Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 3, Ch. 6

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Letter VI.

MR. VILLARS TO EVELINA. Berry Hill, Sept. 28th.

DEAD to the world, and equally insensible to its pleasures or its pains, I long since badw adieu to all joy, and defiance to all sorrow, but what should spring from my Evelina,-sole source, to me, of all earthly felicity. How strange, then, is it, that the letter in which she tells me she is the happiest of human beings, should give me most mortal inquietude!

Alas, my child!-that innocence, the first, best gift of Heaven, should, of all others, be the blindest to its own danger,-the most exposed to treachery,-and the least able to defend itself, in a world where it is little known, less valued, and perpetually deceived!

Would to Heaven you were here!-then, by degrees, and with gentleness, I might enter upon a subject too delicate for distant discussion. Yet is it too interesting, and the situation too critical, to allow of delay.-Oh, my Evelina, your situation is critical indeed!-your peace of mind is at stake, and every chance for your future happiness may depend upon the conduct of the present moment.

Hitherto I have forborne to speak with you upon the most important of all concerns, the state of your heart:-alas, I need no information! I have been silent, indeed, but I have not been blind.

Long, and with the deepest regret, have I perceived the ascendancy which Lord Orville has gained upon your mind.-You will start at the mention of his name,-you will tremble every word you read;-I grieve to give pain to my gentle Evelina, but I dare not any longer spare her.

Your first meeting with Lord Orville was decisive. Lively, fearless, free from all other impressions, such a man as you describe him could not fail of exciting your admiration; and the more dangerously, because he seemed as unconscious of his power as you of your weakness; and therefore you had no alarm, either from his vanity of your own prudence.

Young, animated, entirely off your guard, and thoughtless of consequences, Imagination took the reins; and Reason, slow-paced, though sure-footed, was unequal to the race of so eccentric and flighty a companion. How rapid was then my Evelina's progress through those regions of fancy and passion whither her new guide conducted her!-She saw Lord Orville at a ball,-and he was the most amiable of men! -She met him again at another,-and he had every virtue under Heaven!

I mean not to depreciate the merit of Lord Orville, who, one mysterious instance alone excepted, seems to have deserved the idea you formed of his character; but it was not time, it was not the knowledge of his worth, obtained your regard: your new comrade had not patience to wait any trial; her glowing pencil, dipt in the vivid colours of her creative ideas, painted to you, at the moment of your first acquaintance, all the excellencies, all the good and rare qualities, which a great length of time and intimacy could alone have really discovered.

X [w] bad

Should be "bid."