Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 3, Ch. 1

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"O, Madam," said Mr. Ridgeway, "he may now be admitted any where, for he is going to reform."

"Has he, under that notion, persuaded any fool to marry him?"

"Not yet, Madam, but a marriage is expected to take place shortly: it has been some time in agitation; but the friends of the lady have obliged her to wait till she is of age: however, her brother, who has chiefly opposed the match, now that she is near being at her own disposal, is tolerably quiet. She is very pretty, and will have a large fortune. We expect her at the Wells every day."

"What is her name?" said Mrs. Selwyn.

"Larpent," answered he: "Lady Louisa Larpent, sister of Lord Orville."

"Lord Orville!" repeated I, all amazement.

"Yes, Ma'am; his Lordship is coming with her. I have had certain information. They are to be at the Honourable Mrs. Beaumont's. She is a relation of my Lord's, and has a very fine house upon Cliftonh Hill."

His Lordship is coming with her! -Good God, what an emotion did those words give me! How strange, my dear Sir, that, just at this time, he should visit Bristol! It will be impossible for me to avoid seeing him, as Mrs. Selwyn is very well acquainted with Mrs. Beaumont. Indeed, I have had an escape in not being under the same roof with him, for Mrs. Beaumont invited us to her house immediately upon our arrival; but the inconvenience of being so distant from the pump-room made Mrs. Selwyn decline her civility.

Oh that the first meeting were over!-or that I could quit Bristol without seeing him!-inexpressibly do I dread an interview! Should the same impertinent freedom be expressed by his looks, which dictated this cruel letter, I shall not know how to endure either him or myself. Had I but returned it, I should be easier, because my sentiments of it would then be known to him; but now, he can only gather them from my behaviour; and I tremble lest he should mistake my indignation for confusion!-lest he should misconstrue my reserve into embarrassment!-for how, my dearest Sir, how shall I be able totally to divest myself of the respect with which I have been used to think of him?-the pleasure with which I have been used to see him?

Surely he, as well as I, must recollect the letter at the moment of our meeting; and he will, probably, mean to gather my thoughts of it from my looks;-oh that they could but convey to him my real detestation of impertinence and vanity! then would he see how much he had mistaken my disposition when he imagined them my due.

There was a time when the very idea that such a man as Lord Merton should ever be connected with Lord Orville would have both surprised and shocked me; and even yet I am pleased to hear of his repugnance to the marriage.

But how strange, that a man of so abandoned a character should be the choice of a sister of Lord Orville! and how strange, that, almost at the moment of the union, he should be so importunate in gallantry to another woman! What a world is this we live in! how corrupt! how degenerate! well might I be contented to see no more of it! If I find that the eyes of Lord Orville agree with his pen,-I shall then think, that of all mankind, the only virtuous individual resides at Berry Hill.

X [h] Clifton

Places

Now a Bristol suburb, but then Clifton village above the Avon Gorge, and near the Hotwells.