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

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"My Lord," cried Sir Clement, warmly, "your praises make me doubt your disinterestedness, and there exists not the man, whom I would so unwillingly have for a rival as yourself. But you must give me leave to say, you have greatly deceived me in regard to this affair."

"How so, Sir?" cried Lord Orville, with equal warmth.

"You were pleased, my Lord," answered Sir Clement, "upon our first conversation concerning this young lady, to speak to her in terms by no means suited to your present encomiums; you said she was a poor, weak, ignorant girl, and I had great reason to believe you had a most contemptuous opinion of her."

"It is very true," said Lord Orville, "that I did not, at our first acquaintance, do justice to the merits of Miss Anville; but I knew not then how new she was to the world; at present, however, I am convinced, that whatever might appear strange in her behaviour, was simply the effect of inexperience, timidity, and a retired education; for I find her informed, sensible, and intelligent. She is not, indeed, like most modern young ladies, to be known in half an hour: her modest worth, and fearful excellence, require both time and encouragement to show themselves. She does not, beautiful as she is, seize the soul by surprise, but, with more dangerous fascination, she steals it almost imperceptibly."

"Enough, my Lord," cried Sir Clement, "your solicitude for her welfare is now sufficiently explained."

"My friendship and esteem," returned Lord Orville, "I do not wish to disguise; but assure yourself, Sir Clement, I should not have troubled you upon this subject, had Miss Anville and I ever conversed but as friends. However, since you do not choose to avow your intentions, we must drop the subject."

"My intentions," cried he, "I will frankly own, are hardly known to myself. I think Miss Anville the loveliest of her sex; and, were I a marrying man, she, of all the women I have seen, I would fix upon for a wife: but I believe that not even the philosophy of your Lordship would recommend me to a connection of that sort, with a girl of obscure birth, whose only dowry is her beauty, and who is evidently in a state of dependency."

"Sir Clement," cried Lord Orville, with some heat, "we will discuss this point no further; we are both free agents, and must act for ourselves."

Here Mrs. Selwyn, fearing a surprise, and finding my apprehensions of danger were groundless, retired hastily into another walk, and soon after came to give me this account.

Good Heaven, what a man is this Sir Clement! So designing, though so easy; so deliberately artful, though so flighty! Greatly, however, is he mistaken, all confident as he seems; for the girl, obscure, poor, dependent as she is, far from wishing the honour of his alliance, would not only now, but always have rejected it.

As to Lord Orville,-but I will not trust my pen to mention him,-tell me, my dear sir, what you think of him?-tell me if he is not the noblest of men?-and if you can either wonder at, or blame my admiration?

The idea of being seen immediately by either party, after so singular a conversation, was both awkward and distressing to me; but I was obliged to appear at dinner. Sir Clement, I saw, was absent and uneasy; he watched me, he watched Lord Orville, and was evidently disturbed in his mind. Whenever he spoke to me, I turned from him with undisguised disdain, for I am too much irritated against him, to bear with his ill-meant assiduities any longer.

But, not once,-not a moment, did I dare meet the eyes of Lord Orville! All consciousness myself, I dreaded his penetration, and directed mine every way-but towards his. The rest of the day I never quitted Mrs. Selwyn.

Adieu, my dear Sir: to-morrow I expect your directions, whether I am to return to Berry Hill, or once more to visit London.