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Is it possible? said every one. Let me die, said the Baronet, with a forced laugh, if I am not ready to think that Mr Greville has run into the fault of people of less genius than himself. He has got such a taste for foreign performers, that he cannot think tolerably of those of his own country, be they ever so excellent.
Handel, Sir Hargrave, is not an Englishman; but I must say, that of every person present, I least expected from Sir Hargrave Pollexfen this observation.
[He then returned the Baronet's laugh, and not without an air of mingled anger and contempt.
Nor I this taste for foreign performances and compositions from Mr Greville; for so long time as thou hast been a downright country gentle
Nor I at anything you look, my dear; ha, ha, hah!
ha, Yet his looks shewed as much contempt for Mr Greville as Mr Greville's did for him. How easily might these combustible spirits have blown each other up! Mr Reeves was once a little apprehensive of consequences, from the airs of both.
Mr Greville turned from Sir Hargrave to me: Well, Miss Byron, said he; but as to what we were talking about
This he seemed to say on purpose, as I thought by his air, to alarm the Baronet.
I beg pardon, said Sir Hargrave; turning with a stiff air to me: I beg pardon, Miss Byron, if I have intruded
We were talking of indifferent things, Sir Hargrave, answered I—Mere matters of pleasantry.
I was more in earnest than in jest, Miss Byron, replied Mr Greville.
We all, I believe, thought you very whimsical, Mr Greville, returned I.
What was sport to you, madam, is death to
Poor Greville! Ha, ha, ha, hah, (affectedly laughed the Baronet ;) but I know you are a
joker. You are a man of wit-[This a little softened Mr Greville, who had begun to look grave upon Sir Hargrave]-Come, pr'ythee, man, give thyself up to me for this night; and I will carry thee to a private concert, where none but choice spirits are admitted; and let us see if music will not divert these gloomy airs, that sit so ill upon the face of one of the liveliest men in the kingdom.
Music! Ay, if Miss Byron will give us a song, and accompany it with the harpsichord, I will despise all other harmony.
Every one joined in his request; and I was not backward to oblige them, as I thought the conversation bore a little too rough a cast, and was not likely to take a smoother turn.
Mr Greville, who always enjoys any jest that tends to reflect on our sex, begged me to sing that whimsical song set by Galliard, which once my uncle made me sing at Selby-House, in Mr Greville's hearing. You were not there, Lucy, that day, and perhaps may not have the book, as Galliard is not a favourite with you.,
CHLOE, by all the pow'rs above,
Love, vow, and leaf, blew quite away.
The gentlemen were very lively on the occasion, and encored it; but I told them, that as they must be better pleased with the jest on our sex contained in it, than they could with the music, I would not, for the sake of their own politeness, oblige them.
You will favour us, however, with your Discreet Lover, Miss Byron, said Mr Greville. That is a song written entirely upon your own principles.
Well, then, I will give you, said I, set by the same hand,
to me at taking leave, as he had been all the
Mr Greville soon after left us, intending to set out this morning.
He snatched my hand at going. I was afraid of a second savage freedom, and would have withdrawn it.-Only one sigh over it; but one sigh. Oh! said he, an Oh, half a yard long --and pressed it with his lips-But remember, madam, you are watched: I have half-a-dozen spies upon you; and the moment you find the man you can favour, up comes your Greville, cuts a throat, and flies his country.
He stopt at the parlour-door-One letter, Miss Byron-Receive but one letter from me. No, Mr Greville; but I wish you well. Wishes! that, like a bishop's blessing, cost you nothing. I was going to say, No, for you; but you were too quick. It had been some pleasure to have denied myself, and prevented the mortification of a denial from you.
He went away; every one wishing him a good journey, and speaking favourably of the odd creature. Mrs Reeves, in particular, thought fit to say, that he was the most entertaining of all my lovers; but if so, what is it they call entertaining? And what are those others, whom they call my lovers?
The man, said I, is an immoral man; and had he not got above blushes, and above being hurt by love, he could not have been so gay, and so entertaining, as you call it.
Miss Byron said true, said Mr Reeves. I never knew a man who could make a jesting matter of the passion in the presence of the object, so very deeply in love, as to be hurt by a disappointment. There sits my saucebox. Did I ever make a jest of my love to you, madam ?
No indeed, sir; had I not thought you most deplorably in earnest, you had not had any of my pity.
Why, look ye there, now! That's a declaration in point. Either Mr Orme, or Mr Fowler, must be the happy man, Miss Byron.
But why? They have both good estates. They both adore you. Sir Hargrave I see you cannot have. Mr Greville dies not for you, though he would be glad to live with you. Mr Fenwick is a still less eligible man, I think. Where can you be better than with one of the two I have named?
You speak seriously, cousin; I will not answer lightly; but neither of those gentlemen can be the man; yet I esteem them both, because they are good men.
Well, but don't you pity them?
I don't know what to say to that; you hold, that pity is but one remove from love; and to say I pity a man who professes to love me, because I cannot consent to be his, carries with it, I think, an air of arrogance, and looks as if I be
lieved he must be unhappy without me, when possibly there may be hundreds of women, with any one of whom he might be more truly happy.
Well, this is in character from you, Miss Byron; but may I ask you now, which of the two gentlemen, Mr Orme, or Mr Fowler, were you obliged to have one of them, would you choose? Mr Orme, I frankly answer. Have I not told Mr Fowler so?
Well, then, what are your objections, may I ask, to Mr Orme? He is not a disagreeable man in his person. You own that you think him a good man. His sister loves you; and you love her. What is your objection to Mr Orme?
I don't know what to say. I hope I should perform my duty to the man to whom I shall give my vows, be he who he will; but I am not in haste to marry. If a single woman knows her own happiness, she will find that the time from eighteen to twenty-four is the happiest part of her life. If she stay till she is twenty-four, she has time to look about her, and if she has more lovers than one, is enabled to choose without having reason, on looking back, to reproach herself for hastiness. Her fluttering, her romantic age (we all know something of it, I doubt,) is over by twenty-four, or it will hold too long; and she is then fit to take her resolutions, and to settle. I have more than once hinted, that I should be afraid to engage with one who thinks too highly of me beforehand. Nothing violent can be lasting, and I could not bear, when I had given a man my heart with my hand, (and they never should be separated,) that he should behave to me with less affection than he shewed to me before I was his. As I wish not now to be made an idol of, I may the more reasonably expect the constancy due to friendship, and not to be affronted with his indifference after I have given him my whole self. In other words, I could not bear to have my love slighted; or to be despised for it, finstead of being encouraged to shew it. And how shall extravagant passion warrant hopes of this nature-if the man be not a man of gratitude, of principle, and a man whose love is founded in reason, and whose object is mind, rather than person?
But Mr Orme, replied Mr Reeves, is all this. Such, I believe, is his love.
Be it so. But I cannot love him so well as to wish to be his (a man, I have heard my uncle, as well as Sir Hargrave, say, is his own; a woman is a man's ;) if I cannot take delight in the thought of bearing my part of the yoke with him; in the belief, that, in case of a contrariety of sentiments, I cannot give up my judgment, in points indifferent, from the good opinion I have of his; what but a fondness for the state, and an irksomeness in my present situation, could bias me in favour of any man? Indeed, my cousin, I must love the man to whom I would give my hand, well enough to be able, on cool deli
beration, to wish to be his wife; and for his sake (with all my whole heart) choose to quit the single state, in which I am very happy.
And you are sure that your indifference to Mr Orme is not, either directly or indirectly, owing to his obsequious love of you; and to the milkiness of his nature, as Shakespeare calls it? Very sure! All the leaning towards him that I have, in preference, as I think, to every other man who has beheld me with partiality, is, on the contrary, owing to the grateful sense I have of his respect to me, and to the gentleness of his nature. Does not my behaviour to Mr Greville, to Mr Fenwick, to Sir Hargrave, compared with my treatment of Mr Orme and Mr Fowler, confirm what I say?
Then you are, as indeed I have always thought you, a nonsuch of a woman.
Not so; your own lady, whom you first brought to pity you, as I have heard you say, is an instance that I am not.
Well, that's true; but is she not, at the same time, an example, that pity melts the soul to love?
I have no doubt, said Mrs Reeves, but Miss Byron may be brought to love the man she can pity.
But, madam, said I, did you not let pity grow into love, before you married Mr Reeves? I believe I did, smiling.
Well, then, I promise you, Mr Reeves, when that comes to be the case with me, I will not give pain to a man I can like to marry.
Very well, replied Mr Reeves; and I dare say, that at last Mr Orme will be the man. And yet how you will get off with Sir Hargrave, I cannot tell. For Lady Betty Williams, this very day, told me, that he declared to her, he was resolved you should be his. And she has promised him all her interest with you, and with us; and is astonished that you can refuse a man of his fortune and address; and who has many, very many, admirers, among people of the first rank.
The Baronet is at the door. I suppose he will expect to see me.
SIR HARGRAVE is just gone. He desired to talk with me alone. I thought I might very well decline obliging him, as he had never scrupled to say to me all he had a mind to say before my cousins; and as he had thought himself of consequence enough to behave moodily; and even made this request rather with an air of expectation, than of respect; and I accordingly desired to be excused. He stalked about. My cousins, first one, then the other, withdrew. His behaviour had not been so agreeable, as to deserve this compliance; I was vexed they did.
He offered, as soon as they were gone, to take my hand. I withdrew it.
Madam, (said he, very impertinently angry,) you would not do thus to Mr Greville; you would not do thus to any man but me.
Indeed, sir, I would, were I left alone with him.
You see, madam, that I cannot forbear visiting you. My heart and soul are devoted to you. I own I have pride. Forgive me; it is piqued. I did not believe I should have been rejected by any lady, who had no dislike to a change of condition; and was disengaged. You declare that you are so; and I am willing, I am desirous to believe you—And yet that Greville!
There he stopt, as expecting me to speak. To what purpose, Sir Hargrave, do you expect an answer to what you hint about Mr Greville? It is not my way to behave with incivility to any man who professes a regard for me
Except to me, madam
Self-partiality, sir, and nothing else, could cause you to make this exception. Well, madam, but as to Mr GrevillePray, Sir Hargrave
And pray, Miss Byron
I have never yet seen the man who is to be my husband.
By G-! said the wretch, fiercely, (almost in the language of Mr Greville on the like occasion,) but you have-And if you are not engaged in your affections, the man is before you.
If this, Sir Hargrave, is all you wanted to say to me, and would not be denied saying it, it might have been said before my cousins. I was for leaving him.
You shall not go. I beg, madam-Putting himself between me and the door.
What farther would Sir Hargrave say?[Standing still, and angry;-What farther would Sir Hargrave say?
Have you, madam, a dislike to matrimony? What right have you, sir, to ask me this question?
Do you ever intend to enter into the state? Perhaps I may, if I meet with a man to whom I can give my whole heart.
And cannot that be I ?-Let me implore you, madam. I will kneel to you, and down he dropt on his kness. I cannot live without you. For God's sake, madam! Your pity, your mercy, your gratitude, your love! I could not do this before anybody, unless assured of favour. I implore your favour.
Foolish man! It was plain that this kneeling supplication was premeditated.
O sir, what undue humility!-Could I have received your address, none of this had been ne
cheating, it would be deluding you, it would not be honest, to give you hope.
You objected to my morals, madam; have you any other objection? Need there any other? But I can clear myself.
To God, and to your conscience, then do it, sir. I want you not to clear yourself to me.
But, madam, the clearing myself to you would be clearing myself to God, and my conscience.
What language is this, sir? But you can be nothing to me; indeed you can be nothing to me.-Rise, sir; rise, or I leave you.
I made an effort to go. He caught my hand; and arose―Then kissed it, and held it between both his.
For God's sake, madam
Pray, Sir Hargrave
Your objections? I insist upon knowing your objections. My person, madam-Forgive me, I am not used to boast-My person, madamPray, Sir Hargrave.
-Is not contemptible. My fortuneGod bless you, sir, with your fortune. -Is not inconsiderable. My moralsPray, Sir Hargrave! Why this enumeration to me?
-Are as unexceptionable as those of most young men of fashion in the present age.
[I am sorry if this be true, thought I to myself.
You have reason, I hope, sir, to be glad of that.
Is honourable, sir, no doubt.
My temper is not bad. I am thought to be a man of vivacity, and of cheerfulness.-I have courage, madam-And this should have been seen, had I found reason to dread a competitor in your favour.
I thought you were enumerating your good qualities, Sir Hargrave.
Courage, madam, magnanimity in a man, madam
Are great qualities, sir; courage in a right cause, I mean. Magnanimity, you know, sir, is greatness of mind.
And so it is; and I hope
And I, Sir Hargrave, hope you have great reason to be satisfied with your-self; but it would be very grievous to me, if I had not the liberty so to act, so to govern myself, in essential points, as should leave me as well satisfied with myself.
This, I hope, may be the case, madam, if you encourage my passion; and let me assure you, that no man breathing ever loved a woman as I love you. My person, my fortune, my morals, my descent, my temper, (a man in such a case as this may be allowed to do himself justice,) all unexceptionable; let me die if I can account for your-your-refusal of me in so peremptory, in so unceremonious a manner, slap-dash, as I
may say, and no one objection to make, or which you will condescend to make!
You say, sir, that you love me above all women; would you, can you, be so little nice, as to wish to marry a woman who does not prefer you to all men?-If you are, let me tell you, sir, that you have assigned a reason against yourself, which I think I ought to look upon as conclusive.
I make no doubt, madam, that my behaviour to you after marriage, will induce you, in gratitude as well as justice, to prefer me to all men. Your behaviour after marriage, sir!-Never will I trust to that, where
Where what, madam?
No need of entering into particulars, sir. You see that we cannot be of the same mind. You, Sir Hargrave, have no doubt of your merit.
I know, madam, that I should make it the business as well as pleasure of my life, to deserve you.
You value yourself upon your fortune, sir
Only as it gives me power to make you happy. Riches never yet, of themselves, made anybody happy. I have already as great a fortune as I wish for. You think yourself politePolite, madam!—And I hope
The whole of what I mean, Sir Hargrave, is this; you have a very high opinion of yourself; you may have reason for it; since you must know yourself, and your own heart, better than I can pretend to do; but would you, let me ask you, make choice of a woman for a wife, who frankly owns, that she cannot think so highly as you imagine she ought to think of you?—In justice to yourself, sir
By my soul, madam, haughtily, you are the only woman who could thus
Well, sir, perhaps I am. But will not this singularity convince you, that I can never make you happy, nor you me? You tell me, that you think highly of me; but if I cannot think so highly of you, pray, sir, let me be entitled to the same freedom in my refusal that governs you in your choice.
He walked about the room; and gave himself airs that shewed greater inward than even outward emotion.
I had a mind to leave him; yet was not willing to withdraw abruptly, intending, and hoping, to put an end to all his expectations for the future. I, therefore, in a manner asked leave to withdraw.
I presume, sir, that nothing remains to be said but what may be said before my cousins. And, courtesying, was going. He told me, with a passionate air, that he was half distracted; and complained of the use I made of the power I had over him. And as I had near opened the door, he threw himself on his knees to me against it, and undesignedly hurt my finger with the lock.
He was grieved. I made light of it, though
in pain, that he might not have an opportunity to flourish upon it, and to shew a tenderness which I doubt is not very natural to him.
How little was I affected with his kneeling, to what I was with the same posture in Sir Rowland! Sir Hargrave supplicated me as before. I was forced, in answer, to repeat some of the same things that I had said before.
I would fain have parted civilly. He would not permit me to do so. Though he was on his knees, he mingled passion, and even indirect menaces, with his supplications. I was forced to declare, that I never more would receive his visits.
This declaration, he vowed, would make him desperate, and he cared not what became of him.
I often begged him to rise; but to no purpose, till I declared I would stay no longer with him; and then he arose, rapt out an oath or two; again called me proud and ungrateful; and followed me into the other room to my cousins. He could hardly be civil to them; he walked two or three turns about the room. At last, forgive me, Mr Reeves, forgive me, Mrs Reeves, said he, bowing to them; more stiffly to meAnd you forbid my future visits, madam! said he, with a face of malice.
I do, sir; and that for both our sakes. You have greatly discomposed me.
Next time, madam, I have the honour of attending you, it will be, I hope-[He stopt a moment, but still looking fiercely-to a happier purpose. And away he went.
Mr Reeves was offended with him, and discouraged me not in my resolution to avoid receiving his future visits. You will now, therefore, hear very little farther in my letters of this Sir Hargrave Pollexfen.
And yet I wish I do not see him very soon. But it will be in company enough, if I do; at the masquerade, I mean, to-morrow night; for he never misses going to such entertainments.
OUR dresses are ready. Mr Reeves is to be a hermit; Mrs Reeves, a nun; Lady Betty, a lady abbess; but I by no means like mine, because of its gaudiness; the very thing I was afraid of.
They call it the dress of an Arcadian princess; but it falls not in with any of my notions of the pastoral dress of Arcadia.
A white Paris net sort of a cap, glittering with spangles, and encircled by a chaplet of artificial flowers, with a little white feather perking from the left ear, is to be my head-dress. My mask is Venetian.
My hair is to be complimented with an appearance, because of its natural ringlets, as they call my curls, and to shade my neck.
Tucker and ruffles, blond lace.
My shape is also said to be consulted in this dress. A kind of waistcoat of blue satin, trim
med with silver point d'Espagne, the skirts edged with silver fringe, is made to sit close to my waist by double clasps, a small silver tassel at the ends of each clasp; all set off with bugles and spangles, which make a mighty glitter.
But I am to be allowed a kind of scarf of white Persian silk; which, gathered at the top, is to be fastened to my shoulders, and to fly loose behind me.
Bracelets on my arms.
They would have given me a crook; but I would not submit to that. It would give me, I said, an air of confidence to aim to manage it with any tolerable freedom; and I was apprehensive, that I should not be thought to want that from the dress itself. A large Indian fan was not improper for the expected warmth of the place; and that contented me.
My petticoat is of blue satin trimmed and fringed as my waistcoat. I am not to have a hoop that is perceivable. They wore not hoops in Arcadia.
What a sparkling figure shall I make! Had the ball been what they call a subscription ball, at which people dress with more glare than at a common one, this dress would have been more tolerable.
But they all say, that I shall be kept in countenance by masks as extravagant, and even more ridiculous.
Be that as it may, I wish the night were over. I dare say it will be the last diversion of this kind I ever shall be at ; for I never had any notion of masquerades.
Expect particulars of all in my next. I reckon you will be impatient for them. But pray, my Lucy, be fanciful, as I sometimes am, and let me know how you think everything will be beforehand; and how many pretty fellows you imagine in this dress, will be slain by your HARRIET BYRON.
MR REEVES TO GEORGE SELBY, ESQ.
Friday, Feb. 17.
DEAR MR SElby, No one, at present, but yourself, must see the contents of what I am going to write.
You must not be too much surprised. But how shall I tell you the news; the dreadful news?—My wife has been ever since three this morning in violent hysterics upon it.
You must not-But how shall I say, you must not, be too much affected, when we are unable to support ourselves?
O my cousin Selby !-We know not what is become of our dearest Miss Byron.
I will be as particular as my grief and surprise will allow. There is a necessity for it, as you