Enter SIR CHARLES and MISS HARDCASTLE.
Sir Charles: What a situation am I in! If what you say appears, I shall then find a guilty son. If what he says be true, I shall then lose one that, of all others, I most wished for a daughter.
Miss Hardcastle: I am proud of your approbation, and to show I merit it, if you place yourselves as I directed, you shall hear his explicit declaration. But he comes.
Sir Charles: I'll to your father, and keep him to the appointment. ( Exit SIR CHARLES. )
Marlow: Though prepared for setting out, I come once more to take leave; nor did I, till this moment, know the pain I feel in the separation.
Miss Hardcastle: ( In her own natural manner. ) I believe sufferings cannot be very great, sir, which you can so easily remove. A day or two longer, perhaps, might lessen your uneasiness, by showing the little value of what you now think proper to regret.
Marlow: ( Aside. ) This girl every moment improves upon me. ( To her. ) It must not be, madam. I have already trifled too long with my heart. My very pride begins to submit to my passion. The disparity of education and fortune, the anger of a parent, and the contempt of my equals, begin to lose their weight; and nothing can restore me to myself but this painful effort of resolution.
Miss Hardcastle: Then go, sir: I'll urge nothing more to detain you. Though my family be as good as hers you came down to visit, and my education, I hope, not inferior, what are these advantages without equal affluence? I must remain contented with the slight approbation of imputed merit; I must have only the mockery of your addresses, while all your serious aims are fixed on fortune.
Enter HARDCASTLE and SIR CHARLES from behind.
Sir Charles: Here, behind this screen.
Hardcastle: Ay, ay; make no noise. I'll engage my Kate covers him with confusion at last.
Marlow: By heavens, madam! fortune was ever my smallest consideration. Your beauty at first caught my eye; for who could see that without emotion? But every moment that I converse with you steals in some new grace, heightens the picture, and gives it stronger expression. What at first seemed rustic plainness, now appears refined simplicity. What seemed forward assurance, now strikes me as the result of courageous innocence and conscious virtue.
Sir Charles: What can it mean? He amazes me!
Hardcastle: I told you how it would be. Hush!
Marlow: I am now determined to stay, madam; and I have too good an opinion of my father's discernment, when he sees you, to doubt his approbation.
Miss Hardcastle: No, Mr. Marlow, I will not, cannot detain you. Do you think I could suffer a connexion in which there is the smallest room for repentance? Do you think I would take the mean advantage of a transient passion, to load you with confusion? Do you think I could ever relish that happiness which was acquired by lessening yours?
Marlow: By all that's good, I can have no happiness but what's in your power to grant me! Nor shall I ever feel repentance but in not having seen your merits before. I will stay even contrary to your wishes; and though you should persist to shun me, I will make my respectful assiduities atone for the levity of my past conduct.
Miss Hardcastle: Sir, I must entreat you'll desist. As our acquaintance began, so let it end, in indifference. I might have given an hour or two to levity; but seriously, Mr. Marlow, do you think I could ever submit to a connexion where I must appear mercenary, and you imprudent? Do you think I could ever catch at the confident addresses of a secure admirer?
Marlow: ( Kneeling. ) Does this look like security? Does this look like confidence? No, madam, every moment that shows me your merit, only serves to increase my diffidence and confusion. Here let me continue— —
Sir Charles: I can hold it no longer. Charles, Charles, how hast thou deceived me! Is this your indifference, your uninteresting conversation?
Hardcastle: Your cold contempt; your formal interview! What have you to say now?
Marlow: That I'm all amazement! What can it mean?
Hardcastle: It means that you can say and unsay things at pleasure: that you can address a lady in private, and deny it in public: that you have one story for us, and another for my daughter.
Marlow: Daughter!— This lady your daughter?
Hardcastle: Yes, sir, my only daughter; my Kate; whose else should she be?
Marlow: Oh, the devil!
Miss Hardcastle: Yes, sir, that very identical tall squinting lady you were pleased to take me for ( courtseying ); she that you addressed as the mild, modest, sentimental man of gravity, and the bold, forward, agreeable Rattle of the Ladies' Club. Ha! ha! ha!
Marlow: Zounds! there's no bearing this; it's worse than death!
Miss Hardcastle: In which of your characters, sir, will you give us leave to address you? As the faltering gentleman, with looks on the ground, that speaks just to be heard, and hates hypocrisy; or the loud confident creature, that keeps it up with Mrs. Mantrap, and old Miss Biddy Buckskin, till three in the morning? Ha! ha! ha!
Marlow: O, curse on my noisy head. I never attempted to be impudent yet, that I was not taken down. I must be gone.
Hardcastle: By the hand of my body, but you shall not. I see it was all a mistake, and I am rejoiced to find it. You shall not, sir, I tell you. I know she'll forgive you. Won't you forgive him, Kate? We'll all forgive you. Take courage, man. ( They retire, she tormenting him, to the back scene. )
Enter MRS. HARDCASTLE and Tony.
Mrs. Hardcastle: So, so, they're gone off. Let them go, I care not.
Hardcastle: Who gone?
Mrs. Hardcastle: My dutiful niece and her gentleman, Mr. Hastings, from town. He who came down with our modest visitor here.
Sir Charles: Who, my honest George Hastings? As worthy a fellow as lives, and the girl could not have made a more prudent choice.
Hardcastle: Then, by the hand of my body, I'm proud of the connexion.
Mrs. Hardcastle: Well, if he has taken away the lady, he has not taken her fortune; that remains in this family to console us for her loss.
Hardcastle: Sure, Dorothy, you would not be so mercenary?
Mrs. Hardcastle: Ay, that's my affair, not yours.
Hardcastle: But you know if your son, when of age, refuses to marry his cousin, her whole fortune is then at her own disposal.
Mrs. Hardcastle: Ay, but he's not of age, and she has not thought proper to wait for his refusal.
Enter HASTINGS and MISS NEVILLE.
Mrs. Hardcastle: ( Aside. ) What, returned so soon! I begin not to like it.
Hastings: ( To HARDCASTLE. ) For my late attempt to fly off with your niece let my present confusion be my punishment. We are now come back, to appeal from your justice to your humanity. By her father's consent, I first paid her my addresses, and our passions were first founded in duty.
Miss Neville: Since his death, I have been obliged to stoop to dissimulation to avoid oppression. In an hour of levity, I was ready to give up my fortune to secure my choice. But I am now recovered from the delusion, and hope from your tenderness what is denied me from a nearer connexion.
Mrs. Hardcastle: Pshaw, pshaw! this is all but the whining end of a modern novel.
Hardcastle: Be it what it will, I'm glad they're come back to reclaim their due. Come hither, Tony, boy. Do you refuse this lady's hand whom I now offer you?
Tony: What signifies my refusing? You know I can't refuse her till I'm of age, father.
Hardcastle: While I thought concealing your age, boy, was likely to conduce to your improvement, I concurred with your mother's desire to keep it secret. But since I find she turns it to a wrong use, I must now declare you have been of age these three months.
Tony: Of age! Am I of age, father?
Hardcastle: Above three months.
Tony: Then you'll see the first use I'll make of my liberty. ( Taking MISS NEVILLE's hand. ) Witness all men by these presents, that I, Anthony Lumpkin, Esquire, of BLANK place, refuse you, Constantia Neville, spinster, of no place at all, for my true and lawful wife. So Constance Neville may marry whom she pleases, and Tony Lumpkin is his own man again.
Sir Charles: O brave 'squire!
Hastings: My worthy friend!
Mrs. Hardcastle: My undutiful offspring!
Marlow: Joy, my dear George! I give you joy sincerely. And could I prevail upon my little tyrant here to be less arbitrary, I should be the happiest man alive, if you would return me the favour.
Hastings: ( To MISS HARDCASTLE. ) Come, madam, you are now driven to the very last scene of all your contrivances. I know you like him, I'm sure he loves you, and you must and shall have him.
Hardcastle: ( Joining their hands.)And I say so too. And, Mr. Marlow, if she makes as good a wife as she has a daughter, I don't believe you'll ever repent your bargain. So now to supper. To-morrow we shall gather all the poor of the parish about us, and the Mistakes of the Night shall be crowned with a merry morning. So, boy, take her; and as you have been mistaken in the mistress, my wish is, that you may never be mistaken in the wife. ( Exeunt Omnes. )