned the chicks of your hatching! or that crabbed cousin of mine will be for pulling me up, and suggesting retribution to the governor.
Captain Sippet. Better mend the morals of his protégé yonder, Francis the First, whom I left pouring his demi-semiquavers con amore, into the ears of old Grigson's pretty heiress, in the library.
Lord Bellamont. If I can only catch him in the fact, I will favour Professor Mordent with a touch of lex talionis.—Have at him!
Captain Sippet. Hush! less noise, or you will frighten the fox from the covert.
Enter ELLEN and RIVERS.
Ellen. Never, never shall I forgive myself for having deceived my parents!—And now that their suspicions are roused—
Rivers. Dear Ellen, what makes you thus anxious?
Enter LORD BELLAMONT, behind, listening.
Lord Bellamont. So! here they are.
Rivers. Had not Mordent insisted upon introducing me into the castle, under a feigned name.—
Lord Bellamont. (aside.) The deuce he did!
Rivers. These perplexities would have been spared us! But, I will now throw myself on the indulgence of the family.
Lord Bellamont. (aside.) Give me leave to spare you the trouble. The mountain shall come to Mahomet.
Ellen. The terrible discovery concerning Lord Algernon having disgusted my father and mother with their projects,—
Rivers. I am not without hope, dearest, of obtaining their consent to our union!
[Throws his arm around her waist.
Re-enter LORD BELLAMONT, bringing MR. and MRS. GRIGSON, the COUNTESS OF HUNSDON and LADY MARY RIVERS. CAPTAIN SIPPET and SIR GEORGE MORDENT following.
Cheer up, therefore!
Mrs. Grigson. (bursts forward and parts them.) Nelly!
Jeremy Grigson. Get into parliament?—Rather into Hanwell for the rest of my days!
Enter the EARL OF HUNSDON. Servants following.
Countess of Hunsdon. (meeting the EARL.) At last! Welcome, welcome! (Aside.) Is all right?
Earl of Hunsdon. (aside.) One moment. (Aloud.) Let me first inquire of my worthy friend Grigson, the state of the poll?
Jeremy Grigson. (whining.) My lord!
Earl of Hunsdon. Unable to return in time, I furnished Cogit with a note to the mayor and corporation, in your favour.
Mrs. Grigson. Is this a time, pray, to bother folks with electioneering rubbish?—My daughter!
Jeremy Grigson. My fifty thousand pounds!—
Earl of Hunsdon. What has happened to them?
Jeremy Grigson. Fallen the prey of an adventurer!
Mrs. Grigson. A fellow with an alias to his name!
Jeremy Grigson. A fiddler!—a scraper of catgut!—
Countess of Hunsdon. (contemptuously.) In one word, my lord. Miss Grigson has bestowed her affections upon (points) an artist!
Earl of Hunsdon. The protégé of my kinsman, Sir George Mordent? No such grievous matter after all!—Come, come, come! Let me reconcile matters!
Jeremy Grigson. Never, my lord, never!
Earl of Hunsdon. (aside, shrugging his shoulders.) The mean selfishness of human vanity!
Sir George Mordent. Clap-trap!
Jeremy Grigson. I disown her—I disclaim her!—
Earl of Hunsdon. Compose yourself, my dear sir! Believe me, the times are past for resenting such disproportions!—In these days of social enlightenment, my dear Grigson, education makes the man!—The philosophy of the age we live in, recognizes no pragmatical distinctions!—We are more generous, we are more just!—Come! Give your blessing to the young people!
Mrs. Grigson. Nelly and fifty thousand pounds to a man we don't know from Adam?—G.! Don't be wheedled out of your consent, for the sake of a fellow who snaps her up for her fortune!
Sir George Mordent. (advancing.) Not quite so hard, my dear madam, upon one who is not only a man of honour, and a near kinsman of your noble neighbour, the Earl of Hunsdon, but heir to my estate!
Earl of Hunsdon. Heir to his estate?—I am thunderstruck!
Sir George Mordent. (presenting RIVERS.) Give me leave, my dear Lord and Lady Hunsdon, to introduce to your acquaintance, our young cousin, Francis Rivers—hereafter to become Francis Rivers Mordent, of Mordent Hall.
Mrs. Grigson. Nelly, Nelly! You sly little puss!—(kisses her.)
Jeremy Grigson. Cousin to the Earl of Hunsdon? and heir to ten thousand a-year!—(joining their hands.)—If I'd twenty daughters they should be yours!
Lord Bellamont. "Entered at Stationer's Hall!"
Captain Sippet. The banns "to be published as the Act directs."
Countess of Hunsdon. (hysterically.) Give me leave, Mr. Francis Rivers, to offer you my sincere congratulations on your appropriate choice.
Earl of Hunsdon. (stiffly.) Expressing, at the same time, my regret that the mode of your intrusion into Hunsdon Castle, should have somewhat damped the warmth of your reception.
Sir George Mordent. (aside.) Clap-trap!—(Aloud.)—My dear ma'am, we are quite content.
Rivers. (proudly.) And, though we have had too much masquerading of late, my dear Ellen would gain by appearing in all times and places, in her genuine character.
[Kisses her hand.
Mrs. Grigson. An outspoken, young fellow, and after my own heart! Since you could not take a fancy to your cousin Harry, marry him, child, and make him a good and happy wife!
Sir George Mordent. But, my dear lord! what news, pray, of your application at the Admiralty? Am I to bring my prisoner into court?
[Produces the key, the EARL takes it.
Earl of Hunsdon. You need not trouble yourself; one of my people will suffice! (Gives the key to Servant.) Desire Mr. Henry Grigson to walk this way.
(Looking with dignity at CAPTAIN SIPPET.) By whom this wretched impertinence was first devised, I shall hereafter inquire, and fitly acknowledge!
Re-enter Servant, with HENRY.
All. Henry Grigson!
Mrs. Grigson. (falling on his neck.) Harry—my dear Harry!
Henry. My kind aunt!
Jeremy Grigson. Say that again—only say it again, and make me the happiest old fool in the county!
Henry. I could wish you, my dear uncle, a more satisfactory distinction!
Jeremy Grigson. God save the Queen! My nephew,—my nephew that I fancied at Hong-Kong! "His own D. G.!"—of course! His kind, good, excellent, thoughtful aunt,—the best of mothers and most faithful of wives!—Oh! Dorothy!
Lord Bellamont. Darby and Joan for ever! Hurrah!
Captain Sippet. (applauding.) Encore! Encore!
[They embrace again.
Countess of Hunsdon. (sneering.) May you find, young man, in the joy of these family effusions, compensation for the loss of your cousin Nelly, and her fifty thousand pounds!
Henry. (goes to LADY MARY RIVERS and takes her hand.) I have forestalled all necessity, madam, for compensation, by securing perfect happiness here!
[Kisses LADY MARY RIVERS's hand.
Countess of Hunsdon. Unhand my daughter, sir!—What means this insolence?
Henry. It means that the charming Duchess of Segovia has pledged her heart and hand to the fortunate stage-manager of your ladyship's private theatricals!—
Captain Sippet. (aside.) A pretty business I have made of it!—Choused out of my management and a wife!
Sir George Mordent. So much for private theatricals!—
Countess of Hunsdon. Lady Mary Grigson?—I shall expire!
[Leans on CAPTAIN SIPPET.
Earl of Hunsdon. (to HENRY.) Sir! I desire you will instantly quit the castle!
Sir George Mordent. Come, come, come!—(assuming the manner of the EARL)—Let me reconcile matters! As you were saying just now, "the times are past for resenting such disproportions!—In these days of social enlightenment, education makes the man!—The philosophy of the age we live in recognizes no pragmatical distinctions.—We are more generous—we are more just!—Come!—give your blessing to the young people!"—
Earl of Hunsdon. But, a Grigson engrafted on our family tree!
Sir George Mordent. What then? The tree is in a sad decaying state, and will be the better for a healthy graft or two. (Aside.) Leave to my care the dowry of my pretty cousin!
[The EARL joins LADY MARY RIVERS's hand with HENRY's.
Earl of Hunsdon. I fear there is no alternative. (To JEREMY GRIGSON.) May these family unions, at least, serve to cement our coalition at Oldfield.—And now, my dear sir, suppose we proceed to the town-hall!
Jeremy Grigson. The town-hall?—The election?—Bless my soul and body! My family sorrows and family joys had driven everything clean out of my head. (Looks at his watch.) But if not too late.
[Mob without. Huzza! Huzza!—
Earl of Hunsdon. What disturbance is this?
Servant. The mob, my lord, insist upon drawing the new member into the court yard!
Earl of Hunsdon. What mob?—What member?—Speak?
—(To COGIT.) You can explain this mystery? Who on earth have these Oldfield people been electing?
[Mob without, "COGIT for ever."
Lord Bellamont. "Cogit for ever?"—Old pounce and parchment, an M.P.?—
Sir George Mordent. (to the EARL.) And, the best agent ever man was blessed with! Ha! ha! ha!
[Mob without, "COGIT for ever."
Earl of Hunsdon. Sir!—you shall repent this treachery!
Cogit. Treachery? You behold in me, my lord, a victim to the interests of your family! Neither your lordship nor your lordship's candidate were forthcoming, when I, luckily be-thought me of your lordship's letter, saying—"The bearer is the gentleman I recommend to the suffrages of the free and independent electors of Oldfield!" and having presented it on my own account—the result was—
[Mob "COGIT for ever."
Earl of Hunsdon. (furious.) In short sir, YOU—you are now member for Oldfield!—You—my agent—my man of business!
Countess of Hunsdon. The borough gone too!
Sir George Mordent. Come, come, come!—-Let me reconcile matters! As you were saying just now.—(Exploding with laughter.)—"Believe me, the times are past for resenting such disproportions!—In these days of social enlightenment, education makes the man!—The philosophy of the age we live in, recognizes no pragmatical distinctions!—We are more generous—we are more just!—So your hand to the new member.
[Follows him about.
Earl of Hunsdon. Never, Mordent, never!
Sir George Mordent. (shrugging his shoulders.) The mean selfishness of human vanity. (Aside to the EARL.) Be advised!—make the best of what is inevitable! The fellow is deep in your secrets, you deep in his books.—You had better hang together, lest—
Earl of Hunsdon. Enough, enough!—Mr. Cogit.—
Lord Bellamont. (To CAPTAIN SIPPET.) Prick up your ears. Our turn is coming!
Captain Sippet. My best chance of making the agreeable just now, is to make myself scarce.
Lord Bellamont. My dear mother! Here is Sippet deserting your company.
Countess of Hunsdon. He does well; my theatricals have closed for the season!
Sir George Mordent. Why so, my dear Lady Hunsdon?—They seem to me to flourish admirably in this house.—Don't be ungrateful to your poor manager!
[CAPTAIN SIPPET bows.
Captain Sippet. 'Tis true, this has been "a day of dupes." But two happy weddings, and an uncontested election, ought to restore general good humour.
Sir George Mordent. (placing his hand on CAPTAIN SIPPET's lips.) Clap-trap!—Well! well! as far as I am concerned, you're welcome to repeat your performance every night, till further notice. But, for the good of the rising generation, if I might suggest a little change in the dramatis personæ—
[Takes hold of LORD BELLAMONT.
Lord Bellamont. Old gentleman, you have disposed of your estate; we can dispense with your advice.—My friends in the house will stand by me! See!—
By Jove! they're only waiting—high and low—
A sign from me—(applause)—to give us QUID PRO QUO!
BY MRS. NISBETT,
Holding an open letter in her hand.
"Prepare me for the University?"
[Crumples and flings away the letter.
What if my hundrum sires, or theirs before 'em,
Enter MRS. HUMBY, calling—
Hist, Mrs. Nisbett! —Pray,
"CLAP-TRAP!" The friends around me know how fervent's|
The zeal of both their very humble servants.
And though our sex's diffidence, awhile
Hath been abjur'd, to cheat them of a smile,
Still will their generous hearts protection yield
Whene'er—where'er—a woman takes the field!
So shall our future efforts fitly show
|MRS. HUMBY.||And yield them QUID PRO QUO!|
W. S. Johnson, Printer, Nassau Street, Soho, London.