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Mar. How's this! Sure I have not mistaken the house! Every thing looks like an inn. The servants cry, coming. The attendance is awkward; the barmaid too to attend us. But she's here,. and will further inform me. Whither so fast, child? A word with you.
Bitter Miss Hardcastle. Miss Hard. Let it be short then.. I'm in a hurryMar. Pray, child, answer me oue question. What are you, and what may your business in this house be? Miss Hard. A relation of the family, sir. Mar. What? A poor relation?
Miss Hard. Yes, sir. A poor relation appointed to keep the keys, and to see that the guests want nothing in my power to give them.
Mar. That is, you act as the barmaid of this inn?
Miss Hard. Inn ! O law—What brought that in your head? One of the best families in the county keep an inn! Ha! ha! ha! old Mr. Hardcastle's house an inn!.
Mar. Mr. Hardcastle's house! Is this house Mr. Hardcastle's house, child?
Miss Hard. Ay, sure. Whose else should it be.
Mar. So then all's out, and I have been d—nably imposed on. O confound my stupid head! I shall be laugh'd at over the whole town. I shall be stuck up in caricatura in all the print shops. The D.ullissimo Maccaroni. To mistake this house of. all others for an inn, and my father's old friend for an inn-keeper. What a swaggering puppy must he take me for! What a silly puppy do I find myself! There again, may I be hang'd, my dear, but I mistook you for the barmaid.
Miss Hard. Dear me! Dear me! I'm -sure there's nothing in my behaviour to put me upon a level with one of that stamp.
Mar. Nothing, my dear, nothing. But I was in for a list of blunders, and could not help making you a subscriber. My stupidity saw every thing the wrong way. I mistook your assiduity for assurance, and your simplicity for allurement. But it's over—This house I no more show my face in.
Miss Hard. I hope, sir, I have done nothing to disoblige you. I'm sure I should be sorry to affront any gentleman who has been so polite, and said so many civil things to me. I'm sure I should be sorry [Pretending to cry.] if he left the family upon my account. I'm sure I should be sorry people said any thing amiss, since I have no fortune but my character.
Mar. [Aside.'] By heaven she weeps. This is the first mark of tenderness I ever had from a modest woman, and it touches me.
Miss Hard. But I'm sure my family is as good as Miss Hardcastle's, and though I'm poor, that's no great misfortune to a contented mind, and, until this moment, I never thought that it was bad to want fortune.
Mar. And why now, my pretty simplicity?
Miss Hard. Because it puts me at a distance from one, that if I had a thousand pound I would give it all to.
Mar. [Aside.] This simplicity bewitches me so, that if I stay I'm undone. I must make one bold effort, and leave her. [To her.] Your partiality in my favour, my dear, touches me most sensibly; and were I to live for myself alone, I could easily fix my choice. But to be plain with you, the difference of our birth, fortune, and education, make an honourable connection impossible: and I can never harbour a thought of seducing simplicity, that trusted in my honour; or bringing ruin upon one, whose only fault was being too lovelv.
Miss Hard. Generous man! I never knew half his merit till now. He shall not go, if I have power or art to detain him. I'll still preserve the character in which I stoop'd to conquer, but will undeceive my papa, who, perhaps, may laugh him out of his resolution. [Exit
Enter Tony and Miss Neville.
Tony. Ay, you may steal for yourselves the next time: I have done my duty. She has got the jewels again, that's a sure thing; but she believes it was all a mistake of the servants.
Mill Nev. But, my dear cousin, sure you won't forsake us in this distress. If she in the least suspects that I am going off, I shall certainly be locked up, or sent to my aunt Pedigree's, which is ten times worse.
Tony. To be sure, aunts of all kinds are d—n'd bad things. But what can I do? I have got you a pair of horses that will fly like Whistlejacket, and I'm sure you can't say but I have courted you nicely before her face. Here she comes, we must court a little more, for fear she should suspect us.
[ Tltey retire and seem to fondle.
Enter Mrs. Hardcastle.
Mrs. Hard. Well, I was greatly fluttered, to be sure. But my son tells me it was all a mistake of the servants. I shan't be easy, however, till they are fairly married, and then let her keep her own fortune. But what do I see! Fondling together, as I'm alive. I never saw Tony so sprightly before. Ah! have I caught you, my pretty doves! What, billing, exchanging stolen glances, and broken murmurs, ah!
Tony. As for murmurs, mother, we grumble a little now and then, to be sure. But there's no love lost between us.
Mrs. Hard. A mere sprinkling, Tony, upon the flame, only'to make it burn brighter.
Miss Nev. Cousin Tony promises to give us more of his company at home. Indeed he shan't leave us any more. It won't leave us, cousin Tony, will it?
Tony. O, it's a pretty creature. No, I'd sooner leave my horse in a pound, than leave you when you smile upon one so. Your laugh makes you so becoming.
Miss Nev. Agreeable cousin! who can help admiring that natural humour, that pleasant, broad, red, thoughtless—[Patting his cheek.] ah! it's a bold face.
Mrs. Hard. Pretty innocence!
Tony. I'm sure I always lov.'d cousin Con's hazel eyes, and her pretty long fingers, that she twists this way and that, over the haspicholls, like a parcel of bobbins.
Mrs. Hard. Ah, he would charm the bird from the tree. I was never so happy before. My boy takes after his father, poor Mr. Lumpkin, exactly. The jewels, my dear Con, shall be yours incontinently. You shall have them. Isn't he a sweet boy, my dear? You shall be married to-morrow, and we'll put off the rest of his education, like Dr. Drowsey's sermons, to a fitter opportunity.
Digg. Where's the 'squire? I have got a letter for your worship.
Tony. Give it to my mamma. She reads all roy letters first.
Digg. I had orders to deliver it into your „own hands.
Tony. Who does it come from?
Digg. Your worship mun ask that o' the letter itself.
Tony. I could wish to know, though.
[ Turning the letter, and gazing on it.
Miss Nev. [Aside.] Undone, undone! A letter to him from Hastings. I know the band. If my aunt sees it, we are ruined for ever. I'll keep her employ'd a little if I can. [To Mrs. Hardcastle.] But I have not told you, madam, of my cousin's smart answer just
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now to Mr. Marlow. We so laugh'd—You must know, madam—this way a little, for he must not hear us.
[ They confer.
Tony. [Still gazing.'] A d—n'd cramp piece of penmanship, as ever I saw in my life. I can read your print-hand very well. But here there are such handles, and shanks, and dashes, that one can scarce tell the head from the tail. . To Anthony Lumpkin, Esq. It's very odd, I can read the outside of my letters, where my own name is, well enough. But when I come to open it, it is all—buzz. That's hard, very hard: for the inside of the letter is always the cream of the correspondence.
Mrs. Hard. Ha! ha! ha! Very well, very well. And so my son was too hard for the philosopher?
Miss Nev. Yes, madam ; but you must hear the rest, madam. A little more this way, or he may hear us. You'll hear how he puzzled him again.
Mrs. Hard. He seems strangely puzzled now himself, methinks.
Tony. [Still gazing.] A d—n'd up and down hand, as if it was disguished in liquor. [Reading.] Dear sir. Ay, that's that. Then there's an M, and a T, and an S, but whether the next be an izzard or an R, confound me, I cannot tell.
Mrs. Hard. What's that, my dear? Can I give you any assistance?
Miss Nev. Pray, aunt, let me read it. Nobody reads a cramp hand better than I. [Twitching the letter from her.] Do you know who it is from?
Tony. Can't tell, except from Dick Ginger the feeder.
Miss Nev. Ay, so it is, [Pretending to read.] "Dear 'Squire, Hoping that you're in health, as I am at this present. The gentlemen of the Shake-bag club has cut the gentlemen of the goose-green quite out of feather. The odds—um—odd battle um—long fighting—