Act I - Scene iv
[To them] Heartwell.
BELL. Who? Heartwell? Ay, but he knows better things. How now, George, where hast thou been snarling odious truths, and entertaining company, like a physician, with discourse of their diseases and infirmities? What fine lady hast thou been putting out of conceit with herself, and persuading that the face she had been making all the morning was none of her own? For I know thou art as unmannerly and as unwelcome to a woman as a looking-glass after the smallpox.
HEART. I confess I have not been sneering fulsome lies and nauseous flattery; fawning upon a little tawdry whore, that will fawn upon me again, and entertain any puppy that comes, like a tumbler, with the same tricks over and over. For such, I guess, may have been your late employment.
BELL. Would thou hadst come a little sooner. Vainlove would have wrought thy conversion, and been a champion for the cause.
HEART. What! has he been here? That’s one of love’s April fools; is always upon some errand that’s to no purpose; ever embarking in adventures, yet never comes to harbour.
SHARP. That’s because he always sets out in foul weather, loves to buffet with the winds, meet the tide, and sail in the teeth of opposition.
HEART. What! Has he not dropt anchor at Araminta?
BELL. Truth on’t is she fits his temper best, is a kind of floating island; sometimes seems in reach, then vanishes and keeps him busied in the search.
SHARP. She had need have a good share of sense to manage so capricious a lover.
BELL. Faith I don’t know, he’s of a temper the most easy to himself in the world; he takes as much always of an amour as he cares for, and quits it when it grows stale or unpleasant.
SHARP. An argument of very little passion, very good understanding, and very ill nature.
HEART. And proves that Vainlove plays the fool with discretion.
SHARP. You, Bellmour, are bound in gratitude to stickle for him; you with pleasure reap that fruit, which he takes pains to sow: he does the drudgery in the mine, and you stamp your image on the gold.
BELL. He’s of another opinion, and says I do the drudgery in the mine. Well, we have each our share of sport, and each that which he likes best; ’tis his diversion to set, ’tis mine to cover the partridge.
HEART. And it should be mine to let ’em go again.
SHARP. Not till you had mouthed a little, George. I think that’s all thou art fit for now.
HEART. Good Mr. Young-Fellow, you’re mistaken; as able as yourself, and as nimble, too, though I mayn’t have so much mercury in my limbs; ’tis true, indeed, I don’t force appetite, but wait the natural call of my lust, and think it time enough to be lewd after I have had the temptation.
BELL. Time enough, ay, too soon, I should rather have expected, from a person of your gravity.
HEART. Yet it is oftentimes too late with some of you young, termagant, flashy sinners—you have all the guilt of the intention, and none of the pleasure of the practice—’tis true you are so eager in pursuit of the temptation, that you save the devil the trouble of leading you into it. Nor is it out of discretion that you don’t swallow that very hook yourselves have baited, but you are cloyed with the preparative, and what you mean for a whet, turns the edge of your puny stomachs. Your love is like your courage, which you show for the first year or two upon all occasions; till in a little time, being disabled or disarmed, you abate of your vigour; and that daring blade which was so often drawn, is bound to the peace for ever after.
BELL. Thou art an old fornicator of a singular good principle indeed, and art for encouraging youth, that they may be as wicked as thou art at thy years.
HEART. I am for having everybody be what they pretend to be: a whoremaster be a whoremaster, and not like Vainlove, kiss a lap-dog with passion, when it would disgust him from the lady’s own lips.
BELL. That only happens sometimes, where the dog has the sweeter breath, for the more cleanly conveyance. But, George, you must not quarrel with little gallantries of this nature: women are often won by ’em. Who would refuse to kiss a lap-dog, if it were preliminary to the lips of his lady?
SHARP. Or omit playing with her fan, and cooling her if she were hot, when it might entitle him to the office of warming her when she should be cold?
BELL. What is it to read a play in a rainy day? Though you should be now and then interrupted in a witty scene, and she perhaps preserve her laughter, till the jest were over; even that may be borne with, considering the reward in prospect.
HEART. I confess you that are women’s asses bear greater burdens: are forced to undergo dressing, dancing, singing, sighing, whining, rhyming, flattering, lying, grinning, cringing, and the drudgery of loving to boot.
BELL. O brute, the drudgery of loving!
HEART. Ay! Why, to come to love through all these incumbrances is like coming to an estate overcharged with debts, which, by the time you have paid, yields no further profit than what the bare tillage and manuring of the land will produce at the expense of your own sweat.
BELL. Prithee, how dost thou love?
SHARP. He! He hates the sex.
HEART. So I hate physic too—yet I may love to take it for my health.
BELL. Well come off, George, if at any time you should be taken straying.
SHARP. He has need of such an excuse, considering the present state of his body.
HEART. How d’ye mean?
SHARP. Why, if whoring be purging, as you call it, then, I may say, marriage is entering into a course of physic.
BELL. How, George! Does the wind blow there?
HEART. It will as soon blow north and by south—marry, quotha! I hope in heaven I have a greater portion of grace, and I think I have baited too many of those traps to be caught in one myself.
BELL. Who the devil would have thee? unless ’twere an oysterwoman to propagate young fry for Billingsgate—thy talent will never recommend thee to anything of better quality.
HEART. My talent is chiefly that of speaking truth, which I don’t expect should ever recommend me to people of quality. I thank heaven I have very honestly purchased the hatred of all the great families in town.
SHARP. And you in return of spleen hate them. But could you hope to be received into the alliance of a noble family—
HEART. No; I hope I shall never merit that affliction, to be punished with a wife of birth, be a stag of the first head and bear my horns aloft, like one of the supporters of my wife’s coat. S’death I would not be a Cuckold to e’er an illustrious whore in England.
BELL. What, not to make your family, man and provide for your children?
SHARP. For her children, you mean.
HEART. Ay, there you’ve nicked it. There’s the devil upon devil. Oh, the pride and joy of heart ’twould be to me to have my son and heir resemble such a duke; to have a fleering coxcomb scoff and cry, ‘Mr. your son’s mighty like his Grace, has just his smile and air of’s face.’ Then replies another, ‘Methinks he has more of the Marquess of such a place about his nose and eyes, though he has my Lord what-d’ye-call’s mouth to a tittle.’ Then I, to put it off as unconcerned, come chuck the infant under the chin, force a smile, and cry, ‘Ay, the boy takes after his mother’s relations,’ when the devil and she knows ’tis a little compound of the whole body of nobility.
BELL+SHARP. Ha, ha, ha!
BELL. Well, but, George, I have one question to ask you—
HEART. Pshaw, I have prattled away my time. I hope you are in no haste for an answer, for I shan’t stay now. [Looking on his watch.]
BELL. Nay, prithee, George—
HEART. No; besides my business, I see a fool coming this way. Adieu.