ADMIRATION AND RESPECT
1st October, 1884
George Frederick Austin, called “Beau Austin”Ã†tat. 50
John Fenwick, of Allonby Shaw “ 26
Anthony Musgrave, Cornet in the Prince’s Own “21
Menteith, the Beau’s Valet “ 55
A Royal Duke. (Dumb show.)
Dorothy Musgrave, Anthony’s Sister “25
Miss Evelina Foster, her Aunt “45
Barbara Ridley, her Maid “20
Visitors to the Wells
The Time is 1820. The Scene is laid at Tunbridge Wells. The Action occupies a space of ten hours.
“To all and singular,” as Dryden says,
We bring a fancy of those Georgian days,
Whose style still breathed a faint and fine perfume
Of old-world courtliness and old-world bloom:
When speech was elegant and talk was fit,
For slang had not been canonised as wit;
When manners reigned, when breeding had the wall,
And Women — yes! — were ladies first of all;
When Grace was conscious of its gracefulness,
And man — though Man! — was not ashamed to dress.
A brave formality, a measured ease,
Were his — and hers — whose effort was to please.
And to excel in pleasing was to reign,
And, if you sighed, never to sigh in vain.
But then, as now — it may be, something more —
Woman and man were human to the core.
The hearts that throbbed behind that quaint attire
Burned with a plenitude of essential fire.
They too could risk, they also could rebel.
They could love wisely — they could love too well.
In that great duel of Sex, that ancient strife
Which is the very central fact of life,
They could — and did — engage it breath for breath,
They could — and did — get wounded unto death.
As at all times since time for us began
Woman was truly woman, man was man.
And joy and sorrow were as much at home
In trifling Tunbridge as in mighty Rome.
Dead — dead and done with! Swift from shine to shade
The roaring generations flit and fade.
To this one, fading, flitting, like the rest,
We come to proffer — be it worst or best —
A sketch, a shadow, of one brave old time;
A hint of what it might have held sublime;
A dream, an idyll, call it what you will,
Of man still Man, and woman — Woman still!
W. E. H.
Musical Induction: “Lascia ch’io pianga” (Rinaldo), Handel
The Stage represents Miss Foster’s apartments at the Wells. Doors, L. and C.; a window, L.C., looking on the street; a table, R., laid for breakfast
Barbara; to her, Miss Foster
Barbara (out of window). Mr. Menteith! Mr. Menteith! Mr. Menteith! — Drat his old head! Will nothing make him hear? — Mr. Menteith!
Miss Foster (entering). Barbara! this is incredible: after all my lessons, to be leaning from the window, and calling (for unless my ears deceived me, you were positively calling!) into the street.
Barbara. Well, madam, just wait until you hear who it was. I declare it was much more for Miss Dorothy and yourself than for me; and if it was a little countrified, I had a good excuse.
Miss Foster. Nonsense, child! At least, who was it?
Barbara. Miss Evelina, I was sure you would ask. Well, what do you think? I was looking out of the window at the barber’s opposite — —
Miss Foster. Of which I entirely disapprove — —
Barbara. And first there came out two of the most beautiful — the Royal livery, madam!
Miss Foster. Of course, of course: the Duke of York arrived last night. I trust you did not hail the Duke’s footmen?
Barbara. O no, madam, it was after they were gone. Then, who should come out — but you’ll never guess!
Miss Foster. I shall certainly not try.
Barbara. Mr. Menteith himself!
Miss Foster. Why, child, I never heard of him.
Barbara. O madam, not the Beau’s own gentleman?
Miss Foster. Mr. Austin’s servant. No? Is it possible? By that, George Austin must be here.
Barbara. No doubt of that, madam; they’re never far apart. He came out feeling his chin, madam, so; and a packet of letters under his arm, so; and he had the Beau’s own walk to that degree you couldn’t tell his back from his master’s.
Miss Foster. My dear Barbara, you too frequently forget yourself. A young woman in your position must beware of levity.
Barbara. Madam, I know it; but la, what are you to make of me? Look at the time and trouble dear Miss Dorothy was always taking — she that trained up everybody — and see what’s come of it: Barbara Ridley I was, and Barbara Ridley I am; and I don’t do with fashionable ways — I can’t do with them; and indeed, Miss Evelina, I do sometimes wish we were all back again on Edenside, and Mr. Anthony a boy again, and dear Miss Dorothy her old self, galloping the bay mare along the moor, and taking care of all of us as if she was our mother, bless her heart!
Miss Foster. Miss Dorothy herself, child? Well, now you mention it, Tunbridge of late has scarcely seemed to suit her constitution. She falls away, has not a word to throw at a dog, and is ridiculously pale. Well, now Mr. Austin has returned, after six months of infidelity, to the dear Wells, we shall all, I hope, be brightened up. Has the mail come?
Barbara. That it has, madam, and the sight of Mr. Menteith put it clean out of my head. (With letters.) Four for you, Miss Evelina, two for me, and only one for Miss Dorothy. Miss Dorothy seems quite neglected, does she not? Six months ago, it was a different story.
Miss Foster. Well, and that’s true, Barbara, and I had not remarked it. I must take her seriously to task. No young lady in her position should neglect her correspondence. (Opening a letter.) Here’s from that dear ridiculous boy, the Cornet, announcing his arrival for to-day.
Barbara. O madam, will he come in his red coat?
Miss Foster. I could not conceive him missing such a chance. Youth, child, is always vain, and Mr. Anthony is unusually young.
Barbara. La, madam, he can’t help that.
Miss Foster. My child, I am not so sure. Mr. Anthony is a great concern to me. He was orphaned, to be sure, at ten years old; and ever since he has been only as it were his sister’s son. Dorothy did everything for him: more indeed than I thought quite ladylike, but I suppose I begin to be old-fashioned. See how she worked and slaved — yes, slaved! — for him: teaching him herself, with what pains and patience she only could reveal, and learning that she might be able; and see what he is now: a gentleman, of course, but, to be frank, a very commonplace one: not what I had hoped of Dorothy’s brother; not what I had dreamed of the heir of two families — Musgrave and Foster, child! Well, he may now meet Mr. Austin. He requires a Mr. Austin to embellish and correct his manners. (Opening another letter.) Why, Barbara, Mr. John Scrope and Miss Kate Dacre are to be married!
Barbara. La, madam, how nice!
Miss Foster. They are: as I’m a sinful woman. And when will you be married, Barbara? and when dear Dorothy? I hate to see old maids a-making.
Barbara. La, Miss Evelina, there’s no harm in an old maid.
Miss Foster. You speak like a fool, child: sour grapes are all very well, but it’s a woman’s business to be married. As for Dorothy, she is five-and-twenty, and she breaks my heart. Such a match, too! Ten thousand to her fortune, the best blood in the north, a most advantageous person, all the graces, the finest sensibility, excellent judgment, the Foster walk; and all these go positively a-begging! The men seem stricken with blindness. Why, child, when I came out (and I was the dear girl’s image!) I had more swains at my feet in a fortnight than our Dorothy in — — O, I cannot fathom it: it must be the girl’s own fault.
Barbara. Why, madam, I did think it was a case with Mr. Austin.
Miss Foster. With Mr. Austin? why, how very rustic! The attentions of a gentleman like Mr. Austin, child, are not supposed to lead to matrimony. He is a feature of society: an ornament: a personage: a private gentleman by birth, but a kind of king by habit and reputation. What woman could he marry? Those to whom he might properly aspire are all too far below him. I have known George Austin too long, child, and I understand that the very greatness of his success condemns him to remain unmarried.
Barbara. Sure, madam, that must be tiresome for him.
Miss Foster. Some day, child, you will know better than to think so. George Austin, as I conceive him, and as he is regarded by the world, is one of the triumphs of the other sex. I walked my first minuet with him: I wouldn’t tell you the year, child, for worlds; but it was soon after his famous encounter with Colonel Villiers. He had killed his man, he wore pink and silver, was most elegantly pale, and the most ravishing creature!
Barbara. Well, madam, I believe that: he is the most beautiful gentleman still.
To these, Dorothy, L.
Dorothy (entering). Good-morning, aunt! Is there anything for me? (She goes eagerly to table and looks at letters.)
Miss Foster. Good-morrow, niece. Breakfast, Barbara.
Dorothy (with letter unopened). Nothing.
Miss Foster. And what do you call that, my dear? (Sitting.) Is John Fenwick nobody?
Dorothy (looking at letter). From John? O yes, so it is. (Lays letter down unopened, and sits to breakfast, Barbara waiting.)
Miss Foster (to Barbara, with plate). Thanks, child; now you may give me some tea. Dolly, I must insist on your eating a good breakfast: I cannot away with your pale cheeks and that Patience-on-a-Monument kind of look. (Toast, Barbara!) At Edenside you ate and drank and looked like Hebe. What have you done with your appetite?
Dorothy. I don’t know, aunt, I’m sure.
Miss Foster. Then consider, please, and recover it as soon as you can: to a young lady in your position a good appetite is an attraction — almost a virtue. Do you know that your brother arrives this morning?
Dorothy. Dear Anthony! Where is his letter, Aunt Evelina? I am pleased that he should leave London and its perils, if only for a day.
Miss Foster. My dear, there are moments when you positively amaze me. (Barbara, some pÃ¢tÃ©, if you please!) I beg you not to be a prude. All women, of course, are virtuous; but a prude is something I regard with abhorrence. The Cornet is seeing life, which is exactly what he wanted. You brought him up surprisingly well; I have always admired you for it; but let us admit — as women of the world, my dear — it was no upbringing for a man. You and that fine solemn fellow, John Fenwick, led a life that was positively no better than the Middle Ages; and between the two of you poor Anthony (who, I am sure, was a most passive creature!) was so packed with principle and admonition that I vow and declare he reminded me of Issachar stooping between his two burdens. It was high time for him to be done with your apron-string, my dear: he has all his wild oats to sow; and that is an occupation which it is unwise to defer too long. By the bye, have you heard the news? The Duke of York has done us a service for which I was unprepared. (More tea, Barbara!) George Austin, bringing the prince in his train, is with us once more.
Dorothy. I knew he was coming.
Miss Foster. You knew, child? and did not tell? You are a public criminal.
Dorothy. I did not think it mattered, Aunt Evelina.
Miss Foster. O do not make-believe. I am in love with him myself, and have been any time since Nelson and the Nile. As for you, Dolly, since he went away six months ago, you have been positively in the megrims. I shall date your loss of appetite from George Austin’s vanishing. No, my dear, our family require entertainment: we must have wit about us, and beauty, and the bel air.
Barbara. Well, Miss Dorothy, perhaps it’s out of my place: but I do hope Mr. Austin will come: I should love to have him see my necklace on.
Dorothy. Necklace? what necklace? Did he give you a necklace?
Barbara. Yes, indeed, Miss, that he did; the very same day he drove you in his curricle to Penshurst. You remember, Miss, I couldn’t go.
Dorothy. I remember.
Miss Foster. And so do I. I had a touch of ... Foster in the blood: the family gout, dears!... And you, you ungrateful nymph, had him a whole day to yourself, and not a word to tell me when you returned.
Dorothy. I remember. (Rising.) Is that the necklace, Barbara? It does not suit you. Give it me.
Barbara. La, Miss Dorothy, I wouldn’t for the world.
Dorothy. Come, give it me. I want it. Thank you: you shall have my birthday pearls instead.
Miss Foster. Why, Dolly, I believe you’re jealous of the maid. Foster, Foster: always a Foster trick to wear the willow in anger.
Dorothy. I do not think, madam, that I am of a jealous habit.
Miss Foster. O, the personage is your excuse! And I can tell you, child, that when George Austin was playing Florizel to the Duchess’s Perdita, all the maids in England fell a prey to green-eyed melancholy. It was the ton, you see: not to pine for that Sylvander was to resign from good society.
Dorothy. Aunt Evelina, stop; I cannot endure to hear you. What is he after all but just Beau Austin? What has he done — with half a century of good health, what has he done that is either memorable or worthy? Diced and danced and set fashions; vanquished in a drawing-room, fought for a word; what else? As if these were the meaning of life! Do not make me think so poorly of all of us women. Sure, we can rise to admire a better kind of man than Mr. Austin. We are not all to be snared with the eye, dear aunt; and those that are — O! I know not whether I more hate or pity them.
Miss Foster. You will give me leave, my niece: such talk is neither becoming in a young lady nor creditable to your understanding. The world was made a great while before Miss Dorothy Musgrave; and you will do much better to ripen your opinions, and in the meantime read your letter, which I perceive you have not opened. (Dorothy opens and reads letter.) Barbara, child, you should not listen at table.
Barbara. Sure, madam, I hope I know my place.
Miss Foster. Then do not do it again.
Dorothy. Poor John Fenwick! he coming here!
Miss Foster. Well, and why not? Dorothy, my darling child, you give me pain. You never had but one chance, let me tell you pointedly; and that was John Fenwick. If I were you, I would not let my vanity so blind me. This is not the way to marry.
Dorothy. Dear aunt, I shall never marry.
Miss Foster. A fiddlestick’s end! every one must marry. (Rising.) Are you for the Pantiles?
Dorothy. Not to-day, dear.
Miss Foster. Well, well! have your wish, Dolorosa. — Barbara, attend and dress me.
Dorothy. How she tortures me, poor aunt, my poor blind aunt; and I — I could break her heart with a word. That she should see nothing, know nothing — there’s where it kills. O, it is more than I can bear ... and yet, how much less than I deserve! Mad girl, of what do I complain? that this dear innocent woman still believes me good, still pierces me to the soul with trustfulness. Alas, and were it otherwise, were her dear eyes opened to the truth, what were left me but death? — He, too — she must still be praising him, and every word is a lash upon my conscience. If I could die of my secret: if I could cease — but one moment cease — this living lie; if I could sleep and forget and be at rest! — Poor John! (reading the letter) he at least is guiltless; and yet for my fault he too must suffer, he too must bear part in my shame. Poor John Fenwick! Has he come back with the old story: with what might have been, perhaps, had we stayed by Edenside? Eden? yes, my Eden, from which I fell. O, my old north country, my old river — the river of my innocence, the old country of my hopes — how could I endure to look on you now? And how to meet John? — John, with the old love on his lips, the old, honest, innocent, faithful heart! There was a Dorothy once who was not unfit to ride with him, her heart as light as his, her life as clear as the bright rivers we forded; he called her his Diana, he crowned her so with rowan. Where is that Dorothy now? that Diana? she that was everything to John? For O, I did him good; I know I did him good; I will still believe I did him good: I made him honest and kind and a true man; alas, and could not guide myself! And now, how will he despise me! For he shall know; if I die, he shall know all; I could not live, and not be true with him. (She takes out the necklace and looks at it.) That he should have bought me from my maid! George, George, that you should have stooped to this! Basely as you have used me, this is the basest. Perish the witness. (She treads the trinket under foot.) Break, break like my heart, break like my hopes, perish like my good name!
To her, Fenwick, C.
Fenwick (after a pause). Is this how you receive me, Dorothy? Am I not welcome? — Shall I go then?
Dorothy (running to him, with hands outstretched). O no, John, not for me. (Turning and pointing to the necklace.) But you find me changed.
Fenwick (with a movement towards the necklace). This?
Dorothy. No, no, let it lie. That is a trinket — broken. But the old Dorothy is dead.
Fenwick. Dead, dear? Not to me.
Dorothy. Dead to you — dead to all men.
Fenwick. Dorothy, I loved you as a boy. There is not a meadow on Edenside but is dear to me for your sake, not a cottage but recalls your goodness, not a rock nor a tree but brings back something of the best and brightest youth man ever had. You were my teacher and my queen; I walked with you, I talked with you, I rode with you; I lived in your shadow; I saw with your eyes. You will never know, dear Dorothy, what you were to the dull boy you bore with; you will never know with what romance you filled my life, with what devotion, with what tenderness and honour. At night I lay awake and worshipped you; in my dreams I saw you, and you loved me; and you remember, when we told each other stories — you have not forgotten, dearest — that Princess Hawthorn that was still the heroine of mine: who was she? I was not bold enough to tell, but she was you! You, my virgin huntress, my Diana, my queen.
Dorothy. O silence, silence — pity!
Fenwick. No, dear; neither for your sake nor mine will I be silenced. I have begun; I must go on and finish, and put fortune to the touch. It was from you I learned honour, duty, piety, and love. I am as you made me, and I exist but to reverence and serve you. Why else have I come here, the length of England, my heart burning higher every mile, my very horse a clog to me? — why, but to ask you for my wife? Dorothy, you will not deny me?
Dorothy. You have not asked me about this broken trinket?
Fenwick. Why should I ask? I love you.
Dorothy. Yet I must tell you. Sit down. (She picks up the necklace, and stands looking at it. Then, breaking down.) O John, John, it’s long since I left home.
Fenwick. Too long, dear love. The very trees will welcome you.
Dorothy. Ay, John, but I no longer love you. The old Dorothy is dead, God pardon her!
Fenwick. Dorothy, who is the man?
Dorothy. O poor Dorothy! O poor dead Dorothy! John, you found me breaking this: me, your Diana of the Fells, the Diana of your old romance by Edenside. Diana — O what a name for me! Do you see this trinket? It is a chapter in my life. A chapter, do I say? my whole life, for there is none to follow. John, you must bear with me, you must help me. I have that to tell — there is a secret — I have a secret, John — O, for God’s sake, understand. That Diana you revered — O John, John, you must never speak of love to me again.
Fenwick. What do you say? How dare you?
Dorothy. John, it is the truth. Your Diana, even she, she whom you believed in, she who so believed in herself, came out into the world only to be broken. I met, here at the Wells, a man — why should I tell you his name? I met him, and I loved him. My heart was all his own; yet he was not content with that: he must intrigue to catch me, he must bribe my maid with this. (Throws the necklace on the table.) Did he love me? Well, John, he said he did; and be it so! He loved, he betrayed, and he has left me.
Dorothy. Ay, even so; I was betrayed. The fault was mine that I forgot our innocent youth, and your honest love.
Fenwick. Dorothy, O Dorothy!
Dorothy. Yours is the pain; but, O John, think it is for your good. Think in England how many true maids may be waiting for your love, how many that can bring you a whole heart, and be a noble mother to your children, while your poor Diana, at the first touch, has proved all frailty. Go, go and be happy, and let me be patient. I have sinned.
Fenwick. By God, I’ll have his blood.
Dorothy. Stop! I love him. (Between Fenwick and door, C.)
Fenwick. What do I care? I loved you too. Little he thought of that, little either of you thought of that. His blood — I’ll have his blood!
Dorothy. You shall never know his name.
Fenwick. Know it? Do you think I cannot guess? Do you think I had not heard he followed you? Do you think I had not suffered — O, suffered! George Austin is the man. Dear shall he pay it!
Dorothy (at his feet). Pity me; spare me; spare your Dorothy! I love him — love him — love him!
Fenwick. Dorothy, you have robbed me of my happiness, and now you would rob me of my revenge.
Dorothy. I know it; and shall I ask, and you not grant?
Fenwick (raising her). No, Dorothy, you shall ask nothing, nothing in vain from me. You ask his life; I give it you, as I would give you my soul; as I would give you my life, if I had any left. My life is done; you have taken it. Not a hope, not an end; not even revenge. (He sits.) Dorothy, you see your work.
Dorothy. O God, forgive me!
Fenwick. Ay, Dorothy, He will, as I do.
Dorothy. As you do? Do you forgive me, John?
Fenwick. Ay, more than that, poor soul. I said my life was done, I was wrong; I have still a duty. It is not in vain you taught me; I shall still prove to you that it was not in vain. You shall soon find that I am no backward friend. Farewell.
Musical Induction: “The Lass of Richmond Hill”
The Stage represents George Austin’s dressing-room. Elaborate toilet-table, R., with chair; a cheval-glass so arranged as to correspond with glass on table. Breakfast-table, L., front. Door, L. The Beau is discovered at table in dressing-gown, trifling with correspondence. Menteith is frothing chocolate
Menteith. At the barber’s, Mr. George, I had the pleasure of meeting two of the Dook’s gentlemen.
Austin. Well, and was his Royal Highness satisfied with his quarters?
Menteith. Quite so, Mr. George. Delighted, I believe.
Austin. I am rejoiced to hear it. I wish I could say I was as pleased with my journey, Menteith. This is the first time I ever came to the Wells in another person’s carriage; Duke or not, it shall be the last, Menteith.
Menteith. Ah, Mr. George, no wonder. And how many times have we made that journey back and forth?
Austin. Enough to make us older than we look.
Menteith. To be sure, Mr. George, you do wear well.
Austin. We wear well, Menteith.
Menteith. I hear, Mr. George, that Miss Musgrave is of the company.
Austin. Is she so? Well, well! well, well!
Menteith. I’ve not seen the young lady myself, Mr. George; but the barber tells me she’s looking poorly.
Menteith. Yes, Mr. George, poorly was his word.
Austin. Well, Menteith, I am truly sorry. She is not the first.
Menteith. Yes, Mr. George.
(A bell. Menteith goes out and re-enters with card.)
Austin (with card). Whom have we here? Anthony Musgrave?
Menteith. A fine young man, Mr. George; and with a look of the young lady, but not so gentlemanly.
Austin. You have an eye, you have an eye. Let him in.
Austin, Menteith, Anthony
Austin. I am charmed to have this opportunity, Mr. Musgrave. You belong to my old corps, I think? And how does my good friend, Sir Frederick? I had his line; but, like all my old comrades, he thinks last about himself, and gives me not of his news.
Anthony. I protest, sir, this is a very proud moment. Your name is still remembered in the regiment. (Austin bows.) The Colonel — he keeps his health, sir, considering his age (Austin bows again and looks at Menteith) — tells us young men you were a devil of a fellow in your time.
Austin. I believe I was — in my time. Menteith, give Mr. Musgrave a dish of chocolate. So, sir, we see you at the Wells.
Anthony. I have but just alighted. I had but one thought, sir: to pay my respects to Mr. Austin. I have not yet kissed my aunt and sister.
Austin. In my time — to which you refer — the ladies had come first.
Anthony. The women? I take you, sir. But then, you see, a man’s relatives don’t count. And besides, Mr. Austin, between men of the world, I am fairly running away from the sex: I am positively in flight. Little Hortense of the Opera; you know; she sent her love to you. She’s mad about me, I think. You never saw a creature so fond.
Austin. Well, well, child! you are better here. In my time — to which you have referred — I knew the lady. Does she wear well?
Anthony. I beg your pardon, sir!
Austin. No offence, child, no offence. She was a very lively creature. But you neglect your chocolate, I see?
Anthony. We don’t patronise it, Mr. Austin; we haven’t for some years: the service has quite changed since your time. You’d be surprised.
Austin. Doubtless. I am.
Anthony. I assure you, sir, I and Jack Bosbury of the Fifty-second — —
Austin. The Hampshire Bosburys?
Anthony. I do not know exactly, sir. I believe he is related.
Austin. Or perhaps — I remember a Mr. Bosbury, a cutter of coats. I have the vanity to believe I formed his business.
Anthony. I — I hope not, sir. But as I was saying, I and this Jack Bosbury, and the Brummagem Bantam — a very pretty light-weight, sir — drank seven bottles of Burgundy to the three of us inside the eighty minutes. Jack, sir, was a little cut; but me and the Bantam went out and finished the evening on hot gin. Life, sir, life! Tom Cribb was with us. He spoke of you, too, Tom did: said you’d given him a wrinkle for his second fight with the black man. No, sir, I assure you, you’re not forgotten.
Austin (bows). I am pleased to learn it. In my time, I had an esteem for Mr. Cribb.
Anthony. O come, sir! but your time cannot be said to be over.
Austin. Menteith, you hear!
Menteith. Yes, Mr. George.
Anthony. The Colonel told me that you liked to shake an elbow. Your big main, sir, with Lord Wensleydale, is often talked about. I hope I may have the occasion to sit down with you. I shall count it an honour, I assure you.
Austin. But would your aunt, my very good friend, approve?
Anthony. Why, sir, you do not suppose I am in leading-strings?
Austin. You forget, child: a family must hang together. When I was young — in my time — I was alone; and what I did concerned myself. But a youth who has — as I think you have — a family of ladies to protect, must watch his honour, child, and preserve his fortune.... You have no commands from Sir Frederick?
Anthony. None, sir, none.
Austin. Shall I find you this noon upon the Pantiles?... I shall be charmed. Commend me to your aunt and your fair sister. Menteith?
Menteith. Yes, Mr. George. (Shows Anthony out.)
Austin, Menteith, returning
Austin. Was I ever like that, Menteith?
Menteith. No, Mr. George, you was always a gentleman.
Austin. Youth, my good fellow, youth.
Menteith. Quite so, Mr. George.
Austin. Well, Menteith, we cannot make nor mend. We cannot play the jockey with Time. Age is the test; of wine, Menteith, and men.
Menteith. Me and you and the old Hermitage, Mr. George, he-he!
Austin. And the best of these, the Hermitage. But come: we lose our day. Help me off with this.
(Menteith takes off Austin’s dressing-gown; Austin passes R. to dressing-table, and takes up first cravat.)
Austin. Will the hair do, Menteith?
Menteith. Never saw it lay better, Mr. George. (Austin proceeds to wind first cravat. A bell: exit Menteith. Austin drops first cravat in basket and takes second.)
Austin (winding and singing) —
“I’d crowns resign
To call her mine,
Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill!”
(Second cravat a failure. Re-enter Menteith with card.) Fenwick? of Allonby Shaw? A good family, Menteith, but I don’t know the gentleman. (Lays down card, and takes up third cravat.) Send him away with every consideration.
Menteith. To be sure, Mr. George. (He goes out. Third cravat a success. Re-enter Menteith.) He says, Mr. George, that he has an errand from Miss Musgrave.
Austin (with waistcoat). Show him in, Menteith, at once. (Singing and fitting waistcoat at glass) —
“I’d crowns resign
To call her mine,
Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill!”
Austin, R. To him, Menteith and Fenwick
Menteith (announcing). Mr. Fenwick, Mr. George.
Austin. At the name of Miss Musgrave, my doors fly always open.
Fenwick. I believe, sir, you are acquainted with my cousin, Richard Gaunt?
Austin. The county member? An old and good friend. But you need not go so far afield: I know your good house of Allonby Shaw since the days of the Black Knight. We are, in fact, and at a very royal distance, cousins.
Fenwick. I desired, sir, from the nature of my business, that you should recognise me for a gentleman.
Austin. The preliminary, sir, is somewhat grave.
Fenwick. My business is both grave and delicate.
Austin. Menteith, my good fellow. (Exit Menteith.) Mr. Fenwick, honour me so far as to be seated. (They sit.) I await your pleasure.
Fenwick. Briefly, sir, I am come, not without hope, to appeal to your good heart.
Austin. From Miss Musgrave?
Fenwick. No, sir, I abused her name, and am here upon my own authority. Upon me the consequence.
Fenwick. Mr. Austin, Dorothy Musgrave is the oldest and dearest of my friends; is the lady whom for ten years it has been my hope to make my wife. She has shown me reason to discard that hope for another: that I may call her Mrs. Austin.
Austin. In the best interests of the lady (rising) I question if you have been well inspired. You are aware, sir, that from such interference there is but one issue: to whom shall I address my friend?
Fenwick. Mr. Austin, I am here to throw myself upon your mercy. Strange as my errand is, it will seem yet more strange to you that I came prepared to accept at your hands any extremity of dishonour and not fight. The lady whom it is my boast to serve has honoured me with her commands. These are my law, and by these your life is sacred.
Austin. Then, sir (with his hand upon the bell), this conversation becomes impossible. You have me at too gross a disadvantage; and, as you are a gentleman and respect another, I would suggest that you retire.
Fenwick. Sir, you speak of disadvantage; think of mine. All my life long, with all the forces of my nature, I have loved this lady. I came here to implore her to be my wife, to be my queen; my saint she had been always! She was too noble to deceive me. She told me what you know. I will not conceal that my first mood was of anger: I would have killed you like a dog. But, Mr. Austin — bear with me a while — I, on the threshold of my life, who have made no figure in the world, nor ever shall now, who had but one treasure, and have lost it — if I, abandoning revenge, trampling upon jealousy, can supplicate you to complete my misfortune — O Mr. Austin! you who have lived, you whose gallantry is beyond the insolence of a suspicion, you who are a man crowned and acclaimed, who are loved, and loved by such a woman — you who excel me in every point of advantage, will you suffer me to surpass you in generosity?
Austin. You speak from the heart. (Sits.) What do you want with me?
Fenwick. Marry her.
Austin. Mr. Fenwick, I am the older man. I have seen much of life, much of society, much of love. When I was young, it was expected of a gentleman to be ready with his hat to a lady, ready with his sword to a man; to honour his word and his king; to be courteous with his equals, generous to his dependants, helpful and trusty in friendship. But it was not asked of us to be quixotic. If I had married every lady by whom it is my fortune — not my merit — to have been distinguished, the Wells would scarce be spacious enough for my establishment. You see, sir, that while I respect your emotion, I am myself conducted by experience. And besides, Mr. Fenwick, is not love a warfare? has it not rules? have not our fair antagonists their tactics, their weapons, their place of arms? and is there not a touch of — pardon me the word! of silliness in one who, having fought and having vanquished, sounds a parley, and capitulates to his own prisoner? Had the lady chosen, had the fortune of war been other, ‘tis like she had been Mrs. Austin. Now!... You know the world.
Fenwick. I know, sir, that the world contains much cowardice. To find Mr. Austin afraid to do the right, this surprises me.
Austin. Afraid, child?
Fenwick. Yes, sir, afraid. You know her, you know if she be worthy; and you answer me with — the world: the world which has been at your feet: the world which Mr. Austin knows so well how to value and is so able to rule.
Austin. I have lived long enough, Mr. Fenwick, to recognise that the world is a great power. It can make; but it can break.
Fenwick. Sir, suffer me: you spoke but now of friendship, and spoke warmly. Have you forgotten Colonel Villiers?
Austin. Mr. Fenwick, Mr. Fenwick, you forget what I have suffered.
Fenwick. O sir, I know you loved him. And yet, for a random word you quarrelled; friendship was weighed in vain against the world’s code of honour; you fought, and your friend fell. I have heard from others how he lay long in agony, and how you watched and nursed him, and it was in your embrace he died. In God’s name, have you forgotten that? Was not this sacrifice enough, or must the world, once again, step between Mr. Austin and his generous heart?
Austin. Good God, sir, I believe you are in the right; I believe, upon my soul I believe, there is something in what you say.
Fenwick. Something, Mr. Austin? O credit me, the whole difference betwixt good and evil.
Austin. Nay, nay, but there you go too far. There are many kinds of good; honour is a diamond cut in a thousand facets, and with the true fire in each. Thus, and with all our differences, Mr. Fenwick, you and I can still respect, we can still admire each other.
Fenwick. Bear with me still, sir, if I ask you what is the end of life but to excel in generosity? To pity the weak, to comfort the afflicted, to right where we have wronged, to be brave in reparation — these noble elements you have; for of what besides is the fabric of your dealing with Colonel Villiers? That is man’s chivalry to man. Yet to a suffering woman — a woman feeble, betrayed, unconsoled — you deny your clemency, you refuse your aid, you proffer injustice for atonement. Nay, you are so disloyal to yourself that you can choose to be ungenerous and unkind. Where, sir, is the honour? What facet of the diamond is that?
Austin. You forget, sir, you forget. But go on.
Fenwick. O sir, not I — not I but yourself forgets: George Austin forgets George Austin. A woman loved by him, betrayed by him, abandoned by him — that woman suffers; and a point of honour keeps him from his place at her feet. She has played and lost, and the world is with him if he deign to exact the stakes. Is that the Mr. Austin whom Miss Musgrave honoured with her trust? Then, sir, how miserably was she deceived!
Austin. Child — child — —
Fenwick. Mr. Austin, still bear with me, still follow me. O sir, will you not picture that dear lady’s life? Her years how few, her error thus irreparable, what henceforth can be her portion but remorse, the consciousness of self-abasement, the shame of knowing that her trust was ill-bestowed? To think of it: this was a queen among women; and this — this is George Austin’s work! Sir, let me touch your heart: let me prevail with you to feel that ‘tis impossible.
Austin. I am a gentleman. What do you ask of me?
Fenwick. To be the man she loved: to be clement where the world would have you triumph, to be of equal generosity with the vanquished, to be worthy of her sacrifice and of yourself.
Austin. Mr. Fenwick, your reproof is harsh — —
Fenwick (interrupting him). O sir, be just, be just! — —
Austin. But it is merited, and I thank you for its utterance. You tell me that the true victory comes when the fight is won: that our foe is never so noble nor so dangerous as when she is fallen, that the crowning triumph is that we celebrate over our conquering selves. Sir, you are right. Kindness, ay, kindness, after all. And with age, to become clement. Yes, ambition first; then, the rounded vanity — victory still novel; and last, as you say, the royal mood of the mature man; to abdicate for others.... Sir, you touched me hard about my dead friend; still harder about my living duty; and I am not so young but I can take a lesson. There is my hand upon it: she shall be my wife.
Fenwick. Ah, Mr. Austin, I was sure of it.
Austin. Then, sir, you were vastly mistaken. There is nothing of Beau Austin here. I have simply, my dear child, sate at the feet of Mr. Fenwick.
Fenwick. Ah, sir, your heart was counsellor enough.
Austin. Pardon me. I am vain enough to be the judge: there are but two people in the world who could have wrought this change: yourself and that dear lady. (Touches bell.) Suffer me to dismiss you. One instant of toilet, and I follow. Will you do me the honour to go before, and announce my approach? (Enter Menteith.)
Fenwick. Sir, if my admiration — —
Austin. Dear child, the admiration is the other way. (Embraces him. Menteith shows him out.)
Austin. Upon my word, I think the world is getting better. We were none of us young men like that — in my time — to quote my future brother. (He sits down before the mirror.) Well, here ends Beau Austin. Paris, Rome, Vienna, London — victor everywhere: and now he must leave his bones in Tunbridge Wells. (Looks at his leg.) Poor Dolly Musgrave! a good girl after all, and will make me a good wife; none better. The last — of how many? — ay, and the best! Walks like Hebe. But still, here ends Beau Austin. Perhaps it’s time. Poor Dolly — was she looking poorly? She shall have her wish. Well, we grow older, but we grow no worse.
Austin. Menteith, I am going to be married.
Menteith. Well, Mr. George, but I am pleased to hear it. Miss Musgrave is a most elegant lady.
Austin. Ay, Mr. Menteith; and who told you the lady’s name?
Menteith. Mr. George, you was always a gentleman.
Austin. You mean I wasn’t always? Old boy, you are in the right. This shall be a good change for both you and me. We have lived too long like a brace of truants: now is the time to draw about the fire. How much is left of the old Hermitage?
Menteith. Hard upon thirty dozen, Mr. George, and not a bad cork in the bin.
Austin. And a mistress, Menteith, that’s worthy of that wine.
Menteith. Mr. George, sir, she’s worthy of you.
Austin. Gad, I believe it. (Shakes hands with him.)
Menteith (breaking down). Mr. George, you’ve been a damned good master to me, and I’ve been a damned good servant to you; we’ve been proud of each other from the first; but if you’ll excuse my plainness, Mr. George, I never liked you better than to-day.
Austin. Cheer up, old boy, the best is yet to come. Get out the tongs, and curl me like a bridegroom. (Sits before dressing-glass; Menteith produces curling-irons and plies them. Austin sings) —
“I’d crowns resign
To call her mine,
Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill!”
Musical Induction: The “Minuet” from Don Giovanni
The Stage represents Miss Foster’s lodging as in Act I
Dorothy, R., at tambour; Anthony, C., bestriding chair; Miss Foster, L.C.
Anthony. Yes, ma’am, I like my regiment: we are all gentlemen, from old Fred downwards, and all of a good family. Indeed, so are all my friends, except one tailor sort of fellow, Bosbury. But I’m done with him. I assure you, Aunt Evelina, we are Corinthian to the last degree. I wouldn’t shock you ladies for the world — —
Miss Foster. Don’t mind me, my dear; go on.
Anthony. Really, ma’am, you must pardon me: I trust I understand what topics are to be avoided among females — and before my sister, too! A girl of her age!
Dorothy. Why, you dear, silly fellow, I’m old enough to be your mother.
Anthony. My dear Dolly, you do not understand; you are not a man of the world. But, as I was going on to say, there is no more spicy regiment in the service.
Miss Foster. I am not surprised that it maintains its old reputation. You know, my dear (to Dorothy), it was George Austin’s regiment.
Dorothy. Was it, aunt?
Anthony. Beau Austin? Yes, it was; and a precious dust they make about him still — a parcel of old frumps! That’s why I went to see him. But he’s quite extinct: he couldn’t be Corinthian if he tried.
Miss Foster. I am afraid that even at your age George Austin held a very different position from the distinguished Anthony Musgrave.
Anthony. Come, ma’am, I take that unkindly. Of course I know what you’re at: of course the old put cut no end of a dash with the Duchess.
Miss Foster. My dear child, I was thinking of no such thing; that was immoral.
Anthony. Then you mean that affair at Brighton: when he cut the Prince about Perdita Robinson.
Miss Foster. No, I had forgotten it.
Anthony. O, well, I know — that duel! But look here, Aunt Evelina, I don’t think you’d be much gratified after all if I were to be broke for killing my commanding officer about a quarrel at cards.
Dorothy. Nobody asks you, Anthony, to imitate Mr. Austin. I trust you will set yourself a better model. But you may choose a worse. With all his faults, and all his enemies, Mr. Austin is a pattern gentleman. You would not ask a man to be braver, and there are few so generous. I cannot bear to hear him called in fault by one so young. Better judges, dear, are better pleased.
Anthony. Hey-day! what’s this?
Miss Foster. Why, Dolly, this is April and May. You surprise me.
Dorothy. I am afraid, indeed, madam, that you have much to suffer from my caprice. (She goes out, L.)
Anthony, Miss Foster
Anthony. What is the meaning of all this, ma’am? I don’t like it.
Miss Foster. Nothing, child, that I know. You spoke of Mr. Austin, our dear friend, like a groom; and she, like any lady of taste, took arms in his defence.
Anthony. No, ma’am, that won’t do. I know the sex. You mark my words, the girl has some confounded nonsense in her head, and wants looking after.
Miss Foster. In my presence, Anthony, I shall ask you to speak of Dorothy with greater respect. With your permission, your sister and I will continue to direct our own affairs. When we require the interference of so young and confident a champion, you shall know. (Curtsies, kisses her hand and goes out, L.)
Anthony. Upon my word, I think Aunt Evelina one of the most uncivil old women in the world. Nine weeks ago I came of age; and they still treat me like a boy. I’m a recognised Corinthian, too: take my liquor with old Fred, and go round with the Brummagem Bantam and Jack Bosb — — .... O, damn Jack Bosbury. If his father was a tailor, he shall fight me for his ungentlemanly conduct. However, that’s all one. What I want is to make Aunt Evelina understand that I’m not the man to be put down by an old maid who’s been brought up in a work-basket, begad! I’ve had nothing but rebuffs all day. It’s very remarkable. There was that man Austin, to begin with. I’ll be hanged if I can stand him. I hear too much of him; and if I can only get a good excuse to put him to the door, I believe it would give Dorothy and all of us a kind of a position. After all, he’s not a man to visit in the house of ladies: not when I’m away, at least. Nothing in it, of course; but is he a man whose visits I can sanction?
Barbara. Please, Mr. Anthony, Miss Foster said I was to show your room.
Anthony. Ah! Baby? Now, you come here. You’re a girl of sense, I know.
Barbara. La, Mr. Anthony, I hope I’m nothing of the kind.
Anthony. Come, come! that’s not the tone I want: I’m serious. Does this man Austin come much about the house?
Barbara. O Mr. Anthony, for shame! Why don’t you ask Miss Foster?
Anthony. Now I wish you to understand: I’m the head of this family. It’s my business to look after my sister’s reputation, and my aunt’s too, begad! That’s what I’m here for: I’m their natural protector. And what I want you, Barbara Ridley, to understand — you whose fathers have served my fathers — is just simply this: if you’ve any common gratitude, you’re bound to help me in the work. Now, Barbara, you know me, and you know my Aunt Evelina. She’s a good enough woman; I’m the first to say so. But who is she to take care of a young girl? She’s ignorant of the world to that degree she believes in Beau Austin! Now you and I, Bab, who are not so high and dry, see through and through him; we know that a man like that is no fit company for any inexperienced girl.
Barbara. O Mr. Anthony, don’t say that. (Weeping.)
Anthony. Hullo! what’s wrong?
Barbara. Nothing that I know of. O Mr. Anthony, I don’t think there can be anything.
Anthony. Think? Don’t think? What’s this?
Barbara. O sir! I don’t know, and yet I don’t like it. Here’s my beautiful necklace all broke to bits: she took it off my very neck, and gave me her birthday pearls instead; and I found it afterwards on the table, all smashed to pieces; and all she wanted it for was to take and break it. Why that? It frightens me, Mr. Anthony, it frightens me.
Anthony (with necklace). This? What has this trumpery to do with us?
Barbara. He gave it me: that’s why she broke it.
Anthony. He? Who?
Barbara. Mr. Austin did; and I do believe I should not have taken it, Mr. Anthony, but I thought no harm, upon my word of honour. He was always here; that was six months ago; and indeed, indeed, I thought they were to marry. How would I think else with a born lady like Miss Dorothy?
Anthony. Why, Barbara, God help us all, what’s this? You don’t mean to say that there was — —
Barbara. Here it is, as true as true: they were going for a jaunt; and Miss Foster had her gout; and I was to go with them; and he told me to make-believe I was ill; and I did; and I stayed at home; and he gave me that necklace; and they went away together; and, O dear! I wish I’d never been born.
Anthony. Together? he and Dolly? Good Lord! my sister! And since then?
Barbara. We haven’t seen him from that day to this, the wicked villain; and, Mr. Anthony, he hasn’t so much as written the poor dear a word.
Anthony. Bab, Bab, Bab, this is a devil of a bad business; this is a cruel, bad business, Baby; cruel upon me, cruel upon all of us; a family like mine. I’m a young man, Barbara, to have this delicate affair to manage; but, thank God, I’m Musgrave to the bone. He bribed a servant-maid, did he? I keep his bribe; it’s mine now: dear bought, by George! He shall have it in his teeth. Shot Colonel Villiers, did he? we’ll see how he faces Anthony Musgrave. You’re a good girl, Barbara; so far you’ve served the family. You leave this to me. And, hark ye, dry your eyes and hold your tongue: I’ll have no scandal raised by you.
Barbara. I do hope, sir, you won’t use me against Miss Dorothy.
Anthony. That’s my affair; your business is to hold your tongue. Miss Dorothy has made her bed and must lie on it. Here’s Jack Fenwick. You can go.
Anthony. Jack Fenwick, is that you? Come here, my boy. Jack, you’ve given me many a thrashing, and I deserved ‘em; and I’ll not see you made a fool of now. George Austin is a damned villain, and Dorothy Musgrave is no girl for you to marry: God help me that I should have to say it.
Fenwick. Good God, who told you?
Anthony. Ay, Jack; it’s hard on me, Jack. But you’ll stand my friend in spite of this, and you’ll take my message to the man, won’t you? For it’s got to come to blood, Jack: there’s no way out of that. And perhaps your poor friend will fall, Jack; think of that: like Villiers. And all for an unworthy sister.
Fenwick. Now, Anthony Musgrave, I give you fair warning; see you take it: one more word against your sister, and we quarrel.
Anthony. You let it slip yourself, Jack: you know yourself she’s not a virtuous girl.
Fenwick. What do you know of virtue, whose whole boast is to be vicious? How dare you draw conclusions? Dolt and puppy! you can no more comprehend that angel’s excellences than she can stoop to believe in your vices. And you talk morality? Anthony, I’m a man who has been somewhat roughly tried: take care.
Anthony. You don’t seem able to grasp the situation, Jack. It’s very remarkable; I’m the girl’s natural protector; and you should buckle-to and help, like a friend of the family. And instead of that, begad! you turn on me like all the rest.
Fenwick. Now mark me fairly: Mr. Austin follows at my heels; he comes to offer marriage to your sister — that is all you know, and all you shall know; and if by any misplaced insolence of yours this marriage should miscarry, you have to answer, not to Mr. Austin only, but to me.
Anthony. It’s all a most discreditable business, and I don’t see how you propose to better it by cutting my throat. Of course, if he’s going to marry her, it’s a different thing, but I don’t believe he is, or he’d have asked me. You think me a fool? Well, see they marry, or they’ll find me a dangerous fool.
To these, Austin, Barbara announcing
Barbara. Mr. Austin. (She shows Austin in, and retires.)
Austin. You will do me the justice to acknowledge, Mr. Fenwick, that I have been not long delayed by my devotion to the Graces.
Anthony. So, sir, I find you in my house — —
Austin. And charmed to meet you again. It went against my conscience to separate so soon. Youth, Mr. Musgrave, is to us older men a perpetual refreshment.
Anthony. You came here, sir, I suppose, upon some errand?
Austin. My errand, Mr. Musgrave, is to your fair sister. Beauty, as you know, comes before valour.
Anthony. In my own house, and about my own sister, I presume I have the right to ask for something more explicit.
Austin. The right, my dear sir, is beyond question; but it is one, as you were going on to observe, on which no gentleman insists.
Fenwick. Anthony, my good fellow, I think we had better go.
Anthony. I have asked a question.
Austin. Which I was charmed to answer, but which, on repetition, might begin to grow distasteful.
Anthony. In my own house — —
Fenwick. For God’s sake, Anthony!
Austin. In your aunt’s house, young gentleman, I shall be careful to refrain from criticism. I am come upon a visit to a lady: that visit I shall pay; when you desire (if it be possible that you desire it) to resume this singular conversation, select some fitter place. Mr. Fenwick, this afternoon, may I present you to his Royal Highness?
Anthony. Why, sir, I believe you must have misconceived me. I have no wish to offend: at least at present.
Austin. Enough, sir. I was persuaded I had heard amiss. I trust we shall be friends.
Fenwick. Come, Anthony, come: here is your sister. (As Fenwick and Anthony go out, C., enter Dorothy, L.)
Dorothy. I am told, Mr. Austin, that you wish to see me.
Austin. Madam, can you doubt of that desire? can you question my sincerity?
Dorothy. Sir, between you and me these compliments are worse than idle: they are unkind. Sure, we are alone!
Austin. I find you in an hour of cruelty, I fear. Yet you have condescended to receive this poor offender; and, having done so much, you will not refuse to give him audience.
Dorothy. You shall have no cause, sir, to complain of me. I listen.
Austin. My fair friend, I have sent myself — a poor ambassador — to plead for your forgiveness. I have been too long absent; too long, I would fain hope, madam, for you; too long for my honour and my love. I am no longer, madam, in my first youth; but I may say that I am not unknown. My fortune, originally small, has not suffered from my husbandry. I have excellent health, an excellent temper, and the purest ardour of affection for your person. I found not on my merits, but on your indulgence. Miss Musgrave, will you honour me with your hand in marriage?
Dorothy. Mr. Austin, if I thought basely of marriage, I should perhaps accept your offer. There was a time, indeed, when it would have made me proudest among women. I was the more deceived, and have to thank you for a salutary lesson. You chose to count me as a cipher in your rolls of conquest; for six months you left me to my fate; and you come here to-day — prompted, I doubt not, by an honourable impulse — to offer this tardy reparation. No; it is too late.
Austin. Do you refuse?
Dorothy. Yours is the blame; we are no longer equal. You have robbed me of the right to marry any one but you; and do you think me, then, so poor in spirit as to accept a husband on compulsion?
Austin. Dorothy, you loved me once.
Dorothy. Ay, you will never guess how much: you will never live to understand how ignominious a defeat that conquest was. I loved and trusted you: I judged you by myself; think, then, of my humiliation, when, at the touch of trial, all your qualities proved false, and I beheld you the slave of the meanest vanity — selfish, untrue, base! Think, sir, what a humbling of my pride to have been thus deceived; to have taken for my idol such a commonplace imposture as yourself; to have loved — yes, loved — such a shadow, such a mockery of man. And now I am unworthy to be the wife of any gentleman; and you — look me in the face, George — are you worthy to be my husband?
Austin. No, Dorothy, I am not. I was a vain fool; I blundered away the most precious opportunity; and my regret will be lifelong. Do me the justice to accept this full confession of my fault. I am here to-day to own and to repair it.
Dorothy. Repair it? Sir, you condescend too far.
Austin. I perceive with shame how grievously I had misjudged you. But now, Dorothy, believe me, my eyes are opened. I plead with you, not as my equal, but as one in all ways better than myself. I admire you, not in that trivial sense in which we men are wont to speak of women, but as God’s work: as a wise mind, a noble soul, and a most generous heart, from whose society I have all to gain, all to learn. Dorothy, in one word, I love you.
Dorothy. And what, sir, has wrought this transformation? You knew me of old, or thought you knew me? Is it in six months of selfish absence that your mind has changed? When did that change begin? A week ago? Sure, you would have written! To-day? Sir, if this offer be anything more than fresh offence, I have a right to be enlightened.
Austin. Madam, I foresaw this question. So be it: I respect, and I will not deceive you. But give me, first of all, a moment for defence. There are few men of my habits and position who would have done as I have done: sate at the feet of a young boy, accepted his lessons, gone upon his errand: fewer still, who would thus, at the crisis of a love, risk the whole fortune of the soul — love, gratitude, even respect. Yet more than that! For conceive how I respect you, if I, whose lifelong trade has been flattery, stand before you and make the plain confession of a truth that must not only lower me, but deeply wound yourself.
Dorothy. What means — — ?
Austin. Young Fenwick, my rival for your heart, he it was that sent me.
Dorothy. He? O disgrace! He sent you! That was what he meant? Am I fallen so low? Am I your common talk among men? Did you dice for me? Did he kneel? O John, John, how could you! And you, Mr. Austin, whither have you brought me down? shame heaping upon shame — to what end! O, to what end?
Austin. Madam, you wound me: you look wilfully amiss. Sure, any lady in the land might well be proud to be loved as you are loved, with such nobility as Mr. Fenwick’s, with such humility as mine. I came, indeed, in pity, in good-nature, what you will. (See, dearest lady, with what honesty I speak: if I win you, it shall be with the unblemished truth.) All that is gone. Pity? it is myself I pity. I offer you not love — I am not worthy. I ask, I beseech of you: suffer me to wait upon you like a servant, to serve you with my rank, my name, the whole devotion of my life. I am a gentleman — ay, in spite of my fault — an upright gentleman; and I swear to you that you shall order your life and mine at your free will. Dorothy, at your feet, in remorse, in respect, in love — O such love as I have never felt, such love as I derided — I implore, I conjure you to be mine!
Dorothy. Too late! too late.
Austin. No, no; not too late: not too late for penitence, not too late for love.
Dorothy. Which do you propose? that I should abuse your compassion, or reward your treachery? George Austin, I have been your mistress, and I will never be your wife.
Austin. Child, dear child, I have not told you all: there is worse still: your brother knows; the boy as good as told me. Dorothy, this is scandal at the door — O let that move you: for that, if not for my sake, for that, if not for love, trust me, trust me again.
Dorothy. I am so much the more your victim: that is all, and shall that change my heart? The sin must have its wages. This, too, was done long ago: when you stooped to lie to me. The shame is still mine, the fault still yours.
Austin. Child, child, you kill me: you will not understand. Can you not see? the lad will force me to a duel.
Dorothy. And you will kill him? Shame after shame, threat upon threat. Marry me, or you are dishonoured; marry me, or your brother dies: and this is man’s honour! But my honour and my pride are different. I will encounter all misfortune sooner than degrade myself by an unfaithful marriage. How should I kneel before the altar, and vow to reverence as my husband you, you who deceived me as my lover?
Austin. Dorothy, you misjudge me cruelly; I have deserved it. You will not take me for your husband; why should I wonder? You are right. I have indeed filled your life with calamity: the wages, ay, the wages, of my sin are heavy upon you. But I have one more thing to ask of your pity; and O remember, child, who it is that asks it: a man guilty in your sight, void of excuse, but old, and very proud, and most unused to supplication. Dorothy Musgrave, will you forgive George Austin?
Dorothy. O George!
Austin. It is the old name: that is all I ask, and more than I deserve. I shall remember, often remember, how and where it was bestowed upon me for the last time. I thank you, Dorothy, from my heart; a heart, child, that has been too long silent, but is not too old, I thank God! not yet too old to learn a lesson and to accept a reproof. I will not keep you longer: I will go — I am so bankrupt in credit that I dare not ask you to believe in how much sorrow. But, Dorothy, my acts will speak for me with more persuasion. If it be in my power, you shall suffer no more through me: I will avoid your brother; I will leave this place, I will leave England, to-morrow; you shall be no longer tortured with the neighbourhood of your ungenerous lover. Dorothy, farewell!
Dorothy; to whom, Anthony, L.
Dorothy (on her knees and reaching with her hands). George, George! (Enter Anthony.)
Anthony. Ha! what are you crying for?
Dorothy. Nothing, dear. (Rising.)
Anthony. Is Austin going to marry you?
Dorothy. I shall never marry.
Anthony. I thought as much. You should have come to me.
Dorothy. I know, dear, I know; but there was nothing to come about.
Anthony. It’s a lie. You have disgraced the family. You went to John Fenwick: see what he has made of it. But I will have you righted: it shall be atoned in the man’s blood.
Dorothy. Anthony! And if I had refused him?
Anthony. You? refuse George Austin? You never had the chance.
Dorothy. I have refused him.
Anthony. Dorothy, you lie. You would shield your lover; but this concerns not you only: it strikes my honour and my father’s honour.
Dorothy. I have refused him — refused him, I tell you — refused him. The blame is mine; are you so mad and wicked that you will not see?
Anthony. I see this: that man must die.
Dorothy. He? never! You forget, you forget whom you defy; you run upon your death.
Anthony. Ah, my girl, you should have thought of that before. It is too late now.
Dorothy. Anthony, if I beg you — Anthony, I have tried to be a good sister; I brought you up, dear, nursed you when you were sick, fought for you, hoped for you, loved you — think of it, think of the dear past, think of our home and the happy winter nights, the castles in the fire, the long shining future, the love that was to forgive and suffer always — O you will spare, you will spare me this.
Anthony. I will tell you what I will do, Dolly: I will do just what you taught me — my duty: that, and nothing else.
Dorothy. O Anthony, you also, you to strike me! Heavens, shall I kill them — I — I, that love them, kill them! Miserable, sinful girl! George, George, thank God, you will be far away! O go, George, go at once!
Anthony. He goes, the coward! Ay, is this more of your contrivance? Madam, you make me blush. But to-day at least I know where I can find him. This afternoon, on the Pantiles, he must dance attendance on the Duke of York. Already he must be there; and there he is at my mercy.
Dorothy. Thank God, you are deceived: he will not fight. He promised me that; thank God, I have his promise for that.
Anthony. Promise! Do you see this? (producing necklace) the thing he bribed your maid with? I shall dash it in his teeth before the Duke and before all Tunbridge. Promise, you poor fool? what promise holds against a blow? Get to your knees and pray for him; for, by the God above, if he has any blood in his body, one of us shall die before to-night. (He goes out.)
Dorothy. Anthony, Anthony!... O my God, George will kill him.
(Music: “ChÃ¨ farÃ²” as the drop falls.)
Musical Induction: “Gavotte,” IphigÃ©nie en Aulide, Gluck
The Stage represents the Pantiles: the alleys fronting the spectators in parallel lines. At the back, a stand of musicians, from which the “Gavotte” is repeated on muted strings. The music continues nearly through Scene I. Visitors walking to and fro beneath the limes. A seat in front, L.
Miss Foster, Barbara, Menteith; Visitors
Miss Foster (entering; escorted by Menteith, and followed by Barbara). And so, Menteith, here you are once more. And vastly pleased I am to see you, my good fellow, not only for your own sake, but because you harbinger the Beau. (Sits, L., Menteith standing over her.)
Menteith. Honoured madam, I have had the pleasure to serve Mr. George for more than thirty years. This is a privilege — a very great privilege. I have beheld him in the first societies, moving among the first rank of personages; and none, madam, none outshone him.
Barbara. I assure you, madam, when Mr. Menteith took me to the play, he talked so much of Mr. Austin that I couldn’t hear a word of Mr. Kean.
Miss Foster. Well, well, and very right. That was the old school of service, Barbara, which you would do well to imitate. — This is a child, Menteith, that I am trying to form.
Menteith. Quite so, madam.
Miss Foster. And are we soon to see our princely guest, Menteith?
Menteith. His Royal Highness, madam? I believe I may say quite so. Mr. George will receive our gallant prince upon the Pantiles (looking at his watch) in, I should say, a matter of twelve minutes from now. Such, madam, is Mr. George’s order of the day.
Barbara. I beg your pardon, madam, I am sure, but are we really to see one of His Majesty’s own brothers? That will be pure! O madam, this is better than Carlisle.
Miss Foster. The wood-note wild: a loyal Cumbrian, Menteith.
Menteith. Eh? Quite so, madam.
Miss Foster. When she has seen as much of the Royal Family as you, my good fellow, she will find it vastly less entertaining.
Menteith. Yes, madam, indeed; in these distinguished circles life is but a slavery. None of the best set would relish Tunbridge without Mr. George; Tunbridge and Mr. George (if you’ll excuse my plainness, madam) are in a manner of speaking identified; and indeed it was the Dook’s desire alone that brought us here.
Barbara. What? the Duke? O dear! was it for that?
Menteith. Though, to be sure, madam, Mr. George would always be charmed to find himself (bowing) among so many admired members of his own set.
Miss Foster. Upon my word, Menteith, Mr. Austin is as fortunate in his servant as his reputation.
Menteith. Quite so, madam. But let me observe that the opportunities I have had of acquiring a knowledge of Mr. George’s character have been positively unrivalled. Nobody knows Mr. George like his old attendant. The goodness of that gentleman — but, madam, you will soon be equally fortunate, if, as I understand, it is to be a match.
Miss Foster. I hope, Menteith, you are not taking leave of your senses. Is it possible you mean my niece?
Menteith. Madam, I have the honour to congratulate you. I put a second curl in Mr. George’s hair on purpose.
To these, Austin. Menteith falls back, and Austin takes his place in front of Miss Foster, his attitude a counterpart of Menteith’s
Austin. Madam, I hasten to present my homage.
Miss Foster. A truce to compliments; Menteith, your charming fellow there, has set me positively crazy. Dear George Austin, is it true? Can it be true?
Austin. Madam, if he has been praising your niece he has been well inspired. If he was speaking, as I spoke an hour ago myself, I wish, Miss Foster, that he had held his tongue. I have indeed offered myself to Miss Dorothy, and she, with the most excellent reason, has refused me.
Miss Foster. Is it possible? why, my dear George Austin, ... then I suppose it is John Fenwick after all?
Austin. Not one of us is worthy.
Miss Foster. This is the most amazing circumstance. You take my breath away. My niece refuse George Austin? why, I give you my word, I thought she had adored you. A perfect scandal: it positively must not get abroad.
Austin. Madam, for that young lady I have a singular regard. Judge me as tenderly as you can, and set it down, if you must, to an old man’s vanity — for, Evelina, we are no longer in the heyday of our youth — judge me as you will: I should prefer to have it known.
Miss Foster. Can you? George Austin, you? My youth was nothing; I was a failure; but for you? no, George, you never can, you never must be old. You are the triumph of my generation, George, and of our old friendship too. Think of my first dance and my first partner. And to have this story — no, I could not bear to have it told of you.
Austin. Madam, there are some ladies over whom it is a boast to have prevailed; there are others whom it is a glory to have loved. And I am so vain, dear Evelina, that even thus I am proud to link my name with that of Dorothy Musgrave.
Miss Foster. George, you are changed. I would not know you.
Austin. I scarce know myself. But pardon me, dear friend (taking out his watch), in less than four minutes our illustrious guest will descend amongst us; and I observe Mr. Fenwick, with whom I have a pressing business. Suffer me, dear Evelina! — —
To these, Fenwick. Miss Foster remains seated, L. Austin goes R. to Fenwick, whom he salutes with great respect
Austin. Mr. Fenwick, I have played and lost. That noble lady, justly incensed at my misconduct, has condemned me. Under the burden of such a loss, may I console myself with the esteem of Mr. Fenwick?
Fenwick. She refused you? Pardon me, sir, but was the fault not yours?
Austin. Perhaps to my shame, I am no novice, Mr. Fenwick; but I have never felt nor striven as to-day. I went upon your errand; but, you may trust me, sir, before I had done I found it was my own. Until to-day I never rightly valued her; sure, she is fit to be a queen. I have a remorse here at my heart to which I am a stranger. O! that was a brave life, that was a great heart that I have ruined.
Fenwick. Ay, sir, indeed.
Austin. But, sir, it is not to lament the irretrievable that I intrude myself upon your leisure. There is something to be done, to save, at least to spare, that lady. You did not fail to observe the brother?
Fenwick. No, sir, he knows all; and being both intemperate and ignorant — —
Austin. Surely. I know. I have to ask you then to find what friends you can among this company; and if you have none, to make them. Let everybody hear the news. Tell it (if I may offer the suggestion) with humour: how Mr. Austin, somewhat upon the wane, but still filled with sufficiency, gloriously presumed and was most ingloriously set down by a young lady from the north: the lady’s name a secret, which you will permit to be divined. The laugh — the position of the hero — will make it circulate; — you perceive I am in earnest; — and in this way I believe our young friend will find himself forestalled.
Fenwick. Mr. Austin, I would not have dared to ask so much of you; I will go further: were the positions changed, I should fear to follow your example.
Austin. Child, child, you could not afford it.
To these, the Royal Duke, C.; then, immediately, Anthony, L. Fenwick crosses to Miss Foster, R. Austin accosts the Duke, C., in dumb show; the muted strings take up a new air, Mozart’s “Anglaise”; couples passing under the limes, and forming a group behind Austin and the Duke. Anthony in front, L., watches Austin, who, as he turns from the Duke, sees him, and comes forward with extended hand
Austin. Dear child, let me present you to his Royal Highness.
Anthony (with necklace). Mr. Austin, do you recognise the bribe you gave my sister’s maid?
Austin. Hush, sir, hush! you forget the presence of the Duke.
Anthony. Mr. Austin, you are a coward and a scoundrel.
Austin. My child, you will regret these words: I refuse your quarrel.
Anthony. You do? Take that. (He strikes Austin on the mouth. At the moment of the blow — — )
To these, Dorothy, L. U. E. Dorothy, unseen by Austin, shrieks. Sensation. Music stops. Tableau
Austin (recovering his composure). Your Royal Highness, suffer me to excuse the disrespect of this young gentleman. He has so much apology, and I have, I hope, so good a credit, as incline me to accept this blow. But I must beg of your Highness, and, gentlemen, all of you here present, to bear with me while I will explain what is too capable of misconstruction. I am the rejected suitor of this young gentleman’s sister; of Miss Dorothy Musgrave: a lady whom I singularly honour and esteem; a word from whom (if I could hope that word) would fill my life with happiness. I was not worthy of that lady; when I was defeated in fair field, I presumed to make advances through her maid. See in how laughable a manner fate repaid me! The waiting-girl derided, the mistress denied, and now comes in this very ardent champion who publicly insults me. My vanity is cured; you will judge it right, I am persuaded, all of you, that I should accept my proper punishment in silence; you, my Lord Duke, to pardon this young gentleman; and you, Mr. Musgrave, to spare me further provocation, which I am determined to ignore.
Dorothy (rushing forward, falling at Austin’s knees, and seizing his hand). George, George, it was for me. My hero! take me! What you will!
Austin (in an agony). My dear creature, remember that we are in public. (Raising her.) Your Royal Highness, may I present you Mrs. George Frederick Austin? (The curtain falls on a few bars of “The Lass of Richmond Hill.”)