Jul. Yet I must go. Sir Anthony does not know I am here, and if we meet, hell detain me, to show me the town. Ill take another opportunity of paying my respects to Mrs. Malaprop, when she shall treat me, as long as she chooses, with her select words so ingeniously misapplied, without being mispronounced.
Lyd. Here, my dear Lucy, hide these books. Quick, quick! Fling Peregine Pickle under the toilet; throw Roderick Random into the closet; put The Innocent Adultery into The Whole Duty of Man; thrust Lord Aimworth under the sofa; cram Ovid behind the bolster. Thereput The Man of Feeling into your pocket. So, sonow lay Mrs. Chapone in sight, and leave Fordyces Sermons open on the table.
Mrs. Mal. You thought, miss! I dont know any business you have to think at all. Thought does not become a young woman. But the point we would request of you is, that you will promise to forget this fellowto illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.
Mrs. Mal. But I say it is, miss. There is nothing on earth so easy as to forget, if a person chooses to set about it. Im sure I have as much forgot your poor dear uncle as if he had never existedand I thought it my duty so to do; and let me tell you, Lydia, these violent memories dont become a young woman.
Mrs. Mal. Now, dont attempt to extirpate yourself from the matter; you know I have proof controvertible of it. But tell me, will you promise to do as youre bid? Will you take a husband of your friends choosing?
Mrs. Mal. What business have you, miss, with preference and aversion? They dont become a young woman; and you ought to know, that as both always wear off, tis safest in matrimony to begin with a little aversion. I am sure I hated your poor dear uncle before marriage as if hed been a blackamoor. And yet, miss, you are sensible what a wife I made! And when it pleased Heaven to release me from him, tis unknown what tears I shed! But suppose we were going to give you another choice, will you promise us to give up this Beverley?
Sir Anth. It is not to be wondered at, maam; all this is the natural consequence of teaching girls to read. Had I a thousand daughters, by Heaven! Id as soon have them taught the black art as their alphabet.
Sir Anth. In my way hither, Mrs. Malaprop, I observed your nieces maid coming forth from a circulating library! She had a book in each hand. From that moment I guessed how full of duty I should see her mistress!
Sir Anth. Madam, a circulating library in a town is as an evergreen tree of diabolical knowledge! It blossoms through the year! And depend on it, Mrs. Malaprop, that they who are so fond of handling the leaves, will long for the fruit at last.
Mrs. Mal. Observe me, Sir Anthony. I would by no means wish a daughter of mine to be a progeny of learning. I dont think so much learning becomes a young woman. For instance, I would never let her meddle with Greek, or Hebrew, or algebra, or simony, or fluxions, or paradoxes, or such inflammatory branches of learning; neither would it be necessary for her to handle any of your mathematical, astronomical, diabolical instruments. But, Sir Anthony, I would send her, at nine years old, to a boarding-school, in order to learn a little ingenuity and artifice. Then, sir, she should have a supercilious knowledge in accounts; and as she grew up, I would have her instructed in geometry, that she might know something of the contagious countries. But above all, Sir Anthony, she should be mistress of orthodoxy, that she might not misspell and mispronounce words so shamefully as girls usually do; and likewise that she might reprehend the true meaning of what she is saying. This, Sir Anthony, is what I would have a woman know; and I dont think there is a superstitious article in it.
Sir Anth. Well, well, Mrs. Malaprop, I will dispute the point no further with you; though I must confess, that you are a truly moderate and polite arguer, for almost every third word you say is on my side of the question. But, Mrs. Malaprop, to the more important point in debate. You say you have no objection to my proposal?
Sir Anth. Objection! Let him object, if he dare! No, no, Mrs. Malaprop, Jack knows that the least demur puts me in a frenzy directly. My process was always very simple. In their younger days, twas Jack, do this. If he demurred, I knocked him down; and if he grumbled at that, I always sent him out of the room.
Mrs. Mal. Aye, and the properest way, o my conscience! Nothing is so conciliating to young people as severity. Well, Sir Anthony, I shall give Mr. Acres his discharge, and prepare Lydia to receive your sons invocations; and I hope you will represent her to the captain as an object not altogether illegible.
Sir Anth. Madam, I will handle the subject prudently. Well, I must leave you; and let me beg you, Mrs. Malaprop, to enforce this matter roundly to the girl. Take my advice: keep a tight hand. If she rejects this proposal, clap her under lock and key; and if you were just to let the servants forget to bring her dinner for three or four days, you cant conceive how shed come about.