Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 3, Ch. 17

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Letter XVII.


I COULD not write yesterday, so violent was the agitation of my mind;-but I will not, now, lose a moment till I have hastened to my best friend an account of the transactions of a day I can never recollect without emotion.

Mrs. Selwyn determined upon sending no message, "Lest," said she, "Sir John, fatigued with the very idea of my reproaches, should endeavour to avoid a meeting. He cannot but see who you are, whether he will do you justice or not."

We went early, and in Mrs. Beaumont's chariot; into which Lord Orville, uttering words of the kindest encouragement, handed us both.

My uneasiness, during the ride, was excessive; but, when we stopped at the door, I was almost senseless with terror! the meeting, at last, was not so dreadful as that moment! I believe I was carried into the house; but I scarce recollect what was done with me: however, I know we remained some time in the parlour before Mrs. Selwyn could send any message up stairs.

When I was somewhat recovered, I intreated her to let me return home, assuring her I felt myself quite unequal to supporting the interview.

"No," said she; "you must stay now: your fears will but gain strength by delay; and we must not have such a shock as this repeated." Then, turning to the servant, she sent up her name.

An answer was brought, that he was going out in great haste, but would attend her immediately. I turned so sick, that Mrs. Selwyn was apprehensive I should have fainted; and, opening a door which led to an inner apartment, she begged me to wait there till I was somewhat composed, and till she had prepared for my reception.

Glad of every moment's reprieve, I willingly agreed to the proposal; and Mrs. Selwyn had but just time to shut me in, before her presence was necessary.

The voice of a father -Oh, dear and revered name!-which then, for the first time, struck my ears, affected me in a manner I cannot describe, though it was only employed in giving orders to a servant as he came down stairs.

Then, entering the parlour, I heard him say, "I am sorry, Madam, I made you wait; but I have an engagement which now calls me away: however, if you have any commands for me, I shall be glad of the honour of your company some other time."

"I am come, Sir," said Mrs. Selwyn, "to introduce your daughter to you."

"I am infinitely obliged to you," answered he; "but I have just had the satisfaction of breakfasting with her. Ma'am, your most obedient."

"You refuse, then, to see her?"

"I am much indebted to you, Madam, for this desire of increasing my family; but you must excuse me if I decline taking advantage of it. I have already a daughter, to whom I owe everything; and it is not three days since that I had the pleasure of discovering a son: how many more sons and daughters may be brought to me, I am yet to learn; but I am already perfectly satisfied with the size of my family."