« VorigeDoorgaan »
would. But I will go out, and that without him, or any attendant. If he account not tolerably for his sudden change of behaviour, and a proper opportunity offer of a private lodging in some creditable house, I will not any more return to this. At present I think so. And there will I either attend the perfecting of your scheme; or, by your epistolary mediation, make my own terms with the wretch; since it is your opinion, that I must be his, and cannot help myself: or, perhaps, take a resolution to throw myself at once into Lady Betty's protection ; and this will hinder him from making his insolently-threatened visit to Harlowe-Place.
MR. LOVELACE TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
Monday Morning, May 22.
thou not have thought, that after I had per
mitted her to withdraw, primed for mischief as I
was, she would meet me next morning early ; and that with a smile ; making me one of her best courtesies?
I was in the dining-room before six, expecting her. She opened not her door. I went upstairs and down; and hemmed ; and called Will ; called Dorcas ; threw the doors hard to ; but still she opened not her door. Thus till half an hour after eight, fooled I away my time; and then (breakfast ready) I sent Dorcas to request her company.
But I was astonished, when (following the wench, as she did at the first invitation) I saw her enter dressed, all but her gloves, and those and her fan in her hand; in the same moment bidding Dorcas direct Will to get her a chair to the door.
Cruel creature, thought I, to expose me thus to the derision of the women below! Going abroad, madam ?
I looked cursed silly, I am sure.
You will breakfast first, I hope, madam ; in a very humble strain; yet with an hundred tenter-hooks in my heart.
Had she given me more notice of her intention, I had perhaps wrought myself up to the frame I was in the day before, and begun my vengeance. And immediately came into my head all the virulence that had been transcribed for me from Miss Howe's letters, and in that letter which I had transcribed myself.
Yes, she would drink one dish ; and then laid her gloves and fan in the window just by.
I was perfectly disconcerted. I hemmed, and was going to speak several times; but knew not in what key. Who's modest now, thought I! Who's insolent now! How a tyrant of a woman confounds a bashful man! She was acting Miss Howe, I thought; and I the spiritless Hick
At last, I will begin, thought I.
Sip, her eyes her own, she; like a haughty and imperious sovereign, conscious of dignity, every look a favour.
Sip, like her vassal, I; lips and hands trembling, and not knowing that I sipped or tasted.
I was—I was—I sipped—(drawing in my breath and the liquor together, though I scalded my mouth with it)—I was in hopes, madam
Dorcas came in just then. Dorcas, said she, is a chair
Damned impertinence, thought I, thus to put me out in my speech !
And I was forced to wait for the servant's answer to the insolent mistress's question.
William is gone for one, madam.
This cost me a minute's silence before I could begin again. And then it was with my hopes, and my hopes, and my hopes, that I should have been early admitted to
What weather is it, Dorcas ? said she, as regardless of me as if I had not been present.
A little lowering, madam—the sun is gone in—it was very fine half an hour ago.
I had no patience. Up I rose. Down went the teacup, saucer and all. Confound the weather, the sunshine, and the wench! Begone for a devil, when I am speaking to your lady, and have so little opportunity given me.
Up rose the saucy-face, half-frighted; and snatched from the window her gloves and fan.
You must not go, madam !-seizing her hand—by my soul you must not.
Must not, sir ? But I must. You can curse your maid in my absence, as well as if I were present-exceptexcept--you intend for me, what you direct to her.
Do not make me desperate, madam. Permit me to say, that you
shall not leave me in this humour. Wherever you go, I will attend you. Had Miss Howe been my friend, I had not been thus treated. It is but too plain to whom my difficulties are owing. I have long observed, that every letter you receive from her, makes an alteration in
your behaviour to me. She would have you treat me, as she treats Mr. Hickman, I suppose: but neither does that treatment become your admirable temper to offer, nor me to receive.
This startled her. She did not care to have me think hardly of Miss Howe.
But recollecting herself, Miss Howe, said she, is a friend to virtue, and to good men. If she like not you, it is because you are not one of those.
Yes, madam; and therefore to speak of Mr. Hickman and myself, as you both, I suppose, think of each, she treats him as she would not treat a Lovelace. I challenge you, madam, to show me but one of the many letters you have received from her, where I am mentioned.
Miss Howe is just; Miss Howe is good, replied she.
She writes, she speaks, of everybody as they deserve. If you point me out but any one occasion, upon which you have reason to build a merit to yourself, as either just or good, or even generous, I will look out for her letter on that occasion (if such an occasion there be, I have certainly acquainted her with it); and will engage it shall be in your favour.
Devilish severe! And as indelicate as severe, to put a modest man upon hunting backward after his own merits.
She would have flung from me: I will not be detained, Mr. Lovelace. I will go out.
Indeed you must not, madam, in this humour. And I placed myself between her and the door.
And then, fanning, she threw herself into a chair, her sweet face all crimsoned over with passion.
I cast myself at her feet.-Begone, Mr. Lovelace, said she, with a rejecting motion, her fan in her hand; for your own sake leave me! My soul is above thee, man ! with both her hands pushing me from her! Urge me not to tell thee, how sincerely I think my soul above thee ! Thou hast in mine, a proud, a too proud heart, to contend with ! Leave me, and leave me for ever! Thou hast a proud heart to contend with !
Her air, her manner, her voice, were bewitchingly noble, though her words were so severe.
Let me worship an angel, said I, no woman. Forgive me, dearest creature ! Creature if you be, forgive me ! Forgive my inadvertencies ! Forgive my inequalities ! Pity my infirmities! Who is equal to my Clarissa ?
I trembled between admiration and love; and wrapt my arms about her knees, as she sat. She tried to rise at the moment; but my clasping round her thus ardently, drew her down again ; and never was woman more affrighted. But free as my clasping emotion might appear to her apprehensive heart, I had not, at the instant, any thought but what reverence inspired. And till she had actually
withdrawn (which I permitted under promise of a speedy return, and on her consent to dismiss the chair) all the motions of
my heart were as pure as her own. She kept not her word. An hour I waited before I sent to claim her promise. She could not possibly see me yet, was the answer. As soon as she could, she would.
Dorcas says, she still excessively trembled; and ordered her to give her hartshorn and water.
Monday, Two o'clock. Not yet visible !—My beloved is not well. What expectations bad she from my ardent admiration of her! -More rudeness than revenge apprehended. Yet, how my soul thirsts for revenge upon both these ladies ! I must have recourse to my master-strokes. This cursed project of Miss Howe and her Mrs. Townsend (if I cannot contrive to render it abortive) will be always a sword hanging over my head. Upon every little disobligation my beloved will be for taking wing; and the pains I have taken to deprive her of every other refuge or protection in order to make her absolutely dependent upon me, will be all thrown away. But perhaps I shall find out a smuggler to counterplot Miss Howe.
And now, Belford, according to my new system, I think this house of Mrs. Fretchville an embarrass upon me. I will get rid of it; for some time at least. Mennell, when I am out, shall come to her, enquiring for me. What for ? thou'lt ask. What for!
-Hast thou not heard what has befallen poor Mrs. Fretchville ?—Then I'll tell thee.
One of her maids, about a week ago, was taken with the small-pox. The rest kept their mistress ignorant of it till Friday; and then she came to know it by accident. The greater half of the plagues poor mortals of condition are tormented with, proceed from the servants they take, partly for show, partly for use, and with a view to lessen
This has so terrified the widow, that she is taken with