tcw1

[Act II] [Act III] [Act IV] [Act V]

The Country Wife

Copyright © 2001 Willis Domingo

The Persons

Jack Horner

Barnaby Pinchwife

Sarah Pinchwife

Fopling Fopling

Margarita McGurgle

Diana Fopling

Peter Little

Venus Little

Jasper Fidget

Rodney Fidget

Elizabeth Jackson/Heidi Spitzenbuben

Physician

(Place the action wherever you wish: the court of Louis XIV, Restoration England, the present day)

 

Act I

Scene I

Horner solus. 

Horner:  What pains we with these petty times devour. No more should we enjoy to bear the waste and low indulgence, the lush putrid pleasures that wear our scabby hearts. I cannot breathe the air it is so fat with overstimulated glands. Men betray their wives - That is to be expected - but now the most abandoned abandon also a mistress for an even cheaper stale. Still the women, the women have adopted the habits of their men. They wander the night, where they never dared go before, seeking the demon adventure. Their very vaginas grow plump and purple with constant irritation. Age does not leaven their frenzy or squandered beauty distemper their squalid ways, for some hags have adopted the male habit of paying for their pleasure.

            Yet one man such as myself cannot battle the tide. Alone I am helpless against the common will. Therefore I have determined not to forfeit my share of the spoils lest one day I find myself aged, unloved and without the pleasure others have claimed. I too shall worship indulgence and accumulate mistresses in great schools like little fish.

I have hit upon a strategem to access the female in these times when competition is so keen our greatest fear is a rival’s elbow in the eye. I have let it get abroad, through my lecherous toad of a physician, that I am virally positive and therefore unfit and unable for sexual union. Now I am an object of pity and disguised contempt. The most suspicious husbands welcome me into their homes and the private company of their wives. Once intimate in the female household, I may throw off the disguise of mortal illness and enjoy the sex as I will.

            You may call me Jack, not because that is my name, but because characters like myself are often called Jack. You would hardly expect a Herbert or a Harry to be much of a seducer.

             Jeeves! My cloak! (Exit.)

Scene II

Barnaby Pinchwife. Peter Little.

Barnaby Pinchwife: You wish me to believe that Horner has caught the virus?

Peter Little: The town, or at least those who count, is awash with the news. Jack’s doctor, whom he swore to secrecy, let it slip to Jennifer Anderson in his anxiety to get in her pants, and once old Anderson pried it out of her, poor Jack’s obituary might as well have been published.

Barnaby Pinchwife: This is the sort of low trick Horner could easily concoct, though for God knows what reason. And the reports sound authentic.

Peter Little: The ladies say they can see the marks beginning to appear on his face.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Rotten luck. But I suppose if he didn’t go this way, something else would have got him. So there’s no harm in showing him some commiseration.  We can unlock the doors to the women’s prison.

Peter Little: We have a shadow of a man on our hands and you propose to treat him like one of the old boys, a superannuated stallion we allow to run and feed and whinny with the mares though he can do precious little else 

Barnaby Pinchwife: Yes, he’ll be perfect for running Sarah’s errands.

Peter Little: He’ll be an excellent eunuch. The one trustworthy man in all society.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Is that true? 

Peter Little: Old Anderson swears the doctor carefully examined his once mighty engine.

Barnaby Pinchwife: And?

Peter Little: Though used to conquest it has shrivelled to a nub of sores like a burst plum. Electric shocks couldn’t get it to stand up. He’s a man unhung.

Barnaby Pinchwife: I wonder if it’s safe to be around this creature?

Peter Little: As long as you don’t taste of his semen or swear to blood brotherhood.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Hardly likely. You’re an encyclopedia of the virus, Little.

(Enter Fopling Fopling.)

Fopling: Have you heard the news about Horner?

Barnaby Pinchwife: Beat you to it.

Peter Little: The whole town’s awash.

Fopling: Well, what are we to do?

Barnaby Pinchwife: I for one have discovered an excellent companion for my wife while I’m off pursuing my financial interests.

Peter Little: Financial, you say?

Fopling: Is he out of circulation?

Barnaby Pinchwife: As out as complete indifference to propagation can make a man. Or do we speak of a man?

Peter Little: I may be Peter Little but Jack’s become our own Little Peter, so little and so petered out is his engine it might as well be Paul. It’s appalling.

Fopling: He no longer functions?

Barnaby Pinchwife: Horner’s peter is no longer stone, but mush.

Peter Little: Or a stewed prune.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Rather two burst prunes and a day old sausage that hangs between his legs.

Peter Little: Once virile, once threatening, no longer.

Fopling: But the poor fellow’s got a death sentence.

Barnaby Pinchwife: So have we all.  Listen, Fopling, we can’t reverse what’s been done. Horner’s going to expire peacefully in the arms of his family, a much better fate than most men could hope for. Meanwhile, are you so sorry that the man who devirgined Clarissa McNamara on the very night you first had her for dinner, that this man will no longer snatch women away from you?

Fopling: The abomination!

Peter Little: Dying’s a misery, but…

Fopling: That’s one less we have to worry about. Ha, ha! Good riddance, poor fellow.

(Enter Sarah Pinchwife and Venus Little.)

Sarah Pinchwife: It appears the gentlemen enjoy belittling one of their own.

Venus Little: When it comes to the sexes men are not natural allies. For them it is the war of all against all.

Sarah Pinchwife: Is it true young Horner is gracing our gathering this evening?

Barnaby Pinchwife: He arrives even as we talk and I trust you ladies will show proper respect for his condition. Indeed I expect you never to leave his side the entire night.

Sarah Pinchwife: The entire night nursing an invalid? I’m sorry I have my own game to pursue.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Precisely, and that is why you will stick to Mr. Horner like honey to toast.

Sarah Pinchwife: So that you may run off and add to your harem? I don’t think so.

Venus Little: My mind and body are intimately in tune with Miss Sarah’s.

Sarah Pinchwife: Keep that less than a man from our presence.

Venus Little: We want the real thing!

Barnaby Pinchwife: Woman, you may not speak like that.

Sarah Pinchwife: What will you do, withhold sex? 

Venus Little: I understand you expect Ricardo tonight.

Sarah Pinchwife: The actor? Oh, don’t pursue actors. At the very least Jack Horner earned his fate. Actors are born moldy.

(Enter Horner.)

Peter Little: My dear Jack!

Barnaby Pinchwife: We have heard the distressing news.

Fopling: I am speechless with grief.

Horner: Gentlemen!

Fopling: Let me help you to a chair.

Horner: Do I not appear myself?

Barnaby Pinchwife: You look, how shall I say?

Peter Little: Petered out!

Barnaby Pinchwife: Ladies, do not withdraw. This man is your friend.

Sarah Pinchwife: I am sorry, I must see to dinner. (Exit)

Venus Little: Oh no, you can’t have Ricardo to yourself! (Exit)

Barnaby Pinchwife: Woman, you will do what I say! (Exit)

Peter Little: Loose tart! (Exit)

Fopling: Well, well, indeed. Let me see if I can patch up our young lovers. (Exit)

(Horner solus)

Horner: The first crisis in my campaign is at hand. Can I take these women tonight? Before today I could never have a private interview with either, so tightly are they guarded by their husbands. But now witness the enthusiasm with which the men hurl them at me. Sarah is athletic and trim and, of course fully bosomed, while little Venus I suspect is as tight as a sprung mousetrap. Avaunt! Both together violated before the coffee!

Scene III

Barnaby Pinchwife. Sarah Pinchwife. Venus Little

Barnaby Pinchwife: Listen, baggage!

Sarah Pinchwife: Baggage? I don’t think I’ve heard that term in at least two centuries. Excuse me, Mr. Pinchwife, my time is precious. I must get what value I may from the days I have left. And that means the company of real men.

Venus Little: Yes, do you expect us to keep bedside vigils, empty his bedpan, swab oozing pustules and what not? There are nurses for that.

Barnaby Pinchwife: But Horner is still up and about. He is the picture of health, despite the loss of one or two functions, ha ha! Once you begged to keep him company.

Sarah Pinchwife: And for the same reason you then forbade us access. Now you shove us upon the miserable creature.

(Enter Peter Little)

Venus Little: Husband, save us from this fate.

Peter Little: I see no reason why you shouldn’t keep Mr. Horner company in your mercy. As little as a month ago we could not keep you away from him!

Venus Little: He was a man then.

Sarah Pinchwife: His company now would make us social lepers.

(Enter Guests)

1st Guest: Hello, Sarah.

2nd Guest: What ho, Pinchwife!

Barnaby Pinchwife: Excellent, welcome, come in everyone. You know where the drinks are.

Sarah Pinchwife: How do you do, glad you could make it.

1st Guest: Lovely place. Haven’t seen you in months.

2nd Guest: I’ll bet you have a great spread as usual.

Sarah Pinchwife: Oh, I just threw something together. If you get drunk enough you won’t notice the difference.

1st Guest: I think I’ll help myself to the old W and splash.

Sarah Pinchwife: We thought we’d just have a relaxing evening.

3rd Guest: Oh, relaxing is something I never do. I remember my first teacher, Mrs. McDonald. She relaxed once and hardly did a thing the rest of her life. The administration was forced to hire assistants to write on the chalkboard for her.

Sarah Pinchwife: Then you are permitted to remain tense all evening. Our home is open to your depradations as long as you avoid your husband.

(Enter Ricardo)

Barnaby Pinchwife: Good evening, sir. You may pick up the drink tray now.

Ricardo: Excuse me?

Sarah Pinchwife: Don’t mind him, Ricardo. You are most welcome.

Venus Little: Most!

Ricardo: Good evening to everybody.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Oh Ricardo, I forgot my wife invited you without consulting me. I didn’t recognize you. It’s so hard nowadays to distinguish the guests from the wait staff.

Sarah Pinchwife: Ignore the leper, Ricardo. He would sell his soul to look like you.

Venus Little: He’s already spent a fortune trying.

Sarah Pinchwife: The new hair is at least five figures.

Venus Little: And his smooth skin is worth a summer house.

Sarah Pinchwife: Not to mention the girdle.

Barnaby Pinchwife: I wear no girdle!

Ricardo: Mr. Barnaby, ha ha! I understand you are a great joker.

Sarah Pinchwife: “Joker” is exactly the term I would use, Ricardo. But come and sit. You must tell us about your new role.

Venus Little: Especially the nude scene!

(Enter Heidi)

Ricardo: May I introduce Miss Heidi Spitzenbuben. She is our new discovery. She plays opposite me as an orphan abandoned to the lusts of men.

Peter Little: Poor thing.

Ricardo: Her performance is immaculate.

Sarah Pinchwife: I’m glad something about her is clean.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Most welcome. Unexpected but welcome. (Clears throat)

Sarah Pinchwife: What was that noise?

Venus Little: Your husband gulped, or more properly gurgled. I suspect his juices are flowing.

Sarah Pinchwife: Too much flowing and we’ll have to change the slipcovers again.

Venus Little: At least he’s juicy. Peter hasn’t produced a drop in years. All jerking no spurting.

Sarah Pinchwife: You are to attend to your guests and stay away from this woman.

Barnaby Pinchwife: She is a guest. (Aside) How am I to handle this? Keep my wife away from Ricardo and pursue Spitzenbuben at the same time. (To Peter Little) Do not let the women out of your sight.

Peter Little: And miss climbing the twin towers? I’ll send you a postcard when I get to the top. Miss Spitzbuben, have you seen the world renowned Pinchwife Edelweiss garden? (Exeunt Peter Little and Heidi).

Barnaby Pinchwife: Not a step without me! (Exit.)

Sarah Pinchwife: Mr. Pinchwife!

Venus Little: Let them go, Sarah, for heaven’s sake. Barnaby’s hair is sure to slip to the side sooner or later. Your man is simply doing what you intend to do yourself. How can you be jealous when you spend your life giving cause for jealousy? Meanwhile Ricardo is here. He has dark curly hair and cute little muscles in his chest. What’s more, he understands only half of what we say. Ricardo, come with us. We have much to learn from you.

1st Guest (Diana): You heard about Jack Horner, I suppose.

2nd Guest: He’s supposed to be here tonight. All the jealous husbands are ecstatic. They see him as going into retirement so he makes a perfect companion for their wives - harmless enough in himself and his presence is sufficient to keep other men away.  Pinchwife is beside himself. He looks like a suckling pig about to be roasted.

Diana: All he needs, I suppose, is the apple in his mouth.

2nd Guest: Oh, we’ll see that at dinner.

Diana: That poor man. I cannot understand why he stays with Sarah with her running around all over the place and whoring so. Of course, she makes a spectacle of herself and a laughingstock of her husband.

2nd Guest: Guess who started it? He drives himself into a frenzy over any woman in the world except his own wife. Barnaby deserves no pity.

Diana: I can’t keep his hands off me. I’m lucky my lacerations from his scabby claws are only minor. If I needed stitches he would have paid.

2nd Guest: I assume he’s had no luck at all.

Diana: I don’t see the point of making your husband miserable. If you want other men, leave him. I love my husband and would never do a thing to hurt him.

2nd Guest: You’re so respectable.

Diana: Not so much respectable as considerate. But I do want him and everyone else to think well of me. Who would want a reputation like Sarah Pinchwife and that bosom flaunting friend of hers?

2nd Guest: You mean Venus?

(Enter Horner and Fopling)

Horner: Well, Fopling, you’re looking married already, all slovenly and unkempt. When do you plan to celebrate your nuptials?

Fopling: In a month, but we are to be wed in the country near Margarita’s home.

Horner: What, you will not bring your bride to the city?

Fopling: My fiancée despises the city and all its ways. She was raised in pure air,

clean earth and a love of animals. Sin in all its forms abides in the city and she has determined to avoid the spectacle at all costs.

Jack: Lest she be tempted?

Horner: Hardly. She is repulsed by the by the prospect of so much filth and she would prefer to contemplate her nature and her god in solitude.

Horner: Well, she will be alone all right. But how convenient for you to have found such a perfect mate. She remains pure and in the country, straying no further than to milk the odd goat while you can mix with society at any time and fairly run riot with women and drink with not a suspicious eye within a hundred miles. Fopling, you’re a genius.

Fopling: (Aside) The weasel sees right through me. (To Horner) You are wrong, Horner. The young lady has taught me the errors of a life of pleasure, or as she would term it, a life of sin. I am a reformed man. Now I see society through her eyes for what it is: selfish and cold with no redeeming qualities. No, Horner, I am a changed man.

Horner: Can I believe my ears? You were my hero, Fopling, you old whoremaster. You taught me everything I know. You cannot say your summer with little Jennifer Anderson was anything other than sublime. Your description of her sweet hairless pussy rose to poetry. And every word of it was true. I verified the facts myself.

Fopling: That is sin, man.

Horner: Or when you drank so much scotch we made you wear a kilt. You stopped traffic from one end of Elysée to another when you insisted on twirling like a ballerina.

Fopling: Sin again!

Horner: Or when you snatched Venus Little away the night her husband thought she was visiting her mother? You see I know about that.

Fopling: How did you? But that’s sin again.

Horner: Then sin again, Finnegan.

Fopling: I am sorry, Horner. Those days are over. I am going to settle down now and devote my time to my…

Horner: What is her name?

Fopling: Margarita.

Horner: Ah! By the way why are you in town if you hate it here so?

Fopling: However much I want to I can’t ignore the Exchange. That is a primary obligation if I am to support my new wife. I must spend much more time here than I would like.

3rd Guest (Rodney): So you are finally getting married, Fopling. How old is she, anyway?

Fopling: If you want to know the truth, she is just two years shy of her majority.

Horner: So you have thirty years on her. Not bad.

Rodney: Isn’t she going to wear you out, Fopling?

Horner: Well, he’s had a lot of practice. By the way who was the young lady I saw you with at Gordon’s last Thursday? Isn’t it a bit rash to cheat on the woman and you’re not even married.

Fopling: I had no woman at Gordon’s.

Horner: I didn’t know your male friends had such terrific legs.

Fopling: I was not at Gordon’s at all. I was at my club.

Horner: I could have sworn you saluted me. Who else would take up so much room in a chair? (Aside) There’s more going on here than he’s letting on.

Fopling: (Aside) The little rat is on the trail. (To Horner) Believe me, Horner, you saw someone else. I would never deceive my Margarita. (Aside) That was good. (To Horner) The doorman at the club saw me. Ask him.

Horner: Don’t pop your cork, Fopling.  I believe you. I must have taken someone else for you.

Rodney: Maybe Ramsay.

Horner: Yes, Ramsay.  Gordon’s has become his headquarters.

Fopling: (Aside) They’re laughing at me.

Horner: (Aside) That girl was simply beautiful. I think I’ll pay Fopling a little social visit and see if I can meet her.

Fopling: (Aside) I must get Margarita away from this cesspool immediately.

Rodney: (Apart to Jack) Heard the news by the way. Bad luck, old fellow.

Horner: (Apart to Rodney) The news?

Rodney: Are you feeling any symptoms yet?

Horner: Oh, yes. Well, I’m just generally weak but there’s no pain.

Fopling: So it was Horner who gave the eye to Margarita at Gordon’s. I know I should never have let her convince me to leave home.

Rodney: Horner, you’re as fit as I am.

Horner: What do you mean?

Rodney: You’re not sick at all. Now what’s this all about?  Why the charade? You’re ruining yourself with the sex, you know?

Horner: Not at all. Now I’m closer to women than ever before. Husbands have nothing to fear. Don’t you see on the first report of my carriage, Pinchwife, that shrewd business mind, invites me to stay alone with his wife at his home, practically forces me on her, when before he would hardly say hello out of jealousy?

Fopling: I am sure of it. Horner’s not ill in the slightest. I don’t know what he’s up to, but he is not to see Margarita.

Rodney: But what’s the point of such an elaborate ruse? Where are you taking it, man?

Horner:  Listen, you ass, we must constantly reinvent.  Shy husbands are like old players. They are not to be cheated but by new and unpracticed tricks. False friendship has no more chance than loaded dice; no, not in the city.

Rodney: So you end up spending all your time with the husbands and the wives won’t come near you. There’s a plan for you.

Horner: See if you can follow me. The next step after abusing the husband is to disabuse the wife. Besides, this way I can get rid of whomever I want from my old boring crowd. The next best thing to getting a new woman is getting rid of an old one. It’s like debts. After awhile you don’t want to repay either one.

Rodney: But the risk you take…

Horner: Yes, the risk?

Rodney: Well, you might not have any women at all.

Horner: Ask any stock picker. What’s harder, finding value or investing in it? Everyone’s so polite nowadays that what appears to be flirtation turns out to be mere civility. Now I know if someone shows a sudden aversion to me then she’s a player. And those faithful wives? They’re just faithful to their reputations. What frightens them is scandal, not men. Now that I’m on my death bed I have all the privileges of a eunuch. I can be seen at all hours in my lady’s bedchamber, kiss a virgin in front of her uncle. In short I’m the passe-partout of the town.

Rodney: Jack, I confess I could never go down your road. Even if I thought deception acceptable, the consequences of being discovered appall me.

Horner: I don’t know, young Fidget. It takes a dishonest mind to uncover another’s ruse.

Fopling: I must make sure no one knows about Margarita.

Horner: (End asides) By the way, who’s the high fashion Valkyrie?

Rodney: You must mean Heidi. She’s actually a friend of mine. We met in Cannes and she followed me back.

Horner: I thought she was in some play.

Rodney: Quite right. That’s how I got her to come. Now I owe Ricardo.

Horner: If she were a boy, he would owe you. But may I meet her?

Rodney: Sure, if we can pry Pinchwife off her. Come hither. (Exeunt Horner and Rodney.)

Fopling: (Aside) (Recitativo Stromentato) This is all turning out exactly as I feared. I should never have let that little fool talk me into bringing her to the city. Now every sex fiend, drug pusher, would be producer, every porn hound in the city will be after her. And she would welcome it, invite them all into her home, give herself up to anyone’s company except my own. Yes, I see it in her eyes. What a fool I have been. The only reason she wanted to come to the city was to experience what she had missed. (Andante) Everything, everything had developed perfectly as I had wanted it. I alone could beat the game and have a faithful wife in my old age while living liberally on the side. If I found a new woman, how could she know? She lived in the country. If I had a few adventures, no one could tell her because she knew no one. She lived in the country. My greatest stroke of luck was when old McGurgle died and left me the girl’s guardian.  It was but a mere conceptual hop from there to make sure she lived in isolation, was educated at home and knew only me and a few servants. I made sure those fools told her nothing about the outside world. No television, no radio, no letters except from me. (Allegro) Then I made my misstep, bragging about my city life. Now that’s she’s here I know what will happen. First, she’ll meet all sorts of foolish women. They will insist on her going abroad with them. She will stay up all night and be tempted to try new things. Then someone will say she looks like a model and must photograph her. She will enjoy the men staring at her, touching her. Finally she will be like all the others, a worn out ragged whore, a jade, an addict, a liar. I can stand it no more. My brain is on fire!

Scene IV

Venus Little. Ricardo. Sarah Pinchwife.

Venus Little: And so, Ricardo, the first cleaning woman says to the second, “That’s the famous actor. He’s Signior Dildo” And the second cleaning woman replies “Not mine he ain’t” Ha ha!

Ricardo: But I do not understand. This joke is about Italians. I am from Spain.

Sarah Pinchwife: Don’t worry, Ricardo, Venus wants to you to see her dildo anyway.

(Enter Barnaby Pinchwife, Peter Little and Heidi Spitzenbuben.)

Barnaby Pinchwife: And so you see, Miss Spitzenbuben, what I always said turned out to be true: The first million is the hardest. Oh, you. What are you doing here?

Sarah Pinchwife: Pretty much the same as you, I suppose.

Barnaby  Pinchwife: Sarah, please come over here. (To Peter Little) See if you can locate Horner.

Peter Little: Righto! (Exit Peter Little.)

Sarah Pinchwife: Don’t you touch me!

Barnaby Pinchwife: I’m serious, woman. Horner has had a serious attack. He collapsed just now. You must make sure he is taken care of and call a doctor.

Sarah Pinchwife: And why can’t you? I’m busy.

Barnaby Pinchwife: I see. Please don’t argue with me. I can take care of the guests.

Sarah Pinchwife: There’s only one guest you’re really interested in taking care of. By the way, Barnaby, I’ve got news for you. Brunnhilde over there is engaged to be married.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Engaged?

Sarah Pinchwife: Not that that would ever stop you, but Ricardo informs us she is set to elope with old Jasper Fidget, Rodney Fidget’s uncle.

Barnaby Pinchwife: To be married? (Aside) Curses, as they say. Engagement is the hardest time. Women actually think they are in love then. (To Sarah Pinchwife) Wait, did you say to old Fidget?

Sarah Pinchwife: Yes, to old Jasper, the writer. I know what you’re thinking, but she probably sees something in him. Not to mention that he’s loaded and can probably get her some good roles. Actresses, my god, who ever said they were acceptable?

(Enter Peter Little and Horner.)

Horner: (Groan)

Barnaby Pinchwife: My dear fellow. Are you in much pain? Sarah here can see to you.

Horner: No, no women. They made me what I am, so now I will have none of them.

Sarah Pinchwife: You see, Mr. Pinchwife, he doesn’t want me.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Quiet, this is your moral duty. Horner, would you reject this angel of mercy?

Horner: I’ve never heard you call your wife an angel before.

Venus Little: More of a pagan goddess, I would say.

Sarah Pinchwife: Yes, the kind you sacrifice men to.

Venus Little: Cybele!

Sarah Pinchwife: No, not Cybele. She’s too fat.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Horner, It’s not like you to turn down the company of an attractive woman.

Horner: Women just served to keep me from better company. Now that’s all past and I can enjoy true friends all the more. Good fellowship and friendship are lasting, rational and manly pleasures.

Barnaby Pinchwife: (Aside) Perfect!

Horner: And when friendship wanes there is always drink. Where women enslave drink liberates. I intend to spend much of my remaining life devoted to the glorious manly pleasures of being very drunk and very slovenly.

Sarah Pinchwife: Oh, God!

Venus Little: Sarah, I am needed elsewhere.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Horner, as a favor to me, please entertain my wife.

Horner: Curious proposition. It is I who must entertain her even though my malady should oblige her to something as my hostess. Even in health, one would think she would feel obliged to make my visit a pleasant one. But as long as you put it that way, I guess even a dying man has his duties.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Good, that’s one side won. Sarah, Horner’s no less handsome than he’s always been.

Sarah Pinchwife: A hollow mask. He’s got the fate he deserves, treating women the way he did.

Barnaby Pinchwife: If this keeps up, I’m tempted to leave her with Ricardo. She’d make a good match for that sweaty Latin. Now, Sarah, quickly find out what’s bothering Horner before he passes out again.

Sarah Pinchwife: I’m sorry I must see to our guests. (Makes to leave.)

Horner: Mrs. Pinchwife.

Sarah Pinchwife: Yes?

Horner: I do have something I need to talk to you about.

Barnaby Pinchwife: You see?

(Enter Rodney Fidget)

Rodney: Oh sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. Heidi, Uncle Jasper is looking for you everywhere.

Sarah Pinchwife: He needs some Swedish lessons, Heidi.

Venus Little: More likely to measure him for a penis pump.

Sarah Pinchwife: It can double as an enema in case of emergency.

Venus Little: Or it might jump start his heart.

Rodney: Bye everyone. I’ll be back.

Heidi: Bye bye! (Exit Rodney and Heidi)

Horner: Mrs. Pinchwife, there is something I must tell you in private.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Perfect! Now I have a harmonious household.

Sarah Pinchwife: I keep no secrets from my friend Venus.

Horner: Of course, she may stay also.

Barnaby Pinchwife: What are you doing just standing there and gawking, Ricardo? Come along, you have autographs to sign. (Exeunt Barnaby Pinchwife, Peter Little, Ricardo.)

Sarah Pinchwife: What do you have to say that’s so important, little Jack Horner?

Horner: Strange, I’ve forgotten completely.

Scene V

Jasper Fidget. Rodney Fidget. Heidi Spitzenbuben.

Jasper: Well, Heidi, I see you’ve managed to shake off your pursuers.

Rodney: They’re like a pack of wolves, uncle.

Jasper: Fortunately, I’m the lead wolf.

Rodney: And you found your lamb.

Jasper: My lamb!

Heidi: Am I a little lamb to you, Mr. Jasper?

Jasper: Yes, all white and innocent.

Rodney: More tanned and innocent.

Jasper: Demanding protection. I want to protect you, Heidi.

Heidi: I want to be enfolded in your big arms, Mr. Jasper 

Jasper: Just Jasper is fine.

Rodney: He’s quite a Jasper all right.

Heidi: Jasper, you are so cute. I like your hair. It is so curly.

Rodney: What’s left of it.

Jasper: You cannot imagine how happy you’ve made me. Living alone all these years has given me a thirst for youth and beauty. I feel myself becoming younger and stronger already. You know you remind me of Faye. You have the same eyes.

Rodney: Faye was Jasper’s wife. 

Heidi: Faye Fidget?

Jasper: You know I was in fact engaged when we met. Thank God we hadn’t married yet. When Rodney first brought you into the room I could not believe what I saw. Was this a vision?

Rodney: Looks aren’t everything.

Jasper: I know that, you fool. But I should be grateful to you for introducing me to Heidi. She is so simple, so sweet. Heidi, let’s not wait a month. Let’s get married tomorrow. We don’t need a ceremony, not at my age. We can have a little reception later, after our honeymoon.

Rodney: Perfect!

Heidi: Jasper, you make me so happy. But I wanted a nice big wedding on my family estate. I can wait if you can.

Jasper: Don’t worry we’ll hold the reception there.

Rodney: And how many of our friends will fly to Sweden for a garden party? Uncle, I’ve helped Heidi sort out her inheritance. It’s enormous. Twenty lawyers in Stockholm alone are fighting off the inheritance taxes. I understand it’s best not to claim or use anything until all these issues are settled. Besides, the estate needs repair. You can’t visit quite yet.

Heidi: Vlaskarna! Oh yes, I grew up there. But it is cold and wet.

Jasper: Rodney administering your estate? Just make sure he doesn’t walk off with any of it. He’s been known to tuck the odd garden statue in his back pocket. Seriously, I’m glad to know you have money. That relieves my last suspicion. Now I know you don’t just covet my own wealth.

Rodney: I don’t think your earnings hold a candle to Heidi’s, uncle.

Heidi: And I am an orphan with no relatives!

Jasper: Well, you have family now, my poor Heidi. By the way what line of business is your family in?

Heidi: Oh, my grandfather was bartender.

Rodney: Ha ha! They are distillers, uncle. They ship their vodka to half of Europe.

Jasper: Vodka?

Rodney: Absolutely!

Jasper: As in Sheridan? Well, I’ll guess she fits in around here. Just announce that you’ve got a distillery full of vodka and even the women will flock around. (Groans.)

Rodney: What’s wrong, uncle?

Jasper: These late nights. I just can’t party like I used to.

Rodney: Let me take you home.

Jasper: Let go of me. I can still make my own way. I haven’t lost all motor function yet. Heidi, will you come with me?

Heidi: Oh, no! I must…

Jasper: You don’t want to come with me?

Heidi: Jasper, I must…

Jasper: Yes?

Rodney: I’m sure Heidi is having trouble with our English. Remember, uncle, she is here to promote Ricardo’s play. She can’t leave so early.

Jasper: I suppose I understand. You two stay here. I’ll find my own way to the door. I love you Heidi.

Heidi: And I love you, Jasper. A bientôt!

Jasper: I’ll call around to your hotel tomorrow and we’ll get the license. Rodney, you’ll witness?

Rodney: Of course, uncle.

Jasper: I suppose I’ll make my way now. (Exit Jasper Fidget.)

Scene VI

Heidi. Rodney.

Heidi: I can’t stand this.

Rodney: I can see that. Liz, you’ve got to be careful. Jasper might actually get it into his mind to go to Sweden – No, I suppose he’s too ill for that – But he might want to contact your supposed estate or something like that. For God’s sake, don’t invite him to Sweden.

Heidi (Elizabeth): That poor man. Rodney I love you and everything, but this is more stress than anyone can take. I can’t keep up this charade 24/7. I feel so sorry for him.

Rodney: Sorry? Don’t you see how happy you’re making him? If he dies in this illusion he will have had the sweetest life any man could hope for. Look on it as a favor to him.

Elizabeth: And to us, of course, since we need his money.

Rodney: Well, we’ve told everyone Heidi is an heiress. You know if we got married the way we are now, we’d be miserable. We would have to go off to stupid demeaning jobs and never see each other. We’d fill the house with kids and be so busy surviving we wouldn’t have a chance to enjoy life a little. One day we’d wake up and find we hadn’t moved an inch from where we’d started, except for being older and more quarrelsome with dogs, cats, rats and squalling brats surrounded.

Elizabeth: I guess money will change that.

Rodney: Money changes everything. Liz, let’s not argue.

Elizabeth: I guess it’s too late to turn back now. He’s not porking me!

Rodney: Haven’t you heard of headaches, Miss Manners? But honestly, do you really think he’s capable of sex at this stage? In any event, old men and young women should never appear too anxious for sex. The latter will seem cheap and the former absurd.

Elizabeth: Where is his cancer?

Rodney: Oh, everywhere. His prostate, his kidney, his liver. By the way, what was that crack about granddad being a bartender?

Elizabeth: It’s true. Old gramps thought it was an innovation to drink along with his customers. Killed him off though and it certainly cut into his profits.

Rodney: But not too many bartenders have estates in the Swedish wilderness, my dear. We can’t talk about the cancer. Jasper himself mostly never even admits that he’s sick. The fool is so scared of dying he didn’t get anything treated till it was too late. You probably won’t even have to share a bed with him.

Elizabeth: Oh God!

Rodney: Any day now he won’t want to leave his room. Then he’ll go to bed for the last time – That last walk you take across the room before you lie down must be terrible. You know it’s the last time. I suppose we’re lucky he’s got nurses. Heidi won’t have to clean his sheets.

Elizabeth: Rodney, what you’ve got us into this time is really stupid. If I didn’t love you so much, I would have walked a long time ago. How will he not see my real name on the marriage license? Have you figured that out? And if he marries Heidi Spitzenbuben I suppose the transaction will be void and you will lose your precious inheritance.

Rodney: The inheritance is mine to gain. He was going to will everything to your predecessor, Miss Martin, fiancée number one. You stepped in at the right moment and put an end to that.

Elizabeth: You haven’t answered my question.

Rodney: That part is simple. Just make sure he signs first. Then you sign “Elizabeth Jackson”. I will witness and hand it straight to the clerk. Lead Jasper over to a chair right away in case the clerk decides to say something to you. I’ll take care of the fees.

Elizabeth: Rodney, I don’t have the nerve.

Rodney: Just a few weeks or months, my love, and we can be married without a care in the world.

Elizabeth: I’m glad you’re so confident.

(Enter Barnaby Pinchwife.)

Barnaby Pinchwife: Confident about what? Heidi, your English gets better by the minute.

Elizabeth: I thank you very much for your thought, Mr. Pinchwife.

Barnaby Pinchwife: I understand you are to be congratulated, marrying Jasper Fidget. I imagine it was love at first sight.

Elizabeth: Oh yes, I love Mr. Jasper.

Rodney: Yes, their combined net worth will be very impressive since Heidi has already inherited a sizable fortune.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Hmm, interesting. Money is the key to all conquests. In love as in war it is the primary arm of victory. Where is old Jasper?

Rodney: He decided to return home. He wasn’t feeling in top form.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Is he in good health?

Rodney: Never better. He’ll outlive us all.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Rodney, may I steal Heidi from you? I’ll bet she’s never seen a gun collection like mine.

Rodney: I’ll bet she hasn’t.

Elizabeth: Mr. Barnaby, I am no fan of guns. (Exeunt Elizabeth and Barnaby Pinchwife)

Rodney: Poor Liz. Pinchwife’s a conversational rapist. His company’s about as welcome as a poor dupe of a husband when you want to be alone with his wife. This is a slim chance. Even if Jasper dies still married to Liz, every Fidget in the next three counties is going to sue for a portion of the inheritance. We’re in luck that Liz has him enthralled. Now it’s marry her off or get nothing at all.

Scene VII

(Enter Horner and Sarah. Venus behind.)

Sarah Pinchwife: So it was all a sham. I’ll have to admit I regard you now with a great deal of admiration, more than I’ve ever given you, more in fact than I’ve given any man. Or woman.  But my admiration is laden with caveats. I admire you not without reluctance and even skepticism.

Horner: Reluctance I understand. However, you do believe me?

Sarah Pinchwife: Oh, I believe you. I suppose I am taking my life in my hands by trusting you, but I do. I’m reacting like a man: I don’t trust my brain; I let my pussy do the walking. Jack Horner, if you harm me I shall curse you to circles of hell that haven’t been discovered yet.

Horner: That is the least…

Sarah Pinchwife: No, Mr. Horner, that is the greatest of my worries, but it is my responsibility now, since I decided to believe you.

Horner: But skepticism? I don’t understand.

Sarah Pinchwife: Simply put, I’m not sure whether or not you’re insane. Perhaps skepticism is not the right word. You dash your reputation, consent to become an object of loathing by some, pity by most, derision by a few fools like my husband, hatred even by those who are frightened. And you do this for women? That is where the admiration comes in. All for Love has never been your motto. Certainly this scheme is not for Sarah. I am not such an egotist. It is not any one woman. You are not so humble. So what you are doing is not a grand gesture. It is just insane.

Horner: The mad, you know, need extra care.

Sarah Pinchwife: Jack, you don’t need to take that tone with me. You have already seduced me in principle if not in fact.

Horner: I am anxious for the seduction in fact.

Sarah Pinchwife: Patience, Mr. Horner, you waited all this time. You can wait a while longer. I know, why don’t we treat it like your disease. We shall simply announce to the world that you seduced me. That way we won’t have to bother with all the preliminaries.

Horner: If we were to do that, Sarah, we would never experience this (Kisses her neck) in fact.

Sarah Pinchwife: (Aside) Oh precious moment! (To Horner) But now we have experienced it. Why need we go further? 

Horner: Because this (Kisses her cheek) is fundamentally different.

Sarah Pinchwife: Fundamentally you say.

Horner: The two are as unequal as they are from this (Long kiss on the mouth).

Sarah Pinchwife: Stop, Mr. Horner, I must breathe occasionally. I believe you are an amphibian. Professional seducers must grow gills eventually.

Horner: How long have I known you and your husband would never leave us alone until now.

Sarah Pinchwife: My husband is a fool.

Horner: Really not such a fool. He knew what he wanted and he succeeded in his goal until of his own free will he dropped his defenses.

Sarah Pinchwife. Well now he’s a double fool. But don’t let me interrupt you. I believe you were cataloguing my body with your lips.

Horner: (Kissing her breast along the line of the cleavage) The faint smell of perfume on the breast is the purest…

Sarah Pinchwife: It is not obliged to overcome our bodily odors.

Horner: Therefore the perfume must be so faint as to be noticed only when one’s face is less than a centimeter distant.

Sarah Pinchwife: As if one were about to kiss or were in the process of kissing.

Horner: The disappearing spirit of the perfume confuses with the softness of the flesh. (Undoes her blouse)

Sarah Pinchwife: The flesh of the breast.

Horner: Until the two are identified with the memory of the woman herself and carried away…

Sarah Pinchwife: Forever!

(Enter Barnaby Pinchwife)

Sarah Pinchwife: And so you see, Mr. Horner, buttons, buttons in daily life…

Barnaby Pinchwife: Sarah, where have all our guests gone? Correct me, but I could have sworn we were holding a dinner party. What is a party without people?

Sarah Pinchwife: You are looking for Heidi, Mr. Pinchwife. Code is unnecessary with me. The rest of the guests are in the garden.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Well, Miss Spitzenbuben does have the most remarkable ability to disappear. Sometimes I am in the middle of a sentence and she seems to vanish into thin air. I see you have managed to reconcile yourself to Horner.

Sarah Pinchwife: You are correct, Barnaby. Now that I know the truth about him I find his presence tolerable.

Barnaby Pinchwife: A sort of lady’s home aide.

Sarah Pinchwife: A long handled broom.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Comforting like a tisane.

Sarah Pinchwife: And solid like a cucumber.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Excuse our good-natured teasing, Horner. We are just like that in our household. Sarah always wanted a lap dog, a Pekingese in fact.

Horner: I would never curl in her lap unless invited.

Barnaby Pinchwife: Well, I was in the act of finding our guests. (Exit Barnaby Pinchwife)

Sarah Pinchwife: She’s engaged to be married. Well, now that you’ve finished sniffing the superstructure is there anything in the undercarriage you might like? (Horner kneels to her leg)

Venus Little: Hang about.

Sarah Pinchwife: Have you been here all the time? Good God, have we no privacy?

Venus Little: Nobody told me Ricardo preferred boys.

Sarah Pinchwife: Must we now do your research for you?

Venus Little: No matter. It seems that your Mister Horner is also marching under false colors. What are people going to say when you don’t die, Jack?

Sarah Pinchwife: If you would like to sit and converse, I’ll leave.

Venus Little: Don’t be silly Sarah. Do you mind if I join in, Jack? I’m not such a romantic as Sarah. You can pick up where you left off. I’m game.

Sarah Pinchwife: Poacher!

Venus Little: More of a communist. Jack, I was wondering what the back of your neck tasted like. Now is my opportunity to find out. (Kisses neck.)

Sarah Pinchwife: Ignore her. (Kisses Horner on mouth.)

Horner: This must never end.

Sarah Pinchwife: Your chest is much harder than I thought.

Venus Little: Shhhh. How can I concentrate?

(Enter Elizabeth)

Elizabeth: Oh, excuse me.

Sarah Pinchwife: Pay no mind, Heidi, we were just…

Elizabeth: Oh, I know. In Sweden we call this three way massage.

Venus Little: Yes, massage à trois! [Next]

[Act II] [Act III] [Act IV ][Act V]