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Letter 2
Mr. Villars To Lady Howard Berry Hill, Dorsetshire
YOUR Ladyship did but too well foresee the perplexity and uneasiness of which
Madame Duval's letter has been productive. However, I ought rather to be
thankful that I have so many years remained unmolested, than repine at my
present embarrassment; since it proves, at least, that this wretched woman is at
length awakened to remorse.
In regard to my answer, I must humbly request your Ladyship to write to this
effect: "That I would not, upon any account, intentionally offend Madame Duval;
but that I have weighty, nay unanswerable reasons for detaining her grand-
daughter at present in England; the principal of which is, that it was the earnest
desire of one to whose will she owes implicit duty. Madame Duval may be
assured, that she meets with the utmost attention and tenderness; that her
education, however short of my wishes, almost exceeds my abilities; and I flatter
myself, when the time arrives that she shall pay her duty to her grand-mother,
Madame Duval will find no reason to be dissatisfied with what has been done for
Your Ladyship will not, I am sure, be surprised at this answer. Madame Duval is
by no means a proper companion or guardian for a young woman: she is at once
uneducated and unprincipled; ungentle in temper, and unamiable in her
manners. I have long known that she has persuaded herself to harbour an
aversion for me-Unhappy woman! I can only regard her as an object of pity!
I dare not hesitate at a request from Mrs. Mirvan; yet, in complying with it, I shall,
for her own sake, be as concise as I possibly can; since the cruel transactions
which preceded the birth of my ward can afford no entertainment to a mind so
humane as her's.
Your Ladyship may probably have heard, that I had the honour to accompany Mr.
Evelyn, the grandfather of my young charge, when upon his travels, in the
capacity of a tutor. His unhappy marriage, immediately upon his return to
England, with Madame Duval, then a waiting-girl at a tavern, contrary to the
advice and entreaties of all his friends, among whom I was myself the most
urgent, induced him to abandon his native land, and fix his abode in France.
Thither he was followed by shame and repentance; feelings which his heart was
not framed to support; for, notwithstanding he had been too weak to resist the
allurements of beauty, which nature, though a niggard to her of every other boon,
had with a lavish hand bestowed on his wife; yet he was a young man of
excellent character, and, till thus unaccountably infatuated, of unblemished
conduct. He survived this ill-judged marriage but two years. Upon his death-bed,
with an unsteady hand, he wrote me the following note:
"My friend, forget your resentment, in favour of your humanity;-a father, trembling
for the welfare of his child, bequeaths her to your care. O Villars! hear! pity! And
relieve me!"