The Yeomen of the Guard

   

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Dialogue following No. 20

Phœbe. And I helped that man to escape, and I've kept his secret, and pretended that I was his dearly loving sister, and done everything I could think of to make folk believe I was his loving sister, and this is his gratitude! Before I pretend to be sister to anybody again, I'll turn nun, and be sister to everybody— one as much as another!

Enter Wilfred.

Wilfred. In tears, eh? What a plague art thou grizzling for now?

Phœbe. Why am I grizzling? Thou hast often wept for jealousy — well, 'tis for jealousy I weep now. Aye, yellow, bilious, jaundiced jealousy. So make the most of that, Master Wilfred.

Wilfred. But I have never given thee cause for jealousy. The Lieutenant's cook-maid and I are but the merest gossips!

Phœbe. Jealous of thee! Bah! I'm jealous of no craven cock-on-a-hill, who crows about what he'd do an he dared! I am jealous of another and a better man than thou — set that down, Master Wilfred. And he is to marry Elsie Maynard, the pale little fool — set that down Master Wilfred — and my heart is wellnigh broken! There, thou hast it all! Make the most of it!

Wilfred. The man thou lovest is to marry Elsie Maynard? Why, that is no other than thy brother, Leonard Meryll!

Phœbe. (aside) Oh, mercy! what have I said?

Wilfred. Why, what matter of brother is this, thou lying little jade? Speak! Who is this man whom thou hast called brother, and fondled, and coddled, and kissed! — with my connivance, too! Oh Lord! with my connivance! Ha! should it be this Fairfax! (Phœbe starts.) It is! It is this accursed Fairfax! It's Fairfax! Fairfax, who —

Phœbe. Whom thou hast just shot through the head, and who lies at the bottom of the river!

Wilfred. A — I — I may have been mistaken. We are but fallible mortals, the best of us. But I'll make sure — I'll make sure. (Going)

Phœbe. Stay — one word. I think it cannot be Fairfax — mind, I say I think — because thou hast just slain Fairfax. But whether he be Fairfax or no Fairfax, he is to marry Elsie — and — and — as thou hast shot him through the head, and he is dead, be content with that, and I will be thy wife!

Wilfred. Is that sure?

Phœbe. Aye, sure enough, for there's no help for it! Thou art a very brute — but even brutes must marry, I suppose.

Wilfred. My beloved. (Embraces her.)

Phœbe. (aside) Ugh!

Enter Leonard Meryll, hastily.

Leonard. Phœbe, rejoice, for I bring glad tidings. Colonel Fairfax's reprieve was signed two days since, but it was foully and maliciously kept back by Secretary Poltwhistle, who designed that it should arrive after the Colonel's death. It hath just come to hand, and it is now in the Lieutenant's possession!

Phœbe. Then the Colonel is free? Oh, kiss me, kiss me, my dear! Kiss me, again, and again!

Wilfred. (dancing with fury) Ods bobs, death o' my life! Art thou mad? Am I mad? Are we all mad?

Phœbe. Oh, my dear — my dear, I'm well-nigh crazed with joy! (Kissing Leonard. )

Wilfred. Come away fro him, thou hussy — thou jade — thou kissing, clinging cockatrice! And as for thee, sir, devil take thee, I'll rip thee like a herring for this! I'll skin thee for it! I'll cleave thee to the chine! I'll — oh! Phœbe! Phœbe! Who is this man?

Phœbe. Peace, fool. He is my brother!

Wilfred. Another brother! Are there any more of them? Produce them all at once, and let me know the worst!

Phœbe. This is the real Leonard, dolt; the other was but his substitute. The real Leonard, I say — my father's own son.

Wilfred. How do I know this? Has he "brother" writ large on his brow? I mistrust thy brothers! Thou art but a false jade!

Exit Leonard.

Phœbe. Now, Wilfred, be just. Truly I did deceive thee before — but it was to save a precious life — and to save it, not for me, but for another. They are to be wed this very day. Is not this enough for thee? Come — I am thy Phœbe — thy very own — and we will be wed in a year — or two — or three, at the most. Is not that enough for thee?

Enter Sergeant Meryll, excitedly, followed by Dame Carruthers, who listens, unobserved.

Meryll. Phœbe, hast thou heard the brave news?

Phœbe. (still in Wilfred's arms) Aye, father.

Meryll. I'm nigh mad with joy! (seeing Wilfred) Why, what's all this?

Phœbe. Oh, father, he discovered our secret thorough my folly, and the price of his silence is—

Wilfred. Phœbe's heart.

Phœbe. Oh, dear, no — Phœbe's hand.

Wilfred. It's the same thing!

Phœbe. Is it?

Exeunt Wilfred and Phœbe.

Meryll. (looking after them) 'Tis pity, but the Colonel had to be saved at any cost, and as thy folly revealed our secret, thy folly must e'en suffer for it! (Dame Carruthers comes down.) Dame Carruthers!

Dame Carruthers. So this is a plot to shield this arch-fiend, and I have detected it. A word from me, and three heads besides his would roll from their shoulders!

Meryll. Nay, Colonel Fairfax is reprieved. (aside) Yet, if my complicity in his escape were known! Plague on the old meddler! There's nothing for it — (aloud) — Hush, pretty one! Such bloodthirsty words ill become those cherry lips! (aside) Ugh!

Dame Carruthers. (bashfully) Sergeant Meryll!

Meryll. Why, look ye, chuck — for many a month I've — I've thought to myself — "There's snug love saving up in that middle-aged bosom for some one, and why not for thee — that's me — so take heart and tell her — that's thee — that thou — that's me — lovest her — thee — and — and — well, I'm a miserable old man, and I've done it — and that's me!" But not a word about Fairfax! The price of thy silence is—

Dame Carruthers. Meryll's heart?

Meryll. No, Meryll's hand.

Dame Carruthers. It's the same thing!

Meryll. Is it?

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