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all the symptoms that threaten an attack from that dreadful enemy of fair faces.—So must not think of removing: yet cannot expect, that we should be further delayed on her account.
So this affair of the house will be over; at least, for one while. But then I can fall upon an expedient which will make amends for this disappointment. I must move slow, in order to be sure. I have a charming contrivance or two in my head, even supposing my beloved should get away, to bring her back again.
But what is become of Lord M. I trow, that he writes not to me, in answer to my invitation? If he would send me such a letter as I could show, it might go a great way towards a perfect reconciliation. I have written to Charlotte about it.
At my repeated request she condescended to meet me in the dining-room to afternoon tea, and not before.
She entered with bashfulness, as I thought; in a pretty confusion, for having carried her apprehensions too far. Sullen and slow moved she towards the tea-table.— Dorcas present, busy in tea-cup preparations. I took her reluctant hand, and pressed it to my lips—Dearest, loveliest of creatures, why this distance 1 Why this displeasure?—How can you thus torture the faithfullest heart in the world?
She disengaged her hand. Again I would have snatched it.
Be quiet, peevishly withdrawing it: and down she sat; a gentle palpitation in the beauty of beauties indicating mingled sullenness and resentment; her snowy handkerchief rising and falling, and a sweet flush overspreading her charming cheeks.
For God's sake, madam!—And a third time I would, have taken her repulsing hand.
And for the same sake, sir; no more teazing.
My indignation rises against you, Mr. Lovelace, while I speak to you, when I recollect the many instances, equally ungenerous and unpolite, of your behaviour to one whom you have brought into distress—and I can hardly bear you in my sight.
She turned from me, standing up; and lifting up her folded hands, and charming eyes swimming in tears, O my Father, said the inimitable creature, you might have spared your heavy curse, had you known how I have been punished, ever since my swerving feet led me out of your garden-doors to meet this man !—Then, sinking into her chair, a burst of passionate tears forced their way down her glowing cheeks.
My dearest life, taking her still folded hands in mine, who can bear an invocation so affecting, though so passionate?
And, as I hope to live, my nose tingled, as I once, when a boy, remember it did (and indeed once more very lately) just before some tears came into my eyes; and I durst hardly trust my face in view of hers.
What have I done to deserve this impatient exclamation?
O Mr. Lovelace, we have been long enough together, to be tired of each other's humours and ways; ways and humours so different, that perhaps you ought to dislike me, as much as I do you.—I think, I think, that I cannot make an answerable return to the value you profess for me. My temper is utterly ruined. You have given me an ill opinion of all mankind; of yourself in particular: and withal so bad a one of myself, that I shall never be able to look up, having utterly and for ever lost all that self-complacency, and conscious pride, which are so necessary to carry a woman through this life with tolerable satisfaction to herself.
She paused. I was silent. By my soul, thought I, this sweet creature will at last undo me!
She proceeded.—What now remains, but that you pronounce me free of all obligation to you? And that yon hinder me not from pursuing the destiny that shall be allotted me?
Again she paused. I was still silent; meditating whether to renounce all further designs upon her; whether I had not received sufficient evidence of a virtue, and of a greatness of soul, that could not be questioned or impeached.
She went on: Propitious to me be your silence, Mr. Lovelace !—Tell me, that I am free of all obligation to you. You know, I never made you promises.—You know, that you are not under any to me.—My broken fortunes I matter not—
She was proceeding—My dearest life, said I, I have been all this time, though you fill me with doubts of your favour, busy in the nuptial preparations. I am actually in treaty for equipage.
Equipage, sir !—Trappings, tinsel!—-What is equipage; what is life; what is anything; to a creature sunk so low as I am in my own opinion!
I had not a word to say for myself. Such a war in my mind had I never known. Gratitude, and admiration of the excellent creature before me, combating with villainous habit, with resolutions so premeditatedly made, and with views so much gloried in!—A hundred new contrivances in my head, and in my heart, that, to be honest, as it is called, must all be given up, by a heart delighting in intrigue and difficulty—Miss Howe's virulences endeavoured to be recollected—Yet recollection refusing to bring them forward with the requisite efficacy— I had certainly been a lost man, had not Dorcas come seasonably in, with a letter.—On the superscription written. —Be pleased, sir, to open it now.
I retired to the window—opened it.—It was from Dorcas herself.—These the contents.—" Be pleased to detain my lady: A paper of importance to transcribe. I will cough when I have done."
I put the paper in my pocket, and turned to my charmer, less disconcerted, as she, by that time, had also a little recovered herself.—One favour, dearest creature— Let me but know, whether Miss Howe approves or disapproves of my proposals?
Miss Howe likes some of your ways as little as I do ; for I have set everything before her. Yet she is thus far your enemy, as she is mine—She thinks I should not refuse your offers; but endeavour to make the best of my lot. And now you have the truth. Would to heaven you were capable of dealing with equal sincerity!
I am, madam. And here, on my knee, I renew my vows, and my supplication, that you will make me yours —yours for ever.—And let me have cause to bless you and Miss Howe in the same breath.
To say the truth, Belford, I had before begun to think, that the vixen of a girl, who certainly likes not Hickman, was in love with me.
Rise, sir, from your too-ready knees; and mock me not.
Too-ready knees, thought I!—Though this humble posture so little affects this proud beauty, she knows not how much I have obtained of others of her sex, nor how -often I have been forgiven for the last attempts, by kneeling.
Mock you, madam !—And I arose, and re-urged her for the day.
My day, sir, said she, is never. Be not surprised. A person of politeness judging between us, would not be surprised that I say so. But indeed, Mr. Lovelace (and wept through impatience) you either know not how to treat with a mind of the least degree of delicacy, notwithstanding your birth and education, or you are an ingrateful man; and (after a pause) a worse than ingrateful one. But I will retire. I will see you again to-morrow. I can
not before. I think I hate you—You may look—Indeed I think I hate you. And if, upon a re-examination of my own heart, I find I do, I would not for the world that matters should go on farther between us.
But I see, I see, she does not hate me!
I was however too much vexed, disconcerted, mortified, to hinder her from retiring—And yet she had not gone, if Dorcas had not coughed.
The wench came in, as soon as her lady had retired and gave me the copy she had taken. And what should it be but of the answer the truly admirable creature had intended to give to my written proposals in relation to settlements.
I have but just dipped into this affectingfpaper. Were I to read it attentively, not a wink should I sleep this night. To-morrow it shall obtain my serious consideration.
Tuesday Morning, May 23.
The dear creature desires to be excused seeing me till evening. She is not very well, as Dorcas tells me.
Read here, if thou wilt, the paper transcribed by Dorcas. It is impossible that I should proceed with my projects against this admirable woman, were it not that I am resolved, after a few trials more, if as nobly sustained as those she has already passed through, to make her (if she really hate me not) legally mine.
TO MR. LOVELACE. When a woman is married, that supreme earthly obligation requires that in all instances where her husband's real honour is concerned, she should yield her own will to his. But, beforehand, I could be glad, conformably to what I have always signified, to have the most explicit assurances, that every possible way should be tried to avoid litigation with my father. Time and patience will subdue all things. My prospects of happiness are ex