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Mr. H. My Melesinda's mind, I had hoped, was superior to this childish curiosity. Melesinda. How many letters are there in it?
[Exit Mr. H. followed by MELESINDA repeating the
SCENE.- A Room in the Inn.
(Two Waiters disputing.) 1st Waiter. Sir Harbottle Hammond, you may depend upon it.
2d Waiter. Sir Harry Hardcastle, I tell you.
2d Waiter. Don't tell me: does not Hardcastle begin with an H?
1st Waiter. So does Hammond, for that matter.
2d Waiter. Faith, so it does, if you go to spell it. I did not think of that. I begin to be of your opinion; he is certainly a Hammond.
1st Waiter. Here comes Susan Chambermaid, maybe she can tell.
Both. Well, Susan, have you heard anything who the strange gentleman is ?
Susan. Haven't you heard ? it's all come out; Mrs. Guess. well, the parson's widow, has been here about it. I overheard her talking in confidence to Mrs. Setter and Mrs. Pointer, and she says they were holding a sort of a cummitty about it.
Both. What? What?
Susan. There can't be a doubt of it, she says, what from his figger and the appearance he cuts, and his sumpshous way of living, and, above all, from the remarkable circumstance that his surname should begin with an H., that he must be
Both. Well, well-
Susan. Oh, there can't be a doubt on it. Mrs. Guesswell says she knows it. 1st Waiter. Now if we could be sure that the Prince of Hessey What-do-you-call-him was in England on his travels.
2d Waiter. Get a newspaper. Look in the newspapers. Susan. Fiddle of the newspapers; who else can it be? Both. That is very true (gravely.)
Landlord. Here, Susan, James, Philip, where are you all ? The London coach is come in, and there is Mr. Fillaside, the fat passenger, has been bawling for somebody to help him off with his boots.
(The Chambermaid and Waiters slip out.) (Solus.) The house is turned upside down since the strange gentleman came into it. Nothing but guessing and speculating, and speculating and guessing; waiters and chambermaids getting into corners and speculating, hostlers and stableboys speculating in the yard, I believe the very horses in the stable are speculating too, for there they stand in a musing posture, nothing for them to eat, and not seeming to care whether they have anything or no; and, after all, what does it signify? I hate such curious—odso, I must take this box up into his bedroom-he charged me to see to it myself—I hate such inquisitive—I wonder what is in it, it feels heavy (reads) “ Leases, title-deeds, wills.” Here, now, a man might satisfy his curiosity at once.
Deeds must have names to them, so must leases and wills. But I wouldn't-no, I wouldn't—it is a pretty box too-prettily dovetailed—I admire the fashion of it much. But I'd cut my fingers off, before I'd do such a dirty -what have I to do-curse the keys, how they rattle-rattle in one's pockets—the keys and the halfpence (takes out a bunch and plays with them.) I wonder if any of these would fit; one might just try them, but I wouldn't lift up the lid if they did. Oh, no, what should I be the richer for knowing ? (All this time he tries the keys one by one.) What's his name to be? a thousand names begin with an H. I hate people that are always prying, poking and prying into things-thrusting their finger into one place-a mighty little hole this—and their keys into another. Oh Lord ! little rusty fits it! but what is that to me? I wouldn't go to—no, no—but it is odd little rusty should just happen. While he is turning up the lid of the box, Mr. H. enters behind him unperceived.)
Mr. H. What are you about, you dog?
Landlord. Oh Lord, sir! pardon; no thief, as I hope to be saved. Little Pry was always honest.
Mr. H. What else could move you to open that box ?
Landlord. Sir, don't kill me, and I will confess the whole truth. This box happened to be lying-that is, I happened to be carrying this box, and I happened to have my keys out, and so--- little rusty happened to fit
Mr. H. So little rusty happened to fit !—and would not a rope fit that rogue's neck? I see the papers have not been moved: all is safe, but it was as well to frighten him a little (aside.) Come, landlord, as I think you are honest, and suspect you only intended to gratify a little foolish curiosity
Landlord. That was all, sir, upon my veracity.
Your name is Pry, I think
Landlord. Yes, sir, Jeremiah Pry, at your service.
Mr. H. An apt name, you have a prying temper. I mean, some little curiosity, a sort of inquisitiveness about you.
Landlord. A natural thirst after knowledge you may call it, sir. When a boy I was never easy, but when I was thrusting up the lids of some of my schoolfellows' boxes—not to steal anything, upon my honour, sir-only to see what was in them ; have had pens stuck in my eyes for peeping through keyholes, after knowledge; could never see a cold pie with the legs dangling out at top, but my fingers were for lifting up the crust-just to try if it were pigeon or partridge —for no other reason in the world. Surely I think my passion for nuts was owing to the pleasure of cracking the shell to get at something concealed, more than to any delight I took in eating the kernel. In short, sir, this appetite has grown with my growth.
Mr. H. You will certainly be hanged some day for peeping into some bureau or other, just to see what is in it.
Landlord. That is my fear, sir. The thumps and kicks [ have had for peering into parcels, and turning of letters inside out-just for curiosity! The blankets I have been made to dance in for searching parish-registers for old ladies' agesjust for curiosity! Once I was dragged through a horsepond, only for peeping into a closet that had glass doors to it, while my Lady Bluegarters was undressing—just for curiosity!
Mr. H. A very harmless piece of curiosity, truly; and now, Mr. Pry, first have the goodness to leave that box with me, and then do me the favour to carry your curiosity so far as to inquire if my servants are within.
Landlord. I shall, sir. Here, David, Jonathan-I think I hear them coming shall make bold to leave you, sir. [Exit.
Mr. H. Another tolerable specimen of the comforts of going anonymous !
Enter two Footmen.
1st Footman. You speak first.
Mr. H. They have something to say to me. The rascals want their wages raised, I suppose ; there is always a favour to be asked when they come siniling. Well, poor rogues, service is but a hard bargain at the best. I think I must not be close with them. Well, David-well, Jonathan.
1st Footman. We have served your honour faithfully-
1st Footman. But if your honour would just be pleased to
2d Footman. Only be pleased to-
Mr. H. Be quick with what you have to say, for I am in haste.
1st Footman. Just to2d Footman. Let us know who it is1st Footman. Who it is we have the honour to serve. Mr. H. Why me, me, me; you serve me. 2d Footman. Yes, sir; but we do not know who you are.
Mr. H. Childish curiosity ! do not you serve a rich master, a gay master, an indulgent master ?
1st Footman. Ah, sir ! the figure you make is to us, your poor servants, the principal mortification.
2d Footman. When we get over a pot at the public-house, or in a gentleman's kitchen, or elsewhere, as poor servants must have their pleasures-when the question goes round, who is your master ? and who do you serve ? and one says, I serve Lord So-and-so, and another, I am Squire Such-a-one's footman
1st Footman. We have nothing to say for it, but that we serve Mr. H.
2d Footman. Or Squire H.
Mr. H. Really, you are a couple of pretty modest, reasonable personages; but I hope you will take it as no offence, gentlemen, if, upon a dispassionate review of all that you have said, I think fit not to tell you any more of my name than I have chosen for especial purposes to communicate to the rest of the world.
18t Footman. Why, then, sir, you may suit yourself.
2d Footman. We tell you plainly, we cannot stay.
Mr. H. Go, for a couple of ungrateful, inquisitive, senseless rascals! Go hang, starve, or drown! Rogues, to speak thus irreverently of the alphabet—Í shall live to see you glad to serve old Q—to curl the wig of great Sadjust the dot of little i-stand behind the chair of X, Y, Z-wear the livery of Etcætera-and ride behind the sulky of And-by-itself-and!
[Exit in a rage.
END OF THE FIRST ACT.