Then did she pour upon me, with greater violence; considering my gentleness as a triumph of temper over her. She was resolved, she said, to let every body know how I took the wicked Lovelace's part against my brother.
I wished, I told her, I could make the plea for myself, which she might for herself; to wit, that my anger was more inexcusable than my judgment. But I presumed she had some other view in coming to me, than she had hitherto acquainted me with. Let me, said I, but know (after all that has passed) if you have any thing to propose that I can comply with; any thing that can make my only sister once more my friend?
I had before, upon hearing her ridiculing me on my supposed character of meekness, said, that, although I wished to be thought meek, I would not be abject; although humble not mean: and here, in a sneering way, she cautioned me on that head.
I replied, that her pleasantry was much more agreeable than her anger. But I wished she would let me know the end of a visit that had hitherto (between us) been so unsisterly.
She desired to be informed, in the name of every body, was her word, what I was determined upon? And whether to comply or not?—One word for all: My friends were not to have patience with so perverse a creature for ever.
This then I told her I would do: Absolutely break with the man they were all so determined against: upon condition, however, that neither Mr. Solmes, nor any other, were urged upon me with the force of a command.
And what was this, more than I had offered before? What, but ringing my changes upon the same bells, and neither receding nor advancing one tittle?
If I knew what other proposals I could make, I told her, that would be acceptable to them all, and free me from the address of a man so disagreeable to me, I would make them. I had indeed before offered, never to marry without my father's consent—
She interrupted me, That was because I depended upon my whining tricks to bring my father and mother to what I pleased.
A poor dependence! I said:—She knew those who would make that dependence vain—
And I should have brought them to my own beck, very probably, and my uncle Harlowe too, as also my aunt Hervey, had I not been forbidden from their sight, and thereby hindered from playing my pug's tricks before them.
At least, Bella, said I, you have hinted to me to whom I am obliged, that my father and mother, and every body else, treat me thus harshly. But surely you make them all very weak. Indifferent persons, judging of us two from what you say, would either think me a very artful creature, or you a very spiteful one—
You are indeed a very artful one, for that matter, interrupted she in a passion: one of the artfullest I ever knew! And then followed an accusation so low! so unsisterly!—That I half-bewitched people by my insinuating address: that nobody could be valued or respected, but must stand like ciphers wherever I came. How often, said she, have I and my brother been talking upon a subject, and had every body's attention, till you came in, with your bewitching meek pride, and humble significance? And then have we either been stopped by references to Miss Clary's opinion, forsooth; or been forced to stop ourselves, or must have talked on unattended to by every body.
She paused. Dear Bella, proceed!
She indeed seemed only gathering breath.
And so I will, said she—Did you not bewitch my grandfather? Could any thing be pleasing to him, that you did not say or do? How did he use to hang, till he slabbered again, poor doting old man! on your silver tongue! Yet what did you say, that we could not have said? What did you do, that we did not endeavour to do?—And what was all this for? Why, truly, his last will shewed what effect your smooth obligingness had upon him!—To leave the acquired part of his estate from the next heirs, his own sons, to a grandchild; to his youngest grandchild! A daughter too!—To leave the family-pictures from his sons to you, because you could tiddle about them, and, though you now neglect their examples, could wipe and clean them with your dainty hands! The family-plate too, in such quantities, of two or three generations standing, must not be changed, because his precious child,* humouring his old fal-lal taste, admired it, to make it all her own.
* Alluding to his words in the preamble to the clauses in his will. See Letter IV.
This was too low to move me: O my poor sister! said I: not to be able, or at least willing, to distinguish between art and nature! If I did oblige, I was happy in it: I looked for no further reward: my mind is above art, from the dirty motives you mention. I wish with all my heart my grandfather had not thus distinguished me; he saw my brother likely to be amply provided for out of the family, as well as in it: he desired that you might have the greater share of my father's favour for it; and no doubt but you both have. You know, Bella, that the estate my grandfather bequeathed me was not half the real estate he left.
What's all that to an estate in possession, and left you with such distinctions, as gave you a reputation of greater value than the estate itself?
Hence my misfortune, Bella, in your envy, I doubt!—But have I not given up that possession in the best manner I could—
Yes, interrupting me, she hated me for that best manner. Specious little witch! she called me: your best manner, so full of art and design, had never been seen through, if you, with your blandishing ways, have not been put out of sight, and reduced to positive declarations!—Hindered from playing your little declarations!—Hindered from playing your little whining tricks! curling, like a serpent about your mamma; and making her cry to deny you any thing your little obstinate heart was set upon—!
Obstinate heart, Bella!
Yes, obstinate heart! For did you ever give up any thing? Had you not the art to make them think all was right you asked, though my brother and I were frequently refused favours of no greater import!
I know not, Bella, that I ever asked any thing unfit to be granted. I seldom asked favours for myself, but for others.
I was a reflecting creature for this.
All you speak of, Bella, was a long time ago. I cannot go so far back into our childish follies. Little did I think of how long standing your late-shewn antipathy is.
I was a reflector again! Such a saucy meekness; such a best manner; and such venom in words!—O Clary! Clary! Thou wert always a two-faced girl!
Nobody thought I had two faces, when I gave up all into my father's management; taking from his bounty, as before, all my little pocket-money, without a shilling addition to my stipend, or desiring it—
Yes, cunning creature!—And that was another of your fetches!—For did it not engage my fond father (as no doubt you thought it would) to tell you, that since you had done so grateful and dutiful a thing, he would keep entire, for your use, all the produce of the estate left you, and be but your steward in it; and that you should be entitled to the same allowances as before? Another of your hook-in's, Clary!—So that all your extravagancies have been supported gratis.
My extravagancies, Bella!—But did my father ever give me any thing he did not give you?
Yes, indeed; I got more by that means, than I should have had the conscience to ask. But I have still the greater part to shew! But you! What have you to shew?—I dare say, not fifty pieces in the world!
Indeed I have not!
I believe you!—Your mamma Norton, I suppose—But mum for that—!
Unworthy Bella! The good woman, although low in circumstance, is great in mind! Much greater than those who would impute meanness to a soul incapable of it.
What then have you done with the sums given you from infancy to squander?—Let me ask you [affecting archness], Has, has, has Lovelace, has your rake, put it out at interest for you?
O that my sister would not make me blush for her! It is, however, out at interest!—And I hope it will bring me interest upon interest!—Better than to lie useless in my cabinet.
She understood me, she said. Were I a man, she should suppose I was aiming to carry the county—Popularity! A crowd to follow me with their blessings as I went to and from church, and nobody else to be regarded, were agreeable things. House-top-proclamations! I hid not my light under a bushel, she would say that for me. But was it not a little hard upon me, to be kept from blazing on a Sunday?—And to be hindered from my charitable ostentations?
This, indeed, Bella, is cruel in you, who have so largely contributed to my confinement.—But go on. You'll be out of breath by-and-by. I cannot wish to be able to return this usage.—Poor Bella! And I believe I smiled a little too contemptuously for a sister to a sister.
None of your saucy contempts [rising in her voice]: None of your poor Bella's, with that air of superiority in a younger sister!
Well then, rich Bella! courtesying—that will please you better—and it is due likewise to the hoards you boast of.
Look ye, Clary, holding up her hand, if you are not a little more abject in your meekness, a little more mean in your humility, and treat me with the respect due to an elder sister—you shall find—
Not that you will treat me worse than you have done, Bella!—That cannot be; unless you were to let fall your uplifted hand upon me—and that would less become you to do, than me to bear.
Good, meek creature:—But you were upon your overtures just now!—I shall surprise every body by tarrying so long. They will think some good may be done with you—and supper will be ready.
A tear would stray down my cheek—How happy have I been, said I, sighing, in the supper-time conversations, with all my dear friends in my eye round their hospitable board.
I met only with insult for this—Bella has not a feeling heart. The highest joy in this life she is not capable of: but then she saves herself many griefs, by her impenetrableness—yet, for ten times the pain that such a sensibility is attended with, would I not part with the pleasure it brings with it.
She asked me, upon my turning from her, if she should not say any thing below of my compliances?
You may say, that I will do every thing they would have me do, if they will free me from Mr. Solmes's address.
This is all you desire at present, creeper on! insinuator! [What words she has!] But will not t'other man flame out, and roar most horribly, upon the snatching from his paws a prey he thought himself sure of?
I must let you talk in your own way, or we shall never come to a point. I shall not matter in his roaring, as you call it. I will promise him, that, if I ever marry any other man, it shall not be till he is married. And if he be not satisfied with such a condescension, I shall think he ought: and I will give any assurances, that I will neither correspond with him, nor see him. Surely this will do.
But I suppose then you will have no objection to see and converse, on a civil footing, with Mr. Solmes—as your father's friend, or so?
No! I must be permitted to retire to my apartment whenever he comes. I would no more converse with the one, than correspond with the other. That would be to make Mr. Lovelace guilty of some rashness, on a belief, that I broke with him, to have Mr. Solmes.
And so, that wicked wretch is to be allowed such a controul over you, that you are not to be civil to your father's friends, at his own house, for fear of incensing him!—When this comes to be represented, be so good as to tell me, what is it you expect from it!
Every thing, I said, or nothing, as she was pleased to represent it.—Be so good as to give it your interest, Bella, and say, further, 'That I will by any means I can, in the law or otherwise, make over to my father, to my uncles, or even to my brother, all I am entitled to by my grandfather's will, as a security for the performance of my promises. And as I shall have no reason to expect any favour from my father, if I break them, I shall not be worth any body's having. And further still, unkindly as my brother has used me, I will go down to Scotland privately, as his housekeeper [I now see I may be spared here] if he will promise to treat me no worse than he would do an hired one.—Or I will go to Florence, to my cousin Morden, if his stay in Italy will admit of it. In either case, it may be given out, that I am gone to the other; or to the world's end. I care not whither it is said I am gone, or do go.'
Let me ask you, child, if you will give your pretty proposal in writing?
Yes, with all my heart. And I stepped to my closet, and wrote to the purpose I have mentioned; and moreover, the following lines to my brother.
MY DEAR BROTHER,
I hope I have made such proposals to my sister as will be accepted. I am sure they will, if you please to give them your sanction. Let me beg of you, for God's sake, that you will. I think myself very unhappy in having incurred your displeasure. No sister can love a brother better than I love you. Pray do not put the worst but the best constructions upon my proposals, when you have them reported to you. Indeed I mean the best. I have no subterfuges, no arts, no intentions, but to keep to the letter of them. You shall yourself draw up every thing into writing, as strong as you can, and I will sign it: and what the law will not do to enforce it, my resolution and my will shall: so that I shall be worth nobody's address, that has not my papa's consent: nor shall any person, nor any consideration, induce me to revoke it. You can do more than any body to reconcile my parents and uncles to me. Let me owe this desirable favour to your brotherly interposition, and you will for ever oblige
Your afflicted Sister, CL. HARLOWE.
And how do you think Bella employed herself while I was writing?—Why, playing gently upon my harpsichord; and humming to it, to shew her unconcernedness.
When I approached her with what I had written, she arose with an air of levity—Why, love, you have not written already!—You have, I protest!—O what a ready penwoman!—And may I read it?
If you please. And let me beseech you, my dear Bella, to back these proposals with your good offices: and [folding my uplifted hands; tears, I believe, standing in my eyes] I will love you as never sister loved another.
Thou art a strange creature, said she; there is no withstanding thee.
She took the proposals and letter; and having read them, burst into an affected laugh: How wise ones may be taken in!—Then you did not know, that I was jesting with you all this time!—And so you would have me carry down this pretty piece of nonsense?
Don't let me be surprised at your seeming unsisterliness, Bella. I hope it is but seeming. There can be no wit in such jesting as this.
The folly of the creature!—How natural is it for people, when they set their hearts upon any thing, to think every body must see with their eyes!—Pray, dear child, what becomes of your father's authority here?—Who stoops here, the parent, or the child?—How does this square with engagements actually agreed upon between your father and Mr. Solmes? What security, that your rake will not follow you to the world's end?—Nevertheless, that you may not think that I stand in the way of a reconciliation on such fine terms as these, I will be your messenger this once, and hear what my papa will say to it; although beforehand I can tell you, these proposals will not answer the principal end.
So down she went. But, it seems, my aunt Hervey and my uncle Harlowe were not gone away: and as they have all engaged to act in concert, messengers were dispatched to my uncle and aunt to desire them to be there to breakfast in the morning.
MONDAY NIGHT, ELEVEN O'CLOCK.
I am afraid I shall not be thought worthy—
Just as I began to fear I should not be thought worthy of an answer, Betty rapped at my door, and said, if I were not in bed, she had a letter for me. I had but just done writing the above dialogue, and stept to the door with the pen in my hand—Always writing, Miss! said the bold wench: it is admirable how you can get away what you write—but the fairies, they say, are always at hand to help lovers.—She retired in so much haste, that, had I been disposed, I could not take the notice of this insolence which it deserved.
I enclose my brother's letter. He was resolved to let me see, that I should have nothing to expect from his kindness. But surely he will not be permitted to carry every point. The assembling of my friends to-morrow is a good sign: and I will hope something from that, and from proposals so reasonable. And now I will try if any repose will fall to my lot for the remainder of this night.
TO MISS CLARY HARLOWE [ENCLOSED IN THE PRECEDING.]
Your proposals will be considered by your father and mother, and all your friends, to-morrow morning. What trouble does your shameful forwardness give us all! I wonder you have the courage to write to me, upon whom you are so continually emptying your whole female quiver. I have no patience with you, for reflecting upon me as the aggressor in a quarrel which owed its beginning to my consideration for you.
You have made such confessions in a villain's favour, as ought to cause all your relations to renounce you for ever. For my part, I will not believe any woman in the world, who promises against her avowed inclination. To put it out of your power to ruin yourself is the only way left to prevent your ruin. I did not intend to write; but your too-kind sister has prevailed upon me. As to your going to Scotland, that day of grace is over.—Nor would I advise, that you should go to grandfather-up your cousin Morden. Besides, that worthy gentleman might be involved in some fatal dispute, upon your account; and then be called the aggressor.
A fine situation you have brought yourself to, to propose to hide yourself from your rake, and to have falsehoods told, to conceal you!—Your confinement, at this rate, is the happiest thing that could befal you. Your bravo's behaviour at church, looking out for you, is a sufficient indication of his power over you, had you not so shamelessly acknowledged it.
One word for all—Your parents and uncles may do as they will: but if, for the honour of the family, I cannot carry this point, I will retire to Scotland, and never see the face of any one of it more.
There's a brother!—There's flaming duty to a father, and mother, and uncles!—But he sees himself valued, and made of consequence; and he gives himself airs accordingly!—Nevertheless, as I said above, I will hope better things from those who have not the interest my brother has to keep open these unhappy differences.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE TUESDAY, MARCH 21.
Would you not have thought, my dear Miss Howe, as well as I, that my proposal must have been accepted: and that my brother, by the last article of his unbrotherly letter (where he threatens to go to Scotland if it should be hearkened to) was of opinion that it would.
For my part, after I had read the unkind letter over and over, I concluded, upon the whole, that a reconciliation upon terms so disadvantageous to myself, as hardly any other person in my case, I dare say, would have proposed, must be the result of this morning's conference. And in that belief I had begun to give myself new trouble in thinking (this difficulty over) how I should be able to pacify Lovelace on that part of my engagement, by which I undertook to break off all correspondence with him, unless my friends should be brought, by the interposition of his powerful friends, and any offers they might make, (which it was rather his part to suggest, than mine to intimate,) to change their minds.
Thus was I employed, not very agreeably, you may believe, because of the vehemence of the tempers I had to conflict with; when breakfasting-time approached, and my judges began to arrive.
And oh! how my heart fluttered on hearing the chariot of the one, and then of the other, rattle through the court-yard, and the hollow-sounding foot-step giving notice of each person's stepping out, to take his place on the awful bench which my fancy had formed for them and my other judges!
That, thought I, is my aunt Hervey's! That my uncle Harlowe's! Now comes my uncle Antony! And my imagination made a fourth chariot for the odious Solmes, although it happened he was not there.
And now, thought I, are they all assembled: and now my brother calls upon my sister to make her report! Now the hard-hearted Bella interlards her speech with invective! Now has she concluded her report! Now they debate upon it!—Now does my brother flame! Now threaten to go to Scotland! Now is he chidden, and now soothed!
And then I ran through the whole conference in my imagination, forming speeches for this person and that, pro and con, till all concluded, as I flattered myself, in an acceptance of my conditions, and in giving directions to have an instrument drawn to tie me up to my good behaviour; while I supposed all agreed to give Solmes a wife every way more worthy of him, and with her the promise of my grandfather's estate, in case of my forfeiture, or dying unmarried, on the righteous condition he proposes to entitle himself to it with me.
And now, thought I, am I to be ordered down to recognize my own proposals. And how shall I look upon my awful judges? How shall I stand the questions of some, the set surliness of others, the returning love of one or two? How greatly shall I be affected!
Then I wept: then I dried my eyes: then I practised at my glass for a look more cheerful than my heart.
And now [as any thing stirred] is my sister coming to declare the issue of all! Tears gushing again, my heart fluttering as a bird against its wires; drying my eyes again and again to no purpose.
And thus, my Nancy, [excuse the fanciful prolixity,] was I employed, and such were my thoughts and imaginations, when I found a very different result from the hopeful conference.
For about ten o'clock up came my sister, with an air of cruel triumph, waving her hand with a light flourish—
Obedience without reserve is required of you, Clary. My papa is justly incensed, that you should presume to dispute his will, and to make conditions with him. He knows what is best for you: and as you own matters are gone a great way between this hated Lovelace and you, they will believe nothing you say; except you will give the one only instance, that will put them out of doubt of the sincerity of your promises.
What, child, are you surprised?—Cannot you speak?—Then, it seems, you had expected a different issue, had you?—Strange that you could!—With all your acknowledgements and confessions, so creditable to your noted prudence—!
I was indeed speechless for some time: my eyes were even fixed, and ceased to flow. But upon the hard-hearted Bella's proceeding with her airs of insult, Indeed I was mistaken, said I; indeed I was!——For in you, Bella, I expected, I hoped for, a sister—
What! interrupted she, with all your mannerly flings, and your despising airs, did you expect that I was capable of telling stories for you?—Did you think, that when I was asked my own opinion of the sincerity of your declarations, I could not tell tem, how far matters had gone between you and your fellow?—When the intention is to bend that stubborn will of yours to your duty, do you think I would deceive them?—Do you think I would encourage them to call you down, to contradict all that I should have invented in your favour?
Well, well, Bella; I am the less obliged to you; that's all. I was willing to think that I had still a brother and sister. But I find I am mistaken.
Pretty mopsy-eyed soul!—was her expression!—And was it willing to think it had still a brother and sister? And why don't you go on, Clary? [mocking my half-weeping accent] I thought I had a father, and mother, two uncles, and an aunt: but I am mis—taken, that's all—come, Clary, say this, and it will in part be true, because you have thrown off all their authority, and because you respect one vile wretch more than them all.
How have I deserved this at your hands, Sister?—But I will only say, I pity you.
And with that disdainful air too, Clary!—None of that bridled neck! none of your scornful pity, girl!—I beseech you!
This sort of behaviour is natural to you, surely, Bella!—What new talents does it discover in you!—But proceed—If it be a pleasure to you, proceed, Bella. And since I must not pity you, I will pity myself: for nobody else will.
Because you don't, said she—
Hush, Bella, interrupting her, because I don't deserve it—I know you were going to say so. I will say as you say in every thing; and that's the way to please you.
Then say, Lovelace is a villain.
So I will, when I think him so.
Then you don't think him so?
Indeed I don't. You did not always, Bella.
And what, Clary, mean you by that? [bristling up to me]—Tell me what you mean by that reflection?
Tell me why you call it a reflection?—What did I say?
Thou art a provoking creature—But what say you to two or three duels of that wretch's?
I can't tell what to say, unless I knew the occasions.
Do you justify duelling at all?
I do not: neither can I help his duelling.
Will you go down, and humble that stubborn spirit of yours to your mamma?
I said nothing.
Shall I conduct your Ladyship down? [offering to take my declined hand].
What! not vouchsafe to answer me?
I turned from her in silence.
What! turn your back upon me too!—Shall I bring up your mamma to you, love? [following me, and taking my struggling hand] What? not speak yet! Come, my sullen, silent dear, speak one word to me—you must say two very soon to Mr. Solmes, I can tell you that.
Then [gushing into tears, which I could not hold in longer] they shall be the last words I will ever speak.
Well, well, [insultingly wiping my averted face with her handkerchief, while her other hand held mine, in a ridiculing tone,] I am glad any thing will make thee speak: then you think you may be brought to speak the two words—only they are to be the last!—How like a gentle lovyer from its tender bleeding heart was that!
Saucy Clary! [changing her sneering tone to an imperious one] But do you think you can humble yourself to go down to your mamma?
I am tired of such stuff as this. Tell me, Bella, if my mamma will condescend to see me?
Yes, if you can be dutiful at last.
I can. I will.
But what call you dutiful?
To give up my own inclinations—That's something more for you to tell of—in obedience to my parents' commands; and to beg that I may not be made miserable with a man that is fitter for any body than for me.
For me, do you mean, Clary?
Why not? since you have put the question. You have a better opinion of him than I have. My friends, I hope, would not think him too good for me, and not good enough for you. But cannot you tell me, Bella, what is to become of me, without insulting over me thus?—If I must be thus treated, remember, that if I am guilty of any rashness, the usage I meet with will justify it.
So, Clary, you are contriving an excuse, I find, for somewhat that we have not doubted has been in your head a great while.
If it were so, you seem resolved, for your part, and so does my brother for his, that I shall not want one.—But indeed, Bella, I can bear no longer this repetition of the worst part of yesterday's conversation: I desire I may throw myself at my father's and mother's feet, and hear from them what their sentence is. I shall at least avoid, by that means, the unsisterly insults I meet with from you.
Hey-day! What, is this you? Is it you, my meek sister Clary?
Yes, it is I, Bella; and I will claim the protection due to a child of the family, or to know why I am to be thus treated, when I offer only to preserve to myself the liberty of refusal, which belongs to my sex; and, to please my parents, would give up my choice. I have contented myself till now to take second-hand messengers, and first-hand insults: you are but my sister: my brother is not my sovereign. And while I have a father and mother living, I will not be thus treated by a brother and sister, and their servants, all setting upon me, as it should seem, to make me desperate, and do a rash thing.—I will know, in short, sister Bella, why I am to be constrained thus?—What is intended by it?—And whether I am to be considered as a child or a slave?
She stood aghast all this time, partly with real, partly with affected, surprise.
And is it you? Is it indeed you?—Well, Clary, you amaze me! But since you are so desirous to refer yourself to your father and mother, I will go down, and tell them what you say. Your friends are not yet gone, I believe: they shall assemble again; and then you may come down, and plead your own cause in person.
Let me then. But let my brother and you be absent. You have made yourselves too much parties against me, to sit as my judges. And I desire to have none of yours or his interpositions. I am sure you could not have represented what I proposed fairly: I am sure you could not. Nor is it possible you should be commissioned to treat me thus.
Well, well, I'll call up my brother to you.—I will indeed.—He shall justify himself, as well as me.
I desire not to see my brother, except he will come as a brother, laying aside the authority he has unjustly assumed over me.
And so, Clary, it is nothing to him, or to me, is it, that our sister shall disgrace her whole family?
As how, Bella, disgrace it?—The man whom you thus freely treat, is a man of birth and fortune: he is a man of parts, and nobly allied.—He was once thought worthy of you: and I wish to Heaven you had had him. I am sure it was not thus my fault you had not, although you treat me thus.
This set her into a flame: I wish I had forborne it. O how the poor Bella raved! I thought she would have beat me once or twice: and she vowed her fingers itched to do so—but I was not worth her anger: yet she flamed on.
We were heard to be high.—And Betty came up from my mother to command my sister to attend her.—She went down accordingly, threatening me with letting every one know what a violent creature I had shewn myself to be.
TUESDAY NOON, MARCH 21.
I have as yet heard no more of my sister: and have not courage enough to insist upon throwing myself at the feet of my father and mother, as I thought in my heat of temper I should be able to do. And I am now grown as calm as ever; and were Bella to come up again, as fit to be played upon as before.
I am indeed sorry that I sent her from me in such disorder. But my papa's letter threatening me with my uncle Antony's house and chapel, terrifies me strangely; and by their silence I'm afraid some new storm is gathering.
But what shall I do with this Lovelace? I have just now, but the unsuspected hole in the wall (that I told you of in my letter by Hannah) got a letter from him—so uneasy is he for fear I should be prevailed upon in Solmes's favour; so full of menaces, if I am; so resenting the usage I receive [for, how I cannot tell, but he has undoubtedly intelligence of all that is done in the family]; such protestations of inviolable faith and honour; such vows of reformation; such pressing arguments to escape from this disgraceful confinement—O my Nancy, what shall I do with this Lovelace?—
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE WENESDAY MORNING, NINE O'CLOCK.
My aunt Hervey lay here last night, and is but just gone from me. She came up to me with my sister. They would not trust my aunt without this ill-natured witness. When she entered my chamber, I told her, that this visit was a high favour to a poor prisoner, in her hard confinement. I kissed her hand. She, kindly saluting me, said, Why this distance to your aunt, my dear, who loves you so well?
She owned, that she came to expostulate with me, for the peace-sake of the family: for that she could not believe it possible, if I did not conceive myself unkindly treated, that I, who had ever shewn such a sweetness of temper, as well as manners, should be thus resolute, in a point so very near to my father, and all my friends. My mother and she were both willing to impute my resolution to the manner I had been begun with; and to my supposing that my brother had originally more of a hand in the proposals made by Mr. Solmes, than my father or other friends. In short, fain would my aunt have furnished me with an excuse to come off my opposition; Bell all the while humming a tune, and opening this book and that, without meaning; but saying nothing.
After having shewed me, that my opposition could not be of signification, my father's honour being engaged, my aunt concluded with enforcing upon me my duty, in stronger terms than I believe she would have done, (the circumstances of the case considered), had not my sister been present.
It would be repeating what I have so often mentioned, to give you the arguments that passed on both sides.—So I will only recite what she was pleased to say, that carried with it a new face.
When she found me inflexible, as she was pleased to call it, she said, For her part, she could not but say, that if I were not to have either Mr. Solmes or Mr. Lovelace, and yet, to make my friends easy, must marry, she should not think amiss of Mr. Wyerley. What did I think of Mr. Wyerley?
Ay, Clary, put in my sister, what say you to Mr. Wyerley?
I saw through this immediately. It was said on purpose, I doubted not, to have an argument against me of absolute prepossession in Mr. Lovelace's favour: since Mr. Wyerley every where avows his value, even to veneration, for me; and is far less exceptionable both in person and mind, than Mr. Solmes: and I was willing to turn the tables, by trying how far Mr. Solmes's terms might be dispensed with; since the same terms could not be expected from Mr. Wyerley.
I therefore desired to know, whether my answer, if it should be in favour of Mr. Wyerley, would release me from Mr. Solmes?—For I owned, that I had not the aversion to him, that I had to the other.
Nay, she had no commission to propose such a thing. She only knew, that my father and mother would not be easy till Mr. Lovelace's hopes were entirely defeated.
Cunning creature! said my sister.
And this, and her joining in the question before, convinced me, that it was a designed snare for me.
Don't you, dear Madam, said I, put questions that can answer no end, but to support my brother's schemes against me.—But are there any hopes of an end to my sufferings and disgrace, without having this hated man imposed upon me? Will not what I have offered be accepted? I am sure it ought—I will venture to say that.
Why, Niece, if there be not any such hopes, I presume you don't think yourself absolved from the duty due from a child to her parents?
Yes, said my sister, I do not doubt but it is Miss Clary's aim, if she does not fly to her Lovelace, to get her estate into her own hands, and go to live at The Grove, in that independence upon which she builds all her perverseness. And, dear heart! my little love, how will you then blaze away! Your mamma Norton, your oracle, with your poor at your gates, mingling so proudly and so meanly with the ragged herd! Reflecting, by your ostentation, upon all the ladies in the county, who do not as you do. This is known to be your scheme! and the poor without-doors, and Lovelace within, with one hand building up a name, pulling it down with the other!—O what a charming scheme is this!—But let me tell you, my pretty little flighty one, that your father's living will shall controul your grandfather's dead one; and that estate will be disposed of as your fond grandfather would have disposed of it, had he lived to see such a change in his favourite. In a word, Miss, it will be kept out of your hands, till my father sees you discreet enough to have the management of it, or till you can dutifully, by law, tear it from him.
Fie, Miss Harlowe! said my aunt: this is not pretty to your sister.
O Madam, let her go on. This is nothing to what I have borne from Miss Harlowe. She is either commissioned to treat me ill by her envy, or by an higher authority, to which I must submit.—As to revoking the estate, what hinders, if I pleased? I know my power; but have not the least thought of exerting it. Be pleased to let my father know, that, whatever be the consequence to myself, were he to turn me out of doors, (which I should rather he would do, than to be confined and insulted as I am), and were I to be reduced to indigence and want, I would seek no relief that should be contrary to his will.
For that matter, child, said my aunt, were you to marry, you must do as your husband will have you. If that husband be Mr. Lovelace, he will be glad of any opportunity of further embroiling the families. And, let me tell you, Niece, if he had the respect for you which he pretends to have, he would not throw out defiances as he does. He is known to be a very revengeful man; and were I you, Miss Clary, I should be afraid he would wreak upon me that vengeance, though I had not offended him, which he is continually threatening to pour upon the family.
Mr. Lovelace's threatened vengeance is in return for threatened vengeance. It is not every body will bear insult, as, of late, I have been forced to bear it.
O how my sister's face shone with passion!
But Mr. Lovelace, proceeded I, as I have said twenty and twenty times, would be quite out of question with me, were I to be generously treated!
My sister said something with great vehemence: but only raising my voice, to be heard, without minding her, Pray, Madam, (provokingly interrogated I), was he not known to have been as wild a man, when he was at first introduced into our family, as he now is said to be? Yet then, the common phrases of wild oats, and black oxen, and such-like, were qualifiers; and marriage, and the wife's discretion, were to perform wonders—but (turning to my sister) I find I have said too much.
O thou wicked reflecter!—And what made me abhor him, think you, but the proof of those villainous freedoms that ought to have had the same effect upon you, were you but half so good a creature as you pretend to be?
Proof, did you say, Bella! I thought you had not proof?—But you know best.
Was not this very spiteful, my dear?
Now, Clary, said she, would I give a thousand pounds to know all that is in thy little rancorous and reflecting heart at this moment.
I might let you know for a much less sum, and not be afraid of being worse treated than I have been.
Well, young ladies, I am sorry to see passion run so high between you. You know, Niece, (to me,) you had not been confined thus to your apartment, could your mother by condescension, or your father by authority, have been able to move you. But how can you expect, when there must be a concession on one side, that it should be on theirs? If my Dolly, who has not the hundredth part of your understanding, were thus to set herself up in absolute contradiction to my will, in a point so material, I should not take it well of her—indeed I should not.
I believe not, Madam: and if Miss Hervey had just such a brother, and just such a sister [you may look, Bella!] and if both were to aggravate her parents, as my brother and sister do mine—then, perhaps, you might use her as I am used: and if she hated the man you proposed to her, and with as much reason as I do Mr. Solmes—
And loved a rake and libertine, Miss, as you do Lovelace, said my sister—
Then might she [continued I, not minding her,] beg to be excused from obeying. Yet if she did, and would give you the most solemn assurances, and security besides, that she would never have the man you disliked, against your consent—I dare say, Miss Hervey's father and mother would sit down satisfied, and not endeavour to force her inclinations.
So!—[said my sister, with uplifted hands] father and mother now come in for their share!
But if, child, replied my aunt, I knew she loved a rake, and suspected that she sought only to gain time, in order to wire-draw me into a consent—
I beg pardon, Madam, for interrupting you; but if Miss Hervey could obtain your consent, what further would be said?
True, child; but she never should.
Then, Madam, it would never be.
That I doubt, Niece.
If you do, Madam, can you think confinement and ill usage is the way to prevent the apprehended rashness?
My dear, this sort of intimation would make one but too apprehensive, that there is no trusting to yourself, when one knows your inclination.
That apprehension, Madam, seems to have been conceived before this intimation, or the least cause for it, was given. Why else the disgraceful confinement I have been laid under?—Let me venture to say, that my sufferings seem to be rather owing to a concerted design to intimidate me [Bella held up her hands], (knowing there were too good grounds for my opposition,) than to a doubt of my conduct; for, when they were inflicted first, I had given no cause of doubt: nor should there now be room for any, if my discretion might be trusted to.
My aunt, after a little hesitation, said, But, consider, my dear, what confusion will be perpetuated in your family, if you marry this hated Lovelace!
And let it be considered, what misery to me, Madam, if I marry that hated Solmes!
Many a young creature has thought she could not love a man, with whom she has afterwards been very happy. Few women, child, marry their first loves.
That may be the reason there are so few happy marriages.
But there are few first impressions fit to be encouraged.
I am afraid so too, Madam. I have a very indifferent opinion of light and first impressions. But, as I have often said, all I wish for is, to have leave to live single.
Indeed you must not, Miss. Your father and mother will be unhappy till they see you married, and out of Lovelace's reach. I am told that you propose to condition with him (so far are matters gone between you) never to have any man, if you have not him.
I know no better way to prevent mischief on all sides, I freely own it—and there is not, if he be out of the question, another man in the world I can think favourably of. Nevertheless, I would give all I have in the world, that he were married to some other person—indeed I would, Bella, for all you put on that smile of incredulity.
May be so, Clary: but I will smile for all that.
If he be out of the question! repeated my aunt—So, Miss Clary, I see how it is—I will go down—[Miss Harlowe, shall I follow you?]—And I will endeavour to persuade your father to let my sister herself come up: and a happier event may then result.
Depend upon it, Madam, said my sister, this will be the case: my mother and she will both be in tears; but with this different effect: my mother will come down softened, and cut to the heart; but will leave her favourite hardened, from the advantages she will think she has over my mother's tenderness—why, Madam, it is for this very reason the girl is not admitted into her presence.
Thus she ran on, as she went downstairs.
END OF VOL. 1