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probable way of accounting tor his bearing with the house, and for his strange suspensions of marriage, when it was in his power to call such an angel of. a woman his. itS" O my dear, the man is a villain! the greatest of villains, in every light!—I am convinced that he is. And this Doleman must be another of his implements!
its There are so many wretches who think that to be no sin, which is one of the greatest, and the most ingratetul of all sins, to ruin young creatures of our sex who place their confidence in them; that the wonder is less than the shame, that people of figure, of appearance at least, are found to promote the horrid purposes of profligates of fortune and interest!
US But can I think [you will ask with indignant astonishment] that Lovelace can have designs upon your honour?
US That such designs he has had, if he still hold them not, I can have nodoubt, nowthatlknow the house he has brought you to, to be a vile one. This is a clue that has led me to account for all his behaviour to you ever since you have been in his hands.
Allow me a brief retrospection of it all.
We both know, that pride, revenge, and a delight to tread in unbeaten paths, are principal ingredients inthecharacter of this finished libertine.
J13" He hates all your family, yourself excepted; and I have several times thought, that I have seen him stung and mortified that love has obliged him US to kneel at your footstool, because you are a Harlowe. Yet is this wretch a savage in love. — Love that humanizes the fiercest spirits, has not been able to subdue his. His itS pride, and the credit which a few plausible qualities, sprinkled among his odious ones, have given nim, have secured him too good a reception from our eye-judging, our undistinguishing, our self-flattering, our too confiding sex, to make assiduity and obsequiousness, and a conquest of his unruly passions, any part of his study. its He has some reason for his animosity to all the men, and to one woman of your family. He has always shewn you, and his own family too, that he its prefers his pride to his interest. He is a declared marriage-hater: a notorious intriguer: full of his inventions; and glorying in them. — He never could draw you into declaration of love: nor till your wise relations persecuted you, as they did, to receive his admits" dresses as a lover.—He knew, that you professedly disliked him for his immoralities: he could not therefore justly blame you for the coldness and indifference of your behaviour to him.
its The prevention of mischief was your first main view in the correspondence he drew you into. He ought not, then, to have wonderfid, that you declared your preference of the single life to any matrimonial engagement. He knew that this was always your preference; and thai before he tricked you away so artfully. What
US' was his conduct to you afterwards, that you should of a sudden change it?
Thus was your whole behaviour regular, consistent, and dutiful to those to whom by birth you owed duty; aud neither prudish, coquettish, nor tyrannical to him.
il3" He had agreed to go on with you upon those your own terms, and to rely only on his own merits and future reformation, for your favour.
Ipg" It was plain to me, indeed, to whom you communicated all that you knew of your own heart, though not all of it that I found out, that love had pretty early gained footing in it. And this you yourself would have discovered sooner
UtS" than you did, had not his alarming, his unpolite, his rough conduct, kept it under.
US' l knew, by experience, that love is a fire that is not to be played with, without burning one's fingers: I knew it to be a dangerous thing for two single persons of different sexes to enter into familiarity and correspondence with each other; since, as to the latter, must not
a person be capable of premeditated art, who can sit down to write, and not write from the heart? — And a woman to write her heart to a man practised in deceit, or even to a man of some character, what advantage does it give him over her? Jt3" As this man's vanity had made him imagine, that no woman could be proof against love, when his address was honourable; no wonder that he struggled, like a lion held in toils, against a passion that he thought not returned. And how could you, at first, shew a return in love, to so fierce a spirit, and who had seduced you away by vile artifices, but to the approval of those artifices?
.213" Hence, perhaps, it is not difficult to believe, that it became possible for such a wretch as this to give way to his old prejudices against marriage; and to that revenge which had always been a first passion with him.
This is the only way, I think, to account for his horrid views in bringing you to a vile house.
And now may not all the rest be naturally accounted for? — His delays — his teasing ways
— his bringing you to bear with hislodging in the same house— his making you pass to the people of it, as his wife; though
JfcS" restrictively so, yet with hope, no doubt (vilest of villains as he is!) totakeyouatadvantage
— his bringing you into the company of his libertine companions: the attempt of imposing upon you that Miss Partington for a bedfellow, very probably his own invention for the worst of purposes: his terrifying yon at many different times: his obtruding himself upon you when you went out to church; no doubt to prevent your finding out what the people of the house were: the advantages he made of your brother s foolish project with Singleton.
See, my dear, how naturally all this follows from the discovery made by Miss Lardner.
213" See how the monster, whom I thought, and so often called, a fool, comes out to have been all the time one of the greatest
3S5" villains in the world!
But if this be so, what [it would be asked by an indifferent person] has hitherto saved you? Glorious creature! — What, morally speaking, but your watchfulness! What but that, and the majesty of your virtue; the native dignity, which in a situation so very difficult, (friendless, destitute, passing for a wife, cast into the company of creatures accustomed to betray and ruin innocent hearts) has hitherto enabled you to baffle, over-awe, and confound, such a dangerous libertine as this; so habitually remorseless, as you have observed him to be; so very various in his temper; so inventive-, so seconded so sup
ported, so instigated, too probably, as he has been! — That native dignity, that heroism, I will call it, which has, on all proper oaccasions, exerted itself inits full lustre, unmingled with that charming obliging
itS" ness and condescending sweetness, which is evermore the softener of that dignity, when your mind is free and unapprehensive!
.itST Let me stop to admire, and to bless my beloved friend, who, unhappily for herself, at an age so tender, unacquainted as she was with the world, and with the vile arts of libertines, having been called upon to sustain the hardest and most shocking trials, from persecuting relations on onehand, and from a villainous lover on the other, has been enabled to such an illustrious example of fortitude and prudence, as never woman gave before her; and who, as 1 have heretofore observed*, has made a far greater figure in adversity, than she possibly could have made, had all her shining qualities been exerted in their full force and power, by the continuance of that prosperous
J13* run of fortune which attended her for eighteen years of life out of nineteen.
* * *
JtsT Bot now, my dear, do I apprehend, that you are in greater danger than ever yet you have been in; if you are • See Vol. II. p. 270.
not married in a week; and yet stay in this abominable house. For were you out of it, I own I should not be much afraid for you.
These are my thoughts, on the most deliberate consideraZUS" tion: 'That he is now convinced, that he has not been able to draw you off your guard: that therefore, if he can obtain no new advantage over you as he goes along, he is resolved to do you all the poor justice that it is in the power of such a wretch as he, to do you. He is the rather induced to this, as he sees that all his own family have warmly engaged themselves in your cause: and ," IS" that it is his highest interest to be just to you. Thenthehorrid wretch loves you (as well he may) above all women. I have no doubt of this; with such a love as such awretchiscapable itS" of: with such a love as Herod loved his Mariamne. He is now therefore, very probably, at last, in earnest.'
I took time for inquiries of different natures, as I knew by the train you are in, that whatever his designs are, they cannot ripen either for good or 31S* evil, till something shall result from this new device of his about Tomlinson and your uncle.
Device I have not doubt that it is, whatever this dark, this impenetrable spirit intends by it.
3KT And yet I find it to be true,
that Counsellor William(whom Mr. Hickman knows to be a man of eminence in his profession) has actually as good as
UtS' finished the settlements:that two drafts of them have been made; one avowedly to be sent to one Captain Tomlinson, as the clerk says: — and I find that a licence has actually been more than once endeavoured to be obtained; and that difficulties have hitherto been made equally to Lovelace's
JtS vexation and disappointment. My mother's proctor, who is very intimate with the proctor applied to by the wretch, has come at this information in confidence; and hints, that, as Mr. Lovelace is a man of high fortunes, these difficulties will probably be got over.
But here follow the causes of my apprehension of your danger; which I should not have had a thought of (since nothing very vile has yet been attempted) but on finding what a house you are in, and, on that discovery, laying together and ruminating on past occurrences.
'You are obliged, from the present favourable appearan
JtS" ces, to give him your company whenever he requests
it You areunderanecessity
of forgetting, or seeming to forget, past disobligations; and to receive his addresses as those of a betrothed lover. — You will incur the censure of prudery and affectation, even perhapsinyourown apprehension, if you keep him at that distance which has hitherto been your security. — His sudden (and as suddenly recovered) illness has given him an opportunity to find out, that you love him. [Alas, my dear, I knew you loved him !\ He is, as
itS" you relate, every hour more and more an encroacher upon it. He has seemed to change his nature, and is all love and gentleness. The wolf has put
itS" on the sheep's clothing; yet more than once has shewn his teeth, and his hardly sheathed claws. The instance you have given of his freedom with your person*, which you could not but resent; and yet, as matters are circumstanced between you, could not but pass over, when Tomlinson's letter called you into his company **, shew the advantage he
itS has now over you; and also, that if he can obtain greater, he will. — And for this very reason (as I apprehend) it is, that Tomlinson is introduced; that is to say, to give you the
itS greater security, and to be a mediator, if mortal offence be given you, by any villainous attempt. — The day seems not now to be so much in your power as it ought to be, since that now partly depends on
* She means the freedom Mr. Lovelace took with her before the fire-plot. See Vol. II. Letter exzir. When Miss Howe wrote this letter, she coald not know of that.
• • See Vol. II. Letter exxv.
your uncle, whose presence, at your own motion, he has wished on the occasion. A wish, were all real, very unlikely, I think, to be granted.' itS" And thus situated, should he offer greater freedoms, must you not forgive him?
I fear nothing (as I know who has said) that devil carnate or incarnate can fairly do against a virtue so established*. — But surprises, my dear, in such a house as that you are in, and in such circumstances as I have mentioned , I greatly fear! — The its' man, one, who has already triumphed overpersons worthy of his alliance. itS" What then have you to do, but to fly this house, this infernal house! — O that your heart would let you fly the man!
itS" If you should be disposed so to do, Mrs. Townsend shall be ready at your command. — But if you meet with no impediments, no new causes of doubt, I think your reputation in the eye of the world, though not your happiness, is concerned , that you should be his — and yet I cannot bear, that these libertines should be reitS" warded for their villainy with the best of the sex, when the worst of it are too good for them.
But if you meet with the least ground for suspicion; if
* See Mrs. Norton's Letter, Vol. II. p. 274.