Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

madam, did you call? — Supposing her in her closet.

"Having no answer, she stept forward, and was astonished to find she was not there. She hastily ran into the dining-room, then into my apartments; searched every closet; dreading all the time to behold some sad catastrophe.

"Not finding her any where, she ran down to the old creature, and her nymphs, with a Have you seen my lady?—Then she's gone! — She s no where above!

"They were sure she could not be gone out.

"The whole house was in an uproar in an instant! some running up stairs, some down, from the upper rooms to the lower; and all screaming, how should they look me in the face!

"Will cried out, he was a dead man: he blamed them; they him; and every one was an accuser, and an excuser, at the same time.

"When they had searched the whole house, and every closet in it, ten times over to no purpose, they took it into their heads to send to all the porters, chairmen, and hackney-coachmen, that had been near the house for two hours past to inquire if any of them saw such a young lady; describing her.

"This brought them some light: the only dawning for hope, that I can have, and which keeps me from absolute despair. One of the chairmen gave them this account: that he saw such a one come out of the house a little before four (in

a great hurry, and as if frighted) with a little parcel tied up in a handkerchief, in her hand: that he took notice to his fellow, who plied her without her answering, that she was a fine young lady: that he'd warrant, she had either a bad husband, or very cross parents; for that her eyes seemed swelled with crying, upon which, a third fellowreplied, that it might be a doe escaped from mother Damnable's park. This Mrs. Sinclair told me with a curse, and a wish that she knew the saucy villain. — She thought truly, that she had abetter reputation; so handsomely as she lived, and so justly as she paid every body for what she bought; her house visited by the best and civilest of gentlemen; and no noise or brawls ever heard, or known in it.

"From these appearances, the fellow who gave this information, had the curiosity to follow her, unperceived. She often looked back. Eveiy body who passed her, turned to look after her; passing their verdict upon her tears, ner hurry, and her charming person; till coming to a stand of coaches, a coachman plied her; was accepted; alighted; opened the coach door in a hurry, seeing her hurry; and in it she stumbled for haste, and, as the fellow believed, hurt her shin with the stumble."

The devil take me, Belford, if my generous heart is not moved for her, notwithstanding her wicked deceit, to think what must be her reflections and apprehensions at the time. — A mind so delicate, heeding no censures; yet probably afraid of being laid hold of by a Lovelace in every one she saw! At the same time, not knowing to what dangers she was about to expose herself; nor of whom she could obtain shelter; a stranger to the town, and to all its ways; the afternoon far gone: but little money; and no clothes but those she had on!

It is impossible, in this little interval since last night, that Miss Howe's Townsend could be cooperating.

But how she must abhor me, to run all these risks; how heartily must she detest me, for my freedoms of last night! O that I had given her greater reason for a resentment so violent! — As to her virtue, I am too much enraged to give her the merit due to that. To virtue it cannot be owing that she should fly from the charming prospects that were before her; but to malice, hatred, contempt, Harlowe - pride , (the worst of pride) and to all the deadly passions that ever reigned in a female breast — and if I can but recover her — but be still, be calm, be hushed, my stormy passions; for is it not Clarissa [Harlowe must I say ?] that thus I rave against?

"The fellow heard her say, Drive fast! Very fast! Where, madam? To Holborn Bars, answered she; repeating, Drive very fast! — And up she pulled both the windows: and he lost sight of the coach in a minute.

Will, as soon as he had this

intelligence, speeded away in hopes to trace her out; declaring, that he would never think of seeing me, till he had heard some tidings of his lady."

And now, Belford, all my hope is, that this fellow (who attended us in our airing to Hampstead, to Highgate, to Muswell Hill, to Kentish Town) will hear of her at some one or other of those places. And on this I the rather build, as I remember she was once, after our return, very inquisitive about the stages, and their prices; praising the conveniency to passengers in their going off every hour; and this in Will's hearing, who was then in attendance. Woe be to the villain, if he recollect not this.

* * * I Have been traversing her room, meditating, or taking up every thing she but touched or used: the glass she dressed at, I was ready to break, for not giving me the personal image it was wont to reflect of her, whose idea is for ever present with me. I call for her, now in the tenderest, now in the most reproachful terms, as if within hearing: wanting her, I want my own soul, at least every thing dear to it. What a void in my heart! what a chilness in my blood, as if its circulation were arrested! From her room to my own; in the dining-room, and in and out of every place where I have seen the beloved of my heart, do I hurry; in none can I tarry; her lovely image in every one, in some lively attitude, rushing cruelly upon me, in differently remembered conversations.

But when in my first fury, at my return, I went up two pair of stairs, resolved to find the lockedup Dorcas, and beheld the vainlyburnt window board, and recollected my baffled contrivances, baffled by my own weak folly, 1 thought my distraction completed; and down I ran as one frighted at a spectre, ready to howl for vexation; my head and my temples shooting with a violence I had never felt before, and my back aching as if the vertebrae were disjointed and falling in pieces.

But now that I have heard the mother's story, and contemplated the dawning hopes given by the chairman's information, I am a good deal easier, and can make cooler reflections. Most heartily pray I for Will's success, every tour or five minutes. If I lose her, all my rage will return with redoubled fury. The disgrace to be thus outwitted by a novice, an infant in stratagem and contrivance, added to the violence of my passion for her, will either break my heart, or (what saves many an heart, in evils insupportable) turn my brain. What had I to do to go out a licence hunting, at least till I had seen her, and made up matters with her? And indeed, were it not the privilege of a principal to lay all his own faults upon his underlings, and never be to blame himself, 1 should be apt to reflect, that 1 am more in fault than any body.

And as the sting of this reflection will sharpen upon me, if I recover her not, how shall I be able to bear it? If ever —

Here Mr. Lovelace lays himself under a curse, too shocking to be repeated, if he revenge not himself upon the lady, should he once more get her into his hands.

* * * I Have just now dismissed the sniveling toad Dorcas, who was introduced to me for my pardon by the whining mother. I gave her a kind of negative and ungracious forgiveness. Yet I shall as violently curse the two nymphs, by-and-by, for the consequences of my own folly: and this will be a good way too, to prevent their ridicule upon me, tor losing so glorious an opportunity as I had last night, or rather this morning.

I have collected from the result of the inquiries made of the chairman, and from Dorcas's observations before the cruel creature escaped, a description of her dress; and am resolved, if I cannot otherwise hear of her, to advertise her in the Gazette, as an eloped wife, both by her maiden and acknowledged name; for her elopement will soon be known by every enemy: why then should not my friends be made acquainted with it, from whose inquiries and informations I may expect some tidings of her?

"She had on a brown lustring night-gown, fresh, and looking like new, as every thing she wears does, whether new or not, from an elegance natural to her. A beaverhat, a black ribband about her neck, and blue knots on her breast. A quilted petticoat of carnation-coloured satin; a rose diamond ring, supposed on her finger; and in her whole person aud appearance, as I shall express it, a dignity, as well as beauty, that commands the repeated attention of every one who sees her."

The description of her person I shall take a little more pains about My mind must be more at ease, before I can undertake that. And I shall threaten, "that if, after a certain period given for her voluntary return, she be not heard of, I will prosecute any person who presumes to entertain, harbour, abet, or encourage her, with all the vengeance that an injured gentleman and husband may be warranted to take by law, or otherwise."

* * *

Fresh cause of aggravation I — But for this scribbling vein, or I should still run mad.

Again going into her chamber, because it was hers, and sighing over the bed, and every piece ofj furniture in it, 1 cast my eye towards the drawers of the dressingglass, and saw peep out, as it were, in one of the half-drawn drawers, the corner of a letter. I snatched it out, and found it superscribed, by her, To Mr. Lovelace. The sight of it made my heart leap, and I trembled so, that I could hardly open the seal.

Clarissa. III.

How does this d — n'd love unman me! — but nobody ever loved as I love! — It is even increased by her unworthy flight, and my disappointment. Ingrateful creature, to fly from a passion thus ardently flaming! which, like the palm, rises the more for being depressed and slighted.

I will not give thee a copy of this letter. I owe her not so much service.

But wouldst thou think, that this haughty promise-breaker could resolve as she does, absolutely and for ever to renounce me for what passed last night? That she could resolve to forego all her opening prospects of reconciliation; that reconciliation with a worthless family, on which she had set her whole heart? — Yet she does — she acquits me of all obligation to her, and herself of all expectations from me — and for what? — O that indeed I had given her real cause! D — n'd confounded niceness, prudery, affectation, or pretty ignorance, if not affectation! — By my soul, Belford, I told thee all — I was more indebted to her struggles, than to my own forwardness. I cannot support my own reflections upon a decency so ill-requited. — She could not, she would not have been so much a Harlowe in her resentment, had I deserved, as I ought to have done, her resentment. All she feared, had then been over; and her own good sense, and even modesty, would have taught her to make the best of it.

Bat if ever again I get her into my hands, art and more art and compulsion too, if she make it necessary [and 'tis plain that nothing else will do] shall she experience from the man whose fear of her has been above even his passion for her; and whose gentleness and forbearance she has thusper/idiously triumphed over. Well says the poet,

"Ha nobler like a lion to invade When appetite directs, and seize my prey,

Than to wait tamely, like a begging dog, Till dull consent throws out the scraps of love.

Thou knowest what I have so lately vowed — and yet at times [cruel creature, ingrateful as cruel!] I can subscribe with too much truth to those lines of another poet:

She reigns more fully in my soul than ever;

She garrisons my breast, and mans against me

Ev'n my own rebel thoughts, with thousand graces,

Ten thousand charms, and new discovered beauties!

LETTER IV.

Mr. Lovelace to John Belford, Esq.

A Letter is put into my hands by Wilson himself — such a letter!

A letter from Miss Howe to her cruel friend! —

I made no scruple to open it.

It is a miracle that I fell not into fits at the reading of it; and at the thought of what might have

been the consequence, had it come to the hands of this Clarissa Harlowe. Let my justly excited rage excuse my irreverence.

Collins, though not his day, brought it this afternoon to Wilson's , with a particular desire, that it might be sent with all speed to Miss Beaumont's lodgings, and given, if possible, into her own hands. He had before been here (at Mrs. Sinclair's) with intent to deliver it to the lady with his own hand; but was told [too truly told!] that she was abroad; out that they would give her any thing he should leave for her, the moment she returned. But he cared not to trust them with his business, and went away to Wilson's (as I find by the description of him at both places) and there left the letter; but not till he had a second time called here, and found her not come in.

The letter [which I shall inclose; for it is too long to transcribe] will account to thee for Collins'a coming hither.

O this devilish Miss Howe; — something must be resolved upon and done with that little fury! * * *

Thou wilt see the margin of this cursed letter crowded with indices [•Ssf]. I put them to mark the places which call for vengeance upon the vixen writer, or which require animadversion. Return thou it to me the moment thou hast perused it.

Bead it here; and avoid trembling for me, if thou canst.

« VorigeDoorgaan »