Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 2, Ch. 22

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Letter XXII.


LISTLESS, uneasy, and without either spirit or courage to employ myself, from the time I had finished my last letter, I indolently seated myself at the window, where, while I waited Madame Duval's summons to breakfast, I perceived, among the carriages which passed by, a coronet-coachw, and in a few minutes, from the window of it, Lord Orville! I instantly retreated, but not I believe, unseen; for the coach immediately drove up to our door.

Indeed, my dear Sir, I must own I was greatly agitated; the idea of receiving Lord Orville by myself,-the knowledge that his visit was entirely to me,-the wish of explaining the unfortunate adventure of yesterday,-and the mortification of my present circumstances,-all these thoughts, occurring to me nearly at the same time, occasioned me more anxiety, confusion, and perplexity, than I can possibly express.

I believe he meant to sent up his name; but the maid, unused to such a ceremony, forgot it by the way, and only told me, that a great Lord was below, and desired to see me; and, the next moment, he appeared himself.

If, formerly, when in the circle of high life, and accustomed to its manners, I so much admired and distinguished the grace, the elegance of Lord Orville, think Sir, how they must strike me now,-now, when far removed from that splendid circle, I live with those to whom even civility is unknown, and decorum a stranger!

I am sure I received him very awkwardly: depressed by a situation so disagreeable-could I do otherwise? When his first enquiries were made, "I think myself very fortunate," he said, "in meeting with Miss Anville at home, and still more so in finding her disengaged."

I only courtsied. He then talked of Mrs. Mirvan, asked how long I had been in town, and other such general questions, which happily gave me time to recover from my embarrassment. After which he said, "If Miss Anville will allow me the honour of sitting by her a few minutes (for we were both standing) I will venture to tell her the motive which, next to enquiring after her health, has prompted me to wait on her thus early."

We were then both seated; and, after a short pause, he said, "How to apologize for so great a liberty as I am upon the point of taking, I know not;-shall I, therefore, rely wholly upon your goodness, and not apologize at all?"

I only bowed.

"I should be extremely sorry to appear impertinent,-yet hardly know how to avoid it."

"Impertinent! O, my Lord," cried I, eagerly, "that, I am sure, is impossible!"

"You are very good," answered he, "and encourage me to be ingenuous-"

Again he stopped: but my expectation was too great for speech. At last, without looking at me, in a low voice, and hesitating manner, he said, "Were those ladies with whom I saw you last night ever in your company before?"

"No, my Lord," cried I, rising and colouring violently, "nor will they ever be again."

He rose too; and, with an air of the most condescending concern, said, "Pardon, Madam, the abruptness of a question which I knew not how to introduce as I ought, and for which I have no excuse to offer but my respect for Mrs. Mirvan, joined to the sincerest wishes for your happiness: yet I fear I have gone too far!"

"I am very sensible of the honour of your lordship's attention," said I; "but-"

"Permit me to assure you," cried he, finding I hesitated, "that officiousness is not my characteristic; and that I would by no means have risked your displeasure, had I not been fully satisfied you were too generous to be offended without a real cause of offence."

"Offended!" cried I, "no, my Lord, I am only grieved-grieved, indeed! to find myself in a situation so unfortunate as to be obliged to make explanations, which cannot but mortify and shock me."

"It is I alone," cried he, with some eagerness, "who am shocked, as it is I who deserve to be mortified. I seek no explanation, for I have no doubt; but in mistaking me, Miss Anville injures herself: allow me therefore, frankly and openly, to tell you the intention of my visit."

I bowed, and we both returned to our seats.

X [w] coronet-coach


A coach bearing the insignia indicating it belongs to a member of the nobility; a coronet or "small crown" would be recognized as inferior to the crown that would signify a royal coach.