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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Marriage à la Mode

By William Dunlap (1766–1839)

[Born in Perth Amboy, N. J., 1766. Died in New York, N. Y., 1839. Scene from “The Father of an Only Child.” First produced in 1789. The Dramatic Works of William Dunlap. 1806.]

MR. and MRS. RACKET seated at breakfast. He has a black patch on his nose, and is reading a newspaper.

RACKET.Yaw! yaw! Curse me if I can see distinctly this morning. Is it that I lack sleep, or do the printers lack new types? Go on, my dear, go on: I believe you were speaking.[Reads again.]

MRS. RACK.[Rising, and speaking aside.]This provoking indifference is not to be borne! I must rouse him from it, or lose all hopes of happiness.[To him.]Let me tell you, Mr. Racket, your present behavior is neither manly nor polite. Contrary to the advice of Colonel Campbell, my guardian, I threw myself and my fortune into your arms, blindly excusing, as the levities of youth, your noted propensities to vicious dissipation.

RACK.[Reads.]“A majority of thirty-one in favor of adopting it with amendments.” Pray sit down, my dear; you will fatigue yourself; pray sit down.

MRS. RACK.Sir, this is adding insult to injury! In marrying you, I risked the displeasure of all my friends: and though the excellent Colonel Campbell, my second father, yielded to my will, I hazarded by my conduct that paternal love, which was the first joy of my heart. On your faith I staked all.

RACK.Let me tell you, my life, you are a desperate gambler! After such a confession, can you ever have the face to find fault with my staking a few hundreds on a card?

MRS. RACK.I deserve the reproach, sir; and if the game was yet to play—[Pauses.]

RACK.Come, there is some spirit in that. Go on, madam.

MRS. RACK.Perhaps—[Pauses.]

RACK.You would play the same stake again.

MRS. RACK.What is my gain?

RACK.A husband.

MRS. RACK.Whose face I never see, except when excess and riot have made it unfit for public view.

RACK.[Reads.]“And we hope our virtuous example will be followed by all our fellow-citizens.”

MRS. RACK.[Walking in agitation.]Virtuous example truly! O, Mr. Racket, we have been married but one year, and—

RACK.[Rising and yawning.]No more! It has been a curst long year.

Enter JACOB.
JAC.Sair, here is someboty as vat vaunts you.

RACK.Who is it?

JAC.De toctor, sair.

RACK.O, Tattle! What patient has applied to him last night, that he is out so early this morning to tell of it? Curse his eternal prating! I’m not at home.

JAC.Sair, it isn’t him, sair; it is toder toctor, as vat brings de papers and de notes.

RACK.O ho! my friend Doctor Four-per-cent, the medical broker. He must be attended to. I’m coming. Show him into another room.[Exit JACOB.]He must not be kept waiting. He is a physician indeed![Exit.]

MRS. RACK.Whose medicine is the most deadly of all poisons; the pernicious palliative, which, like the morning stimulant, encourages to persist in the race of destruction. What resource have I for reclaiming him? Reproach will not do; that but renders still more disgusting the domestic scene, which ought to allure, not repulse. If I could rouse his dormant love—for that he still loves me I know; if I could make him fear to lose my affection; if I could make him jealous! Jealousy!—it will be playing with edged tools. Something I must try, or I shall be undone! His companion, the English officer, has already, by his eyes, made overtures. If I mistake him not, he is villain enough to rob his bottle-companion of his money and his wife, while he insults him with the title of friend. I will encourage his familiarities, and perhaps—[Sees RACKET coming.]He seems vexed. I will begin to play my new part.

Re-enter RACKET.
RACK.Damned exorbitant scoundrel!

MRS. RACK.My dear Mr. Racket—

RACK.Five per cent!

MRS. RACK.I shall go to the theatre this evening.

RACK.I shall be obliged to change the fellow’s name again, and call him Five-per-cent instead of Four. He rises as fast as national credit under the new constitution.

MRS. RACK.Mr. Racket!

RACK.My dear?

MRS. RACK.I am going to the play to-night.

RACK.What is it?

MRS. RACK.The “Road to Ruin.”


MRS. RACK.Mr. Racket, I want money.

RACK.So do I, my dear.

MRS. RACK.It’s no matter; Captain Rusport will lend me.


MRS. RACK.He has offered me already—

RACK.Has he? Hum! At what premium?

MRS. RACK.O fie! He’s a gentleman.

RACK.Yes; and when a gentleman lends a lady money,—a fine lady, a gay lady, a young lady,—it is pretty well understood what premium he expects. You shall have money. My medical broker has a note of mine to discount; that is to get discounted by a friend, who has in trust the money of a poor widow-woman, whose whole support depends on the interest he procures upon her little mite.—Damn him, hypocrite!

MRS. RACK.And yet you take—

RACK.I must take his physic; I’m sick. When he brings the dose, I’ll share with you. But don’t borrow of Rusport.

MRS. RACK.You’ll accompany me to the theatre?

RACK.With this face?

MRS. RACK.Why, indeed, my dear, your nose looks as if it wanted the doctor as much as your purse. It is rather hard, though, that I can’t have your company, either at home or abroad. A fine woman may dispense with her husband’s assiduities at home, but, for the sake of public opinion, he ought to attend her abroad: for if she is seen at the assembly, the theatre, and public walks with a pretty fellow, the ill-natured world will talk. However, if you can’t go, I must take Rusport as usual, and rely upon my prudence as the safeguard of my reputation. Adieu! don’t forget the money, the medicine, the healing balm! Ha, ha, ha![Exit.]

RACK.Hum! What’s the meaning of all this? “Pretty fellow,” “prudence,” “reputation!” Your humble servant, Mrs. Racket; you wish for my attentions to blind the world’s eye. A convenient husband! A stalking-horse, or ox!—My head aches! Is it—no, damn it, not yet; this headache is not her gift. Well, this drinking is not the thing for a sober citizen.[Looks at his watch.]Half-past eleven, by all that’s indolent, and my store not yet visited.

RUSP.Ha! Racket, how do ye?

RACK.Captain Rusport, I’m very glad to see you!

RUSP.Why, what the devil’s the matter, Racket? A broken nose?

RACK.Why—a—yes—’tis rather broke. And I wasn’t drunk—upon my honor, I wasn’t drunk.

RUSP.It has a curst ugly appearance. How did you get it?

RACK.I fell in with an ungenteel beast last night—

RUSP.You must call him out, my dear fellow. I’ll bear your message. No officer in the army or navy can prepare a pistol with me, I’ll assure you.

RACK.Call him out?

RUSP.The brute that broke your nose.

RACK.My dear fellow, it was only a cow. I’ll tell you the whole affair. You must know I honored St. Patrick, last night, with as hearty a set of boys as ever encircled a table: fellows who have no peace with a full glass before them, and to whom an empty one is worse than the devil. We kept it up; and going to see Frank M’Connally home, who was a little cut, I fell in with a very modest milch-cow. Frank swore she was a bull; and, as the bare thought of a bull makes an Irishman horn-mad, I swore she was a horse; and, to convince him, with a spring I mounted, but, somehow or other, found myself most uncleanly deposited in the kennel, with no other animal near than honest Frank, now thoroughly persuaded, that if it was not a bull at first, I had made it one.

RUSP.And so you broke your nose cow-riding! You, being perfectly sober, out of pure friendship, bestrode a cow, to convince a drunken Irishman that she was not a bull. My dear fellow, don’t tell this story until the tenth bumper has gone round. But a truce with badinage; you know I’m a man of business.

RACK.Yes, with the women. Pray, when do you proceed to Canada to join your regiment?

RUSP.I don’t know exactly. I am afraid it is too late to proceed by land; they tell me the lakes will be broke up; and I’m detained until my servant and baggage arrive. It’s a curst awkward situation. My bills of credit are with my baggage. Couldn’t you let me have another hundred with perfect convenience?

RACK.Not exactly with perfect convenience—but—a—

RUSP.My drafts will be honored at sight, be assured; but if not convenient, don’t think of it. Where are the ladies? Your wife’s a damned fine woman, Racket, and if you will herd with horned cattle—I say no more.[Walks up the stage.]

RACK.Curse his infernal gunpowder impudence!

Enter JACOB.
JAC.Sair, dare is doo beebles as vat vaunts you.

RACK.Two duns I suppose. English riders, with pattern-cards in one pocket, and accounts current in t’other.[To him.]Is it any of the English gentlemen?—I’m not at home.

JAC.Sair, maister Quill vaunts to know if dare is any coods to go to vendue to-day.

RACK.Yes; all those packages we received yesterday, first changing the marks. But I must see him. Go.[Exit Jacob.]Rusport, I’ll try and serve you. Excuse me—I’ll send my wife to you. Excuse me a minute.[Exit.]

RUSP.[Alone.]You cannot serve me better than by sending your wife, and I can excuse your presence most willingly. This fellow knows me to be a professed libertine, yet sends to me, without jealousy, a wife whom he neglects and ill-uses. He must have a higher opinion of her virtue than I have. I must bring the enemy to terms soon; and yet the sinews of war are wanting. How to raise money? I would willingly keep this jewel longer [looking at a ring on his finger], though the sight of it is a constant reproach to me. It must dazzle the eyes of Racket’s giddy wife, and fascinate the attention of her sentimental sister. Once married, and secure of her fortune, I will annihilate this glittering evidence, which darts a ray more piercing to my conscience, than any of those which flow from its surface to the eye of the admiring beholder. Would I could annihilate—[Sees MRS. RACKET entering.]Ah! as gay and radiant as the morn, bright Delia comes!