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22 THE FORTUNES AND MISFORTUNES OF MOLL FLANDERS

The old lady was fully satisfied, and kissed me, spoke cheerfully to me, and bid me take care of my health and want for nothing, and so took her leave. But when she came down she found the brother and all his sisters together by the ears; they were angry, even to passion, at his upbraiding them with their being homely, and having never had any sweethearts, never having been asked the question, their being so forward as almost to ask first, and the like. He rallied them with Mrs Betty; how pretty, how good-humoured, how she sung better than they did, and danced better, and how much handsomer she was; and in doing this he omitted no ill-natured thing that could vex them. The old lady came down in the height of it, and to stop it, told them the discourse she had had with me, and how I answered, that there was nothing between Mr Robert and I.

'She's wrong there', says Robin, 'for if there was not a great deal between us, we should be closer together than we are. I told her I loved her hugely', says he, 'but I could never make the jade believe I was in earnest. 'I do not know how you should', says his mother; 'nobody in their senses could believe you were in earnest, to talk so to a poor girl whose circumstances you know so well.'

'But prithee, son', adds she, 'since you tell us you could not make her believe you were in earnest, what must we believe about it? For you ramble so in your discourse that nobody knows whether you are in earnest or in jest; but as I find the girl, by your own confession, has answered truly, I wish you would do so too, and tell me seriously, so that I may depend upon it, is there anything in it or no? Are you in earnest or no? Are you distracted, indeed, or are you not? 'Tis a weighty question; I wish you would make us easy about it.'

'By my faith, madam', says Robin, '’tis in vain to mince the matter, or tell any more lies about it; I am in earnest, as much as a man is that's going to be hanged. If Mrs Betty would say she loved me, and that she would marry me, I'ld have her to-morrow morning fasting, and say. "To have and to hold", instead of eating my breakfast.'

'Well', says the mother, 'then there's one son lost'; and she said it in a very mournful tone, as one greatly concerned at it. 'I hope not, madam' says Robin; 'no man is lost when a good wife has found him.' 'Why, but, child', says the old lady, 'she is a beggar.' 'Why, then, madam, she has the more need of charity', says Robin; 'I'll take her off the hands of the parish, and she and I'll beg together.' 'It's bad jesting with such things', says the mother. 'I don't jest, madam', says Robin; 'we'll come and beg your pardon, madam, and your blessing, madam, and my father's.' 'This is all out of the way, son', says the mother. 'If you are in earnest you are undone.' 'I am afraid not', says he, 'for I am really afraid she won't have me, After all my sister's huffing, I believe I shall never be able to persuade her to it.'

'That's a fine tale, indeed. She is not so far gone neither. Mrs Betty is no fool', says the youngest sister. 'Do you think she has learned to say No, any more than other people?' 'No, Mrs Mirth-wit', says Robin, 'Mrs Betty's no fool, but Mrs Betty may be engaged some other way, and what then?' 'Nay', says the eldest sister, 'we can say nothing to that. Who must it be to, then? She is never out of the doors; it must be between you.' 'I have nothing to say to that', says Robin. 'I have been examined enough; there's my brother. If it must be between us, go to work with him.'