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Letter 14

Evelina In Continuation. Queen Ann Street, April 13
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.
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. 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?"
"Why, what would you do?" cried the Captain.
"Ma foi, Monsieur," answered she, "I have lost my company, and in this place I don't know nobody."
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.
"Assist her!" cried he, "ay, with all my heart;-let a link-boy call her a coach." There was not one to be had, and it rained very fast.
"Mon Dieu!" exclaimed the stranger, "what shall become of me? Je suis au desespoir!"
"Dear Sir," cried Miss Mirvan, "pray let us take the poor lady into our coach. She is quite alone, and a foreigner-"
"She's never the better for that," answered he: "she may be a woman of the town, for anything you know."
"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."
"You are mighty fond of new acquaintance," returned he; "but first let us know if she be going our way."
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.
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.
"And pray," said the Captain, "why did you go to a public place without an Englishman?"
"Ma foi, Sir," answered she, "because none of my acquaintance is in town." "Why then," said he, "I'll tell you what, your best way is to go out of it yourself." "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."
"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."
"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."
"Ay, do," cried he; "and then go to the devil together, for that's the fittest voyage for the French and the quality."
"We'll take care, however," cried the stranger with great vehemence, "not to admit none of your vulgar unmannered English among us."
"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."
Desirous of changing the subject of a conversation which now became very alarming, Miss Mirvan called out, "Lord, how slow the man drives!" "Never mind, Moll," said her father, "I'll warrant you he'll drive fast enough tomorrow, when you are going to Howard Grove."
"To Howard Grove!" exclaimed the stranger, "why, mon Dieu, do you know Lady Howard?"
"Why, what if we do?" answered he; "that's nothing to you; she's none of your quality, I'll promise you."
"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." The Captain, swearing terribly, said, with great fury, "You would much sooner be taken for her wash-woman."
"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."
"You may spare yourself that there trouble," said the Captain, "she has paupers enough about her already."
"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." "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." Their increasing passion quite terrified us; and Mrs. Mirvan was beginning to remonstrate with the Captain, when we were all silenced by what follows. "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."
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! 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?
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 interviewone only excepted-the most afflicting I can ever know.
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."
"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."
"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."
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mr. Villars To Evelina Berry Hill, April 16
IN the belief and hope that my Evelina would, ere now, have bid adieu to London, I had intended to have deferred writing, till I heard of her return to Howard Grove; but the letter I have this moment received, with intelligence of Madame Duval's arrival in England, demands an immediate answer.
Her journey hither equally grieves and alarms me. How much did I pity my child, when I read of a discovery at once so unexpected and unwished! I have long dreaded this meeting and its consequence; to claim you seems naturally to follow acknowledging you. I am well acquainted with her disposition, and have for many years foreseen the contest which now threatens us.
Cruel as are the circumstances of this affair, you must not, my love, suffer it to depress your spirits: remember, that while life is lent me, I will devote it to your service; and, for future time, I will make such provisions as shall seem to me most conducive to your future happiness. Secure of my protection, and relying on my tenderness, let no apprehensions of Madame Duval disturb your peace: conduct yourself towards her with all the respect and deference due to so near a relation, remembering always, that the failure of duty on her part, can by no means justify any neglect on your's. Indeed, the more forcibly you are struck with improprieties and misconduct in another, the greater should be your observance and diligence to avoid even the shadow of similar errors. Be careful, therefore, that no remissness of attention, no indifference of obliging, make known to her the independence I assure you of; but when she fixes the time for her leaving England, trust to me the task of refusing your attending her: disagreeable to myself, I own, it will be; yet to you it would be improper, if not impossible. In regard to her opinion of me, I am more sorry than surprised at her determined blindness; the palliation which she feels the want of, for her own conduct, leads her to seek for failings in all who were concerned in those unhapppy transactions which she has so much reason to lament. And this, as it is the cause, so we must in some measure consider it as the excuse of her inveteracy.
How grateful to me are your wishes to return to Berry Hill! Your lengthened stay in London, and the dissipation in which I find you are involved, fill me with uneasiness. I mean not, however, that I would have you sequester yourself from the party to which you belong, since Mrs. Mirvan might thence infer a reproof which your youth and her kindness would render inexcusable. I will not, therefore, enlarge upon this subject; but content myself with telling you, that I shall heartily rejoice when I hear of your safe arrival at Howard Grove, for which place I hope you will be preparing at the time you receive this letter. I cannot too much thank you, my best Evelina, for the minuteness of your communications. Continue to me this indulgence, for I should be miserable if in ignorance of your proceedings.
How new to you is the scene of life in which you are engaged!-balls-playsoperas-ridottos!-Ah, my child! At your return hither, how will you bear the change? My heart trembles for your future tranquility.-Yet I will hope every thing from the unsullied whiteness of your soul, and the native liveliness of your disposition.
I am sure I need not say, how much more I was pleased with the mistakes of your inexperience at the private ball, than with the attempted adoption of more fashionable manners at the ridotto. But your confusion and mortifications were such as to entirely silence all reproofs on my part.
I hope you will see no more of Sir Clement Willoughby, whose conversation and boldness are extremely disgustful to me. I was gratified by the good nature of Lord Orville, upon your making use of his name; but I hope you will never again put it to such a trial.
Heaven bless thee, my dear child! And grant that neither misfortune nor vice may ever rob thee of that gaiety of heart, which, resulting from innocence, while it constitutes your own, contributes also to the felicity of all who know you! ARTHUR VILLARS.
Evelina To The Rev. Mr. Villars Queen Ann Street, Thursday Morning, April 14 BEFORE our dinner was over yesterday Madame Duval came to tea; though it will lessen your surprise, to hear that it was near five o'clock, for we never dine till the day is almost over. She was asked into another room while the table was cleared, and then was invited to partake of the dessert.
She was attended by a French gentleman, whom she introduced by the name of Monsieur Du Bois: Mrs. Mirvan received them both with her usual politeness; but the Captain looked very much displeased; and after a short silence, very sternly said to Madame Duval, "Pray who asked you to bring that there spark with you?" "O," cried she, "I never go no where without him."
Another short silence ensued, which was terminated by the Captain's turning roughly to the foreigner, and saying, "Do you know, Monseer, that you are the first Frenchman I ever let come into my house?"
Monsieur Du Bois made a profound bow. He speaks no English, and understands it so imperfectly, that he might possibly imagine he had received a compliment.
Mrs. Mirvan endeavourd to divert the Captain's ill-humour, by starting new subjects: but he left to her all the trouble of supporting them, and leant back in his chair in gloomy silence, except when any opportunity offered of uttering some sarcasm upon the French. Finding her efforts to render the evening agreeable were fruitless, Mrs. Mirvan proposed a party to Ranelagh. Madame Duval joyfully consented to it; and the Captain though he railed against the dissipation of the women, did not oppose it; and therefore Maria and I ran up stairs to dress ourselves.
Before we were ready, word was brought us that Sir Clement Willoughby was in the drawing-room. He introduced himself under the pretence of inquiring after all our healths, and entered the room with the easy air of an old acquaintance; though Mrs. Mirvan confessed that he seemed embarrassed when he found how coldly he was received, not only by the Captain, but by herself.
I was extremely disconcerted at the thoughts of seeing this man again, and did not go downstairs till I was called to tea. He was then deeply engaged in a discourse upon French manners with Madame Duval and the Captain; and the subject seemed so entirely to engross him, that he did not, at first, observe my entrance into the room. Their conversation was supported with great vehemence; the Captain roughly maintaining the superiority of the English in every particular, and Madame Duval warmly refusing to allow of it in any; while Sir Clement exerted all his powers of argument and of ridicule, to second and strengthen whatever was advanced by the Captain: for he had the sagacity to discover, that he could take no method so effectual for making the master of the house his friend, as to make Madame Duval his enemy; and indeed, in a very short time, he had reason to congratulate himself upon his successful discernment. As soon as he saw me, he made a most respectful bow, and hoped I had not suffered from the fatigue of the ridotto: I made no other answer than a slight inclination of the head, for I was very much ashamed of that whole affair. He then returned to the disputants; where he managed the argument so skilfully, at once provoking Madame Duval, and delighting the Captain, that I could not forbear admiring his address, though I condemned his subtlety. Mrs. Mirvan, dreading such violent antagonists, attempted frequently to change the subject; and she might have succeeded, but for the interposition of Sir Clement, who would not suffer it to be given up, and supported it with such humour and satire, that he seems to have won the Captain's heart; though their united forces so enraged and overpowered Madame Duval, that she really trembled with passion. I was very glad when Mrs. Mirvan said it was time to be gone. Sir Clement arose to take leave; but the Captain very cordially invited him to join our party: he had an engagement, he said, but would give it up to have that pleasure. Some little confusion ensued in regard to our manner of setting off. Mrs. Mirvan offered Madame Duval a place in her coach, and proposed that we four females should go all together; however, this she rejected, declaring she would by no means go so far without a gentleman, and wondering so polite a lady could make so English a proposal. Sir Clement Willoughby said, his chariot was waiting at the door, and begged to know if it could be of any use. It was at last decided, that a hackney-coach should be called for Monsieur Du Bois and Madame Duval, in which the Captain, and, at his request, Sir Clement, went also; Mrs. and Miss Mirvan and I had a peaceful and comfortable ride by ourselves.
I doubt not but they quarrelled all the way; for when we met at Ranelagh every one seemed out of humour; and though we joined parties, poor Madame Duval was avoided as much as possible by all but me.
The room was so very much crowded, that but for the uncommon assiduity of Sir Clement Willoughby, we should not have been able to procure a box (which is the name given to the arched recesses that are appropriated for tea-parties) till half the company had retired. As we were taking possession of our places, some ladies of Mrs. Mirvan's acquaintance stopped to speak to her, and persuaded her to take a round with them. When she returned to us, what was my surprise, to see that Lord Orville had joined her party! The ladies walked on: Mrs. Mirvan seated herself, and made a slight, though respectful, invitation to Lord Orville to drink his tea with us; which, to my no small consternation, he accepted. I felt a confusion unspeakable at again seeing him, from the recollection of the ridotto adventure: nor did my situation lessen it; for I was seated between Madame Duval and Sir Clement, who seemed as little as myself to desire Lord Orville's presence. Indeed, the continual wrangling and ill-breeding of Captain Mirvan and Madame Duval made me blush that I belonged to them. And poor Mrs. Mirvan and her amiable daughter had still less reason to be satisfied. A general silence ensued after he was seated: his appearance, from different motives, gave an universal restraint to every body. What his own reasons were for honouring us with his company, I cannot imagine; unless, indeed, he had a curiosity to know whether I should invent any new impertinence concerning him. The first speech was made by Madame Duval, who said, "It's quite a shocking thing to see ladies come to so genteel a place as Ranelagh with hats on; it has a monstrous vulgar look: I can't think what they wear them for. There is no such a thing to be seen in Paris."
"Indeed," cried Sir Clement, "I must own myself no advocate for hats; I am sorry the ladies ever invented or adopted so tantalizing a fashion: for, where there is beauty, they only serve to shade it; and, where there is none, to excite a most unavailing curiosity. I fancy they were originally worn by some young and whimsical coquette."
"More likely," answered the Captain, "they were invented by some wrinkled old hag, who'd a mind for to keep the young fellows in chace, let them be never so weary."
"I don't know what you may do in England," cried Madame Duval, "but I know in Paris no woman needn't be at such a trouble as that to be taken very genteel notice of."
"Why, will you pretend for to say," returned the Captain, "that they don't distinguish the old from the young there as well as here?"
"They don't make no distinguishments at all," said she; "they're vastly too polite." "More fools they!" cried the Captain, sneeringly.
"Would to Heaven," cried, Sir Clement, "that, for our own sakes, we Englishmen too were blest with so accommodating a blindness!"
"Why the devil do you make such a prayer as that?" demanded the Captain: "them are the first foolish words I've heard you speak; but I suppose you're not much used to that sort of work. Did you ever make a prayer before, since you were a sniveler?"
"Ay, now," cried Madame Duval, "that's another of the unpolitenesses of you English, to go to talking of such things as that: now in Paris nobody never says nothing about religion, no more than about politics."
"Why then," answered he, "it's a sign they take no more care of their souls than of their country, and so both one and t'other go to old Nick."
"Well, if they do," said she, "who's the worse, so long as they don't say nothing about it? It's the tiresomest thing in the world to be always talking of them sort of things, and nobody that's ever been abroad troubles their heads about them." "Pray then," cried the Captain, "since you know so much of the matter, be so good as to tell us what they do trouble their heads about?-Hey, Sir Clement! han't we a right to know that much?"
"A very comprehensive question," said Sir Clement, "and I expect much instruction from the lady's answer."
"Come, Madam," continued the Captain, "never flinch; speak at once; don't stop for thinking."
"I assure you I am not going," answered she; "for as to what they do do, why they've enough to do, I promise you, what with one thing or another." "But what, what do they do, these famous Monseers?" demanded the Captain; "can't you tell us? do they game?-or drink?-or fiddle?-or are they jockeys?-or do they spend all their time in flummering old women?"
"As to that, Sir-but indeed I shan't trouble myself to answer such a parcel of low questions, so don't ask me no more about it." And then, to my great vexation, turning to Lord Orville, she said, "Pray, Sir, was you ever in Paris?" He only bowed.
"And pray, Sir, how did you like it?"
This comprehensive question, as Sir Clement would have called it, though it made him smile, also made him hesitate; however, his answer was expressive of his approbation.
"I thought you would like it, Sir, because you look so like a gentleman. As to the Captain, and as to that other gentleman, why they may very well not like what they don't know: for I suppose, Sir, you was never abroad?"
"Only three years, Ma'am," answered Sir Clement, drily.
"Well, that's very surprising! I should never have thought it: however, I dare say you only kept company with the English."
"Why, pray, who should he keep company with?" cried the Captain: "what I suppose you'd have him ashamed of his own nation, like some other people not a thousand miles off, on purpose to make his own nation ashamed of him?" "I'm sure it would be a very good thing if you'd go abroad yourself." "How will you make out that, hey, Madam? come, please to tell me, where would be the good of that?"
"Where! why a great deal. They'd make quite another person of you." "What, I suppose you'd have me to learn to cut capers?-and dress like a monkey?-and palaver in French gibberish?-hey, would you?-And powder, and daub, and make myself up, like some other folks?"
"I would have you learn to be more politer, Sir, and not to talk to ladies in such a rude, old-fashion way as this. You, Sir, as have been in Paris," again addressing herself to Lord Orville, "can tell this English gentleman how he'd be despised, if he was to talk in such an ungenteel manner as this before any foreigners. Why, there isn't a hairdresser, nor a shoemaker, nor nobody, that wouldn't blush to be in your company."
"Why, look ye, Madam," answered the Captain, "as to your hair-pinchers and shoe-blacks, you may puff off their manners, and welcome; and I am heartily glad you like 'em so well: but as to me, since you must needs make so free of your advice, I must e'en tell you, I never kept company with any such gentry." "Come, ladies and gentlemen," said Mrs. Mirvan, "as many of you as have done tea, I invite to walk with me." Maria and I started up instantly; Lord Orville followed; and I question whether we were not half round the room ere the angry disputants knew that we had left the box.
As the husband of Mrs. Mirvan had borne so large a share in the disagreeable altercation, Lord Orville forbore to make any comments upon it; so that the subject was immediately dropt, and the conversation became calmly sociable, and politely cheerful, and, to every body but me, must have been highly agreeable:-but, as to myself, I was so eagerly desirous of making some apology to Lord Orville, for the impertinence of which he must have thought me guilty at the ridotto, and yet so utterly unable to assume sufficient courage to speak to him, concerning an affair in which I had so terribly exposed myself, that I hardly ventured to say a word all the time we were walking. Besides, the knowledge of his contemptuous opinion haunted and dispirited me, and made me fear he might possibly misconstrue whatever I should say. So that, far from enjoying a conversation which might, at any other time, have delighted me, I continued silent, uncomfortable, and ashamed. O, Sir, shall I ever again involve myself in so foolish an embarrassment? I am sure that, if I do, I shall deserve greater mortification.
We were not joined by the rest of the party till we had taken three or four turns around the room; and then they were so quarrelsome, that Mrs. Mirvan complained of being fatigued and proposed going home. No one dissented. Lord Orville joined another party, having first made an offer of his services, which the gentlemen declined, and we proceeded to an outward room, where we waited for the carriages. It was settled that we should return to town in the same manner we came to Ranelagh; and, accordingly, Monsieur Du Bois handed Madame Duval into a hackney coach, and was just preparing to follow her, when she screamed, and jumped hastily out, declaring she was wet through all her clothes. Indeed, upon examination the coach was found to be in a dismal condition; for the weather proved very bad, and the rain had, though I know not how, made its way into the carriage.
Mrs. and Miss Mirvan, and myself, were already disposed of as before; but no sooner did the Captain hear this account, than, without any ceremony, he was so civil as to immediately take possession of the vacant seat in his own coach, leaving Madame Duval and Monsieur Du Bois to take care of themselves. As to Sir Clement Willoughby, his own chariot was in waiting.
I instantly begged permission to offer Madame Duval my own place, and made a motion to get out; but Mrs. Mirvan stopped me, saying, that I should then be obliged to return to town with only the foreigner, or Sir Clement.
"O never mind the old beldame," cried the Captain, "she's weather-proof, I'll answer for her; and besides, as we are all, I hope, English, why she'll meet with no worse than she expects from us."
"I do not mean to defend her," said Mrs. Mirvan; "but indeed, as she belongs to our party, we cannot, with any decency, leave the place till she is, by some means, accommodated."
"Lord, my dear," cried the Captain, whom the distress of Madame Duval had put into very good humour, "why, she'll break her heart if she meets with any civility from a filthy Englishman."
Mrs. Mirvan, however, prevailed; and we all got out of the coach, to wait till Madame Duval could meet with some better carriage. We found her, attended by Monsieur Du Bois, standing amongst the servants, and very busy in wiping her negligee, and endeavouring to save it from being stained by the wet, as she said it was a new Lyons silk. Sir Clement Willoughby offered her the use of his chariot, but she had been too much piqued by his raillery to accept it. We waited some time, but in vain; for no hackney-coach could be procured. The Captain, at last, was persuaded to accompany Sir Clement himself, and we four females were handed into Mrs. Mirvan's carriage, though not before Madame Duval had insisted upon our making room for Monsieur Du Bois, to which the Captain only consented in preference to being incommoded by him in Sir Clement's chariot. Our party drove off first. We were silent and unsociable; for the difficulties attending this arrangement had made every one languid and fatigued. Unsociable, I must own, we continued; but very short was the duration of our silence, as we had not proceeded thirty yards before every voice was heard at once-for the coach broke down! I suppose we concluded, of course, that we were all half killed, by the violent shrieks that seemed to come from every mouth. The chariot was stopped, the servants came to our assistance, and we were taken out of the carriage, without having been at all hurt. The night was dark and wet; but I had scarce touched the ground when I was lifted suddenly from it by Sir Clement Willoughby, who begged permission to assist me, though he did not wait to have it granted, but carried me in his arms back to Ranelagh.
He enquired very earnestly if I was not hurt by the accident? I assured him I was perfectly safe, and free from injury; and desired he would leave me, and return to the rest of the party, for I was very uneasy to know whether they had been equally fortunate. He told me he was happy in being honoured with my commands, and would joyfully execute them; but insisted upon first conducting me to a warm room, as I had not wholly escaped being wet. He did not regard my objections; but made me follow him to an apartment, where we found an excellent fire, and some company waiting for carriages. I readily accepted a seat, and then begged he would go.
And go, indeed, he did; but he returned in a moment, telling me that the rain was more violent than ever, and that he had sent his servants to offer their assistance, and acquaint the Mirvans of my situation. I was very mad that he would not go himself; but as my acquaintance with him was so very slight, I did not think proper to urge him contrary to his inclination.
Well, he drew a chair close to mine; and, after again enquiring how I did, said, in a low voice, "You will pardon me, Miss Anville, if the eagerness I feel to vindicate myself, induces me to snatch this opportunity of making sincere acknowledgments for the impertinence with which I tormented you at the last ridotto. I can assure you, Madam, I have been a true and sorrowful penitent ever since; but-shall I tell you honestly what encouraged me to-"
He stopt, but I said nothing; for I thought instantly of the conversation Miss Mirvan had overheard, and supposed he was going to tell me himself what part Lord Orville had borne in it; and really I did not wish to hear it repeated. Indeed, the rest of his speech convinces me that such was his intention; with what view I know not, except to make a merit of his defending me.
"And yet," he continued, "my excuse may only expose my own credulity, and want of judgment and penetration. I will, therefore, merely beseech your pardon, and hope that some future time-"
Just then the door was opened by Sir Clement's servant, and I had the pleasure of seeing the Captain, Mrs. and Miss Mirvan, enter the room.
"O ho!" cried the former, "you have got a good warm berth here; but we shall beat up your quarters. Here, Lucy, Moll, come to the fire, and dry your trumpery. But, hey-day-why, where's old Madame French?"
"Good God," cried I, "is not Madame Duval then with you?"
"With me! No,-thank God."
I was very uneasy to know what might have become of her; and, if they would have suffered me, I should have gone in search of her myself; but all the servants were dispatched to find her; and the Captain said, we might be very sure her French beau would take care of her.
We waited some time without any tidings, and were soon the only party in the room. My uneasiness increased so much that Sir Clement now made a voluntary offer of seeking her. However, the same moment that he opened the door with this design, she presented herself at it, attended by Monsieur Du Bois. "I was this instant, Madam," said he, "coming to see for you."
"You are mighty good, truly," cried she, "to come when all the mischief's over." She then entered,-in such a condition!-entirely covered with mud, and in so great a rage, it was with difficulty she could speak. We all expressed our concern, and offered our assistance-except the Captain, who no sooner beheld her than he burst out into a loud laugh.
We endeavoured, by our enquiries and condolements, to prevent her attending to him; and she was for some time so wholly engrossed by her anger and her distress, that we succeeded without much trouble. We begged her to inform us how this accident happened. "How!" repeated she,-"why it was all along of your all going away,-and there poor Monsieur Du Bois-but it wasn't his fault,-for he's as bad off as me."
All eyes were then turned to Monsieur Du Bois, whose clothes were in the same miserable plight with those of Madame Duval; and who, wet, shivering, and disconsolate, had crept to the fire.
The Captain laughed yet more heartily; while Mrs. Mirvan, ashamed of his rudeness, repeated her inquiries to Madame Duval; who answered, "Why, as we were a-coming along, all in the rain, Monsieur Du Bois was so obliging, though I'm sure it was an unlucky obligingness for me, as to lift me up in his arms to carry me over a place that was ankle-deep in mud; but instead of my being ever the better for it, just as we were in the worst part,-I'm sure I wish we had been fifty miles off,-for somehow or other his foot slipt,-at least, I suppose so,-though I can't think how it happened, for I'm so such great weight;-but, however that was, down we both came, together, all in the mud; and the more we tried to get up, the more deeper we got covered with the nastiness-and my new Lyons negligee, too, quite spoilt!-however, it's well we got up at all, for we might have laid there till now, for aught you all cared; nobody never came near us."
This recital put the Captain into an ecstasy; he went from the lady to the gentleman, and from the gentleman to the lady, to enjoy alternately the sight of their distress. He really shouted with pleasure; and, shaking Monsieur Du Bois strenuously by the hand, wished him joy of having touched English ground; and then he held a candle to Madame Duval, that he might have a more complete view of her disaster, declaring repeatedly, that he had never been better pleased in his life.
The rage of poor Madame Duval was unspeakable; she dashed the candle out of his hand, stamping upon the floor, and, at last, spat in his face.
This action seemed immediately to calm them both, as the joy of the Captain was converted into resentment, and the wrath of Madame Duval into fear: for he put his hands upon her shoulders, and gave her so violent a shake, that she screamed out for help; assuring her, at the same time, that if she had been one ounce less old, or less ugly, she should have had it all returned in her own face. Monsieur Du Bois, who had seated himself very quietly at the fire, approached them, and expostulated very warmly with the Captain; but he was neither understood nor regarded; and Madame Duval was not released till she quite sobbed with passion.
When they were parted, I intreated her to permit the woman who has charge of the ladies' cloaks to assist in drying her clothes; she consented, and we did what was possible to save her from catching cold. We were obliged to wait in this disagreeable situation near an hour before a hackney-coach could be found; and then we were disposed in the same manner as before our accident. I am going this morning to see poor Madame Duval, and to inquire after her health, which I think must have suffered by her last night's misfortunes; though, indeed, she seems to be naturally strong and hearty.
Adieu, my dear Sir, till to-morrow.