Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 2, Ch. 17

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Letter XVII.

EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. June 21st.

THE last three evenings have passed tolerably quiet, for the Vauxhall adventures had given Madame Duval a surfeit of public places: home, however, soon growing tiresome, she determined to-night, she said, to relieve her ennui by some amusement; and it was therefore settled, that we should call upon the Branghtons at their house, and thence proceed to Marybone Gardens.

But, before we reached Snow Hill, we were caught in a shower of rain: we hurried into the shop, where the first object I saw was Mr. Macartney, with a book in his hand, seated in the same corner where I saw him last; but his looks were still more wretched than before, his face yet thinner, and his eyes sunk almost hollow into his head. He lifted them up as we entered, and I even thought that they emitted a gleam of joy: involuntarily I made to him my first courtesy; he rose and bowed with a precipitation that manifested surprise and confusion.

In a few minutes were joined by all the family, except Mr. Smith, who fortunately was engaged.

Had all the future prosperity of our lives depended upon the good or bad weather of this evening, it could not have been treated as a subject of greater importance. "Sure, never anything was so unlucky!"-"Lord, how provoking!"-"It might rain for ever, if it would hold up now."-These, and such expressions, with many anxious observations upon the kennelsw, filled up all the conversation till the shower was over.

And then a very warm debate arose, whether we should pursue our plan, or defer it to some finer evening. The Miss Branghtons were for the former; their father was sure it would rain again; Madame Duval, though she detested returning home, yet dreaded the dampness of the gardens.

M. Du Bois then proposed going to the top of the house, to examine whether the clouds looked threatening or peaceable: Miss Branghton, starting at this proposal, said they might go to Mr. Macartney's room, if they would, but not to her's.

This was enough for the brother; who, with a loud laugh, declared he would have some fun; and immediately led the way, calling to us all to follow. His sisters both ran after, but no one else moved.

In a few minutes young Branghton, coming half-way down stairs, called out, "Lord, why don't you all come? why, here's Poll's things all about the room!"

Mr. Branghton then went; and Madame Duval, who cannot bear to be excluded from whatever is going forward, was handed up stairs by M. Du Bois.

I hesitated a few moments whether or not to join them; but, soon perceiving that Mr. Macartney had dropped his book, and that I engrossed his whole attention, I prepared, from mere embarrassment, to follow them.

As I went, I heard him move from his chair, and walk slowly after me. Believing that he wished to speak to me, and earnestly desiring myself to know if, by your means, I could possibly be of any service to him, I first slackened my pace, and then turned back. But, though I thus met him half-way, he seemed to want courage or resolution to address me; for, when he saw me returning, with a look extremely disordered, he retreated hastily from me.

Not knowing what I ought to do, I went to the street-door, where I stood some time, hoping he would be able to recover himself; but, on the contrary, his agitation increased every moment; he walked up and down the room in a quick but unsteady pace, seeming equally distressed and irresolute; and, at length, with a deep sigh, he flung himself into a chair.

I was so much affected by the appearance of such extreme anguish, that I could remain no longer in the room: I therefore glided by him and went up stairs; but, ere I had gone five steps, he precipitately followed me, and, in a broken voice, called out "Madam!-for Heaven's sake-"

X [w] kennels

A street surface drain here slanted in from each side to channel water down the middle.