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The Rhyme To Porringer
by [?]

As Played at Tunbridge Wells, April 2, 1750

“Ye gods, why are not hearts first paired above,
But still some interfere in others’ love,
Ere each for each by certain marks are known?
You mould them up in haste, and drop them down,
And while we seek what carelessly you sort,
You sit in state, and make our pains your sport.

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

CAPTAIN AUDAINE, an ingenious, well-accomplished gentleman.
LORD HUMPHREY DEGGE, an airy young gentleman, loves Miss Allonby for her money.
VANRINGHAM, emissary and confederate of Audaine.
MISS ALLONBY, a young lady of wit and fortune.

ATTENDANTS to Lord Humphrey, Etc.

SCENE

Tunbridge Wells, first in and about Lord Humphrey’s lodgings, then shifting to a drawing-room in Lady Allonby’s villa.

THE RHYME TO PORRINGER

PROEM:–Merely to Serve as Intermezzo

Next morning Captain Audaine was closeted with Mr. Vanringham in the latter’s apartments at the Three Gudgeons. I abridge the Captain’s relation of their interview, and merely tell you that it ended in the actor’s looking up, with a puzzled face, from a certain document.

“You might have let me have a whiff of this,” Mr. Vanringham began. “You might have breathed, say, a syllable or two last night–“

“I had my instructions, sir, but yesterday,” replied the Captain; “and surely, Mr. Vanringham, to have presumed last night upon my possession of this paper, so far as to have demanded any favor of you, were unreasonable, even had it not savored of cowardice. For, as it has been very finely observed, it is the nicest part of commerce in the world, that of doing and receiving benefits. O Lord, sir! there are so many thousand circumstances, with respect to time, person, and place, which either heighten or allay the value of the obligation–“

“I take your point,” said the other, with some haste, “and concede that you are, beyond any reasonable doubt, in the right. Within the hour I am off.”

“Then all is well,” said Captain Audaine.

But he was wrong in this opinion, so wrong that I confute him by subjoining his own account of what befell, somewhat later in the day.

I

‘Twas hard upon ten in the evening (the Captain estimates) when I left Lady Culcheth’s, [Footnote: Sir Henry Muskerry’s daughter, of whom I have already spoken, and by common consent an estimable lady and a person of fine wit; but my infatuation for Lady Betty had by this time, after three nights with her, been puffed out; and this fortunate extinction, through the affair of the broken snuffbox, had left me now entirely indifferent to all her raptures, panegyrics, and premeditated artlessnesses.–F. A.] and I protest that at the time there was not a happier man in all Tunbridge than Francis Audaine.

“You haven’t the king?” Miss Allonby was saying, as I made my adieus to the company. “Then I play queen, knave, and ace, which gives me the game, Lord Humphrey.”

And afterward she shuffled the cards and flashed across the room a glance whose brilliance shamed the tawdry candles about her, and, as you can readily conceive, roused a prodigious trepidation in my adoring breast.

“Dorothy!–O Dorothy!” I said over and over again when I had reached the street; and so went homeward with constant repetitions of her dear name.

I suppose it was an idiotic piece of business; but you are to remember that I loved her with an entire heart, and that, as yet, I could scarcely believe the confession of a reciprocal attachment, which I had wrung from her overnight, to the accompaniment of Gerald’s snoring, had been other than an unusually delectable and audacious dream upon the part of Frank Audaine.

I found it, then, as I went homeward, a heady joy to ponder on her loveliness. Oh, the wonder of her voice, that is a love-song! cried my heart. Oh, the candid eyes of her, more beautiful than the June heavens, more blue than the very bluest speedwell-flower! Oh, the tilt of her tiny chin, and the incredible gold of her hair, and the quite unbelievable pink-and-white of her little flower-soft face! And, oh, the scrap of crimson that is her mouth.