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Letter 13
Evelina In Continuation Tuesday, April 12. My Dear Sir
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.
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
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.
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.
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?"
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.