Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 1, Ch. 21

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Letter XXI

EVELINA IN CONTINUATION I HAVE a volume to write of the adventures of yesterday. In the afternoon,-at Berry Hill I should have said the evening, for it was almost six o'clock,-while Miss Mirvan and I were dressing for the opera, and in high spirits from the expectation of great entertainment and pleasure, we heard a carriage stop at the door, and concluded that Sir Clement Willoughby, with his usual assiduity, was come to attend us to the Haymarket; but, in a few moments, what was our surprise to see our chamber door flung open, and the two Miss Branghtons enter the room! They advanced to me with great familiarity, saying, "How do you do, Cousin?-so we've caught you at the glass!-well, I'm determined I'll tell my brother of that!"

Miss Mirvan, who had never before seen them, and could not at first imagine who they were, looked so much astonished, that I was ready to laugh myself, till the eldest said, "We're come to take you to the opera, Miss; papa and my brother are below, and we are to call for your grand-mama as we go along."

"I am very sorry," answered I, "that you should have taken so much trouble, as I am engaged already."

"Engaged! Lord, Miss, never mind that," cried the youngest; "this young lady will make your excuses I dare say; it's only doing as one would be done by, you know."

"Indeed Ma'am," said Miss Mirvan, "I shall myself be very sorry to be deprived of Miss Anville's company this evening."

"Well, Miss, that is not so very good-natured in you," said Miss Branghton, "considering we only come to give our cousin pleasure; it's no good to us; it's all upon her account; for we came, I don't know how much round about to take her up."

"I am extremely obliged to you," said I, "and very sorry you have lost so much time; but I cannot possibly help it, for I engaged myself without knowing you would call."

"Lord, what signifies that?" said Miss Polly, "you're no old maid, and so you needn't be so very formal: besides I dare say those you are engaged to a'n't half so near related to you as we are."

"I must beg you not to press me any further, for I assure you it is not in my power to attend you."

"Why, we came all out of the city on purpose: besides, your grand-mama expects you;-and, pray, what are we to say to her?"

"Tell her, if you please, that I am much concerned,-but that I am pre-engaged."

"And who to?" demanded the abrupt Miss Branghton.

"To Mrs. Mirvan,-and a large party."

"And, pray, what are you all going to do, that it would be such a mighty matter for you to come along with us?"

"We are all going to-to the opera."

"O dear, if that be all, why can't we go altogether?"

I was extremely disconcerted at this forward and ignorant behaviour, and yet their rudeness very much lessened my concern at refusing them. Indeed, their dress was such as would have rendered their scheme of accompanying our party impracticable, even if I had desired it; and this, as they did not themselves find it out, I was obliged, in terms the least mortifying I could think of, to tell them.