Enter MRS. Hardcastle and MR. Hardcastle.
Mrs. Hardcastle: I vow, Mr. Hardcastle, you're very particular. Is there a creature in the whole country but ourselves, that does not take a trip to town now and then, to rub off the rust a little? There's the two Miss Hoggs, and our neighbour Mrs. Grigsby, go to take a month's polishing every winter.
Hardcastle: Ay, and bring back vanity and affectation to last them the whole year. I wonder why London cannot keep its own fools at home! In my time, the follies of the town crept slowly among us, but now they travel faster than a stage-coach. Its fopperies come down not only as inside passengers, but in the very basket.
Mrs. Hardcastle: Ay, your times were fine times indeed; you have been telling us of them for many a long year. Here we live in an old rumbling mansion, that looks for all the world like an inn, but that we never see company. Our best visitors are old Mrs. Oddfish, the curate's wife, and little Cripplegate, the lame dancing-master; and all our entertainment your old stories of Prince Eugene and the Duke of Marlborough. I hate such old-fashioned trumpery.
Hardcastle: And I love it. I love everything that's old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine; and I believe, Dorothy (taking her hand), you'll own I have been pretty fond of an old wife.
Mrs. Hardcastle: Lord, Mr. Hardcastle, you're for ever at your Dorothys and your old wifes. You may be a Darby, but I'll be no Joan, I promise you. I'm not so old as you'd make me, by more than one good year. Add twenty to twenty, and make money of that.
Hardcastle: Let me see; twenty added to twenty makes just fifty and seven.
Mrs. Hardcastle: It's false, Mr. Hardcastle; I was but twenty when I was brought to bed of Tony, that I had by Mr. Lumpkin, my first husband; and he's not come to years of discretion yet.
Hardcastle: Nor ever will, I dare answer for him. Ay, you have taught him finely.
Mrs. Hardcastle: No matter. Tony Lumpkin has a good fortune. My son is not to live by his learning. I don't think a boy wants much learning to spend fifteen hundred a year.
Hardcastle: Learning, quotha! a mere composition of tricks and mischief.
Mrs. Hardcastle: Humour, my dear; nothing but humour. Come, Mr. Hardcastle, you must allow the boy a little humour.
Hardcastle: I'd sooner allow him a horse-pond. If burning the footmen's shoes, frightening the maids, and worrying the kittens be humour, he has it. It was but yesterday he fastened my wig to the back of my chair, and when I went to make a bow, I popt my bald head in Mrs. Frizzle's face.
Mrs. Hardcastle: And am I to blame? The poor boy was always too sickly to do any good. A school would be his death. When he comes to be a little stronger, who knows what a year or two's Latin may do for him?
Hardcastle: Latin for him! A cat and fiddle. No, no; the alehouse and the stable are the only schools he'll ever go to.
Mrs. Hardcastle: Well, we must not snub the poor boy now, for I believe we shan't have him long among us. Anybody that looks in his face may see he's consumptive.
Hardcastle: Ay, if growing too fat be one of the symptoms.
Mrs. Hardcastle: He coughs sometimes.
Hardcastle: Yes, when his liquor goes the wrong way.
Mrs. Hardcastle: I'm actually afraid of his lungs.
Hardcastle: And truly so am I; for he sometimes whoops like a speaking trumpet—(Tony hallooing behind the scenes)—O, there he goes—a very consumptive figure, truly.
Enter TONY, crossing the stage.
Mrs. Hardcastle: Tony, where are you going, my charmer? Won't you give papa and I a little of your company, lovee?
Tony: I'm in haste, mother; I cannot stay.
Mrs. Hardcastle: You shan't venture out this raw evening, my dear; you look most shockingly.
Tony: I can't stay, I tell you. The Three Pigeons expects me down every moment. There's some fun going forward.
Hardcastle: Ay; the alehouse, the old place: I thought so.
Mrs. Hardcastle: A low, paltry set of fellows.
Tony: Not so low, neither. There's Dick Muggins the exciseman, Jack Slang the horse doctor, Little Aminadab that grinds the music box, and Tom Twist that spins the pewter platter.
Mrs. Hardcastle: Pray, my dear, disappoint them for one night at least.
Tony: As for disappointing them, I should not so much mind; but I can't abide to disappoint myself.
Mrs. Hardcastle: (detaining him.) You shan't go.
Tony: I will, I tell you.
Mrs. Hardcastle: I say you shan't.
Tony: We'll see which is strongest, you or I.
Exit, hauling her out.
Hardcastle: (solus.) Ay, there goes a pair that only spoil each other. But is not the whole age in a combination to drive sense and discretion out of doors? There's my pretty darling Kate! the fashions of the times have almost infected her too. By living a year or two in town, she is as fond of gauze and French frippery as the best of them.
Enter Miss Hardcastle.
Hardcastle: Blessings on my pretty innocence! drest out as usual, my Kate. Goodness! What a quantity of superfluous silk hast thou got about thee, girl! I could never teach the fools of this age, that the indigent world could be clothed out of the trimmings of the vain.
Miss Hardcastle: You know our agreement, sir. You allow me the morning to receive and pay visits, and to dress in my own manner; and in the evening I put on my housewife's dress to please you.
Hardcastle: Well, remember, I insist on the terms of our agreement; and, by the bye, I believe I shall have occasion to try your obedience this very evening.
Miss Hardcastle: I protest, sir, I don't comprehend your meaning.
Hardcastle: Then to be plain with you, Kate, I expect the young gentleman I have chosen to be your husband from town this very day. I have his father's letter, in which he informs me his son is set out, and that he intends to follow himself shortly after.
Miss Hardcastle: Indeed! I wish I had known something of this before. Bless me, how shall I behave? It's a thousand to one I shan't like him; our meeting will be so formal, and so like a thing of business, that I shall find no room for friendship or esteem.
Hardcastle: Depend upon it, child, I'll never control your choice; but Mr. Marlow, whom I have pitched upon, is the son of my old friend, Sir Charles Marlow, of whom you have heard me talk so often. The young gentleman has been bred a scholar, and is designed for an employment in the service of his country. I am told he's a man of an excellent understanding.
Miss Hardcastle: Is he?
Hardcastle: Very generous.
Miss Hardcastle: I believe I shall like him.
Hardcastle: Young and brave.
Miss Hardcastle: I'm sure I shall like him.
Hardcastle: And very handsome.
Miss Hardcastle: My dear papa, say no more, (kissing his hand), he's mine; I'll have him.
Hardcastle: And, to crown all, Kate, he's one of the most bashful and reserved young fellows in all the world.
Miss Hardcastle: Eh! you have frozen me to death again. That word RESERVED has undone all the rest of his accomplishments. A reserved lover, it is said, always makes a suspicious husband.
Hardcastle: On the contrary, modesty seldom resides in a breast that is not enriched with nobler virtues. It was the very feature in his character that first struck me.
Miss Hardcastle: He must have more striking features to catch me, I promise you. However, if he be so young, so handsome, and so everything as you mention, I believe he'll do still. I think I'll have him.
Hardcastle: Ay, Kate, but there is still an obstacle. It's more than an even wager he may not have you.
Miss Hardcastle: My dear papa, why will you mortify one so?—Well, if he refuses, instead of breaking my heart at his indifference, I'll only break my glass for its flattery, set my cap to some newer fashion, and look out for some less difficult admirer.
Hardcastle: Bravely resolved! In the mean time I'll go prepare the servants for his reception: as we seldom see company, they want as much training as a company of recruits the first day's muster.
Miss Harcastle Sola
Miss Hardcastle: Lud, this news of papa's puts me all in a flutter. Young, handsome: these he put last; but I put them foremost. Sensible, good-natured; I like all that. But then reserved and sheepish; that's much against him. Yet can't he be cured of his timidity, by being taught to be proud of his wife? Yes, and can't I—But I vow I'm disposing of the husband before I have secured the Lover!
Enter Miss Neville.
Miss Hardcastle: I'm glad you're come, Neville, my dear. Tell me, Constance, how do I look this evening? Is there anything whimsical about me? Is it one of my well-looking days, child? Am I in face to-day?
Miss Neville: Perfectly, my dear. Yet now I look again — bless me!—sure no accident has happened among the canary birds or the gold fishes. Has your brother or the cat been meddling? or has the last novel been too moving?
Miss Hardcastle: No; nothing of all this. I have been threatened — I can scarce get it out—I have been threatened with a lover.
Miss Neville: And his name—
Miss Hardcastle: Is Marlow.
Miss Neville: Indeed!
Miss Hardcastle: The son of Sir Charles Marlow.
Miss Neville: As I live, the most intimate friend of Mr. Hastings, my admirer. They are never asunder. I believe you must have seen him when we lived in town.
Miss Hardcastle: Never.
Miss Neville: He's a very singular character, I assure you. Among women of reputation and virtue he is the modestest man alive; but his acquaintance give him a very different character among creatures of another stamp: you understand me.
Miss Hardcastle: An odd character indeed. I shall never be able to manage him. What shall I do? Pshaw, think no more of him, but trust to occurrences for success. But how goes on your own affair, my dear? has my mother been courting you for my brother Tony as usual?
Miss Neville: I have just come from one of our agreeable téte-à-tétes. She has been saying a hundred tender things, and setting off her pretty monster as the very pink of perfection.
Miss Hardcastle: And her partiality is such, that she actually thinks him so. A fortune like yours is no small temptation. Besides, as she has the sole management of it, I'm not surprised to see her unwilling to let it go out of the family.
Miss Neville: A fortune like mine, which chiefly consists in jewels, is no such mighty temptation. But at any rate, if my dear Hastings be but constant, I make no doubt to be too hard for her at last. However, I let her suppose that I am in love with her son; and she never once dreams that my affections are fixed upon another.
Miss Hardcastle: My good brother holds out stoutly. I could almost love him for hating you so.
Miss Neville: It is a good-natured creature at bottom, and I'm sure would wish to see me married to anybody but himself. But my aunt's bell rings for our afternoon's walk round the improvements. Allons! Courage is necessary, as our affairs are critical.
Miss Hardcastle: "Would it were bed-time, and all were well."