Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 2, Ch. 12

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Letter XII


June 10th THIS morning Mr. Smith called, on purpose, he said, to offer me a ticket for the next Hampstead assemblyh. I thanked him, but desired to be excused accepting it: he would not, however, be denied, nor answered; and, in a manner both vehement and free, pressed and urged his offer, till I was wearied to death: but, when he found me resolute, he seemed thunderstruck with amazement, and thought proper to desire I would tell him my reasons.

Obvious as they must surely have been to any other person, they were such as I knew not how to repeat to him; and, when he found I hesitated, he said, "Indeed, Ma'am, you are too modest; I assure you the ticket is quite at your service, and I shall be very happy to dance with you; so pray don't be so coy."

"Indeed, Sir," returned I, "you are mistaken; I never supposed you would offer a ticket without wishing it should be accepted; but it would answer no purpose to mention the reasons which make me decline it, since they cannot possibly be removed."

This speech seemed very much to mortify him; which I could not be concerned at, as I did not choose to be treated by him with so much freedom. When he was, at last, convinced that his application to me was ineffectual, he addressed himself to Madame Duval, and begged she would interfere in his favour; offering at the same time to procure another ticket for herself.

"Ma foi, Sir," answered she, angrily, "you might as well have had the complaisancew to ask me before; for, I assure you, I don't approve of no such rudeness: however, you may keep your tickets to yourself, for we don't want none of 'em."

This rebuke almost overset him; he made many apologies, and said that he should certainly have first applied to her, but that he had no notion the young lady would have refused him, and, on the contrary, had concluded that she would have assisted him to persuade Madame Duval herself.

This excuse appeased her; and he pleaded his cause so successfully, that, to my great chagrin, he gained it, and Madame Duval promised that she would go herself, and take me to the Hampstead assembly whenever he pleased.

Mr. Smith then, approaching me with an air of triumph, said, "Well,
Ma'am, now I think you can't possibly keep to your denial."

I made no answer; and he soon took leave, tho' not till he had so wonderfully gained the favour of Madame Duval, that she declared, when he was gone, he was the prettiest young man she had seen since she came to England.

As soon as I could find an opportunity, I ventured, in the most humble manner, to intreat Madame Duval would not insist upon my attending her to this ball; and represented to her, as well as I was able, the impropriety of my accepting any present from a man so entirely unknown to me: but she laughed at my scruplesw; called me a foolish, ignorant country-girl; and said she should make it her business to teach me something of the world.

This ball is to be next week. I am sure it is not more improper for, than unpleasant to me, and I will use every possible endeavour to avoid it. Perhaps I may apply to Miss Branghton for advice, as I believe she will be willing to assist me, from disliking, equally with myself, that I should dance with Mr. Smith.

June 11th

O, my dear Sir! I have been shocked to death; and yet at the same time delighted beyond expression, in the hope that I have happily been the instrument of saving a human creature from destruction.

This morning Madame Duval said she would invite the Branghton family to return our visit to-morrow; and, not choosing to rise herself,-for she generally spends the morning in bed,-she desired me to wait upon them with her message. M. Du Bois, who just then called, insisted upon attending me.

Mr. Branghton was in the shop, and told us that his son and daughter were out; but desired me to step up stairs, as he very soon expected them home. This I did, leaving M. Du Bois below. I went into the room where we had dined the day before; and, by a wonderful chance, I happened to seat myself, that I had a view of the stairs, and yet could not be seen from them.

X [h] Hampstead assembly


Hampstead had developed as a spa for its curative iron-rich waters. Its gardens, bowling greens, taverns and other attractions drew visitors during its spring to early fall season.  The public assemblies were held in the Long Room at Hampstead Wells. 


X [w] complaisance

Manners & Morals

Showing a desire or willingness to please, here in the sense of a regard for another's feelings.  Madame Duval would feel that Mr. Smith should have the sensitivity to approach her first with his invitation since as the elder she should enjoy precedence.  


X [w] scruples

Doubts or reservations.