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Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816). The School for Scandal.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Scene II

Act Fifth


Enter MRS. CANDOUR and Maid

Maid. Indeed, ma’am, my lady will see nobody at present.

Mrs. Can.Did you tell her it was her friend Mrs. Candour?

Maid. Yes, ma’am; but she begs you will excuse her.

Mrs. Can.Do go again; I shall be glad to see her, if it be only for a moment, for I am sure she must be in great distress.—[Exit MAID.] Dear heart, how provoking! I’m not mistress of half the circumstances! We shall have the whole affair in the newspapers, with the names of the parties at length, before I have dropped the story at a dozen houses.


Oh, dear Sir Benjamin! you have heard, I suppose—

Sir Ben.Of Lady Teazle and Mr. Surface—

Mrs. Can.And Sir Peter’s discovery—

Sir Ben.Oh, the strangest piece of business, to be sure!

Mrs. Can.Well, I never was so surprised in my life. I am so sorry for all parties, indeed.

Sir Ben.Now, I don’t pity Sir Peter at all: he was so extravagantly partial to Mr. Surface.

Mrs. Can.Mr. Surface! Why, ’twas with Charles Lady Teazle was detected.

Sir Ben.No, no, I tell you: Mr. Surface is the gallant.

Mrs. Can.No such thing! Charles is the man. ’Twas Mr. Surface brought Sir Peter on purpose to discover them.

Sir Ben.I tell you I had it from one—

Mrs. Can.And I have it from one—

Sir Ben.Who had it from one, who had it—

Mrs. Can.From one immediately. But here comes Lady Sneerwell; perhaps she knows the whole affair.


Lady Sneer.So, my dear Mrs. Candour, here’s a sad affair of our friend Lady Teazle!

Mrs. Can.Ay, my dear friend, who would have thought—

Lady Sneer.Well, there is no trusting appearances; though, indeed, she was always too lively for me.

Mrs. Can.To be sure, her manners were a little too free; but then she was so young!

Lady Sneer.And had, indeed, some good qualities.

Mrs. Can.So she had, indeed. But have you heard the particulars?

Lady Sneer.No; but every body says that Mr. Surface—

Sir Ben.Ay, there; I told you Mr. Surface was the man.

Mrs. Can.No, no: indeed the assignation was with Charles.

Lady Sneer.With Charles! You alarm me, Mrs. Candour!

Mrs. Can.Yes, yes; he was the lover. Mr. Surface, to do him justice, was only the informer.

Sir Ben.Well, I’ll not dispute with you, Mrs. Candour; but, be it which it may, I hope that Sir Peter’s wound will not—

Mrs. Can.Sir Peter’s wound! Oh, mercy! I didn’t hear a word of their fighting.

Lady Sneer.Nor I, a syllable.

Sir Ben.No! what, no mention of the duel?

Mrs. Can.Not a word.

Sir Ben.Oh, yes: they fought before they left the room.

Lady Sneer.Pray, let us hear.

Mrs. Can.Ay, do oblige us with the duel.

Sir Ben.Sir, says Sir Peter, immediately after the discovery, you are a most ungrateful fellow.

Mrs. Can.Ay, to Charles—

Sir Ben.No, no—to Mr. Surface—a most ungrateful fellow; and old as I am, sir, says he, I insist on immediate satisfaction.

Mrs. Can.Ay, that must have been to Charles; for ’tis very unlikely Mr. Surface should fight in his own house.

Sir Ben.Gad’s life, ma’am, not at all—giving me immediate satisfaction.—On this, ma’am, Lady Teazle, seeing Sir Peter in such danger, ran out of the room in strong hysterics, and Charles after her, calling out for hartshorn and water; then, madam, they began to fight with swords—


Crab.With pistols, nephew, pistols! I have it from undoubted authority.

Mrs. Can.Oh, Mr. Crabtree, then it is all true!

Crab.Too true, indeed, madam, and Sir Peter is dangerously wounded—

Sir Ben.By a thrust in segoon quite through his left side—

Crab.By a bullet lodged in the thorax.

Mrs. Can.Mercy on me! Poor Sir Peter!

Crab.Yes, madam; though Charles would have avoided the matter, if he could.

Mrs. Can.I told you who it was; I knew Charles was the person.

Sir Ben.My uncle, I see, knows nothing of the matter.

Crab.But Sir Peter taxed him with basest ingratitude—

Sir Ben.That I told you, you know—

Crab.Do, nephew, let me speak!—and insisted on immediate—

Sir Ben.Just as I said—

Crab.Odd’s life, nephew, allow others to know something too! A pair of pistols lay on the bureau (for Mr. Surface, it seems, had come home the night before late from Salthill, where he had been to see the Montem with a friend, who has a son at Eton), so, unluckily, the pistols were left charged.

Sir Ben.I heard nothing of this.

Crab.Sir Peter forced Charles to take one, and they fired, it seems, pretty nearly together. Charles’ shot took effect, as I tell you, and Sir Peter’s missed; but, what is very extraordinary, the ball struck against a little bronze Shakespeare that stood over the fire place, grazed out of the window at a right angle, and wounded the postman, who was just coming to the door with a double letter from Northamptonshire.

Sir Ben.My uncle’s account is more circumstantial, I confess; but I believe mine is the true one, for all that.

Lady Sneer.[Aside.] I am more interested in this affair than they imagine, and must have better information.[Exit.

Sir Ben.Ah! Lady Sneerwell’s alarm is very easily accounted for.

Crab.Yes, yes, they certainly do say—but that’s neither here nor there.

Mrs. Can.But, pray, where is Sir Peter at present?

Crab.Oh! they brought him home, and he is now in the house, though the servants are ordered to deny him.

Mrs. Can.I believe so, and Lady Teazle, I suppose, attending him.

Crab.Yes, yes; and I saw one of the faculty enter just before me.

Sir Ben.Hey! who comes here?

Crab.Oh, this is he: the physician, depend on’t.

Mrs. Can.Oh, certainly! it must be the physician; and now we shall know.


Crab.Well, doctor, what hopes?

Mrs. Can.Ay, doctor, how’s your patient?

Sir Ben.Now, doctor, isn’t it a wound with a small sword?

Crab.A bullet lodged in the thorax, for a hundred!

Sir Oliv.Doctor! a wound with a small-sword! and a bullet in the thorax!—Oons! are you mad, good people?

Sir Ben.Perhaps, sir, you are not a doctor?

Sir Oliv.Truly, I am to thank you for my degree, if I am.

Crab.Only a friend of Sir Peter’s, then, I presume. But, sir, you must have heard of his accident?

Sir Oliv.Not a word!

Crab.Not of his being dangerously wounded?

Sir Oliv.The devil he is!

Sir Ben.Run through the body—

Crab.Shot in the breast—

Sir Ben.By one Mr. Surface—

Crab.Ay, the younger.

Sir Oliv.Hey! what the plague! you seem to differ strangely in your accounts: however, you agree that Sir Peter is dangerously wounded.

Sir Ben.Oh, yes, we agree in that.

Crab.Yes, yes, I believe there can be no doubt of that.

Sir Oliv.Then, upon my word, for a person in that situation, he is the most imprudent man alive; for here he comes, walking as if nothing at all was the matter.


Odd’s heart, Sir Peter! you are come in good time, I promise you; for we had just given you over!

Sir Ben.[Aside to CRABTREE.] Egad, uncle, this is the most sudden recovery!

Sir Oliv.Why, man! what do you out of bed with a small-sword through your body, and a bullet logged in your thorax?

Sir Pet.A small-sword and a bullet!

Sir Oliv.Ay; these gentlemen would have killed you without law or physic, and wanted to dub me a doctor, to make me an accomplice.

Sir Pet.Why, what is all this?

Sir Ben.We rejoice, Sir Peter, that the story of the duel is not true, and are sincerely sorry for your other misfortune.

Sir Pet.So, so; all over the town already![Aside.

Crab.Though, Sir Peter, you were certainly vastly to blame to marry at your years.

Sir Pet.Sir, what business is that of yours?

Mrs. Can.Though, indeed, as Sir Peter made so good a husband, he’s very much to be pitied.

Sir Pet.Plague on your pity, ma’am! I desire none of it.

Sir Ben.However, Sir Peter, you must not mind the laughing and jests you will meet with on the occasion.

Sir Pet.Sir, sir! I desire to be master in my own house.

Crab.’Tis no uncommon case, that’s one comfort.

Sir Pet.I insist on being left to myself: without ceremony, I insist on your leaving my house directly!

Mrs. Can.Well, well, we are going; and depend on’t, we’ll make the best report of it we can.[Exit.

Sir Pet.Leave my house!

Crab.And tell how hardly you’ve been treated.[Exit.

Sir Pet.Leave my house!

Sir Ben.And how patiently you bear it.[Exit.

Sir Pet.Fiends! vipers! furies! Oh! that their own venom would choke them!

Sir Oliv.They are very provoking indeed, Sir Peter.


Row.I heard high words: what has ruffled you, sir?

Sir Pet.Psha! what signifies asking? Do I ever pass a day without my vexations?

Row.Well, I’m not inquisitive.

Sir Oliv.Well, Sir Peter, I have seen both my nephews in the manner we proposed.

Sir Pet.A precious couple they are!

Row.Yes, and Sir Oliver is convinced that your judgment was right, Sir Peter.

Sir Oliv.Yes, I find Joseph is indeed the man, after all.

Row.Ay, as Sir Peter says, he is a man of sentiment.

Sir Oliv.And acts up to the sentiments he professes.

Row.It certainly is edification to hear him talk.

Sir Oliv.Oh, he’s a model for the young men of the age!—but how’s this, Sir Peter? you don’t join us in your friend Joseph’s praise, as I expected.

Sir Pet.Sir Oliver, we live in a damned wicked world, and the fewer we praise the better.

Row.What! do you say so, Sir Peter, who were never mistaken in your life?

Sir Pet.Psha! plague on you both! I see by your sneering you have heard the whole affair. I shall go mad among you!

Row.Then, to fret you no longer, Sir Peter, we are indeed acquainted with it all. I met Lady Teazle coming from Mr. Surface’s so humbled, that she deigned to request me to be her advocate with you.

Sir Pet.And does Sir Oliver know all this?

Sir Oliv.Every circumstance.

Sir Pet.What, of the closet and the screen, hey?

Sir Oliv.Yes, yes, and the little French milliner. Oh, I have been vastly diverted with the story! ha! ha! ha!

Sir Pet.’Twas very pleasant.

Sir Oliv.I never laughed more in my life, I assure you: ha! ha! ha!

Sir Pet.Oh, vastly diverting! ha! ha! ha!

Row.To be sure, Joseph with his sentiments! ha! ha! ha!

Sir Pet.Yes, yes, his sentiments! ha! ha! ha! Hypocritical villain!

Sir Oliv.Ay, and that rogue Charles to pull Sir Peter out of the closet: ha! ha! ha!

Sir Pet.Ha! ha! ’twas devilish entertaining, to be sure!

Sir Oliv.Ha! ha! ha! Egad, Sir Peter, I should like to have seen your face when the screen was thrown down: ha! ha!

Sir Pet.Yes, yes, my face when the screen was thrown down: ha! ha! ha! Oh, I must never show my head again!

Sir Oliv.But come, come, it isn’t fair to laugh at you neither, my old friend; though, upon my soul, I can’t help it.

Sir Pet.Oh, pray don’t restrain your mirth on my account: it does not hurt me at all! I laugh at the whole affair myself. Yes, yes, I think being a standing jest for all one’s acquaintance a very happy situation. Oh, yes, and then of a morning to read the paragraphs about Mr. S——, Lady T——, and Sir P——, will be so entertaining!

Row.Without affectation, Sir Peter, you may despise the ridicule of fools. But I see Lady Teazle going towards the next room; I am sure you must desire a reconciliation as earnestly as she does.

Sir Oliv.Perhaps my being here prevents her coming to you. Well, I’ll leave honest Rowley to mediate between you; but he must bring you all presently to Mr. Surface’s, where I am now returning, if not to reclaim a libertine, at least to expose hypocrisy.

Sir Pet.I’ll be present at your discovering yourself there with all my heart; though ’tis a vile unlucky place for discoveries.

Row.We’ll follow.[Exit SIR OLIVER SURFACE.

Sir Pet.She is not coming here, you see, Rowley.

Row.No, but she has left the door of that room open, you perceive. See, she is in tears.

Sir Pet.Certainly a little mortification appears very becoming in a wife. Don’t you think it will do her good to let her pine a little?

Row.Oh, this is ungenerous in you!

Sir Pet.Well, I know not what to think. You remember the letter I found to hers evidently intended for Charles?

Row.A mere forgery, Sir Peter! laid in your way on purpose. This is one of the points which I intend Snake shall give you conviction of.

Sir Pet.I wish I were once satisfied of that. She looks this way. What a remarkably elegant turn of the head she has! Rowley, I’ll go to her.


Sir Pet.Though, when it is known that we are reconciled, people will laugh at me ten times more.

Row.Let them laugh, and retort their malice only by showing them you are happy in spite of it.

Sir Pet.I’ faith, so I will! and, if I’m not mistaken, we may yet be the happiest couple in the country.

Row.Nay, Sir Peter, he who once lays aside suspicion—

Sir Pet.Hold, Master Rowley! if you have any regard for me, never let me hear you utter any thing like a sentiment: I have had enough of them to serve me the rest of my life.[Exeunt.