Selections from
The History of a Young Lady’s
Entrance into the World

By Frances Burney

Edited by Jack Lynch

A few selections from Burney’s Evelina, focusing on the entertainments of London.

Letter VIII

Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars

Howard Grove, March 26.

[1] This house seems to be the house of joy; every face wears a smile, and a laugh is at every body’s service. It is quite amusing to walk about and see the general confusion; a room leading to the garden is fitting up for Captain Mirvan’s study. Lady Howard does not sit a moment in a place; Miss Mirvan is making caps; every body so busy! — such flying from room to room! — so many orders given, and retracted, and given again! nothing but hurry and perturbation.

[2] Well but, my dear Sir, I am desired to make a request to you. I hope you will not think me an encroacher; Lady Howard insists upon my writing! — yet I hardly know how to go on; a petition implies a want and have you left me one? No, indeed.

[3] I am half ashamed of myself for beginning this letter. But these dear ladies are so pressing — I cannot, for my life, resist wishing for the pleasures they offer me, — provided you do not disapprove them.

[4] They are to make a very short stay in town. The Captain will meet them in a day or two. Mrs. Mirvan and her sweet daughter both go; what a happy party! Yet, I am not very eager to accompany them: at least I shall be contented to remain where I am, if you desire that I should.

[5] Assured, my dearest Sir, of your goodness, your bounty, and your indulgent kindness, ought I to form a wish that has not your sanction? Decide for me, therefore, without the least apprehension that I shall be uneasy or discontented. While I am yet in suspense, perhaps I may hope; but I am most certain that when you have once determined I shall not repine.

[6] They tell me that London is now in full splendour. Two playhouses are open, — the Opera-house, — Ranelagh, — and the Pantheon. — You see I have learned all their names. However, pray don’t suppose that I make any point of going, for I shall hardly sigh, to see them depart without me, though I shall probably never meet with such another opportunity. And, indeed, their domestic happiness will be so great, — it is natural to wish to partake of it.

[7] I believe I am bewitched! I made a resolution, when I began, that I would not be urgent; but my pen — or rather my thoughts, will not suffer me to keep it — for I acknowledge, I must acknowledge, I cannot help wishing for your permission.

[8] I almost repent already that I have made this confession; pray forget that you have read it, if this journey is displeasing to you. But I will not write any longer; for the more I think of this affair, the less indifferent to it I find myself.

[9] Adieu, my most honoured, most reverenced, most beloved father! for by what other name can I call you? I have no happiness or sorrow, no hope or fear, but what your kindness bestows, or your displeasure may cause. You will not, I am sure, send a refusal without reasons unanswerable, and therefore I shall cheerfully acquiesce. Yet I hope — I hope you will be able to permit me to go!

I am, with the utmost affection,
gratitude, and duty, your

[10] Well, my dear Sir, we went to Ranelagh. It is a charming place; and the brilliancy of the lights, on my first entrance, made me almost think I was in some enchanted castle or fairy palace, for all looked like magic to me.

[11] The very first person I saw was Lord Orville. I felt so confused! — but he did not see me. After tea, Mrs. Mirvan being tired, Maria and I walked round the room alone. Then again we saw him, standing by the orchestra. We, too, stopt to hear a singer. He bowed to me; I courtesied, and I am sure I coloured. We soon walked on, not liking our situation; however, he did not follow us; and when we passed by the orchestra again, he was gone. Afterwards, in the course of the evening, we met him several times; but he was always with some party, and never spoke to us, though whenever he chanced to meet my eyes, he condescended to bow.

[12] I cannot but be hurt at the opinion he entertains of me. It is true my own behaviour incurred it — yet he is himself the most agreeable, and, seemingly, the most amiable man in the world, and therefore it is that I am grieved to be thought ill of by him: for of whose esteem ought we to be ambitious, if not of those who most merit our own? — But it is too late to reflect upon this now. Well I can’t help it. — However, I think I have done with assemblies.

[13] This morning was destined for seeing sights, auctions, curious shops, and so forth; but my head ached, and I was not in a humour to be amused, and so I made them go without me, though very unwillingly. They are all kindness.

[14] And now I am sorry I did not accompany them, for I know not what to do with myself. I had resolved not to go to the play to-night; but I believe I shall. In short, I hardly care whether I do or not.

* * * * *

[15] I thought I had done wrong! Mrs. Mirvan and Maria have been half the town over, and so entertained! — while I, like a fool, staid at home to do nothing. And, at the auction in Pall-mall, who should they meet but Lord Orville. He sat next to Mrs. Mirvan, and they talked a great deal together; but she gave me no account of the conversation.

[16] I may never have such another opportunity of seeing London; I am quite sorry that I was not of the party; but I deserve this mortification, for having indulged my ill-humour.

Thursday Night.

[17] We are just returned from the play, which was King Lear, and has made me very sad. We did not see any body we knew.

[18] Well, adieu, it is too late to write more.

Saturday Night.

[19] We have been to the opera, and I am still more pleased than I was on Tuesday. I could have thought myself in Paradise, but for the continual talking of the company around me. We sat in the pit, where every body was dressed in so high a style, that if I had been less delighted with the performance, my eyes would have found me sufficient entertainment from looking at the ladies.

[20] I was very glad I did not sit next the Captain; for he could not bear the music or singers, and was extremely gross in his observations of both. When the opera was over, we went into a place called the coffee-room where ladies, as well as gentlemen, assemble. There are all sorts of refreshments, and the company walk about, and chat with the same ease and freedom as in a private room.

[21] On Monday we go to a ridotto, and on Wednesday we return to Howard Grove. The Captain says he won’t stay here to be smoked with filth any longer; but, having been seven years smoked with a burning sun, he will retire to the country, and sink into a fair weather chap.

Adieu, my dear Sir.

Letter XIII

Tuesday, April 12.

My dear Sir,

[22] We came home from the ridotto so late, or rather so early that it was not possible for me to write. Indeed, we did not go — you will be frightened to hear it — till past eleven o’clock: but no body does. A terrible reverse of the order of nature! We sleep with the sun, and wake with the moon.

[23] The room was very magnificent, the lights and decorations were brilliant, and the company gay and splendid. But I should have told you, that I made many objections to being of the party, according to the resolution I had formed. However, Maria laughed me out of my scruples, and so once again I went to an assembly.

[24] Miss Mirvan danced a minuet; but I had not the courage to follow her example. In our walks I saw Lord Orville. He was quite alone, but did not observe us. Yet, as he seemed of no party, I thought it was not impossible that he might join us; and though I did not wish much to dance at all — yet, as I was more acquainted with him than with any other person in the room, I must own I could not help thinking it would be infinitely more desirable to dance again with him than with an entire stranger. To be sure, after all that had passed, it was very ridiculous to suppose it even probable that Lord Orville would again honour me with his choice; yet I am compelled to confess my absurdity, by way of explaining what follows.

[25] Miss Mirvan was soon engaged; and presently after a very fashionable gay looking man, who seemed about thirty years of age, addressed himself to me, and begged to have the honour of dancing with me. Now Maria’s partner was a gentleman of Mrs. Mirvan’s acquaintance; for she had told us it was highly improper for young women to dance with strangers at any public assembly. Indeed it was by no means my wish so to do: yet I did not like to confine myself from dancing at all; neither did I dare refuse this gentleman as I had done Mr. Lovel, and then, if any acquaintance should offer, accept him: and so, all these reasons combining, induced me to tell him — yet I blush to write it to you! — that I was already engaged; by which I meant to keep myself at liberty to a dance, or not, as matters should fall out.

[26] I suppose my consciousness betrayed my artifice, for he looked at me as if incredulous; and, instead of being satisfied with my answer and leaving me, according to my expectation, he walked at my side, and, with the greatest ease imaginable, began a conversation in the free style which only belongs to old and intimate acquaintance. But, what was most provoking, he asked me a thousand questions concerning the partner to whom I was engaged. And at last he said, “Is it really possible that a man whom you have honoured with your acceptance can fail to be at hand to profit from your goodness?”

[27] I felt extremely foolish; and begged Mrs. Mirvan to lead to a seat; which she very obligingly did. The Captain sat next her; and to my great surprise, this gentleman thought proper to follow, and seat himself next to me.

[28] “What an insensible!” continued he; “why, Madam, you are missing the most delightful dance in the world! — The man must be either mad or a fool — Which do you incline to think him yourself?”

[29] “Neither, Sir,” answered I, in some confusion.

[30] He begged my pardon for the freedom of his supposition, saying, “I really was off my guard, from astonishment that any man can be so much and so unaccountably his own enemy. But where, Madam, can he possibly be! — has he left the room! — or has not he been in it?”

[31] “Indeed, Sir,” said I peevishly, “I know nothing of him.”

[32] “I don’t wonder that you are disconcerted, Madam; it is really very provoking. The best part of the evening will be absolutely lost. He deserves not that you should wait for him.”

[33] “I do not, Sir,” said I, “and I beg you not to —”

[34] “Mortifying, indeed, Madam,” interrupted he, “a lady to wait for a gentleman! — O fie! — careless fellow! — What can detain him? — Will you give me leave to seek him?”

[35] “If you please, Sir,” answered I; quite terrified lest Mrs. Mirvan should attend to him; for she looked very much surprised at seeing me enter into conversation with a stranger.

[36] “With all my heart,” cried he; “pray, what coat has he on?”

[37] “Indeed I never looked at it.”

[38] “Out upon him!” cried he; “What! did he address you in a coat not worth looking at? — What a shabby wretch!”

[39] How ridiculous! I really could not help laughing, which I fear encouraged him, for he went on.

[40] “Charming creature! — and can you really bear ill usage with so much sweetness? Can you, like patience on a monument, smile in the midst of disappointment? For my part, though I am not the offended person, my indignation is so great, that I long to kick the fellow round the room! — unless, indeed, — (hesitating and looking earnestly at me,) unless, indeed, — it is a partner of your own creating?

[41] I was dreadfully abashed, and could not make an answer.

[42] “But no!” cried he (again, and with warmth,) “It cannot be that you are so cruel! Softness itself is painted in your eyes. — You could not, surely, have the barbarity so wantonly to trifle with my misery.”

[43] I turned away from this nonsense with real disgust, Mrs. Mirvan saw my confusion, but was perplexed what to think of it, and I could not explain to her the cause, lest the Captain should hear me. I therefore proposed to walk; she consented, and we all rose; but, would you believe it? this man had the assurance to rise too, and walk close by my side, as if of my party!

[44] “Now,” cried he, “I hope we shall see this ingrate. — Is that he?” — pointing to an old man who was lame, “or that?” And in this manner he asked me of whoever was old or ugly in the room. I made no sort of answer: and when he found that I was resolutely silent, and walked on as much as I could without observing him, he suddenly stamped his foot, and cried out in a passion, “Fool! idiot! booby!”

[45] I turned hastily toward him: “O, Madam,” continued he, “forgive my vehemence; but I am distracted to think there should exist a wretch who can slight a blessing for which I would forfeit my life! — O that I could but meet him, I would soon — But I grow angry: pardon me, Madam, my passions are violent, and your injuries affect me!”

[46] I began to apprehend he was a madman, and stared at him with the utmost astonishment. “I see you are moved, Madam,” said he; “generous creature! — but don’t be alarmed, I am cool again, I am indeed, — upon my soul I am; — I entreat you, most lovely of mortals! I intreat you to be easy.”

[47] “Indeed, Sir,” said I very seriously, “I must insist upon your leaving me; you are quite a stranger to me, and I am both unused, and averse to your language and your manners.”

[48] This seemed to have some effect on him. He made me a low bow, begged my pardon, and vowed he would not for the world offend me.

[49] “Then, Sir, you must leave me,” cried I. “I am gone, Madam, I am gone!” with a most tragical air; and he marched away at a quick pace, out of sight in a moment; but before I had time to congratulate myself, he was again at my elbow.

[50] “And could you really let me go, and not be sorry? — Can you see me suffer torments inexpressible, and yet retain all your favour for that miscreant who flies you? — Ungrateful puppy! — I could bastinado him!”

[51] “For Heaven’s sake, my dear,” cried Mrs. Mirvan, “who is he talking of?”

[52] “Indeed — I do not know, Madam,” said I; “but I wish he would leave me.”

[53] “What’s all that there?” cried the Captain.

[54] The man made a low bow, and said, “Only, Sir, a slight objection which this young lady makes to dancing with me, and which I am endeavouring to obviate. I shall think myself greatly honoured if you will intercede for me.”

[55] “That lady, Sir,” said the Captain coldly, “is her own mistress.” And he walked sullenly on.

[56] “You, Madam,” said the man (who looked delighted, to Mrs. Mirvan), “You, I hope, will have the goodness to speak for me.”

[57] “Sir,” answered she gravely, “I have not the pleasure of being acquainted with you.”

[58] “I hope when you have, Ma’am,” cried he, undaunted, “you will honour me with your approbation: but, while I am yet unknown to you, it would be truly generous in you to countenance me; and I flatter myself, Madam, that you will not have cause to repent it.”

[59] Mrs. Mirvan, with an embarrassed air, replied, “I do not at all mean, Sir, to doubt your being a gentleman, — but —”

[60] “But what, Madam? — that doubt removed, why a but?”

[61] “Well, Sir,” said Mrs. Mirvan (with a good humoured smile), “I will even treat you with your own plainness, and try what effect that will have on you: I must therefore tell you, once for all —”

[62] “O pardon me, Madam!” interrupted he, eagerly, “you must not proceed with those words once for all; no, if I have been too plain, and though a man, deserve a rebuke, remember, dear ladies that if you copy, you ought in justice to excuse me.”

[63] We both stared at the man’s strange behaviour.

[64] “Be nobler than your sex,” continued he, turning to me, “honour me with one dance, and give up the ingrate who has merited so ill your patience.”

[65] Mrs. Mirvan looked with astonishment at us both.

[66] “Who does he speak of, my dear? — you never mentioned —”

[67] “O, Madam!” exclaimed he, “he was not worth mentioning — it is a pity he was ever though of; but let us forget his existence. One dance is all I solicit. Permit me, Madam, the honour of this young lady’s hand; it will be a favour I shall ever most gratefully acknowledge.”

[68] “Sir,” answered she, “favours and strangers have with me no connection.”

[69] “If you have hitherto,” said he, “confined your benevolence to your intimate friends, suffer me to be the first for whom your charity is enlarged.”

[70] “Well, Sir, I know not what to say to you, — but —”

[71] He stopt her but with so many urgent entreaties that she at last told me, I must either go down one dance, or avoid his importunities by returning home. I hesitated which alternative to chose; but this impetuous man at length prevailed, and I was obliged to consent to dance with him.

[72] And thus was my deviation from truth punished; and thus did this man’s determined boldness conquer.

[73] During the dance, before we were too much engaged in it for conversation, he was extremely provoking about my partner, and tried every means in his power to make me own that I had deceived him; which, though I would not so far humble myself as to acknowledge, was indeed but too obvious.

[74] Lord Orville, I fancy, did not dance at all. He seemed to have a large acquaintance, and joined several different parties: but you will easily suppose, I was not much pleased to see him, in a few minutes after I was gone, walk towards the place I had just left, and bow to and join Mrs. Mirvan !

[75] How unlucky I thought myself, that I had not longer withstood this stranger’s importunities! The moment we had gone down the dance, I was hastening away from him; but he stopt me, and said, that I could by no means return to my party without giving offence, before we had done our duty of walking up the dance. As I know nothing at all of these rules and customs I was obliged to submit to his directions; but I fancy I looked rather uneasy, for he took notice of my inattention, saying, in his free way, “Whence that anxiety? — Why are those lovely eyes perpetually averted?”

[76] “I wish you would say no more to me, Sir,” cried I peevishly; “you have already destroyed all my happiness for this evening.”

[77] “Good Heaven! What is it I have done? — How have I merited this scorn?”

[78] “You have tormented me to death; you have forced me from my friends, and intruded yourself upon me, against my will, for a partner.”

[79] “Surely, my dear Madam, we ought to be better friends, since there seems to be something of sympathy in the frankness of our dispositions. — And yet, were you not an angel — how do you think I could brooke such contempt?”

[80] “If I have offended you,” cried I, “you have but to leave me — and O how I wish you would!”

[81] “My dear creature,” said he, half laughing, “why where could you be educated?”

[82] “Where I most sincerely wish I now was!”

[83] “How conscious you must be, all beautiful that you are, that those charming airs serve only to heighten the bloom of your complexion!”

[84] “Your freedom, Sir, where you are more acquainted, may perhaps be less disagreeable; but to me —”

[85] “You do me justice,” cried he, interrupting me, “yes, I do indeed improve upon acquaintance; you will hereafter be quite charmed with me.”

[86] “Hereafter, Sir, I hope I shall never —”

[87] “O hush! — hush! — have you forgot the situation in which I found you? — Have you forgot, that when deserted, I pursued you, — when betrayed, I adored you? — but for me —”

[88] “But for you, Sir, I might perhaps have been happy.”

[89] “What then, am I to conclude that, but for me, your partner would have appeared? — poor fellow! — and did my presence awe him?”

[90] “I wish his presence, Sir, could awe you!

[91] “His presence! — perhaps then you see him?”

[92] “Perhaps, Sir, I do,” cried I, quite wearied of his raillery.

[93] “Where? Where? — for Heaven’s sake show me the wretch!”

[94] “Wretch, Sir!”

[95] “O, a very savage! — a sneaking, shame-faced, despicable puppy!”

[96] I know not what bewitched me — but my pride was hurt, and my spirits were tired, and — in short, I had the folly, looking at Lord Orville, to repeat, “Despicable, you think?”

[97] His eyes instantly followed mine; “Why, is that the gentleman?”

[98] I made no answer; I could not affirm, and I would not deny: — for I hoped to be relieved from his teasing by his mistake.

[99] The very moment we had done what he called our duty, I eagerly desired to return to Mrs. Mirvan.

[100] “To your partner, I presume, Madam?” said he, very gravely.

[101] This quite confounded me. I dreaded lest this mischievous man ignorant of his rank, should address himself to Lord Orville, and say something which might expose my artifice. Fool ! to involve myself in such difficulties! I now feared what I had before wished; and therefore, to avoid Lord Orville, I was obliged myself to propose going down another dance, though I was ready to sink with shame while I spoke.

[102] “But your partner, Ma’am?” said he, affecting a very solemn air, “perhaps he may resent my detaining you: if you will give me leave to ask his consent —”

[103] “Not for the universe.”

[104] “Who is he, Madam?”

[105] I wished myself a hundred miles off. He repeated his question, “What is his name?”

[106] “Nothing — nobody — I don’t know —”

[107] He assumed a most important solemnity: “How! — not know? — Give me leave, my dear Madam, to recommend this caution to you: Never dance in public with a stranger, — with one whose name you are unacquainted with, — who may be a mere adventurer, — a man of no character, consider to what impertinence you may expose yourself.”

[108] Was ever anything so ridiculous? I could not help laughing, in spite of my vexation.

[109] At this instant, Mrs. Mirvan, followed by Lord Orville, walked up to us. You will easily believe it was not difficult for me to recover my gravity; but what was my consternation, when this strange man, destined to be the scourge of my artifice, exclaimed, “Ha! My Lord Orville! — I protest I did not know your Lordship. What can I say for my usurpation? — Yet, faith, my Lord, such a prize was not to be neglected.”

[110] My shame and confusion were unspeakable. Who could have supposed or foreseen that this man knew Lord Orville? But falsehood is not more unjustifiable than unsafe.

[111] Lord Orville — well he might — looked all amazement.

[112] “The philosophic coldness of your Lordship,” continued this odious creature, “every man is not endowed with. I have used my utmost endeavours to entertain this lady, though I fear without success; and your lordship will not be a little flattered, if acquainted with the difficulty which attended my procuring the honour of only one dance.” Then, turning to me, who was sinking with shame, while Lord Orville stood motionless, and Mrs. Mirvan astonished, — he suddenly seized my hand, saying, “Think, my Lord, what must be my reluctance to resign this fair hand to your Lordship!”

[113] In the same instant, Lord Orville took it of him; I coloured violently, and made an effort to recover it. “You do me too much honour, Sir,” cried he, (with an air of gallantry, pressing it to his lips before he let it go;) “however, I shall be happy to profit by it, if this lady,” turning to Mrs. Mirvan, “will permit me to seek for her party.”

[114] To compel him thus to dance, I could not endure; and eagerly called out, “By no means — not for the world! — I must beg —”

[115] “Will you honour me, Madam, with your commands,” cried my tormentor; “may I seek the lady’s party?”

[116] “No, Sir,” answered I, turning from him.

[117] “What shall be done, my dear?” said Mrs. Mirvan.

[118] “Nothing, Ma’am; — anything, I mean —”

[119] “But do you dance, or not? you see his Lordship waits.”

[120] “I hope not — I beg that — I would not for the world — I am sure I ought to — to —”

[121] I could not speak; but that confident man, determining to discover whether or not I had deceived him, said to Lord Orville, who stood suspended, “My Lord, this affair, which at present seems perplexed, I will briefly explain: — this lady proposed to me another dance, — nothing could have made me more happy, — I only wished for your Lordship’s permission; which, if now granted, will, I am persuaded, set everything right.”

[122] I glowed with indignation. “No, Sir — it is your absence, and that alone, can set everything right.”

[123] “For Heaven’s sake, my dear,” cried Mrs. Mirvan, who could no longer contain her surprise, “what does all this mean? — were you pre-engaged? — had Lord Orville —”

[124] “No, Madam,” cried I, “only — only I did not know that gentleman, — and so — and so I thought — I intended — I —”

[125] Overpowered by all that had passed, I had not strength to make my mortifying explanation; — my spirits quite failed me, and I burst into tears.

[126] They all seemed shocked and amazed.

[127] “What is the matter, my dearest love?” cried Mrs. Mirvan, with kindest concern.

[128] “What have I done!” exclaimed my evil genius, and ran officiously for a glass of water.

[129] However, a hint was sufficient for Lord Orville, who comprehended all I would have explained. He immediately led me to a seat, and said in a low voice, “Be not distressed, I beseech you: I shall ever think my name honoured by your making use of it.”

[130] This politeness relieved me. A general murmur had alarmed Miss Mirvan, who flew instantly to me; while Lord Orville the moment Mrs. Mirvan had taken the water, led my tormentor away.

[131] “For Heaven’s sake, dear Madam,” cried I, “let me go home; — indeed I cannot stay here any longer.”

[132] “Let us all go,” cried my kind Maria.

[133] “But the Captain, what will he say — I had better go home in a chair.”

[134] Mrs. Mirvan consented, and I rose to depart. Lord Orville and that man both came to me. The first, with an attention I but ill-merited from him, led me to a chair; while the other followed, pestering me with apologies. I wished to have made mine to Lord Orville, but was too much ashamed.

[135] It was about one o’clock. Mrs. Mirvan’s servants saw me home.

[136] And now, — what again shall ever tempt me to an assembly? I dread to hear what you will think of me, my most dear and honoured Sir: you will need your utmost partiality to receive me without displeasure.

[137] This morning Lord Orville has sent to inquire after our health; and Sir Clement Willoughby, for that, I find, is the name of my persecutor, has called; but I would not go down stairs till he was gone.

[138] And now, my dear Sir, I can somewhat account for the strange, provoking, and ridiculous conduct of this Sir Clement last night; for Miss Mirvan says he is the very man with whom she heard Lord Orville conversing at Mrs. Stanley’s, when I was spoken of in so mortifying a manner. He was pleased to say he was glad to hear I was a fool; and therefore, I suppose, he concluded he might talk as much nonsense as he pleased to me: however, I am very indifferent as to his opinion; — but for Lord Orville, — if then he thought me an idiot, now, I am sure, he must suppose me both bold and presuming. Make use of his name! — what impertinence — he can never know how it happened, — he can only imagine it was from an excess of vanity; — well, however, I shall leave this bad city to-morrow, and never again will I enter it.

[139] The Captain intends to take us to-night to the Fantoccini. I cannot bear that Captain; I can give you no idea how gross he is. I heartily rejoice that he was not present at the disagreeable conclusion of yesterday’s adventure, for I am sure he would have contributed to my confusion; which might, perhaps, have diverted him, as he seldom or never smiles but at some other person’s expense.

[140] And here I conclude my London letters, — and without any regret; for I am too inexperienced and ignorant to conduct myself with propriety in this town, where everything is new to me, and many things are unaccountable and perplexing.

[141] Adieu, my dear Sir; Heaven restore me safely to you! I wish I was to go immediately to Berry Hill; yet the wish is ungrateful to Mrs. Mirvan, and therefore I will repress it. I shall write an account of the Fantoccini from Howard Grove. We have not been to half the public places that are now open, though I dare say you will think we have been to all. But they are almost as innumerable as the persons who fill them.

Letter XIV.

Evelina in Continuation.

Queen Ann Street, April 13.

[142] How much will you be surprised, my dearest Sir, at receiving another letter, from London, of your Evelina’s writing! But, believe me, it was not my fault, neither is it my happiness, that I am still here: our journey has been postponed by an accident equally unexpected and disagreeable.

[143] We went last night to see the Fantoccini, where we had infinite entertainment from the performance of a little comedy in French and Italian, by puppets, so admirably managed, that they both astonished and diverted us all, except the Captain, who has a fixed and most prejudiced hatred of whatever is not English.

[144] When it was over, while we waited for the coach, a tall elderly woman brushed quickly past us, calling out, “My God, what shall I do?”

[145] “Why, what would you do?” cried the Captain.

[146]Ma foi, Monsieur,” answered she, “I have lost my company, and in this place I don’t know nobody.”

[147] There was something foreign in her accent, though it was difficult to discover whether she was an English or a French woman. She was very well dressed; and seemed so entirely at a loss what to do, that Mrs. Mirvan proposed to the Captain to assist her.

[148] “Assist her!” cried he, “ay, with all my heart; — let a link-boy call her a coach.”

[149] There was not one to be had, and it rained very fast.

[150]Mon Dieu!” exclaimed the stranger, “what shall become of me? Je suis au désespoir!

[151] “Dear Sir,” cried Miss Mirvan, “pray let us take the poor lady into our coach. She is quite alone, and a foreigner —”

[152] “She’s never the better for that,” answered he: “she may be a woman of the town, for anything you know.”

[153] “She does not appear such,” said Mrs. Mirvan; “and indeed she seems so much distressed, that we shall but follow the golden rule, if we carry her to her lodgings.”

[154] “You are mighty fond of new acquaintance,” returned he; “but first let us know if she be going our way.”

[155] Upon inquiry, we found that she lived in Oxford Road; and, after some disputing, the Captain surlily, and, with a very bad grace, consented to admit her into his coach; though he soon convinced us, that he was determined she should not be too much obliged to him, for he seemed absolutely bent upon quarrelling with her: for which strange inhospitality I can assign no other reason, than that she appeared to be a foreigner.

[156] The conversation began, by her telling us, that she had been in England only two days; that the gentlemen belonging to her were Parisians, and had left her to see for a hackney-coach, as her own carriage was abroad; and that she had waited for them till she was quite frightened, and concluded that they had lost themselves.

[157] “And pray,” said the Captain, “why did you go to a public place without an Englishman?”

[158]Ma foi, Sir,” answered she, “because none of my acquaintance is in town.”

[159] “Why then,” said he, “I’ll tell you what, your best way is to go out of it yourself.”

[160]Pardi, Monsieur,” returned she, “and so I shall; for, I promise you, I think the English a parcel of brutes; and I’ll go back to France as fast as I can, for I would not live among none of you.”

[161] “Who wants you?” cried the Captain: “do you suppose, Madam French, we have not enough of other nations to pick our pockets already? I’ll warrant you, there’s no need for you for to put in your oar.”

[162] “Pick your pockets, Sir! I wish nobody wanted to pick your pockets no more than I do; and I’ll promise you you’d be safe enough. But there’s no nation under the sun can beat the English for ill-politeness: for my part, I hate the very sight of them; and so I shall only just visit a person of quality or two of my particular acquaintance, and then I shall go back again to France.”

[163] “Ay, do,” cried he; “and then go to the devil together, for that’s the fittest voyage for the French and the quality.”

[164] “We’ll take care, however,” cried the stranger with great vehemence, “not to admit none of your vulgar unmannered English among us.”

[165] “O never fear,” returned he, coolly, “we shan’t dispute the point with you; you and the quality may have the devil all to yourselves.”

[166] Desirous of changing the subject of a conversation which now became very alarming, Miss Mirvan called out, “Lord, how slow the man drives!”

[167] “Never mind, Moll,” said her father, “I’ll warrant you he’ll drive fast enough to-morrow, when you are going to Howard Grove.”

[168] “To Howard Grove!” exclaimed the stranger, “why, mon Dieu, do you know Lady Howard?”

[169] “Why, what if we do?” answered he; “that’s nothing to you; she’s none of your quality, I’ll promise you.”

[170] “Who told you that?” cried she; “you don’t know nothing about the matter! besides, you’re the ill-bredest person ever I see: and as to your knowing Lady Howard, I don’t believe no such a thing; unless, indeed, you are her steward.”

[171] The Captain, swearing terribly, said, with great fury, “You would much sooner be taken for her wash-woman.”

[172] “Her wash-woman, indeed? — Ha, ha, ha, why you han’t no eyes; did you ever see a wash-woman in such a gown as this? — Besides, I’m no such mean person, for I’m as good as Lady Howard, and as rich too; and besides, I’m now come to England to visit her.”

[173] “You may spare yourself that there trouble,” said the Captain, “she has paupers enough about her already.”

[174] “Paupers, Mister! — no more a pauper than yourself, nor so much neither; — but you are a low, dirty fellow, and I shan’t stoop to take no more notice of you.”

[175] “Dirty fellow!” exclaimed the Captain, seizing both her wrists, “hark you, Mrs. Frog, you’d best hold your tongue; for I must make bold to tell you, if you don’t, that I shall make no ceremony of tripping you out of the window, and there you may lie in the mud till some of your Monseers come to help you out of it.”

[176] Their increasing passion quite terrified us; and Mrs. Mirvan was beginning to remonstrate with the Captain, when we were all silenced by what follows.

[177] “Let me go, villain that you are, let me go, or I’ll promise you I’ll get you put to prison for this usage. I’m no common person, I assure you; and, ma foi, I’ll go to Justice Fielding about you; for I’m a person of fashion, and I’ll make you know it, or my name a’n’t Duval.”

[178] I heard no more: amazed, frightened, and unspeakably shocked, an involuntary exclamation of Gracious Heaven! escaped me, and, more dead than alive, I sunk into Mrs. Mirvan’s arms. But let me draw a veil over a scene too cruel for a heart so compassionately tender as your’s; it is sufficient that you know this supposed foreigner proved to be Madame Duval, — the grandmother of your Evelina!

[179] O, Sir, to discover so near a relation in a woman, who had thus introduced herself! — what would become of me, were it not for you, my protector, my friend, and my refuge?

[180] My extreme concern, and Mrs. Mirvan’s surprise, immediately betrayed me. But, I will not shock you with the manner of her acknowledging me, or the bitterness, the grossness — I cannot otherwise express myself, — with which she spoke of those unhappy past transactions you have so pathetically related to me. All the misery of a much injured parent, dear, though never seen, regretted, though never known, crowded so forcibly upon my memory, that they rendered this interview — one only excepted — the most afflicting I can ever know.

[181] When we stopt at her lodgings, she desired me to accompany her into the house, and said she could easily procure a room for me to sleep in. Alarmed and trembling, I turned to Mrs. Mirvan. “My daughter, Madam,” said that sweet woman, “cannot so abruptly part with her young friend; you must allow a little time to wean them from each other.”

[182] “Pardon me, Ma’am,” answered Madame Duval, (who, from the time of her being known, somewhat softened her manners) “Miss can’t possibly be so nearly connected to this child as I am.”

[183] “No matter for that,” cried the Captain, (who espoused my cause to satisfy his own pique, tho’ an awkward apology had passed between them) “she was sent to us; and so, dy’e see, we don’t choose for to part with her.”

[184] I promised to wait upon her at what time she pleased the next day; and, after a short debate, she desired me to breakfast with her, and we proceeded to Queen Ann Street.

[185] What an unfortunate adventure! I could not close my eyes the whole night. A thousand times I wished I had never left Berry Hill: however, my return thither shall be accelerated to the utmost of my power; and, once more in that abode of tranquil happiness, I will suffer no temptation to allure me elsewhere.

[186] Mrs. Mirvan was so kind as to accompany me to Madame Duval’s house this morning. The Captain, too, offered his service; which I declined, from a fear she should suppose I meant to insult her.

[187] She frowned most terribly upon Mrs. Mirvan; but she received me with as much tenderness as I believe she is capable of feeling. Indeed, our meeting seems really to have affected her; for when, overcome by the variety of emotions which the sight of her occasioned, I almost fainted in her arms, she burst into tears, and said, “let me not lose my poor daughter a second time!” This unexpected humanity softened me extremely; but she very soon excited my warmest indignation, by the ungrateful mention she made of the best of men, my dear and most generous benefactor. However, grief and anger mutually gave way to terror, upon her avowing the intention of her visiting England was to make me return with her to France. This, she said, was a plan she had formed from the instant she had heard of my birth; which, she protested, did not reach her ears till I must have been twelve years of age; but Monsieur Duval, who she declared was the worst husband in the world, would not permit her to do any thing she wished: he had been dead but three months; which had been employed in arranging certain affairs, that were no sooner settled, than she set off for England. She was already out of mourning, for she said nobody here could tell how long she had been a widow.

[188] She must have been married very early in life: what her age is I do not know; but she really looks to be less than fifty. She dresses very gaily, paints very high, and the traces of former beauty are still very visible in her face.

[189] I know not when, or how, this visit would have ended, had not the Captain called for Mrs. Mirvan, and absolutely insisted upon my attending her. He is become, very suddenly, so warmly my friend, that I quite dread his officiousness. Mrs. Mirvan, however, whose principal study seems to be healing those wounds which her husband inflicts, appeased Madame Duval’s wrath, by a very polite invitation to drink tea and spend the evening here. Not without great difficulty was the Captain prevailed upon to defer his journey some time longer; but what could be done? It would have been indecent for me to have quitted town the very instant I discovered that Madame Duval was in it; and to have staid here solely under her protection — Mrs. Mirvan, thank Heaven, was too kind for such a thought. That she should follow us to Howard Grove, I almost equally dreaded. It is therefore determined, that we remain in London for some days, or a week: though the Captain has declared that the old French hag, as he is pleased to call her, shall fare never the better for it.

[190] My only hope is to get safe to Berry Hill; where, counselled and sheltered by you, I shall have nothing more to fear. Adieu, my ever dear and most honoured Sir! I shall have no happiness till I am again with you.

Letter XX

Evelina in Continuation.

[191] Our places were in the front row of a side-box. Sir Clement Willoughby, who knew our intention, was at the door of the theatre, and handed us from the carriage.

[192] We had not been seated five minutes before Lord Orville, whom we saw in the stage-box, came to us; and he honoured us with his company all the evening; Miss Mirvan and I both rejoiced that Madam Duval was absent, as we hoped for the enjoyment of some conversation, uninterrupted by her quarrels with the Captain: but I soon found that her presence would have made very little alteration; for as far was I from daring to speak, that I knew not where even to look.

[193] The play was Love for Love; and though it is fraught with wit and entertainment I hope I shall never see it represented again; for it is so extremely indelicate — to use the softest word I can — that Miss Mirvan and I were perpetually out of countenance, and could neither make any observations ourselves, nor venture to listen to those of others. This was the most provoking, as Lord Orville was in excellent spirits, and exceedingly entertaining.

[194] When the play was over, I flattered myself I should be able to look about me with less restraint, as we intended to stay the farce; but the curtain had hardly dropped, when the box-door opened, and in came Mr. Lovel, the man by whose foppery and impertinence I was so much teased at the ball where I first saw Lord Orville.

[195] I turned away my head, and began talking to Miss Mirvan; for I was desirous to avoid speaking to him — but in vain; for, as soon as he had made his compliments to Lord Orville and Sir Clement Willoughby, who returned them very coldly, he bent his head forward and said to me, “I hope, Ma’am, you have enjoyed your health since I had the honour — I beg ten thousand pardons, but, I protest I was going to say the honour of dancing with you — however, I mean the honour of seeing you dance?”

[196] He spoke with a self-complacency that convinced me that he had studied this address, by way of making reprisals for my conduct at the ball; I therefore bowed slightly, but made no answer.

[197] After a short silence he again called my attention, by saying, in an easy, negligent way, “I think, Ma’am, you was never in town before?”

[198] “No, Sir.”

[199] “So I did presume. Doubtless, Ma’am, every thing must be infinitely novel to you. Our customs, our manners, and les etiquettes de nous autres, can have little very resemblance to those you have been used to. I imagine, Ma’am, your retirement is at no very small distance from the capital?”

[200] I was so much disconcerted at this sneering speech, that I said not a word; though I have since thought my vexation both stimulated and delighted him.

[201] “The air we breathe here, however, Ma’am,” continued he, very conceitedly, “though foreign to that you have been accustomed to, has not I hope been at variance with your health?”

[202] “Mr. Lovel,” said Lord Orville, “could not your eye have spared that question?”

[203] “O, my Lord,” answered he, “if health were the only cause of a lady’s bloom, my eye, I grant, had been infallible from the first glance; but —”

[204] “Come, come,” cried Mrs. Mirvan, “I must beg no insinuations of that sort: Miss Anville’s colour, as you have successfully tried, may, you see, be heightened; but, I assure you, it would be past your skill to lessen it.”

[205] “’Pon honour, Madam,” returned he, “you wrong me; I presumed not to infer that rouge was the only succedaneum for health; but, really, I have known so many different causes for a lady’s colour, such as flushing — anger — mauvaise honte — and so forth, that I never dare decide to which it may be owing.”

[206] “As to such causes as them there,” cried the Captain, “they must belong to those that they keep company with.”

[207] “Very true, Captain,” said Sir Clement; “the natural complexion has nothing to do with the occasional sallies of the passions, or any accidental causes.”

[208] “No, truly,” returned the Captain: “for now here’s me, why I look like any other man; just now; and yet, if you were to put me in a passion, ’fore George, you’d soon see me have as fine a high colour as any painted Jezebel in all this place, be she never so bedaubed.”

[209] “But,” said Lord Orville, “the difference of natural and of artificial colour seems to me very easily discerned; that of nature is mottled and varying; that of art set, and too smooth; it wants that animation, that glow, that indescribable something, which, even now that I see it, wholly surpasses all my powers of expression.”

[210] “Your Lordship,” said Sir Clement, “is universally acknowledged to be a connoisseur in beauty.”

[211] “And you, Sir Clement,” returned he, “an enthusiast.

[212] “I am proud to own it,” cried Sir Clement; “in such a cause, and before such objects, enthusiasm is simply the consequence of not being blind.”

[213] “Pr’ythee, a truce with all this palavering,” cried the Captain: “the women are vain enough already; no need for to puff ’em up more.”

[214] “We must all submit to the commanding officer,” said Sir Clement: “therefore, let us call another subject. Pray, ladies, how have you been entertained with the play?”

[215] “Want of entertainment,” said Mrs. Mirvan, “is its least fault; but I own there are objections to it, which I should be glad to see removed.”

[216] “I could have ventured to answer for the ladies,” said Lord Orville, “since I am sure this is not a play that can be honoured with their approbation.”

[217] “What, I suppose it is not sentimental enough!” cried the Captain, “or else it is too good for them; for I’ll maintain it’s one of the best comedies in our language, and has more wit in one scene than there is in all the new plays put together.”

[218] “For my part,” said Mr. Lovel, “I confess I seldom listen to the players: one has so much to do, in looking about and finding out one’s acquaintance, that, really, one has no time to mind the stage. Pray,” most affectedly fixing his eyes upon a diamond ring on his little finger, “pray — what was the play to-night?”

[219] “Why, what the D——l,” cried the Captain, “do you come to the play without knowing what it is?”

[220] “O yes, Sir, yes, very frequently: I have no time to read play-bills; one merely comes to meet one’s friends, and shew that one’s alive.”

[221] “Ha, ha, ha! — and so,” cried the Captain, “it costs you five shillings a-night just to shew you’re alive! Well, faith, my friends should all think me dead and underground before I’d be at that expense for ’em. Howsomever — this here you may take from me — they’ll find you out fast enough if you have anything to give ’em. — And so you’ve been here all this time, and don’t know what the play was?”

[222] “Why, really Sir, a play requires so much attention, — it is scarce possible to keep awake if one listens; — for, indeed, by the time it is evening, one has been so fatigued with dining, — or wine, — or the house, — or studying, — that it is — it is perfectly an impossibility. But, now I think of it, I believe I have a bill in my pocket; O, ay, here it is — Love for Love, ay, — true, ha, ha! — how could I be so stupid!”

[223] “O, easily enough, as to that, I warrant you,” said the Captain; “but, by my soul, this is one of the best jokes I ever heard! — Come to a play, and not know what it is! — Why, I suppose you wouldn’t have found it out, if they had fob’d you off with a scraping of fiddlers, or an opera? — Ha, ha, ha! — Why, now, I should have thought you might have taken some notice of one Mr. Tattle, that is in this play!”

[224] This sarcasm, which caused a general smile, made him colour: but, turning to the Captain with a look of conceit, which implied that he had a retort ready, he said, “Pray, Sir, give me leave to ask — What do you think of one Mr. Ben, who is also in this play?”

[225] The Captain, regarding him with the utmost contempt, answered in a loud voice, “Think of him! — why, I think he is a man! “And then, staring full in his face, he struck his cane on the ground with a violence that made him start. He did not however, choose to take any notice of this: but, having bit his nails some time in manifest confusion, he turned very quick to me, and in a sneering tone of voice, said, “For my part, I was most struck with the country young lady, Miss Prue; pray what do you think of her, Ma’am?”

[226] “Indeed, Sir,” cried I, very much provoked, “I think — that is, I do not think any thing about her.”

[227] “Well, really, Ma’am, you prodigiously surprise me! — mais, apparemment ce n’est qu’une façon de parler? — though I should beg your pardon, for probably you do not understand French?”

[228] I made no answer, for I thought his rudeness intolerable; but Sir Clement, with great warmth, said, “I am surprised that you can suppose such an object as Miss Prue would engage the attention of Miss Anville even for a moment.”

[229] “O, Sir,” returned this fop, “’tis the first character in the piece! — so well drawn! — so much the thing! — such true country breeding — such rural ignorance! ha, ha, ha! — ’tis most admirably hit off, ’pon honour!”

[230] I could almost have cried, that such impertinence should be leveled at me; and yet, chagrined as I was, I could never behold Lord Orville and this man at the same time, and feel any regret for the cause I had given of displeasure.

[231] “The only female in the play,” said Lord Orville, “worthy of being mentioned to these ladies is Angelica.”

[232] “Angelica,” cried Sir Clement, “is a noble girl; she tries her lover severely, but she rewards him generously.”

[233] “Yet, in a trial so long,” said Mrs. Mirvan, “there seems rather too much consciousness of her power.”

[234] “Since my opinion has the sanction of Mrs. Mirvan,” added Lord Orville, “I will venture to say, that Angelica bestows her hand rather with the air of a benefactress, than with the tenderness of a mistress. Generosity without delicacy, like wit without judgment, generally gives as much pain as pleasure. The uncertainty in which she keeps Valentine, and her manner of trifling with his temper, give no very favourable idea of her own.”

[235] “Well, my Lord,” said Mr. Lovel, “it must, however, be owned, that uncertainty is not the ton among our ladies at present; nay, indeed, I think they say, — though faith,” taking a pinch of snuff, “I hope it is not true — but they say, that we now are most shy and backward.”

[236] The curtain then drew up, and our conversation ceased. Mr. Lovel, finding we chose to attend to the players, left the box. How strange it is, Sir, that this man, not contented with the large share of foppery and nonsense which he has from nature, should think proper to affect yet more! for what he said of Tattle and of Miss Prue, convinced me that he really had listened to the play, though he was so ridiculous and foolish as to pretend ignorance.

[237] But how malicious and impertinent is this creature to talk to me in such a manner! I am sure I hope I shall never see him again. I should have despised him heartily as a fop, had he never spoken to me at all; but now, that he thinks proper to resent his supposed ill-usage, I am really quite afraid of him.

[238] The entertainment was, The Duece is in Him; which Lord Orville observed to be the most finished and elegant petit piece that was ever written in English.

[239] In our way home, Mrs. Mirvan put me into some consternation by saying, it was evident, from the resentment which this Mr. Lovel harbours of my conduct, that he would think it a provocation sufficiently important for a duel, if his courage equaled his wrath.

[240] I am terrified at the very idea. Good Heaven! that a man so weak and frivolous should be so revengeful! However, if bravery would have excited him to affront Lord Orville, how much reason have I to rejoice that cowardice makes him contended with venting his spleen upon me! But we shall leave town soon, and, I hope, see him no more.

[241] It was some consolation to me to hear from Miss Mirvan, that, while he was speaking to me so cavalierly, Lord Orville regarded him with great indignation.

[242] But, really, I think there ought to be a book of the laws and customs à-la-mode, presented to all young people upon their first introduction into public company.

[243] To-night we go to the opera, where I expect very great pleasure. We shall have the same party as at the play, for Lord Orville said he should be there, and would look for us.

Letter LII.

Evelina in Continuation.

Holborn, July 1. — 5 o’clock in the morning.

[244] O Sir, what and adventure have I to write! — all night it has occupied my thoughts, and I am now risen thus early to write it to you.

[245] Yesterday it was settled that we should spend the evening in Marybone Gardens, where M. Torre, a celebrated foreigner, was to exhibit some fire-works. The party consisted of Madame Duval, all the Branghtons, M. Du Bois, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Brown.

[246] We were almost the first persons who entered the Gardens, Mr. Branghton having declared he would have all he could get for his money, which, at best, was only fooled away at such silly and idle places.

[247] We walked in parties, and very much detached from one another. Mr. Brown and Miss Polly led the way by themselves; Miss Branghton and Mr. Smith followed; and the latter seemed determined to be revenged for my behaviour at the ball, by transferring all his former attention for me to Miss Branghton, who received it with an air of exultation; and very frequently they each of them, though from different motives, looked back, to discover whether I observed their good intelligence. Madame Duval walked with M. Du Bois, and Mr. Branghton by himself; but his son would willingly have attached himself wholly to me; saying frequently, “come, Miss, let’s you and I have a little fun together: you see they have all left us, so now let’s leave them.” But I begged to be excused, and went to the other side of Madame Duval.

[248] This Garden, as it is called, is neither striking for magnificence nor for beauty; and we were all so dull and languid, that I was extremely glad when we were summoned to the orchestra, upon the opening of a concert; in the course of which I had the pleasure of hearing a concerto on the violin by Mr. Barthelemon, who to me seems a player of exquisite fancy, feeling and variety.

[249] When notice was given us that the fire-works were preparing we hurried along to secure good places for the sight; but very soon we were so encircled and incommoded by the crowd, that Mr. Smith proposed the ladies should make interest for a form to stand upon: this was soon effected: and the men then left us to accommodate themselves better; saying, they would return the moment the exhibition was over.

[250] The fire-work was really beautiful; and told, with wonderful ingenuity, the story of Orpheus and Eurydice: but, at the moment of the fatal look which separated them for ever, there was such an explosion of fire, and so horrible a noise, that we all, as of one accord, jumpt hastily from the form, and ran away some paces, fearing that we were in danger of mischief, from the innumerable sparks of fire which glittered in the air.

[251] For a moment or two I neither knew nor considered whither I had run; but my recollection was soon awakened by a stranger’s addressing me with, “Come along with me, my dear, and I’ll take care of you.”

[252] I started; and then, to my great terror, perceived that I had outrun all my companions, and saw not one human being I knew! With all the speed in my power, and forgetful of my first fright, I hastened back to the place I had left; — but found the form occupied by a new set of people.

[253] In vain, from side to side, I looked for some face I knew; I found myself in the midst of a crowd, yet without party, friend, or acquaintance. I walked in disordered haste from place to place, without knowing which way to turn, or whither I went. Every other moment I was spoken to by some bold and unfeeling man; to whom my distress, which I think must be very apparent, only furnished a pretence for impertinent witticisms, or free gallantry.

[254] At last a young officer, marching fiercely up to me, said, “You are a sweet pretty creature, and I enlist you in my service;” and then, with great violence, he seized my hand. I screamed aloud with fear; and forcibly snatching it away, I ran hastily up to two ladies, and cried, “for Heaven’s sake, dear ladies, afford me some protection!”

[255] They heard me with a loud laugh, but very readily said, “Ay, let her walk between us;” and each of them took hold of an arm.

[256] Then, in a drawling, ironical tone of voice, they asked what had frightened my little Ladyship? I told them my adventure very simply, and intreated they would have the goodness to assist me in finding my friends.

[257] O yes, to be sure, they said, I should not want for friends, whilst I was with them. Mine, I said, would be very grateful for any civilities with which they might favour me. But imagine, my dear Sir, how I must have been confounded, when I observed, that every other word I spoke produced a loud laugh! However, I will not dwell upon a conversation, which soon, to my inexpressible horror, convinced me I had sought protection from insult, of those who were themselves most likely to offer it! You, my dearest Sir, I well know, will both feel for and pity my terror, which I have no words to describe.

[258] Had I been at liberty, I should have instantly run away from them when I made the shocking discovery: but, as they held me fast, that was utterly impossible: and such was my dread of their resentment or abuse that I did not dare make any open attempt to escape.

[259] They asked me a thousand questions, accompanied by as many halloos, of who I was, what I was, and whence I came? My answers were very incoherent; — but what, good Heaven, were my emotions, when, a few moments afterwards, I perceived advancing our way — Lord Orville!

[260] Never shall I forget what I felt at that instant: had I, indeed, been sunk to the guilty state which such companions might lead him to suspect, I could scarce have had feelings more cruelly depressing.

[261] However, to my infinite joy, he passed us without distinguishing me; though I saw that in a careless manner, his eyes surveyed the party.

[262] As soon as he was gone, one of these unhappy women said, “Do you know that young fellow?”

[263] Not thinking it possible she should mean Lord Orville by such a term, I readily answered, “No, Madam.”

[264] “Why then,” answered she, “you have a monstrous good stare, for a little county Miss.”

[265] I now found I had mistaken her, but was glad to avoid an explanation.

[266] A few minutes after, what was my delight to hear the voice of Mr. Brown, who called out, “Lord, i’n’t that Miss what’s her name?”

[267] “Thank God,” cried I, suddenly springing from them both, “thank God, I have found my party.”

[268] Mr. Brown was, however, alone; and, without knowing what I did, I took hold of his arm.

[269] “Lord, Miss,” cried he, “we’ve had such a hunt you can’t think! some of them thought you was gone home: but I says, says I, I don’t think, says I, that she’s like to go home all alone, says I.”

[270] “So that gentleman belongs to you, Miss, does he?” said one of the women.

[271] “Yes, Madam,” answered I, “and I now thank you for your civility; but as I am safe, will not give you any further trouble.”

[272] I courtsied slightly, and would gave walked away; but, most unfortunately, Madame Duval and the two Miss Branghtons just then joined us.

[273] They all began to make a thousand enquiries; to which I briefly answered, that I had been obliged to these two ladies for walking with me, and would tell them more another time: for, though I felt great comparative courage, I was yet too much intimidated by their presence, to dare be explicit.

[274] Nevertheless, I ventured once more to wish them a goodnight, and proposed seeking Mr. Branghton. These unhappy women listened to all that was said with a kind of callous curiosity, and seemed determined not to take any hint. But my vexation was terribly augmented when, after having whispered something to each other, they very cavalierly declared, that they intended joining our party! and then, one of them very boldly took hold of my arm, while the other, going round, seized that of Mr. Brown; and thus, almost forcibly, we were moved on between them, and followed by Madame Duval and the Miss Branghton.

[275] It would be very difficult to say which was greatest, my fright, or Mr. Brown’s consternation; who ventured not to make the least resistance, though his uneasiness made him tremble almost as much as myself. I would instantly have withdrawn my arm: but it was held so tight I could not move it; and poor Mr. Brown was circumstanced in the same manner on the other side; for I heard him say, “Lord, Ma’am, there’s no need to squeeze one’s arm so!”

[276] And this was our situation, — for we had not taken three steps, when, — O sir, — we again met Lord Orville! — but not again did he pass quietly by us: — unhappily I caught his eye; — both mine immediately were bent to the ground; but he approached me, and we all stopped.

[277] I then looked up. He bowed. Good God, with what expressive eyes did he regard me! Never were surprise and concern so strongly marked: — yes, my dear Sir, he looked greatly concerned: and that, the remembrance of that, is the only consolation I feel for an evening the most painful of my life.

[278] What he said I know not; for indeed, I seemed to have neither ears nor understanding; but I recollect that I only courtsied in silence. He paused for an instant, as if — I believe so, — as if unwilling to pass on; and then, finding the whole party detained, he again bowed, and took leave.

[279] Indeed, my dear Sir, I thought I should have fainted; so great was my emotion, from shame, vexation, and a thousand other feelings, for which I have no expressions. I absolutely tore myself from the woman’s arms; and then, disengaging myself from that of Mr. Brown, I went to Madame Duval, and besought that she would not suffer me to be again parted from her.

[280] I fancy — that Lord Orville saw what passed; for scarcely was I at liberty, ere he returned. Methought, my dear Sir, the pleasure, the surprise of that moment, recompensed me for all the chagrin I had before felt: for do you not think, that his return manifests, for a character so quiet, so reserved as Lord Orville’s, something like solicitude in my concerns? such at least was the interpretation I involuntarily made upon again seeing him.

[281] With a politeness to which I have been sometime very little used, he apologized for returning; and then inquired after the health of Mrs. Mirvan, and the rest of the Howard Grove family. The flattering conjecture which I have just acknowledged, had so wonderfully restored my spirits, that I believe I never answered him so readily, and with so little constraint. Very short, however, was the duration of this conversation; for we were soon most disagreeably interrupted.

[282] The Miss Branghtons, though they saw almost immediately the characters of the women to whom I had so unfortunately applied, were, nevertheless, so weak and foolish, as merely to titter at their behaviour. As to Madame Duval, she was for some time so strangely imposed upon, that she thought they were two real fine ladies. Indeed, it is wonderful to see how easily and how frequently she is deceived. Our disturbance, however, arose from young Brown, who was now between the two women, by whom his arms were absolutely pinioned to his sides: for a few minutes his complaints had been only murmured: but he now called out aloud, “Goodness, Ladies, you hurt me like any thing! why, I can’t walk at all, if you keep pinching my arms so!”

[283] This speech raised a loud laugh in the women, and redoubled the tittering of the Miss Branghtons. For my own part, I was most cruelly confused: while the countenance of Lord Orville manifested a sort of indignant astonishment; and, from that moment, he spoke to me no more till he took leave.

[284] Madame Duval, who now began to suspect her company, proposed our taking the first box we saw empty, bespeaking a supper, and waiting till Mr. Branghton should find us.

[285] Miss Polly mentioned one she had remarked, to which we all turned. Madame Duval instantly seated herself; and the two bold women, forcing the frightened Mr. Brown to go between them, followed her example.

[286] Lord Orville, with an air of gravity that wounded my very soul, then wished me good night. I said not a word; but my face, if it had any connection with my heart, must have looked melancholy indeed: and so I have some reason to believe it did; for he added with much more softness, though no less dignity, “Will Miss Anville allow me to ask her address, and to pay my respects to her before I leave town?”

[287] O how I changed colour at this unexpected request! — yet, what was the mortification I suffered in answering, “My Lord, I am — in Holborn!”

[288] He then bowed and left us.

[289] What, what can he think of this adventure! how strangely how cruelly have all appearances turned against me! Had I been blessed with any presence of mind, I should instantly have explained to him the accident which occasioned my being in such terrible company: — but I have none!

[290] As to the rest of the evening, I cannot relate the particulars of what passed; for, to you, I only write of what I think; and I can think of nothing but this unfortunate, this disgraceful meeting. These two wretched women continued to torment us all, but especially poor Mr. Brown, who seemed to afford them uncommon diversion, till we were discovered by Mr. Branghton, who very soon found means to release us from their persecutions, by frightening them away. We stayed but a short time after they left us, which was all employed in explanation.

[291] Whatever may be the construction which Lord Orville may put upon this affair, to me it cannot fail of being unfavourable; to be seen — gracious Heaven! to be seen in company with two women of such character! — How vainly, how proudly have I wished to avoid meeting him when only with the Branghtons and Madame Duval; — but now, how joyful should I be had he seen me to no greater disadvantage! — Holborn, too! what a direction! he who had always — but I will not torment you, my dearest Sir, with any more of my mortifying conjectures and apprehensions: perhaps he may call, — and then I shall have an opportunity of explaining to him all the most shocking part of the adventure. And yet, as I did not tell him at whose house I lived, he may not be able to discover me; I merely said in Holborn; and he, who I suppose saw my embarrassment, forbore to ask any other direction.

[292] Well, I must take my chance!

[293] Yet let me, in the justice to Lord Orville, and in justice to the high opinion I have always entertained of his honour and delicacy, — let me observe the difference of his behaviour, when nearly in the same situation, to that of Sir Clement Willoughby. He had, at least, equal cause to depreciate me in his opinion, and to mortify and sink me in my own; but far different was his conduct: — perplexed, indeed, he looked, and much surprised: — but it was benevolently, not with insolence. I am even inclined to think, that he could not see a young creature whom he had so lately known in a higher sphere, appear so suddenly, so strangely, so disgracefully altered in her situation, without some pity and concern. But whatever might be his doubts and suspicions, far from suffering them to influence his behaviour, he spoke, he looked with the same politeness and attention with which he had always honoured me when countenanced by Mrs. Mirvan.

[294] Once again, let me drop this subject.

[295] In every mortification, every disturbance, how grateful to my heart, how sweet to my recollection, is the certainty of your never-failing tenderness, sympathy and protection! Oh, Sir, could I upon this subject, could I write as I feel, — how animated would be the language of your devoted