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Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816). The School for Scandal.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Scene I

Act Third



Sir Pet.Well, then, we will see this fellow first, and have our wine afterwards. But how is this, Master Rowley? I don’t see the jest of your scheme.

Row.Why, sir, this Mr. Stanley, whom I was speaking of, is nearly related to them by their mother. He was once a merchant in Dublin, but has been ruined by a series of undeserved misfortunes. He has applied, by letter, since his confinement, both to Mr. Surface and Charles: from the former he has received nothing but evasive promises of future service, while Charles has done all that his extravagance has left him power to do; and he is, at this time, endeavouring to raise a sum of money, part of which, in the midst of his own distresses, I know he intends for the service of poor Stanley.

Sir Oliv.Ah! he is my brother’s son.

Sir Pet.Well, but how is Sir Oliver personally to—Row. Why, sir, I will inform Charles and his brother that Stanley has obtained permission to apply personally to his friends; and, as they have neither of them ever seen him, let Sir Oliver assume his character, and he will have a fair opportunity of judging, at least, of the benevolence of their dispositions: and believe me, sir, you will find in the youngest brother one who, in the midst of folly and dissipation, has still, as our immortal bard expresses it,—

  • “a heart to pity, and a hand,
  • Open as day, for meeting charity.”
  • Sir Pet.Psha! What signifies his having an open hand or purse either, when he has nothing left to give? Well, well, make the trial, if you please. But where is the fellow whom you brought for Sir Oliver to examine, relative to Charles’ affairs?

    Row.Below, waiting his commands, and no one can give him better intelligence.—This, Sir Oliver, is a friendly Jew, who, to do him justice, had done every thing in his power to bring your nephew to a proper sense of his extravagance.

    Sir Pet.Pray let us have him in.

    Row.Desire Mr. Moses to walk up stairs.[Calls to SERVANT.

    Sir Pet.But, pray, why should you suppose he will speak the truth?

    Row.Oh, I have, convinced him that he has no chance of recovering certain sums advanced to Charles but through the bounty of Sir Oliver, who he knows is arrived; so that your may depend on his fidelity to his own interests. I have another evidence in my power, one Snake, whom I have detected in a matter little short of forgery, and shall shortly produce to remove some of your prejudices, Sir Peter, relative to Charles and Lady Teazle.

    Sir Pet.I have heard too much on that subject.

    Row.Here comes the honest Israelite.

    Enter MOSES

    —This is Sir Oliver.

    Sir Oliv.Sir, I understand you have lately had great dealings with my nephew Charles?

    Mos.Yes, Sir Oliver, I have done all I could for him; but he was ruined before he came to me for assistance.

    Sir Oliv.That was unlucky, truly; for you have had no opportunity of showing your talents.

    Mos.None at all; I hadn’t the pleasure of knowing his distresses till he was some thousands worse than nothing.

    Sir Oliv.Unfortunate, indeed! But I suppose you have done all in your power for him, honest Moses?

    Mos.Yes, he knows that. This very evening I was to have brought him a gentleman from the city, who does not know him, and will, I believe, advance him some money.

    Sir Pet.What, one Charles has never had money from before?

    Mos.Yes, Mr. Premium, of Crutched Friars, formerly a broker.

    Sir Pet.Egad, Sir Oliver, a thought strikes me!—Charles, you say, does not know Mr. Premium?

    Mos.Not at all.

    Sir Pet.Now then, Sir Oliver, you may have a better opportunity of satisfying yourself than by an old romancing tale of a poor relation: go with my friend Moses, and represent Premium, and then, I’ll answer for it, you’ll see your nephew in all his glory.

    Sir Oliv.Egad, I like this idea better than the other, and I may visit Joseph afterwards as old Stanley.

    Sir Pet.True—so you may.

    Row.Well, this is taking Charles rather at a disadvantage, to be sure. However, Moses, you understand Sir Peter, and will be faithful?

    Mos.You may depend upon me.—[Looks at his watch.] This is near the time I was to have gone.

    Sir Oliv.I’ll accompany you as soon as you please, Moses—But hold! I have forgot one thing—how the plague shall I be able to pass for a Jew?

    Mos.There’s no need—the principal is Christian.

    Sir Oliv.Is he? I’m very sorry to hear it. But, then again, ain’t I rather too smartly dressed to look like a money lender?

    Sir Pet.Not at all; ’twould not be out of character, if you went in your own carriage—would it, Moses?

    Mos.Not in the least.

    Sir Oliv.Well, but how must I talk; there’s certainly some cant of usury and mode of treating that I ought to know?

    Sir Pet.Oh, there’s not much to learn. The great point, as I take it, is to be exorbitant enough in your demands. Hey, Moses?

    Mos.Yes, that’s a very great point.

    Sir Oliv.I’ll answer for’t I’ll not be wanting in that. I’ll ask him eight or ten per cent. on the loan, at least.

    Mos.If you ask him no more than that, you’ll be discovered immediately.

    Sir Oliv.Hey! what, the plague! how much then?

    Mos.That depends upon the circumstances. If he appears not very anxious for the supply, you should require only forty or fifty per cent.; but if you find him in great distress, and want the moneys very bad, you may ask double.

    Sir Pet.A good honest trade you’re learning, Sir Oliver!

    Sir Oliv.Truly, I think so—and not unprofitable.

    Mos.Then, you know, you haven’t the moneys yourself, but are forced to borrow them for him of a friend.

    Sir Oliv.Oh! I borrow it of a friend, do I?

    Mos.And your friend is an unconscionable dog: but you can’t help that.

    Sir Oliv.My friend an unconscionable dog, is he?

    Mos.Yes, and he himself has not the moneys by him, but is forced to sell stock at a great loss.

    Sir Oliv.He is forced to sell stock at a great loss, is he? Well, that’s very kind of him.

    Sir Pet.I’ faith, Sir Oliver—Mr. Premium, I mean—you’ll soon be master of the trade. But, Moses! would not you have him run out a little against the Annuity Bill? That would be in character, I should think.

    Mos.Very much.

    Row.And lament that a young man now must be at years of discretion before he is suffered to ruin himself?

    Mos.Ay, great pity!

    Sir Pet.And abuse the public for allowing merit to an act whose only object is to snatch misfortune and imprudence from the rapacious gripe of usury, and give the minor a chance of inheriting his estate without being undone by coming into possession.

    Sir Oliv.So, so—Moses shall give me farther instructions as we go together.

    Sir Pet.You will not have much time, for your nephew lives hard by.

    Sir Oliv.Oh, never fear! my tutor appears so able, that though Charles lived in the next street, it must be my own fault if I am not a complete rogue before I turn the corner.[Exit with MOSES.

    Sir Pet.So, now, I think Sir Oliver will be convinced: you are partial, Rowley, and would have prepared Charles for the other plot.

    Row.No, upon my word, Sir Peter.

    Sir Pet.Well, go bring me this Snake, and I’ll hear what he has to say presently. I see Maria, and want to speak with her.—[Exit ROWLEY.] I should be glad to be convinced my suspicions of Lady Teazle and Charles were unjust. I have never yet opened my mind on this subject to my friend Joseph—I am determined I will do it—he will give me his opinion sincerely.

    Enter MARIA.

    So, child, has Mr. Surface returned with you?

    Mar.No, sir; he was engaged.

    Sir Pet.Well, Maria, do you not reflect, the more you converse with that amiable young man, what return his partiality for you deserves?

    Mar.Indeed, Sir Peter, your frequent importunity on this subject distresses me extremely—you compel me to declare, that I know no man who has ever paid me a particular attention whom I would not prefer to Mr. Surface.

    Sir Pet.So—here’s perverseness! No, no, Maria, ’tis Charles only whom you would prefer. ’Tis evident his vices and follies have won your heart.

    Mar.This is unkind, sir. You know I have obeyed you in neither seeing nor corresponding with him: I have heard enough to convince me that he is unworthy my regard. Yet I cannot think it culpable, if while my understanding severely condemns his vices, my heart suggests some pity for his distresses.

    Sir Pet.Well, well, pity him as much as you please; but give your heart and hand to a worthier object.

    Mar.Never to his brother!

    Sir Pet.Go, perverse and obstinate! But take care, madam; you have never yet known what the authority of a guardian is: don’t compel me to inform you of it.

    Mar.I can only say, you shall not have just reason. ’Tis true, by my father’s will, I am for a short period bound to regard you as his substitute; but must cease to think you so, when you would compel me to be miserable.[Exit.

    Sir Pet.Was ever man so crossed as I am, every thing conspiring to fret me! I had not been involved in matrimony a fortnight, before her father, a hale and hearty man, died, on purpose, I believe, for the pleasure of plaguing me with the care of his daughter.—[LADY TEAZLE sings without.] But here comes my helpmate! She appears in great good humour. How happy I should be if I could tease her into loving me, though but a little!


    Lady Teazle. Lud! Sir Peter, I hope you haven’t been quarrelling with Maria? It is not using me well to be ill-humoured when I am not by.

    Sir Pet.Ah, Lady Teazle, you might have the power to make me good humoured at all times.

    Lady Teaz.I am sure I wish I had; for I want you to be in a charming sweet temper at this moment. Do be good humoured now, and let me have two hundred pounds, will you?

    Sir Pet.Two hundred pounds; what, ain’t I to be in a good humour without paying for it! But speak to me thus, and i’ faith there’s nothing I could refuse you. You shall have it; but seal me a bond for the repayment.

    Lady Teaz.Oh, no—there—my note of hand will do as well.[Offering her hand.

    Sir Pet.And you shall no longer reproach me with not giving you an independent settlement. I mean shortly to surprise you: but shall we always live thus, hey?

    Lady Teaz.If you please. I’m sure I don’t care how soon we leave off quarrelling, provided you’ll own you were tired first.

    Sir Pet.Well—then let our future contest be, who shall be most obliging.

    Lady Teaz.I assure you, Sir Peter, good nature becomes you. You look now as you did before we were married, when you used to walk with me under the elms, and tell me stories of what a gallant you were in your youth, and chuck me under the chin, you would; and asked me if I thought I could love an old fellow, who would deny me nothing—didn’t you?

    Sir Pet.Yes, yes, and you were as kind and attentive—

    Lady Teaz.Ay, so I was, and would always take your part, when my acquaintance used to abuse you, and turn you into ridicule.

    Sir Pet.Indeed!

    Lady Teaz.Ay, and when my cousin Sophy has called you a stiff, peevish old bachelor, and laughed at me for thinking of marrying one who might be my father, I have always defended you, and said, I didn’t think you so ugly by any means.

    Sir Pet.Thank you.

    Lady Teaz.And I dared say you’d make a very good sort of a husband.

    Sir Pet.And you prophesied right; and we shall now be the happiest couple—

    Lady Teaz.And never differ again?

    Sir Pet.No, never!—though at the same time, indeed, my dear Lady Teazle, you must watch your temper very seriously; for in all our little quarrels, my dear, if you recollect, my love, you always began first.

    Lady Teaz.I beg your pardon, my dear Sir Peter: indeed, you always gave the provocation.

    Sir Pet.Now see, my angel! take care—contradicting isn’t the way to keep friends.

    Lady Teaz.Then don’t you begin it, my love!

    Sir Pet.There, now! you—you are going on. You don’t perceive, my life, that you are just doing the very thing which you know always makes me angry.

    Lady Teaz.Nay, you know, if you will be angry without any reason, my dear—

    Sir Pet.There! now you want to quarrel again.

    Lady Teaz.No, I’m sure I don’t: but, if you will be so peevish—

    Sir Pet.There now! who begins first?

    Lady Teaz.Why, you, to be sure. I said nothing—but there’s no bearing your temper.

    Sir Pet.No, no, madam: the fault’s in your own temper.

    Lady Teaz.Ay, you are just what my cousin Sophy said you would be.

    Sir Pet.Your cousin Sophy is a forward, impertinent gipsy.

    Lady Teaz.You are a great bear, I’m sure, to abuse my relations.

    Sir Pet.Now may all the plagues of marriage be doubled on me, if ever I try to be friends with you any more!

    Lady Teaz.So much the better.

    Sir Pet.No, no, madam: ’tis evident you never cared a pin for me, and I was a madman to marry you—a pert, rural coquette, that had refused half the honest squires in the neighbourhood!

    Lady Teaz.And I am sure I was a fool to marry you—an old dangling bachelor, who was single at fifty, only because he never could meet with any one who would have him.

    Sir Pet.Ay, ay, madam; but you were pleased enough to listen to me: you never had such an offer before.

    Lady Teaz.No! didn’t I refuse Sir Tivy Terrier, who every body said would have been a better match? for his estate is just as good as yours, and he has broke his neck since we have been married.

    Sir Pet.I have done with you, madam! You are an unfeeling, ungrateful—but there’s an end of everything. I believe you capable of everything that is bad. Yes, madam, I now believe the reports relative to you and Charles, madam. Yes, madam, you and Charles are, not without grounds—

    Lady Teaz.Take care, Sir Peter! you had better not insinuate any such thing! I’ll not be suspected without cause, I promise you.

    Sir Pet.Very well, madam! very well! A separate maintenance as soon as please. Yes, madam or a divorce! I’ll make an example of myself for the benefit of all old bachelors. Let us separate, madam.

    Lady Teaz.Agreed! agreed! And now, my dear Sir Peter, we are of a mind once more, we may be the happiest couple, and never differ again, you know: ha! ha! ha! Well, you are going to be in a passion, I see, and I shall only interrupt you—so, bye! bye![Exit.

    Sir Pet.Plagues and tortures! can’t I make her angry either! Oh, I am the most miserable fellow! But I’ll not bear her presuming to keep her temper: no! she may break my heart, but she shan’t keep her temper.[Exit.