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think it must reach Mrs. Clackitt's ears within four and twenty hours; and then, you know, the business is as good as done.
Lady Sneer. Why, truly, Mrs. Clackitt has a very pretty talent, and a great deal of industry.
Snake. True, madam, and has been tolerably successful in her day. To my knowledge she has been the cause of six matches being broken off, and three sons disinherited; of four forced elopements, and as many close confinements; nine separate maintenances, and two divorces. Nay, I have more than once traced her causing a tête-à-tête in the Town and Country Magazine, when the parties, perhaps, had never seen each other's face before in the course of their lives.
Lady Sreer. She certainly has talents, but her manner is gross.
Snake. 'Tis very true.—She generally designs well, has a free tongue and a bold invention; but her colouring is too dark, and her outlines often extravagant. She wants that delicacy of tint, and mellowness of sneer, which distinguishes your ladyship's scandal.
Lady Sneer. You are partial, Snake.
Snake. Not in the least — every body allows that Lady Sneerwell can do more with a word or a look than many can with the most laboured detail, even when they happen to have a little truth on their side to support it.
Lady Sneer. Yes, my dear Snake; and I am no hypocrite to deny the satisfaction I reap from the success of my efforts. Wounded myself in the early part of my life by the envenomed tongue of slander, I confess I have since known no pleasure equal to the reducing others to the level of my own injured reputation.
Snake. Nothing can be more natural. But, Lady Sneerwell, there is one affair in which you have lately employed me, wherein, I confess, I am at a loss to guess your motives.
Lady Sneer. I conceive you mean with respect to my neighbour, Sir Peter Teazle, and his family?
Snake. I do. Here are two young men, to whom Sir Peter has acted as a kind of guardian since their father's death; the eldest possessing the most amiable character, and universally well spoken of —the youngest, the most dissipated and extravagant young fellow in the kingdom, without friends or character: the former an avowed admirer of your ladyship's, and apparently your favourite: the latter attached to Maria, Sir Peter's ward, and confessedly beloved by her. Now, on the face of these circumstances, it is utterly unaccountable to me, why you, the widow of a city knight, with a good jointure, should not close with the passion of a man of such character and expectations as Mr. Surface; and more so why you should be so uncommonly earnest to destroy the mutual attachment subsisting between his brother Charles and Maria.
Lady Sneer. Then at once to unravel this mystery, I must inform you, that love has no share whatever in the intercourse between Mr. Surface
Lady Sneer. His real attachment is to Maria, or her fortune; but finding in his brother a favoured rival, he has been obliged to mask his pretensions, and profit by my assistance.
Snake. Yet still I am more puzzled why you should interest yourself in his success.
Lady Sneer. How dull you are! Cannot you surmise the weakness which I hitherto, through shame, have concealed even from you ? Must I confess, that Charles, that libertine, that extravagant, that bankrupt in fortune and reputation, that he it is for whom I'm thus anxious and malicious, and to gain whom I would sacrifice everything ?
Snake. Now, indeed, your conduct appears consistent: but how came you and Mr. Surface so confidential ?
Lady Sneer. For our mutual interest. I have found him out a long time since. I know him to be artful, selfish, and malicious-in short, a sentimental knave; while with Sir Peter, and indeed with all his acquaintance, he passes for a youthful miracle of prudence, good sense, and benevolence.
Snake. Yes; yet Sir Peter vows he has not his equal in England - and above all, he praises him as a man of sentiment.
Lady Sneer. True- and with the assistance of his sentiment and hypocrisy, he has brought Sir Peter entirely into his interest with regard to Maria; while poor Charles has no friend in the house, though, I fear, he has a powerful one in Maria's heart, against whom we must direct our schemes.
Enter SERVANT. Serv. Mr. Surface. Lady Sneer. Show him up. (Exit SERVANT.
Enter JOSEPH SURFACE. Joseph S. My dear Lady Sneerwell, how do you do to-day ? Mr. Snake, your most obedient.
Lady Sneer. Snake has just been rallying me on our mutual attachment; but I have informed him of our real views. You know how useful he has been to us, and, believe me, the confidence is not ill placed.
Joseph S. Madam, it is impossible for me to suspect a man of Mr. Snake's sensibility and discernment.
Lady Sneer. Well, well, no compliments now; but tell me when you saw your mistress, Mariaor, what is more material to me, your brother.
Joseph S. I have not seen either since I left you; but I can inform you that they never meet. Some of your stories have taken a good effect on Maria.
Lady Sneer. Ah! my dear Snake! the merit of this belongs to you: but do your brother's distresses increase ?
Joseph S. Every hour. I am told he has had another execution in the house yesterday. In short, his dissipation and extravagance exceed any thing I have ever heard of.
Lady Sneer. Poor Charles !
Joseph S. True, madam; notwithstanding his vices, one can't help feeling for him. Poor Charles ! I'm sure I wish it were in my power to be of any essential service to him; for the man who does not share in the distresses of a brother, even though merited by his own misconduct, deserves
Lady Sneer. O Lud! you are going to be moral, and forget that you are among friends.
Joseph S. Egad, that's true !-- I'll keep that sentiment till I see Sir Peter;-however, it certainly is