Jasper: Well, if you have found her, Ricardo, why are you keeping her from me? She is my wife and I have a right to see her immediately.
Ricardo: You will see her, Mr. Jasper and very very soon. However, all is not as it seems and I must talk to you first. She desires it.
Jasper: What do we have to talk about?
Ricardo: In the first place, are not the circumstances of her disappearance somewhat curious to you?
Jasper: The fact, Ricardo, of her disappearance is somewhat curious to me.
Ricardo: Therein lies the tale, Mr. Jasper. Therein lies the tale, and it may be a bit difficult to believe. Let me tell you first how we found her. It appears everyone in the company knew about her except myself. Actors often tell things to their friends that they never reveal to the Director. I was obliged to threaten one of the other girls with immediate dismissal if she did not lead me to your wife. It appears she had ensconced herself with relatives just outside the city.
Jasper: She has relatives here?
Jasper: And not in Sweden.
Ricardo: Not a difficult feat since she has never been to Sweden.
Jasper: I’m afraid I don’t follow you, Ricardo.
Ricardo: Mr. Jasper, I don’t know how to tell you this, but she is not Heidi at all.
Jasper: Will you stop calling me “Mr. Jasper,” and if she isn’t Heidi then who is? Or I mean who is she?
Ricardo: Her name is Elizabeth Jackson and she is the mistress of your nephew, Rodney.
Ricardo: I am sorry I have to tell you this, señor, but what alternative is there? She could not stay in hiding forever, especially after I discovered her. And she absolutely refuses to continue the Heidi charade which, I am sure you agree, should never have been started in the first place and must now be laid to rest as quickly as possible.
Jasper: Let me see if I understand this. This girl is not Heidi?
Jasper: Then who is?
Ricardo: No one. She assumed that name to conceal her background from you.
Jasper: Then I married an imposter?
Ricardo: I am afraid so.
Jasper: But why?
Ricardo: That part is not entirely clear to me, señor. I am afraid she will have to explain it herself. But first she desired me to ask you if you could find it in your heart to forgive.
Jasper: I’m afraid, Ricardo, that forgiveness is not an issue. If it means we are to be bosom pals for years to come, that is hardly likely. From her previous behavior I don’t think that’s high on her agenda in any event. However, if she’s afraid I intend to wreak some sort of revenge on her, she doesn’t have to worry. I am not that kind of person. But we’ve got ourselves in a few legal entanglements that need to be cleared up. I’m sure she is aware of that.
Ricardo: Then you intend her no harm?
Jasper: What good would that do me?
Ricardo: If that is the case, she will not be afraid to see you and my part here is finished. Elizabeth has been waiting outside while we speak. By the way, she has consented to continue in our play until the end of its run. May I let her in?
Jasper: Of course.
Ricardo: One more thing. It appears your nephew is not with you, but I would just like to verify the fact. His presence would cause needless complication.
Jasper: Rodney ran off with that friend, Horner, of his on yet another escapade. Now may I see this woman?
Ricardo: Here is Elizabeth whom you knew as Heidi.
Elizabeth: No, Ricardo, please stay. I never thought I could bear to face you, Jasper, and now that I must, I still need some support from whatever quarter it may come. Ricardo, you are a dear to take time from your busy schedule this way.
Jasper: My my, we are quite the master of the English language. It is uncanny to hear you speak this way. You are almost a stranger to me.
Elizabeth: Not almost. I am a stranger to you, Jasper. The woman you loved was Heidi and I was merely an actress playing that role. You never knew the person standing in front of you now.
Jasper: Elizabeth Jackson.
Elizabeth: Yes, that is my name.
Jasper: And you never loved me. I should have suspected something from the very beginning. No one in real life has a ridiculous name like “Spitzenbuben.” So, Elizabeth Jackson or whatever your name is, there is no vodka distillery in Sweden?
Elizabeth: Please, Jasper.
Jasper: And in some way you are in cahoots with Rodney.
Elizabeth: Oh, don’t even say his name.
Jasper: Ricardo said you have some sort of relationship with him.
Elizabeth: Use the past tense. I was very much in love with Rodney. We met in Cannes. You could say I lost my head. At one point I would have done anything for him, and that is pretty much what he asked me to do: anything. This whole escapade is a bizarre Rodney scheme to deceive you and get your money.
Jasper: My money? What money?
Elizabeth: As a famous writer, we knew you were loaded, if I may speak bluntly.
Jasper: And who told you that?
Elizabeth: Well, if you are referring to me specifically, I guess I have to defer to Rodney. He was always talking about how much money you had.
Jasper: He’s a young fool. I don’t have any money. Oh, I live comfortably and I have achieved some notoriety as a playwright – I suppose that’s where he got the idea I was rich – but I don’t have anything worth swindling out of me. Remember I am an old man without financial obligations. I don’t really have anything to drain my income and I can do what I please. I suppose that must have made me appear rich to a dimwit like Rodney. Or, as Pinchwife would say, the best way to become rich is first to appear rich. By the way, you two should have gone after Barnaby. Now he has real wealth.
Elizabeth: So there’s no money.
Jasper: Nothing significant. Nothing you could live the high life on if that’s what you mean.
Elizabeth: We were planning on starting a family.
Jasper: But take me through this a step at a time. How were you to get this money once you married me?
Elizabeth: Well, you were dying.
Jasper: Dying? Rodney again. Am I right?
Elizabeth: He was the sole source of my information about you. Your cancer….
Jasper: Aha, well I do have cancer, but it’s in remission. I’m not even taking treatment.
Elizabeth: And you didn’t tell Rodney?
Jasper: Why should I talk to Rodney about things like that? As we both can see now, he just uses any information he has to further his own schemes.
Elizabeth: So you’re not sick. But you acted so weak.
Jasper: I am old, Elizabeth. That makes me weak. You will act like this too one day if you survive long enough. I shouldn’t have let my ego blind me. Clearly there was nothing a girl like you could see in an old wreck like myself.
Ricardo: Señor, you must not punish yourself.
Elizabeth: Ricardo is right, Jasper. In fact I believe I could have seen much in you, your kindness, for example and your humor. I or any girl might have fallen in love with those qualities. But she must get to know you first.
Jasper: Love at first sight, however, is unlikely. I must admit, everything happened a bit fast. So let me just recap with brutal clarity. You were to marry me so that you could inherit my quondam fortune when I died from my mythical cancer. Then you and Rodney would run off and raise children somewhere.
Elizabeth: That about wraps it up.
Jasper: Well, I’m glad you got everything off your chest. If you don’t mind, I prefer to be alone for a while.
Elizabeth: There is one other matter.
Jasper: What’s that?
Elizabeth: Jasper, we’re married.
Jasper: So we are.
Elizabeth: I don’t want to be married.
Jasper: You know, if I were Rodney, I would be trying right now to turn this to my advantage. But I don’t have any good ideas. Do you, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: Please, Jasper, I may appear calm but I am just a bat of an eyelash from hysterics. We need to get this mess straightened out.
Jasper: I don’t have it in me to torment you. We’re not married.
Elizabeth: Was our appearance in the Registry just a bad dream on my part?
Jasper: No, we were there, but I’m not quite the gullible fool I appear to be. You and Rodney were quite a sight. You reminded me of Lucia just before her mad scene. I thought you would start trilling at any moment.
Elizabeth: Very funny. But we got a license.
Jasper: When the license arrives in the mail I shall give you a copy. It shows you are married to Rodney Fidget.
Elizabeth: I don’t understand.
Jasper: Seeing your Bride of Lammermoor impression gave me second thoughts. Impulsively I signed “Rodney Fidget.” What did you sign, by the way?
Elizabeth: “Elizabeth Jackson.” So Rodney didn’t see your signature?
Jasper: How could he? As soon as my pen left the paper you two hauled me off to the nearest chair.
Elizabeth: So does this mean…?
Jasper: I’m sure that we’re not legally married since the document contains a forgery. I suppose I may have to pay a fine for tampering with recorded deeds, but I’ll throw myself on the mercy of the court.
Elizabeth: What a relief! Jasper, you’re a stinker.
Jasper: You two want to murder me for my money and I’m the stinker? But I have a confession, it’s worse than that. The entire Swedish Ambassador routine was simply designed to flush you out. Heidi, you need to take some more acting lessons. That was the worst Swedish accent I have ever heard.
Elizabeth: Now you’re attacking me professionally.
Jasper: I suspected we would have a wonderful farce on our hands, but then you disappeared.
Elizabeth: And you were crushed.
Jasper: Oh, I was crushed when I first began to suspect something.
Ricardo: Now that everything is resolved, I really must take my leave. What are you going to tell Rodney?
Elizabeth: That’s a good question. What will we tell Rodney?
Jasper: Why do we have to tell him anything?
Elizabeth: Well, for one thing, he will find out I returned to Ricardo’s play and I don’t want him hanging around me.
Jasper: It’s probably best to distance myself also. It just isn’t comfortable to be attended upon by some who is constantly scheming against your bank account.
Ricardo: Tell him Elizabeth confessed everything and neither of you want to see him again.
Jasper: Oh, much too simple. We Fidgets never do the obvious.
Ricardo: Then tell him you decided to stay married and you never want to see him again.
Jasper: That’s more like it. Heidi fell in love with his uncle after all.
Elizabeth: Oh, no!
Jasper: Not to worry, Elizabeth. I’m not scheming to get you back. I loved Heidi and she has disappeared forever.
Elizabeth: No more schemes. I am just in the eye of my nervous breakdown. Any more stress and the winds will whip up again.
Jasper: Well, what are you going to tell Rodney? Once he finds out you are back in the play he is sure to call around for you.
Elizabeth: I will refuse to see him
Jasper: That can’t work forever. Do you propose to racket about the city with a duenna?
Elizabeth: I can’t stand it. Ricardo, I am sorry but I cannot continue, however much it is a beautiful experience. I think I shall just shoot myself.
Ricardo: You cannot do that, Elizabeth. Your performance is immaculate.
Jasper: You can’t let down the cast. As a practical man of the theatre I know that is the worst sin you could commit.
Elizabeth: Well, how is being married to you supposed to keep Rodney away? Rodney would never believe it anyway. He knew I couldn’t stand the thought of even pretending marriage.
Jasper: No, he probably won’t believe it in the end. But he would be miserable for a while. We can be married until Ricardo’s run is over and then you are on your own. Until then I shall tell Rodney you confessed everything and we decided we were in love after all. We were both so upset we decided to bar him access to our home. You will of course secretly live somewhere else, but if you are careful Rodney won’t find out in that short time.
Elizabeth: This is ridiculous.
Jasper: Any more ridiculous than ångvist?
Elizabeth: Oh, yes. That was pretty good wasn’t it?
Jasper: An utter fabrication on your part, I assume.
Elizabeth: Quick thinking, that was this girl’s motto.
Jasper: And I believed every word of it. I must have looked a complete fool chasing you around the couch.
Elizabeth: And I was, of course, at the height of my dignity screaming at the top of my lungs.
Jasper: Heidi the comedienne.
Elizabeth: Don’t touch me.
Jasper: Very sorry, a momentary slip. Well, Elizabeth, if Uncle Jasper can fall for ångvist, Rodney should believe the marriage story for a little while. We are after all the same blood.
Elizabeth: I suppose it could be sort of amusing to watch Rodney squirm.
Jasper: You must have enjoyed ångvist a little bit.
Elizabeth: All right, I’ll go along with your scheme, but only till the end of the play and then it’s back to Cannes for me.
Jasper: Yes, only till the end of the play.
Fopling: Come, tell me, I say.
Margarita: I have already told you a hundred times, baby.
Fopling: (Aside) I’m sure I’ll catch her altering her story. Then, once I am assured she can lie to me, I will know she was unfaithful to me during my absence. If her story is false, then so is she. (Aloud) Well, harlot, I’m waiting.
Margarita: Lord, you take such pleasure in hearing this over and over again.
Fopling: Almost as much pleasure as you take in telling it. So tell me, what went on?
Margarita: We all went upstairs together, the man, the lady and the man’s silly friend. The lady took us to her room so I could get a dress because, as you know, the man had snipped off all my clothes.
Fopling: You are referring to Sarah. Now who is the man’s silly friend?
Margarita: You know, dummy. He was there when the man was cutting my clothes. He held you in the chair so you wouldn’t fall.
Fopling: Oh, Rodney Fidget. Even worse. So you were always all four together. You were never left alone with the man?
Margarita: Just once. Rodney had finished teaching me Swedish and Sarah had to go to another room to find more dresses. So the man sent Rodney back to the party. He said we were fine together.
Fopling: He did, did he? Damn his swollen pin prick. Damn him for that and for…
Margarita: But Sarah came back soon.
Fopling: And what did he do while you were alone?
Margarita: Well, he kissed me, of course, a million times. He said things are done that way in the city. Each kiss was a way of sending you his best wishes.
Margarita: I had to be polite, baby. But he was also pulling and tearing at my clothes and, since they were already ripped, they all came off. I put them back on just in time before Sarah returned. I think she didn’t want me to kiss the man. He whispered to me that I should stand at my window at eleven o’clock this morning and he would pass by.
Fopling: He was as good as his word. I wonder if he knew it was I behind the curtain? Damn him a thousand times.
Margarita: He said if you were not here he would enter. How exciting! You should have gone out, bud, then he would have come in.
Fopling: (Aside) I knew he wasn’t sick in the slightest. Thank god for her simplicity or I would have learned nothing. (Aloud) So you stood very still when he kissed you? You didn’t try to fight him off?
Margarita: I had to use both my hands to hold my clothes on.
Fopling: But I thought your clothes fell off?
Margarita: They did, he was mauling and pawing me so.
Fopling: But you told me he committed a foul act. What was it?
Margarita: Well, he put….
Fopling: What did he put?
Margarita: He put the tip of his tongue between my lips and so he muzzled me. I told him I’d bite it off. That’s when all my clothes fell on the ground.
Fopling: That stinking dog. May he rot in hell!
Margarita: Don’t be angry with the man, bunny. His taste was so fresh and sweet. I was so excited to feel his tongue in my mouth.
Fopling: So you enjoyed it, did you? I’ll expect you’d slobber all over that cankered tongue of his again if you got the chance.
Margarita: Oh, no! Not unless he forced me.
Fopling: Force you, gypsy? No, don’t try to fool me. I know that women don’t need forcing.
Margarita: Oh, sweetheart, a man like him could force any woman, he’s sooo handsome. It’s just hard to resist such a man.
Fopling: (Aside) It’s obvious she’s in love with this fellow. Or should I say she’s in heat for him? Fortunately her love has not reached the stage where she would conceal it from me. But the sight of him will increase her aversion for me and her love for him; and that love will instruct her how to deceive me and satisfy him, all idiot as she is. Love! It was love that first gave women their craft, their art of deluding. Out of nature’s hands they came plain, open, silly and fit for slaves, as she and heaven intended them. But damned Love – well, I must strangle that little monster while I can deal with him. (Aloud) Where’s a pen and paper? Go to my study and fetch them for me.
Margarita: Yes, bud. (Exit)
Fopling: Why are women more inventive in love than men? I suppose it is because they are more like animals. They have more desires, more soliciting passions, more lust and more of the devil. If you had lived in King Ethelred’s time or Edward the Confessor’s, you might have found buried in a forest somewhere a dull frosty wench who would have been content with only one man. These days they would just as soon have one leg or one eye.
Fopling: Sit down, hoyden, and write.
Margarita: Darling, baby, you know I’m not very good at writing.
Fopling: I wish you never learned at all.
Margarita: But what am I to write?
Fopling: I want you to write a letter to your lover.
Margarita: You mean the handsome gentleman who muzzled my tongue?
Fopling: Yes, to the dignified gentleman.
Margarita: But surely you are not serious. This is a little joke, honey.
Fopling: Look at my face, Margarita. Do I look like making fun? Start writing as I dictate.
Margarita: Do you think I’m a fool?
Fopling: (Aside) She knows what I’m going to say and it won’t be words of love. It will be hard to make her cooperate. (Aloud) Just start.
Margarita: Well, I won’t, so I won’t and that’s that.
Fopling: And why won’t you?
Margarita: Because he’s in town, silly. You can send for him and I can talk to him directly.
Fopling: So you want me to play pander now? Is it come to this? Now take up the pen and write or you’ll provoke me.
Margarita: Lord, why do you want to make a fool of me? I know that letters are only written from the country to the city or the city to the country. Since he’s here, the gentleman would laugh me silly if I wrote him a letter. Therefore, I can’t write to him.
Fopling: The exception to that, bud, is when your husband bids you write a letter. Then you may write to people who are in the same town.
Margarita: Oh, is that so? Well, if that’s the case, then I’m satisfied.
Fopling: Come, begin. (Dictates) “Sir…”
Margarita: Shouldn’t I say “Dear sir” You know one always says something more than a bare “sir”.
Fopling: Write what I tell you to write or I shall write “Whore” with this penknife on your face.
Margarita: No, baby, I will write. “Sir…”
Fopling: “Though I allowed myself to suffer your nauseous, loathed, putrid kisses and embraces….”
Margarita: But why should I say such things, bud. You know he had a sweet breath. You should try to kiss him yourself.
Margarita: Let me not write “putrid”.
Fopling: Write, I say.
Margarita: Well, then.
Fopling: Let’s see what you have written. “Though I suffered last night your kisses and embraces.” Impudent creature, where is “putrid” And where are “nauseous” and “loathed”
Margarita: I can’t write such filthy words.
Fopling: Pour la dernière fois, write as I tell you and don’t ask any questions, or I will spoil your writing with this. (Holds up penknife) I will stab out those eyes which are causing my misery.
Margarita: Oh, lord, I will!
Fopling: So…yes…let’s see now! (Reads) “Though I suffered last night your nauseous, loathed putrid kissed and embraces”. Go on. “yet I would not have you presume that you would ever repeat them.” So…
Margarita: I have written it.
Fopling: On then. “ While I dressed modestly as befits a woman of my station and to avoid your insolence…”
Fopling: “The same reason, now I am out of your hands…
Fopling: “Makes me regret my unfortunate escapade of the last night, wherein I agreed to inappropriate attire merely to aid an unfortunate friend of my beloved fiancé…”
Margarita: Is that you?
Fopling: “whom I treasure above all else in the world. And so I wish you may ever more cease to pursue her who hates and detests you.”
Fopling: What is that noise? I assume you sigh merely out of love for me. Go on. “…detests you as much as she loves her husband and her honor”.
Margarita: Darling, he would never believe I would write such a thing.
Fopling: You mean he would expect a kinder letter. Come now, your name only.
Margarita: Shouldn’t I say “Your most faithful humble servant unto death”
Fopling: Do not start, minx. Come, wrap it up now while I fetch an envelope. And write on the back “ Mr. Horner.” (Aside) A man is a fool to marry, but even a greater one if he doesn’t marry a fool. (Exit)
Margarita: “Mr. Horner”. So that is his name. I’m glad you told me. Why should I write you something that would upset and vex you, Mr. Horner? You are such a sweet little mouse with a nice soft tongue and a pretty dark penis. I’m glad I didn’t tell my husband about Mr. Horner’s hard little penis. He would never have understood. Well, I just won’t send this letter. But then my husband will kill me. It’s pretty plain he won’t let me love Mr. Horner. But what do I care about my husband? I won’t and so I won’t send Mr. Horner such a letter. But then my husband? But what if I write on the bottom that my husband made me write it? But then my husband would see it. Is there no way out? If I were one of these city women I would have a hundred solutions by now. Stay, what if I wrote another letter and wrapped it up and addressed it exactly like this one? But my husband would see it. Oh, I don’t know what to do! But I must try. I refuse to send this putrid letter to poor Mr. Horner. (She writes)
“Dear sweet Mr. Horner” – So – “My fiancé would have me write you a base, rude, unmannerly, yea putrid letter, but I won’t” – So – “and he would have me forbid you loving me, but I won’t.” – So – “And he wants me to say I hate you, poor dear Mr. Horner, but I don’t – and I won’t tell a lie for him” – There – “for I am sure if you and I were sitting at a table at Gordon’s together I could not help but touch your foot under the table or rub knees with you and stare you in the face till you looked at me.” – Very well – “But then I would blush and look at the ground for an hour together” – So – “But now I must hurry before my fiancé returns; and now that he has taught me to write letters to you, you will have longer and gayer ones from me who am, dear, dear, poor Mr. Horner your most loving friend and your slave of love to command unto death, Margarita McGurgle soon to be Margarita Fopling.” –There – Stay, I must add a postscript. Now wrap it up just like the other one and write “For Mr. Horner”. But what shall I do with it now? Here comes my fiancé!
Fopling: Amazing how many new friends I have now that my new wife is in town. I spend all my time driving them away. Well, are you finished?
Margarita: Yes, baby doll, just now.
Fopling: Let me see it. Why are you trembling? You don’t want it sent? Or do you have something to hide?
Margarita: Here. (Aside) What can I do? Either I disappoint poor Mr. Horner or I invite death and mutilation from my fiancé. (He reads the first letter)
Fopling: Where did I put the envelope?
Margarita: (Aside) Lord, what shall I do now? Hold, I have it. (Aloud) Here is the envelope. Don’t you think I should write “Mr. Horner” on that also so he will know it is from me? Pray, give me the letter. Don’t you think I can seal an envelope? I will do it and so I will. (Snatches the letter from him, exchanges it for the other, puts it in the envelope, seals it and delivers it to him)
Fopling: I’m afraid you’re learning to do far too many things now.
Margarita: So. Haven’t I succeeded curiously? (Aside) Since he wants me to be a letter writer, it’s my own letter that is going off to Mr. Horner.
Fopling: But you don’t want it to go.
Margarita: Now I do, bud. We might as well finish it.
Fopling: Good girl. Come let me lock you up in you room till I return. And be sure you do not come within three strides of the window while I am gone. I have posted a spy in the street.
Margarita: Oh, bud, I’ll have nothing to eat.
Fopling: Go. (Exit Margarita) It’s best she thinks so. We must cheat women first or they’ll surely cheat on us. Fraud is justified in war and our wives are our most dangerous enemies. A handsome wife is like a frontier town. The greatest threat comes from treachery rather than open force. Now to deceive Horner with this piece of false intelligence. Since all within is sealed, let’s make the sinner yield! (Holds up letter. Exit)
Horner: Have you tried looking for her back in Sweden? She may have gone home for some reason.
Rodney: Sweden. Oh yes, of course. That was the first place we looked. Her family has heard nothing of her. They are worried sick of course.
Horner: I thought she was an orphan?
Rodney: Did I say family? I meant all her friends, naturally. Her social circle. We talked to the lawyers too.
Horner: I see. How’s old Jasper taking it?
Rodney: Quite honestly I’ve been non grata in his house since all this happened. I believed we would sort of pull together in the emergency. He would lean on me for support and that sort of thing. I suppose that hasn’t happened. But enough of my problems. How are your schemes coming along? Fopling sees through you completely and you’ve still managed to bag his protégéé.
Horner: Not much to brag about since she’ll have sex with anything that moves just about now.
Rodney: Indeed? Well, you can’t have had much success beyond her since only a complete fool would believe you are sick.
Horner: I doubt whether you would believe in the goddess of chastity.
Rodney: Diana Sparks? That would be a coup since honor is forever on her lips.
Horner: Rodney, Rodney, bigots in honor are just like religious bigots. They fear the censure of the world far more than the eye of heaven. Their greatest pleasure is denouncing vice and their one unforgiveable sin is causing scandal. They condemn the odd mistress all the while keeping a little for themselves on the side. Drink and sex, Rodney, drink and sex. Women of honor want it as much as anyone else.
Rodney: Kiss and tell, Jack, Kiss and tell. If what you say about Diana is true, I’m sure she would be delighted in your broadcasting the information.
Horner: Mistresses are like books. Too much reading makes Jack a dull boy. But taken with discretion both serve to tone your conversation.
Rodney: A mistress is like a vacation home. You don’t live there all the time, but one night and away better to prepare for the rigors of city living.
Horner: Pardonnez-moi, young Rodney, but I expect at least one wife for a secret rendezvous any minute now.
Rodney: You can’t expect me to believe that.
Horner: Stay if you will to satisfy your curiosity, but you’ll have to hide behind this arras like Polonius.
Rodney: This isn’t a play, but it could turn out to be a tragedy. If you speak the truth, Jack, I’ll never doubt you again.
Horner: But don’t make any noise or you’ll scare her away.
(Enter Sarah Pinchwife)
Sarah Pinchwife: I must have as much honor as Diana, Mr. Horner, since I’m so punctual.
Horner: I’ll match your punctuality with honorable treatment, Sarah. Please just step into the next room.
Sarah Pinchwife: Are you trying to hide me for some reason? Whom do you expect?
Horner: Don’t be absurd. It is much more likely that I should be trying to hide someone from you. A second mistress seems to be out of the question.
Sarah Pinchwife: Tell me honestly, Jack. Are you having sex with anyone else?
Horner: I suppose if I don’t have the virus already such behavior would give it to me.
Sarah Pinchwife: And me. But you know whom I’m talking about. Why are you always sneaking off with that Diana?
Horner: The goddess of chastity?
Sarah Pinchwife: The joke is old, Mr. Horner, and completely inappropriate. She’s as promiscuous as anyone we know. Why she’s probably personal tutor to her dimwit sister-in-law.
Horner: If you mean little Margarita, we could all learn something from her. Her sexuality is both natural and contrived, both an uncontrolled freedom and a product of art. Margarita, I assure you, spends much time contemplating her promiscuity, though she may not do so in a language that you or I would choose. But, my Sarah, jealousy is unbecoming in one as lighthearted as yourself. You cannot collect men the way you do and then expect all of them to want only you. Personal involvement is the cardinal sin for a spy even in the house of love.
Sarah Pinchwife: You seem to regard me as a sort of Machiavellian prince interested only in the score. I want to be happy, Jack, and happiness in love means being appreciated.
Sarah Pinchwife: Maybe. (Embracing him) Lack of appreciation is how I came to hate my husband.
(Enter Barnaby Pinchwife)
Barnaby Pinchwife: How now?
Sarah Pinchwife: (Aside) Discovered! If this arouses his suspicion Jack and I may never have an excuse to be alone together. (Aloud) Mr. Pinchwife, I didn’t expect you. Do you realize Jack here is ticklish. He can’t control himself. (Aside to Pinchwife) He needs some cheering up, husband. He’s in a near state of depression. (Aloud) Come, let’s tickle him together.
Barnaby Pinchwife: No, dear Sarah, you are clearly an expert at tickling and can succeed much better without me. But is this what you call buying china? I thought you were on your way to Brentwood’s?
Horner: (Aside) Brentwood’s, there’s my cue. (Aloud) Listen, Barnaby, I agreed to be friends with your wife and her crowd, but I’m not her duenna. I wish you would save me from squiring her all about town as if I were some eunuch just good for fending off the young bucks. I am ill and it was women who made me ill. I owe them nothing. Above all I will not impersonate a mincing fruitcake just to protect your chattel.
Barnaby Pinchwife: (Aside) The poor fool has a point. There is very little joy in bouncing around another man’s woman like a dog on a leash. (Aloud) Don’t be angry, Jack. Ha ha!
Sarah Pinchwife: (Aside) Saved, at least momentarily. (Aloud) Angry? Why I should be the one who is angry. Is this your idea of a gentleman, Mr. Pinchwife? Are you men polite to women only when you want sex? First you insist that I come alone to fetch this ill-bred castrato.
Barnaby Pinchwife: What has he done that you call him ill bred?
Sarah Pinchwife: Nothing. That is precisely my point.
Barnaby Pinchwife: Why is it ill-bred to do nothing?
Sarah Pinchwife: Don’t make me laugh. This unmannerly toad would not even answer the door. I had to let myself in. It was either that or go china shopping without him which would have ruined my outing since he’s quite the connoisseur in china. Why, he has an excellent collection of his own, which he won’t even let me into see since he thinks I’ll try to wheedle some out of him. Why, I have half a mind to go in and look for myself. I’ll get what I came for yet, Jack.
(Exit Sarah Pinchwife. Locks door)
Horner: (Aside at door) Lock the door. (Aloud) Oh, the impertinency of women. Barnaby, why did I ever agree to be a companion to this wife of yours? Now she acts as if she lived here, locking me out of my own room. If she comes here again, I shall revenge myself on her, I swear.
Barnaby Pinchwife: (Aside) Ha ha! You know I was half jealous when I came in here and found Sarah’s arms around this creature. But now I am content.
Horner: (Aside) Laugh away. Contented and ignorant has definite advantages over wise and unhappy. (Aloud) What, now she is throwing my things about and rifling everything I have. But I shall show her. I’ll get into her the back way and so rifle her for it.
Barnaby Pinchwife: Poor Horner.
Horner: Wait here. I’ll bet she’s never had a man get into her through the rear before.
(Exit Horner at the other door)
Barnaby Pinchwife: Did you hear that, wife? He’s going to get into you through the back way!
Sarah Pinchwife: (Through door) Let him come any way he will. He’s welcome to it.
Barnaby Pinchwife: He’s going to use you roughly. He’s too strong for you.
Sarah Pinchwife: Oh my god, he is come in through the back way! Mr. Horner, calm yourself. I shall never let anyone in the front way again!
Rodney: (Behind arras) If I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes I would never have believed it.
Diana: Where is this toad, this ugly greasy, dirty sloven. So he’s a woman hater? I think he’s been hating a few too many women.
Barnaby Pinchwife: (Aside) I cannot understand why they now persistently call him ugly. He’s not so bad looking. Why just the other day Sarah was saying what a handsome man he was. Women are indeed difficult to understand. (Aloud) If you are referring to Jack Horner, he is inside the library with my wife. He came in to her by the back way.
Diana: The back way? The odious beast!
Sarah Pinchwife: Oh, Jack!
Barnaby Pinchwife: Don’t worry, Sarah’s just having a little fun with him.
Diana: Is that your idea of fun?
Sarah Pinchwife: Pork me again! Pork me again!
Diana: What was that?
Barnaby Pinchwife: I believe she said porcelain, porcelain. They are examining the china, you know. Sarah’s a great porcelain lover.
Diana: What, the door’s locked! We can’t get in.
Barnaby Pinchwife: Yes, my wife locked it.
Diana: Well, let’s break it down!
Barnaby Pinchwife: Why are you so excited? Jack won’t hurt her.
Diana: Not at all. I’m getting in there one way or another.
(Exit Diana. Enter Ricardo)
Ricardo: Why is Jack not answering the door. I took the liberty of letting myself in.
Rodney: (Behind arras) Ricardo too? Jack, da man!
Barnaby Pinchwife: You. What are you doing here?
Ricardo: I might ask the same thing of you. But I heard Rodney Fidget was here. I came to tell him that Heidi has been found.
Rodney: What? (Enter Diana)
Diana: I can’t find a way to break in on them. Oh Ricardo, you are just the man I need. Tell me what it’s like to be entered upon by the back way?
Ricardo: Excuse me?
(Enter Sarah Pinchwife with a piece of china in her hand, and Horner following)
Sarah Pinchwife: It was tremendous effort, but I finally got the creamer I’d been wanting. I do so love Jack’s pretty porcelain.
Horner: Barnaby, your wife drives a hard bargain. I’m thoroughly exhausted. She’s been so hard on me I can’t be hard for her at all.
Diana: But Jack, Jack I want some china too. You can’t give other people china and none to me. Oh do come in with me.
Horner: But I have no china left now.
Diana: I have never known you to deny your china to anyone else before. Oh do come. I was so counting on it.
Barnaby Pinchwife: Nonsense, Jack you’ve probably got plenty of china in there.
Horner: Oh no, this lady had the last.
Sarah Pinchwife: I can assure you, madam, I know from personal experience. He has not a drop of china left.
Diana: You shan’t put me off so easily. Maybe he has some china you could not find.
Sarah Pinchwife: Don’t you think if he had the slightest bit left I wouldn’t have ferreted it out? I’ve learned a few good business principles from Mr. Pinchwife and the first is you can never have too much china.
Horner: Don’t you think it takes time to gather enough china for you all? But don’t worry. I shall have an excellent creamer for you next time.
Diana: Thank you, dear toad.
Sarah Pinchwife: What is that supposed to mean?
Horner: (Aside) Do not bother yourself. She understood everything literally. You know what a collector Diana is.
Ricardo: Poor Jack is quite hard put to please you all.
Horner: I told you, they use me terribly, Ricardo.
Ricardo: I guess I feel sorry for you.
Horner: You are the first to feel sorry for me. Still, the ladies won’t leave me alone.
Diana: Come, beast, if we’re not shopping for china, at least let’s go out to dinner.
Sarah Pinchwife: Let’s.
Diana: Who invited you? I’ll lead you, Jack. That way I can be sure of you.
Barnaby Pinchwife: See how she tugs at him. Give her a kiss, Jack. That’s the good fellow. I can tell you from personal experience, that’s the best way to keep them quiet.
Horner: Except the remedy is worse than the torment. I would do anything rather than have to kiss them.
Barnaby Pinchwife: Go on, kiss them both, and I’ll let you have that little miniature of Sarah you’ve been so admiring.
Horner: Well, only that can convince me. A woman is just a woman, but art might fetch a good price. (Kisses Diana)
Diana: Get off me, you filthy toad. I’m through with the jokes.
Horner: You see how they jostle me, Ricardo. (Kisses Sarah Pinchwife)
Sarah Pinchwife: Enough! I am a married woman.
Diana: A kiss of his….
Barnaby Pinchwife: Is no more dangerous than one from my spaniel.
Diana: Nor any more tasty.
Sarah Pinchwife: Certainly of no more value.
Rodney: Now I will believe anything he tells me.
Rodney: Maybe Fopling’s here to demand that Jack remain faithful to his fiancée.
Horner: To what do I owe the honor of this visit, my dear, dear friend.
Fopling: To your monumental impertinency. And please do not refer to me as your friend.
Sarah Pinchwife: I’m surprised you’re not sitting in front of your door with a shotgun. Who knows what Margarita may be up to at this very moment?
Fopling: Out everyone! I have private business with this man.
Diana: Fopling, you’re beside yourself.
Fopling: Did you hear me?
Ricardo: Mr. Jack, have you seen Rodney?
Horner: Oh, me? Oh, not at all.
Ricardo: Then I shall take my leave. (Exit Ricardo)
Fopling: That leaves three of you.
Barnaby Pinchwife: Why don’t we run along, ladies. Whatever Fopling is about, he wants to be alone with Jack.
Diana: Fopling, you are being strange.
Sarah Pinchwife: How can you tell the difference?
Horner: Fopling, Fopling, you handsome devils are all alike. You land a beautiful trophy wife and you think you can regard the rest of us poor louts like amorous deadbeats. You burst in upon me like a creditor in the marketplace of love.
Fopling: Don’t treat me like a fool, Horner. I am not a fool and I can be dangerous.
Horner: Jealousy, Fopling, is one part lost love and two parts bruised ego. We have a greater fear of the ridicule involved in dishonor than the dishonor itself. Now, how long have we known each other?
Fopling: Too long.
Horner: Wouldn’t I give everything I have for you even now? Wouldn’t I fight your battles? Attack your enemies? Support your needs?
Fopling: I must admit you have a strange sort of loyalty.
Horner: Then why such hostility? Come, give me a big manly embrace.
Fopling: Let go of me! You’ve been embracing too many members of my family already.
Horner: I knew it! Marriage does such damage to a man. You can’t raise a single subject without it immediately turning back to the little woman. Prithee, Fopling, forget the fiancée. Come with me and let’s go drinking like the old days.
Fopling: Very kind. You’re patronizing me as if you were already safely ensconced in Margarita’s pants. Well, let me tell you, I’ll be no cuckold. I’ll reciprocate your kindness. I was thoughtful enough to bring you this. Take a look (Gives him letter)
Horner: What’s this?
Fopling: Just a love letter.
Horner: From whom? Oh, lookee here, it’s from the wife! (Reads) Aha! Hmmm.
Fopling: Quite right. From my wife, or, what is even more sacred, my wife to be. Haven’t I been wonderfully kind to deliver it to you? (Aside) She’s not such a simpleton as you think.
Horner: (Aside) Whose trick is this, his or hers?
Fopling: The gentleman’s surprised. You expected something a bit friendlier I assume?
Horner: Not at all. How could I?
Fopling: I should assume a handsome fellow like you is naturally disappointed when a woman doesn’t declare undying passion at first sight?
Horner: (Aside) I am thoroughly confused. Wait, there’s a postscript. (Reads) “Please continue to love me whatever my husband says. And don’t let him see this letter or when he comes home he might pinch me or kill my squirrel.” Her squirrel? Strange girl. Well, he doesn’t seem to know what’s in the letter.
Fopling: Come, come, don’t look so surprised.
Horner: I…I can’t help myself.
Fopling: Haven’t I shown myself to be a true friend and a kind husband, bearing a letter from my own wife to her illicit lover?
Horner: If you say so, Fopling, you are the kindest friend and the most obliging husband I believe I have ever met, ha, ha!
Fopling: Laugh you may, sir, but I tell you my honor will suffer no jesting.
Horner: What does that mean?
Fopling: Do you want me to footnote her letter? Let me tell you I have been so kind and courteous a husband as to bring you a letter from my fiancée, to let you kiss and fondle her and rip off her clothing. But I will not be a cuckold, I will not!
Horner: Fopling, you’ve become crazy with jealousy. I have never even seen your wife except for last night and that was simply in the context of trying to prepare her to impersonate that Swedish actress for Fidget’s sake. How could you believe I’m after her. I hardly touched her.
Fopling: I will not be a cuckold, do you hear me. There is danger in making me a cuckold.
Horner: Why? You did get your shots I hope.
Fopling: I have a pistol.
Horner: Someone should take it away from you so you don’t harm yourself. You’ve gone mad, man
Fopling: Never mind my state of mind. I must have a commitment from you before I leave. Even though you kissed and fondled my fiancée last night as she says in her letter…
Fopling: …both she and I insist that you cease and desist. For you have mistaken your woman as well as your man.
Horner: (Aside) He doesn’t seem to know she had hold of my penis.
Fopling: And the comments you made about seeing her at Gordon’s…
Horner: So that was she at Gordon’s. Fopling, you must forgive me for being freer with your wife than you would have liked. I was under the impression you yourself were having a little something on the side. I drew the inappropriate conclusion that yours was a sort of open marriage.
Fopling: It is closed to you.
Horner: Otherwise I would never have made love to her in front of you.
Fopling: I would much prefer you did it in front of me rather than behind my back, and that you will never do.
Horner: No, you will prevent me.
Fopling: Even if I wouldn’t prevent you, you can read her true sentiments in her letter.
Horner: You are right. As a gentleman I must acquiesce to her wishes.
Fopling: I assure you the letter was her idea. When I learned of her outrage I merely volunteered to deliver the letter.
Horner: I believe you.
Fopling: Well believe her also, for she’s an innocent creature who has not a deceptive bone in her body. I trust I may leave now.
Horner: Just one thing, Fopling. Tell your fiancée that I will obey her letter to the letter. I will satisfy her desires whatever obstacles I need to overcome and you…
Fopling: You needn’t natter on, Horner. You may play with any man’s honor except mine, swive any man’s wife except my own…
Fopling: Fuck! (Exit)
Horner: Ha, ha, ha, Rodney!
Rodney: I’ve got to hand it to you, Jack old boy.
Horner: Hand it to me? Look at this. (Hands him letter)
Rodney: (Reads) Hm – Yes. You mean Fopling didn’t know what was in this letter?
Horner: You heard him. He thought it was something else entirely. She must have switched letters on him
Rodney: Margarita’s no real surprise. She’s probably fingering her anal beads at this moment. But Diana! Now, Jack, there’s a head on the wall for you.
Horner: And for a few others, also, I’m sure. You know, it is possible to find women who have never been unfaithful, but it is nearly impossible to find a woman who has been unfaithful just once.
Rodney: The first time it’s the man a woman loves. After that she just enjoys being in love. But Fopling is clearly already a cuckold in spirit if not in fact. He’s an original, but I guess every man has his own unique way of being betrayed. And as far as you are concerned, I don’t think I need to hand it to you. You don’t need a hand, certainly not your own since you have so many women.
Horner: Very witty. But didn’t you hear Ricardo?
Rodney: Oh yes, Heidi’s back! I forgot. I must find out what this is all about.
Horner: May I tag along?
Rodney: Of course. (Exeunt)
Sarah Pinchwife sola
Sarah Pinchwife: So he’s having on with Diana Sparks too. I guess I can bear it. I guess I must. At a certain age diplomacy replaces temper. Therefore I must tread lightly in these one or two years remaining when men still notice me. If they don’t annoy you one way, they do it in another. The young and attractive must fight them off like biting flies. The older must learn to live with being invisible. The moment of change comes sometime in the night between the first amusing gray hair and the final loosening of the jowls, between, rather, the second martini and the third child. It is remarkable and evanescent, for at an instant you do not notice you cease to be noticed.
Women too have their ages. The infant’s body is one with all others. She relishes the glorious continuity of flesh. The adolescent, reveling in her new self, seeks to expose all her flesh to the admiration of all, flirting with bodily contact. But the newlywed betrays her youthful sexuality for the promised happiness of a certain future. She learns to believe the lie of one love. The mother’s body, ravaged and torn by ingress and egress, finds her promised happiness in tending the herd. In middle age she takes revenge on newly indifferent malehood by purging herself of sex. Ignored, she too will ignore. The matron’s body is withered and embittered like an untended flower. She denies all, censors all in glorious and fruitless battle with youth. The finale is resignation and forgetfulness. The pleasure she maliciously sought to suppress is irrevocably lost. And so she dies.
Margarita: It must be that I have the disease called love. For one thing I am sick of my husband and for another I am in pain for my lover. This is truly a curious city disease, not like anything I caught in the country. For when I think of my husband I tremble and am in a cold sweat and I have inclinations to vomit. But when I think of dear, dear Mister Horner I fall into a hot fit and am overcome with fever. It must be some sort of flu because, as with other flu’s I cannot stand my little room and need to be removed. Perhaps to Mister Horner’s. Then I would get well again. Well, I will not stay here and so I will not. Let me finish my new letter to Mr. Horner which will be much finer than my other because I have studied it like anything. Oh, sick, sick!
(Enter Fopling. Snatches letter from behind)
Fopling: So, writing more letters I see.
Margarita: Oh Lord, bud, you frightened me.
(She offers to run out. He stops her and reads)
Fopling: Why such a rush, little Margery? What’s this? “Dear, dear, dear Mr. Horner,” – Aha! I would have thought one “dear” would have been sufficient, but who am I to speak? I suppose if one wants to reinforce a point – “please excuse me for my boldness in writing to you” - It was I, after all, who taught you to write letters. Oh, hasty folly! – “but I would not have done so had you not informed me you loved me so extremely, and if you do you will never suffer me to lie in the arms of another man whom I loathe, nauseate and detest.” – “Loathe, nauseate, detest” Where did she learn these filthy words? – “Therefore I trust you will find a way to free me from this unfortunate match, which was never my choice but forced upon me, but which, I greatly fear is already too far gone. So if you truly love me, as I do you, then you will find some solution. But you must act quickly or else, alas, I shall ever be out of your reach, for I cannot defer much longer our…” –“Our” What is meant to follow “our” Have you lost the power of speech? I suppose you mean our marriage.
Oh woman, damned woman, damned women and womankind! And damn love too and females and every hot little itch she feels between her legs when a new man comes along. Love is the miracle drug and the faith healer of our century. It makes the blind see and the healthy blind. It strikes dumb the eloquent and makes the dumb prattle. But the very worst, the unforgivable sin is it gives some semblance of brains to these dough-baked, senseless, indocile animals, women, so that they may find ever new subterfuges to defy us, their politic lords and rulers.
But go ahead finish your letter and then I shall finish you off thus! (Pulls out pen knife)
Margarita: Oh Lord, baby, you are such a passionate man!
Diana: What’s this? I cannot believe you might hurt that poor child. Fopling, put away that knife and I’ll pretend I didn’t see a thing. There, there, poor dear. Fopling will not lay a hand on you while I’m here.
Fopling: Why should I even let you in my house? She’s been trying to ingratiate herself with that Horner and I mean to cut her short at once.
Diana: Nonsense! Jack has been more than a little busy lately. I can swear to it. I’ve seen him almost constantly with Sarah Pinchwife since the Swedish Ambassador mess. I can assure you, Margarita does not even cross his mind.
Margarita: That’s not true!
Fopling: Well, we will make sure of that by restricting her movements. Get in your room, trull, or you’ll have to face this. (Shows knife)
Margarita: Please, bud, not again! (Exit)
Diana: My how you are shy of your wife. You are so terrified she will betray you even before she slips on the ring that you would prefer a dead bride to an unfaithful one. Let me tell you, brother, unfaithfulness is patented with fear. If cuckoldry as you call it is the direst of fates, then quarantine will solve nothing, for like other plagues the victims seem to succumb if they are so inclined even when sequestered. If your wife’s immunity is so low nothing you do will save her from the sin of sex. She’ll have it sooner or later.
Fopling: I did not solicit your advice, but I acknowledge you an expert in these matters. It has not escaped my notice that you seem to be spending excessive time with Horner and his other concubines. I hope you succeed in your quest or at least beat Margarita to her goal. For if she slips out, I’ll exact my toll! [Next]