Evelina, by Fanny Burney

Letter liv.

Evelina in Continuation.

July 3rd.

O SIR, how much uneasiness must I suffer, to counterbalance one short morning of happiness!

Yesterday the Branghtons proposed a party to Kensington Gardens; and, as usual, Madame Duval insisted upon my attendance.

We went in a hackney-coach to Piccadilly, and then had a walk through Hyde Park; which in any other company would have been delightful. I was much pleased with Kensington Gardens, and think them infinitely preferable to those of Vauxhall.

Young Branghton was extremely troublesome; he insisted upon walking by my side, and talked with me almost by compulsion; however, my reserve and coldness prevented his entering upon the hateful subject which Madame Duval had prepared me to apprehend. Once, indeed, when I was accidentally a few yards before the rest, he said, “I suppose, Miss, aunt has told you about — you know what? — ha’n’t she, Miss?”— But I turned from him without making any answer. Neither Mr. Smith nor Mr. Brown were of the party; and poor M. Du Bois, when he found that I avoided him, looked so melancholy, that I was really sorry for him.

While we were strolling round the garden, I perceived, walking with a party of ladies at some distance, Lord Orville! I instantly retreated behind Miss Branghton, and kept out of sight till we had passed him; for I dreaded being seen by him again in a public walk with a party of which I was ashamed.

Happily I succeeded in my design, and saw no more of him; for a sudden and violent shower of rain made us all hasten out of the gardens. We ran till we came to a small green-shop, where we begged shelter. Here we found ourselves in company with two footmen, whom the rain had driven into the shop. Their livery I thought I had before seen; and, upon looking from the window, I perceived the same upon a coachman belonging to a carriage, which I immediately recollected to be Lord Orville’s.

Fearing to be know, I whispered Miss Branghton not to speak my name. Had I considered but a moment, I should have been sensible of the inutility of such a caution, since not one of the party call me by any other appellation than that of Cousin or of Miss; but I am perpetually involved in some distress or dilemma from my own heedlessness.

This request excited very strongly her curiosity: and she attacked me with such eagerness and bluntness of enquiry, that I could not avoid telling her the reason of my making it, and, consequently, that I was known to Lord Orville: an acknowledgment which proved the most unfortunate in the world; for she would not rest till she had drawn from me the circumstances attending my first making the acquaintance. Then, calling to her sister, she said, “Lord, Polly, only think! Miss has danced with a Lord!”

“Well,” cried Polly, “that’s a thing I should never have thought of! And pray, Miss, what did he say to you?”

This question was much sooner asked than answered; and they both became so very inquisitive and earnest, that they soon drew the attention of Madame Duval and the rest of the party; to whom, in a very short time, they repeated all they had gathered from me.

“Goodness, then,” cried young Branghton, “if I was Miss, if I would not make free with his Lordship’s coach, to take me to town.”

“Why, ay,” said the father, “there would be some sense in that; that would be making some use of a Lord’s acquaintance, for it would save us coach-hire.”

“Lord, Miss,” cried Polly, “I wish you would; for I should like of all things to ride in a coronet-coach.”

“I promise you,” said Madame Duval, “I’m glad you’ve thought of it, for I don’t see no objection; — so let’s have the coachman called.”

“Not for the world,” cried I, very much alarmed: “indeed it is utterly impossible.”

“Why so?” demanded Mr. Branghton: “pray, where’s the good of your knowing a Lord, if your never the better for him?”

“Ma foi, child,” said Madame Duval, “you don’t know no more of the world that if you was a baby. Pray, Sir, (to one of the footmen) tell that coachman to draw up, for I wants to speak to him.”

The man stared, but did not move. “Pray, pray, Madame,” said I, “pray, Mr. Branghton, have the goodness to give up this plan; I know but very little of his Lordship, and cannot, upon any account, take so great a liberty.”

“Don’t say nothing about it,” said Madam Duval, “for I shall have it my own way: so, if you won’t call the coachman, Sir, I’ll promise you I’ll call him myself.”

The footman, very impertinently, laughed and turned upon his heel. Madame Duval, extremely irritated, ran out in the rain, and beckoned the coachman, who instantly obeyed her summons. Shocked beyond all expression, I flew after her, and entreated her, with the utmost earnestness, to let us return in a hackney coach:— but, oh! — she is impenetrable to persuasion! She told the man she wanted him to carry her directly to town, and that she would answer for him to Lord Orville. The man, with a sneer, thanked her, but said he should answer for himself; and was driving off; when another footman came up to him, with information that his Lord was gone into Kensington Palace, and would not want him for an hour or two.

“Why, then, friend,” said Mr. Branghton (for we were followed by all the party), “where will be the great harm of your taking us to town?”

“Besides,” said the son, “I’ll promise you a pot of beer for my own share.”

These speeches had no other answer from the coachman than a loud laugh, which was echoed by the insolent footmen. I rejoiced at their resistance; though I was certain that, if their Lord had witnessed their impertinence, they would have been instantly dismissed his service.

“Pardi,” cried Madame Duval, “if I don’t think all the footmen are the most impudentest fellows in the kingdom! But I’ll promise you I’ll have your master told of your airs; so you’ll get no good by ’em.”

“Why, pray,” said the coachman, rather alarmed, “did my Lord give you leave to use the coach?”

“It’s no matter for that,” answered she; “I’m sure if he’s a gentleman, he’d let us have it sooner than we should be wet to the skin; but I’ll promise you he shall know how saucy you’ve been, for this young lady knows him very well.”

“Ay, that she does,” said Miss Polly; “and she’s danced with him too.”

Oh, how I repented my foolish mismanagement! The men bit their lips, and looked at one another in some confusion. This was perceived by our party; who, taking advantage of it, protested they would write Lord Orville word of their ill behaviour without delay. This quite startled them; and one of the footmen offered to run to the palace, and ask his Lord’s permission for our having the carriage.

This proposal really made me tremble, and the Branghtons all hung back upon it; but Madame Duval is never to be dissuaded from a scheme she has once formed. “Do so,” cried she; “and give this child’s compliments to your master; and tell him, as we ha’n’t no coach here, we should be glad to go just as far as Holborn in his.”

“No, no, no!” cried I; “don’t go — I know nothing of his Lordship — I send no message — I have nothing to say to him!”

The men, very much perplexed, could with difficulty restrain themselves from resuming their impertinent mirth. Madame Duval scolded me vary angrily, and then desired them to go directly. “Pray, then,” said the coachman, “what name is to be given to my Lord?”

“Anville,” answered Madame Duval; “tell him Miss Anville wants the coach; the young lady he danced with once.”

I was really in an agony; but the winds could not have been more deaf to me, than those to whom I pleaded! and therefore the footman, urged by the repeated threats of Madame Duval, and perhaps recollecting the name himself, actually went to the palace with this strange message!

He returned in a few minutes; and, bowing to me with the greatest respect, said, “My Lord desires his compliments, and his carriage will be always at Miss Anville’s service.”

I was so much affected by this politeness, and chagrined at the whole affair, that I could scarce refrain from tears. Madame Duval, and the Miss Branghtons eagerly jumped into the coach, and desired me to follow. I would rather have submitted to the severest punishment; but all resistance was vain.

During the whole ride I said not a word: however, the rest of the party were so talkative, that my silence was very immaterial. We stopped at our lodgings; but, when Madame Duval and I alighted, the Branghtons asked if they could not be carried on to Snow–Hill? The servants, now all civility, made no objection. Remonstrances from me would, I too well knew, be fruitless; and therefore, with a heavy heart, I retired to my room, and left them to their own direction.

Seldom have I passed a night in greater uneasiness. — So lately to have cleared myself in the good opinion of Lord Orville — so soon to forfeit it! — to give him reason to suppose I presumed to boast of his acquaintance! — to publish his having danced with me! — to take with him a liberty I should have blushed to have taken with the most intimate of my friends! — to treat with such impertinent freedom, one who has honoured me with such distinguished respect! — Indeed, Sir, I could have met with no accident that would so cruelly have tormented me!

If such were, then, my feelings, imagine — for I cannot describe, what I suffered during the scene I am now going to write.

This morning, while I was alone in the dining-room, young Branghton called. He entered with a most important air; and, strutting up to me, said, “Miss, Lord Orville sends his compliments to you.”

“Lord Orville!” repeated I, much amazed.

“Yes, Miss, Lord Orville; for I know his Lordship now, as well as you. — And a very civil gentleman he is, for all he’s a Lord.”

“For Heaven’s sake,” cried I, “explain yourself.”

“Why, you must know, Miss, after we left you, we met with a little misfortune; but I don’t mind it now, for it’s all turned out for the best: but, just as we were a-going up Snow–Hill, plump we comes against a cart, with such a jogg it almost pulled the coach-wheel off. However, that i’n’t the worst; for, as I went to open the door in a hurry, a-thinking the coach would be broke down, as ill-luck would have it, I never minded that the glass was up, and so I poked my head fairly through it. — Only see, Miss, how I’ve cut my forehead!”

A much worse accident to himself would not, I believe, at that moment have given me any concern for him: however, he proceeded with his account, for I was too much confounded to interrupt him.

“Goodness, Miss, we were in such a stew, us, and the servants, and all, as you can’t think; for, besides the glass being broke, the coachman said how the coach wouldn’t be safe to go back to Kensington. So we didn’t know what to do; however, the footmen said they’d go and tell his Lordship what had happened. So then father grew quite uneasy like, for fear of his Lordship’s taking offence, and prejudicing us in our business; so he said I should go this morning and ask his pardon, cause of having broke the glass. So then I asked the footmen the direction, and they told me he lived in Berkeley-square; so this morning I went — and I soon found out the house.”

“You did!” cried I, quite out of breath with apprehension.

“Yes, Miss, and a very fine house it is. — Did you ever see it?”

“No.”

“No! — why, then, Miss, I know more of his Lordship than you do, for all you knew him first. So, when I came to the door, I was in a peck of troubles, a-thinking what I should say to him: however, the servants had no mind I should see him; for they told me he was busy, but I might leave my message. So I was just a-coming away, when I bethought myself to say I came from you.”

“From me!”

“Yes, Miss, for you know, why should I have such a long walk as that for nothing? So I says to the porter, says I, tell his Lordship, says I, one wants to speak to him as comes from one Miss Anville, says I.”

“Good God,” cried I, “and by what authority did you take such a liberty?”

“Goodness, Miss don’t be in such a hurry, for you’ll be as glad as me, when you hear how well it all turned out. So then they made way for me, and said his Lordship would see me directly: and there I was led through such a heap of servants, and so many rooms, that my heart quite misgave me; for I thought, thinks I, he’ll be so proud he’ll hardly let me speak; but he’s no more proud than I am, and he was as civil as if I’d been a lord myself. So then I said, I hoped he wouldn’t take it amiss about the glass, for it was quite an accident; but he bid me not mention it, for it did not signify. And then he said he hoped you got safe home, and wasn’t frightened so I said yes, and I gave your duty to him.”

“My duty to him!” exclaimed I — “and who gave you leave? — who desired you?”

“O, I did it out of my own head, just to make him think I came from you. But I should have told you before, how the footman said he was going out of town tomorrow evening, and that his sister was soon to be married, and that he was a-ordering a heap of things for that; so it come into my head, as he was so affable, that I’d ask him for his custom. So I says, says I, my Lord, says I, if your Lordship i’n’t engaged particularly, my father is a silversmith, and he’ll be very proud to serve you, says I; and Miss Anville, as danced with you, is his cousin, and she’s my cousin too, and she’d be very much obligated to you, I’m sure.”

“You’ll drive me wild,” cried I, starting from my seat, “you have done me an irreparable injury; — but I will hear no more!”— and then I ran into my own room.

I was half frantic, I really raved; the good opinion of Lord Orville seemed now irretrievable lost: a faint hope, which in the morning I had vainly encouraged, that I might see him again, and explain the transaction, wholly vanished, now I found he was so soon to leave town: and I could not but conclude, that, for the rest of my life, he would regard me as an object of utter contempt.

The very idea was a dagger to my heart! — I could not support it, and — but I blush to proceed — I fear your disapprobation; yet I should not be conscious of having merited it, but that the repugnance I feel to relate to you what I have done, makes me suspect I must have erred. Will you forgive me, if I won that I first wrote an account of this transaction to Miss Mirvan? — and that I even thought of concealing it from you? — Short-lived, however, was the ungrateful idea, and sooner will I risk the justice of your displeasure, than unworthily betray your generous confidence.

You are now probably prepared for what follows — which is a letter — a hasty letter, that, in the height of my agitation, I wrote to Lord Orville.

“My Lord,

“I am so infinitely ashamed of the application made yesterday for your Lordship’s carriage in my name, and so greatly shocked at hearing how much it was injured, that I cannot forbear writing a few lines, to clear myself from the imputation of an impertinence which I blush to be suspected of, and to acquaint you, that the request for your carriage was made against my consent, and the visit with which you were importuned this morning without my knowledge.

“I am inexpressibly concerned at having been the instrument, however innocently, of so much trouble to your Lordship; but I beg you to believe, that the reading these lines is the only part of it which I have given voluntarily.

I am, my Lord,

“Your Lordship’s most Humble servant, “

EVELINA ANVILLE.”

I applied to the maid of the house to get this note conveyed to Berkley-square; but scarce had I parted with it, before I regretted having written at all; and I was flying down stairs to recover it, when the voice of Sir Clement Willoughby stopped me. As Madame Duval had ordered we should be denied to him, I was obliged to return up stairs; and after he was gone, my application was too late, as the maid had given it to a porter.

My time did not pass very serenely while he was gone; however, he brought me no answer, but that Lord Orville was not at home. Whether or not he will take the trouble to send any — or whether he will condescend to call — or whether the affair will rest as it is, I know not; — but, in being ignorant, am most cruelly anxious.

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