In which our Heroine being mistaken herself, gives Occasion for a great many other Mistakes.
As soon as the Ladies enter'd the Room, Mr. Selvin, with more Gaiety than usual, advanc'd towards Arabella, who put on so cold and severe a Countenance at his Approach, that the poor Man, extreamly confus'd, drew back, and remain'd in great Perplexity, fearing he had offended her.
Mr. Tinsel, seeing Mr. Selvin's Reception, and aw'd by the becoming Majesty in her Person, notwithstanding all his Assurance, accosted her with less Confidence than was his Custom; but Arabella softning her Looks with the most engaging Smiles, made an Apology for detaining them so long from the Parade, gave her Hand to the Beau, as being not a suspected Person, and permitted him to lead her out. Mr. Glanville, to whom she always allow'd the Preference on those Occasions, being a little indispos'd, and not able to attend her.
Mr. Tinsel, whose Vanity was greatly flatter'd by the Preference Arabella gave him to his Companion, proceeded according to his usual Custom, to examine her Looks and Behaviour with more Care; conceiving such a Preference must proceed from a latent Motive which was not unfavourable for him. His Discernment on these Occasions being very surprising, he soon discover'd in the bright Eyes of Arabella a secret Approbation of his Person, which he endeavour'd to increase by displaying it with all the Address he was Master of, and did not fail to talk her into an Opinion of his Wit, by ridiculing every Body that pass'd them, and directing several study'd Compliments to herself.
Miss Glanville, who was not so agreeably entertain'd by the grave Mr. Selvin, saw these Advances to a Gallantry with her Cousin with great Disturbance: She was resolved to interrupt it if possible, and being convinc'd Mr. Selvin preferr'd Arabella's Conversation to hers, she plotted how to pair them together, and have the Beau to herself.
As they walk'd a few Paces behind her Cousin and Mr. Tinsel, she was in no Danger of being over-heard; and taking Occasion to put Mr. Selvin in mind of Arabella's Behaviour to him, when he accosted her; she ask'd him, if he was conscious of having done any thing to offend her? I protest, Madam, reply'd Mr. Selvin, I know not of any thing I have done to displease her. I never fail'd, to my Knowledge, in my Respects towards her Ladyship, for whom indeed I have a most profound Veneration.
I know so much of her Temper, resum'd Miss Glanville, as to be certain, if she has taken it into her Head to be angry with you, she will be ten times more so at your Indifference: And if you hope for her Favour, you must ask her Pardon with the most earnest Submission imaginable. If I knew I had offended her, reply'd Mr. Selvin, I would very willingly ask her Pardon; but really, since I have not been guilty of any Fault towards her Ladyship, I don't know how to acknowledge it.
Well, said Miss Glanville coldly, I only took the Liberty to give you some friendly Advice, which you may follow, or not, as you please. I know my Cousin is angry at something, and I wish you were Friends again, that's all.
I am mightily oblig'd to you, Madam, said Mr. Selvin; and since you assure me her Ladyship is angry, I'll ask her Pardon, tho', really, as I said before,I don't know for what.
Well, interrupted Miss Glanville, we'll join them at the End of the Parade; and to give you an Opportunity speaking to my Cousin, I'll engage Mr. Tinsel myself.
Mr. Selvin, who thought himself greatly oblig'd to Miss Glanville for her good Intentions, tho' in reality she had a View of exposing of her Cousin, as well as an Inclination to engage Mr. Tinsel, took Courage as they turn'd, to get on the other Side of Arabella, whom he had not dar'd before to approach, while Miss Glanville, addressing a Whisper of no great Importance to her Cousin, parted her from the Beau, and slackning her Pace a little, fell into a particular Discourse with him, which Arabella being too polite to interrupt, remain'd in a very perplexing Situation, dreading every Moment that Mr. Selvin would explain himself. Alarm'd at his Silence, yet resolv'd to interrupt him if he began to speak, and afraid of beginning a Conversation first, lest he should construe it to his Advantage.
Mr. Selvin being naturally timid in the Company of Ladies, the Circumstance of Disgrace which he was in with Arabella, her Silence and Reserve so added to his accustom'd Diffidence, that tho' he endeavour'd several times to speak, he was not able to bring out anything but a preluding Hem; which he observ'd, to his extreme Confusion, seem'd always to encrease Arabella's Constraint.
Indeed, that Lady, upon any Suspicion that he was going to break his mysterious Silence, always contracted her Brow into a Frown, cast down her Eyes with an Air of Perplexity, endeavour'd to hide her Blushes with her Fan; and to shew her In-attention, directed her Looks to the contrary Side.
The Lady and Gentleman being in equal Confusion, no Advances were made on either Side towards a Conversation, and they had reach'd almost the End of the Parade in an uninterrupted Silence; when Mr. Selvin, fearing he should never again have so good an Opportunity of making his Peace, collected all his Resolution, and with an Accent trembling under the Importance of the Speech he was going to make, began, Madam, Since I have had the Honour of walking with your Ladyship, I have observed so many Signs of Constraint in your Manner, that I hardly dare intreat you to grant me a Moment's Hearing while I-- Sir, interrupted Arabella, before you go any further, I must inform you, that what you are going to say will mortally offend me. Take heed then how you commit an Indiscretion which will force me to treat you very rigorously.
If your Ladyship will not allow me to speak in my own justification, said Mr. Selvin, yet I hope you will not refuse to tell me my Offence, since I-- You are very confident, indeed, interrupted Arabella again, to suppose I will repeat what would be infinitely grievous for me to hear. Against my Will, pursued she, I must give you the Satisfaction to know, that I am not ignorant of your Crime, but I also assure you that I am highly incens'd; and that, not only with the Thoughts you have dar'd to entertain of me, but likewise with your Presumption in going about to disclose them.
Mr. Selvin, whom the seeming Contradictions in this Speech astonish'd, yet imagin'd in general it hinted at the Dispute between him and Mr. Tinsel; and supposing the Story had been told to his Disadvantage, which was the Cause of her Anger, reply'd in great Emotion at the Injustice done him.
Since somebody has been so officious to acquaint your Ladyship with an Affair which ought to have been kept from your Knowledge; 'tis a Pity they did not inform you, that Mr. Tinsel was the Person that had the least Respect for your Ladyship, and is more worthy of your Resentment.
If Mr. Tinsel, replied Arabella, is guilty of an Offence like yours, yet since he has conceal'd it better, he is less culpable than you; and you have done that for him, which haply he would never have had Courage enough to do for himself as long as he lived.
Poor Selvin, quite confounded at these intricate Words, would have begg'd her to explain herself, had she not silenc'd him with a dreadful Frown: A and making a Stop till Miss Glanville and Mr. Tinsel came up to them. She told her Cousin with a peevish Accent, that she had perform'd her Promise very ill; and whisper'd her, that she was to blame for all the Mortifications she had suffer'd.
Mr. Tinsel, supposing the Alteration in Arabella's Humour proceeded from being so long depriv'd of his Company; endeavour'd to make her Amends by a Profusion of Compliments; which she receiv'd with such an Air of Displeasure, that the Beau, vex'd at the ill Success of his Gallantry, told her, he was afraid Mr. Selvin's Gravity had infected her Ladyship.
Say rather, reply'd Arabella, that his Indiscretion has offended me.
Mr. Tinsel, charm'd with this beginning Confidence, which confirm'd his Hopes of having made some Impression on her Heart; conjur'd her very earnestly to tell him how Mr. Selvin had offended her. 'Tis sufficient, resum'd she, that I tell you he has offended me, without declaring the Nature of his Crime, since doubtless it has not escaped your Observation, which, if I may believe him, is not wholly disinterested. To confess yet more, 'tis true that he hath told me something concerning you, which-- Let me perish, Madam, interrupted the Beau, if one Syllable he has said be true.
How, said Arabella, a little disconcerted, Will you always persist in a Denial then? Deny it, Madam, return'd Mr. Tinsel, I'll deny what he has said with my last Breath; 'tis all a scandalous Forgery: No Man living is less likely to think of your Ladyship in that Manner. If you knew my Thoughts, Madam, you would be convinc'd nothing is more impossible, and-- Sir, interrupted Arabella, extremely mortify'd, methinks you are very eager in your Justification. I promise you, I do not think you guilty of the Offence he charg'd you with; if I did, you would haply experience my Resentment in such a Manner, as would make you repent of your Presumption.
Arabella, in finishing these Words, interrupted Miss Glanville's Discourse with Mr. Selvin, to tell her, she desir'd to return Home; to which that young Lady, who had not been at all pleas'd with the Morning's Walk, consented.