Enter SECRETARY WORM.
MRS MILLER. Ah! Good morning, Mr. Seckertary! Have we indeed the pleasure of seeing you again?
WORM. All on my side—on my side, cousin Miller! Where a high-born cavalier's visits are received mine can be of no account whatever.
MRS MILLER. How can you think so, Mr. Seckertary? His lordship the baron, Major Ferdinand, certainly does us the honor to look in now and then; but, for all that, we don't undervalue others.
MILLER (vexed). A chair, wife, for the gentleman! Be seated, kinsman.
WORM (lays aside hat and stick, and seats himself). Well, well—and how then is my future—or past—bride? I hope she'll not be—may I not have the honor of seeing—Miss Louisa?
MRS MILLER. Thanks for inquiries, Mr. Seckertary, but my daughter is not at all proud.
MILLER (angry, jogs her with his elbow). Woman!
MRS MILLER. Sorry she can't have that honor, Mr. Seckertary. My daughter is now at mass.
WORM. I am glad to hear it,—glad to hear it. I shall have in her a pious, Christian wife!
MRS MILLER (smiling in a stupidly affected manner). Yes—but, Mr. Seckertary——
MILLER (greatly incensed, pulls her ears). Woman!
MRS MILLER. If our family can serve you in any other way—with the greatest pleasure, Mr. Seckertary——
WORM (frowning angrily). In any other way? Much obliged! much obliged!—hm! hm! hm!
MRS MILLER. But, as you yourself must see, Mr. Seckertary——
MILLER (in a rage, shaking his fist at her). Woman!
MRS MILLER. Good is good, and better is better, and one does not like to stand between fortune and one's only child (with vulgar pride). You understand me, Mr. Seckertary?
WORM. Understand. Not exac—-. Oh, yes. But what do you really mean?
MRS MILLER. Why—why—I only think—I mean—(coughs). Since then Providence has determined to make a great lady of my daughter——
WORM (jumping from his chair). What's that you say? what?
MILLER. Keep your seat, keep your seat, Mr. Secretary! The woman's an out-and-out fool! Where's the great lady to come from? How you show your donkey's ears by talking such stuff.
MRS MILLER. Scold as long as you will. I know what I know, and what the major said he said.
MILLER (snatches up his fiddle in anger). Will you hold your tongue? Shall I throw my fiddle at your head? What can you know? What can he have said? Take no notice of her clack, kinsman! Away with you to your kitchen! You'll not think me first cousin of a fool, and that I'm looking out so high for the girl? You'll not think that of me, Mr. Secretary?
WORM. Nor have I deserved it of you, Mr. Miller! You have always shown yourself a man of your word, and my contract to your daughter was as good as signed. I hold an office that will maintain a thrifty manager; the president befriends me; the door to advancement is open to me whenever I may choose to take advantage of it. You see that my intentions towards Miss Louisa are serious; if you have been won over by a fop of rank——
MRS MILLER. Mr. Seckertary! more respect, I beg——
MILLER. Hold your tongue, I say. Never mind her, kinsman. Things remain as they were. The answer I gave you last harvest, I repeat to-day. I'll not force my daughter. If you suit her, well and good; then it's for her to see that she can be happy with you. If she shakes her head—still better—be it so, I should say—then you must be content to pocket the refusal, and part in good fellowship over a bottle with her father. 'Tis the girl who is to live with you—not I. Why should I, out of sheer caprice, fasten a husband upon the girl for whom she has no inclination? That the evil one may haunt me down like a wild beast in my old age—that in every drop I drink—in every bit of bread I bite, I might swallow the bitter reproach: Thou art the villain who destroyed his child's happiness!
MRS MILLER. The short and the long of it is—I refuse my consent downright; my daughter's intended for a lofty station, and I'll go to law if my husband is going to be talked over.
MILLER. Shall I break every bone in your body, you millclack?
WORM (to MILLER). Paternal advice goes a great way with the daughter, and I hope you know me, Mr. Miller?
MILLER. Plague take you! 'Tis the girl must know you. What an old crabstick like me can see in you is just the very last thing that a dainty young girl wants. I'll tell you to a hair if you're the man for an orchestra—but a woman's heart is far too deep for a music-master. And then, to be frank with you—you know that I'm a blunt, straightforward fellow—you'll not give thank'ye for my advice. I'll persuade my daughter to no one—but from you Mr. Sec—I would dissuade her! A lover who calls upon the father for help—with permission—is not worth a pinch of snuff. If he has anything in him, he'll be ashamed to take that old-fashioned way of making his deserts known to his sweetheart. If he hasn't the courage, why he's a milksop, and no Louisas were born for the like of him. No! he must carry on his commerce with the daughter behind the father's back. He must manage so to win her heart, that she would rather wish both father and mother at Old Harry than give him up—or that she come herself, fall at her father's feet, and implore either for death on the rack, or the only one of her heart. That's the fellow for me! that I call love! and he who can't bring matters to that pitch with a petticoat may—stick the goose feather in his cap.
WORM (seizes hat and stick and hurries out of the room). Much obliged, Mr. Miller!
MILLER (going after him slowly). For what? for what? You haven't taken anything, Mr. Secretary! (Comes back.) He won't hear, and off he's gone. The very sight of that quill-driver is like poison and brimstone to me. An ugly, contraband knave, smuggled into the world by some lewd prank of the devil—with his malicious little pig's eyes, foxy hair, and nut-cracker chin, just as if Nature, enraged at such a bungled piece of goods, had seized the ugly monster by it, and flung him aside. No! rather than throw away my daughter on a vagabond like him, she may—God forgive me!
MRS MILLER. The wretch!—but you'll be made to keep a clean tongue in your head!
MILLER. Ay, and you too, with your pestilential baron—you, too, must put my bristles up. You're never more stupid than when you have the most occasion to show a little sense. What's the meaning of all that trash about your daughter being a great lady? If it's to be cried out about the town to-morrow, you need only let that fellow get scent of it. He is one of your worthies who go sniffing about into people's houses, dispute upon everything, and, if a slip of the tongue happen to you, skurry with it straight to the prince, mistress, and minister, and then there's the devil to pay.