The Old Bachelor "Eternity Was In That Moment"

William Congreve

"Eternity Was In That Moment"

Context: Old Fondlewife, married to the young and beautiful Laetitia, is, as an impotent husband, jealous of the virtue of his lusty wife. He is compelled to be absent on a business matter of £500, and to insure his wife's good behavior, purposes to have a one-eyed Puritanical minister, Tribulation Spintext, sit with her while he is absent. Laetitia had written to Vainlove, whose mistress she had formerly been, and had said that she would so arrange matters that Spintext would not be at her house. Vainlove, who has tired of Laetitia, turns the affair over to his friend, Bellmour, who procures a long black cloak, a broad hat, and an eye-patch and visits Laetitia after her husband departs. At first she is startled to find a stranger in her home, but Bellmour speedily makes an impression upon her with his excellent appearance and bold manners. It is only a matter of moments before she gives him, in return for his importunities, a passionate kiss. As the two part, he says that eternity was in that moment. She admires his agreeable impudence and accedes to his request.


LAETITIA
I hope you are a gentleman;–and since you are privy to a weak woman's failing, won't turn it to the prejudice of her reputation. You look as if you had more honor–
BELLMOUR
And more love, or my face is a false witness, and deserves to be pilloried. No, by Heaven I swear–
LAETITIA
Nay, don't swear if you'd have me believe you; but promise–
BELLMOUR
Well, I promise–A promise is so cold!–give me leave to swear–by those eyes, those killing eyes; by those healing lips.–Oh! press the soft charm close to mine–and seal 'em up for ever.
LAETITIA
Upon that condition. [He kisses her.]
BELLMOUR
Eternity was in that moment! One more upon any condition.