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You must think, my dear, that I liked the pretended Lady Betty the better for this. I suppose it was designed 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 never would 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 womenlodgers in the house than men: yet that their visitors were more men than women. And this had been hinted to her (perhaps by ill-willers, she could not answer for that) in such a way, as if something further were meant by it than was spoken.
This, he said, was the true inuendo way of characterising, 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 and fro, several genteel modest looking women; and who, it was very probable, were not so ill-beloved, but they might have visitors, 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 servant's hall, or to receive common visitors, 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 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 Capt. Tomlinson was, had not objected to them.
I think, niece Charlotte, proceeded she, as my nephew has 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 whither.
It was ladyship at every word; and as she seemed proud of her title, and of her dress too, I might have guessed 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 otherwise 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 [0 my dear, what a triumph must these creatures, and he, have over the poor devoted allihe timeQ—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 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 their 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 should she 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?
They 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 resentment 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 intermixtures does every thing come to me, that has
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 the door—We will all go to town together, said she, and return together. And it will be a little airing for you, my dear, and a good opportunity for Mr. Lovelace to order what you 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 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 these agreeablenesses, 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 .wppy would a visit so condescending make her