Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

cending as to kneel: I thought it was the effect of your own humanity, and good-natured earnestness to serve me—excuse me, sir, I knew not, that it was in consequence of a prescribed lesson.'

This concerned me not a little: I could not bear to be thought such a wretched puppet, such a Joseph Leman, such a Tomlinson—I endeavoured, therefore, with some warmth, to clear myself of this reflection; and she again asked my excuse: 'I was avowedly, she said, the friend of a man, whose friendship, she had reason to be sorry to say, was no credit to any body.'—And desired me to proceed.

I did; but fared not much better afterwards: for, on that passage where you say, I had always been her friend and advocate, this was her unanswerable. remark ;' I find, sir, by this expression, that he had always designs against me; and that you all along knew that he had: would to Heaven, you had had the goodness to have contrived some way, that might not have endangered your own safety, to give me notice of his baseness, since you approved not of it! But you gentlemen, I suppose, nad rather see an innocent fellow-creature ruined, than be thought capable of an action, which, however generous, might be likely to loosen the bands of a wicked friendship!'

After this severe, but just reflection, I would have avoided reading the following, although I had unawares begun the sentence (but she held me to it): what would I now give, had I permitted you to have been a successful advocate! And this was her remark upon it—' So, sir, you see, if you had been the happy means of preventing the evils designed me, you would have had your friend's thanks for it, when he came to his consideration. The satisfaction, I am persuaded every one, in the long run

will enjoy, who has the virtue to withstand, or prevent, a wicked purpose. I was obliged, / see, to your kind wishes—but it was a point of honour with you to keep his secret; the more indispensable with you, perhaps, the viler the secret. Yet permit me to wish, Mr. Belford, that you were capable of relishing the pleasures that arise to a benevolent mind from Virtuous friendship !—None other is worthy of the sacred name. You seem an humane man: I hope, for your own sake, you will one day experience the difference: and when you do, think of Miss Howe and Clarissa Harlowe, (I find you know much of my sad story) who were the happiest creatures on earth in each other's friendship till this friend of yours'—and there she stopt, and turned from me.

Where thou callest thyself a villanous plotter; 'to take crime to himself, said she, without shame,

0 what a hardened wretch is this man!'

On that passage, where thou sayest, let me know how she has been treated: if roughly, woe be to the guilty! this was her remark, with an air of indignation: 'What a man is your friend, sir !—Is such a one as he to set himself up to punish the guilty ?— All the rough usage I could receive from them, was infinitely less'—and there she stopt a moment or two: then proceeding—' And who shall punish him? What an assuming wretch !—Nobody but himself is entitled to injure the innocent?—He is,

1 suppose, on earth, to act the part, which the malignant fiend is supposed to act below—dealing out punishments, at his pleasure, to every inferior instrument of mischief!' ,

What, thought I, have I been doing! I shall have this savage fellow think I have been playing him booty, in reading part of his letter to this sagacious lady !—yet, if thou art angry, it can only, in reaf F l2.

son, be at thyself; for who would think I might not communicate to her some of the least eyceptionable parts of a letter (as a proof of thy sincerity in ex culpating thyself from a criminal charge) which thou wrotest to thy friend, to convince him of thy innocence? But a bad heart, and a bad cause, are confounding things: and so let us put it to its proper account.

I passed over thy charge to me, to curse them by the hour: and thy names of dragon and serpents, though so applicable; since, had I read them, thou must have been supposed to know from the first, what creatures they were; vile fellow as thou wert, for bringing so much purity among them! And I closed with thy own concluding paragraph, A line.' A line! A kingdom for aline! &c. However, telling her (since she saw that I omitted some sentences) that there were further vehemences in it; but as they were better fitted to shew to me the sincerity of the writer, than for so delicate an ear as hers to hear, I chose to pass them over.

You have read enough, said she—he is a wicked, wicked man !—I see he intended to have me in his power at any rate; and I have no doubt of what his purposes were, by what his actions have been. You know his vile Tomlinson, I suppose—you know— but what signifies talking ?'—Never was there such . a premeditatedly false heart in man {nothing can be truer, thought I.'] What has he not vowed! What has he not invented! And all for what ?—Only, to ruin a poor young creature, whom he ought to have protected; and whom he had first deprived of all other protection?

She arose and turned from me, her handkerchief at her eyes: and, after a pause, came towards me again—' I hope, said she, 1 talk to a man who has a better heart: and I thank you, sir, for all your kind, though ineffectual pleas in my favour formerly, whetlier the motives for them were compassion, or principle, or both. That they xvere ineffectual, might very probably be owing to your want of earnestness; and that, as you might think* to my want of merit. I might not, in your eye> deserve to be saved!—I might appear to you a giddy creature, who had run away from her true and natural friends; and who therefore ought to take the consequence of the lot she had drawn.'

I was afraid, for thy sake, to let her know how very earnest I had been: but assured her that I had been her zealous friend; and that my motives were founded upon a merit, that, I believed, was never equalled: that, however indefensible Mr. Lovelace was, he had always done justice to her virtue: that to a full conviction of her untainted honour it was owing, that he so earnestly desired to call so inestimable a jewel his—and was proceeding, when she again cut me short—

Enough, and too much of this subject, sir !—If he will never more let me behold his face, that is all I have now to ask of him.—Indeed, indeed, clasping her hands, I never will, if I can, by any means not criminally desperate, avoid it.

What could I say for thee?—There was no room, however, at that time, to touch this string again, for fear of bringing upon myself a prohibition, not only of the subject, but of ever attending her again.

I gave some distant intimations of money-matters. I should have told thee, that when I read to her that passage, where thoujbiddest me force what sums upon her I can get her to take—she repeated, No, no, no, no! several times with great quickness; and I durst no more than just intimate it again— and that so darkly, as left her room to seem not to understand me.

Indeed I know not the person, man or woman, I should be so much afraid of disobliging, or incurring a censure from, as froiri her. She has so much true dignity in her manner, without pride or arrogance, (which in those who have either, one is tempted to mortify) such a piercing eye, yet softened so sweetly with rays of benignity; that she commands all one's reverence.

Methinks I have a kind of holy love for this angel of a woman; and it is matter of astonishment to me, that thou couldst converse with her a quarter of an hour together, and hold thy devilish purposes.

Guarded as she was by piety, prudence, virtue, dignity, family, fortune, and a purity of heart, that never woman before her boasted, what a real devil must he be (yet I doubt I shall make thee proud !) who couldresolve to break through so manyfences!

For my own part, I am more and more sensible, that I ought not to have contented myself with representing against, and expostulating with thee upon, thy base intentions: and indeed I had it in my head, more than once, to try to do something for her. But, wretch that I was! I was withheld by notions of false honour, as she justly reproached me, because of thy own voluntary communications to me of thy purposes: and then, as she was brought into such a cursed house, and was so watched by thyself, as well as by thy infernal agents, I thought (knowing my man !) that I should only accelerate the intended mischiefs.—Moreover, finding thee so much overawed by her virtue, that thou hadst not, at thy first carrying her thither, the courage to attempt her; and that she had, more than once, without knowing thy base views, obliged thee to abandon them, and to resolve to do her justice, and thyself honour; I hardly doubted, that her merit would be triumphant at last.

« VorigeDoorgaan »