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MR. LOVELACE TO JOHN BELFOHD, ESQ.
Thursday noon, June 22. Let me perish if I know what to make either of myself or of this surprising creature—now calm, now tempestuous—but I know thou lovest not anticipation any more than I.
At my repeated request, she met me at six this morning. She was ready dressed; for she has not had her clothes off ever since she declared, that they never more should be off in this house. * And charmingly she looked, with all the disadvantages of a three hours' violent stomach-ache, (for Dorcas told me that she had been really ill) no rest, and eyes red and swelled with weeping. Strange to me that those charming fountains have not been long ago exhausted! But she is a woman. And I believe anatomists allow, that women have more tiialry heads than men.
Well, my dearest creature, I hope you have now thoroughly considered of the contents of Captain Tomlinson's letter. But as we are thus early met, let me beseech you to make this my happy day.
She looked not favourably upon me. A cloud hung upon her brow at her entrance: but as she was going to answer me, a still greater solemnity took possession of her charming features.
Your air, and your countenance, my beloved creature, are not propitious to me. Let me beg of you, before you speak, to forbear all further recriminations; for already I have such a sense of my vileness to you, that I know not how to bear the reproaches of my own mind
I have been endeavouring, said she, since I am
not permitted to avoid you, to obtain a composure which I never more expected to see you in. How long I may enjoy it, I cannot tell. But I hope I shall be enabled to speak to you without that vehemence which I expressed yesterday, and could not help it*.
After a pause (for I was all attention) thus she proceeded:
It is easy for me, Mr. Lovelace, to see, that further violences are intended me, if I comply not with your purposes, whatever they are. I will suppose them to be what you solemnly profess they are. But I have told you, as solemnly, my mind, that I never will, that I never can be yours; nor, if so, any man's upon earth. All vengeance, nevertheless, for the wrongs you have done me, I disclaim. I want but to slide into some obscure corner, to hide myself from you, and from every one who once loved me. The desire lately so near my heart, of a reconciliation with my friends, is much abated. They shall not receive me now if they would. Sunk in mine own eyes, I now think myself unworthy of their favour. In the anguish of my soul, therefore, I conjure you, Lovelace, [tears in her eyes] to leave me to my fate. In doing so, you will give me a pleasure, the highest I now can know.
Whither, my dearest life
No matter whither. I will leave to Providence,
*. The lady in her minutes says,' I fear Dorcas is a false one. May I not be able to prevail upon him to leave me at my liberty? Better to try, than to trust to her. If I cannot prevail, but must meet him anil my uncle, I hope I shall have fortitude enough to renounce him then. But I would fain avoid qualifying with the wretch, or to give him an expectation which I intend not to answer. If I am mistress of my own resolutions, my uncle himself shall not prevail with me to bind my soul in covenant with so vile a man.' VOL. TI. E
when I am out of this house, the direction of my future steps. I am sensible enough of my destitute condition. I know, that I have not now a friend in the world. Even Miss Howe has given me up—or you are—but I would fain keep my temper!—By your means I have lost them all—and you have been a barbarous enemy to me. You know you have.
I could not speak.
The evils I have suffered, proceeded she, [turn* ing from me] however irreparable, are but temporary evils. Leave me to my hopes of being enabled to obtain the Divine forgiveness, for the offence I have been drawn in to give to my parents, and to virtue; that so I may avoid the evils that are more than temporary. This is now all I have to wish for. And what is it that I demand, that I have riot a right to, and from which it is an illegal violence to withhold me?
It was impossible for me, I told her plainly, to comply. I besought her to give me her hand as this very day. I could not live without her. I communicated to her my lord's illness, as a reason why I wished not to stay for her uncle's anniversary. I besought her to bless me with her consent; and, after the ceremony was passed, to accompany me down to Berks. And thus, my dearest life, said I, will you be freed from a house, to which you have conceived so great an antipathy.
This, thou wilt own, was a princely offer. And I was resolved to be as good as my word. I thought I had killed my conscience, as I told thee, Belford, some time ago. But conscience, I find, though it may be temporarily stifled, cannot die; and when it dare not speak aloud, will whisper. And at this instant I thought I felt the revived varletess (on but a slight retrograde motion) writhing round my pericardium like a serpent; and (in the action of a dying one collecting all its force into its head) fix its plaguy fangs into my heart.
She hesitated, and looked down, as if irresolute. And this set my heart up at my mouth. And, believe me, I had instantly popt in upon me, in imagination, an old spectacled parson, with a white surplice thrown over a black habit, [a fit emblem of the halcyon office, which, under a benign appearance, often introduces a life'of storms and tempests] whining and snuffling through his nose the irrevocable ceremony.
I hope now, my dear life, said I, snatching her hand, and pressing it to my lips, that your silence bodes me good. Let me, my beloved creature, have but your tacit consent; and this moment I will step out and engage a minister—and then I promised how much my whole future life should be devoted to her commands, and that I would make her the best and tenderest of husbands.
At last, turning to me, I have told you my mind, Mr. Lovelace, said she. Think you, that I could thus solemnly—there she stopt—I am too much in your power, proceeded she; your prisoner, rather than a person free to choose for myself, or to say what I will do or be—but, as a testimony that you mean me well, let me instantly quit this house; and I will then give you such an answer in writing, as best befits my unhappy circumstances.
And imaginest thou, fairest, thought I, that this will go down with a Lovelace? Thou oughtest to have known that free-livers, like ministers of state, never part with a power put into their hands, without an equivalent of twice the value.
I pleaded, that if we joined hands this morning (if not, to-morrow; if not, on Thursday, her uncle's birth.day, and in his presence); and afterwards, as I had proposed, set out for Berks; we should, of course, quit this house; and, on our return to town, should have in readiness the house I was in treaty for.
She answered me not, but with tears and sighs; fond of believing what I hoped, I imputed her silence to the modesty of her sex. The dear creature (thought I) solemnly as she began with me, is ruminating, in a sweet suspense, how to put into fit words, the gentle purposes of her condescending heart. But, looking in her averted face, with a soothing gentleness, I plainly perceived, that it was resentment, and not bashfulness, that was struggling in her bosom*.
At last, she broke silence—I have no patience, said she, to find myself a slave, a prisoner, in a vile house—tell me, sir, in so many words, tell me, whether it be, or be not, your intention to permit nie to quit it ?—To permit me the freedom which is my birthright as an English subject.
Will not the consequence of your departure hence be that I shall lose you for ever, madam?— And can I bear the thoughts of that?
She flung from me—My soul disdains to hold parley with thee, were her violent words—but I threw myself at her feet, and took hold of her reluctant hand, and began to imprecate, to vow, to promise—but thus the passionate beauty, interrupting me, went on:
I am sick of thee, man !—One continued string of vows, oaths, and protestations, varied only by
* The lady, in her minutes, owns the difficulty she lay under to keep her temper in this conference. 'But when I found,' says she,' that all my entreaties were ineffectual, and that he was resolved to detain me, I could no longer withhold my impatience.'