SCENE. — As before.
LADY K. — Don’t smoke, you naughty boy. I don’t like it. Besides, it will encourage your brother-inlaw to smoke.
CLARENCE K. — Anything to oblige you, I’m sure. But can’t do without it, mother; it’s good for my health. When I was in the Plungers, our doctor used to say, “You ought never to smoke more than eight cigars a day”— an order, you know, to do it — don’t you see?
LADY K. — Ah, my child! I am very glad you are not with those unfortunate people in the East.
K. — So am I. Sold out just in time. Much better fun being here, than having the cholera at Scutari. Nice house, Milliken’s. Snob, but good fellow — good cellar, doosid good cook. Really, that salmi yesterday — couldn’t have it better done at the “Rag” now. You have got into good quarters here, mother.
LADY K. — The meals are very good, and the house is very good; the manners are not of the first order. But what can you expect of city people? I always told your poor dear sister, when she married Mr. Milliken, that she might look for everything substantial — but not manners. Poor dear Arabella WOULD marry him.
K. — Would! that is a good one, mamma! Why, you made her! It’s a dozen years ago. But I recollect, when I came home from Eton, seeing her crying because Charley Tufton —
LADY K. — Mr. Tufton had not a shilling to bless himself with. The marriage was absurd and impossible.
K. — He hadn’t a shilling then. I guess he has plenty now. Elder brother killed, out hunting. Father dead. Tuf a baronet, with four thousand a year if he’s a shilling.
LADY K. — Not so much.
K. — Four thousand if it’s a shilling. Why, the property adjoins Kicklebury’s — I ought to know. I’ve shot over it a thousand times. Heh! I remember, when I was quite a young ’un, how Arabella used to go out into Tufton Park to meet Charley — and he is a doosid good fellow, and a gentlemanlike fellow, and a doosid deal better than this city fellow.
LADY K. — If you don’t like this city fellow, Clarence, why do you come here? why didn’t you stop with your elder brother at Kicklebury?
K. — Why didn’t I? Why didn’t YOU stop at Kicklebury, mamma? Because you had notice to quit. Serious daughter-inlaw, quarrels about management of the house — row in the building. My brother interferes, and politely requests mamma to shorten her visit. So it is with your other two daughters; so it was with Arabella when she was alive. What shindies you used to have with her, Lady Kicklebury! Heh! I had a row with my brother and sister about a confounded little nursery-maid.
LADY K. — Clarence!
K. — And so I had notice to quit too. And I’m in very good quarters here, and I intend to stay in ’em, mamma. I say —
LADY K. — What do you say?
K. — Since I sold out, you know, and the regiment went abroad, confound me, the brutes at the “Rag” will hardly speak to me! I was so ill, I couldn’t go. Who the doose can live the life I’ve led and keep health enough for that infernal Crimea? Besides, how could I help it? I was so cursedly in debt that I was OBLIGED to have the money, you know. YOU hadn’t got any.
LADY K. — Not a halfpenny, my darling. I am dreadfully in debt myself.
K. — I know you are. So am I. My brother wouldn’t give me any, not a dump. Hang him! Said he had his children to look to. Milliken wouldn’t advance me any more — said I did him in that horse transaction. He! he! he! so I did! What had I to do but to sell out? And the fellows cut me, by Jove. Ain’t it too bad? I’ll take my name off the “Rag,” I will, though.
LADY K. — We must sow our wild oats, and we must sober down; and we must live here, where the living is very good and very cheap, Clarence, you naughty boy! And we must get you a rich wife. Did you see at church yesterday that young woman in light green, with rather red hair and a pink bonnet?
K. — I was asleep, ma’am, most of the time, or I was bookin’ up the odds for the Chester Cup. When I’m bookin’ up, I think of nothin’ else, ma’am — nothin’.
LADY K. — That was Miss Brocksopp — Briggs, Brown and Brocksopp, the great sugar-bakers. They say she will have eighty thousand pound. We will ask her to dinner here.
K. — I say — why the doose do you have such old women to dinner here? Why don’t you get some pretty girls? Such a set of confounded old frumps as eat Milliken’s mutton I never saw. There’s you, and his old mother Mrs. Bonnington, and old Mrs. Fogram, and old Miss What’s-her-name, the woman with the squint eye, and that immense Mrs. Crowder. It’s so stoopid, that if it weren’t for Touchit coming down sometimes, and the billiards and boatin’, I should die here — expire, by gad! Why don’t you have some pretty women into the house, Lady Kicklebury?
LADY K. — Why! Do you think I want that picture taken down: and another Mrs. Milliken? Wisehead! If Horace married again, would he be your banker, and keep this house, now that ungrateful son of mine has turned me out of his? No pretty woman shall come into the house whilst I am here.
K. — Governess seems a pretty woman: weak eyes, bad figure, poky, badly dressed, but doosid pretty woman.
LADY K. — Bah! There is no danger from HER. She is a most faithful creature, attached to me beyond everything. And her eyes — her eyes are weak with crying for some young man who is in India. She has his miniature in her room, locked up in one of her drawers.
K. — Then how the doose did you come to see it?
LADY K. — We see a number of things, Clarence. Will you drive with me?
K. — Not as I knows on, thank you. No, Ma; drivin’s TOO slow: and you’re goin’ to call on two or three old dowagers in the Park? Thank your ladyship for the delightful offer.
JOHN. — Please, sir, here’s the man with the bill for the boats; two pound three.
K. — Damn it, pay it — don’t bother ME!
JOHN. — Haven’t got the money, sir.
LADY K. — Howell! I saw Mr. Milliken give you a cheque for twenty-five pounds before he went into town this morning. Look sir [runs, opens drawer, takes out cheque-book]. There it is, marked, “Howell, 25L.”
JOHN. — Would your ladyship like to step down into my pantry and see what I’ve paid with the twenty-five pounds? Did my master leave any orders that your ladyship was to inspect my accounts?
LADY K. — Step down into the pantry! inspect your accounts? I never heard such impertinence. What do you mean, sir?
K. — Dammy, sir, what do you mean?
JOHN. — I thought as her ladyship kept a heye over my master’s private book, she might like to look at mine too.
LADY K. — Upon my word, this insolence is too much.
JOHN. — I beg your ladyship’s pardon. I am sure I have said nothing.
K. — Said, sir! your manner is mutinous, by Jove, sir! if I had you in the regiment! —
JOHN. — I understood that you had left the regiment, sir, just before it went on the campaign, sir.
K. — Confound you, sir! [Starts up.]
LADY K. — Clarence, my child, my child!
JOHN. — Your ladyship needn’t be alarmed; I’m a little man, my lady, but I don’t think Mr. Clarence was a-goin’ for to hit me, my lady; not before a lady, I’m sure. I suppose, sir, that you WON’T pay the boatman?
K. — No, sir, I won’t pay him, nor any man who uses this sort of damned impertinence!
JOHN. — I told Rullocks, sir, I thought it was JEST possible you wouldn’t. [Exit.]
K. — That’s a nice man, that is — an impudent villain!
LADY K. — Ruined by Horace’s weakness. He ruins everybody, poor good-natured Horace!
K. — Why don’t you get rid of the blackguard?
LADY K. — There is a time for all things, my dear. This man is very convenient to Horace. Mr. Milliken is exceedingly lazy, and Howell spares him a great deal of trouble. Some day or other I shall take all this domestic trouble off his hands. But not yet: your poor brother-inlaw is restive, like many weak men. He is subjected to other influences: his odious mother thwarts me a great deal.
K. — Why, you used to be the dearest friends in the world. I recollect when I was at Eton —
LADY K. — Were; but friendship don’t last for ever. Mrs. Bonnington and I have had serious differences since I came to live here: she has a natural jealousy, perhaps, at my superintending her son’s affairs. When she ceases to visit at the house, as she very possibly will, things will go more easily; and Mr. Howell will go too, you may depend upon it. I am always sorry when my temper breaks out, as it will sometimes.
K. — Won’t it, that’s all!
LADY K. — At his insolence, my temper is high; so is yours, my dear. Calm it for the present, especially as regards Howell.
K. — Gad! d’you know I was very nearly pitching into him? But once, one night in the Haymarket, at a lobster-shop, where I was with some fellows, we chaffed some other fellows, and there was one fellah — quite a little fellah — and I pitched into him, and he gave me the most confounded lickin’ I ever had in my life, since my brother Kicklebury licked me when we were at Eton; and that, you see, was a lesson to me, ma’am. Never trust those little fellows, never chaff ’em: dammy, they may be boxers.
LADY K. — You quarrelsome boy! I remember you coming home with your naughty head SO bruised. [Looks at watch.] I must go now to take my drive. [Exit LADY K.]
K. — I owe a doose of a tick at that billiard-room; I shall have that boatman dunnin’ me. Why hasn’t Milliken got any horses to ride? Hang him! suppose he can’t ride — suppose he’s a tailor. He ain’t MY tailor, though, though I owe him a doosid deal of money. There goes mamma with that darling nephew and niece of mine. [Enter BULKELEY]. Why haven’t you gone with my lady, you, sir? [to Bulkeley.]
BULKELEY. — My lady have a-took the pony-carriage, sir; Mrs. Bonnington have a-took the hopen carriage and ‘orses, sir, this mornin’, which the Bishop of London is ‘olding a confirmation at Teddington, sir, and Mr. Bonnington is attending the serimony. And I have told Mr. ‘Owell, sir, that my lady would prefer the hopen carriage, sir, which I like the hexercise myself, sir, and that the pony-carriage was good enough for Mrs. Bonnington, sir; and Mr. ‘Owell was very hinsolent to me, sir; and I don’t think I can stay in the ’ouse with him.
K. — Hold your jaw, sir.
BULKELEY. — Yes, sir. [Exit BULKELEY.]
K. — I wonder who that governess is? — sang rather prettily last night — wish she’d come and sing now — wish she’d come and amuse me — I’ve seen her face before — where have I seen her face? — it ain’t at all a bad one. What shall I do? dammy, I’ll read a book: I’ve not read a book this ever so long. What’s here? [looks amongst books, selects one, sinks down in easy-chair so as quite to be lost.]
Enter Miss PRIOR.
MISS PRIOR. — There’s peace in the house! those noisy children are away with their grandmamma. The weather is beautiful, and I hope they will take a long drive. Now I can have a quiet half-hour, and finish that dear pretty “Ruth”— oh, how it makes me cry, that pretty story. [Lays down her bonnet on table — goes to glass — takes off cap and spectacles — arranges her hair — Clarence has got on chair looking at her.]
K. — By Jove! I know who it is now! Remember her as well as possible. Four years ago, when little Foxbury used to dance in the ballet over the water. DON’T I remember her! She boxed my ears behind the scenes, by jingo. [Coming forward]. Miss Pemberton! Star of the ballet! Light of the harem! Don’t you remember the grand Oriental ballet of the “Bulbul and the Peri?”
MISS P. — Oh! [screams.] No, n — no, sir. You are mistaken: my name is Prior. I— never was at the “Coburg Theatre.” I —
K. [seizing her hand]. — No, you don’t, though! What! don’t you remember well that little hand slapping this face? which nature hadn’t then adorned with whiskers, by gad! You pretend you have forgotten little Foxbury, whom Charley Calverley used to come after, and who used to drive to the “Coburg” every night in her brougham. How did you know it was the “Coburg?” That IS a good one! HAD you there, I think.
MISS P. — Sir, in the name of heaven, pity me! I have to keep my mother and my sisters and my brothers. When — when you saw me, we were in great poverty; and almost all the wretched earnings I made at that time were given to my poor father then lying in the Queen’s Bench hard by. You know there was nothing against my character — you know there was not. Ask Captain Touchit whether I was not a good girl. It was he who brought me to this house.
K. — Touchit! the old villain!
MISS P. — I had your sister’s confidence. I tended her abroad on her death-bed. I have brought up your nephew and niece. Ask any one if I have not been honest? As a man, as a gentleman, I entreat you to keep my secret! I implore you for the sake of my poor mother and her children! [kneeling.]
K. — By Jove! how handsome you are! How crying becomes your eyes! Get up; get up. Of course I’ll keep your secret, but —
MISS P. — Ah! ah! [She screams as he tries to embrace her. HOWELL rushes in.]
HOWELL. — Hands off, you little villain! Stir a step and I’ll kill you, if you were a regiment of captains! What! insult this lady who kept watch at your sister’s death-bed and has took charge of her children! Don’t be frightened, Miss Prior. Julia — dear, dear Julia — I’m by you. If the scoundrel touches you, I’ll kill him. I— I love you — there — it’s here — love you madly — with all my ‘art — my a-heart!
MISS P. — Howell — for heaven’s sake, Howell!
K. — Pooh — ooh! [bursting with laughter]. Here’s a novel, by jingo! Here’s John in love with the governess. Fond of plush, Miss Pemberton — ey? Gad, it’s the best thing I ever knew. Saved a good bit, ey, Jeames? Take a public-house? By Jove! I’ll buy my beer there.
JOHN. — Owe for it, you mean. I don’t think your tradesmen profit much by your custom, ex-Cornet Kicklebury.
K. — By Jove! I’ll do for you, you villain!
JOHN. — No, not that way, Captain. [Struggles with and throws him.]
K. [screams.]— Hallo, Bulkeley! [Bulkeley is seen strolling in the garden.]
BULKELEY. — What is it, sir?
K. — Take this confounded villain off me, and pitch him into the Thames — do you hear?
JOHN. — Come here, and I’ll break every bone in your hulking body. [To BULKELEY.]
BULKELEY. — Come, come! whathever his hall this year row about?
MISS P. — For heaven’s sake don’t strike that poor man.
BULKELEY. — YOU be quiet. What’s he a-hittin’ about my master for?
JOHN. — Take off your hat, sir, when you speak to a lady. [Takes up a poker.] And now come on, both of you, cowards! [Rushes at BULKELEY and knocks his hat off his head.]
BULKELEY [stepping back]. — If you’ll put down that there poker, you know, then I’ll pitch into you fast enough. But that there poker ain’t fair, you know.
K. — You villain! of course you will leave this house. And, Miss Prior, I think you understand that you will go too. I don’t think my niece wants to learn DANCIN’, you understand. Good-by. Here, Bulkeley! [Gets behind footman and exit.]
MISS P. — Do you know the meaning of that threat, Mr. Howell?
JOHN. — Yes, Miss Prior.
MISS P. — I was a dancer once, for three months, four years ago, when my poor father was in prison.
JOHN. — Yes, Miss Prior, I knew it. And I saw you a many times.
MISS P. — And you kept my secret?
JOHN. — Yes, Ju — Jul — Miss Prior.
MISS P. — Thank you, and God bless you, John Howell. There, there. You mustn’t! indeed you mustn’t!
JOHN. — You don’t remember the printer’s boy who used to come to Mr. O’Reilly, and sit in your ‘all in Bury Street, Miss Prior? I was that boy. I was a country-bred boy — that is if you call Putney country, and Wimbledon Common and that. I served the Milliken family seven year. I went with Master Horace to college, and then I revolted against service, and I thought I’d be a man and turn printer like Doctor Frankling. And I got in an office: and I went with proofs to Mr. O’Reilly, and I saw you. And though I might have been in love with somebody else before I did — yet it was all hup when I saw you.
MISS P. [kindly.]— YOU must not talk to me in that way, John Howell.
JOHN. — Let’s tell the tale out. I couldn’t stand the newspaper night-work. I had a mother and brothers and sisters to keep, as you had. I went back to Horace Milliken and said, Sir, I’ve lost my work. I and mine want bread. Will you take me back again? And he did. He’s a kind, kind soul is my master.
MISS P. — He IS a kind, kind soul.
JOHN. — He’s good to all the poor. His hand’s in his pocket for everybody. Everybody takes advantage of him. His mother-inlor rides over him. So does his Ma. So do I, I may say; but that’s over now; and you and I have had our notice to quit. Miss, I should say.
MISS P. — Yes.
JOHN. — I have saved a bit of money — not much — a hundred pound. Miss Prior — Julia — here I am — look — I’m a poor feller — a poor servant — but I’ve the heart of a man — and — I love you — oh! I love you!
MARY. — Oh ho — ho! [Mary has entered from garden, and bursts out crying.]
MISS P. — It can’t be, John Howell — my dear, brave, kind John Howell. It can’t be. I have watched this for some time past, and poor Mary’s despair here. [Kisses Mary, who cries plentifully.] You have the heart of a true, brave man, and must show it and prove it now. I am not — am not of your pardon me for saying so — of your class in life. I was bred by my uncle, away from my poor parents, though I came back to them after his sudden death; and to poverty, and to this dependent life I am now leading. I am a servant, like you, John, but in another sphere — have to seek another place now; and heaven knows if I shall procure one, now that that unlucky passage in my life is known. Oh, the coward to recall it! the coward!
MARY. — But John whopped him, Miss! that he did. He gave it him well, John did. [Crying.]
MISS P. — You can’t — you ought not to forego an attachment like that, John Howell. A more honest and true-hearted creature never breathed than Mary Barlow.
JOHN. — No, indeed.
MISS P. — She has loved you since she was a little child. And you loved her once, and do now, John.
MARY. — Oh, Miss! you hare a hangel — I hallways said you were a hangel.
MISS P. — You are better than I am, my dear much, much better than I am, John. The curse of my poverty has been that I have had to flatter and to dissemble, and hide the faults of those I wanted to help, and to smile when I was hurt, and laugh when I was sad, and to coax, and to tack, and to bide my time — not with Mr. Milliken: he is all honor, and kindness, and simplicity. Who did HE ever injure, or what unkind word did HE ever say? But do you think, with the jealousy of those poor ladies over his house, I could have stayed here without being a hypocrite to both of them? Go, John. My good, dear friend, John Howell, marry Mary. You’ll be happier with her than with me. There! There! [They embrace.]
MARY. — O— o — o! I think I’ll go and hiron hout Miss Harabella’s frocks now. [Exit MARY.]
Enter MILLIKEN with CLARENCE— who is explaining things to him.
CLARENCE. — Here they are, I give you my word of honor. Ask ’em, damn em.
MILLIKEN. — What is this I hear? You, John Howell, have dared to strike a gentleman under my roof! Your master’s brother-inlaw?
JOHN. — Yes, by Jove! and I’d do it again.
MILLIKEN. — Are you drunk or mad, Howell?
JOHN. — I’m as sober and as sensible as ever I was in my life, sir — I not only struck the master, but I struck the man, who’s twice as big, only not quite as big a coward, I think.
MILLIKEN. — Hold your scurrilous tongues sir! My good nature ruins everybody about me. Make up your accounts. Pack your trunks — and never let me see your face again.
JOHN. — Very good, sir.
MILLIKEN. — I suppose, Miss Prior, you will also be disposed to — to follow Mr. Howell?
MISS P. — To quit you, now you know what has passed? I never supposed it could be otherwise — I deceived you, Mr. Milliken — as I kept a secret from you, and must pay the penalty. It is a relief to me, the sword has been hanging over me. I wish I had told your poor wife, as I was often minded to do.
MILLIKEN. — Oh, you were minded to do it in Italy, were you?
MISS P. — Captain Touchit knew it, sir, all along: and that my motives and, thank God, my life were honorable.
MILLIKEN. — Oh, Touchit knew it, did he? and thought it honorable — honorable. Ha! ha! to marry a footman — and keep a public-house? I— I beg your pardon, John Howell — I mean nothing against you, you know. You’re an honorable man enough, except that you have been damned insolent to my brother-inlaw.
JOHN. — Oh, heaven! [JOHN strikes his forehead, and walks away.]
MISS P. — You mistake me, sir. What I wished to speak of was the fact which this gentleman has no doubt communicated to you — that I danced on the stage for three months.
MILLIKEN. — Oh, yes. Oh, damme, yes. I forgot. I wasn’t thinking of that.
KICKLEBURY. — You see she owns it.
MISS P. — We were in the depths of poverty. Our furniture and lodging-house under execution — from which Captain Touchit, when he came to know of our difficulties, nobly afterwards released us. My father was in prison, and wanted shillings for medicine, and I— I went and danced on the stage.
MILLIKEN. — Well?
MISS P. — And I kept the secret afterwards; knowing that I could never hope as governess to obtain a place after having been a stage-dancer.
MILLIKEN. — Of course you couldn’t — it’s out of the question; and may I ask, are you going to resume that delightful profession when you enter the married state with Mr. Howell?
MISS P. — Poor John! it is not I who am going to — that is, it’s Mary, the school-room maid.
MILLIKEN. — Eternal blazes! Have you turned Mormon, John Howell, and are you going to marry the whole house?
JOHN. — I made a hass of myself about Miss Prior. I couldn’t help her being l — l — lovely.
KICK. — Gad, he proposed to her in my presence.
JOHN. — What I proposed to her, Cornet Clarence Kicklebury, was my heart and my honor, and my best, and my everything — and you — you wanted to take advantage of her secret, and you offered her indignities, and you laid a cowardly hand on her — a cowardly hand! — and I struck you, and I’d do it again.
MILLIKEN. — What? Is this true? [Turning round very fiercely to K.]
KICK. — Gad! Well — I only —
MILLIKEN. — You only what? You only insulted a lady under my roof — the friend and nurse of your dead sister — the guardian of my children. You only took advantage of a defenceless girl, and would have extorted your infernal pay out of her fear. You miserable sneak and coward!
KICK. — Hallo! Come, come! I say I won’t stand this sort of chaff. Dammy, I’ll send a friend to you!
MILLIKEN. — Go out of that window, sir. March! or I will tell my servant, John Howell, to kick you out, you wretched little scamp! Tell that big brute — what’s-his-name? — Lady Kicklebury’s man, to pack this young man’s portmanteau and bear’s-grease pots; and if ever you enter these doors again, Clarence Kicklebury, by the heaven that made me! — by your sister who is dead! — I will cane your life out of your bones. Angel in heaven! Shade of my Arabella — to think that your brother in your house should be found to insult the guardian of your children!
JOHN. — By jingo, you’re a good-plucked one! I knew he was, Miss — I told you he was. [Exit, shaking hands with his master, and with Miss P., and dancing for joy. Exit CLARENCE, scared, out of window.]
JOHN [without]. — Bulkeley! pack up the Capting’s luggage!
MILLIKEN. — How can I ask your pardon, Miss Prior? In my wife’s name I ask it — in the name of that angel whose dying-bed you watched and soothed — of the innocent children whom you have faithfully tended since.
MISS P. — Ah, sir! it is granted when you speak so to me.
MILLIKEN. — Eh, eh — d — don’t call me sir!
MISS P. — It is for me to ask pardon for hiding what you know now: but if I had told you — you — you never would have taken me into your house — your wife never would.
MILLIKEN. — No, no. [Weeping.]
MISS P. — My dear, kind Captain Touchit knows it all. It was by his counsel I acted. He it was who relieved our distress. Ask him whether my conduct was not honorable — ask him whether my life was not devoted to my parents — ask him when — when I am gone.
MILLIKEN. — When you are gone, Julia! Why are you going? Why should you go, my love — that is — why need you go, in the devil’s name?
MISS P. — Because, when your mother — when your mother-inlaw come to hear that your children’s governess has been a dancer on the stage, they will send me away, and you will not have the power to resist them. They ought to send me away, sir; but I have acted honestly by the children and their poor mother, and you’ll think of me kindly when — I— am — gone?
MILLIKEN. — Julia, my dearest — dear — noble — dar — the devil! here’s old Kicklebury.
Enter Lady K., Children, and CLARENCE.
LADY K. — So, Miss Prior! this is what I hear, is it? A dancer in my house! a serpent in my bosom — poisoning — yes, poisoning those blessed children! occasioning quarrels between my own son and my dearest son-inlaw; flirting with the footman! When do you intend to leave, madam, the house which you have po — poll — luted?
MISS P. — I need no hard language, Lady Kicklebury: and I will reply to none. I have signified to Mr. Milliken my wish to leave his house.
MILLIKEN. — Not, not, if you will stay. [To Miss P.]
LADY K. — Stay, Horace! she shall NEVER stay as governess in this house!
MILLIKEN. — Julia! will you stay as mistress? You have known me for a year alone — before, not so well — when the house had a mistress that is gone. You know what my temper is, and that my tastes are simple, and my heart not unkind. I have watched you, and have never seen you out of temper, though you have been tried. I have long thought you good and beautiful, but I never thought to ask the question which I put to you now:— come in, sir! [to CLARENCE at door]:— now that you have been persecuted by those who ought to have upheld you, and insulted by those who owed you gratitude and respect. I am tired of their domination, and as weary of a man’s cowardly impertinence [to CLARENCE] as of a woman’s jealous tyranny. They have made what was my Arabella’s home miserable by their oppression and their quarrels. Julia! my wife’s friend, my children’s friend! be mine, and make me happy! Don’t leave me, Julia! say you won’t — say you won’t — dearest — dearest girl!
MISS P. — I won’t — leave — you.
GEORGE [without]. — Oh, I say! Arabella, look here: here’s papa a-kissing Miss Prior!
LADY K. — Horace — Clarence my son! Shade of my Arabella! can you behold this horrible scene, and not shudder in heaven! Bulkeley! Clarence! go for a doctor — go to Doctor Straitwaist at the Asylum — Horace Milliken, who has married the descendant of the Kickleburys of the Conqueror, marry a dancing-girl off the stage! Horace Milliken! do you wish to see me die in convulsions at your feet? I writhe there, I grovel there. Look! look at me on my knees! your own mother-inlaw! drive away this fiend!
MILLIKEN. — Hem! I ought to thank you, Lady Kicklebury, for it is you that have given her to me.
LADY K. — He won’t listen! he turns away and kisses her horrible hand. This will never do: help me up, Clarence, I must go and fetch his mother. Ah, ah! there she is, there she is! [Lady K. rushes out, as the top of a barouche, with Mr. and Mrs. BONNINGTON and Coachman, is seen over the gate.]
MRS. B. — What is this I hear, my son, my son? You are going to marry a — a stage-dancer? you are driving me mad, Horace!
MILLIKEN. — Give me my second chance, mother, to be happy. You have had yourself two chances.
MRS. B. — Speak to him, Mr. Bonnington. [BONNINGTON makes dumb show.]
LADY K. — Implore him, Mr. Bonnington.
MRS. B. — Pray, pray for him, Mr. Bonnington, my love — my lost, abandoned boy!
LADY K. — Oh, my poor dear Mrs. Bonnington!
MRS. B. — Oh, my poor dear Lady Kicklebury. [They embrace each other.]
LADY K. — I have been down on my knees to him, dearest Mrs. Bonnington.
MRS. B. — Let us both — both go down on our knees — I WILL [to her husband]. Edward, I will! [Both ladies on their knees. BONNINGTON with outstretched hands behind them.] Look, unhappy boy! look, Horace! two mothers on their wretched knees before you, imploring you to send away this monster! Speak to him, Mr. Bonnington. Edward! use authority with him, if he will not listen to his mother —
LADY K. — To his mothers!
TOUCHIT. — What is this comedy going on, ladies and gentlemen? The ladies on their elderly knees — Miss Prior with her hair down her back. Is it tragedy or comedy — is it a rehearsal for a charade, or are we acting for Horace’s birthday? or, oh! — I beg your Reverence’s pardon — you were perhaps going to a professional duty?
MR. B. — It’s WE who are praying this child, Touchit. This child, with whom you used to come home from Westminster when you were boys. You have influence with him; he listens to you. Entreat him to pause in his madness.
TOUCHIT. — What madness?
MRS. B. — That — that woman — that serpent yonder — that — that dancing-woman, whom you introduced to Arabella Milliken — ah! and I rue the day:— Horace is going to mum — mum — marry her!
TOUCHIT. — Well! I always thought he would. Ever since I saw him and her playing at whist together, when I came down here a month ago, I thought he would do it.
MRS. B. — Oh, it’s the whist, the whist! Why did I ever play at whist, Edward? My poor Mr. Milliken used to like his rubber.
TOUCHIT. — Since he has been a widower —
LADY K. — A widower of that angel! [Points to picture.]
TOUCHIT. — Pooh, pooh, angel! You two ladies have never given the poor fellow any peace. You were always quarrelling over him. You took possession of his house, bullied his servants, spoiled his children; you did, Lady Kicklebury.
LADY K. — Sir, you are a rude, low, presuming, vulgar man. Clarence! beat this rude man!
TOUCHIT. — From what I have heard of your amiable son, he is not in the warlike line, I think. My dear Julia, I am delighted with all my heart that my old friend should have found a woman of sense, good conduct, good temper — a woman who has had many trials, and borne them with great patience — to take charge of him and make him happy. Horace, give me your hand! I knew Miss Prior in great poverty. I am sure she will bear as nobly her present good fortune; for good fortune it is to any woman to become the wife of such a loyal, honest, kindly gentleman as you are!
JOHN. — If you please, my lady — if you please, sir — Bulkeley —
LADY K. — What of Bulkeley, sir?
JOHN. — He has packed his things, and Cornet Kicklebury’s things, my lady.
MILLIKEN. — Let the fellow go.
JOHN. — He won’t go, sir, till my lady have paid him his book and wages. Here’s the book, sir.
LADY K. — Insolence! quit my presence! And I, Mr. Milliken, will quit a house —
JOHN. — Shall I call your ladyship a carriage?
LADY K. — Where I have met with rudeness, cruelty, and fiendish [to Miss P., who smiles and curtsies]— yes, fiendish ingratitude. I will go, I say, as soon as I have made arrangements for taking other lodgings. You cannot expect a lady of fashion to turn out like a servant.
JOHN. — Hire the “Star and Garter” for her, sir. Send down to the “Castle;” anything to get rid of her. I’ll tell her maid to pack her traps. Pinhorn! [Beckons maid and gives orders.]
TOUCHIT. — You had better go at once, my dear Lady Kicklebury.
LADY K. — Sir!
TOUCHIT. — THE OTHER MOTHER-IN-LAW IS COMING! I met her on the road with all her family. He! he! he! [Screams.]
Enter Mrs. PRIOR and Children.
MRS. P. — My lady! I hope your ladyship is quite well! Dear, kind Mrs. Bonnington! I came to pay my duty to you, ma’am. This is Charlotte, my lady — the great girl whom your ladyship so kindly promised the gown for; and this is my little girl, Mrs. Bonnington, ma’am, please; and this is my Bluecoat boy. Go and speak to dear, kind Mr. Milliken — our best friend and protector — the son and son-inlaw of these dear ladies. Look, sir! He has brought his copy to show you. [Boy shows copy.] Ain’t it creditable to a boy of his age, Captain Touchit? And my best and most grateful services to you, sir. Julia, Julia, my dear, where’s your cap and spectacles, you stupid thing? You’ve let your hair drop down. What! what! —[Begins to be puzzled.]
MRS. B. — Is this collusion, madam?
MRS. P. — Collusion, dear Mrs. Bonnington!
LADY K. — Or insolence, Mrs. Prior!
MRS. P. — Insolence, your ladyship! What — what is it? what has happened? What’s Julia’s hair down for? Ah! you’ve not sent the poor girl away? the poor, poor child, and the poor, poor children!
TOUCHIT. — That dancing at the “Coburg” has come out, Mrs. Prior.
MRS. P. — Not the darling’s fault. It was to help her poor father in prison. It was I who forced her to do it. Oh! don’t, don’t, dear Lady Kicklebury, take the bread out of the mouths of these poor orphans! [Crying.]
MILLIKEN. — Enough of this, Mrs. Prior: your daughter is not going away. Julia has promised to stay with me — and — never to leave me — as governess no longer, but as wife to me.
MRS. P. — Is it — is it true, Julia?
MISS P. — Yes, mamma.
MRS. P. — Oh! oh! oh! [Flings down her umbrella, kisses JULIA, and running to MILLIKEN,] My son, my son! Come here, children. Come, Adolphus, Amelia, Charlotte — kiss your dear brother, children. What, my dears! How do you do, dears? [to MILLIKEN’S children]. Have they heard the news? And do you know that my daughter is going to be your mamma? There — there — go and play with your little uncles and aunts, that’s good children! [She motions off the Children, who retire towards garden. Her manner changes to one of great patronage and intense satisfaction.] Most hot weather, your ladyship, I’m sure. Mr. Bonnington, you must find it hot weather for preachin’! Lor’! there’s that little wretch beatin’ Adolphus! George, sir! have done, sir! [Runs to separate them.] How ever shall we make those children agree, Julia?
MISS P. — They have been a little spoiled, and I think Mr. Milliken will send George and Arabella to school, mamma: will you not, Horace?
MR. MILLIKEN. — I think school will be the very best thing for them.
MRS. P. — And [Mrs. P. whispers, pointing to her own children] the blue room, the green room, the rooms old Lady Kick has — plenty of room for us, my dear!
MISS P. — No, mamma, I think it will be too large a party — Mr. Milliken has often said that he would like to go abroad, and I hope that now he will be able to make his tour.
MRS. P. — Oh, then! we can live in the house, you know: what’s the use of payin’ lodgin’, my dear?
MISS P. — The house is going to be painted. You had best live in your own house, mamma; and if you want anything, Horace, Mr. Milliken, I am sure, will make it comfortable for you. He has had too many visitors of late, and will like a more quiet life, I think. Will you not?
MILLIKEN. — I shall like a life with YOU, Julia.
JOHN. — Cab, sir, for her ladyship!
LADY K. — This instant let me go! Call my people. Clarence, your arm! Bulkeley, Pinhorn! Mrs. Bonnington, I wish you good-morning! Arabella, angel! [looks at picture] I leave you. I shall come to you ere long. [Exit, refusing MILLIKEN’s hand, passes up garden, with her servants following her. MARY and other servants of the house are collected together, whom Lady K. waves off. Bluecoat boy on wall eating plums. Page, as she goes, cries, Hurray, hurray! Bluecoat boy cries, Hurray! When Lady K. is gone, JOHN advances.]
JOHN. — I think I heard you say, sir, that it was your intention to go abroad?
MILLIKEN. — Yes; oh, yes! Are we going abroad, my Julia?
MISS P. — To settle matters, to have the house painted, and clear [pointing to children, mother, &c.] Don’t you think it is the best thing that we can do?
MILLIKEN. — Surely, surely: we are going abroad. Howell, you will come with us of course, and with your experiences you will make a capital courier. Won’t Howell make a capital courier, Julia? Good honest fellow, John Howell. Beg your pardon for being so rude to you just now. But my temper is very hot, very.
JOHN [laughing]. — You are a Tartar, sir. Such a tyrant! isn’t he, ma’am?
MISS P. — Well, no; I don’t think you have a very bad temper, Mr. Milliken, a — Horace.
JOHN. — You must — take care of him — alone, Miss Prior — Julia — I mean Mrs. Milliken. Man and boy I’ve waited on him this fifteen year: with the exception of that trial at the printing-office, which — which I won’t talk of NOW, madam. I never knew him angry; though many a time I have known him provoked. I never knew him say a hard word, though sometimes perhaps we’ve deserved it. Not often — such a good master as that is pretty sure of getting a good servant — that is, if a man has a heart in his bosom; and these things are found both in and out of livery. Yes, I have been a honest servant to him — haven’t I, Mr. Milliken?
MILLIKEN. — Indeed, yes, John.
JOHN. — And so has Mary Barlow. Mary, my dear! [Mary comes forward.] Will you allow me to introduce you, sir, to the futur’ Mrs. Howell? — if Mr. Bonnington does YOUR little business for you, as I dare say [turning to Mr. B.], hold gov’nor, you will! — Make it up with your poor son, Mrs. Bonnington, ma’am. You have took a second ‘elpmate, why shouldn’t Master Horace? [to Mrs. B.] He — he wants somebody to help him, and take care of him, more than you do.
TOUCHIT. — You never spoke a truer word in your life, Howell.
JOHN. — It’s my general ‘abit, Capting, to indulge in them sort of statements. A true friend I have been to my master, and a true friend I’ll remain when he’s my master no more.
MILLIKEN. — Why, John, you are not going to leave me?
JOHN. — It’s best, sir, I should go. I— I’m not fit to be a servant in this house any longer. I wish to sit in my own little home, with my own little wife by my side. Poor dear! you’ve no conversation, Mary, but you’re a good little soul. We’ve saved a hundred pound apiece, and if we want more, I know who won’t grudge it us, a good fellow — a good master — for whom I’ve saved many a hundred pound myself, and will take the “Milliken Arms” at old Pigeoncot — and once a year or so, at this hanniversary, we will pay our respects to you, sir, and madam. Perhaps we will bring some children with us, perhaps we will find some more in this villa. Bless ’em beforehand! Good-by, sir, and madam — come away, Mary! [going].
MRS. P. [entering with clothes, &c.]— She has not left a single thing in her room. Amelia, come here! this cloak will do capital for you, and this — this garment is the very thing for Adolphus. Oh, John! eh, Howell! will you please to see that my children have something to eat, immediately! The Milliken children, I suppose, have dined already?
JOHN. — Yes, ma’am; certainly, ma’am.
MRS. P. — I see he is inclined to be civil to me NOW!
MISS P. — John Howell is about to leave us, mamma. He is engaged to Mary Barlow, and when we go away, he is going to set up housekeeping for himself. Good-by, and thank you, John Howell [gives her hand to JOHN, but with great reserve of manner]. You have been a kind and true friend to us — if ever we can serve you, count upon us — may he not, Mr. Milliken?
MILLIKEN. — Always, always.
MISS P. — But you will still wait upon us — upon Mr. Milliken, for a day or two, won’t you, John, until we — until Mr. Milliken has found some one to replace you. He will never find any one more honest than you, and good, kind little Mary. Thank you, Mary, for your goodness to the poor governess.
MARY. — Oh miss! oh mum! [Miss P. kisses Mary patronizingly].
MISS P. [to JOHN]. — And after they have had some refreshment, get a cab for my brothers and sister, if you please, John. Don’t you think that will be best, my — my dear?
MILLIKEN. — Of course, of course, dear Julia!
MISS P. — And, Captain Touchit, you will stay, I hope, and dine with Mr. Milliken? And, Mrs. Bonnington, if you will receive as a daughter one who has always had a sincere regard for you, I think you will aid in making your son happy, as I promise you with all my heart and all my life to endeavor to do. [Miss P. and M. go up to Mrs. BONNINGTON.]
MRS. BONNINGTON. — Well, there, then, since it must be so, bless you, my children.
TOUCHIT. — Spoken like a sensible woman! And now, as I do not wish to interrupt this felicity, I will go and dine at the “Star and Garter.”
MISS P. — My dear Captain Touchit, not for worlds! Don’t you know I mustn’t be alone with Mr. Milliken until — until —?
MILLIKEN. — Until I am made the happiest man alive! and you will come down and see us often, Touchit, won’t you? And we hope to see our friends here often. And we will have a little life and spirit and gayety in the place. Oh, mother! oh, George! oh, Julia! what a comfort it is to me to think that I am released from the tyranny of that terrible mother-inlaw!
MRS. PRIOR. — Come in to your teas, children. Come this moment, I say. [The Children pass quarrelling behind the characters, Mrs. PRIOR summoning them; JOHN and MARY standing on each side of the dining-room door, as the curtain falls.]
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