Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 2, Ch. 29

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"No, but I abhor to compel you. I have long seen that your mind has been ill at ease, and mine has largely partaken of your concern: I forbore to question you; for I hoped that time and absence, from whatever excited your uneasiness, might best operate in silence: but, alas! your affliction seems only to augment,-your health declines,-your look alters!-Oh, Evelina, my aged heart bleeds to see the change!-bleeds to behold the darling it had cherished, the prop it had reared for its support, when bowed down by years and infirmities, sinking itself under the pressure of internal grief!-struggling to hide what it should seek to participate!-But go, my dear, go to your own room; we both want composure, and we will talk of this matter some other time."

"Oh, Sir," cried I, penetrated to the soul, "bid me not leave you!-think me not so lost to feeling, to gratitude-"

"Not a word of that," interrupted he: "it pains me you should think upon that subject; pains me you should ever remember that you have not a natural, an hereditary right to every thing within my power. I meant not to affect you thus,-I hoped to have soothed you!-but my anxiety betrayed me to an urgency that has distressed you. Comfort yourself, my love; and doubt not but that time will stand your friend, and all will end well."

I burst into tears: with difficulty had I so long restrained them; for my heart, while it glowed with tenderness and gratitude, was oppressed with a sense of its own unworthiness. "You are all, all goodness!" cried I, in a voice scarce audible; "little as I deserve,-unable as I am to repay, such kindness,-yet my whole soul feels,-thanks you for it!"

"My dearest child," cried he, "I cannot bear to see thy tears;-for my sake dry them: such a sight is too much for me: think of that, Evelina, and take comfort, I charge thee!"

"Say then," cried I, kneeling at his feet, "say then that you forgive me! that you pardon my reserve,-that you will again suffer me to tell you my most secret thoughts, and rely upon my promise never more to forfeit your confidence!-my father!-my protector!-my ever-honoured,-ever-loved-my best and only friend!-say you forgive your Evelina, and she will study better to deserve your goodness!"

He raised, he embraced me: he called me his sole joy, his only earthly hope, and the child of his bosom! He folded me to his heart; and, while I wept from the fulness of mine, with words of sweetest kindness and consolation, he soothed and tranquillised me.

Dear to my remembrance will ever be that moment when, banishing the reserve I had so foolishly planned, and so painfully supported, I was restored to the confidence of the best of men!

When at length we were again quietly and composedly seated by each other, and Mr. Villars waited for the explanation I had begged him to hear, I found myself extremely embarrassed how to introduce the subject which must lead to it. He saw my distress; and with a kind of benevolent pleasantry, asked me if I would let him guess any more? I assented in silence.

"Shall I, then, go back to where I left off?"

"If-if you please;-I believe so,-" said I, stammering.

"Well, then, my love, I think I was speaking of the regret it was natural you should feel upon quitting those from whom you had received civility and kindness, with so little certainty of ever seeing them again, or being able to return their good offices. These are circumstances that afford but melancholy reflections to young minds; and the affectionate disposition of my Evelina, open to all social feelings, must be hurt more than usual by such considerations.-You are silent, my dear. Shall I name those whom I think most worthy the regret I speak of? We shall then see if our opinions coincide."

Still I said nothing, and he continued.