Now, Belford, although there is nothing striking in any of these characters; yet may we, at a pinch, make a good frolicky half-day with them, if, after we have softened their wax at table by encouraging viands, we can set our women and them into dancing: dancing, which all women love, and all men should therefore promote, for both their sakes.
And thus, when Tourville sings, Belton fiddles, Mowbray makes rough love, and I smooth; and thou, Jack, wilt be by that time well enough to join in the chorus; the devil's in't if we don't mould them into what shape we please—our own women, by their laughing freedoms, encouraging them to break through all their customary reserves. For women to women, thou knowest, are great darers and incentives: not one of them loving to be outdone or outdared, when their hearts are thoroughly warmed.
I know, at first, the difficulty will be the accidental absence of my dear Mrs. Lovelace, to whom principally they will design their visit: but if we can exhilarate them, they won't then wish to see her; and I can form twenty accidents and excuses, from one hour to another, for her absence, till each shall have a subject to take up all her thoughts.
I am really sick at heart for a frolic, and have no doubt but this will be an agreeable one. These women already think me a wild fellow; nor do they like me the less for it, as I can perceive; and I shall take care, that they shall be treated with so much freedom before one another's faces, that in policy they shall keep each other's counsel. And won't this be doing a kind thing by them? since it will knit an indissoluble band of union and friendship between three women who are neighbours, and at present have only common obligations to one another: for thou wantest not to be told, that secrets of love, and secrets of this nature, are generally the strongest cement of female friendships.
But, after all, if my beloved should be happily restored to her intellects, we may have scenes arise between us that will be sufficiently busy to employ all the faculties of thy friend, without looking out for new occasions. Already, as I have often observed, has she been the means of saving scores of her sex, yet without her own knowledge.
By Dorcas's account of her lady's behaviour, the dear creature seems to be recovering. I shall give the earliest notice of this to the worthy Capt. Tomlinson, that he may apprize uncle John of it. I must be properly enabled, from that quarter, to pacify her, or, at least, to rebate her first violence.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. SUNDAY AFTERNOON, SIX O'CLOCK, (JUNE 18.)
I went out early this morning, and returned not till just now; when I was informed that my beloved, in my absence, had taken it into her head to attempt to get away.
She tripped down, with a parcel tied up in a handkerchief, her hood on; and was actually in the entry, when Mrs. Sinclair saw her.
Pray, Madam, whipping between her and the street-door, be pleased to let me know where you are going?
Who has a right to controul me? was the word.
I have, Madam, by order of your spouse: and, kemboing her arms, as she owned, I desire you will be pleased to walk up again.
She would have spoken; but could not: and, bursting into tears, turned back, and went up to her chamber: and Dorcas was taken to task for suffering her to be in the passage before she was seen.
This shows, as we hoped last night, that she is recovering her charming intellects.
Dorcas says, she was visible to her but once before the whole day; and then she seemed very solemn and sedate.
I will endeavour to see her. It must be in her own chamber, I suppose; for she will hardly meet me in the dining-room. What advantage will the confidence of our sex give me over the modesty of her's, if she be recovered!—I, the most confident of men: she, the most delicate of women. Sweet soul! methinks I have her before me: her face averted: speech lost in sighs—abashed—conscious—what a triumphant aspect will this give me, when I gaze on her downcast countenance!
This moment Dorcas tells me she believes she is coming to find me out. She asked her after me: and Dorcas left her, drying her red-swoln eyes at her glass; [no design of moving me by tears!] sighing too sensibly for my courage. But to what purpose have I gone thus far, if I pursue not my principal end? Niceness must be a little abated. She knows the worst. That she cannot fly me; that she must see me; and that I can look her into a sweet confusion; are circumstances greatly in my favour. What can she do but rave and exclaim? I am used to raving and exclaiming—but, if recovered, I shall see how she behaves upon this our first sensible interview after what she has suffered.
Here she comes.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. SUNDAY NIGHT.
Never blame me for giving way to have art used with this admirable creature. All the princes of the air, or beneath it, joining with me, could never have subdued her while she had her senses.
I will not anticipate—only to tell thee, that I am too much awakened by her to think of sleep, were I to go to bed; and so shall have nothing to do but to write an account of our odd conversation, while it is so strong upon my mind that I can think of nothing else.
She was dressed in a white damask night-gown, with less negligence than for some days past. I was sitting with my pen in my fingers; and stood up when I first saw her, with great complaisance, as if the day were still her own. And so indeed it is.
She entered with such dignity in her manner as struck me with great awe, and prepared me for the poor figure I made in the subsequent conversation. A poor figure indeed!—But I will do her justice.
She came up with quick steps, pretty close to me; a white handkerchief in her hand; her eyes neither fierce nor mild, but very earnest; and a fixed sedateness in her whole aspect, which seemed to be the effect of deep contemplation: and thus she accosted me, with an air and action that I never saw equalled.
You see before you, Sir, the wretch, whose preference of you to all your sex you have rewarded—as it indeed deserved to be rewarded. My father's dreadful curse has already operated upon me in the very letter of it, as to this life; and it seems to me too evident that it will not be your fault that it is not entirely completed in the loss of my soul, as well as of my honour—which you, villanous man! have robbed me of, with a baseness so unnatural, so inhuman, that it seems you, even you, had not the heart to attempt it, till my senses were made the previous sacrifice.
Here I made an hesitating effort to speak, laying down my pen: but she proceeded!—Hear me out, guilty wretch!—abandoned man!—Man, did I say? —Yet what name else can I? since the mortal worryings of the fiercest beast would have been more natural, and infinitely more welcome, that what you have acted by me; and that with a premeditation and contrivance worthy only of that single heart which now, base as well as ungrateful as thou art, seems to quake within thee.—And well may'st thou quake; well may'st thou tremble, and falter, and hesitate, as thou dost, when thou reflectest upon what I have suffered for thy sake, and upon the returns thou hast made me!
By my soul, Belford, my whole frame was shaken: for not only her looks and her action, but her voice, so solemn, was inexpressibly affecting: and then my cursed guilt, and her innocence, and merit, and rank, and superiority of talents, all stared me at that instant in the face so formidably, that my present account, to which she unexpectedly called me, seemed, as I then thought, to resemble that general one, to which we are told we shall be summoned, when our conscience shall be our accuser.
But she had had time to collect all the powers of her eloquence. The whole day probably in her intellects. And then I was the more disappointed, as I had thought I could have gazed the dear creature into confusion—but it is plain, that the sense she has of her wrongs sets this matchless woman above all lesser, all weaker considerations.
My dear—my love—I—I—I never—no never—lips trembling, limbs quaking, voice inward, hesitating, broken—never surely did miscreant look so like a miscreant! while thus she proceeded, waving her snowy hand, with all the graces of moving oratory.
I have no pride in the confusion visible in thy whole person. I have been all the day praying for a composure, if I could not escape from this vile house, that should once more enable me to look up to my destroyer with the consciousness of an innocent sufferer. Thou seest me, since my wrongs are beyond the power of words to express, thou seest me, calm enough to wish, that thou may'st continue harassed by the workings of thy own conscience, till effectual repentance take hold of thee, that so thou may'st not forfeit all title to that mercy which thou hast not shown to the poor creature now before thee, who had so well deserved to meet with a faithful friend where she met with the worst of enemies.
But tell me, (for no doubt thou hast some scheme to pursue,) tell me, since I am a prisoner, as I find, in the vilest of houses, and have not a friend to protect or save me, what thou intendest shall become of the remnant of a life not worth the keeping!—Tell me, if yet there are more evils reserved for me; and whether thou hast entered into a compact with the grand deceiver, in the person of his horrid agent in this house; and if the ruin of my soul, that my father's curse may be fulfilled, is to complete the triumphs of so vile a confederacy?—Answer me!—Say, if thou hast courage to speak out to her whom thou hast ruined, tell me what farther I am to suffer from thy barbarity?
She stopped here, and, sighing, turned her sweet face from me, drying up with her handkerchief those tears which she endeavoured to restrain; and, when she could not, to conceal from my sight.
As I told thee, I had prepared myself for high passions, raving, flying, tearing execration; these transient violences, the workings of sudden grief, and shame, and vengeance, would have set us upon a par with each other, and quitted scores. These have I been accustomed to; and as nothing violent is lasting, with these I could have wished to encounter. But such a majestic composure—seeking me—whom, yet it is plain, by her attempt to get away, she would have avoided seeking—no Lucretia-like vengeance upon herself in her thought—yet swallowed up, her whole mind swallowed up, as I may say, by a grief so heavy, as, in her own words, to be beyond the power of speech to express—and to be able, discomposed as she was, to the very morning, to put such a home-question to me, as if she had penetrated my future view—how could I avoid looking like a fool, and answering, as before, in broken sentences and confusion?
What—what-a—what has been done—I, I, I—cannot but say—must own—must confess—hem—hem——is not right—is not what should have been—but-a— but—but—I am truly—truly—sorry for it—upon my soul I am—and—and— will do all—do every thing—do what—whatever is incumbent upon me—all that you—that you—that you shall require, to make you amends!——
O Belford! Belford! whose the triumph now! HER'S, or MINE?
Amends! O thou truly despicable wretch! Then lifting up her eyes—Good Heaven! who shall pity the creature who could fall by so base a mind!— Yet—[and then she looked indignantly upon me!] yet, I hate thee not (base and low-souled as thou art!) half so much as I hate myself, that I saw thee not sooner in thy proper colours! That I hoped either morality, gratitude, or humanity, from a libertine, who, to be a libertine, must have got over and defied all moral sanctions.*
* Her cousin Morden's words to her in his letter from Florence. See Vol. IV. Letter XIX.
She then called upon her cousin Morden's name, as if he had warned her against a man of free principles; and walked towards the window; her handkerchief at her eyes. But, turning short towards me, with an air of mingled scorn and majesty, [what, at the moment, would I have given never to have injured her!] What amends hast thou to propose! What amends can such a one as thou make to a person of spirit, or common sense, for the evils thou hast so inhumanely made me suffer?
As soon, Madam—as soon—as—as soon as your uncle—or—not waiting——
Thou wouldest tell me, I suppose—I know what thou wouldest tell me—But thinkest thou, that marriage will satisfy for a guilt like thine? Destitute as thou hast made me both of friends and fortune, I too much despise the wretch, who could rob himself of his wife's virtue, to endure the thoughts of thee in the light thou seemest to hope I will accept thee in!—
I hesitated an interruption; but my meaning died away upon my trembling lips. I could only pronounce the word marriage—and thus she proceeded:
Let me, therefore, know whether I am to be controuled in the future disposal of myself? Whether, in a country of liberty, as this, where the sovereign of it must not be guilty of your wickedness, and where you neither durst have attempted it, had I one friend or relation to look upon me, I am to be kept here a prisoner, to sustain fresh injuries? Whether, in a word, you intend to hinder me from going where my destiny shall lead me?
After a pause—for I was still silent:
Can you not answer me this plain question?—I quit all claim, all expectation, upon you—what right have you to detain me here?
I could not speak. What could I say to such a question?
O wretch! wringing her uplifted hands, had I not been robbed of my senses, and that in the basest manner—you best know how—had I been able to account for myself, and your proceedings, or to have known but how the days passed—a whole week should not have gone over my head, as I find it has done, before I had told you, what I now tell you—That the man who has been the villain to me you have been, shall never make me his wife.— I will write to my uncle, to lay aside his kind intentions in my favour— all my prospects are shut in—I give myself up for a lost creature as to this world—hinder me not from entering upon a life of severe penitence, for corresponding, after prohibition, with a wretch who has too well justified all their warnings and inveteracy; and for throwing myself into the power of your vile artifices. Let me try to secure the only hope I have left. This is all the amends I ask of you. I repeat, therefore, Am I now at liberty to dispose of myself as I please?
Now comes the fool, the miscreant again, hesitating his broken answer: My dearest love, I am confounded, quite confounded, at the thought of what— of what has been done; and at the thought of—to whom. I see, I see, there is no withstanding your eloquence!—Such irresistible proofs of the love of virtue, for its own sake, did I never hear of, nor meet with, in all my reading. And if you can forgive a repentant villain, who thus on his knees implores your forgiveness, [then down I dropt, absolutely in earnest in all I said,] I vow by all that's sacred and just, (and may a thunderbolt strike me dead at your feet, if I am not sincere!) that I will by marriage before to-morrow noon, without waiting for your uncle, or any body, do you all the justice I now can do you. And you shall ever after controul and direct me as you please, till you have made me more worthy of your angelic purity than now I am: nor will I presume so much as to touch your garment, till I have the honour to call so great a blessing lawfully mine.
O thou guileful betrayer! there is a just God, whom thou invokest: yet the thunderbolt descends not; and thou livest to imprecate and deceive!
My dearest life! rising; for I hoped she was relenting——
Hadst thou not sinned beyond the possibility of forgiveness, interrupted she; and this had been the first time that thus thou solemnly promisest and invokest the vengeance thou hast as often defied; the desperateness of my condition might have induced me to think of taking a wretched chance with a man so profligate. But, after what I have suffered by thee, it would be criminal in me to wish to bind my soul in covenant to a man so nearly allied to perdition.
Good God!—how uncharitable!—I offer not to defend—would to Heaven that I could recall—so nearly allied to perdition, Madam!—So profligate a man, Madam!——
O how short is expression of thy crimes, and of my sufferings! Such premeditation is thy baseness! To prostitute the characters of persons of honour of thy own family—and all to delude a poor creature, whom thou oughtest—But why talk I to thee? Be thy crimes upon thy head! Once more I ask thee, Am I, or am I not, at my own liberty now?
I offered to speak in defence of the women, declaring that they really were the very persons——
Presume not, interrupted she, base as thou art, to say one word in thine own vindication. I have been contemplating their behaviour, their conversation, their over-ready acquiescences, to my declarations in thy disfavour; their free, yet affectedly-reserved light manners: and now that the sad event has opened my eyes, and I have compared facts and passages together, in the little interval that has been lent me, I wonder I could not distinguish the behaviour of the unmatron-like jilt, whom thou broughtest to betray me, from the worthy lady whom thou hast the honour to call thy aunt: and that I could not detect the superficial creature whom thou passedst upon me for the virtuous Miss Montague.
Amazing uncharitableness in a lady so good herself!—That the high spirits those ladies were in to see you, should subject them to such censures!—I do must solemnly vow, Madam——
That they were, interrupting me, verily and indeed Lady Betty Lawrance and thy cousin Montague!—O wretch! I see by thy solemn averment [I had not yet averred it,] what credit ought to be given to all the rest. Had I no other proof——
Interrupting her, I besought her patient ear. 'I had found myself, I told her, almost avowedly despised and hated. I had no hope of gaining her love, or her confidence. The letter she had left behind her, on her removal to Hampstead, sufficiently convinced me that she was entirely under Miss Howe's influence, and waited but the return of a letter from her to enter upon measures that would deprive me of her for ever: Miss Howe had ever been my enemy: more so then, no doubt, from the contents of the letter she had written to her on her first coming to Hampstead; that I dared not to stand the event of such a letter; and was glad of an opportunity, by Lady Betty's and my cousin's means (though they knew not my motive) to get her back to town; far, at the time, from intending the outrage which my despair, and her want of confidence in me, put me so vilely upon'—
I would have proceeded; and particularly would have said something of Captain Tomlinson and her uncle; but she would not hear me further. And indeed it was with visible indignation, and not without several angry interruptions, that she heard me say so much.
Would I dare, she asked me, to offer at a palliation of my baseness? The two women, she was convinced, were impostors. She knew not but Captain Tomlinson and Mr. Mennell were so too. But whether they were so or not, I was. And she insisted upon being at her own disposal for the remainder of her short life—for indeed she abhorred me in every light; and more particularly in that in which I offered myself to her acceptance.
And, saying this, she flung from me; leaving me absolutely shocked and confounded at her part of a conversation which she began with such uncommon, however severe, composure, and concluded with so much sincere and unaffected indignation.
And now, Jack, I must address one serious paragraph particularly to thee.
I have not yet touched upon cohabitation—her uncle's mediation she does not absolutely discredit, as I had the pleasure to find by one hint in this conversation—yet she suspects my future views, and has doubt about Mennell and Tomlinson.
I do say, if she come fairly at her lights, at her clues, or what shall I call them? her penetration is wonderful.
But if she do not come at them fairly, then is her incredulity, then is her antipathy to me evidently accounted for.
I will speak out—thou couldst not, surely, play me booty, Jack?—Surely thou couldst not let thy weak pity for her lead thee to an unpardonable breach of trust to thy friend, who has been so unreserved in his communications to thee?
I cannot believe thee capable of such a baseness. Satisfy me, however, upon this head. I must make a cursed figure in her eye, vowing and protesting, as I shall not scruple occasionally to vow and protest, if all the time she has had unquestionable informations of my perfidy. I know thou as little fearest me, as I do thee, if any point of manhood; and wilt scorn to deny it, if thou hast done it, when thus home-pressed.
And here I have a good mind to stop, and write no farther, till I have thy answer.
And so I will.
MONDAY MORN. PAST THREE.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. MONDAY MORN. FIVE O'CLOCK (JUNE 19.)
I must write on. Nothing else can divert me: and I think thou canst not have been a dog to me.
I would fain have closed my eyes: but sleep flies me. Well says Horace, as translated by Cowley:
The halcyon sleep will never build his nest In any stormy breast. 'Tis not enough that he does find Clouds and darkness in the mind: Darkness but half his work will do. 'Tis not enough: he must find quiet too.
Now indeed do I from my heart wish that I had never known this lady. But who would have thought there had been such a woman in the world? Of all the sex I have hitherto known, or heard, or read of, it was once subdued, and always subdued. The first struggle was generally the last; or, at least, the subsequent struggles were so much fainter and fainter, that a man would rather have them than be without them. But how know I yet——
It is now near six—the sun for two hours past has been illuminating every thing about me: for that impartial orb shines upon Mother Sinclair's house as well as upon any other: but nothing within me can it illuminate.
At day-dawn I looked through the key-hole of my beloved's door. She had declared she would not put off her clothes any more in this house. There I beheld her in a sweet slumber, which I hope will prove refreshing to her disturbed senses; sitting in her elbow-chair, her apron over her head; her head supported by one sweet hand, the other hand hanging down upon her side, in a sleepy lifelessness; half of one pretty foot only visible.
See the difference in our cases! thought I: she, the charming injured, can sweetly sleep, while the varlet injurer cannot close his eyes; and has been trying, to no purpose, the whole night to divert his melancholy, and to fly from himself!
As every vice generally brings on its own punishment, even in this life; if any thing were to tempt me to doubt of future punishment, it would be, that there can hardly be a greater than that in which I at this instant experience in my own remorse.
I hope it will go off. If not, well will the dear creature be avenged; for I shall be the most miserable of men.
Just now Dorcas tells me, that her lady is preparing openly, and without disguise, to be gone. Very probable. The humour she flew away from me in last night has given me expectation of such an enterprize.
Now, Jack, to be thus hated and despised!—And if I have sinned beyond forgiveness——
But she has sent me a message by Dorcas, that she will meet me in the dining-room; and desires [odd enough] that the wretch may be present at the conversation that shall pass between us. This message gives me hope.
Confounded art, cunning villany!—By my soul, she had like to have slipped through my fingers! She meant nothing by her message but to get Dorcas out of the way, and a clear coast. Is a fancied distress, sufficient to justify this lady for dispensing with her principles? Does she not show me that she can wilfully deceive, as well as I?
Had she been in the fore-house, and no passage to go through to get at the street-door, she had certainly been gone. But her haste betrayed her: for Sally Martin happening to be in the fore-parlour, and hearing a swifter motion than usual, and a rustling of silks, as if from somebody in a hurry, looked out; and seeing who it was, stept between her and the door, and set her back against it.
You must not go, Madam. Indeed you must not.
By what right?—And how dare you?—And such-like imperious airs the dear creature gave herself.—While Sally called out for her aunt; and half a dozen voiced joined instantly in the cry, for me to hasten down, to hasten down in a moment.
I was gravely instructing Dorcas above stairs, and wondering what would be the subject of the conversation to which the wench was to be a witness, when these outcries reached my ears. And down I flew.—And there was the charming creature, the sweet deceiver, panting for breath, her back against the partition, a parcel in her hand, [women make no excursions without their parcels,] Sally, Polly, (but Polly obligingly pleaded for her,) the mother, Mabell, and Peter, (the footman of the house,) about her; all, however, keeping their distance; the mother and Sally between her and the door—in her soft rage the dear soul repeating, I will go—nobody has a right—I will go—if you kill me, women, I won't go up again!
As soon as she saw me, she stept a pace or two towards me; Mr. Lovelace, I will go! said she—do you authorize these women—what right have they, or you either, to stop me?
Is this, my dear, preparative to the conversation you led me to expect in the dining-room? And do you thing [sic] I can part with you thus?—Do you think I will.
And am I, Sir, to be thus beset?—Surrounded thus?—What have these women to do with me?
I desired them to leave us, all but Dorcas, who was down as soon as I. I then thought it right to assume an air of resolution, having found my tameness so greatly triumphed over. And now, my dear, said I, (urging her reluctant feet,) be pleased to walk into the fore-parlour. Here, since you will not go up stairs, here we may hold our parley; and Dorcas will be witness to it. And now, Madam, seating her, and sticking my hands in my sides, your pleasure!
Insolent villain! said the furious lady. And rising, ran to the window, and threw up the sash, [she knew not, I suppose, that there were iron rails before the windows.] And, when she found she could not get out into the street, clasping her uplifted hands together, having dropt her parcel—For the love of God, good honest man!—For the love of God, mistress—[to two passers by,] a poor, a poor creature, said she, ruined! ——
I clasped her in my arms, people beginning to gather about the window: and then she cried out Murder! help! help! and carried her up to the dining-room, in spite of her little plotting heart, (as I may now call it,) although she violently struggled, catching hold of the banisters here and there, as she could. I would have seated her there; but she sunk down half-motionless, pale as ashes. And a violent burst of tears happily relieved her.
Dorcas wept over her. The wench was actually moved for her!
Violent hysterics succeeded. I left her to Mabell, Dorcas, and Polly; the latter the most supportable to her of the sisterhood.
This attempt, so resolutely made, alarmed me not a little.
Mrs. Sinclair and her nymphs, are much more concerned; because of the reputation of their house as they call it, having received some insults (broken windows threatened) to make them produce the young creature who cried out.
While the mobbish inquisitors were in the height of their office, the women came running up to me, to know what they should do; a constable being actually fetched.
Get the constable into the parlour, said I, with three or four of the forwardest of the mob, and produce one of the nymphs, onion-eyed, in a moment, with disordered head-dress and handkerchief, and let her own herself the person: the occasion, a female skirmish: but satisfied with the justice done her. Then give a dram or two to each fellow, and all will be well.
All done as I advised; and all is well.
Mrs. Sinclair wishes she had never seen the face of so skittish a lady; and she and Sally are extremely pressing with me, to leave the perverse beauty to their breaking, as they call it, for four or five days. But I cursed them into silence; only ordering double precaution for the future.
Polly, though she consoled the dear perverse one all she could, when with her, insists upon it to me, that nothing but terror will procure me tolerable usage.
Dorcas was challenged by the women upon her tears. She owned them real. Said she was ashamed of herself: but could not help it. So sincere, so unyielding a grief, in so sweet a lady!—
The women laughed at her; but I bid her make no apologies for her tears, nor mind their laughing. I was glad to see them so ready. Good use might be made of such strangers. In short, I would not have her indulge them often, and try if it were not possible to gain her lady's confidence by her concern for her.
She said that her lady did take kind notice of them to her; and was glad to see such tokens of humanity in her.
Well then, said I, your part, whether any thing come of it or not, is to be tender-hearted. It can do no harm, if no good. But take care you are not too suddenly, or too officiously compassionate.
So Dorcas will be a humane, good sort of creature, I believe, very quickly with her lady. And as it becomes women to be so, and as my beloved is willing to think highly of her own sex; it will the more readily pass with her.
I thought to have had one trial (having gone so far) for cohabitation. But what hope can there be of succeeding?—She is invincible!—Against all my motions, against all my conceptions, (thinking of her as a woman, and in the very bloom of her charms,) she is absolutely invincible. My whole view, at the present, is to do her legal justice, if I can but once more get her out of her altitudes.
The consent of such a woman must make her ever new, ever charming. But astonishing! Can the want of a church-ceremony make such a difference!
She owes me her consent; for hitherto I have had nothing to boast of. All of my side, has been deep remorse, anguish of mind, and love increased rather than abated.
How her proud rejection stings me!—And yet I hope still to get her to listen to my stories of the family-reconciliation, and of her uncle and Capt. Tomlinson—and as she has given me a pretence to detain her against her will, she must see me, whether in temper or not.—She cannot help it. And if love will not do, terror, as the women advise, must be tried.
A nice part, after all, has my beloved to act. If she forgive me easily, I resume perhaps my projects:—if she carry her rejection into violence, that violence may make me desperate, and occasion fresh violence. She ought, since she thinks she has found the women out, to consider where she is.
I am confoundedly out of conceit with myself. If I give up my contrivances, my joy in stratagem, and plot, and invention, I shall be but a common man; such another dull heavy creature as thyself. Yet what does even my success in my machinations bring me but regret, disgrace, repentance? But I am overmatched, egregiously overmatched, by this woman. What to do with her, or without her, I know not.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
I have this moment intelligence from Simon Parsons, one of Lord M.'s stewards, that his Lordship is very ill. Simon, who is my obsequious servant, in virtue of my presumptive heirship, gives me a hint in his letter, that my presence at M. Hall will not be amiss. So I must accelerate, whatever be the course I shall be allowed or compelled to take.
No bad prospects for this charming creature, if the old peer would be so kind as to surrender; and many a summons has this gout given him. A good 8000L. a-year, and perhaps the title reversionary, or a still higher, would help me up with her.
Proudly as this lady pretends to be above all pride, grandeur will have its charms with her; for grandeur always makes a man's face shine in a woman's eye. I have a pretty good, because a clear, estate, as it is. But what a noble variety of mischief will 8000L. a-year, enable a man to do?
Perhaps thou'lt say, I do already all that comes into my head; but that's a mistake—not one half I will assure thee. And even good folks, as I have heard, love to have the power of doing mischief, whether they make use of it or not. The late Queen Anne, who was a very good woman, was always fond of prerogative. And her ministers, in her name, in more instances than one, made a ministerial use of this her foible.
But now, at last, am I to be admitted to the presence of my angry fair-one; after three denials, nevertheless; and a peremptory from me, by Dorcas, that I must see her in her chamber, if I cannot see her in the dining-room.
Dorcas, however, tells me that she says, if she were at her own liberty, she would never see me more; and that she had been asking after the characters and conditions of the neighbours. I suppose, now she has found her voice, to call out for help from them, if there were any to hear her.
She will have it now, it seems, that I had the wickedness from the very beginning, to contrive, for her ruin, a house so convenient for dreadful mischief.
Dorcas begs of her to be pacified—entreats her to see me with patience— tells her that I am one of the most determined of men, as she has heard say. That gentleness may do with me; but that nothing else will, she believes. And what, as her ladyship (as she always styles her,) is married, if I had broken my oath, or intended to break it!—
She hinted plain enough to the honest wench, that she was not married. But Dorcas would not understand her.
This shows she is resolved to keep no measures. And now is to be a trial of skill, whether she shall or not.
Dorcas has hinted to her my Lord's illness, as a piece of intelligence that dropt in conversation from me.
But here I stop. My beloved, pursuant to my peremptory message, is just gone up into the dining-room.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. MONDAY AFTERNOON.
Pity me, Jack, for pity's sake; since, if thou dost not, nobody else will: and yet never was there a man of my genius and lively temper that wanted it more. We are apt to attribute to the devil every thing happens to us, which we would not have happen: but here, being, (as perhaps thou'lt say,) the devil myself, my plagues arise from an angel. I suppose all mankind is to be plagued by its contrary.
She began with me like a true woman, [she in the fault, I to be blamed,] the moment I entered the dining-room: not the least apology, not the least excuse, for the uproar she had made, and the trouble she had given me.
I come, said she, into thy detested presence, because I cannot help it. But why am I to be imprisoned here?—Although to no purpose, I cannot help——
Dearest Madam, interrupted I, give not way to so much violence. You must know, that your detention is entirely owing to the desire I have to make you all the amends that is in my power to make you. And this, as well for your sake as my own. Surely there is still one way left to repair the wrongs you have suffered——
Canst thou blot out the past week! Several weeks past, I should say; ever since I have been with thee? Canst thou call back time?—If thou canst——
Surely, Madam, again interrupting her, if I may be permitted to call you legally mine, I might have but anticip——
Wretch, that thou art! Say not another word upon this subject. When thou vowedst, when thou promisedst at Hampstead, I had begun to think that I must be thine. If I had consented, at the request of those I thought thy relations, this would have been a principal inducement, that I could then have brought thee, what was most wanted, an unsullied honour in dowry, to a wretch destitute of all honour; and could have met the gratulations of a family to which thy life has been one continued disgrace, with a consciousness of deserving their gratulations. But thinkest thou, that I will give a harlot niece to thy honourable uncle, and to thy real aunts; and a cousin to thy cousins from a brothel? for such, in my opinion, is this detested house!—Then, lifting up her clasped hands, 'Great and good God of Heaven,' said she, 'give me patience to support myself under the weight of those afflictions, which thou, for wise and good ends, though at present impenetrable by me, hast permitted!'
Then, turning towards me, who knew neither what to say to her, nor for myself, I renounce thee for ever, Lovelace!—Abhorred of my soul! for ever I renounce thee!—Seek thy fortunes wheresoever thou wilt!—only now, that thou hast already ruined me!—
Ruined you, Madam—the world need not—I knew not what to say.
Ruined me in my own eyes; and that is the same to me as if all the world knew it—hinder me not from going whither my mysterious destiny shall lead me.
Why hesitate you, Sir? What right have you to stop me, as you lately did; and to bring me up by force, my hands and arms bruised by your violence? What right have you to detain me here?
I am cut to the heart, Madam, with invectives so violent. I am but too sensible of the wrong I have done you, or I could not bear your reproaches. The man who perpetrates a villany, and resolves to go on with it, shows not the compunction I show. Yet, if you think yourself in my power, I would caution you, Madam, not to make me desperate. For you shall be mine, or my life shall be the forfeit! Nor is life worth having without you!—
Be thine!—I be thine!—said the passionate beauty. O how lovely in her violence!
Yes, Madam, be mine! I repeat you shall be mine! My very crime is your glory. My love, my admiration of you is increased by what has passed— and so it ought. I am willing, Madam, to court your returning favour; but let me tell you, were the house beset by a thousand armed men, resolved to take you from me, they should not effect their purpose, while I had life.
I never, never will be your's, said she, clasping her hands together, and lifting up her eyes!—I never will be your's!
We may yet see many happy years, Madam. All your friends may be reconciled to you. The treaty for that purpose is in greater forwardness than you imagine. You know better than to think the worse of yourself for suffering what you could not help. Enjoin but the terms I can make my peace with you upon, and I will instantly comply.
Never, never, repeated she, will I be your's!
Only forgive me, my dearest life, this one time!—A virtue so invincible! what further view can I have against you?—Have I attempted any further outrage?—If you will be mine, your injuries will be injuries done to myself. You have too well guessed at the unnatural arts that have been used. But can a greater testimony be given of your virtue?—And now I have only to hope, that although I cannot make you complete amends, yet you will permit me to make you all the amends that can possibly be made.
Here [sic] me out, I beseech you, Madam; for she was going to speak with an aspect unpacifiedly angry: the God, whom you serve, requires but repentance and amendment. Imitate him, my dearest love, and bless me with the means of reforming a course of life that begins to be hateful to me. That was once your favourite point. Resume it, dearest creature, in charity to a soul, as well as body, which once, as I flattered myself, was more than indifferent to you, resume it. And let to-morrow's sun witness to our espousals.
I cannot judge thee, said she; but the GOD to whom thou so boldly referrest can, and, assure thyself, He will. But, if compunction has really taken hold of thee—if, indeed, thou art touched for thy ungrateful baseness, and meanest any thing by this pleading the holy example thou recommendest to my imitation; in this thy pretended repentant moment, let me sift thee thoroughly, and by thy answer I shall judge of the sincerity of thy pretended declarations.
Tell me, then, is there any reality in the treaty thou has pretended to be on foot between my uncle and Capt. Tomlinson, and thyself?—Say, and hesitate not, is there any truth in that story?—But, remember, if there be not, and thou avowest that there is, what further condemnation attends to thy averment, if it be as solemn as I require it to be!
This was a cursed thrust! What could I say!—Surely this merciless lady is resolved to d—n me, thought I, and yet accuses me of a design against her soul!—But was I not obliged to proceed as I had begun?
In short, I solemnly averred that there was!—How one crime, as the good folks say, brings on another!
I added, that the Captain had been in town, and would have waited on her, had she not been indisposed; that he went down much afflicted, as well on her account, as on that of her uncle; though I had not acquainted him either with the nature of her disorder, or the ever-to-be-regretted occasion of it, having told him that it was a violent fever; That he had twice since, by her uncle's desire, sent up to inquire after her health; and that I had already dispatched a man and horse with a letter, to acquaint him, (and her uncle through him,) with her recovery; making it my earnest request, that he would renew his application to her uncle for the favour of his presence at the private celebrations of our nuptials; and that I expected an answer, if not this night, as to-morrow.
Let me ask thee next, said she, (thou knowest the opinion I have of the women thou broughtest to me at Hampstead; and who have seduced me hither to my ruin; let me ask thee,) If, really and truly, they were Lady Betty Lawrance and thy cousin Montague?—What sayest thou—hesitate not—what sayest thou to this question?
Astonishing, my dear, that you should suspect them!—But, knowing your strange opinion of them, what can I say to be believed?
And is this the answer thou returnest me? Dost thou thus evade my question? But let me know, for I am trying thy sincerity now, and all shall judge of thy new professions by thy answer to this question; let me know, I repeat, whether those women be really Lady Betty Lawrance and thy cousin Montague?
Let me, my dearest love, be enabled to-morrow to call you lawfully mine, and we will set out the next day, if you please, to Berkshire to my Lord M.'s, where they both are at this time; and you shall convince yourself by your own eyes, and by your own ears; which you will believe sooner than all I can say or swear.
Now, Belford, I had really some apprehension of treachery from thee; which made me so miserably evade; for else, I could as safely have sworn to the truth of this, as to that of the former: but she pressing me still for a categorical answer, I ventured plumb; and swore to it, [lover's oaths, Jack!] that they were really and truly Lady Betty Lawrance and my cousin Montague.
She lifted up her hands and eyes—What can I think!—what can I think!
You think me a devil, Madam; a very devil! or you could not after you have put these questions to me, seem to doubt the truth of answers so solemnly sworn to.
And if I do think thee so, have I not cause? Is there another man in the world, (I hope for the sake of human nature, there is not,) who could act by any poor friendless creature as thou hast acted by me, whom thou hast made friendless—and who, before I knew thee, had for a friend every one who knew me?
I told you, Madam, before that Lady Betty and my cousin were actually here, in order to take leave of you, before they set out for Berkshire: but the effects of my ungrateful crime, (such, with shame and remorse, I own it to be,) were the reason you could not see them. Nor could I be fond that they should see you; since they never would have forgiven me, had they known what had passed—and what reason had I to expect your silence on the subject, had you been recovered?
It signifies nothing now, that the cause of their appearance has been answered in my ruin, who or what they are: but if thou hast averred thus solemnly to two falsehoods, what a wretch do I see before me!
I thought she had now reason to be satisfied; and I begged her to allow me to talk to her of to-morrow, as of the happiest day of my life. We have the license, Madam—and you must excuse me, that I cannot let you go hence till I have tried every way I can to obtain your forgiveness.
And am I then, [with a kind of frantic wildness,] to be detained a prisoner in this horrid house—am I, Sir?—Take care! take care! holding up her hand, menacing, how you make me desperate! If I fall, though by my own hand, inquisition will be made for my blood; and be not out in thy plot, Lovelace, if it should be so—make sure work, I charge thee—dig a hole deep enough to cram in and conceal this unhappy body; for, depend upon it, that some of those who will not stir to protect me living, will move heaven and earth to avenge me dead!
A horrid dear creature!—By my soul she made me shudder! She had need indeed to talk of her unhappiness in falling into the hands of the only man in the world, who could have used her as I have used her—she is the only woman in the world, who could have shocked and disturbed me as she has done. So we are upon a foot in that respect. And I think I have the worst of it by much: since very little has been my joy—very much my trouble. And her punishment, as she calls it, is over: but when mine will, or what it may be, who can tell?
Here, only recapitulating, (think, then, how I must be affected at the time,) I was forced to leave off, and sing a song to myself. I aimed at a lively air; but I croaked rather than sung. And fell into the old dismal thirtieth of January strain; I hemmed up for a sprightlier note; but it would not do; and at last I ended, like a malefactor, in a dead psalm melody.
Heigh-ho!—I gape like an unfledged kite in its nest, wanting to swallow a chicken, bobbed at its mouth by its marauding dam!—
What a-devil ails me?—I can neither think nor write!
Lie down, pen, for a moment!
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
There is certainly a good deal in the observation, that it costs a man ten times more pains to be wicked, than it would cost him to be good. What a confounded number of contrivances have I had recourse to, in order to carry my point with this charming creature; and yet after all, how have I puzzled myself by it; and yet am near tumbling into the pit which it was the end of all my plots to shun! What a happy man had I been with such an excellence, could I have brought my mind to marry when I first prevailed upon her to quit her father's house! But then, as I have often reflected, how had I known, that a but blossoming beauty, who could carry on a private correspondence, and run such risques with a notorious wild fellow, was not prompted by inclination, which one day might give such a free-liver as myself as much pain to reflect upon, as, at the time it gave me pleasure? Thou rememberest the host's tale in Ariosto. And thy experience, as well as mine, can furnish out twenty Fiametta's in proof of the imbecility of the sex.
But to proceed with my narrative.
The dear creature resumed the topic her heart was so firmly fixed upon; and insisted upon quitting the odious house, and that in very high terms.
I urged her to meet me the next day at the altar in either of the two churches mentioned in the license. And I besought her, whatever was her resolution, to let me debate this matter calmly with her.
If, she said, I would have her give what I desired the least moment's consideration, I must not hinder her from being her own mistress. To what purpose did I ask her consent, if she had not a power over either her own person or actions?
Will you give me your honour, Madam, if I consent to your quitting a house so disagreeable to you?—
My honour, Sir! said the dear creature—Alas!—And turned weeping from me with inimitable grace—as if she had said—Alas!—you have robbed me of my honour!
I hoped then, that her angry passions were subsiding; but I was mistaken; for, urging her warmly for the day; and that for the sake of our mutual honour, and the honour of both our families; in this high-flown and high-souled strain she answered me:
And canst thou, Lovelace, be so mean—as to wish to make a wife of the creature thou hast insulted, dishonoured, and abused, as thou hast me? Was it necessary to humble me down to the low level of thy baseness, before I could be a wife meet for thee? Thou hadst a father, who was a man of honour: a mother, who deserved a better son. Thou hast an uncle, who is no dishonour to the Peerage of a kingdom, whose peers are more respectable than the nobility of any other country. Thou hast other relations also, who may be thy boast, though thou canst not be theirs— and canst thou not imagine, that thou hearest them calling upon thee; the dead from their monuments; the living from their laudable pride; not to dishonour thy ancient and splendid house, by entering into wedlock with a creature whom thou hast levelled with the dirt of the street, and classed with the vilest of her sex?
I extolled her greatness of soul, and her virtue. I execrated myself for my guilt: and told her, how grateful to the manes of my ancestors, as well as to the wishes of the living, the honour I supplicated for would be.
But still she insisted upon being a free agent; of seeing herself in other lodgings before she would give what I urged the least consideration. Nor would she promise me favour even then, or to permit my visits. How then, as I asked her, could I comply, without resolving to lose her for ever?
She put her hand to her forehead often as she talked; and at last, pleading disorder in her head, retired; neither of us satisfied with the other. But she ten times more dissatisfied with me, than I with her.
Dorcas seems to be coming into favour with her—
What now!—What now!
How determined is this lady!—Again had she like to have escaped us!— What a fixed resentment!—She only, I find, assumed a little calm, in order to quiet suspicion. She was got down, and actually had unbolted the street-door, before I could get to her; alarmed as I was by Mrs. Sinclair's cookmaid, who was the only one that saw her fly through the passage: yet lightning was not quicker than I.
Again I brought her back to the dining-room, with infinite reluctance on her part. And, before her face, ordered a servant to be placed constantly at the bottom of the stairs for the future.
She seemed even choked with grief and disappointment.
Dorcas was exceedingly assiduous about her; and confidently gave it as her own opinion, that her dear lady should be permitted to go to another lodging, since this was so disagreeable to her: were she to be killed for saying so, she would say it. And was good Dorcas for this afterwards.
But for some time the dear creature was all passion and violence—
I see, I see, said she, when I had brought her up, what I am to expect from your new professions, O vilest of men!—
Have I offered t you, my beloved creature, any thing that can justify this impatience after a more hopeful calm?
She wrung her hands. She disordered her head-dress. She tore her ruffles. She was in a perfect phrensy.
I dreaded her returning malady: but, entreaty rather exasperating, I affected an angry air.—I bid her expect the worst she had to fear—and was menacing on, in hopes to intimidate her; when, dropping to my feet,
'Twill be a mercy, said she, the highest act of mercy you can do, to kill me outright upon this spot—this happy spot, as I will, in my last moments, call it!—Then, baring, with a still more frantic violence, part of her enchanting neck—Here, here, said the soul-harrowing beauty, let thy pointed mercy enter! and I will thank thee, and forgive thee for all the dreadful past!—With my latest gasp will I forgive and thank thee!— Or help me to the means, and I will myself put out of the way so miserable a wretch! And bless thee for those means!
Why all this extravagant passion? Why all these exclamations? Have I offered any new injury to you, my dearest life? What a phrensy is this! Am I not ready to make you all the reparation that I can make you? Had I not reason to hope—
No, no, no, no, as before, shaking her head with wild impatience, as resolved not to attend to what I said.
My resolutions are so honourable, if you will permit them to take effect, that I need not be solicitous where you go, if you will but permit my visits, and receive my vows.—And God is my witness, that I bring you not back from the door with any view to your dishonour, but the contrary: and this moment I will send for a minister to put an end to all your doubts and fears.
Say this, and say a thousand times more, and bind every word with a solemn appeal to that God whom thou art accustomed to invoke to the truth of the vilest falsehoods, and all will still be short of what thou has vowed and promised to me. And, were not my heart to abhor thee, and to rise against thee, for thy perjuries, as it does, I would not, I tell thee once more, I would not, bind my soul in covenant with such a man, for a thousand worlds!
Compose yourself, however, Madam; for your own sake, compose yourself. Permit me to raise you up; abhorred as I am of your soul!
Nay, if I must not touch you; for she wildly slapt my hands; but with such a sweet passionate air, her bosom heaving and throbbing as she looked up to me, that although I was most sincerely enraged, I could with transport have pressed her to mine.
If I must not touch you, I will not.—But depend upon it, [and I assumed the sternest air I could assume, to try what it would do,] depend upon it, Madam, that this is not the way to avoid the evils you dread. Let me do what I will, I cannot be used worse—Dorcas, begone!
She arose, Dorcas being about to withdraw; and wildly caught hold of her arm: O Dorcas! If thou art of mine own sex, leave me not, I charge thee! —Then quitting Dorcas, down she threw herself upon her knees, in the furthermost corner of the room, clasping a chair with her face laid upon the bottom of it!—O where can I be safe?—Where, where can I be safe, from this man of violence?—
This gave Dorcas an opportunity to confirm herself in her lady's confidence: the wench threw herself at my feet, while I seemed in violent wrath; and embracing my knees, Kill me, Sir, kill me, Sir, if you please! —I must throw myself in your way, to save my lady. I beg your pardon, Sir—but you must be set on!—God forgive the mischief-makers!—But your own heart, if left to itself, would not permit these things—spare, however, Sir! spare my lady, I beseech you!—bustling on her knees about me, as if I were intending to approach her lady, had I not been restrained by her.
This, humoured by me, Begone, devil!—Officious devil, begone!—startled the dear creature: who, snatching up hastily her head from the chair, and as hastily popping it down again in terror, hit her nose, I suppose, against the edge of the chair; and it gushed out with blood, running in a stream down her bosom; she herself was too much frighted to heed it!
Never was mortal man in such terror and agitation as I; for I instantly concluded, that she had stabbed herself with some concealed instrument.
I ran to her in a wild agony—for Dorcas was frighted out of all her mock interposition——
What have you done!—O what have you done!—Look up to me, my dearest life!—Sweet injured innocence, look up to me! What have you done!—Long will I not survive you!—And I was upon the point of drawing my sword to dispatch myself, when I discovered—[What an unmanly blockhead does this charming creature make me at her pleasure!] that all I apprehended was but a bloody nose, which, as far as I know (for it could not be stopped in a quarter of an hour) may have saved her head and her intellects.
But I see by this scene, that the sweet creature is but a pretty coward at bottom; and that I can terrify her out of her virulence against me, whenever I put on sternness and anger. But then, as a qualifier to the advantage this gives me over her, I find myself to be a coward too, which I had not before suspected, since I was capable of being so easily terrified by the apprehensions of her offering violence to herself.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
But with all this dear creature's resentment against me, I cannot, for my heart, think but she will get all over, and consent to enter the pale with me. Were she even to die to-morrow, and to know she should, would not a woman of her sense, of her punctilio, and in her situation, and of so proud a family, rather die married, than otherwise?—No doubt but she would; although she were to hate the man ever so heartily. If so, there is now but one man in the world whom she can have—and that is me.
Now I talk [familiar writing is but talking, Jack] thus glibly of entering the pale, thou wilt be ready to question me, I know, as to my intentions on this head.
As much of my heart, as I know of it myself, will I tell thee.—When I am from her, I cannot still help hesitating about marriage; and I even frequently resolve against it, and determine to press my favourite scheme for cohabitation. But when I am with her, I am ready to say, to swear, and to do, whatever I think will be the most acceptable to her, and were a parson at hand, I should plunge at once, no doubt of it, into the state.
I have frequently thought, in common cases, that it is happy for many giddy fellows [there are giddy fellows, as well as giddy girls, Jack; and perhaps those are as often drawn in, as these] that ceremony and parade are necessary to the irrevocable solemnity; and that there is generally time for a man to recollect himself in the space between the heated over-night, and the cooler next morning; or I know not who could escape the sweet gypsies, whose fascinating powers are so much aided by our own raised imaginations.
A wife at any time, I used to say. I had ever confidence and vanity enough to think that no woman breathing could deny her hand when I held out mine. I am confoundedly mortified to find that this lady is able to hold me at bay, and to refuse all my honest vows.
What force [allow me a serious reflection, Jack: it will be put down! What force] have evil habits upon the human mind! When we enter upon a devious course, we think we shall have it in our power when we will return to the right path. But it is not so, I plainly see: For, who can acknowledge with more justice this dear creature's merits, and his own errors, than I? Whose regret, at times, can be deeper than mine, for the injuries I have done her? Whose resolutions to repair those injuries stronger?—Yet how transitory is my penitence!—How am I hurried away— Canst thou tell by what?—O devil of youth, and devil of intrigue, how do you mislead me!—How often do we end in occasions for the deepest remorse, what we begin in wantonness!—
At the present writing, however, the turn of the scale is in behalf of matrimony—for I despair of carrying with her my favourite point.
The lady tells Dorcas, that her heart is broken: and that she shall live but a little while. I think nothing of that, if we marry. In the first place, she knows not what a mind unapprehensive will do for her, in a state to which all the sex look forwards with high satisfaction. How often have the whole of the sacred conclave been thus deceived in their choice of a pope; not considering that the new dignity is of itself sufficient to give new life! A few months' heart's ease will give my charmer a quite different notion of things: and I dare say, as I have heretofore said,* once married, and I am married for life.
* See Letter IX. of this volume.
I will allow that her pride, in one sense, has suffered abasement: but her triumph is the greater in every other. And while I can think that all her trials are but additions to her honour, and that I have laid the foundations of her glory in my own shame, can I be called cruel, if I am not affected with her grief as some men would be?
And for what should her heart be broken? Her will is unviolated;—at present, however, her will is unviolated. The destroying of good habits, and the introducing of bad, to the corrupting of the whole heart, is the violation. That her will is not to be corrupted, that her mind is not to be debased, she has hitherto unquestionably proved. And if she give cause for farther trials, and hold fast her integrity, what ideas will she have to dwell upon, that will be able to corrupt her morals? What vestigia, what remembrances, but such as will inspire abhorrence of the attempter?
What nonsense then to suppose that such a mere notional violation as she has suffered should be able to cut asunder the strings of life?
Her religion, married, or not married, will set her above making such a trifling accident, such an involuntary suffering fatal to her.
Such considerations as these they are that support me against all apprehensions of bugbear consequences; and I would have them have weight with thee; who are such a doughty advocate for her. And yet I allow thee this; that she really makes too much of it; takes it too much to heart. To be sure she ought to have forgot it by this time, except the charming, charming consequence happen, that still I am in hopes will happen, were I to proceed no farther. And, if she apprehended this herself, then has the dear over-nice soul some reason for taking it so much to heart; and yet would not, I think, refuse to legitimate.
O Jack! had I am imperial diadem, I swear to thee, that I would give it up, even to my enemy, to have one charming boy by this lady. And should she escape me, and no such effect follow, my revenge on her family, and, in such a case, on herself, would be incomplete, and I should reproach myself as long as I lived.
Were I to be sure that this foundation is laid [And why may I not hope it is?] I should not doubt to have her still (should she withstand her day of grace) on my own conditions; nor should I, if it were so, question that revived affection in her, which a woman seldom fails to have for the father of her first child, whether born in wedlock, or out of it.
And pr'ythee, Jack, see in this my ardent hope, a distinction in my favour from other rakes; who, almost to a man, follow their inclinations without troubling themselves about consequences. In imitation, as one would think, of the strutting villain of a bird, which from feathered lady to feathered lady pursues his imperial pleasures, leaving it to his sleek paramours to hatch the genial product in holes and corners of their own finding out.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. TUESDAY MORN. JUNE 20.
Well, Jack, now are we upon another footing together. This dear creature will not let me be good. She is now authorizing all my plots by her own example.
Thou must be partial in the highest degree, if now thou blamest me for resuming my former schemes, since in that case I shall but follow her cue. No forced construction of her actions do I make on this occasion, in order to justify a bad cause or a worse intention. A slight pretence, indeed, served the wolf when he had a mind to quarrel with the lamb; but this is not now my case.
For here (wouldst thou have thought it?) taking advantage of Dorcas's compassionate temper, and of some warm expressions which the tender-hearted wench let fall against the cruelty of men, and wishing to have it in her power to serve her, has she given her the following note, signed by her maiden name: for she has thought fit, in positive and plain words, to own to the pitying Dorcas that she is not married.
MONDAY, JUNE 19.
I then underwritten do hereby promise, that, on my coming into possession of my own estate, I will provide for Dorcas Martindale in a gentlewoman- like manner, in my own house: or, if I do not soon obtain that possession, or should first die, I do hereby bind myself, my executors, and administrators, to pay to her, or her order, during the term of her natural life, the sum of five pounds on each of the four usual quarterly days in the year; on condition that she faithfully assist me in my escape from an illegal confinement under which I now labour. The first quarterly payment to commence and be payable at the end of three months immediately following the day of my deliverance. And I do also promise to give her, as a testimony of my honour in the rest, a diamond ring, which I have showed her. Witness my hand this nineteenth day of June, in the year above written.
Now, Jack, what terms wouldst thou have me to keep with such a sweet corruptress? Seest thou not how she hates me? Seest thou not that she is resolved never to forgive me? Seest thou not, however, that she must disgrace herself in the eye of the world, if she actually should escape? That she must be subjected to infinite distress and hazard! For whom has she to receive and protect her? Yet to determine to risque all these evils! and furthermore to stoop to artifice, to be guilty of the reigning vice of the times, of bribery and corruption! O Jack, Jack! say not, write not another word in her favour!
Thou hast blamed me for bringing her to this house: but had I carried her to any other in England, where there would have been one servant or inmate capable either of compassion or corruption, what must have been the consequence?
But seest thou not, however, that in this flimsy contrivance, the dear implacable, like a drowning man, catches at a straw to save herself!—A straw shall she find to be the refuge she has resorted to.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. TUES. MORN. TEN O'CLOCK
Very ill—exceedingly ill—as Dorcas tells me, in order to avoid seeing me—and yet the dear soul may be so in her mind. But is not that equivocation? Some one passion predominating in every human breast, breaks through principle, and controuls us all. Mine is love and revenge taking turns. Her's is hatred.—But this is my consolation, that hatred appeased is love begun; or love renewed, I may rather say, if love ever had footing here.
But reflectioning apart, thou seest, Jack, that her plot is beginning to work. To-morrow is to break out.
I have been abroad, to set on foot a plot of circumvention. All fair now, Belford!
I insisted upon visiting my indisposed fair-one. Dorcas made officious excuses for her. I cursed the wench in her hearing for her impertinence; and stamped and made a clutter; which was improved into an apprehension to the lady that I would have flung her faithful confidante from the top of the stairs to the bottom.
He is a violent wretch!—But, Dorcas, [dear Dorcas, now it is,] thou shalt have a friend in me to the last day of my life.
And what now, Jack, dost think the name of her good angel is!—Why Dorcas Martindale, christian and super (no more Wykes) as in the promissory note in my former—and the dear creature has bound her to her by the most solemn obligations, besides the tie of interest.
Whither, Madam, do you design to go when you get out of this house?
I will throw myself into the first open house I can find; and beg protection till I can get a coach, or a lodging in some honest family.
What will you do for clothes, Madam? I doubt you'll be able to take any away with you, but what you'll have on.
O, no matter for clothes, if I can but get out of this house.
What will you do for money, Madam? I have heard his honour express his concern, that he could not prevail upon you to be obliged to him, though he apprehended that you must be short of money.
O, I have rings and other valuables. Indeed I have but four guineas, and two of them I found lately wrapt up in a bit of lace, designed for a charitable use. But now, alas! charity begins at home!—But I have one dear friend left, if she be living, as I hope in God she is! to whom I can be obliged, if I want. O Dorcas! I must ere now have heard from her, if I had had fair play.
Well, Madam, your's is a hard lot. I pity you at my heart!
Thank you, Dorcas!—I am unhappy, that I did not think before, that I might have confided in thy pity, and in thy sex!
I pitied you, Madam, often and often: but you were always, as I thought, diffident of me. And then I doubted not but you were married; and I thought his honour was unkindly used by you. So that I thought it my duty to wish well to his honour, rather than to what I thought to be your humours, Madam. Would to Heaven that I had known before that you were not married!—Such a lady! such a fortune! to be so sadly betrayed;——
Ah, Dorcas! I was basely drawn in! My youth—my ignorance of the world —and I have some things to reproach myself with when I look back.
Lord, Madam, what deceitful creatures are these men!—Neither oaths, nor vows—I am sure! I am sure! [and then with her apron she gave her eyes half a dozen hearty rubs] I may curse the time that I came into this house!
Here was accounting for her bold eyes! And was it not better for Dorcas to give up a house which her lady could not think worse of than she did, in order to gain the reputation of sincerity, than by offering to vindicate it, to make her proffered services suspected.
Poor Dorcas!—Bless me! how little do we, who have lived all our time in the country, know of this wicked town!
Had I been able to write, cried the veteran wench, I should certainly have given some other near relations I have in Wales a little inkling of matters; and they would have saved me from——from——from——
Her sobs were enough. The apprehensions of women on such subjects are ever aforehand with speech.
And then, sobbing on, she lifted her apron to her face again. She showed me how.
Poor Dorcas!—Again wiping her own charming eyes.
All love, all compassion, is this dear creature to every one in affliction but me.
And would not an aunt protect her kinswoman?—Abominable wretch!
I can't—I can't—I can't—say, my aunt was privy to it. She gave me good advice. She knew not for a great while that I was—that I was—that I was—ugh!—ugh!—ugh!—
No more, no more, good Dorcas—What a world do we live in!—What a house am I in!—But come, don't weep, (though she herself could not forbear:) my being betrayed into it, though to my own ruin, may be a happy event for thee: and, if I live, it shall.
I thank you, my good lady, blubbering. I am sorry, very sorry, you have had so hard a lot. But it may be the saving of my soul, if I can get to your ladyship's house. Had I but known that your ladyship was not married, I would have eat my own flesh, before——before——before——
Dorcas sobbed and wept. The lady sighed and wept also.
But now, Jack, for a serious reflection upon the premises.
How will the good folks account for it, that Satan has such faithful instruments, and that the bond of wickedness is a stronger bond than the ties of virtue; as if it were the nature of the human mind to be villanous? For here, had Dorcas been good, and been tempted as she was tempted to any thing evil, I make no doubt but she would have yielded to the temptation.
And cannot our fraternity in an hundred instances give proof of the like predominance of vice over virtue? And that we have risked more to serve and promote the interests of the former, than ever a good man did to serve a good man or a good cause? For have we not been prodigal of life and fortune? have we not defied the civil magistrate upon occasion? and have we not attempted rescues, and dared all things, only to extricate a pounded profligate?
Whence, Jack, can this be?
O! I have it, I believe. The vicious are as bad as they can be; and do the Devil's work without looking after; while he is continually spreading snares for the others; and, like a skilful angler, suiting his baits to the fish he angles for.
Nor let even honest people, so called, blame poor Dorcas for her fidelity in a bad cause. For does not the general, who implicitly serves an ambitious prince in his unjust designs upon his neighbours, or upon his own oppressed subjects; and even the lawyer, who, for the sake of a paltry fee, undertakes to whiten a black cause, and to defend it against one he knows to be good, do the very same thing as Dorcas? And are they not both every whit as culpable? Yet the one shall be dubbed a hero, the other called an admirable fellow, and be contended for by every client, and his double-tongued abilities shall carry him through all the high preferments of the law with reputation and applause.
Well, but what shall be done, since the lady is so much determined on removing!—Is there no way to oblige her, and yet to make the very act subservient to my other views? I fancy such a way may be found out.
I will study for it——
Suppose I suffer her to make an escape? Her heart is in it. If she effect it, the triumph she will have over me upon it will be a counterbalance for all she has suffered.
I will oblige her if I can.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
Tired with a succession of fatiguing days and sleepless nights, and with contemplating the precarious situation I stand in with my beloved, I fell into a profound reverie; which brought on sleep; and that produced a dream; a fortunate dream; which, as I imagine, will afford my working mind the means to effect the obliging double purpose my heart is now once more set upon.
What, as I have often contemplated, is the enjoyment of the finest woman in the world, to the contrivance, the bustle, the surprises, and at last the happy conclusion of a well-laid plot!—The charming round-abouts, to come to the nearest way home;—the doubts; the apprehensions; the heart-achings; the meditated triumphs—these are the joys that make the blessing dear.—For all the rest, what is it?—What but to find an angel in imagination dwindled down to a woman in fact?——But to my dream——
Methought it was about nine on Wednesday morning that a chariot, with a dowager's arms upon the doors, and in it a grave matronly lady [not unlike mother H. in the face; but, in her heart, Oh! how unlike!] stopped at a grocer's shop, about ten doors on the other side of the way, in order to buy some groceries: and methought Dorcas, having been out to see if the coast were clear for her lady's flight, and if a coach were to be got near the place, espied the chariot with the dowager's arms, and this matronly lady: and what, methought, did Dorcas, that subtle traitress, do, but whip up to the old matronly lady, and lifting up her voice, say, Good my Lady, permit me one word with your Ladyship!
What thou hast to say to me, say on, quoth the old lady; the grocer retiring, and standing aloof, to give Dorcas leave to speak; who, methought, in words like these accosted the lady:
'You seem, Madam, to be a very good lady; and here, in this neighbourhood, at a house of no high repute, is an innocent lady of rank and fortune, beautiful as a May morning, and youthful as a rose-bud, and full as sweet and lovely, who has been tricked thither by a wicked gentleman, practised in the ways of the town, and this very night will she be ruined if she get not out of his hands. Now, O Lady! if you will extend your compassionate goodness to this fair young lady, in whom, the moment you behold her, you will see cause to believe all I say, and let her but have a place in your chariot, and remain in your protection for one day only, till she can send a man and horse to her rich and powerful friends, you may save from ruin a lady who has no equal for virtue as well as beauty.'
Methought the old lady, moved with Dorcas's story, answered and said, 'Hasten, O damsel, who in a happy moment art come to put it in my power to serve the innocent and virtuous, which it has always been my delight to do: hasten to this young lady, and bid her hie hither to me with all speed; and tell her, that my chariot shall be her asylum: and if I find all that thou sayest true, my house shall be her sanctuary, and I will protect her from all her oppressors.'
Hereupon, methought, this traitress Dorcas hied back to the lady, and made report of what she had done. And, methought, the lady highly approved of Dorcas's proceeding and blessed her for her good thought.
And I lifted up mine eyes, and behold the lady issued out of the house, and without looking back, ran to the chariot with the dowager's coat upon it; and was received by the matronly lady with open arms, and 'Welcome, welcome, welcome, fair young lady, who so well answer the description of the faithful damsel: and I will carry you instantly to my house, where you shall meet with all the good usage your heart can wish for, till you can apprize your rich and powerful friends of your past dangers, and present escape.'
'Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, worthy, thrice worthy lady, who afford so kindly your protection to a most unhappy young creature, who has been basely seduced and betrayed, and brought to the very brink of destruction.'
Methought, then, the matronly lady, who had, by the time the young lady came to her, bought and paid for the goods she wanted, ordered her coachman to drive home with all speed; who stopped not till he had arrived in a certain street not far from Lincoln's-inn-fields, where the matronly lady lived in a sumptuous dwelling, replete with damsels who wrought curiously in muslins, cambrics, and fine linen, and in every good work that industrious damsels love to be employed about, except the loom and the spinning-wheel.
And, methought, all the way the young lady and the old lady rode, and after they came in, till dinner was ready, the young lady filled up the time with the dismal account of her wrongs and her sufferings, the like of which was never heard by mortal ear; and this in so moving a manner, that the good old lady did nothing but weep, and sigh, and sob, and inveigh against the arts of wicked men, and against that abominable 'Squire Lovelace, who was a plotting villain, methought she said; and more than that, an unchained Beelzebub.
Methought I was in a dreadful agony, when I found the lady had escaped, and in my wrath had like to have slain Dorcas, and our mother, and every one I met. But, by some quick transition, and strange metamorphosis, which dreams do not usually account for, methought, all of a sudden, this matronly lady turned into the famous mother H. herself; and, being an old acquaintance of mother Sinclair, was prevailed upon to assist in my plot upon the young lady.
Then, methought, followed a strange scene; for mother H. longing to hear more of the young lady's story, and night being come, besought her to accept of a place in her own bed, in order to have all the talk to themselves. For, methought, two young nieces of her's had broken in upon them, in the middle of the dismal tale.
Accordingly, going early to bed, and the sad story being resumed, with as great earnestness on one side as attention on the other, before the young lady had gone far in it, mother H. methought was taken with a fit of the colic; and her tortures increasing, was obliged to rise to get a cordial she used to find specific in this disorder, to which she was unhappily subject.
Having thus risen, and stept to her closet, methought she let fall the wax taper in her return; and then [O metamorphosis still stranger than the former! what unaccountable things are dreams!] coming to bed again in the dark, the young lady, to her infinite astonishment, grief, and surprise, found mother H. turned into a young person of the other sex; and although Lovelace was the abhorred of her soul, yet, fearing it was some other person, it was matter of consolation to her, when she found it was no other than himself, and that she had been still the bed-fellow of but one and the same man.
A strange promiscuous huddle of adventures followed, scenes perpetually shifting; now nothing heard from the lady, but sighs, groans, exclamations, faintings, dyings—From the gentleman, but vows, promises, protestations, disclaimers of purposes pursued, and all the gentle and ungentle pressures of the lover's warfare.
Then, as quick as thought (for dreams, thou knowest confine not themselves to the rules of the drama) ensued recoveries, lyings-in, christenings, the smiling boy, amply, even in her own opinion, rewarding the suffering mother.
Then the grandfather's estate yielded up, possession taken of it: living very happily upon it: her beloved Norton her companion; Miss Howe her visiter; and (admirable! thrice admirable!) enabled to compare notes with her; a charming girl, by the same father, to her friend's charming boy; who, as they grow up, in order to consolidate their mamma's friendships, (for neither have dreams regard to consanguinity,) intermarry; change names by act of parliament, to enjoy my estate—and I know not what of the like incongruous stuff.
I awoke, as thou mayest believe, in great disorder, and rejoiced to find my charmer in the next room, and Dorcas honest.
Now thou wilt say this was a very odd dream. And yet, (for I am a strange dreamer,) it is not altogether improbable that something like it may happen; as the pretty simpleton has the weakness to confide in Dorcas, whom till now she disliked.
But I forgot to tell thee one part of my dream; and that was, that, the next morning, the lady gave way to such transports of grief and resentment, that she was with difficulty diverted from making an attempt upon her own life. But, however, at last was prevailed upon to resolve to live, and make the best of the matter: a letter, methought, from Captain Tomlinson helping to pacify her, written to apprize me, that her uncle Harlowe would certainly be at Kentish-town on Wednesday night, June 28, the following day (the 29th) being his birth-day; and be doubly desirous, on that account, that our nuptials should be then privately solemnized in his presence.
But is Thursday, the 29th, her uncle's anniversary, methinks thou askest? —It is; or else the day of celebration should have been earlier still. Three weeks ago I heard her say it was: and I have down the birthday of every one in the family, and the wedding-day of her father and mother. The minutest circumstances are often of great service in matters of the last importance.
And what sayest thou now to my dream?
Who says that, sleeping and waking, I have not fine helps from somebody, some spirit rather, as thou'lt be apt to say? But no wonder that a Beelzebub has his devilkins to attend his call.
I can have no manner of doubt of succeeding in mother H.'s part of the scheme; for will the lady (who resolves to throw herself into the first house she can enter, or to bespeak the protection of the first person she meets, and who thinks there can be no danger out of this house, equal to what she apprehends from me in it) scruple to accept of the chariot of a dowager, accidentally offered? and the lady's protection engaged by her faithful Dorcas, so highly bribed to promote her escape?—And then Mrs. H. has the air and appearance of a venerable matron, and is not such a forbidding devil as Mrs. Sinclair.
The pretty simpleton knows nothing in the world; nor that people who have money never want assistants in their views, be they what they will. How else could the princes of the earth be so implicitly served as they are, change they hands every so often, and be their purposes ever so wicked.
If I can but get her to go on with me till Wednesday next week, we shall be settled together pretty quietly by that time. And indeed if she has any gratitude, and has in her the least of her sex's foibles, she must think I deserve her favour, by the pains she has cost me. For dearly do they all love that men should take pains about them and for them.
And here, for the present, I will lay down my pen, and congratulate myself upon my happy invention (since her obstinacy puts me once more upon exercising it.)—But with this resolution, I think, that, if the present contrivance fail me, I will exert all the faculties of my mind, all my talents, to procure for myself a regal right to her favour and that in defiance of all my antipathies to the married state; and of the suggestions of the great devil out of the house, and of his secret agents in it.—Since, if now she is not to be prevailed upon, or drawn in, it will be in vain to attempt her further.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. TUESDAY NIGHT, JUNE 20.
No admittance yet to my charmer! she is very ill—in a violent fever, Dorcas thinks. Yet will have no advice.
Dorcas tells her how much I am concerned at it.
But again let me ask, Does this lady do right to make herself ill, when she is not ill? For my own part, libertine as people think me, when I had occasion to be sick, I took a dose of ipecacuanha, that I might not be guilty of a falsehood; and most heartily sick was I; as she, who then pitied me, full well knew. But here to pretend to be very ill, only to get an opportunity to run away, in order to avoid forgiving a man who has offended her, how unchristian!—If good folks allow themselves in these breaches of a known duty, and in these presumptuous contrivances to deceive, who, Belford, shall blame us?
I have a strange notion that the matronly lady will be certainly at the grocer's shop at the hour of nine tomorrow morning: for Dorcas heard me tell Mrs. Sinclair, that I should go out at eight precisely; and then she is to try for a coach: and if the dowager's chariot should happen to be there, how lucky will it be for my charmer! how strangely will my dream be made out!
I have just received a letter from Captain Tomlinson. Is it not wonderful? for that was part of my dream.
I shall always have a prodigious regard to dreams henceforward. I know not but I may write a book upon that subject; for my own experience will furnish out a great part of it. 'Glanville of Witches,' 'Baxter's History of Spirits and Apparitions,' and the 'Royal Pedant's Demonology,' will be nothing at all to Lovelace's Reveries.
The letter is just what I dreamed it to be. I am only concerned that uncle John's anniversary did not happen three or four days sooner; for should any new misfortune befal my charmer, she may not be able to support her spirits so long as till Thursday in the next week. Yet it will give me the more time for new expedients, should my present contrivance fail; which I cannot however suppose.
TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. MONDAY, JUNE 19.
I can now return your joy, for the joy you have given me, as well as my dear friend Mr. Harlowe, in the news of his beloved niece's happy recovery; for he is determined to comply with her wishes and your's, and to give her to you with his own hand.
As the ceremony has been necessarily delayed by reason of her illness, and as Mr. Harlowe's birth-day is on Thursday the 29th of this instant June, when he enters into the seventy-fourth year of his age; and as time may be wanted to complete the dear lady's recovery; he is very desirous that the marriage shall be solemnized upon it; that he may afterwards have double joy on that day to the end of his life.
For this purpose he intends to set out privately, so as to be at Kentish-town on Wednesday se'nnight in the evening.
All the family used, he says, to meet to celebrate it with him; but as they are at present in too unhappy a situation for that, he will give out, that, not being able to bear the day at home, he has resolved to be absent for two or three days.
He will set out on horseback, attended only with one trusty servant, for the greater privacy. He will be at the most creditable-looking public house there, expecting you both next morning, if he hear nothing from me to prevent him. And he will go to town with you after the ceremony is performed, in the coach he supposes you will come in.
He is very desirous that I should be present on the occasion. But this I have promised him, at his request, that I will be up before the day, in order to see the settlements executed, and every thing properly prepared.
He is very glad you have the license ready.
He speaks very kindly of you, Mr. Lovelace; and says, that, if any of the family stand out after he has seen the ceremony performed, he will separate from them, and unite himself to his dear niece and her interests.
I owned to you, when in town last, that I took slight notice to my dear friend of the misunderstanding between you and his niece; and that I did this, for fear the lady should have shown any little discontent in his presence, had I been able to prevail upon him to go up in person, as then was doubtful. But I hope nothing of that discontent remains now.
My absence, when your messenger came, must excuse me for not writing by him.
Be pleased to make my most respectful compliments acceptable to the admirable lady, and believe me to be
Your most faithful and obedient servant, ANTONY TOMLINSON.
This letter I sealed, and broke open. It was brought, thou mayest suppose, by a particular messenger; the seal such a one as the writer need be ashamed of. I took care to inquire after the Captain's health, in my beloved's hearing; and it is now ready to be produced as a pacifier, according as she shall take on or resent, if the two metamorphoses happen pursuant to my wonderful dream; as, having great faith in dreams, I dare say they will.—I think it will not be amiss, in changing my clothes, to have this letter of the worthy Captain lie in my beloved's way.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. WEDN. NOON, JUNE 21.
What shall I say now!—I, who but a few hours ago had such faith in dreams, and had proposed out of hand to begin my treatise of dreams sleeping and dreams waking, and was pleasing myself with the dialogues between the old matronal lady and the young lady, and with the metamorphoses, (absolutely assured that every thing would happen as my dream chalked it out,) shall never more depend upon those flying follies, those illusions of a fancy depraved, and run mad.
Thus confoundedly have matters happened.
I went out at eight o'clock in high good humour with myself, in order to give the sought-for opportunity to the plotting mistress and corrupted maid; only ordering Will. to keep a good look-out for fear his lady should mistrust my plot, or mistake a hackney-coach for the dowager-lady's chariot. But first I sent to know how she did; and receiving for answer, Very ill: had a very bad night: which latter was but too probable; since this I know, that people who have plots in their heads as seldom have as deserve good ones.