ACT IV
Scene XV.
 

[To them] LADY with a letter.

LADY WISHFORT
Call in the dancers; Sir Rowland, we'll sit, if you please, and see the entertainment. [Dance.] Now, with your permission, Sir Rowland, I will peruse my letter. I would open it in your presence, because I would not make you uneasy. If it should make you uneasy, I would burn it--speak if it does--but you may see, the superscription is like a woman's hand.

FOIBLE
By heaven! Mrs. Marwood's, I know it,--my heart aches--get it from her! [To him.]

WAITWELL
A woman's hand? No madam, that's no woman's hand: I see that already. That's somebody whose throat must be cut.

LADY WISHFORT
Nay, Sir Rowland, since you give me a proof of your passion by your jealousy, I promise you I'll make a return by a frank communication. You shall see it--we'll open it together. Look you here. [Reads.] MADAM, THOUGH UNKNOWN TO YOU (look you there, 'tis from nobody that I know.) I HAVE THAT HONOUR FOR YOUR CHARACTER, THAT I THINK MYSELF OBLIGED TO LET YOU KNOW YOU ARE ABUSED HE WHO PRETENDS TO BE SIR ROWLAND IS A CHEAT AND A RASCAL O heavens! what's this?

FOIBLE
Unfortunate; all's ruined.

WAITWELL
How, how, let me see, let me see. [Reading.] A RASCAL, AND DISGUISED AND SUBORNED FOR THAT IMPOSTURE--O villainy! O villainy!-- BY THE CONTRIVANCE OF -

LADY WISHFORT
I shall faint, I shall die. Oh!

FOIBLE
Say 'tis your nephew's hand. Quickly, his plot, swear, swear it! [To him.]

WAITWELL
Here's a villain! Madam, don't you perceive it? Don't you see it?

LADY WISHFORT
Too well, too well. I have seen too much.

WAITWELL
I told you at first I knew the hand. A woman's hand? The rascal writes a sort of a large hand: your Roman hand.--I saw there was a throat to be cut presently. If he were my son, as he is my nephew, I'd pistol him.

FOIBLE
O treachery! But are you sure, Sir Rowland, it is his writing?

WAITWELL
Sure? Am I here? Do I live? Do I love this pearl of India? I have twenty letters in my pocket from him in the same character.

LADY WISHFORT
How?

FOIBLE
Oh, what luck it is, Sir Rowland, that you were present at this juncture! This was the business that brought Mr. Mirabell disguised to Madam Millamant this afternoon. I thought something was contriving, when he stole by me and would have hid his face.

LADY WISHFORT
How, how? I heard the villain was in the house indeed; and now I remember, my niece went away abruptly when Sir Wilfull was to have made his addresses.

FOIBLE
Then, then, madam, Mr. Mirabell waited for her in her chamber; but I would not tell your ladyship to discompose you when you were to receive Sir Rowland.

WAITWELL
Enough, his date is short.

FOIBLE
No, good Sir Rowland, don't incur the law.

WAITWELL
Law? I care not for law. I can but die, and 'tis in a good cause. My lady shall be satisfied of my truth and innocence, though it cost me my life.

LADY WISHFORT
No, dear Sir Rowland, don't fight: if you should be killed I must never show my face; or hanged,--oh, consider my reputation, Sir Rowland. No, you shan't fight: I'll go in and examine my niece; I'll make her confess. I conjure you, Sir Rowland, by all your love not to fight.

WAITWELL
I am charmed, madam; I obey. But some proof you must let me give you: I'll go for a black box, which contains the writings of my whole estate, and deliver that into your hands.

LADY WISHFORT
Ay, dear Sir Rowland, that will be some comfort; bring the black box.

WAITWELL
And may I presume to bring a contract to be signed this night? May I hope so far?

LADY WISHFORT
Bring what you will; but come alive, pray come alive. Oh, this is a happy discovery.

WAITWELL
Dead or alive I'll come--and married we will be in spite of treachery; ay, and get an heir that shall defeat the last remaining glimpse of hope in my abandoned nephew. Come, my buxom widow:

E'er long you shall substantial proof receive That I'm an arrant knight -

FOIBLE
Or arrant knave.