[Act I] [Act III] [Act IV] [Act V]

Act II

Scene I

Margarita & Diana. Fopling unobserved.

Margarita: Tell me, sister dear, what kind of adventures can we expect today.

Diana: I’m afraid you’re not having any adventures, Margarita darling. After the fiasco the other night at Gordon’s I understand my brother has locked the front door and swallowed the key.

Margarita: Oh, but Gordon’s was wonderful! The people all looked so sleek and beautiful. Nothing like the farm. And the food was so strange. I never ate black macaroni with insects before.

Diana: I assume you are referring the squid ink linguini with crayfish. But it is not the food my brother fears, Margarita. The crayfish are in no position to take you to bed. (Aside) I’m glad that awful Venus Little isn’t here. I can just imagine the joke she would make.

Margarita: There were such wonderful beautiful men bringing us the food. They danced around the tables so! But the most beautiful men were at the other tables. I wanted to hug them all. I asked my little budikins if I could touch one of those beautiful men and he just hurt me.

Diana: What did he do?

Margarita: He grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me out the door. I wept and wept.

Diana: Well, I agree with Fopling that a wife should remain faithful to her husband at all costs. And if that is the way he chooses to enforce the maxim, I cannot be the one to censure him. Poor dear, why did you torment him with your enthusiasm for the other men?

Margarita: What is wrong with that? I’d love to have them all hugging and kissing me. My budikins can join in. I still love him.

Diana: Well, I fear that under those circumstances he would cease to love you. You will have to learn, Margarita, to follow my example. I am faithful to Sparkish because I respect him and do not want to hurt him. Can you see that?

Margarita: Oh, I am not such a dumb girl as you think, sister. I see the way you devour other men when Sparks’ back is turned. I think you just enjoy the reputation you have. But I want to go out! I want to walk in the park. I have never been to the theatre, and one of the men at Gordon’s told me there are wonderful institutions in the city where men and women gather together in a dark room and rub themselves together all night while loud music plays. I think he called them “clubs.” I want to go to one of these clubs and rub my body like everyone else.

Diana: Fopling is as likely to take you to a night club as he is to grow a pair of breasts. My brother’s tactics may be unsubtle, but his end is clear and perhaps commendable. You are to be the faithfullest wife that ever lived.

Margarita: I am to be the most boring dead head that ever left a farm. Can we not just escape for a few moments? Can’t we go around that corner and into the park. Can’t we go into one of those tall buildings and see whether they contain beautiful men?

Diana: You poor stunted, deformed little thing. What kind of half grown soul has been created in you? But Fopling ordered you to stay here and you really should obey.

Margarita: Oh, pooh, I think my budikins doesn’t really love me at all. He just wants to own me. Well, let’s close our eyes and imagine. Let’s make believe we are in a great space ship sailing out the window. We float between the trees on the sidewalk. We see the children by the pond. Then we sail right between the legs of all those beautiful men.

Fopling: I have heard enough! You little trollop, you think you are going the make me a laughing stock with every disease ridden gigolo that makes goo goo eyes at you?

Margarita: Oh, baby face, darling, I didn’t know you were here!

Fopling: Save your miserable lips for the poachers.

Diana: Brother, don’t hurt her. She is happy to see you. Have you been listening to us all along?

Fopling: Why not? It’s my house. And I should strike you too, the way you put all these fancy notions and wild stories about city life in her head. You are the arch seductress, sister or no.

Diana: Don’t pester me with these idiotic accusations. Your red hot imagination obviously prevented you from listening to a word I said. And look, you’ve made her cry.

Margarita: My budikins doesn’t love me.

Diana: Why not let her out even for a little walk? Her little pleasure is drudgery for a bicycle messenger. You deny your fiancée the simple airing that even your horses enjoy.

Fopling: And have her end up an impudent whore like yourself, a jill-flirt, a leg spreader, in short a devotee of city living?

Diana: Do you see me frequenting women of that kind? I can hardly bear to speak to the likes of Sarah Pinchwife and her gang.

Fopling: The women are of no account. I see you making up to the men, and that includes the worst most unscrupulous characters in town. That husband of yours is a fool, Miss Chastity, and you use your self-proclaimed devotion to him to erase his fool suspicions.

Diana: (Aside) The whole world seems to take me for a whore. But I see nothing wrong with liking another man as long as it’s discreet. (Aloud) I refuse to be uncivil. If someone greets me at a party or a club I will certainly respond.

Fopling: “Respond” is exactly the term I would use. Or perhaps “swive.” Swive, swive, swive, that’s all the world does and you are out there swiving with the best of them.

Diana: What in heaven’s name are you talking about?

Fopling: Penicular penetration. You will find it in Rochester. I’m surprised he hasn’t written about you by now.

Diana: Of course, that’s all I do. Every night you can find me drinking at the Excalibur or wasting around the tennis courts or the pool voraciously devouring all the clapped out misfits the town has to offer. Excuse me, I was unaware I did such things.

Fopling: Shut off, sewer mouth, you’re tipping off my supposed fiancée of all the places she’ll insist on frequenting. You are obscenity all over.

Margarita: Baby, don’t be angry with her. She won’t tell me anything about this wonderful city, no matter how much I beg her.

Fopling: So you admit you want to go out to all these places and betray me.

Margarita: I am so sick of this city and how you act in it. I just want to go home again and live like we used to. Things were so uncomplicated then.

Fopling: You will, believe me, and sooner than you think. But what were you talking about just now about wanting to have sex with all the men at Gordon’s?

Diana: Don’t you understand that was prattle, brother? She has no moral sense because she has no social personality at all. You have strangled her soul by isolating her for sixteen years just as if you smothered her in her crib.

Fopling: Stop encouraging her. Margarita, does that mean you like me best of all?

Margarita: Well, there are certainly handsomer men than you, particularly at Gordon’s.

Fopling: Then you don’t love me?

Margarita: Of course I love you, bud. You are my own little lamb and I know you. I hate strangers.

Fopling: That’s right, love me and don’t follow the advice of these urban strumpets. Their lives consist in cheating on their men, fine clothes, parties, clubs, drinking, plays, concerts and twenty-four hour enjoyment.

Diana: There you go, that will really turn her off the city.

Margarita: Well, if that’s all, then maybe this isn’t such a bad place after all.

Fopling: It’s your choice, Margarita. If you love me, you must hate it all.

Diana: Now he’s got her all excited about being here again. He only has himself to blame.

Margarita: In the country I didn’t know there were such beautiful men. The only person I saw was old Boomer. I can’t see how he is related in any way to these city men. Why can’t we go to a club just once?

Fopling: No, I forbid it.

Margarita: When you say “no” like that I want to go all the more.

Diana: Fopling Fopling, master psychologist.

Margarita: Can you give me one reason why we shouldn’t go to a club?

Fopling: Well, for one thing, the men there will latch on to you. And these places are filled with accomplished rakes who will flatter you and say how beautiful you are and do whatever it takes to make up to you.

Margarita: No one could be interested in me, a homely country girl.

Fopling: They would swarm around you.

Margarita: I don’t think so.

Fopling: Even at Gordon’s one of the lewdest fellows in the town caught sight of you. And ever since he hasn’t stopped pestering me about you. Fortunately I managed to throw him off the scent. I told him he must have seen someone else.

Diana: Next he’ll be arranging dates for her.

Margarita: You mean someone noticed me at Gordon’s?

Fopling: Yes, and all he could do was talk about you afterwards.

Diana: I can’t believe I’m related to this man.

Margarita: What did he say?

Fopling: Nothing you need worry about. He’s one of the worst, most dissolute profligates ever to touch a woman’s skirt. Horner is not the sort of person you want to be associated with.

Margarita: Was he one of the beautiful men I saw at Gordon’s?

Fopling: I never found him particularly attractive.

Margarita: And he loves me! What is his first name?

Fopling: (Aside) What have I got myself into? (To Margarita)  His name is of no interest to you. Women are basilisks to this fellow. He hates them and wants to destroy them.

Margarita: If he loves me, why should he want to destroy me? I mean him no harm.

Fopling: Did I say he loved you?

Margarita: Yes, you did, budikins.

Diana: He deserves everything he’s going to get.

Fopling: Well, you have nothing to worry about. He will do you no harm, nor me neither.

Diana: There’s someone at the door.

Fopling: I know exactly who it is and he’s not going to see you. Go ahead, get in your room.

Margarita: But I want to meet our visitors.

Fopling: Are you going in or do I have to push you?

Margarita: Oh, baby, you make me so unhappy. (Exit)

Fopling: No one is going to ruin the perfect marriage. (Locks door)

(Enter Sarah Pinchwife and Venus Little)

Fopling: Odd, I was unaware of our appointment.

Sarah Pinchwife: Hello, Fopling

Venus Little: We were in the neighborhood, so we thought we’d drop in.

Fopling: I thought you two would have been soaking your loins in cold compresses after last night.

Sarah Pinchwife: Loins?

Venus Little: He means our pussies. We want to see the goods, Fopling.

Sarah Pinchwife: Yes, where is she?

Fopling: What do you mean?

Venus Little: Don’t be coy. We’re women and your friends. We’re here to take her shopping. Our husbands are on their way. You can all go drinking together while we shop.

Fopling: That’s all I need, to listen to Pinchwife nattering on about that bosomy Swede.

Sarah Pinchwife: Go ahead and make me cry. So you’re finally getting married.

Venus Little: Poor girl.

Sarah Pinchwife: Aren’t you concerned about all those husbands who can finally turn the tables on you?

Venus Little: Mrs. Fopling-To-Be, where are you? Some old friends of your husband are here to see you.

Fopling: If you are referring to my fiancée, she is not here. She has already left to run some errands.

Venus Little: Then we will wait for her.

Fopling: You can’t. She’ll be gone all day, and I am about to leave myself.

Sarah Pinchwife: Don’t lie to us, Fopling. We know you keep her locked up in the basement or the attic somewhere. Aren’t you afraid she’ll starve to death? Why are lovers so willing to disturb the peace of those they love in order to secure their own?

Venus Little: This is unnatural, Fopling. We’re here to rescue her from this doll’s house.

Sarah Pinchwife: If you’re going to cage her, you could at least spruce things up a bit.

Venus Little: Fess up, Fopling, she’s here somewhere. (Aside to Fopling) If we have to search her out, I might just forget myself and let slip some of the little adventures we’ve had in the past, you and I.

Fopling:(Aside to Venus) You wouldn’t dare.

Venus Little: If we can take her shopping, I promise you, my lips are sealed.

Fopling: It’s your brain that’s sealed.

Venus Little: Sometimes all I can do is think with my little box. I was so in love with you, Fopling. How old was I? Fourteen?

Fopling: To tell you the truth, she has suddenly fallen ill. I understand it is extremely contagious, so she must be kept away from all company.

Venus Little: We’ve had our shots.

Sarah Pinchwife: She will need sympathetic friends to nurse her through the crisis.

Fopling: Well, we’ve had to take her to the hospital.

Venus Little: Which one?

Fopling: (Aside) I can’t beat these women at their own game which is lying. The best strategy is to retire. (Aloud) Well ladies, I must abroad. My house is yours. Just, please make sure all the silverware is here when I return. (Exit)

Venus Little: We don’t appreciate your innuendoes, Fopling.

Sarah Pinchwife: You can keep your silverware. We want your wife.

Diana: Don’t be so hard on Fopling. He’s crazy with jealousy right now. He means no harm.

Venus Little: He brings some innocent misfit out of the country, keeps her locked up like a caged animal and he does her no harm?

Sarah Pinchwife: She’s not a wife. She’s a possession.

Diana: I didn’t say he’s doing the right thing. I said he means no harm.

Sarah Pinchwife: Wrong again. Jealousy is prompted more by self-esteem than by love.

Diana: You will find out. Being old is a learned trait and not many people are willing to apply themselves to mastering it, least of all Fopling. But how did you find out about Margarita?

Venus Little: Jack Horner told us everything. He pried enough information out of Fopling to figure out what’s going on.

Diana: That horrible Horner. I thought he was passably handsome once. But now he’s got the punishment he deserves. Stinking, mortified, rotten meat. I hope I never see that creature.

Venus Little: You want to avoid him because he’s sick or because he’s impotent?

Sarah Pinchwife: I was in the same quandary.

Venus Little: But we got over it didn’t we, Sarah?

Diana: I don’t see how you two can cavort about the way you do and keep your self-respect.

Venus Little: “Cavort”

Diana: Fopling would say “swive.”

Sarah Pinchwife: What are you talking about?

Diana: You know, cheat on your husbands.

Venus Little: A little sex is not the worst thing in the world, Mistress Chastity.

Diana: I wish people would stop calling me that. Why don’t you just divorce them?

Sarah Pinchwife: And then what would we do? Divorce would take all the fun out of life. A nice easygoing marriage allows you to fall in love over and over again in a structured way.

Venus Little: And you’ve never wanted to stray just a little from Sparkish, Diana? Sarah and I are glancing at each other skeptically right now.

Sarah Pinchwife: Behind your back.

Venus Little: No, in front of your back.

Diana: Even if I didn’t love Sparkish, I wouldn’t want to hurt him.

Sarah Pinchwife: Listen, Diana, we don’t see you condemning the men anywhere near as ferociously as you go after us women.

Venus Little: In fact, you’re always defending them. Seems suspicious to me.

Sarah Pinchwife: Sometimes I think the men don’t want women like us for love or for sex or for anything like that. They just want reputations as conquerors.

Venus Little: They want to brag to the boys. Their greatest pleasure is to tell all the world they’ve taken us.

Diana: Oh, but I agree. The worst harm a man can do to a woman is to report that he’s had her when he’s never even touched her.

Venus Little: Be fair. By that reasoning a little sex is not really an injury to your husband unless he knows about it. Undetected sex is no shame at all.

Sarah Pinchwife: It’s best to take up with an insignificant nobody. Then the whole world won’t hear about it. It will be your little secret.

Venus Little: Or else someone so ill that he arouses no suspicion.

Diana: What do you mean?

Sarah Pinchwife: Stop winking, Venus. Your eyelids will stick together.

(Enter Barnaby Pinchwife, Peter Little, Jack Horner, Rodney Fidget)

Peter Little: Surprise!

Diana: If I’d known we’d be this popular, I would have called catering.

Barnaby Pinchwife: I imagine Diana is lecturing you on chastity again. It’s so much in her mouth that she’s utterly lacking it elsewhere.

Venus Little: Is chastity the only thing in her mouth?

Peter Little: Is there something in your eye, Venus?

Barnaby Pinchwife: Where’s Fopling? I thought we were going drinking.

Diana: I suppose he’s hiding under the porch somewhere.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Well, to tell you the naked truth…

Peter Little: Oh, please don’t say “naked” in front of a sick man.

Venus Little: Or a faithful wife.

Barnaby Pinchwife: I’m needed at the Exchange, so I can’t go out with you today.

Venus Little: Oh, Barnaby, you’ve ruined my day.

Sarah Pinchwife: Your new girl friend is probably still asleep, Mr. Pinchwife.

Rodney: If you’re referring to Heidi, we went to the clerk’s office this morning. She and Jasper have decided to elope.

Sarah Pinchwife: How romantic. Miss Universe has quite a catch there.

Rodney: Please no more bedpan jokes, Sarah. Jasper’s heard them all.

Venus Little: Well, what does she see in him?

Rodney: How can you explain love? Love sees things the objective eye misses and love draws therefrom endless consequences.

Sarah Pinchwife: Very pretty, but I suspect you have a lot of explaining to do.

Barnaby Pinchwife: If I may continue. I’ve brought along Horner here who has kindly consented to take my place. He can carry your bags.

Venus Little: You’re a pig, Pinchwife. Is Rodney coming too?

Barnaby Pinchwife: Of course not.

Rodney: Oh, I’m just here for the beer. I’ve got to go and make sure Uncle Jasper is getting settled in OK with Heidi.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Diana, you haven’t said a word to poor Jack since his illness.

Diana: Oh I am so sorry to hear about it. But I must see to something in the kitchen.

Horner: Let me help you. (Aside) Can it be? The goddess of chastity is interested in men for sex? I always thought she was the type who claimed honor by finding fault in others. That’s the source of her famous good sense.

Diana: Oh, I’ll be fine.

Horner: Time was when I avoided only virtuous women. Now I can’t stand the other kind as well. You know I really don’t like to be with any women in public any more.

Sarah Pinchwife: As opposed to being with them in private.

Venus Little: I think I’m going to barf.

Horner: But I like to feel I’m still good for something.

Sarah Pinchwife: Don’t you move, Mr. Horner.

Diana: That’s all right, I can see to it later.

Horner: (Aside) I cannot believe you’re jealous.

Sarah Pinchwife: (Aside) I cannot believe you’re ogling another woman in front of me.

Horner: One night and already I’m a married man.

Diana: (Aside) How strangely Sarah glares at Horner. There is more to this situation than meets the eye.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Diana, why don’t you go shopping with the women and their little pet?

Sarah Pinchwife: Oh no, I’m sure Lady Diana has better things to do than waste her time with the likes of us.

Diana: I’m afraid I’m not much of a shopper, Barnaby.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Come on, you four would make a regular rat pack.

Sarah Pinchwife: I thought you had urgent business. Why don’t you attend to it and stop meddling with our affairs?

Venus Little: (Aside to Sarah Pinchwife) Why are you so agitated, Sarah? We’re about to get rid of your husband.

Diana: (Aside) I’m tempted to go along with them. I’d like to see what Mrs. Pinchwife has up her sleeve.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Well, suit yourselves. I really must be going. Are you ready, Rodney?

Rodney: I envy you, Jack. You may be doomed, but the old Platonic cicisbeo gets all the best women.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Come along. (Exeunt Barnaby Pinchwife and Rodney.)

Diana: I’ve changed my mind. With your permission, Sarah, I think I will go shopping with you all. I’ve heard Jack has excellent taste in china and I was thinking of a new service for the holidays. What do you say, Jack?

Horner: You flatter me.

Venus Little: A complete service?

Diana: Or at least a creamer. Mine is shattered.

Sarah Pinchwife: I knew it!

Horner: I’m particularly partial to creamers.

Diana: I’ll bet you have quite a collection.

Horner: Well, there’s one I value above the rest.

Venus Little: I’m not usually on the underside of the conversation. Sarah, we are being outdone.

Sarah: So she wants a creamer, does she?

Diana: I want one in pure white. Don’t you agree, Jack? The delicate color of the droplets of cream oozing from the lip blend so smoothly with the sharp white porcelain.

Venus Little: Is she describing a creamer or a vibrator? Jack’s creamer is more the earthenware variety. You know, light brown.

Sarah Pinchwife: When it’s not an angry pink.

Diana: Shall we go, Jack? Sarah, I think you and I will become the best of friends.

Sarah Pinchwife: If I don’t murder you first.

Venus Little: No use arguing all day, Sarah, we might as well go.

Diana: You go ahead. I need to fetch a wrap.

Sarah Pinchwife: Mr. Horner?

Horner: Go ahead. I’ll be with you presently.

(Exeunt Sarah Pinchwife and Venus Little.)

Diana: You know I despise men like you who take pleasure in ruining women.

Horner: Then why are you coming with us? You affect to despise Sarah and Venus as well, even though they’ve done nothing to harm you.

Diana: I want to satisfy my curiosity, Jack. I don’t think you’re sick at all.

Horner: I’m not.

Diana: Then the joke’s on Pinchwife.

Horner: Well, my goal is hardly to upset poor old Barnaby. This merely helps me get over the jealous husband syndrome.

Diana: I see. You get him out of the way and now it’s just one married babe after another.

Horner: I’ll have to admit, access is of a sudden miraculously facilitated.

Diana: You could always see me. Sparks didn’t care.

Horner: You formed your own barrier against “lewd low fellows” like myself. I merely quote. And you know it’s just as bad for a lewd low fellow to be seen with a woman of honor. Everyone would think I compromised my principles.

Diana: Now everyone thinks you’ve lost the artillery to back up those principles. I can see Sarah is your first victim.

Horner: And Venus.

Diana: I don’t think I want to hear about it. I suppose just because I’m going shopping with you, you think I’ll be sleeping with you next.

Horner: The thought never even crossed my mind.

Diana: I have no intention of betraying my husband.

Horner: Please let me correct that. You have no intention of letting him know you betrayed him. You’re much too adventurous to really be faithful. But if, and this matter is far from resolved, we were really to be interested in each other, my present reputation would more than shield you against calumny.

Diana: Still, if upon any future falling out, or upon a suspicion of my taking the trust out of your hands, to employ some other, you yourself should betray your trust, dear sir?

Horner: Pass that by me again please.

Diana: If you give me leave to speak obscenely, you’ll tell everyone we fucked.

Horner: If I did, nobody would believe me. It’s as difficult to get over the reputation of impotency as that of cowardice.

Diana: I still rather doubt your prospects for success.

Horner: Success at what?

(Enter Venus Little)

Venus Little: Are you coming?

Diana: This is going to be an interesting afternoon.

(Exeunt Diana, Horner, Venus Little)

Margarita: (Off) It’s so quiet. Where did everyone go? Oh, budikins, please don’t tell me you locked me in here all alone. Please!

Scene ii

Jasper. Elizabeth.

Jasper: Well, we’ve had quite a day, Heidi.

Elizabeth: Yes, Jasper.

Jasper: Or should I say “Mrs. Fidget”

Elizabeth: Yes, Jasper.

Jasper: Do you love me, Heidi?

Elizabeth: Yes, of course, Jasper. Rodney is back soon?

Jasper: I suppose. I don’t know. He was talking about some hilarious escapade with that Horner. The boy’s problem is he can’t focus. He wanders from enthusiasm to enthusiasm and leaves the rest of us to pick up the pieces. Are you all right, Heidi?

Elizabeth: I’m fine. Don’t touch me. I mean, I am very good thank you. I need no help.

Jasper: Well, I’ll finally be able to share a bed with my own wife after all these years. Heidi, you are certainly energetic this morning. You know, it struck me we have never kissed. Strange being married and not ever kissing. That should be in the record books. Heidi, be careful I almost fell.

Elizabeth: Mr. Jasper, I…

Jasper: Just to be near you is such a pleasure.

Elizabeth: I mean…

Jasper: Are you trying to say something, Heidi? Please stop walking around the room so fast. You’re wearing me out.

Elizabeth: Oh, in English I know not the words.

Jasper: Where did you go now?

Elizabeth: I have…

Jasper: Yes?

Elizabeth: I have…ångvist. I cannot kiss. My mouth hurt too much. I will die.

Jasper: Ångvist?

Elizabeth: Rodney told you, I am sure. I cannot…

Jasper: What the devil is ångvist?

Elizabeth: Oh, I know not in English. It is so common in Sweden. No one can touch my mouth. You must be kind to me, Jasper. Oh, so much pain.

Jasper: There must be a Swedish lexicon around here somewhere. Don’t you carry one with you, Heidi?

Elizabeth: Is my English so bad?

Jasper: Oh, no, but in situations like the present…Well, until we find out what this ångvist is I shall refrain from kissing you. At least we can embrace like man and wife.

Elizabeth: Oh, no!

Jasper: What now?

Elizabeth: Ångvist, ångvist!

Jasper: That does it. If I can’t find what that damn word means, I’ll get a doctor. If your condition is so serious, Heidi, you should have it looked after. Stay here, darling. I shall return. (Exit Jasper)

Elizabeth: This is not working out the way Rodney promised. His uncle must be right after all, he is a fool. And I’m the prime cully on the planet for letting myself be gulled into this scheme. I guess I’m learning my lesson. I’m the only person in this insane town who seems to do anything for love and I’m the most miserable.

(Enter Jasper)

Jasper: Well, I’m glad Rodney finally got back. He can explain what this ångvist is all about.

(Enter Rodney)

Rodney: Did I hear you calling me, uncle.

Jasper: You never told me Heidi was ill, Rodney.

Rodney: Ill? Nonsense, she’s as strong as a horse. Heidi never even catches colds.

Jasper: Then what’s all this about ångvist?

Rodney: What?

Elizabeth: Ångvist, Rodney, ångvist!

Jasper: She’s been babbling that all morning.

Rodney: Oh, oh yes. Heidi’s uncle Ångvist is due in from Sweden any day now and he…

Elizabeth: No, you fool!

Jasper: Now I’m completely confused. “Ångvist” is the name of a relative? I thought she was sick.

Rodney: Heidi, stop it!

Elizabeth: Don’t you have a brain in your head?

Jasper: I don’t know if this is considered foreplay in Sweden, Heidi, but you’re going to hurt one of us sooner or later.

Elizabeth: No kiss, Rodney. Ångvist!

Rodney: Oh, oh, I see. What she’s talking about, uncle is…It’s not a sickness really. Ångvist is not being sick. Heidi is perfectly healthy and you have nothing to worry about there.

Elizabeth: Rodney!

Rodney: The English term is terripinensis. It’s a nervous condition, very common in Sweden, where kissing someone else produces hives. Yes hives.

Elizabeth: Hives!

Jasper: Hives? But why won’t she let me embrace her? See, there she goes again.

Elizabeth: Ångvist, Rodney! No touch! Rodney!

Rodney: I heard you, dammit. When I said kiss, uncle, I meant touch. In extreme cases even touching causes an outbreak of hives. And you see that’s why the Swedes are sometimes considered cold. So many of them have terripinensis. It’s very rare in England and almost unknown in the Mediterranean.

Elizabeth: That’s enough, Rodney.

Jasper: Heidi, you sound so…un-Swedish sometimes. Well, we must get a doctor to look after it right away.

Elizabeth: No!

Rodney: It’s incurable. Don’t worry, terripinensis is usually not life threatening. But not a thing can be done about it

Jasper: Damned if I’m going to let a few hives keep me from touching my wife.

Elizabeth: No!

Rodney: Please, uncle. Your touch may even cause paralysis.

Jasper: Well, this is a very distressing turn of events, I must say, and what with the party I’ve planned and all.

Elizabeth: Party?

Rodney: What party?

Jasper: It’s more of a reception, really. Since you don’t want to do things right up in Sweden with some sort of gala, I thought we could have a few of our friends over here. And in your honor, Heidi, I’ve invited the Swedish Ambassador. Pinchwife has a million holdings in Scandinavia and he got us all an intro. Of course, we’ll have to be a little more formal with diplomats around.

Rodney: Oh, my god.

Elizabeth: Ay caramba!

Jasper: Do you speak Spanish also, Heidi? Well, it’s turned out the Ambassador heard about your performance in Ricardo’s play and he wants the consul to do a little pro-Nordic marketing. You know the second Garbo and that sort of thing. I’m afraid, Heidi, you’re in for a lot of boring interacting with a herd of government types. But I suppose your family must have some acquaintance with them already. By the way, what was the name of the family firm?

Elizabeth: Doom!

Jasper: Doom? Never heard of it.

Rodney: Uncle, not “doom.” She said “Døm.” You know, that “o” with the funny slanted line through it? “Døm,” yes, it actually is Swedish for “incorporated.” Spitzenbuben, døm, a fine old family firm, but not many people know it by that name. Oh, they make all the best vodkas in Sweden, yes they do.

Elizabeth: Eeeaaagh!

Jasper: Are you having an ångvist attack, Heidi?

Elizabeth: I think my brain’s going to explode.

Jasper: Here, let me help you.

Elizabeth: Don’t touch me. (Exit.)

Jasper: It’s strange, you know, her English actually improves when she’s excited.

Rodney: Well, the languages are related. But, uncle, as regards this party, do you really think it’s a good idea? You can see Heidi is a bit high strung at the moment what with the play, the marriage and everything. It might be best not to test her too far. The stress might get to her.

Jasper: Nonsense, she’ll be fine. Moreover, it’s too late. The Embassy has already issued its formal acceptance. Take a look. Any problems now may cause diplomatic embarrassment. You wouldn’t want war, would you?

Rodney: With Sweden? I was unaware they had an army.

Jasper: All Scandinavia could be plunged into the maelstrom.

Rodney: Actually, war might be good way out of this.

Jasper: What was that?

Rodney: Oh well, when have you scheduled the execution, uncle?

Jasper: This evening.

Rodney: This evening?

Elizabeth: (Off) Nooooo! Ha ha ha ha ha!

Jasper: Heidi is still raving.

Rodney: I guess those hives can get pretty itchy sometimes. But, uncle, there’s no way we can hold the reception tonight. Heidi can hardly breathe, much less function properly in front her own country’s embassy.

Jasper: I know things are a bit on the spur of the moment, but it’s tonight or nothing. Today is His Excellency’s only free day for months. By the way, Rodney, you will help me issue the invitations. It’s going to be at Pinchwife’s. He’s got the only layout impressive enough for this kind of thing. Pinchwife obviously already knows, so his wife’s crew has to be there as well. That means those obscene Littles. Tell Ricardo, but keep him away from Pinchwife or there could be a fight.

Rodney: Who else?

Jasper: Oh, the usual crowd. Fopling and his sister and I understand he’s married now?

Rodney: Engaged, but no one has met the bride.

Jasper: Well, invite her anyway. Oh yes, you might as well tell Willie Waddles and all the appropriate people at the Reform. That way we’ll get a nice crowd.

Rodney: Horner too?

Jasper: Yes, Horner too. I suppose he’ll keep the women busy. By the way, bill it as our wedding reception. But no presents. A woman in Heidi’s position hardly needs to be burdened with a lot of extra stuff.

Elizabeth: (Off) Eaaaargh!

Jasper: Well, I’ll see how Heidi’s doing. Hop to it, Rodney.

(Exit. Enter Elizabeth)

Elizabeth: It’s been wonderful, Rodney. I hope we see each other again someday.


Rodney: Wait! This goes to show: Don’t marry off your girl. If you don’t think it through things will unfurl.

Scene iii

Margarita, Fopling, Diana

Margarita: Oh, why can’t I go out, bud? I’m getting all sick and green locked in the house like this all day.

Fopling: You are my fiancée and you will do as I say.

Diana: She’s right, Fopling. What you are doing borders on the illegal.

Fopling: You are in no position to comment after your little expedition yesterday.

Diana: Expedition? I went shopping with a dying man and two women. Actually, you may have a point. Being with those women is just as bad as going with a man.

Fopling: Don’t tell me you didn’t do the old two back tango with Horner.

Diana: It would have been four backs and on the sales floor at Liberty questions may have been asked. Besides, Fopling, don’t you think Barnaby knows what he’s doing? He’s just as paranoid as you are and he’s had much more experience in the husband business.

Fopling: Husbandry, however, is not his line even though he does his best as far as breeding is concerned.

Margarita: Diana gets to go out every day and here I am locked up in my little cage.

Fopling: There are worse places for you to spend your life. Isn’t your cage, I mean your home comfortable?

Diana: You were transported straight from the nest to the cage, so you shouldn’t notice the difference.

Margarita: I confess I was quiet enough in the country till my husband began to tell of the wonderful lives women lead here. Their days are filled with parties, shopping, sunning, boating. I hear there are places where you can go bowling all night.

Fopling: See, you’ve got her all overheated with your tales of pleasure.

Diana: Her idea of a night out seems to be bowling. But didn’t you notice, Fopling, she said you were the one who told her about these things.

Fopling: I want to warn her against evil, like her Father Confessor.

Diana: Yes, you have something of the priest about you.

Fopling: It’s not my words but your example that are getting her excited. Poor thing, she didn’t even want to come to town. It was I who, like a fool, forced her to make her first expedition. And now she’s got all sorts of fantastic notions about it.

Diana: Well. Why don’t you let her loose so she can find out for herself how false those notions are?

Margarita: Let’s go to Gordon’s again tonight.

Fopling: Gordon’s is closed tonight. It’s Monday. And why this sudden enthusiasm for Gordon’s? You have already been there once.

Margarita: Oh, I just hope there will be as many men there as last time. Maybe we’ll see the gentleman who is in love with me. I just want to give him a kiss, that’s all, baby.

Fopling: Oh, is that all, baby?

Diana: She must have learned this from me.

Fopling: Just a little more patience, Margarita, and we’ll be back in the country by Friday.

Margarita: Then I must see some sights, so I’ll have something to tell the folks.

Fopling: Come to think of it, I might send you on ahead. Why don’t you see about gathering up your things.  You can begin packing now.

Margarita: No!

Diana: Someone is coming in.

Fopling: It’s Horner. He’s here to get her! Margarita, go to the your bedroom.

Margarita: No, I’m not going to let you trick me like yesterday. I was trapped in the house all day. I want to see the man who loves me.

Fopling: You’re looking at him now. Just go in.

Margarita: You can’t catch me!

(Enter Rodney.)

Diana: Bad news, Margarita. This one never loved anyone except himself.

Rodney: Heighdy-ho!

Margarita: Oh, he doesn’t look anything like I expected. You’re not the man who fell in love with me at Gordon’s, are you?

Rodney: I’m afraid we haven’t met. I am sure I would have remembered if we had.

Fopling: Thank goodness it’s you, Fidget, and not that hormonally supercharged companion of yours.

Rodney: If you are referring to Jack Horner, he’s sick. I’m surprised you haven’t heard.

Fopling: Sick, sick, of course he’s sick and all you gullible lot are sending your wives to the slaughter. I’m the only man in this town sane enough to see through his ruse. Horner’s only illness is sex addiction.

Diana: There are worse things to be addicted to.

Fopling: And why are you barging in on us?

Rodney: I’m making the rounds. It’s kind of spur of the moment, but Uncle Jasper is having me issue invitations.

Fopling: To what, his extreme unction gala?

Rodney: Fopling, you seem to deliberately ignore all the news. Uncle Jasper is a married man now.

Fopling: So he’s finally cornered that Swedish love goddess. What I don’t understand is if she doesn’t need the money what could possibly be her motivation. Excuse me, did I say “motivation” I meant her motive.

Diana: Stop it, Fopling. I think their romance is sweet.

Fopling: It has a definite flavor to it, but “sweet” is not the word that first comes to mind.

Rodney: Listen, Fopling, stop joking. Uncle Jasper has organized a reception for himself and Heidi. It’s being held at Pinchwife’s place and the Swedish Ambassador is coming in honor of Heidi.

Fopling: Larry Flynt might be a better match than an ambassador. Well, what does this have to do with us?

Rodney: You’re invited, of course.

Margarita: Whoop-de-do and bim bam, we get to go to a party!

Diana: This is so exciting!

Fopling: I’m sorry, it is impossible. We are otherwise occupied.

Diana: Now, Fopling, be nice. You don’t even know when it is.

Fopling: I don’t care. We’re busy every day.

Rodney: It’s tonight.

Margarita: Huzzah!

Rodney: Jasper would be crushed if you didn’t come, Fopling. You two were friends before I was born.

Fopling: I wasn’t engaged to be married then.

Margarita: I’ve got to find the right dress. Maybe my lover from Gordon’s will be there.

Rodney: I don’t think we’ve been introduced. Is this Mrs. Fopling?

Diana: You’re not alone Rodney. Margarita’s only acquaintances are a family of robins and the odd squirrel.

Margarita: Oh, that sounds so strange. I am not Mrs. Fopling yet.

Diana: Her family name is McGurgle.

Rodney: Margarita McGurgle?

Fopling: Soon to be Margarita Fopling.

Rodney: I hope you are enjoying your stay in the city, Miss McGurgle.

Margarita: I would enjoy it if I wasn’t locked in all day.

Fopling: That’s not going to change. Rodney, I’m afraid it’s out of the question. We can’t go. It’s too short notice.

Margarita: What? Well, I’m going even if you’re not, baby. And that’s that.

Rodney: “Baby” I guess there is something cuddly about you, Fopling.

Diana: Fopling, don’t be unreasonable.

Rodney: Oh, by the way, Fopling, Uncle Jasper said he was willing to conclude with you on that property tonight. But it has to be tonight or it’s off because he and Heidi are leaving on their honeymoon tomorrow.

Fopling: What do you mean? He can’t do that.

Diana: I suppose that means we have to go.

Rodney: Everyone’s curious to meet you, Mrs. Fopling.

Margarita: Hooray! We’re going! Diana, help me get dressed right now. (Exit.)

Rodney: Where did she learn to talk like that?

Diana: In the country.

Rodney: I haven’t heard any country folk talk like that. Except in novels, perhaps.

Diana: She’s had what you might call a somewhat solitary upbringing, hasn’t she, Fopling?

Rodney: She bears a pretty striking resemblance to Heidi.

Fopling: I think you have your Heidi on the brain.

Diana: I noticed, though she’s not as highly developed in the higher elevations.

Fopling: She’s a dimwit, if that’s what you mean. Why do you think I’m marrying her?

Diana: You mistake everything, Fopling.

Rodney: I understand. It’s hard to match Heidi’s mountain range.

Diana: But I think Margarita has longer legs. You’re bound to see sooner or later.

Fopling: Not if I have anything to say about it.

Diana: By the way, Fopling, you would be wise to pay more respect to Margarita’s perspicacity. What you take for being addle-brained is just her rough edges. After all, you wouldn’t exactly call her upbringing enriching. If you don’t watch out, you may ruin yourself on her cunning.

Fopling: Cunning and intelligence are not the same thing.

Diana: Well she has both, I warn you.

(Enter Margarita)

Margarita: Are you coming, sister dear? You must help me! (Exit)

Diana: What time should we expect to see you?

Rodney: Seven-thirty for eight. (Exit Diana) You’re a lucky man, Fopling. Your fiancée is going to be a great sensation. (Exit)

Fopling: (Solus) The very gods will answer for this!

Scene iv


Elizabeth: Now is not the time to temporize.  Rodney has played his last hand and lost. Even if we manage to squeeze through this Swedish Ambassador insanity without ending up in jail, I will have been driven thoroughly insane. “Ångvist”, that was pretty good. It shows you can think on your feet, Liz. You’re not completely crazy yet. I feel sorry for the old man. He seems a good sort, but I still don’t want him touching me. It’s time to admit to yourself, girl, you’ve made a mistake. If this is what life with Rodney is going to be like, then you can count me out. I suppose I’m letting the cast down, but that whole play business was just another scheme of Rodney’s. Saddle your horse, Queen Christina. Let us ride to the land of midnight. (Exit) [Next]

[Act I] [Act III] [Act IV] [Act V]