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Sir C. And you never grasp'd her hand, or made any protestations?
Mar. 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 further proofs of my duty, nor prevent me from leaving a house in which I suffer so many mortifications. [Exit.
Sir C. I'm astonish'd at the air of sincerity with .which he parted.
Hard. And I'm astonish'd at the deliberate intrepidity of his assurance.
Sir C. I dare pledge my life and honour upon his truth.
Hard. Here comes my daughter, and I would stake my happiness upon her veracity.
Enter Miss Hardcastle.
Hard. Kate, come hither, child. Answer us sincerely, and without reserve; has Mr. Marlow made you any professions of love and affection?
Miss Hard. The question is very abrupt, sir! But since you require unreserved sincerity, I think he has.
Hard. [To Sir Charles.] You see.
Sir C. And pray, madam, have you and my son had more than one interview?
Miss Hard. Yes, sir, several.
Hard. [To Sir Charles.] You see.
Sir C. But did he profess any attachment?'
Miss Hard. A lasting one.
Sir C. Did he talk of love?
Miss Hard. Much, sir.
Sir C. Amazing! And all this formally?
Miss Hard. Formally. .
Hard. Now, my friend, T hope you are satisfied.
Sir C. And how did he behave, madam?
Miss Hard. As most profess'd 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 C. Now I'm perfectly convinc'd, indeed. I know his conversation among women to be modest and submissive. This forward, canting, ranting manner by no means describes him, and I'm confident he never sat for the picture.
Miss Hard. 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 follow my directions, you shall hear him declare his passion to me in person.
Sir C. Agreed. And if I find him what you describe, all my happiness in him must have an end. [Exit.
Miss Hard. And if you don't find him what I describe—L fear my happiness must never have a beginning. [Exeunt.
Scene IT.—TheBack of the Garden.
Enter Hastings. Hast. What an idiot am I, to wait here for a fellow, who probably takes a delight in mortifying me! He never intended to be punctual, and I'll wait no longer. What do I see? It is he, and perhaps with news of my Constance!
Enter Tony, booted and spattered.
My honest 'squire! I now find you a man of your word. This looks like friendship.
Tony. Ay, I'm your friend, and the best friend you have in the world; if you knew but all. This riding by night, by the by, is cursedly tiresome. It has »hook me worse than the basket of a stage-coach.
Hast. Well, but where have you left the ladies? I die with impatience.
Tony. Left them? Why, where should I leave them, but where I found them?
Hast. This is a riddle.
Tony. Riddle me this then. What's that goes round the house, and round the house, and never touches the house?
Hast. I'm still astray.
Tony. Why, that's it, mon. I have led them astray. By jingo, there's not a pond or slough within five miles of the place but they can tell the taste of.
Hast. Ha! ha! ha! I understand; you took them in a round, while they supposed themselves going forward. And so you have at last brought them home again.
Tony. You shall hear. I first took them down Feather-bed Lane, where we stuck fast in the mud. I then rattled them crack over the stones of Up-and-down Hill—I then introduc'd them to the gibbet on Crackskull Common, and from that, with a circumbendibus, I fairly lodged them in the horsepond at the bottom of the garden.
Hast. But no accident, I hope.
Tony. No, no. Only mother is confoundedly frightened. She thinks herself forty miles off". She's sick of the journey, and the cattle can scarce crawl. So if your own horses be ready, you may whip off with cousin, aud I'll be bound that no soul here can budge a foot to follow you.
Hast. My dear friend, how can I be grateful?
Tony. Ay, now its dear friend, noble 'squire. Just now, it was all idiot, cub, and run me through the guts. D—n your way of fighting, I say. After we take a knock in this part of the country, we kiss and befriends. But if you had run me through the guts, then I should be dead, and you might go kiss the hangman.
Hast. The rebuke is just. But I must hasten to relieve Miss Neville; if you keep the old lady employed, I promise to take care of the young one.
Tony. Never fear me. Here she comes. Vanish. She's got from the pond, and draggled up to the waist like a mermaid.
Enter Mrs. Hardcastle.
Mrs. Hard. Oh, Tony, I'm kill'd. Shook, battered to death. I shall never survive it. That last jolt has done my business.
Tony. Alack, mamma, it was all your own fault. You would be for running away by night, without knowing one inch of the way.
Mrs. Hard. I wish we were at home again. I never met so many accidents in so short a journey. Drench'd in the mud, overturn'd in a ditch, stuck fast in a slough, jolted to a jelly, and at last to lose our way! Whereabouts do you think we are,.Tony?
Tony. By my guess we should be upon Ileavytree Heath, about forty miles from home.
Mrs. Hard. O lud! O lud! the most notorious spot in all the country. We only want a robbery to make a complete night on't.
Tony. Don't be afraid, mamma, don't be afraid. Two of the five that kept here are hanged, and the other three may not find us. Don't be afraid. Is that a man that's galloping behind us? No; it's only a tree. Don't be afraid.
Mrs. Hard. The fright will certainlv kill me. Tony. Do you see any thing like a black hat moving behind the thicket? Mrs. Hard. 0, death!
Tony. No, it's only a cow. Don't be afraid, mother; don't be afraid.
Mrs. Hard. As I'm alive, Tony, I see a man coming towards us. Ah! I'm sure on't. If he perceives us, we are undone.
Tom/. [Aside.] Father-in-law, by all that's unlucky, come to take one of his night walks.—[To her.'] Ah, it's a highwayman, with pistols as long as my arm. A d—n'd ill-looking fellow.
Mrs. Hard. Good heaven defend us! He approaches.
Tony. Do you hide yourself in that thicket, and leave me to manage him. If there be any danger, I'll cough and cry hem. When I cough be sure to keep close.
[mrs. Hardcastle hides behind a tree in the back scene.
Enter Hardcastle. Hard. I'm mistaken, or I heard voices of people in want of help. Oh, Tony, is that you ? I did not expect you so soon back. Are your mother and her charge in safety?
Tony. Very safe, sir, at my aunt Pedigree's. Hem. Mrs. Hard. [From behind.] Ab, death ! I find there's clanger.
Hard. Forty miles in three hours! sure 'that too's much, my youngster.
Tony. Stout horses and willing minds make short journeys, as they say. Hem.
Mrs. Hard. [From behind.] Sure he'll do the dear boy no harm!
Hard. But I heard a voice here; I should be glad to know from whence it came?
Tony. It was I, sir, talking to myself, sir. J was saying that forty miles in three hours was very good going. Hem. As to be sure it was. Hem. I have got a sort of cold by being out in the air. We'll go in, if you please. Hem.