EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Bristol Hotwells, August 28th.
YOU will be again surprised, my dear Maria, at seeing whence I date my letter: but I have been very ill, and Mr. Villars was so much alarmed, that he not only insisted upon my accompanying Mrs. Selwyn hither, but earnestly desired she would hasten her intended journey.
We travelled very slowly, and I did not find myself so much fatigued as I expected. We are situated upon a most delightful spot; the prospect is beautiful, the air pure, and the weather very favourable to invalids. I am already better, and I doubt not but I shall soon be well; as well, in regard to mere health, as I wish to be.
I cannot express the reluctance with which I parted from my revered Mr. Villars: it was not like that parting which, last April, preceded my journey to Howard Grove, when, all expectation and hope, though I wept, I rejoiced, and, though I sincerely grieved to leave him, I yet wished to be gone: the sorrow I now felt was unmixed with any livelier sensation; expectation was vanished, and hope I had none! All that I held most dear upon earth I quitted; and that upon an errand, to the success of which I was totally indifferent, the re-establishment of my health. Had it been to have seen my sweet Maria, or her dear mother, I should not have repined.
Mrs. Selwyn is very kind and attentive to me. She is extremely clever: her understanding, indeed, may be called masculine: but, unfortunately, her manners deserve the same epithet; for, in studying to acquire the knowledge of the other sex, she has lost all the softness of her own. In regard to myself, however, as I have neither courage nor inclination to argue with her, I have never been personally hurt at her want of gentleness; a virtue which, nevertheless, seems so essential a part of the female character, that I find myself more awkward, and less at ease, with a woman who wants it, than I do with a man. She is not a favourite with Mr. Villars, who has often been disgusted at her unmerciful propensity to satire: but his anxiety that I should try the effect of the Bristol waters, overcame his dislike of committing me to her care. Mrs. Clinton is also here; so that I shall be as well attended as his utmost partiality could desire.
I will continue to write to you, my dear Miss Mirvan, with as much constancy as if I had no other correspondent; though, during my absence from Berry Hill, my letters may, perhaps, be shortened on account of the minuteness of the journal which I must write to my beloved Mr. Villars: but you, who know his expectations, and how many ties bind me to fulfil them, will I am sure, rather excuse any omission to yourself, than any negligence to him.
EVELINA TO THE REV. MR. VILLARS. Bristol Hotwells, Sept. 12th.
THE first fortnight that I passed here was so quiet, so serene, that it gave me reason to expect a settled calm during my stay; but if I may now judge of the time to come, by the present state of my mind, the calm will be succeeded by a storm, of which I dread the violence!
This morning, in my way to the pump-room with Mrs. Selwyn, we were both very much incommoded by three gentlemen, who were sauntering by the side of the Avon, laughing and talking very loud, and lounging so disagreeably, that we knew not how to pass them. They all three fixed their eyes very boldly upon me, alternately looking under my hat, and whispering one another. Mrs. Selwyn assumed an air of uncommon sternness, and said, "You will please, gentlemen, either to proceed yourselves, or to suffer us."
"Oh! Ma'am," cried one of them, "we will suffer you with the greatest pleasure in life."
"You will suffer us both," answered she, "or I am much mistaken: you had better, therefore, make way quietly; for I should be sorry to give my servant the trouble of teaching you better manners."
Her commanding air struck them, yet they all chose to laugh; and one of them wished the fellow would begin his lesson, that he might have the pleasure of rolling him into the Avon; while another, advancing to me with a freedom which made me start, said, "By my soul, I did not know you!-but I am sure I cannot be mistaken;-had not I the honour of seeing you once at the Pantheon?"
I then recollected the nobleman, who, at that place, had so much embarrassed me. I courtsied without speaking. They all bowed, and making, though in a very easy manner, an apology to Mrs. Selwyn, they suffered us to pass on, but chose to accompany us.
"And where," continued this Lord, "can you so long have hid yourself? do you know I have been in search of you this age? I could neither find you out, nor hear of you: not a creature could inform me what was become of you. I cannot imagine where you could be immured. I was at two or three public places every night, in hopes of meeting you. Pray, did you leave town?"
"Yes, my Lord."
"So early in the season!-what could possibly induce you to go before the birth-day?"
"I had nothing, my Lord, to do with the birth-day."
"By my soul, all the women who had, may rejoice you were away. Have you been here any time?"
"Not above a fortnight, my Lord."
"A fortnight!-how unlucky that I did not meet you sooner! but I have had a run of ill luck ever since I came. How long shall you stay?"
"Indeed, my Lord, I don't know."
"Six weeks, I hope; for I shall wish the place at the devil when you go."
"Do you, then, flatter yourself, my Lord," said Mrs. Selwyn, who had hitherto listened in silent contempt, "that you shall see such a beautiful spot as this, when you visit the dominions of the devil?"
"Ha, ha, ha! Faith, my Lord," said one of his companions, who still walked with us, though the other had taken leave, "the lady is rather hard upon you."
"Not at all," answered Mrs. Selwyn; "for as I cannot doubt but his Lordship's rank and interest will secure him a place there, it would be reflecting on his understanding, to suppose he should not wish to enlarge and beautify his dwelling."
Much as I was disgusted with this Lord, I must own Mrs. Selwyn's severity rather surprised me: but you, who have so often observed it, will not wonder she took so fair an opportunity of indulging her humour.
"As to places," returned he, totally unmoved, "I am so indifferent to them, that the devil take me if I care which way I go! objects, indeed, I am not so easy about; and, therefore, I expect, that those angels with whose beauty I am so much enraptured in this world, will have the goodness to afford me some little consolation in the other."
"What, my Lord!" cried Mrs. Selwyn, "would you wish to degrade the habitation of your friend, by admitting into it the insipid company of the upper regions?"
"What do you do with yourself this evening?" said his Lordship, turning to me.
"I shall be at home, my Lord."
"O, -e;-propos,-where are you?"
"Young ladies, my Lord," said Mrs. Selwyn, "are no where."
"Prithee," whispered his Lordship, "is that queer woman your mother?"
Good Heavens, Sir, what words for such a question!
"No, my Lord."
"Your maiden aunt then?"
"Whoever she is, I wish she would mind her own affairs: I don't know what the devil a woman lives for after thirty: she is only in other folk's way. Shall you be at the assembly?"
"I believe not, my Lord."
"No!-why then, how in the world can you contrive to pass your time?"
"In a manner which your Lordship will think very extraordinary," cried Mrs. Selwyn, "for the young lady reads."
"Ha, ha, ha! Egad, my Lord," cried the facetious companion, "you are got into bad hands."
"You had better, Ma'am," answered he, "attack Jack Coverley here, for you will make nothing of me."
"Of you, my Lord," cried she, "Heaven forbid I should ever entertain so idle an expectation! I only talk, like a silly woman, for the sake of talking; but I have by no means so low an opinion of your Lordship, as to suppose you vulnerable to censure."
"Do, pray, Ma'am," cried he, "turn to Jack Coverley; he's the very man for you;-he'd be a wit himself if he was not too modest."
"Prithee, my Lord, be quiet," returned the other; "if the lady is contented to bestow all her favours upon you, why should you make such a point of my going snacks?"
"Don't be apprehensive, gentlemen," said Mrs. Selwyn, drily, "I am not romantic;-I have not the least design of doing good to either of you."
"Have not you been ill since I saw you?" said his Lordship, again addressing himself to me.
"Yes, my Lord."
"I thought so; you are paler than you was, and I suppose that's the reason I did not recollect you sooner."
"Has not your Lordship too much gallantry," cried Mrs. Selwyn, "to discover a young lady's illness by her looks?"
"The devil a word can I speak for that woman," said he, in a low voice; "do, prithee, Jack, take her in hand."
"Excuse me, my Lord," answered Mr. Coverley.
"When shall I see you again?" continued his Lordship; "do you go to the pump-room every morning?"
"No, my Lord."
"Do you ride out?"
"No, my Lord."
Just then we arrived at the pump-room, and an end was put to our conversation, if it is not an abuse of words to give such a term to a string of rude questions and free compliments.
He had not opportunity to say much more to me, as Mrs. Selwyn joined a large party, and I walked home between two ladies. He had, however, the curiosity to see us to the door.
Mrs. Selwyn was very eager to know how I had made acquaintance with this nobleman, whose manners so evidently announced the character of a confirmed libertine. I could give her very little satisfaction, as I was ignorant even of his name: but, in the afternoon, Mr. Ridgeway, the apothecary, gave us very ample information.
As his person was easily described, for he is remarkably tall, Mr. Ridgeway told us he was Lord Merton, a nobleman who is but lately come to his title, though he has already dissipated more than half his fortune; a professed admirer of beauty, but a man of most licentious character; that among men, his companions consisted chiefly of gamblers and jockeys, and among women he was rarely admitted.
"Well, Miss Anville," said Mrs. Selwyn, "I am glad I was not more civil to him. You may depend upon me for keeping him at a distance."
"O, Madam," said Mr. Ridgeway, "he may now be admitted any where, for he is going to reform."
"Has he, under that notion, persuaded any fool to marry him?"
"Not yet, Madam, but a marriage is expected to take place shortly: it has been some time in agitation; but the friends of the lady have obliged her to wait till she is of age: however, her brother, who has chiefly opposed the match, now that she is near being at her own disposal, is tolerably quiet. She is very pretty, and will have a large fortune. We expect her at the Wells every day."
"What is her name?" said Mrs. Selwyn.
"Larpent," answered he: "Lady Louisa Larpent, sister of Lord Orville."
"Lord Orville!" repeated I, all amazement.
"Yes, Ma'am; his Lordship is coming with her. I have had certain information. They are to be at the Honourable Mrs. Beaumont's. She is a relation of my Lord's, and has a very fine house upon Clifton Hill."
His Lordship is coming with her! -Good God, what an emotion did those words give me! How strange, my dear Sir, that, just at this time, he should visit Bristol! It will be impossible for me to avoid seeing him, as Mrs. Selwyn is very well acquainted with Mrs. Beaumont. Indeed, I have had an escape in not being under the same roof with him, for Mrs. Beaumont invited us to her house immediately upon our arrival; but the inconvenience of being so distant from the pump-room made Mrs. Selwyn decline her civility.
Oh that the first meeting were over!-or that I could quit Bristol without seeing him!-inexpressibly do I dread an interview! Should the same impertinent freedom be expressed by his looks, which dictated this cruel letter, I shall not know how to endure either him or myself. Had I but returned it, I should be easier, because my sentiments of it would then be known to him; but now, he can only gather them from my behaviour; and I tremble lest he should mistake my indignation for confusion!-lest he should misconstrue my reserve into embarrassment!-for how, my dearest Sir, how shall I be able totally to divest myself of the respect with which I have been used to think of him?-the pleasure with which I have been used to see him?
Surely he, as well as I, must recollect the letter at the moment of our meeting; and he will, probably, mean to gather my thoughts of it from my looks;-oh that they could but convey to him my real detestation of impertinence and vanity! then would he see how much he had mistaken my disposition when he imagined them my due.
There was a time when the very idea that such a man as Lord Merton should ever be connected with Lord Orville would have both surprised and shocked me; and even yet I am pleased to hear of his repugnance to the marriage.
But how strange, that a man of so abandoned a character should be the choice of a sister of Lord Orville! and how strange, that, almost at the moment of the union, he should be so importunate in gallantry to another woman! What a world is this we live in! how corrupt! how degenerate! well might I be contented to see no more of it! If I find that the eyes of Lord Orville agree with his pen,-I shall then think, that of all mankind, the only virtuous individual resides at Berry Hill.
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Bristol Hotwells, Sept. 16th.
OH, Sir, Lord Orville is still himself! still what, from the moment I beheld, I believed him to be-all that is amiable in man! and your happy Evelina, restored at once to spirits and tranquillity, is no longer sunk in her own opinion, nor discontented with the world;-no longer, with dejected eyes, sees the prospect of passing her future days in sadness, doubt, and suspicion!-with revived courage she now looks forward, and expects to meet with goodness, even among mankind:-though still she feels, as strongly as ever, the folly of hoping, in any second instance, to meet with perfection.
Your conjecture was certainly right; Lord Orville, when he wrote that letter, could not be in his senses. Oh that intemperance should have power to degrade so low, a man so noble!
This morning I accompanied Mrs. Selwyn to Clifton Hill, where, beautifully situated, is the house of Mrs. Beaumont. Most uncomfortable were my feelings during our walk, which was very slow; for the agitation of my mind made me more than usually sensible how weak I still continue. As we entered the house, I summoned all my resolution to my aid, determined rather to die than give Lord Orville reason to attribute my weakness to a wrong cause. I was happily relieved from my perturbation, when I saw Mrs. Beaumont was alone. We sat with her for, I believe, an hour without interruption; and then we saw a phaeton drive up to the gate, and a lady and gentleman alight from it.
They entered the parlour with the ease of people who were at home. The gentleman, I soon saw, was Lord Merton: he came shuffling into the room with his boots on, and his whip in his hand; and having made something like a bow to Mrs. Beaumont, he turned towards me. His surprise was very evident; but he took no manner of notice of me. He waited, I believe, to discover, first, what chance had brought me to that house, where he did not look much rejoiced at meeting me. He seated himself very quietly at the window, without speaking to any body.
Mean time the lady, who seemed very young, hobbling rather than walking into the room, made a passing courtsy to Mrs. Beaumont, saying, "How are you, Ma'am?" and then, without noticing any body else, with an air of languor she flung herself upon a sofa, protesting, in a most affected voice, and speaking so softly she could hardly be heard, that she was fatigued to death. "Really, Ma'am, the roads are so monstrous dusty,-you can't imagine how troublesome the dust is to one's eyes!-and the sun, too, is monstrous disagreeable!-I dare say I shall be so tanned: I shan't be fit to be seen this age. Indeed, my Lord, I won't go out with you any more, for you don't care where you take one."
"Upon my honour," said Lord Merton, "I took you the pleasantest ride in England, the fault was in the sun, not me."
"Your Lordship is in the right," said Mrs. Selwyn, "to transfer the fault to the sun, because it has so many excellencies to counterbalance partial inconveniences that a little blame will not injure that in our estimation."
Lord Merton looked by no means delighted at this attack; which I believe she would not so readily have made, but to revenge his neglect of us.
"Did you meet your brother, Lady Louisa?" said Mrs. Beaumont.
"No, Ma'am. Is he rode out this morning?"
I then found, what I had before suspected, that this lady was Lord Orville's sister: how strange, that such near relations should be so different to each other! There is, indeed, some resemblance in their features; but, in their manners, not the least.
"Yes," answered Mrs. Beaumont, "and I believe he wished to see you."
"My Lord drove so monstrous fast," said Lady Louisa, "that perhaps we passed him. He frightened me out of my senses; I declare my head is quite giddy. Do you know, Ma'am, we have done nothing but quarrel all the morning?-You can't think how I've scolded; have not I, my Lord?" and she smiled expressively at Lord Merton.
"You have been, as you always are," said he, twisting his whip with his fingers, "all sweetness."
"O fie, my Lord," cried she, "I know you don't think so; I know you think me very ill-natured;-don't you, my Lord?"
"No, upon my honour;-how can your Ladyship ask such a question? Pray how goes time? my watch stands."
"It is almost three," answered Mrs. Beaumont.
"Lord, Ma'am, you frighten me!" cried Lady Louisa; and then, turning to Lord Merton, "why now, you wicked creature you, did you not tell me it was but one?"
Mrs. Selwyn then rose to take leave; but Mrs. Beaumont asked if she would look at the shrubbery. "I should like it much," answered she, "but that I fear to fatigue Miss Anville."
Lady Louisa, then, raising her head from her hand, on which it had leant, turned round to look at me; and having fully satisfied her curiosity, without any regard to the confusion it gave me, turned about, and, again leaning on her hand, took no further notice of me.
I declared myself very able to walk, and begged that I might accompany them. "What say you, Lady Louisa," cried Mrs. Beaumont, "to a stroll in the garden?"
"Me, Ma'am!-I declare I can't stir a step; the heat is so excessive, it would kill me. I'm half dead with it already; besides, I shall have no time to dress. Will any body be here to-day, Ma'am?"
"I believe not, unless Lord Merton will favour us with his company."
"With great pleasure, Madam."
"Well, I declare you don't deserve to be asked," cried Lady Louisa, "you wicked creature you!-I must tell you one thing, Ma'am,-you can't think how abominable he was! do you know we met Mr. Lovel in his new phaeton, and my Lord was so cruel as to drive against it?-we really flew. I declare I could not breathe. Upon my word, my Lord, I'll never trust myself with you again,-I won't indeed."
We then went into the garden, leaving them to discuss the point at their leisure.
Do you remember a pretty but affected young lady I mentioned to have seen, in Lord Orville's party, at the Pantheon? How little did I then imagine her to be his sister! yet Lady Louisa Larpent is the very person. I can now account for the piqued manner of her speaking to Lord Merton that evening, and I can now account for the air of displeasure with which Lord Orville marked the undue attention of his future brother-in-law to me.
We had not walked long, ere, at a distance, I perceived Lord Orville, who seemed just dismounted from his horse, enter the garden. All my perturbation returned at the sight of him!-yet I endeavoured to repress every feeling but resentment. As he approached us, he bowed to the whole party; but I turned away my head to avoid taking any share in his civility. Addressing himself immediately to Mrs. Beaumont, he was beginning to enquire after his sister: but, upon seeing my face, he suddenly exclaimed, "Miss Anville!-" and then he advanced, and made his compliments to me,-not with an air of vanity or impertinence, nor yet with a look of consciousness or shame;-but with a countenance open, manly, and charming!-with a smile that indicated pleasure, and eyes that sparkled with delight!-on my side was all that consciousness; for by him, I really believe, the letter was, at that moment, entirely forgotten.
With what politeness did he address me! with what sweetness did he look at me! the very tone of his voice seemed flattering! he congratulated himself upon his good fortune in meeting with me;-hoped I should spend some time in Bristol, and enquired, even with anxiety enquired, if my health was the cause of my journey; in which case his satisfaction would be converted into apprehension.
Yet, struck as I was with his manner, and charmed to find him such as he was wont to be, imagine not, my dear Sir, that I forgot the resentment I owe him, or the cause he has given me of displeasure; no, my behaviour was such, as I hope, had you seen, you would not have disapproved: I was grave and distant; I scarce looked at him when he spoke, or answered him when he was silent.
As he must certainly observe this alteration in my conduct, I think it could not fail making him both recollect and repent the provocation he had so causelessly given me; for surely he was not so wholly lost to reason, as to be now ignorant he had ever offended me.
The moment that, without absolute rudeness, I was able, I turned entirely from him, and asked Mrs. Selwyn if we should not be late home? How Lord Orville looked I know not, for I avoided meeting his eyes; but he did not speak another word as we proceeded to the garden gate. Indeed, I believe, my abruptness surprised him, for he did not seem to expect I had so much spirit. And, to own the truth, convinced as I was of the propriety, nay, necessity, of showing my displeasure, I yet almost hated myself for receiving his politeness so ungraciously.
When we were taking leave, my eyes accidentally meeting his, I could not but observe that his gravity equalled my own; for it had entirely taken place of the smiles and good humour with which he had met me.
"I am afraid this young lady," said Mrs. Beaumont, "is too weak for another long walk till she is again rested."
"If the ladies will trust to my driving," said Lord Orville, "and are not afraid of a phaeton, mine shall be ready in a moment."
"You are very good, my Lord, "said Mrs. Selwyn, "but my will is yet unsigned, and I don't choose to venture in a phaeton with a young man while that is the case."
"O," cried Mrs. Beaumont, "you need not be afraid of my Lord Orville, for he is remarkably careful."
"Well, Miss Anville," answered she, "what say you?"
"Indeed," cried I, "I had much rather walk-." But then, looking at Lord Orville, I perceived in his face a surprise so serious at my abrupt refusal, that I could not forbear adding, "for I should be sorry to occasion so much trouble."
Lord Orville, brightening at these words, came forward, and pressed his offer in a manner not to be denied;-so the phaeton was ordered! And indeed, my dear Sir,-I know not how it was;-but, from that moment, my coldness and reserve insensibly wore away! You must not be angry,-it was my intention, nay, my endeavour, to support them with firmness: but when I formed the plan, I thought only of the letter,-not of Lord Orville!-and how is it possible for resentmen to subsist without provocation? yet, believe me, my dearest Sir, had he sustained the part he began to act when he wrote this ever-to-be-regretted letter, your Evelina would have not forfeited her title to your esteem, by contentedly submitting to be treated with indignity.
We continued in the garden till the phaeton was ready. When we parted from Mrs. Beaumont, she repeated her invitation to Mrs. Selwyn to accept an apartment in her house; but the reason I have already mentioned made it be again declined.
Lord Orville drove very slow, and so cautiously, that, notwithstanding the height of the phaeton, fear would have been ridiculous. I supported no part in the conversation; but Mrs. Selwyn extremely well supplied the place of two. Lord Orville himself did not speak much; but the excellent sense and refined good-breeding which accompany every word he utters, give value and weight to whatever he says.
"I suppose, my Lord," said Mrs. Selwyn, when we stopped at our lodgings, "you would have been extremely confused had we met any gentlemen who have the honour of knowing you."
"If I had," answered he, gallantly, "it would have been from mere compassion at their envy."
"No, my Lord," answered she, "it would have been from mere shame, that, in an age so daring, you alone should be such a coward as to forbear to frighten women."
"O," cried he, laughing, "when a man is in a fright for himself, the ladies cannot but be in security; for you have not had half the apprehension for the safety of your persons, that I have for that of my heart." He then alighted, handed us out, took leave, and again mounting the phaeton, was out of sight in a minute.
"Certainly," said Mrs. Selwyn, when he was gone, "there must have been some mistake in the birth of that young man; he was, undoubtedly, designed for the last age; for he is really polite!"
And now, my dear Sir, do not you think, according to the present situation of affairs, I may give up my resentment, without imprudence or impropriety? I hope you will not blame me. Indeed, had you, like me, seen his respectful behaviour, you would have been convinced of the impracticability of supporting any further indignation.
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Bristol Hotwells, Sept. 19th.
YESTERDAY morning Mrs. Selwyn received a card from Mrs. Beaumont, to ask her to dine with her to-day: and another, to the same purpose, came to me. The invitation was accepted, and we are but just arrived from Clifton Hill.
We found Mrs. Beaumont alone in the parlour. I will write you the character of that lady, in the words of our satirical friend Mrs. Selwyn. "She is an absolute Court Calendar bigot; for, chancing herself to be born of a noble and ancient family, she thinks proper to be of opinion, that birth and virtue are one and the same thing. She has some good qualities; but they rather originate from pride than principle, as she piques herself upon being too high-born to be capable of an unworthy action, and thinks it incumbent upon her to support the dignity of her ancestry. Fortunately for the world in general, she has taken it into her head, that condescension is the most distinguishing virtue of high life; so that the same pride of family which renders others imperious, is with her the motive of affability. But her civility is too formal to be comfortable, and too mechanical to be flattering. That she does me the honour of so much notice, is merely owing to an accident, which, I am sure, is very painful to her remembrance; for it so happened, that I once did her some service, in regard to an apartment at Southampton; and I have since been informed, that, at the time she accepted my assistance, she thought I was a woman of quality; and I make no doubt but she was miserable when she discovered me to be a mere country gentlewoman: however, her nice notions of decorum have made her load me with favours ever since. But I am not much flattered by her civilities, as I am convinced I owe them neither to attachment nor gratitude; but solely to a desire of cancelling an obligation, which she cannot brook being under, to one whose name is no where to be found in the Court Calendar."
You well know, my dear Sir, the delight this lady takes in giving way to her satirical humour.
Mrs. Beaumont received us very graciously, though she some what distressed me by the questions she asked concerning my family;-such as, Whether I was related to the Anvilles in the North?-Whether some of my name did not live in Lincolnshire? and many other inquiries, which much embarrassed me.
The conversation next turned upon the intended marriage in her family. She treated the subject with reserve; but it was evident she disapproved Lady Louisa's choice. She spoke in terms of the highest esteem of Lord Orville, calling him, in Marmontel's words, "Un jeune homme comme il y en a peu."
I did not think this conversation very agreeably interrupted by the entrance of Mr. Lovel. Indeed I am heartily sorry he is now at the Hot Wells. He made his compliments with the most obsequious respect to Mrs. Beaumont, but took no sort of notice of any other person.
In a few minutes Lady Louisa Larpent made her appearance. The same manners prevailed; for, courtsying, with "I hope you are well, Ma'am," to Mrs. Beaumont, she passed straight forward to her seat on the sofa; where, leaning her head on her hand, she cast her languishing eyes round the room, with a vacant stare, as if determined, though she looked, not to see who was in it.
Mr. Lovel, presently approaching her, with reverence the most profound, hoped her Ladyship was not indisposed.
"Mr. Lovel!" cried she, raising her head, "I declare I did not see you: have you been here long?"
"By my watch, Madam," said he, "only five minutes,-but by your
Ladyship's absence as many hours."
"O! now I think of it," cried she, "I am very angry with you;-so go along, do; for I sha'n't speak to you all day."
"Heaven forbid your La'ship's displeasure should last so long! in such cruel circumstances, a day would seem an age. But in what have I been so unfortunate as to offend?"
"O, you half killed me the other morning, with terror! I have not yet recovered from my fright. How could you be so cruel as to drive your phaeton against my Lord Merton's?"
"'Pon honour, Ma'am, your La'ship does me wrong;-it was all owing to the horses,-there was no curbing them. I protest I suffered more than your Ladyship, from the terror of alarming you."
Just then entered Lord Merton; stalking up to Mrs. Beaumont, to whom alone he bowed, he hoped he had not made her wait; and then, advancing to Lady Louisa, said, in a careless manner, "How is your Ladyship this morning?"
"Not well at all," answered she; "I have been dying with the head-ache ever since I got up."
"Indeed!" cried he, with a countenance wholly unmoved, "I am very unhappy to hear it. But should not your Ladyship have some advice?"
"I am quite sick of advice," answered she, "Mr. Ridgeway has but just left me,-but he has done me no good. Nobody here knows what is the matter with me, yet they all see how indifferent I am."
"Your Ladyship's constitution," said Mr. Lovel, "is infinitely delicate."
"Indeed it is," cried she, in a low voice, "I am nerve all over!"
"I am glad, however," said Lord Merton, "that you did not take the air this morning, for Coverley has been driving against me as if he was mad: he has got two of the finest spirited horses I ever saw."
"Pray my Lord," cried she, "why did not you bring Mr. Coverley with you? he's a droll creature; I like him monstrously."
"Why, he promised to be here as soon as me. I suppose he'll come before dinner's over."
In the midst of this trifling conversation Lord Orville made his appearance. O how different was his address! how superior did he look and move, to all about him! Having paid his respects to Mrs. Beaumont, and then to Mrs. Selwyn, he came up to me, and said, "I hope Miss Anville has not suffered from the fatigue of Monday morning?" Then, turning to Lady Louisa, who seemed rather surprised at his speaking to me, he added, "Give me leave, sister, to introduce Miss Anville to you."
Lady Louisa, half-rising, said, very coldly, that she should be glad of the honour of knowing me; and then, abruptly turning to Lord Merton and Mr. Lovel, continued, in a half-whisper, her conversation.
For my part, I had risen and courtsied, and now, feeling very foolish, I seated myself again: first I blushed at the unexpected politeness of Lord Orville, and immediately afterwards at the contemptuous failure of it in his sister. How can that young lady see her brother so universally admired for his manners and deportment, and yet be so unamiably opposite to him in hers! but while his mind, enlarged and noble, rises superior to the little prejudices of rank, hers, feeble and unsteady, sinks beneath their influence.
Lord Orville, I am sure, was hurt and displeased: he bit his lips, and, turning from her, addressed himself wholly to me, till we were summoned to dinner. Do you think I was not grateful for his attention? yes, indeed, and every angry idea I had entertained was totally obliterated.
As we were seating ourselves at the table, Mr. Coverley came into the room; he made a thousand apologies in a breath for being so late, but said he had been retarded by a little accident, for that he had overturned his phaeton, and broke it all to pieces. Lady Louisa screamed at this intelligence, and, looking at Lord Merton, declared she would never go into a phaeton again.
"O," cried he, "never mind Jack Coverley; for he does not know how to drive."
"My Lord," cried Mr. Coverley, "I'll drive against you for a thousand pounds."
"Done!" returned the other; "name your day, and we'll each choose a judge."
"The sooner the better," cried Mr. Coverley; "to-morrow, if the carriage can be repaired."
"These enterprises," said Mrs. Selwyn, "are very proper for men of rank, since 'tis a million to one but both parties will be incapacitated for any better employment."
"For Heaven's sake," cried Lady Louisa, changing colour, "don't talk so shockingly! Pray, my Lord, pray, Mr. Coverley, don't alarm me in this manner."
"Compose yourself, Lady Louisa," said Mrs. Beaumont, "the gentlemen will think better of the scheme; they are neither of them in earnest."
"The very mention of such a scheme," said Lady Louisa, taking out her salts, "makes me tremble all over! Indeed, my Lord, you have frightened me to death! I sha'n't eat a morsel of dinner."
"Permit me," said Lord Orville, "to propose some other subject for the present, and we will discuss this matter another time."
"Pray, brother, excuse me; my Lord must give me his word to drop the project,-for I declare it has made me sick as death."
"To compromise the matter," said Lord Orville, "suppose, if both parties are unwilling to give up the bet, that, to make the ladies easy, we change its object to something less dangerous?"
This proposal was so strongly seconded by all the party, that both Lord Merton and Mr. Coverley were obliged to comply with it; and it was then agreed that the affair should be finally settled in the afternoon.
"I shall now be entirely out of conceit with phaetons again," said
Mrs. Selwyn, "though Lord Orville had almost reconciled me to them."
"My Lord Orville!" cried the witty Mr. Coverley, "why, my Lord Orville is as careful,-egad, as careful as an old woman! Why, I'd drive a one-horse cart against my Lord's phaeton for a hundred guineas!"
This sally occasioned much laughter; for Mr. Coverley, I find, is regarded as a man of infinite humour.
"Perhaps, Sir," said Mrs. Selwyn, "you have not discovered the reason my Lord Orville is so careful?"
"Why, no, Ma'am; I must own I never heard any particular reason for it."
"Why, then, Sir, I'll tell it you; and I believe you will confess it to be very particular; his Lordship's friends are not yet tired of him."
Lord Orville laughed and bowed. Mr. Coverley, a little confused, turned to Lord Merton, and said, "No foul play, my Lord! I remember your Lordship recommended me to the notice of this lady the other morning, and, egad, I believe you have been doing me the same office to-day."
"Give you joy, Jack!" cried Lord Merton, with a loud laugh.
After this the conversation turned wholly upon eating, a subject which was discussed with the utmost delight; and, had I not known they were men of rank and fashion, I should have imagined that Lord Merton, Mr. Lovel, and Mr. Coverley, had all been professed cooks; for they displayed so much knowledge of sauces and made-dishes, and of the various methods of dressing the same things, that I am persuaded they must have given much time, and much study, to make themselves such adepts in this art. It would be very difficult to determine, whether they were most to be distinguished as gluttons or epicures; for they were, at once, dainty and voracious, understood the right and the wrong of every dish, and alike emptied the one and the other. I should have been quite sick of their remarks, had I not been entertained by seeing that Lord Orville, who, I am sure, was equally disgusted, not only read my sentiments, but, by his countenance, communicated to me his own.
When dinner was over, Mrs. Beaumont recommended the gentlemen to the care of Lord Orville, and then attended the ladies to the drawing-room.
The conversation, till tea-time, was extremely insipid; Mrs. Selwyn reserved herself for the gentlemen, Mrs. Beaumont was grave, and Lady Louisa languid.
But, at tea, every body revived; we were joined by the gentlemen, and gaiety took the place of dullness.
Since I, as Mr. Lovel says, am Nobody, I seated myself quietly at a window, and not very near to any body: Lord Merton, Mr. Coverley, and Mr. Lovel, severally passed me without notice, and surrounded the chair of Lady Louisa Larpent. I must own, I was rather piqued at the behaviour of Mr. Lovel, as he had formerly known me. It is true, I most sincerely despise his foppery; yet I should be grieved to meet with contempt from any body. But I was by no means sorry to find, that Lord Merton was determined not to know me before Lady Louisa, as his neglect relieved me from much embarrassment. As to Mr. Coverley, his attention or disregard were equally indifferent to me. Yet, altogether, I feel extremely uncomfortable in finding myself considered in a light very inferior to the rest of the company.
But when Lord Orville appeared, the scene changed: he came up stairs last; and, seeing me sit alone, not only spoke to me directly, but drew a chair next mine, and honoured me with his entire attention.
He enquired very particularly after my health, and hoped I had already found benefit from the Bristol air. "How little did I imagine," added he, "when I had last the pleasure of seeing you in town, that ill health would in so short a time have brought you hither! I am ashamed of myself for the satisfaction I feel at seeing you,-yet, how can I help it?"
He then enquired after the Mirvan family, and spoke of Mrs. Mirvan in terms of most just praise. "She is gentle and amiable," said he, "a true feminine character."
"Yes, indeed," answered I: "and her sweet daughter, to say every thing of her at once, is just the daughter such a mother deserves."
"I am glad of it," said he, "for both their sakes, as such near relations must always reflect credit or disgrace on each other."
After this he began to speak of the beauties of Clifton; but, in a few moments, he was interrupted by a call from the company, to discuss the affair of the wager. Lord Merton and Mr. Coverley, though they had been discoursing upon the subject some time, could not fix upon the thing that satisfied them both.
When they asked the assistance of Lord Orville, he proposed that every body present should vote something; and that the two gentlemen should draw lots which, from the several votes, should decide the bet.
"We must then begin with the ladies," said Lord Orville; and applied to Mrs. Selwyn.
"With all my heart," answered she, with her usual readiness; "and, since the gentlemen are not allowed to risk their necks, suppose we decide the bet by their heads?"
"By our heads?" cried Mr. Coverley. "Egad, I don't understand you."
"I will then explain myself more fully. As I doubt not but you are both excellent classics, suppose, for the good of your own memories, and the entertainment and surprise of the company, the thousand pounds should fall to the share of him who can repeat by heart the longest ode of Horace?"
Nobody could help laughing, the two gentlemen applied to excepted; who seemed, each of them, rather at a loss in what manner to receive this unexpected proposal. At length Mr. Coverley, bowing low, said, "Will your Lordship please to begin?"
"Devil take me if I do!" answered he, turning on his heel, and stalking to the window.
"Come, gentlemen," said Mrs. Selwyn, "why do you hesitate? I am sure you cannot be afraid of a weak woman? Besides, if you should chance to be out, Mr. Lovel, I dare say, will have the goodness to assist you."
The laugh now turned against Mr. Lovel, whose change of countenance manifested no great pleasure at the transition.
"Me, Madam!" said he, colouring; "no, really I must beg to be excused."
"Why so, Sir?"
"Why so, Ma'am!-Why, really-as to that,-'pon honour, Ma'am, you are rather-a little severe;-for how is it possible for a man who is in the house, to study the classics? I assure you, Ma'am, (with an affected shrug) I find quite business enough for my poor head in studying politics."
"But, did you study politics at school, and at the university?"
"At the university!" repeated he, with an embarrassed look; "why, as to that, Ma'am,-no, I can't say I did; but then, what with riding,-and -and-and so forth,-really, one has not much time, even at the university, for mere reading."
"But, to be sure, Sir, you have read the classics?"
"O dear, yes, Ma'am!-very often,-but not very-not very lately."
"Which of the Odes do you recommend to these gentlemen to begin with?"
"Which of the Odes!-Really, Ma'am, as to that, I have no very particular choice;-for, to own the truth, that Horace was never a very great favourite with me."
"In truth I believe you!" said Mrs. Selwyn, very drily.
Lord Merton, again advancing into the circle, with a nod and a laugh, said, "Give you joy, Lovel!"
Lord Orville next applied to Mrs. Beaumont for her vote.
"It would very agreeably remind me of past times," said she, "when bowing was in fashion, if the bet was to depend upon the best made bow."
"Egad, my Lord," cried Mr. Coverley, "there I should beat you hollow, for your Lordship never bows at all."
"And pray, Sir, do you?" said Mrs. Selwyn.
"Do I, Ma'am?" cried he; "why, only see!"
"I protest," cried she, "I should have taken that for a shrug, if you had not told me 'twas a bow."
"My lord," cried Mr. Coverley, "let's practise;" and then, most ridiculously, they pranced about the room, making bows.
"We must now," said Lord Orville, turning to me, "call upon Miss
"O no, my Lord," cried I; "indeed I have nothing to propose." He would not, however, be refused; but urged me so much to say something, that at last, not to make him wait any longer, I ventured to propose an extempore couplet upon some given subject. Mr. Coverley instantly made me a bow, or, according to Mrs. Selwyn, a shrug, crying, "Thank you, Ma'am; egad, that's my forte!-why, my Lord, the Fates seem against you."
Lady Louisa was then applied to; and every body seemed eager to hear her opinion. "I don't know what to say, I declare," cried she, affectedly; "can't you pass me?"
"By no means," said Lord Merton.
"Is it possible your Ladyship can make so cruel a request?" said
"Egad," cried Mr. Coverley, "if your Ladyship does not help us in this dilemma, we shall be forced to return to our phaetons."
"Oh!" cried Lady Louisa, screaming; "you frightful creature, you, how can you be so abominable?"
I believe this trifling lasted near half an hour; when at length, every body being tired, it was given up, and she said she would consider against another time.
Lord Orville now called upon Mr. Lovel; who, after about ten minutes' deliberation, proposed, with a most important face, to determine the wager by who should draw the longest straw!
I had much difficulty to forbear laughing at this unmeaning scheme; but saw, to my great surprise, not the least change of countenance in any other person: and, since we came home, Mrs. Selwyn has informed me, that to draw straws is a fashion of betting by no means uncommon. Good God! my dear Sir, does it not seem as if money were of no value or service, since those who possess, squander it away in a manner so infinitely absurd?
It now only remained for Lord Orville to speak; and the attention of the company showed the expectations he had raised; yet, I believe, they by no means prevented his proposal from being heard with amazement; for it was no other, than that the money should be his due, who, according to the opinion of the judges, should bring the worthiest object with whom to share it!
They all stared, without speaking. Indeed, I believe every one, for a moment at least, experienced something like shame, from having either proposed or countenanced an extravagance so useless and frivolous. For my part, I was so much struck and affected by a rebuke so noble to these spendthrifts, that I felt my eyes filled with tears.
The short silence and momentary reflection into which the company was surprised, Mr. Coverley was the first to dispel, by saying, "Egad, my Lord, your Lordship has a most remarkable odd way of taking things."
"Faith," said the incorrigible Lord Merton, "if this scheme takes, I shall fix upon my Swiss to share with me; for I don't know a worthier fellow breathing."
After a few more of these attempts at wit, the two gentlemen agreed that they would settle the affair the next morning.
The conversation then took a different turn; but I did not give it sufficient attention to write any account of it. Not long after, Lord Orville, resuming his seat near mine, said, "Why is Miss Anville so thoughtful?"
"I am sorry, my Lord," said I, "to consider myself among those who have so justly incurred your censure."
"My censure!-you amaze me!"
"Indeed, my Lord, you have made me quite ashamed of myself for having given my vote so foolishly, when an opportunity offered, if, like your Lordship, I had had the sense to use it, of showing some humanity."
"You treat this too seriously," said he, smiling; "and I hardly know if you do not now mean a rebuke to me."
"To you, my Lord!"
"Nay, who are most deserving of it; those who adapt their conversation to the company, or those who affect to be superior to it?"
"O, my Lord, who else would do you so little justice?"
"I flatter myself," answered he, "that, in fact, your opinion and mine, in this point, are the same, though you condescended to comply with the humour of the company. It is for me, therefore, to apologize for so unseasonable a gravity, which, but for the particular interest that I now take in the affairs of Lord Merton, I should not have been so officious to display."
Such a compliment as this could not fail to reconcile me to myself; and with revived spirits, I entered into a conversation, which he supported with me till Mrs. Selwyn's carriage was announced; and we returned home.
During our ride, Mrs. Selwyn very much surprised me, by asking, if I thought my health would now permit me to give up my morning walks to the pump-room, for the purpose of spending a week at Clifton? "for this poor Mrs. Beaumont," added she, "is so eager to have a discharge in full of her debt to me, that out of mere compassion, I am induced to listen to her. Besides, she has always a house full of people; and, though they are chiefly fools and cox-combs, yet there is some pleasure in cutting them up."
I begged I might not, by any means, prevent her following her inclination, as my health was now very well established. And so, my dear Sir, to-morrow we are to be actually the guests of Mrs. Beaumont.
I am not much delighted at this scheme; for, greatly as I am flattered by the attention of Lord Orville, it is not very comfortable to be neglected by every body else. Besides, as I am sure I owe the particularity of his civility to a generous feeling for my situation, I cannot expect him to support it so long as a week.
How often do I wish, since I am absent from you, that I was under the protection of Mrs. Mirvan! It is true, Mrs. Selwyn is very obliging, and, in every respect, treats me as an equal; but she is contented with behaving well herself, and does not, with a distinguishing politeness, raise and support me with others. Yet I mean not to blame her, for I know she is sincerely my friend; but the fact is, she is herself so much occupied in conversation, when in company, that she has neither leisure nor thought to attend to the silent.
Well, I must take my chance! But I knew not, till now, how requisite are birth and fortune to the attainment of respect and civility.
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Clifton, Sept. 20th.
HERE I am, my dear Sir, under the same roof, and an inmate of the same house as Lord Orville! Indeed, if this were not the case, my situation would be very disagreeable, as you will easily believe, when I tell you the light in which I am generally considered.
"My dear," said Mrs. Selwyn, "did you ever before meet with that egregious fop, Lovel?"
I very readily satisfied her as to my acquaintance with him.
"O, then," said she, "I am the less surprised at his ill-nature, since he has already injured you."
I begged her to explain herself; and then she told me, that while
Lord Orville was speaking to me, Lady Louisa said to Mr. Lovel,
"Do you know who that is?"
"Why, Ma'am, no, 'pon honour," answered he, "I can't absolutely say I do; I only know she is a kind of a toad-eater. She made her first appearance in that capacity last spring, when she attended Miss Mirvan, a young lady of Kent."
How cruel is it, my dear Sir, to be thus exposed to the impertinent suggestions of a man who is determined to do me ill offices! Lady Louisa may well despise a toad-eater; but, thank Heaven, her brother has not heard, or does not credit, the mortifying appellation. Mrs. Selwyn said, she would advise me to pay my court to this Mr. Lovel; "for," said she, "though he is malicious, he is fashionable, and may do you some harm in the great world." But I should disdain myself as much as I do him, were I capable of such duplicity as to flatter a man whom I scorn and despise.
We were received by Mrs. Beaumont with great civility, and by Lord Orville with something more. As to Lady Louisa, she scarcely perceived that we were in the room.
There has been company here all day, part of which I have spent most happily: for after tea, when the ladies played at cards, Lord Orville, who does not, and I, who cannot play, were consequently at our own disposal; and then his Lordship entered into a conversation with me, which lasted till supper-time.
Almost insensibly, I find the constraint, the reserve, I have been wont to feel in his presence, wear away; the politeness, the sweetness, with which he speaks to me, restore all my natural cheerfulness, and make me almost as easy as he is himself;-and the more so, as, if I may judge by his looks, I am rather raised, than sunk of late in his opinion.
I asked him how the bet was, at last, to be decided? He told me that, to his great satisfaction, the parties had been prevailed upon to lower the sum from one thousand to one hundred pounds; and that they had agreed it should be determined by a race between two old women, one of whom was to be chosen by each side, and both were to be proved more than eighty years of age, though, in other respects strong and healthy as possible.
When I expressed my surprise at this extraordinary method of spending so much money, "I am charmed," said he, "at the novelty of meeting with one so unhackneyed in the world, as not to be yet influenced by custom to forget the use of reason: for certain it is, that the prevalence of fashion makes the greatest absurdities pass uncensured, and the mind naturally accommodates itself even to the most ridiculous improprieties, if they occur frequently."
"I should have hoped," said I, "that the humane proposal made yesterday by your Lordship, would have had more effect."
"O," cried he, laughing, "I was so far from expecting any success, that I shall think myself very fortunate if I escape the wit of Mr. Coverley in a lampoon! yet I spoke openly, because I do not wish to conceal that I am no friend to gaming."
After this, he took up the New Bath Guide, and read it with me till supper-time. In our way down stairs, Lady Louisa said, "I thought, brother, you were engaged this evening?"
"Yes, sister," answered he, "and I have been engaged." And he bowed to me with an air of gallantry that rather confused me. Sept. 23rd.
Almost insensibly have three days glided on since I wrote last, and so serenely, that, but for your absence, I could not have formed a wish. My residence here is much happier than I had dared expect. The attention with which Lord Orville honours me, is as uniform as it is flattering, and seems to result from a benevolence of heart that proves him as much a stranger to caprice as to pride; for, as his particular civilities arose from a generous resentment at seeing me neglected, so will they, I trust, continue, as long as I shall, in any degree, deserve them. I am now not merely easy, but even gay in his presence: such is the effect of true politeness, that it banishes all restraint and embarrassment. When we walk out, he condescends to be my companion, and keeps by my side all the way we go. When we read, he marks the passages most worthy to be noticed, draws out my sentiments, and favours me with his own. At table, where he always sits next to me, he obliges me by a thousand nameless attentions; while the distinguishing good-breeding with which he treats me, prevents my repining at the visibly-felt superiority of the rest of the company. A thousand occasional meetings could not have brought us to that degree of social freedom, which four days spent under the same roof have, insensibly, been productive of: and, as my only friend in this house, Mrs. Selwyn, is too much engrossed in perpetual conversation to attend much to me, Lord Orville seems to regard me as a helpless stranger, and, as such, to think me entitled to his good offices and protection. Indeed, my dear Sir, I have reason to hope, that the depreciating opinion he formerly entertained of me is succeeded by one infinitely more partial.-It may be that I flatter myself; but yet his looks, his attentions, his desire of drawing me into conversation, and his solicitude to oblige me, all conspire to make me hope I do not. In short, my dearest Sir, these last four happy days would repay me for months of sorrow and pain!
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Clifton, Sept. 24th.
THIS morning I came down stairs very early; and supposing that the family would not assemble for some time, I strolled out, purposing to take a long walk, in the manner I was wont to do at Berry Hill, before breakfast: but I had scarce shut the garden-gate, before I was met by a gentleman, who, immediately bowing to me, I recollected to be the unhappy Mr. Macartney. Very much surprised, I courtsied, and stopped till he came up to me. He was still in mourning, but looked better than when I saw him last, though he had the same air of melancholy which so much struck me at first sight of him.
Addressing me with the utmost respect, "I am happy, Madam," said he, "to have met with you so soon. I came to Bristol but yesterday, and have had no small difficulty in tracing you to Clifton."
"Did you know, then, of my being here?"
"I did, Madam; the sole motive of my journey was to see you. I have been to Berry Hill, and there I had my intelligence, and, at the same time, the unwelcome information of your ill health."
"Good God! Sir,-and can you possibly have taken so much trouble?"
"Trouble! O, Madam, could there be any, to return you, the moment I had the power, my personal acknowledgments for your goodness?"
I then enquired after Madame Duval and the Snow-Hill family. He told me they were all well, and that Madame Duval proposed soon returning to Paris. When I congratulated him on looking better, "It is yourself, Madam," said he, "you should congratulate; for to your humanity alone it may now be owing that I exist at all." He then told me, that his affairs were now in a less desperate situation; and that he hoped, by the assistance of time and reason, to accommodate his mind to a more cheerful submission to his fate. "The interest you so generously took in my affliction," added he, "assures me you will not be displeased to hear of my better fortune; I was therefore eager to acquaint you with it." He then told me that his friend, the moment he had received his letter, quitted Paris, and flew to give him his personal assistance and consolation. With a heavy heart, he acknowledged, he accepted it; "but yet," he added, "I have accepted it; and therefore, as bound equally by duty and honour, my first step was to hasten to the benefactress of my distress, and to return" (presenting me something in a paper) "the only part of my obligations that can be returned; for the rest, I have nothing but my gratitude to offer, and must always be contented to consider myself her debtor."
I congratulated him most sincerely upon his dawning prosperity, but begged he would not deprive me of the pleasure of being his friend; and declined receiving the money, till his affairs were more settled.
While this point was in agitation, I heard Lord Orville's voice inquiring of the gardener if he had seen me? I immediately opened the garden gate; and his Lordship, advancing to me with quickness, said, "Good God! Miss Anville, have you been out alone? Breakfast has been ready some time, and I have been round the garden in search of you."
"Your Lordship has been very good," said I; "but I hope you have not waited."
"Not waited!" repeated he, smiling: "Do you think we could sit down quietly to breakfast, with the idea that you had run away from us? But come," (offering to hand me) "if we do not return, they will suppose I am run away too; and they very naturally may, as they know the attraction of the magnet that draws me."
"I will come, my Lord," said I, rather embarrassed, "in two minutes." Then, turning to Mr. Macartney, with yet more embarrassment, I wished him good morning.
He advanced towards the garden, with the paper still in his hand.
"No, no," cried I, "some other time."
"May I then, Madam, have the honour of seeing you again?"
I did not dare take the liberty of inviting any body to the house of Mrs. Beaumont, nor yet had I the presence of mind to make an excuse; and, therefore, not knowing how to refuse him, I said, "Perhaps you may be this way again to-morrow morning,-and I believe I shall walk out before breakfast."
He bowed, and went away; while I, turning again to Lord Orville, saw his countenance so much altered, that I was frightened at what I had so hastily said. He did not again offer me his hand; but walked, silent and slow, by my side. Good Heaven! thought I, what may he not suppose from this adventure? May he not, by my desire of meeting Mr. Macartney to-morrow, imagine it was by design I walked out to meet him to-day? Tormented by this apprehension, I determined to avail myself of the freedom which his behaviour, since I came hither, has encouraged; and, since he would not ask any questions, begin an explanation myself. I therefore slackened my pace to gain time; and then said, "Was not your Lordship surprised to see me speaking with a stranger?"
"A stranger?" repeated he; "is it possible that gentleman can be a stranger to you?"
"No, my Lord," said I, stammering, "not to me -but only it might look-he might seem-"
"No, believe me," said he, with a forced smile, "I could never suppose
Miss Anville would make an appointment with a stranger."
"An appointment, my Lord?" repeated I, colouring violently.
"Pardon me, Madam," answered he, "but I thought I had heard one."
I was so much confounded that I could not speak: yet, finding he walked quietly on, I could not endure he should make his own interpretation of my silence: and therefore, as soon as I recovered from my surprise, I said, "Indeed, my Lord, you are much mistaken, Mr. Macartney had particular business with me-and I could not-I knew not, how to refuse seeing him;-but indeed, my Lord-I had not,-he had not,-" I stammered so terribly that I could not go on.
"I am very sorry," said he, gravely, "that I have been so unfortunate as to distress you; but I should not have followed you had I not imagined you were merely walked out for the air."
"And so I was!" cried I, eagerly, "indeed, my Lord, I was! My meeting with Mr. Macartney was quite accidental; and, if your Lordship thinks there is any impropriety in my seeing him to-morrow, I am ready to give up that intention."
"If I think!" said he, in a tone of surprise; "surely Miss Anville cannot leave the arbitration of a point so delicate to one who is ignorant of all the circumstances which attend it?"
"If," said I, "it was worth your Lordship's time to hear them,-you should not be ignorant of the circumstances which attend it."
"The sweetness of Miss Anville's disposition," said he, in a softened voice, "I have long admired; and the offer of a communication, which does me so much honour, is too grateful to me not to be eagerly caught at."
Just then Mrs. Selwyn opened the parlour window, and our conversation ended. I was rallied upon my passion for solitary walking; but no questions were asked me.
When breakfast was over, I hoped to have had some opportunity of speaking with Lord Orville; but Lord Merton and Mr. Coverley came in, and insisted up his opinion of the spot they had fixed upon for the old women's race. The ladies declared they would be of the party; and accordingly we all went.
The race is to be run in Mrs. Beaumont's garden; the two gentlemen are as anxious, as if their joint lives depended upon it. They have at length fixed upon objects; but have found great difficulty in persuading them to practise running, in order to try their strength. This grand affair is to be decided next Thursday.
When we returned to the house, the entrance of more company still prevented my having any conversation with Lord Orville. I was very much chagrined, as I knew he was engaged at the Hotwells in the afternoon. Seeing, therefore, no probability of speaking to him before the time of my meeting Mr. Macartney arrived, I determined that, rather than risk his ill opinion, I would leave Mr. Macartney to his own suggestions.
Yet, when I reflected upon his peculiar situation, his poverty, his sadness, and, more than all the rest, the idea I knew he entertained of what he calls his obligations to me, I could not resolve upon a breach of promise, which might be attributed to causes, of all the others the most offensive to one whom misfortune has made extremely suspicious of slights and contempt.
After the most uneasy consideration, I at length determined upon writing an excuse, which would, at once, save me from either meeting or affronting him. I therefore begged Mrs. Selwyn's leave to send her man to the Hotwells, which she instantly granted; and then I wrote the following note:
"To Mr. Macartney.
"As it will not be in my power to walk out to-morrow morning,
by no means give you the trouble of coming to Clifton. I hope,
however, to have the pleasure of seeing you before you quit
Bristol. I am, Sir, your obedient servant, "EVELINA ANVILLE."
I desired the servant to enquire at the pump-room where Mr. Macartney lived, and returned to the parlour.
As soon as the company dispersed, the ladies retired to dress. I then, unexpectedly, found myself alone with Lord Orville; who, the moment I rose to follow Mrs. Selwyn, advanced to me, and said, "Will Miss Anville pardon my impatience, if I remind her of the promise she was so good as to make me this morning?"
I stopped, and would have returned to my seat; but before I had time, the servants came to lay the cloth. He retreated, and went towards the window; and, while I was considering in what manner to begin, I could not help asking myself what right I had to communicate the affairs of Mr. Macartney: and I doubted whether, to clear myself from one act of imprudence, I had not committed another.
Distressed by this reflection, I thought it best to quit the room, and give myself some time for consideration before I spoke; and therefore, only saying I must hasten to dress, I ran up stairs, rather abruptly I own; and so, I fear, Lord Orville must think. Yet what could I do? Unused to the situations in which I find myself, and embarrassed by the slightest difficulties, I seldom, till too late, discover how I ought to act.
Just as we were all assembled to dinner, Mrs. Selwyn's man, coming into the parlour, presented to me a letter, and said, "I can't find out Mr. Macartney, Madam; but the post-office people will let you know if they hear of him."
I was extremely ashamed of this public message; and, meeting the eyes of Lord Orville, which were earnestly fixed on me, my confusion redoubled, and I knew not which way to look. All dinner-time he was as silent as myself; and the moment it was in my power I left the table, and went to my own room. Mrs. Selwyn presently followed me; and her questions obliged me to own almost all the particulars of my acquaintance with Mr. Macartney, in order to excuse my writing to him. She said it was a most romantic affair, and spoke her sentiments with great severity; declaring that she had no doubt but he was an adventurer and an impostor.
And now, my dear Sir, I am totally at a loss what I ought to do; the more I reflect, the more sensible I am of the utter impropriety, nay, treachery, of revealing the story, and publishing the misfortunes and poverty of Mr. Macartney; who has an undoubted right to my secrecy and discretion, and whose letter charges me to regard his communication as sacred.-And yet, the appearance of mystery,-perhaps something worse, which this affair must have to Lord Orville,-his seriousness,-and the promise I have made him, are inducements scarce to be resisted for trusting him with the openness he has reason to expect from me.
I am equally distressed, too, whether or not I should see Mr. Macartney to-morrow morning.
Oh, Sir, could I now be enlightened by your counsel, from what anxiety and perplexity should I be relieved!
But now,-I ought not to betray Mr. Macartney, and I will not forfeit a confidence which would never have been reposed in me, but from a reliance upon my honour, which I should blush to find myself unworthy of. Desirous as I am of the good opinion of Lord Orville, I will endeavour to act as if I was guided by your advice; and, making it my sole aim to deserve it, leave to time and to fate my success or disappointment.
Since I have formed this resolution, my mind is more at ease. But I will not finish my letter till the affair is decided.
I rose very early this morning; and, after a thousand different plans, not being able to resolve upon giving poor Mr. Macartney leave to suppose I neglected him, I thought it incumbent upon me to keep my word, since he had not received my letter; I therefore determined to make my own apologies, not to stay with him two minutes, and to excuse myself from meeting him any more.
Yet, uncertain whether I was wrong or right, it was with fear and trembling that I opened the garden-gate;-judge then, of my feelings, when the first object I saw was Lord Orville!-he, too, looked extremely disconcerted, and said, in a hesitating manner, "Pardon me, Madam,-I did not intend,-I did not imagine you would have been here so soon-or-or I would not have come."-And then, with a hasty bow, he passed me, and proceeded to the garden.
I was scarce able to stand, so greatly did I feel myself shocked; but, upon my saying, almost involuntarily, "Oh, my Lord!"-he turned back, and, after a short pause, said, "Did you speak to me, Madam?"
I could not immediately answer; I seemed choaked, and was even forced to support myself by the garden-gate.
Lord Orville, soon recovering his dignity, said, "I know not how to apologize for being, just now, at this place;-and I cannot, immediately-if ever -clear myself from the imputation of impertinent curiosity, to which I fear you will attribute it: however, at present, I will only intreat your pardon, without detaining you any longer." Again he bowed, and left me.
For some moments I remained fixed to the same spot, and in the same position, immoveable, as if I had been transformed to a stone. My first impulse was to call him back, and instantly tell him the whole affair; but I checked this desire, though I would have given the world to have indulged it; something like pride aided what I thought due to Mr. Macartney, and I determined not only to keep his secret, but to delay any sort of explanation till Lord Orville should condescend to request it.
Slowly he walked; and, before he entered the house, he looked back, but hastily withdrew his eyes, upon finding I observed him.
Indeed, my dear Sir, you cannot easily imagine a situation more uncomfortable than mine was at that time; to be suspected by Lord Orville of any clandestine actions wounded my soul; I was too much discomposed to wait for Mr. Macartney, nor in truth, could I endure to have the design of my staying so well known. Yet I was so extremely agitated, that I could hardly move; and I have reason to believe Lord Orville, from the parlour-window, saw me tottering along; for, before I had taken five steps, he came out, and, hastening to meet me, said, "I fear you are not well; pray, allow me (offering his arm) to assist you."
"No, my Lord," said I, with all the resolution I could assume; yet I was affected by an attention, at that time so little expected, and forced to turn away my head to conceal my emotion.
"You must," said he, with earnestness, "indeed you must,-I am sure you are not well;-refuse me not the honour of assisting you;" and, almost forcibly, he took my hand, and, drawing it under his arm, obliged me to lean upon him. That I submitted was partly the effect of surprise, at an earnestness so uncommon in Lord Orville, and, partly, that I did not just then dare trust my voice to make any objection.
When we came to the house, he led me into the parlour, and to a
begged to know if I would not have a glass of water.
"No, my Lord, I thank you," said I, "I am perfectly recovered;" and, rising, I walked to the window, where, for some time, I pretended to be occupied in looking at the garden.
Determined as I was to act honourably by Mr. Macartney, I yet most anxiously wished to be restored to the good opinion of Lord Orville; but his silence, and the thoughtfulness of his air, discouraged me from speaking.
My situation soon grew disagreeable and embarrassing, and I resolved to return to my chamber till breakfast was ready. To remain longer I feared might seem asking for his enquiries; and I was sure it would ill become me to be more eager to speak, than he was to hear.
Just as I reached the door, turning to me hastily, he said, "Are you going, Miss Anville?"
"I am, my Lord," answered I; yet I stopped.
"Perhaps to return to-but I beg your pardon!" He spoke with a degree of agitation that made me readily comprehend he meant to the garden; and I instantly said, "To my own room, my Lord." And again I would have gone; but, convinced by my answer that I understood him, I believe he was sorry for the insinuation: he approached me with a very serious air, though at the same time he forced a smile, and said, "I know not what evil genius pursues me this morning, but I seem destined to do or to say something I ought not: I am so much ashamed of myself, that I can scarce solicit your forgiveness."
"My forgiveness! my Lord?" cried I, abashed, rather than elated by his condescension; "surely you cannot-you are not serious?"
"Indeed, never more so! yet, if I may be my own interpreter, Miss
Anville's countenance pronounces my pardon."
"I know not, my Lord, how any one can pardon, who never has been offended."
"You are very good; yet I could expect no less from a sweetness of disposition which baffles all comparison: you will not think I am an encroacher, and that I take advantage of your goodness, should I once more remind you of the promise you vouchsafed me yesterday?"
"No, indeed; on the contrary I shall be very happy to acquit myself in your Lordship's opinion."
"Acquittal you need not," said he, leading me again to the window;
own my curiosity is strongly excited."
When I was seated, I found myself much at a loss what to say; yet, after a short silence, assuming all the courage in my power, "Will you not, my Lord," said I, "think me trifling and capricious, should I own I have repented the promise I made, and should I entreat your Lordship not to insist upon my strict performance of it?"-I spoke so hastily, that I did not, at the time, consider the impropriety of what I said.
As he was entirely silent, and profoundly attentive, I continued to speak without interruption.
"If your Lordship, by any other means, knew the circumstances attending my acquaintance with Mr. Macartney, I am most sure you would yourself disapprove my relating them. He is a gentleman, and has been very unfortunate;-but I am not-I think,-at liberty to say more: yet I am sure, if he knew your Lordship wished to hear any particulars of his affairs, he would readily consent to my acknowledging them;-shall I, my Lord, ask his permission?"
"His affairs!" repeated Lord Orville; "by no means, I have not the least curiosity about them."
"I beg your Lordship's pardon,-but indeed I had understood the contrary."
"Is it possible, Madam, you could suppose the affairs of an utter stranger can excite my curiosity?"
The gravity and coldness with which he asked this question very much abashed me. But Lord Orville is the most delicate of men! and, presently recollecting himself, he added, "I mean not to speak with indifference of any friend of yours,-far from it; any such will always command my good wishes: yet I own I am rather disappointed; and though I doubt not the justice of your reason, to which I implicitly submit, you must not wonder, that, when upon the point of being honoured with your confidence, I should feel the greatest regret at finding it withdrawn."
Do you think, my dear sir, I did not, at that moment, require all my resolution to guard me from frankly telling him whatever he wished to hear? yet I rejoice that I did not; for, added to the actual wrong I should have done, Lord Orville himself, when he had heard, would, I am sure, have blamed me. Fortunately, this thought occurred to me; an I said, "Your Lordship shall yourself be my judge; the promise I made, though voluntary, was rash and inconsiderate; yet, had it concerned myself, I would not have hesitated in fulfilling it; but the gentleman, whose affairs I should be obliged to relate-"
"Pardon me," cried he, "for interrupting you; yet allow me to assure you, I have not the slightest desire to be acquainted with his affairs, further than what belongs to the motives which induced you yesterday morning-" He stopped; but there was no occasion to say more.
"That, my Lord," cried I, "I will tell you honestly. Mr. Macartney had some particular business with me, and I could not take the liberty to ask him hither."
"And why not?-Mr. Beaumont, I am sure-"
"I could not, my Lord, think of intruding upon Mrs. Beaumont's complaisance; and so, with the same hasty folly I promised your Lordship, I much more rashly promised to meet him."
"And did you?"
"No, my Lord," said I, colouring, "I returned before he came."
Again, for some time, we were both silent; yet, unwilling to leave him to reflections which could not but be to my disadvantage, I summoned sufficient courage to say, "There is no young creature, my Lord, who so greatly wants, or so earnestly wishes for, the advice and assistance of her friends, as I do: I am new to the world, and unused to acting for myself;-my intentions are never willfully blameable, yet I err perpetually!-I have hitherto been blessed with the most affectionate of friends, and, indeed, the ablest of men, to guide and instruct me upon every occasion:-but he is too distant, now, to be applied to at the moment I want his aid:-and here,-there is not a human being whose counsel I can ask."
"Would to Heaven," cried he, with a countenance from which all coldness and gravity were banished, and succeeded by the mildest benevolence, "that I were worthy,-and capable,-of supplying the place of such a friend to Miss Anville!"
"You do me but too much honour," said I, "yet I hope your Lordship's candour,-perhaps I ought to say indulgence,-will make some allowance, on account of my inexperience, for behaviour so inconsiderate:-May I, my Lord, hope that you will?"
"May I," cried he, "hope that you will pardon the ill-grace with
which I have
submitted to my disappointment? And that you will permit me (kissing
my hand) thus to seal my peace?"
"Our peace, my Lord!" said I, with revived spirits.
"This, then," said he, again pressing it to his lips, "for our peace: and now,-are we not friends?"
Just then the door opened, and I had only time to withdraw my hand, before the ladies came in to breakfast.
I have been, all day, the happiest of human beings!-to be thus reconciled to Lord Orville, and yet to adhere to my resolution,-what could I wish for more?-he too has been very cheerful, and more attentive, more obliging to me than ever. Yet Heaven forbid I should again be in a similar situation, for I cannot express how much uneasiness I have suffered from the fear of incurring his ill opinion.
But what will poor Mr. Macartney think of me? Happy as I am, I much regret the necessity I have been under of disappointing him.
Adieu, my dearest Sir.
MR. VILLARS TO EVELINA. Berry Hill, Sept. 28th.
DEAD to the world, and equally insensible to its pleasures or its pains, I long since bad adieu to all joy, and defiance to all sorrow, but what should spring from my Evelina,-sole source, to me, of all earthly felicity. How strange, then, is it, that the letter in which she tells me she is the happiest of human beings, should give me most mortal inquietude!
Alas, my child!-that innocence, the first, best gift of Heaven, should, of all others, be the blindest to its own danger,-the most exposed to treachery,-and the least able to defend itself, in a world where it is little known, less valued, and perpetually deceived!
Would to Heaven you were here!-then, by degrees, and with gentleness, I might enter upon a subject too delicate for distant discussion. Yet is it too interesting, and the situation too critical, to allow of delay.-Oh, my Evelina, your situation is critical indeed!-your peace of mind is at stake, and every chance for your future happiness may depend upon the conduct of the present moment.
Hitherto I have forborne to speak with you upon the most important of all concerns, the state of your heart:-alas, I need no information! I have been silent, indeed, but I have not been blind.
Long, and with the deepest regret, have I perceived the ascendancy which Lord Orville has gained upon your mind.-You will start at the mention of his name,-you will tremble every word you read;-I grieve to give pain to my gentle Evelina, but I dare not any longer spare her.
Your first meeting with Lord Orville was decisive. Lively, fearless, free from all other impressions, such a man as you describe him could not fail of exciting your admiration; and the more dangerously, because he seemed as unconscious of his power as you of your weakness; and therefore you had no alarm, either from his vanity of your own prudence.
Young, animated, entirely off your guard, and thoughtless of consequences, Imagination took the reins; and Reason, slow-paced, though sure-footed, was unequal to the race of so eccentric and flighty a companion. How rapid was then my Evelina's progress through those regions of fancy and passion whither her new guide conducted her!-She saw Lord Orville at a ball,-and he was the most amiable of men! -She met him again at another,-and he had every virtue under Heaven!
I mean not to depreciate the merit of Lord Orville, who, one mysterious instance alone excepted, seems to have deserved the idea you formed of his character; but it was not time, it was not the knowledge of his worth, obtained your regard: your new comrade had not patience to wait any trial; her glowing pencil, dipt in the vivid colours of her creative ideas, painted to you, at the moment of your first acquaintance, all the excellencies, all the good and rare qualities, which a great length of time and intimacy could alone have really discovered.
You flattered yourself that your partiality was the effect of esteem, founded upon a general love of merit, and a principle of justice; and your heart, which fell the sacrifice of your error, was totally gone ere you expected it was in danger.
A thousand times have I been upon the point of showing you the perils of your situation; but the same inexperience which occasioned your mistake, I hoped, with the assistance of time and absence, would effect a cure: I was, indeed, most unwilling to destroy your illusion, while I dared hope it might itself contribute to the restoration of your tranquillity; since your ignorance of the danger, and force of your attachment, might possibly prevent that despondency with which young people, in similar circumstances, are apt to persuade themselves, that what is only difficult, is absolutely impossible.
But, now, since you have again met, and have become more intimate than ever, all my hope from silence and seeming ignorance is at an end.
Awake then, my dear, my deluded child, awake to the sense of your danger, and exert yourself to avoid the evils with which it threatens you:-evils which, to a mind like yours, are most to be dreaded; secret repining, and concealed, yet consuming regret! Make a noble effort for the recovery of your peace, which now, with sorrow I see it, depends wholly upon the presence of Lord Orville. This effort may indeed be painful; but trust to my experience, when I assure you it is requisite.
You must quit him!-his sight is baneful to your repose, his society is death to your future tranquillity! Believe me, my beloved child, my heart aches for your suffering, while it dictates its necessity.
Could I flatter myself that Lord Orville would, indeed, be sensible of your worth, and act with a nobleness of mind which should prove it congenial to your own, then would I leave my Evelina to the unmolested enjoyment of the cheerful society, and increasing regard, of a man she so greatly admires: but this is not an age in which we may trust to appearances; and imprudence is much sooner regretted than repaired. Your health, you tell me, is much mended:-Can you then consent to leave Bristol?-not abruptly, that I do not desire, but in a few days from the time you receive this? I will write to Mrs. Selwyn, and tell her how much I wish your return; and Mrs. Clinton can take sufficient care of you.
I have meditated upon every possible expedient that might tend to your happiness, ere I fixed upon exacting from you a compliance which I am convinced will be most painful to you; but I can satisfy myself in none. This will at least be safe; and as to success,-we must leave it to time.
I am very glad to hear of Mr. Macartney's welfare.
Adieu, my dearest child! Heaven preserve and strengthen you! A.V.
EVELINA TO THE REV. MR. VILLARS. Clifton, Sept. 28th.
SWEETLY, most sweetly, have two days more passed since I wrote: but I have been too much engaged to be exact in my journal.
To-day has been less tranquil. It was destined for the decision of the important bet, and has been productive of general confusion throughout the house. It was settled that the race should be run at five o'clock in the afternoon. Lord Merton breakfasted here, and staid till noon. He wanted to engage the ladies to bet on his side, in the true spirit of gaming, without seeing the racers. But he could only prevail on Lady Louisa, as Mrs. Selwyn said she never laid a wager against her own wishes, and Mrs. Beaumont would not take sides. As for me, I was not applied to. It is impossible for negligence to be more pointed than that of Lord Merton to me, in the presence of Lady Louisa.
But, just before dinner, I happened to be alone in the drawing-room, when his Lordship suddenly returned; and, coming in with his usual familiarity, he was beginning, "You see, Lady Louisa,-" but stopping short, "Pray, where's every body gone?"
"Indeed I don't know, my Lord."
He then shut the door; and, with a great alteration in his face and manner, advanced eagerly towards me, and said, "How glad I am, my sweet girl, to meet you, at last, alone! By my soul I began to think there was a plot against me, for I've never been able to have you a minute to myself." And very freely he seized my hand.
I was so much surprised at this address, after having been so long totally neglected, that I could make no other answer, than staring at him with unfeigned astonishment.
"Why now," continued he, "if you was not the cruellest little angel in the world, you would have helped me to some expedient: for you see how I am watched here; Lady Louisa's eyes are never off me. She gives me a charming foretaste of the pleasures of a wife! However, it won't last long."
Disgusted to the greatest degree, I attempted to draw away my hand; but I believe I should not have succeeded if Mrs. Beaumont had not made her appearance. He turned from me with the greatest assurance, and said, "How are you, Ma'am?-how is Lady Louisa?-you see I can't live a moment out of the house."
Could you, my dearest Sir, have believed it possible for such effrontery to be in man?
Before dinner came Mr. Coverley, and, before five o'clock, Mr. Lovel and some other company. The place marked out for the race, was a gravel-walk in Mrs. Beaumont's garden, and the length of the ground twenty yards. When we were summoned to the course, the two poor old women made their appearance. Though they seemed very healthy for their time of life, they yet looked so weak, so infirm, so feeble, that I could feel no sensation but that of pity at the sight. However, this was not the general sense of the company; for they no sooner came forward, than they were greeted with a laugh from every beholder, Lord Orville excepted, who looked very grave during the whole transaction. Doubtless he must be greatly discontented at the dissipated conduct and extravagance of a man, with whom he is soon to be so nearly connected.
For some time, the scene was truly ridiculous: the agitation of the parties concerned, and the bets that were laid upon the old women, were absurd beyond measure. Who are you for? and whose side are you of? was echoed from mouth to mouth by the whole company. Lord Merton and Mr. Coverley were both so excessively gay and noisy, that I soon found they had been free in drinking to their success. They handed, with loud shouts, the old women to the race-ground, and encouraged them by liberal promises to exert themselves.
When the signal was given for them to set off, the poor creatures, feeble and frightened, ran against each other: and, neither of them able to support the shock, they both fell on the ground.
Lord Merton and Mr. Coverley flew to their assistance. Seats were brought for them; and they each drank a glass of wine. They complained of being much bruised; for, heavy and helpless, they had not been able to save themselves, but fell with their whole weight upon the gravel. However, as they seemed equal sufferers, both parties were too eager to have the affair deferred.
Again therefore they set off, and hobbled along, nearly even with each other, for some time; yet frequently, to the inexpressible diversion of the company, they stumbled and tottered; and the confused hallooing of "Now, Coverley!" "Now, Merton!" run from side to side during the whole affair.
Not long after, a foot of one of the poor women slipt, and with great force she came again to the ground. Involuntarily, I sprung forward to assist her; but Lord Merton, to whom she did not belong, stopped me, calling out, "No foul play! No foul play!"
Mr. Coverley then, repeating the same words, went himself to help her, and insisted that the other should stop. A debate ensued; but the poor creature was too much hurt to move, and declared her utter inability to make another attempt. Mr. Coverley was quite brutal: he swore at her with unmanly rage, and seemed scarce able to refrain even from striking her.
Lord Merton then, in great rapture, said it was a hollow thing; but Mr. Coverley contended, that the fall was accidental, and time should be allowed for the woman to recover. However, all the company being against him, he was pronounced the loser.
We then went to the drawing-room, to tea. After which, the evening being remarkably warm, we all walked in the garden. Lord Merton was quite riotous, and Lady Louisa in high spirits; but Mr. Coverley endeavoured, in vain, to conceal his chagrin.
As Lord Orville was thoughtful, and walked by himself, I expected that, as usual, I should pass unnoticed, and be left to my own meditations: but this was not the case; for Lord Merton, entirely off his guard, giddy equally from wine and success, was very troublesome to me; and, regardless of the presence of Lady Louisa, which hitherto has restrained him even from common civility, he attached himself to me, during the walk, with a freedom of gallantry that put me extremely out of countenance. He paid me the most high-flown compliments; and frequently and forcibly seized my hand, though I repeatedly, and with undissembled anger, drew it back. Lord Orville, I saw, watched us with earnestness; and Lady Louisa's smiles were converted into looks of disdain.
I could not bear to be thus situated; and complaining I was tired,
I quickened my pace, with intention to return to the house; but
Lord Merton, hastily following, caught my hand, and saying the day
was his own, vowed he would not let me go.
"You must, my Lord," cried I, extremely flurried.
"You are the most charming girl in the world," said he, "and never looked better than at this moment."
"My Lord," cried Mrs. Selwyn, advancing to us, "you don't consider, that the better Miss Anville looks the more striking is the contrast with your Lordship; therefore, for your own sake, I would advise you not to hold her."
"Egad, my Lord," cried Mr. Coverley, "I don't see what right you have to the best old, and the best young woman too, in the same day."
"Best young woman!" repeated Mr. Lovel; "'pon honour, Jack, you have made a most unfortunate speech; however, if Lady Louisa can pardon you,-and her Ladyship is all goodness,-I am sure nobody else can; for you have committed an outrageous solecism in good manners."
"And pray, Sir," said Mrs. Selwyn, "under what denomination may your own speech pass?"
Mr. Lovel, turning another way, affected not to hear her: and Mr. Coverley, bowing to Lady Louisa, said, "Her Ladyship is well acquainted with my devotion;-but, egad, I don't know how it is,-I had always an unlucky turn at an epigram, and never could resist a smart play upon words in my life."
"Pray, my Lord," cried I, "let go my hand! Pray, Mrs. Selwyn, speak for me."
"My Lord," said Mrs. Selwyn, "in detaining Miss Anville any longer you only lose time; for we are already as well convinced of your valour and your strength, as if you were to hold her an age."
"My Lord," said Mrs. Beaumont, "I must beg leave to interfere: I know not if Lady Louisa can pardon you; but as this young lady is at my house, I do not choose to have her made uneasy."
"I pardon him!" cried Lady Louisa; "I declare I am monstrous glad to get rid of him."
"Egad, my Lord," cried Mr. Coverley, "while you are grasping at a shadow, you'll lose a substance; you'd best make your peace while you can."
"Pray, Mr. Coverley, be quiet," said Lady Louisa, peevishly; "for I declare I won't speak to him. Brother," taking hold of Lord Orville's arm, "will you walk in with me?"
"Would to Heaven," cried I, frightened to see how much Lord Merton was in liquor, "that I too had a brother!-and then I should not be exposed to such treatment."
Lord Orville, instantly quitting Lady Louisa, said, "Will Miss Anville allow me the honour of taking that title?" and then, without waiting for any answer, he disengaged me from Lord Merton; and, handing me to Lady Louisa, "Let me," added he, "take equal care of both my sisters;" and then, desiring her, to take hold of one arm, and begging me to make use of the other, we reached the house in a moment. Lord Merton, disordered as he was, attempted not to stop us.
As soon as we entered the house, I withdrew my arm, and courtsied my thanks, for my heart was too full for speech. Lady Louisa, evidently hurt at her brother's condescension, and piqued extremely by Lord Merton's behaviour, silently drew away hers; and biting her lips, with a look of infinite vexation, walked sullenly up the hall.
Lord Orville asked her if she would not go into the parlour?
"No," answered she, haughtily, "I leave you and your new sister together:" and then she walked up stairs.
I was quite confounded at the pride and rudeness of this speech. Lord Orville himself seemed thunderstruck: I turned from him, and went into the parlour: he followed me, saying, "Must I now apologize to Miss Anville for the liberty of my interference?-or ought I to apologize, that I did not, as I wished, interfere sooner?"
"O, my Lord," cried I, with an emotion I could not repress, "it is from you alone I meet with any respect;-all others treat me with impertinence, or contempt!"
I am sorry I had not more command of myself, as he had reason just then to suppose I particularly meant his sister; which, I am sure, must very much hurt him.
"Good Heaven," cried he, "that so much sweetness and merit can fail to excite the love and admiration so justly their due! I cannot,-I dare not express to you half the indignation I feel at this moment!"
"I am sorry, my Lord," said I, more calmly, "to have raised it; but yet,-in a situation that calls for protection, to meet only with mortifications,-indeed, but I am ill formed to bear them!"
"My dear Miss Anville," cried he, warmly, "allow me to be your friend; think of me as if I were indeed your brother; and let me intreat you to accept my best services, if there is any thing in which I can be so happy as to show my regard,-my respect for you!"
Before I had time to speak, the rest of the party entered the parlour; and, as I did not wish to see anything more of Lord Merton, at least before he had slept, I determined to leave it. Lord Orville, seeing my design, said, as I passed him, "Will you go?" "Had not I best, my Lord?" said I. "I am afraid," said he, smiling, "since I must now speak as your brother, I am afraid you had; -you see you may trust me, since I can advise against my own interest."
I then left the room, and have been writing ever since. And, methinks, I can never lament the rudeness of Lord Merton, as it has more than ever confirmed to me the esteem of Lord Orville.
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Sept. 30th.
OH, Sir, what a strange incident have I to recite! what a field of conjecture to open!
Yesterday evening we all went to an assembly. Lord Orville presented tickets to the whole family; and did me the honour, to the no small surprise of all here, I believe, to dance with me. But every day abounds in fresh instances of his condescending politeness; and he now takes every opportunity of calling me his friend and his sister.
Lord Merton offered a ticket to Lady Louisa; but she was so much incensed against him, that she refused it with the utmost disdain: neither could he prevail upon her to dance with him; she sat still the whole evening, and deigned not to look at or speak to him. To me her behaviour is almost the same: for she is cold, distant, and haughty, and her eyes express the greatest contempt. But for Lord Orville, how miserable would my residence here make me!
We were joined in the ball-room by Mr. Coverley, Mr. Lovel, and Lord Merton, who looked as if he was doing penance, and sat all the evening next to Lady Louisa, vainly endeavouring to appease her anger.
Lord Orville began the minuets: he danced with a young lady who seemed to engage the general attention, as she had not been seen here before. She is pretty, and looks mild and good-humoured.
"Pray, Mr. Lovel," said Lady Louisa, "who is that?"
"Miss Belmont," answered he, "the young heiress: she came to the
Struck with the name, I involuntarily repeated it; but nobody heard me.
"What is her family?" said Mrs. Beaumont.
"Have you not heard of her, Ma'am?" cried he; "she is only daughter and heiress of Sir John Belmont."
Good Heaven, how did I start! the name struck my ear like a thunderbolt. Mrs. Selwyn, who immediately looked at me, said, "Be calm, my dear, and we will learn the truth of all this."
Till then I had never imagined her to be acquainted with my story; but she has since told me, that she knew my unhappy mother, and was well informed of the whole affair.
She asked Mr. Lovel a multitude of questions; and I gathered from his answers, that this young lady was just come from abroad with Sir John Belmont, who was now in London; that she was under the care of his sister, Mrs. Paterson; and that she would inherit a considerable estate.
I cannot express the strange feelings with which I was agitated during this recital. What, my dearest Sir, can it possibly mean? Did you ever hear of any after-marriage?-or must I suppose, that, while the lawful child is rejected, another is adopted?-I know not what to think! I am bewildered with a contrariety of ideas!
When we came home, Mrs. Selwyn passed more than an hour in my room conversing upon this subject. She says, that I ought instantly to go to town, find out my father, and have the affair cleared up. She assures me I have too strong a resemblance to my dear, though unknown, mother, to allow of the least hesitation in my being owned, when once I am seen. For my part, I have no wish but to act by your direction.
I cannot give any account of the evening; so disturbed, so occupied am I by this subject, that I can think of no other. I have entreated Mrs. Selwyn to observe the strictest secrecy, and she has promised that she will. Indeed, she has too much sense to be idly communicative.
Lord Orville took notice of my being absent and silent; but I ventured not to intrust him with the cause. Fortunately, he was not of the party at the time Mr. Lovel made the discovery.
Mrs. Selwyn says, that if you approve my going to town, she will herself accompany me. I had a thousand times rather ask the protection of Mrs. Mirvan, but, after this offer that will not be possible.
Adieu, my dearest Sir. I am sure you will write immediately, and I shall be all impatience till your letter arrives.
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Oct. 1st.
GOOD God, my dear Sir, what a wonderful tale have I again to relate! even yet, I am not recovered from my extreme surprise.
Yesterday morning, as soon as I had finished my hasty letter, I was summoned to attend a walking party to the Hot Wells. It consisted only of Mrs. Selwyn and Lord Orville. The latter walked by my side all the way; and his conversation dissipated my uneasiness, and insensibly restored my serenity.
At the pump-room I saw Mr. Macartney; I courtsied to him twice ere he would speak to me. When he did, I began to apologize for having disappointed him; but I did not find it very easy to excuse myself, as Lord Orville's eyes, with an expression of anxiety that distressed me, turned from him to me, and me to him, every word I spoke. Convinced, however, that I had really trifled with Mr. Macartney, I scrupled not to beg his pardon. He was then not merely appeased, but even grateful.
He requested me to see him to-morrow; but I had not the folly to be again guilty of an indiscretion; which had already caused me so much uneasiness; and therefore I told him frankly, that it was not in my power at present to see him but by accident; and, to prevent his being offended, I hinted to him the reason I could not receive him as I wished to do.
When I had satisfied both him and myself upon this subject, I turned to Lord Orville, and saw, with concern, the gravity of his countenance. I would have spoken to him, but knew not how; I believe, however, he read my thoughts; for, in a little time, with a sort of serious smile, he said, "Does not Mr. Macartney complain of his disappointment?"
"Not much, my Lord."
"And how have you appeased him?" Finding I hesitated what to answer, "Am I not your brother?" continued he, "and must I not enquire into your affairs?"
"Certainly, my Lord," said I, laughing. "I only wish it were better worth your Lordship's while."
"Let me, then, make immediate use of my privilege. When shall you see Mr. Macartney again?"
"Indeed, my Lord, I can't tell."
"But,-do you know that I shall not suffer my sister to make a private appointment?"
"Pray, my Lord," cried I earnestly, "use that word no more! Indeed you shock me extremely."
"That would I not do for the world," cried he, "yet you know not how warmly, how deeply I am interested, not only in all your concerns, but in all your actions."
This speech-the most particular one Lord Orville had ever made to me, ended our conversation at that time; for I was too much struck by it to make any answer.
Soon after, Mr. Macartney, in a low voice, intreated me not to deny him the gratification of returning the money. While he was speaking, the young lady I saw yesterday at the assembly, with the large party, entered the pump-room. Mr. Macartney turned as pale as death, his voice faultered, and he seemed not to know what he said. I was myself almost equally disturbed, by the crowd of confused ideas that occurred to me. Good Heaven! thought I, why should he be thus agitated?-is it possible this can be the young lady he loved?-
In a few minutes we quitted the pump-room; and, though I twice wished
Mr. Macartney good morning, he was so absent he did not hear me.
We did not immediately return to Clifton, as Mrs. Selwyn had business at a pamphlet shop. While she was looking at some new poems, Lord Orville again asked me when I should see Mr. Macartney?
"Indeed, my Lord," cried I, "I know not, but I would give the universe for a few moments' conversation with him!" I spoke this with a simple sincerity, and was not aware of the force of my own words.
"The universe!" repeated he, "Good God, Miss Anville, do you say this to me?"
"I would say it," returned I, "to any body, my Lord."
"I beg your pardon," said he, in a voice that showed him ill pleased,
"I am answered."
"My Lord," cried I, "you must not judge hardly of me. I spoke inadvertently; but if you knew the painful suspense I suffer at this moment, you would not be surprised at what I have said."
"And would a meeting with Mr. Macartney relieve you from that suspense?"
"Yes, my Lord, two words might be sufficient."
"Would to Heaven," cried he, after a short pause, "that I were worthy to know their import!"
"Worthy, my Lord!-O, if that were all, your Lordship could ask nothing I should not be ready to answer! If I were but at liberty to speak, I should be proud of your Lordship's enquiries: but, indeed, I am not-I have not any right to communicate the affairs of Mr. Macartney;-your Lordship cannot suppose I have."
"I will own to you," answered he, "I know not what to suppose; yet there seems a frankness even in your mystery-and such an air of openness in your countenance, that I am willing to hope,-" He stopped a moment, and then added, "This meeting, you say, is essential to your repose?"
"I did not say that, my Lord; but yet I have the most important reasons for wishing to speak to him."
He paused a few minutes; and then said, with warmth, "Yes, you shall speak to him!-I will myself assist you!-Miss Anville, I am sure, cannot form a wish against propriety: I will ask no questions, I will rely upon her own purity, and, uninformed, blindfold as I am, I will serve her with all my power!" And then he went into the shop, leaving me so strangely affected by his generous behaviour, that I almost wished to follow him with my thanks.
When Mrs. Selwyn had transacted her affairs, we returned home.
The moment dinner was over, Lord Orville went out, and did not come back till just as we were summoned to supper. This is the longest time he has spent from the house since I have been at Clifton; and you cannot imagine, my dear Sir, how much I missed him. I scarce knew before how infinitely I am indebted to him alone for the happiness I have enjoyed since I have been at Mrs. Beaumont's.
As I generally go down stairs last, he came to me, the moment the ladies had passed by, and said, "Shall you be at home tomorrow morning?"
"I believe so, my Lord."
"And will you then receive a visitor for me?"
"For you, my Lord?"
"Yes:-I have made acquaintance with Mr. Macartney, and he has promised to call upon me to-morrow about three o'clock."
And then, taking my hand, he led me down stairs.
O, Sir!-was there ever such another man as Lord Orville?-Yes, one other now resides at Berry Hill!
This morning there has been a great deal of company here; but at the time appointed by Lord Orville, doubtless with that consideration, the parlour is almost always empty, as every body is dressing.
Mrs. Beaumont, however, was not gone up stairs when Mr. Macartney sent in his name.
Lord Orville immediately said, "Beg the favour of him to walk in. You see, Madam, that I consider myself as at home."
"I hope so," answered Mrs. Beaumont, "or I should be very uneasy."
Mr. Macartney then entered. I believe we both felt very conscious to whom the visit was paid: but Lord Orville received him as his own guest; and not merely entertained him as such while Mrs. Beaumont remained in the room, but for some time after she had left it, a delicacy that saved me from the embarrassment I should have felt, had he immediately quitted us.
In a few minutes, however, he gave Mr. Macartney a book,-for I, too, by way of pretence for continuing in the room, pretended to be reading,-and begged he would be so good as to look it over, while he answered a note, which he would dispatch in a few minutes, and return to him.
When he was gone, we both parted with our books; and Mr. Macartney, again producing the paper with the money, besought me to accept it.
"Pray," said I, still declining it, "did you know the young lady who came into the pump-room yesterday morning?"
"Know her!" repeated he, changing colour, "Oh, but too well!"
"Why, Madam, do you ask?"
"I must beseech you to satisfy me further upon this subject; pray tell me who she is."
"Inviolably as I meant to keep my secret, I can refuse you, Madam, nothing;-that lady-is the daughter of Sir John Belmont!-of my father!"
"Gracious Heaven!" cried I, involuntarily laying my hand on his arm, "you are then-" my brother, I would have said, but my voice failed me, and I burst into tears.
"Oh, Madam," cried he, "what does this mean?-what can thus distress you?"
I could not answer, but held out my hand to him. He seemed greatly surprised, and talked in high terms of my condescension.
"Spare yourself," cried I, wiping my eyes, "spare yourself this mistake,-you have a right to all I can do for you; the similarity of our circumstances-"
We were then interrupted by the entrance of Mrs. Selwyn; and Mr. Macartney, finding no probability of our being left alone, was obliged to take leave, though, I believe, very reluctantly, while in such suspense.
Mrs. Selwyn, then, by dint of interrogatories, drew from me the state of this affair. She is so penetrating, that there is no possibility of evading to give her satisfaction.
Is not this a strange event? Good Heaven! how little did I think that the visits I so unwillingly paid at Mr. Branghton's would have introduced me to so near a relation! I will never again regret the time I spent in town this summer: a circumstance so fortunate will always make me think of it with pleasure. * * * * * *
I have just received your letter,-and it has almost broken my heart!-Oh, Sir! the illusion is over, indeed! how vainly have I flattered, how miserably deceived myself! Long since, doubtful of the situation of my heart, I dreaded a scrutiny;-but now, now that I have so long escaped, I began, indeed, to think my safety insured, to hope that my fears were causeless, and to believe that my good opinion and esteem of Lord Orville might be owned without suspicion, and felt without danger;-miserably deceived, indeed! His sight is baneful to my repose;-his society is death to my future tranquillity! Oh, Lord Orville! could I have believed that a friendship so grateful to my heart, so soothing to my distresses, a friendship, which, in every respect, did me so much honour, would only serve to embitter all my future moments!-What a strange, what an unhappy circumstance, that my gratitude, though so justly excited, should be so fatal to my peace!
Yes, Sir, I will quit him;-would to Heaven I could at this moment! without seeing him again,-without trusting to my now conscious emotion!-Oh, Lord Orville, how little do you know the evils I owe to you! how little suppose that, when most dignified by your attention, I was most to be pitied,-and when most exalted by your notice, you were most my enemy!
You, Sir, relied upon my ignorance;-I, alas, upon your experience; and, whenever I doubted the weakness of my heart, the idea that you did not suspect it, reassured me,-restored my courage, and confirmed my error!-Yet am I most sensible of the kindness of your silence.
Oh, Sir! why have I ever quitted you? why been exposed to dangers to which I am so unequal?
But I will leave this place, leave Lord Orville,-leave him, perhaps, for ever!-no matter; your counsel, your goodness, may teach me how to recover the peace and the serenity of which my unguarded folly has beguiled me. To you alone do I trust,-in you alone confide, for every future hope I may form.
The more I consider the parting with Lord Orville, the less fortitude do I feel to bear the separation;-the friendship he has shown me,-his politeness,-his sweetness of manners,-his concern in my affairs,-his solicitude to oblige me,-all, all to be given up!-
No, I cannot tell him I am going,-I dare not trust myself to take leave of him,-I will run away without seeing him:-implicitly will I follow your advice, avoid his sight, and shun his society!
To-morrow morning I will set off for Berry Hill. Mrs. Selwyn and
Mrs. Beaumont shall alone know my intention. And to-day-I will spend
in my own room. The readiness of my obedience is the only atonement
I can offer for the weakness which calls for its exertion.
Can you, will you, most honoured, most dear Sir! sole prop by which the poor Evelina is supported,-can you, without reproach, without displeasure, receive the child you have so carefully reared,-from whose education better fruit might have been expected, and who, blushing for her unworthiness, fears to meet the eye by which she has been cherished?-Oh, yes, I am sure you will! Your Evelina's errors are those of the judgment; and you, I well know, pardon all but those of the heart!