“Their impudence confounds me!”
Fearing that Mr Hardcastle is about to launch into another of his interminable stories about the Duke of Marborough and the siege of Denain …
… and still believing himself to be in the presence of an inn-keeper, Marlow asks what the house has for supper and demands that the cook be called.
When Mr Hardcastle explains, nervously, that Bridget, the cook-maid is not very ‘communicative on these occasions’ and might react to being summoned to the parlour by scolding them all out of the house, Marlow insists on seeing the ‘bill of fare’ for that evening’s supper.
Mr Hardcastle is taken aback by this request. He has planned an elaborate banquet to welcome Mr Marlow and his father, Sir Charles, to his home but, out of ploiteness to his guests, he agrees to produce the bill of fare.
He expects the young gentlemen to be impressed with the scale and variety of the supper menu, but as he reads the bill of fare, Mr Marlow fears that the whole feast will appear on his bill at the end of his stay. He mocks Mr Hardcastle for the lavishness of the fare on offer.
“The devil, sir, do you think we have brought down the whole Joiners Company or the Corporation of Bedford to eat up such a supper? Two or three little things, clean and comfortable, will do.”
Marlow reads out the menu to Hastings, who joins in with the mockery.
MARLOW: For the first course, a pig and prune sauce.
HASTINGS: Damn your pig, say I.
MARLOW: And damn your prune sauce, say I. At the bottom, a calf’s tongue and brains.
HASTINGS: Let your brains be knocked out, my good sir, I don’t like them.
MARLOW: Or you may clap them on a plate by themselves, I do.
When Marlow follows up this outrageous behaviour with his insistence on checking that the beds are “properly aired and taken care of”, Mr Hardcastle is left in a state of total consternation and confusion.
As he follows Mr Marlow off-stage to go and check the state of the rooms, he sums up his exasperation with the manners of the young gentlemen from London:
“This may be modern modesty, but I never saw anything look so much like old-fashioned impudence!”