A Collection of Letters
Letter the Third
From a Young Lady in distressed Circumstances to her freind
A few days ago I was at a private Ball given by Mr Ashburnham. As my Mother never goes out she entrusted me to the care of Lady Greville who did me the honour of calling for me in her way and of allowing me to sit forwards, which is a favour about which I am very indifferent especially as I know it is considered as confering a great obligation on me "So Miss Maria (said her Ladyship as she saw me advancing to the door of the Carriage) you seem very smart to night-- MY poor Girls will appear quite to disadvantage by YOU-- I only hope your Mother may not have distressed herself to set YOU off. Have you got a new Gown on?"
"Yes Ma'am." replied I with as much indifference as I could assume.
"Aye, and a fine one too I think--(feeling it, as by her permission I seated myself by her) I dare say it is all very smart--But I must own, for you know I always speak my mind, that I think it was quite a needless piece of expence--Why could not you have worn your old striped one? It is not my way to find fault with People because they are poor, for I always think that they are more to be despised and pitied than blamed for it, especially if they cannot help it, but at the same time I must say that in my opinion your old striped Gown would have been quite fine enough for its Wearer--for to tell you the truth (I always speak my mind) I am very much afraid that one half of the people in the room will not know whether you have a Gown on or not--But I suppose you intend to make your fortune to night--. Well, the sooner the better; and I wish you success."
"Indeed Ma'am I have no such intention--"
"Who ever heard a young Lady own that she was a Fortune-hunter?" Miss Greville laughed but I am sure Ellen felt for me.
"Was your Mother gone to bed before you left her?" said her Ladyship.
"Dear Ma'am, said Ellen it is but nine o'clock."
"True Ellen, but Candles cost money, and Mrs Williams is too wise to be extravagant."
"She was just sitting down to supper Ma'am."
"And what had she got for supper?" "I did not observe." "Bread and Cheese I suppose." "I should never wish for a better supper." said Ellen. "You have never any reason replied her Mother, as a better is always provided for you." Miss Greville laughed excessively, as she constantly does at her Mother's wit.
Such is the humiliating Situation in which I am forced to appear while riding in her Ladyship's Coach--I dare not be impertinent, as my Mother is always admonishing me to be humble and patient if I wish to make my way in the world. She insists on my accepting every invitation of Lady Greville, or you may be certain that I would never enter either her House, or her Coach with the disagreable certainty I always have of being abused for my Poverty while I am in them.--When we arrived at Ashburnham, it was nearly ten o'clock, which was an hour and a half later than we were desired to be there; but Lady Greville is too fashionable (or fancies herself to be so) to be punctual. The Dancing however was not begun as they waited for Miss Greville. I had not been long in the room before I was engaged to dance by Mr Bernard, but just as we were going to stand up, he recollected that his Servant had got his white Gloves, and immediately ran out to fetch them. In the mean time the Dancing began and Lady Greville in passing to another room went exactly before me--She saw me and instantly stopping, said to me though there were several people close to us,
"Hey day, Miss Maria! What cannot you get a partner? Poor Young Lady! I am afraid your new Gown was put on for nothing. But do not despair; perhaps you may get a hop before the Evening is over." So saying, she passed on without hearing my repeated assurance of being engaged, and leaving me very much provoked at being so exposed before every one--Mr Bernard however soon returned and by coming to me the moment he entered the room, and leading me to the Dancers my Character I hope was cleared from the imputation Lady Greville had thrown on it, in the eyes of all the old Ladies who had heard her speech. I soon forgot all my vexations in the pleasure of dancing and of having the most agreable partner in the room. As he is moreover heir to a very large Estate I could see that Lady Greville did not look very well pleased when she found who had been his Choice--She was determined to mortify me, and accordingly when we were sitting down between the dances, she came to me with more than her usual insulting importance attended by Miss Mason and said loud enough to be heard by half the people in the room, "Pray Miss Maria in what way of business was your Grandfather? for Miss Mason and I cannot agree whether he was a Grocer or a Bookbinder." I saw that she wanted to mortify me, and was resolved if I possibly could to Prevent her seeing that her scheme succeeded. "Neither Madam; he was a Wine Merchant." "Aye, I knew he was in some such low way--He broke did not he?" "I beleive not Ma'am." "Did not he abscond?" "I never heard that he did." "At least he died insolvent?" "I was never told so before." "Why, was not your FATHER as poor as a Rat" "I fancy not." "Was not he in the Kings Bench once?" "I never saw him there." She gave me SUCH a look, and turned away in a great passion; while I was half delighted with myself for my impertinence, and half afraid of being thought too saucy. As Lady Greville was extremely angry with me, she took no further notice of me all the Evening, and indeed had I been in favour I should have been equally neglected, as she was got into a Party of great folks and she never speaks to me when she can to anyone else. Miss Greville was with her Mother's party at supper, but Ellen preferred staying with the Bernards and me. We had a very pleasant Dance and as Lady G-- slept all the way home, I had a very comfortable ride.
The next day while we were at dinner Lady Greville's Coach stopped at the door, for that is the time of day she generally contrives it should. She sent in a message by the servant to say that "she should not get out but that Miss Maria must come to the Coach-door, as she wanted to speak to her, and that she must make haste and come immediately--" "What an impertinent Message Mama!" said I--"Go Maria--" replied she--Accordingly I went and was obliged to stand there at her Ladyships pleasure though the Wind was extremely high and very cold.
"Why I think Miss Maria you are not quite so smart as you were last night--But I did not come to examine your dress, but to tell you that you may dine with us the day after tomorrow--Not tomorrow, remember, do not come tomorrow, for we expect Lord and Lady Clermont and Sir Thomas Stanley's family--There will be no occasion for your being very fine for I shant send the Carriage-- If it rains you may take an umbrella--" I could hardly help laughing at hearing her give me leave to keep myself dry--"And pray remember to be in time, for I shant wait--I hate my Victuals over-done--But you need not come before the time--How does your Mother do? She is at dinner is not she?" "Yes Ma'am we were in the middle of dinner when your Ladyship came." "I am afraid you find it very cold Maria." said Ellen. "Yes, it is an horrible East wind --said her Mother--I assure you I can hardly bear the window down--But you are used to be blown about by the wind Miss Maria and that is what has made your Complexion so rudely and coarse. You young Ladies who cannot often ride in a Carriage never mind what weather you trudge in, or how the wind shews your legs. I would not have my Girls stand out of doors as you do in such a day as this. But some sort of people have no feelings either of cold or Delicacy--Well, remember that we shall expect you on Thursday at 5 o'clock--You must tell your Maid to come for you at night--There will be no Moon--and you will have an horrid walk home--My compts to Your Mother--I am afraid your dinner will be cold--Drive on--" And away she went, leaving me in a great passion with her as she always does.