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XIX. POLITE CONVERSATION.
The scene between Mr. Bevil and Indiana, in which she endeavours to find out whether he has any other regard for her than that of rational esteem, or Platonic love.-Steele.
Bevil.-Madam, your most obedient. How do you do to-day? I am afraid you wished me gone last night before I went. But you were partly to blame. For who could leave you in the agreeable humour you were in?
Indiana. If you were pleased, sir, we were bɔth pleased; for your company, which is always agreeable, was more peculiarly so last night.
Bev.-My company, madam! You rally. I said very little.
Ind. Too little you always say, sir, for my improvement and for my credit; by the same token, that I am afraid you gave me an opportunity of saying too much last night; and unfortunately, when a woman is in the talking vein she wants nothing so much as to have leave to expose herself.
Bev.-I hope, madam, I shall always have the sense to give you leave to expose yourself, as you call it, without interruption. [Bowing respectfully.]
Ind.--If I had your talents, sir, or your power, to make my actions speak for me, I might be silent, and yet pretend to somewhat more than being agreeable. But as it is
Bev.-Really, madam, I know of none of my actions that deserve your attention. If I might be vain of any thing, it is, that I have understanding enough to mark you out, madam, from all your sex as the most deserving object of my esteem.
Ind. [Aside.]—A cold word! Though I cannot claim even his esteem. [To him.] Did I think, sir, that your esteem for me proceeded from any thing
in me, and not altogether from your own generosity, I should be in danger of forfeiting it.
Bev.-How so, madam?
Ind. What do you think, sir, would be so likely to puff up a weak woman's vanity as the esteem of a man of understanding? Esteem is the result of cool reason; the voluntary tribute paid to inward worth. Who, then, would not be proud of the esteem of a person of sense, which is always unbiassed; whilst love is often the effect of weakness. [Looking hard at Bevil, who casts down his eyes respectfully.] Esteem arises from a higher source, the substantial merit of the mind.
Bev.-True, madam; and great minds only can command it. [Bowing respectfully.] The utmost pleasure and pride of my life, madam, is, that I endeavour to esteem you as— -I ought. Ind.-[Aside.]-As he ought! Still more perplex- Apprehening! He neither saves nor kills my hope. I will sion. try him a little farther. [To him.] Now, I think Questioning. on it, I must beg your opinion, sir, on a point which created a debate between my aunt and me, just before you came in. She would needs have it, that no man ever does any extraordinary kindness for a woman but from selfish views.
Bev.-Well, madam, I cannot say, but I am in Respect. the main, of her opinion, if she means by selfish views what some understand by the phrase; that is, his own pleasure; the highest pleasure human nature is capable of, that of being conscious that from his superfluity, an innocent and virtuous spirit, a person whom he thinks one of the prime ornaments of the creation, is raised above the temptations and sorrows of life; the pleasure of seeing satisfaction, health, and gladness brighten in the countenance of one he values above all mankind. What a man bestows in H
such a way, may, I think, be said, in one sense, to be laid out with a selfish view as much as if he spent it in what is called the pleasures of the world; with this difference, that he shows a better taste in expense. Nor should I think this any such extraordinary matter of heroism in a man of an easy fortune. Every gentleman ought to be capable of this, and I doubt not but many are. For I hope there are many who take more delight in reflection than sensation-in Sudden re- thinking than in eating.—But what am I doing? [Pulls out his watch hastily.] My hour with Mr. Myrtle is come.—Madam, I must take my leave abruptly; but if you please, will do myself the pleasure of waiting on you in the afternoon. Till when, madam, your most obedient.—[Exit.]
The scene between Mr. Bevil and Mr. Myrtle.-Steele. Bevil. Sir, I am extremely obliged to you for this honour.
Myrtle. The time and place, our long acquaintance, and many other circumstances which affect me on this occasion, oblige me, without ceremony or conference, to desire that you will comply with the request in my letter, of which you have already acknowledged the receipt.
Bev. Sir, I have received a letter from you in a very unusual style. But as I am conscious of the integrity of my behaviour with respect to you, and intend that every thing in this matter shall be your own seeking, I shall understand nothing but what you are pleased to confirm face to face. You are therefore to take it for granted, that I have forgotten the contents of your epistle.
Myrt. Your cool behaviour, Mr. Bevil, is agree- Anger. able to the unworthy use you have made of my simplicity and frankness to you. And I see your moderation tends to your own advantage, not mine; to your own safety, not to justice for the wrongs you have done your friend.
Bev. My own safety, Mr. Myrtle.
Bev. Mr. Myrtle, there is no disguising any Displeasure. longer, that I understand what you would force me to. You know my principle upon that point; and Firmness. you have often heard me express my disapprobation of the savage manner of deciding quarrels, which tyrannical custom has introduced, to the breach of all laws, both divine and human.
Myrt.-Mr. Bevil, Mr. Bevil! It would be a Reproachgood first principle in those who have so tender a ing. conscience that way, to have as much abhorrence at [Turns away abruptly.]
doing injuries asBev.-As what?
Myrt. As fear of answering them.
Bev. Mr. Myrtle, I have no fear of answering Self-vindiany injury I have done you; because I have meant you none; for the truth of which I am ready to appeal to any indifferent person, even of your own choosing. But I own I am afraid of doing a wicked Seriousness. action, I mean of shedding your blood, or giving you an opportunity of shedding mine, cold. I am not afraid of you, Mr. Myrtle; but I own I am afraid Pious veneof Him who gave me this life in trust, on other conditions, and with other designs, than that I should hazard, or throw it away, because a rash inconsiderate man is pleased to be offended, without knowing whether he is injured or not. No-I will not, Courage. for your, or any man's humour, commit a known crime-a -a crime which I cannot repair, or which may,
Rage. Myrt.—Mr. Bevil, I must tell you, this coolness, Irritating. this moralizing, shall not cheat me of my love. You may wish to preserve your life, that you may wed Lucinda. And I have reason to be indifferent about it, if I am to lose all that from which I expect any joy in life. But I shall first try one means toward recovering her, I mean by showing her what a dauntless hero she has chosen for her husband.
in the very act, cut me off from all possibility of repentance.
Bev.-Show me but the least glimpse of argument that I am authorized to contend with you at the peril of the life of one of us, and I am ready upon your own terms. If this will not satisfy you, and you will make a lawless assault upon me, I will defend myself as against a ruffian. There is no such terror, Mr. Myrtle, in the anger of those who are quickly hot, and quickly cool again, they know not how or why. I defy you to show wherein I have wronged
Myrt.-Mr. Bevil, it is easy for you to talk coolly on this occasion. You who know not, I suppose, what it is to love; and from your large fortune and your specious outward carriage, have it in your power to obtain the hand of a woman of honour, without much trouble or anxiety—you know nothing of what it is to be alarmed, distracted, with the terror of losing what is dearer than life. You are happy. Your marriage goes on like common business, and, in the interim, you can amuse yourself with making love to Indiana.
Bev.-You have touched me beyond the patience of a man; and the defence of spotless innocence will, I hope, excuse my accepting your challenge, or at least my obliging you to retract your unworthy reflections. I will not, if I can avoid it, shed your