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feeling at their hearts, that they were forced io purse in their mouths, to suppress the smiles I now and then laid out for: while the elders having had roses, (that is to say, daughters of their own) and knowing how fond men are of a trifle, would have been very loth to have had them nipt in the bud, without saying to the mother of them, By your leave, Mrs. Rosebush.
The next article of my indictment was for forgery : . and for personating of Lady Betty and my cousin Charlotte. Two shocking charges, thou'lt say: and so they were !—The peer was outrageous upon the forgery charge. The ladies vowed never to forgive the personating part. Not a peace-maker among them. So we all turned women, and scolded.
My lord told me, that he believed in his conscience there was not a viler fellow upon God's earth than me.—What signifies mincing the matter? said he—and that it was not the first time I had forged his hand.
To this I answered, that I supposed, when the statute of Scandalum Magnatum was framed, there were a good many in the peerage, who knew they deserved hard names; and that that law therefore was rather made to privilege their qualities, than to whiten their characters.
He called upon me to explain myself with a sir-r, so pronounced, as to shew, that one of the most ignominious words in our language was iu his head.
People, I said, that were fenced in by their quality, and by their years, should not take freedoms that a man of spirit could not put up with, unless he were able heartily to despise the insulter.
This set him in a violent passion. He would send for Pritchard instantly. Let Pritchard be called. He would alter his will; ana"all he could leave from me, he would.
Do, do, my lord, said I: I always valued my own pleasure above your estate. But I'll let Pritchard know, that if he draws, he shall sign and seal.
Why, what would I do to Pritchard ?—Shaking his crazy head at me.
Only, what he, or any man else, writes with his pen, to despoil me of what I think my right, he shall seal with his ears ; that's all, my lord.
Then the two ladies interposed.
Lady Sarah told me, that I carried things a great way; and that neither lord M. nor any of them, deserved the treatment I gave them.
I said, I could not bear to be used ill by my lord, for two reasons: first, because I respected his lordship above any man living; and next, because it looked as if I were induced by selfish considerations to take that from him, which nobody else would offer to me.
And what, returned he, shall be my inducement to take what I do at your hands ?—Hay, sir?
Indeed, cousin Lovelace, said Lady Betty, with great gravity, we do not any of us, as Lady Sarah says, deserve at your hands the treatment you give us ; and let me tell you, that I don't think my character and your cousin Charlotte's, ought to be prostituted, in order to ruin an innocent lady. She must have known early the good opinion we all have of her, and how much we wished her to be your wife. This good opinion of ours has been an inducement to her (you see she says so) to listen to your address. And this, with her friends' folly, has helped to throw her into your power. How you have requited her, is too apparent. It becomes the character we all bear, to disclaim your actions by her. And let me tell you, that to have her abused by wicked people raised up to personate us, or any of us, makes a double call upon us to disclaim them.
Lovel. Why this is talking somewhat like. I would have you all disclaim my actions. I own I have done very vilely by this lady. One step led to another. I am curst with an enterprising spirit. I hate to be foiled.
Foiled! interrupted Lady Sarah. What a shame to talk at this rate!—Did the lady set up a contention with you? All nobly sincere, and plainhearted, have I heard Miss Clarissa Harlowe is: above art, above disguise; neither the coquette, nor the prude!—Poor lady! she deserved a better fate from the man for whom she took the step which she so freely blames!
This above half affected me—had this dispute been so handled by every one, I had been ashamed to look up. I began to be bashful.
Charlotte asked, if I did not seem inclinable to do the lady justice, if she would accept of me? It would be, she dared to say, the greatest felicity the family could know (she would answer for one) that this fine lady were of it.
They all declared to the same effect; and lady Sarah put the matter home to me.
But my Lord Marplot would have it, that I could not be serious for six minutes together.
I told his lordship, that he was mistaken; light as he thought I made of this subject, I never knew any that went so near my heart.
Miss Patty said, she was glad to hear that; indeed she was glad to hear that: and her soft eyes glistened with pleasure.
Lord M. called her sweet soul, and was ready to cry.
Not from humanity, neither, Jack. This peer has no bowels; as thou mayest observe by this
weakened by a sense of their own infirmities, and when they are drawing on to their latter ends, they will be moved on the slightest occasions, whether those offer from within or without them. And this, frequently, the unpenetrating world calls humanity} when all the time, in compassionating the miseries of human nature, they are but pitying themselves; and were they in strong health and spirits, would care as little for any body else as thou or I do.
Here broke they off my trial for this sitting. Lady Sarah was much fatigued. It was agreed to pursue the subject in the morning. They all, however, retired together, and went into private conference.
MR. LOVELACE. IN CONTINUATION.
The ladies, instead of taking up the subject where we had laid it down, must needs touch upon passages in my fair accuser's letter, which I was in hopes they would have let rest, as we were in a tolerable way. But, truly, they must hear all they could hear, of our story, and what I had to say to those passages, that they might be better enabled to mediate between us, if I were really and indeed inclined to do her the hoped-for justice.
These passages were, 1st, 'That after I had compulsatorily tricked her into the act of going off with me, I carried her to one of the worst houses in London.'
treatment of me.
2Jly, ' That I had made a wicked attempt upon her; in resentment of which, she fled to Hampstead, privately.'
3dly, Came the forgery, and personating charges again; and we were upon the point of renewing our quarrel, before we could get to the next charge: which was still worse.
For that (ithly) was, 'That having betrayed her back to the vile house, I first robbed her of her senses, and then of her honour; detaining her afterwards a prisoner there.'
Were I to tell thee the glosses I put upon these heavy charges, what would it be, but to repeat many of the extenuating arguments I have used in my letters to thee ?—Suffice it, therefore, to say, that I insisted much, by way of palliation, on the lady's extreme niceness: on her diffidence in my honour: on Miss Howe's contriving spirit; plots on their parts begetting plots on mine: on the high passions of the sex. I asserted, that my whole view, in gently restraining her, was to oblige her to forgive me, and to marry me; and this, for the honour of both families. I boasted of my own good qualities; some of which none that know me, deny; and to which few libertines can lay claim.
They then fell into warm admirations and praises of the lady: all of them preparatory, as I knew, to the grand question: and thus it was introduced by Lady Sarah.'
We have said as much as I think we can say, upon these letters of the poor lady. To dwell upon the mischiefs that may ensue from the abuse of a person of her rank, if all the reparation be not made that now can be made, would perhaps be to little purpose. But you seem, sir, still to have a just opinion of her, as well as affection for her. Her