Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 2, Ch. 3

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Letter III

 Howard Grove, May 15.

THIS insatiable Captain, if left to himself, would not, I believe, rest, till he had tormented Madame Duval into a fever. He seems to have no delight but in terrifying or provoking her; and all his thoughts apparently turn upon inventing such methods as may do it most effectually.

She had her breakfast again in bed yesterday morning: but during ours, the Captain, with a very significant look at Sir Clement, gave us to understand, that he thought she had now rested long enough to bear the hardships of a fresh campaign.

His meaning was obvious: and, therefore, I resolved to endeavour immediately to put a stop to his intended exploits. When breakfast was over, I followed Mrs. Mirvan out of the parlour, and begged her to lose no time in pleading the cause of Madame Duval with the Captain. "My love," answered she, "I have already expostulated with him; but all I can say is fruitless, while his favourite, Sir Clement, contrives to urge him on."

"Then I will go and speak to Sir Clement," said I, "for I know he will desist if I request him."

"Have I care, my dear!" said she, smiling: "it is sometimes dangerous to make requests to men who are too desirous of receiving them."

"Well, then, my dear Madam, will you give me leave to speak myself to the Captain?"

"Willingly: nay, I will accompany you to him."

I thanked her, and we went to seek him. He was walking in the garden with Sir Clement. Mrs. Mirvan most obligingly made an opening for my purpose, by saying, "Mr. Mirvan, I have brought a petitioner with me."

"Why, what's the matter now?" cried he.

I was fearful of making him angry, and stammered very much, when I told him, I hoped he had no new plan for alarming Madame Duval.

"New plan!" cried he; "why, you don't suppose the old one would do again, do you? Not but what it was a very good one, only I doubt she wouldn't bite."

"Indeed, Sir," said I, "she had already suffered too much; and I hope you will pardon me, if I take the liberty of telling you, that I think it my my duty to do all in my power to prevent her being again so much terrified."

A sullen gloominess instantly clouded his face, and, turning short from me, he said, I might do as I pleased, but that I should much sooner repent than repair my officiousness.

I was too much disconcerted at this rebuff to attempt making any answer: and finding that Sir Clement warmly espoused my cause, I walked away, and left them to discuss the point together.

Mrs. Mirvan, who never speaks to the Captain when he is out of humour, was glad to follow me, and with her usual sweetness made a thousand apologies for her husband's ill-manners.

When I left her, I went to Madame Duval, who was just risen, and employed in examining the clothes she had on the day of her ill usage.

"Here's a sight!" she cried. "Come, here child,-only look-Pardi, so long as I've lived, I never see so much before! Why, all my things are spoilt; and what's worse, my sacquew was as good as new. Here's the second negligee I've used in this manner! - I'm sure I was a fool to put it on in such a lonesome place as this; however if I stay here these ten years, I'll never put on another good gown, that I'm resolved."

"Will you let the maid try if she can iron it out, or clean it, Ma'am?"

X [w] sacque

"A loose kind of gown worn by ladies." OED