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.]