Evelina, by Fanny Burney

Letter lxxiv.

Lady Belmont to Sir John Belmont.

[Inclosed in the preceding Letter.]

IN the firm hope that the moment of anguish which approaches will prove the period of my sufferings, once more I address myself to Sir John Belmont, in behalf of the child, who, if it survives its mother, will hereafter be the bearer of this letter.

Yet, in what terms — Oh, most cruel of men! — can the lost Caroline address you, and not address you in vain? Oh, deaf to the voice of compassion — deaf to the sting of truth — deaf to every tie of honour — say, in what terms may the lost Caroline address you, and not address you in vain!

Shall I call you by the loved, the respected title of husband? — No, you disclaim it! — the father of my infant? — No, you doom it to infamy! — the lover who rescued me from a forced marriage? — No, you have yourself betrayed me! — the friend from whom I hoped succour and protection? — No, you have consigned me to misery and destruction!

Oh, hardened against every plea of justice, remorse, or pity! how, and in what manner, may I hope to move thee? Is there one method I have left untried? remains there one resource unessayed? No! I have exhausted all the bitterness of reproach, and drained every sluice of compassion!

Hopeless, and almost desperate, twenty times have I flung away my pen; — but the feelings of a mother, a mother agonizing for the fate of her child, again animating my courage, as often I have resumed it.

Perhaps when I am no more, when the measure of my woes is completed, and the still, silent, unreproaching dust has received my sad remains — then, perhaps, when accusation is no longer to be feared, nor detection to be dreaded, the voice of equity and the cry of nature may be heard.

Listen, Oh Belmont, to their dictates! reprobate not your child, though you have reprobated its mother. The evils that are past, perhaps, when too late, you may wish to recal; the young creature you have persecuted, perhaps, when too late, you may regret that you have destroyed; — you may think with horror of the deceptions you have practised, and the pangs of remorse may follow me to the tomb:— Oh, Belmont, all my resentment softens into pity at the thought! what will become of thee, good Heaven, when, with the eye of penitence, thou reviewest thy past conduct!

Hear, then, the solemn, the last address, with which the unhappy Caoline will importune thee.

If when the time of thy contrition arrives — for arrive it must! — when the sense of thy treachery shall rob thee of almost every other, if then thy tortured heart shall sigh to expiate thy guilt — mark the conditions upon which I leave thee my forgiveness.

Thou knowest I am thy wife! — clear, then, to the world the reputation thou hast sullied, and receive, as thy lawful successor, the child who will present thee this, my dying request!

The worthiest, the most benevolent, the best of men, to whose consoling kindness I owe the little tranquillity I have been able to preserve, has plighted me his faith, that, upon no other conditions, he will part with his helpless charge.

Should’st thou, in the features of this deserted innocent, trace the resemblance of the wretched Caroline — should its face bear the marks of its birth, and revive in thy memory the image of its mother, wilt thou not, Belmont, wilt thou not therefore renounce it? — Oh, babe of my fondest affection! for whom already I experience all the tenderness of maternal pity! look not like thy unfortunate mother — lest the parent, whom the hand of death may spare, shall be snatched from thee by the more cruel means of unnatural antipathy!

I can write no more. The small share of serenity I have painfully acquired, will not bear the shock of the dreadful ideas that crowd upon me.

Adieu — for ever! —

Yet, Oh! — shall I not, in this last farewell, which thou wilt not read till every stormy passion is extinct, and the kind grave has embosomed all my sorrows — shall I not offer to the man, once so dear to me, a ray of consolation to those afflictions he has in reserve? Suffer me, then, to tell thee, that my pity far exceeds my indignation — that I will pray for thee in my last moments, and that the recollection of the love I once bore thee, shall swallow up every other!

Once more, adieu!

CAROLINE BELMONT.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burney/fanny/evelina/letter74.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32