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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.
Tony. (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 damn'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.) Ah death! I find there's danger.
Hard. Forty miles in three hours; sure that's too 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. I was saying that forty miles in four 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.
Hard. But if you talk'd to yourself, you did not answer
yourself. I'm certain I heard two voices, and am resolved (Raising his voice) to find the other out.
Mrs. Hard. (From behind.) Oh! he's coming to find me out. Oh!
Tony. What need you go, Sir, if I tell you. Hem. I'll lay down my life for the truth-hem-I'll tell you all, Sir.
[Detaining him. Hard. I tell you, I will not be detained. I insist on seeing. It's in vain to expect I'll believe you.
Mrs. Hard. (Running forward from behind.) O lud ! he'll murder my poor boy, my darling. Here, good gentleman, whet your rage upon me. Take my money, my life, but spare that young gentleman, spare my child, if you have any mercy.
Hard. My wife! as I'm a christian. From whence can she come ? or what does she mean.
Mrs. Hard. (Kneeling.) Take compassion on us, good Mr. Highwayman. Take our money, our watches, all we have, but spare our lives. We will never bring you to justice, indeed we won't, good Mr. Highwayman.
Hard. I believe the woman 's out of her senses. What, Dorothy, don't you know me ?
Mrs. Hard. Mr. Hardcastle, as I'm alive! My fears blinded me.
But who, my dear, could have expected to meet you here, in this frightful place, so far from home ? What has brought you to follow us ?
Hard. Sure, Dorothy, you have not lost your wits ? So far from home, when you are within forty yards of your own door. (To him.) This is one of your old tricks, you graceless rogue, you. (To her.) Don't you know the gate, and the mulberry-tree; and don't you remember the horse-pond, my dear ?
Mrs. Hard. Yes, I shall remember the horse-pond as long as I live; I have caught my death in it. (To Tony.)
Pluck up a
And is it to you, you graceless varlet, I owe all this? I'll teach you to abuse your mother, I will.
Tony. Ecod, mother, all the parish says you have spoil'd me, and so you may take the fruits on 't. Mrs. Hard. I'll spoil you, I will.
[Follows him off the stage. Exit. Hard. There's morality, however, in his reply. (Exit. 't
Enter Hastings and Miss Neville. Hast. My dear Constance, why will you deliberate thus. If we delay a moment, all is lost for ever. little resolution, and we shall soon be out of the reach of her malignity.
Miss Nev. I find it impossible. My spirits are so sunk with the agitations I have suffered, that I am unable to face any new danger. Two or three years' patience will at last crown us with happiness.
Hast. Such a tedious delay is worse than inconstancy. Let us fly, my charmer. Let us date our happiness from this very
moment. Perish fortune! Love and content will encrease what we possess beyond a monarch's revenue. Let me prevail !
Miss Nev. No, Mr. Hastings; no. Prudence once more comes to
relief, and I will obey its dictates. In the moment of passion fortune may be despised, but it ever produces a lasting repentance. I'm resolved to apply to Mr. Hardcastle's compassion and justice for redress.
Hast. But though he had the will, he has not the power to relieve you.
Miss Nev. But he has influence, and upon that I am resolved to rely.
Hast. I have no hopes. But since you persist, I must reluctantly obey you.
Enter Sir Charles and Miss Hardcastle.
Sir Charl. 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 wish'd for a daughter.
Miss Hard. I am proud of your approbation, and to shew I merit it, if you place yourselves as I directed, you shall hear his explicit declaration. But he comes.
Sir Charl. I'll to your father, and keep him to the appointment.
[Exit Sir Charles.
Marl. Though prepar'd 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 Hard. (In her own natural manner.) I believe these sufferings cannot be very great, Sir, which you can so easily remove. A day or two longer, perhaps, might lessen your uneasiness, by shewing the little value of what you now think proper to regret.
Marl. (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 Hard. 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.
Hard. Ay, ay, make no noise. I'll engage my Kate covers him with confusion at last.
Marl. 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 seem'd forward assurance, now strikes me as the result of courageous innocence and conscious virtue.
Sir Charl. What can he mean ? He amazes me !
Marl. 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 Hard. 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
Marl. 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.