Evelina, by Fanny Burney

Letter lxxvii.

Evelina in Continuation.

Clifton, Oct. 7th.

YOU will see, my dear Sir, that I was mistaken in supposing I should write no more from this place, where my residence now seems more uncertain than ever.

This morning, during breakfast, Lord Orville took an opportunity to beg me, in a low voice, to allow him a moment’s conversation before I left Clifton; “May I hope,” added he, “that you will stroll into the garden after breakfast?”

I made no answer, but I believe my looks gave no denial; for, indeed, I much wished to be satisfied concerning the letter. The moment, therefore, that I could quit the parlour, I ran up stairs for my calash; but, before I reached my room, Mrs. Selwyn called after me, “If you are going to walk, Miss Anville, be so good as to bid Jenny bring down my hat, and I’ll accompany you.”

Very much disconcerted, I turned into the drawing-room, without making any answer, and there I hoped to wait unseen, till she had otherwise disposed of herself. But, in a few minutes, the door opened, and Sir Clement Willoughby entered.

Starting at the sight of him, in rising hastily, I let drop the letter which I had brought for Lord Orville’s inspection, and, before I could recover it, Sir Clement, springing forward, had it in his hand. He was just presenting it to me, and, at the same time, enquiring after my health, when the signature caught his eye, and he read aloud, “Orville.”

I endeavoured, eagerly, to snatch it from him, but he would not permit me; and, holding it fast, in a passionate manner exclaimed, “Good God, Miss Anville, is it possible you can value such a letter as this?”

The question surprised and confounded me, and I was too much ashamed to answer him; but, finding he made an attempt to secure it, I prevented him, and vehemently demanded him to return it.

“Tell me first,” said he, holding it above my reach, “tell me if you have since received any more letters from the same person?”

“No, indeed,” cried I, “never!”

“And will you also, sweetest of women, promise that you never will receive any more? Say that, and you will make me the happiest of men.”

“Sir Clement,” cried I, greatly confused, “pray give me the letter.”

“And will you not first satisfy my doubts? — will you not relieve me from the torture of the most distracting suspense? — tell me but that the detested Orville has written to you no more!”

“Sir Clement,” cried I, angrily, “you have no right to make any conditions — so pray give me the letter directly.”

“Why such solicitude about this hateful letter? can it possibly deserve your eagerness? tell me, with truth, with sincerity tell me, does it really merit the least anxiety?”

“No matter, Sir,” cried I, in great perplexity, “the letter is mine, and therefore —”

“I must conclude, then,” said he, “that the letter deserves your utmost contempt — but that the name of Orville is sufficient to make you prize it.”

“Sir Clement,” cried I, colouring, “you are quite — you are very much — the letter is not —”

“O, Miss Anville,” cried he, “you blush! — you stammer! — Great Heaven! it is then all as I feared!”

“I know not,” cried I, half-frightened, “what you mean; but I beseech you to give me the letter, and to compose yourself.”

“The letter,” cried he, gnashing his teeth, “you shall never see more! You ought to have burnt it the moment you had read it!” And in an instant he tore it into a thousand pieces.

Alarmed at a fury so indecently outrageous, I would have run out of the room; but he caught hold of my gown, and cried, “Not yet, not yet must you go! I am but half-mad yet, and you must stay to finish your work. Tell me, therefore, does Orville know your fatal partiality? — Say yes,” added he, trembling with passion, “and I will fly you for ever!”

“For Heaven’s sake, Sir Clement,” cried I, “release me! — if you do not, you will force me to call for help.”

“Call then,” cried he, “inexorable and most unfeeling girl; call, if you please, and bid all the world witness your triumph; — but could ten worlds obey your call, I would not part from you till you had answered me. Tell me, then, does Orville know you love him?”

At any other time, an enquiry so gross would have given me inexpressible confusion; but now, the wildness of his manner terrified me, and I only said, “Whatever you wish to know, Sir Clement, I will tell you another time; but, for the present, I entreat you to let me go!”

“Enough,” cried he, “I understand you! — the art of Orville has prevailed; — cold, inanimate, phlegmatic as he is, you have rendered him the most envied of men! — One thing more, and I have done:— Will he marry you?”

What a question! my cheeks glowed with indignation, and I felt too proud to make any answer.

“I see, I see how it is,” cried he, after a short pause, “and I find I am undone for ever!” Then, letting loose my gown, he put his hand to his forehead, and walked up and down the room in a hasty and agitated manner.

Though now at liberty to go, I had not the courage to leave him: for his evident distress excited all my compassion. And this was our situation, when Lady Louisa, Mr Coverley, and Mrs. Beaumont entered the room.

“Sir Clement Willoughby,” said the latter, “I beg your pardon for making you wait so long, but —”

She had not time for another word; Sir Clement, too much disordered to know or care what he did, snatched up his hat, and, brushing hastily past her, flew down stairs, and out of the house.

And with him went my sincerest pity, though I earnestly hope I shall see him no more. But what, my dear Sir, am I to conclude from his strange speeches concerning the letter? Does it not seem as if he was himself the author of it? How else should he be so well acquainted with the contempt it merits? Neither do I know another human being who could serve any interest by such a deception. I remember, too, that just as I had given my own letter to the maid, Sir Clement came into the shop: probably he prevailed upon her, by some bribery, to give it to him; and afterwards, by the same means, to deliver to me an answer of his own writing. Indeed I can in no other manner account for this affair. Oh, Sir Clement, were you not yourself unhappy, I know not how I could pardon an artifice that has caused me so much uneasiness!

His abrupt departure occasioned a kind of general consternation.

“Very extraordinary behavior this!” cried Mrs. Beaumont.

“Egad,” said Mr. Coverley, “the baronet has a mind to tip us a touch of the heroics this morning!”

“I declare,” cried Miss Louisa, “I never saw any thing so monstrous in my life! it’s quite abominable; — I fancy the man’s mad; — I’m sure he has given me a shocking fright!”

Soon after, Mrs. Selwyn came up stairs with Lord Merton. The former, advancing hastily to me, said, “Miss Anville, have you an almanack?”

“Me? — no, Madam.”

“Who has one, then?”

“Egad,” cried Mr. Coverley, “I never bought one in my life; it would make me quite melancholy to have such a time-keeper in my pocket. I would as soon walk all day before an hour-glass.”

“You are in the right,” said Mrs. Selwyn, “not to watch time, lest you should be betrayed, unawares, into reflecting how you employ it.”

“Egad, Ma’am,” cried he, “if Time thought no more of me than I do of Time, I believe I should bid defiance, for one while, to old age and wrinkles; for deuce take me, if ever I think about it at all.”

“Pray, Mr. Coverley,” said Mrs. Selwyn, “why do you think it necessary to tell me this so often?”

“Often!” repeated he; “Egad, Madam, I don’t know why I said it now; — but I’m sure I can’t recollect that ever I owned as much before.”

“Owned it before!” cried she, “why, my dear Sir, you own it all day long; for every word, every look, every action proclaims it.”

I now not if he understood the full severity of her satire, but he only turned off with a laugh: and she then applied to Mr. Lovel, and asked if he had an almanack?

Mr. Lovel, who always looks alarmed when she addresses him, with some hesitation answered, “I assure you, Ma’am, I have no manner of antipathy to an almanack — none in the least — I assure you; — I dare say I have four or five.”

“Four or five! — pray, may I ask what use you make of so many?”

“Use! — really, Ma’am, as to that — I don’t make any particular use of them; but one must have them, to tell one the day of the month:— I’m sure, else I should never keep it in my head.”

“And does your time pass so smoothly unmarked, that, without an almanack, you could not distinguish one day from another?”

“Really, Ma’am,” cried he, colouring, “I don’t see anything so very particular in having a few almanacks; other people have them, I believe, as well as me.”

“Don’t be offended,” cried she, “I have but made a little digression. All I want to know is, the state of the moon; — for if it is at the full, I shall be saved a world of conjectures, and know at once to what cause to attribute the inconsistencies I have witnessed this morning. In the first place, I heard Lord Orville excuse himself from going out, because he had business of importance to transact at home; — yet have I seen him sauntering alone in the garden this half hour. Miss Anville, on the other hand, I invited to walk out with me; and, after seeking her every where round the house, I find her quietly seated in the drawing-room. And, but a few minutes since, Sir Clement Willoughby, with even more than his usual politeness, told me he was come to spend the morning here; — when, just now, I met him flying down stairs, as if pursued by the Furies; and far from repeating his compliments, or making any excuse, he did not even answer a question I asked him, but rushed past me, with the rapidity of a thief from a bailiff!”

“I protest,” said Mrs. Beaumont, “I can’t think what he meant; such rudeness, from a man of any family, is quite incomprehensible.”

“My Lord,” cried Lady Louisa to Lord Merton, “do you know he did the same by me? — I was just going to ask him what was the matter; but he ran past me so quick, that I declare he quite dazzled my eyes. You can’t think, my Lord, how he frightened me; I dare say I look as pale — don’t I look very pale, my Lord?”

“Your Ladyship,” said Mr. Lovel, “so well becomes the lilies, that the roses might blush to see themselves so excelled.”

“Pray, Mr. Lovel,” said Mrs. Selwyn,” if the roses should blush, how would you find it out?”

“Egad,” cried Mr. Coverley, “I suppose they must blush, as the saying is, like a blue dog — for they are red already.”

“Prithee, Jack,” said Lord Merton, “don’t you pretend to talk about blushes, that never knew what they were in your life.”

“My Lord,” said Mrs. Selwyn, “if experience alone can justify mentioning them, what an admirable treatise upon the subject may we not expect from your Lordship!”

“O, pray, Ma’am,” answered he, “stick to Jack Coverley — he’s your only man; for my part, I confess I have a mortal aversion to arguments.”

“O, fie, my Lord,” cried Mrs. Selwyn, “a senator of the nation! a member of the noblest parliament in the world! — and yet neglect the art of oratory!”

“Why, faith, my Lord,” said Mr. Lovel, “I think, in general, your House is not much addicted to study; we of the Lower House have indubitably most application; and, if I did not speak before a superior power (bowing to Lord Merton) I should presume to add, we have likewise the most able speakers.”

“Mr. Lovel,” said Mrs. Selwyn, “you deserve immortality for that discovery! But for this observation, and the confession of Lord Merton, I protest that I should have supposed that a peer of the realm, and an able logician, were synonymous terms.”

Lord Merton, turning upon his heel, asked Lady Louisa if she would take the air before dinner?

“Really,” answered she, “I don’t know; — I’m afraid it’s monstrous hot; besides (putting her hand to her forehead) I an’t half well; it’s quite horrid to have such weak nerves! — the least thing in the world discomposes me: I declare, that man’s oddness has given me such a shock — I don’t know when I shall recover from it. But I’m a sad, weak creature; — don’t you think I am, my Lord?”

“O, by no means,” answered he, “your Ladyship is merely delicate — and devil take me if ever I had the least passion for an Amazon.”

“I have the honour to be quite of your Lordship’s opinion,” said Mr. Lovel, looking maliciously at Mrs. Selwyn; “for I have an insuperable aversion to strength, either of body or mind, in a female.”

“Faith, and so have I,” said Mr. Coverley; “for egad, I’d as soon see a woman chop wood, as hear her chop logic.”

“So would every man in his senses,” said Lord Merton, “for a woman wants nothing to recommend her but beauty and good-nature; in everything else she is either impertinent or unnatural. For my part, deuce take me if ever I wish to hear a word of sense from a woman as long as I live!”

“It has always been agreed,” said Mrs. Selwyn, looking round her with the utmost contempt, “that no man ought to be connected with a woman whose understanding is superior to his own. Now I very much fear, that to accommodate all this good company, according to such a rule, would be utterly impracticable, unless we should choose subjects from Swift’s hospital of idiots.”

How many enemies, my dear Sir, does this unbounded severity excite! Lord Merton, however, only whistled; Mr. Coverley sang; and Mr. Lovel, after biting his lips, said “‘Pon honour, that lady — if she was not a lady — I should be half tempted to observe — that there is something — in such severity — that is rather, I must say — rather oddish.”

Just then a servant brought Lady Louisa a note upon a waiter, which is a ceremony always used to her Ladyship; and I took the opportunity of this interruption to the conversation to steal out of the room.

I went immediately to the parlour, which I found quite empty; for I did not dare walk in the garden, after what Mrs. Selwyn had said.

In a few minutes a servant announced Mr. Macartney; saying, as he entered the room, that he would acquaint Lord Orville he was there.

Mr. Macartney rejoiced much at finding me alone. He told me he had taken the liberty to enquire for Lord Orville, by way of pretext for coming to the house.

I then very eagerly enquired if he had seen his father.

“I have, Madam,” said he, “and the generous compassion you have shown made me hasten to acquaint you, that, upon reading my unhappy mother’s letter, he did not hesitate to acknowledge me.”

“Good God,” cried I, with no little emotion, “how similar are our circumstances! And did he receive you kindly?”

“I could not, Madam, expect that he would; the cruel, transaction, which obliged me to fly to Paris, was recent in his memory.”

“And — have you seen the young lady?”

“No, Madam,” said he, mournfully, “I was forbid her sight.”

“Forbid her sight! — and why?”

“Partly, perhaps, from prudence — and partly from the remains of a resentment which will not easily subside. I only requested leave to acquaint her with my relationship, and to be allowed to call her sister; — but it was denied me! ‘You have no sister,’ said Sir John, ‘you must forget her existence.’ Hard and vain command!”

“You have — you have a sister!” cried I, from an impulse of pity, which I could not repress; “a sister who is most warmly interested in your welfare, and who only wants opportunity to manifest her friendship and regard.”

“Gracious Heaven!” cried he, “what does Miss Anville mean?”

“Anville,” said I, “is not my real name; Sir John Belmont is my father — he is your’s — and I am your sister! — You see, therefore, the claim we mutually have to each other’s regard; we are not merely bound by the ties of friendship, but by those of blood. I feel for you, already, all the affection of a sister; I felt it, indeed, before I knew I was one. — Why, my dear brother, do you not speak? — do you hesitate to acknowledge me?”

“I am so lost in astonishment,” cried he, “that I know not if I hear right!”

“I have, then, found a brother,” cried I, holding out my hand, “and he will not own me!”

“Own you! — Oh, Madam,” cried he, accepting my offered hand, “is it indeed possible you can own me? — a poor, wretched adventurer! who so lately had no support but from your generosity? — whom your benevolence snatched from utter destruction? — Can you — Oh, Madam, can you, indeed, and without a blush, condescend to own such an outcast for a brother?”

“Oh, forbear, forbear,” cried I, “is this language proper for a sister? are we not reciprocally bound to each other? — Will you not suffer me to expect from you all the good offices in your power? — But tell me, where is our father at present?”

“At the Hot–Wells, Madam; he arrived there yesterday morning.”

I would have proceeded with further questions, but the entrance of Lord Orville prevented me. The moment he saw us, he started, and would have retreated; but, drawing my hand from Mr. Macartney’s, I begged him to come in.

For a few moments we were all silent, and, I believe, all in equal confusion. Mr. Macartney, however, recollecting himself said “I hope your Lordship will forgive the liberty I have taken in making use of your name.”

Lord Orville, rather coldly, bowed, but said nothing.

Again we were all silent, and then Mr. Macartney took leave.

“I fancy,” said Lord Orville, when he was gone, “I have shortened Mr. Macartney’s visit?”

“No, my Lord, not at all.”

“I had presumed,” said he, with some hesitation, “I should have seen Miss Anville in the garden; — but I knew not she was so much better engaged.”

Before I could answer, a servant came to tell me the chaise was ready, and that Mrs. Selwyn was enquiring for me.

“I will wait on her immediately,” cried I, and away I was running; but Lord Orville, stopping me, said, with great emotion, “Is it thus, Miss Anville, you leave me?”

“My Lord,” cried I, “how can I help it? — perhaps, soon, some better opportunity may offer —”

“Good Heaven!” cried he, “do you take me for a Stoic! what better opportunity may I hope for? — is not the chaise come? — are you not going? have you even deigned to tell me whither?”

“My journey, my Lord, will now be deferred. Mr. Macartney has brought me intelligence which renders it at present unnecessary.”

“Mr. Macartney,” said he, gravely, “seems to have great influence; — yet he is a very young counsellor.”

“Is it possible, my Lord, Mr. Macartney can give you the least uneasiness?”

“My dearest Miss Anville,” said he, taking my hand, “I see, and I adore the purity of your mind, superior as it is to all little arts, and all apprehensions of suspicion; and I should do myself, as well as you, injustice, if I were capable of harbouring the smallest doubts of that goodness which makes you mine forever: nevertheless, pardon me, if I own myself surprised — nay, alarmed, at these frequent meetings with so young a man as Mr. Macartney.”

“My Lord,” cried I, eager to clear myself, “Mr. Macartney is my brother.”

“Your brother! you amaze me! — What strange mystery, then, makes his relationship a secret?”

Just then Mrs. Selwyn opened the door. “O, you are here!” cried she: “Pray, is my Lord so kind as to assist you in preparing for your journey, or in retarding it?”

“I should be most happy,” said Lord Orville, smiling, “if it were in my power to do the latter.”

I then acquainted her with Mr. Macartney’s communication.

She immediately ordered the chaise away: and then took me into her own room, to consider what should be done.

A few minutes sufficed to determine her; and she wrote the following note.

“To Sir John Belmont, Bart.”

“MRS. SELWYN presents her compliments to Sir John Belmont; and, if he is at leisure, will be glad to wait on him this morning, upon business of importance.”

She then ordered her man to enquire at the pump-room for a direction; and went herself to Mrs. Beaumont to apologize for deferring her journey.

An answer was presently returned, that Sir John would be glad to see her.

She would have had me immediately accompany her to the Hot–Wells; but I entreated her to spare me the distress of so abrupt an introduction, and to pave the way for my reception. She consented rather reluctantly, and, attended only by her servant, walked to the Wells.

She was not absent two hours; yet so miserably did time seem to linger, that I thought a thousand accidents had happened, and feared she would never return. I passed the whole time in my own room, for I was too much agitated even to converse with Lord Orville.

The instant that, from my window, I saw her returning, I flew down stairs, and met her in the garden.

We both walked to the arbour.

Her looks, in which both disappointment and anger were expressed, presently announced to me the failure of her embassy. Finding that she did not speak, I asked her, in a faltering voice, whether or not I had a father?

“You have not, my dear!” said she abruptly.

“Very well, Madam,” said I, with tolerable calmness, “let the chaise then be ordered again; — I will go to Berry Hill; — and there, I trust, I shall still find one!”

It was some time ere she could give, or I could hear, the account of her visit; and then she related it in a hasty manner; yet, I believe I can recollect every word.

“I found Sir John alone. He received me with the utmost politeness. I did not keep him a moment in suspense as to the purport of my visit. But I had no sooner made it known, than, with a supercilious smile, he said, ‘And have you, Madam, been prevailed upon to revive that ridiculous old story?’ Ridiculous, I told him, was a term which he would find no one else do him the favour to make use of, in speaking of the horrible actions belonging to the old story he made so light of; ‘actions’ continued I, ‘which would dye still deeper the black annals of Nero or Caligula.’ He attempted in vain to rally; for I pursued him with all the severity in my power, and ceased not painting the enormity of his crime till I stung him to the quick, and, in a voice of passion and impatience, he said, ‘No more, Madam — this is not a subject upon which I need a monitor.’ ‘Make then,’ cried I, ‘the only reparation in your power. — Your daughter is now at Clifton; send for her hither; and, in the face of the world, proclaim the legitimacy of her birth, and clear the reputation of your injured wife.’ ‘Madam,’ said he, ‘you are much mistaken, if you suppose I waited for the honour of this visit before I did what little justice now depends upon me, to the memory of that unfortunate woman: her daughter has been my care from her infancy; I have taken her into my house; she bears my name; and she will be my sole heiress.’ For some time this assertion appeared so absurd, that I only laughed at it: but, at last, he assured me, I had myself been imposed upon; for that very woman who attended Lady Belmont in her last illness, conveyed the child to him while he was in London, before she was a year old. ‘Unwilling,’ he added, ‘at that time to confirm the rumour of my being married, I sent the woman with the child to France: as soon as she was old enough, I put her into a convent, where she has been properly educated, and now I have taken her home. I have acknowledged her for my lawful child, and paid, at length, to the memory of her unhappy mother a tribute of fame, which has made me wish to hide myself hereafter from all the world.’ This whole story sounded so improbable, that I did not scruple to tell him I discredited every word. He then rung his bell; and, enquiring if his hair-dresser was come, said he was sorry to leave me; but that, if I would favour him with my company tomorrow, he would do himself the honour of introducing Miss Belmont to me, instead of troubling me to introduce her to him. I rose in great indignation; and assuring him I would make his conduct as public as it was infamous — I left the house.”

Good Heaven, how strange the recital! how incomprehensible an affair! The Miss Belmont then who is actually at Bristol, passes for the daughter of my unhappy mother! — passes, in short, for your Evelina! Who she can be, or what this tale can mean, I have not any idea.

Mrs. Selwyn soon after left me to my own reflections. Indeed they were not very pleasant. Quietly as I had borne her relation, the moment I was alone I felt most bitterly both the disgrace and sorrow of a rejection so cruelly inexplicable.

I know not how long I might have continued in this situation, had I not been awakened from my melancholy reverie by the voice of Lord Orville. “May I come in,” cried he, “or shall I interrupt you?”

I was silent, and he seated himself next me.

“I fear,” he continued, “Miss Anville will think I persecute her: yet so much as I have to say, and so much as I wish to hear, with so few opportunities for either, she cannot wonder — and I hope she will not be offended — that I seize with such avidity every moment in my power to converse with her. You are grave,” added he, taking my hand; “I hope the pleasure it gives to me, will not be a subject of pain to you? — You are silent! — Something, I am sure, has afflicted you:— would to Heaven I were able to console you! — Would to Heaven I were worthy to participate in your sorrows!”

My heart was too full to bear this kindness, and I could only answer by my tears. “Good Heaven,” cried he, “how you alarm me! — My love, my sweet Miss Anville, deny me no longer to be the sharer of your griefs! — tell me, at least, that you have not withdrawn your esteem! — that you do not repent the goodness you have shown me! — that you still think me the same grateful Orville, whose heart you have deigned to accept!”

“Oh, my Lord,” cried I, “your generosity overpowers me!” And I wept like an infant. For now, that all my hopes of being acknowledged seemed finally crushed, I felt the nobleness of his disinterested regard so forcibly, that I could scarce breathe under the weight of gratitude which oppressed me.

He seemed greatly shocked; and, in terms the most flattering, the most respectfully tender, he at once soothed my distress, and urged me to tell him its cause.

“My Lord,” said I, when I was able to speak, “you little know what an outcast you have honoured with your choice! — a child of bounty — an orphan from infancy — dependant, even for subsistence, dependent, upon the kindness of compassion! — Rejected by my natural friends — disowned for ever by my nearest relation — Oh, my Lord, so circumstanced, can I deserve the distinction with which you honour me? No, no, I feel the inequality too painfully; — you must leave me, my Lord; you must suffer me to return to obscurity; and there, in the bosom of my first, best, my only friend — I will pour forth all the grief of my heart! — while you, my Lord, must seek elsewhere —”

I could not proceed; my whole soul recoiled against the charge I would have given, and my voice refused to utter it.

“Never,” cried he, warmly, “my heart is your’s, and I swear to you an attachment eternal! — You prepare me, indeed, for a tale of horror, and I am almost breathless with expectation; — but so firm is my conviction, that, whatever are your misfortunes, to have merited them is not of the number, that I feel myself more strongly, more invincibly devoted to you than ever! — Tell me but where I may find this noble friend, whose virtues you have already taught me to reverence — and I will fly to obtain his consent and intercession, that henceforward our fates my be indissolubly united; — and then shall it be the sole study of my life to endeavor to soften your past — and guard you from future misfortunes!”

I had just raised my eyes to answer this most generous of men, when the first object they met was Mrs. Selwyn.

“So, my dear,” cried she, “what, still courting the rural shades! — I thought ere now you would have been satiated with this retired seat, and I have been seeking you all over the house. But I find the only way to meet with you — is to enquire for Lord Orville. However, don’t let me disturb your meditation; you are possibly planning some pastoral dialogue.”

And, with this provoking speech, she walked on.

In the greatest confusion I was quitting the arbour, when Lord Orville said, “Permit me to follow Mrs. Selwyn; — it is time to put an end to all impertinent conjectures; will you allow me to speak to her openly?”

I assented in silence, and he left me.

I then went to my own room, where I continued till I was summoned to dinner; after which, Mrs. Selwyn invited me to hers.

The moment she had shut the door, “Your Ladyship’” said she, “will, I hope, be seated.”

“Ma’am!” cried I, staring.

“O the sweet innocent! So you don’t know what I mean? — but, my dear, my sole view is to accustom you a little to your dignity elect, lest, when you are addressed by your title, you should look another way, from an apprehension of listening to a discourse not meant for you to hear.”

Having, in this manner, diverted herself with my confusion, till her raillery was almost exhausted, she congratulated me very seriously upon the partiality of Lord Orville, and painted to me, in the strongest terms, his disinterested desire of being married to me immediately. She had told him, she said, my whole story, and yet he was willing, nay eager, that our union should take place of any further application to my family. “Now, my dear,” continued she, “I advise you by all means to marry him directly; nothing can be more precarious than our success with Sir John; and the young men of this age are not to be trusted with too much time for deliberation, where their interests are concerned.”

“Good God, Madam,” cried I, “do you think I would hurry Lord Orville?”

“Well, do as you will,” said she, “luckily you have an excellent subject for Quixotism; — otherwise this delay might prove your ruin; but Lord Orville is almost as romantic as if he had been born and bred at Berry Hill.”

She then proposed, as no better expedient seemed likely to be suggested, that I should accompany her at once in her visit to the Hot–Wells tomorrow morning.

The very idea made me tremble; yet she represented so strongly the necessity of pursuing this unhappy affair with spirit, or giving it totally up, that, wanting her force of argument, I was almost obliged to yield to her proposal.

In the evening we all walked in the garden; and Lord Orville, who never quitted my side, told me he had been listening to a tale, which though it had removed the perplexities that had so long tormented him, had penetrated him with sorrow and compassion. I acquainted him with Mrs. Selwyn’s plan for tomorrow, and confessed the extreme terror it gave me. He then, in a manner almost unanswerable, besought me to leave to him the conduct of the affair, by consenting to be his before an interview took place.

I could not but acknowledge my sense of his generosity; but I told him I was wholly dependent upon you; and that I was certain your opinion would be the same as mine; which was, that it would be highly improper I should dispose of myself for ever, so very near the time which must finally decide by whose authority I ought to be guided. The subject of this dreaded meeting, with the thousand conjectures and apprehensions to which it gives birth, employed all our conversation then, as it has all my thoughts since.

Heaven only knows how I shall support myself, when the long expected — the wished — yet terrible moment arrives, that will prostrate me at the feet of the nearest, the most reverenced of all relations, whom my heart yearns to know, and longs to love!


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51