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SIR GRIPE GRINDUM, of Grindum Hall, in the County of Grindum, Baronet.
TOM STILES, nephew of Farmer Stiles. :
LAST, the Village Shoe-maker.
DICK HAZLE, Servant to Stiles.
BAREBONE, Man of all Work to Sir Gripe.
TOM BIRCH, Brother of Betsey Birch.
JACK HARROW, NED MAPLE, and other country fellows.
BLUDGEON, GUZZLE and SLANG, three London Bullies.
Waiter, Boys, &c.
SCENE 1.-Sunrise: a Meadow and Cows in it, with a Lane on the side of it: a FarmHouse in the back-ground: BETSEY in the Meadow with a milking-pail on her arm, and DICK, in a smock-frock, coming along the Lane.
Soft's the note of yonder wood-lark,
Softer far my Betsey's voice:
Sweet's the dew in cups of cowslips;
BET. [Behind the hedge listening.] And pray what may that be?
DICK. [Starting, and then jumping over a gap in the hedge.] Why the dew upon your lips, my lovely Betsey!
BET. Come, come, let go my hands, do: mistress scolds so, when I get in late with the milk. But, Dick, when are we to go to church? You said it should be by May-day, you know, and that's to-morrow; and the banns are out,
DICK. It should be to-morrow, my love, if we had the money; but I have got only 40s. coming to me.
BET. But mistress owes me 23s.
DICK. That makes only 63s. And what is that to get things with?
BET. Mother says she'll lend us her bed, if she lie up straw. Now, do; for the folks laugh at me so; and Poll Thorn jeered me yesterday, and said she'd have you yet.
DICK. She!.. But, here comes master.
[He jumps into the lane.
BET. [To herself.] I see he's in the mind, and I'll keep him to it now. [She begins milking.
FARMER STILES, coming up to DICK.
STILES. Here, Dick, take this letter up to the GRINDUM ARMS. 'Tis for one SQUIRE THIMBLE, who is come down from London by the night-coach, something about surplice population, as they call it, and Sir GRIPE GRINDUM wants me to have him at my house, instead of going to GRINDUM HALL.
DICK. Yes, very kind of Sir Gripe, to send his friends to feed upon you. That's his old way!
STILES. Never mind: he'd turn me out of my farm, if I were to refuse; and 'tis but a bit of bacon and pudding, and a mug of beer. But, now, Dick, you don't use that girl well; the banns are out, and every body's laughing at her; and she's a right good girl, and comes of good kin ;
DICK. You need not tell me that, master; but we be so poor; and, sappose me to fall sick, I'd rather die than see her begging a morsel of bread from the flint-hearted hired overseer.
STILES. Well, Dick, I tell you what: I'll advance you five pounds, and I'm sure her mistress will advance 50s. for Betsey, and you may live at the farm for a month or two.
DICK. Well, then, God bless you both! I'll keep my word, and be married to-morrow; and I'll go and speak to the clerk directly. STILES. But go and carry the letter first; and tell... SA TUNALE DE DICK. [Looking over the hedge.] Betsey, Betsey! We shall be
STILES. There, go along, do; and let the girl get her milking done. Tell the gentleman I shall be glad to see him as soon as he pleases.
[They go out, the Farmer towards his House and Dick towards the Inn. SCENE II-A Room at the Inn: SQUIRE THIMBLE sitting at a Table, covered with written papers and pamphlets.
SQU. THIMBLE. [Rising, and going to the window.] Oh, God! Only look at that swarm of children! Why, this village of NESTBED is properly enough named; for it really resembles an ant's nest. It is all the fault of my friend, Sir Gripe, and the other landowners. But, I wonder I do not hear from him in answer to my letter, which he got by post yesterday. I know he is at the Hall, for the waiter saw him there last night.
Enter Dick with the letter, which he gives to SQUIRE THIMBLE.
DICK. My master, Farmer Stiles, sent me with this letter, Sir, and to say, that he shall be glad to see you at his house as soon as you please. [Exit. SOU. THIM. At his house! But [opening the letter] here is a note from Sir Gripe, which, doubtless, will explain the reason. [Reads.] "My dear Thimble, you know that our great master, Parson Malthus, lays it down, that population always treads closely upon the heels of subsistence. Acting upon "this principle, and fully agreeing with you, that the country is ruined by surplus population, I deem it a duty to my beloved country, for the happiness ས and honour of which I have so long been toiling and making so many sacri
"fices, to suffer no subsistence to be in my house beyond a bare sufficiency to keep body and soul together. I have, therefore, told Farmer Stiles to send "this to you to-morrow morning, and provide you with bed, board, &c., and I "will call on you at his house about breakfast time." Umph! Body and soul together! Very laudable, to be sure, to check the population in his house; but, I do not very clearly see how my being entertained in it for a day or two could have tended to increase the population in it. However [rings] I shall see how....[Enter Waiter.] Waiter, what a clock is it?
WAITER. I'll inquire, Sir.
SQU. THIM. [Gathering up his papers.] These will save the nation, and will be read with wonder long after I am..,
WAITER. [Re-entering.] It's half past five, Sir..
SQU. THIM. Here, get me a man to bring this portmanteau after me down [Exit to Farmer Stiles's. WAITER. Reading the name on the portmanteau.] " Peter Thimble, Esq." "Squire, indeed! I should have taken him for a tailor, and a French tailor too, [Exit with portmanteau. for 'tis the swarthiest and ugliest devil I ever saw,
SCENE III-A Cow-pen at the Farm: Dick and BETSEY.
DICK. I have, I tell you..
BET. What, spoke to the clerk?
DICK. Yes, I say; and he is to tell the parson of it as soon as he gets up. BET. Gets up! What is'nt he up yet?
DICK. Oh, no! We work for him, while he's asleep: his pay always goes ou BET. But when is it to be?
DICK. At nine o'clock to-morrow morning.
BET. Oh! my dear Richard [taking hold of his hand]; and is the time come
DICK. Yes, it is, my little love; and Mistress says, that you may go and stay all day to-day and to-night at your mother's, and get yourself ready against Į come in the morning,
BET. But, you'll be sure to come now!
DICK. What's the matter?
[Puts the corner of her apron up to her eyes,
BET. Nothing I'm such a fool, I can't help it.
STILES. [In the yard.] Dick! Dick!
BET. Oh, dear! I ought to be happy, I'm sure; and yet there's something that makes my heart sink. Now what will become of the jeerings of Poll Thorn and of that nasty slut Nance Bramble, who said, t'other day, that he'd never have me? I shall wear my bran new white bonnet lined with pink, Richard will have his new coat, and good old Mistress (God Almighty bless her!) says that we shall be the handsomest couple that have walked into NESTBED Church these fifty years. Oh, lor! I wish 'twas over; for my heart does beat so, and sink so, that I can hardly stand.
SQU. THIM. At the house-door.] Halloo! Nobody at home?
BET. Oh, dear! I forgot the eggs that Mistress sent me to get for the Squire's breakfast.
SCENE IV.—A small Parlour in the Farm-house: SQUIRE THIMBLE silting before the fire} breakfast preparing.
SQU. THIM. [To himself.] I don't much like his sending me here, instead of receiving me at the Hall; but I dare say he will explain it when he comes. MRS. STILES. [Entering.] Hope you will, excuse our homely fare, Sir, but
we'll give you the best we've got. [Betsey, entering with the eggs, lets a couple of them roll off the plate upon the floor.] What a deuce is the girl about! But [turning to Squire Thimble]I hope you'll look over it, Sir: she's going to upon that all the Sau. THIM. Married, did you say! Married! That girl going to be married! MRS. STILES. Yes, Sir; they have been courting a long while, and they be desperate fond of one another.
be married to-morrow, and her head has been running she's going to
SOU. THIM. Desperate, indeed! But do you encourage such things, then?
SQU. THIM. Why, the coupling together of these poor creatures to fill the country with beggars and thieves.
MRS. STILES. [With warmth.] I'm sure there isn't a better young man in the parish than Richard Hazle; and as for Betty Birch, young as she is, she shall make bread, butter, cheese, or beer, with any woman in the whole county, let the next be who she will. Beggars and thieves, indeed!"
SQU. THIM. Well, if these be good people, so much the more reason to keep them from being plunged into misery; and....
MRS. STILES. [Interrupting him.] Misery, Sir!
SQU. THIM. Yes, and from adding to that great national disease, the surplus population.
MRS. STILES. Never heard of that disease before, Sir; we ben't troubled with❜t in these parts, though we have the small-pox and measles terrible bad sometimes; and our poor neighbour, Chopstick, lost four as fine children last week as....
SQU. THIM. So much the better ! so much the better!"
MRS. STILES. What, Sir!
SQU. THIM. Yes; so much the better, I say, and [aside] if it had taken you off too, it would have been better still. [To her.] Go, good woman, and tell the girl to come and speak to me.
MRS. STILES. She's going to her mother's to get ready for her wedding; but I'll call her in for a minute.
SQU. THIM. So, young woman, you are going to be married, I understand?
SQU. THIM. How old are you?
BET. I'm nineteen, Sir, come next Valentine's eve.
SQU. THIM. That is to say, you are eighteen ! [Aside.] No wonder the country is ruined! And your mother now; how old is she?
BET. I can't justly say, Sir; but I heard her say she was forty some time back.
SQU. THIM. Seventeen! Only seventeen!
BET. Seventeen now alive, Sir; she lost two and had two still-born and.... SQU. THIM. Hold your tongue! Hold your tongue. [Aside.] It is quite monstrous ! Nothing can save the country but plague, pestilence, famine, and sudden death. Government ought to import a ship-load of arsenic. [To her.] But, young woman, cannot you impose on yourself “moral restraint" for ten dozen years?
BET. Pray what is that, Sir?
SOU. THIM. Cannot you keep single till you are about thirty years old?
BET. Thirty years old, Sir!
[Stifling a laugh.
Enter Sir GRipe Grindum.
Sav. THIM [rising.] How do you, Sir Gripe; hope I've the pleasure of seeing you well.
SIR G. Very well, very well; but rather hungry.
SIR G. Yes, they think nothing of MALTHUS here.
SQU. THIM. So it seems, for this young hussey is going to be married to-morrow, though she is only eighteen. Her mother has had, it seems, only twenty-one children; so that you'll have your parish finely stocked..
SIR G. Married! [Aside.] What a beautiful creature it is!
SQU. THIM. Yes, married; and she laughs at the idea of moral restraint. SIR G. I dare say she does. [Aside.] And so shall I too, if I can get her into my clutches.
SQU. THIM. You may go, young woman; for I find I can do nothing with you. [Exit Betsey.
SIR G. [Aside. But I can do something with her, I fancy. [To Thimble.] Yes, she may go for the present; but it is my duty, my bounden duty to my country, to prevent this marriage.
SQU. THIM. To be sure it is. It is a duty of humanity, as well as of patriotism. But you must be quick, for she is to be married to-morrow morning. SIR G. To-morrow morning!
SQU. THIM. Yes: and the farmer's wife here approves of the match! Would it not be well to find the farmer, and talk to him about it?
SIR G. I shan't, but you may; and in the meanwhile, I'll go home and dispatch some business, and be with you again in an hour or so.
[Exit. SQU. THIM. Business! What business? He thinks that I did not perceive him staring at her. He has some scheme in his head. But no matter: anything is better than her having seventeen children. Why, 'tis littering, 'tis pigging, 'tis hatching, 'tis swarming, and if they are allowed to proceed at this rate, there won't be room for them to stand upright in the country. I'll go and find the farmer, and see what I can make of him. [Exit.
SCENE V.-Mrs. Birch's cottage: MRS. BIRCH and BETSEY, and several children of different ages.
BETSEY. Don't you think, mother, that these white bows are beautiful; and isn't my frock as white as a curd; and mustn't we walk arm-in-arm to church? Oh! how that Poll Thorn will be provoked! I shouldn't wonder if she was to fly at me.
MRS. BIRCH. How you do run on, child.
BET. Patty Primrose and Mary Violet, my two bridesmaids, will be dressed all in white, and uncle Stephen says, that nobody but him shall give me away. MRS. BIRCH. Ah! my dear, if your poor father had been alive, he.... BET. Don't cry, mammy, let us be happy now.
MRS. BIRCH. And so I am, my dear child; but talking of your uncle put me in mind of....here comes BAREBONE, Sir Gripe's footman: I wonder what he
BAREBONE. Sir Gripe wants to speak to you, Mrs. Birch, up at the Hall, in about an hour's time.
MRS. BIRCH. [Aside.] "Tis about the rent. [To him.] My duty to him, and say that I shall be sure to wait on him. [Exit Burebone. BET. What can that nasty old skinny greedy beast want with you, mother? MRS. BIRCH. Oh, child, I owe him a year's rent, up to Lady-day, and I can't