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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Sir Lucius Dictates a Cartel
By Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816)
 
From the ‘Rivals’

The scene is Bob Acres’s lodgings at Bath.  Acres is discovered as his servant shows in Sir Lucius.

SIR LUCIUS—Mr. Acres, I am delighted to embrace you.  1
  Acres—My dear Sir Lucius, I kiss your hands.  2
  Sir Lucius—Pray, my friend, what has brought you so suddenly to Bath?  3
  Acres—Faith! I have followed Cupid’s Jack-a-lantern, and find myself in a quagmire at last. In short, I have been very ill used, Sir Lucius. I don’t choose to mention names, but look on me as on a very ill-used gentleman.  4
  Sir Lucius—Pray, what is the case? I ask no names.  5
  Acres—Mark me, Sir Lucius, I fall as deep as need be in love with a young lady: her friends take my part—I follow her to Bath—send word of my arrival; and receive answer that the lady is to be otherwise disposed of. This, Sir Lucius, I call being ill used.  6
  Sir Lucius—Very ill, upon my conscience. Pray, can you divine the cause of it?  7
  Acres—Why, there’s the matter: she has another lover, one Beverley, who, I am told, is now in Bath. Odds slanders and lies! he must be at the bottom of it.  8
  Sir Lucius—A rival in the case, is there? and you think he has supplanted you unfairly?  9
  Acres—Unfairly! to be sure he has. He never could have done it fairly.  10
  Sir Lucius—Then sure you know what is to be done!  11
  Acres—Not I, upon my soul.  12
  Sir Lucius—We wear no swords here, but you understand me.  13
  Acres—What! fight him?  14
  Sir Lucius—Ay, to be sure: what can I mean else?  15
  Acres—But he has given me no provocation.  16
  Sir Lucius—Now, I think he has given you the greatest provocation in the world. Can a man commit a more heinous offense against another than to fall in love with the same woman? Oh, by my soul! it is the most unpardonable breach of friendship.  17
  Acres—Breach of friendship! ay, ay; but I have no acquaintance with this man. I never saw him in my life.  18
  Sir Lucius—That’s no argument at all: he has the less right then to take such a liberty.  19
  Acres—Gad, that’s true. I grow full of anger, Sir Lucius! I fire apace! Odds hilts and blades! I find a man may have a deal of valor in him and not know it! But couldn’t I contrive to have a little right on my side?  20
  Sir Lucius—What the devil signifies right, when your honor is concerned? Do you think Achilles, or my little Alexander the Great, ever inquired where the right lay? No, by my soul: they drew their broadswords, and left the lazy sons of peace to settle the justice of it.  21
  Acres—Your words are a grenadier’s march to my heart: I believe courage must be catching! I certainly do feel a kind of valor rising, as it were,—a kind of courage, as I may say. Odds flints, pans, and triggers! I’ll challenge him directly.  22
  Sir Lucius—Ah, my little friend, if I had Blunderbuss Hall here, I could show you a range of ancestry in the O’Trigger line that would furnish the new room, every one of whom had killed his man! For though the mansion-house and dirty acres have slipped through my fingers, I thank heaven our honor and the family pictures are as fresh as ever.  23
  Acres—O Sir Lucius! I have had ancestors too! every man of ’em colonel or captain in the militia! Odds balls and barrels! say no more—I’m braced for it. The thunder of your words has soured the milk of human kindness in my breast. Zounds! as the man in the play says, I could do such deeds.  24
  Sir Lucius—Come, come, there must be no passion at all in the case: these things should always be done civilly.  25
  Acres—I must be in a passion, Sir Lucius,—I must be in a rage. Dear Sir Lucius, let me be in a rage, if you love me. Come, here’s pen and paper.  [Sits down to write.]  I would the ink were red! Indite, I say indite! How shall I begin? Odds bullets and blades! I’ll write a good bold hand, however.  26
  Sir Lucius—Pray compose yourself.  27
  Acres—Come, now, shall I begin with an oath? Do, Sir Lucius, let me begin with a “damme.”  28
  Sir Lucius—Pho! pho! do the thing decently, and like a Christian. Begin now. “Sir—”  29
  Acres—That’s too civil by half.  30
  Sir Lucius—“To prevent the confusion that might arise—”  31
  Acres—Well—  32
  Sir Lucius—“From our both addressing the same lady—”  33
  Acres—Ay, there’s the reason—“same lady”: well—  34
  Sir Lucius—“I shall expect the honor of your company—”  35
  Acres—Zounds! I’m not asking him to dinner.  36
  Sir Lucius—Pray be easy.  37
  Acres—Well then, “honor of your company—”  38
  Sir Lucius—“To settle our pretensions—”  39
  Acres—Well—  40
  Sir Lucius—Let me see: ay, King’s-Mead Fields will do—“in King’s-Mead Fields.”  41
  Acres—So, that’s done. Well, I’ll fold it up presently; my own crest—a hand and a dagger—shall be the seal.  42
  Sir Lucius—You see how this little explanation will put a stop at once to all confusion or misunderstanding that might arise between you.  43
  Acres—Ay, we fight to prevent any misunderstanding.  44
  Sir Lucius—Now, I’ll leave you to fix your own time. Take my advice, and you’ll decide it this evening if you can; then let the worst come of it, ’twill be off your mind to-morrow.  45
  Acres—Very true.  46
  Sir Lucius—So I shall see nothing more of you, unless it be by letter, till the evening. I would do myself the honor to carry your message; but to tell you a secret, I believe I shall have just such another affair on my own hands. There is a gay captain here, who put a jest on me lately at the expense of my country, and I only want to fall in with the gentleman to call him out.  47
  Acres—By my valor, I should like to see you fight first! Odds life! I should like to see you kill him, if it was only to get a little lesson.  48
  Sir Lucius—I shall be very proud of instructing you. Well, for the present—but remember now, when you meet your antagonist, do everything in a mild and agreeable manner. Let your courage be as keen, but at the same time as polished, as your sword.  [Exeunt severally.]  49
 
 
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