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Sir C. Emily, I protest you seem to study after me; proceed, child, and we will read together every character that comes in our way.
Lady E. Read one's acquaintance—delightful! What romances, novels, satires, and mock heroics present themselves to my imagination! Our young men are flimsy essays; old ones, political pamphlets; coquets, fugitive pieces; and fashionable beauties, a compilation of advertised perfumery, essence of pearl, milk
.of roses, and Olympian dew. Lord, I should now
and then though turn over an acquaintance with a sort of fear and trembling.
Cliff. How so?
Lady E. Lest one should pop unaware upon something one should not, like a naughty speech in an old comedy; but it is only skipping what would make one blush.
Sir C. Or if you did not skip, when a woman reads by herself, and to herself, there are wicked philosophers, who doubt whether her blushes are very troublesome.
Lady E. [To Sir Clement.] Do you know now that for that speech of yours—and for that saucy smile of yours, [To Clifford.] I am strongly tempted to read you both aloud!
Sir C. Come try I'll be the first to open the
Lady E. A treatise of the Houyhnhnms, after the manner of Swift, tending to make us odious to ourselves, and to extract morose mirth from our imperfections.—[Turning to Clifford.] Contrasted with an exposition of ancient morality addressed to the moderns: a chimerical attempt upon an obsolete subject.
Sir C. Clifford! we must double down that page. And now we'll have a specimen of her ladyship..
Lady E. I'll give it you myself, and with justice; which is more than either of you would.
Sir C. And without skipping.
Lady E. Thus then; a light, airy, fantastic sketch of genteel manners as they are; with a little endeavour at what they ought to be—rather entertaining than instructive, not without art, but sparing in the use of it
Sir C. But the passions, Emily. Do not forget what should stand in the foreground of a female treatise.
Lady E. They abound: but mixed and blended cleverly enough to prevent any from predominating; like the colours of a shot lutestring, that change as you look at it sideways or full: they are sometimes brightened by vivacity, and now and then subject to a shade of caprice—but meaning no ill—not afraid of a Critical Review: and thus, gentlemen, I present myself to you fresh from the press, and I hope not inelegantly bound.
Sir C. Altogether making a perfectly desirable companion for the closet: I am sure, Clifford, you will agree with me. Gad, we are got into such a pleasant freedom with each other, it is a pity to separate while any curiosity remains in the company. Pr'ythee, Clifford, satisfy me a little as to your history. Old Lord Hardacre, if I am rightly informed, disinherited your father, his second son.
Cliff'. For the very marriage we have been speaking of. The little fortune my father could call his own was sunk before his death, as a provision for my mother; upon an idea that whatever resentment he might personally have incurred, it would not be extended to an innocent offspring.
Sir C. A very silly confidence. How readily now, should you and I, Emily, have discovered in a sensible old man, the irreconcileable offence of a marriage of the passions You understand me?
Lady E. Perfectly! [Aside,] Old petrifaction, your hints always speak forcibly.
Sir C. But your uncle, the present lord, made amends?
Cliff. Amply. He offered to send me from Cambridge to an academy in Germany, to fit me for foreign service: well judging that a cannon ball was a fair and quick provision for a poor relation.
Sir C. Upon my word I have known uncles less considerate.
Cliff. When Lord Gayville's friendship, and your indulgence, made me the companion of his travels, Lord Hardacre's undivided cares devolved upon my sister: whose whole independent possession, at my mother's death, was five hundred pounds' 'All our education had permitted that unhappy parent to lay by.
Lady E. Oh, for an act of justice and benevolence, to reconcile me to the odious man! Tell me this instaut .what did he do for Miss Clifford?
Cliff. He bestowed upon her forty pounds a-'year, upon condition that she resided with one of his dependents in a remote county, to save the family from disgrace; and that allowance, when I heard last from her, he had threatened to withdraw upon her refusing a detestable match he had endeavoured to force upon her.
Lady E. Poor girl!
Sir C. Upon my word an interesting story, and told with pathetic effect.—Emily, you look grave, child.
Lady E. [Aside.] I shall not own it however. [To him.] For once, my dear uncle, you want your spectacles. My thoughts are on a diverting subject—My first visit to Miss Alscrip; to take a near view of that collection of charms destined to my happy brother.
Sir C. You need not go out of the room for that purpose. The schedule of an heiress's fortune is a compendium of her merits, and the true security for marriage happiness.
Lady E. I am sure I guess at your system—That union must be most wise, which has wealth to support it, and no affections to disturb it. Sir C. Right.
Lady E. That makes a divorce the first promise of wedlork; and widowhood the best blessing of life; that separates the interest of husband, wife, and child
Sir C. To establish the independent comfort of all —
lady E. Upon the broad basis of family hatred. Excellent, my dear uncle, excellent indeed; and. upon that principle, though the lady is likely to be your niece, and my sister, I am sure you will have no objection to my laughing at her a little.
Sir P. You'll be puzzled to make her more ridiculous than I think her. What is your plan?
LadiE. Why, though her pride is to be thought a leader in fashions, she is sometimes a servile copyist. Blandish tells me I am her principal model; and what is most provoking, she is intent upon catching my manner as well as my dress, which she exaggerates to an ex< es< that vexes me. Now if she will take me in shade, I'll give her a new outline, I am resolved; and if I do not make her a caricature for a printshop r
Cliff. Will all this be strictly consistent with your goodnitnre, Lady Emily?
Lady E. No, nor I don't know when I shall do any thing consistent with if again, except leaving you two critics to a better subject than your humble servant.
[Courtesies, and exit with a lively air.
Sir C. Well, Clifford! What do you think of her?
Cliff. That when she professes ill-temper, she. is a very awkward counterfeit. .
Sir C. But her beauty, her wit, her improvement, since you went abroad? I expected from a man of your age and taste, something more than a cold compliment upon her temper. Could not you, compatibly with thq
V * immaculate sincerity you profess, venture as far as admiration?
Cliff. I admire her, sir, as I do a bright star in the firmament, and consider the distance of both as equally immeasurable.
Sir C. [Aside.] Specious rogue! [To him.] Well, leave Emily then to be winked at through telescopes; and now to a matter of nearer observation What is Gayville doing?
Cliff. Every thing you desire, sir, I trust; but you know I have been at home only three days, and have hardly seen him since I came.
Sir C Nor I neither; but I find he has profited wonderfully by foreign experience. After rambling half the world over without harm, he is caught, like a travelled woodcock, at his landing.
Cliff. If you suspect Lord Gayville of indiscretion, why do you not put him candidly to the test? I'll be bound for his ingenuousness not to withhold any confession you may require.
Sir C. You may be right, but he'll confess more to you in an hour, than to me in a month, for all that; come, Clifford, look as you ought to do at your interest —Sift him—Watch him—You cannot guess how much you will make me your friend, and how grateful I may be if you will discover
Cliff. Sir, you mistake the footing upon which Lord
Gayville and I live I am often the partner of his
thoughts, but never a spy upon his actions.
[Bows and exit.
Sir C. [Alone.] Well played Clifford! Good air and emphasis, and well suited to the trick of the scene.— He would do, if the practical part of deceit were as easy at his age, as discernment of it is at mine. Gayville and Emily, if they had not a vigilant guard, would be his sure prey; for they are examples of the generous affections coming to maturity with their stature; while