Enter HASTINGS and Servant.
Hastings: You saw the old lady and Miss Neville drive off, you say?
Servant: Yes, your honour. They went off in a post-coach, and the young 'squire went on horseback. They're thirty miles off by this time.
Hastings: Then all my hopes are over.
Servant: Yes, sir. Old Sir Charles has arrived. He and the old gentleman of the house have been laughing at Mr. Marlow's mistake this half hour. They are coming this way.
Hastings: Then I must not be seen. So now to my fruitless appointment at the bottom of the garden. This is about the time. ( Exit.)
Enter SIR CHARLES and HARDCASTLE.
Hardcastle: Ha! ha! ha! The peremptory tone in which he sent forth his sublime commands!
Sir Charles: And the reserve with which I suppose he treated all your advances.
Hardcastle: And yet he might have seen something in me above a common innkeeper, too.
Sir Charles: Yes, Dick, but be mistook you for an uncommon innkeeper, ha! ha! ha!
Hardcastle: Well, I'm in too good spirits to think of anything but joy. Yes, my dear friend, this union of our families will make our personal friendships hereditary; and though my daughter's fortune is but small—
Sir Charles: Why, Dick, will you talk of fortune to ME? My son is possessed of more than a competence already, and can want nothing but a good and virtuous girl to share his happiness and increase it. If they like each other, as you say they do—
Hardcastle: IF, man! I tell you they DO like each other. My daughter as good as told me so.
Sir Charles: But girls are apt to flatter themselves, you know.
Hardcastle: I saw him grasp her hand in the warmest manner myself; and here he comes to put you out of your IFS, I warrant him.
Marlow: I come, sir, once more, to ask pardon for my strange conduct. I can scarce reflect on my insolence without confusion.
Hardcastle: Tut, boy, a trifle! You take it too gravely. An hour or two's laughing with my daughter will set all to rights again. She'll never like you the worse for it.
Marlow: Sir, I shall be always proud of her approbation.
Hardcastle: Approbation is but a cold word, Mr. Marlow; if I am not deceived, you have something more than approbation thereabouts. You take me?
Marlow: Really, sir, I have not that happiness.
Hardcastle: Come, boy, I'm an old fellow, and know what's what as well as you that are younger. I know what has passed between you; but mum.
Marlow: Sure, sir, nothing has passed between us but the most profound respect on my side, and the most distant reserve on hers. You don't think, sir, that my impudence has been passed upon all the rest of the family.
Hardcastle: Impudence! No, I don't say that— not quite impudence— though girls like to be played with, and rumpled a little too, sometimes. But she has told no tales, I assure you.
Marlow: I never gave her the slightest cause.
Hardcastle: Well, well, I like modesty in its place well enough. But this is over-acting, young gentleman. You may be open. Your father and I will like you all the better for it.
Marlow: May I die, sir, if I ever— —
Hardcastle: I tell you, she don't dislike you; and as I'm sure you like her— —
Marlow: Dear sir— I protest, sir— —
Hardcastle: I see no reason why you should not be joined as fast as the parson can tie you.
Marlow: But hear me, sir—
Hardcastle: Your father approves the match, I admire it; every moment's delay will be doing mischief. So—
Marlow: But why won't you hear me? By all that's just and true, I never gave Miss Hardcastle the slightest mark of my attachment, or even the most distant hint to suspect me of affection. We had but one interview, and that was formal, modest, and uninteresting.
Hardcastle: ( Aside. ) This fellow's formal modest impudence is beyond bearing.
Sir Charles: And you never grasped her hand, or made any protestations?
Marlow: As Heaven is my witness, I came down in obedience to your commands. I saw the lady without emotion, and parted without reluctance. I hope you'll exact no farther proofs of my duty, nor prevent me from leaving a house in which I suffer so many mortifications. ( Exit. )
Sir Charles: I'm astonished at the air of sincerity with which he parted.
Hardcastle: And I'm astonished at the deliberate intrepidity of his assurance.
Sir Charles: I dare pledge my life and honour upon his truth.
Hardcastle: Here comes my daughter, and I would stake my happiness upon her veracity.
Enter MISS HARDCASTLE.
Hardcastle: Kate, come hither, child. Answer us sincerely and without reserve: has Mr. Marlow made you any professions of love and affection?
Miss Hardcastle: The question is very abrupt, sir. But since you require unreserved sincerity, I think he has.
Hardcastle: ( To SIR CHARLES. ) You see.
Sir Charles: And pray, madam, have you and my son had more than one interview?
Miss Hardcastle: Yes, sir, several.
Hardcastle: ( To SIR CHARLES. ) You see.
Sir Charles: But did be profess any attachment?
Miss Hardcastle: A lasting one.
Sir Charles: Did he talk of love?
Miss Hardcastle: Much, sir.
Sir Charles: Amazing! And all this formally?
Miss Hardcastle: Formally.
Hardcastle: Now, my friend, I hope you are satisfied.
Sir Charles: And how did he behave, madam?
Miss Hardcastle: As most profest admirers do: said some civil things of my face, talked much of his want of merit, and the greatness of mine; mentioned his heart, gave a short tragedy speech, and ended with pretended rapture.
Sir Charles: Now I'm perfectly convinced, indeed. I know his conversation among women to be modest and submissive: this forward canting ranting manner by no means describes him; and, I am confident, he never sat for the picture.
Miss Hardcastle: Then, what, sir, if I should convince you to your face of my sincerity? If you and my papa, in about half an hour, will place yourselves behind that screen, you shall hear him declare his passion to me in person.
Sir Charles: Agreed. And if I find him what you describe, all my happiness in him must have an end. ( Exit. )
Miss Hardcastle: And if you don't find him what I describe— I fear my happiness must never have a beginning.