The runaway, a comedy: as it is acted at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane.
Cowley, Mrs. (Hannah), 1743-1809.

ACT I.

SCENE, a Garden.
BELLA and HARRIET. Enter GEORGE.
George.

OH, for the luxury of night-gown and slippers! No jaded hack of Parnassus can be more tired than I am—the roads so dusty, and the sun so hot—'twould be less intolerable riding post in Africa.

Bella.

What a wild imagination!—But in the name of Fortune, why are you alone? What have you done with all the College youths?—This is the first vacation you ever came home unaccompanied, and I assure you we are quite disappointed.

Geo.

Oh, most unconscionable Woman! Never to be satisfied with conquest—There's poor Lumley shot through by your wicked eyes.

Bella.

A notable victory indeed!—however, his name serves to make a figure in the lists of one's conquests, and so you may give him just hope enough to feed his sighs,—but not to encourage his presumption.

Geo.

Paragon of generosity!—And what portion of comfort will your Ladyship bestow on Egerton and Fil|mer, who still hug the chains of the resistless Arabella?

Bella.

Upon my word, your catalogue grows in|teresting—'tis worth while now to enquire for your vouch|ers—Proofs, George, proofs.

Page  2
Geo.

Why, the first writes sonnets in your praise, and the last toasts you till he can't see.

Bella.

Oh, excellent!—The Dulcinea of one—and Circe of the other—ha! ha!—to transform him into a beast—I hope you have better love-tokens for the blushing Harriet—How does—

Harriet.

Fye, Bella—you use me ill.

Geo.

Why, Sister, you plead guilty, before the charge is exhibited—But tell me, my sweet Harriet, who is this favour'd mortal, of whom you mean to enquire?

Har.

Indeed, Brother, I have no enquiries to make; but I imagine my Cousin can inform you whom she meant.

Bella.

Oh, doubtless—but you look so offended, Harriet, that I dare not venture the enquiry: ask for Sir Charles Seymour yourself.

Geo.

Seymour! Ho, ho! Very fine truly!

[aside.]
If Seymour be the man, my Sister, set your heart at rest—he is on the point of marriage, if I am not mistaken, with a fine blooming Girl, not more than eighteen.—Soft, dove-like eyes—pouting lips—teeth that were, doubtless, made of oriental pearl—a neck—I want a simile now—ivory, wax, alabaster!—no; they won't do.

Har.
[with an air of pique.]

One would imagine, Bro|ther, you were drawing the picture of your own Mistress, instead of Sir Charles's, your colours are so warm.

Geo.

A fine Woman, Harriet, gives warmth to all around her—She is that universal spirit, about which Philosophers talk; the true point of attraction that go|verns Nature, and controuls the universe of Man.

Bella.

Heiday, George! Did the charms of Lady Dinah inspire this rhapsody?

Geo.

Charms! What, of that antiquated, senten|tious, delicate Lady, who bless'd us with her long speeches at dinner?

Bel.

You must learn to be more respectful in your epithets, Sir; for that sententious, delicate Lady designs you the honour of becoming your Mother.

Geo.

My Mother! Heaven sorefend—you jest, surely.

Bel.

You shall judge.—We met her in our late visit to Bath—She renewed her acquaintance with your Father, with whom, in Mrs. Hargrave's life-time, she had been intimate—He invited her to return with us, and she has been here this month—They are frequently Page  3 closeted together—She has forty thousand pounds, and is Sister to an Irish Peer.

Geo.

She might have been Grandmother to the Peer, by the days she has numbered—But her excessive propri|ety and decorum overcome me—How can they agree with my father's vociferation, October, and hounds?

Bel.

Oh, I assure you, wondrously well—she kisses Jowler, takes Ringwood on her lap, and has, more than once, sipp'd out of your Father's tankard.—Delicacies, Cousin, are easily made to give way, when we have cer|tain ends to answer.

Geo.

Very true; and beware of that period, when de|licacies must give way—tremble at the hour, Bella, when you'll rise from the labours of your toilette with no end in view, but the conquest of some Quixote Galant in his grand climacteric—on whom you'll squander more en|couraging glances, than all the sighs and ardor of two and twenty can extort from you now.

Bel.

Memento mori! Quite a College compliment: you ought rather to have supposed that my power will increase; and that, like Ninon, I might give myself the airs of eighteen at eighty—But here's John coming to summon us to coffee.—Harriet!

Geo.

Come, Harriet—why that pensive air? Give me your hand.

Har.

Excuse me—I'll only step and look at my birds, and follow you instantly—

[Exeunt George and Bella playfully.]
—"Set your heart at rest, my Sister."—Oh, Brother!—you have robb'd that heart of rest for ever.—Cruel intelligence!—Something has long sat heavy in my bosom—and now the weight is irremoveable—Perfidious Seymour!—yet, of what can I accuse him? He never profess'd to love me—Oh yes, his ardent looks—his sighs—his consusion—his respectful attentions, have a thousand times profess'd the strongest passion—Surely, a man cannot in honour, be exculpated, who by such methods defrauds a Woman of her heart; even tho' the word Love should never pass his lips. Yet I ought not to have trusted these seeming proofs—no; I must only blame my own credulity—O partial Nature!—why have you given us hearts so replete with tenderness, and minds so weak, so yielding?

Page  4
SCENE, a Garden Parlour.
Enter GEORGE and BELLA at the Garden Door.
BELLA seating herself at a Tea-table.
Bel.

Hang this Lady Dinah—one's forc'd to be so dress'd, and so formal!—In the country we should be all shepherds and snepherdesies—Meadows, ditches, rooks, and court-manners, are the strangest combination!

Geo.

Hist—she's in the hall, I see—I'll go and 'squire her in.

[Exit George, and returns with Lady Dinah.
Lady D.

To you, Sir, who have been so long con|versant with the fine manners o••e Antients, the frivo|lous custom of tea-drinking must appear ridiculous.

Geo.

No custom can be ridiculous, Madam, that gives us the society of the Ladies—The young men of those days deserve your Ldyships pity, for having never tasted these elegant hours.

Lady D.
[aside.]

He is just what his Father described.

Enter Mr. HARGRAVE.
Mr. H.

No;—Barbary Bess is spavin'd; let her be taken care of: I'll have Longshanks, and see that he's saddled by five—So we sha'n't have you in the hunt to-morrow, George,—you must have more time to shake off the lazy rust of Cambridge, I suppose.—What sort of hours d'ye keep at College?

Geo.

Oh, Sir, we are frequently up before the Sun, there.

Mr. H.

Hah!—then 'tis when you ha'n't been in bed all night, I believe.—And how do you stand in other matters?—Have the musty old Dons tired you with their Greek, and their Geometry, and their learned Experiments to shew what air, and fire, and water, are made of? Ha! ha! ha!

Bella.

Oh, no, Sir—he never studied them closely enough to be tired—his Philosophy and mine keep pretty equal pace, I believe.

Geo.

As usual, my lively Cousin—If you had said my Philosophy and your Coquetry, I should have thought you had meant to compliment me—However, Sir, I am not tired of my studies—though Bella has not exactly hit the reason.

Page  5
Lady D. to Mr. H.

The Muses, Sir, sufficiently recompence the most painful assiduities by which we ob|tain their favour—Their true lovers are never satiated with the pleasures they bestow—those, indeed, who court them, like the Toasts of the season, because it is the fashion, are neither warm'd by their beauties, nor pene|trated with their charms—but these are faithless Knights;—your Son, I dare say, has enlisted himself among their sincerest Votaries.

Geo.

You do me great honour, Madam,—I have no doubt but you are perfectly acquainted with the Muses. They shed their favours on a few only—but those who share them must, like you, be irresistible. I'll catch her Ladyship's style.

[aside.
Mr. H.
[aside.]

Humph—I am glad he likes her.

Lady Dinah.

You men are so full of flattery! In Athens, in Lacedemon, that vice was for ages unknown—it was then the Athenians were the happiest, and the La|cedemonians the—

Bella.

Oh mercy!—I have burnt my fingers in the most terrible manner.

[Enter Harriet from the Garden.]
I wish the misfortune had happened to her La|dyship's tongue.

[aside.
Har.

Dear Bella, I am quite concerned.

Bella.

Pho!—I only meant to break in upon her harangue, there's no bearing so much Wisdom.

[Enter Servant.
Serv.

Mr. Drummond.

Enter Mr. DRUMMOND.
Mr. D.

Benedicite!—ah!—my dear Godson!—why, this is an unexpected pleasure—I did not know you were arrived.

Geo.

I have had that happiness only a few hours, Sir, and I was on the point of paying my devoirs to you at the Park.

Mr. D.

Ungracious Rogue! a few hours, and not been with me yet!—however—stay where you are, stay where you are, George—you cannot come under my roof with safety now, I assure you; such a pair of eyes, such a bloom, such a shape!—Ah Girls, Girls!

Har.

Dear Mr. Drummond, of what, or whom, are you talking? You make me quite jealous.

Page  6
Mr. D.

Oh! you are all out-done, eclipsed—you have no chance with my Incognita—Then she has the prettiest foot—and moves a Grace!

Bel.

Teasing creature!

Mr. D.

Pretty Bella!—well, it shall be satisfied. Mr. Hargrave, I wait on you, Sir, to request an apart|ment for a young Lady of beauty, and honour, who hath put herself under my protectin.—But as I really think my house a dangerous situation for her, considering that I am single, young and handsome,

[stroking his face]
I cannot in conscience expose her to it.—You, being a grave, orderly man, and having a couple of decent, well|behaved young women for a Daughter and Niece; I think she will be more agreeably protected here—and this is my business.

Mr. H.

A young Lady who hath put herself under your protection! Who is she?

Mr. D.

Her name she wishes to conceal.

Mr. H.

That's very odd—Where did you meet with her?

Mr. D.

At the house of a Widow Tenant of mine, a few miles from hence, where she had taken refuge from a marriage to which an Uncle would have forced her.—She had no companion but the good old Lady, whom I found employed in assisting her to weep, instead of consoling her.—In short, there were reasons to think her situation highly dangerous, and I prevail'd on her to leave it.

Har.

And so your credulity is again taken in, and the air of a weeping Beauty is the trap that caught you?—Ha, ha! ha!—Will you never be sick of impositions?

Mr. D.

I don't remember that I was ever imposed on.

Mr. H.

No! don't I know how many people you have plagued yourself about, who had not a grain of me|rit to deserve it?

Mr. D.

I want merit Mr. Hargrave; yet all the blessings of health and fortune have not been with-held from me.

Mr. H.

Aye, aye—there's no getting you to hear rea|son on this subject.

Mr. D.

'Tis too late to reason now. The young Lady is at my house—I have promised to bring her here, and we must endeavour to raise the poor Girl's spirits. She would have spoil'd the prettiest face in England—beg pardon, Ladies—one of the prettiest faces, with weep|ing at the old Widows.

Page  7
Bel.

An old Widow, a pretty Girl, a Lover, a tyran|nical Uncle—'tis a charming group for the amusement of a village circle.—I long to see this Beauty.

Lady D.

Her beauty, according to Mr. Drummond, may be conspicuous enough—but her pretensions to birth and honour seem to be a more doubtful matter.

Geo.

Pardon me, Madam, why should we doubt of either? A Lady in such a situation has a right to protec|tion;

[to his Father]
and I hope, Sir, you will not with|hold yours.

Mr. H.

Oh, no, to be sure, George.—'Sbud! refuse protection to a fine Girl!—'twould be, with you, a crying Sin, I warrant—but Mr. Drummond, I should suppose—

Mr. D.

Come, be satisfied, the weaknesses with which you reproach me, might have induced me to have snatched her from an alarming situation without much examination.—But, in compliment to your delicacy, I have made proper enquiries.—She was placed under the care of Mrs. Carlton by a person of credit.—She has dis|patched a messenger to her Uncle, who, I presume, will be here to-morrow.

Har.

Pray, Sir, permit us to wait on the Lady, and conduct her here; I am strongly interested for her.

Mr. H.

'Tis an odd affair—what say you to it, my Lady?

Lady D.

As your Family seem desirous to receive her, Sir, I am sorry to perceive an impropriety in the request—but I should apprehend that any appearance of encourage|ment to young Ladies in disobedience—particularly when accompanied with the glaring indecorum of an elope|ment—

Mr. H.

Aye, very true—'Sbud, Mr. Drummond, how can you encourage such—

Mr. D.

Madam, I do not mean to encourage, but to restore the young Lady to her family. She seems terrified at the peculiar severity of her Uncle's temper; so we'll put ourselves in form, receive him in full assembly, and divide his anger amongst us.—Your Ladyship, I'm sure, must be happy to render the recovery of the first false step as easy as possible.

Mr. H.

Why aye, my Lady—there can be no harm in that, you know.

Lady D.

Very well, Sir—if you think so, I can have no farther objection.

Mr. H.

Well then, Harriet, you may go—I think

Page  8
Bella.

And I with you, Cousin.

Mr. D.

Come then, my pretty doves—I'll escort you.—George, steel your heart, steel your heart, you Rogue.

[Exeunt.
Geo.

It is steel'd, Sir.

Mr. H.

You need not go, George—I want to speak to you.

Lady D.

Bless me!—what does he intend to say now?—he's going to open the affair to his Son—well—these are the most aukward moments in a Woman's life—but one must go through it.

[aside.]
I have letters to write, which I'll take this leisure to do, if you'll pardon my absence, Gentlemen.

Mr. H.

To be sure, Madam

[both bowing. Exit Lady D.]
—Well, George, how do you like that Lady?

Geo.

Extravagantly, Sir,—I never saw a Lady so learn'd.

Mr. H.

Oh, she's clever—she's an Earl's Sister too, and a forty thousand pounder, boy.

Geo.

That's a fine fortune.

Mr. H.

Aye, very fine, very fine—and then her inte|rest!—suppose I could prevail with her—eh, George—if one could keep her in the family, I say—would not that be a stroke?

Geo.

An alliance with so noble a family, Sir, is cer|tainly a desirable circumstance.

Enter Servant.
Ser.

The Gentlemen are in the smoaking parlour, Sir.

Mr. H.

Very well—are the pipes and October in rea|diness?

Ser.

Yes, Sir.

[Exit.
Mr. H.

Well then, we'll talk over the affair to-mor|row—what—I suppose your stomah is too squeamish for tobacco and strong beer?—you'll find the Justice, and some more of your old friends there.

Geo.

Pardon me, Sir, I made too free with the bottle at dinner, and have felt the effects in my head ever since—I believe a turn in the garden is a better recipe than the fumes of tobacco.

Mr. H.

Well, well, we won't dispute the matter with you now, boy—but you know I don't like milksops.

Geo.
[smiling]

Nor I, Sir.

[Bows and exit.
Page  9
Mr. H.

Aye, aye, George is a brave Boy—Old Eng|land is disgraced by a set of whipsters who affect to des|pise the jolly manners of their Ancestors, while they only serve to shew us, how greatly manners may be alter'd without being mended—

Enter JUSTICE.

'Sbud, I don't know that we are a bit wiser, happier, or greater, than we were in good old Bess's days—when our Men of Rank were robust, and our Women of Fashion buxom.

Justice.

Aye, aye, a plague on all the innovations that tend to produce a race of pretty follows instead of Eng|lishmen—and puny girls, for the Mothers of Heroes—Give me a rosy buxom lass, with eyes that sparkle like the glas|ses we toast her in—adad, I'd drink her health till the world danced round like a top—But, what a plague, 'Squire, d'ye stay here for? come into t'other room, and if you have a mind to make wise speeches there, we can drink in the mean time, and then what you say will have a proper effect.

Mr. H.

Well, well, I'll go, but I want to consult you—I have been thinking whether this Greenwood estate—

Jus.

Tush—you know very well, I can neither con|sider or advise, till I have had my brace—I am as dark, till the liquor sends its spirits into my brains, as a lan|tern without its candle—so, if you've any knotty point to propose, keep it till I'm enlighten'd.

Mr. H.

Well, come along.

[Going. Enter Clerk.]
Cl.

The people from the Crown, Sir, and the Rose, and the Antelope, are here again about their licences.

Jus.
[To Mr. H.]

There—this is what I got by coming for you—I charged the Butler not to lt this dog in.

—[to the clerk]
Why, how can I help it?—bid 'em come again to-morrow—'tis of no consequence.

Cl.

And here's a Pauper to be pass'd—a lame Man with four Children.

Har.

Well, turn him over to the Cook, and let him wait till we are at leisure.

Cl.

And a Constable has brought up a man, for breaking into farmer Thompson's barn last night.

Jus.

Has he?

[seeming irresolute]
well, tell him to wait too—we are going to be busv now, and can't be dis|turb'd. But bid him take care he doesn't let the prisoner escape, as he did that dog Farlow, d'ye hear?

Page  10
Cl.

Yes, Sir—but—Justice Manly is now in the smoaking-room—I've spoke to him about the licences, and we may'nt have another bench this—

Jus.

Will you please to march, Sir?

[Exit Clerk.
Mr. H

Well done, old Boy—Burn himself could not have dispatch'd business with more expedition.

[Going. Enter Servant.
Ser.

The Miller is here, Sir, with a man that he cotch'd with a hate that he had taken in the springe—but the poor fellow, please your Honour, has a large fa|mily.

[Hargr. and the Justice return.
Mr. H.

What! a Hare—Come along, Justice.

[Exit another way.
A burst of laughter from the smoaking room.—the Justice looks wistfully back, and then follows Mr. Hargrave.
SCENE, the Garden.
Enter GEORGE reading.
Geo.

Here's a special Fellow of a Philosopher now—would persuade that Pleasure has no existence, when bounteous Nature teems with her—she courts my senses in a thousand varied modes—She possesses herself of my understanding in the shape of Reason—and she seizes my heart in the form of Woman, dear, beauteous, all-subdu|ing Woman. And there is one—Memory, be faithful to her charms! Shew me the beauteous form, the animated face, the mind that beam'd in her eyes—the blushing smile that repaid my admiration, and raised an altar in my heart, on which every other passion is sacrificed—on which every hope, desire, and wish, is sanctified by her.

Enter BELLA.
Bella.

Oh, monstrous—George Hargrave morali|zing in the garden, whilst the finest girl in England is in the parlour!—what is become of your gallantry?

Geo.

Gone, sweet Cousin, gone.

Bel.

Indeed! who has robb'd you of it?

Geo.

A Woman.

Bel.

Come then, and regain it from a Woman, and such a Woman—

Geo.

Is she so beautiful?

Bel.

Beautiful! look at me,—I myself am not so handsome.

Geo.

Ha! ha! ha!—that, I confess, is an infallible criterion.—But I'll bet this whole volume of Wisdom, Page  11 against one of your Billet-doux, that she's not within fifty degrees of her who witch'd away my heart.

Bel.

Witch'd it indeed, if in six weeks it has not made one excursion—I never knew you so constant before. However, I prophesy her charm is broke; the Divinity who will reign—perhaps for another six weeks—is com|ing down the steps with Harriet—but, that her rays may not dazzle your mortal sight, shelter yourself behind the clump, and examine her.

[George goes and returns.

Well, how d'ye like her?

Geo.

Like her!—the air is all Ambrosia—every hap|py constellation is in conjunction—each bounteous star has lent its influence, and Venus guided the event.

Bel.

Heyday—what event? Sure this cannot be your Masquerade Lady!

Geo.

It is, it is—she is the sweet Thief—she is my Wood Nymph—Oh, I am transported!

Bel.

And I—amazed!—how can it—

Geo.

No matter how—whether by chance or witch|craft—Now could I apostrophize—Pshaw—away, and at her feet—these transports—

[Going.
Enter Mr. DRUMMOND.
Mr. Drum.

So, so, so,—and pray, what's the cause of these transports?

Geo.

You are the cause—'tis to you, my dear Mr. Drummond, I am indebted for the happiness which dawns on me.

Mr. Drum.

Then, God grant, my dear Boy, the dawn may not deceive thee—I wish it to brighten into the fairest day—But how have I been instrumental to all this?

Geo.

That Lady I have seen before at a Masquerade—She possessed herself of my heart at once, but I despair'd of ever beholding her again—Pray present me—

[Going.]
Mr. Drum.

Hold, George, hold—perhaps you'd better never be presented; for, tho' you may have put her in possession of your heart, 'tis by no means an evidence, that she has had the same complaisance for you—Sup|pose, for instance, such a trifle as hers being engaged.

Bella.

Oh unconscionable! to fancy the galloping imagination of a man in love, capable of so reosonable a supposition!—But, pray have so much decency, George, to postpone your entrée till you are more composed, I'll Page  12 go, and prepare her for the reception of a strange creature, that you may appear to advantage.

[Exit.
Geo.

Advantage! oh, I will hope every advantage, from so fortunate a chance—her heart cannot—shall not be engaged—and she shall be mine—Pardon, my dear Sir, these effusions of my joy.

Mr. D.

I do pardon them—'tis an odd circumstance,—Are you acquainted with the Lady's name?

Geo.

No one knew her—She seemed like an Angel de|scended to astonish her beholders, and vanish the moment she had fixt their hearts—Unluckily Mrs. Fitzherbert stopt me, and a jealous coxcomb in her train seized that moment, to hurry her out of the room.

Mr. D.

That misfortune, perhaps, I can repair—but you seem so extravagantly disposed to raptures, that I hardly dare tell you I know something of her family.

Geo.

I am rejoiced—for I am convinced you know nothing that will not justify my passion.

Mr. D.

This eagerness to helieve might have been so fatal, that I tremble fer you—But you are fortunate—she is the Daughter of a deceased Major Morley—a man, to whose friendship, and elegance of manners, I was indebt|ed for happy and rational hours, amidst the bustle of a Camp.

Geo.

Fortunate indeed! for then my passion must have your sanction—but I thought you had not known—

Mr. D.

I knew her Father's picture on her arm—but her delicacy is so alarmed at the idea of exposing the name of her Family in such a situation, that she would not consent to be introduced here, but on condition of its being conceal'd.

Geo.

Charming delicacy! I will keep her secret. My only consolation was, that such a Woman could not be long concealed, and it would have been the business of my life, till I had diseover'd her—

but your goodness has brought about the event—your goodness, to which I owe more than—

Mr. D.

Nay, stop your acknowledgements, and don't arrogate to your own merits the affection I have for you; for, transcendent as without doubt they are, you owe great part of it to circumstances, in which they have very little concern.

Geo.

I am contented to hold your estem by any tie—But, dear Sir, the Lady—

Mr. D.

Impatient Rogue!—Well, come, I'll intro|duce you, and may the moment be auspicious!

[Exit.
Page  13
Geo.

May it! Oh Love, sweet Tyrant! I yield my heart to thee a willing slave—to Love I devote my future life—never more shall I experience the aching void of in|difference, or know one moment unoccupied by thee.

[Exit.
END OF THE FIRST ACT.