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Oliver Goldsmith
She Stoops to Conquer (Act 5)
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ACT THE FIFTH.


(SCENE continued.)


Enter HASTINGS and Servant.


HASTINGS. You saw the old lady and Miss Neville drive off, you
say?

SERVANT. Yes, your honour. They went off in a post-coach, and
the young 'squire went on horseback. They're thirty miles off
by this time.

HASTINGS. Then all my hopes are over.

SERVANT. Yes, sir. Old Sir Charles has arrived. He and the old
gentleman of the house have been laughing at Mr. Marlow's
mistake this half hour. They are coming this way.

HASTINGS. Then I must not be seen. So now to my fruitless
appointment at the bottom of the garden. This is about the
time. [Exit.]


Enter SIR CHARLES and HARDCASTLE.


HARDCASTLE. Ha! ha! ha! The peremptory tone in which he
sent forth his sublime commands!

SIR CHARLES. And the reserve with which I suppose he treated
all your advances.

HARDCASTLE. And yet he might have seen something in me
above a common innkeeper, too.

SIR CHARLES. Yes, Dick, but be mistook you for an uncommon
innkeeper, ha! ha! ha!

HARDCASTLE. Well, I'm in too good spirits to think of anything but
joy. Yes, my dear friend, this union of our families will make our
personal friendships hereditary; and though my daughter's fortune
is but small--

SIR CHARLES. Why, Dick, will you talk of fortune to ME? My son
is possessed of more than a competence already, and can want
nothing but a good and virtuous girl to share his happiness and
increase it. If they like each other, as you say they do--

HARDCASTLE. IF, man! I tell you they DO like each other. My
daughter as good as told me so.

SIR CHARLES. But girls are apt to flatter themselves, you know.

HARDCASTLE. I saw him grasp her hand in the warmest manner
myself; and here he comes to put you out of your IFS, I warrant
him.


Enter MARLOW.


MARLOW. I come, sir, once more, to ask pardon for my strange
conduct. I can scarce reflect on my insolence without confusion.

HARDCASTLE. Tut, boy, a trifle! You take it too gravely. An
hour or two's laughing with my daughter will set all to rights
again. She'll never like you the worse for it.

MARLOW. Sir, I shall be always proud of her approbation.

HARDCASTLE. Approbation is but a cold word, Mr. Marlow; if
I am not deceived, you have something more than approbation
thereabouts. You take me?

MARLOW. Really, sir, I have not that happiness.

HARDCASTLE. Come, boy, I'm an old fellow, and know what's
what as well as you that are younger. I know what has passed
between you; but mum.

MARLOW. Sure, sir, nothing has passed between us but the
most profound respect on my side, and the most distant reserve
on hers. You don't think, sir, that my impudence has been passed
upon all the rest of the family.

HARDCASTLE. Impudence! No, I don't say that-- not quite
impudence-- though girls like to be played with, and rumpled
a little too, sometimes. But she has told no tales, I assure you.

MARLOW. I never gave her the slightest cause.

HARDCASTLE. Well, well, I like modesty in its place well enough.
But this is over-acting, young gentleman. You may be open.
Your father and I will like you all the better for it.

MARLOW. May I die, sir, if I ever--

HARDCASTLE. I tell you, she don't dislike you; and as I'm sure
you like her--

MARLOW. Dear sir-- I protest, sir--

HARDCASTLE. I see no reason why you should not be joined
as fast as the parson can tie you.

MARLOW. But hear me, sir--

HARDCASTLE. Your father approves the match, I admire it;
every moment's delay will be doing mischief. So--

MARLOW. But why won't you hear me? By all that's just and
true, I never gave Miss Hardcastle the slightest mark of my
attachment, or even the most distant hint to suspect me of
affection. We had but one interview, and that was formal,
modest, and uninteresting.

HARDCASTLE. (Aside.) This fellow's formal modest impudence
is beyond bearing.

SIR CHARLES. And you never grasped her hand, or made any
protestations?

MARLOW. 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 farther proofs of my
duty, nor prevent me from leaving a house in which I suffer
so many mortifications. [Exit.]

SIR CHARLES. I'm astonished at the air of sincerity with
which he parted.

HARDCASTLE. And I'm astonished at the deliberate intrepidity
of his assurance.

SIR CHARLES. I dare pledge my life and honour upon his
truth.

HARDCASTLE. Here comes my daughter, and I would stake
my happiness upon her veracity.


Enter MISS HARDCASTLE.


HARDCASTLE. Kate, come hither, child. Answer us sincerely
and without reserve: has Mr. Marlow made you any professions
of love and affection?

MISS HARDCASTLE. The question is very abrupt, sir. But since
you require unreserved sincerity, I think he has.

HARDCASTLE. (To SIR CHARLES.) You see.

SIR CHARLES. And pray, madam, have you and my son had
more than one interview?

MISS HARDCASTLE. Yes, sir, several.

HARDCASTLE. (To SIR CHARLES.) You see.

SIR CHARLES. But did be profess any attachment?

MISS HARDCASTLE. A lasting one.

SIR CHARLES. Did he talk of love?

MISS HARDCASTLE. Much, sir.

SIR CHARLES. Amazing! And all this formally?

MISS HARDCASTLE. Formally.

HARDCASTLE. Now, my friend, I hope you are satisfied.

SIR CHARLES. And how did he behave, madam?

MISS HARDCASTLE. As most profest 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 CHARLES. Now I'm perfectly convinced, indeed. I know
his conversation among women to be modest and submissive:
this forward canting ranting manner by no means describes
him; and, I am confident, he never sat for the picture.

MISS HARDCASTLE. 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 place yourselves behind that screen, you
shall hear him declare his passion to me in person.

SIR CHARLES. Agreed. And if I find him what you describe,
all my happiness in him must have an end. [Exit.]

MISS HARDCASTLE. And if you don't find him what I describe--
I fear my happiness must never have a beginning. [Exeunt.]


SCENE changes to the back of the Garden.


Enter HASTINGS.


HASTINGS. 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.


HASTINGS. 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 bye, is
cursedly tiresome. It has shook me worse than the basket of
a stage-coach.

HASTINGS. But how? where did you leave your fellow-travellers?
Are they in safety? Are they housed?

TONY. Five and twenty miles in two hours and a half is no such
bad driving. The poor beasts have smoked for it: rabbit me, but
I'd rather ride forty miles after a fox than ten with such varment.

HASTINGS. 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?

HASTINGS. 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?

HASTINGS. I'm still astray.

TONY. Why, that's it, mon. I have led them astray. By jingo,
there's not a pond or a slough within five miles of the place
but they can tell the taste of.

HASTINGS. 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 introduced them to the
gibbet on Heavy-tree Heath; and from that, with a circumbendibus,
I fairly lodged them in the horse-pond at the bottom of the garden.

HASTINGS. 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, and I'll be bound that no soul here can budge a foot
to follow you.

HASTINGS. My dear friend, how can I be grateful?

TONY. Ay, now it's dear friend, noble 'squire. Just now, it was all
idiot, cub, and run me through the guts. Damn YOUR way of fighting,
I say. After we take a knock in this part of the country, we kiss and
be friends. But if you had run me through the guts, then I should
be dead, and you might go kiss the hangman.

HASTINGS. 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. [Exit HASTINGS.]

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. HARDCASTLE. Oh, Tony, I'm killed! Shook! Battered to death.
I shall never survive it. That last jolt, that laid us against the
quickset hedge, 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. HARDCASTLE. I wish we were at home again. I never met
so many accidents in so short a journey. Drenched in the mud,
overturned 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 come upon Crackskull Common,
about forty miles from home.

MRS. HARDCASTLE. 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. HARDCASTLE. The fright will certainly kill me.

TONY. Do you see anything like a black hat moving behind the
thicket?

MRS. HARDCASTLE. Oh, death!

TONY. No; it's only a cow. Don't be afraid, mamma; don't be
afraid.

MRS. HARDCASTLE. 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 damned ill-looking fellow.

MRS. HARDCASTLE. 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.


HARDCASTLE. 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. HARDCASTLE. (From behind.) Ah, death! I find there's
danger.

HARDCASTLE. 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. HARDCASTLE. (From behind.) Sure he'll do the dear
boy no harm.

HARDCASTLE. 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.

HARDCASTLE. But if you talked 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. HARDCASTLE. (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.]

HARDCASTLE. I tell you I will not be detained. I insist on seeing.
It's in vain to expect I'll believe you.

MRS. HARDCASTLE. (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.

HARDCASTLE. My wife, as I'm a Christian. From whence can
she come? or what does she mean?

MRS. HARDCASTLE. (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.

HARDCASTLE. I believe the woman's out of her senses. What,
Dorothy, don't you know ME?

MRS. HARDCASTLE. 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?

HARDCASTLE. 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. HARDCASTLE. Yes, I shall remember the horse-pond as long
as I live; I have caught my death in it. (To TONY.) And it is 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 spoiled me, and
so you may take the fruits on't.

MRS. HARDCASTLE. I'll spoil you, I will. [Follows him off the stage.
Exit.]

HARDCASTLE. There's morality, however, in his reply. [Exit.]


Enter HASTINGS and MISS NEVILLE.


HASTINGS. My dear Constance, why will you deliberate thus?
If we delay a moment, all is lost for ever. Pluck up a little
resolution, and we shall soon be out of the reach of her malignity.

MISS NEVILLE. 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.

HASTINGS. 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 increase what we
possess beyond a monarch's revenue. Let me prevail!

MISS NEVILLE. No, Mr. Hastings, no. Prudence once more comes
to my 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.

HASTINGS. But though he had the will, he has not the power to
relieve you.

MISS NEVILLE. But he has influence, and upon that I am resolved
to rely.

HASTINGS. I have no hopes. But since you persist, I must
reluctantly obey you. [Exeunt.]


SCENE changes.


Enter SIR CHARLES and MISS HARDCASTLE.


SIR CHARLES. 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 wished for a daughter.

MISS HARDCASTLE. I am proud of your approbation, and to show
I merit it, if you place yourselves as I directed, you shall hear his
explicit declaration. But he comes.

SIR CHARLES. I'll to your father, and keep him to the appointment.
[Exit SIR CHARLES.]


Enter MARLOW.


MARLOW. Though prepared 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 HARDCASTLE. (In her own natural manner.) I believe
sufferings cannot be very great, sir, which you can so easily
remove. A day or two longer, perhaps, might lessen your
uneasiness, by showing the little value of what you now think
proper to regret.

MARLOW. (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 HARDCASTLE. 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.


Enter HARDCASTLE and SIR CHARLES from behind.


SIR CHARLES. Here, behind this screen.

HARDCASTLE. Ay, ay; make no noise. I'll engage my Kate covers
him with confusion at last.

MARLOW. 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 seemed forward assurance,
now strikes me as the result of courageous innocence and
conscious virtue.

SIR CHARLES. What can it mean? He amazes me!

HARDCASTLE. I told you how it would be. Hush!

MARLOW. 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 HARDCASTLE. 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 yours?

MARLOW. 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.

MISS HARDCASTLE. Sir, I must entreat you'll desist. As our
acquaintance began, so let it end, in indifference. I might have
given an hour or two to levity; but seriously, Mr. Marlow, do you
think I could ever submit to a connexion where I must appear
mercenary, and you imprudent? Do you think I could ever catch
at the confident addresses of a secure admirer?

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.]

THE END
 

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