It had all come to her now. She had had her dreams from time to time when working at her novel—dreams of recognition—of being received on terms of equality by some of the lesser literary people who had visited the house in St. Martin’s Street, and had gone away praising the musical talents of her sisters, but leaving her unnoticed. Her aspirations had been humble, but it seemed to her so stupid to be stupid in the midst of a brilliant household, that she longed to be able to do something that would, at least, cause their visitors of distinction to glance into her corner and recognize her name when it was spoken in their hearing. That was all she longed for at first—to be recognized as “the one who writes,” as people recognized “the one who plays.”

But since Signor Rauzzini had come upon the scene her ambitions had widened. She dreamt not merely of recognition, but of distinction, so that he might be proud of her, and that she might not merely be spoken of as the wife of the Roman singer. That dream of hers had invariably been followed by a feeling of depression as she reflected upon the improbability of its ever being realized, and if it should not be realized, all hope of happiness would pass from her life. Thus it was that for some months she had lived with the cold finger of despair constantly pressing upon her heart. She was so practical—so reasonable—that she could never yield herself up to the fascination of the Fool’s Paradise of dreams; she was ready to estimate her chances of literary success, and the result of the operation was depressing. How could any young woman who had seen so little of life, and who had been so imperfectly educated, have any hope to be received as a writer of distinction? What claim to distinction could such a girl as she advance in the face of the competition that was going on around her in every branch of distinctive work?

For some months her good sense and her clear head were her greatest enemies; evermore bringing her back to the logic of a life in which everything is represented by figures, from a great artistic success to a butcher’s bill—a life in which dreams play a part of no greater significance than the splendid colours clinging about the West in the unalterable routine of the setting sun.

Many times she had awakened in the night to weep as she felt the bitterness of defeat; for her book had been given to the world and the world had received it as the sea receives a stone that is flung upon its surface. That simile of the stone and the sea was constantly recurring to her, and every time she saw that it was weak—that it fell short of meeting her case, for her book had made no stir whatsoever in the world, whereas a stone, however small it might be, could not be given to the sea without creating some stir on the surface of the waters.

And then, quite unexpectedly, had come a whisper from the world to tell her that her book had not been submerged: the whisper had increased in volume until it had sounded in her ears like a shout of acclamation, telling her that the reality had far surpassed her most sanguine dreams, and that common-sense reasoning is sometimes farther astray in its operation than are the promptings of the most unreasonable ambition.

These were her rose-tinted reflections while driving with her father from Chessington to Streatham, a journey which represented to her the passing from obscurity to distinction, the crossing of the Jordan and the entering into the Land of Promise.

Fanny Burney has herself told the story of her father’s coming to her at Chessington, and of her dear old friend’s reception of the marvellous news that Dr. Burney brought to him—of the phrases which she overheard while the two men were in a room together—the incredulous exclamations—“Wonderful—it’s wonderful!”—“Why, she has had very little education but what she has given herself—less than any of the others”—“The variety of characters—the variety of scenes, and the language”—“Wonderful!” And then Mr. Crisp’s meeting her, catching her by the hands as she was going in to supper, and crying, “Why, you little hussy, ain’t you ashamed to look me in the face you—you ‘Evelina,’ you! Why, what a dance you have led me about it!” Miss Burney has brought the scene vividly before our eyes in her Diary.

It was one of the happiest days of her life; she saw the pride with which her father regarded her, for Dr. Burney was a practical man who valued achievement as it deserved, and was, besides, the best of fathers, and the most anxious to advance the interests of his children. He looked with pride upon his daughter, and talked of her having made Mr. Lowndes a wealthy man. His estimate of her earning powers had increased: he now declared that even if Lowndes had paid a thousand pounds for the book, his profits off it would enable him to buy an estate!

It was the happiest evening of her life; and now she was in the chaise with her beloved father, driving to Streatham, where they were to dine, and Dr. Johnson was to be of the party. This meant more than recognition, it meant the Land of Promise of her ambitious dreams.

She had many matters to reflect upon at this time, but all her reflections led to the one point—her next meeting with Rauzzini. The truth that had been revealed to her among Sir Joshua Reynolds’ superb canvases, that love was more than all else that the world could give her, remained before her, as a luminous fixed star, to be a guide to her life; and the happiness that she now felt was due to the thought that she could go to the man whom she loved, without a misgiving, without fearing that he would hear those dreaded voices of the world saying that he had been a fool to ally himself with a nonentity, or that she would hear the whispers of those who might suggest that she had done very well for herself. She had long before made her resolution only to go to him when she could do so on terms of equality. At that time her resolution seemed to shut her out from all chances of happiness; she knew this, but at the same time she believed that it would shut both of them out from every chance of unhappiness; and so she had allowed it to dominate her life.

That was where her common-sense and her reasonableness had their way, prevailing over that blind impulse which she now and again had, to trust to chance—and love—to overcome every other consideration, and to give her lover and herself happiness solely by being together. It was such impulses as this that caused love to be referred to as blind. But she was now ready to thank heaven for having given her strength to overcome it and so to give the victory to reason and good sense.

She made up her mind to write to him before she slept that very night, telling him what her resolution had been—he had called it a mystery, not knowing anything about it—and asking him to rejoice with her that she had been able to maintain it, so that the barrier which she had seen between them was now swept away.

“Come to me—come to me”—that would be the burden of her letter to him; she would send it to him and he would come.

The thought made her lean back among the cushions of the chaise and shut her eyes, the better to enclose the vision of happiness that came from her heart. He would come to her and her happiness would be complete.

So she arrived with her father at Thrale Hall and was welcomed by Mrs. Thrale in the porch. When she had made her toilet for dinner she was shown into the drawing-room. As she entered, she was conscious of the presence of several men, and the one nearest to her was, she saw, Signor Rauzzini.

All the men in the room were looking toward her except Rauzzini. He was standing by the side of a small table, presenting his profile to her, and his eyes were gazing across the room at a picture that hung between the windows, a frown on his face.

She was startled, and the blood rushed to her cheeks. It would have done so on her entering the room, even if she had not been surprised to see her lover there when she believed him to be still in France.

She had stopped before reaching the middle of the room, and then she was hidden from the view of everybody by a huge mass of manhood in the person of Dr. Johnson. He seemed inclined to embrace her; and as he swung himself close to her, there was no one in the room that had not a moment of trepidation lest he should fall over her and crush her flat.

Mrs. Thrale tripped alongside Fanny, as if ready to die with her.

“Oh, come, Dr. Johnson,” she cried. “I have no intention of allowing you to monopolize Miss Burney, for that I perceive is your desire. The gentlemen must be presented to her in proper form.”

“Madam,” said he, “I understood clearly that Miss Burney was coming hither for myself alone, and I have no mind to share so precious a morsel with others. Miss Burney and I are old friends, give me leave to say; I have more than once been interested in a book in the room where she was sitting in her father’s house. Come to my arms, Miss Burney, and we shall laugh together at the jealous glances the others cast at me.”

“Miss Burney will sit beside you at dinner, sir, and that must suffice you for the present,” said Mrs. Thrale, taking Fanny by the hand.

But Johnson had succeeded, after more than one ineffectual attempt, in grasping Miss Burney’s left hand, and in his ponderous playfulness, he refused to relinquish it, so that she had to make her curtsies to the gentlemen with Mrs. Thrale on one side of her and Johnson on the other. There was Mr. Seward and Sir Joshua Reynolds, and two others besides Signor Rauzzini. Each of them had a compliment to offer her, and did so very pleasantly and with great tact.

“Now that is done, Miss Burney and I can sit together on the sofa, and she will tell me why she loves the Scotch and I will scold her for it,” said Johnson complacently.

“Nay, sir, Miss Burney has not yet greeted Signor Rauzzini,” said Mrs. Thrale. “You and Miss Burney are already acquainted, I know, Signor Rauzzini, though you did fancy that she was one of the musical girls of St. Martin’s Street.”

Rauzzini took a single step away from the table at which he had remained immovable, and bowed low, without speaking a word.

Fanny responded. They were separated by at least three yards.

“Dinner is on the table, sir,” announced a servant from the door.

“I am not sorry,” said Johnson. “Mrs. Thrale gave me a solemn promise that Miss Burney should sit next to me. That was why I kept my eye on Miss Burney.”

“And hand too, sir,” remarked Mr. Seward.

“Why, yes, sir, and hand too, if you insist,” said Johnson. “And let me tell you, sir, that a Lichfield man will keep his hand on anything he wishes to retain when another Lichfield man is in the same room.”

His laughter set the ornaments on the mantelpiece a-jingling.

And they went in to dinner before the echoes had died away.

Mrs. Thrale kept her promise, and Fanny was placed next to Johnson. But even then he did not let go her hand. He held it in one of his own and patted it gently with the other. Fanny glanced down the table and saw that the eyes of the young Roman were looking in her direction, and that they were flaming. What could he mean, she wondered. She had been at first amazed at his bearing toward her in the drawing-room; but after a moment’s thought, she had supposed that he had assumed that distant manner to prevent anyone from suspecting the intimacy there was between them. But what could that angry look in his eyes portend? Was it possible that he could be jealous of Dr. Johnson’s awkward attention to her?

She was greatly troubled.

But if he had, indeed, resented Johnson’s attention to her, such a plea was no longer valid after the first dish had been served, for in an instant Johnson’s attention was transferred, with increased force, to the plate before him, and during the solid part of the meal, at least, it was never turned in any other direction. Poor Fanny had never seen him eat, nor had she the same privilege in respect of Mr. Thrale. But she needed all the encouragement that her hostess could afford her to enable her to make even the most moderate meal while such distractions were in her immediate neighbourhood; and she came to the conclusion that she had been ridiculously fastidious over the prodigious tea and its service at Mr. Barlowe’s in the Poultry.

But Mrs. Thrale was as tactful and as chatty as ever, and Mr. Seward made pleasant conversation for her, sitting, as he did, on the other side from Johnson. When Johnson was eating, his fellow guests understood that their chance was come to express their views without a dread of being contradicted by him.

But from the feebleness of her contribution to the chat of the table, Mrs. Thrale as well as Mr. Seward perceived that all they had been told about the timidity of little Miss Burney was even less than the truth.

But for that matter, Signor Rauzzini, who had been placed between Mrs. Thrale and Dr. Burney, was found by both of them to be also singularly averse from joining in the conversation, whether in reply to Burney, who addressed him in Italian, or to his hostess, who spoke French to him.

As Mrs. Thrale talked a good deal herself, however, she rose with an impression that there had been no especial lack of brilliancy at the table.

She took Fanny away with her, her determination being that if she should fail to draw this shy young creature out of her shell, she would at any rate convince her that her hostess was deserving of the reputation which she enjoyed for learning, combined with vivacity, so that their companionship could not be otherwise than profitable after all.

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