ACT II
Scene III.
 

FAINALL, MRS. MARWOOD.

FAINALL
Excellent creature! Well, sure, if I should live to be rid of my wife, I should be a miserable man.

MRS. MARWOOD
Ay?

FAINALL
For having only that one hope, the accomplishment of it of consequence must put an end to all my hopes, and what a wretch is he who must survive his hopes! Nothing remains when that day comes but to sit down and weep like Alexander when he wanted other worlds to conquer.

MRS. MARWOOD
Will you not follow 'em?

FAINALL
Faith, I think not,

MRS. MARWOOD
Pray let us; I have a reason.

FAINALL
You are not jealous?

MRS. MARWOOD
Of whom?

FAINALL
Of Mirabell.

MRS. MARWOOD
If I am, is it inconsistent with my love to you that I am tender of your honour?

FAINALL
You would intimate then, as if there were a fellow-feeling between my wife and him?

MRS. MARWOOD
I think she does not hate him to that degree she would be thought.

FAINALL
But he, I fear, is too insensible.

MRS. MARWOOD
It may be you are deceived.

FAINALL
It may be so. I do not now begin to apprehend it.

MRS. MARWOOD
What?

FAINALL
That I have been deceived, madam, and you are false.

MRS. MARWOOD
That I am false? What mean you?

FAINALL
To let you know I see through all your little arts.--Come, you both love him, and both have equally dissembled your aversion. Your mutual jealousies of one another have made you clash till you have both struck fire. I have seen the warm confession red'ning on your cheeks, and sparkling from your eyes.

MRS. MARWOOD
You do me wrong.

FAINALL
I do not. 'Twas for my ease to oversee and wilfully neglect the gross advances made him by my wife, that by permitting her to be engaged, I might continue unsuspected in my pleasures, and take you oftener to my arms in full security. But could you think, because the nodding husband would not wake, that e'er the watchful lover slept?

MRS. MARWOOD
And wherewithal can you reproach me?

FAINALL
With infidelity, with loving another, with love of Mirabell.

MRS. MARWOOD
'Tis false. I challenge you to show an instance that can confirm your groundless accusation. I hate him.

FAINALL
And wherefore do you hate him? He is insensible, and your resentment follows his neglect. An instance? The injuries you have done him are a proof: your interposing in his love. What cause had you to make discoveries of his pretended passion? To undeceive the credulous aunt, and be the officious obstacle of his match with Millamant?

MRS. MARWOOD
My obligations to my lady urged me: I had professed a friendship to her, and could not see her easy nature so abused by that dissembler.

FAINALL
What, was it conscience then? Professed a friendship! Oh, the pious friendships of the female sex!

MRS. MARWOOD
More tender, more sincere, and more enduring, than all the vain and empty vows of men, whether professing love to us or mutual faith to one another.

FAINALL
Ha, ha, ha! you are my wife's friend too.

MRS. MARWOOD
Shame and ingratitude! Do you reproach me? You, you upbraid me? Have I been false to her, through strict fidelity to you, and sacrificed my friendship to keep my love inviolate? And have you the baseness to charge me with the guilt, unmindful of the merit? To you it should be meritorious that I have been vicious. And do you reflect that guilt upon me which should lie buried in your bosom?

FAINALL
You misinterpret my reproof. I meant but to remind you of the slight account you once could make of strictest ties when set in competition with your love to me.

MRS. MARWOOD
'Tis false, you urged it with deliberate malice. 'Twas spoke in scorn, and I never will forgive it.

FAINALL
Your guilt, not your resentment, begets your rage. If yet you loved, you could forgive a jealousy: but you are stung to find you are discovered.

MRS. MARWOOD
It shall be all discovered. You too shall be discovered; be sure you shall. I can but be exposed. If I do it myself I shall prevent your baseness.

FAINALL
Why, what will you do?

MRS. MARWOOD
Disclose it to your wife; own what has past between us.

FAINALL
Frenzy!

MRS. MARWOOD
By all my wrongs I'll do't. I'll publish to the world the injuries you have done me, both in my fame and fortune: with both I trusted you, you bankrupt in honour, as indigent of wealth.

FAINALL
Your fame I have preserved. Your fortune has been bestowed as the prodigality of your love would have it, in pleasures which we both have shared. Yet, had not you been false I had e'er this repaid it. 'Tis true--had you permitted Mirabell with Millamant to have stolen their marriage, my lady had been incensed beyond all means of reconcilement: Millamant had forfeited the moiety of her fortune, which then would have descended to my wife. And wherefore did I marry but to make lawful prize of a rich widow's wealth, and squander it on love and you?

MRS. MARWOOD
Deceit and frivolous pretence!

FAINALL
Death, am I not married? What's pretence? Am I not imprisoned, fettered? Have I not a wife? Nay, a wife that was a widow, a young widow, a handsome widow, and would be again a widow, but that I have a heart of proof, and something of a constitution to bustle through the ways of wedlock and this world. Will you yet be reconciled to truth and me?

MRS. MARWOOD
Impossible. Truth and you are inconsistent.--I hate you, and shall for ever.

FAINALL
For loving you?

MRS. MARWOOD
I loathe the name of love after such usage; and next to the guilt with which you would asperse me, I scorn you most. Farewell.

FAINALL
Nay, we must not part thus.

MRS. MARWOOD
Let me go.

FAINALL
Come, I'm sorry.

MRS. MARWOOD
I care not. Let me go. Break my hands, do--I'd leave 'em to get loose.

FAINALL
I would not hurt you for the world. Have I no other hold to keep you here?

MRS. MARWOOD
Well, I have deserved it all.

FAINALL
You know I love you.

MRS. MARWOOD
Poor dissembling! Oh, that--well, it is not yet -

FAINALL
What? What is it not? What is it not yet? It is not yet too late -

MRS. MARWOOD
No, it is not yet too late--I have that comfort.

FAINALL
It is, to love another.

MRS. MARWOOD
But not to loathe, detest, abhor mankind, myself, and the whole treacherous world.

FAINALL
Nay, this is extravagance. Come, I ask your pardon. No tears--I was to blame, I could not love you and be easy in my doubts. Pray forbear--I believe you; I'm convinced I've done you wrong; and any way, every way will make amends: I'll hate my wife yet more, damn her, I'll part with her, rob her of all she's worth, and we'll retire somewhere, anywhere, to another world; I'll marry thee--be pacified.--'Sdeath, they come: hide your face, your tears. You have a mask: wear it a moment. This way, this way: be persuaded.