Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 3, Ch. 14

[+] | [-] | reset
 

Imagine, my dear Sir, how wretched I must be till I saw her return! scarce could I restrain myself from running back: however, I checked my impatience, and waited, though in agonies, till she came.

And now, my dear Sir, I have a conversation to write, the most interesting to me that I ever heard. The comments and questions with which Mrs. Selwyn interrupted her account I shall not mention; for they are such as you may very easily suppose.

Lord Orville and Sir Clement were both seated very quietly in the arbour: and Mrs. Selwyn, standing still, as soon as she was within a few yards of them, heard Sir Clement say, "Your question, my Lord, alarms me, and I can by no means answer it, unless you will allow me to propose another."

"Undoubtedly, Sir."

"You ask me, my Lord, what are my intentions?-I should be very happy to be satisfied as to your Lordship's."

"I have never, Sir, professed any."

Here they were both, for a few moments, silent; and then Sir Clement said, "To what, my Lord, must I then impute your desire of knowing mine?"

"To an unaffected interest in Miss Anville's welfare."

"Such an interest," said Sir Clement, drily, "is indeed very generous; but, except in a father,-a brother,-or a lover-"

"Sir Clement," interrupted his Lordship, "I know your inference; and I acknowledge I have not the right of enquiry which any of those three titles bestow; and yet I confess the warmest wishes to serve her and to see her happy. Will you, then, excuse me, if I take the liberty to repeat my question?"

"Yes, if your Lordship will excuse my repeating, that I think it a rather extraordinary one."

"It may be so," said Lord Orville; "but this young lady seems to be peculiarly situated; she is very young, very inexperienced, yet appears to be left totally to her own direction. She does not, I believe, see the dangers to which she is exposed, and I will own to you, I feel a strong desire to point them out."

"I don't rightly understand your Lordship,-but I think you cannot mean to prejudice her against me?"

"Her sentiments of you, Sir, are as much unknown to me, as your intentions towards her. Perhaps, were I acquainted with either, my officiousness might be at an end: but I presume not to ask upon what terms-"

Here he stopped; and Sir Clement said, "You know, my Lord, I am not given to despair; I am by no means such a puppy as to tell you I am upon sure ground; however, perseverance-"

"You are, then, determined to perservere?"

"I am, my Lord."

"Pardon me, then, Sir Clement, if I speak to you with freedom. This young lady, though she seems alone, and, in some measure, unprotected, is not entirely without friends; she has been extremely well educated, and accustomed to good company; she has a natural love of virtue, and a mind that might adorn any station, however exalted: is such a young lady, Sir Clement, a proper object to trifle with?-for your principles, excuse me, Sir, are well known."

"As to that, my Lord, let Miss Anville look to herself; she has an excellent understanding, and needs no counsellor."

"Her understanding is indeed excellent; but she is too young for suspicion, and has an artlessness of disposition I never saw equalled."