-- Well, Maria, have you given orders for the 70 entertainment? I would have it in some measure worthy the guests. Let there be plenty, and of the best, that the courtiers may at least commend our hospitality.
MA. Sir, I have endeavored not to wrong your 75 well-known generosity by an ill-timed parsimony.
THOR. Nay, 'twas a needless caution; I have no cause to doubt your prudence.
MA. Sir, I find myself unfit for conversation; I should but increase the number of the company 80 without adding to their satisfaction.
THOR. Nay, my child, this melancholy must not be indulged.
MA. Company will but increase it. I wish you would dispense with1 my absence; solitude best 85 suits my present temper.
THOR. You are not insensible that it is chiefly on your account these noble lords do me the honor so frequently to grace my board; should you be absent, the disappointment may make them 90 repent their condescension and think their labor lost.
MA. He that shall think his time or honor lost in visiting you can set no real value on your daughter's company, whose only merit is that she is yours. The man of quality who chooses to converse with a 95 gentleman and merchant of your worth and character may confer honor by so doing, but he loses none.
THOR. Come, come, Maria; I need not tell you that a young gentleman may prefer your conversation to mine, yet intend me no disrespect 100 at all; for, though he may lose no honor in my company, 'tis very natural for him to expect more pleasure in yours. I remember the time when the company of the greatest and wisest man in the kingdom would have been insipid and tiresome to me if it 105 had deprived me of an opportunity of enjoying your mother's.
MA. Yours no doubt was as agreeable to her, for generous minds know no pleasure in society but where 'tis mutual, 110
THOR. Thou know'st I have no heir, no child but thee; the fruits of many years' successful industry must all be thine. Now, it would give me pleasure great as my love to see on whom you would bestow it. I am daily solicited by men of the greatest 115 rank and merit for leave to address you, but I have hitherto declined it, in hopes that by observation I should learn which way your inclination tends; for, as I know love to be essential to happiness in the marriage state, I had rather my approbation 120 should confirm your choice than direct it.
MA. What can I say? How shall I answer as I ought this tenderness, so uncommon even in the best of parents? But you are without example; yet had you been less indulgent, I had been most 125 wretched. That I look on the crowd of courtiers that visit here with equal esteem but equal indifference, you have observed, and I must needs confess; yet had you asserted your authority, and insisted on a parent's right to be obeyed, I had submitted, 130 and to my duty sacrificed my peace.
THOR. From your perfect obedience in every other instance I feared as much, and therefore would leave you without a bias in an affair wherein your happiness is so immediately concerned. 135
MA. Whether from a want of that just ambition that would become your daughter, or from some other cause, I know not, but I find high birth and titles don't recommend the man who owns them to my affections, 140
THOR. I would not that they should, unless his merit recommends him more. A noble birth and fortune, though they make not a bad man good, yet they are a real advantage to a worthy one, and place his virtues in the fairest light. 145
MA. I cannot answer for my inclinations, but they shall ever be submitted to your wisdom and authority; and, as you will not compel me to marry where I cannot love, love shall never make me act contrary to my duty. Sir, have I your permission to 150 retire?
THOR. I'll see you to your chamber. Exeunt.
A room in MILLWOOD'S house.
MILLWOOD at her toilet. LUCY, waiting.
MILL. How do I look today, Lucy?
LUCY. Oh, killingly, madam! A little more red, and you'll be irresistible! But why this more than ordinary care of your dress and complexion? What new conquest are you aiming at? 5
MILL. A conquest would be new indeed!
LUCY. Not to you, who make 'em every day, -- but to me -- well! 'tis what I'm never to expect, unfortunate as I am. But your wit and beauty --
MILL. First made me a wretch, and still con 10 tinue me so. Men, however generous or sincere to one another, are all selfish hypocrites in their affairs with us. We are no otherwise esteemed or regarded by them but as we contribute to their satisfaction.
LUCY. You are certainly, madam, on the 15 wrong side in this argument. Is not the expense all theirs? And I am sure it is our own fault if we ha'n't our share of the pleasure.
MILL. We are but slaves to men.____________________