EVELINA TO MISS MIRVAN June 7th
I HAVE no words, my sweet friend, to express the thankfulness I feel for the unbounded kindness which you, your dear mother, and the much-honoured Lady Howard, have shown me; and still less can I find language to tell you with what reluctance I parted from such dear and generous friends, whose goodness reflects, at once, so much honour on their own hearts, and on her to whom it has been so liberally bestowed. But I will not repeat what I have already written to the kind Mrs. Mirvan; I will remember your admonitions, and confine to my own breast that gratitude with which you have filled it, and teach my pen to dwell upon subjects less painful to my generous correspondent.
O, Maria! London now seems no longer the same place where I lately enjoyed so much happiness; every thing is new and strange to me; even the town itself has not the same aspect.-My situation so altered!-my home so different!-my companions so changed!-But you well know my averseness to this journey.
Indeed, to me, London now seems a desert: that gay and busy appearance it so lately wore, is now succeeded by a look of gloom, fatigue, and lassitude; the air seems stagnant, the heat is intense, the dust intolerable, and the inhabitants illiterate and under-bred; At least, such is the face of things in the part of town where I at present reside.
Tell me, my dear Maria, do you never retrace in your memory the time we passed here when together? to mine it recurs for ever! And yet I think I rather recollect a dream, or some visionary fancy, than a reality.-That I should ever have been known to Lord Orville,-that I should have spoken to-have danced with him,-seems now a romantic illusion: and that elegant politeness, that flattering attention, that high-bred delicacy, which so much distinguished him above all other men, and which struck us with so much admiration, I now retrace the remembrance of rather as belonging to an object of ideal perfection, formed by my own imagination, than to a being of the same race and nature as those with whom I at present converse.
I have no news for you, my dear Miss Mirvan; for all that I could venture to say of Madame Duval I have already written to your sweet mother; and as to adventures, I have none to record. Situated as I now am, I heartily hope I shall not meet with any; my wish is to remain quiet and unnoticed.
Adieu! excuse the gravity of this letter; and believe me, your most sincerely Affectionate and obliged EVELINA ANVILLE.
EVELINA TO THE REV. MR. VILLARS Holborn, June 9.
YESTERDAY morning we received an invitation to dine and spend the day at Mr. Branghton's; and M. Du Bois, who was also invited, called to conduct us to Snow Hill.
Young Branghton received us at the door; and the first words he spoke were, "Do you know, sisters a'n't dressed yet."
Then, hurrying us into the house, he said to me, "Come, Miss, you shall go upstairs and catch 'em,-I dare say they're at the glass."
He would have taken my hand; but I declined this civility, and begged to follow Madame Duval.
Mr. Branghton then appeared, and led the way himself. We went, as before, up two pairs of stairs; but the moment the father opened the door, the daughters both gave a loud scream. We all stopped; and then Miss Branghton called out, "Lord, Papa, what do you bring the company up here for? why, Polly and I a'n't half dressed."
"More shame for you," answered he; "here's your aunt, and cousin, and M. Du Bois, all waiting, and ne'er a room to take them to."
"Who'd have thought of their coming so soon?" cried she: "I am sure for my part I thought Miss was used to nothing but quality hours."
"Why, I sha'n't be ready this half-hour yet," said Miss Polly; "can't they stay in the shop till we're dressed?"
Mr. Branghton was very angry, and scolded them violently: however, we were obliged to descend, and stools were procured for us in the shop, where we found the brother, who was highly delighted, he said, that his sisters had been catched; and he thought proper to entertain me with a long account of their tediousness, and the many quarrels they all had together.
When, at length, these ladies were equipped to their satisfaction, they made their appearance; but before any conversation was suffered to pass between them and us, they had a long and most disagreeable dialogue with their father, to whose reprimands, though so justly incurred, they replied with the utmost pertness while their brother all the time laughed aloud.
The moment they perceived this, they were so much provoked, that, instead of making any apologies to Madame Duval, they next began to quarrel with him. "Tom, what do you laugh for? I wonder what business you have to be always a laughing when Papa scolds us?"
"Then what business have you to be such a while getting on your clothes? You're never ready, you know well enough."
"Lord, Sir, I wonder what's that to you! I wish you'd mind your own affairs, and not trouble yourself about ours. How should a boy like you know any thing?"
"A boy, indeed! not such a boy, neither: I'll warrant you'll be glad to be as young when you come to be old maids."
This sort of dialogue we were amused with till dinner was ready, when we again mounted up two pairs of stairs.
In our way, Miss Polly told me that her sister had asked Mr. Smith for his room to dine in, but he had refused to lend it; "because," she said, "one day it happened to be a little greased: however, we shall have it to drink tea in, and then, perhaps, you may see him; and I assure you he's quite like one of the quality, and dresses as fine, and goes to balls and dances, and every thing, quite in taste; and besides, Miss, he keeps a foot-boy of his own too."
The dinner was ill-served, ill-cooked, and ill-managed. The maid who waited had so often to go down stairs for something that was forgotten, that the Branghtons were perpetually obliged to rise from table themselves, to get plates, knives, and forks, bread or beer. Had they been without pretensions, all this would have seemed of no consequence; but they aimed at appearing to advantage, and even fancied they succeeded. However, the most disagreeable part of our fare was that the whole family continually disputed whose turn it was to rise, and whose to be allowed to sit still.
When this meal was over, Madame Duval, ever eager to discourse upon her travels, entered into an argument with Mr. Branghton, and, in broken English, M. Du Bois, concerning the French nation: and Miss Polly, then addressing herself to me, said "Don't you think, Miss, it's very dull sitting up stairs here? we'd better go down to shop, and then we shall see the people go by."
"Lord, Poll," said the brother, "you're always wanting to be staring and gaping; and I'm sure you needn't be so fond of showing yourself, for you're ugly enough to frighten a horse."
"Ugly, indeed! I wonder which is best, you or me. But, I tell you what, Tom, you've no need to give yourself such airs; for, if you do, I'll tell Miss of-you know what-"
"Who cares if you do? you may tell what you will; I don't mind-"
"Indeed," cried I, "I do not desire to hear any secrets."
"O, but I'm resolved I'll tell you, because Tom's so very spiteful. You must know, Miss, t'other night-"
"Poll," cried the brother, "if you tell of that, Miss shall know all about your meeting young Brown,-you know when!-So I'll be quits with you one way or other."
Miss Polly coloured, and again proposed our going down stairs till
Mr. Smith's room was ready for our reception.
"Aye, so we will," said Miss Branghton; "I'll assure you, cousin, we have some very genteel people pass by our shop sometimes. Polly and I always go and sit there when we've cleaned ourselves."
"Yes, Miss," cried the brother, "they do nothing else all day long, when father don't scold them. But the best fun is, when they've got all their dirty things on, and all their hair about their ears, sometimes I send young Brown up stairs to them: and then there's such a fuss!-There, they hide themselves, and run away, and squeal and squall, like any thing mad: and so then I puts the two cats into the room, and I gives them a good whipping, and so that sets them a squalling too; so there's such a noise and such an uproar!-Lord, you can't think, Miss, what fun it is!"
This occasioned a fresh quarrel with the sisters; at the end of which, it was at length decided that we should go to the shop.
In our way down stairs, Miss Branghton said aloud, "I wonder when
Mr. Smith's room will be ready."
"So do I," answered Polly; "I'm sure we should not do any harm to it now."
This hint had not the desired effect; for we were suffered to proceed very quietly.
As we entered the shop, I observed a young man in deep mourning leaning against the wall, with his arms folded, and his eyes fixed on the ground, apparently in profound and melancholy meditation; but the moment he perceived us, he started, and, making a passing bow, very abruptly retired. As I found he was permitted to go quite unnoticed, I could not forbear enquiring who he was.
"Lord!" answered Miss Branghton, "he's nothing but a poor Scotch poet."
"For my part," said Miss Polly, "I believe he's just starved, for I don't find he has anything to live upon."
"Live upon!" cried the brother; "why, he's a poet, you know, so he may live upon learning."
"Aye, and good enough for him, too," said Miss Branghton; "for he's as proud as he's poor."
"Like enough," replied the brother; "but, for all that, you won't find he will live without meat and drink: no, no, catch a Scotchman at that if you can! why, they only come here for what they can get."
"I'm sure," said Miss Branghton, "I wonder Papa'll be such a fool as to let him stay in the house, for I dare say he'll never pay for his lodging."
"Why, no more he would, if he could get another lodger. You know the bill has been put up this fortnight. Miss, if you should hear of a person that wants a room, I assure you it is a very good one, for all it's up three pair of stairs."
I answered, that as I had no acquaintance in London, I had not any chance of assisting them: but both my compassion and my curiosity were excited for this poor young man; and I asked them some further particulars concerning him.
They then acquainted me, that they had only known him three months. When he first lodged with them, he agreed to board also; but had lately told them he would eat by himself, though they all believed he had hardly ever tasted a morsel of meat since he left their table. They said, that he had always appeared very low-spirited; but for the last month he had been duller than ever; and, all of a sudden, he had put himself into mourning, though they knew not for whom, nor for what; but they supposed it was only for convenience, as no person had ever been to see or enquire for him since his residence amongst them: and they were sure he was very poor, as he had not paid for his lodgings the last three weeks: and, finally, they concluded he was a poet, or else half-crazy, because they had, at different times, found scraps of poetry in his room.
They then produced some unfinished verses, written on small pieces of paper, unconnected, and of a most melancholy cast. Among them was the fragment of an ode, which, at my request, they lent to me to copy; and as you may perhaps like to see it, I will write it now.
O LIFE! thou lingering dream of grief, of pain, And every
ill that Nature can sustain,
Strange, mutable, and wild!
Now flattering with Hope most fair, Depressing now with
The nurse of Guilt, the slave of Pride,
That, like a wayward child,
Who, to himself a foe,
Sees joy alone in what's denied,
In what is granted, woe!
O thou poor, feeble, fleeting, pow'r, By Vice seduc'd, by
Folly woo'd, By Mis'ry, Shame, Remorse, pursu'd; And as thy
toilsome steps proceed, Seeming to Youth the fairest flow'r,
Proving to Age the rankest weed,
A gilded but a bitter pill,
Of varied, great, and complicated ill!
These lines are harsh, but they indicate an internal wretchedness, which I own, affects me. Surely this young man must be involved in misfortunes of no common nature but I cannot imagine what can induce him to remain with this unfeeling family, where he is, most unworthily, despised for being poor, and most illiberally detested for being a Scotchman. He may, indeed, have motives, which he cannot surmount, for submitting to such a situation. Whatever they are, I most heartily pity him, and cannot but wish it were in my power to afford him some relief.
During this conversation, Mr. Smith's foot-boy came to Miss Branghton, and informed her, that his master said she might have the room now when she liked it, for that he was presently going out.
This very genteel message, though it perfectly satisfied the Miss Branghtons, by no means added to my desire of being introduced to this gentleman; and upon their rising, with intention to accept his offer, I begged they would excuse my attending them, and said I would sit with Madame Duval till the tea was ready.
I therefore once more went up two pair of stairs with young
Branghton, who insisted upon accompanying me; and there we remained
till Mr. Smith's foot-boy summoned us to tea, when I followed Madame
Duval into the dining-room.
The Miss Branghtons were seated at one window, and Mr. Smith was lolling indolently out of the other. They all approached us at our entrance; and Mr. Smith, probably to show he was master of the department, most officiously handed me to a great chair at the upper end of the room, without taking any notice of Madame Duval, till I rose and offered her my own seat.
Leaving the rest of the company to entertain themselves, he very abruptly began to address himself to me, in a style of gallantry equally new and disagreeable to me. It is true, no man can possibly pay me greater compliments, or make more fine speeches, than Sir Clement Willoughby: yet his language, though too flowery, is always that of a gentleman; and his address and manners are so very superior to those of the inhabitants of this house, that, to make any comparison between him and Mr. Smith, would be extremely unjust. This latter seems very desirous of appearing a man of gaiety and spirit; but his vivacity is so low-bred, and his whole behaviour so forward and disagreeable, that I should prefer the company of dullness itself, even as that goddess is described by Pope, to that of this sprightly young man.
He made many apologies that he had not lent his room for our dinner, which he said, he should certainly have done, had he seen me first: and he assured me, that when I came again, he should be very glad to oblige me.
I told him, and with sincerity, that every part of the house was equally indifferent to me.
"Why, Ma'am, the truth is, Miss Biddy and Polly take no care of any thing; else, I'm sure, they should be always welcome to my room; for I'm never so happy as in obliging the ladies,-that's my character, Ma'am:-but, really, the last time they had it, every thing was made so greasy and so nasty, that, upon my word, to a man who wishes to have things a little genteel, it was quite cruel. Now, as to you, Ma'am, it's quite another thing, for I should not mind if every thing I had was spoilt, for the sake of having the pleasure to oblige you; and I assure you, Ma'am, it makes me quite happy that I have a room good enough to receive you."
This elegant speech was followed by many others so much in the same style, that to write them would be superfluous; and as he did not allow me a moment to speak to any other person, the rest of the evening was consumed in a painful attention to this irksome young man, who seemed to intend appearing before me to the utmost advantage.
Adieu, my dear Sir. I fear you will be sick of reading about this family; yet I must write of them, or not of any, since I mix with no other. Happy I shall be when I quit them all, and again return to Berry Hill.
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION
June 10th THIS morning Mr. Smith called, on purpose, he said, to offer me a ticket for the next Hampstead assembly. I thanked him, but desired to be excused accepting it: he would not, however, be denied, nor answered; and, in a manner both vehement and free, pressed and urged his offer, till I was wearied to death: but, when he found me resolute, he seemed thunderstruck with amazement, and thought proper to desire I would tell him my reasons.
Obvious as they must surely have been to any other person, they were such as I knew not how to repeat to him; and, when he found I hesitated, he said, "Indeed, Ma'am, you are too modest; I assure you the ticket is quite at your service, and I shall be very happy to dance with you; so pray don't be so coy."
"Indeed, Sir," returned I, "you are mistaken; I never supposed you would offer a ticket without wishing it should be accepted; but it would answer no purpose to mention the reasons which make me decline it, since they cannot possibly be removed."
This speech seemed very much to mortify him; which I could not be concerned at, as I did not choose to be treated by him with so much freedom. When he was, at last, convinced that his application to me was ineffectual, he addressed himself to Madame Duval, and begged she would interfere in his favour; offering at the same time to procure another ticket for herself.
"Ma foi, Sir," answered she, angrily, "you might as well have had the complaisance to ask me before; for, I assure you, I don't approve of no such rudeness: however, you may keep your tickets to yourself, for we don't want none of 'em."
This rebuke almost overset him; he made many apologies, and said that he should certainly have first applied to her, but that he had no notion the young lady would have refused him, and, on the contrary, had concluded that she would have assisted him to persuade Madame Duval herself.
This excuse appeased her; and he pleaded his cause so successfully, that, to my great chagrin, he gained it, and Madame Duval promised that she would go herself, and take me to the Hampstead assembly whenever he pleased.
Mr. Smith then, approaching me with an air of triumph, said, "Well,
Ma'am, now I think you can't possibly keep to your denial."
I made no answer; and he soon took leave, tho' not till he had so wonderfully gained the favour of Madame Duval, that she declared, when he was gone, he was the prettiest young man she had seen since she came to England.
As soon as I could find an opportunity, I ventured, in the most humble manner, to intreat Madame Duval would not insist upon my attending her to this ball; and represented to her, as well as I was able, the impropriety of my accepting any present from a man so entirely unknown to me: but she laughed at my scruples; called me a foolish, ignorant country-girl; and said she should make it her business to teach me something of the world.
This ball is to be next week. I am sure it is not more improper for, than unpleasant to me, and I will use every possible endeavour to avoid it. Perhaps I may apply to Miss Branghton for advice, as I believe she will be willing to assist me, from disliking, equally with myself, that I should dance with Mr. Smith.
O, my dear Sir! I have been shocked to death; and yet at the same time delighted beyond expression, in the hope that I have happily been the instrument of saving a human creature from destruction.
This morning Madame Duval said she would invite the Branghton family to return our visit to-morrow; and, not choosing to rise herself,-for she generally spends the morning in bed,-she desired me to wait upon them with her message. M. Du Bois, who just then called, insisted upon attending me.
Mr. Branghton was in the shop, and told us that his son and daughter were out; but desired me to step up stairs, as he very soon expected them home. This I did, leaving M. Du Bois below. I went into the room where we had dined the day before; and, by a wonderful chance, I happened to seat myself, that I had a view of the stairs, and yet could not be seen from them.
In about ten minutes time, I saw, passing by the door, with a look perturbed and affrighted, the same young man I mentioned in my last letter. Not heeding, as I suppose, how he went, in turning the corner of the stairs, which are narrow and winding, his foot slipped and he fell; but almost instantly rising, I plainly perceived the end of a pistol, which started from his pocket by hitting against the stairs.
I was inexpressibly shocked. All that I had heard of his misery occurring to my memory, made me conclude that he was, at that very moment, meditating suicide! Struck with the dreadful idea, all my strength seemed to fail me. He moved on slowly, yet I soon lost sight of him; I sat motionless with terror; all power of action forsook me; and I grew almost stiff with horror; till recollecting that it was yet possible to prevent the fatal deed, all my faculties seemed to return, with the hope of saving him.
My first thought was to fly to Mr. Branghton; but I feared, that an instant of time lost might for ever be rued; and, therefore, guided by the impulse of my apprehensions, as well as I was able I followed him up stairs, stepping very softly, and obliged to support myself by the banisters.
When I came within a few stairs of the landing-place I stopped; for I could then see into his room, as he had not yet shut the door.
He had put the pistol upon a table, and had his hand in his pocket, whence, in a few moments, he took out another: he then emptied something on the table from a small leather bag; after which, taking up both the pistols, one in each hand, he dropt hastily upon his knees, and called out, "O, God!-forgive me!"
In a moment strength and courage seemed lent to me as by inspiration: I started, and rushing precipitately into the room, just caught his arm, and then, overcome by my own fears, I fell down at his side breathless and senseless. My recovery, however, was, I believe, almost instantaneous; and then the sight of this unhappy man, regarding me with a look of unutterable astonishment, mixed with concern, presently restored to me my recollection. I arose, though with difficulty; he did the same; the pistols, as I soon saw, were both on the floor.
Unwilling to leave them, and, indeed, too weak to move, I leant one hand on the table, and then stood perfectly still; while he, his eyes cast wildly towards me, seemed too infinitely amazed to be capable of either speech or action.
I believe we were some minutes in this extraordinary situation; but, as my strength returned, I felt myself both ashamed and awkward, and moved towards the door. Pale and motionless, he suffered me to pass, without changing his posture, or uttering a syllable; and, indeed,
He look'd a bloodless image of despair.-POPE.
When I reached the door, I turned round; I looked fearfully at the pistols, and, impelled by an emotion I could not repress, I hastily stepped back, with an intention of carrying them away: but their wretched owner, perceiving my design, and recovering from his astonishment, darting suddenly down, seized them both himself.
Wild with fright, and scarce knowing what I did, I caught, almost involuntarily, hold of both his arms, and exclaimed, "O, Sir! have mercy on yourself!"
The guilty pistols fell from his hands, which, disengaging from me, he fervently clasped, and cried, "Sweet Heaven! is this thy angel?"
Encouraged by such gentleness, I again attempted to take the pistols; but, with a look half frantic, he again prevented me, saying "What would you do?"
"Awaken you," I cried, with a courage I now wonder at, "to worthier thoughts, and rescue you from perdition."
I then seized the pistols; he said not a word,-he made no effort to stop me;-I glided quick by him, and tottered down stairs ere he had recovered from the extremest amazement.
The moment I reached again the room I had so fearfully left, I threw away the pistols, and flinging myself on the first chair, gave free vent to the feelings I had most painfully stifled, in a violent burst of tears, which, indeed, proved a happy relief to me.
In this situation I remained some time; but when, at length, I lifted up my head, the first object I saw was the poor man who had occasioned my terror, standing, as if petrified, at the door, and gazing at me with eyes of wild wonder.
I started from the chair; but trembled so excessively, that I almost instantly sunk again into it. He then, though without advancing, and, in a faultering voice, said, "Whoever, or whatever you are, relieve me, I pray you, from the suspense under which my soul labours-and tell me if indeed I do not dream?"
To this address, so singular, and so solemn, I had not then the presence of mind to frame any answer; but as I presently perceived that his eyes turned from me to the pistols, and that he seemed to intend regaining them, I exerted all my strength, and saying, "O, for Heaven's sake forbear!" I rose and took them myself.
"Do my sense deceive me!" cried he, "do I live-? And do you?"
As he spoke he advanced towards me; and I, still guarding the pistols, retreated, saying, "No, no-you must not-must not have them!"
"Why-for what purpose, tell me!-do you withhold them?"-
"To give you time to think,-to save you from eternal misery; -and,
I hope, to reserve you for mercy and forgiveness."
"Wonderful!" cried he, with uplifted hands and eyes, "most wonderful!"
For some time he seemed wrapped in deep thought, till a sudden noise of tongues below announcing the approach of the Branghtons, made him start from his reverie: he sprung hastily forward, -dropt on one knee,-caught hold of my gown, which he pressed to his lips; and then, quick as lightning, he rose, and flew up stairs to his own room.
There was something in the whole of this extraordinary and shocking adventure, really too affecting to be borne; and so entirely had I spent my spirits, and exhausted my courage, that before the Branghtons reached me, I had sunk on the ground without sense or motion.
I believe I must have been a very horrid sight to them on their entrance into the room; for to all appearance, I seemed to have suffered a violent death, either by my own rashness, or the cruelty of some murderer, as the pistols had fallen close by my side.
How soon I recovered I know not; but, probably I was more indebted to the loudness of their cries than to their assistance; for they all concluded that I was dead, and, for some time, did not make any effort to revive me.
Scarcely could I recollect where, or indeed what, I was, ere they poured upon me such a torrent of questions and enquiries, that I was almost stunned by their vociferation. However, as soon, and as well as I was able, I endeavoured to satisfy their curiosity, by recounting what had happened as clearly as was in my power. They all looked aghast at the recital; but, not being well enough to enter into any discussions, I begged to have a chair called, and to return instantly home.
Before I left them, I recommended, with great earnestness, a vigilant observance of their unhappy lodger; and that they would take care to keep from him, if possible, all means of self-destruction.
M. Du Bois, who seemed extremely concerned at my indisposition, walked by the side of the chair, and saw me safe to my own apartment.
The rashness and the misery of this ill-fated young man engross all my thoughts. If indeed, he is bent upon destroying himself, all efforts to save him will be fruitless. How much do I wish it were in my power to discover the nature of the malady which thus maddens him and to offer or to procure alleviation to his sufferings! I am sure, my dearest Sir, you will be much concerned for this poor man; and, were you here, I doubt not but you would find some method of awakening him from the error which blinds him, and of pouring the balm of peace and comfort into his afflicted soul.
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION Holborn, June 13th.
YESTERDAY all the Branghtons dined here. Our conversation was almost wholly concerning the adventure of the day before. Mr. Branghton said, that his first thought was instantly to turn his lodger out of doors, "Lest," continued he, "his killing himself in my house should bring me into any trouble: but then I was afraid I should never get the money that he owes me; whereas, if he dies in my house, I have a right to all he leaves behind him, if he goes off in my debt. Indeed, I would put him in prison,-but what should I get by that? he could not earn anything there to pay me: so I considered about it some time, and then I determined to ask him, point-blank, for my money out of hand. And so I did; but he told me he'd pay me next week: however, I gave him to understand, that though I was no Scotchman, yet, I did not like to be over-reached any more than he: so he then gave me a ring, which, to my certain knowledge, must be worth ten guineas, and told me he would not part with it for his life, and a good deal more such sort of stuff, but that I might keep it until he could pay me."
"It is ten to one, father," said young Branghton, "if he came fairly by it."
"Very likely not," answered he; "but that will make no great difference, for I shall be able to prove my right to it all one."
What principles! I could hardly stay in the room.
"I'm determined," said the son, "I'll take some opportunity to affront him soon, now I know how poor he is, because of the airs he gave himself when he first came."
"And pray how was that, child?" said Madame Duval.
"Why, you never knew such a fuss in your life as he made, because one day at dinner I only happened to say, that I supposed he had never got such a good meal in his life before he came to England: there, he fell in such a passion as you can't think: but for my part, I took no notice of it: for to be sure, thinks I, he must needs be a gentleman, or he'd never go to be so angry about it. However, he won't put his tricks upon me again in a hurry."
"Well," said Miss Polly, "he's grown quite another creature to what he was, and he doesn't run away from us, nor hide himself, nor any thing; and he's as civil as can be, and he's always in the shop, and he saunters about the stairs, and he looks at every body as comes in."
"Why, you may see what he's after plain enough," said Mr. Branghton; "he wants to see Miss again."
"Ha, ha, ha! Lord, how I should laugh," said the son, "if he should have fell in love with Miss!"
"I'm sure," said Miss Branghton, "Miss is welcome; but, for my part,
I should be quite ashamed of such a beggarly conquest."
Such was the conversation till tea-time, when the appearance of
Mr. Smith gave a new turn to the discourse.
Miss Branghton desired me to remark with what a smart air he entered the room, and asked me if he had not very much a quality look?
"Come," cried he, advancing to us, "you ladies must not sit together; wherever I go I always make it a rule to part the ladies."
And then, handing Miss Branghton to the next chair, he seated himself between us.
"Well, now, ladies, I think we sit very well. What say you? for my part I think it was a very good motion."
"If my cousin likes it," said Miss Branghton, "I'm sure I've no objection."
"O," cried he, "I always study what the ladies like,-that's my first thought. And, indeed, it is but natural that you should like best to sit by the gentlemen, for what can you find to say to one another?"
"Say!" cried young Branghton; "O, never you think of that, they'll find enough to say, I'll be sworn. You know the women are never tired of talking."
"Come, come, Tom," said Mr. Smith, "don't be severe upon the ladies; when I'm by, you know I always take their part."
Soon after, when Miss Branghton offered me some cake, this man of gallantry said, "Well, if I was that lady, I'd never take any thing from a woman."
"Why not, Sir?"
"Because I should be afraid of being poisoned for being so handsome."
"Who is severe upon the ladies now?" said I.
"Why, really, Ma'am, it was a slip of the tongue; I did not intend to say such a thing; but one can't always be on one's guard."
Soon after, the conversation turning upon public places, young
Branghton asked if I had ever been to George's at Hampstead?
"Indeed, I never heard the place mentioned."
"Didn't you, Miss," cried he eagerly; "why, then you've a deal of fun to come, I'll promise you; and, I tell you what, I'll treat you there some Sunday, soon. So now, Bid and Poll, be sure you don't tell Miss about the chairs, and all that, for I've a mind to surprise her; and if I pay, I think I've a right to have it my own way."
"George's at Hampstead!" repeated Mr. Smith contemptuously; "how came you to think the young lady would like to go to such a low place as that! But, pray, Ma'am, have you ever been to Don Saltero's at Chelsea?"
"No!-nay, then I must insist on having the pleasure of conducting you there before long. I assure you, Ma'am, many genteel people go, or else, I give you my word, I should not recommend it."
"Pray, cousin," said Mr. Branghton, "have you been at Sadler's
"No! why, then you've seen nothing!"
"Pray, Miss," said the son, "how do you like the Tower of London?"
"I have never been to it, Sir."
"Goodness!" exclaimed he, "not seen the Tower!-why, may be, you ha'n't been o' top of the Monument, neither?"
"No, indeed, I have not."
"Why, then, you might as well not have come to London for aught I see, for you've been no where."
"Pray, Miss," said Polly, "have you been all over Paul's Church yet?"
"Well, but, Ma'am," said Mr. Smith, "how do you like Vauxhall and
"I never saw either, Sir."
"No-God bless me!-you really surprise me,-why Vauxhall is the first pleasure in life!-I know nothing like it.-Well, Ma'am, you must have been with strange people, indeed, not to have taken you to Vauxhall. Why you have seen nothing of London yet. However, we must try if we can't make you amends."
In the course of this catechism, many other places were mentioned, of which I have forgotten the names; but the looks of surprise and contempt that my repeated negatives incurred were very diverting.
"Come," said Mr. Smith, after tea, "as this lady has been with such a queer set of people, let's show her the difference; suppose we go somewhere to-night!-I love to do things with spirit!-Come, ladies, where shall we go? For my part I should like Foote's-but the ladies must choose; I never speak myself."
"Well, Mr. Smith is always in such spirits!" said Miss Branghton.
"Why, yes, Ma'am, yes, thank God, pretty good spirits;-I have not yet the cares of the world upon me;-I am not married,-ha, ha, ha!-you'll excuse me, ladies,-but I can't help laughing!"
No objection being made, to my great relief we all proceeded to the little theatre in the Haymarket, where I was extremely entertained by the performance of the Minor and the Commissary.
They all returned hither to supper.
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION June 15th.
YESTERDAY morning Madame Duval again sent me to Mr. Branghton's, attended by M. Du Bois, to make some party for the evening, because she had had the vapours the preceding day from staying at home.
As I entered the shop, I perceived the unfortunate North Briton seated in a corner, with a book in his hand. He cast his melancholy eyes up as we came in; and, I believe, immediately recollected my face-for he started, and changed colour. I delivered Madame Duval's message to Mr. Branghton, who told me I should find Polly up stairs, but that the others were gone out.
Up stairs, therefore, I went; and, seated on a window, with Mr. Brown at her side, sat Miss Polly. I felt a little awkward at disturbing them, and much more so at their behaviour afterwards; for, as soon as the common enquiries were over, Mr. Brown grew so fond and so foolish, that I was extremely disgusted. Polly, all the time, only rebuked him with, "La, now, Mr. Brown, do be quiet, can't you?-you should not behave so before company.-Why, now, what will Miss think of me?"-While her looks plainly showed not merely the pleasure, but the pride which she took in his caresses.
I did not by any means think it necessary to punish myself by witnessing their tenderness; and therefore telling them I would see if Miss Branghton were returned home, I soon left them, and against descended into the shop.
"So, Miss, you've come again," said Mr. Branghton; "what, I suppose you've a mind to sit a little in the shop, and see how the world goes, hey, Miss?"
I made no answer; and M. Du Bois instantly brought me a chair.
The unhappy stranger, who had risen at my entrance, again seated himself; and though his head leant towards his book, I could not help observing, his eyes were most intently and earnestly turned towards me.
M. Du Bois, as well as his broken English would allow him, endeavoured to entertain us till the return of Miss Branghton and her brother.
"Lord, how tired I am!" cried the former; "I have not a foot to stand upon." And, then, without any ceremony, she flung herself into the chair from which I had risen to receive her.
"You tired!" said the brother; "why, then, what must I be, that have walked twice as far?" And, with equal politeness, he paid the same compliment to M. Du Bois which his sister had done to me.
Two chairs and three stools completed the furniture of the shop; and Mr. Branghton, who chose to keep his own seat himself, desired M. Du Bois to take another; and then seeing that I was without any, called out to the stranger, "Come, Mr. Macartney, lend us your stool."
Shocked at their rudeness, I declined the offer; and, approaching Miss Branghton, said, "If you will be so good as to make room for me on your chair, there will be no occasion to disturb that gentleman."
"Lord, what signifies that?" cried the brother; "he has had his share of sitting, I'll be sworn."
"And, if he has not," said the sister, "he has a chair up stairs; and the shop is our own, I hope."
This grossness so much disgusted me, that I took the stool, and carrying it back to Mr. Macartney myself, I returned him thanks as civilly as I could for his politeness, but said that I had rather stand.
He looked at me as if unaccustomed to such attention, bowed very respectfully, but neither spoke nor yet made use of it.
I soon found that I was an object of derision to all present, except M. Du Bois; and therefore, I begged Mr. Branghton would give me an answer for Madame Duval, as I was in haste to return.
"Well, then, Tom,-Biddy, where have you a mind to go tonight? your aunt and Miss want to be abroad and amongst them."
"Why, then, Papa," said Miss Branghton, "we'll go to Don Saltero's. Mr. Smith likes that place, so may be he'll go along with us."
"No, no," said the son, "I'm for White-Conduit House; so let's go there."
"White-Conduit House, indeed!" cried his sister; "no, Tom, that
"Why, then, let it alone; nobody wants your company;-we shall do as well without you, I'll be sworn, and better too."
"I'll tell you what, Tom, if you don't hold your tongue, I'll make you repent it,-that I assure you."
Just then Mr. Smith came into the shop, which he seemed to intend passing through; but when he saw me, he stopped, and began a most courteous enquiry after my health, protesting, that, had he known I was there, he should have come down sooner. "But, bless me, Ma'am," added he, "what is the reason you stand?" and then he flew to bring me the seat from which I had just parted.
"Mr. Smith, you are come in very good time," said Mr. Branghton, "to end a dispute between my son and daughter, about where they shall all go to-night."
"O, fie, Tom,-dispute with a lady!" cried Mr. Smith. "Now, as for me, I'm for where you will, provided this young lady is of the party;-one place is the same as another to me, so that it be but agreeable to the ladies.-I would go any where with you, Ma'am," (to me) "unless, indeed, it were to church; -ha, ha, ha!-You'll excuse me, Ma'am; but, really, I never could conquer my fear of a parson;-ha, ha, ha!-Really, ladies, I beg your pardon for being so rude; but I can't help laughing for my life!"
"I was just saying, Mr. Smith," said Miss Branghton, "that I should like to go to Don Saltero's;-now, pray, where should you like to go?"
"Why, really, Miss Biddy, you know I always let the ladies decide; I never fix any thing myself; but I should suppose it would be rather hot at the coffee-house:-however, pray, ladies, settle it among yourselves;-I'm agreeable to whatever you choose."
It was easy for me to discover, that this man, with all his parade of conformity, objects to every thing that is not proposed by himself: but he is so much admired by this family for his gentility, that he thinks himself a complete fine gentleman!
"Come," said Mr. Branghton, "the best way will be to put it to the vote, and then every body will speak their minds. Biddy, call Poll down stairs. We'll start fair."
"Lord, Papa," said Miss Branghton, "why can't you as well send
Tom?-you're always sending me of the errands."
A dispute then ensued, but Miss Branghton was obliged to yield.
When Mr. Brown and Miss Polly made their appearance, the latter uttered many complaints of having been called, saying, she did not want to come, and was very well where she was.
"Now, ladies, your votes," cried Mr. Smith; "and so, Ma'am (to me), we'll begin with you. What place shall you like best?" and then, in a whisper, he added, "I assure you, I shall say the same as you do, whether I like it or not."
I said, that as I was ignorant what choice was in my power, I must beg to hear their decisions first. This was reluctantly assented to; and then Miss Branghton voted for Saltero's Coffee-house; her sister, for a party to Mother Red Cap's; the brother for White-Conduit House; Mr. Brown, for Bagnigge Wells; Mr. Braughton, for Sadler's Wells; and Mr. Smith, for Vauxhall.
"Well now, Ma'am," said Mr. Smith, "we have all spoken, and so you must give the casting vote. Come, what will you fix upon?"
"Sir," answered I, "I was to speak last."
"Well, so you will," said Miss Branghton, "for we've all spoke first."
"Pardon me," returned I, "the voting has not yet been quite general."
And I turned towards Mr. Macartney, to whom I wished extremely to show that I was not of the same brutal nature with those by whom he was treated so grossly.
"Why, pray," said Mr. Branghton, "who have we left out? would you have the cats and dogs vote?"
"No, Sir," cried I, with some spirit, "I would have that gentleman vote,-if, indeed, he is not superior to joining our party."
They all looked at me, as if they doubted whether or not they had heard me right: but, in a few moments, their surprise gave way to a rude burst of laughter.
Very much displeased, I told M. Du Bois that if he was not ready to go, I would have a coach called for myself.
O yes, he said, he was always ready to attend me.
Mr. Smith then, advancing, attempted to take my hand, and begged me not to leave them till I had settled the evening's plans.
"I have nothing, Sir," said I, "to do with it, as it is my intention to stay at home; and therefore Mr. Branghton will be so good as to send Madame Duval word what place is fixed upon, when it is convenient to him."
And then, making a slight courtesy, I left them.
How much does my disgust for these people increase my pity for poor Mr. Macartney! I will not see them when I can avoid so doing; but I am determined to take every opportunity in my power to show civility to this unhappy man, whose misfortunes with this family, only render him an object of scorn. I was, however, very well pleased with M. Du Bois, who, far from joining in their mirth, expressed himself extremely shocked at their ill-breeding.
We had not walked ten yards before we were followed by Mr. Smith, who came to make excuses, and to assure me they were only joking, and hoped I took nothing ill; for if I did, he would make a quarrel of it himself with the Branghtons, rather than I should receive any offense.
I begged him not to take any trouble about so immaterial an affair, and assured him I should not myself. He was so officious, that he would not be prevailed upon to return home, till he had walked with us to Mr. Dawkins's.
Madame Duval was very much displeased that I brought her so little satisfaction. White-Conduit House was at last fixed upon; and, notwithstanding my great dislike of such parties and such places, I was obliged to accompany them.
Very disagreeable, and much according to my expectations, the evening proved. There were many people all smart and gaudy, and so pert and low-bred, that I could hardly endure being amongst them; but the party to which, unfortunately, I belonged, seemed all at home.
EVELINA TO THE REV. MR. VILLARS Holborn, June 17th.
YESTERDAY Mr. Smith carried his point of making a party for Vauxhall, consisting of Madame Duval, M. Du Bois, all the Branghtons, Mr. Brown, himself,-and me!-for I find all endeavours vain to escape any thing which these people desire I should not.
There were twenty disputes previous to our setting out; first, as to the time of our going: Mr. Branghton, his son, and young Brown, were for six o'clock; and all the ladies and Mr. Smith were for eight;-the latter, however, conquered.
Then, as to the way we should go; some were for a boat, others for a coach, and Mr. Branghton himself was for walking; but the boat at length was decided upon. Indeed this was the only part of the expedition that was agreeable to me; for the Thames was delightfully pleasant.
The garden is very pretty, but too formal; I should have been better pleased, had it consisted less of straight walks, where
Grove nods at grove, each alley has its brother.
The trees, the numerous lights, and the company in the circle round the orchestra make a most brilliant and gay appearance; and had I been with a party less disagreeable to me, I should have thought it a place formed for animation and pleasure. There was a concert; in the course of which a hautbois concerto was so charmingly played, that I could have thought myself upon enchanted ground, had I had spirits more gentle to associate with. The hautbois in the open air is heavenly.
Mr. Smith endeavoured to attach himself to me, with such officious assiduity and impertinent freedom, that he quite sickened me. Indeed M. Du Bois was the only man of the party to whom, voluntarily, I ever addressed myself. He is civil and respectful, and I have found nobody else so since I left Howard Grove. His English is very bad; but I prefer it to speaking French myself, which I dare not venture to do. I converse with him frequently, both to disengage myself from others, and to oblige Madame Duval, who is always pleased when he is attended to.
As we were walking about the orchestra, I heard a bell ring; and, in a moment, Mr. Smith, flying up to me, caught my hand, and, with a motion too quick to be resisted, ran away with me many yards before I had breath to ask his meaning, though I struggled as well as I could, to get from him. At last, however, I insisted upon stopping: "Stopping, Ma'am!" cried he, "why we must run on or we shall lose the cascade!"
And then again he hurried me away, mixing with a crowd of people, all running with so much velocity, that I could not imagine what had raised such an alarm. We were soon followed by the rest of the party; and my surprise and ignorance proved a source of diversion to them all, which was not exhausted the whole evening. Young Branghton, in particular, laughed till he could hardly stand.
The scene of the cascade I thought extremely pretty, and the general effect striking and lively.
But this was not the only surprise which was to divert them at my expense; for they led me about the garden purposely to enjoy my first sight of various other deceptions.
About ten o'clock, Mr. Smith having chosen a box in a very conpicuous place, we all went to supper. Much fault was found with every thing that was ordered, though not a morsel of any thing was left; and the dearness of the provisions, with conjectures upon what profit was made by them, supplied discourse during the whole meal.
When wine and cyder were brought, Mr. Smith said, "Now let's enjoy ourselves; now is the time, or never. Well, Ma'am, and how do you like Vauxhall?"
"Like it!" cried young Branghton; "why, how can she help liking it? she has never seen such a place before, that I'll answer for."
"For my part," said Miss Branghton, "I like it because it is not vulgar."
"This must have been a fine treat for you, Miss," said Mr. Branghton; "why, I suppose you was never so happy in all your life before?"
I endeavoured to express my satisfaction with some pleasure; yet,
I believe, they were much amazed at my coldness.
"Miss ought to stay in town till the last night," said young Branghton; "and then, it's my belief, she'd say something to it! Why, Lord, it's the best night of any; there's always a riot,-and there the folks run about,-and then there's such squealing and squalling!-and, there, all the lamps are broke,-and the women run skimper scamper.-I declare I would not take five guineas to miss the last night!"
I was very glad when they all grew tired of sitting, and called for the waiter to pay the bill. The Miss Branghtons said they would walk on while the gentlemen settled the account, and asked me to accompany them; which, however, I declined.
"You girls may do as you please," said Madame Duval; "but as to me,
I promise you, I sha'n't go nowhere without the gentlemen."
"No more, I suppose, will my cousin," said Miss Branghton, looking reproachfully towards Mr. Smith.
This reflection, which I feared would flatter his vanity, made me most unfortunately request Madame Duval's permission to attend them. She granted it; and away we went, having promised to meet in the room.
To the room, therefore, I would immediately have gone: but the sisters agreed that they would first have a little pleasure; and they tittered and talked so loud, that they attracted universal notice.
"Lord, Polly," said the eldest, "suppose we were to take a turn in the dark walks!"
"Aye, do," answered she; "and then we'll hide ourselves, and then
Mr. Brown will think we are lost."
I remonstrated very warmly against this plan, telling them it would endanger our missing the rest of the party all the evening.
"O dear," cried Miss Branghton, "I thought how uneasy Miss would be without a beau!"
This impertinence I did not think worth answering; and, quite by compulsion, I followed them down a long alley, in which there was hardly any light.
By the time we came near the end, a large party of gentlemen, apparently very riotous, and who were hallooing, leaning on one another, and laughing immoderately, seemed to rush suddenly from behind some trees, and meeting us face to face, put their arms at their sides, and formed a kind of circle, which first stopped our proceeding, and then our retreating, for we were presently entirely enclosed. The Miss Branghtons screamed aloud, and I was frightened exceedingly; our screams were answered with bursts of laughter, and for some minutes we were kept prisoners, till at last one of them, rudely seizing hold of me, said I was a pretty little creature.
Terrified to death, I struggled with such vehemence to disengage myself from him, that I succeeded, in spite of his efforts to detain me; and immediately, and with a swiftness which fear only could have given me, I flew rather than ran up the walk, hoping to secure my safety by returning to the lights and company we had so foolishly left: but before I could possibly accomplish my purpose, I was met by another party of men, one of whom placed himself so directly in my way, calling out, "Whither so fast, my love?"-that I could only have proceeded by running into his arms.
In a moment both my hands, by different persons, were caught hold of, and one of them, in a most familiar manner, desired, when I ran next, to accompany me in a race; while the rest of the party stood still and laughed.
I was almost distracted with terror, and so breathless with running, that I could not speak; till another, advancing, said, I was as handsome as an angel, and desired to be of the party. I then just articulated, "For Heaven's sake, gentlemen, let me pass!"
Another then rushing suddenly forward, exclaimed, "Heaven and earth! What voice is that?-"
"The voice of the prettiest little actress I have seen this age," answered one of my persecutors.
"No,-no,-no-" I panted out, "I am no actress-pray let me go,-pray let me pass-"
"By all that's sacred," cried the same voice, which I then knew for
Sir Clement Willoughby's, "'tis herself!"
"Sir Clement Willoughby!" cried I. "O, Sir, assist-assist me-or I shall die with terror!"
"Gentlemen," cried he, disengaging them all from me in an instant, "pray leave this lady to me."
Loud laughs proceeded from every mouth, and two or three said Willoughby has all the luck! But one of them, in a passionate manner, vowed he would not give me up, for that he had the first right to me, and would support it.
"You are mistaken," said Sir Clement, "this lady is-I will explain myself to you another time; but, I assure you, you are all mistaken."
And then taking my willing hand, he led me off, amidst the loud acclamations, laughter, and gross merriment of his impertinent companions.
As soon as we had escaped from them, Sir Clement, with a voice of surprise, exclaimed, "My dearest creature, what wonder, what strange revolution, has brought you to such a place as this?"
Ashamed of my situation, and extremely mortified to be thus recognized by him, I was for some time silent; and when he repeated his question, only stammered out, "I have,-I hardly know how,-lost from my party-"
He caught my hand, and eagerly pressing it, in a passionate voice said,
"O that I had sooner met with thee!"
Surprised at a freedom so unexpected, I angrily broke from him, saying,
"Is this the protection you give me, Sir Clement?"
And then I saw, what the perturbation of my mind had prevented my sooner noticing, that he had led me, though I know not how, into another of the dark alleys, instead of the place whither I meant to go.
"Good God!" I cried, "where am I?-What way are you going?"
"Where," answered he, "we shall be least observed!"
Astonished at this speech, I stopped short, and declared I would go no further.
"And why not, my angel?" again endeavouring to take my hand.
My heart beat with resentment; I pushed him away from me with all my strength, and demanded how he dared treat me with such insolence?
"Insolence!" repeated he.
"Yes, Sir Clement, insolence; from you, who know me, I had a claim for protection,-not to such treatment as this."
"By Heaven," cried he, with warmth, "you distract me;-why, tell me,-why do I see you here?-Is this a place for Miss Anville?-these dark walks!-no party! no companion!-by all that's good I can scarce believe my senses!"
Extremely offended at this speech, I turned angrily from him: and, not deigning to make any answer, walked on towards that part of the garden whence I perceived the lights and company.
He followed me; but we were both some time silent.
"So you will not explain to me your situation?" said he, at length.
"No, Sir," answered I, disdainfully.
"Nor yet-suffer me to make my own interpretation?-"
I could not bear this strange manner of speaking; it made my very soul shudder,-and I burst into tears.
He flew to me, and actually flung himself at my feet, as if regardless who might see him, saying, "O, Miss Anville,-loveliest of women,-forgive my,-my,-I beseech you forgive me;-if I have offended-if I have hurt you-I could kill myself at the thought!-"
"No matter, Sir, no matter," cried I; "if I can but find my friends,-I will never speak to-never see you again!"
"Good God!-good Heaven! My dearest life, what is it I have done?-what is it I have said?-"
"You best know, Sir, what and why: but don't hold me here,-let me be gone; and do you!"
"Not till you forgive me!-I cannot part with you in anger."
"For shame, for shame, Sir!" cried I, indignantly, "do you suppose I am to be thus compelled?-do you take advantage of the absence of my friends to affront me?"
"No, Madam," cried he, rising: "I would sooner forfeit my life than act so mean a part. But you have flung me into amazement unspeakable, and you will not condescend to listen to my request of giving me some explanation."
"The manner, Sir," said I, "in which you spoke that request, made, and will make, me scorn to answer it."
"Scorn!-I will own to you, I expected not such displeasure from
"Perhaps, Sir, if you had, you would less voluntarily have merited it."
"My dearest life, surely it must be known to you, that the man does not breathe who adores you so passionately, so fervently, so tenderly as I do!-Why, then, will you delight in perplexing me?-in keeping me in suspense?-in torturing me with doubt?"
"I, Sir, delight in perplexing you!-you are much mistaken.-Your suspense, your doubts, your perplexities,-are of your own creating; and believe me, Sir, they may offend, but they can never delight me:-but as you have yourself raised, you must yourself satisfy them."
"Good God!-that such haughtiness and such sweetness can inhabit the same mansion!"
I made no answer; but quickening my pace I walked on silently and sullenly, till this most impetuous of men, snatching my hand, which he grasped with violence, besought me to forgive him with such earnestness of supplication, that, merely to escape his importunities, I was forced to speak, and in some measure to grant the pardon he requested; though it was accorded with a very ill grace: but, indeed, I knew not how to resist the humility of his intreaties: yet never shall I recollect the occasion he gave me of displeasure, without feeling it renewed.
We now soon arrived in the midst of the general crowd; and, my own safety being then insured, I grew extremely uneasy for the Miss Branghtons, whose danger, however imprudently incurred by their own folly, I too well knew how to tremble for. To this consideration all my pride of heart yielded, and I determined to seek my party with the utmost speed; though not without a sigh did I recollect the fruitless attempt I had made after the opera, of concealing from this man my unfortunate connections, which I was now obliged to make known.
I hastened, therefore, to the room, with a view of sending young
Branghton to the aid of his sisters. In a very short time I perceived
Madame Duval, and the rest, looking at one of the paintings.
I must own to you honestly, my dear Sir, that an involuntary repugnance seized me at presenting such a set to Sir Clement,-he who had been used to see me in parties so different!-My pace slackened as I approached them,-but they presently perceived me.
"Ah, Mademoiselle!" cried M. Du Bois, "Que je suis charm-e; de vous voir!"
"Pray, Miss," cried Mr. Brown, "where's Miss Polly?"
"Why, Miss, you've been a long while gone," said Mr. Branghton; "we thought you'd been lost. But what have you done with your cousins?"
I hesitated,-for Sir Clement regarded me with a look of wonder.
"Pardi," cried Madame Duval, "I shan't let you leave me again in a hurry. Why, here we've been in such a fright!-and all the while, I suppose, you've been thinking nothing about the matter."
"Well," said young Branghton," as long as Miss is come back, I don't mind; for as to Bid and Poll, they can take care of themselves. But the best joke is, Mr. Smith is gone all about a looking for you."
These speeches were made almost in a breath: but when, at last, they waited for an answer, I told them, that, in walking up one of the long alleys, we had been frightened and separated.
"The long alleys!" repeated Mr. Branghton, "and pray, what had you to do in the long alleys? why, to be sure, you must all of you have had a mind to be affronted!"
This speech was not more impertinent to me, than surprising to Sir
Clement, who regarded all the party with evident astonishment. However,
I told young Branghton, no time ought to be lost, for that his sisters
might require his immediate protection.
"But how will they get it?" cried this brutal brother: "if they've a mind to behave in such a manner as that, they ought to protect themselves; and so they may for me."
"Well," said the simple Mr. Brown, "whether you go or not, I think
I may as well see after Miss Polly."
The father then interfering, insisted that his son should accompany him; and away they went.
It was now that Madame Duval first perceived Sir Clement; to whom, turning with a look of great displeasure, she angrily said, "Ma foi, so you are comed here, of all the people in the world!-I wonder, child, you would let such a-such a person as that keep company with you."
"I am very sorry, Madam," said Sir Clement, in a tone of surprise, "if I had been so unfortunate as to offend you; but I believe you will not regret the honour I now have of attending Miss Anville, when you hear that I have been so happy as to do her some service."
Just as Madame Duval, with her usual Ma foi, was beginning to reply, the attention of Sir Clement was wholly drawn from her, by the appearance of Mr. Smith, who, coming suddenly behind me, and freely putting his hands of my shoulders, cried, "O ho, my little runaway, have I found you at last? I have been scampering all over the gardens for you, for I was determined to find you, if you were above ground.-But how could you be so cruel as to leave us?"
I turned round to him, and looked with a degree of contempt that I hoped would have quieted him: but he had not the sense to understand me; and, attempting to take my hand, he added, "Such a demure-looking lady as you are, who'd have thought of your leading one such a dance?-Come, now, don't be so coy; only think what a trouble I have had in running after you!"
"The trouble, Sir," said I, "was of your own choice,-not mine." And
I walked round to the other side of Madame Duval.
Perhaps I was too proud;-but I could not endure that Sir Clement, whose eyes followed him with looks of the most surprised curiosity, should witness his unwelcome familiarity.
Upon my removal he came up to me, and, in a low voice, said, "You are not, then, with the Mirvans?"
"And pray,-may I ask you,-have you left them long?"
"How unfortunate I am!-but yesterday I sent to acquaint the Captain I should reach the Grove by to-morrow noon! However, I shall get away as fast as possible. Shall you be long in town?"
"I believe not, Sir."
"And then, when you leave it-which way-will you allow me to ask, which way you shall travel?"
"Indeed,-I don't know."
"Not know!-But do you return to the Mirvans any more?"
"I-I can't tell, Sir."
And then I addressed myself to Madame Duval, with such a pretended earnestness, that he was obliged to be silent.
As he cannot but observe the great change in my situation, which he knows not how to account for, there is something in all these questions, and this unrestrained curiosity, that I did not expect from a man who, when he pleases, can be so well-bred as Sir Clement Willoughby. He seems disposed to think that the alteration in my companions authorises an alteration in his manners. It is true, he has always treated me with uncommon freedom, but never before with so disrespectful an abruptness. This observation, which he has given me cause to make, of his changing with the tide, has sunk him more in my opinion than any other part of his conduct.
Yet I could almost have laughed when I looked at Mr. Smith, who no sooner saw me addressed by Sir Clement, than, retreating aloof from the company, he seemed to lose at once all his happy self-sufficiency and conceit; looking now at the baronet, now at himself; surveying, with sorrowful eyes, his dress; struck with his air, his gestures, his easy gaiety, he gazed at him with envious admiration, and seemed himself, with conscious inferiority, to shrink into nothing.
Soon after, Mr. Brown, running up to us, called out, "La, what, i'n't Miss Polly come yet?"
"Come," said Mr. Branghton; "why, I thought you went to fetch her yourself, didn't you?"
"Yes, but I couldn't find her;-yet I daresay I've been over half the garden."
"Half? but why did not you go over it all?"
"Why, so I will: but only I thought I'd just come and see if she was here first."
"But where's Tom?"
"Why, I don't know; for he would not stay with me, all as ever I could say: for we met some young gentlemen of his acquaintance, and so he bid me go and look by myself; for he said, says he, I can divert myself better another way, says he."
This account being given, away again went this silly young man; and Mr. Branghton, extremely incensed, said he would go and see after them himself.
"So, now", cried Madame Duval, "he's gone too! why, at this rate, we shall have to wait for one or other of them all night!"
Observing that Sir Clement seemed disposed to renew his enquiries, I turned towards one of the paintings, and, pretending to be very much occupied in looking at it, asked M. Du Bois some questions concerning the figures.
"O! Mon Dieu!" cried Madame Duval, "don't ask him; your best way is to ask Mr. Smith, for he's been here the oftenest. Come, Mr. Smith, I dare say you can tell us all about them."
"Why, yes, Ma'am, yes," said Mr. Smith: who, brightening up at this application, advanced towards us with an air of assumed importance, which, however, sat very uneasily upon him, and begged to know what he should explain first: "For I have attended," said he, "to all these paintings, and know every thing in them perfectly well; for I am rather fond of pictures, Ma'am; and, really, I must say, I think, a pretty pictures is a-a very-is really a very-is something very pretty-"
"So do I too," said Madame Duval; "but pray now, Sir, tell us who that is meant for," pointing to a figure of Neptune.
"That!-why, that, Ma'am, is,-Lord bless me, I can't think how I come to be so stupid, but really I have forgot his name;-and yet, I know it as well as my own too:-however, he's a General, Ma'am, they are all Generals."
I saw Sir Clement bite his lips; and, indeed, so did I mine.
"Well," said Madame Duval, "it's the oddest dress for a general ever
"He seems so capital a figure," said Sir Clement, to Mr. Smith, "that I imagine he must be Generalissimo of the whole army."
"Yes, Sir, yes," answered Mr. Smith, respectfully bowing, and highly delighted at being thus referred to, "you are perfectly right;-but I cannot for my life think of his name;-perhaps, Sir, you may remember it?"
"No, really," replied Sir Clement, "my acquaintance among the generals is not so extensive."
The ironical tone of voice in which Sir Clement spoke entirely disconcerted Mr. Smith; who again retiring to an humble distance, seemed sensibly mortified at the failure of his attempt to recover his consequence.
Soon after, Mr. Branghton returned with his youngest daughter, who he had rescued from a party of insolent young men; but he had not yet been able to find the eldest. Miss Polly was really frightened, and declared she would never go into the dark walks again. Her father, leaving her with us, went in quest of her sister.
While she was relating her adventures, to which nobody listened more attentively than Sir Clement, we saw Mr. Brown enter the room. "O, la!" cried Miss Polly, "let me hide myself, and don't tell him I'm come."
She then placed herself behind Madame Duval, in such a manner that she could not be seen.
"So Miss Polly is not come yet!" said the simple swain: "well, I can't think where she can be! I've been looking, and looking, and looking all about, and can't find her all I can do."
"Well, but, Mr. Brown," said Mr. Smith, "sha'n't you go and look for the lady again?"
"Yes, Sir," said he, sitting down; "but I must rest me a little bit first. You can't think how tired I am."
"O fie, Mr. Brown, fie," cried Mr. Smith, winking at us, "tired of looking for a lady! Go, go, for shame!"
"So I will, Sir, presently; but you'd be tired too, if you had walked so far: besides, I think she's gone out of the garden, or else I must have seen something or other of her."
A he, he he! of the tittering Polly, now betrayed her, and so ended this ingenious little artifice.
At last appeared Mr. Branghton and Miss Biddy, who, with a face of mixed anger and confusion, addressing herself to me, said, "So, Miss, so you ran away from me! Well, see if I don't do as much by you some day or other! But I thought how it would be; you'd no mind to leave the gentlemen, though you run away from me."
I was so much surprised at this attack, that I could not answer her for very amazement; and she proceeded to tell us how ill she had been used, and that two young men had been making her walk up and down the dark walks by absolute force, and as fast as ever they could tear her along; and many other particulars, which I will not tire you with relating. In conclusion, looking at Mr. Smith, she said, "But to be sure, thought I, at least all the company will be looking for me; so I little expected to find you all here, talking as comfortably as ever you can. However, I know I may thank my cousin for it!"
"If you mean me, Madam," said I, very much shocked, "I am quite ignorant in what manner I can have been accessary to your distress."
"Why, by running away so. If you'd stayed with us, I'll answer for it Mr. Smith and M. Du Bois would have come to look for us; but I suppose they could not leave your ladyship."
The folly and unreasonableness of this speech would admit of no answer. But what a scene was this for Sir Clement! his surprise was evident; and I must acknowledge my confusion was equally great.
We had now to wait for young Branghton, who did not appear for some time; and during this interval it was with difficulty that I avoided Sir Clement, who was on the rack of curiosity, and dying to speak to me.
When, at last, the hopeful youth returned, a long and frightful quarrel ensued between him and his father, in which his sisters occasionally joined, concerning his neglect; and he defended himself only by a brutal mirth, which he indulged at their expense.
Every one now seemed inclined to depart,-when, as usual, a dispute arose upon the way of our going, whether in a coach or a boat. After much debating, it was determined that we should make two parties, one by the water and the other by land; for Madame Duval declared she would not, upon any account, go into a boat at night.
Sir Clement then said, that if she had no carriage in waiting, he should be happy to see her and me safe home, as his was in readiness.
Fury started into her eyes, and passion inflamed every feature, as she answered, "Pardi, no-you may take care of yourself, if you please; but as to me, I promise you I sha'n't trust myself with no such person."
He pretended not to comprehend her meaning; yet, to waive a discussion, acquiesced in her refusal. The coach-party fixed upon, consisted of Madame Duval, M. Du Bois, Miss Branghton, and myself.
I now began to rejoice, in private, that at least our lodgings would be neither seen nor known by Sir Clement. We soon met with a hackney-coach, into which he handed me, and then took leave.
Madame Duval having already given the coachman her direction, he mounted the box, and we were just driving off, when Sir Clement exclaimed, "By Heaven, this is the very coach I had in waiting for myself!"
"This coach, your honour!" said the man; "no, that it i'n't."
Sir Clement, however, swore that it was; and presently, the man, begging his pardon, said he had really forgotten that he was engaged.
I have no doubt but that this scheme occurred to him at the moment, and that he made some sign to the coachman, which induced him to support it; for there is not the least probability that the accident really happened, as it is most likely his own chariot was in waiting.
The man then opened the coach-door, and Sir Clement, advancing to it, said "I don't believe there is another carriage to be had, or I would not incommode you; but, as it may be disagreeable to you to wait here any longer, I beg you will not get out, for you shall be set down before I am carried home, if you will be so good as to make a little room."
And so saying, in he jumped, and seated himself between M. Du Bois and me, while our astonishment at the whole transaction was too great for speech. He then ordered the coachman to drive on, according to the directions he had already received.
For the first ten minutes no one uttered a word; and then, Madame Duval, no longer able to contain herself, exclaimed, "Ma foi, if this isn't one of the most impudentest things ever I see!"
Sir Clement, regardless of this rebuke, attended only to me; however I answered nothing he said, when I could possibly avoid so doing. Miss Branghton made several attempts to attract his notice, but in vain, for he would not take the trouble of paying her any regard.
Madame Duval, during the rest of the ride, addressed herself to M. Du Bois in French, and in that language exclaimed, with great vehemence, against boldness and assurance.
I was extremely glad when I thought our journey must be nearly at an end, for my situation was very uneasy to me, as Sir Clement perpetually endeavoured to take my hand. I looked out of the coach-window, to see if we were near home: Sir Clement, stooping over me, did the same; and then, in a voice of infinite wonder, called out, "Where the d-l is the man driving to?-Why we are in Broad Street, St. Giles's!"
"O, he's very right," cried Madame Duval, "so never trouble your head about that; for I sha'n't go by no directions of your's, I promise you."
When, at last, we stopped at an hosier's in High Holborn,-Sir Clement said nothing, but his eyes, I saw, were very busily employed in viewing the place, and the situation of the house. The coach, he said, belong to him, and therefore he insisted upon paying for it; and then he took leave. M. Du Bois walked home with Miss Branghton, and Madame Duval and I retired to our apartments.
How disagreeable an evening's adventure! not one of the party seemed satisfied, except Sir Clement, who was in high spirits: but Madame Duval was enraged at meeting with him; Mr. Branghton, angry with his children; the frolic of the Miss Branghtons had exceeded their plan, and ended in their own distress; their brother was provoked that there had been no riot; Mr. Brown was tired, and Mr. Smith mortified. As to myself, I must acknowledge, nothing could be more disagreeable to me, than being seen by Sir Clement Willoughby with a party at once so vulgar in themselves, and so familiar to me.
And you, too, my dear Sir, will, I know, be sorry that I have met him; however, there is no apprehension of his visiting here, as Madame Duval is far too angry to admit him.
EVELINA TO THE REV. MR. VILLARS. Holborn, June 18th.
MADAME DUVAL rose very late this morning, and, at one o'clock, we had but just breakfasted, when Miss Branghton, her brother, Mr. Smith, and Monsieur Du Bois, called to enquire after our healths.
The civility in young Branghton, I much suspect, was merely the result of his father's commands; but his sister and Mr. Smith, I soon found, had motives of their own. Scarce had they spoken to Madame Duval, when, advancing eagerly to me, "Pray, Ma'am," said Mr. Smith, "who was that gentleman?"
"Pray, cousin," cried Miss Branghton, "was not he the same gentleman you ran away with that night at the opera?"
"Goodness! that he was," said young Branghton, "and, I declare, as soon as ever I saw him, I thought I knew his face."
"I'm sure, I'll defy you to forget him," answered his sister, "if once you had seen him: he is the finest gentleman I ever saw in my life, don't you think so, Mr. Smith?"
"Why, you won't give the lady time to speak," said Mr. Smith.-"Pray,
Ma'am, what is the gentleman's name?"
"Willoughby! I think I have heard the name. Pray, Ma'am, is he married?"
"Lord, no, that he is not," cried Miss Branghton; "he looks too smart by a great deal for a married man. Pray, cousin, how did you get acquainted with him?"
"Pray, Miss," said young Branghton, in the same breath, "what's his business?"
"Indeed I don't know," answered I.
"Something very genteel, I dare say," added Miss Branghton, "because he dresses so fine."
"It ought to be something that brings in a good income" said Mr. Smith; "for I'm sure that he did not get that suit of clothes he had on under thirty or forty pounds; for I know the price of clothes pretty well.-Pray, Ma'am, can you tell me what he has a-year?"
"Don't talk no more about him," cried Madame Duval, "for I don't like to hear his name: I believe he's one of the worst persons in the world; for though I never did him no manner of harm, nor so much as hurt a hair of his head, I know he was an accomplice with the fellow, Captain Mirvan, to take away my life."
Everybody, but myself, now crowding around her for an explanation, a violent rapping at the street-door was unheard; and, without any previous notice, in the midst of her narration, Sir Clement Willoughby entered the room. They all started; and, with looks of guilty confusion, as if they feared his resentment for having listened to Madame Duval, they scrambled for chairs, and in a moment were all formally seated.
Sir Clement, after a general bow, singling out Madame Duval, said with his usual easiness, "I have done myself the honour of waiting on you, Madame, to enquire if you have any commands to Howard Grove, whither I am going to-morrow morning."
Then, seeing the storm that gathered in her eyes, before he allowed her time to answer, he addressed himself to me;-"And if you, Madam, have any with which you will honour me, I shall be happy to execute them."
"None at all, Sir."
"None! -not to Miss Mirvan!-no message! no letter!"
"I wrote to Miss Mirvan yesterday by the post."
"My application should have been earlier, had I sooner known your address."
"Ma foi," cried Madame Duval, recovering from her surprise, "I believe never nobody saw the like of this!"
"Of what, Madam?" cried the undaunted Sir Clement, turning quick towards her; "I hope no one has offended you!"
"You don't hope no such a thing!" cried she, half choked with passion, and rising from her chair. This motion was followed by the rest; and in a moment, every body stood up.
Still Sir Clement was not abashed; affecting to make a bow of acknowledgment to the company in general, he said, "Pray-I beg-Ladies,-Gentlemen,-pray don't let me disturb you, pray keep your seats."
"Pray, Sir," said Miss Branghton, moving a chair towards him, "won't you sit down yourself?"
"You are extremely good, Ma'am:-rather than make any disturbance-"
And so saying, this strange man seated himself, as did, in an instant every body else, even Madame Duval herself, who, overpowered by his boldness, seemed too full for utterance.
He then, and with as much composure as if he had been an expected guest, began to discourse on the weather,-its uncertainty,-the heat of the public places in summer,-the emptiness of the town,-and other such common topics.
Nobody, however, answered him; Mr. Smith seemed afraid, young Branghton ashamed, M. Du Bois amazed, Madame Duval enraged, and myself determined not to interfere. All that he could obtain, was the notice of Miss Branghton, whose nods, smiles, and attention, had some appearance of entering into conversation with him.
At length, growing tired, I suppose, of engaging every body's eyes, and nobody's tongue, addressing himself to Madame Duval and to me, the said, "I regard myself as peculiarly unfortunate, Ladies, in having fixed upon a time for my visit to Howard Grove, when you are absent from it."
"So I suppose, Sir, so I suppose," cried Madame Duval, hastily rising, and the next moment as hastily seating herself;-"you'll be wanting of somebody to make your game of, and so you may think to get me there again;-but, I promise you, Sir, you won't find it so easy a matter to make me a fool; and besides that," raising her voice, "I've found you out, I assure you; so if ever you go to play your tricks upon me again, I'll make no more ado, but go directly to a justice of peace; so, Sir, if you can't think of nothing but making people ride about the country at all hours of the night, just for your diversion, why, you'll find I know some justices as well as Justice Tyrrell."
Sir Clement was evidently embarrassed at this attack; yet he affected a look of surprise, and protested he did not understand her meaning.
"Well," cried she, "if I don't wonder where people can get such impudence! if you'll say that, you'll say anything: however, if you swear till you're black in the face, I sha'n't believe you; for nobody sha'n't persuade me out of my senses, that I'm resolved."
"Doubtless not, Madam," answered he with some hesitation; "and I hope you do not suspect I ever had such an intention; my respect for you-"
"O, Sir, you're vastly polite all of a sudden! but I know what it's all for! it's only for what you can get!-You could treat me like nobody at Howard Grove; but now you see I've a house of my own, you're mind to wheedle yourself into it; but I sees your design, so you needn't trouble yourself to take no more trouble about that, for you shall never get nothing at my house,-not so much as a dish of tea:-so now, Sir, you see I can play you trick for trick."
There was something so extremely gross in this speech, that it even disconcerted Sir Clement, who was too much confounded to make any answer.
It was curious to observe the effect which his embarrassment, added to the freedom with which Madame Duval addressed him, had upon the rest of the company. Every one, who before seemed at a loss how or if at all, to occupy a chair, how filled it with the most easy composure: and Mr. Smith, whose countenance had exhibited the most striking picture of mortified envy, now began to recover his usual expression of satisfied conceit. Young Branghton, too, who had been apparently awed by the presence of so fine a gentleman, was again himself, rude and familiar: while his mouth was wide distended into a broad grin, at hearing his aunt give the beau such a trimming.
Madame Duval, encouraged by this success, looked around her with an air of triumph, and continued her harangue. "And so, Sir, I suppose you thought to have had it all your own way, and to have comed here as often as you pleased, and to have got me to Howard Grove again, on purpose to have served me as you did before; but you shall see I'm as cunning as you; so you may go and find somebody else to use in that manner, and to put your mask on, and to make a fool of; for as to me, if you go to tell me your stories about the Tower again, for a month together, I'll never believe 'm no more: and I'll promise you, Sir, if you think I like such jokes, you'll find I'm no such person."
"I assure you, Ma'am,-upon my honour,-I really don't comprehend-I fancy there is some misunderstanding-"
"What, I suppose you'll tell me next you don't know nothing of the matter?"
"Not a word, upon my honour."
O, Sir Clement, thought I, is it thus you prize your honour!
"Pardi," cried Madame Duval, "this is the most provokingest part of all! why, you might as well tell me I don't know my own name."
"Here is certainly some mistake; for I assure you, Ma'am-"
"Don't assure me nothing," cried Madame Duval, raising her voice; "I know what I'm saying, and so do you too; for did not you tell me all that about the Tower, and about M. Du Bois?-why M. Du Bois wasn't never there, nor nigh it, and so it was all your own invention."
"May there not be two persons of the same name? the mistake was but natural-"
"Don't tell me of no mistake, for it was all on purpose: besides, did not you come, all in a mask, to the chariot-door, and help to get me put in that ditch?-I'll promise you, I've had the greatest mind in the world to take the law of you ever since; and if ever you do as much again, so I will, I assure you!"
Here Miss Branghton tittered, Mr. Smith smiled contemptously, and young
Branghton thrust his handkerchief into his mouth to stop his laughter.
The situation of Sir Clement, who saw all that passed, became now very awkward even to himself, and he stammered very much in saying, "Surely, Madam-surely you-you cannot do me the-the injustice to think-that I had any share in the-the-the misfortune which-"
"Ma foi, Sir," cried Madame Duval, with increasing passion, "you'd best not stand talking to me at that rate: I know it was you; and if you stay there, a provoking me in such a manner, I'll send for a constable this minute."
Young Branghton, at these words, in spite of all his efforts, burst into a loud laugh; nor could either his sister or Mr. Smith, though with more moderation, forbear joining in his mirth.
Sir Clement darted his eyes towards them with looks of the most angry contempt; and then told Madame Duval, that he would not now detain her to make his vindication, but would wait on her some time when she was alone.
"O Pardi, Sir," cried she, "I don't desire none of your company; and if you wasn't the most boldest person in the world, you would not dare look me in the face."
The ha, ha ha's! and he, he, he's! grew more and more uncontrollable, as if the restraint, from which they had burst, had added to their violence. Sir Clement could no longer endure being the object who excited them; and, having no answer ready for Madame Duval, he hastily stalked towards Mr. Smith and young Branghton, and sternly demanded what they laughed at?
Struck by the air of importance which he assumed, and alarmed at the angry tone of his voice, their merriment ceased as instantaneously as if it had been directed by clock-work; and they stared foolishly, now at him, now at each other, without making any answer but a simple "Nothing, Sir."
"O pour le coup," cried Madame Duval, "this is too much! Pray, Sir, what business have you to come here a ordering people that comes to see me? I suppose next nobody must laugh but yourself!"
"With me, Madam," said Sir Clement, bowing, "a lady may do any thing, and consequently there is no liberty in which I shall not be happy to indulge you: -but it has never been my custom to give the same licence to gentlemen."
Then, advancing to me, who had sat very quietly on a window during this scene, he said, "Miss Anville, I may at least acquaint our friends at Howard Grove that I had the honour of leaving you in good health." And then, lowering his voice, he added, "For Heaven's sake, my dearest creature, who are these people? and how came you so strangely situated?"
"I beg my respects to all the family, Sir," answered I, aloud; "and I hope you will find them well."
He looked at me reproachfully, but kissed my hand; and then, bowing to Madame Duval and Miss Branghton, passed hastily by the men, and made his exit.
I fancy he will not be very eager to repeat his visit; for I should imagine he has rarely, if ever, been before in a situation so awkward and disagreeable.
Madame Duval has been all spirits and exultation ever since he went, and only wishes Captain Mirvan would call, that she might do the same by him. Mr. Smith, upon hearing that he was a baronet, and seeing him drive off in a very beautiful chariot, declared that he would not have laughed upon any account, had he known his rank; and regretted extremely having missed such an opportunity of making so genteel an acquaintance. Young Branghton vowed, that if he had known as much, he would have asked for his custom: and his sister has sung his praises ever since, protesting she thought all along he was a man of quality by his look.
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. June 21st.
THE last three evenings have passed tolerably quiet, for the Vauxhall adventures had given Madame Duval a surfeit of public places: home, however, soon growing tiresome, she determined to-night, she said, to relieve her ennui by some amusement; and it was therefore settled, that we should call upon the Branghtons at their house, and thence proceed to Marybone Gardens.
But, before we reached Snow Hill, we were caught in a shower of rain: we hurried into the shop, where the first object I saw was Mr. Macartney, with a book in his hand, seated in the same corner where I saw him last; but his looks were still more wretched than before, his face yet thinner, and his eyes sunk almost hollow into his head. He lifted them up as we entered, and I even thought that they emitted a gleam of joy: involuntarily I made to him my first courtesy; he rose and bowed with a precipitation that manifested surprise and confusion.
In a few minutes were joined by all the family, except Mr. Smith, who fortunately was engaged.
Had all the future prosperity of our lives depended upon the good or bad weather of this evening, it could not have been treated as a subject of greater importance. "Sure, never anything was so unlucky!"-"Lord, how provoking!"-"It might rain for ever, if it would hold up now."-These, and such expressions, with many anxious observations upon the kennels, filled up all the conversation till the shower was over.
And then a very warm debate arose, whether we should pursue our plan, or defer it to some finer evening. The Miss Branghtons were for the former; their father was sure it would rain again; Madame Duval, though she detested returning home, yet dreaded the dampness of the gardens.
M. Du Bois then proposed going to the top of the house, to examine whether the clouds looked threatening or peaceable: Miss Branghton, starting at this proposal, said they might go to Mr. Macartney's room, if they would, but not to her's.
This was enough for the brother; who, with a loud laugh, declared he would have some fun; and immediately led the way, calling to us all to follow. His sisters both ran after, but no one else moved.
In a few minutes young Branghton, coming half-way down stairs, called out, "Lord, why don't you all come? why, here's Poll's things all about the room!"
Mr. Branghton then went; and Madame Duval, who cannot bear to be excluded from whatever is going forward, was handed up stairs by M. Du Bois.
I hesitated a few moments whether or not to join them; but, soon perceiving that Mr. Macartney had dropped his book, and that I engrossed his whole attention, I prepared, from mere embarrassment, to follow them.
As I went, I heard him move from his chair, and walk slowly after me. Believing that he wished to speak to me, and earnestly desiring myself to know if, by your means, I could possibly be of any service to him, I first slackened my pace, and then turned back. But, though I thus met him half-way, he seemed to want courage or resolution to address me; for, when he saw me returning, with a look extremely disordered, he retreated hastily from me.
Not knowing what I ought to do, I went to the street-door, where I stood some time, hoping he would be able to recover himself; but, on the contrary, his agitation increased every moment; he walked up and down the room in a quick but unsteady pace, seeming equally distressed and irresolute; and, at length, with a deep sigh, he flung himself into a chair.
I was so much affected by the appearance of such extreme anguish, that I could remain no longer in the room: I therefore glided by him and went up stairs; but, ere I had gone five steps, he precipitately followed me, and, in a broken voice, called out "Madam!-for Heaven's sake-"
He stopped; but I instantly descended, restraining, as well as I was able, the fulness of my own concern. I waited some time, in painful expectation, for his speaking: all that I had heard of his poverty occurring to me, I was upon the point of presenting him my purse; but the fear of mistaking or offending him deterred me. Finding, however, that he continued silent, I ventured to say, "Did you,-Sir, wish to speak to me?"
"I did," cried he with quickness, "but now-I cannot!-"
"Perhaps, Sir, another time,-perhaps if you recollect yourself-"
"Another time?" repeated he mournfully; "alas! I look not forward but to misery and despair!"
"O, Sir," cried I, extremely shocked, "you must not talk thus!-If you forsake yourself, how can you expect-"
I stopped. "Tell me, tell me," cried he, with eagerness, "who you are?-whence you come?-and by what strange means you seem to be arbitress and ruler of the destiny of such a wretch as I am?"
"Would to Heaven," cried I, "I could serve you!"
"And how? Pray tell me how?"
"To tell you-is death to me! yet I will tell you.-I have a right to your assistance,-you have deprived me of the only resource to which I could apply,-and therefore-"
"Pray, pray speak," cried I, putting my hand into my pocket; "they will be down stairs in a moment!"
"I will, Madam.-Can you-will you-I think you will!-may I then-" he stopped and paused; "say, will you"-then, suddenly turning from me, "Great Heaven, I cannot speak!" and he went back to the shop.
I now put my purse in my hand, and following him, said, "If, indeed, Sir, I can assist you, why should you deny me so great a satisfaction? Will you permit me to-"
I dared not go on; but with a countenance very much softened, he approached me and said, "Your voice, Madam, is the voice of compassion!-such a voice as these ears have long been strangers to!"
Just then young Branghton called out vehemently to me to come up stairs. I seized the opportunity of hastening away: and therefore saying, "Heaven, Sir, protect and comfort you!" I let fall my purse upon the ground, not daring to present it to him, and ran up stairs with the utmost swiftness.
Too well do I know you, my ever honoured Sir, to fear your displeasure for this action: I must, however, assure you, I shall need no fresh supply during my stay in town, as I am at little expense, and hope soon to return to Howard Grove.
Soon, did I say! when not a fortnight is yet expired of the long and tedious month I must linger out here!
I had many witticisms to endure from the Branghtons, upon account of my staying so long with the Scotch mope, as they call him; but I attended to them very little, for my whole heart was filled with pity and concern. I was very glad to find the Marybone scheme was deferred, another shower of rain having put a stop to the dissension upon this subject; the rest of the evening was employed in most violent quarrelling between Miss Polly and her brother, on account of the discovery made by the latter of the state of her apartment.
We came home early; and I have stolen from Madame Duval and M. Du Bois, who is here for ever, to write to my best friend.
I am most sincerely rejoiced, that this opportunity has offered for my contributing what little relief was in my power to this unhappy man; and I hope it will be sufficient to enable him to pay his debts to this pitiless family.
MR. VILLARS TO EVELINA. Berry Hill.
DISPLEASURE? my Evelina!-you have but done your duty; you have but shown that humanity without which I should blush to own my child. It is mine, however, to see that your generosity be not repressed by your suffering from indulging it; I remit to you, therefore, not merely a token of my approbation, but an acknowledgment of my desire to participate in your charity.
O my child, were my fortune equal to my confidence in thy benevolence, with what transport should I, through thy means, devote it to the relief of indigent virtue! yet let us not repine at the limitation of our power; for while our bounty is proportioned to our ability, the difference of the greater or less donation can weigh but little in the scale of justice.
In reading your account of the misguided man, whose misery has so largely excited your compassion, I am led to apprehend that his unhappy situation is less the effect of misfortune than of misconduct. If he is reduced to that state of poverty represented by the Branghtons, he should endeavour, by activity and industry, to retrieve his affairs, and not pass his time in idle reading in the very shop of his creditor.
The pistol scene made me shudder; the courage with which you pursued this desperate man, at once delighted and terrified me. Be ever thus, my dearest Evelina, dauntless in the cause of distress! let no weak fears, no timid doubts, deter you from the exertion of your duty, according to the fullest sense of it that Nature has implanted in your mind. Though gentleness and modesty are the peculiar attributes of your sex, yet fortitude and firmness, when occasion demands them, are virtues as noble and as becoming in women as in men: the right line of conduct is the same for both sexes, though the manner in which it is pursued may somewhat vary, and be accommodated to the strength or weakness of the different travellers.
There is, however, something so mysterious in all you have seen or heard of this wretched man, that I am unwilling to stamp a bad impression of his character upon so slight and partial a knowledge of it. Where any thing is doubtful, the ties of society, and the laws of humanity, claim a favourable interpretation; but remember, my dear child, that those of discretion have an equal claim to your regard.
As to Sir Clement Willoughby, I know not how to express my indignation at his conduct. Insolence so insufferable, and the implication of suspicions so shocking, irritate me to a degree of wrath, which I hardly thought my almost worn-out passions were capable of again experiencing. You must converse with him no more: he imagines, from the pliability of your temper, that he may offend you with impunity; but his behaviour justifies, nay, calls for your avowed resentment; do not, therefore, hesitate in forbidding him your sight.
The Branghtons, Mr. Smith, and young Brown, however ill-bred and disagreeable, are objects too contemptible for serious displeasure; yet I grieve much that my Evelina should be exposed to their rudeness and impertinence.
The very day that this tedious month expires, I shall send Mrs. Clinton to town, who will accompany you to Howard Grove. Your stay there will, I hope, be short; for I feel daily an increasing impatience to fold my beloved child to my bosom! ARTHUR VILLARS.
EVELINA TO THE REV. MR. VILLARS. Holborn, June 27th.
I HAVE just received, my dearest Sir, your kind present, and still kinder letter. Surely, never had orphan so little to regret as your grateful Evelina! Though motherless, though worse than fatherless, bereft from infancy of the two first and greatest blessings of life, never has she had cause to deplore their loss; never has she felt the omission of a parent's tenderness, care, or indulgence; never, but from sorrow for them, had reason to grieve at the separation! Most thankfully do I receive the token of your approbation, and most studiously will I endeavour so to dispose of it, as may merit your generous confidence in my conduct.
Your doubts concerning Mr. Macartney give me some uneasiness. Indeed, Sir, he has not the appearance of a man whose sorrows are the effect of guilt. But I hope, before I leave town, to be better acquainted with his situation, and enabled, with more certainty of his worth, to recommend him to your favour.
I am very willing to relinquish all acquaintance with Sir Clement
Willoughby, as far as it may depend upon myself so to do; but, indeed
I know not how I should be able to absolutely forbid him my sight.
Miss Mirvan, in her last letter, informs me that he is now at Howard Grove, where he continues in high favour with the Captain, and is the life and spirit of the house. My time, since I wrote last, has passed very quietly, Madame Duval having been kept at home by a bad cold, and the Branghtons by bad weather. The young man, indeed, has called two or three times; and his behavior, though equally absurd, is more unaccountable than ever: he speaks very little, takes hardly any notice of Madame Duval, and never looks at me without a broad grin. Sometimes he approaches me, as if with intention to communicate intelligence of importance; and then, suddenly stopping short, laughs rudely in my face.
O how happy shall I be, when the worthy Mrs. Clinton arrives!
Yesterday morning, Mr. Smith called to acquaint us that the Hampstead assembly was to be held that evening; and then he presented Madame Duval with one ticket, and brought another to me. I thanked him for his intended civility, but told him I was surprised he had so soon forgotten my having already declined going to the ball.
"Lord, Ma'am," cried he, "how should I suppose you was in earnest? come, come, don't be cross; here's your Grandmama ready to take care of you, so you can have no fair objection, for she'll see that I don't run away with you. Besides, Ma'am, I got the tickets on purpose."
"If you were determined, Sir," said I, "in making me this offer, to allow me no choice of refusal or acceptance, I must think myself less obliged to your intention than I was willing to do."
"Dear Ma'am," cried he, "you're so smart, there is no speaking to you;-indeed you are monstrous smart, Ma'am! but come, your Grandmama shall ask you, and then I know you'll not be so cruel."
Madame Duval was very ready to interfere; she desired me to make no further opposition, said she should go herself, and insisted upon my accompanying her. It was in vain that I remonstrated; I only incurred her anger: and Mr. Smith having given both the tickets to Madame Duval with an air of triumph, said he should call early in the evening, and took leave.
I was much chagrined at being thus compelled to owe even the shadow of an obligation to so forward a young man; but I determined that nothing should prevail upon me to dance with him, however my refusal might give offence.
In the afternoon, when he returned, it was evident that he purposed to both charm and astonish me by his appearance: he was dressed in a very showy manner, but without any taste; and the inelegant smartness of his air and deportment, his visible struggle against education to put on the fine gentleman, added to his frequent conscious glances at a dress to which he was but little accustomed, very effectually destroyed his aim of figuring, and rendered all his efforts useless.
During tea entered Miss Branghton and her brother. I was sorry to observe the consternation of the former, when she perceived Mr. Smith. I had intended applying to her for advice upon this occasion, but had been always deterred by her disagreeable abruptness. Having cast her eyes several times from Mr. Smith to me, with manifest displeasure, she seated herself sullenly in the window, scarce answering Madame Duval's enquiries; and when I spoke to her, turning absolutely away from me.
Mr. Smith, delighted at this mark of his importance, sat indolently quiet on his chair, endeavouring by his looks rather to display, than to conceal, his inward satisfaction.
"Good gracious!" cried young Branghton, "why, you're all as fine as a five-pence! Why, where are you going?"
"To the Hampstead ball," answered Mr. Smith.
"To a ball!" cried he. "Why, what, is aunt going to a ball? Ha, ha, ha!"
"Yes, to be sure," cried Madame Duval; "I don't know nothing need hinder me."
"And pray, aunt, will you dance too?"
"Perhaps I may; but I suppose, Sir, that's none of your business, whether I do or not."
"Lord! well, I should like to go! I should like to see aunt dance of all things! But the joke is, I don't believe she'll get ever a partner."
"You're the most rudest boy ever I see," cried Madame Duval, angrily: "but, I promise you, I'll tell your father what you say, for I've no notion of such vulgarness."
"Why, Lord, aunt, what are you so angry for? there's no speaking a word, but you fly into a passion: you're as bad as Biddy, or Poll, for that, for you're always a-scolding."
"I desire, Tom," cried Miss Branghton, "you'd speak for yourself, and not make so free with my name."
"There, now, she's up! There's nothing but quarrelling with the women; it's my belief they like it better than victuals and drink."
"Fie, Tom," cried Mr. Smith, "you never remember your manners before the ladies: I'm sure you never heard me speak so rude to them."
"Why, Lord, you are a beau; but that's nothing to me. So, if you've a mind, you may be so polite as to dance with aunt yourself." Then, with a loud laugh, he declared it would be good fun to see them.
"Let it be never so good, or never so bad," cried Madame Duval, "you won't see nothing of it, I promise you; so pray don't let me hear no more of such vulgar pieces of fun; for, I assure you, I don't like it. And as to my dancing with Mr. Smith, you may see wonderfuller things than that any day in the week."
"Why, as to that, Ma'am," said Mr. Smith, looking much surprised, "I always thought you intended to play at cards, and so I thought to dance with the young lady."
I gladly seized this opportunity to make my declaration, that I should not dance at all.
"Not dance at all!" repeated Miss Branghton; "yes, that's a likely matter truly, when people go to balls."
"I wish she mayn't," said the brother; "'cause then Mr. Smith will have nobody but aunt for a partner. Lord, how mad he'll be!"
"O, as to that," said Mr. Smith, "I don't at all fear of prevailing with the young lady, if once I get her to the room."
"Indeed, Sir," cried I, much offended by his conceit, "you are mistaken; and therefore I beg leave to undeceive you, as you may be assured my resolution will not alter."
"Then, pray, Miss, if it is not impertinent," cried Miss Branghton, sneeringly, "what do you go for?"
"Merely and solely," answered I, "to comply with the request of
"Miss," cried young Branghton, "Bid only wishes it was she, for she has cast a sheep's eye at Mr. Smith this long while."
"Tom," cried the sister, rising, "I've the greatest mind in the world to box your ears! How dare you say such a thing of me!"
"No, hang it, Tom, no, that's wrong," said Mr. Smith, simpering; "it is indeed, to tell the lady's secrets.-But never mind him, Miss Biddy, for I won't believe him."
"Why, I know Bid would give her ears to go," returned the brother; "but only Mr. Smith likes Miss best,-so does every body else."
While the sister gave him a very angry answer, Mr. Smith said to me in a low voice, "Why now, Ma'am, how can you be so cruel as to be so much handsomer than your cousins? Nobody can look at them when you are by."
"Miss," cried young Branghton, "whatever he says to you don't mind him for he means no good; I'll give you my word for it, he'll never marry you; for he has told me again and again, he'll never marry as long as he lives; besides, if he'd any mind to be married, there's Bid would have had him long ago, and thanked him too."
"Come, come, Tom, don't tell secrets; you'll make the ladies afraid of me: but I assure you," lowering his voice, "if I did marry, it should be your cousin."
Should be!-did you ever, my dear Sir, hear such unauthorised freedom? I looked at him with a contempt I did not wish to repress, and walked to the other end of the room.
Very soon after Mr. Smith sent for a hackney-coach. When I would have taken leave of Miss Branghton, she turned angrily from me, without making any answer. She supposes, perhaps, that I have rather sought, than endeavoured to avoid, the notice and civilities of this conceited young man.
The ball was at the long room at Hampstead.
This room seems very well named, for I believe it would be difficult to find any other epithet which might with propriety distinguish it, as it is without ornament, elegance, or any sort of singularity, and merely to be marked by its length.
I was saved from the importunities of Mr. Smith, the beginning of the evening, by Madame Duval's declaring her intention to dance the first two dances with him herself. Mr. Smith's chagrin was very evident; but as she paid no regard to it, he was necessitated to lead her out.
I was, however, by no means pleased, when she said she was determined to dance a minuet. Indeed, I was quite astonished, not having had the least idea she would have consented to, much less proposed, such an exhibition of her person. She had some trouble to make her intentions known, as Mr. Smith was rather averse to speaking to the master of the ceremonies.
During this minuet, how much did I rejoice in being surrounded only with strangers! She danced in a style so uncommon; her age, her showy dress, and an unusual quantity of rouge, drew upon her the eyes, and I fear the derision, of the whole company. Whom she danced with, I know not; but Mr. Smith was so ill-bred as to laugh at her very openly, and to speak of her with as much ridicule as was in his power. But I would neither look at, nor listen to him, nor would I suffer him to proceed with any speech which he began, expressive to his vexation at being forced to dance with her. I told him, very gravely, that complaints upon such a subject might, with less impropriety, be made to every person in the room than to me.
When she returned to us, she distressed me very much, by asking what I thought of her minuet. I spoke as civilly as I could; but the coldness of my compliment evidently disappointed her. She then called upon Mr. Smith to secure a good place among the country dancers; and away they went, though not before he had taken the liberty to say to me in a low voice, "I protest to you, Ma'am, I shall be quite out of countenance, if any of my acquaintance should see me dancing with the old lady!"
For a few moments I very much rejoiced at being relieved from this troublesome man; but scarce had I time to congratulate myself, before I was accosted by another, who begged the favour of hopping a dance with me.
I told him that I should not dance at all; but he thought proper to importune me, very freely, not to be so cruel; and I was obliged to assume no little haughtiness before I could satisfy him I was serious.
After this, I was addressed much in the same manner, by several other young men; of whom the appearance and language were equally inelegant and low-bred; so that I soon found my situation was both disagreeable and improper, since, as I was quite alone, I fear I must seem rather to invite than to forbid the offers and notice I received; and yet, so great was my apprehension of this interpretation, that I am sure, my dear Sir, you would have laughed had you seen how proudly grave I appeared.
I knew not whether to be glad or sorry, when Madame Duval and Mr. Smith returned. The latter instantly renewed his tiresome intreaties, and Madame Duval said she would go to the card-table; and as soon as she was accommodated, she desired us to join the dancers.
I will not trouble you with the arguments which followed. Mr. Smith teased me till I was weary of resistance; and I should at last have been obliged to submit, had I not fortunately recollected the affair of Mr. Lovel, and told my persecutor, that it was impossible I should dance with him, even if I wished it, as I had refused several persons in his absence.
He was not contented with being extremely chagrined; but took the liberty, openly and warmly, to expostulate with me upon not having said I was engaged.
The total disregard with which, involuntarily, I heard him, made him soon change the subject. In truth, I had no power to attend to him; for all my thoughts were occupied in re-tracing the transactions of the two former balls, at which I had been present. The party-the conversation-the company-O how great the contrast!
In a short time, however, he contrived to draw my attention to himself, by his extreme impertinence; for he chose to express what he called his admiration of me, in terms so open and familiar, that he forced me to express my displeasure with equal plainness.
But how was I surprised, when I found he had the temerity-what else can I call it?-to impute my resentment to doubts of his honour: for he said, "My dear Ma'am, you must be a little patient; I assure you I have no bad designs, I have not upon my word; but, really, there is no resolving upon such a thing as matrimony all at once; what with the loss of one's liberty, and what with the ridicule of all one's acquaintance,-I assure you Ma'am you are the first lady who ever made me even demur upon this subject; for, after all, my dear Ma'am, marriage is the devil."
"Your opinion, Sir," answered I, "of either the married or the single life, can be of no manner of consequence to me; and therefore I would by no means trouble you to discuss their different merits."
"Why, really, Ma'am, as to your being a little out of sorts, I must own I can't wonder at it; for, to be sure, marriage is all in all with the ladies; but with us gentlemen it's quite another thing! Now only put yourself in my place;-suppose you had such a large acquaintance of gentlemen as I have,-and that you had always been used to appear a little-a little smart among them-why, now could you like to let your self down all at once into a married man?"
I could not tell what to answer; so much conceit, and so much ignorance, both astonished and silenced me.
"I assure you, Ma'am," added he, "there is not only Miss Biddy,-though I should have scored to mention her, if her brother had not blab'd, for I'm quite particular in keeping ladies' secrets,-but there are a great many other ladies that have been proposed to me;-but I never thought twice of any of them, that is, not in a serious way:-so you may very well be proud," offering to take my hand; "for I assure you, there is nobody so likely to catch me at last as yourself."
"Sir, "cried I, drawing myself back as haughtily as I could, "you are totally mistaken, if you imagine you have given me any pride I felt not before, by this conversation; on the contrary, you must allow me to tell you, I find it too humiliating to bear with it any longer."
I then placed myself behind the chair of Madame Duval: who, when she heard of the partners I had refused, pitied my ignorance of the world, but no longer insisted upon my dancing.
Indeed, the extreme vanity of this man, makes me exert a spirit which I did not, till now, know that I possessed: but I cannot endure that he should think me at his disposal.
The rest of the evening passed very quietly, as Mr. Smith did not again attempt speaking to me; except, indeed, after we had left the room and while Madam Duval was seating herself in the coach, he said, in a voice of pique, "Next time I take the trouble to get any tickets for a young lady, I'll make a bargain before-hand, that she shan't turn me over to her grandmother."
We came home very safe; and thus ended this so long projected and most disagreeable affair.