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The name by which I was known, the secrecy observed in regard to my family, and the retirement in which I lived, all conspired to render this scheme, however daring and fraudulent, by no means impracticable; and, in short, the idea was no sooner started, than conviction seemed to follow it.
Mrs. Selwyn determined immediately to discover the truth or mistake of this conjecture; therefore, the moment she had dined, she walked to the Hot Wells, attended by Mrs. Clinton.
I waited in my room till her return; and then heard the following account of her visit:
She found my poor father in great agitation. She immediately informed him of the occasion of her so speedy return, and of her suspicions of the woman who had pretended to convey to him his child. Interrupting her with quickness, he said he had just sent her from his presence; that the certainty I carried in my countenance of my real birth, made him, the moment he had recovered from a surprise which had almost deprived him of reason, suspect, himself, the imposition she mentioned. He had therefore sent for the woman, and questioned her with the utmost austerity; she turned pale, and was extremely embarrassed; but still she persisted in affirming, that she had really brought him the daughter of Lady Belmont. His perplexity, he said, almost distracted him: he had always observed, that his daughter bore no resemblance to either of her parents; but, as he had never doubted the veracity of the nurse, this circumstance did not give birth to any suspicion.
At Mrs. Selwyn's desire, the woman was again called, and interrogated with equal art and severity; her confusion was evident, and her answers often contradictory; yet she still declared she was no impostor. "We will see that in a minute," said Mrs. Selwyn; and then desired Mrs. Clinton might be called up stairs. The poor wretch, changing colour, would have escaped out of the room; but, being prevented, dropt on her knees, and implored forgiveness. A confession of the whole affair was then extorted from her.
Doubtless, my dear Sir, you must remember Dame Green, who was my first nurse. The deceit she has practised was suggested, she says, by a conversation she overheard; in which my unhappy mother besought you, that, if her child survived her, you would take the sole care of its education; and, in particular, if it should be a female, you would by no means part with her in early life. You not only consented, she says, but assured her you would even retire abroad with me yourself, if my father should importunately demand me. Her own child, she said, was then in her arms; and she could not forbear wishing it were possible to give her the fortune which seemed so little valued for me. This wish once raised was not easily suppressed; on the contrary, what at first appeared a mere idle desire, in a short time seemed a feasible scheme. Her husband was dead, and she had little regard for any body but her child; and, in short, having saved money for the journey, she contrived to enquire a direction to my father; and, telling her neighbours she was going to settle in Devonshire, she set out on her expedition.
When Mrs. Selwyn asked her how she dared perpetrate such a fraud, she protested she had no ill designs; but that, as Miss would be never the worse for it, she thought it pity nobody should be the better.
Her success we are already acquainted with. Indeed everything seemed to contribute towards it: my father had no correspondent at Berry Hill; the child was instantly sent to France; where, being brought up in as much retirement as myself, nothing but accident could discover the fraud.
And here let me indulge myself in observing, and rejoicing to observe, that the total neglect I thought I met with was not the effect of insensibility or unkindness, but of imposition and error; and that, at the very time we concluded I was unnaturally rejected, my deluded father meant to show me most favour and protection.
He acknowledges that Lady Howard's letter flung him into some perplexity: he immediately communicated it to Dame Green, who confessed it was the greatest shock she had ever received in her life; yet she had the art and boldness to assert, that Lady Howard must herself have been deceived: and as she had, from the beginning of her enterprise, declared she had stolen away the child without your knowledge, he concluded that some deceit was then intended him; and this thought occasioned his abrupt answer.
Dame Green owned, that, from the moment the journey to England was settled, she gave herself up for lost. All her hope was to have had her daughter married before it took place; for which reason she had so much promoted Mr. Macartney's addresses; for though such a match was inadequate to the pretensions of Miss Belmont, she well knew it was far superior to those her daughter could form after the discovery of her birth.
My first enquiry was, if this innocent daughter was yet acquainted with the affair? "No," Mrs. Selwyn said; nor was any plan settled how to divulge it to her. Poor unfortunate girl! how hard is her fate! She is entitled to my kindest offices, and I shall always consider her as my sister.
I then asked whether my father would again allow me to see him!
"Why, no, my dear, not yet," answered she; "he declares the sight of you is too much for him: however, we are to settle everything concerning you to-morrow; for this woman took up all our time to-day."
This morning, therefore, she is again gone to the Hot Wells. I am waiting in all impatience for her return; but, as I know you will be anxious for the account this letter contains, I will not delay sending it.
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. October 9th.
HOW agitated, my dear Sir, is the present life of your Evelina! every day seems important, and one event only a prelude to another.
Mrs. Selwyn, upon her return this morning from the Hot Wells, entering my room very abruptly, said, "Oh, my dear, I have terrible news for you!"
"For me, Ma'am!-Good God! what now?"
"Arm yourself," cried she, "with all your Berry Hill philosophy;-con over every lesson of fortitude or resignation you ever learnt in your life;-for know,-you are next week to be married to Lord Orville!"
Doubt, astonishment, and a kind of perturbation I cannot describe, made this abrupt communication alarm me extremely; and, almost breathless, I could only exclaim, "Good God, Madam, what do you tell me!"
"You may well be frightened, my dear," said she, ironically; "for really there is something mighty terrific in becoming, at once, the wife of the man you adore,-and a Countess!"
I entreated her to spare her raillery, and tell me her real meaning. She could not prevail with herself to grant the first request, though she readily complied with the second.
My poor father, she said, was still in the utmost uneasiness: he entered upon his affairs with great openness, and told her, he was equally disturbed how to dispose either of the daughter he had discovered, or the daughter he was now to give up; the former he dreaded to trust himself with again beholding, and the latter he knew not how to shock with the intelligence of her disgrace. Mrs. Selwyn then acquainted him with my situation in regard to Lord Orville: this delighted him extremely; and, when he heard of his Lordship's eagerness, he said he was himself of opinion, the sooner the union took place the better; and, in return, he informed her of the affair of Mr. Macartney. "And, after a very long conversation," continued Mrs. Selwyn, "we agreed, that the most eligible scheme for all parties would be, to have both the real and the fictitious daughter married without delay. Therefore, if either of you have any inclination to pull caps for the title of Miss Belmont, you must do it with all speed, as next week will take from both of you all pretensions to it."
"Next week!-dear Madam, what a strange plan!-without my being consulted,-without applying to Mr. Villars,-without even the concurrence of Lord Orville!"
"As to consulting you, my dear, it was out of all question;
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