Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 3, Ch. 9

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Letter IX.


GOOD God, my dear Sir, what a wonderful tale have I again to relate! even yet, I am not recovered from my extreme surprise.

Yesterday morning, as soon as I had finished my hasty letter, I was summoned to attend a walking party to the Hot Wells. It consisted only of Mrs. Selwyn and Lord Orville. The latter walked by my side all the way; and his conversation dissipated my uneasiness, and insensibly restored my serenity.

At the pump-room I saw Mr. Macartney; I courtsied to him twice ere he would speak to me. When he did, I began to apologize for having disappointed him; but I did not find it very easy to excuse myself, as Lord Orville's eyes, with an expression of anxiety that distressed me, turned from him to me, and me to him, every word I spoke. Convinced, however, that I had really trifled with Mr. Macartney, I scrupled not to beg his pardon. He was then not merely appeased, but even grateful.

He requested me to see him to-morrow; but I had not the folly to be again guilty of an indiscretion; which had already caused me so much uneasiness; and therefore I told him frankly, that it was not in my power at present to see him but by accident; and, to prevent his being offended, I hinted to him the reason I could not receive him as I wished to do.

When I had satisfied both him and myself upon this subject, I turned to Lord Orville, and saw, with concern, the gravity of his countenance. I would have spoken to him, but knew not how; I believe, however, he read my thoughts; for, in a little time, with a sort of serious smile, he said, "Does not Mr. Macartney complain of his disappointment?"

"Not much, my Lord."

"And how have you appeased him?" Finding I hesitated what to answer, "Am I not your brother?" continued he, "and must I not enquire into your affairs?"

"Certainly, my Lord," said I, laughing. "I only wish it were better worth your Lordship's while."

"Let me, then, make immediate use of my privilege. When shall you see Mr. Macartney again?"

"Indeed, my Lord, I can't tell."

"But,-do you know that I shall not suffer my sister to make a private appointment?"

"Pray, my Lord," cried I earnestly, "use that word no more! Indeed you shock me extremely."

"That would I not do for the world," cried he, "yet you know not how warmly, how deeply I am interested, not only in all your concerns, but in all your actions."

This speech-the most particular one Lord Orville had ever made to me, ended our conversation at that time; for I was too much struck by it to make any answer.

Soon after, Mr. Macartney, in a low voice, intreated me not to deny him the gratification of returning the money. While he was speaking, the young lady I saw yesterday at the assembly, with the large party, entered the pump-room. Mr. Macartney turned as pale as death, his voice faultered, and he seemed not to know what he said. I was myself almost equally disturbed, by the crowd of confused ideas that occurred to me. Good Heaven! thought I, why should he be thus agitated?-is it possible this can be the young lady he loved?-