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- Evelina - 40/99 -
When she found me inexorable in refusing Evelina's attending her to Paris, she peremptorily insisted that she should at least live with her in London till Sir John Belmont's return. I remonstrated against this scheme with all the energy in my power; but the contest was vain; she lost her patience, and I my time. She declared, that if I was resolute in opposing her, she would instantly make a will, in which she would leave all her fortune to strangers, though, otherwise, she intended her grand-daughter for her sole heiress.
To me, I own, this threat seemed of little consequence; I have long accustomed myself to think, that, with a competency, of which she is sure, my child might be as happy as in the possession of millions; but the incertitude of her future fate deters me from following implicitly the dictates of my present judgement. The connections she may hereafter form, the style of life for which she may be destined, and the future family to which she may belong, are considerations which give but too much weight to the menaces of Madame Duval. In short, Madam, after a discourse infinitely tedious, I was obliged, though very reluctantly, to compromise with this ungovernable woman, by consenting that Evelina should pass one month with her.
I never made a concession with so bad a grace, or so much regret. The violence and vulgarity of this woman, her total ignorance of propriety, the family to which she is related, and the company she is likely to keep, are objections so forcible to her having the charge of this dear child, that nothing less than my diffidence of the right I have of depriving her of so large a fortune, would have induced me to listen to her proposal. Indeed we parted, at last, equally discontented; she at what I had refused, I at what I had granted.
It now only remains for me to return your Ladyship my humble acknowledgments for the kindness which you have so liberally shown to my ward; and to beg you would have the goodness to part with her when Madame Duval thinks proper to claim the promise which she has extorted from me. I am, Dear Madam, &c. ARTHUR VILLARS.
MR. VILLARS TO EVELINA Berry Hill, May 28.
WITH a reluctance which occasions me inexpressible uneasiness, I have been almost compelled to consent that my Evelina should quit the protection of the hospitable and respectable Lady Howard, and accompany Madame Duval to a city which I had hoped she would never again have entered. But alas, my dear child, we are the slaves of custom, the dupes of prejudice, and dare not stem the torrent of an opposing world, even though our judgements condemn our compliance! However, since the die is cast, we must endeavor to make the best of it.
You will have the occasion, in the course of the month you are to pass with Madame Duval, for all the circumspection and prudence you can call to your aid. She will not, I know, propose any thing to you which she thinks wrong herself; but you must learn not only to judge but to act for yourself; if any schemes are started, any engagements made, which your understanding represents to you as improper, exert yourself resolutely in avoiding them; and do not, by a too passive facility, risk the censure of the world, or your own future regret.
You cannot too assiduously attend to Madame Duval herself; but I would wish you to mix as little as possible with her associates, who are not likely to be among those whose acquaintance would reflect credit upon you. Remember, my dear Evelina, nothing is so delicate as the reputation of a woman; it is at once the most beautiful and most brittle of all human things.
Adieu, my beloved child; I shall be but ill at ease till this month is elapsed. A.V.
EVELINA TO THE REV. MR. VILLARS London, June 6.
ONCE more, my dearest Sir, I write to you from this great city. Yesterday morning, with the truest concern, I quitted the dear inhabitants of Howard Grove, and most impatiently shall I count the days till I see them again. Lady Howard and Mrs. Mirvan took leave of me with the most flattering kindness; but indeed I knew not how to part with Maria, whose own apparent sorrow redoubled mine. She made me promise to send her a letter every post: and I shall write to her with the same freedom, and almost the same confidence, you allow me to make use of to yourself.
The Captain was very civil to me: but he wrangled with poor Madame Duval to the last moment; and, taking me aside, just before we got into the chaise, he said, "Hark'ee, Miss Anville, I've a favour for to ask of you, which is this; that you will write us word how the old gentlewoman finds herself, when she sees it was all a trick; and what the French lubber says to it, and all about it."
I answered that I would obey him, though I was very little pleased with the commission, which, to me, was highly improper; but he will either treat me as an informer, or make me a party in his frolic.
As soon as we drove away, Madame Duval, with much satisfaction, exclaimed, "Dieu merci, we've got off at last! I'm sure I never desire to see that place again. It's a wonder I've got away alive; for I believe I've had the worst luck ever was known, from the time I set my foot upon the threshold. I know I wish I'd never a gone. Besides, into the bargain, it's the most dullest place in all Christendom: there's never no diversions, nor nothing at all."
Then she bewailed M. Du Bois; concerning whose adventures she continued to make various conjectures during the rest of our journey.
When I asked her what part of London she should reside in, she told me that Mr. Branghton was to meet us at an inn, and would conduct us to a lodging. Accordingly, we proceeded to a house in Bishopsgate Street, and were led by a waiter into a room where we found Mr. Branghton.
He received us very civilly; but seemed rather surprised at seeing me, saying, "Why, I didn't think of your bringing Miss; however, she's very welcome."
"I'll tell you how it was," said Madame Duval: "you must know I've a mind to take the girl to Paris, that she may see something of the world, and improve herself a little; besides, I've another reason, that you and I will talk more about. But, do you know, that meddling old parson, as I told you of, would not let her go: however, I'm resolved I'll be even with him; for I shall take her on with me, without saying never a word more to nobody."
I started at this intimation, which very much surprised me. But, I am very glad she has discovered her intention, as I shall be carefully upon my guard not to venture from town with her.
Mr. Branghton then hoped we had passed our time agreeably in the country.
"O Lord, cousin," cried she, "I've been the miserablest creature in the world! I'm sure all the horses in London sha'n't drag me into the country again of one while: why, how do you think I've been served?-only guess."
"Indeed, cousin, I can't pretend to do that."
"Why then I'll tell you. Do you know I've been robbed!-that is, the villain would have robbed me if he could, only I'd secured all my money."
"Why, then cousin, I think your loss can't have been very great."
"O Lord, you don't know what you're a saying; you're talking in the unthinkingest manner in the world: why, it was all along of not having no money that I met with that misfortune."
"How's that, cousin? I don't see what great misfortune you can have met with, if you'd secured all your money."
"That's because you don't know nothing of the matter: for there the villain came to the chaise; and, because we hadn't got nothing to give him, though he'd no more right to our money than the man in the moon, yet, do you know, he fell into the greatest passion ever you see, and abused me in such a manner, and put me in a ditch, and got a rope o'purpose to hang me;-and I'm sure, if that wasn't misfortune enough, why I don't know what is."
"This is a hard case, indeed, cousin. But why don't you go to Justice Fielding?"
"O as to that, I'm a going to him directly; but only I want first to see M. Du Bois; for the oddest thing of all is, that he has wrote to me, and never said nothing of where he is, nor what's become of him, nor nothing else."
"M. Du Bois! why, he's at my house at this very time."
"M. Du Bois at your house! well, I declare this is the surprisingest part of all: However, I assure you, I think he might have comed for me, as well as you, considering what I have gone through on his account;
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