Angelina, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 5.

Whilst the preceding conversation was passing, Lady Diana Chillingworth was in Mrs. Bertrand’s fruit-shop, occupied with her smelling-bottle and Miss Burrage. Clara Hope was there also, and Mrs. Puffit, the milliner, and Mrs. Bertrand, who was assuring her ladyship that not a word of the affair about the young lady and the lace should go out of her house.

“Your la’ship need not be in the least uneasy,” said Mrs. Bertrand, “for I have satisfied the constable, and satisfied every body; and the constable allows Miss Warwick’s name was not mentioned in the warrant; and as to the servant girl, she’s gone before the magistrate, who, of course, will send her to the house of correction; but that will no ways implicate the young lady, and nothing shall transpire from this house detrimental to the young lady, who is under your la’ship’s protection. And I’ll tell your la’ship how Mrs. Puffit and I have settled to tell the story: with your ladyship’s approbation, I shall say —”

“Nothing, if you please,” said her ladyship, with more than her usual haughtiness. “The young lady to whom you allude is under Lady Frances Somerset’s protection, not mine; and whatever you do or say, I beg that in this affair the name of Lady Diana Chillingworth may not be used.”

She turned her back upon the disconcerted milliner as she finished this speech, and walked to the furthest end of the long room, followed by the constant flatterer of all her humours, Miss Burrage.

The milliner and Mrs. Bertrand now began to console themselves for the mortification they had received from her ladyship’s pride, and for the insolent forgetfulness of her companion, by abusing them both in a low voice. Mrs. Bertrand began with, “Her ladyship’s so touchy and so proud; she’s as high as the moon, and higher.”

“Oh, all the Chillingworths, by all accounts, are so,” said Mrs. Puffit; “but then, to be sure, they have a right to be so if any body has, for they certainly are real high-horn people. But I can’t tolerate to see some people, that aren’t no ways born nor entitled to it, give themselves such airs as some people do. Now, there’s that Miss Burrage, that pretends not to know me, ma’am.”

“And me, ma’am — just the same: such provoking assurance — I that knew her from this high.”

“On St. Augustin’s Back, you know,” said Mrs. Puffit.

“On St. Augustin’s Back, you know,” echoed Mrs. Bertrand.

“So I told her this morning, ma’am,” said Mrs. Puffit.

“And so I told her this evening, ma’am, when the three Miss Herrings came in to give me a call in their way to the play; girls that she used to walk with, ma’am, for ever and ever in the green, you know.”

“Yes; and that she was always glad to drink tea with, ma’am, when asked, you know,” said Mrs. Puffit.

“Well, ma’am,” pursued Mrs. Bertrand, “here she had the impudence to pretend not to know them. She takes up her glass — my Lady Di. herself couldn’t have done it better, and squeezes up her ugly face this way, pretending to be near-sighted, though she can see as well as you or I can.”

“Such airs! she near-sighted!” said Mrs. Puffit: “what will the world come to!”

“Oh, I wish her pride may have a fall,” resumed the provoked milliner, as soon as she had breath. “I dare to say now she wouldn’t know her own relations if she was to meet them; I’d lay any wager she would not vouchsafe a curtsy to that good old John Barker, the friend of her father, you know, who gave up to this Miss Burrage I don’t know how many hundreds of pounds, that were due to him, or else miss wouldn’t have had a farthing in the world; yet now, I’ll be bound, she’d forget this as well as St. Augustin’s Back, and wouldn’t know John Barker from Abraham; and I don’t doubt that she’d pull out her glass at her aunt Dinah, because she is a cheesemonger’s widow.”

“Oh no,” said Mrs. Bertrand, “she couldn’t have the baseness to be near-sighted to good Dinah Plait, that bred her up, and was all in all to her.”

Just as Mrs. Bertrand finished speaking, into the fruit-shop walked the very persons of whom she had been talking — Dinah Plait and Mr. Barker.

“Mrs. Dinah Plait, I declare!” exclaimed Mrs. Bertrand.

“I never was so glad to see you, Mrs. Plait and Mr. Barker, in all my days,” said Mrs. Puffit.

“Why you should be so particularly glad to see me, Mrs. Puffit, I don’t know,” said Mr. Barker, laughing; “but I’m not surprised Dinah Plait should he a welcome guest wherever she goes, especially with a purse full of guineas in her hand.”

“Friend Bertrand,” said Dinah Plait, producing a purse which she held under her cloak, “I am come to restore this purse to its rightful owner: after a great deal of trouble, John Barker (who never thinks it a trouble to do good) hath traced her to your house.”

“There is a young lady here, to be sure,” said Mrs. Bertrand, “but you can’t see her just at present, for she is talking on petticlar business with my Lady Frances Somerset above stairs.”

“Tis well,” said Dinah Plait: “I would willingly restore this purse, not to the young creature herself, but to some of her friends — for I fear she is not quite in a right state of mind. If I could see any of the young lady’s friends.”

“Miss Burrage,” cried Mrs. Bertrand, in a tone of voice so loud that she could not avoid hearing it, “are not you one of the young lady’s friends?”

“What young lady’s friend?” replied Miss Burrage, without stirring from her seat.

“Miss Burrage, here’s a purse for a young lady,” said Mrs. Puffit.

“A purse for whom? Where?” said Miss Burrage, at last deigning to rise, and come out of her recess.

“There, ma’am,” said the milliner. “Now for her glass!” whispered Mrs. Puffit to Mrs. Bertrand. And, exactly as it had been predicted, Miss Burrage eyed her aunt Dinah through her glass, pretending not to know her. “The purse is not mine,” said she, coolly: “I know nothing of it — nothing.”

“Hetty!” exclaimed her aunt; but as Miss Burrage still eyed her through her glass with unmoved invincible assurance, Dinah thought that, however strong the resemblance, she was mistaken. “No, it can’t be Hetty. I beg pardon, madam,” said she, “but I took you for — Did not I hear you say the name of Burrage, friend Puffit?”

“Yes, Burrage; one of the Burrages of Dorsetshire,” said the milliner, with malicious archness.

“One of the Burrages of Dorsetshire: I beg pardon. But did you ever see such a likeness, friend Barker, to my poor niece, Hetty Burrage?”

Miss Burrage, who overheard these words, immediately turned her back upon her aunt. “A grotesque statue of starch — one of your quakers, I think, they call themselves: Bristol is full of such primitive figures,” said Miss Burrage to Clara Hope, and she walked back to the recess and to Lady Di.

“So like, voice and all, to my poor Hester,” said Dinah Plait, and she wiped the tears from her eyes. “Though Hetty has neglected me so of late, I have a tenderness for her; we cannot but have some for our own relations.”

“Grotesque or not, ’tis a statue that seems to have a heart, and a gude one,” said Clara Hope.

“I wish we could say the same of every body,” said Mrs. Bertrand.

All this time, old Mr. Barker, leaning on his cane, had been silent: “Burrage of Dorsetshire!” said he; “I’ll soon see whether she be or no; for Hetty has a wart on her chin that I cannot forget, let her forget whom and what she pleases.”

Mr. Barker, who was a plain-spoken, determined man, followed the young lady to the recess; and, after looking her full in the face, exclaimed in a loud voice, “Here’s the wart! —’tis Hetty!”

“Sir! — wart! — man! — Lady Di.!” cried Miss Burrage, in accents of the utmost distress and vexation.

Mr. Barker, regardless of her frowns and struggles, would by no means relinquish her hand; but leading, or rather pulling her forwards, he went on with barbarous steadiness: “Dinah,” said he, “’tis your own niece. Hetty, ’tis your own aunt, that bred you up! What, struggle — Burrage of Dorsetshire!”

“There certainly,” said Lady Diana Chillingworth, in a solemn tone, “is a conspiracy, this night, against my poor nerves. These people, amongst them, will infallibly surprise me to death. What is the matter now? — why do you drag the young lady, sir? She came here with me, sir — with Lady Diana Chillingworth; and, consequently, she is not a person to be insulted.”

“Insult her!” said Mr. Barker, whose sturdy simplicity was not to be baffled or disconcerted either by the cunning of Miss Burrage, or by the imposing manner and awful name of Lady Diana Chillingworth. “Insult her! why, ’tis she insults us; she won’t know us.”

“How should Miss Burrage know you, sir, or any body here?” said Lady Diana, looking round, as if upon beings of a species different from her own.

“How should she know her own aunt that bred her up?” said the invincible John Barker, “and me who have had her on my knee a hundred times, giving her barley-sugar till she was sick?”

“Sick! I am sure you make me sick,” said Lady Diana. “Sir, that young lady is one of the Burrages of Dorsetshire, as good a family as any in England.”

“Madam,” said John Barker, replying in a solemnity of tone equal to her ladyship’s, “that young lady is one of the Burrages of Bristol, drysalters; niece to Dinah Plait, who is widow to a man, who was, in his time, as honest a cheesemonger as any in England.”

“Miss Burrage! — My God! — don’t you speak!” cried Lady Diana, in a voice of terror.

“The young lady is bashful, my lady, among strangers,” said Mrs. Bertrand.

“Oh, Hester Burrage, is this kind of thee?” said Dinah Plait, with in accent of mixed sorrow and affection; “but thou art my niece, and I forgive thee.”

“A cheesemonger’s niece!” cried Lady Diana, with horror; “how have I been deceived! But this is the consequence of making acquaintance at Buxton, and those watering-places: I’ve done with her, however. Lord bless me! here comes my sister, Lady Frances! Good heavens! my dear,” continued her ladyship, going to meet her sister, and drawing her into the recess at the farthest end of the room, “here are more misfortunes — misfortunes without end. What will the world say? Here’s this Miss Burrage — take no more notice of her, sister; she’s an impostor; who do you think she turns out to be? Daughter to a drysalter, niece to a cheesemonger! Only conceive!-a person that has been going about with me every where! — What will the world say?”

“That it is very imprudent to have unknown friends, my dear,” replied Lady Frances. “The best thing you can possibly do is to say nothing about the matter, and to receive this penitent ward of yours without reproaches; for if you talk of her unknown friends, the world will certainly talk of yours.”

Lady Diana drew back with haughtiness when her sister offered to put Miss Warwick’s hands into hers; but she condescended to say, after an apparent struggle with herself, “I am happy to hear, Miss Warwick, that you have returned to your senses. Lady Frances takes you under her protection, I understand; at which, for all our sakes, I rejoice; and I have only one piece of advice, Miss Warwick, to give you —”

“Keep it till after the play, my dear Diana,” whispered Lady Frances; “it will have more effect.”

“The play! — Bless me!” said Lady Diana, “why, you have contrived to make Miss Warwick fit to be seen, I protest. But, after all I have gone through to-night, how can I appear in public? My dear, this Miss Burrage’s business has given me such a shock — such nervous affections!”

“Nervous affections! — Some people, I do believe, have none but nervous affections,” thought Lady Frances.

“Permit me,” said Mrs. Dinah Plait, coming up to Lady Frances, and presenting Miss Warwick’s purse —“permit me, as thou seemest to be a friend to this young lady, to restore to thee her purse, which she left by mistake at my house this forenoon. I hope she is better, poor thing!”

“She is better, and I thank you for her, madam,” said Lady Frances, who was struck with the obliging manner and benevolent countenance of Dinah Plait, and who did not think herself contaminated by standing in the same room with the widow of a cheesemonger.

“Let me thank you myself, madam,” said Angelina; “I am perfectly in my senses now, I can assure you; and I shall never forget the kindness which you and this benevolent gentleman showed me when you thought I was in real distress.”

“Some people are more grateful than other people,” said Mrs. Puffit, looking at Miss Burrage, who in mortified, sullen silence, followed the aunt and the benefactor of whom she was ashamed, and who had reason to be ashamed of her.

We do not imagine that our readers can be much interested for a young lady who was such a compound of pride and meanness; we shall therefore only add, that her future life was spent on St. Augustin’s Back, where she made herself at once as ridiculous and as unhappy as she deserved to be.

As for our heroine, under the friendly and judicious care of Lady Frances Somerset, she acquired that which is more useful to the possessor than genius — good sense. Instead of rambling over the world in search of an unknown friend, she attached herself to those of whose worth she received proofs more convincing than a letter of three folio sheets, stuffed with sentimental nonsense. In short, we have now, in the name of Angelina Warwick, the pleasure to assure all those whom it may concern, that it is possible for a young lady of sixteen to cure herself of the affectation of sensibility, and the folly of romance.

This web edition published by:

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/e/edgeworth/maria/angelina/chapter5.html

Last updated Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 13:53