Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A father's letter to a daughter, on hearing of her Master’s attempting her Virtue

My dear Betsy,

I understand with great grief of heart, that your Master has made some attempts on your virtue, and yet you stay with him. God grant that you have not already yielded to his base desires. Reading your last letter sent my heart a-bleeding. And how your dear mother suffered—for she is now bed ridden on account of all your trials and vexations. I daresay that the man under whose roof you are living is not worthy of the name gentleman. 

You claim that this vile creature is, from time to time, to be found a-peeping on you through the key-hole when you are in a state of dishabille, or performing your morning ablutions, or even when you are simply playing the harpsichord. You say that he paces outside your room before taking his afternoon tea and in the early dinner hours. Egad, once a person has so far forgotten what belongs to himself, or to his character as to make such an attempt, the very continuance with him, and in his power, and under the same roof, is an encouragement to him to prosecute his graver designs.

And when you have your buxom friends staying overnight with you, you say you hear soft noises outside your door, as if the house had mice. And in the morning the maids report to you that the Master was indeed spotted by them sneaking between your doorway and his room almost all night long. How I felt my temples pounding when you related to me those rumors of the Master dilly-dallying inside the buck basket in the maid’s room where you and that saucy servant, Betty Barnes, hold your soiled underthings. You will excuse me, my Betsy, but I must lie down right now, for I do feel a headache coming on.

But now I feel better (three hours and four vinegar compresses later), so I shall continue. Yet you claim that he is rather sheepish in your presence, and is likely to adopt an attitude of extreme waggishness, and will make many attempts at vulgar witticisms (which are neither vulgar nor witty, as you say) in order to impress you. And you go on to say, that, when not a-peeping on you, he spends much of his time in scholarly study of the classics, engaged in writing some kind of a book. If he carries himself so civilly in your presence, be assured, Betsy, it is only the more certainly to undo you when he tries to attack you. If he is indeed writing a book, I pray to God that he is not committing even graver atrocities upon your honor in his imagination, as one of the principal persons in his story may well be Miss Betsy Shanka herself.

Therefore I command that you fly his house immediately. You can stay with the widow Lowick until I can come and bring you to the home of your still loving mother, and to 

                                                                            Your grieved and indulgent father

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