Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 3, Ch. 5

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Letter V.

EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Clifton, Sept. 24th.

THIS morning I came down stairs very early; and supposing that the family would not assemble for some time, I strolled out, purposing to take a long walk, in the manner I was wont to do at Berry Hill, before breakfast: but I had scarce shut the garden-gate, before I was met by a gentleman, who, immediately bowing to me, I recollected to be the unhappy Mr. Macartney. Very much surprised, I courtsied, and stopped till he came up to me. He was still in mourning, but looked better than when I saw him last, though he had the same air of melancholy which so much struck me at first sight of him.

Addressing me with the utmost respect, "I am happy, Madam," said he, "to have met with you so soon. I came to Bristol but yesterday, and have had no small difficulty in tracing you to Clifton."

"Did you know, then, of my being here?"

"I did, Madam; the sole motive of my journey was to see you. I have been to Berry Hill, and there I had my intelligence, and, at the same time, the unwelcome information of your ill health."

"Good God! Sir,-and can you possibly have taken so much trouble?"

"Trouble! O, Madam, could there be any, to return you, the moment I had the power, my personal acknowledgments for your goodness?"

I then enquired after Madame Duval and the Snow-Hill family. He told me they were all well, and that Madame Duval proposed soon returning to Paris. When I congratulated him on looking better, "It is yourself, Madam," said he, "you should congratulate; for to your humanity alone it may now be owing that I exist at all." He then told me, that his affairs were now in a less desperate situation; and that he hoped, by the assistance of time and reason, to accommodate his mind to a more cheerful submission to his fate. "The interest you so generously took in my affliction," added he, "assures me you will not be displeased to hear of my better fortune; I was therefore eager to acquaint you with it." He then told me that his friend, the moment he had received his letter, quitted Paris, and flew to give him his personal assistance and consolation. With a heavy heart, he acknowledged, he accepted it; "but yet," he added, "I have accepted it; and therefore, as bound equally by duty and honour, my first step was to hasten to the benefactress of my distress, and to return" (presenting me something in a paper) "the only part of my obligations that can be returned; for the rest, I have nothing but my gratitude to offer, and must always be contented to consider myself her debtor."

I congratulated him most sincerely upon his dawning prosperity, but begged he would not deprive me of the pleasure of being his friend; and declined receiving the money, till his affairs were more settled.

While this point was in agitation, I heard Lord Orville's voice inquiring of the gardener if he had seen me? I immediately opened the garden gate; and his Lordship, advancing to me with quickness, said, "Good God! Miss Anville, have you been out alone? Breakfast has been ready some time, and I have been round the garden in search of you."

"Your Lordship has been very good," said I; "but I hope you have not waited."

"Not waited!" repeated he, smiling: "Do you think we could sit down quietly to breakfast, with the idea that you had run away from us? But come," (offering to hand me) "if we do not return, they will suppose I am run away too; and they very naturally may, as they know the attraction of the magnet that draws me."

"I will come, my Lord," said I, rather embarrassed, "in two minutes." Then, turning to Mr. Macartney, with yet more embarrassment, I wished him good morning.

He advanced towards the garden, with the paper still in his hand.

"No, no," cried I, "some other time."