Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 3, Ch. 14

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Letter XIV.


THIS morning I saw from my window, that Lord Orville was walking in the garden; but I would not go down stairs till breakfast was ready: and then, he paid me his compliments almost as coldly as Lady Louisa paid hers.

I took my usual place, and Mrs. Belmont, Lady Louisa, and Mrs. Selwyn, entered into their usual conversation.-Not so your Evelina: disregarded, silent, and melancholy, she sat like a cypherw, whom, to nobody belonging, by nobody was noticed.

Ill brooking such a situation, and unable to suport the neglect of
Lord Orville, the moment breakfast was over I left the room, and
was going up stairs; when, very unpleasantly, I was stopped by Sir
Clement Willoughby, who, flying into the hall, prevented my proceeding.

He enquired very particularly after my health, and entreated me to return into the parlour. Unwillingly, I consented, but thought any thing preferable to continuing alone with him; and he would neither leave me, nor suffer me to pass on. Yet, in returning, I felt not a little ashamed at appearing thus to take the visit of Sir Clement to myself. And, indeed, he endeavoured, by his manner of addressing me, to give it that air.

He stayed, I believe, an hour; nor would he, perhaps, even then have gone, had not Mrs. Beaumont broken up the party, by proposing an airing in her coach. Lady Louisa consented to accompany her; but Mrs. Selwyn, when applied to, said, "If my Lord, or Sir Clement, will join us, I shall be happy to make one;-but really a trio of females will be nervous to the last degree."

Sir Clement readily agreed to attend them; indeed, he makes it his evident study to court the favour of Mrs. Beaumont. Lord Orville excused himself from going out; and I retired to my own room. What he did with himself I know not, for I would not go down stairs till dinner was ready: his coldness, though my own change of behaviour had occasioned it, so cruelly depresses my spirits, that I know not how to support myself in his presence.

At dinner, I found Sir Clement again of the party. Indeed, he manages every thing his own way; for Mrs. Beaumont, though by no means easy to please, seems quite at his disposal.

The dinner, the afternoon, and the evening, were to me the most irksome imaginable: I was tormented by the assiduity of Sir Clement, who not only took, but made opportunities of speaking to me,-and I was hurt,-Oh, how inexpressibly hurt!-that Lord Orville not only forebore, as hitherto, seeking, he even neglected all occasions of talking with me!

I begin to think, my dear Sir, that the sudden alteration in my behaviour was ill-judged and improper; for, as I had received no offence, as the cause of the change was upon my account, not his, I should not have assumed, so abruptly, a reserve for which I dared assign no reason,-nor have shunned his presence so obviously, without considering the strange appearance of such a conduct.

Alas, my dearest Sir, that my reflections should always be too late to serve me! dearly, indeed, do I purchase experience! and much, I fear, I shall suffer yet more severely, from the heedless indiscretion of my temper, ere I attain that prudence and consideration, which, by foreseeing distant consequences, may rule and direct in present exigencies. Oct. 4th.

Yesterday morning every body rode out, except Mrs. Selwyn and myself; and we two sat for some time together in her room; but, as soon as I could, I quitted her, to saunter in the garden; for she diverts herself so unmercifully with rallying me, either upon my gravity, or concerning Lord Orville,-that I dread having any conversation with her.

X [w] cypher

"A person who fills a place, but is of no importance or worth, a nonentity." OED