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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Evelina’s Letter to the Rev. Mr. Villars
By Frances (Fanny) Burney (Madame d’Arblay) (1752–1840)
 
From ‘Evelina’

HOLBORN, June 17th.    
YESTERDAY Mr. Smith carried his point of making a party for Vauxhall, consisting of Madame Duval, M. Du Bois, all the Branghtons, Mr. Brown, himself,—and me!—for I find all endeavors vain to escape anything which these people desire I should not.
  1
  There were twenty disputes previous to our setting out; first as to the time of our going: Mr. Branghton, his son, and young Brown, were for six o’clock, and all the ladies and Mr. Smith were for eight;—the latter, however, conquered. Then as to the way we should go: some were for a boat, others for a coach, and Mr. Branghton himself was for walking; but the boat at length was decided upon. Indeed, this was the only part of the expedition that was agreeable to me; for the Thames was delightfully pleasant.  2
  The garden is very pretty, but too formal; I should have been better pleased had it consisted less of straight walks, where
  “Grove nods at grove, each alley has its brother.”
  3
  The trees, the numerous lights, and the company in the circle round the orchestra make a most brilliant and gay appearance; and had I been with a party less disagreeable to me, I should have thought it a place formed for animation and pleasure. There was a concert, in the course of which a hautbois concerto was so charmingly played that I could have thought myself upon enchanted ground, had I had spirits more gentle to associate with. The hautbois in the open air is heavenly.  4
  Mr. Smith endeavored to attach himself to me, with such officious assiduity and impertinent freedom that he quite sickened me. Indeed, M. Du Bois was the only man of the party to whom, voluntarily, I ever addressed myself. He is civil and respectful, and I have found nobody else so since I left Howard Grove. His English is very bad; but I prefer it to speaking French myself, which I dare not venture to do. I converse with him frequently, both to disengage myself from others and to oblige Madame Duval, who is always pleased when he is attended to.  5
  As we were walking about the orchestra, I heard a bell ring; and in a moment Mr. Smith, flying up to me, caught my hand, and with a motion too quick to be resisted, ran away with me many yards before I had breath to ask his meaning; though I struggled as well as I could to get from him. At last, however, I insisted upon stopping. “Stopping, ma’am!” cried he, “why, we must run on, or we shall lose the cascade!”  6
  And then again he hurried me away, mixing with a crowd of people, all running with so much velocity that I could not imagine what had raised such an alarm. We were soon followed by the rest of the party; and my surprise and ignorance proved a source of diversion to them all which was not exhausted the whole evening. Young Branghton, in particular, laughed till he could hardly stand.  7
  The scene of the cascade I thought extremely pretty, and the general effect striking and lively.  8
  But this was not the only surprise which was to divert them at my expense; for they led me about the garden purposely to enjoy my first sight of various other deceptions.  9
  About ten o’clock, Mr. Smith having chosen a box in a very conspicuous place, we all went to supper. Much fault was found with everything that was ordered, though not a morsel of anything was left, and the dearness of the provisions, with conjectures upon what profit was made by them, supplied discourse during the whole meal.  10
  When wine and cyder were brought, Mr. Smith said, “Now let’s enjoy ourselves; now is the time, or never. Well, ma’am, and how do you like Vauxhall?”  11
  “Like it!” cried young Branghton; “why, how can she help liking it? She has never seen such a place before, that I’ll answer for.”  12
  “For my part,” said Miss Branghton, “I like it because it is not vulgar.”  13
  “This must have been a fine treat for you, Miss,” said Mr. Branghton; “why, I suppose you was never so happy in all your life before?”  14
  I endeavored to express my satisfaction with some pleasure; yet I believe they were much amazed at my coldness.  15
  “Miss ought to stay in town till the last night,” said young Branghton; “and then, it’s my belief, she’d say something to it! Why, Lord, it’s the best night of any; there’s always a riot,—and there the folks run about,—and then there’s such squealing and squalling!—and there, all the lamps are broke,—and the women run skimper-scamper—I declare, I would not take five guineas to miss the last night!”  16
  I was very glad when they all grew tired of sitting, and called for the waiter to pay the bill. The Miss Branghtons said they would walk on while the gentlemen settled the account, and asked me to accompany them; which however I declined.  17
  “You girls may do as you please,” said Madame Duval, “but as to me, I promise you, I sha’n’t go nowhere without the gentlemen.”  18
  “No more, I suppose, will my cousin,” said Miss Branghton, looking reproachfully towards Mr. Smith.  19
  This reflection, which I feared would flatter his vanity, made me most unfortunately request Madame Duval’s permission to attend them. She granted it; and away we went, having promised to meet in the room.  20
  To the room, therefore, I would immediately have gone: but the sisters agreed that they would first have a little pleasure; and they tittered and talked so loud that they attracted universal notice.  21
  “Lord, Polly,” said the eldest, “suppose we were to take a turn in the dark walks?”  22
  “Ay, do,” answered she; “and then we’ll hide ourselves, and then Mr. Brown will think we are lost.”  23
  I remonstrated very warmly against this plan, telling them it would endanger our missing the rest of the party all the evening.  24
  “O dear,” cried Miss Branghton, “I thought how uneasy Miss would be, without a beau!”  25
  This impertinence I did not think worth answering; and quite by compulsion I followed them down a long alley, in which there was hardly any light.  26
  By the time we came near the end, a large party of gentlemen, apparently very riotous, and who were hallooing, leaning on one another, and laughing immoderately, seemed to rush suddenly from behind some trees, and meeting us face to face, put their arms at their sides and formed a kind of circle, which first stopped our proceeding and then our retreating, for we were presently entirely enclosed. The Miss Branghtons screamed aloud, and I was frightened exceedingly; our screams were answered with bursts of laughter, and for some minutes we were kept prisoners, till at last one of them, rudely seizing hold of me, said I was a pretty little creature.  27
  Terrified to death, I struggled with such vehemence to disengage myself from him that I succeeded, in spite of his efforts to detain me: and immediately, and with a swiftness which fear only could have given me, I flew rather than ran up the walk, hoping to secure my safety by returning to the lights and company we had so foolishly left; but before I could possibly accomplish my purpose, I was met by another party of men, one of whom placed himself directly in my way, calling out, “Whither so fast, my love?”—so that I could only have proceeded by running into his arms.  28
  In a moment both my hands, by different persons, were caught hold of, and one of them, in a most familiar manner, desired when I ran next to accompany me in a race; while the rest of the party stood still and laughed. I was almost distracted with terror, and so breathless with running that I could not speak; till another, advancing, said I was as handsome as an angel, and desired to be of the party. I then just articulated, “For Heaven’s sake, gentlemen, let me pass!”  29
  Another, then rushing suddenly forward, exclaimed, “Heaven and earth! what voice is that?”  30
  “The voice of the prettiest little actress I have seen this age,” answered one of my persecutors.  31
  “No,—no,—no,—” I panted out, “I am no actress—pray let me go,—pray let me pass—”  32
  “By all that’s sacred,” cried the same voice, which I then knew for Sir Clement Willoughby’s, “’tis herself!”  33
 
 
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