Evelina, by Fanny Burney

Letter xxi

Evelina in Continuation

I HAVE a volume to write of the adventures of yesterday. In the afternoon — at Berry Hill I should have said the evening, for it was almost six o’clock — while Miss Mirvan and I were dressing for the opera, and in high spirits from the expectation of great entertainment and pleasure, we heard a carriage stop at the door, and concluded that Sir Clement Willoughby, with his usual assiduity, was come to attend us to the Haymarket; but, in a few moments, what was our surprise to see our chamber door flung open, and the two Miss Branghtons enter the room! They advanced to me with great familiarity, saying, “How do you do, Cousin? — so we’ve caught you at the glass! — well, I’m determined I’ll tell my brother of that!”

Miss Mirvan, who had never before seen them, and could not at first imagine who they were, looked so much astonished, that I was ready to laugh myself, till the eldest said, “We’re come to take you to the opera, Miss; papa and my brother are below, and we are to call for your grand-mama as we go along.”

“I am very sorry,” answered I, “that you should have taken so much trouble, as I am engaged already.”

“Engaged! Lord, Miss, never mind that,” cried the youngest; “this young lady will make your excuses I dare say; it’s only doing as one would be done by, you know.”

“Indeed Ma’am,” said Miss Mirvan, “I shall myself be very sorry to be deprived of Miss Anville’s company this evening.”

“Well, Miss, that is not so very good-natured in you,” said Miss Branghton, “considering we only come to give our cousin pleasure; it’s no good to us; it’s all upon her account; for we came, I don’t know how much round about to take her up.”

“I am extremely obliged to you,” said I, “and very sorry you have lost so much time; but I cannot possibly help it, for I engaged myself without knowing you would call.”

“Lord, what signifies that?” said Miss Polly, “you’re no old maid, and so you needn’t be so very formal: besides I dare say those you are engaged to a’n’t half so near related to you as we are.”

“I must beg you not to press me any further, for I assure you it is not in my power to attend you.”

“Why, we came all out of the city on purpose: besides, your grand-mama expects you; — and, pray, what are we to say to her?”

“Tell her, if you please, that I am much concerned — but that I am pre-engaged.”

“And who to?” demanded the abrupt Miss Branghton.

“To Mrs. Mirvan — and a large party.”

“And, pray, what are you all going to do, that it would be such a mighty matter for you to come along with us?”

“We are all going to — to the opera.”

“O dear, if that be all, why can’t we go altogether?”

I was extremely disconcerted at this forward and ignorant behaviour, and yet their rudeness very much lessened my concern at refusing them. Indeed, their dress was such as would have rendered their scheme of accompanying our party impracticable, even if I had desired it; and this, as they did not themselves find it out, I was obliged, in terms the least mortifying I could think of, to tell them.

They were very much chagrined, and asked where I should sit.

“In the pit,” answered I.

“In the pit,” repeated Miss Branghton; “well, really, I must own, I should never have supposed that my gown was not good enough for the pit: but come, Polly, let’s go; if Miss does not think us fine enough for her, why to be sure she may choose.”

Surprised at this ignorance, I would have explained to them, that the pit at the opera required the same dress as the boxes; but they were so much affronted they would not hear me; and, in great displeasure, left the room, saying, they would not have troubled me, only they thought I should not be proud with my own relations, and that they had at least as good a right to my company as strangers.

I endeavoured to apologize, and would have sent a long message to Madame Duval: but they hastened away without listening to me; and I could not follow them down stairs, because I was not dressed. The last words I heard them say were, “Well, her grandmama will be in a fine passion, that’s one good thing.”

Though I was extremely mad at this visit, yet I so heartily rejoiced at their going, that I would not suffer myself to think gravely about it.

Soon after, Sir Clement actually came, and we all went down stairs. Mrs. Mirvan ordered tea; and we were engaged in a very lively conversation, when the servant announced Madame Duval, who instantly followed him into the room.

Her face was the colour of scarlet, and her eyes sparkled with fury. She came up to me with a hasty step, saying, “So, Miss, you refuses to come to me, do you? And pray who are you, to dare to disobey me?”

I was quite frightened; — I made no answer; — I even attempted to rise, and could not, but sat still, mute and motionless.

Everybody but Miss Mirvan seemed in the utmost astonishment; and the Captain rising and approaching Madame Duval, with a voice of authority, said, “Why, how now, Mrs. Turkey-cock, what’s put you into this here fluster?”

“It’s nothing to you,” answered she, “so you may as well hold your tongue; for I shan’t be called to no account by you, I assure you.”

“There you’re out, Madame Fury,” returned he; “for you must know, I never suffer anybody to be in a passion in my house, but myself.”

“But you shall,” cried she, in a great rage; “for I’ll be in as great a passion as ever I please, without asking your leave: so don’t give yourself no more airs about it. And as for you Miss,” again advancing to me, “I order you to follow me this moment, or else I’ll make you repent it all your life.” And, with these words, she flung out of the room.

I was in such extreme terror, at being addressed and threatened in a manner to which I am so wholly unused, that I almost thought I should have fainted.

“Don’t be alarmed, my love,” cried Mrs. Mirvan, “but stay where you are, and I will follow Madame Duval, and try to bring her to reason.”

Miss Mirvan took my hand, and most kindly endeavoured to raise my spirits. Sir Clement, too, approached me, with an air so interested in my distress, that I could not but feel myself obliged to him; and, taking my other hand, said, “For Heaven’s sake, my dear Madam, compose yourself: surely the violence of such a wretch ought merely to move your contempt; she can have no right, I imagine, to lay her commands upon you, and I only wish that you would allow me to speak to her.”

“O no! not for the world! — indeed, I believe — I am afraid — I had better follow her.”

“Follow her! Good God, my dear Miss Anville, would you trust yourself with a mad woman? for what else can you call a creature whose passions are so insolent? No, no; send her word at once to leave the house, and tell her you desire that she will never see you again.”

“O, Sir! you don’t know who you talk of! — it would ill become me to send Madame Duval such a message.”

“But why,” cried he, (looking very inquisitive,) “why should you scruple to treat her as she deserves?”

I then found that his aim was to discover the nature of her connection with me; but I felt so much ashamed of my near relationship to her, that I could not persuade myself to answer him, and only intreated that he would leave her to Mrs. Mirvan, who just then entered the room.

Before she could speak to me, the Captain, called out, “Well, Goody, what have you done with Madame French? is she cooled a little? cause if she ben’t, I’ve just thought of a most excellent device to bring her to.”

“My dear Evelina,” said Mrs. Mirvan, “I have been vainly endeavouring to appease her; I pleaded your engagement, and promised your future attendance: but I am sorry to say, my love, that I fear her rage will end in a total breach (which I think you had better avoid) if she is any further opposed.”

“Then I will go to her, Madam,” cried I; “and, indeed, it is now no matter, for I should not be able to recover my spirits sufficiently to enjoy much pleasure any where this evening.”

Sir Clement began a very warm expostulation and intreaty, that I would not go; but I begged him to desist, and told him, very honestly, that, if my compliance were not indispensably necessary I should require no persuasion to stay. He then took my hand, to lead me down stairs; but the Captain desired him to be quiet, saying he would ‘squire me himself, “because” he added, (exultingly rubbing his hands) “I have a wipe ready for the old lady, which may serve her to chew as she goes along.”

We found her in the parlour, “O you’re come at last, Miss, are you? — fine airs you give yourself, indeed! — ma foi, if you hadn’t come, you might have staid, I assure you, and have been a beggar, for your pains.”

“Heyday, Madam,” cried the Captain, (prancing forward, with a look of great glee) “what, a’n’t you got out of that there passion yet? why then, I’ll tell you what to do to cool yourself; call upon your old friend, Monseer Slippery, who was with you at Ranelagh, and give my service to him, and tell him, if he sets any store by your health, that I desire he’ll give you such another souse as he did before: he’ll know what I mean, and I’ll warrant you he’ll do’t for my sake.”

“Let him, if he dares!” cried Madame Duval; “but I shan’t stay to answer you no more; you are a vulgar fellow; — and so, child, let us leave him to himself.”

“Hark ye, Madam,” cried the Captain, “you’d best not call names; because, d’ye see, if you do, I shall make bold to shew you the door.”

She changed colour, and saying, “Pardi, I can shew it myself,” hurried out of the room, and I followed her into a hackney-coach. But, before we drove off, the Captain, looking out of the parlour window, called out “D’ye hear, Madam, don’t forget my message to Monseer.”

You will believe our ride was not the most agreeable in the world; indeed, it would be difficult to say which was least pleased, Madame Duval or me, though the reasons of our discontent were so different: however, Madame Duval soon got the start of me; for we had hardly turned out of Queen Ann Street, when a man, running full speed, stopt the coach. He came up to the window, and I saw he was the Captain’s servant. He had a broad grin on his face, and panted for breath. Madame Duval demanded his business: “Madam,” answered he, “my master desires his compliments to you, and — and — and he says he wishes it well over with you. He! he! he! —”

Madame Duval instantly darted forward, and gave him a violent blow on the face; “Take that back for your answer, sirrah,” cried she, “and learn not to grin at your betters another time. Coachman, drive on!”

The servant was in a violent passion, and swore terribly; but we were soon out of hearing.

The rage of Madame Duval was greater than ever; and she inveighed against the Captain with such fury, that I was even apprehensive she would have returned to his house, purposely to reproach him, which she repeatedly threatened to do; nor would she, I believe, have hesitated a moment, but that, notwithstanding her violence, he has really made her afraid of him.

When we came to her lodgings we found all the Branghtons in the passage, impatiently waiting for us with the door open.

“Only see, here’s Miss!” cried the brother.

“Well, I declare I thought as much!” said the younger sister.

“Why, Miss,” said Mr. Branghton, “I think you might as well have come with your cousins at once; it’s throwing money in the dirt, to pay two coaches for one fare.”

“Lord, father,” cried the son, “make no words about that; for I’ll pay for the coach that Miss had.”

“O, I know very well,” answered Mr. Branghton, “that you’re always more ready to spend than to earn.”

I then interfered, and begged that I might myself be allowed to pay the fare, as the expense was incurred upon my account; they all said no, and proposed that the same coach should carry us to the opera.

While this passed the Miss Branghtons were examining my dress, which, indeed, was very improper for my company; and, as I was extremely unwilling to be so conspicuous amongst them, I requested Madame Duval to borrow a hat or bonnet for me of the people of the house. But she never wears either herself, and thinks them very English and barbarous; therefore she insisted that I should go full dressed, as I had prepared myself for the pit, though I made many objections.

We were then all crowded into the same carriage; but when we arrived at the opera-house, I contrived to pay the coachman. They made a great many speeches; but Mr. Branghton’s reflection had determined me not to be indebted to him.

If I had not been too much chagrined to laugh, I should have been extremely diverted at their ignorance of whatever belongs to an opera. In the first place they could not tell at what door we ought to enter, and we wandered about for some time, without knowing which way to turn: they did not choose to apply to me, though I was the only person of the party who had ever before been at an opera; because they were unwilling to suppose that their country counsin, as they were pleased to call me, should be better acquainted with any London public place than themselves. I was very indifferent and careless upon this subject; but not a little uneasy at finding that my dress, so different from that of the company to which I belonged, attracted general notice and observation.

In a short time, however, we arrived at one of the door-keeper’s bars. Mr. Branghton demanded for what part of the house they took money? They answered, the pit; and regarded us all with great earnestness. The son then advancing, said “Sir, if you please, I beg that I may treat Miss.”

“We’ll settle that another time,” answered Mr. Branghton, and put down a guinea.

Two tickets of admission were given to him.

Mr. Branghton, in his turn, now stared at the door-keeper, and demanded what he meant by giving him only two tickets for a guinea.

“Only two, Sir!” said the man; “why, don’t you know that the tickets are half-a-guinea each?”

“Half-a-guinea each!” repeated Mr. Branghton, “why, I never heard of such a thing in my life! And pray, Sir, how many will they admit?”

“Just as usual, Sir, one person each.”

“But one person for half-a-guinea! — why, I only want to sit in the pit, friend.”

“Had not the ladies better sit in the gallery, Sir; for they’ll hardly choose to go into the pit with their hats on?”

“O, as to that,” cried Miss Branghton, “if our hats are too high we’ll take them off when we get in. I sha’n’t mind, it, for I did my hair on purpose.”

Another party then approaching, the door-keeper could no longer attend to Mr. Branghton; who, taking up the guinea, told him it should be long enough before he’d see it again, and walked away.

The young ladies, in some confusion, expressed their surprise that their papa should not know the opera prices, which, for their parts, they had read in the papers a thousand times.

“The price of stocks,” said he, “is enough for me to see after; and I took it for granted it was the same thing here as at the playhouse.”

“I knew well enough what the price was,” said the son; “but I would not speak, because I thought perhaps they’d take less, as we’re such a large party.”

The sisters both laughed very contemptuously at this idea, and asked him if he ever heard of people’s abating any thing at a public place? I don’t know whether I have or not,” answered he; “but I am sure if they would, you’d like it so much the worse.”

“Very true, Tom,” cried Mr. Branghton; “tell a woman that any thing is reasonable, and she’ll be sure to hate it.”

“Well,” said Miss Polly, “I hope that aunt and Miss will be of our side, for papa always takes part with Tom.”

“Come, come,” cried Madame Duval, “if you stand talking here, we shan’t get no place at all.”

Mr. Branghton then enquired the way to the gallery; and, when we came to the door-keeper, demanded what was to pay.

“The usual price, Sir,” said the man.

“Then give me change,” cried Mr. Branghton, again putting down his guinea.

“For how many, Sir?”

“Why — let’s see — for six.”

“For six, Sir? why, you’re given me but a guinea.”

“But a guinea! why, how much would you have? I suppose it is’n’t half-a-guinea a piece here too?”

“No, Sir, only five shillings.”

Mr. Branghton again took up his unfortunate guinea, and protested he would not submit to no such imposition. I then proposed that we should return home, but Madame Duval would not consent; and we were conducted, by a woman who sells books of the opera, to another gallery-door, where, after some disputing, Mr. Branghton at last paid, and we all went up stairs.

Madame Duval complained very much of the trouble of going so high: but Mr. Branghton desired her not to hold the place too cheap; “for, whatever you think,” cried he, “I assure you I paid pit price; so don’t suppose I come here to save my money.”

“Well, to be sure,” said Miss Branghton, “there’s no judging of a place by the outside, else, I must needs say, there’s nothing very extraordinary in the stair-case.”

But, when we entered the gallery their amazement and disappointment became general. For a few instants, they looked at one another without speaking, and then they all broke silence at once.

“Lord, papa,” exclaimed Miss Polly, “why, you have brought us to the one-shilling gallery!”

“I’ll be glad to give you two shillings, though,” answered he, “to pay. I was never so fooled out of my money before, since the house of my birth. Either the door-keeper’s a knave, or this is the greatest imposition that ever was put upon the public.”

“Ma foi,” cried Madame Duval, “I never sat in such a mean place in all my life; — why, it’s as high — we shan’t see nothing.”

“I thought at the time,” said Mr. Branghton, “that three shillings was an exorbitant price for a place in the gallery: but as we’d been asked so much at the other doors, why I paid it without many words; but, then, to be sure, thinks I, it can never be like any other gallery, we shall see some crinkum-crankum or other for our money; but I find it’s as arrant a take-in as ever I met with.”

“Why, it’s as like the twelve-penny gallery at Drury Lane,” cried the son, “as two peas are to one another. I never knew father so bit before.”

“Lord,” said Miss Branghton, “I thought it would have been quite a fine place — all over, I don’t know what — and done quite in taste.”

In this manner they continued to express their dissatisfaction till the curtain drew up; after which their observations were very curious.

They made no allowance for the customs, or even for the language, of another country; but formed all their remarks upon comparisons with the English theatre.

Notwithstanding my vexation at having been forced into a party so very disagreeable, and that, too, from one so much — so very much the contrary — yet, would they have suffered me to listen, I should have forgotten every thing unpleasant, and felt nothing but delight in hearing the sweet voice of Signor Millico, the first singer; but they tormented me with continual talking.

“What a jabbering they make!” cried Mr. Branghton, “there’s no knowing a word they say. Pray, what’s the reason they can’t as well sing in English? — but I suppose the fine folks would not like it, if they could understand it.”

“How unnatural their action is!” said the son: “why, now, who ever saw an Englishman put himself in such out-of-the-way postures?”

“For my part,” said Miss Polly, “I think it’s very pretty, only I don’t know what it means.”

“Lord, what does that signify,” cried her sister; “mayn’t one like a thing without being so very particular? — You may see that Miss likes it, and I don’t suppose she knows more of the matter than we do.”

A gentleman, soon after, was so obliging as to make room in the front row for Miss Branghton and me. We had no sooner seated ourselves, than Miss Branghton exclaimed, “Good gracious! only see! — why, Polly, all the people in the pit are without hats, dressed like anything!”

“Lord, so they are,” cried Miss Polly; “well, I never saw the like! — it’s worth coming to the opera, if one saw nothing else.”

I was then able to distinguish the happy party I had left; and I saw that Lord Orville had seated himself next to Mrs. Mirvan. Sir Clement had his eyes perpetually cast towards the five-shilling gallery, where I suppose he concluded that we were seated; however, before the opera was over, I have reason to believe that he had discovered me, high and distant as I was from him. Probably he distinguished me by my head-dress.

At the end of the first act, as the green curtain dropped to prepare for the dance, they imagined that the opera was done; and Mr. Branghton expressed great indignation that he had been tricked out of his money with so little trouble. “Now, if any Englishman was to do such an impudent thing as this,” said he, “why, he’d be pelted; — but here, one of these outlandish gentry may do just what he pleases, and come on, and squeak out a song or two, and then pocket your money without further ceremony.”

However, so determined he was to be dissatisfied, that, before the conclusion of the third act, he found still more fault with the opera for being too long; and wondered whether they thought their singing good enough to serve us for supper.

During the symphony of a song of Signor Millico’s, in the second act, young Mr. Branghton said, “It’s my belief that that fellow’s going to sing another song! — why, there’s nothing but singing! — I wonder when they’ll speak.”

This song, which was slow and pathetic, caught all my attention, and I leaned my head forward to avoid hearing their observations, that I might listen without interruption: but, upon turning round, when the song was over, I found that I was the object of general diversion to the whole party; for the Miss Branghtons were tittering, and the two gentlemen making signs and faces at me, implying their contempt of my affectation.

This discovery determined me to appear as inattentive as themselves; but I was very much provoked at being thus prevented enjoying the only pleasure, which, in such a party, was within my power.

“So Miss,” said Mr. Branghton, “you’re quite in the fashion, I see — so you like operas? Well, I’m not so polite; I can’t like nonsense, let it be never so much the taste.”

“But pray, Miss,” said the son, “what makes that fellow look so doleful while he is singing?”

“Probably because the character he performs is in distress.”

“Why, then, I think he might as well let alone singing till he’s in better cue: it’s out of all nature for a man to be piping when he’s in distress. For my part, I never sing but when I’m merry; yet I love a song as well as most people.”

When the curtain dropt they all rejoiced.

“How do you like it?”— and “How do you like it?” passed from one to another with looks of the utmost contempt. “As for me,” said Mr. Branghton, “they’ve caught me once; but if ever they do again, I’ll give ’em leave to sing me to Bedlam for my pains: for such a heap of stuff never did I hear: there isn’t one ounce of sense in the whole opera, nothing but one continued squeaking and squalling from beginning to end.”

“If I had been in the pit,” said Madame Duval, “I should have liked it vastly, for music is my passion; but sitting in such a place as this, is quite unbearable.”

Miss Branghton, looking at me, declared, that she was not genteel enough to admire it.

Miss Polly confessed, that, if they would but sing English, she would like it very well.

The brother wished he could raise a riot in the house, because then he might get his money again.

And, finally, they all agreed that it was monstrous dear.

During the last dance, I perceived standing near the gallery-door, Sir Clement Willoughby. I was extremely vexed, and would have given the world to have avoided being seen by him: my chief objection was, from the apprehension that he would hear Miss Branghton call me cousin. — I fear you will think this London journey has made me grow very proud; but indeed this family is so low-bred and vulgar, that I should be equally ashamed of such a connection in the country, or anywhere. And really I had already been so much chagrined that Sir Clement had been a witness of Madame Duval’s power over me, that I could not bear to be exposed to any further mortification.

As the seats cleared, by parties going away, Sir Clement approached nearer to us. The Miss Branghtons observed with surprise, what a fine gentleman was come into the gallery; and they gave me great reason to expect, that they would endeavour to attract his notice, by familiarity with me, whenever he should join us; and so I formed a sort of plan to prevent any conversation. I’m afraid you will think it wrong; and so I do myself now; — but, at the time, I only considered how I might avoid immediate humiliation.

As soon as he was within two seats of us, he spoke to me: “I am very happy, Miss Anville, to have found you, for the ladies below have each an humble attendant, and therefore I am come to offer my services here.”

“Why then,” cried I, (not without hesitating) “if you please — I will join them.”

“Will you allow me the honour of conducting you?” cried he eagerly; and, instantly taking my hand, he would have marched away with me: but I turned to Madame Duval, and said, “As our party is so large, Madame, if you will give me leave, I will go down to Mrs. Mirvan, that I may not crowd you in the coach.”

And then, without waiting for an answer, I suffered Sir Clement to hand me out of the gallery.

Madame Duval, I doubt not, will be very angry; and so I am with myself now, and therefore I cannot be surprised: but Mr. Branghton, I am sure, will easily comfort himself, in having escaped the additional coach-expense of carrying me to Queen Ann Street; as to his daughters, they had no time to speak; but I saw they were in utter amazement.

My intention was to join Mrs. Mirvan, and accompany her home. Sir Clement was in high spirits and good humour; and all the way he went, I was fool enough to rejoice in secret at the success of my plan; nor was it till I got down stairs, and amidst the servants, that any difficulty occurred to me of meeting with my friends.

I then asked Sir Clement, how I should contrive to acquaint Mrs. Mirvan that I had left Madame Duval?

“I fear it will be almost impossible to find her,” answered he; “but you can have no objection to permitting me to see you safe home.”

He then desired his servant, who was waiting, to order his chariot to draw up.

This quite startled me; I turned to him hastily, and said that I could not think of going away without Mrs. Mirvan.

“But how can we meet with her?” cried he; “you will not choose to go into the pit yourself; I cannot send a servant there; and it is impossible for me to go and leave you alone.”

The truth of this was indisputable, and totally silenced me. Yet, as soon as I could recollect myself, I determined not to go into his chariot, and told him I believed I had best return to my party up stairs.

He would not hear of this; and earnestly intreated me not to withdraw the trust I had reposed in him.

While he was speaking, I saw Lord Orville, with several ladies and gentlemen, coming from the pit passage: unfortunately he saw me too, and, leaving his company, advanced instantly towards me, and with an air and voice of surprise, said, “Good God, do I see Miss Anville!”

I now most severely felt the folly of my plan, and the awkwardness of my situation: however, I hastened to tell him, though in a hesitating manner, that I was waiting for Mrs. Mirvan; but what was my disappointment, when he acquainted me that she was already gone home!

I was inexpressibly distressed; to suffer Lord Orville to think me satisfied with the single protection of Sir Clement Willoughby, I could not bear; yet I was more than ever averse to returning to a party which I dreaded his seeing. I stood some moments in suspense, and could not help exclaiming, “Good Heaven, what can I do!”

“Why, my dear madam,” cried Sir Clement, “should you be thus uneasy? — you will reach Queen Ann Street almost as soon as Mrs. Mirvan, and I am sure you cannot doubt being as safe.”

I made no answer, and Lord Orville then said, “My coach is here; and my servants are ready to take any commands Miss Anville will honour me with for them. I shall myself go home in a chair, and therefore —”

How grateful did I feel for a proposal so considerate, and made with so much delicacy! I should gladly have accepted it, had I been permitted, but Sir Clement would not let him even finish his speech; he interrupted him with evident displeasure, and said, “My Lord, my own chariot is now at the door.”

And just then the servant came, and told him the carriage was ready. He begged to have the honour of conducting me to it, and would have taken my hand; but I drew it back, saying, “I can’t — I can’t indeed! pray go by yourself — and as to me, let me have a chair.”

“Impossible,” cried he with vehemence, “I cannot think of trusting you with strange chairmen — I cannot answer it to Mrs. Mirvan; — come, dear Madam, we shall be home in five minutes.”

Again I stood suspended. With what joy would I then have compromised with my pride, to have been once more with Madame Duval and the Branghtons, provided I had not met with Lord Orville! However, I flatter myself that he not only saw but pitied my embarrassment; for he said in a tone of voice unusually softened, “To offer my services in the presence of Sir Clement Willoughby would be superfluous; but I hope I need not assure Miss Anville how happy it would make me to be of the least use to her.”

I courtsied my thanks. Sir Clement, with great earnestness, pressed me to go; and while I was thus uneasily deliberating what to do, the dance, I suppose, finished, for the people crowded down stairs. Had Lord Orville then repeated his offer, I would have accepted it notwithstanding Sir Clement’s repugnance; but I fancy he thought it would be impertinent. In a very few minutes I heard Madame Duval’s voice, as she descended from the gallery. “Well,” cried I hastily, “if I must go —” I stopt; but Sir Clement immediately handed me into his chariot, called out, “Queen Ann Street,” and then jumped in himself. Lord Orville, with a bow and a half smile, wished me good night.

My concern was so great at being seen and left by Lord Orville in so strange a situation, that I should have been best pleased to have remained wholly silent during our ride home; but Sir Clement took care to prevent that.

He began by making many complaints of my unwillingness to trust myself with him, and begged to know what could be the reason? This question so much embarrassed me, that I could not tell what to answer; but only said, that I was sorry to have taken up so much of his time.

“O Miss Anville,” cried he, taking my hand, “if you knew with what transport I would dedicate to you not only the present but all the future time allotted to me, you would not injure me by making such an apology.”

I could not think of a word to say to this, nor to a great many other equally fine speeches with which he ran on; though I would fain have withdrawn my hand, and made almost continual attempts; but in vain, for he actually grasped it between both his, without any regard to my resistance.

Soon after, he said that he believed the coachman was going the wrong way; and he called to his servant, and gave him directions. Then again addressing himself to me, “How often, how assiduously have I sought an opportunity of speaking to you, without the presence of that brute, Captain Mirvan! Fortune has now kindly favoured me with one; and permit me,” again seizing my hand, “permit me to use it in telling you that I adore you.”

I was quite thunderstruck at this abrupt and unexpected declaration. For some moments I was silent; but when I recovered from my surprise, I said, “Indeed, Sir, if you were determined to make me repent leaving my own party so foolishly, you have very well succeeded.”

“My dearest life,” cried he, “is it possible you can be so cruel? Can your nature and your countenance be so totally opposite? Can the sweet bloom upon those charming cheeks, which appears as much the result of good-humour as of beauty —”

“O, Sir,” cried I, interrupting him, “this is very fine; but I had hoped we had had enough of this sort of conversation at the ridotto, and I did not expect you would so soon resume it.”

“What I then said, my sweet reproacher, was the effect of a mistaken, a profane idea, that your understanding held no competition with your beauty; but now, now that I find you equally incomparable in both, all words, all powers of speech, are too feeble to express the admiration I feel of your excellencies.”

“Indeed,” cried I, “if your thoughts had any connection with your language, you would never suppose that I could give credit to praise so very much above my desert.”

This speech, which I made very gravely, occasioned still stronger protestations; which he continued to pour forth, and I continued to disclaim, till I began to wonder that we were not in Queen Ann Street, and begged he would desire the coachman to drive faster.

“And does this little moment,” cried he, “which is the first of happiness I have ever known, does it already appear so very long to you?”

“I am afraid the man has mistaken the way,” answered I, “or else we should ere now have been at our journey’s end. I must beg you will speak to him.”

“And can you think me so much my own enemy? — if my good genius has inspired the man with a desire of prolonging my happiness, can you expect that I should counteract its indulgence?”

I now began to apprehend that he had himself ordered the man to go a wrong way; and I was so much alarmed at the idea, that, the very instant it occurred to me, I let down the glass, and made a sudden effort to open the chariot-door myself, with a view of jumping into the street; but he caught hold of me, exclaiming, “For Heaven’s sake, what is the matter?”

“I— I don’t know,” cried I (quite out of breath), “but I am sure the man goes wrong; and if you will not speak to him, I am determined I will get out myself.”

“You amaze me,” answered he (still holding me), “I cannot imagine what you apprehend. Surely you can have no doubts of my honour?”

He drew me towards him as he spoke. I was frightened dreadfully, and could hardly say, “No, Sir, no — none at all: only Mrs. Mirvan — I think she will be uneasy.”

“Whence this alarm, my dearest angel? — What can you fear? — my life is at your devotion, and can you, then, doubt my protection?”

And so saying, he passionately kissed my hand.

Never, in my whole life, have I been so terrified. I broke forcibly from him, and, putting my head out of the window, called aloud to the man to stop. Where we then were, I know not; but I saw not a human being, or I should have called for help.

Sir Clement, with great earnestness, endeavoured to appease and compose me: “If you do not intend to murder me,” cried I, “for mercy’s, for pity’s sake, let me get out!”

“Compose your spirits, my dearest life,” cried he, “and I will do everything you would have me.” And then he called to the man himself, and bid him make haste to Queen Ann Street. “This stupid fellow,” continued he, “has certainly mistaken my orders; but I hope you are now fully satisfied.”

I made no answer, but kept my head at the window watching which way he drove, but without any comfort to myself, as I was quite unacquainted with either the right or the wrong.

Sir Clement now poured forth abundant protestations of honour, and assurances of respect, intreating my pardon for having offended me, and beseeching my good opinion: but I was quite silent, having too much apprehension to make reproaches, and too much anger to speak without.

In this manner we went through several streets, till at last, to my great terror, he suddenly ordered the man to stop, and said, “Miss Anville, we are now within twenty yards of your house; but I cannot bear to part with you, till you generously forgive me for the offence you have taken, and promise not to make it known to the Mirvan’s.”

I hesitated between fear and indignation.

“Your reluctance to speak redoubles my contrition for having displeased you, since it shews the reliance I might have on a promise which you will not give without consideration.”

“I am very, very much distressed,” cried I; “you ask a promise which you must be sensible I ought not to grant, and yet dare not refuse.”

“Drive on!” cried he to the coachman; —“Miss Anville, I will not compel you; I will exact no promise, but trust wholly to your generosity.”

This rather softened me; which advantage he no sooner received, than he determined to avail himself of; for he flung himself on his knees, and pleaded with so much submission, that I was really obliged to forgive him, because his humiliation made me quite ashamed: and, after that, he would not let me rest till I gave him my word that I would not complain of him to Mrs. Mirvan.

My own folly and pride, which had put me in his power, were pleas which I could not but attend to in his favour. However, I shall take very particular care never to be again alone with him.

When, at last, we arrived at our house, I was so overjoyed, that I should certainly have pardoned him then, if I had not before. As he handed me up stairs, he scolded his servant aloud, and very angrily, for having gone so much out of the way. Miss Mirvan ran out to meet me; — and who should I see behind her, but Lord Orville!

All my joy now vanished, and gave place to shame and confusion; for I could not endure that he should know how long a time Sir Clement and I had been together, since I was not at liberty to assign any reason for it.

They all expressed great satisfaction at seeing me; and said they had been extremely uneasy and surprised that I was so long coming home, as they had heard from Lord Orville that I was not with Madame Duval. Sir Clement, in an affected passion, said, that his booby of a servant had misunderstood his orders, and was driving us to the upper end of Piccadilly. For my part, I only coloured; for though I would not forfeit my word, I yet disdained to confirm a tale in which I had myself no belief.

Lord Orville, with great politeness, congratulated me, that the troubles of the evening had so happily ended; and said, that he had found it impossible to return home, before he enquired after my safety.

In a very short time he took his leave, and Sir Clement followed him. As soon as they were gone, Mrs. Mirvan, though with great softness, blamed me for having quitted Madame Duval. I assured her, and with truth, that for the future I would be more prudent.

The adventures of the evening so much disconcerted me, that I could not sleep all night. I am under the most cruel apprehensions lest Lord Orville should suppose my being on the gallery-stairs with Sir Clement was a concerted scheme, and even that our continuing so long together in his chariot was with my approbation, since I did not say a word on the subject, nor express my dissatisfaction at the coachman’s pretended blunder.

Yet his coming hither to wait our arrival though it seems to imply some doubt, shews also some anxiety. Indeed, Miss Mirvan says, that he appeared extremely anxious, nay, uneasy and impatient for my return. If I did not fear to flatter myself, I should think it not impossible but that he had a suspicion of Sir Clement’s design, and was therefore concerned for my safety.

What a long letter is this! however, I shall not write many more from London; for the Captain said this morning, that he would leave town on Tuesday next. Madame Duval will dine here today, and then she is to be told his intention.

I am very much amazed that she accepted Mrs. Mirvan’s invitation, as she was in such wrath yesterday. I fear that today I shall myself be the principal object of her displeasure; but I must submit patiently, for I cannot defend myself.

Adieu, my dearest Sir. Should this letter be productive of any uneasiness to you, more than ever shall I repent the heedless imprudence which it recites.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burney/fanny/evelina/letter21.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32