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- Evelina - 10/99 -
gentleman!-O fie!-careless fellow!-What can detain him?-Will you give me leave to seek him?"
"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.
"With all my heart," cried he; "pray, what coat has he on?"
"Indeed I never looked at it."
"Out upon him!" cried he; "What! did he address you in a coat not worth looking at?-What a shabby wretch!"
How ridiculous! I really could not help laughing, which I fear encouraged him, for he went on.
"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?"
I was dreadfully abashed, and could not make an answer.
"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."
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!
"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!"
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!"
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."
"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."
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.
"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.
"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!"
"For Heaven's sake, my dear," cried Mrs. Mirvan, "who is he talking of?"
"Indeed-I do not know, Madam," said I; "but I wish he would leave me."
"What's all that there?" cried the Captain.
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."
"That lady, Sir," said the Captain coldly, "is her own mistress." And he walked sullenly on.
"You, Madam," said the man (who looked delighted, to Mrs. Mirvan), "You, I hope, will have the goodness to speak for me."
"Sir," answered she gravely, "I have not the pleasure of being acquainted with you."
"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."
Mrs. Mirvan, with an embarrassed air, replied, "I do not at all mean, Sir, to doubt your being a gentleman,-but-"
"But what, Madam?-that doubt removed, why a but?"
"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-"
"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."
We both stared at the man's strange behaviour.
"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."
Mrs. Mirvan looked with astonishment at us both.
"Who does he speak of, my dear?-you never mentioned-"
"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."
"Sir," answered she, "favours and strangers have with me no connection."
"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."
"Well, Sir, I know not what to say to you,-but-"
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.
And thus was my deviation from truth punished; and thus did this man's determined boldness conquer.
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.
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!
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
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