George Farquhar, The Beaux-Stratagem (1707)
Act I, Scene 1
[A Room in Bonifaces Inn. Enter Boniface running.]
Boniface: Chamberlain! maid! Cherry! daughter Cherry! all asleep? all dead?
[Enter Cherry running.]
Cherry: Here, here! why d’ye bawl so, father? d’ye think we have no ears?
Boniface: You deserve to have none, you young minx! The company of the Warrington coach has stood in the hall this hour, and nobody to show them to their chambers.
Cherry: And let ’em wait farther; there’s neither red-coat in the coach, nor footman behind it.
Boniface: But they threaten to go to another inn to-night.
Cherry: That they dare not, for fear the coachman should overturn them to-morrow. - Coming! coming! - Here’s the London coach arrived.
[Enter several people with trunks, bandboxes, and other luggage, and cross the stage.]
Boniface: Welcome, ladies!
Cherry: Very welcome, gentlemen! Chamberlain, show the Lion and the Rose.] [Exit with the company. Enter Aimwell in a riding-habit, and Archer as footman, carrying a portmantle.]
Boniface: This way, this way, gentlemen!
Aimwell: [To Archer.] Set down the things; go to the stable, and see my horses well rubbed.
Archer: I shall, sir. [Exit.]
Aimwell: You’re my landlord, I suppose?
Boniface: Yes, sir, I’m old Will Boniface, pretty well known upon this road, as the saying is.
Aimwell: O Mr. Boniface, your servant!
Boniface: O sir! - What will your honour please to drink, as the saying is?
Aimwell: I have heard your town of Lichfield much famed for ale; I think I ’ll taste that.
Boniface: Sir, I have now in my cellar ten tun of the best ale in Staffordshire; ’tis smooth as oil, sweet as milk, clear as amber, and strong as brandy; and will be just fourteen year old the fifth day of next March, old style.
Aimwell: You’re very exact, I find, in the age of your ale.
Boniface: As punctual, sir, as I am in the age of my children. I’ll show you such ale! - Here, tapster [Enter Tapster] broach number 1706, as the saying is. - Sir, you shall taste my Anno Domini. - I have lived in Lichfield, man and boy, above eight-and-fifty years, and, I believe, have not consumed eight-and-fifty ounces of meat.
Aimwell: At a meal, you mean, if one may guess your sense by your bulk.
Boniface: Not in my life, sir: I have fed purely upon ale; I have eat my ale, drank my ale, and I always sleep upon ale.
[Enter Tapster with a bottle and glass, and exit.]
Now, sir, you shall see! [Fitting out a glass.] Your worship’s health. [Drinks.] Ha! delicious, delicious! fancy it burgundy, only fancy it, and ’tis worth ten shillings a quart.
Aimwell: [Drinks.] ’Tis confounded strong!
Boniface: Strong! it must be so, or how should we be strong that drink it?
Aimwell: And have you lived so long upon this ale, landlord?
Boniface: Eight-and-fifty years, upon my credit, sir - but it killed my wife, poor woman, as the saying is.
Aimwell: How came that to pass?
Boniface: I don’t know how, sir; she would not let the ale take its natural course, sir; she was for qualifying it every now and then with a dram, as the saying is; and an honest gentleman that came this way from Ireland, made her a present of a dozen bottles of usquebaugh - but the poor woman was never well after: but, howe’er, I was obliged to the gentleman, you know.
Aimwell: Why, was it the usquebaugh that killed her?
Boniface: My Lady Bountiful said so. She, good lady, did what could be done; she cured her of three tympanies, but the fourth carried her off. But she’s happy, and I’m contented, as the saying is.
Aimwell: Who’s that Lady Bountiful you mentioned?
Boniface: ’Ods my life, sir, we’ll drink her health. [Drinks.] My Lady Bountiful is one of the best of women. Her last husband, Sir Charles Bountiful, left her worth a thousand pound, a year; and, I believe, she lays out one-half on’t in charitable uses for the good of her neighbours. She cures rheumatisms, ruptures, and broken shins in men; green-sickness, obstructions, and fits of the mother, in women; the king’s evil, chincough, and chilblains, in children: in short, she has cured more people in and about Lichfield within ten years than the doctors have killed in twenty; and that’s a bold word.
Aimwell: Has the lady been any other way useful in her generation?
Boniface: Yes, sir; she has a daughter by Sir Charles, the finest woman in all our country, and the greatest fortune. She has a son too, by her first husband, Squire Sullen, who married a fine lady from London t’other day; if you please, sir, we ’ll drink his health.
Aimwell: What sort of a man is he?
Boniface: Why, sir, the man ’s well enough; says little, thinks less, and does - nothing at all, faith. But he’s a man of a great estate, and values nobody.
Aimwell: A sportsman, I suppose?
Boniface: Yes, sir, he’s a man of pleasure; he plays at whisk and smokes his pipe eight-and-forty hours together sometimes.
Aimwell: And married, you say?
Boniface: Ay, and to a curious woman, sir. But he’s a - he wants it here, sir. [Pointing to his forehead.]
Aimwell: He has it there, you mean?
Boniface: That’s none of my business; he’s my landlord, and so a man, you know, would not - But - ecod, he’s no better than - Sir, my humble service to you. [Drinks.] Though I value not a farthing what he can do to me; I pay him his rent at quarter-day; I have a good running-trade; I have but one daughter, and I can give her - but no matter for that.
Aimwell: You’re very happy, Mr. Boniface. Pray, what other company have you in town?
Boniface: A power of fine ladies; and then we have the French officers.
Aimwell: Oh, that’s right, you have a good many of those gentlemen: pray, how do you like their company?
Boniface: So well, as the saying is, that I could wish we had as many more of’em; they’re full of money, and pay double for everything they have. They know, sir, that we paid good round taxes for the taking of ’em, and so they are willing to reimburse us a little. One of ’em lodges in my house.
Archer: Landlord, there are some French gentlemen below that ask for you.
Boniface: I’ll wait on ’em. [Aside to Archer.] Does your master stay long in town, as the saying is?
Archer: I can’t tell, as the saying is.
Boniface: Come from London?
Boniface: Going to London, mayhap?
Boniface: [Aside.] An odd fellow this. [To Aimwell.] I beg your worship’s pardon, I ’ll wait on you in half a minute. [Exit.]
Aimwell: The coast’s clear, I see. - Now, my dear Archer, welcome to Lichfield!
Archer: I thank thee, my dear brother in iniquity.
Aimwell: Iniquity! prithee, leave canting; you need not change your style with your dress.
Archer: Don’t mistake me, Aimwell, for ’tis still my maxim, that there is no scandal like rags, nor any crime so shameful as poverty.
Aimwell: The world confesses it every day in its practice though men won’t own it for their opinion. Who did that worthy lord my brother, single out of the side-box to sup with him t’other night?
Archer: Jack Handicraft, a handsome, well-dressed, mannerly, sharping rogue, who keeps the best company in town.
Aimwell: Right! And, pray, who married my lady Manslaughter t’other day, the great fortune?
Archer: Why, Nick Marrabone, a professed pickpocket, and a good bowler; but he makes a handsome figure, and rides in his coach, that he formerly used to ride behind.
Aimwell: But did you observe poor Jack Generous in the Park last week.
Archer: Yes, with his autumnal periwig, shading his melancholy face, his coat older than anything but its fashion, with one hand idle in his pocket, and with the other picking his useless teeth; and, though the Mall was crowded with company, yet was poor Jack as single and solitary as a lion in a desert.
Aimwell: And as much avoided for no crime upon earth but the want of money.
Archer: And that’s enough. Men must not be poor; idleness is the root of all evil; the world’s wide enough, let ’em bustle. Fortune has taken the weak under her protection, but men of sense are left to their industry.
Aimwell: Upon which topic we proceed, and, I think, luckily hitherto. Would not any man swear now, that I am a man of quality, and you my servant, when if our intrinsic value were known ...
Archer: Come, come, we are the men of intrinsic value who can strike our fortunes out of ourselves, whose worth is independent of accidents in life, or revolutions in government: we have heads to get money and hearts to spend it.
Aimwell: As to our hearts, I grant ye, they are as willing tits as any within twenty degrees: but I can have no great opinion of our heads from the service they have done us hitherto, unless it be that they have brought us from London hither to Lichfield, made me a lord and you my servant.
Archer: That’s more than you could expect already. But what money have we left?
Aimwell: But two hundred pound.
Archer: And our horses, clothes, rings, &c. - Why, we have very good fortunes now for moderate people; and, let me tell you, that this two hundred pound, with the experience that we are now masters of, is a better estate than the ten we have spent - Our friends, indeed, began to suspect that our pockets were low, but we came off with flying colours, showed no signs of want either in word or deed.
Aimwell: Ay, and our going to Brussels was a good pretence enough for our sudden disappearing; and, I warrant you, our friends imagine that we are gone a-volunteering.
Archer: Why, faith, if this prospect fails, it must e’en come to that I am for venturing one of the hundreds, if you will, upon this knight-errantry; but, in case it should fail, we ’ll reserve t’other to carry us to some counterscarp, where we may die, as we lived, in a blaze.
Aimwell: With all my heart; and we have lived justly, Archer: we can’t say that we have spent our fortunes, but that we have enjoyed ’em.
Archer: Right! so much pleasure for so much money. We have had our pennyworths; and, had I millions, I would go to the same market again. - O London! London! - Well, we have had our share, and let us be thankful: past pleasures, for aught I know, are best, such as we are sure of; those to come may disappoint us.
Aimwell: It has often grieved the heart of me to see how some inhuman wretches murder their kind fortunes; those that, by sacrificing all to one appetite, shall starve all the rest. You shall have some that live only in their palates, and in their sense of tasting shall drown the other four: others are only epicures in appearances, such who shall starve their nights to make a figure a days, and famish their own to feed the eyes of others: a contrary sort confine their pleasures to the dark, and contract their specious acres to the circuit of a muff-string.
Archer: Right! But they find the Indies in that spot where they consume ’em, and I think your kind keepers have much the best on’t: for they indulge the most senses by one expense, there’s the seeing, hearing, and feeling, amply gratified; and, some philosophers will tell you, that from such a commerce there arises a sixth sense, that gives infinitely more pleasure than the other five put together.
Aimwell: And to pass to the other extremity, of all keepers I think those the worst that keep their money.
Archer: Those are the most miserable wights in being, they destroy the rights of nature, and disappoint the blessings of Providence. Give me a man that keeps his five senses keen and bright as his sword, that has ’em always drawn out in their just order and strength, with his reason as commander at the head of ’em, that detaches ’em by turns upon whatever party of pleasure agreeably offers, and commands ’em to retreat upon the least appearance of disadvantage or danger! For my part, I can stick to my bottle while my wine, my company, and my reason, hold good; I can be charmed with Sappho’s singing without falling in love with her face: I love hunting, but would not, like Actaeon, be eaten up by my own dogs; I love a fine house, but let another keep it; and just so I love a fine woman.
Aimwell: In that last particular you have the better of me.
Archer: Ay, you’re such an amorous puppy, that I’m afraid you ’ll spoil our sport; you can’t counterfeit the passion without feeling it.
Aimwell: Though the whining part be out of doors in town, ’tis still in force with the country ladies: and let me tell you, Frank, the fool in that passion shall-outdo the knave at any time.
Archer: Well, I won’t dispute it now; you command for the day, and so I submit: at Nottingham, you know, I am to be master.
Aimwell: And at Lincoln, I again.
Archer: Then, at Norwich I mount, which, I think, shall be our last stage; for, if we fail there, we’ll embark for Holland, bid adieu to Venus, and welcome Mars.
Aimwell: A match! - Mum!
Boniface: What will your worship please to have for supper?
Aimwell: What have you got?
Boniface: Sir, we have a delicate piece of beef in the pot, and a pig at the fire.
Aimwell: Good supper-meat, I must confess. I can’t eat beef, landlord.
Archer: And I hate pig.
Aimwell: Hold your prating, sirrah! do you know who you are?
Boniface: Please to bespeak something else; I have everything in the house.
Aimwell: Have you any veal?
Boniface: Veal! sir, we had a delicate loin of veal on Wednesday last.
Aimwell: Have you got any fish or wildfowl?
Boniface: As for fish, truly, sir, we are an inland town, and indifferently provided with fish, That’s the truth on’t; and then for wildfowl - we have a delicate couple of rabbits.
Aimwell: Get me the rabbits fricasseed.
Boniface: Fricasseed! Lard, sir, they ’ll eat much better smothered with onions.
Archer: Psha! Damn your onions!
Aimwell: Again, sirrah! - Well, landlord, what you please. But hold, I have a small charge of money, and your house is so full of strangers that I believe it may be safer in your custody than mine; for when this fellow of mine gets drunk he tends to nothing. - Here, sirrah, reach me the strong-box.
Archer: Yes, sir. [Aside.] This will give us a reputation.
[Brings Aimwell the box.]
Aimwell: Here, landlord; the locks are sealed down both for your security and mine; it holds somewhat above two hundred pound: if you doubt it I’ll count it to you after supper; but be sure you lay it where I may have it at a minute’s warning; for my affairs are a little dubious at present; perhaps I may be gone in half an hour, perhaps I may be your guest till the best part of that be spent; and pray order your ostler to keep my horses always saddled. But one thing above the rest I must beg, that you would let this fellow have none of your Anno Domini, as you call it; for he’s the most insufferable sot - Here, sirrah, light me to my chamber.
[Exit, lighted by Archer.]
Boniface: Cherry! daughter Cherry!
Cherry: D’ye call, father?
Boniface: Ay, child, you must lay by this box for the gentleman: ’tis full of money.
Cherry: Money! all that money! why, sure, father, the gentleman comes to be chosen parliament-man. Who is he?
Boniface: I don’t know what to make of him; he talks of keeping his horses ready saddled, and of going perhaps at a minute’s warning, or of staying perhaps till the best part of this be spent.
Cherry: Ay, ten to one, father, he’s a highwayman.
Boniface: A highwayman! upon my life, girl, you have hit it, and this box is some new-purchased booty. Now, could we find him out, the money were ours.
Cherry: He don’t belong to our gang.
Boniface: What horses have they?
Cherry: The master rides upon a black.
Boniface: A black! ten to one the man upon the black mare; and since he don’t belong to our fraternity, we may betray him with a safe conscience: I don’t think it lawful to harbour any rogues but my own. Look’ee, child, as the saying is, we must go cunningly to work, proofs we must have; the gentleman’s servant loves drink, I’ll ply him that way, and ten to one loves a wench: you must work him t’other way.
Cherry: Father, would you have me give my secret for his?
Boniface: Consider, child, there’s two hundred pound to boot. [Ringing without.] Coming! coming! - Child, mind your business. [Exit.]
Cherry: What a rogue is my father! My father! I deny it. My mother was a good, generous, free-hearted woman, and I can’t tell how far her good nature might have extended for the good of her children. This landlord of mine, for I think I can call him no more, would betray his guest, and debauch his daughter into the bargain - by a footman too!
Archer: What footman, pray, mistress, is so happy as to be the subject of your contemplation?
Cherry: Whoever he is, friend, he’ll be but little the better for’t.
Archer: I hope so, for, I’m sure, you did not think of me.
Cherry: Suppose I had?
Archer: Why, then, you ’re but even with me; for the minute I came in, I was a-considering in what manner I should make love to you.
Cherry: Love to me, friend!
Archer: Yes, child.
Cherry: Child! manners! - If you kept a little more distance, friend, it would become you much better.
Archer: Distance! good-night, sauce-box. [Going.]
Cherry: [Aside.] A pretty fellow! I like his pride. [Aloud.] Sir, pray, sir, you see, sir [Archer returns] I have the credit to be entrusted with your master’s fortune here, which sets me a degree above his footman; I hope, sir, you an’t affronted?
Archer: Let me look you full in the face, and I ’ll tell you whether you can affront me or no. ’Sdeath, child, you have a pair of delicate eyes, and you don’t know what to do with ’em!
Cherry: Why, sir, don’t I see everybody?
Archer: Ay, but if some women had ’em, they would kill everybody. Prithee, instruct me, I would fain make love to you, but I don’t know what to say.
Cherry: Why, did you never make love to anybody before?
Archer: Never to a person of your figure I can assure you, madam: my addresses have been always confined to people within my own sphere, I never aspired so high before. [Sings.]
But you look so bright,
And are dress’d so tight,
That a man would swear you ’re right,
As arm was e’er laid over.
Such an air
You freely wear
As makes each guest a lover!
Since then, my dear, I’m your guest,
Prithee give me of the best
Of what is ready drest:
Since then, my dear, &c.
Cherry: [Aside.] What can I think of this man? [Aloud.] Will you give me that song, sir?
Archer: Ay, my dear, take it while ’tis warm. [Kisses her.] Death and fire! her lips are honeycombs.
Cherry: And I wish there had been bees too, to have stung you for your impudence.
Archer: There’s a swarm of Cupids, my little Venus, that has done the business much better.
Cherry: [Aside.] This fellow is misbegotten as well as I. [Aloud.] What’s your name, sir?
Archer: [Aside.] Name! egad, I have forgot it. [Aloud.] Oh! Martin.
Cherry: Where were you born?
Archer: In St Martin’s parish.
Cherry: What was your father?
Archer: St. Martin’s parish.
Cherry: Then, friend, good-night
Archer: I hope not.
Cherry: You may depend upon’t
Archer: Upon what?
Cherry: That you’re very impudent.
Archer: That you’re very handsome.
Cherry: That you’re a footman.
Archer: That you’re an angel.
Cherry: I shall be rude.
Archer: So shall I.
Cherry: Let go my hand.
Archer: Give me a kiss. [Kisses her.]
[Call without.] Cherry! Cherry!
Cherry: I’m - my father calls; you plaguy devil, how durst you stop my breath so? Offer to follow me one step, if you dare. [Exit.]
Archer: A fair challenge, by this light! this is a pretty fair opening of an adventure; but we are knight-errants, and so Fortune be our guide. [Exit.]