Act II - Act II, Scene III


ANG. Is it not a good hour for pleasure too, uncle? Pray lend me your coach; mine's out of order.

FORE. What, would you be gadding too? Sure, all females are mad to-day. It is of evil portent, and bodes mischief to the master of a family. I remember an old prophecy written by Messahalah the Arabian, and thus translated by a reverend Buckinghamshire bard:-

Fruitful, the head fruitful, that bodes horns; the fruit of the head is horns. Dear niece, stay at home--for by the head of the house is meant the husband; the prophecy needs no explanation.

ANG. Well, but I can neither make you a cuckold, uncle, by going abroad, nor secure you from being one by staying at home.

FORE. Yes, yes; while there's one woman left, the prophecy is not in full force.

ANG. But my inclinations are in force; I have a mind to go abroad, and if you won't lend me your coach, I'll take a hackney or a chair, and leave you to erect a scheme, and find who's in conjunction with your wife. Why don't you keep her at home, if you're jealous of her when she's abroad? You know my aunt is a little retrograde (as you call it) in her nature. Uncle, I'm afraid you are not lord of the ascendant, ha, ha, ha!

FORE. Well, Jill-flirt, you are very pert, and always ridiculing that celestial science.

ANG. Nay, uncle, don't be angry--if you are, I'll reap up all your false prophecies, ridiculous dreams, and idle divinations. I'll swear you are a nuisance to the neighbourhood. What a bustle did you keep against the last invisible eclipse, laying in provision as 'twere for a siege. What a world of fire and candle, matches and tinder-boxes did you purchase! One would have thought we were ever after to live under ground, or at least making a voyage to Greenland, to inhabit there all the dark season.

FORE. Why, you malapert slut -

ANG. Will you lend me your coach, or I'll go on--nay, I'll declare how you prophesied popery was coming only because the butler had mislaid some of the apostle spoons, and thought they were lost. Away went religion and spoon-meat together. Indeed, uncle, I'll indite you for a wizard.

FORE. How, hussy! Was there ever such a provoking minx?

NURSE. O merciful father, how she talks!

ANG. Yes, I can make oath of your unlawful midnight practices, you and the old nurse there -

NURSE. Marry, heaven defend! I at midnight practices? O Lord, what's here to do? I in unlawful doings with my master's worship-- why, did you ever hear the like now? Sir, did ever I do anything of your midnight concerns but warm your bed, and tuck you up, and set the candle and your tobacco-box and your urinal by you, and now and then rub the soles of your feet? O Lord, I!

ANG. Yes, I saw you together through the key-hole of the closet one night, like Saul and the witch of Endor, turning the sieve and shears, and pricking your thumbs, to write poor innocent servants' names in blood, about a little nutmeg grater which she had forgot in the caudle-cup. Nay, I know something worse, if I would speak of it.

FORE. I defy you, hussy; but I'll remember this, I'll be revenged on you, cockatrice. I'll hamper you. You have your fortune in your own hands, but I'll find a way to make your lover, your prodigal spendthrift gallant, Valentine, pay for all, I will.

ANG. Will you? I care not, but all shall out then. Look to it, nurse: I can bring witness that you have a great unnatural teat under your left arm, and he another; and that you suckle a young devil in the shape of a tabby-cat, by turns, I can.

NURSE. A teat, a teat--I an unnatural teat! Oh, the false, slanderous thing; feel, feel here, if I have anything but like another Christian. [Crying.]

FORE. I will have patience, since it is the will of the stars I should be thus tormented. This is the effect of the malicious conjunctions and oppositions in the third house of my nativity; there the curse of kindred was foretold. But I will have my doors locked up;--I'll punish you: not a man shall enter my house.

ANG. Do, uncle, lock 'em up quickly before my aunt come home. You'll have a letter for alimony to-morrow morning. But let me be gone first, and then let no mankind come near the house, but converse with spirits and the celestial signs, the bull and the ram and the goat. Bless me! There are a great many horned beasts among the twelve signs, uncle. But cuckolds go to heaven.

FORE. But there's but one virgin among the twelve signs, spitfire, but one virgin.

ANG. Nor there had not been that one, if she had had to do with anything but astrologers, uncle. That makes my aunt go abroad.

FORE. How, how? Is that the reason? Come, you know something; tell me and I'll forgive you. Do, good niece. Come, you shall have my coach and horses--faith and troth you shall. Does my wife complain? Come, I know women tell one another. She is young and sanguine, has a wanton hazel eye, and was born under Gemini, which may incline her to society. She has a mole upon her lip, with a moist palm, and an open liberality on the mount of Venus.

ANG. Ha, ha, ha!

FORE. Do you laugh? Well, gentlewoman, I'll--but come, be a good girl, don't perplex your poor uncle, tell me--won't you speak? Odd, I'll -

'When housewives all the house forsake,
And leave goodman to brew and bake,
Withouten guile, then be it said,
That house doth stand upon its head;
And when the head is set in grond,
Ne marl, if it be fruitful fond.'