HISTORY OF A YOUNG LADY
Nine Volumes Volume VI.
CONTENTS OF VOLUME VI
LETTER I. II. Lovelace to Belford.— His conditional promise to Tomlinson in the lady's favour. His pleas and arguments on their present situation, and on his darling and hitherto-baffled views. His whimsical contest with his conscience. His latest adieu to it. His strange levity, which he calls gravity, on the death of Belford's uncle.
LETTER III. IV. From the same.— She favours him with a meeting in the garden. Her composure. Her conversation great and noble. But will not determine any thing in his favour. It is however evident, he says, that she has still some tenderness for him. His reasons. An affecting scene between them. Her ingenuousness and openness of heart. She resolves to go to church; but will not suffer him to accompany her thither. His whimsical debate with the God of Love, whom he introduced as pleading for the lady.
LETTER V. VI. VII. From the same.— He has got the wished-for letter from Miss Howe.—Informs him of the manner of obtaining it.—His remarks upon it. Observations on female friendships. Comparison between Clarissa and Miss Howe.
LETTER VIII. From the same.— Another conversation with the lady. His plausible arguments to re-obtain her favour ineffectual. His pride piqued. His revenge incited. New arguments in favour of his wicked prospects. His notice that a license is actually obtained.
LETTER IX. X. From the same.— Copy of the license; with his observations upon it. His scheme for annual marriages. He is preparing with Lady Betty and Miss Montague to wait upon Clarissa. Who these pretended ladies are. How dressed. They give themselves airs of quality. Humourously instructs them how to act up their assumed characters.
LETTER XI. XII. Lovelace to Belford.— Once more is the charmer of his soul in her old lodgings. Brief account of the horrid imposture. Steels his heart by revengeful recollections. Her agonizing apprehensions. Temporary distraction. Is ready to fall into fits. But all her distress, all her prayers, her innocence, her virtue, cannot save her from the most villanous outrage.
LETTER XIII. Belford to Lovelace.— Vehemently inveighs against him. Grieves for the lady. Is now convinced that there must be a world after this to do justice to injured merit. Beseeches him, if he be a man, and not a devil, to do all the poor justice now in his power.
LETTER XIV. Lovelace to Belford.— Regrets that he ever attempted her. Aims at extenuation. Does he not see that he has journeyed on to this stage, with one determined point in view from the first? She is at present stupified, he says.
LETTER XV. From the same.— The lady's affecting behaviour in her delirium. He owns that art has been used to her. Begins to feel remorse.
LETTER XVI. From the same.— The lady writes upon scraps of paper, which she tears, and throws under the table. Copies of ten of these rambling papers; and of a letter to him most affectingly incoherent. He attempts farther to extenuate his villany. Tries to resume his usual levity; and forms a scheme to decoy the people at Hampstead to the infamous woman's in town. The lady seems to be recovering.
LETTER XVII. From the same.— She attempts to get away in his absence. Is prevented by the odious Sinclair. He exults in the hope of looking her into confusion when he sees her. Is told by Dorcas that she is coming into the dining-room to find him out.
LETTER XVIII. From the same.— A high scene of her exalted, and of his depressed, behaviour. Offers to make her amends by matrimony. She treats his offer with contempt. Afraid Belford plays him false.
LETTER XIX. From the same.— Wishes he had never seen her. With all the women he had known till now, it was once subdued, and always subdued. His miserable dejection. His remorse. She attempts to escape. A mob raised. His quick invention to pacify it. Out of conceit with himself and his contrivances.
LETTER XX. XXI. Lovelace to Belford.— Lord M. very ill. His presence necessary at M. Hall. Puts Dorcas upon ingratiating herself with her lady.—He re-urges marriage to her. She absolutely, from the most noble motives, rejects him.
LETTER XXII. From the same.— Reflects upon himself. It costs, he says, more pain to be wicked than to be good. The lady's solemn expostulation with him. Extols her greatness of soul. Dorcas coming into favour with her. He is alarmed by another attempt of the lady to get off. She is in agonies at being prevented. He tried to intimidate her. Dorcas pleads for her. On the point of drawing his sword against himself. The occasion.
LETTER XXIII. From the same.— Cannot yet persuade himself but the lady will be his. Reasons for his opinion. Opens his heart to Belford, as to his intentions by her. Mortified that she refuses his honest vows. Her violation but notional. Her triumph greater than her sufferings. Her will unviolated. He is a better man, he says, than most rakes; and why.
LETTER XXIV. XXV. From the same.— The lady gives a promissory note to Dorcas, to induce her to further her escape.—A fair trial of skill now, he says. A conversation between the vile Dorcas and her lady: in which she engages her lady's pity. The bonds of wickedness stronger than the ties of virtue. Observations on that subject.
LETTER XXVI. XXVII. XXVIII. From the same.— A new contrivance to advantage of the lady's intended escape.—A letter from Tomlinson. Intent of it.—He goes out to give opportunity for the lady to attempt an escape. His designs frustrated.
LETTER XXIX. From the same.— An interesting conversation between the lady and him. No concession in his favour. By his soul, he swears, this dear girl gives the lie to all their rakish maxims. He has laid all the sex under obligation to him; and why.
LETTER XXX. Lovelace to Belford.— Lord M. in extreme danger. The family desire his presence. He intercepts a severe letter from Miss Howe to her friend. Copy of it.
LETTER XXXI. From the same.— The lady, suspecting Dorcas, tries to prevail upon him to give her her liberty. She disclaims vengeance, and affectingly tells him all her future views. Denied, she once more attempts an escape. Prevented, and terrified with apprehensions of instant dishonour, she is obliged to make some concession.
LETTER XXXII. From the same.— Accuses her of explaining away her concession. Made desperate, he seeks occasion to quarrel with her. She exerts a spirit which overawes him. He is ridiculed by the infamous copartnership. Calls to Belford to help a gay heart to a little of his dismal, on the expected death of Lord M.
LETTER XXXIII. From the same.— Another message from M. Hall, to engage him to go down the next morning.
LETTER XXXIV. XXXV. From the same.— The women's instigations. His farther schemes against the lady. What, he asks, is the injury which a church-rite will not at any time repair?
LETTER XXXVI. From the same.— Himself, the mother, her nymphs, all assembled with intent to execute his detestable purposes. Her glorious behaviour on the occasion. He execrates, detests, despises himself; and admires her more than ever. Obliged to set out early that morning for M. Hall, he will press her with letters to meet him next Thursday, her uncle's birthday, at the altar.
LETTER XXXVII. XXXVIII. XXXIX. Lovelace to Clarissa, from M. Hall.— Urging her accordingly, (the license in her hands,) by the most engaging pleas and arguments.
LETTER XL. Lovelace to Belford.— Begs he will wait on the lady, and induce her to write but four words to him, signifying the church and the day. Is now resolved on wedlock. Curses his plots and contrivances; which all end, he says, in one grand plot upon himself.
LETTER XLI. Belford to Lovelace. In answer.— Refuses to undertake for him, unless he can be sure of his honour. Why he doubts it.
LETTER XLII. Lovelace. In reply.— Curses him for scrupulousness. Is in earnest to marry. After one more letter of entreaty to her, if she keep sullen silence, she must take the consequence.
LETTER XLIII. Lovelace to Clarissa.— Once more earnestly entreats her to meet him at the altar. Not to be forbidden coming, he will take for leave to come.
LETTER XLIV. Lovelace to Patrick M'Donald.— Ordering him to visit the lady, and instructing him what to say, and how to behave to her.
LETTER XLV. To the same, as Captain Tomlinson.— Calculated to be shown to the lady, as in confidence.
LETTER XLVI. M'Donald to Lovelace.— Goes to attend the lady according to direction. Finds the house in an uproar; and the lady escaped.
LETTER XLVII. Mowbray to Lovelace.— With the same news.
LETTER XLVIII. Belford to Lovelace.— Ample particulars of the lady's escape. Makes serious reflections on the distress she must be in; and on his (Lovelace's) ungrateful usage of her. What he takes the sum of religion.
LETTER XLIX. Lovelace to Belford.— Runs into affected levity and ridicule, yet at last owns all his gayety but counterfeit. Regrets his baseness to the lady. Inveighs against the women for their instigations. Will still marry her, if she can be found out. One misfortune seldom comes alone; Lord M. is recovering. He had bespoken mourning for him.
LETTER L. Clarissa to Miss Howe.— Writes with incoherence, to inquire after her health. Lets her know whither to direct to her. But forgets, in her rambling, her private address. By which means her letter falls into the hands of Miss Howe's mother.
LETTER LI. Mrs. Howe to Clarissa.— Reproaches her for making all her friends unhappy. Forbids her to write any more to her daughter.
LETTER LII. Clarissa's meek reply.
LETTER LIII. Clarissa to Hannah Burton.
LETTER LIV. Hannah Burton. In answer.
LETTER LV. Clarissa to Miss Norton.— Excuses her long silence. Asks her a question, with a view to detect Lovelace. Hints at his ungrateful villany. Self-recrimination.
LETTER LVI. Mrs. Norton to Clarissa.— Answers her question. Inveighs against Lovelace. Hopes she has escaped with her honour. Consoles her by a brief relation of her own case, and from motives truly pious.
LETTER LVII. Clarissa to Lady Betty Lawrance.— Requests an answer to three questions, with a view farther to detect Lovelace.
LETTER LVIII. Lady Betty to Clarissa.— Answers her questions. In the kindest manner offers to mediate between her nephew and her.
LETTER LIX. LX. Clarissa to Mrs. Hodges, her uncle Harlowe's housekeeper; with a view of still farther detecting Lovelace. —- Mrs. Hodges's answer.
LETTER LXI. Clarissa to Lady Betty Lawrance.— Acquaints her with her nephew's baseness. Charitably wishes his reformation; but utterly, and from principle, rejects him.
LETTER LXII. Clarissa to Mrs. Norton.— Is comforted by her kind soothings. Wishes she had been her child. Will not allow her to come up to her; why. Some account of the people she is with; and of a worthy woman, Mrs. Lovick, who lodges in the house. Briefly hints to her the vile usage she has received from Lovelace.
LETTER LXIII. Mrs. Norton to Clarissa.— Inveighs against Lovelace. Wishes Miss Howe might be induced to refrain from freedoms that do hurt, and can do no good. Farther piously consoles her.
LETTER LXIV. Clarissa to Mrs. Norton.— A new trouble. An angry letter from Miss Howe. The occasion. Her heart is broken. Shall be uneasy, till she can get her father's curse revoked. Casts about to whom she can apply for this purpose. At last resolves to write to her sister to beg her mediation.
LETTER LXV. Miss Howe to Clarissa.— Her angry and reproachful letter above-mentioned; demands from her the clearing up of her conduct.
LETTER LXVI. Clarissa to Miss Howe.— Gently remonstrates upon her severity. To this hour knows not all the methods taken to deceive and ruin her. But will briefly, yet circumstantially, enter into the darker part of her sad story, though her heart sinks under the thoughts of a recollection so painful.
LETTER LXVII. LXVIII. LXIX. LXX. From the same.— She gives the promised particulars of her story. Begs that the blackest parts of it may be kept secret; and why. Desires one friendly tear, and no more, may be dropt from her gentle eye, on the happy day that shall shut up all her sorrows.
LETTER LXXI. LXXII. Miss Howe to Clarissa.— Execrates the abandoned profligate. She must, she tells her, look to the world beyond this for her reward. Unravels some of Lovelace's plots; and detects his forgeries. Is apprehensive for her own as well as Clarissa's safety. Advises her to pursue a legal vengeance. Laudable custom in the Isle of Man. Offers personally to attend her in a court of justice.
LETTER LXXIII. Clarissa to Miss Howe.— Cannot consent to a prosecution. Discovers who it was that personated her at Hampstead. She is quite sick of life, and of an earth in which innocent and benevolent spirits are sure to be considered as aliens.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. SAT. MIDNIGHT.
No rest, says a text that I once heard preached upon, to the wicked—and I cannot close my eyes (yet only wanted to compound for half an hour in an elbow-chair)—so must scribble on.
I parted with the Captain after another strong debate with him in relation to what is to be the fate of this lady. As the fellow has an excellent head, and would have made an eminent figure in any station of life, had not his early days been tainted with a deep crime, and he detected in it; and as he had the right side of the argument; I had a good deal of difficulty with him; and at last brought myself to promise, that if I could prevail upon her generously to forgive me, and to reinstate me in her favour, I would make it my whole endeavour to get off of my contrivances, as happily as I could; (only that Lady Betty and Charlotte must come;) and then substituting him for her uncle's proxy, take shame to myself, and marry.
But if I should, Jack, (with the strongest antipathy to the state that ever man had,) what a figure shall I make in rakish annals? And can I have taken all this pains for nothing? Or for a wife only, that, however excellent, [and any woman, do I think I could make good, because I could make any woman fear as well as love me,] might have been obtained without the plague I have been at, and much more reputably than with it? And hast thou not seen, that this haughty woman [forgive me that I call her haughty! and a woman! Yet is she not haughty?] knows not how to forgive with graciousness? Indeed has not at all forgiven me? But holds my soul in a suspense which has been so grievous to her own.
At this silent moment, I think, that if I were to pursue my former scheme, and resolve to try whether I cannot make a greater fault serve as a sponge to wipe out the less; and then be forgiven for that; I can justify myself to myself; and that, as the fair invincible would say, is all in all.
As it is my intention, in all my reflections, to avoid repeating, at least dwelling upon, what I have before written to thee, though the state of the case may not have varied; so I would have thee to re-consider the old reasonings (particularly those contained in my answer to thy last* expostulatory nonsense); and add the new as they fall from my pen; and then I shall think myself invincible;—at least, as arguing rake to rake.
* See Vol. V. Letter XIV.
I take the gaining of this lady to be essential to my happiness: and is it not natural for all men to aim at obtaining whatever they think will make them happy, be the object more or less considerable in the eyes of others?
As to the manner of endeavouring to obtain her, by falsification of oaths, vows, and the like—do not the poets of two thousand years and upwards tell us, that Jupiter laughs at the perjuries of lovers? And let me add, to what I have heretofore mentioned on that head, a question or two.
Do not the mothers, the aunts, the grandmothers, the governesses of the pretty innocents, always, from their very cradles to riper years, preach to them the deceitfulness of men?—That they are not to regard their oaths, vows, promises?—What a parcel of fibbers would all these reverend matrons be, if there were not now and then a pretty credulous rogue taken in for a justification of their preachments, and to serve as a beacon lighted up for the benefit of the rest?
Do we not then see, that an honest prowling fellow is a necessary evil on many accounts? Do we not see that it is highly requisite that a sweet girl should be now-and-then drawn aside by him?—And the more eminent the girl, in the graces of person, mind, and fortune, is not the example likely to be the more efficacious?
If these postulata be granted me, who, I pray, can equal my charmer in all these? Who therefore so fit for an example to the rest of her sex? —At worst, I am entirely within my worthy friend Mandeville's assertion, that private vices are public benefits.
Well, then, if this sweet creature must fall, as it is called, for the benefit of all the pretty fools of the sex, she must; and there's an end of the matter. And what would there have been in it of uncommon or rare, had I not been so long about it?—And so I dismiss all further argumentation and debate upon the question: and I impose upon thee, when thou writest to me, an eternal silence on this head.
Wafer'd on, as an after-written introduction to the paragraphs which follow, marked with turned commas, [thus, ']:
Lord, Jack, what shall I do now! How one evil brings on another! Dreadful news to tell thee! While I was meditating a simple robbery, here have I (in my own defence indeed) been guilty of murder!—A bl—y murder! So I believe it will prove. At her last gasp!—Poor impertinent opposer!—Eternally resisting!—Eternally contradicting! There she lies weltering in her blood! her death's wound have I given her!—But she was a thief, an impostor, as well as a tormentor. She had stolen my pen. While I was sullenly meditating, doubting, as to my future measures, she stole it; and thus she wrote with it in a hand exactly like my own; and would have faced me down, that it was really my own hand-writing.
'But let me reflect before it is too late. On the manifold perfections of this ever-amiable creature let me reflect. The hand yet is only held up. The blow is not struck. Miss Howe's next letter may blow thee up. In policy thou shouldest be now at least honest. Thou canst not live without her. Thou wouldest rather marry her than lose her absolutely. Thou mayest undoubtedly prevail upon her, inflexible as she seems to be, for marriage. But if now she finds thee a villain, thou mayest never more engage her attention, and she perhaps will refuse and abhor thee.
'Yet already have I not gone too far? Like a repentant thief, afraid of his gang, and obliged to go on, in fear of hanging till he comes to be hanged, I am afraid of the gang of my cursed contrivances.
'As I hope to live, I am sorry, (at the present writing,) that I have been such a foolish plotter, as to put it, as I fear I have done, out of my own power to be honest. I hate compulsion in all forms; and cannot bear, even to be compelled to be the wretch my choice has made me! So now, Belford, as thou hast said, I am a machine at last, and no free agent.
'Upon my soul, Jack, it is a very foolish thing for a man of spirit to have brought himself to such a height of iniquity, that he must proceed, and cannot help himself, and yet to be next to certain, that this very victory will undo him.
'Why was such a woman as this thrown into my way, whose very fall will be her glory, and, perhaps, not only my shame but my destruction?
'What a happiness must that man know, who moves regularly to some laudable end, and has nothing to reproach himself with in his progress to do it! When, by honest means, he attains his end, how great and unmixed must be his enjoyments! What a happy man, in this particular case, had I been, had it been given me to be only what I wished to appear to be!'
Thus far had my conscience written with my pen; and see what a recreant she had made of me!—I seized her by the throat—There!—There, said I, thou vile impertinent!—take that, and that!—How often have I gave thee warning!—and now, I hope, thou intruding varletess, have I done thy business!
Puling and low-voiced, rearing up thy detested head, in vain implorest thou my mercy, who, in thy day hast showed me so little!—Take that, for a rising blow!—And now will thy pain, and my pain for thee, soon be over. Lie there!—Welter on!—Had I not given thee thy death's wound, thou wouldest have robbed me of all my joys. Thou couldest not have mended me, 'tis plain. Thou couldest only have thrown me into despair. Didst thou not see, that I had gone too far to recede?—Welter on, once more I bid thee!—Gasp on!—That thy last gasp, surely!—How hard diest thou!
ADIEU!—Unhappy man! ADIEU!
'Tis kind in thee, however, to bid me, Adieu!
Adieu, Adieu, Adieu, to thee, O thou inflexible, and, till now, unconquerable bosom intruder!—Adieu to thee for ever!
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. SUNDAY MORN. (JUNE 11). FOUR O'CLOCK.
A few words to the verbal information thou sentest me last night concerning thy poor old man; and then I rise from my seat, shake myself, refresh, new-dress, and so to my charmer, whom, notwithstanding her reserves, I hope to prevail upon to walk out with me on the Heath this warm and fine morning.
The birds must have awakened her before now. They are in full song. She always gloried in accustoming herself to behold the sun rise—one of God's natural wonders, as once she called it.
Her window salutes the east. The valleys must be gilded by his rays, by the time I am with her; for already have they made the up-lands smile, and the face of nature cheerful.
How unsuitable will thou find this gay preface to a subject so gloomy as that I am now turning to!
I am glad to hear thy tedious expectations are at last answered.
Thy servant tells me that thou are plaguily grieved at the old fellow's departure.
I can't say, but thou mayest look as if thou wert; harassed as thou hast been for a number of days and nights with a close attendance upon a dying man, beholding his drawing-on hour—pretending, for decency's sake, to whine over his excruciating pangs; to be in the way to answer a thousand impertinent inquiries after the health of a man thou wishedest to die—to pray by him—for so once thou wrotest to me!—To read by him—to be forced to join in consultation with a crew of solemn and parading doctors, and their officious zanies, the apothecaries, joined with the butcherly tribe of scarficators; all combined to carry on the physical farce, and to cut out thongs both from his flesh and his estate—to have the superadded apprehension of dividing thy interest in what he shall leave with a crew of eager-hoping, never-to-be-satisfied relations, legatees, and the devil knows who, of private gratifiers of passions laudable and illaudable—in these circumstances, I wonder not that thou lookest before servants, (as little grieved as thou after heirship,) as if thou indeed wert grieved; and as if the most wry-fac'd woe had befallen thee.
Then, as I have often thought, the reflection that must naturally arise from such mortifying objects, as the death of one with whom we have been familiar, must afford, when we are obliged to attend it in its slow approaches, and in its face-twisting pangs, that it will one day be our own case, goes a great way to credit the appearance of grief.
And that it is this, seriously reflected upon, may temporally give a fine air of sincerity to the wailings of lively widows, heart-exulting heirs, and residuary legatees of all denominations; since, by keeping down the inward joy, those interesting reflections must sadden the aspect, and add an appearance of real concern to the assumed sables.
Well, but, now thou art come to the reward of all thy watchings, anxieties, and close attendances, tell me what it is; tell me if it compensate thy trouble, and answer thy hope?
As to myself, thou seest, by the gravity of my style, how the subject has helped to mortify me. But the necessity I am under of committing either speedy matrimony, or a rape, has saddened over my gayer prospects, and, more than the case itself, contributed to make me sympathize with the present joyful-sorrow.
Adieu, Jack, I must be soon out of my pain; and my Clarissa shall be soon out of her's—for so does the arduousness of the case require.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. SUNDAY MORNING.
I have had the honour of my charmer's company for two complete hours. We met before six in Mrs. Moore's garden. A walk on the Heath refused me.
The sedateness of her aspect and her kind compliance in this meeting gave me hopes. And all that either the Captain and I had urged yesterday to obtain a full and free pardon, that re-urged I; and I told her, besides, that Captain Tomlinson was gone down with hopes to prevail upon her uncle Harlowe to come up in person, in order to present to me the greatest blessing that man ever received.
But the utmost I could obtain was, that she would take no resolution in my favour till she received Miss Howe's next letter.
I will not repeat the arguments I used; but I will give thee the substance of what she said in answer to them.
She had considered of every thing, she told me. My whole conduct was before her. The house I carried her to must be a vile house. The people early showed what they were capable of, in the earnest attempt made to fasten Miss Partington upon her; as she doubted not, with my approbation. [Surely, thought I, she has not received a duplicate of Miss Howe's letter of detection!] They heard her cries. My insult was undoubtedly premeditated. By my whole recollected behaviour to her, previous to it, it must be so. I had the vilest of views, no question. And my treatment of her put it out of all doubt.
Soul over all, Belford! She seems sensible of liberties that my passion made me insensible of having taken, or she could not so deeply resent.
She besought me to give over all thoughts of her. Sometimes, she said, she thought herself cruelly treated by her nearest and dearest relations; at such times, a spirit of repining and even of resentment took place; and the reconciliation, at other times so desirable, was not then so much the favourite wish of her heart, as was the scheme she had formerly planned—of taking her good Norton for her directress and guide, and living upon her own estate in the manner her grandfather had intended she should live.
This scheme she doubted not that her cousin Morden, who was one of her trustees for that estate, would enable her, (and that, as she hoped, without litigation,) to pursue. And if he can, and does, what, Sir, let me ask you, said she, have I seen in your conduct, that should make me prefer to it an union of interest, where there is such a disunion in minds?
So thou seest, Jack, there is reason, as well as resentment, in the preference she makes against me!—Thou seest, that she presumes to think that she can be happy without me; and that she must be unhappy with me!
I had besought her, in the conclusion of my re-urged arguments, to write to Miss Howe before Miss Howe's answer could come, in order to lay before her the present state of things; and if she would pay a deference to her judgment, to let her have an opportunity to give it, on the full knowledge of the case—
So I would, Mr. Lovelace, was the answer, if I were in doubt myself, which I would prefer—marriage, or the scheme I have mentioned. You cannot think, Sir, but the latter must be my choice. I wish to part with you with temper—don't put me upon repeating—
Part with me, Madam! interrupted I—I cannot bear those words!—But let me beseech you, however, to write to Miss Howe. I hope, if Miss Howe is not my enemy—
She is not the enemy of your person, Sir;—as you would be convinced, if you saw her last letter* to me. But were she not an enemy to your actions, she would not be my friend, nor the friend of virtue. Why will you provoke from me, Mr. Lovelace, the harshness of expression, which, however, which, however deserved by you, I am unwilling just now to use, having suffered enough in the two past days from my own vehemence?
* The lady innocently means Mr. Lovelace's forged one. See Vol. V. Letter XXX.
I bit my lip for vexation. And was silent.
Miss Howe, proceeded she, knows the full state of matters already, Sir. The answer I expect from her respects myself, not you. Her heart is too warm in the cause of friendship, to leave me in suspense one moment longer than is necessary as to what I want to know. Nor does her answer absolutely depend upon herself. She must see a person first, and that person perhaps see others.
The cursed smuggler-woman, Jack!—Miss Howe's Townsend, I doubt not— Plot, contrivance, intrigue, stratagem!—Underground-moles these women— but let the earth cover me!—let me be a mole too, thought I, if they carry their point!—and if this lady escape me now!
She frankly owned that she had once thought of embarking out of all our ways for some one of our American colonies. But now that she had been compelled to see me, (which had been her greatest dread), and which she might be happiest in the resumption of her former favourite scheme, if Miss Howe could find her a reputable and private asylum, till her cousin Morden could come.—But if he came not soon, and if she had a difficulty to get to a place of refuge, whether from her brother or from any body else, [meaning me, I suppose,] she might yet perhaps go abroad; for, to say the truth, she could not think of returning to her father's house, since her brother's rage, her sister's upbraidings, her father's anger, her mother's still-more-affecting sorrowings, and her own consciousness under them all, would be unsupportable to her.
O Jack! I am sick to death, I pine, I die, for Miss Howe's next letter! I would bind, gag, strip, rob, and do any thing but murder, to intercept it.
But, determined as she seems to be, it was evident to me, nevertheless, that she had still some tenderness for me.
She often wept as she talked, and much oftener sighed. She looked at me twice with an eye of undoubted gentleness, and three times with an eye tending to compassion and softness; but its benign rays were as often snatched back, as I may say, and her face averted, as if her sweet eyes were not to be trusted, and could not stand against my eager eyes; seeking, as they did, for a lost heart in her's, and endeavouring to penetrate to her very soul.
More than once I took her hand. She struggled not much against the freedom. I pressed it once with my lips—she was not very angry. A frown indeed—but a frown that had more distress in it than indignation.
How came the dear soul, (clothed as it is with such a silken vesture,) by all its steadiness?* Was it necessary that the active gloom of such a tyrant of a father, should commix with such a passive sweetness of a will-less mother, to produce a constancy, an equanimity, a steadiness, in the daughter, which never woman before could boast of? If so, she is more obliged to that despotic father than I could have imagined a creature to be, who gave distinction to every one related to her beyond what the crown itself can confer.
* See Vol. I. Letters IX. XIV. and XIX. for what she herself says on that steadiness which Mr. Lovelace, though a deserved sufferer by it, cannot help admiring.
I hoped, I said, that she would admit of the intended visit, which I had so often mentioned, of the two ladies.
She was here. She had seen me. She could not help herself at present. She even had the highest regard for the ladies of my family, because of their worthy characters. There she turned away her sweet face, and vanquished an half-risen sigh.
I kneeled to her then. It was upon a verdant cushion; for we were upon the grass walk. I caught her hand. I besought her with an earnestness that called up, as I could feel, my heart to my eyes, to make me, by her forgiveness and example, more worthy of them, and of her own kind and generous wishes. By my soul, Madam, said I, you stab me with your goodness—your undeserved goodness! and I cannot bear it!
Why, why, thought I, as I did several times in this conversation, will she not generously forgive me? Why will she make it necessary for me to bring Lady Betty and my cousin to my assistance? Can the fortress expect the same advantageous capitulation, which yields not to the summons of a resistless conqueror, as if it gave not the trouble of bringing up and raising its heavy artillery against it?
What sensibilities, said the divine creature, withdrawing her hand, must thou have suppressed! What a dreadful, what a judicial hardness of heart must thine be! who canst be capable of such emotions, as sometimes thou hast shown; and of such sentiments, as sometimes have flowed from thy lips; yet canst have so far overcome them all as to be able to act as thou hast acted, and that from settled purpose and premeditation; and this, as it is said, throughout the whole of thy life, from infancy to this time!
I told her, that I had hoped, from the generous concern she had expressed for me, when I was so suddenly and dangerously taken ill—[the ipecacuanha experiment, Jack!]
She interrupted me—Well have you rewarded me for the concern you speak of!—However, I will frankly own, now that I am determined to think no more of you, that you might, (unsatisfied as I nevertheless was with you,) have made an interest—
She paused. I besought her to proceed.
Do you suppose, Sir, and turned away her sweet face as we walked,—Do you suppose that I had not thought of laying down a plan to govern myself by, when I found myself so unhappily over-reached and cheated, as I may say, out of myself—When I found, that I could not be, and do, what I wished to be, and to do, do you imagine that I had not cast about, what was the next proper course to take?—And do you believe that this next course has not caused me some pain to be obliged to—
There again she stopt.
But let us break off discourse, resumed she. The subject grows too—She sighed—Let us break off discourse—I will go in—I will prepare for church—[The devil! thought I.] Well, as I can appear in those every-day-worn clothes—looking upon herself—I will go to church.
She then turned from me to go into the house.
Bless me, my beloved creature, bless me with the continuance of this affecting conversation.—Remorse has seized my heart!—I have been excessively wrong—give me farther cause to curse my heedless folly, by the continuance of this calm but soul-penetrating conversation.
No, no, Mr. Lovelace: I have said too much. Impatience begins to break in upon me. If you can excuse me to the ladies, it will be better for my mind's sake, and for your credit's sake, that I do not see them. Call me to them over-nice, petulant, prudish—what you please call me to them. Nobody but Miss Howe, to whom, next to the Almighty, and my own mother, I wish to stand acquitted of wilful error, shall know the whole of what has passed. Be happy, as you may!—Deserve to be happy, and happy you will be, in your own reflection at least, were you to be ever so unhappy in other respects. For myself, if I ever shall be enabled, on due reflection, to look back upon my own conduct, without the great reproach of having wilfully, and against the light of my own judgment, erred, I shall be more happy than if I had all that the world accounts desirable.
The noble creature proceeded; for I could not speak.
This self-acquittal, when spirits are lent me to dispel the darkness which at present too often over-clouds my mind, will, I hope, make me superior to all the calamities that can befal me.
Her whole person was informed by her sentiments. She seemed to be taller than before. How the God within her exalted her, not only above me, but above herself!
Divine creature! (as I thought her,) I called her. I acknowledged the superiority of her mind; and was proceeding—but she interrupted me—All human excellence, said she, is comparative only. My mind, I believe, is indeed superior to your's, debased as your's is by evil habits: but I had not known it to be so, if you had not taken pains to convince me of the inferiority of your's.
How great, how sublimely great, this creature!—By my soul I cannot forgive her for her virtues! There is no bearing the consciousness of the infinite inferiority she charged me with.—But why will she break from me, when good resolutions are taking place? The red-hot iron she refuses to strike—O why will she suffer the yielding wax to harden?
We had gone but a few paces towards the house, when we were met by the impertinent women, with notice, that breakfast was ready. I could only, with uplifted hands, beseech her to give me hope of a renewed conversation after breakfast.
No—she would go to church.
And into the house she went, and up stairs directly. Nor would she oblige me with her company at the tea-table.
I offered, by Mrs. Moore, to quit both the table and the parlour, rather than she should exclude herself, or deprive the two widows of the favour of her company.
That was not all the matter, she told Mrs. Moore. She had been struggling to keep down her temper. It had cost her some pains to do it. She was desirous to compose herself, in hopes to receive benefit by the divine worship she was going to join in.
Mrs. Moore hoped for her presence at dinner.
She had rather be excused. Yet, if she could obtain the frame of mind she hoped for, she might not be averse to show, that she had got above those sensibilities, which gave consideration to a man who deserved not to be to her what he had been.
This said, no doubt, to let Mrs. Moore know, that the garden-conversation had not been a reconciling one.
Mrs. Moore seemed to wonder that we were not upon a better foot of understanding, after so long a conference; and the more, as she believed that the lady had given in to the proposal for the repetition of the ceremony, which I had told them was insisted upon by her uncle Harlowe.— But I accounted for this, by telling both widows that she was resolved to keep on the reserve till she heard from Captain Tomlinson, whether her uncle would be present in person at the solemnity, or would name that worthy gentleman for his proxy.
Again I enjoined strict secresy, as to this particular; which was promised by the widows, as well as for themselves, as for Miss Rawlins; of whose taciturnity they gave me such an account, as showed me, that she was secret-keeper-general to all the women of fashion at Hampstead.
The Lord, Jack! What a world of mischief, at this rate, must Miss Rawlins know!—What a Pandora's box must her bosom be!—Yet, had I nothing that was more worthy of my attention to regard, I would engage to open it, and make my uses of the discovery.
And now, Belford, thou perceivest, that all my reliance is upon the mediation of Lady Betty and Miss Montague, and upon the hope of intercepting Miss Howe's next letter.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
This fair inexorable is actually gone to church with Mrs. Moore and Mrs. Bevis; but Will. closely attends her motions; and I am in the way to receive any occasional intelligence from him.
She did not choose, [a mighty word with the sex! as if they were always to have their own wills!] that I should wait upon her. I did not much press it, that she might not apprehend that I thought I had reason to doubt her voluntary return.
I once had it in my head to have found the widow Bevis other employment. And I believe she would have been as well pleased with my company as to go to church; for she seemed irresolute when I told her that two out of a family were enough to go to church for one day. But having her things on, (as the women call every thing,) and her aunt Moore expecting her company, she thought it best to go—lest it should look oddly, you know, whispered she, to one who was above regarding how it looked.
So here am I in my dining-room; and have nothing to do but to write till they return.
And what will be my subject thinkest thou? Why, the old beaten one to be sure; self-debate—through temporary remorse: for the blow being not struck, her guardian angel is redoubling his efforts to save her.
If it be not that, [and yet what power should her guardian angel have over me?] I don't know what it is that gives a check to my revenge, whenever I meditate treason against so sovereign a virtue. Conscience is dead and gone, as I told thee; so it cannot be that. A young conscience growing up, like the phoenix, from the ashes of the old one, it cannot be, surely. But if it were, it would be hard, if I could not overlay a young conscience.
Well, then, it must be LOVE, I fancy. LOVE itself, inspiring love of an object so adorable—some little attention possibly paid likewise to thy whining arguments in her favour.
Let LOVE then be allowed to be the moving principle; and the rather, as LOVE naturally makes the lover loth to disoblige the object of its flame; and knowing, that to an offence of the meditated kind will be a mortal offence to her, cannot bear that I should think of giving it.
Let LOVE and me talk together a little on this subject—be it a young conscience, or love, or thyself, Jack, thou seest that I am for giving every whiffler audience. But this must be the last debate on this subject; for is not her fate in a manner at its crisis? And must not my next step be an irretrievable one, tend it which way it will?
And now the debate is over.
A thousand charming things, (for LOVE is gentler than CONSCIENCE,) has this little urchin suggested in her favour. He pretended to know both our hearts: and he would have it, that though my love was a prodigious strong and potent love; and though it has the merit of many months, faithful service to plead, and has had infinite difficulties to struggle with; yet that it is not THE RIGHT SORT OF LOVE.
Right sort of love!—A puppy!—But, with due regard to your deityship, said I, what merits has she with YOU, that you should be of her party? Is her's, I pray you, a right sort of love? Is it love at all? She don't pretend that it is. She owns not your sovereignty. What a d—-l I moves you, to plead thus earnestly for a rebel, who despises your power?
And then he came with his If's and And's—and it would have been, and still, as he believed, would be, love, and a love of the exalted kind, if I would encourage it by the right sort of love he talked of: and, in justification of his opinion, pleaded her own confessions, as well those of yesterday, as of this morning: and even went so far back as to my ipecacuanha illness.
I never talked so familiarly with his godship before: thou mayest think, therefore, that his dialect sounded oddly in my ears. And then he told me, how often I had thrown cold water upon the most charming flame that ever warmed a lady's bosom, while but young and rising.
I required a definition of this right sort of love, he tried at it: but made a sorry hand of it: nor could I, for the soul of me, be convinced, that what he meant to extol was LOVE.
Upon the whole, we had a noble controversy upon this subject, in which he insisted upon the unprecedented merit of the lady. Nevertheless I got the better of him; for he was struck absolutely dumb, when (waving her present perverseness, which yet was a sufficient answer to all his pleas) I asserted, and offered to prove it, by a thousand instances impromptu, that love was not governed by merit, nor could be under the dominion of prudence, or any other reasoning power: and if the lady were capable of love, it was of such a sort as he had nothing to do with, and which never before reigned in a female heart.
I asked him, what he thought of her flight from me, at a time when I was more than half overcome by the right sort of love he talked of?—And then I showed him the letter she wrote, and left behind her for me, with an intention, no doubt, absolutely to break my heart, or to provoke me to hang, drown, or shoot myself; to say nothing of a multitude of declarations from her, defying his power, and imputing all that looked like love in her behaviour to me, to the persecution and rejection of her friends; which made her think of me but as a last resort.
LOVE then gave her up. The letter, he said, deserved neither pardon nor excuse. He did not think he had been pleading for such a declared rebel. And as to the rest, he should be a betrayer of the rights of his own sovereignty, if what I had alleged were true, and he were still to plead for her.
I swore to the truth of all. And truly I swore: which perhaps I do not always do.
And now what thinkest thou must become of the lady, whom LOVE itself gives up, and CONSCIENCE cannot plead for?
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. SUNDAY AFTERNOON.
O Belford! what a hair's-breadth escape have I had!—Such a one, that I tremble between terror and joy, at the thought of what might have happened, and did not.
What a perverse girl is this, to contend with her fate; yet has reason to think, that her very stars fight against her! I am the luckiest of me!—But my breath almost fails me, when I reflect upon what a slender thread my destiny hung.
But not to keep thee in suspense; I have, within this half-hour, obtained possession of the expected letter from Miss Howe—and by such an accident! But here, with the former, I dispatch this; thy messenger waiting.
MR. LOVELACE [IN CONTINUATION.]
Thus it was—My charmer accompanied Mrs. Moore again to church this afternoon. I had been in very earnest, in the first place, to obtain her company at dinner: but in vain. According to what she had said to Mrs. Moore,* I was too considerable to her to be allowed that favour. In the next place, I besought her to favour me, after dinner, with another garden-walk. But she would again go to church. And what reason have I to rejoice that she did!
* See Letter III. of this volume.
My worthy friend, Mrs. Bevis, thought one sermon a day, well observed, enough; so staid at home to bear me company.
The lady and Mrs. Moore had not been gone a quarter of an hour, when a young country-fellow on horseback came to the door, and inquired for Mrs. Harriot Lucas. The widow and I (undetermined how we were to entertain each other) were in the parlour next the door; and hearing the fellow's inquiry, O my dear Mrs. Bevis, said I, I am undone, undone for ever, if you don't help me out!—Since here, in all probability, is a messenger from that implacable Miss Howe with a letter; which, if delivered to Mrs. Lovelace, may undo all we have been doing.
What, said she, would you have me do?
Call the maid in this moment, that I may give her her lesson; and if it be as I imagined, I'll tell you what you shall do.
Wid. Margaret!—Margaret! come in this minute.
Lovel. What answer, Mrs. Margaret, did you give the man, upon his asking for Mrs. Harriot Lucas?
Peggy. I only asked, What was his business, and who he came from? (for, Sir, your honour's servant had told me how things stood): and I came at your call, Madam, before he answered me.
Lovel. Well, child, if ever you wish to be happy in wedlock yourself, and would have people disappointed who want to make mischief between you and your husband, get out of him his message, or letter if he has one, and bring it to me, and say nothing to Mrs. Lovelace, when she comes in; and here is a guinea for you.
Peggy. I will do all I can to serve your honour's worship for nothing: [nevertheless, with a ready hand, taking the guinea:] for Mr. William tells me what a good gentleman you be.
Away went Peggy to the fellow at the door.
Peggy. What is your business, friend, with Mrs. Harry Lucas?
Fellow. I must speak to her her own self.
Lovel. My dearest widow, do you personate Mrs. Lovelace—for Heaven's sake do you personate Mrs. Lovelace.
Wid. I personate Mrs. Lovelace, Sir! How can I do that?—She is fair; I am brown. She is slender: I am plump—
Lovel. No matter, no matter—The fellow may be a new-come servant: he is not in livery, I see. He may not know her person. You can but be bloated and in a dropsy.
Wid. Dropsical people look not so fresh and ruddy as I do.
Lovel. True—but the clown may not know that. 'Tis but for a present deception. Peggy, Peggy, call'd I, in a female tone, softly at the door. Madam, answer'd Peggy; and came up to me to the parlour-door.
Lovel. Tell him the lady is ill; and has lain down upon the couch. And get his business from him, whatever you do.
Away went Peggy.
Lovel. Now, my dear widow, lie along the settee, and put your handkerchief over your face, that, if he will speak to you himself, he may not see your eyes and your hair.—So—that's right.—I'll step into the closet by you.
I did so.
Peggy. [Returning.] He won't deliver his business to me. He will speak to Mrs. Harriot Lucas her own self.
Lovel. [Holding the door in my hand.] Tell him that this is Mrs. Harriot Lucas; and let him come in. Whisper him (if he doubts) that she is bloated, dropsical, and not the woman she was.
Away went Margery.
Lovel. And now, my dear widow, let me see what a charming Mrs. Lovelace you'll make!—Ask if he comes from Miss Howe. Ask if he lives with her. Ask how she does. Call her, at every word, your dear Miss Howe. Offer him money—take this half-guinea for him—complain of your head, to have a pretence to hold it down; and cover your forehead and eyes with your hand, where your handkerchief hides not your face.—That's right—and dismiss the rascal—[here he comes]—as soon as you can.
In came the fellow, bowing and scraping, his hat poked out before him with both his hands.
Fellow. I am sorry, Madam, an't please you, to find you ben't well.
Widow. What is your business with me, friend?
Fellow. You are Mrs. Harriot Lucas, I suppose, Madam?
Widow. Yes. Do you come from Miss Howe?
Fellow. I do, Madam.
Widow. Dost thou know my right name, friend?
Fellow. I can give a shrewd guess. But that is none of my business.
Widow. What is thy business? I hope Miss Howe is well?
Fellow. Yes, Madam; pure well, I thank God. I wish you were so too.
Widow. I am too full of grief to be well.
Fellow. So belike I have hard to say.
Widow. My head aches so dreadfully, I cannot hold it up. I must beg of you to let me know your business.
Fellow. Nay, and that be all, my business is soon known. It is but to give this letter into your own partiklar hands—here it is.
Widow. [Taking it.] From my dear friend Miss Howe?—Ah, my head!
Fellow. Yes, Madam: but I am sorry you are so bad.
Widow. Do you live with Miss Howe?
Fellow. No, Madam: I am one of her tenants' sons. Her lady-mother must not know as how I came of this errand. But the letter, I suppose, will tell you all.
Widow. How shall I satisfy you for this kind trouble?
Fellow. No how at all. What I do is for love of Miss Howe. She will satisfy me more than enough. But, may-hap, you can send no answer, you are so ill.
Widow. Was you ordered to wait for an answer?
Fellow. No, I cannot say as that I was. But I was bidden to observe how you looked, and how you was; and if you did write a line or two, to take care of it, and give it only to our young landlady in secret.
Widow. You see I look strangely. Not so well as I used to do.
Fellow. Nay, I don't know that I ever saw you but once before; and that was at a stile, where I met you and my young landlady; but knew better than to stare a gentlewoman in the face; especially at a stile.
Widow. Will you eat, or drink, friend?
Fellow. A cup of small ale, I don't care if I do.
Widow. Margaret, take the young man down, and treat him with what the house affords.
Fellow. Your servant, Madam. But I staid to eat as I come along, just upon the Heath yonder; or else, to say the truth, I had been here sooner. [Thank my stars, thought I, thou didst.] A piece of powdered beef was upon the table, at the sign of the Castle, where I stopt to inquire for this house: and so, thoff I only intended to wet my whistle, I could not help eating. So shall only taste of your ale; for the beef was woundily corned.
Prating dog! Pox on thee! thought I.
He withdrew, bowing and scraping.
Margaret, whispered I, in a female voice [whispering out of the closet, and holding the parlour-door in my hand] get him out of the house as fast as you can, lest they come from church, and catch him here.
Peggy. Never fear, Sir.
The fellow went down, and it seems, drank a large draught of ale; and Margaret finding him very talkative, told him, she begged his pardon, but she had a sweetheart just come from sea, whom she was forced to hide in the pantry; so was sure he would excuse her from staying with him.
Ay, ay, to be sure, the clown said: for if he could not make sport, he would spoil none. But he whispered her, that one 'Squire Lovelace was a damnation rogue, if the truth might be told.
For what? said Margaret. And could have given him, she told the widow (who related to me all this) a good dowse of the chaps.
For kissing all the women he came near.
At the same time, the dog wrapped himself round Margery, and gave her a smack, that, she told Mrs. Bevis afterwards, she might have heard into the parlour.
Such, Jack, is human nature: thus does it operate in all degrees; and so does the clown, as well as his practises! Yet this sly dog knew not but the wench had a sweetheart locked up in the pantry! If the truth were known, some of the ruddy-faced dairy wenches might perhaps call him a damnation rogue, as justly as their betters of the same sex might 'Squire Lovelace.
The fellow told the maid, that, by what he discovered of the young lady's face, it looked very rosy to what he took it to be; and he thought her a good deal fatter, as she lay, and not so tall.
All women are born to intrigue, Jack; and practise it more or less, as fathers, guardians, governesses, from dear experience, can tell; and in love affairs are naturally expert, and quicker in their wits by half than men. This ready, though raw wench, gave an instance of this, and improved on the dropsical hint I had given her. The lady's seeming plumpness was owing to a dropsical disorder, and to the round posture she lay in—very likely, truly. Her appearing to him to be shorter, he might have observed, was owing to her drawing her feet up from pain, and because the couch was too short, she supposed—Adso, he did not think of that. Her rosy colour was owing to her grief and head-ache.—Ay, that might very well be—but he was highly pleased that he had given the letter into Mrs. Harriot's own hand, as he should tell Miss Howe.
He desired once more to see the lady at his going away, and would not be denied. The widow therefore sat up, with her handkerchief over her face, leaning her head against the wainscot.
He asked if she had any partiklar message?
No: she was so ill she could not write; which was a great grief to her.
Should he call the next day? for he was going to London, now he was so near; and should stay at a cousin's that night, who lived in a street called Fetter-Lane.
No: she would write as soon as able, and send by the post.
Well, then, if she had nothing to send by him, mayhap he might stay in town a day or two; for he had never seen the lions in the Tower, nor Bedlam, nor the tombs; and he would make a holiday or two, as he had leave to do, if she had no business or message that required his posting down next day.
She had not.
She offered him the half-guinea I had given her for him; but he refused it with great professions of disinterestedness, and love, as he called it, to Miss Howe; to serve whom, he would ride to the world's-end, or even to Jericho.
And so the shocking rascal went away: and glad at my heart was I when he was gone; for I feared nothing so much as that he would have staid till they came from church.
Thus, Jack, got I my heart's ease, the letter of Miss Howe; ad through such a train of accidents, as makes me say, that the lady's stars fight against her. But yet I must attribute a good deal to my own precaution, in having taken right measures. For had I not secured the widow by my stories, and the maid by my servant, all would have signified nothing. And so heartily were they secured, the one by a single guinea, the other by half a dozen warm kisses, and the aversion they both had to such wicked creatures as delighted in making mischief between man and wife, that they promised, that neither Mrs. Moore, Miss Rawlins, Mrs. Lovelace, nor any body living, should know any thing of the matter.
The widow rejoiced that I had got the mischief-maker's letter. I excused myself to her, and instantly withdrew with it; and, after I had read it, fell to my short-hand, to acquaint thee with my good luck: and they not returning so soon as church was done, (stepping, as it proved, into Miss Rawlins's, and tarrying there awhile, to bring that busy girl with them to drink tea,) I wrote thus far to thee, that thou mightest, when thou camest to this place, rejoice with me upon the occasion.
They are all three just come in.
I hasten to them.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
I have begun another letter to thee, in continuation of my narrative: but I believe I shall send thee this before I shall finish that. By the enclosed thou wilt see, that neither of the correspondents deserve mercy from me: and I am resolved to make the ending with one the beginning with the other.
If thou sayest that the provocations I have given to one of them will justify her freedoms; I answer, so they will, to any other person but myself. But he that is capable of giving those provocations, and has the power to punish those who abuse him for giving them, will show his resentment; and the more remorselessly, perhaps, as he has deserved the freedoms.
If thou sayest, it is, however, wrong to do so; I reply, that it is nevertheless human nature:—And wouldst thou not have me to be a man, Jack?
Here read the letter, if thou wilt. But thou art not my friend, if thou offerest to plead for either of the saucy creatures, after thou hast read it.
TO MRS. HARRIOT LUCAS,
AT MRS. MOORE'S, AT HAMPSTEAD. JUNE 10.
After the discoveries I had made of the villanous machinations of the most abandoned of men, particularized in my long letter of Wednesday* last, you will believe, my dearest friend, that my surprise upon perusing your's of Thursday evening from Hampstead** was not so great as my indignation. Had the villain attempted to fire a city instead of a house, I should not have wondered at it. All that I am amazed at is, that he (whose boast, as I am told, it is, that no woman shall keep him out of her bed-chamber, when he has made a resolution to be in it) did not discover his foot before. And it is as strange to me, that, having got you at such a shocking advantage, and in such a horrid house, you could, at the time, escape dishonour, and afterwards get from such a set of infernals.
* See Vol. V. Letter XX. ** Ibid. See Letter XXI.
I gave you, in my long letter of Wednesday and Thursday last, reasons why you ought to mistrust that specious Tomlinson. That man, my dear, must be a solemn villain. May lightning from Heaven blast the wretch, who has set him and the rest of his REMORSELESS GANG at work, to endeavour to destroy the most consummate virtue!—Heaven be praised! you have escaped from all their snares, and now are out of danger.—So I will not trouble you at present with the particulars I have further collected relating to this abominable imposture.
For the same reason, I forbear to communicate to you some new stories of the abhorred wretch himself which have come to my ears. One, in particular, of so shocking a nature!—Indeed, my dear, the man's a devil.
The whole story of Mrs. Fretchville, and her house, I have no doubt to pronounce, likewise, an absolute fiction.—Fellow!—How my soul spurns the villain!
Your thought of going abroad, and your reasons for so doing, most sensibly affect me. But be comforted, my dear; I hope you will not be under a necessity of quitting your native country. Were I sure that that must be the cruel case, I would abandon all my better prospects, and soon be with you. And I would accompany you whithersoever you went, and share fortunes with you: for it is impossible that I should be happy, if I knew that you were exposed not only to the perils of the sea, but to the attempts of other vile men; your personal graces attracting every eye; and exposing you to those hourly dangers, which others, less distinguished by the gifts of nature, might avoid.—All that I know that beauty (so greatly coveted, and so greatly admired) is good for.
O my dear, were I ever to marry, and to be the mother of a CLARISSA, [Clarissa must be the name, if promisingly lovely,] how often would my heart ache for the dear creature, as she grew up, when I reflected that a prudence and discretion, unexampled in woman, had not, in you, been a sufficient protection to that beauty, which had drawn after it as many admirers as beholders!—How little should I regret the attacks of that cruel distemper, as it is called, which frequently makes the greatest ravages in the finest faces!
I have just parted with Mrs. Townsend.* I thought you had once seen her with me; but she says she never had the honour to be personally known to you. She has a manlike spirit. She knows the world. And her two brothers being in town, she is sure she can engage them in so good a cause, and (if there should be occasion) both their ships' crews, in your service.
* For the account of Mrs. Townsend, &c. see Vol. IV. Letter XLII.
Give your consent, my dear; and the horrid villain shall be repaid with broken bones, at least, for all his vileness!
The misfortune is, Mrs. Townsend cannot be with you till Thursday next, or Wednesday, at soonest: Are you sure you can be safe where you are till then? I think you are too near London; and perhaps you had better be in it. If you remove, let me, the very moment, know whither.
How my heart is torn, to think of the necessity so dear a creature is driven to of hiding herself! Devilish fellow! He must have been sportive and wanton in his inventions—yet that cruel, that savage sportiveness has saved you from the sudden violence to which he has had recourse in the violation of others, of names and families not contemptible. For such the villain always gloried to spread his snares.
The vileness of this specious monster has done more, than any other consideration could do, to bring Mr. Hickman into credit with me. Mr. Hickman alone knows (from me) of your flight, and the reason of it. Had I not given him the reason, he might have thought still worse of the vile attempt. I communicated it to him by showing him your letter from Hampstead. When he had read it, [and he trembled and reddened, as he read,] he threw himself at my feet, and besought me to permit him to attend you, and to give you the protection of his house. The good-natured man had tears in his eyes, and was repeatedly earnest on this subject; proposing to take his chariot-and-four, or a set, and in person, in the face of all the world, give himself the glory of protecting such an oppressed innocent.
I could not but be pleased with him. And I let him know that I was. I hardly expected so much spirit from him. But a man's passiveness to a beloved object of our sex may not, perhaps, argue want of courage on proper occasions.
I thought I ought, in return, to have some consideration for his safety, as such an open step would draw upon him the vengeance of the most villanous enterpriser in the world, who has always a gang of fellows, such as himself, at his call, ready to support one another in the vilest outrages. But yet, as Mr. Hickman might have strengthened his hands by legal recourses, I should not have stood upon it, had I not known your delicacy, [since such a step must have made a great noise, and given occasion for scandal, as if some advantage had been gained over you,] and were there not the greatest probability that all might be more silently, and more effectually, managed, by Mrs. Townsend's means.
Mrs. Townsend will in person attend you—she hopes, on Wednesday—her brothers, and some of their people, will scatteringly, and as if they knew nothing of you, [so we have contrived,] see you safe not only to London, but to her house at Deptford.
She has a kinswoman, who will take your commands there, if she herself be obliged to leave you. And there you may stay, till the wretch's fury, on losing you, and his search, are over.
He will very soon, 'tis likely, enter upon some new villany, which may engross him: and it may be given out, that you are gone to lay claim to the protection of your cousin Morden at Florence.
Possibly, if he can be made to believe it, he will go over, in hopes to find you there.
After a while, I can procure you a lodging in one of our neighbouring villages, where I may have the happiness to be your daily visiter. And if this Hickman be not silly and apish, and if my mother do not do unaccountable things, I may the sooner think of marrying, that I may, without controul, receive and entertain the darling of my heart.
Many, very many, happy days do I hope we shall yet see together; and as this is my hope, I expect that it will be your consolation.
As to your estate, since you are resolved not to litigate for it, we will be patient, either till Colonel Morden arrives, or till shame compels some people to be just.
Upon the whole, I cannot but think your prospects now much happier than they could have been, had you been actually married to such a man as this. I must therefore congratulate you upon your escape, not only from a horrid libertine, but from so vile a husband, as he must have made to any woman; but more especially to a person of your virtue and delicacy.
You hate him, heartily hate him, I hope, my dear—I am sure you do. It would be strange, if so much purity of life and manners were not to abhor what is so repugnant to itself.
In your letter before me, you mention one written to me for a feint.* I have not received any such. Depend upon it, therefore, that he must have it. And if he has, it is a wonder that he did not likewise get my long one of the 7th. Heaven be praised that he did not; and that it came safe to your hands!
* See Vol. V. Letters XXI. and XXII.
I send this by a young fellow, whose father is one of our tenants, with command to deliver it to no other hands but your's. He is to return directly, if you give him any letter. If not, he will proceed to London upon his own pleasures. He is a simple fellow; but very honest. So you may say anything to him. If you write not by him, I desire a line or two, as soon as possible.
My mother knows nothing of his going to you; nor yet of your abandoning the fellow. Forgive me! But he is not entitled to good manners.
I shall long to hear how you and Mrs. Townsend order matters. I wish she could have been with you sooner. But I have lost no time in engaging her, as you will suppose. I refer to her, what I have further to say and advise. So shall conclude with my prayers, that Heaven will direct and protect my dearest creature, and make your future days happy!
And now, Jack, I will suppose that thou hast read this cursed letter. Allow me to make a few observations upon some of its contents.
It is strange to Miss Howe, that having got her friend at such a shocking advantage, &c. And it is strange to me, too. If ever I have such another opportunity given to me, the cause of both our wonder, I believe, will cease.
So thou seest Tomlinson is further detected.—No such person as Mrs. Fretchville.—May lightning from Heaven—O Lord, O Lord, O Lord!—What a horrid vixen is this!—My gang, my remorseless gang, too, is brought in— and thou wilt plead for these girls again; wilt thou? heaven be praised, she says, that her friend is out of danger—Miss Howe should be sure of that, and that she herself is safe.—But for this termagant, (as I often said,) I must surely have made a better hand of it.—
New stories of me, Jack!—What can they be?—I have not found that my generosity to my Rose-bud ever did me due credit with this pair of friends. Very hard, Belford, that credits cannot be set against debits, and a balance struck in a rake's favour, as well as in that of every common man!—But he, from whom no good is expected, is not allowed the merit of the good he does.
I ought to have been a little more attentive to character than I have been. For, notwithstanding that the measures of right and wrong are said to be so manifest, let me tell thee, that character biases and runs away with all mankind. Let a man or woman once establish themselves in the world's opinion, and all that either of them do will be sanctified. Nay, in the very courts of justice, does not character acquit or condemn as often as facts, and sometimes even in spite of facts?—Yet, [impolitic that I have been and am!] to be so careless of mine!—And now, I doubt, it is irretrievable.—But to leave moralizing.
Thou, Jack, knowest almost all my enterprises worth remembering. Can this particular story, which this girl hints at, be that of Lucy Villars? —Or can she have heard of my intrigue with the pretty gipsey, who met me in Norwood, and of the trap I caught her cruel husband in, [a fellow as gloomy and tyrannical as old Harlowe,] when he pursued a wife, who would not have deserved ill of him, if he had deserved well of her!—But he was not quite drowned. The man is alive at this day, and Miss Howe mentions the story as a very shocking one. Besides, both these are a twelve-month old, or more.
But evil fame and scandal are always new. When the offender has forgot a vile fact, it is often told to one and to another, who, having never heard of it before, trumpet it about as a novelty to others. But well said the honest corregidor at Madrid, [a saying with which I encroached Lord M.'s collection,]—Good actions are remembered but for a day: bad ones for many years after the life of the guilty. Such is the relish that the world has for scandal. In other words, such is the desire which every one has to exculpate himself by blackening his neighbour. You and I, Belford, have been very kind to the world, in furnishing it with opportunities to gratify its devil.
[Miss Howe will abandon her own better prospects, and share fortunes with her, were she to go abroad.]—Charming romancer!—I must set about this girl, Jack. I have always had hopes of a woman whose passions carry her to such altitudes.—Had I attacked Miss Howe first, her passions, (inflamed and guided as I could have managed them,) would have brought her into my lure in a fortnight.
But thinkest thou, [and yet I think thou dost,] that there is any thing in these high flights among the sex?—Verily, Jack, these vehement friendships are nothing but chaff and stubble, liable to be blown away by the very wind that raises them. Apes, mere apes of us! they think the word friendship has a pretty sound with it; and it is much talked of—a fashionable word. And so, truly, a single woman, who thinks she has a soul, and knows that she wants something, would be thought to have found a fellow-soul for it in her own sex. But I repeat, that the word is a mere word, the thing a mere name with them; a cork-bottomed shuttle-cock, which they are fond of striking to and fro, to make one another glow in the frosty weather of a single-state; but which, when a man comes in between the pretended inseparables, is given up, like their music and other maidenly amusements; which, nevertheless, may be necessary to keep the pretty rogues out of active mischief. They then, in short, having caught the fish, lay aside the net.*
* He alludes here to the story of a pope, who, (once a poor fisherman,) through every preferment he rose to, even to that of the cardinalate, hung up in view of all his guests his net, as a token of humility. But, when he arrived at the pontificate, he took it down, saying, that there was no need of the net, when he had caught the fish.
Thou hast a mind, perhaps, to make an exception for these two ladies.— With all my heart. My Clarissa has, if woman has, a soul capable of friendship. Her flame is bright and steady. But Miss Howe's, were it not kept up by her mother's opposition, is too vehement to endure. How often have I known opposition not only cement friendship, but create love? I doubt not but poor Hickman would fare the better with this vixen, if her mother were as heartily against him, as she is for him.
Thus much, indeed, as to these two ladies, I will grant thee, that the active spirit of the one, and the meek disposition of the other, may make their friendship more durable than it would otherwise be; for this is certain, that in every friendship, whether male or female, there must be a man and a woman spirit, (that is to say, one of them must be a forbearing one,) to make it permanent.
But this I pronounce, as a truth, which all experience confirms, that friendship between women never holds to the sacrifice of capital gratifications, or to the endangering of life, limb, or estate, as it often does in our nobler sex.
Well, but next comes an indictment against poor beauty! What has beauty done that Miss Howe should be offended at it?—Miss Howe, Jack, is a charming girl. She has no reason to quarrel with beauty!—Didst ever see her?—Too much fire and spirit in her eye, indeed, for a girl!—But that's no fault with a man that can lower that fire and spirit at pleasure; and I know I am the man that can.
For my own part, when I was first introduced to this lady, which was by my goddess when she herself was a visiter at Mrs. Howe's, I had not been half an hour with her, but I even hungered and thirsted after a romping 'bout with the lively rogue; and, in the second or third visit, was more deterred by the delicacy of her friend, than by what I apprehended from her own. This charming creature's presence, thought I, awes us both. And I wished her absence, though any other woman were present, that I might try the differences in Miss Howe's behaviour before her friend's face, or behind her back.
Delicate women make delicate women, as well as decent men. With all Miss Howe's fire and spirit, it was easy to see, by her very eye, that she watched for lessons and feared reproof from the penetrating eye of her milder dispositioned friend;* and yet it was as easy to observe, in the candour and sweet manners of the other, that the fear which Miss Howe stood in of her, was more owing to her own generous apprehension that she fell short of her excellencies, than to Miss Harlowe's consciousness of excellence over her. I have often since I came at Miss Howe's letters, revolved this just and fine praise contained in one of them:** 'Every one saw that the preference they gave you to themselves exalted you not into any visible triumph over them; for you had always something to say, on every point you carried, that raised the yielding heart, and left every one pleased and satisfied with themselves, though they carried not off the palm.'
* Miss Howe, in Vol. III. Letter XIX. says, That she was always more afraid of Clarissa than of her mother; and, in Vol. III. Letter XLIV. That she fears her almost as much as she loves her; and in many other places, in her letters, verifies this observation of Lovelace. ** See Vol. IV. Letter XXXI.
As I propose, in a more advanced life, to endeavour to atone for my useful freedoms with individuals of the sex, by giving cautions and instructions to the whole, I have made a memorandum to enlarge upon this doctrine;—to wit, that it is full as necessary to direct daughters in the choice of their female companions, as it is to guard them against the designs of men.
I say not this, however, to the disparagement of Miss Howe. She has from pride, what her friend has from principle. [The Lord help the sex, if they had not pride!] But yet I am confident, that Miss Howe is indebted to the conversation and correspondence of Miss Harlowe for her highest improvements. But, both these ladies out of the question, I make no scruple to aver, [and I, Jack, should know something of the matter,] that there have been more girls ruined, at least prepared for ruin, by their own sex, (taking in servants, as well as companions,) than directly by the attempts and delusions of men.
But it is time enough when I am old and joyless, to enlarge upon this topic.
As to the comparison between the two ladies, I will expatiate more on that subject, (for I like it,) when I have had them both. Which this letter of the vixen girl's, I hope thou wilt allow, warrants me to try for.
I return to the consideration of a few more of its contents, to justify my vengeances so nearly now in view.
As to Mrs. Townsend,—her manlike spirit—her two brothers—and the ships' crews—I say nothing but this to the insolent threatening—Let 'em come!—But as to her sordid menace—To repay the horrid villain, as she calls me, for all my vileness by BROKEN BONES!—Broken bones, Belford!— Who can bear this porterly threatening!—Broken bones, Jack!—D—n the little vulgar!—Give me a name for her—but I banish all furious resentment. If I get these two girls into my power, Heaven forbid that I should be a second Phalaris, who turned his bull upon the artist!—No bones of their's will I break—They shall come off with me upon much lighter terms!—
But these fellows are smugglers, it seems. And am not I a smuggler too? —I am—and have not the least doubt but I shall have secured my goods before Thursday, or Wednesday either.
But did I want a plot, what a charming new one does this letter of Miss Howe strike me out! I am almost sorry, that I have fixed upon one.—For here, how easy would it be for me to assemble a crew of swabbers, and to create a Mrs. Townsend (whose person, thou seest, my beloved knows not) to come on Tuesday, at Miss Howe's repeated solicitations, in order to carry my beloved to a warehouse of my own providing?
This, however, is my triumphant hope, that at the very time that these ragamuffins will be at Hampstead (looking for us) my dear Miss Harlowe and I [so the Fates I imagine have ordained] shall be fast asleep in each other's arms in town.—Lie still, villain, till the time comes.— My heart, Jack! my heart!—It is always thumping away on the remotest prospects of this nature.
But it seems that the vileness of this specious monster [meaning me, Jack!] has brought Hickman into credit with her. So I have done some good! But to whom I cannot tell: for this poor fellow, should I permit him to have this termagant, will be punished, as many times we all are, by the enjoyment of his own wishes—nor can she be happy, as I take it, with him, were he to govern himself by her will, and have none of his own; since never was there a directing wife who knew where to stop: power makes such a one wanton—she despises the man she can govern. Like Alexander, who wept, that he had no more worlds to conquer, she will be looking out for new exercises for her power, till she grow uneasy to herself, a discredit to her husband, and a plague to all about her.
But this honest fellow, it seems, with tears in his eyes, and with humble prostration, besought the vixen to permit him to set out in his chariot-and-four, in order to give himself the glory of protecting such an oppressed innocent, in the face of the whole world. Nay, he reddened, it seems: and trembled too! as he read the fair complainant's letter.—How valiant is all this!—Women love brave men; and no wonder that his tears, his trembling, and his prostration, gave him high reputation with the meek Miss Howe.
But dost think, Jack, that I in the like case (and equally affected with the distress) should have acted thus? Dost think, that I should not first have rescued the lady, and then, if needful, have asked excuse for it, the lady in my hand?—Wouldst not thou have done thus, as well as I?
But, 'tis best as it is. Honest Hickman may now sleep in a whole skin. And yet that is more perhaps than he would have done (the lady's deliverance unattempted) had I come at this requested permission of his any other way than by a letter that it must not be known that I have intercepted.
Miss Howe thinks I may be diverted from pursuing my charmer, by some new-started villany. Villany is a word that she is extremely fond of. But I can tell her, that it is impossible I should, till the end of this villany be obtained. Difficulty is a stimulus with such a spirit as mine. I thought Miss Howe knew me better. Were she to offer herself, person for person, in the romancing zeal of her friendship, to save her friend, it should not do, while the dear creature is on this side the moon.
She thanks Heaven, that her friend has received her letter of the 7th. We are all glad of it. She ought to thank me too. But I will not at present claim her thanks.
But when she rejoices that the letter went safe, does she not, in effect, call out for vengeance, and expect it!—All in good time, Miss Howe. When settest thou out for the Isle of Wight, love?
I will close at this time with desiring thee to make a list of the virulent terms with which the enclosed letter abounds: and then, if thou supposest that I have made such another, and have added to it all the flowers of the same blow, in the former letters of the same saucy creature, and those in that of Miss Harlowe, which she left for me on her elopement, thou wilt certainly think, that I have provocations sufficient to justify me in all that I shall do to either.
Return the enclosed the moment thou hast perused it.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. SUNDAY NIGHT—MONDAY MORNING.
I went down with revenge in my heart, the contents of Miss Howe's letter almost engrossing me, the moment that Miss Harlowe and Mrs. Moore (accompanied by Miss Rawlins) came in: but in my countenance all the gentle, the placid, the serene, that the glass could teach; and in my behaviour all the polite, that such an unpolite creature, as she has often told me I am, could put on.
Miss Rawlins was sent for home almost as soon as she came in, to entertain an unexpected visiter; to her great regret, as well as to the disappointment of my fair-one, as I could perceive from the looks of both: for they had agreed, it seems, if I went to town, as I said I intended to do, to take a walk upon the Heath, at least in Mrs. Moore's garden; and who knows, what might have been the issue, had the spirit of curiosity in the one met with the spirit of communication in the other?
Miss Rawlins promised to return, if possible: but sent to excuse herself: her visiter intending to stay with her all night.
I rejoiced in my heart at her message; and, after much supplication, obtained the favour of my beloved's company for another walk in the garden, having, as I told her, abundance of things to say, to propose, and to be informed of, in order ultimately to govern myself in my future steps.
She had vouchsafed, I should have told thee, with eyes turned from me, and in a half-aside attitude, to sip two dishes of tea in my company— Dear soul!—How anger unpolishes the most polite! for I never saw Miss Harlowe behave so awkwardly. I imagined she knew not how to be awkward.
When we were in the garden, I poured my whole soul into her attentive ear; and besought her returning favour.
She told me, that she had formed her scheme for her future life: that, vile as the treatment was which she had received from me, that was not all the reason she had for rejecting my suit: but that, on the maturest deliberation, she was convinced that she could neither be happy with me, nor make me happy; and she injoined me, for both our sakes, to think no more of her.
The Captain, I told her, was rid down post, in a manner, to forward my wishes with her uncle.—Lady Betty and Miss Montague were undoubtedly arrived in town by this time. I would set out early in the morning to attend them. They adored her. They longed to see her. They would see her.—They would not be denied her company in Oxfordshire. Whither could she better go, to be free from her brother's insults?—Whither, to be absolutely made unapprehensive of any body else?—Might I have any hopes of her returning favour, if Miss Howe could be prevailed upon to intercede for me?
Miss Howe prevailed upon to intercede for you! repeated she, with a scornful bridle, but a very pretty one.—And there she stopt.
I repeated the concern it would be to me to be under a necessity of mentioning the misunderstanding to Lady Betty and my cousin, as a misunderstanding still to be made up; and as if I were of very little consequence to a dear creature who was of so much to me; urging, that these circumstances would extremely lower me not only in my own opinion, but in that of my relations.
But still she referred to Miss Howe's next letter; and all the concession I could bring her to in this whole conference, was, that she would wait the arrival and visit of the two ladies, if they came in a day or two, or before she received the expected letter from Miss Howe.
Thank Heaven for this! thought I. And now may I go to town with hopes at my return to find thee, dearest, where I shall leave thee.
But yet, as she may find reasons to change her mind in my absence, I shall not entirely trust to this. My fellow, therefore, who is in the house, and who, by Mrs. Bevis's kind intelligence, will know every step she can take, shall have Andrew and a horse ready, to give me immediate notice of her motions; and moreover, go whither she will, he shall be one of her retinue, though unknown to herself, if possible.
This was all I could make of the fair inexorable. Should I be glad of it, or sorry for it?—
Glad I believe: and yet my pride is confoundedly abated, to think that I had so little hold in the affections of this daughter of the Harlowes.
Don't tell me that virtue and principle are her guides on this occasion! —'Tis pride, a greater pride than my own, that governs her. Love, she has none, thou seest; nor ever had; at least not in a superior degree. Love, that deserves the name, never was under the dominion of prudence, or of any reasoning power. She cannot bear to be thought a woman, I warrant! And if, in the last attempt, I find her not one, what will she be the worse for the trial?—No one is to blame for suffering an evil he cannot shun or avoid.
Were a general to be overpowered, and robbed by a highwayman, would he be less fit for the command of an army on that account?—If indeed the general, pretending great valour, and having boasted that he never would be robbed, were to make but faint resistance when he was brought to the test, and to yield his purse when he was master of his own sword, then indeed will the highwayman who robs him be thought the braver man.
But from these last conferences am I furnished with one argument in defence of my favourite purpose, which I never yet pleaded.
O Jack! what a difficulty must a man be allowed to have to conquer a predominant passion, be it what it will, when the gratifying of it is in his power, however wrong he knows it to be to resolve to gratify it! Reflect upon this; and then wilt thou be able to account for, if not to excuse, a projected crime, which has habit to plead for it, in a breast as stormy as uncontroulable!
This that follows is my new argument—
Should she fail in the trial; should I succeed; and should she refuse to go on with me; and even resolve not to marry me (of which I can have no notion); and should she disdain to be obliged to me for the handsome provision I should be proud to make for her, even to the half of my estate; yet cannot she be altogether unhappy—Is she not entitled to an independent fortune? Will not Col. Morden, as her trustee, put her in possession of it? And did she not in our former conference point out the way of life, that she always preferred to the married life—to wit, 'To take her good Norton for her directress and guide, and to live upon her own estate in the manner her grandfather desired she should live?'*
* See Letter III. of this volume.
It is moreover to be considered that she cannot, according to her own notions, recover above one half of her fame, were we not to intermarry; so much does she think she has suffered by her going off with me. And will she not be always repining and mourning for the loss of the other half?—And if she must live a life of such uneasiness and regret for half, may she not as well repine and mourn for the whole?