Mean time, having told you my mind on your negligence, I cannot help congratulating you both on the occasion.—Your fair lady particularly, upon her entrance into a family which is prepared to admire and love her.
My principal intention of writing to you (dispensing with the necessary punctilio) is, that you may acquaint my dear new niece, that I will not be denied the honour of her company down with me into Oxfordshire. I understand that your proposed house and equipages cannot be soon ready. She shall be with me till they are. I insist upon it. This shall make all up. My house shall be her own. My servants and equipages her's.
Lady Sarah, who has not been out of her own house for months, will oblige me with her company for a week, in honour of a niece so dearly beloved, as I am sure she will be of us all.
Being but in lodgings in town, neither you nor your lady can require much preparation.
Some time on Monday I hope to attend the dear young lady, to make her my compliments; and to receive her apology for your negligence: which, and her going down with me, as I said before, shall be full satisfaction. Mean time, God bless her for her courage, (tell her I say so;) and bless you both in each other; and that will be happiness to us all— particularly to
Your truly affectionate Aunt, ELIZ. LAWRANCE.
TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ.
At last, as we understand, there is some hope of you. Now does my good Lord run over his bead-roll of proverbs; of black oxen, wild oats, long lanes, and so forth.
Now, Cousin, say I, is your time come; and you will be no longer, I hope, an infidel either to the power or excellence of the sex you have pretended hitherto so much as undervalue; nor a ridiculer or scoffer at an institution which all sober people reverence, and all rakes, sooner or later, are brought to reverence, or to wish they had.
I want to see how you become your silken fetters: whether the charming yoke sits light upon your shoulders. If with such a sweet yoke-fellow it does not, my Lord, and my sister, as well as I, think that you will deserve a closer tie about your neck.
His Lordship is very much displeased, that you have not written him word of the day, the hour, the manner, and every thing. But I ask him, how he can already expect any mark of deference or politeness from you? He must stay, I tell him, till that sign of reformation, among others, appear from the influence and example of your lady: but that, if ever you will be good for any thing, it will be quickly seen. And, O Cousin, what a vast, vast journey have you to take from the dreary land of libertinism, through the bright province of reformation, into the serene kingdom of happiness!—You had need to lose no time. You have many a weary step to tread, before you can overtake those travellers who set out for it from a less remote quarter. But you have a charming pole-star to guide you; that's your advantage. I wish you joy of it: and as I have never yet expected any highly complaisant thing from you, I make no scruple to begin first; but it is purely, I must tell you, in respect to my new cousin; whose accession into our family we most heartily congratulate and rejoice in.
I have a letter from Lady Betty. She commands either my attendance or my sister's to my cousin Leeson's. She puts Lord M. in hopes, that she shall certainly bring down with her our lovely new relation; for she says, she will not be denied. His Lordship is the willinger to let me be the person, as I am in a manner wild to see her; my sister having two years ago had that honour at Sir Robert Biddulph's. So get ready to accompany us in our return; except your lady had objections strong enough to satisfy us all. Lady Sarah longs to see her; and says, This accession to the family will supply to it the loss of her beloved daughter.
I shall soon, I hope, pay my compliments to the dear lady in person: so have nothing to add, but that I am
Your old mad Playfellow and Cousin, CHARLOTTE MONTAGUE.
The women having read the copies of these two letters, I thought that I might then threaten and swagger—'But very little heart have I, said I, to encourage such a visit from Lady Betty and Miss Montague to my spouse. For after all, I am tired out with her strange ways. She is not what she was, and (as I told her in your hearing, Ladies) I will leave this plaguy island, though the place of my birth, and though the stake I have in it is very considerable, and go and reside in France or Italy, and never think of myself as a married man, nor live like one.'
O dear! said one.
That would be a sad thing! said the other.
Nay, Madam, [turning to Mrs. Moore,]—Indeed, Madam, [to Miss Rawlins,]— I am quite desperate. I can no longer bear such usage. I have had the good fortune to be favoured by the smiles of very fine ladies, though I say it [and I looked very modest] both abroad and at home—[Thou knowest this to be true, Jack]. With regard to my spouse here, I have but one hope left, (for as to the reconciliation with her friends, I left, I scorn them all too much to value that, but for her sake,) and that was, that if it pleased God to bless us with children, she might entirely recover her usual serenity; and we might then be happy. But the reconciliation her heart was so much set upon, is now, as I hinted before, entirely hopeless—made so, by this rash step of her's, and by the rash temper she is in; since (as you will believe) her brother and sister, when they come to know it, will make a fine handle of it against us both;—affecting, as they do at present, to disbelieve our marriage— and the dear creature herself too ready to countenance such a disbelief —as nothing more than the ceremony—as nothing more—hem!—as nothing more than the ceremony—
Here, as thou wilt perceive, I was bashful; for Miss Rawlins, by her preparatory primness, put me in mind that it was proper to be so—
I turned half round; then facing the fan-player, and the matron—you yourselves, Ladies, knew not what to believe till now, that I have told you our story; and I do assure you, that I shall not give myself the same trouble to convince people I hate; people from whom I neither expect nor desire any favour; and who are determined not to be convinced. And what, pray, must be the issue, when her uncle's friend comes, although he seems to be a truly worthy man? It is not natural for him to say, 'To what purpose, Mr. Lovelace, should I endeavour to bring about a reconciliation between Mrs. Lovelace and her friends, by means of her elder uncle, when a good understanding is wanting between yourselves?'—A fair inference, Mrs. Moore!—A fair inference, Miss Rawlins.—And here is the unhappiness—till she is reconciled to them, this cursed oath, in her notion, is binding.
The women seemed moved; for I spoke with great earnestness, though low—and besides, they love to have their sex, and its favours, appear of importance to us. They shook their deep heads at each other, and looked sorrowful: and this moved my tender heart too.
'Tis an unheard-of case, Ladies—had she not preferred me to all mankind—There I stopped—and that, resumed I, feeling for my handkerchief, is what staggered Captain Tomlinson when he heard of her flight; who, the last time he saw us together, saw the most affectionate couple on earth!—the most affectionate couple on earth!—in the accent-grievous, repeated I.
Out then I pulled my handkerchief, and putting it to my eyes, arose, and walked to the window—It makes me weaker than a woman, did I not love her, as never man loved his wife! [I have no doubt but I do, Jack.]
There again I stopt; and resuming—Charming creature, as you see she is, I wish I had never beheld her face!—Excuse me, Ladies; traversing the room, and having rubbed my eyes till I supposed them red, I turned to the women; and, pulling out my letter-case, I will show you one letter—here it is—read it, Miss Rawlins, if you please—it will confirm to you how much all my family are prepared to admire her. I am freely treated in it;—so I am in the two others: but after what I have told you, nothing need be a secret to you two.
She took it, with an air of eager curiosity, and looked at the seal, ostentatiously coroneted; and at the superscription, reading out, To Robert Lovelace, Esq.—Ay, Madam—Ay, Miss, that's my name, [giving myself an air, though I had told it to them before,] I am not ashamed of it. My wife's maiden name—unmarried name, I should rather say—fool that I am!—and I rubbed my cheek for vexation [Fool enough in conscience, Jack!] was Harlowe—Clarissa Harlowe—you heard me call her my Clarissa—
I did—but thought it to be a feigned or love-name, said Miss Rawlins.
I wonder what is Miss Rawlins's love-name, Jack. Most of the fair romancers have in their early womanhood chosen love-names. No parson ever gave more real names, than I have given fictitious ones. And to very good purpose: many a sweet dear has answered me a letter for the sake of owning a name which her godmother never gave her.
No—it was her real name, I said.
I bid her read out the whole letter. If the spelling be not exact, Miss Rawlins, said I, you will excuse it; the writer is a lord. But, perhaps, I may not show it to my spouse; for if those I have left with her have no effect upon her, neither will this: and I shall not care to expose my Lord M. to her scorn. Indeed I begin to be quite careless of consequences.
Miss Rawlins, who could not but be pleased with this mark of my confidence, looked as if she pitied me.
And here thou mayest read the letter, No. III.
TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. M. HALL, WEDN. JUNE 7.
I think you might have found time to let us know of your nuptials being actually solemnized. I might have expected this piece of civility from you. But perhaps the ceremony was performed at the very time that you asked me to be your lady's father—but I should be angry if I proceed in my guesses—and little said is soon amended.
But I can tell you, that Lady Betty Lawrance, whatever Lady Sarah does, will not so soon forgive you, as I have done. Women resent slights longer than men. You that know so much of the sex (I speak it not, however, to your praise) might have known that. But never was you before acquainted with a lady of such an amiable character. I hope there will be but one soul between you. I have before now said, that I will disinherit you, and settle all I can upon her, if you prove not a good husband to her.
May this marriage be crowned with a great many fine boys (I desire no girls) to build up again a family so antient! The first boy shall take my surname by act of parliament. That is my will.
Lady Betty and niece Charlotte will be in town about business before you know where you are. They long to pay their compliments to your fair bride. I suppose you will hardly be at The Lawn when they get to town; because Greme informs me, you have sent no orders there for your lady's accommodation.
Pritchard has all things in readiness for signing. I will take no advantage of your slights. Indeed I am too much used to them—more praise to my patience than to your complaisance, however.
One reason for Lady Betty's going up, as I may tell you under the rose, is, to buy some suitable presents for Lady Sarah and all of us to make on this agreeable occasion.
We would have blazed it away, could we have had timely notice, and thought it would have been agreeable to all round. The like occasions don't happen every day.
My most affectionate compliments and congratulations to my new niece, conclude me, for the present, in violent pain, that with all your heroicalness would make you mad,
Your truly affectionate uncle, M.
This letter clench'd the nail. Not but that, Miss Rawlins said, she saw I had been a wild gentleman; and, truly she thought so the moment she beheld me.
They began to intercede for my spouse, (so nicely had I turned the tables;) and that I would not go abroad and disappoint a reconciliation so much wished for on one side, and such desirable prospects on the other in my own family.
Who knows, thought I to myself, but more may come of this plot, than I had even promised myself? What a happy man shall I be, if these women can be brought to join to carry my marriage into consummation!
Ladies, you are exceedingly good to us both. I should have some hopes, if my unhappily nice spouse could be brought to dispense with the unnatural oath she has laid me under. You see what my case is. Do you think I may not insist upon her absolving me from this abominable oath? Will you be so good as to give your advice, that one apartment may serve for a man and his wife at the hour of retirement?—[Modestly put, Belford!—And let me here observe, that few rakes would find a language so decent as to engage modest women to talk with him in, upon such subjects.]
They both simpered, and looked upon one another.
These subjects always make women simper, at least. No need but of the most delicate hints to them. A man who is gross in a woman's company, ought to be knocked down with a club: for, like so many musical instruments, touch but a single wire, and the dear souls are sensible all over.
To be sure, Miss Rawlins learnedly said, playing with her fan, a casuist would give it, that the matrimonial vow ought to supercede any other obligation.
Mrs. Moore, for her part, was of opinion, that, if the lady owned herself to be a wife, she ought to behave like one.
Whatever be my luck, thought I, with this all-eyed fair-one, any other woman in the world, from fifteen to five-and-twenty, would be mine upon my own terms before the morning.
And now, that I may be at hand to take all advantages, I will endeavour, said I to myself, to make sure of good quarters.
I am your lodger, Mrs. Moore, in virtue of the earnest I have given you for these apartments, and for any one you can spare above for my servants. Indeed for all you have to spare—For who knows what my spouse's brother may attempt? I will pay you to your own demand; and that for a month or two certain, (board included,) as I shall or shall not be your hindrance. Take that as a pledge; or in part of payment— offering her a thirty pound bank note.
She declined taking it; desiring she might consult the lady first; adding, that she doubted not my honour; and that she would not let her apartments to any other person, whom she knew not something of, while I and the lady were here.
The Lady! The Lady! from both women's mouth's continually (which still implied a doubt in their hearts): and not Your Spouse, and Your Lady, Sir.
I never met with such women, thought I:—so thoroughly convinced but this moment, yet already doubting—I am afraid I have a couple of skeptics to deal with.
I knew no reason, I said, for my wife to object to my lodging in the same house with her here, any more than in town, at Mrs. Sinclair's. But were she to make such objection, I would not quit possession since it was not unlikely that the same freakish disorder which brought her to Hampstead, might carry her absolutely out of my knowledge.
They both seemed embarrassed; and looked upon one another; yet with such an air, as if they thought there was reason in what I said. And I declared myself her boarder, as well as lodger; and dinner-time approaching, was not denied to be the former.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
I thought it was now high time to turn my whole mind to my beloved; who had had full leisure to weigh the contents of the letters I had left with her.
I therefore requested Mrs. Moore to step in, and desire to know whether she would be pleased to admit me to attend her in her apartment, on occasion of the letters I had left with her; or whether she would favour me with her company in the dining-room?
Mrs. Moore desired Miss Rawlins to accompany her in to the lady. They tapped at the door, and were both admitted.
I cannot but stop here for one minute to remark, though against myself, upon that security which innocence gives, that nevertheless had better have in it a greater mixture of the serpent with the dove. For here, heedless of all I could say behind her back, because she was satisfied with her own worthiness, she permitted me to go on with my own story, without interruption, to persons as great strangers to her as me; and who, as strangers to both, might be supposed to lean to the side most injured; and that, as I managed it, was to mine. A dear, silly soul, thought I, at the time, to depend upon the goodness of her own heart, when the heart cannot be seen into but by its actions; and she, to appearance, a runaway, an eloper, from a tender, a most indulgent husband!—To neglect to cultivate the opinion of individuals, when the whole world is governed by appearance!
Yet what can be expected of an angel under twenty?—She has a world of knowledge:—knowledge speculative, as I may say, but no experience.—How should she?—Knowledge by theory only is a vague, uncertain light: a Will o' the Wisp, which as often misleads the doubting mind, as puts it right.
There are many things in the world, could a moralizer say, that would afford inexpressible pleasure to a reflecting mind, were it not for the mixture they come to us with. To be graver still, I have seen parents, [perhaps my own did so,] who delighted in those very qualities in their children while young, the natural consequences of which, (too much indulged and encouraged,) made them, as they grew up, the plague of their hearts.—To bring this home to my present purpose, I must tell thee, that I adore this charming creature for her vigilant prudence; but yet I would not, methinks, wish her, by virtue of that prudence, which is, however, necessary to carry her above the devices of all the rest of the world, to be too wise for mine.
My revenge, my sworn revenge, is, nevertheless, (adore her as I will,) uppermost in my heart.—Miss Howe says that my love is a Herodian love.* By my soul, that girl's a witch! I am half sorry to say, that I find a pleasure in playing the tyrant over what I love. Call it an ungenerous pleasure, if thou wilt: softer hearts than mine know it. The women, to a woman, know it, and show it too, whenever they are trusted with power. And why should it be thought strange, that I, who love them so dearly, and study them so much, should catch the infection of them?
* See Letter XX. of this volume.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
I will now give thee the substance of the dialogue that passed between the two women and the lady. Wonder not, that a perverse wife makes a listening husband. The event, however, as thou wilt find, justified the old observation, That listners seldom hear good of themselves. Conscious of their own demerits, if I may guess by myself, [There's ingenuousness, Jack!] and fearful of censure, they seldom find themselves disappointed. There is something of sense, after all in these proverbs, in these phrases, in this wisdom of nations.
Mrs. Moore was to be the messenger, but Miss Rawlins began the dialogue.
Your SPOUSE, Madam,—[Devil!—only to fish for a negative or affirmative declaration.]
Cl. My spouse, Madam—
Miss R. Mr. Lovelace, Madam, avers that you are married to him; and begs admittance, or your company in the dining-room, to talk upon the subject of the letters he left with you.
Cl. He is a poor wicked wretch. Let me beg of you, Madam, to favour me with your company as often as possible while he is hereabouts, and I remain here.
Miss R. I shall with pleasure attend you, Madam: but, methinks, I could wish you would see the gentleman, and hear what he has to say on the subject of the letters.
Cl. My case is a hard, a very hard one—I am quite bewildered!-I know not what to do!—I have not a friend in the world that can or will help me! Yet had none but friends till I knew that man!
Miss R. The gentleman neither looks nor talks like a bad man.—Not a very bad man, as men go.
As men go! Poor Miss Rawlins, thought I; and dost thou know how men go?
Cl. O Madam, you know him not! He can put on the appearance of an angel of light; but has a black, a very black heart!
Miss R. I could not have thought it, truly! But men are very deceitful, now-a-days.
Now-a-days!—A fool!—Have not her history-books told her that they were always so?
Mrs. Moore, sighing. I have found it so, I am sure, to my cost!—
Who knows but in her time poor goody Moore may have met with a Lovelace, or a Belford, or some such vile fellow? My little harum-scarum beauty knows not what strange histories every woman living, who has had the least independence of will, could tell her, were such to be as communicative as she is. But here's the thing—I have given her cause enough of offence; but not enough to make her hold her tongue.
Cl. As to the letters he has left with me, I know not what to say to them: but am resolved never to have any thing to say to him.
Miss R. If, Madam, I may be allowed to say so, I think you carry matters very far.
Cl. Has he been making a bad cause a good one with you, Madam?—That he can do with those who know him not. Indeed I heard him talking, thought not what he said, and am indifferent about it.—But what account does he give of himself?
I was pleased to hear this. To arrest, to stop her passion, thought I, in the height of its career, is a charming presage.
Then the busy Miss Rawlins fished on, to find out from her either a confirmation or disavowal of my story—Was Lord M. my uncle? Did I court her at first with the allowance of her friends, her brother excepted? Had I a rencounter with that brother? Was she so persecuted in favour of a very disagreeable man, one Solmes, as to induce her to throw herself into my protection?
None of these were denied. All the objections she could have made, were stifled, or kept in, by the considerations, (as she mentioned,) that she should stay there but a little while, and that her story was too long; but Miss Rawlins would not be thus easily answered.
Miss R. He says, Madam, that he could not prevail for marriage, till he had consented, under a solemn oath, to separate beds, while your family remained unreconciled.
Cl. O the wretch! What can be still in his head, to endeavour to pass these stories upon strangers?
So no direct denial, thought I.—Admirable!—All will do by-and-by.
Miss R. He has owned that an accidental fire had frightened you very much on Wednesday night—and that—and that—an accidental fire had frightened you—very much frightened you—last Wednesday night!
Then, after a short pause—In short, he owned, that he had taken some innocent liberties, which might have led to a breach of the oath you had imposed upon him; and that this was the cause of your displeasure.
I would have been glad to see how my charmer then looked.—To be sure she was at a loss in her own mind, to justify herself for resenting so highly an offence so trifling.—She hesitated—did not presently speak.—When she did, she wished that she, (Miss Rawlins,) might never meet with any man who would take such innocent liberties with her.
Miss Rawlins pushed further.
Your case, to be sure, Madam, is very particular: but if the hope of a reconciliation with your own friends is made more distant by your leaving him, give me leave to say, that 'tis pity—'tis pity—[I suppose the maiden then primm'd, fann'd, and blush'd—'tis pity] the oath cannot be dispensed with; especially as he owns he has not been so strict a liver.
I could have gone in and kissed the girl.
Cl. You have heard his story. Mine, as I told you before, is too long, and too melancholy: my disorder on seeing the wretch is too great; and my time here is too short, for me to enter upon it. And if he has any end to serve by his own vindication, in which I shall not be a personal sufferer, let him make himself appear as white as an angel, with all my heart.
My love for her, and the excellent character I gave her, were then pleaded.
Cl. Specious seducer!—Only tell me if I cannot get away from him by some back way?
How my heart then went pit-a-pat, to speak in the female dialect.
Cl. Let me look out—[I heard the sash lifted up.]—Whither does that path lead? Is there no possibility of getting to a coach? Surely he must deal with some fiend, or how could he have found me out? Cannot I steal to some neighbouring house, where I may be concealed till I can get quite away? You are good people!—I have not been always among such!— O help me, help me, Ladies! [with a voice of impatience,] or I am ruined!
Then pausing, Is that the way to Hendon? [pointing, I suppose.] Is Hendon a private place?—The Hampstead coach, I am told, will carry passengers thither.
Mrs. Moore. I have an honest friend at Mill-Hill, [Devil fetch her! thought I,] where, if such be your determination, Madam, and if you think yourself in danger, you may be safe, I believe.
Cl. Any where, if I can but escape from this man! Whither does that path lead, out yonder?—What is that town on the right hand called?
Mrs. Moore. Highgate, Madam.
Miss R. On the side of the heath is a little village, called North-end. A kinswoman of mine lives there. But her house is small. I am not sure she could accommodate such a lady.
Devil take her too! thought I,—I imagined that I had made myself a better interest in these women. But the whole sex love plotting—and plotters too, Jack.
Cl. A barn, an outhouse, a garret, will be a palace to me, if it will but afford me a refuge from this man!
Her senses, thought I, are much livelier than mine.—What a devil have I done, that she should be so very implacable? I told thee, Belford, all I did: Was there any thing in it so very much amiss? Such prospects of a family reconciliation before her too! To be sure she is a very sensible lady!
She then espied my new servant walking under the window, and asked if he were not one of mine?
Will. was on the look-out for old Grimes, [so is the fellow called whom my beloved has dispatched to Miss Howe.] And being told that the man she saw was my servant; I see, said she, that there is no escaping, unless you, Madam, [to Miss Rawlins, I suppose,] can befriend me till I can get farther. I have no doubt that the fellow is planted about the house to watch my steps. But the wicked wretch his master has no right to controul me. He shall not hinder me from going where I please. I will raise the town upon him, if he molests me. Dear Ladies, is there no back-door for me to get out at while you hold him in talk?
Miss R. Give me leave to ask you, Madam, Is there no room to hope for accommodation? Had you not better see him? He certainly loves you dearly: he is a fine gentleman; you may exasperate him, and make matters more unhappy for yourself.
Cl. O Mrs. Moore! O Miss Rawlins! you know not the man! I wish not to see his face, nor to exchange another word with him as long as I live.
Mrs. Moore. I don't find, Miss Rawlins, that the gentleman has misrepresented any thing. You see, Madam, [to my Clarissa,] how respectful he is; not to come in till permitted. He certainly loves you dearly. Pray, Madam, let him talk to you, as he wishes to do, on the subject of his letters.
Very kind of Mrs. Moore!—Mrs. Moore, thought I, is a very good woman. I did not curse her then.
Miss Rawlins said something; but so low that I could not hear what it was. Thus it was answered.
Cl. I am greatly distressed! I know not what to do!—But, Mrs. Moore, be so good as to give his letters to him—here they are.—Be pleased to tell him, that I wish him and Lady Betty and Miss Montague a happy meeting. He never can want excuses to them for what has happened, any more than pretences to those he would delude. Tell him, that he has ruined me in the opinion of my own friends. I am for that reason the less solicitous how I appear to his.
Mrs. Moore then came to me; and I, being afraid that something would pass mean time between the other two, which I should not like, took the letters, and entered the room, and found them retired into the closet; my beloved whispering with an air of earnestness to Miss Rawlins, who was all attention.
Her back was towards me; and Miss Rawlins, by pulling her sleeve, giving intimation of my being there—Can I have no retirement uninvaded, Sir, said she, with indignation, as if she were interrupted in some talk her heart was in?—What business have you here, or with me?—You have your letters; have you not?
Lovel. I have, my dear; and let me beg of you to consider what you are about. I every moment expect Captain Tomlinson here. Upon my soul, I do. He has promised to keep from your uncle what has happened: but what will he think if he find you hold in this strange humour?
Cl. I will endeavour, Sir, to have patience with you for a moment or two, while I ask you a few questions before this lady, and before Mrs. Moore, [who just then came in,] both of whom you have prejudiced in your favour by your specious stories:—Will you say, Sir, that we are married together? Lay your hand upon your heart, and answer me, am I your wedded wife?
I am gone too far, thought I, to give up for such a push as this, home one as it is.
My dearest soul! how can you put such a question? It is either for your honour or my own, that it should be doubted?—Surely, surely, Madam, you cannot have attended to the contents of Captain Tomlinson's letter.
She complained often of want of spirits throughout our whole contention, and of weakness of person and mind, from the fits she had been thrown into: but little reason had she for this complaint, as I thought, who was able to hold me to it, as she did. I own that I was excessively concerned for her several times.
You and I! Vilest of Men!—
My name is Lovelace, Madam—
Therefore it is that I call you the vilest of men. [Was this pardonable, Jack!]—You and I know the truth, the whole truth.—I want not to clear up my reputation with these gentlewomen:—that is already lost with every one I had most reason to value: but let me have this new specimen of what you are capable of—say, wretch, (say, Lovelace, if thou hadst rather,) art thou really and truly my wedded husband?—Say; answer without hesitation.
She trembled with impatient indignation; but had a wildness in her manner, which I took some advantage of, in order to parry this cursed thrust. And a cursed thrust it was; since, had I positively averred it, she would never have believed any thing I said: and had I owned that I was not married, I had destroyed my own plot, as well with the women as with her; and could have no pretence for pursuing her, or hindering her from going wheresoever she pleased. Not that I was ashamed to aver it, had it been consistent with policy. I would not have thee think me such a milk-sop neither.
Lovel. My dearest love, how wildly you talk! What would you have me answer? It is necessary that I should answer? May I not re-appeal this to your own breast, as well as to Captain Tomlinson's treaty and letter? You know yourself how matters stand between us.—And Captain Tomlinson—
Cl. O wretch! Is this an answer to my question? Say, are we married, or are we not?
Lovel. What makes a marriage, we all know. If it be the union of two hearts, [there was a turn, Jack!] to my utmost grief, I must say that we are not; since now I see you hate me. If it be the completion of marriage, to my confusion and regret, I must own we are not. But, my dear, will you be pleased to consider what answer half a dozen people whence you came, could give to your question? And do not now, in the disorder of your mind, and the height of passion, bring into question before these gentlewomen a point you have acknowledged before those who know us better.
I would have whispered her about the treaty with her uncle, and about the contents of the Captain's letter; but, retreating, and with a rejecting hand, Keep thy distance, man, cried the dear insolent—to thine own heart I appeal, since thou evadest me thus pitifully!—I own no marriage with thee!—Bear witness, Ladies, I do not. And cease to torment me, cease to follow me.—Surely, surely, faulty as I have been, I have not deserved to be thus persecuted!—I resume, therefore, my former language: you have no right to pursue me: you know you have not: begone then, and leave me to make the best of my hard lot. O my dear, cruel father! said she, in a violent fit of grief [falling upon her knees, and clasping her uplifted hands together] thy heavy curse is completed upon thy devoted daughter! I am punished, dreadfully punished, by the very wretch in whom I had placed my wicked confidence!
By my soul, Belford, the little witch with her words, but more by her manner, moved me! Wonder not then that her action, her grief, her tears, set the women into the like compassionate manifestations.
Had I not a cursed task of it?
The two women withdrew to the further end of the room, and whispered, a strange case! There is no phrensy here—I just heard said.
The charming creature threw her handkerchief over her head and neck, continuing kneeling, her back towards me, and her face hid upon a chair, and repeatedly sobbed with grief and passion.
I took this opportunity to step to the women to keep them steady.
You see, Ladies, [whispering,] what an unhappy man I am! You see what a spirit this dear creature has!—All, all owing to her implacable relations, and to her father's curse.—A curse upon them all! they have turned the head of the most charming woman in the world!
Ah! Sir, Sir, replied Miss Rawlins, whatever be the fault of her relations, all is not as it should be between you and her. 'Tis plain she does not think herself married: 'tis plain she does not: and if you have any value for the poor lady, and would not totally deprive her of her senses, you had better withdraw, and leave to time and cooler consideration the event in your favour.
She will compel me to this at last, I fear, Miss Rawlins; I fear she will; and then we are both undone: for I cannot live without her; she knows it too well: and she has not a friend who will look upon her: this also she knows. Our marriage, when her uncle's friend comes, will be proved incontestably. But I am ashamed to think I have given her room to believe it no marriage: that's what she harps upon!
Well, 'tis a strange case, a very strange one, said Miss Rawlins; and was going to say further, when the angry beauty, coming towards the door, said, Mrs. Moore, I beg a word with you. And they both stepped into the dining-room.
I saw her just before put a parcel into her pocket; and followed them out, for fear she should slip away; and stepping to the stairs, that she might not go by me, Will., cried I, aloud [though I knew he was not near] —Pray, child, to a maid, who answered, call either of my servants to me.
She then came up to me with a wrathful countenance: do you call your servant, Sir, to hinder me, between you, from going where I please?
Don't, my dearest life, misinterpret every thing I do. Can you think me so mean and unworthy as to employ a servant to constrain you?—I call him to send to the public-houses, or inns in this town, to inquire after Captain Tomlinson, who may have alighted at some one of them, and be now, perhaps, needlessly adjusting his dress; and I would have him come, were he to be without clothes, God forgive me! for I am stabbed to the heart by your cruelty.
Answer was returned, that neither of my servants was in the way.
Not in the way, said I!—Whither can the dogs be gone?
O Sir! with a scornful air; not far, I'll warrant. One of them was under the window just now; according to order, I suppose, to watch my steps— but I will do what I please, and go where I please; and that to your face.
God forbid, that I should hinder you in any thing that you may do with safety to yourself!
Now I verily believe that her design was to slip out, in pursuance of the closet-whispering between her and Miss Rawlins; perhaps to Miss Rawlins's house.
She then stept back to Mrs. Moore, and gave her something, which proved to be a diamond ring, and desired her [not whisperingly, but with an air of defiance to me] that that might be a pledge for her, till she defrayed her demands; which she should soon find means to do; having no more money about her than she might have occasion for before she came to an acquaintance's.
Mrs. Moore would have declined taking it; but she would not be denied; and then, wiping her eyes, she put on her gloves—nobody has a right to stop me, said she!—I will go!—Whom should I be afraid of?—Her very question, charming creature! testifying her fear.
I beg pardon, Madam, [turning to Mrs. Moore, and courtesying,] for the trouble I have given you.—I beg pardon, Madam, to Miss Rawlins, [courtesying likewise to her,]—you may both hear of me in a happier hour, if such a one fall to my lot—and God bless you both!—struggling with her tears till she sobbed—and away was tripping.
I stepped to the door: I put it to; and setting my back against it, took her struggling hand—My dearest life! my angel! said I, why will you thus distress me?—Is this the forgiveness which you so solemnly promised?—
Unhand me, Sir!—You have no business with me! You have no right over me! You know you have not.
But whither, whither, my dearest love, would you go!—Think you not that I will follow you, were it to the world's end!—Whither would you go?
Well do you ask me, whither I would go, who have been the occasion that I have not a friend left!—But God, who knows my innocence, and my upright intentions, will not wholly abandon me when I am out of your power; but while I am in it, I cannot expect a gleam of the divine grace or favour to reach me.
How severe is this!—How shockingly severe!—Out of your presence, my angry fair-one, I can neither hope for the one nor the other. As my cousin Montague, in the letter you have read, observes, You are my polar star and my guide, and if ever I am to be happy, either here or hereafter, it must be in and by you.
She would then have opened the door. But I, respectfully opposing her, Begone, man! Begone, Mr. Lovelace! said she, stop not in my way. If you would not that I should attempt the window, give me passage by the door; for, once more, you have no right to detain me.
Your resentments, my dearest life, I will own to be well grounded. I will acknowledge that I have been all in fault. On my knee, [and down I dropt,] I ask your pardon. And can you refuse to ratify your own promise? Look forward to the happy prospect before us. See you not my Lord M. and Lady Sarah longing to bless you, for blessing me, and their whole family? Can you take no pleasure in the promised visit of Lady Betty and my cousin Montague? And in the protection they offer you, if you are dissatisfied with mine? Have you no wish to see your uncle's friend? Stay only till Captain Tomlinson comes. Receive from him the news of your uncle's compliance with the wishes of both.
She seemed altogether distressed; was ready to sink; and forced to lean against the wainscot, as I kneeled at her feet. A stream of tears at last burst from her less indignant eyes. Good heaven! said she, lifting up her lovely face, and clasped hands, what is at last to be my destiny? Deliver me from this dangerous man; and direct me—I know not what to do, what I can do, nor what I ought to do!
The women, as I had owned our marriage to be but half completed, heard nothing in this whole scene to contradict (not flagrantly to contradict) what I had asserted. They believed they saw in her returning temper, and staggered resolution, a love for me, which her indignation had before suppressed; and they joined to persuade her to tarry till the Captain came, and to hear his proposals; representing the dangers to which she would be exposed; the fatigues she might endure; a lady of her appearance, unguarded, unprotected. On the other hand they dwelt upon my declared contrition, and on my promises; for the performance of which they offered to be bound. So much had my kneeling humility affected them.
Women, Jack, tacitly acknowledge the inferiority of their sex, in the pride they take to behold a kneeling lover at their feet.
She turned from me, and threw herself into a chair.
I arose and approached her with reverence. My dearest creature, said I, and was proceeding, but, with a face glowing with conscious dignity, she interrupted me—Ungenerous, ungrateful Lovelace! You know not the value of the heart you have insulted! Nor can you conceive how much my soul despises your meanness. But meanness must ever be the portion of the man, who can act vilely!
The women believing we were likely to be on better terms, retired. The dear perverse opposed their going; but they saw I was desirous of their absence; and when they had withdrawn, I once more threw myself at her feet, and acknowledged my offences; implored her forgiveness for this one time, and promised the most exact circumspection for the future.
It was impossible for her she said to keep her memory and forgive me. What hadst thou seen in the conduct of Clarissa Harlowe, that should encourage such an insult upon her as thou didst dare to make? How meanly must thou think of her, that thou couldst presume to be so guilty, and expect her to be so weak as to forgive thee?
I besought her to let me read over to her Captain Tomlinson's letter. I was sure it was impossible she could have given it the requisite attention.
I have given it the requisite attention, said she; and the other letters too. So that what I say is upon deliberation. And what have I to fear from my brother and sister? They can but complete the ruin of my fortunes with my father and uncles. Let them and welcome. You, Sir, I thank you, have lowered my fortunes; but, I bless God, that my mind is not sunk with my fortunes. It is, on the contrary, raised above fortune, and above you; and for half a word they shall have the estate they envied me for, and an acquittal from me of all the expectations from my family that may make them uneasy.
I lifted up my hands and eyes in silent admiration of her.
My brother, Sir, may think me ruined; to the praise of your character, he may think it impossible to be with you and be innocent. You have but too well justified their harshest censures by every part of your conduct. But now that I have escaped from you, and that I am out of the reach of your mysterious devices, I will wrap myself up in mine own innocence, [and then the passionate beauty folded her arms about herself,] and leave to time, and to my future circumspection, the re-establishment of my character. Leave me then, Sir, pursue me not!—
Good Heaven! [interrupting her]—and all this, for what?—Had I not yielded to your entreaties, (forgive me, Madam,) you could not have carried farther your resentments—
Wretch! Was it not crime enough to give occasion for those entreaties? Wouldst thou make a merit to me, that thou didst not utterly ruin her whom thou oughtest to have protected? Begone, man! (turning from me, her face crimsoned over with passion.)—See me no more!—I cannot bear thee in my sight!—
Dearest, dearest creature!
If I forgive thee, Lovelace—And there she stopped.—To endeavour, proceeded she, to endeavour by premeditation, by low contrivances, by cries of Fire! to terrify a poor creature who had consented to take a wretched chance with thee for life!
For Heaven's sake,—offering to take her repulsing hand, as she was flying from me towards the closet.
What hast thou to do to plead for the sake of Heaven in thy favour!—O darkest of human minds!
Then turning from me, wiping her eyes, and again turning towards me, but her sweet face half aside, What difficulties hast thou involved me in! That thou hadst a plain path before thee, after thou hadst betrayed me into thy power.—At once my mind takes in the whole of thy crooked behaviour; and if thou thinkest of Clarissa Harlowe as her proud heart tells her thou oughtest to think of her, thou wilt seek thy fortunes elsewhere. How often hast thou provoked me to tell thee, that my soul is above thee!
For Heaven's sake, Madam, for a soul's sake, which it is in your power to save from perdition, forgive me the past offence. I am the greatest villain on earth if it was a premeditated one; yet I presume not to excuse myself. On your mercy I throw myself. I will not offer at any plea but that of penitence. See but Captain Tomlinson.—See but Lady Betty and my cousin; let them plead for me; let them be guarantees for my honour.
If Captain Tomlinson come while I stay here, I may see him; but as for you, Sir—
Dearest creature! let me beg of you not to aggravate my offence to the Captain when he comes. Let me beg of you—
What askest thou? It is not that I shall be of party against myself? That I shall palliate—
Do not charge me, Madam, interrupted I, with villainous premeditation! —Do not give such a construction to my offence as may weaken your uncle's opinion—as may strengthen your brother's—
She flung from me to the further end of the room, [she could go no further,] and just then Mrs. Moore came up, and told her that dinner was ready, and that she had prevailed upon Miss Rawlins to give her her company.
You must excuse me, Mrs. Moore, said she. Miss Rawlins I hope also will —but I cannot eat—I cannot go down. As for you, Sir, I suppose you will think it right to depart hence; at least till the gentleman comes whom you expect.
I respectfully withdrew into the next room, that Mrs. Moore might acquaint her, (I durst not myself,) that I was her lodger and boarder, as, whisperingly, I desired that she would; and meeting Miss Rawlins in the passage, Dearest Miss Rawlins, said I, stand my friend; join with Mrs. Moore to pacify my spouse, if she has any new flights upon my having taken lodgings, and intending to board here. I hope she will have more generosity than to think of hindering a gentlewoman from letting her lodgings.
I suppose Mrs. Moore, (whom I left with my fair-one,) had apprized her of this before Miss Rawlins went in; for I heard her say, while I withheld Miss Rawlins,—'No, indeed: he is much mistaken—surely he does not think I will.'
They both expostulated with her, as I could gather from bits and scraps of what they said; for they spoke so low, that I could not hear any distinct sentence, but from the fair perverse, whose anger made her louder. And to this purpose I heard her deliver herself in answer to different parts of their talk to her:—'Good Mrs. Moore, dear Miss Rawlins, press me no further:—I cannot sit down at table with him!'
They said something, as I suppose in my behalf—'O the insinuating wretch! What defence have I against a man, who, go where I will, can turn every one, even of the virtuous of my sex, in his favour?'
After something else said, which I heard not distinctly—'This is execrable cunning!—Were you to know his wicked heart, he is not without hope of engaging you two good persons to second him in the vilest of his machinations.'
How came she, (thought I, at the instant,) by all this penetration? My devil surely does not play me booty. If I thought he did, I would marry, and live honest, to be even with him.
I suppose then they urged the plea which I hinted to Miss Rawlins at going in, that she would not be Mrs. Moore's hindrance; for thus she expressed herself—'He will no doubt pay you your own price. You need not question his liberality; but one house cannot hold us.—Why, if it would, did I fly from him, to seek refuge among strangers?'
Then, in answer to somewhat else they pleaded—''Tis a mistake, Madam; I am not reconciled to him, I will believe nothing he says. Has he not given you a flagrant specimen of what a man he is, and of what his is capable, by the disguises you saw him in? My story is too long, and my stay here will be but short; or I could convince you that my resentments against him are but too well founded.'
I suppose that they pleaded for her leave for my dining with them; for she said—'I have nothing to say to that: it is your own house, Mrs. Moore—it is your own table—you may admit whom you please to it, only leave me at my liberty to choose my company.'
Then, in answer, as I suppose, to their offer of sending her up a plate— 'A bit of bread, if you please, and a glass of water; that's all I can swallow at present. I am really very much discomposed. Saw you not how bad I was? Indignation only could have supported my spirits!—
'I have no objections to his dining with you, Madam;' added she, in reply, I suppose, to a farther question of the same nature—'But I will not stay a night in the same house where he lodges.'
I presume Miss Rawlins had told her that she would not stay dinner: for she said,—'Let me not deprive Mrs. Moore of your company, Miss Rawlins. You will not be displeased with his talk. He can have no design upon you.'
Then I suppose they pleaded what I might say behind her back, to make my own story good:—'I care not what he says or what he thinks of me. Repentance and amendment are all the harm I wish him, whatever becomes of me!'
By her accent she wept when she spoke these last words.
They came out both of them wiping their eyes; and would have persuaded me to relinquish the lodgings, and to depart till her uncle's friend came. But I knew better. I did not care to trust the Devil, well as she and Miss Howe suppose me to be acquainted with him, for finding her out again, if once more she escaped me.
What I am most afraid of is, that she will throw herself among her own relations; and, if she does, I am confident they will not be able to withstand her affecting eloquence. But yet, as thou'lt see, the Captain's letter to me is admirably calculated to obviate my apprehensions on this score; particularly in that passage where it is said, that her uncle thinks not himself at liberty to correspond directly with her, or to receive applications from her—but through Captain Tomlinson, as is strongly implied.*
* See Letter XXIV. of this volume.
I must own, (notwithstanding the revenge I have so solemnly vowed,) that I would very fain have made for her a merit with myself in her returning favour, and have owed as little as possible to the mediation of Captain Tomlinson. My pride was concerned in this: and this was one of my reasons for not bringing him with me.—Another was, that, if I were obliged to have recourse to his assistance, I should be better able, (by visiting without him,) to direct him what to say or do, as I should find out the turn of her humour.
I was, however, glad at my heart that Mrs. Moore came up so seasonably with notice that dinner was ready. The fair fugitive was all in alt. She had the excuse for withdrawing, I had time to strengthen myself; the Captain had time to come; and the lady to cool.—Shakspeare advises well:
Oppose not rage, whilst rage is in its force; But give it way awhile, and let it waste. The rising deluge is not stopt with dams; Those it o'erbears, and drowns the hope of harvest. But, wisely manag'd, its divided strength Is sluic'd in channels, and securely drain'd: And when its force is spent, and unsupply'd, The residue with mounds may be restrain'd, And dry-shod we may pass the naked ford.
I went down with the women to dinner. Mrs. Moore sent her fair boarder up a plate, but she only ate a little bit of bread, and drank a glass of water. I doubted not but she would keep her word, when it was once gone out. Is she not an Harlowe? She seems to be enuring herself to hardships, which at the worst she can never know; since, though she should ultimately refuse to be obliged to me, or (to express myself more suitable to my own heart,) to oblige me, every one who sees her must befriend her.
But let me ask thee, Belford, Art thou not solicitous for me in relation to the contents of the letter which the angry beauty had written and dispatched away by man and horse; and for what may be Miss Howe's answer to it? Art thou not ready to inquire, Whether it be not likely that Miss Howe, when she knows of her saucy friend's flight, will be concerned about her letter, which she must know could not be at Wilson's till after that flight, and so, probably, would fall into my hands?—
All these things, as thou'lt see in the sequel, are provided for with as much contrivance as human foresight can admit.
I have already told thee that Will. is upon the lookout for old Grimes— old Grimes is, it seems, a gossiping, sottish rascal; and if Will. can but light of him, I'll answer for the consequence; For has not Will. been my servant upwards of seven years?
MR. LOVELACE [IN CONTINUATION.]
We had at dinner, besides Miss Rawlins, a young widow-niece of Mrs. Moore, who is come to stay a month with her aunt—Bevis her name; very forward, very lively, and a great admirer of me, I assure you;—hanging smirkingly upon all I said; and prepared to approve of every word before I spoke: and who, by the time we had half-dined, (by the help of what she had collected before,) was as much acquainted with our story as either of the other two.
As it behoved me to prepare them in my favour against whatever might come from Miss Howe, I improved upon the hint I had thrown out above-stairs against that mischief-making lady. I represented her to be an arrogant creature, revengeful, artful, enterprising, and one who, had she been a man, would have sworn and cursed, and committed rapes, and played the devil, as far as I knew: [I have no doubt of it, Jack!] but who, by advantage of a female education, and pride and insolence, I believed was personally virtuous.
Mrs. Bevis allowed, that there was a vast deal in education—and in pride too, she said. While Miss Rawlins came with a prudish God forbid that virtue should be owing to education only! However, I declared that Miss Howe was a subtle contriver of mischief; one who had always been my enemy: her motives I knew not: but despised the man whom her mother was desirous she should have, one Hickman; although I did not directly aver that she would rather have had me; yet they all immediately imagined that that was the ground of her animosity to me, and of her envy to my beloved: and it was pity, they said, that so fine a young lady did not see through such a pretended friend.
And yet nobody [added I] has more reason than she to know by experience the force of a hatred founded in envy; as I hinted to you above, Mrs. Moore, and to you, Miss Rawlins, in the case of her sister Arabella.
I had compliments made to my person and talents on this occasion: which gave me a singular opportunity of displaying my modesty, by disclaiming the merit of them, with a No, indeed!—I should be very vain, Ladies, if I thought so. While thus abusing myself, and exalting Miss Howe, I got their opinion both for modesty and generosity; and had all the graces which I disclaimed thrown in upon me besides.
In short, they even oppressed that modesty, which (to speak modestly of myself) their praises created, by disbelieving all I said against myself.
And, truly, I must needs say, they have almost persuaded even me myself, that Miss Howe is actually in love with me. I have often been willing to hope this. And who knows but she may? The Captain and I have agreed, that it shall be so insinuated occasionally—And what's thy opinion, Jack? She certainly hates Hickman; and girls who are disengaged seldom hate, though they may not love: and if she had rather have another, why not that other ME? For am I not a smart fellow, and a rake? And do not your sprightly ladies love your smart fellow, and your rakes? And where is the wonder, that the man who could engage the affections of Miss Harlowe, should engage those of a lady (with her* alas's) who would be honoured in being deemed her second?
* See Letter XX. of this volume, where Miss Howe says, Alas! my dear, I know you loved him!
Nor accuse thou me of SINGULAR vanity in this presumption, Belford. Wert thou to know the secret vanity that lurks in the hearts of those who disguise or cloke it best, thou wouldst find great reason to acquit, at least, to allow for me: since it is generally the conscious over-fulness of conceit, that makes the hypocrite most upon his guard to conceal it. Yet with these fellows, proudly humble as they are, it will break out sometimes in spite of their clokes, though but in self-denying, compliment-begging self-degradation.
But now I have undervalued myself, in apologizing to thee on this occasion, let me use another argument in favour of my observation, that the ladies generally prefer a rake to a sober man; and of my presumption upon it, that Miss Howe is in love with me: it is this: common fame says, That Hickman is a very virtuous, a very innocent fellow—a male-virgin, I warrant!—An odd dog I always thought him. Now women, Jack, like not novices. Two maidenheads meeting together in wedlock, the first child must be a fool, is their common aphorism. They are pleased with a love of the sex that is founded in the knowledge of it. Reason good; novices expect more than they can possibly find in the commerce with them. The man who knows them, yet has ardours for them, to borrow a word from Miss Howe,* though those ardours are generally owing more to the devil within him, than to the witch without him, is the man who makes them the highest and most grateful compliment. He knows what to expect, and with what to be satisfied.
* See Vol. IV. Letters XXIX. and XXXIV.
Then the merit of a woman, in some cases, must be ignorance, whether real or pretended. The man, in these cases, must be an adept. Will it then be wondered at, that a woman prefers a libertine to a novice?—While she expects in the one the confidence she wants, she considers the other and herself as two parallel lines, which, though they run side by side, can never meet.
Yet in this the sex is generally mistaken too; for these sheepish fellows are sly. I myself was modest once; and this, as I have elsewhere hinted to thee,* has better enabled me to judge of both sexes.
* See Vol. III. Letter XXIII.
But to proceed with my narrative:
Having thus prepared every one against any letter should come from Miss Howe, and against my beloved's messenger returns, I thought it proper to conclude that subject with a hint, that my spouse could not bear to have any thing said that reflected upon Miss Howe; and, with a deep sigh, added, that I had been made very unhappy more than once by the ill-will of ladies whom I had never offended.
The widow Bevis believed that might very easily be. Will. both without and within, [for I intend he shall fall in love with widow Moore's maid, and have saved one hundred pounds in my service, at least,] will be great helps, as things may happen.
MR. LOVELACE [IN CONTINUATION.]
We had hardly dined, when my coachman, who kept a look-out for Captain Tomlinson, as Will. did for old Grimes, conducted hither that worthy gentleman, attended by one servant, both on horseback. He alighted. I went out to meet him at the door.
Thou knowest his solemn appearance, and unblushing freedom; and yet canst not imagine what a dignity the rascal assumed, nor how respectful to him I was.
I led him into the parlour, and presented him to the women, and them to him. I thought it highly imported me (as they might still have some diffidences about our marriage, from my fair-one's home-pushed questions on that head) to convince them entirely of the truth of all I had asserted. And how could I do this better, than by dialoguing a little with him before them?
Dear Captain, I thought you long; for I have had a terrible conflict with my spouse.
Capt. I am sorry that I am later than my intention—my account with my banker—[There's a dog, Jack!] took me up longer time to adjust than I had foreseen [all the time pulling down and stroking his ruffles]: for there was a small difference between us—only twenty pounds, indeed, which I had taken no account of.
The rascal has not seen twenty pounds of his own these ten years.
Then had we between us the character of the Harlowe family; I railed against them all; the Captain taking his dear friend Mr. John Harlowe's part; with a Not so fast!—not so fast, young gentleman!—and the like free assumptions.
He accounted for their animosity by my defiances: no good family, having such a charming daughter, would care to be defied, instead of courted: he must speak his mind: never was a double-tongued man.—He appealed to the ladies, if he were not right?
He got them on his side.
The correction I had given the brother, he told me, must have aggravated matters.
How valiant this made me look to the women!—The sex love us mettled fellows at their hearts.
Be that as it would, I should never love any of the family but my spouse; and wanting nothing from them, I would not, but for her sake, have gone so far as I had gone towards a reconciliation.
This was very good of me; Mrs. Moore said.
Very good indeed; Miss Rawlins.
Good;—It is more than good; it is very generous; said the widow.
Capt. Why so it is, I must needs say: for I am sensible that Mr. Lovelace has been rudely treated by them all—more rudely, than it could have been imagined a man of his quality and spirit would have put up with. But then, Sir, [turning to me,] I think you are amply rewarded in such a lady; and that you ought to forgive the father for the daughter's sake.
Mrs. Moore. Indeed so I think.
Miss R. So must every one think who has seen the lady.
Widow B. A fine lady, to be sure! But she has a violent spirit; and some very odd humours too, by what I have heard. The value of good husbands is not known till they are lost!
Her conscience then drew a sigh from her.
Lovel. Nobody must reflect upon my angel!—An angel she is—some little blemishes, indeed, as to her over-hasty spirit, and as to her unforgiving temper. But this she has from the Harlowes; instigated too by that Miss Howe.—But her innumerable excellencies are all her own.
Capt. Ay, talk of spirit, there's a spirit, now you have named Miss Howe! [And so I led him to confirm all I had said of that vixen.] Yet she was to be pitied too; looking with meaning at me.
As I have already hinted, I had before agreed with him to impute secret love occasionally to Miss Howe, as the best means to invalidate all that might come from her in my disfavour.
Capt. Mr. Lovelace, but that I know your modesty, or you could give a reason—
Lovel. Looking down, and very modest—I can't think so, Captain—but let us call another cause.
Every woman present could look me in the face, so bashful was I.
Capt. Well, but as to our present situation—only it mayn't be proper— looking upon me, and round upon the women.
Lovel. O Captain, you may say any thing before this company—only, Andrew, [to my new servant, who attended us at table,] do you withdraw: this good girl [looking at the maid-servant] will help us to all we want.
Away went Andrew: he wanted not his cue; and the maid seemed pleased at my honour's preference of her.
Capt. As to our present situation, I say, Mr. Lovelace—why, Sir, we shall be all untwisted, let me tell you, if my friend Mr. John Harlowe were to know what that is. He would as much question the truth of your being married, as the rest of the family do.
Here the women perked up their ears; and were all silent attention.
Capt. I asked you before for particulars, Mr. Lovelace; but you declined giving them.—Indeed it may not be proper for me to be acquainted with them.—But I must own, that it is past my comprehension, that a wife can resent any thing a husband can do (that is not a breach of the peace) so far as to think herself justified for eloping from him.
Lovel. Captain Tomlinson:—Sir—I do assure you, that I shall be offended—I shall be extremely concerned—if I hear that word eloping mentioned again—
Capt. Your nicety and your love, Sir, may make you take offence—but it is my way to call every thing by its proper name, let who will be offended—
Thou canst not imagine, Belford, how brave and how independent the rascal looked.
Capt. When, young gentleman, you shall think proper to give us particulars, we will find a word for this rash act in so admirable a lady, that shall please you better.—You see, Sir, that being the representative of my dear friend Mr. John Harlowe, I speak as freely as I suppose he would do, if present. But you blush, Sir—I beg your pardon, Mr. Lovelace: it becomes not a modest man to pry into those secrets, which a modest man cannot reveal.
I did not blush, Jack; but denied not the compliment, and looked down: the women seemed delighted with my modesty: but the widow Bevis was more inclined to laugh at me than praise me for it.
Capt. Whatever be the cause of this step, (I will not again, Sir, call it elopement, since that harsh word wounds your tenderness,) I cannot but express my surprise upon it, when I recollect the affectionate behaviour, to which I was witness between you, when I attended you last. Over-love, Sir, I think you once mention—but over-love [smiling] give me leave to say, Sir, it is an odd cause of quarrel—few ladies—
Lovel. Dear Captain!—And I tried to blush.
The women also tried; and being more used to it, succeeded better.—Mrs. Bevis indeed has a red-hot countenance, and always blushes.
Miss R. It signifies nothing to mince the matter: but the lady above as good as denies her marriage. You know, Sir, that she does; turning to me.
Capt. Denies her marriage! Heavens! how then have I imposed upon my dear friend Mr. John Harlowe!
Lovel. Poor dear!—But let not her veracity be called into question. She would not be guilty of a wilful untruth for the world.
Then I had all their praises again.
Lovel. Dear creature!—She thinks she has reason for her denial. You know, Mrs. Moore; you know, Miss Rawlins; what I owned to you above as my vow.
I looked down, and, as once before, turned round my diamond ring.
Mrs. Moore looked awry, and with a leer at Miss Rawlins, as to her partner in the hinted-at reference.
Miss Rawlins looked down as well as I; her eyelids half closed, as if mumbling a pater-noster, meditating her snuff-box, the distance between her nose and chin lengthened by a close-shut mouth.
She put me in mind of the pious Mrs. Fetherstone at Oxford, whom I pointed out to thee once, among other grotesque figures, at St. Mary's church, whither we went to take a view of her two sisters: her eyes shut, not daring to trust her heart with them open; and but just half-rearing her lids, to see who the next comer was; and falling them again, when her curiosity was satisfied.
The widow Bevis gazed, as if on the hunt for a secret.
The Captain looked archly, as if half in the possession of one.
Mrs. Moore at last broke the bashful silence. Mrs. Lovelace's behaviour, she said, could be no otherwise so well accounted for, as by the ill offices of that Miss Howe; and by the severity of her relations; which might but too probably have affected her head a little at times: adding, that it was very generous in me to give way to the storm when it was up, rather than to exasperate at such a time.
But let me tell you, Sirs, said the widow Bevis, that is not what one husband in a thousand would have done.
I desired, that no part of this conversation might be hinted to my spouse; and looked still more bashfully. Her great fault, I must own, was over-delicacy.
The Captain leered round him; and said, he believed he could guess from the hints I had given him in town (of my over-love) and from what had now passed, that we had not consummated our marriage.
O Jack! how sheepishly then looked, or endeavoured to look, thy friend! how primly goody Moore! how affectedly Miss Rawlins!—while the honest widow Bevis gazed around her fearless; and though only simpering with her mouth, her eyes laughed outright, and seemed to challenge a laugh from every eye in the company.
He observed, that I was a phoenix of a man, if so; and he could not but hope that all matters would be happily accommodated in a day or two; and that then he should have the pleasure to aver to her uncle, that he was present, as he might say, on our wedding-day.
The women seemed all to join in the same hope.
Ah, Captain! Ah, Ladies! how happy should I be, if I could bring my dear spouse to be of the same mind!
It would be a very happy conclusion of a very knotty affair, said the widow Bevis; and I see not why we may not make this very night a merry one.
The Captain superciliously smiled at me. He saw plainly enough, he said, that we had been at children's play hitherto. A man of my character, who could give way to such a caprice as this, must have a prodigious value for his lady. But one thing he would venture to tell me; and that was this—that, however desirous young skittish ladies might be to have their way in this particular, it was a very bad setting-out for the man; as it gave his bride a very high proof of the power she had over him: and he would engage, that no woman, thus humoured, ever valued the man the more for it; but very much the contrary—and there were reasons to be given why she should not.
Well, well, Captain, no more of this subject before the ladies.—One feels [shrugging my shoulders in a bashful try-to-blush manner] that one is so ridiculous—I have been punished enough for my tender folly.
Miss Rawlins had taken her fan, and would needs hide her face behind it— I suppose because her blush was not quite ready.
Mrs. Moore hemmed, and looked down; and by that gave her's over.
While the jolly widow, laughing out, praised the Captain as one of Hudibras's metaphysicians, repeating,
He knew what's what, and that's as high As metaphysic wit can fly.
This made Miss Rawlins blush indeed:—Fie, fie, Mrs. Bevis! cried she, unwilling, I suppose, to be thought absolutely ignorant.
Upon the whole, I began to think that I had not made a bad exchange of our professing mother, for the unprofessing Mrs. Moore. And indeed the women and I, and my beloved too, all mean the same thing: we only differ about the manner of coming at the proposed end.
MR. LOVELACE [IN CONTINUATION.]
It was now high time to acquaint my spouse, that Captain Tomlinson was come. And the rather, as the maid told us, that the lady had asked her if such a gentleman [describing him] was not in the parlour?
Mrs. Moore went up, and requested, in my name, that she would give us audience.
But she returned, reporting my beloved's desire, that Captain Tomlinson would excuse her for the present. She was very ill. Her spirits were too weak to enter into conversation with him; and she must lie down.
I was vexed, and at first extremely disconcerted. The Captain was vexed too. And my concern, thou mayest believe, was the greater on his account.
She had been very much fatigued, I own. Her fits in the morning must have disordered her: and she had carried her resentment so high, that it was the less wonder she should find herself low, when her raised spirits had subsided. Very low, I may say; if sinkings are proportioned to risings; for she had been lifted up above the standard of a common mortal.
The Captain, however, sent up his own name, that if he could be admitted to drink one dish of tea with her, he should take it for a favour: and would go to town, and dispatch some necessary business, in order, if possible, to leave his morning free to attend her.
But she pleaded a violent head-ache; and Mrs. Moore confirmed the plea to be just.
I would have had the Captain lodge there that night, as well in compliment to him, as introductory to my intention of entering myself upon my new-taken apartment: but his hours were of too much importance to him to stay the evening.
It was indeed very inconvenient for him, he said, to return in the morning; but he is willing to do all in his power to heal this breach, and that as well for the sakes of me and my lady, as for that of his dear friend Mr. John Harlowe; who must not know how far this misunderstanding had gone. He would therefore only drink one dish of tea with the ladies and me.
And accordingly, after he had done so, and I had had a little private conversation with him, he hurried away.
His fellow had given him, in the interim, a high character to Mrs. Moore's servants: and this reported by the widow Bevis (who being no proud woman, is hail fellow well met, as the saying is, with all her aunt's servants) he was a fine gentleman, a discreet gentleman, a man of sense and breeding, with them all: and it was pity, that, with such great business upon his hands, he should be obliged to come again.
My life for your's, audibly whispered the widow Bevis, there is humour as well as head-ache in somebody's declining to see this worthy gentleman.— Ah, Lord! how happy might some people be if they would!
No perfect happiness in this world, said I, very gravely, and with a sigh; for the widow must know that I heard her. If we have not real unhappiness, we can make it, even from the overflowings of our good fortune.
Very true, and very true, the two widows. A charming observation! Mrs. Bevis. Miss Rawlins smiled her assent to it; and I thought she called me in her heart charming man! for she professes to be a great admirer of moral observations.
I had hardly taken leave of the Captain, and sat down again with the women, when Will. came; and calling me out, 'Sir, Sir,' said he, grinning with a familiarity in his looks as if what he had to say entitled him to take liberties; 'I have got the fellow down!—I have got old Grimes—hah, hah, hah, hah!—He is at the Lower Flask—almost in the condition of David's sow, and please your honour—[the dog himself not much better] here is his letter—from—from Miss Howe—ha, ha, ha, ha,' laughed the varlet; holding it fast, as if to make conditions with me, and to excite my praises, as well as my impatience.
I could have knocked him down; but he would have his say out—'old Grimes knows not that I have the letter—I must get back to him before he misses it—I only make a pretence to go out for a few minutes—but—but'—and then the dog laughed again—'he must stay—old Grimes must stay—till I go back to pay the reckoning.'
D—n the prater; grinning rascal! The letter! The letter!
He gathered in his wide mothe, as he calls it, and gave me the letter; but with a strut, rather than a bow; and then sidled off like one of widow Sorlings's dunghill cocks, exulting after a great feat performed. And all the time that I was holding up the billet to the light, to try to get at its contents without breaking the seal, [for, dispatched in a hurry, it had no cover,] there stood he, laughing, shrugging, playing off his legs; now stroking his shining chin, now turning his hat upon his thumb! then leering in my face, flourishing with his head—O Christ! now-and-then cried the rascal—
What joy has this dog in mischief!—More than I can have in the completion of my most favourite purposes!—These fellows are ever happier than their masters.
I was once thinking to rumple up this billet till I had broken the seal. Young families [Miss Howe's is not an ancient one] love ostentatious sealings: and it might have been supposed to have been squeezed in pieces in old Grimes's breeches-pocket. But I was glad to be saved the guilt as well as suspicion of having a hand in so dirty a trick; for thus much of the contents (enough for my purpose) I was enabled to scratch out in character without it; the folds depriving me only of a few connecting words, which I have supplied between hooks.
My Miss Harlowe, thou knowest, had before changed her name to Miss Laetitia Beaumont. Another alias now, Jack, to it; for this billet was directed to her by the name of Mrs. Harriot Lucas. I have learned her to be half a rogue, thou seest.
'I congratulate you, my dear, with all my heart and soul, upon [your escape] from the villain. [I long] for the particulars of all. [My mother] is out; but, expecting her return every minute, I dispatched [your] messenger instantly. [I will endeavour to come at] Mrs. Townsend without loss of time; and will write at large in a day or two, if in that time I can see her. [Mean time I] am excessively uneasy for a letter I sent you yesterday by Collins, [who must have left it at] Wilson's after you got away. [It is of very] great importance. [I hope the] villain has it not. I would not for the world [that he should.] Immediately send for it, if, by doing so, the place you are at [will not be] discovered. If he has it, let me know it by some way [out of] hand. If not, you need not send.
'Ever, ever your's, 'A.H. 'June 9.'
O Jack! what heart's-ease does this interception give me!—I sent the rascal back with the letter to old Grimes, and charged him to drink no deeper. He owned, that he was half-seas over, as he phrased it.
Dog! said I, are you not to court one of Mrs. Moore's maids to-night?—
Cry your mercy, Sir!—I will be sober.—I had forgot that—but old Grimes is plaguy tough, I thought I should never have got him down.
Away, villain! Let old Grimes come, and on horseback too, to the door—
He shall, and please your honour, if I can get him on the saddle, and if he can sit—
And charge him not to have alighted, nor to have seen any body—
Enough, Sir, familiarly nodding his head, to show he took me. And away went the villain—into the parlour, to the women, I.
In a quarter of an hour came old Grimes on horseback, waving to his saddle-bow, now on this side, now on that; his head, at others, joining to that of his more sober beast.
It looked very well to the women that I made no effort to speak to old Grimes, (though I wished, before them, that I knew the contents of what he brought;) but, on the contrary, desired that they would instantly let my spouse know that her messenger was returned.
Down she flew, violently as she had the head-ache!
O how I prayed for an opportunity to be revenged of her for the ungrateful trouble she had given to her uncle's friend!
She took the letter from old Grimes with her own hands, and retired to an inner parlour to read it.
She presently came out again to the fellow, who had much ado to sit his horse—Here is your money, friend.—I thought you long: but what shall I do to get somebody to go to town immediately for me? I see you cannot.
Old Grimes took his money, let fall his hand in doffing it; had it given him, and rode away; his eyes isinglass, and set in his head, as I saw through the window, and in a manner speechless—all his language hiccup. My dog needed not to have gone so deep with this tough old Grimes. But the rascal was in his kingdom with him.
The lady applied to Mrs. Moore; she mattered not the price. Could a man and horse be engaged for her?—Only to go for a letter left for her, at one Mr. Wilson's, in Pall-mall.
A poor neighbour was hired—a horse procured for him—he had his directions.
In vain did I endeavour to engaged my beloved, when she was below. Her head-ache, I suppose, returned.—She, like the rest of her sex, can be ill or well when she pleases.
I see her drift, thought I; it is to have all her lights from Miss Howe before she resolves, and to take her measures accordingly.
Up she went expressing great impatience about the letter she had sent for; and desired Mrs. Moore to let her know if I offered to send any one of my servants to town—to get at the letter, I suppose, was her fear; but she might have been quite easy on that head; and yet, perhaps, would not, had she known that the worthy Captain Tomlinson, (who will be in town before her messenger,) will leave there the important letter, which I hope will help to pacify her, and reconcile her to me.
O Jack, Jack! thinkest thou that I will take all this roguish pains, and be so often called villain for nothing?
But yet, is it not taking pains to come at the finest creature in the world, not for a transitory moment only, but for one of our lives! The struggle only, Whether I am to have her in my own way, or in her's?
But now I know thou wilt be frightened out of thy wits for me—What, Lovelace! wouldest thou let her have a letter that will inevitably blow thee up; and blow up the mother, and all her nymphs!—yet not intend to reform, nor intend to marry?
Patience, puppy!—Canst thou not trust thy master?
MR. LOVELACE [IN CONTINUATION.]
I went up to my new-taken apartment, and fell to writing in character, as usual. I thought I had made good my quarters, but the cruel creature, understanding that I intended to take up my lodgings there, declared with so much violence against it, that I was obliged to submit, and to accept of another lodging, about twelve doors off, which Mrs. Moore recommended. And all the advantage I could obtain was, that Will., unknown to my spouse, and for fear of a freak, should lie in the house.
Mrs. Moore, indeed, was unwilling to disoblige either of us. But Miss Rawlins was of opinion, that nothing more ought to be allowed me: and yet Mrs. Moore owned, that the refusal was a strange piece of tyranny to a husband, if I were a husband.
I had a good mind to make Miss Rawlins smart for it. Come and see Miss Rawlins, Jack.—If thou likest her, I'll get her for thee with a wet-finger, as the saying is!
The widow Bevis indeed stickled hard for me. [An innocent, or injured man, will have friends every where.] She said, that to bear much with some wives, was to be obliged to bear more; and I reflected, with a sigh, that tame spirits must always be imposed upon. And then, in my heart, I renewed my vows of revenge upon this haughty and perverse beauty.
The second fellow came back from town about nine o'clock, with Miss Howe's letter of Wednesday last. 'Collins, it seems, when he left it, had desired, that it might be safely and speedily delivered into Miss Laetitia Beaumont's own hands. But Wilson, understanding that neither she nor I were in town, [he could not know of our difference thou must think,] resolved to take care of it till our return, in order to give it into one of our own hands; and now delivered it to her messenger.'
This was told her. Wilson, I doubt not, is in her favour upon it.
She took the letter with great eagerness; opened it in a hurry, [am glad she did; yet, I believe, all was right,] before Mrs. Moore and Mrs. Bevis, [Miss Rawlins was gone home;] and said, she would not for the world that I should have had that letter, for the sake of her dear friend the writer, who had written to her very uneasily about it.
Her dear friend! repeated Mrs. Bevis, when she told me this:—such mischief-makers are always deemed dear friends till they are found out!
The widow says that I am the finest gentleman she ever beheld.
I have found a warm kiss now-and-then very kindly taken.
I might be a very wicked fellow, Jack, if I were to do all the mischief in my power. But I am evermore for quitting a too-easy prey to reptile rakes! What but difficulty, (though the lady is an angel,) engages me to so much perseverance here?—And here, conquer or die! is now the determination!
I have just now parted with this honest widow. She called upon me at my new lodgings. I told her, that I saw I must be further obliged to her in the course of this difficult affair. She must allow me to make her a handsome present when all was happily over. But I desired that she would take no notice of what should pass between us, not even to her aunt; for that she, as I saw, was in the power of Miss Rawlins: and Miss Rawlins, being a maiden gentlewoman, knew not the right and the fit in matrimonial matters, as she, my dear widow, did.
Very true: How should she? said Mrs. Bevis, proud of knowing—nothing! But, for her part, she desired no present. It was enough if she could contribute to reconcile man and wife, and disappoint mischief-makers. She doubted not, that such an envious creature as Miss Howe was glad that Mrs. Lovelace had eloped—jealousy and love was Old Nick!
See, Belford, how charmingly things work between me and my new acquaintance, the widow!—Who knows, but that she may, after a little farther intimacy, (though I am banished the house on nights,) contrive a midnight visit for me to my spouse, when all is still and fast asleep?
Where can a woman be safe, who has once entered the lists with a contriving and intrepid lover?
But as to this letter, methinkest thou sayest, of Miss Howe?
I knew thou wouldest be uneasy for me. But did not I tell thee that I had provided for every thing? That I always took care to keep seals entire, and to preserve covers?* Was it not easy then, thinkest thou, to contrive a shorter letter out of a longer; and to copy the very words?
* See Letter XX. of this volume.
I can tell thee, it was so well ordered, that, not being suspected to have been in my hands, it was not easy to find me out. Had it been my beloved's hand, there would have been no imitating it for such a length. Her delicate and even mind is seen in the very cut of her letters. Miss Howe's hand is no bad one, but it is not so equal and regular. That little devil's natural impatience hurrying on her fingers, gave, I suppose, from the beginning, her handwriting, as well as the rest of her, its fits and starts, and those peculiarities, which, like strong muscular lines in a face, neither the pen, nor the pencil, can miss.