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without directly appealing to Miss Gwilt herself, it rests with you to make the
discovery; and I will tell you how.
"It so happens that, some few days since, I wrote privately to Miss Gwilt's
reference on this very subject. I had long observed that my governess was
singularly reluctant to speak of her family and her friends; and, without attributing
her silence to other than perfectly proper motives, I felt it my duty to my daughter
to make some inquiry on the subject. The answer that I have received is
satisfactory as far as it goes. My correspondent informs me that Miss Gwilt's story
is a very sad one, and that her own conduct throughout has been praiseworthy in
the extreme. The circumstances (of a domestic nature, as I gather) are all plainly
stated in a collection of letters now in the possession of Miss Gwilt's reference.
This lady is perfectly willing to let me see the letters; but not possessing copies of
them, and being personally responsible for their security, she is reluctant, if it can
be avoided, to trust them to the post; and she begs me to wait until she or I can
find some reliable person who can be employed to transmit the packet from her
hands to mine.
"Under these circumstances, it has struck me that you might possibly, with your
interest in the matter, be not unwilling to take charge of the papers. If I am wrong
in this idea, and if you are not disposed, after what I have told you, to go to the
trouble and expense of a journey to London, you have only to burn my letter and
inclosure, and to think no more about it. If you decide on becoming my envoy, I
gladly provide you with the necessary introduction to Mrs. Mandeville. You have
only, on presenting it, to receive the letters in a sealed packet, to send them here
on your return to Thorpe Ambrose, and to wait an early communication from me
acquainting you with the result.
"In conclusion, I have only to add that I see no impropriety in your taking (if you
feel so inclined) the course that I propose to you. Miss Gwilt's manner of
receiving such allusions as I have made to her family circumstances has rendered
it unpleasant for me (and would render it quite impossible for you) to seek
information in the first instance from herself. I am certainly justified in applying
to her reference; and you are certainly not to blame for being the medium of
safely transmitting a sealed communication with one lady to another. If I find in
that communication family secrets which cannot honorably be mentioned to any
third person, I shall, of course, be obliged to keep you waiting until I have first
appealed to Miss Gwilt. If I find nothing recorded but what is to her honor, and
what is sure to raise her still higher in your estimation, I am undeniably doing her
a service by taking you into my confidence. This is how I look at the matter; but
pray don't allow me to influence you.
"In any case, I have one condition to make, which I am sure you will understand
to be indispensable. The most innocent actions are liable, in this wicked world, to
the worst possible interpretation I must, therefore, request that you will consider
this communication as strictly private. I write to you in a confidence which is on
no account (until circumstances may, in my opinion, justify the revelation of it) to
extend beyond our two selves,
"Believe me, dear sir, truly yours,