Evelina, by Fanny Burney

Letter xviii

Evelina in Continuation

I HAD just finished my letter to you this morning, when a violent rapping at the door made me run down stairs; and who should I see in the drawing room, but — Lord Orville!

He was quite alone, for the family had not assembled to breakfast. He inquired first of mine, then of the health of Mrs. and Miss Mirvan, with a degree of concern that rather surprised me, till he said he had just been informed of the accident we had met with at Ranelagh. He expressed his sorrow upon the occasion with utmost politeness, and lamented that he had not been so fortunate as to hear of it in time to offer his services. “But I think,” he added, “Sir Clement Willoughby had the honour of assisting you?”

“He was with Captain Mirvan, my Lord.”

“I had heard of his being of your party.”

I hope that flighty man has not been telling Lord Orville he only assisted me! however, he did not pursue the subject: but said, “This accident though extremely unfortunate, will not, I hope, be the means of frightening you from gracing Ranelagh with your presence in future?”

“Our time, my Lord, for London, is almost expired already.”

“Indeed! do you leave town so very soon?”

“O yes, my Lord, our stay has already exceeded our intentions.”

“Are you, then, so particularly partial to the country?”

“We merely came to town, my Lord, to meet Captain Mirvan.”

“And does Miss Anville feel no concern at the idea of the many mourners her absence will occasion?”

“O, my Lord — I’m sure you don’t think —” I stopt there; for, indeed, I hardly knew what I was going to say. My foolish embarrassment, I suppose, was the cause of what followed; for he came to me, and took my hand saying, “I do think, that whoever has once seen Miss Anville, must receive an impression never to be forgotten.”

This compliment — from Lord Orville — so surprised me, that I could not speak; but felt myself change colour, and stood for some moments silent, and looking down: however, the instant I recollected my situation, I withdrew my hand, and told him that I would see if Mrs. Mirvan was not dressed. He did not oppose me — so away I went.

I met them all on the stairs, and returned with them to breakfast.

I have since been extremely angry with myself for neglecting so excellent an opportunity of apologizing for my behaviour at the ridotto: but, to own the truth, that affair never once occurred to me during the short tete-a-tete which we had together. But, if ever we should happen to be so situated again, I will certainly mention it; for I am inexpressibly concerned at the thought of his harbouring an opinion that I am bold or impertinent, and I could almost kill myself for having given him the shadow of a reason for so shocking an idea.

But was not it very odd that he should make me such a compliment? I expected it not from him; — but gallantry, I believe, is common to all men, whatever other qualities they may have in particular.

Our breakfast was the most agreeable meal, if it may be called a meal, that we have had since we came to town. Indeed, but for Madame Duval, I should like London extremely.

The conversation of Lord Orville is really delightful. His manners are so elegant, so gentle, so unassuming, that they at once engage esteem, and diffuse complacence. Far from being indolently satisfied with his own accomplishments, as I have already observed many men here are, though without any pretensions to his merit, he is most assiduously attentive to please and to serve all who are in his company, and, though his success is invariable, he never manifests the smallest degree of consciousness.

I could wish that you, my dearest Sir, knew Lord Orville, because I am sure you would love him; and I have felt that wish for no other person I have seen since I came to London. I sometimes imagine, that when his youth is flown, his vivacity abated, and his life is devoted to retirement, he will, perhaps, resemble him whom I most love and honour. His present sweetness, politeness, and diffidence, seem to promise in future the same benevolence, dignity, and goodness. But I must not expatiate upon this subject.

When Lord Orville was gone — and he made but a very short visit — I was preparing, most reluctantly, to wait upon Madame Duval; but Mrs. Mirvan proposed to the Captain, that she should be invited to dinner in Queen Ann Street; and he readily consented, for he said he wished to ask after her Lyons negligee.

The invitation is accepted, and we expect her every moment. But to me, it is very strange, that a woman who is the uncontrolled mistress of her time, fortune, and actions, should choose to expose herself voluntarily to the rudeness of a man who is openly determined to make her his sport. But she has very few acquaintance; and, I fancy, scarce knows how to employ herself.

How great is my obligation to Mrs. Mirvan, for bestowing her time in a manner so disagreeable to herself, merely to promote my happiness! Every dispute in which her undeserving husband engages, is productive of pain and uneasiness to herself; of this I am so sensible, that I even besought her not to send to Madame Duval; but she declared she could not bear to have me pass all my time, while in town, with her only. Indeed she could not be more kind to me, were she your daughter.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32