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Such, madam, seem to be your reasons.
You are very pleasant, sir. But let me say, that if you are in earnest in your profession, you .could not have quoted anything more against you than these humorous lines; since a dislike of such a nature as is implied by them, must be a dislike arising from something resembling a natural aversion; whether just or not, is little to the purpose.
I was not aware of that, replied he; but I hope yours to me is not such a one.
Excuse me, cousin, said I, turning to Mrs Reeves; but I believe I have talked away the tea-time.
I thought it was staying to be insulted. All that Sir John Allestree had said of him came into my head.
Hold, sir, (for he seemed to be going on :) Pride, cruelty, ingratitude, are crimes black enough. If you think I am guilty of them, excuse me that I retire for the benefit of recollection.-And, making a low courtesy, I withdrew in haste. He besought me to return; and follow. ed me to the stairs' foot.
He shewed his pride, and his ill-nature too, before my cousins, when I was gone. He bit his lip: he walked about the room; then sitting down, he lamented, defended, accused, and redefended himself; and yet besought their interest with me.
He was greatly disturbed, he owned, that with such honourable intentions, with so much POWER to make me happy, and such a WILL to do so, he should be refused; and this without my assigning one reason for it.
And my cousin (to whom he again referred on that head) answering him, that they believed me disengaged in my affections; D- - him, he said, if he could account then for my behaviour to him.
He, however, threatened Mr Orme; who, (if any,) he said, was the man I favoured. I had acknowledged, that neither Greville nor Fenwick were. My proud repulse had stung him, he owned. He begged, that they would send for me down in their names.
They liked not the humour he seemed to be in well enough to comply with his request; and sent up in his own name.
But I returned my compliments: I was busy in writing, [and so I was-to you, my Lucy; I hoped Sir Hargrave and my cousins would excuse me. I put them in to soften my refusal.
This still more displeased him. He besought their pardon; but he would haunt me like a ghost. In spite of man and devil I should be his, he had the presumption to repeat; and went away with a flaming face.
Don't you think, my dear, that my cousin Reeves was a little too mild in his own house; as I am under his guardianship? But perhaps he was the more patient for that very reason; and he is one of the best-natured men in England. And then 8000l. a year?-Yet why should a man of my cousin's independent fortune-But grandeur will have its charms!
Thus did Sir Hargrave confirm all that Sir John Allestree had said of his bad qualities; and I think I am more afraid of him than ever I was of any man before. I remember, that mischievous is one of the bad qualities Sir John attributed to him; and revengeful another. Should I ever see him again on the same errand, I will be more explicit as to my being absolutely disengaged in my affections, if I can be so without giving him hope, lest he should do private mischief to some one on my account. Upon my word,
I would not, of all the men I have ever seen, be the wife of Sir Hargrave Pollexfen.
And so much for this first visit of his. I wish his pride may be enough piqued to make it the last. But could you have thought he would have shewn himself so soon?-Yet he had paraded so much, before I went down, to my cousins, and so little expected a direct and determined repulse, that a man of his self-consequence might, perhaps, be allowed to be the more easily piqued by it.
Lady Betty has sent us notice, that on Thursday next there will be a ball at the Opera-house in the Hay-market. My cousins are to choose what they will be; but she insists that my dress shall be left to her. I am not to know what it is to be, till the day before, or the very day. If I like it not, she will not put me to any expense about it.
You will easily imagine, upon such an alternative, I shall approve of it, be it what it will. I have only requested, that I may not be so remarkably dressed, as to attract the eyes of the company: if I am, I shall not behave with any tolerable presence of mind.
Friday, Feb. 10.
ONE of Mr Greville's servants has just been here, with his master's compliments. So the wretch is come to town. I believe I shall soon be able to oblige him; he wishes, you know, to provoke me to say I hate him.
Surely I draw inconveniencies upon myself by being so willing to pay civility for esteem. Yet it is in my nature to do so, and I cannot help it without committing a kind of violence on my temper. There is no merit, therefore, in my behaviour on such occasions. Very pretty self-deception!--I study my own ease, and (before I consider) am ready to call myself patient, and good-humoured, and civil, and to attribute to myself I know not how many kind and complaisant things; when I ought, in modesty, to distinguish between the virtue and the necessity.
I never was uncivil, as I call it, but to one young gentleman; a man of quality; (you know who I mean;) and that was, because he wanted me to keep secret his addresses to me, for family considerations. The young woman who engages to keep her lover's secrets in this particular, is often brought into a plot against herself, and oftener still against those to whom she owes unreserved honour and duty: and is not such a conduct also an indirect confession, that you know you are engaging in something wrong and unworthy?
Mr Greville's arrival vexes me. I suppose it will not be long before Mr Fenwick comes too. I have a good mind to try to like the modest Mr Orme the better, in spite.
Sat. Morn. Feb. 11.
I SHALL have nothing to trouble you with, I think, but scenes of courtship. Sir Rowland, Sir Hargrave, and Mr Greville, all met just now at our breakfast time.
Sir Rowland came first; a little before breakfast was ready. After inquiries of Mr Reeves, whether I held in the same mind, or not; he desired to have the favour of one quarter of an
hour's conversation with me alone.
Methinks I have a value for this honest Knight. Honesty, my Lucy, is good sense, politeness, amiableness, all in one. An honest man must appear in every light with such advantages, as will make even singularity agreeable. I went down directly.
He met me; and taking my not-withdrawnhand, and peering in my face, Mercy! said he; the same kind aspect! The same sweet and obliging countenance! How can this be? But you must be gracious! You will. Say you will.
You must not urge me, Sir Rowland. You will give me pain if you lay me under a necessity to repeat
Repeat what? Don't say a refusal. Dear madam, don't say a refusal! Will you not save a life? Why, madam, my poor boy is absolutely, and bona fide, broken-hearted. I would have had him come with me; but no, he could not bear to teaze the beloved of his soul! Why, there's an instance of love now! Not for all his hopes, not for his life's sake, could he bear to teaze you! None of your fluttering jack-a-dandies, now, would have said this! And let not such succeed, where modest merit fails!--Mercy! you are struck with my plea! Don't, don't, God bless you now, don't harden your heart on my observation. I was resolved to set out in a day or two; but I will stay in town, were it a month, to see my boy made happy. And, let me tell you, I would not wish him to be happy unless he could make you so-Come, come
I was a little affected. I was silent. Come, come, be gracious; be merciful! Dear lady, be as good as you look to be. One word of comfort for my poor boy. I could kneel to you for one word of comfort-Nay, I will kneel; taking hold of my other hand, as he still held one; and down on his knees dropt the honest Knight. I was surprised. I knew not what to say, what to do. I had not the courage to attempt to lift him up. Yet to see a man of his years, and who had given himself a claim to my esteem, kneel; and, with glistening eyes, looking up to me for mercy, as he called it, on his boy; how was I affected!-But, at last, Rise, dear Sir Rowland,
rise, said I you call out for mercy to me; yet have none upon me. O how you distress me!
I would have withdrawn my hands; but he held them fast. I stamped in tender passion, am sure it was in tender passion, now with one foot, now with the other; dear Sir Rowland, rise; I cannot bear this. I beseech you rise, [and down I dropt involuntarily on one knee. What can I say? Rise, dear sir; on my knee I beg of you, kneel not to me: indeed, sir, you greatly distress me! Pray, let go my hands.
Tears ran down his cheeks.-And do I distress you, madam? And do you vouchsafe to kneel to me?-I will not distress you; for the world I will not distress you.
He arose, and let go my hands. I arose too, abashed. He pulled out his handkerchief, and hastening from me to the window, wiped his eyes. Then turning to me, What a fool I am! What a mere child I make of myself! How can I blame my boy? O madam! have you not one word of comfort to send by me to my boy? Say but you will see him. Give him leave to wait on you yet, poor soul! (wiping his eyes again,) he would not be able to say a word in his own behalf.-Bid me bring him to you; bid us come together.
And so I could, and so I would, Sir Rowland, if no other expectations were to be formed than those of civility. But I will go farther, to shew my regard for you, sir : let me be happy in your friendship, and good opinion; let me look upon you as my father; let me look upon Mr Fowler as my brother: I am not so happy as to have either father or brother: and let Mr Fowler own me as his sister; and every visit you make me, you will both, in these characters, be dearer to me than before.-But, O my father! (already will I call you father!) urge not your daughter to an impossibility!
Mercy! mercy! What will become of me! What will become of my boy, rather!
He turned from me with his handkerchief at his eyes again, and even sobbed. Where are all my purposes? Irresistible lady!—But must I give up my hopes? Must my boy be told-And yet, do you call me father and do you plead for my indulgence as if you were my daughter? Indeed I do; indeed I must. I have told Mr Fowler, with so much regard for him, as an honest, as a worthy man
Why, that's the weapon that wounds him, that cuts him to the heart! Your gentleness, your openness-And are you determined? Can there be no hope?
Mr Fowler is my brother, sir; and you are my father.-Accept me in those characters.
Accept you! Mercy! Accept you !-Forgive me, madam, (catching my hand, and pressing it with his lips,) you do me honour in the appellation: but if your mind should change, on consideration, and from motives of pity
Indeed, indeed, Sir Rowland, it cannot change.
Why, then, I, as well as my nephew, must acquiesce with your pleasure. But, madam, you don't know what a worthy creature he is. I will not, however, teaze you.-But how, but how shall I see Mr Reeves? I am ashamed to see him with this baby in my face.
And I, Sir Rowland, must retire before I can appear. Excuse me, sir, (withdrawing ;) but I hope you will breakfast with us?
I will drink tea with you, madam, if I can make myself fit to be seen, were it but to claim you for my daughter: but yet had much rather you would be a farther remove in relation: would to God you would let it be niece!—
I courtesied, as a daughter might do, parting with her real father; and withdrew.
And now, my Lucy, will you not be convinced that one of the greatest pains (the loss of dear friends excepted) that a grateful mind can know, is to be too much beloved by a worthy heart, and not to be able to return his love?
My sheet is ended. With a new one I will begin another letter.-Yet a few words in the margin-I tell you not, my dear, of the public entertainments to which Lady Betty is continually contriving to draw me out. She intends by it to be very obliging, and is so; but my present reluctance to go so very often, must not be overcome, as it possibly would be too easily done, were I to give way to the temptation. If it be, your Harriet may turn gadfly, and never be easy but when she is forming parties, or giving way to them, that may make the home, that hitherto has been the chief scene of her pleasure, undelightful to her. Bad habits are sooner acquired than shaken off, as my grandmamma has often told us.
Best of women! Most excellent of creatures! And do you own me? He snatched my hand, and kissed it. What pride do you give me in this open acknowledgment! If it must not be niece, why then I will endeavour to rejoice in my daughter, I think. But yet, my boy, my poor boy-But you are all goodness: and with him I say, I must not teaze you.
What you have been saying to each other alone, said Mrs Reeves, I cannot tell; but I long to know.
Why, madam, I will tell you, if I know how. You must know, that I, that I came as an ambassador extraordinary from my sorrowful boy: yet not desired; not sent; I came of my own accord, in hopes of getting one word of comfort, and to bring matters on, before I set out for Caermarthen.
The servant coming in, and a loud rap, rap, rap, on the footman's musical instrument, the knocker of the door, put a stop to Sir Rowland's narrative. In apprehension of company, I breathed on my hand, and put it to either eye; and Sir Rowland hemmed twice or thrice, and rubbed his, the better to conceal their redness, though it made them redder than before. He got up, looked at the glass; would have sung. Toll, doll-Hem, said he; as if the muscles of his face were in the power of his voice. Mercy! all the infant still in my eye-Toll, doll-Hem! I would sing it away, if I could.
Sir Hargrave entered bowing, scraping to me, and with an air not ungraceful.
Servant, sir, said the Knight, (to Sir Hargrave's silent salute to him,) bowing, and looking at the Baronet's genteel morning dress, and then at his own-Who the deuce is he? whispering to Mr Reeves; who then presented each to the other by
No! said the Knight; but I have a nephew, gentlemen-a very pretty young fellow! And I have this to say before you all, (I am downright Dunstable,) I had much rather call this lady niece, than daughter. And then the Knight forced a laugh, and looked round upon us all.
O Sir Rowland! replied I, I have uncles, more than one-I am a niece; but I have not had for many years till now the happiness of a father.
And do you own me, madam, before all this gay company?-The first time I beheld you, I remember I called you a perfect paragon. Why, madam, you are the most excellent of women!
We are so much convinced of this, Sir Rowland, said the Baronet, that I don't know but Miss Byron's choosing you for a father, instead of an uncle, may have saved two or three throats.
And then he laughed. His laugh was the more seasonable, as it softened the shockingness of his expression.
Mr Greville and the Baronet had been in company twice before in Northamptonshire at the races; but now and then looked upon each other with envious eyes; and once or twice were at cross purposes; but my particular notice of the Knight made all pass lightly over.
Sir Rowland went first away. He claimed one word with his daughter in the character of a father.
I withdrew with him to the farther end of the
Not one word of comfort? not one word, madam?-to my boy; whispered he.
My compliments (speaking low) to my brother, sir. I wish him as well and as happy as I think he deserves to be.
Well but-well but
Only remember, Sir Rowland, that you act in character. I followed you hither, on the strength of your authority, as a father; I beg, sir, that you will preserve to me that character.
Why, God in heaven bless my daughter! if only daughter you can be. Too well do I understand you! I will see how my poor nephew will take it. If it can be no otherwise, I will prevail upon him, I think, to go down with me to Caermarthen for a few months.-But as to those two fine gentlemen, madam-It would grieve me ('tis a folly to deny it) to say I have seen the man that is to supplant my nephew.
I will act in character, Sir Rowland: as your daughter, you have a right to know my sentiments on this subject-You have not yet seen the man you seem to be afraid of.
You are all goodness, madam-my daughterand I cannot bear it!
He spoke this loud enough to be heard; and Mr Greville and the Baronet both, with some emotion, rose, and turned about to us.
Once more, Sir Rowland, said I, my compliments to my brother-Adieu !
God in heaven bless you, madam! that's allGentlemen, your servant. Mrs Reeves, your most obedient humble servant. Madam, to me, you will allow me, and my nephew too, one more visit, I hope, before I set out for Caermarthen.
I courtesied, and joined my cousins. Away went the Knight, brushing the ground with his hat, at his going out. Mr Reeves waited on him to the outward door.
'Bye, bye, to you, Mr Reeves-with some emotion, (as my cousin told me afterwards) A wonderful creature! By mercy! a wonderful creature!-I go away with my heart full; yet am pleased; I know not why, neither, that's the jest of it-'Bye, Mrs Reeves, I can stay no longer.
An odd mortal! said the man of the townBut seems to know on which side his bread is buttered.
A whimsical old fellow! said the man of the country. But I rejoice that he has not a son; that's all.
A good many frothy things passed, not worth relating. I wanted them both to be gone. They seemed each to think it time; but looked as if neither cared to leave the other behind him.
At last Mr Greville, who hinted to me, that
he knew I loved not too long an intrusion, bowed, and, politely enough, took his leave. And then the Baronet began, with apologizing for his behaviour at taking leave on his last vi
Some gentlemen, I said, had one way, some another, of expressing themselves on particular occasions: he had thought fit to shew me what was his.
He seemed a little disconcerted. But quickly recovering himself, he could not, indeed, excuse himself, he said, for having then called me cruel -Cruel, he hoped he should not find me.Proud I knew not what pride was.-Ungrateful-I could not be guilty of ingratitude. He begged me to forgive his peremptoriness-He had hoped (as he had been assured that my affections were absolutely disengaged) that the proposals he had to make would have been acceptable: and so positive a refusal, without any one reason assigned, and on his first visit, had indeed hurt his pride, (he owned, he said, that he had some pride,) and made him forget that he was addressing himself to a woman who deserved, and met with, the veneration of every one who approached her. He next expressed himself with apprehensions on Mr Greville's arrival in town. He spoke slightly of him. Mr Greville, 1 doubt not, will speak as slightly of Sir Hargrave. And, if I believe them both, I fancy I shall not injure either.
Mr Greville's arrival, I said, ought not to concern me. He was to do as he thought fit. I was only desirous to be allowed the same free agency that I was ready to allow others.
That could not be, he said. Every man who saw me, must wish me to be his; and endeavour to obtain his wishes.
And then making vehement professions of love, he offered me large settlements; and to put it in my power to do all the good that he knew it was in my heart to do—and that I should prescribe to him in everything as to the place of residence, excursions, even to the going abroad to France, to Italy, and wherever I pleased.
To all which I answered as before; and when he insisted upon my reasons for refusing him, I frankly told him, though I owned it was with some reluctance, that I had not the opinion of his morals that I must have of those of the man to whom I gave my hand in marriage.
Of my morals, madam! (starting; and his colour went and came:) My morals, madam !— I thought he looked with malice; but I was not intimidated and yet my cousins looked at me with some little surprise for my plain-dealing, though not as blaming me.
Be not displeased, sir, with my freedom. You call upon me to make objections. I mean not to upbraid you; that is not my business; but, thus called upon, I must repeat-I stopt.
Proceed, madam, angrily.
Indeed, Sir Hargrave, you must pardon me