Evelina, by Fanny Burney

Letter xxxviii

Mr. Villars to Lady Howard

Berry Hill, May 27.

Dear Madam,

I BELIEVE your Ladyship will not be surprised at hearing I have had a visit from Madame Duval, as I doubt not her having made known her intention before she left Howard Grove. I would gladly have excused myself this meeting, could I have avoided it decently; but, after so long a journey, it was not possible to refuse her admittance.

She told me, that she came to Berry Hill, in consequence of a letter I had sent to her grand-daughter, in which I forbid her going to Paris. Very roughly she then called me to account for the authority which I had assumed; and, had I been disposed to have argued with her, she would very angrily have disputed the right by which I used it. But I declined all debating. I therefore listened very quietly, till she had so much fatigued herself with talking, that she was glad, in her turn, to be silent. And then, I begged to know the purport of her visit.

She answered, that she came to make me relinquish the power I had usurped over her grand-daughter; and assured me she would not quit the place till she succeeded.

But I will not trouble your Ladyship with the particulars of this disagreeable conversation; nor should I, but on account of the result, have chosen so unpleasant a subject for your perusal. However, I will be as concise as I possibly can, that the better occupations of your Ladyship’s time may be less impeded.

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.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burney/fanny/evelina/letter38.html

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