I have been misinformed, you say, as to my principal relations being at my uncle Harlowe's. The day, you say, was not kept. Nor have my brother and Mr. Solmes—Astonishing!—What complicated wickedness has this wretched man to answer for!—Were I to tell you, you would hardly believe that there could have been such a heart in man.—
But one day you may know the whole story!—At present I have neither inclination nor words—O my bursting heart!—Yet a happy, a wished relief!—Were you present my tears would supply the rest!
I resume my pen!
And so you fear no letter will be received from me. But DON'T grieve to tell me so! I expect every thing bad—and such is my distress, that had you not bid me hope for mercy from the throne of mercy, I should have been afraid that my father's dreadful curse would be completed with regard to both worlds.
For here, an additional misfortune!—In a fit of phrensical heedlessness, I sent a letter to my beloved Miss Howe, without recollecting her private address; and it has fallen into her angry mother's hands: and so that dear friend perhaps has anew incurred displeasure on my account. And here too your worthy son is ill; and my poor Hannah, you think, cannot come to me—O my dear Mrs. Norton, will you, can you censure those whose resentments against me Heaven seems to approve of? and will you acquit her whom that condemns?
Yet you bid me not despond.—I will not, if I can help it. And, indeed, most seasonable consolation has your kind letter afforded me.—Yet to God Almighty do I appeal, to avenge my wrongs, and vindicate my inno——
But hushed be my stormy passions!—Have I not but this moment said that your letter gave me consolation?—May those be forgiven who hinder my father from forgiving me!—and this, as to them, shall be the harshest thing that shall drop from my pen.
But although your son should recover, I charge you, my dear Mrs. Norton, that you do not think of coming to me. I don't know still but your mediation with my mother (although at present your interposition would be so little attended to) may be of use to procure me the revocation of that most dreadful part of my father's curse, which only remains to be fulfilled. The voice of Nature must at last be heard in my favour, surely. It will only plead at first to my friends in the still conscious plaintiveness of a young and unhardened beggar. But it will grow more clamorous when I have the courage to be so, and shall demand, perhaps, the paternal protection from farther ruin; and that forgiveness, which those will be little entitled to expect, for their own faults, who shall interpose to have it refused to me, for an accidental, not a premeditated error: and which, but for them, I had never fallen into.
But again, impatiency, founded perhaps on self-partiality, that strange misleader! prevails.
Let me briefly say, that it is necessary to my present and future hopes that you keep well with my family. And moreover, should you come, I may be traced out by that means by the most abandoned of men. Say not then that you think you ought to come up to me, let it be taken as it will:— For my sake, let me repeat, (were my foster-brother recovered, as I hope he is,) you must not come. Nor can I want your advice, while I can write, and you can answer me. And write I will as often as I stand in need of your counsel.
Then the people I am now with seem to be both honest and humane: and there is in the same house a widow-lodger, of low fortunes, but of great merit:—almost such another serious and good woman as the dear one to whom I am now writing; who has, as she says, given over all other thoughts of the world but such as should assist her to leave it happily. —How suitable to my own views!—There seems to be a comfortable providence in this at least—so that at present there is nothing of exigence; nothing that can require, or even excuse, your coming, when so many better ends may be answered by your staying where you are. A time may come, when I shall want your last and best assistance: and then, my dear Mrs. Norton—and then, I will speak it, and embrace it with all my whole heart—and then, will it not be denied me by any body.
You are very obliging in your offer of money. But although I was forced to leave my clothes behind me, yet I took several things of value with me, which will keep me from present want. You'll say, I have made a miserable hand of it—so indeed I have—and, to look backwards, in a very little while too.
But what shall I do, if my father cannot be prevailed upon to recall his malediction? O my dear Mrs. Norton, what a weight must a father's curse have upon a heart so appreciative as mine!—Did I think I should ever have a father's curse to deprecate? And yet, only that the temporary part of it is so terribly fulfilled, or I should be as earnest for its recall, for my father's sake, as for my own!
You must not be angry with me that I wrote not to you before. You are very right and very kind to say you are sure I love you. Indeed I do. And what a generosity, [so like yourself!] is there in your praise, to attribute to me more than I merit, in order to raise an emulation to me to deserve your praises!—you tell me what you expect from me in the calamities I am called upon to bear. May I behave answerably!
I can a little account to myself for my silence to you, my kind, my dear maternal friend! How equally sweetly and politely do you express yourself on this occasion! I was very desirous, for your sake, as well as for my own, that you should have it to say that we did not correspond: had they thought we did, every word you could have dropt in my favour would have been rejected; and my mother would have been forbid to see you, or pay any regard to what you should say.
Then I had sometimes better and sometimes worse prospects before me. My worst would only have troubled you to know: my better made me frequently hope, that, by the next post, or the next, and so on for weeks, I should have the best news to impart to you that then could happen: cold as the wretch had made my heart to that best.—For how could I think to write to you, with a confession that I was not married, yet lived in the house (for I could not help it) with such a man?—Who likewise had given it out to several, that we were actually married, although with restrictions that depended on the reconciliation with my friends? And to disguise the truth, or be guilty of a falsehood, either direct or equivocal, that was what you had never taught me.
But I might have written to you for advice, in my precarious situation, perhaps you will think. But, indeed, my dear Mrs. Norton, I was not lost for want of advice. And this will appear clear to you from what I have already hinted, were I to explain myself no further:—For what need had the cruel spoiler to have recourse to unprecedented arts—I will speak out plainer still, (but you must not at present report it,) to stupifying potions, and to the most brutal and outrageous force, had I been wanting in my duty?
A few words more upon this grievous subject—
When I reflect upon all that has happened to me, it is apparent, that this generally-supposed thoughtless seducer has acted by me upon a regular and preconcerted plan of villany.
In order to set all his vile plots in motion, nothing was wanting, from the first, but to prevail upon me, either by force or fraud, to throw myself into his power: and when this was effected, nothing less than the intervention of the paternal authority, (which I had not deserved to be exerted in my behalf,) could have saved me from the effect of his deep machinations. Opposition from any other quarter would but too probably have precipitated his barbarous and ungrateful violence: and had you yourself been with me, I have reason now to think, that somehow or other you would have suffered in endeavouring to save me: for never was there, as now I see, a plan of wickedness more steadily and uniformly pursued than his has been, against an unhappy creature who merited better of him: but the Almighty has thought fit, according to the general course of His providence, to make the fault bring on its own punishment: but surely not in consequence of my father's dreadful imprecation, 'That I might be punished here,' [O my mamma Norton, pray with me, if so, that here it stop!] 'by the very wretch in whom I had placed my wicked confidence!'
I am sorry, for your sake, to leave off so heavily. Yet the rest must be brief.
Let me desire you to be secret in what I have communicated to you; at least till you have my consent to divulge it.
God preserve to you your more faultless child!
I will hope for His mercy, although I should not obtain that of any earthly person.
And I repeat my prohibition:—You must not think of coming up to
Your ever dutiful CL. HARLOWE.
The obliging person, who left your's for me this day, promised to call to-morrow, to see if I should have any thing to return. I would not lose so good an opportunity.
MRS. NORTON, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE MONDAY NIGHT, JULY 3.
O the barbarous villany of this detestable man! And is there a man in the world who could offer violence to so sweet a creature!
And are you sure you are now out of his reach?
You command me to keep secret the particulars of the vile treatment you have met with; or else, upon an unexpected visit which Miss Harlowe favoured me with, soon after I had received your melancholy letter, I should have been tempted to own I had heard from you, and to have communicated to her such parts of your two letters as would have demonstrated your penitence, and your earnestness to obtain the revocation of your father's malediction, as well as his protection from outrages that may still be offered to you. But then your sister would probably have expected a sight of the letters, and even to have been permitted to take them with her to the family.
Yet they must one day be acquainted with the sad story:—and it is impossible but they must pity you, and forgive you, when they know your early penitence, and your unprecedented sufferings; and that you have fallen by the brutal force of a barbarous ravisher, and not by the vile arts of a seducing lover.
The wicked man gives it out at Lord M.'s, as Miss Harlowe tells me, that he is actually married to you—yet she believes it not: nor had I the heart to let her know the truth.
She put it close to me, Whether I had not corresponded with you from the time of your going away? I could safely tell her, (as I did,) that I had not: but I said, that I was well informed, that you took extremely to heart your father's imprecation; and that, if she would excuse me, I would say it would be a kind and sisterly part, if she would use her interest to get you discharged from it.
Among other severe things, she told me, that my partial fondness for you made me very little consider the honour of the rest of the family: but, if I had not heard this from you, she supposed I was set on by Miss Howe.
She expressed herself with a good deal of bitterness against that young lady: who, it seems, every where, and to every body, (for you must think that your story is the subject of all conversations,) rails against your family; treating them, as your sister says, with contempt, and even with ridicule.
I am sorry such angry freedoms are taken, for two reasons; first, because such liberties never do any good. I have heard you own, that Miss Howe has a satirical vein; but I should hope that a young lady of her sense, and right cast of mind, must know that the end of satire is not to exasperate, but amend; and should never be personal. If it be, as my good father used to say, it may make an impartial person suspect that the satirist has a natural spleen to gratify; which may be as great a fault in him, as any of those which he pretends to censure and expose in others.
Perhaps a hint of this from you will not be thrown away.
My second reason is, That these freedoms, from so warm a friend to you as Miss Howe is known to be, are most likely to be charged to your account.
My resentments are so strong against this vilest of men, that I dare not touch upon the shocking particulars which you mention of his baseness. What defence, indeed, could there be against so determined a wretch, after you was in his power? I will only repeat my earnest supplication to you, that, black as appearances are, you will not despair. Your calamities are exceeding great; but then you have talents proportioned to your trials. This every body allows.
Suppose the worst, and that your family will not be moved in your favour, your cousin Morden will soon arrive, as Miss Harlowe told me. If he should even be got over to their side, he will however see justice done you; and then may you live an exemplary life, making hundreds happy, and teaching young ladies to shun the snares in which you have been so dreadfully entangled.
As to the man you have lost, is an union with such a perjured heart as his, with such an admirable one as your's, to be wished for? A base, low-hearted wretch, as you justly call him, with all his pride of ancestry; and more an enemy to himself with regard to his present and future happiness than to you, in the barbarous and ungrateful wrongs he has done you: I need not, I am sure, exhort you to despise such a man as this, since not to be able to do so, would be a reflection upon a sex to which you have always been an honour.
Your moral character is untainted: the very nature of your sufferings, as you will observe, demonstrates that. Cheer up, therefore, your dear heart, and do not despair; for is it not GOD who governs the world, and permits some things, and directs others, as He pleases? and will He not reward temporary sufferings, innocently incurred, and piously supported, with eternal felicity?—And what, my dear, is this poor needle's point of NOW to a boundless eternity?
My heart, however, labours under a double affliction: For my poor boy is very, very bad—a violent fever—nor can it be brought to intermit.—Pray for him, my dearest Miss—for his recovery, if God see fit.—I hope God will see fit—if not (how can I bear to suppose that!) Pray for me, that he will give me that patience and resignation which I have been wishing to you. I am, my dearest young lady,
Your ever affectionate JUDITH NORTON.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MRS. JUDITH NORTON THURSDAY, JULY 6.
I ought not, especially at this time, to add to your afflictions—but yet I cannot help communicating to you (who now are my only soothing friend) a new trouble that has befallen me.
I had but one friend in the world, beside you; and she is utterly displeased with me.* It is grievous, but for one moment, to lie under a beloved person's censure; and this through imputations that affect one's honour and prudence. There are points so delicate, you know, my dear Mrs. Norton, that it is a degree of dishonour to have a vindication of one's self from them appear to be necessary. In the present case, my misfortune is, that I know not how to account, but by guess (so subtle have been the workings of the dark spirit I have been unhappily entangled by) for some of the facts that I am called upon to explain.
Miss Howe, in short, supposes she has found a flaw in my character. I have just now received her severe letter—but I shall answer it, perhaps, in better temper, if I first consider your's: for indeed my patience is almost at an end. And yet I ought to consider, that faithful are the wounds of a friend. But so many things at once! O my dear Mrs. Norton, how shall so young a scholar in the school of affliction be able to bear such heavy and such various evils!
But to leave this subject for a while, and turn to your letter.
I am very sorry Miss Howe is so lively in her resentments on my account. I have always blamed her very freely for her liberties of this sort with my friends. I once had a good deal of influence over her kind heart, and she made all I said a law to her. But people in calamity have little weight in any thing, or with any body. Prosperity and independence are charming things on this account, that they give force to the counsels of a friendly heart; while it is thought insolence in the miserable to advise, or so much as to remonstrate.
Yet is Miss Howe an invaluable person: And is it to be expected that she should preserve the same regard for my judgment that she had before I forfeited all title to discretion? With what face can I take upon me to reproach a want of prudence in her? But if I can be so happy as to re-establish myself in her ever-valued opinion, I shall endeavour to enforce upon her your just observation on this head.
You need not, you say, exhort me to despise such a man as him, by whom I have suffered—indeed you need not: for I would choose the cruellest death rather than to be his. And yet, my dear Mrs. Norton, I will own to you, that once I could have loved him.—Ungrateful man!—had he permitted me to love him, I once could have loved him. Yet he never deserved love. And was not this a fault?—But now, if I can but keep out of his hands, and obtain a last forgiveness, and that as well for the sake of my dear friends' future reflections, as for my own present comfort, it is all I wish for.
Reconciliation with my friends I do not expect; nor pardon from them; at least, till in extremity, and as a viaticum.
O my beloved Mrs. Norton, you cannot imagine what I have suffered!—But indeed my heart is broken!—I am sure I shall not live to take possession of that independence, which you think would enable me to atone, in some measure, for my past conduct.
While this is my opinion, you may believe I shall not be easy till I can obtain a last forgiveness.
I wish to be left to take my own course in endeavouring to procure this grace. Yet know I not, at present, what that course shall be.
I will write. But to whom is my doubt. Calamity has not yet given me the assurance to address myself to my FATHER. My UNCLES (well as they once loved me) are hard hearted. They never had their masculine passions humanized by the tender name of FATHER. Of my BROTHER I have no hope. I have then but my MOTHER, and my SISTER, to whom I can apply.—'And may I not, my dearest Mamma, be permitted to lift up my trembling eye to your all-cheering, and your once more than indulgent, your fond eye, in hopes of seasonable mercy to the poor sick heart that yet beats with life drawn from your own dearer heart?—Especially when pardon only, and not restoration, is implored?'
Yet were I able to engage my mother's pity, would it not be a mean to make her still more unhappy than I have already made her, by the opposition she would meet with, were she to try to give force to that pity?
To my SISTER, then, I think, I will apply—Yet how hard-hearted has my sister been!—But I will not ask for protection; and yet I am in hourly dread that I shall want protection.—All I will ask for at present (preparative to the last forgiveness I will implore) shall be only to be freed from the heavy curse that seems to have operated as far is it can operate as to this life—and, surely, it was passion, and not intention, that carried it so far as to the other!
But why do I thus add to your distresses?—It is not, my dear Mrs. Norton, that I have so much feeling for my own calamity that I have none for your's: since your's is indeed an addition to my own. But you have one consolation (a very great one) which I have not:—That your afflictions, whether respecting your more or your less deserving child, rise not from any fault of your own.
But what can I do for you more than pray?—Assure yourself, that in every supplication I put up for myself, I will with equal fervour remember both you and your son. For I am and ever will be
Your truly sympathising and dutiful CLARISSA HARLOWE.
MISS HOWE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE [SUPERSCRIBED FOR MRS. RACHEL CLARK, &c.] WEDNESDAY, JULY 5.
MY DEAR CLARISSA,
I have at last heard from you from a quarter I little expected.
From my mother!
She had for some time seen me uneasy and grieving; and justly supposed it was about you: and this morning dropt a hint, which made me conjecture that she must have heard something of you more than I knew. And when she found that this added to my uneasiness, she owned she had a letter in her hands of your's, dated the 29th of June, directed for me.
You may guess, that this occasioned a little warmth, that could not be wished for by either.
[It is surprising, my dear, mighty surprising! that knowing the prohibition I lay under of corresponding with you, you could send a letter for me to our own house: since it must be fifty to one that it would fall into my mother's hands, as you find it did.]
In short, she resented that I should disobey her: I was as much concerned that she should open and withhold from me my letters: and at last she was pleased to compromise the matter with me by giving up the letter, and permitting me to write to you once or twice: she to see the contents of what I wrote. For, besides the value she has for you, she could not but have greater curiosity to know the occasion of so sad a situation as your melancholy letter shows you to be in.
[But I shall get her to be satisfied with hearing me read what I write; putting in between hooks, thus , what I intend not to read to her.]
Need I to remind you, Miss Clarissa Harlowe, of three letters I wrote to you, to none of which I had any answer; except to the first, and that of a few lines only, promising a letter at large, though you were well enough, the day after you received my second, to go joyfully back again with him to the vile house? But more of these by-and-by. I must hasten to take notice of your letter of Wednesday last week; which you could contrive should fall into my mother's hands.
Let me tell you, that that letter has almost broken my heart. Good God! —What have you brought yourself to, Miss Clarissa Harlowe?—Could I have believed, that after you had escaped from the miscreant, (with such mighty pains and earnestness escaped,) and after such an attempt as he had made, you would have been prevailed upon not only to forgive him, but (without being married too) to return with him to that horrid house!—A house I had given you such an account of!—Surprising!——What an intoxicating thing is this love?—I always feared, that you, even you, were not proof against its inconsistent effects.
You your best self have not escaped!—Indeed I see not how you could expect to escape.
What a tale have you to unfold!—You need not unfold it, my dear: I would have engaged to prognosticate all that has happened, had you but told me that you would once more have put yourself in his power, after you had taken such pains to get out of it.
Your peace is destroyed!—I wonder not at it: since now you must reproach yourself for a credulity so ill-placed.
Your intellect is touched!—I am sure my heart bleeds for you! But, excuse me, my dear, I doubt your intellect was touched before you left Hampstead: or you would never have let him find you out there; or, when he did, suffer him to prevail upon you to return to the horrid brothel.
I tell you, I sent you three letters: The first of which, dated the 7th and 8th of June* (for it was written at twice) came safely to your hands, as you sent me word by a few lines dated the 9th: had it not, I should have doubted my own safety; since in it I give you such an account of the abominable house, and threw such cautions in your way, in relation to that Tomlinson, as the more surprised me that you could think of going back to it again, after you had escaped from it, and from Lovelace.—O my dear—but nothing now will I ever wonder at!
* See Vol. V. Letter XX.
The second, dated June 10,* was given into your own hand at Hampstead, on Sunday the 11th, as you was lying upon a couch, in a strange way, according to my messenger's account of you, bloated, and flush-coloured; I don't know how.
* See Letter VII. of this volume.
The third was dated the 20th of June.* Having not heard one word from you since the promising billet of the 9th, I own I did not spare you in it. I ventured it by the usual conveyance, by that Wilson's, having no other: so cannot be sure you received it. Indeed I rather think you might not; because in your's, which fell into my mother's hands, you make no mention of it: and if you had had it, I believe it would have touched you too much to have been passed by unnoticed.
* See Letter XXX. of this volume.
You have heard, that I have been ill, you say. I had a cold, indeed; but it was so slight a one that it confined me not an hour. But I doubt not that strange things you have heard, and been told, to induce you to take the step you took. And, till you did take that step (the going back with this villain, I mean,) I knew not a more pitiable case than your's: since every body must have excused you before, who knew how you were used at home, and was acquainted with your prudence and vigilance. But, alas! my dear, we see that the wisest people are not to be depended upon, when love, like an ignis fatuus, holds up its misleading lights before their eyes.
My mother tells me, she sent you an answer, desiring you not to write to me, because it would grieve me. To be sure I am grieved; exceedingly grieved; and, disappointed too, you must permit me to say. For I had always thought that there never was such a woman, at your years, in the world.
But I remember once an argument you held, on occasion of a censure passed in company upon an excellent preacher, who was not a very excellent liver: preaching and practising, you said, required very different talents:* which, when united in the same person, made the man a saint; as wit and judgment, going together, constituted a genius.
* See Vol. II. Letter IV.
You made it out, I remember, very prettily: but you never made it out, excuse me, my dear, more convincingly, than by that part of your late conduct, which I complain of.
My love for you, and my concern for your honour, may possibly have made me a little of the severest. If you think so, place it to its proper account; to that love, and to that concern: which will but do justice to
Your afflicted and faithful A.H.
P.S. My mother would not be satisfied without reading my letter herself; and that before I had fixed all the proposed hooks. She knows, by this means, and has excused, our former correspondence.
She indeed suspected it before: and so she very well might; knowing my love of you.
She has so much real concern for your misfortunes, that, thinking it will be a consolation to you, and that it will oblige me, she consents that you shall write to me the particulars at large of your say story. But it is on condition that I show her all that has passed between us, relating to yourself and the vilest of men. I have the more cheerfully complied, as the communication cannot be to your disadvantage.
You may therefore write freely, and direct to our own house.
My mother promises to show me the copy of her letter to you, and your reply to it; which latter she has but just told me of. She already apologizes for the severity of her's: and thinks the sight of your reply will affect me too much. But, having her promise, I will not dispense with it.
I doubt her's is severe enough. So I fear you will think mine: but you have taught me never to spare the fault for the friend's sake; and that a great error ought rather to be the more inexcusable in the person we value, than in one we are indifferent to; because it is a reflection upon our choice of that person, and tends to a breach of the love of mind, and to expose us to the world for our partiality. To the love of mind, I repeat; since it is impossible but the errors of the dearest friend must weaken our inward opinion of that friend; and thereby lay a foundation for future distance, and perhaps disgust.
God grant that you may be able to clear your conduct after you had escaped from Hampstead; as all before that time was noble, generous, and prudent; the man a devil and you a saint!——Yet I hope you can; and therefore expect it from you.
I send by a particular hand. He will call for your answer at your own appointment.
I am afraid this horrid wretch will trace out by the post-offices where you are, if not careful.
To have money, and will, and head, to be a villain, is too much for the rest of the world, when they meet in one man.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE THURSDAY, JULY 6.
Few young persons have been able to give more convincing proofs than myself how little true happiness lies in the enjoyment of our own wishes.
To produce one instance only of the truth of this observation; what would I have given for weeks past, for the favour of a letter from my dear Miss Howe, in whose friendship I placed all my remaining comfort! Little did I think, that the next letter she would honour me with, should be in such a style, as should make me look more than once at the subscription, that I might be sure (the name not being written at length) that it was not signed by another A.H. For surely, thought I, this is my sister Arabella's style: surely Miss Howe (blame me as she pleases in other points) could never repeat so sharply upon her friend, words written in the bitterness of spirit, and in the disorder of head; nor remind her, with asperity, and with mingled strokes of wit, of an argument held in the gaiety of a heart elated with prosperous fortunes, (as mine then was,) and very little apprehensive of the severe turn that argument would one day take against herself.
But what have I, sink in my fortunes; my character forfeited; my honour lost, [while I know it, I care not who knows it;] destitute of friends, and even of hope; what have I to do to show a spirit of repining and expostulation to a dear friend, because she is not more kind than a sister?——
You have till now, my dear, treated me with great indulgence. If it was with greater than I had deserved, I may be to blame to have built upon it, on the consciousness that I deserve it now as much as ever. But I find, by the rising bitterness which will mingle with the gall in my ink, that I am not yet subdued enough to my condition.—I lay down my pen for one moment.
Pardon me, my Miss Howe. I have recollected myself: and will endeavour to give a particular answer to your letter; although it will take me up too much time to think of sending it by your messenger to-morrow: he can put off his journey, he says, till Saturday. I will endeavour to have the whole narrative ready for you by Saturday.
But how to defend myself in every thing that has happened, I cannot tell: since in some part of the time, in which my conduct appears to have been censurable, I was not myself; and to this hour know not all the methods taken to deceive and ruin me.
You tell me, that in your first letter you gave me such an account of the vile house I was in, and such cautions about that Tomlinson, as made you wonder how I could think of going back.
Alas, my dear! I was tricked, most vilely tricked back, as you shall hear in its place.
Without knowing the house was so very vile a house from your intended information, I disliked the people too much, ever voluntarily to have returned to it. But had you really written such cautions about Tomlinson, and the house, as you seem to have purposed to do, they must, had they come in time, have been of infinite service to me. But not one word of either, whatever was your intention, did you mention to me, in that first of the three letters you so warmly TELL me you did send me. I will enclose it to convince you.*
* The letter she encloses was Mr. Lovelace's forged one. See Vol. V. Letter XXX.
But your account of your messenger's delivering to me your second letter, and the description he gives of me, as lying upon a couch, in a strange way, bloated, and flush-coloured; you don't know how, absolutely puzzles and confounds me.
Lord have mercy upon the poor Clarissa Harlowe! What can this mean!—Who was the messenger you sent? Was he one of Lovelace's creatures too!— Could nobody come near me but that man's confederates, either setting out so, or made so? I know not what to make of any one syllable of this! Indeed I don't.
Let me see. You say, this was before I went from Hampstead! My intellects had not then been touched!—nor had I ever been surprised by wine, [strange if I had!]: How then could I be found in such a strange way, bloated and flush-coloured; you don't know how!—Yet what a vile, what a hateful figure has your messenger represented me to have made!
But indeed I know nothing of any messenger from you.
Believing myself secure at Hampstead, I staid longer there than I would have done, in hopes of the letter promised me in your short one of the 9th, brought me by my own messenger, in which you undertake to send for and engage Mrs. Townsend in my favour.*
* See Vol. V. Letter XXIX.
I wondered I had not heard from you: and was told you were sick; and, at another time, that your mother and you had had words on my account, and that you had refused to admit Mr. Hickman's visits upon it: so that I supposed, at one time, that you were not able to write; at another, that your mother's prohibition had its due force with you. But now I have no doubt that the wicked man must have intercepted your letter; and I wish he found not means to corrupt your messenger to tell you so strange a story.
It was on Sunday, June 11, you say, that the man gave it me. I was at church twice that day with Mrs. Moore. Mr. Lovelace was at her house the while, where he boarded, and wanted to have lodged; but I would not permit that, though I could not help the other. In one of these spaces it must be that he had time to work upon the man. You'll easily, my dear, find that out, by inquiring the time of his arrival at Mrs. Moore's and other circumstances of the strange way he pretended to see me in, on a couch, and the rest.
Had any body seen me afterwards, when I was betrayed back to the vile house, struggling under the operation of wicked potions, and robbed indeed of my intellects (for this, as you shall hear, was my dreadful case,) I might then, perhaps, have appeared bloated and flush-coloured, and I know not how myself. But were you to see your poor Clarissa, now (or even to have seen her at Hampstead before she suffered the vilest of all outrages,) you would not think her bloated or flush-coloured: indeed you would not.
In a word, it could not be me your messenger saw; nor (if any body) who it was can I divine.
I will now, as briefly as the subject will permit, enter into the darker part of my sad story: and yet I must be somewhat circumstantial, that you may not think me capable of reserve or palliation. The latter I am not conscious that I need. I should be utterly inexcusable were I guilty of the former to you. And yet, if you know how my heart sinks under the thoughts of a recollection so painful, you would pity me.
As I shall not be able, perhaps, to conclude what I have to write in even two or three letters, I will begin a new one with my story; and send the whole of it together, although written at different periods, as I am able.
Allow me a little pause, my dear, at this place; and to subscribe myself
Your ever affectionate and obliged, CLARISSA HARLOWE.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE [REFERRED TO IN LETTER XII.] THURSDAY NIGHT.
He had found me out at Hampstead: strangely found me out; for I am still at a loss to know by what means.
I was loth, in my billet of the 6th,* to tell you so, for fear of giving you apprehensions for me; and besides, I hoped then to have a shorter and happier issue to account to you for, through your assistance, than I met with.
* See Vol. V. Letter XXXI.
[She then gives a narrative of all that passed at Hampstead between herself, Mr. Lovelace, Capt. Tomlinson, and the women there, to the same effect with that so amply given by Mr. Lovelace.]
Mr. Lovelace, finding all he could say, and all Captain Tomlinson could urge, ineffectual, to prevail upon me to forgive an outrage so flagrantly premeditated; rested all his hopes on a visit which was to be paid me by Lady Betty Lawrance and Miss Montague.
In my uncertain situation, my prospects all so dark, I knew not to whom I might be obliged to have recourse in the last resort: and as those ladies had the best of characters, insomuch that I had reason to regret that I had not from the first thrown myself upon their protection, (when I had forfeited that of my own friends,) I thought I would not shun an interview with them, though I was too indifferent to their kinsman to seek it, as I doubted not that one end of their visit would be to reconcile me to him.
On Monday, the 12th of June, these pretended ladies came to Hampstead; and I was presented to them, and they to me by their kinsman.
They were richly dressed, and stuck out with jewels; the pretended Lady Betty's were particularly very fine.
They came in a coach-and-four, hired, as was confessed, while their own was repairing in town: a pretence made, I now perceive, that I should not guess at the imposture by the want of the real lady's arms upon it. Lady Betty was attended by her woman, who she called Morrison; a modest country-looking person.
I had heard, that Lady Betty was a fine woman, and that Miss Montague was a beautiful young lady, genteel, and graceful, and full of vivacity.— Such were these impostors: and having never seen either of them, I had not the least suspicion, that they were not the ladies they personated; and being put a little out of countenance by the richness of their dresses, I could not help, (fool that I was!) to apologize for my own.
The pretended Lady Betty then told me, that her nephew had acquainted them with the situation of affairs between us. And although she could not but say, that she was very glad that she had not put such a slight upon his Lordship and them, as report had given them cause to apprehend, (the reasons for which report, however, she must have approved of;) yet it had been matter of great concern to her, and to her niece Montague, and would to the whole family, to find so great a misunderstanding subsisting between us, as, if not made up, might distance all their hopes.
She could easily tell who was in fault, she said. And gave him a look both of anger and disdain; asking him, How it was possible for him to give an offence of such a nature to so charming a lady, [so she called me,] as should occasion a resentment so strong?
He pretended to be awed into shame and silence.
My dearest niece, said she, and took my hand, (I must call you niece, as well from love, as to humour your uncle's laudable expedient,) permit me to be, not an advocate, but a mediatrix for him; and not for his sake, so much as for my own, my Charlotte's, and all our family's. The indignity he has offered to you, may be of too tender a nature to be inquired into. But as he declares, that it was not a premeditated offence; whether, my dear, [for I was going to rise upon it in my temper,] it were or not; and as he declares his sorrows for it, (and never did creature express a deeper sorrow for any offence than he); and as it is a repairable one; let us, for this one time, forgive him; and thereby lay an obligation upon this man of errors—Let US, I say, my dear: for, Sir, [turning to him,] an offence against such a peerless lady as this, must be an offence against me, against your cousin here, and against all the virtuous of our sex.
See, my dear, what a creature he had picked out! Could you have thought there was a woman in the world who could thus express herself, and yet be vile? But she had her principal instructions from him, and those written down too, as I have reason to think: for I have recollected since, that I once saw this Lady Betty, (who often rose from her seat, and took a turn to the other end of the room with such an emotion, as if the joy of her heart would not let her sit still) take out a paper from her stays, and look into it, and put it there again. She might oftener, and I not observe it; for I little thought that there could be such impostors in the world.
I could not forbear paying great attention to what she said. I found my tears ready to start; I drew out my handkerchief, and was silent. I had not been so indulgently treated a great while by a person of character and distinction, [such I thought her;] and durst not trust to the accent of my voice.
The pretended Miss Montague joined in on this occasion: and drawing her chair close to me, took my other hand, and besought me to forgive her cousin; and consent to rank myself as one of the principals of a family that had long, very long, coveted the honour of my alliance.
I am ashamed to repeat to you, my dear, now I know what wretches they are, the tender, the obliging, and the respectful things I said to them.
The wretch himself then came forward. He threw himself at my feet. How was I beset!—The women grasping, one my right hand, the other my left: the pretended Miss Montague pressing to her lips more than once the hand she held: the wicked man on his knees, imploring my forgiveness; and setting before me my happy and my unhappy prospects, as I should forgive and not forgive him. All that he thought would affect me in former pleas, and those of Capt. Tomlinson, he repeated. He vowed, he promised, he bespoke the pretended ladies to answer for him; and they engaged their honours in his behalf.
Indeed, my dear, I was distressed, perfectly distressed. I was sorry that I had given way to this visit. For I knew not how, in tenderness to relations, (as I thought them,) so worthy, to treat so freely as he deserved, a man nearly allied to them: so that my arguments and my resolutions were deprived of their greatest force.
I pleaded, however, my application to you. I expected every hour, I told them, an answer from you to a letter I had written, which would decide my future destiny.
They offered to apply to you themselves in person, in their own behalf, as they politely termed it. They besought me to write to you to hasten your answer.
I said, I was sure that you would write the moment that the event of an application to be made to a third person enabled you to write. But as to the success of their request in behalf of their kinsman, that depended not upon the expected answer; for that, I begged their pardon, was out of the question. I wished him well. I wished him happy. But I was convinced, that I neither could make him so, nor he me.
Then! how the wretch promised!—How he vowed!—How he entreated!—And how the women pleaded!—And they engaged themselves, and the honour of their whole family, for his just, his kind, his tender behaviour to me.
In short, my dear, I was so hard set, that I was obliged to come to a more favourable compromise with them than I had intended. I would wait for your answer to my letter, I said: and if that made doubtful or difficult the change of measures I had resolved upon, and the scheme of life I had formed, I would then consider of the matter; and, if they would permit me, lay all before them, and take their advice upon it, in conjunction with your's, as if the one were my own aunt, and the other were my own cousin.
They shed tears upon this—of joy they called them:—But since, I believe, to their credit, bad as they are, that they were tears of temporary remorse; for, the pretended Miss Montague turned about, and, as I remember, said, There was no standing it.
But Mr. Lovelace was not so easily satisfied. He was fixed upon his villanous measures perhaps; and so might not be sorry to have a pretence against me. He bit his lip—he had been but too much used, he said, to such indifference, such coldness, in the very midst of his happiest prospects. I had on twenty occasions shown him, to his infinite regret, that any favour I was to confer upon him was to be the result of—there he stopt—and not of my choice.
This had like to have set all back again. I was exceedingly offended. But the pretended ladies interposed. The elder severely took him to task. He ought, she told him, to be satisfied with what I had said. She desired no other condition. And what, Sir, said she, with an air of authority, would you commit errors, and expect to be rewarded for them?
They then engaged me in a more agreeable conversation—the pretended lady declared, that she, Lord M. and Lady Sarah, would directly and personally interest themselves to bring about a general reconciliation between the two families, and this either in open or private concert with my uncle Harlowe, as should be thought fit. Animosities on one side had been carried a great way, she said; and too little care had been shown on the other to mollify or heal. My father should see that they could treat him as a brother and a friend; and my brother and sister should be convinced that there was no room either for the jealously [sic] or envy they had conceived from motives too unworthy to be avowed.
Could I help, my dear, being pleased with them?—
Permit me here to break off. The task grows too heavy, at present, for the heart of
Your CLARISSA HARLOWE.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE [IN CONTINUATION.]
I was very ill, and obliged to lay down my pen. I thought I should have fainted. But am better now—so will proceed.
The pretended ladies, the more we talked, the fonder they seemed to be of me. And the Lady Betty had Mrs. Moore called up; and asked her, If she had accommodations for her niece and self, her woman, and two men servants, for three or four days?
Mr. Lovelace answered for her that she had.
She would not ask her dear niece Lovelace, [Permit me, my dear, whispered she, this charming style before strangers! I will keep your uncle's secret,] whether she should be welcome or not to be so near her. But for the time she should stay in these parts, she would come up every night— What say you, niece Charlotte?
The pretended Charlotte answered, she should like to do so, of all things.
The Lady Betty called her an obliging girl. She liked the place, she said. Her cousin Leeson would excuse her. The air, and my company, would do her good. She never chose to lie in the smoky town, if she could help it. In short, my dear, said she to me, I will stay with you till you hear from Miss Howe; and till I have your consent to go with me to Glenham-hall. Not one moment will I be out of your company, when I can have it. Stedman, my solicitor, as the distance from town is so small, may attend me here for instructions. Niece Charlotte, one word with you, child.
They retired to the further end of the room, and talked about their night-dresses.
The Miss Charlotte said, Morrison might be dispatched for them.
True, said the other—but I have some letters in my private box, which I must have up. And you know, Charlotte, that I trust nobody with the keys of that.
Could not Morrison bring up the box?
No. She thought it safest where it was. She had heard of a robbery committed but two days ago at the food of Hampstead-hill; and she should be ruined in she lost her box.
Well, then, it was but going to town to undress, and she would leave her jewels behind her, and return; and should be easier a great deal on all accounts.
For my part, I wondered they came up with them. But that was to be taken as a respect paid to me. And then they hinted at another visit of ceremony which they had thought to make, had they not found me so inexpressibly engaging.
They talked loud enough for me to hear them; on purpose, no doubt, though in affected whispers; and concluded with high praises of me.
I was not fool enough to believe, or to be puffed up with their encomiums; yet not suspecting them, I was not displeased at so favourable a beginning of acquaintance with Ladies (whether I were to be related to them or not) of whom I had always heard honourable mention. And yet at the time, I thought, highly as they exalted me, that in some respects (though I hardly know in what) they fell short of what I expected them to be.
The grand deluder was at the farther end of the room, another way; probably to give me an opportunity to hear these preconcerted praises— looking into a book, which had there not been a preconcert, would not have taken his attention for one moment. It was Taylor's Holy Living and Dying.
When the pretended ladies joined me, he approached me with it in his hand —a smart book, this, my dear!—this old divine affects, I see, a mighty flowery style of an ordinary country funeral, where, the young women, in honour of a defunct companion, especially if she were a virgin, or passed for such, make a flower-bed of her coffin.
And then, laying down the book, turning upon his heel, with one of his usual airs of gaiety, And are you determined, Ladies, to take up your lodgings with my charming creature?
Indeed they were.
Never were there more cunning, more artful impostors, than these women. Practised creatures, to be sure: yet genteel; and they must have been well-educated—once, perhaps, as much the delight of their parents, as I was of mine: and who knows by what arts ruined, body and mind—O my dear! how pregnant is this reflection!
But the man!—Never was there a man so deep. Never so consummate a deceiver; except that detested Tomlinson; whose years and seriousness, joined with a solidity of sense and judgment that seemed uncommon, gave him, one would have thought, advantages in villany, the other had not time for. Hard, very hard, that I should fall into the knowledge of two such wretches; when two more such I hope are not to be met with in the world!—both so determined to carry on the most barbarous and perfidious projects against a poor young creature, who never did or wished harm to either.
Take the following slight account of these women's and of this man's behaviour to each other before me.
Mr. Lovelace carried himself to his pretended aunt with high respect, and paid a great deference to all she said. He permitted her to have all the advantage over him in the repartees and retorts that passed between them. I could, indeed, easily see, that it was permitted; and that he forbore that vivacity, that quickness, which he never spared showing to his pretended Miss Montague; and which a man of wit seldom knows how to spare showing, when an opportunity offers to display his wit.
The pretended Miss Montague was still more respectful in her behaviour to her pretended aunt. While the aunt kept up the dignity of the character she had assumed, rallying both of them with the air of a person who depends upon the superiority which years and fortune give over younger persons, who might have a view to be obliged to her, either in her life, or at her death.
The severity of her raillery, however, was turned upon Mr. Lovelace, on occasion of the character of the people who kept the lodgings, which, she said, I had thought myself so well warranted to leave privately.
This startled me. For having then no suspicion of the vile Tomlinson, I concluded (and your letter of the 7th* favoured my conclusion) that if the house were notorious, either he, or Mr. Mennell, would have given me or him some hints of it—nor, although I liked not the people, did I observe any thing in them very culpable, till the Wednesday night before, that they offered not to come to my assistance, although within hearing of my distress, (as I am sure they were,) and having as much reason as I to be frighted at the fire, had it been real.
* His forged letter. See Vol. V. Letter XXX.
I looked with indignation upon Mr. Lovelace, at this hint.
He seemed abashed. I have not patience, but to recollect the specious looks of this vile deceiver. But how was it possible, that even that florid countenance of his should enable him to command a blush at his pleasure? for blush he did, more than once: and the blush, on this occasion, was a deep-dyed crimson, unstrained for, and natural, as I thought—but he is so much of the actor, that he seems able to enter into any character; and his muscles and features appear entirely under obedience to his wicked will.*
* It is proper to observe, that there was a more natural reason than this that the Lady gives for Mr. Lovelace's blushing. It was a blush of indignation, as he owned afterwards to his friend Belford, in conversation; for the pretended Lady Betty had mistaken her cue, in condemning the house; and he had much ado to recover the blunder; being obliged to follow her lead, and vary from his first design; which was to have the people of the house spoken well of, in order to induce her to return to it, were it but on pretence to direct her clothes to be carried to Hampstead.
The pretended lady went on, saying, she had taken upon herself to inquire after the people, on hearing that I had left the house in disgust; and though she heard not any thing much amiss, yet she heard enough to make her wonder that he could carry his spouse, a person of so much delicacy, to a house, that, if it had not a bad fame, had not a good one.
You must think, my dear, that I liked the pretended Lady Betty the better for this. I suppose it was designed that I should.
He was surprised, he said, that her Ladyship should hear a bad character of the people. It was what he had never before heard that they deserved. It was easy, indeed, to see, that they had not very great delicacy, though they were not indelicate. The nature of their livelihood, letting lodgings, and taking people to board, (and yet he had understood that they were nice in these particulars,) led them to aim at being free and obliging: and it was difficult, he said, for persons of cheerful dispositions, so to behave as to avoid censure: openness of heart and countenance in the sex (more was the pity) too often subjected good people, whose fortunes did not set them above the world, to uncharitable censure.
He wished, however, that her Ladyship would tell what she had heard: although now it signified but little, because he would never ask me to set foot within their doors again: and he begged she would not mince the matter.
Nay, no great matter, she said. But she had been informed, that there were more women-lodgers in the house than men: yet that their visiters were more men than women. And this had been hinted to her (perhaps by ill-wishers, she could not answer for that) in such a way, as if somewhat further were meant by it than was spoken.
This, he said, was the true innuendo-way of characterizing, used by detractors. Every body and every thing had a black and a white side, of which well wishers and ill wishers may make their advantage. He had observed that the front house was well let, and he believed more to the one sex than to the other; for he had seen, occasionally passing to or fro, several genteel modest looking women; and who, it was very probable, were not so ill-beloved, but they might have visiters and relations of both sexes: but they were none of them any thing to us, or we to them: we were not once in any of their companies: but in the genteelest and most retired house of the two, which we had in a manner to ourselves, with the use of a parlour to the street, to serve us for a servants' hall, or to receive common visiters, or our traders only, whom we admitted not up stairs.
He always loved to speak as he found. No man in the world had suffered more from calumny than he himself had done.
Women, he owned, ought to be more scrupulous than men needed to be where they lodged. Nevertheless he wished that fact, rather than surmise, were to be the foundation of their judgments, especially when they spoke of one another.
He meant no reflection upon her Ladyship's informants, or rather surmisants, (as he might call them,) be they who they would: nor did he think himself obliged to defend characters impeached, or not thought well of, by women of virtue and honour. Neither were these people of importance enough to have so much said about them.
The pretended Lady Betty said, all who knew her, would clear her of censoriousness: that it gave her some opinion, she must needs say, of the people, that he had continued there so long with me; that I had rather negative than positive reasons of dislike to them; and that so shrewd a man as she heard Captain Tomlinson was had not objected to them.
I think, niece Charlotte, proceeded she, as my nephew had not parted with these lodgings, you and I, (for, as my dear Miss Harlowe dislikes the people, I would not ask her for her company) will take a dish of tea with my nephew there, before we go out of town; and then we shall see what sort of people they are. I have heard that Mrs. Sinclair is a mighty forbidding creature.
With all my heart, Madam. In your Ladyship's company I shall make no scruple of going any where.
It was Ladyship at every word; and as she seemed proud of her title, and of her dress too, I might have guessed that she was not used to either.
What say you, cousin Lovelace? Lady Sarah, though a melancholy woman, is very inquisitive about all your affairs. I must acquaint her with every particular circumstance when I go down.
With all his heart. He would attend her whenever she pleased. She would see very handsome apartments, and very civil people.
The deuce is in them, said the Miss Montague, if they appear other to us.
She then fell into family talk; family happiness on my hoped-for accession into it. They mentioned Lord M.'s and Lady Sarah's great desire to see me: how many friends and admirers, with uplift hands, I should have! [Oh! my dear, what a triumph must these creatures, and he, have over the poor devoted all the time!]—What a happy man he would be! —They would not, the Lady Betty said, give themselves the mortification but to suppose that I should not be one of them!
Presents were hinted at. She resolved that I should go with her to Glenham-hall. She would not be refused, although she were to stay a week beyond her time for me.
She longed for the expected letter from you. I must write to hasten it, and to let Miss Howe know how every thing stood since I wrote last. That might dispose me absolutely in her favour and in her nephew's; and then she hoped there would be no occasion for me to think of entering upon any new measures.
Indeed, my dear, I did at the time intend, if I heard not from you by morning, to dispatch a man and horse to you, with the particulars of all, that you might (if you thought proper) at least put off Mrs. Townsend's coming up to another day.—But I was miserably prevented.
She made me promise that I would write to you upon this subject, whether I heard from you or not. One of her servants should ride post with my letter, and wait for Miss Howe's answer.
She then launched out in deserved praises of you, my dear. How fond she should be of the honour of your acquaintance.
The pretended Miss Montague joined in with her, as well for herself as for her sister.
Abominably well instructed were they both!
O my dear! what risks may poor giddy girls run, when they throw themselves out of the protection of their natural friends, and into the wide world!
The then talked again of reconciliation and intimacy with every one of my friends; with my mother particularly; and gave the dear good lady the praises that every one gives her, who has the happiness to know her.
Ah, my dear Miss Howe! I had almost forgot my resentments against the pretended nephew!—So many agreeable things said, made me think, that, if you should advise it, and if I could bring my mind to forgive the wretch for an outrage so premeditatedly vile, and could forbear despising him for that and his other ungrateful and wicked ways, I might not be unhappy in an alliance with such a family. Yet, thought I at the time, with what intermixture does every thing come to me that had the appearance of good! ——However, as my lucid hopes made me see fewer faults in the behaviour of these pretended ladies, than recollection and abhorrence have helped me since to see, I began to reproach myself, that I had not at first thrown myself into their protection.
But amidst all these delightful prospects, I must not, said the Lady Betty, forget that I am to go to town.
She then ordered her coach to be got to the door.—We will all go to town together, said she, and return together. Morrison shall stay here, and see every thing as I am used to have it, in relation to my apartment, and my bed; for I am very particular in some respects. My cousin Leeson's servants can do all I want to be done with regard to my night-dresses, and the like. And it will be a little airing for you, my dear, and a want of your apparel to be sent from your former lodgings to Mrs. Leeson's; and we can bring it up with us from thence.
I had no intention to comply. But as I did not imagine that she would insist upon my going to town with them, I made no answer to that part of her speech.
I must here lay down my tired pen!
Recollection! heart-affecting recollection! how it pains me!
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE
In the midst of this agreeableness, the coach came to the door. The pretended Lady Betty besought me to give them my company to their cousin Leeson's. I desired to be excused: yet suspected nothing. She would not be denied. How happy would a visit so condescending make her cousin Leeson!——Her cousin Leeson was not unworthy of my acquaintance: and would take it for the greatest favour in the world.
I objected my dress. But the objection was not admitted. She bespoke a supper of Mrs. Moore to be ready at nine.
Mr. Lovelace, vile hypocrite, and wicked deceiver! seeing, as he said, my dislike to go, desired his Ladyship not to insist upon it.
Fondness for my company was pleaded. She begged me to oblige her: made a motion to help me to my fan herself: and, in short, was so very urgent, that my feet complied against my speech and my mind: and being, in a manner, led to the coach by her, and made to step in first, she followed me: and her pretended niece, and the wretch, followed her: and away it drove.
Nothing but the height of affectionate complaisance passed all the way: over and over, what a joy would this unexpected visit give her cousin Leeson! What a pleasure must it be to such a mind as mine, to be able to give so much joy to every body I came near!
The cruel, the savage seducer (as I have since recollected) was in a rapture all the way; but yet such a sort of rapture, as he took visible pains to check.
Hateful villain! how I abhor him!—What mischief must be then in his plotting heart!—What a devoted victim must I be in all their eyes!
Though not pleased, I was nevertheless just then thoughtless of danger; they endeavouring thus to lift me up above all apprehensions of that, and above myself too.
But think, my dear, what a dreadful turn all had upon me, when, through several streets and ways I knew nothing of, the coach slackening its pace, came within sight of the dreadful house of the dreadfullest woman in the world; as she proved to me.
Lord be good unto me! cried the poor fool, looking out of the coach—Mr. Lovelace!—Madam! turning to the pretended Lady Betty!—Madam! turning to the niece, my hands and eyes lifted up—Lord be good unto me!
What! What! What! my dear.
He pulled the string—What need to have come this way? said he—But since we are, I will but ask a question—My dearest life, why this apprehension?
The coachman stopped: his servant, who, with one of her's was behind, alighted—Ask, said he, if I have any letters? Who knows, my dearest creature, turning to me, but we may already have one from the Captain?— We will not go out of the coach!—Fear nothing—Why so apprehensive?—Oh! these fine spirits!—cried the execrable insulter.
Dreadfully did my heart then misgive me: I was ready to faint. Why this terror, my life? you shall not stir out of the coach but one question, now the fellow has drove us this way.
Your lady will faint, cried the execrable Lady Betty, turning to him—My dearest Niece! (niece I will call you, taking my hand)—we must alight, if you are so ill.—Let us alight—only for a glass of water and hartshorn—indeed we must alight.
No, no, no—I am well—quite well—Won't the man drive on?—I am well— quite well—indeed I am.—Man, drive on, putting my head out of the coach —Man, drive on!—though my voice was too low to be heard.
The coach stopt at the door. How I trembled!
Dorcas came to the door, on its stopping.
My dearest creature, said the vile man, gasping, as it were for breath, you shall not alight—Any letters for me, Dorcas?
There are two, Sir. And here is a gentleman, Mr. Belton, Sir, waits for your honour; and has done so above an hour.
I'll just speak to him. Open the door—You sha'n't step out, my dear—A letter perhaps from Captain already!—You sha'n't step out, my dear.
I sighed as if my heart would burst.
But we must step out, Nephew: your lady will faint. Maid, a glass of hartshorn and water!—My dear you must step out—You will faint, child— We must cut your laces.—[I believe my complexion was all manner of colours by turns]—Indeed, you must step out, my dear.
He knew, said I, I should be well, the moment the coach drove from the door. I should not alight. By his soul, I should not.
Lord, Lord, Nephew, Lord, Lord, Cousin, both women in a breath, what ado you make about nothing! You persuade your lady to be afraid of alighting.—See you not that she is just fainting?
Indeed, Madam, said the vile seducer, my dearest love must not be moved in this point against her will. I beg it may not be insisted upon.
Fiddle-faddle, foolish man—What a pother is here! I guess how it is: you are ashamed to let us see what sort of people you carried your lady among—but do you go out, and speak to your friend, and take your letters.
He stept out; but shut the coach-door after him, to oblige me.
The coach may go on, Madam, said I.
The coach shall go on, my dear life, said he.—But he gave not, nor intended to give, orders that it should.
Let the coach go on! said I—Mr. Lovelace may come after us.
Indeed, my dear, you are ill!—Indeed you must alight—alight but for one quarter of an hour.—Alight but to give orders yourself about your things. Whom can you be afraid of in my company, and my niece's; these people must have behaved shockingly to you! Please the Lord, I'll inquire into it!—I'll see what sort of people they are!
Immediately came the old creature to the door. A thousand pardons, dear Madam, stepping to the coach-side, if we have any way offended you—Be pleased, Ladies, [to the other two] to alight.
Well, my dear, whispered the Lady Betty, I now find that an hideous description of a person we never saw is an advantage to them. I thought the woman was a monster—but, really, she seems tolerable.
I was afraid I should have fallen into fits: but still refused to go out —Man!—Man!—Man!—cried I, gaspingly, my head out of the coach and in, by turns, half a dozen times running, drive on!—Let us go!
My heart misgave me beyond the power of my own accounting for it; for still I did not suspect these women. But the antipathy I had taken to the vile house, and to find myself so near it, when I expected no such matter, with the sight of the old creature, all together made me behave like a distracted person.
The hartshorn and water was brought. The pretended Lady Betty made me drink it. Heaven knows if there was any thing else in it!
Besides, said she, whisperingly, I must see what sort of creatures the nieces are. Want of delicacy cannot be hid from me. You could not surely, my dear, have this aversion to re-enter a house, for a few minutes, in our company, in which you lodged and boarded several weeks, unless these women could be so presumptuously vile, as my nephew ought not to know.
Out stept the pretended lady; the servant, at her command, having opened the door.
Dearest Madam, said the other to me, let me follow you, [for I was next the door.] Fear nothing: I will not stir from your presence.
Come, my dear, said the pretended lady, give me your hand; holding out her's. Oblige me this once.
I will bless your footsteps, said the old creature, if once more you honour my house with your presence.
A crowd by this time was gathered about us; but I was too much affected to mind that.
Again the pretended Miss Montague urged me; standing up as ready to go out if I would give her room.—Lord, my dear, said she, who can bear this crowd?—What will people think?
The pretended Lady again pressed me, with both her hands held out—Only, my dear, to give orders about your things.
And thus pressed, and gazed at, (for then I looked about me,) the women so richly dressed, people whispering; in an evil moment, out stepped I, trembling, forced to lean with both my hands (frighted too much for ceremony) on the pretended Lady Betty's arm—Oh! that I had dropped down dead upon the guilty threshold!
We shall stay but a few minutes, my dear!—but a few minutes! said the same specious jilt—out of breath with her joy, as I have since thought, that they had thus triumphed over the unhappy victim!
Come, Mrs. Sinclair, I think your name is, show us the way——following her, and leading me. I am very thirsty. You have frighted me, my dear, with your strange fears. I must have tea made, if it can be done in a moment. We have farther to go, Mrs. Sinclair, and must return to Hampstead this night.
It shall be ready in a moment, cried the wretch. We have water boiling.
Hasten, then—Come, my dear, to me, as she led me through the passage to the fatal inner house—lean upon me—how you tremble!—how you falter in your steps!—Dearest niece Lovelace, [the old wretch being in hearing,] why these hurries upon your spirits?—We'll be gone in a minute.
And thus she led the poor sacrifice into the old wretch's too-well-known parlour.
Never was any body so gentle, so meek, so low voiced, as the odious woman; drawling out, in a puling accent, all the obliging things she could say: awed, I then thought, by the conscious dignity of a woman of quality; glittering with jewels.
The called-for tea was ready presently.
There was no Mr. Belton, I believe: for the wretch went not to any body, unless it were while we were parlying in the coach. No such person however, appeared at the tea-table.
I was made to drink two dishes, with milk, complaisantly urged by the pretended ladies helping me each to one. I was stupid to their hands; and, when I took the tea, almost choked with vapours; and could hardly swallow.
I thought, transiently thought, that the tea, the last dish particularly, had an odd taste. They, on my palating it, observed, that the milk was London-milk; far short in goodness of what they were accustomed to from their own dairies.
I have no doubt that my two dishes, and perhaps my hartshorn, were prepared for me; in which case it was more proper for their purpose, that they should help me, than that I should help myself. Ill before, I found myself still more and more disordered in my head; a heavy torpid pain increasing fast upon me. But I imputed it to my terror.
Nevertheless, at the pretended Lady's motion, I went up stairs, attended by Dorcas; who affected to weep for joy, that she once more saw my blessed face; that was the vile creature's word: and immediately I set about taking out some of my clothes, ordering what should be put up, and what sent after me.
While I was thus employed, up came the pretended Lady Betty, in a hurrying way——My dear, you won't be long before you are ready. My nephew is very busy in writing answers to his letters: so, I'll just whip away, and change my dress, and call upon you in an instant.
O Madam!—I am ready! I am now ready!—You must not leave me here. And down I sunk, affrighted, into a chair.
This instant, this instant, I will return—before you can be ready— before you can have packed up your things—we would not be late—the robbers we have heard of may be out—don't let us be late.
And away she hurried before I could say another word. Her pretended niece went with her, without taking notice to me of her going.
I had no suspicion yet that these women were not indeed the ladies they personated; and I blamed myself for my weak fears.—It cannot be, thought I, that such ladies will abet treachery against a poor creature they are so fond of. They must undoubtedly be the persons they appear to be—what folly to doubt it! The air, the dress, the dignity of women of quality. How unworthy of them, and of my charity, concluded I, is this ungenerous shadow of suspicion!
So, recovering my stupefied spirits, as well as they could be recovered, (for I was heavier and heavier! and wondered to Dorcas what ailed me, rubbing my eyes, and taking some of her snuff, pinch after pinch, to very little purpose,) I pursued my employment: but when that was over, all packed up that I designed to be packed up; and I had nothing to do but to think; and found them tarry so long; I thought I should have gone distracted. I shut myself into the chamber that had been mine; I kneeled, I prayed; yet knew not what I prayed for: then ran out again: it was almost dark night, I said: where, where, where was Mr. Lovelace?
He came to me, taking no notice at first of my consternation and wildness, [what they had given me made me incoherent and wild:] All goes well, said he, my dear!—A line from Capt. Tomlinson!
All indeed did go well for the villanous project of the most cruel and most villanous of men!
I demanded his aunt!—I demanded his cousin!—The evening, I said, was closing!—My head was very, very bad, I remember I said—and it grew worse and worse.—
Terror, however, as yet kept up my spirits; and I insisted upon his going himself to hasten them.
He called his servant. He raved at the sex for their delay: 'twas well that business of consequence seldom depended upon such parading, unpunctual triflers!
His servant came.
He ordered him to fly to his cousin Leeson's, and to let Lady Betty and his cousin know how uneasy we both were at their delay: adding, of his own accord, desire them, if they don't come instantly, to send their coach, and we will go without them. Tell them I wonder they'll serve me so!
I thought this was considerately and fairly put. But now, indifferent as my head was, I had a little time to consider the man and his behaviour. He terrified me with his looks, and with his violent emotions, as he gazed upon me. Evident joy-suppressed emotions, as I have since recollected. His sentences short, and pronounced as if his breath were touched. Never saw I his abominable eyes look as then they looked— Triumph in them!—fierce and wild; and more disagreeable than the women's at the vile house appeared to me when I first saw them: and at times, such a leering, mischief-boding cast!—I would have given the world to have been an hundred miles from him. Yet his behaviour was decent—a decency, however, that I might have seen to be struggled for—for he snatched my hand two or three times, with a vehemence in his grasp that hurt me; speaking words of tenderness through his shut teeth, as it seemed; and let it go with a beggar-voiced humbled accent, like the vile woman's just before; half-inward; yet his words and manner carrying the appearance of strong and almost convulsed passion!—O my dear! what mischief was he not then meditating!
I complained once or twice of thirst. My mouth seemed parched. At the time, I supposed that it was my terror (gasping often as I did for breath) that parched up the roof of my mouth. I called for water: some table-beer was brought me: beer, I suppose, was a better vehicle for their potions. I told the maid, that she knew I seldom tasted malt liquor: yet, suspecting nothing of this nature, being extremely thirsty, I drank it, as what came next: and instantly, as it were, found myself much worse than before: as if inebriated, I should fancy: I know not how.
His servant was gone twice as long as he needed: and, just before his return, came one of the pretended Lady Betty's with a letter for Mr. Lovelace.
He sent it up to me. I read it: and then it was that I thought myself a lost creature; it being to put off her going to Hampstead that night, on account of violent fits which Miss Montague was pretended to be seized with; for then immediately came into my head his vile attempt upon me in this house; the revenge that my flight might too probably inspire him with on that occasion, and because of the difficulty I made to forgive him, and to be reconciled to him; his very looks wild and dreadful to me; and the women of the house such as I had more reason than ever, even from the pretended Lady Betty's hint, to be afraid of: all these crowding together in my apprehensive mind, I fell into a kind of phrensy.
I have no remembrance how I was for this time it lasted: but I know that, in my first agitations, I pulled off my head-dress, and tore my ruffles in twenty tatters, and ran to find him out.
When a little recovered, I insisted upon the hint he had given me of their coach. But the messenger, he said, had told him, that it was sent to fetch a physician, lest his chariot should be put up, or not ready.
I then insisted upon going directly to Lady Betty's lodgings.
Mrs. Leeson's was now a crowded house, he said: and as my earnestness could be owing to nothing but groundless apprehensions, [and Oh! what vows, what protestations of his honour, did he then make!] he hoped I would not add to their present concern. Charlotte, indeed, was used to fits, he said, upon any great surprises, whether of joy or grief; and they would hold her for one week together, if not got off in a few hours.
You are an observer of eyes, my dear, said the villain; perhaps in secret insult: Saw you not in Miss Montague's, now-and-then at Hampstead, something wildish? I was afraid for her then. Silence and quiet only do her good: your concern for her, and her love for you, will but augment the poor girl's disorder, if you should go.
All impatient with grief and apprehension, I still declared myself resolved not to stay in that house till morning. All I had in the world, my rings, my watch, my little money, for a coach; or, if one were not to be got, I would go on foot to Hampstead that night, though I walked it by myself.
A coach was hereupon sent for, or pretended to be sent for. Any price, he said, he would give to oblige me, late as it was; and he would attend me with all his soul. But no coach was to be got.
Let me cut short the rest. I grew worse and worse in my head! now stupid, now raving, now senseless. The vilest of vile women was brought to frighten me. Never was there so horrible a creature as she appreared to me at this time.
I remember I pleaded for mercy. I remember that I said I would be his— indeed I would be his—to obtain his mercy. But no mercy found I! My strength, my intellects failed me—And then such scenes followed—O my dear, such dreadful scenes!—fits upon fits, (faintly indeed and imperfectly remembered,) procuring me no compassion—But death was withheld from me. That would have been too great a mercy!
Thus was I tricked and deluded back by blacker hearts of my own sex than I thought there were in the world; who appeared to me to be persons of honour; and, when in his power, thus barbarously was I treated by this villanous man!
I was so senseless, that I dare not aver, that the horrid creatures of the house were personally aiding and abetting: but some visionary remembrances I have of female figures, flitting, as I may say, before my sight; the wretched woman's particularly. But as these confused ideas might be owing to the terror I had conceived of the worse than masculine violence she had been permitted to assume to me, for expressing my abhorrence of her house; and as what I suffered from his barbarity wants not that aggravation; I will say no more on a subject so shocking as this must ever be to my remembrance.
I never saw the personating wretches afterwards. He persisted to the last, (dreadfully invoking Heaven as a witness to the truth of his assertion) that they were really and truly the ladies they pretended to be; declaring, that they could not take leave of me, when they left town, because of the state of senselessness and phrensy I was in. For their intoxicating, or rather stupefying, potions had almost deleterious effects upon my intellects, as I have hinted; insomuch that, for several days together, I was under a strange delirium; now moping, now dozing, now weeping, now raving, now scribbling, tearing what I scribbled as fast as I wrote it: most miserable when now-and-then a ray of reason brought confusedly to my remembrance what I had suffered.
MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE [IN CONTINUATION.]
[The lady next gives an account,
Of her recovery from her delirium and sleepy disorder:
Of her attempt to get away in his absence:
Of the conversations that followed, at his return, between them:
Of the guilty figure he made:
Of her resolution not to have him:
Of her several efforts to escape:
Of her treaty with Dorcas to assist her in it:
Of Dorcas's dropping the promissory note, undoubtedly, as she says, on purpose to betray her:
Of her triumph over all the creatures of the house, assembled to terrify her; and perhaps to commit fresh outrages upon her:
Of his setting out for M. Hall:
Of his repeated letters to induce her to meet him at the altar, on her uncle's anniversary:
Of her determined silence to them all:
Of her second escape, effected, as she says, contrary to her own expectation: the attempt being at first but the intended prelude to a more promising one, which she had formed in her mind:
And of other particulars; which being to be found in Mr. Lovelace's letters preceding, and the letter of his friend Belford, are omitted. She then proceeds:]
The very hour that I found myself in a place of safety, I took pen to write to you. When I began, I designed only to write six or eight lines, to inquire after your health: for, having heard nothing from you, I feared indeed, that you had been, and still were, too ill to write. But no sooner did my pen begin to blot the paper, but my sad heart hurried it into length. The apprehensions I had lain under, that I should not be able to get away; the fatigue I had in effecting my escape: the difficulty of procuring a lodging for myself; having disliked the people of two houses, and those of a third disliking me; for you must think I made a frighted appearance—these, together with the recollection of what I had suffered from him, and my farther apprehensions of my insecurity, and my desolate circumstances, had so disordered me, that I remember I rambled strangely in that letter.
In short, I thought it, on re-perusal, a half-distracted one: but I then despaired, (were I to begin again,) of writing better: so I let it go: and can have no excuse for directing it as I did, if the cause of the incoherence in it will not furnish me with a very pitiable one.
The letter I received from your mother was a dreadful blow to me. But nevertheless it had the good effect upon me (labouring, as I did just then, under a violent fit of vapourish despondency, and almost yielding to it) which profuse bleeding and blisterings have in paralytic or apoplectical strokes; reviving my attention, and restoring me to spirits to combat the evils I was surrounded by—sluicing off, and diverting into a new channel, (if I may be allowed another metaphor,) the overcharging woes which threatened once more to overwhelm my intellects.
But yet I most sincerely lamented, (and still lament,) in your mother's words, That I cannot be unhappy by myself: and was grieved, not only for the trouble I had given you before; but for the new one I had brought upon you by my inattention.
[She then gives the substance of the letters she wrote to Mrs. Norton, to Lady Betty Lawrance, and to Mrs. Hodges; as also of their answers; whereby she detected all Mr. Lovelace's impostures. She proceeds as follows:]
I cannot, however, forbear to wonder how the vile Tomlinson could come at the knowledge of several of the things he told me of, and which contributed to give me confidence in him.*
* The attentive reader need not be referred back for what the Lady nevertheless could not account for, as she knew not that Mr. Lovelace had come at Miss Howe's letters; particularly that in Vol. IV. Letter XXIX. which he comments upon in Letter XLIV. of the same volume.
I doubt not that the stories of Mrs. Fretchville and her house would be found as vile as any of the rest, were I to inquire; and had I not enough, and too much, already against the perjured man.
How have I been led on!—What will be the end of such a false and perjured creature! Heaven not less profaned and defied by him than myself deceived and abused! This, however, against myself I must say, That if what I have suffered be the natural consequence of my first error, I never can forgive myself, although you are so partial in my favour, as to say, that I was not censurable for what passed before my first escape.
And now, honoured Madam, and my dearest Miss Howe, who are to sit in judgment upon my case, permit me to lay down my pen with one request, which, with the greatest earnestness, I make to you both: and that is, That you will neither of you open your lips in relation to the potions and the violences I have hinted at.—Not that I am solicitous, that my disgrace should be hidden from the world, or that it should not be generally known, that the man has proved a villain to me: for this, it seems, every body but myself expected from his character. But suppose, as his actions by me are really of a capital nature, it were insisted upon that I should appear to prosecute him and his accomplices in a court of justice, how do you think I could bear that?
But since my character, before the capital enormity, was lost in the eye of the world; and that from the very hour I left my father's house; and since all my own hopes of worldly happiness are entirely over; let me slide quietly into my grave; and let it be not remembered, except by one friendly tear, and no more, dropt from your gentle eye, mine own dear Anna Howe, on the happy day that shall shut up all my sorrows, that there was such a creature as
SATURDAY, JULY 8.
MISS HOWE, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE SUNDAY, JULY 9.
May Heaven signalize its vengeance, in the face of all the world, upon the most abandoned and profligate of men!—And in its own time, I doubt not but it will.—And we must look to a WORLD BEYOND THIS for the reward of your sufferings!
Another shocking detection, my dear!—How have you been deluded!—Very watchful I have thought you; very sagacious:—but, alas! not watchful, not sagacious enough, for the horrid villain you have had to deal with! ——
The letter you sent me enclosed as mine, of the 7th of June, is a villanous forgery.*
* See Vol. V. Letter XXX.
The hand, indeed, is astonishingly like mine; and the cover, I see, is actually my cover: but yet the letter is not so exactly imitated, but that, (had you had any suspicions about his vileness at the time,) you, who so well know my hand, might have detected it.
In short, this vile, forged letter, though a long one, contains but a few extracts from mine. Mine was a very long one. He has omitted every thing, I see, in it that could have shown you what a detestable house the house is; and given you suspicions of the vile Tomlinson.—You will see this, and how he has turned Miss Lardner's information, and my advices to you, [execrable villain!] to his own horrid ends, by the rough draught of the genuine letter, which I shall enclose.*
* See Vol. V. Letter XX.
Apprehensive for both our safeties from the villany of such a daring and profligate contriver, I must call upon you, my dear, to resolve upon taking legal vengeance of the infernal wretch. And this not only for our own sakes, but for the sakes of innocents who otherwise may yet be deluded and outraged by him.
[She then gives the particulars of the report made by the young fellow whom she sent to Hampstead with her letter; and who supposed he had delivered it into her own hand;* and then proceeds:]
* See Vol. VI. Letter VI.
I am astonished, that the vile wretch, who could know nothing of the time my messenger, (whose honesty I can vouch for) would come, could have a creature ready to personate you! Strange, that the man should happen to arrive just as you were gone to church, (as I find was the fact, on comparing what he says with your hint that you were at church twice that day,) when he might have got to Mrs. Moore's two hours before!—But had you told me, my dear, that the villain had found you out, and was about you!—You should have done that—yet I blame you upon a judgment founded on the event only!
I never had any faith in the stories that go current among country girls, of specters, familiars, and demons; yet I see not any other way to account for this wretch's successful villany, and for his means of working up his specious delusions, but by supposing, (if he be not the devil himself,) that he has a familiar constantly at his elbow. Sometimes it seems to me that this familiar assumes the shape of that solemn villain Tomlinson: sometimes that of the execrable Sinclair, as he calls her: sometimes it is permitted to take that of Lady Betty Lawrance —but, when it would assume the angelic shape and mien of my beloved friend, see what a bloated figure it made!
'Tis my opinion, my dear, that you will be no longer safe where you are, than while the V. is in the country. Words are poor!—or how could I execrate him! I have hardly any doubt that he has sold himself for a time. Oh! may the time be short!—or may his infernal prompter no more keep covenant with him than he does with others!
I enclose not only the rough draught of my long letter mentioned above, but the heads of that which the young fellow thought he delivered into your own hands at Hampstead. And when you have perused them, I will leave to you to judge how much reason I had to be surprised that you wrote me not an answer to either of those letters; one of which you owned you had received, (though it proved to be his forged one,) the other delivered into your own hands, as I was assured; and both of them of so much concern to your honour; and still now much more surprised I must be, when I received a letter from Mrs. Townsend, dated June 15, from Hampstead, importing, 'That Mr. Lovelace, who had been with you several days, had, on the Monday before, brought Lady Betty and his cousin, richly dressed, and in a coach-and-four, to visit you: who, with your own consent, had carried you to town with them—to your former lodgings; where you still were: that the Hampstead women believed you to be married; and reflected upon me as a fomenter of differences between man and wife: that he himself was at Hampstead the day before; viz. Wednesday the 14th; and boasted of his happiness with you; inviting Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Bevis, and Miss Rawlins, to go to town, to visit his spouse; which they promised to do: that he declared that you were entirely reconciled to your former lodgings:—and that, finally, the women at Hampstead told Mrs. Townsend, that he had very handsomely discharged theirs.'
I own to you, my dear, that I was so much surprised and disgusted at these appearances against a conduct till then unexceptionable, that I was resolved to make myself as easy as I could, and wait till you should think fit to write to me. But I could rein-in my impatience but for a few days; and on the 20th of June I wrote a sharp letter to you; which I find you did not receive.
What a fatality, my dear, has appeared in your case, from the very beginning till this hour! Had my mother permitted——
But can I blame her; when you have a father and mother living, who have so much to answer for?—So much!—as no father and mother, considering the child they have driven, persecuted, exposed, renounced, ever had to answer for!
But again I must execrate the abandoned villain—yet, as I said before, all words are poor, and beneath the occasion.
But see we not, in the horrid perjuries and treachery of this man, what rakes and libertines will do, when they get a young creature into their power! It is probable that he might have the intolerable presumption to hope an easier conquest: but, when your unexampled vigilance and exalted virtue made potions, and rapes, and the utmost violences, necessary to the attainment of his detestable end, we see that he never boggled at them. I have no doubt that the same or equal wickedness would be oftener committed by men of his villanous cast, if the folly and credulity of the poor inconsiderates who throw themselves into their hands, did not give them an easier triumph.