Evelina, by Fanny Burney

Letter xxv

Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars

Howard Grove, April 25.

NO, my dear Sir, no: the work of seventeen years remains such as it was, ever unworthy your time and your labour; but not more so now — at least I hope not — than before that fortnight which has so much alarmed you.

And yet I must confess, that I am not half so happy here at present as I was ere I went to town: but the change is in the place, not in me. Captain Mirvan and Madame Duval have ruined Howard Grove. The harmony that reigned here is disturbed, our schemes are broken, our way of life is altered, and our comfort is destroyed. But do not suppose London to be the source of these evils; for, had our excursion been any where else, so disagreeable an addition to our household must have caused the same change at our return.

I was sure you would be displeased with Sir Clement Willoughby, and therefore I am by no means surprised at what you say of him; but for Lord Orville — I must own I had greatly feared that my weak and imperfect account would not have procured him the good opinion which he so well deserves, and which I am delighted to find you seem to have of him. O, Sir, could I have done justice to the merit of which I believe him posessed; — could I have painted him to you such as he appeared to me; — then, indeed, you would have had some idea of the claim which he has to your approbation!

After the last letter which I wrote in town, nothing more passed previous to our journey hither, except a very violent quarrel between Captain Mirvan and Madame Duval. As the Captain intended to travel on horseback, he had settled that we four females should make use of his coach. Madame Duval did not come to Queen Ann Street till the carriage had waited some time at the door; and then, attended by Monsieur Du Bois, she made her appearance.

The Captain, impatient to be gone, would not suffer them to enter the house, but insisted that we should immediately get into the coach. We obeyed; but were no sooner seated, than Madame Duval said, “Come, Monsieur Du Bois, these girls can make very good room for you; sit closer, children.”

Mrs. Mirvan looked quite confounded; and M. Du Bois, after making some apologies about crowding us, actually got into the coach, on the side with Miss Mirvan and me. But no sooner was he seated, than the Captain, who had observed this transaction very quietly, walked up to the coach door, saying, “What, neither with your leave, nor by your leave?”

M. Du Bois seemed rather shocked, and began to make abundance of excuses: but the Captain neither understood nor regarded him, and, very roughly, said, “Look’ee, Monseer, this here may be a French fashion for aught I know — but give and take is fair in all nations; and so now, d’ye see, I’ll make bold to show you an English one.”

And then, seizing his wrist, he made him jump out of the coach.

M. Du Bois instantly put his hand upon his sword, and threatened to resent this indignity. The Captain, holding up his stick, bid him draw at his peril. Mrs. Mirvan, greatly alarmed, got out of the coach, and, standing between them, intreated her husband to re-enter the house.

“None of your clack!” cried he angrily; “what the D— l, do you suppose I can’t manage a Frenchman?”

Meantime, Madame Duval called out to M. Du Bois, “Eh, laissez-le, mon ami, ne le corrigez pas; c’est une villaine bete qui n’en vaut pas la peine.”

“Monsieur le Capitaine,” cried M. Du Bois, “voulez-vous bien ne demander pardon?”

“O ho, you demand pardon, do you?” said the Captain,” I thought as much; I thought you’d come to; — so you have lost your relish for an English salutation, have you?” strutting up to him with looks of defiance.

A crowd was now gathering, and Mrs. Mirvan again besought her husband to go into the house.

“Why, what a plague is the woman afraid of? — Did you ever know a Frenchman that could not take an affront? — I warrant Monseer knows what he is about; — don’t you Monseer?”

M. Du Bois, not understanding him, only said, “plait-il, Monsieur?”

“No, nor dish me neither,” answered the Captain; “but, be that as it may, what signifies our parleying here? If you’ve any thing to propose, speak at once; if not, why let us go on our journey without more ado.”

“Parbleu, je n’entends rien, moi!” cried M. Du Bois, shrugging up his shoulders, and looking very dismal.

Mrs. Mirvan then advanced to him, and said in French, that she was sure the Captain had not any intention to affront him, and begged he would desist from a dispute which could only be productive of mutual misunderstanding, as neither of them knew the language of the other.

This sensible remonstrance had the desired effect; and M. Du Bois, making a bow to every one except the Captain, very wisely gave up the point, and took leave.

We then hoped to proceed quietly on our journey; but the turbulent Captain would not yet permit us. He approached Madame Duval with an exulting air, and said, “Why, how’s this, Madame? what, has your champion deserted you? why, I thought you told me, that you old gentlewomen had it all your own way among them French sparks?”

“As to that, Sir,” answered she, “it’s not of no consequence what you thought; for a person who can behave in such a low way, may think what he pleases for me, for I sha’n’t mind.”

“Why then, Mistress, since you must needs make so free,” cried he, “please to tell me the reason you took the liberty for to ask any of your followers into my coach without my leave? Answer me to that.”

“Why, then, pray, Sir,” returned she, “tell me the reaon why you took the liberty to treat the gentleman in such an unpolite way, as to take and pull him neck and heels out? I’m sure he hadn’t done nothing to affront you, nor nobody else; and I don’t know what great hurt he would have done you, by just sitting still in the coach; he would not have eat it.”

“What, do you think, then, that my horses have nothing to do but to carry about your snivelling Frenchmen? If you do, Madam, I must make bold to tell you, you are out, for I’ll see ’em hang’d first.”

“More brute you, then! For they’ve never carried nobody half so good.”

“Why, look’ee, Madam, if you must needs provoke me, I’ll tell you a piece of my mind; you must know, I can see as far into a millstone as another man; and so, if you thought for to fob me off with another one of your smirking French puppies for a son-in-law, why you’ll find yourself in a hobble, that’s all.”

“Sir, you’re a — but I won’t say what; — but I protest I hadn’t no such a thought, no more hadn’t Monsieur Du Bois.”

“My dear,” said Mrs. Mirvan, “we shall be very late.”

“Well, well,” answered he, “get away then; off with you as fast as you can, it’s high time. As to Molly, she’s fine lady enough in all conscience; I want none of your French chaps to make her worse.”

And so saying he mounted his horse and we drove off. And I could not but think, with regret, of the different feelings we experienced upon leaving London, to what had belonged to our entering it.

During the journey Madame Duval was so very violent against the Captain, that she obliged Mrs. Mirvan to tell her, that, when in her presence, she must beg her to choose some other subject of discourse.

We had a most affectionate reception from Lady Howard, whose kindness and hospitality cannot fail of making every body happy who is disposed so to be.

Adieu, my dearest Sir. I hope, though I have hitherto neglected to mention it, that you have always remembered me to whoever has made any inquiry concerning me.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51