Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 2, Ch. 26

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Letter XXVI.

EVELINA TO MISS MIRVAN. Berry Hill, July 14th.

MY Sweet Maria will be much surprised, and I am willing to flatter myself, concerned, when, instead of her friend, she receives this letter;-this cold, this inanimate letter, which will but ill express the feelings of the heart which indites it.

When I wrote to you last Friday, I was in hourly expectation of seeing Mrs. Clinton, with whom I intended to have set out for Howard Grove. Mrs. Clinton came; but my plan was necessarily altered, for she brought me a letter,-the sweetest that ever was penned, from the best and kindest friend that ever orphan was blessed with, requiring my immediate attendance at Berry Hill.

I obeyed,-and pardon me if I own I obeyed without reluctance: after so long a separation, should I not else have been the most ungrateful of mortals?-And yet,-oh, Maria! though I wished to leave London, the gratification of my wish afforded me no happiness! and though I felt an impatience inexpressible to return hither, no words, no language, can explain the heaviness of heart with which I made the journey. I believe you would hardly have known me;-indeed, I hardly know myself. Perhaps, had I first seen you, in your kind and sympathizing bosom I might have ventured to have reposed every secret of my soul;-and then-but let me pursue my journal.

Mrs. Clinton delivered Madame Duval a letter from Mr. Villars, which requested her leave for my return; and, indeed, it was very readily accorded: yet, when she found, by my willingness to quit town that M. Du Bois was really indifferent to me, she somewhat softened in my favour; and declared, that, but for punishing his folly in thinking of such a child, she would not have consented to my being again buried in the country.

All the Branghtons called to take leave of me; but I will not write a word more about them: indeed I cannot, with any patience, think of that family, to whose forwardness and impertinence is owing all the uneasiness I at this moment suffer!

So great was the depression of my spirits upon the road, that it was with great difficulty I could persuade the worthy Mrs. Clinton I was not ill; but, alas! the situation of my mind was such as would have rendered any mere bodily pain, by comparison, even enviable!

And yet, when we arrived at Berry Hill,-when the chaisew stopped at this place,-how did my heart throb with joy!-and when, through the window, I beheld the dearest, the most venerable of men, with uplifted hands, returning, as I doubt not, thanks for my safe arrival,-good God! I thought it would have burst my bosom!-I opened the chaise-door myself; I flew,-for my feet did not seem to touch the ground,-into the parlour: he had risen to meet me; but the moment I appeared he sunk into his chair, uttering, with a deep sigh, though his face beamed with delight, "My God, I thank thee!"

I sprung forward; and, with a pleasure that bordered upon agony, I embraced his knees, I kissed his hands, I wept over them, but could not speak: while he, now raising his eyes in thankfulness towards heaven, now bowing down his reverend head, and folding me in his arms, could scarce articulate the blessings with which his kind and benevolent heart overflowed.

O, Miss Mirvan, to be so beloved by the best of men,-should I not be happy?-Should I have one wish save that of meriting his goodness?-Yet think me not ungrateful; indeed I am not, although the internal sadness of my mind unfits me, at present, for enjoying as I ought the bounties of Providence.

I cannot journalize, cannot arrange my ideas into order.

How little has situation to do with happiness! I had flattered myself, that, when restored to Berry Hill, I should be restored to tranquillity: far otherwise have I found it, for never yet had tranquillity and Evelina so little intercourse.

I blush for what I have written. Can you, Maria, forgive my gravity? but I restrain it so much, and so painfully, in the presence of Mr. Villars, that I know not how to deny myself the consolation of indulging it to you.

Adieu, my dear Miss Mirvan.

Yet one thing I must add: do not let the seriousness of this letter deceive you; do not impute to a wrong cause the melancholy I confess, by supposing that the heart of your friend mourns a too great susceptibility: no, indeed! believe me it never was, never can be, more assuredly her own than at this moment. So witness in all truth, Your affectionate, EVELINA.

You will make my excuses to the honoured Lady Howard, and to your dear mother.

X [w] chaise


"A carraige for travelling, having a closed body and seated for one to three persons, the driver sitting on one of the horses." OED