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he would detain you at tbe odious house, or wish you to stay, now you know what the JOS' people are; fly him, whatever your prospects are, as well as them.
In one of your next airings, if you have no other way, rei£t£T fuse to return with him. Name me for your intelligencer, that you are in a bad house, and if you think you cannot now break with him, seem rather to believe that he may not know it to be so; and that I do not believe he does: and yet this belief in us both must appear to be very gross.
But suppose you desire to go out of town for the air, this sultry weather, and insist upon it? You may plead your health for so doing. He dare
313" not resist such a plea. Your brother's foolish scheme, I am told, is certainly given up; so you need not be afraid on that account.
If you do not fly the house upon reading of this, or some way or other get out of it, I shall judge of his power over you, by the little you will have over either him or yourself.
3B" One of my informers has made slight inquiries concerning Mrs. Fretchville. Did he ever name to you the street or square she lived in? — I don't remember that you, in any of yours, mentioned the
itS" place of her abode to me. Strange, very strange, this, I
think! No such person or house can be found, near any of the new streets or squares, where the lights I had from your letters led me to imagine her house might be —ask him,
ij3" what street the house is in, if he has not told you? And let me know. If he make a difficulty of that circumstance, it
it3* will amount to adetection.— And yet, I think, you have enough without this.
I shall send this long letter by Collins, who changes his day to oblige me; and that he may try (now I know where you are) to get it into your own hands. If he cannot, he will leave it at Wilson's. As none of our letters by that conveyance have miscarried when you have been in more apparently disagreeable situations than you are in at present, I hope that this will go safe, if Coll ins should be obliged to leave it there.
I wrote a short letter to you in my first agitations. It contained not above twenty lines, all full of fright, alarm, and execration. But being afraid that my vehemence would too much affect you, I thought it better to wait a little, as well for the reasons already hinted at, as to be able to give you as many particulars as I could; and my thoughts upon all. And now, I think, taking to your aid other circumstances, as they have offered, or may offer, you will be sufficiently armed to resist all his machinations, be they what they will. 313* One word more, command me up, if I can be of the least service or pleasure to you. I value not fame; I value not censure; nor even life itself, I verily think, as I do your honour, and your friendship— for, is not your honour my honour.? And is not your friendship the pride of my life? May Heaven preserve you, my dearest creature, in honour and safety, is the prayer, the hourly prayer, of
Your ever faithful and affectionate
Thursday morn. I have
TO MISS HOWE.
How you have shocked, confounded, surprised, astonished me, by your dreadful communication! — My hearl is too weak to bear up against such a stroke as this! — When all hope was with me! When my prospects were so much mended! — But can there be such villany in men, as in this vile principal, and equally vile agent!
I am really ill — very ill—grief and surprise, and, now I will say, despair have overcome me! — All, all, you have laid down as conjecture, appears to me now to be more than conjecture!
O that your mother would have the goodness to permit me the presence of the only comforter that my afflicted, my half-broken
heart, could be raised by. But I charge you, think not of coming up without her indulgent permission. I am too ill at present, my dear, to think of combating with this dreadful man; and flying from this horrid house! — My bad writing will shew you this. — But my illness will be my present security, should he indeed have meditated villany. — Forgive, O forgive me, my dearest friend, the trouble I have given you! — All must soon — But why add I grief to grief, and trouble to trouble? — But I charge you, my beloved creature, not to think of coming up without your mother's leave to the truly desolate and brokenspirited
Well , Jack! — And what thinkest thou of this last letter? Miss Howe values not either fame or censure; and thinkest thou, that this letter will not bring the little fury up, though she could procure no other conveyance than her higgler's paniers, one for herself, the other for her maid? She knows whither to come now. Many a little villain have I punished for knowing more than I would have her know, and that by adding to her knowledge and experience. What thinkest thou, Belford, if, by getting hither this virago, and giving cause for a lamentable letter from her to the fair fugitive, I should be able to recover her? Would she not visit that friend in her distress, thinkest thou, whose intended visit to her infers brought her into the condition from which she herself had so perfidiously escaped?
Let me enjoy the thought!
Shall I send this letter? — Thou seest I have left room, if I fail in the exact imitation of so charming a hand, to avoid too strict a scrutiny. Do they not both deserve it of me? Seest thou not how the raving girl threatens her mother? Ought she not to be punished? And can I be a worse devil, or villain, or monster, than she calls me in the long letter I inclose (and has called me in her former letters) were I to punish them both as my vengeance urges me to punish them? And when I have executed that my vengeance, how charmingly satisfied may they both go down into the country and keep house together, and have a much better reason than their pride could give them, for living the single life they have both seemed so fond of?
I will set about transcribing it this moment, I think. I can resolve afterwards. Yet what has poor Hickman done to deserve this of me!—But gloriously would it punish the mother (as well as daughter) for all her sordid avarice; and for her undutifulness to honest Mr. Howe, whose heart she actually broke. I am on tiptoe, Jack, to enter upon this project. Is not one country as good to me as another, if I should be obliged to take another tour upon it? * * *
But I will not venture. Hickman is a good man, they tell me.
I love a good man. I hope one of these days to be a good man myself. Besides, I have heard within this week something of this honest fellow that shews he has a soul; when I thought, if he had one that it lay a little of the deepest to emerge to notice, except on very extraordinary occasions ; and that then it presently sunk again into its cellula adipusa. — The man is a plump man. — Didst ever see him, Jack?
But the principal reason that withholds me [for 'tis a tempting project!] is, for fear of being utterly blown up, if I should not be quick enough with my letter, or if Miss Howe should deliberate on setting out, or try her mother's consent first; in which time a letter from my frighted beauty might reach her; for I have no doubt, wherever she has refuged, but her first work was to write to her vixen friend. I will therefore go on patiently; and take my revenge upon the little fury at my leisure.
But, in spite of my compassion for Hickman, whose better character is sometimes my envy, and who is one of those mortals that bring clumsiness into credit with the mothers, to the disgrace of us clever fellows, and often to our disappointment with the daughters; and who has been very busy in assisting these double-armed beauties against me; I swear by all the Dii majores, as well as minores, that I will have Miss Howe, if I cannot have her more exalted friend! And then, if there be as much flaming love between these girls as they pretend, what will my charmer profit by her escape?
And now, that I shall permit Miss Howe to reign a little longer, let me ask thee, if thou hast not, in the inclosed letter, a fresh instance, that a great many of my difficulties with her sister-toast are owing to this flighty girl? — 'Tistrue, that here was naturally a confounded sharp wintry air; and if a little cold water was thrown into the path, no wonder that it was instantly frozen; and that the poor honest traveller found it next to impossible to keep his way; one foot sliding back as fast as the other advanced, to the endangering of his limbs or neck. But yet I think it impossible, that she should have baffled me as she has done (novice as she is, and never before from under her parents' wings) had she not been armed by a virago, who was formerly very near shewing, that she could better advise than practise. But this, I believe, I have said more than once before.
I am loth to reproach myself, now the cruel creature has escaped me; for what would that do Dut add to my torment? since evils self-caused, and avoidable, admit not of palliation or comfort. And yet, if thou tellest me, that all her strength was owing to my weakness, and that I have been a cursed coward in this whole affair; why then, Jack, I may blush, and
be vexed; but, by my soul, I cannot contradict thee.
But this, Belford, I hope — that if I can turn the poison of the inclosed letter into wholesome aliment; that is to say, if I can make use of it to my advantage; I shall have thy free consent to do it.
I am always careful to open covers cautiously, and to preserve seals entire. I will draw out from this cursed letter an alphabet. Nor was Nick Rowe ever half so diligent to learn Spanish, at the Quixote recommendation of a certain peer, as I will be to gain the mastery of this vixen's hand.
LETTER V. Miss Clarissa Harlowe to Miss Howe.
Thursday evening, June 8
After my last, so full of other hopes, the contents of this will surprise you. O my dearest friend, the man has at last proved himself to be a villain!
It was with the utmost difficulty last night, that I preserved myself from the vilest dishonour. He extorted from me a promise of forgiveness, and that I would see him next day, as if nothing had happened: but if it were possible to escape from a wretch, who, as I have too much reason to believe, formed a plot to fire the house, to frighten me, almost naked, into his arms, how could I see him next day?
I have escaped — Heaven be praised that I have! — And have now no other concern, than that Ifly from the only hope that could have made such an husband tolerable to me; the reconciliation with my friends, so agreeably undertaken by my uncle.
All my present hope is, to find some reputable family, or person of my own sex, who is obliged to go beyond sea, or who lives abroad; I care not whither; but if I might choose, in some one of our American colonies — never to be heard of more by my relations, whom I have so grievoasly offended.
Nor let your generous heart be moved at what I write. If I can escape the dreadfullest part of my father's malediction (for the temporary part is already in a manner fulfilled, which makes me tremble in apprehension of the other) I shall think the wreck of my worldly fortunes a happy composition.
Neither is there need of the renewal of your so often tendered goodness to me: for I have with me rings and other valuables, that were sent me with my clothes, which will turn into money to answer all I can want, till Providence shall be pleased to put me into some way to help myself, if, for my further punishment, my life is to be lengthened beyond my wishes.
Impute not this scheme, my beloved friend, either to dejection on one hand, or to that romantic turn on the other, which we have supposed generally to obtain with our sex, from fifteen to twentytwo: for be pleased to consider my unhappy situation in the
light in which it really must appear to every considerate person, who knows it. In the first place, the man, who has had the assurance to think me, and to endeavour to make me, his property, will hunt me from place to place, and search after me as a 'stray: and he knows he may do so with impunity; for whom have I to protect me from him?
Then as to my estate, the envied estate, which has been the original cause of all my misfortunes, it shall never be mine upon litigated terms. What is there in being enabled to boast, that I am worth more than lean use, or wish to use? And if my power is circumscribed, I shall not have that to answer for, which I should have, if I did not use it as I ought: which very few do. I shall have no husband, of whose interest I ought to be so regardful, as to prevent me doing more than justice to others, that I may not do less to him. If therefore my father will be pleased (as I shall presume, in proper time, to propose to him) to pay two annuities out of it, one to my dear Mrs. Norton, which may make her easy for the remainder of her life, as she is now growing into years; the other of 50/. per annum, to the same good woman for the use of my poor, as I have had the vanity to call a certain set of people, concerning whom she knows all my mind: that so as few as possible may suffer by the consequences of my error; God bless them, and give them heart's ease and content, with the rest!