Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 3, Ch. 11

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Letter XI.


YESTERDAY, from the time I received your kind, though heart-piercing letter, I kept my room,-for I was equally unable and unwilling to see Lord Orville; but this morning, finding I seemed destined to pass a few days longer here, I endeavoured to calm my spirits, and to appear as usual; though I determined to avoid him to the utmost of my power. Indeed, as I entered the parlour, when called to breakfast, my thoughts were so much occupied with your letter, that I felt as much confusion at his sight, as if he had himself been informed of its contents.

Mrs. Beaumont made me a slight compliment upon my recovery, for I had pleaded illness to excuse keeping my room: Lady Louisa spoke not a word; but Lord Orville, little imagining himself the cause of my indisposition, enquired concerning my health with the most distinguishing politeness. I hardly made any answer; and, for the first time since I have been here, contrived to sit at some distance from him.

I could not help observing that my reserve surprised him; yet he persisted in his civilities, and seemed to wish to remove it. But I paid him very little attention; and the moment breakfast was over, instead of taking a book, or walking in the garden, I retired to my own room.

Soon after, Mrs. Selwyn came to tell me, that Lord Orville had been proposing I should take an airing, and persuading her to let him drive us both in his phaeton. She delivered the message with an archness that made me blush; and added, that an airing, in my Lord Orville's carriage, could not fail to revive my spirits. There is no possibility of escaping her discernment; she has frequently ralliedw me upon his Lordship's attention,-and, alas!-upon the pleasure with which I have received it! However, I absolutely refused the offer.

"Well," said she, laughing, "I cannot just now indulge you with any solicitation; for, to tell you the truth, I have business to transact at the Wells, and am glad to be excused myself. I would ask you to walk with me; -but since Lord Orville is refused, I have not the presumption to hope for success."

"Indeed," cried I, "you are mistaken; I will attend you with pleasure."

"O rare coquetryw!" cried she, "surely it must be inherent in our sex, or it could not have been imbibed at Berry Hill."

I had not spirits to answer her, and therefore put on my hat and cloak in silence.

"I presume," continued she, drily, "his Lordship may walk with us."

"If so, Madam," said I, "you will have a companion, and I will stay at home."

"My dear child," cried she, "did you bring the certificate of your birth with you?"

"Dear Madam, no!"

"Why then, we shall never be known again at Berry Hill."

I felt too conscious to enjoy her pleasantry; but I believe she was determined to torment me, for she asked if she should inform Lord Orville that I desired him not to be of the party?

"By no means, Madam; but, indeed, I had rather not walk myself."

"My dear," cried she, "I really do not know you this morning,-you have certainly been taking a lesson of Lady Louisa."

She then went down stairs; but presently returning, told me she had acquainted Lord Orville that I did not choose to go out in the phaeton, but preferred a walk, tete-e-tete with her, by way of variety.

X [w] rallied

To rally is "To treat (a person) with or subject to banter or good-humoured ridicule; to make fun of; to tease." OED

X [w] coquetry

Manners & Morals

"The action or behaviour of a coquette; the use of arts intended to excite the admiration or love of the opposite sex, without any intention of responding to the feelings awakened." OED  Evelina's suddenly reversing herself, willing to go now that Lord Orville is not, leads Mrs. Selwyn to read Evelina's new reticence as coyness or playing hard-to-get.