Act IV - Scene xxii

Lætitia and Fondlewife haling out Bellmour.

FOND.  Come out here, thou Ananias incarnate.  Who, how now!  Who have we here?

LÆT.  Ha!  [Shrieks as surprised.]

FOND.  Oh thou salacious woman!  Am I then brutified?  Ay, I feel it here; I sprout, I bud, I blossom, I am ripe-horn-mad.  But who in the devil’s name are you?  Mercy on me for swearing.  But—

LÆT.  Oh! goodness keep us!  Who are you?  What are you?

BELL.  Soh!

LÆT.  In the name of the—O!  Good, my dear, don’t come near it; I’m afraid ’tis the devil; indeed, it has hoofs, dear.

FOND.  Indeed, and I have horns, dear.  The devil, no, I am afraid ’tis the flesh, thou harlot.  Dear, with the pox.  Come Syren, speak, confess, who is this reverend, brawny pastor.

LÆT.  Indeed, and indeed now, my dear Nykin, I never saw this wicked man before.

FOND.  Oh, it is a man then, it seems.

LÆT.  Rather, sure it is a wolf in the clothing of a sheep.

FOND.  Thou art a devil in his proper clothing—woman’s flesh.  What, you know nothing of him, but his fleece here!  You don’t love mutton? you Magdalen unconverted.

BELL.  Well, now, I know my cue.—That is, very honourably to excuse her, and very impudently accuse myself.  [Aside.]

LÆT.  Why then, I wish I may never enter into the heaven of your embraces again, my dear, if ever I saw his face before.

FOND.  O Lord!  O strange!  I am in admiration of your impudence.  Look at him a little better; he is more modest, I warrant you, than to deny it.  Come, were you two never face to face before?  Speak.

BELL.  Since all artifice is vain.  And I think myself obliged to speak the truth in justice to your wife.—No.

FOND.  Humph.

LÆT.  No, indeed, dear.

FOND.  Nay, I find you are both in a story; that I must confess.  But, what—not to be cured of the colic?  Don’t you know your patient, Mrs. Quack?  Oh, ‘lie upon your stomach; lying upon your stomach will cure you of the colic.’  Ah! answer me, Jezebel?

LÆT.  Let the wicked man answer for himself: does he think I have nothing to do but excuse him? ’tis enough if I can clear my own innocence to my own dear.

BELL.  By my troth, and so ’tis.  I have been a little too backward; that’s the truth on’t.

FOND.  Come, sir, who are you, in the first place?  And what are you?

BELL.  A whore-master.

FOND.  Very concise.

LÆT.  O beastly, impudent creature.

FOND.  Well, sir, and what came you hither for?

BELL.  To lie with your wife.

FOND.  Good again.  A very civil person this, and I believe speaks truth.

LÆT.  Oh, insupportable impudence.

FOND.  Well, sir; pray be covered—and you have—Heh!  You have finished the matter, heh?  And I am, as I should be, a sort of civil perquisite to a whore-master, called a cuckold, heh?  Is it not so?  Come, I’m inclining to believe every word you say.

BELL.  Why, faith, I must confess, so I designed you; but you were a little unlucky in coming so soon, and hindered the making of your own fortune.

FOND.  Humph.  Nay, if you mince the matter once and go back of your word you are not the person I took you for.  Come, come, go on boldly.—What, don’t be ashamed of your profession.—Confess, confess; I shall love thee the better for’t.  I shall, i’feck.  What, dost think I don’t know how to behave myself in the employment of a cuckold, and have been three years apprentice to matrimony?  Come, come; plain dealing is a jewel.

BELL.  Well, since I see thou art a good, honest fellow, I’ll confess the whole matter to thee.

FOND.  Oh, I am a very honest fellow.  You never lay with an honester man’s wife in your life.

LÆT.  How my heart aches!  All my comfort lies in his impudence, and heaven be praised, he has a considerable portion.  [Aside.]

BELL.  In short, then, I was informed of the opportunity of your absence by my spy (for faith, honest Isaac, I have a long time designed thee this favour).  I knew Spintext was to come by your direction.  But I laid a trap for him, and procured his habit, in which I passed upon your servants, and was conducted hither.  I pretended a fit of the colic, to excuse my lying down upon your bed; hoping that when she heard of it, her good nature would bring her to administer remedies for my distemper.  You know what might have followed.  But, like an uncivil person, you knocked at the door before your wife was come to me.

FOND.  Ha!  This is apocryphal; I may choose whether I will believe it or no.

BELL.  That you may, faith, and I hope you won’t believe a word on’t—but I can’t help telling the truth, for my life.

FOND.  How! would not you have me believe you, say you?

BELL.  No; for then you must of consequence part with your wife, and there will be some hopes of having her upon the public; then the encouragement of a separate maintenance—

FOND.  No, no; for that matter, when she and I part, she’ll carry her separate maintenance about her.

LÆT.  Ah, cruel dear, how can you be so barbarous?  You’ll break my heart, if you talk of parting.  [Cries.]

FOND.  Ah, dissembling vermin!

BELL.  How can’st thou be so cruel, Isaac?  Thou hast the heart of a mountain-tiger.  By the faith of a sincere sinner, she’s innocent for me.  Go to him, madam, fling your snowy arms about his stubborn neck; bathe his relentless face in your salt trickling tears.  [She goes and hangs upon his neckand kisses him.  Bellmour kisses her hand behind Fondlewife’s back.]  So, a few soft words, and a kiss, and the good man melts.  See how kind nature works, and boils over in him.

LÆT.  Indeed, my dear, I was but just come down stairs, when you knocked at the door; and the maid told me Mr. Spintext was ill of the colic upon our bed.  And won’t you speak to me, cruel Nykin?  Indeed, I’ll die, if you don’t.

FOND.  Ah!  No, no, I cannot speak, my heart’s so full—I have been a tender husband, a tender yoke-fellow; you know I have.—But thou hast been a faithless Delilah, and the Philistines—Heh!  Art thou not vile and unclean, heh?  Speak.  [Weeping.]

LÆT.  No-h.  [Sighing.]

FOND.  Oh that I could believe thee!

LÆT.  Oh, my heart will break.  [Seeming to faint.]

FOND.  Heh, how!  No, stay, stay, I will believe thee, I will.  Pray bend her forward, sir.

LÆT.  Oh! oh!  Where is my dear?

FOND.  Here, here; I do believe thee.  I won’t believe my own eyes.

BELL.  For my part, I am so charmed with the love of your turtle to you, that I’ll go and solicit matrimony with all my might and main.

FOND.  Well, well, sir; as long as I believe it, ’tis well enough.  No thanks to you, sir, for her virtue.—But, I’ll show you the way out of my house, if you please.  Come, my dear.  Nay, I will believe thee, I do, i’feck.

BELL.  See the great blessing of an easy faith; opinion cannot err.

     No husband, by his wife, can be deceived;
     She still is virtuous, if she’s so believed.