The Way of the World By William Congreve Act IV



LADY. Dear Sir Rowland, I am confounded with confusion at the retrospection of my own rudeness, — I have more pardons to ask than the pope distributes in the year of jubilee. But I hope where there is likely to be so near an alliance, we may unbend the severity of decorum, and dispense with a little ceremony.

WAIT. My impatience, madam, is the effect of my transport; and till I have the possession of your adorable person, I am tantalised on the rack, and do but hang, madam, on the tenter of expectation.

LADY. You have excess of gallantry, Sir Rowland, and press things to a conclusion with a most prevailing vehemence. But a day or two for decency of marriage -

WAIT. For decency of funeral, madam! The delay will break my heart — or if that should fail, I shall be poisoned. My nephew will get an inkling of my designs and poison me — and I would willingly starve him before I die — I would gladly go out of the world with that satisfaction. That would be some comfort to me, if I could but live so long as to be revenged on that unnatural viper.

LADY. Is he so unnatural, say you? Truly I would contribute much both to the saving of your life and the accomplishment of your revenge. Not that I respect myself; though he has been a perfidious wretch to me.

WAIT. Perfidious to you?

LADY. O Sir Rowland, the hours that he has died away at my feet, the tears that he has shed, the oaths that he has sworn, the palpitations that he has felt, the trances and the tremblings, the ardours and the ecstasies, the kneelings and the risings, the heart- heavings and the hand-gripings, the pangs and the pathetic regards of his protesting eyes! — Oh, no memory can register.

WAIT. What, my rival? Is the rebel my rival? A dies.

LADY. No, don't kill him at once, Sir Rowland: starve him gradually, inch by inch.

WAIT. I'll do't. In three weeks he shall be barefoot; in a month out at knees with begging an alms; he shall starve upward and upward, 'till he has nothing living but his head, and then go out in a stink like a candle's end upon a save-all.

LADY. Well, Sir Rowland, you have the way, — you are no novice in the labyrinth of love, — you have the clue. But as I am a person, Sir Rowland, you must not attribute my yielding to any sinister appetite or indigestion of widowhood; nor impute my complacency to any lethargy of continence. I hope you do not think me prone to any iteration of nuptials?

WAIT. Far be it from me -

LADY. If you do, I protest I must recede, or think that I have made a prostitution of decorums, but in the vehemence of compassion, and to save the life of a person of so much importance -

WAIT. I esteem it so -

LADY. Or else you wrong my condescension -

WAIT. I do not, I do not -

LADY. Indeed you do.

WAIT. I do not, fair shrine of virtue.

LADY. If you think the least scruple of causality was an ingredient -

WAIT. Dear madam, no. You are all camphire and frankincense, all chastity and odour.

LADY. Or that -

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Lady Wishfort, who is __________ years old, is vain and susceptible to false flattery.