Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 3, Ch. 20

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Letter XX.

EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Clifton, Oct. 12th.

 THIS morning, early, I received the following letter from Sir Clement
Willoughby:

"To Miss Anville.

          "I HAVE this moment received intelligence that preparations
          are actually making for your marriage with Lord Orville.

          "Imagine not that I write with the imbecile idea of
          rendering those
        preparations abortive. No, I am not so mad. My sole view is
        to explain the motive of my conduct in a particular instance,
        and to obviate the accusation of treachery which may be laid
        to my charge.

          "My unguarded behaviour, when I last saw you, has, probably,
          already
        acquainted you, that the letter I then saw you reading was
        written by myself. For your further satisfaction, let me have
        the honour of informing you, that the letter you had designed
        for Lord Orville, had fallen into my hands.

          "However I may have been urged on by a passion the most
          violent that
        ever warmed the heart of man, I can by no means calmly submit
        to be stigmatized for an action seemingly so dishonourable;
        and it is for this reason that I trouble you with this
        justification.

"Lord Orville,-the happy Orville, whom you are so ready to bless,-had made me believe he loved you not;-nay, that he held you in contempt.

"Such were my thoughts of his sentiments of you, when I got possession of the letter you meant to send him. I pretend not to vindicate either the means I used to obtain it, or the action of breaking the seal; but I was impelled, by an impetuous curiosity, to discover the terms upon which you wrote to him.

          "The letter, however, was wholly unintelligible to me,
          and the
        perusal of it only added to my perplexity.

          "A tame suspense I was not born to endure, and I determined
          to clear
        my doubts at all hazards and events.

"I answered it, therefore, in Orville's name.

          "The views which I am now going to acknowledge, must,
          infallibly,
        incur your displeasure;-yet I scorn all palliation.

          "Briefly, then, I concealed your letter to prevent a
          discovery of
        your capacity; and I wrote you an answer, which I hoped would
        prevent your wishing for any other.

          "I am well aware of every thing which can be said upon
          this subject.
        Lord Orville will, possibly, think himself ill-used; but I am
        extremely indifferent as to his opinion; nor do I now write
        by way of offering any apology to him, but merely to make
        known to yourself the reasons by which I have been governed.

"I intend to set off next week for the Continent. Should his Lordship have any commands for me in the mean time, I shall be glad to receive them. I say not this by way of defiance,-I should blush to be suspected of so doing through an indirect channel; but simply that, if you show him this letter, he may know I dare defend, as well as excuse, my conduct. "CLEMENT WILLOUGHBY."