Scene. — MILLIKEN’S villa at Richmond; two drawing-rooms opening into one another. The late MRS. MILLIKEN’S portrait over the mantel-piece; bookcases, writing-tables, piano, newspapers, a handsomely furnished saloon. The back-room opens, with very large windows, on the lawn and pleasure-ground; gate, and wall — over which the heads of a cab and a carriage are seen, as persons arrive. Fruit, and a ladder on the walls. A door to the dining-room, another to the sleeping-apartments, &c.
JOHN. — Everybody out; governor in the city; governess (heigh-ho!) walking in the Park with the children; ladyship gone out in the carriage. Let’s sit down and have a look at the papers. Buttons fetch the Morning Post out of Lady Kicklebury’s room. Where’s the Daily News, sir?
PAGE. — Think it’s in Milliken’s room.
JOHN. — Milliken! you scoundrel! What do you mean by Milliken? Speak of your employer as your governor if you like; but not as simple Milliken. Confound your impudence! you’ll be calling me Howell next.
PAGE. — Well! I didn’t know. YOU call him Milliken.
JOHN. — Because I know him, because I’m intimate with him, because there’s not a secret he has but I may have it for the asking; because the letters addressed to Horace Milliken, Esq., might as well be addressed John Howell, Esq., for I read ’em, I put ’em away and docket ’em, and remember ’em. I know his affairs better than he does: his income to a shilling, pay his tradesmen, wear his coats if I like. I may call Mr. Milliken what I please; but not YOU, you little scamp of a clod-hopping ploughboy. Know your station and do your business, or you don’t wear THEM buttons long, I promise you. [Exit Page.]
Let me go on with the paper [reads]. How brilliant this writing is! Times, Chronicle, Daily News, they’re all good, blest if they ain’t. How much better the nine leaders in them three daily papers is, than nine speeches in the House of Commons! Take a very best speech in the ‘Ouse now, and compare it with an article in The Times! I say, the newspaper has the best of it for philosophy, for wit, novelty, good sense too. And the party that writes the leading article is nobody, and the chap that speaks in the House of Commons is a hero. Lord, Lord, how the world is ‘umbugged! Pop’lar representation! what IS pop’lar representation? Dammy, it’s a farce. Hallo! this article is stole! I remember a passage in Montesquieu uncommonly like it. [Goes and gets the book. As he is standing upon sofa to get it, and sitting down to read it, MISS PRIOR and the Children have come in at the garden. Children pass across stage. MISS PRIOR enters by open window, bringing flowers into the room.]
JOHN. — It IS like it. [He slaps the book, and seeing MISS PRIOR who enters, then jumps up from sofa, saying very respectfully,]
JOHN. — I beg your pardon, Miss.
MISS P. —[sarcastically.] Do I disturb you, Howell?
JOHN. — Disturb! I have no right to say — a servant has no right to be disturbed, but I hope I may be pardoned for venturing to look at a volume in the libery, Miss, just in reference to a newspaper harticle — that’s all, Miss.
MISS P. — You are very fortunate in finding anything to interest you in the paper, I’m sure.
JOHN. — Perhaps, Miss, you are not accustomed to political discussion, and ignorant of — ah — I beg your pardon: a servant, I know, has no right to speak. [Exit into dining-room, making a low bow.]
MISS PRIOR. — The coolness of some people is really quite extraordinary! the airs they give themselves, the way in which they answer one, the books they read! Montesquieu: “Esprit des Lois!” [takes book up which J. has left on sofa.] I believe the man has actually taken this from the shelf. I am sure Mr. Milliken, or her ladyship, never would. The other day “Helvetius” was found in Mr. Howell’s pantry, forsooth! It is wonderful how he picked up French whilst we were abroad. “Esprit des Lois!” what is it? it must be dreadfully stupid. And as for reading “Helvetius” (who, I suppose, was a Roman general), I really can’t understand how — Dear, dear! what airs these persons give themselves! What will come next? A footman — I beg Mr. Howell’s pardon — a butler and confidential valet lolls on the drawing-room sofa, and reads Montesquieu! Impudence! And add to this, he follows me for the last two or three months with eyes that are quite horrid. What can the creature mean? But I forgot — I am only a governess. A governess is not a lady — a governess is but a servant — a governess is to work and walk all day with the children, dine in the school-room, and come to the drawing-room to play the man of the house to sleep. A governess is a domestic, only her place is not the servants’ hall, and she is paid not quite so well as the butler who serves her her glass of wine. Odious! George! Arabella! there are those little wretches quarrelling again! [Exit. Children are heard calling out, and seen quarrelling in garden.]
JOHN [re-entering]. — See where she moves! grace is in all her steps. ‘Eaven in her high — no — a-heaven in her heye, in every gesture dignity and love — ah, I wish I could say it! I wish you may procure it, poor fool! She passes by me — she tr-r-amples on me. Here’s the chair she sets in [kisses it.] Here’s the piano she plays on. Pretty keys, them fingers out-hivories you! When she plays on it, I stand and listen at the drawing-room door, and my heart thr-obs in time! Fool, fool, fool! why did you look on her, John Howell! why did you beat for her, busy heart! You were tranquil till you knew her! I thought I could have been a-happy with Mary till then. That girl’s affection soothed me. Her conversation didn’t amuse me much, her ideers ain’t exactly elevated, but they are just and proper. Her attentions pleased me. She ever kep’ the best cup of tea for me. She crisped my buttered toast, or mixed my quiet tumbler for me, as I sat of hevenings and read my newspaper in the kitching. She respected the sanctaty of my pantry. When I was a-studying there, she never interrupted me. She darned my stockings for me, she starched and folded my chokers, and she sowed on the habsent buttons of which time and chance had bereft my linning. She has a good heart, Mary has. I know she’d get up and black the boots for me of the coldest winter mornings. She did when we was in humbler life, she did.
You have a good heart, Mary!
MARY. — Have I, dear John? [sadly.]
JOHN. — Yes, child — yes. I think a better never beat in woman’s bosom. You’re good to everybody — good to your parents whom you send half your wages to: good to your employers whom you never robbed of a halfpenny.
MARY [whimpering]. — Yes, I did, John. I took the jelly when you were in bed with the influenza; and brought you the pork-wine negus.
JOHN. — Port, not pork, child. Pork is the hanimal which Jews ab’or. Port is from Oporto in Portugal.
MARY [still crying]. — Yes, John; you know everything a’most, John.
JOHN. — And you, poor child, but little! It’s not heart you want, you little trump, it’s education, Mary: it’s information: it’s head, head, head! You can’t learn. You never can learn. Your ideers ain’t no good. You never can hinterchange em with mine. Conversation between us is impossible. It’s not your fault. Some people are born clever; some are born tall, I ain’t tall.
MARY. — Ho! you’re big enough for me, John. [Offers to take his hand.]
JOHN. — Let go my ‘and — my a-hand, Mary! I say, some people are born with brains, and some with big figures. Look at that great ass, Bulkeley, Lady K.‘s man — the besotted, stupid beast! He’s as big as a life-guardsman, but he ain’t no more education nor ideers than the ox he feeds on.
MARY. — Law, John, whatever do you mean?
JOHN. — Hm! you know not, little one! you never can know. Have YOU ever felt the pangs of imprisoned genius? have YOU ever felt what ’tis to be a slave?
MARY. — Not in a free country, I should hope, John Howell — no such a thing. A place is a place, and I know mine, and am content with the spear of life in which it pleases heaven to place me, John: and I wish you were, and remembered what we learned from our parson when we went to school together in dear old Pigeoncot, John — when you used to help little Mary with her lessons, John, and fought Bob Brown, the big butcher’s boy, because he was rude to me, John, and he gave you that black hi.
JOHN. — Say eye, Mary, not heye [gently].
MARY. — Eye; and I thought you never looked better in all your life than you did then: and we both took service at Squire Milliken’s — me as dairy-girl, and you as knife-boy; and good masters have they been to us from our youth hup: both old Squire Milliken and Mr. Charles as is master now, and poor Mrs. as is dead, though she had her tantrums — and I thought we should save up and take the “Milliken Arms”— and now we have saved up — and now, now, now — oh, you are a stone, a stone, a stone! and I wish you were hung round my neck, and I were put down the well! There’s the hup-stairs bell. [She starts, changing her manner as she hears the bell, and exit.]
JOHN [looking after her]. — It’s all true. Gospel-true. We were children in the same village — sat on the same form at school. And it was for her sake that Bob Brown the butcher’s boy whopped me. A black eye! I’m not handsome. But if I were ugly, ugly as the Saracen’s ‘Ead, ugly as that beast Bulkeley, I know it would be all the same to Mary. SHE has never forgot the boy she loved, that brought birds’-nests for her, and spent his halfpenny on cherries, and bought a fairing with his first half-crown — a brooch it was, I remember, of two billing doves a-hopping on one twig, and brought it home for little yellow-haired, blue-eyed, red-cheeked Mary. Lord, Lord! I don’t like to think how I’ve kissed ’em, the pretty cheeks! they’ve got quite pale now with crying — and she has never once reproached me, not once, the trump, the little tr-rump!
Is it my fault [stamping] that Fate has separated us? Why did my young master take me up to Oxford, and give me the run of his libery and the society of the best scouts in the University? Why did he take me abroad? Why have I been to Italy, France, Jummany with him — their manners noted and their realms surveyed, by jingo! I’ve improved myself, and Mary has remained as you was. I try a conversation, and she can’t respond. She’s never got a word of poetry beyond Watt’s Ims, and if I talk of Byron or Moore to her, I’m blest if she knows anything more about ’em than the cook, who is as hignorant as a pig, or that beast Bulkeley, Lady Kick’s footman. Above all, why, why did I see the woman upon whom my wretched heart is fixed for ever, and who carries away my soul with her — prostrate, I say, prostrate, through the mud at the skirts of her gownd! Enslaver! why did I ever come near you? O enchantress Kelipso! how you have got hold of me! It was Fate, Fate, Fate. When Mrs. Milliken fell ill of scarlet fever at Naples, Milliken was away at Petersborough, Rooshia, looking after his property. Her foring woman fled. Me and the governess remained and nursed her and the children. We nursed the little ones out of the fever. We buried their mother. We brought the children home over Halp and Happenine. I nursed ’em all three. I tended ’em all three, the orphans, and the lovely gu-gu-governess. At Rome, where she took ill, I waited on her; as we went to Florence, had we been attacked by twenty thousand brigands, this little arm had courage for them all! And if I loved thee, Julia, was I wrong? and if I basked in thy beauty day and night, Julia, am I not a man? and if, before this Peri, this enchantress, this gazelle, I forgot poor little Mary Barlow, how could I help it? I say, how the doose could I help it?
Enter Lady KICKLEBURY, BULKELEY following with parcels and a spaniel.
LADY K. — Are the children and the governess come home?
JOHN. — Yes, my lady [in a perfectly altered tone].
LADY K. — Bulkeley, take those parcels to my sitting-room.
JOHN. — Get up, old stoopid. Push along, old daddylonglegs [aside to BULKELEY].
LADY K. — Does any one dine here today, Howell?
JOHN. — Captain Touchit, my lady.
LADY K. — He’s always dining here.
JOHN. — My master’s oldest friend.
LADY K. — Don’t tell me. He comes from his club. He smells of smoke; he is a low, vulgar person. Send Pinhorn up to me when you go down stairs. [Exit Lady K.]
JOHN. — I know. Send Pinhorn to me, means, Send my bonny brown hair, and send my beautiful complexion, and send my figure — and, O Lord! O Lord! what an old tigress that is! What an old Hector! How she do twist Milliken round her thumb! He’s born to be bullied by women: and I remember him henpecked — let’s see, ever since — ever since the time of that little gloveress at Woodstock, whose picter poor Mrs. M. made such a noise about when she found it in the lumber-room. Heh! HER picture will be going into the lumber-room some day. M. must marry to get rid of his mother-inlaw and mother over him: no man can stand it, not M. himself, who’s a Job of a man. Isn’t he, look at him! [As he has been speaking, the bell has rung, the Page has run to the garden-door, and MILLIKEN enters through the garden, laden with a hamper, band-box, and cricket-bat.]
MILLIKEN. — Why was the carriage not sent for me, Howell? There was no cab at the station, and I have had to toil all the way up the hill with these confounded parcels of my lady’s.
JOHN. — I suppose the shower took off all the cabs, sir. When DID a man ever git a cab in a shower? — or a policeman at a pinch — or a friend when you wanted him — or anything at the right time, sir?
MILLIKEN. — But, sir, why didn’t the carriage come, I say?
JOHN. — YOU know.
MILLIKEN. — How do you mean I know? confound your impudence!
JOHN. — Lady Kicklebury took it — your mother-inlaw took it — went out a-visiting — Ham Common, Petersham, Twick’nam — doose knows where. She, and her footman, and her span’l dog.
MILLIKEN. — Well, sir, suppose her ladyship DID take the carriage? Hasn’t she a perfect right? And if the carriage was gone, I want to know, John, why the devil the pony-chaise wasn’t sent with the groom? Am I to bring a bonnet-box and a hamper of fish in my own hands, I should like to know?
JOHN. — Heh! [laughs.]
MILLIKEN. — Why do you grin, you Cheshire cat?
JOHN. — Your mother-inlaw had the carriage; and your mother sent for the pony-chaise. Your Pa wanted to go and see the Wicar of Putney. Mr. Bonnington don’t like walking when he can ride.
MILLIKEN. — And why shouldn’t Mr. Bonnington ride, sir, as long as there’s a carriage in my stable? Mr. Bonnington has had the gout, sir! Mr. Bonnington is a clergyman, and married to my mother. He has EVERY title to my respect.
JOHN. — And to your pony-chaise — yes, sir.
MILLIKEN. — And to everything he likes in this house, sir.
JOHN. — What a good fellow you are, sir! You’d give your head off your shoulders, that you would. Is the fish for dinner today? Band-box for my lady, I suppose, sir? [Looks in]— Turban, feathers, bugles, marabouts, spangles — doose knows what. Yes, it’s for her ladyship. [To Page.] Charles, take this band-box to her ladyship’s maid. [To his master.] What sauce would you like with the turbot? Lobster sauce or Hollandaise? Hollandaise is best — most wholesome for you. Anybody besides Captain Touchit coming to dinner?
MILLIKEN. — No one that I know of.
JOHN. — Very good. Bring up a bottle of the brown hock? He likes the brown hock, Touchit does. [Exit JOHN.]
Enter Children. They run to MILLIKEN.
BOTH. — How d’you do, Papa! How do you do, Papa!
MILLIKEN. — Kiss your old father, Arabella. Come here, George — What?
GEORGE. — Don’t care for kissing — kissing’s for gals. Have you brought me that bat from London?
MILLIKEN. — Yes. Here’s the bat; and here’s the ball [takes one from pocket]— and —
GEORGE. — Where’s the wickets, Papa. O-o-o — where’s the wickets? [howls.]
MILLIKEN. — My dear, darling boy! I left them at the office. What a silly papa I was to forget them! Parkins forgot them.
GEORGE. — Then turn him away, I say! Turn him away! [He stamps.]
MILLIKEN. — What! an old, faithful clerk and servant of your father and grandfather for thirty years past? An old man, who loves us all, and has nothing but our pay to live on?
ARABELLA. — Oh, you naughty boy!
GEORGE. — I ain’t a naughty boy.
ARABELLA. — You are a naughty boy.
GEORGE. — He! he! he! he! [Grins at her.]
MILLIKEN. — Hush, children! Here, Arabella darling, here is a book for you. Look — aren’t they pretty pictures?
ARABELLA. — Is it a story, Papa? I don’t care for stories in general. I like something instructive and serious. Grandmamma Bonnington and grandpapa say —
GEORGE. — He’s NOT your grandpapa.
ARABELLA. — He IS my grandpapa.
GEORGE. — Oh, you great story! Look! look! there’s a cab. [Runs out. The head of a Hansom cab is seen over the garden-gate. Bell rings. Page comes. Altercation between Cabman and Captain TOUCHIT appears to go on, during which]
MILLIKEN. — Come and kiss your old father, Arabella. He’s hungry for kisses.
ARABELLA. — Don’t. I want to go and look at the cab; and to tell Captain Touchit that he mustn’t use naughty words. [Runs towards garden. Page is seen carrying a carpet-bag.]
Enter TOUCHIT through the open window smoking a cigar.
TOUCHIT. — How d’ye do, Milliken? How are tallows, hey, my noble merchant? I have brought my bag, and intend to sleep —
GEORGE. — I say, godpapa —
TOUCHIT. — Well, godson!
GEORGE. — Give us a cigar!
TOUCHIT. — Oh, you enfant terrible!
MILLIKEN [wheezily]. — Ah — ahem — George Touchit! you wouldn’t mind — a — smoking that cigar in the garden, would you? Ah — ah!
TOUCHIT. — Hullo! What’s in the wind now? You used to be a most inveterate smoker, Horace.
MILLIKEN. — The fact is — my mother-inlaw — Lady Kicklebury — doesn’t like it, and while she’s with us, you know —
TOUCHIT. — Of course, of course [throws away cigar]. I beg her ladyship’s pardon. I remember when you were courting her daughter she used not to mind it.
MILLIKEN. — Don’t — don’t allude to those times. [He looks up at his wife’s picture.]
GEORGE. — My mamma was a Kicklebury. The Kickleburys are the oldest family in all the world. My name is George Kicklebury Milliken, of Pigeoncot, Hants; the Grove, Richmond, Surrey; and Portland Place, London, Esquire — my name is.
TOUCHIT. — You have forgotten Billiter Street, hemp and tallow merchant.
GEORGE. — Oh, bother! I don’t care about that. I shall leave that when I’m a man: when I’m a man and come into my property.
MILLIKEN. — You come into your property?
GEORGE. — I shall, you know, when you’re dead, Papa. I shall have this house, and Pigeoncot; and the house in town — no, I don’t mind about the house in town — and I shan’t let Bella live with me — no, I won’t.
BELLA. — No; I won’t live with YOU. And I’LL have Pigeoncot.
GEORGE. — You shan’t have Pigeoncot. I’ll have it: and the ponies: and I won’t let you ride them — and the dogs, and you shan’t have even a puppy to play with and the dairy and won’t I have as much cream as I like — that’s all!
TOUCHIT. — What a darling boy! Your children are brought up beautifully, Milliken. It’s quite delightful to see them together.
GEORGE. — And I shall sink the name of Milliken, I shall.
MILLIKEN. — Sink the name? why, George?
GEORGE. — Because the Millikens are nobodies — grandmamma says they are nobodies. The Kickleburys are gentlemen, and came over with William the Conqueror.
BELLA. — I know when that was. One thousand one hundred and one thousand one hundred and onety-one!
GEORGE. — Bother when they came over! But I know this, when I come into the property I shall sink the name of Milliken.
MILLIKEN. — So you are ashamed of your father’s name, are you, George, my boy?
GEORGE. — Ashamed! No, I ain’t ashamed. Only Kicklebury is sweller. I know it is. Grandmamma says so.
BELLA. — MY grandmamma does not say so. MY dear grandmamma says that family pride is sinful, and all belongs to this wicked world; and that in a very few years what our names are will not matter.
GEORGE. — Yes, she says so because her father kept a shop; and so did Pa’s father keep a sort of shop — only Pa’s a gentleman now.
TOUCHIT. — Darling child! How I wish I were married! If I had such a dear boy as you, George, do you know what I would give him?
GEORGE [quite pleased]. — What would you give him, god-papa?
TOUCHIT. — I would give him as sound a flogging as ever boy had, my darling. I would whip this nonsense out of him. I would send him to school, where I would pray that he might be well thrashed: and if when he came home he was still ashamed of his father, I would put him apprentice to a chimney-sweep — that’s what I would do.
GEORGE. — I’m glad you’re not my father, that’s all.
BELLA. — And I’M glad you’re not my father, because you are a wicked man!
MILLIKEN. — Arabella!
BELLA. — Grandmamma says so. He is a worldly man, and the world is wicked. And he goes to the play: and he smokes, and he says —
TOUCHIT. — Bella, what do I say?
BELLA. — Oh, something dreadful! You know you do! I heard you say it to the cabman.
TOUCHIT. — So I did, so I did! He asked me fifteen shillings from Piccadilly, and I told him to go to — to somebody whose name begins with a D.
CHILDREN. — Here’s another carriage passing.
BELLA. — The Lady Rumble’s carriage.
GEORGE. — No, it ain’t: it’s Captain Boxer’s carriage [they run into the garden].
TOUCHIT. — And this is the pass to which you have brought yourself, Horace Milliken! Why, in your wife’s time, it was better than this, my poor fellow!
MILLIKEN. — Don’t speak of her in THAT way, George Touchit!
TOUCHIT. — What have I said? I am only regretting her loss for our sake. She tyrannized over you; turned your friends out of doors; took your name out of your clubs; dragged you about from party to party, though you can no more dance than a bear, and from opera to opera, though you don’t know “God Save the Queen” from “Rule Britannia.” You don’t, sir; you know you don’t. But Arabella was better than her mother, who has taken possession of you since your widowhood.
MILLIKEN. — My dear fellow! no, she hasn’t. There’s MY mother.
TOUCHIT. — Yes, to be sure, there’s Mrs. Bonnington, and they quarrel over you like the two ladies over the baby before King Solomon.
MILLIKEN. — Play the satirist, my good friend! laugh at my weakness!
TOUCHIT. — I know you to be as plucky a fellow as ever stepped, Milliken, when a man’s in the case. I know you and I stood up to each other for an hour and a half at Westminster.
MILLIKEN. — Thank you! We were both dragons of war! tremendous champions! Perhaps I am a little soft as regards women. I know my weakness well enough; but in my case what is my remedy? Put yourself in my position. Be a widower with two young children. What is more natural than that the mother of my poor wife should come and superintend my family? My own mother can’t. She has a half-dozen of little half brothers and sisters, and a husband of her own to attend to. I dare say Mr. Bonnington and my mother will come to dinner today.
TOUCHIT. — Of course they will, my poor old Milliken, you don’t dare to dine without them.
MILLIKEN. — Don’t go on in that manner, George Touchit! Why should not my step-father and my mother dine with me? I can afford it. I am a domestic man and like to see my relations about me. I am in the city all day.
TOUCHIT. — Luckily for you.
MILLIKEN. — And my pleasure of an evening is to sit under my own vine and under my own fig-tree with my own olive-branches round about me; to sit by my fire with my children at my knees: to coze over a snug bottle of claret after dinner with a friend like you to share it; to see the young folks at the breakfast-table of a morning, and to kiss them and so off to business with a cheerful heart. This was my scheme in marrying, had it pleased heaven to prosper my plan. When I was a boy and came from school and college, I used to see Mr. Bonnington, my father-inlaw, with HIS young ones clustering round about him, so happy to be with him! so eager to wait on him! all down on their little knees round my mother before breakfast or jumping up on his after dinner. It was who should reach his hat, and who should bring his coat, and who should fetch his umbrella, and who should get the last kiss.
TOUCHIT. — What? didn’t he kiss YOU? Oh, the hard-hearted old ogre!
MILLIKEN. — DON’T, Touchit! Don’t laugh at Mr. Bonnington! he is as good a fellow as ever breathed. Between you and me, as my half brothers and sisters increased and multiplied year after year, I used to feel rather lonely, rather bowled out, you understand. But I saw them so happy that I longed to have a home of my own. When my mother proposed Arabella for me (for she and Lady Kicklebury were immense friends at one time), I was glad enough to give up clubs and bachelorhood, and to settle down as a married man. My mother acted for the best. My poor wife’s character, my mother used to say, changed after marriage. I was not as happy as I hoped to be; but I tried for it. George, I am not so comfortable now as I might be. A house without a mistress, with two mothers-inlaw reigning over it — one worldly and aristocratic, another what you call serious, though she don’t mind a rubber of whist: I give you my honor my mother plays a game at whist, and an uncommonly good game too — each woman dragging over a child to her side: of course such a family cannot be comfortable. [Bell rings.] There’s the first dinner-bell. Go and dress, for heaven’s sake.
TOUCHIT. — Why dress? There is no company!
MILLIKEN. — Why? ah! her ladyship likes it, you see. And it costs nothing to humor her. Quick, for she don’t like to be kept waiting.
TOUCHIT. — Horace Milliken! what a pity it is the law declares a widower shall not marry his wife’s mother! She would marry you else — she would, on my word.
JOHN. — I have took the Captain’s things in the blue room, sir. [Exeunt gentlemen, JOHN arranges tables, &c.]
Ha! Mrs. Prior! I ain’t partial to Mrs. Prior. I think she’s an artful old dodger, Mrs. Prior. I think there’s mystery in her unfathomable pockets, and schemes in the folds of her umbrella. But — but she’s Julia’s mother, and for the beloved one’s sake I am civil to her.
MRS. PRIOR. — Thank you Charles [to the Page, who has been seen to let her in at the garden-gate], I am so much obliged to you! Good afternoon, Mr. Howell. Is my daughter — are the darling children well? Oh, I am quite tired and weary! Three horrid omnibuses were full, and I have had to walk the whole weary long way. Ah, times are changed with me, Mr. Howell. Once when I was young and strong, I had my husband’s carriage to ride in.
JOHN [aside]. — His carriage! his coal-wagon! I know well enough who old Prior was. A merchant? yes, a pretty merchant! kep’ a lodging-house, share in a barge, touting for orders, and at last a snug little place in the Gazette.
MRS. PRIOR. — How is your cough, Mr. Howell? I have brought you some lozenges for it [takes numberless articles from her pocket], and if you would take them of a night and morning — oh, indeed, you would get better! The late Sir Henry Halford recommended them to Mr. Prior. He was his late Majesty’s physician and ours. You know we have seen happier times, Mr. Howell. Oh, I am quite tired and faint.
JOHN. — Will you take anything before the school-room tea, ma’am? You will stop to tea, I hope, with Miss Prior, and our young folks?
MRS. PRIOR. — Thank you: a little glass of wine when one is so faint — a little crumb of biscuit when one is so old and tired! I have not been accustomed to want, you know; and in my poor dear Mr. Prior’s time —
JOHN. — I’ll fetch some wine, ma’am. [Exit to the dining-room.]
MRS. PRIOR. — Bless the man, how abrupt he is in his manner! He quite shocks a poor lady who has been used to better days. What’s here? Invitations — ho! Bills for Lady Kicklebury! THEY are not paid. Where is Mr. M. going to dine, I wonder? Captain and Mrs. Hopkinson, Sir John and Lady Tomkinson, request the pleasure. Request the pleasure! Of course they do. They are always asking Mr. M. to dinner. They have daughters to marry, and Mr. M. is a widower with three thousand a year, every shilling of it. I must tell Lady Kicklebury. He must never go to these places — never, never — mustn’t be allowed. [While talking, she opens all the letters on the table, rummages the portfolio and writing-box, looks at cards on mantelpiece, work in work-basket, tries tea-box, and shows the greatest activity and curiosity.]
Re-enter John, bearing a tray with cakes, a decanter, &c.
Thank you, thank you, Mr. Howell! Oh, oh, dear me, not so much as that! Half a glass, and ONE biscuit, please. What elegant sherry! [sips a little, and puts down glass on tray]. Do you know, I remember in better days, Mr. Howell, when my poor dear husband —
JOHN. — Beg your pardon. There’s Milliken’s bell, going like mad. [Exit John.]
MRS. PRIOR. — What an abrupt person! Oh, but it’s comfortable, this wine is! And — and I think how my poor Charlotte would like a little — she so weak, and ordered wine by the medical man! And when dear Adolphus comes home from Christ’s Hospital, quite tired, poor boy, and hungry, wouldn’t a bit of nice cake do him good! Adolphus is so fond of plum-cake, the darling child! And so is Frederick, little saucy rogue; and I’ll give them MY piece, and keep my glass of wine for my dear delicate angel Shatty! [Takes bottle and paper out of her pocket, cuts off a great slice of cake, and pours wine from wine-glass and decanter into bottle.]
PAGE. — Master George and Miss Bella is going to have their teas down here with Miss Prior, Mrs. Prior, and she’s up in the school-room, and my lady says you may stay to tea.
MRS. PRIOR. — Thank you, Charles! How tall you grow! Those trousers would fit my darling Frederick to a nicety. Thank you, Charles. I know the way to the nursery. [Exit Mrs. P.]
PAGE. — Know the way! I believe she DO know the way. Been a having cake and wine. Howell always gives her cake and wine — jolly cake, ain’t it! and wine, oh, my!
JOHN. — You young gormandizing cormorant! What! five meals a day ain’t enough for you! What? beer ain’t good enough for you, hey? [Pulls boy’s ears.]
PAGE [crying]. — Oh, oh, do-o-n’t, Mr. Howell. I only took half a glass, upon my honor.
JOHN. — Your a-honor, you lying young vagabond! I wonder the ground don’t open and swallow you. Half a glass! [holds up decanter.] You’ve took half a bottle, you young Ananias! Mark this, sir! When I was a boy, a boy on my promotion, a child kindly took in from charity-school, a horphan in buttons like you, I never lied; no, nor never stole, and you’ve done both, you little scoundrel. Don’t tell ME, sir! there’s plums on your coat, crumbs on your cheek, and you smell sherry, sir! I ain’t time to whop you now, but come to my pantry to-night after you’ve took the tray down. Come without your jacket on, sir, and then I’ll teach you what it is to lie and steal. There’s the outer bell. Scud, you vagabond!
Enter LADY K.
LADY K. — What was that noise, pray?
JOHN. — A difference between me and young Page, my lady. I was instructing him to keep his hands from picking and stealing. I was learning him his lesson, my lady, and he was a-crying it out.
LADY K. — It seems to me you are most unkind to that boy, Howell. He is my boy, sir. He comes from my estate. I will not have him ill-used. I think you presume on your long services. I shall speak to my son-inlaw about you. [“Yes, my lady; no, my lady; very good, my lady.” John has answered each sentence as she is speaking, and exit gravely bowing.] That man must quit the house. Horace says he can’t do without him, but he must do without him. My poor dear Arabella was fond of him, but he presumes on that defunct angel’s partiality. Horace says this person keeps all his accounts, sorts all his letters, manages all his affairs, may be trusted with untold gold, and rescued little George out of the fire. Now I have come to live with my son-inlaw, I will keep his accounts, sort his letters, and take charge of his money: and if little Georgy gets into the grate, I will take him out of the fire. What is here? Invitation from Captain and Mrs. Hopkinson. Invitation from Sir John and Lady Tomkinson, who don’t even ask me! Monstrous! he never shall go — he shall not go! [MRS. PRIOR has re-entered, she drops a very low curtsy to Lady K., as the latter, perceiving her, lays the cards down.]
MRS. PRIOR. — Ah, dear madam! how kind your ladyship’s message was to the poor lonely widow woman! Oh, how thoughtful it was of your ladyship to ask me to stay to tea!
LADY K. — With your daughter and the children? Indeed, my good Mrs. Prior, you are very welcome!
MRS. PRIOR. — Ah! but isn’t it a cause of thankfulness to be MADE welcome? Oughtn’t I to be grateful for these blessings? — yes, I say BLESSINGS. And I am — I am, Lady Kicklebury — to the mother — of — that angel who is gone [points to the picture]. It was your sainted daughter left us — left my child to the care of Mr. Milliken, and — and you, who are now his guardian angel I may say. You ARE, Lady Kicklebury — you are. I say to my girl, Julia, Lady Kicklebury is Mr. Milliken’s guardian angel, is YOUR guardian angel — for without you could she keep her place as governess to these darling children? It would tear her heart in two to leave them, and yet she would be forced to do so. You know that some one — shall I hesitate to say whom I MEAN— that Mr. Milliken’s mother, excellent lady though she is, does not love my child because YOU love her. You DO love her, Lady Kicklebury, and oh! a mother’s fond heart pays you back! But for you, my poor Julia must go — go, and leave the children whom a dying angel confided to her!
LADY K. — Go! no, never! not whilst I am in this house, Mrs. Prior. Your daughter is a well-behaved young woman: you have confided to me her long engagement to Lieutenant — Lieutenant What-d’you-call’im, in the Indian service. She has been very, very good to my grandchildren — she brought them over from Naples when my — my angel of an Arabella died there, and I will protect Miss Prior.
MRS. PRIOR. — Bless you, bless you, noble, admirable woman! Don’t take it away! I must, I WILL kiss your dear, generous hand! Take a mother’s, a widow’s blessings, Lady Kicklebury — the blessings of one who has known misfortune and seen better days, and thanks heaven — yes, heaven! — for the protectors she has found!
LADY K. — You said — you had — several children, I think, my good Mrs. Prior?
MRS. PRIOR. — Three boys — one, my eldest blessing, is in a wine-merchant’s office — ah, if Mr. Milliken WOULD but give him an order! an order from THIS house! an order from Lady Kicklebury’s son-inlaw! —
LADY K. — It shall be done, my good Prior — we will see.
MRS. PRIOR. — Another, Adolphus, dear fellow! is in Christ’s Hospital. It was dear, good Mr. Milliken’s nomination. Frederick is at Merchant Taylor’s: my darling Julia pays his schooling. Besides, I have two girls — Amelia, quite a little toddles, just the size, though not so beautiful — but in a mother’s eyes all children are lovely, dear Lady Kicklebury — just the size of your dear granddaughter, whose clothes would fit her, I am sure. And my second, Charlotte, a girl as tall as your ladyship, though not with so fine a figure. “Ah, no, Shatty!” I say to her, “you are as tall as our dear patroness, Lady Kicklebury, whom you long so to see; but you have not got her ladyship’s carriage and figure, child.” Five children have I, left fatherless and penniless by my poor dear husband — but heaven takes care of the widow and orphan, madam — and heaven’s BEST CREATURES feed them! — YOU know whom I mean.
LADY K. — Should you not like, would you object to take — a frock or two of little Arabella’s to your child? and if Pinhorn, my maid, will let me, Mrs. Prior, I will see if I cannot find something against winter for your second daughter, as you say we are of a size.
MRS. PRIOR. — The widow’s and orphans’ blessings upon you! I said my Charlotte was as tall, but I never said she had such a figure as yours — who has?
CHARLES announces —
CHARLES. — Mrs. Bonnington! [Enter MRS. BONNINGTON.]
MRS. B. — How do you do, Lady Kicklebury?
LADY K. — My dear Mrs. Bonnington! and you come to dinner of course?
MRS. B. — To dine with my own son, I may take the liberty. How are my grandchildren? my darling little Emily, is she well, Mrs. Prior?
LADY K. [aside]. — Emily? why does she not call the child by her blessed mother’s name of Arabella? [To MRS. B.] ARABELLA is quite well, Mrs. Bonnington. Mr. Squillings said it was nothing; only her grandmamma Bonnington spoiling her, as usual. Mr. Bonnington and all your numerous young folk are well, I hope?
MRS. B. — My family are all in perfect health, I thank you. Is Horace come home from the city?
LADY K. — Goodness! there’s the dinner-bell — I must run to dress.
MRS. PRIOR. — Shall I come with you, dear Lady Kicklebury?
LADY K. — Not for worlds, my good Mrs. Prior. [Exit Lady K.]
MRS. PRIOR. — How do you do, my DEAR madam? Is dear Mr. Bonnington QUITE well? What a sweet, sweet sermon he gave us last Sunday. I often say to my girl, I must not go to hear Mr. Bonnington, I really must not, he makes me cry so. Oh! he is a great and gifted man, and shall I not have one glimpse of him?
MRS. B. — Saturday evening, my good Mrs. Prior. Don’t you know that my husband never goes out on Saturday, having his sermon to compose?
MRS. P. — Oh, those dear, dear sermons! Do you know, madam, that my little Adolphus, for whom your son’s bounty procured his place at Christ’s Hospital, was very much touched indeed, the dear child, with Mr. Bonnington’s discourse last Sunday three weeks, and refused to play marbles afterwards at school? The wicked, naughty boys beat the poor child; but Adolphus has his consolation! Is Master Edward well, ma’am, and Master Robert, and Master Frederick, and dear little funny Master William?
MRS. B. — Thank you, Mrs. Prior; you have a good heart, indeed!
MRS. P. — Ah, what blessings those dears are to you! I wish your dearest little GRANDSON——
MRS. B. — The little naughty wretch! Do you know, Mrs. Prior, my grandson, George Milliken, spilt the ink over my dear husband’s bands, which he keeps in his great dictionary; and fought with my child, Frederick, who is three years older than George — actually beat his own uncle!
MRS. P. — Gracious mercy! Master Frederick was not hurt, I hope?
MRS. B. — No; he cried a great deal; and then Robert came up, and that graceless little George took a stick; and then my husband came out, and do you know George Milliken actually kicked Mr. Bonnington on his shins, and butted him like a little naughty ram?
MRS. P. — Mercy! mercy! what a little rebel! He is spoiled, dear madam, and you know by WHOM.
MRS. B. — By his grandmamma Kicklebury. I know it. I want my son to whip that child, but he refuses. He will come to no good; that child.
MRS. P. — Ah, madam, don’t say so! Let us hope for the best. Master George’s high temper will subside when certain persons who pet him are gone away.
MRS. B. — Gone away! they never will go away! No, mark my words, Mrs. Prior, that woman will never go away. She has made the house her own: she commands everything and everybody in it. She has driven me — me — Mr. Milliken’s own mother — almost out of it. She has so annoyed my dear husband, that Mr. Bonnington will scarcely come here. Is she not always sneering at private tutors, because Mr. Bonnington was my son’s private tutor, and greatly valued by the late Mr. Milliken? Is she not making constant allusions to old women marrying young men, because Mr. Bonnington happens to be younger than me? I have no words to express my indignation respecting Lady Kicklebury. She never pays any one, and runs up debts in the whole town. Her man Bulkeley’s conduct in the neighborhood is quite — quite —
MRS. P. — Gracious goodness, ma’am, you don’t say so! And then what an appetite the gormandizing monster has! Mary tells me that what he eats in the servants’ hall is something perfectly frightful.
MRS. B. — Everybody feeds on my poor son! You are looking at my cap, Mrs. Prior? [During this time MRS. PRIOR has been peering into a parcel which MRS. BONNINGTON brought in her hand.] I brought it with me across the Park. I could not walk through the Park in my cap. Isn’t it a pretty ribbon, Mrs. Prior?
MRS. P. — Beautiful! beautiful? How blue becomes you! Who would think you were the mother of Mr. Milliken and seven other darling children? You can afford what Lady Kicklebury cannot.
MRS. B. — And what is that, Prior? A poor clergyman’s wife, with a large family, cannot afford much.
MRS. P. — He! he! You can afford to be seen as you are, which Lady K. cannot. Did you not remark how afraid she seemed lest I should enter her dressing-room? Only Pinhorn, her maid, goes there, to arrange the roses, and the lilies, and the figure — he! he! Oh, what a sweet, sweet cap-ribbon! When you have worn it, and are tired of it, you will give it me, won’t you? It will be good enough for poor old Martha Prior!
MRS. B. — Do you really like it? Call at Greenwood Place, Mrs. Prior, the next time you pay Richmond a visit, and bring your little girl with you, and we will see.
MRS. P. — Oh, thank you! thank you! Nay, don’t be offended! I must! I must! [Kisses MRS. BONNINGTON.]
MRS. B. — There, there! We must not stay chattering! The bell has rung. I must go and put the cap on, Mrs. Prior.
MRS. P. — And I may come too? YOU are not afraid of my seeing your hair, dear Mrs. Bonnington! Mr. Bonnington too young for YOU! Why, you don’t look twenty!
MRS. B. — Oh, Mrs. Prior!
MRS. P. — Well, five-and-twenty, upon my word — not more than five-and-twenty — and that is the very prime of life. [Exeunt Mrs. B. and Mrs. P., hand in hand. As Captain TOUCHIT enters, dressed for dinner, he bows and passes on.]
TOUCHIT. — So, we are to wear our white cravats, and our varnished boots, and dine in ceremony. What is the use of a man being a widower, if he can’t dine in his shooting-jacket? Poor Mill! He has the slavery now without the wife. [He speaks sarcastically to the picture.] Well, well! Mrs. Milliken! YOU, at any rate, are gone; and with the utmost respect for you, I like your picture even better than the original. Miss Prior!
Enter Miss PRIOR.
MISS PRIOR. — I beg pardon. I thought you were gone to dinner. I heard the second bell some time since. [She is drawing back.]
TOUCHIT. — Stop! I say, Julia! [She returns, he looks at her, takes her hand.] Why do you dress yourself in this odd poky way? You used to be a very smartly dressed girl. Why do you hide your hair, and wear such a dowdy, high gown, Julia?
JULIA. — You mustn’t call me Julia, Captain Touchit.
TOUCHIT. — Why? when I lived in your mother’s lodging, I called you Julia. When you brought up the tea, you didn’t mind being called Julia. When we used to go to the play with the tickets the Editor gave us, who lived on the second floor —
JULIA. — The wretch! — don’t speak of him!
TOUCHIT. — Ah! I am afraid he was a sad deceiver, that Editor. He was a very clever fellow. What droll songs he used to sing! What a heap of play-tickets, diorama-tickets, concert-tickets, he used to give you! Did he touch your heart, Julia?
JULIA. — Fiddlededee! No man ever touched my heart, Captain Touchit.
TOUCHIT. — What! not even Tom Flight, who had the second floor after the Editor left it — and who cried so bitterly at the idea of going out to India without you? You had a tendre for him — a little passion — you know you had. Why, even the ladies here know it. Mrs. Bonnington told me that you were waiting for a sweetheart in India to whom you were engaged; and Lady Kicklebury thinks you are dying in love for the absent swain.
JULIA. — I hope — I hope — you did not contradict them, Captain Touchit.
TOUCHIT. — Why not, my dear?
JULIA. — May I be frank with you? You were a kind, very kind friend to us — to me, in my youth.
TOUCHIT. — I paid my lodgings regularly, and my bills without asking questions. I never weighed the tea in the caddy, or counted the lumps of sugar, or heeded the rapid consumption of my liqueur —
JULIA. — Hush, hush! I know they were taken. I know you were very good to us. You helped my poor papa out of many a difficulty.
TOUCHIT [aside]. — Tipsy old coal-merchant! I did, and he helped himself too.
JULIA. — And you were always our best friend, Captain Touchit. When our misfortunes came, you got me this situation with Mrs. Milliken — and, and — don’t you see? —
TOUCHIT. — Well — what?
JULIA [laughing]. — I think it is best, under the circumstances, that the ladies here should suppose I am engaged to be married — or or, they might be — might be jealous, you understand. Women are sometimes jealous of others — especially mothers and mothers-inlaw.
TOUCHIT. — Oh, you arch schemer! And it is for that you cover up that beautiful hair of yours, and wear that demure cap?
JULIA [slyly]. — I am subject to rheumatism in the head, Captain Touchit.
TOUCHIT. — It is for that you put on the spectacles, and make yourself look a hundred years old?
JULIA. — My eyes are weak, Captain Touchit.
TOUCHIT. — Weak with weeping for Tom Flight. You hypocrite! Show me your eyes!
MISS P. — Nonsense!
TOUCHIT. — Show me your eyes, I say, or I’ll tell about Tom Flight and that he has been married at Madras these two years.
MISS P. — Oh, you horrid man! [takes glasses off.] There.
TOUCHIT. — Translucent orbs! beams of flashing light! lovely lashes veiling celestial brightness! No, they haven’t cried much for Tom Flight, that faithless captain! nor for Lawrence O’Reilly, that killing Editor. It is lucky you keep the glasses on them, or they would transfix Horace Milliken, my friend the widower here. DO you always wear them when you are alone with him?
MISS P. — I never AM alone with him. Bless me! If Lady Kicklebury thought my eyes were — well, well — you know what I mean — if she thought her son-inlaw looked at me, I should be turned out of doors the next day, I am sure I should. And then, poor Mr. Milliken! he never looks at ME— heaven help him! Why, he can’t see me for her ladyship’s nose and awful caps and ribbons! He sits and looks at the portrait yonder, and sighs so. He thinks that he is lost in grief for his wife at this very moment.
TOUCHIT. — What a woman that was — eh, Julia — that departed angel! What a temper she had before her departure!
MISS P. — But the wind was tempered to the lamb. If she was angry — the lamb was so very lamblike, and meek, and fleecy.
TOUCHIT. — And what a desperate flirt the departed angel was! I knew half a dozen fellows, before her marriage, whom she threw over, because Milliken was so rich.
MISS P. — She was consistent at least, and did not change after marriage, as some ladies do; but flirted, as you call it, just as much as before. At Paris, young Mr. Verney, the attache, was never out of the house: at Rome, Mr. Beard, the artist, was always drawing pictures of her: at Naples, when poor Mr. M. went away to look after his affairs at St. Petersburg, little Count Posilippo was for ever coming to learn English and practise duets. She scarcely ever saw the poor children —[changing her manner as Lady KICKLEBURY enters] Hush — my lady!
TOUCHIT. — You may well say, “poor children,” deprived of such a woman! Miss Prior, whom I knew in very early days — as your ladyship knows — was speaking — was speaking of the loss our poor friend sustained.
LADY K. — Ah, sir, what a loss! [looking at the picture.]
TOUCHIT. — What a woman she was — what a superior creature!
LADY K. — A creature — an angel!
TOUCHIT. — Mercy upon us! how she and my lady used to quarrel! [aside.] What a temper!
LADY K. — Hm — oh, yes — what a temper [rather doubtfully at first].
TOUCHIT. — What a loss to Milliken and the darling children!
MISS PRIOR. — Luckily they have YOU with them madam.
LADY K. — And I will stay with them, Miss Prior; I will stay with them! I will never part from Horace, I am determined.
MISS P. — Ah! I am very glad you stay, for if I had not YOU for a protector, I think you know I must go, Lady Kicklebury. I think you know there are those who would forget my attachment to these darling children, my services to — to her — and dismiss the poor governess. But while you stay I can stay, dear Lady Kicklebury! With you to defend me from jealousy I need not QUITE be afraid.
LADY K. — Of Mrs. Bonnington? Of Mr. Milliken’s mother; of the parson’s wife who writes out his stupid sermons, and has half a dozen children of her own? I should think NOT indeed! I am the natural protector of these children. I am their mother. I have no husband! You STAY in this house, Miss Prior. You are a faithful, attached creature — though you were sent in by somebody I don’t like very much [pointing to TOUCHIT, who went off laughing when JULIA began her speech, and is now looking at prints, &c., in next room].
MISS P. — Captain Touchit may not be in all things what one could wish. But his kindness has formed the happiness of my life in making me acquainted with YOU, ma’am: and I am sure you would not have me be ungrateful to him.
LADY K. — A most highly principled young woman. [Goes out in garden and walks up and down with Captain TOUCHIT.]
Enter Mrs. BONNINGTON.
MISS P. — Oh, how glad I am you are come, Mrs. Bonnington. Have you brought me that pretty hymn you promised me? You always keep your promises, even to poor governesses. I read dear Mr. Bonnington’s sermon! It was so interesting that I really could not think of going to sleep until I had read it all through; it was delightful, but oh! it’s still better when he preaches it! I hope I did not do wrong in copying a part of it? I wish to impress it on the children. There are some worldly influences at work with them, dear madam [looking at Lady K. in the garden], which I do my feeble effort to — to modify. I wish YOU could come oftener.
MRS. B. — I will try, my dear — I will try. Emily has sweet dispositions.
MISS P. — Ah, she takes after her grandmamma Bonnington!
MRS. B. — But George was sadly fractious just now in the school-room because I tried him with a tract.
MISS P. — Let us hope for better times! Do be with your children, dear Mrs. Bonnington, as constantly as ever you can, for MY sake as well as theirs! I want protection and advice as well as they do. The GOVERNESS, dear lady, looks up to you as well as the pupils; SHE wants the teaching which you and dear Mr. Bonnington can give her! Ah, why could not Mr. and Mrs. Bonnington come and live here, I often think? The children would have companions in their dear young uncles and aunts; so pleasant it would be. The house is quite large enough; that is, if her ladyship did not occupy the three south rooms in the left wing. Ah, why, WHY couldn’t you come?
MRS. B. — You are a kind, affectionate creature, Miss Prior. I do not very much like the gentleman who recommended you to Arabella, you know. But I do think he sent my son a good governess for his children.
Two Ladies walk up and down in front garden.
TOUCHIT. — Miss Julia Prior, you are a wonder! I watch you with respect and surprise.
MISS P. — Me! what have I done? a poor friendless governess — respect ME?
TOUCHIT. — I have a mind to tell those two ladies what I think of Miss Julia Prior. If they knew you as I know you, O Julia Prior, what a short reign yours would be!
MISS P. — I have to manage them a little. Each separately it is not so difficult. But when they are together, oh, it is very hard sometimes.
Enter MILLIKEN dressed, shakes hands with Miss P.
MILLIKEN. — Miss Prior! are you well? Have the children been good? and learned all their lessons?
MISS P. — The children are pretty good, sir.
MILLIKEN. — Well, that’s a great deal as times go. Do not bother them with too much learning, Miss Prior. Let them have an easy life. Time enough for trouble when age comes.
JOHN. — Dinner, sir. [And exit.]
MILLIKEN. — Dinner, ladies. My Lady Kicklebury (gives arm to Lady K).
LADY K. — My dear Horace, you SHOULDN’T shake hands with Miss Prior. You should keep people of that class at a distance, my dear creature. [They go in to dinner, Captain TOUCHIT following with Mrs. BONNINGTON. As they go out, enter MARY with children’s tea-tray, &c., children following, and after them Mrs. PRIOR. MARY gives her tea.]
MRS. PRIOR. — Thank you, Mary! You are so very kind! Oh, what delicious tea!
GEORGY. — I say, Mrs. Prior, I dare say you would like to dine best, wouldn’t you?
MRS. P. — Bless you, my darling love, I had my dinner at one o’clock with my children at home.
GEORGY. — So had we: but we go in to dessert very often; and then don’t we have cakes and oranges and candied-peel and macaroons and things! We are not to go in today; because Bella ate so many strawberries she made herself ill.
BELLA. — So did you.
GEORGY. — I’m a man, and men eat more than women, twice as much as women. When I’m a man I’ll eat as much cake as ever I like. I say, Mary, give us the marmalade.
MRS. P. — Oh, what nice marmalade! I know of some poor children —
MISS P. — Mamma! don’t, mamma [in an imploring tone].
MRS. P. — I know of two poor children at home, who have very seldom nice marmalade and cake, young people.
GEORGE. — You mean Adolphus and Frederick and Amelia, your children. Well, they shall have marmalade and cake.
BELLA. — Oh, yes! I’ll give them mine.
MRS. P. — Darling, dearest child!
GEORGE [his mouth full]. — I won’t give ’em mine: but they can have another pot, you know. You have always got a basket with you, Mrs. Prior. I know you have. You had it that day you took the cold fowl.
MRS. P. — For the poor blind black man! oh, how thankful he was!
GEORGE. — I don’t know whether it was for a black man. Mary, get us another pot of marmalade.
MARY. — I don’t know, Master George.
GEORGE. — I WILL have another pot of marmalade. If you don’t, I’ll — I’ll smash everything — I will.
BELLA. — Oh, you naughty, rude boy!
GEORGE. — Hold YOUR tongue! I WILL have it. Mary shall go and get it.
MRS. P. — Do humor him, Mary; and I’m sure my poor children at home will be the better for it.
GEORGE. — There’s your basket! now put this cake in, and this pat of butter, and this sugar. Hurray, hurray! Oh, what jolly fun! Tell Adolphus and Amelia I sent it to them — tell ’em they shall never want for anything as long as George Kicklebury Milliken, Esq., can give it ’em. Did Adolphus like my gray coat that I didn’t want?
MISS P. — You did not give him your new gray coat?
GEORGE. — Don’t you speak to me; I’m going to school — I’m not going to have no more governesses soon.
MRS. P. — Oh, my dear Master George, what a nice coat it is, and how well my poor boy looked in it!
MISS P. — Don’t, mamma! I pray and entreat you not to take the things!
Enter JOHN from dining-room with a tray.
JOHN. — Some cream, some jelly, a little champagne, Miss Prior; I thought you might like some.
GEORGE. — Oh, jolly! give us hold of the jelly! give us a glass of champagne.
JOHN. — I will not give you any.
GEORGE. — I’ll smash every glass in the room if you don’t; I’ll cut my fingers; I’ll poison myself — there! I’ll eat all this sealing-wax if you don’t, and it’s rank poison, you know it is.
MRS. P. — My dear Master George! [Exit JOHN.]
GEORGE. — Ha, ha! I knew you’d give it me; another boy taught me that.
BELLA. — And a very naughty, rude boy.
GEORGE. — He, he, he! hold your tongue Miss! And said he always got wine so; and so I used to do it to my poor mamma, Mrs. Prior. Usedn’t to like mamma much.
BELLA. — Oh, you wicked boy!
GEORGY. — She usedn’t to see us much. She used to say I tried her nerves: what’s nerves, Mrs. Prior? Give us some more champagne! Will have it. Ha, ha, ha! ain’t it jolly? Now I’ll go out and have a run in the garden. [Runs into garden].
MRS. P. — And you, my dear?
BELLA. — I shall go and resume the perusal of the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” which my grandpapa, Mr. Bonnington, sent me. [Exit ARABELLA.]
MISS P. — How those children are spoilt! Goodness; what can I do? If I correct one, he flies to grandmamma Kicklebury; if I speak to another, she appeals to grandmamma Bonnington. When I was alone with them, I had them in something like order. Now, between the one grandmother and the other, the children are going to ruin, and so would the house too, but that Howell — that odd, rude, but honest and intelligent creature, I must say — keeps it up. It is wonderful how a person in his rank of life should have instructed himself so. He really knows — I really think he knows more than I do myself.
MRS. P. — Julia dear!
MISS P. — What is it, mamma?
MRS. P. — Your little sister wants some underclothing sadly, Julia dear, and poor Adolphus’s shoes are quite worn out.
MISS P. — I thought so; I have given you all I could, mamma.
MRS. P. — Yes, my love! you are a good love, and generous, heaven knows, to your poor old mother who has seen better days. If we had not wanted, would I have ever allowed you to be a governess — a poor degraded governess? If that brute O’Reilly who lived on our second floor had not behaved so shamefully wicked to you, and married Miss Flack, the singer, might you not have been Editress of the Champion of Liberty at this very moment, and had your Opera box every night? [She drinks champagne while talking, and excites herself.]
MISS P. — Don’t take that, mamma.
MRS. P. — Don’t take it? why, it costs nothing; Milliken can afford it. Do you suppose I get champagne every day? I might have had it as a girl when I first married your father, and we kep’ our gig and horse, and lived at Clapham, and had the best of everything. But the coal-trade is not what it was, Julia. We met with misfortunes, Julia, and we went into poverty: and your poor father went into the Bench for twenty-three months — two year all but a month he did — and my poor girl was obliged to dance at the “Coburg Theatre”— yes you were, at ten shillings a week, in the Oriental ballet of “The Bulbul and the Rose:” you were, my poor darling child.
MISS P. — Hush, hush, mamma!
MRS. P. — And we kep’ a lodging-house in Bury Street, St. James’s, which your father’s brother furnished for us, who was an extensive oil-merchant. He brought you up; and afterwards he quarrelled with my poor James, Robert Prior did, and he died, not leaving us a shilling. And my dear eldest boy went into a wine-merchant’s office: and my poor darling Julia became a governess, when you had had the best of education at Clapham; you had, Julia. And to think that you were obliged, my blessed thing, to go on in the Oriental ballet of “The Rose and the Bul —”
MISS P. — Mamma, hush, hush! forget that story.
Enter Page from dining-room.
PAGE. — Miss Prior! please, the ladies are coming from the dining-room. Mrs. B. have had her two glasses of port, and her ladyship is now a-telling the story about the Prince of Wales when she danced with him at Canton House. [Exit Page.]
MISS P. — Quick, quick! There, take your basket! Put on your bonnet, and good-night, mamma. Here, here is a half sovereign and three shillings; it is all the money I have in the world; take it, and buy the shoes for Adolphus.
MRS. P. — And the underclothing, my love — little Amelia’s underclothing?
MISS P. — We will see about it. Good-night [kisses her]. Don’t be seen here — Lady K. doesn’t like it.
Enter Gentlemen and Ladies from dining-room.
LADY K. — We follow the Continental fashion. We don’t sit after dinner, Captain Touchit.
CAPTAIN T. — Confound the Continental fashion! I like to sit a little while after dinner [aside].
MRS. B. — So does my dear Mr. Bonnington, Captain Touchit. He likes a little port-wine after dinner.
TOUCHIT. — I’m not surprised at it, ma am.
MRS. B. — When did you say your son was coming, Lady Kicklebury?
LADY K. — My Clarence! He will be here immediately, I hope, the dear boy. You know my Clarence?
TOUCHIT. — Yes, ma’am.
LADY K. — And like him, I’m sure, Captain Touchit! Everybody does like Clarence Kicklebury.
TOUCHIT. — The confounded young scamp! I say, Horace, do you like your brother-inlaw?
MILLIKEN. — Well — I— I can’t say — I— like him — in fact, I don’t. But that’s no reason why his mother shouldn’t. [During this, HOWELL, preceded by BULKELEY, hands round coffee. The garden without has darkened, as if evening. BULKELEY is going away without offering coffee to Miss PRIOR. JOHN stamps on his foot, and points to her. Captain TOUCHIT, laughing, goes up and talks to her now the servants are gone.]
MRS. B. — Horace! I must tell you that the waste at your table is shocking. What is the need of opening all this wine? You and Lady Kicklebury were the only persons who took champagne.
TOUCHIT. — I never drink it — never touch the rubbish! Too old a stager!
LADY K. — Port, I think, is your favorite, Mrs. Bonnington?
MRS. B. — My dear lady, I do not mean that you should not have champagne, if you like. Pray, pray, don’t be angry! But why on earth, for you, who take so little, and Horace, who only drinks it to keep you company, should not Howell open a pint instead of a great large bottle?
LADY K. — Oh, Howell! Howell! We must not mention Howell, my dear Mrs. Bonnington. Howell is faultless! Howell has the keys of everything! Howell is not to be controlled in anything! Howell is to be at liberty to be rude to my servant!
MILLIKEN. — Is that all? I am sure I should have thought your man was big enough to resent any rudeness from poor little Howell.
LADY K. — Horace! Excuse me for saying that you don’t know — the — the class of servant to whom Bulkeley belongs. I had him, as a great favor, from Lord Toddleby. That class of servant is accustomed generally not to go out single.
MILLIKEN. — Unless they are two behind a carriage-perch they pine away, as one love-bird does without his mate!
LADY K. — No doubt! no doubt! I only say you are not accustomed here — in this kind of establishment, you understand — to that class of —
MRS. B. — Lady Kicklebury! is my son’s establishment not good enough for any powdered monster in England? Is the house of a British merchant —?
LADY K. — My dear creature! my dear creature! it IS the house of a British merchant, and a very comfortable house.
MRS. B. — Yes, as you find it.
LADY K. — Yes, as I find it, when I come to take care of my departed, angel’s children, Mrs. Bonnington —[pointing to picture]— of THAT dear seraph’s orphans, Mrs. Bonnington. YOU cannot. You have other duties — other children — a husband at home in delicate health, who —
MRS. B. — Lady Kicklebury, no one shall say I don’t take care of my dear husband!
MILLIKEN. — My dear mother! My dear Lady Kicklebury! [To T., who has come forward.] They spar so every night they meet, Touchit. Ain’t it hard?
LADY K. — I say you DO take care of Mr. Bonnington, Mrs. Bonnington, my dear creature! and that is why you can’t attend to Horace. And as he is of a very easy temper — except sometimes with his poor Arabella’s mother — he allows all his tradesmen to cheat him, all his servants to cheat him, Howell to be rude to everybody — to me amongst other people, and why not to my servant Bulkeley, with whom Lord Toddleby’s groom of the chambers gave me the very highest character.
MRS. B. — I’m surprised that noblemen HAVE grooms in their chambers. I should think they were much better in the stables. I am sure I always think so when we dine with Doctor Clinker. His man does bring such a smell of the stable with him.
LADY K. — He! he! you mistake, my dearest creature! Your poor mother mistakes, my good Horace. You have lived in a quiet and most respectable sphere — but not — not —
MRS. B. — Not what, Lady Kicklebury? We have lived at Richmond twenty years — in my late husband’s time — when we saw a great deal of company, and when this dear Horace was a dear boy at Westminster School. And we have PAID for everything we have had for twenty years, and we have owed not a penny to any TRADESMAN, though we mayn’t have had POWDERED FOOTMEN SIX FEET HIGH, who were impertinent to all the maids in the place — Don’t! I WILL speak, Horace — but servants who loved us, and who lived in our families.
MILLIKEN. — Mamma, now, my dear, good old mother! I am sure Lady Kicklebury meant no harm.
LADY K. — Me! my dear Horace! harm! What harm could I mean?
MILLIKEN. — Come! let us have a game at whist. Touchit, will you make a fourth? They go on so every night almost. Ain’t it a pity, now?
TOUCHIT. — Miss Prior generally plays, doesn’t she?
MILLIKEN. — And a very good player, too. But I thought you might like it.
TOUCHIT. — Well, not exactly. I don’t like sixpenny points, Horace, or quarrelling with old dragons about the odd trick. I will go and smoke a cigar on the terrace, and contemplate the silver Thames, the darkling woods, the starry hosts of heaven. I— I like smoking better than playing whist. [MILLIKEN rings bell.]
MILLIKEN. — Ah, George! you’re not fit for domestic felicity.
TOUCHIT. — No, not exactly.
MILLIKEN. — Lights and a whist-table. Oh, I see you bring ’em. You know everything I want. He knows everything I want, Howell does. Let us cut. Miss Prior, you and I are partners!
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00