Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Hervey a passion for me, accompanied with an awe that he had never known before, to which he attributed what he called his but seeming acquiescence with my father's pleasure, and the distance I kept him at.

But I should own, that in the letters he sent me upon the general subject, he more than once inclosed a particular one, declaring his passionate regards for me, and complaining, with fervour enough, of my reserves ; but of these I took not the least notice, for, as I had not written to him at all, but upon a subject so general, I thought it was but right to let what he wrote upon one so particular pass off as if I had never seen it; and the rather, as I was not then at liberty (from the approbation his letters met with) to break off the correspondence unless I had assigned the true reason for doing so. Besides, with all his respectful assiduities, it was easy to observe (if it had not been his general character) that his temper is naturally haughty and violent; and I had seen too much of that untractable spirit in my brother to like it in one who hoped to be still more nearly related to me.

I had a little specimen of this temper of his upon the very occasion I have mentioned ; for after he had sent me a third particular letter with the general one, he asked me the next time he came to Harlowe Place if I had not received such a one from him. I told him I should never answer one so sent, and that I had waited for such an occasion as he had now given me to tell him so. I desired him, therefore, not to write again on the subject, assuring him that if he did, I would return both, and never write another line to him.

You can't imagine how saucily the man looked ; as if, in short, he was disappointed that he had not made a more sensible impression upon me; nor, when he recollected himself (as he did immediately) what a visible struggle it cost him to change his haughty airs for more placid ones. But I took no notice of either, for I thought it best to convince him, by the coolness and indifference with which I repulsed his forward hopes, that he was not considerable enough in my eyes to make me take over-ready offence at what he said, or at his haughty looks. Indeed, he had cunning enough to give me, undesignedly, a piece of instruction which taught me this caution, for he had said in conversation once, " That if a man could not make a woman in courtship own herself pleased with him, it was as much and oftentimes more, to his purpose to make her angry with him.”

Such, my dear, was the situation, when my brother arrived from Scotland.

The moment Mr. Lovelace's visits were mentioned to him, be wondered how it came into the heads of his uncles to encourage such a man for either of his sisters.

He justified his avowed inveteracy by common fame, and by what he had known of him at college ; declaring that he had ever hated him, ever should hate him, and would never own him for a brother, or me for a sister, if I married him.

That early antipathy I have heard accounted for in this manner :

Mr. Lovelace was always noted for his vivacity and courage ; and no less, it seems, for the swift and surprising progress he made in all parts of literature. This gained him many friends among the more learned; while those who did not love him, feared him, by reason of the offence his vivacity made him too ready to give, and of the courage he showed in supporting the offence when given. No very amiable character, you'll say, upon the whole.

But my brother's temper was not more happy. His native haughtiness could not bear a superiority so visible ; and whom we fear more than love, we are not far from hating ; and, having less command of his passions than the other, he was evermore the subject of his, perhaps, indecent ridicule, so that they never met without quarrelling. It was the less wonder, therefore, that a young man who is not noted for the gentleness of his temper, should resume an antipathy early begun, and so deeply rooted.

He found my sister, who waited but for the occasion ready to join him in his resentments against the man he hated. She utterly disclaimed all manner of regard for him. “Never liked him at all.” And then did she boast of, and my brother praise her for, refusing him. And both joined on all occasions to depreciate him, and not seldom made the occasions; their displeasure against him causing every subject to run into this, if it began not with it.

I was not solicitous to vindicate him when I was not joined in their reflections. I told them I did not value him enough to make a difference in the family on his account.

Now and then, indeed, when I observed that their vehemence carried them beyond all bounds of probability in their charges against him, I thought it but justice to put in a word for him. But this only subjected me to reproach, as having a prepossession in his favour which I would not own, so that when I could not change the subject, I used to retire either to my music, or to my closet.

Their behaviour to him, when they could not help seeing him, was very cold and disobliging, and at last, they gave such a loose to their passions, that instead of withdrawing, as they used to do, when he came, they threw themselves in his way purposely to affront him.

Mr. Lovelace, you may believe, very ill brooked this, but, nevertheless, contented himself to complain of it to me; in high terms, however, telling me that but for my sake my brother's treatment of him was not to be borne.

My brother had just before, with the approbation of my uncles, employed a person related to a discharged bailiff or steward of Lord M., who had had the management of some part of Mr. Lovelace's affairs (from which he was also dismissed by him) to inquire into his debts, after his companions, into his amours, and the like.

My aunt Hervey, in confidence, gave me the following particulars of what the man said of him :

"That he was a generous landlord ; that he spared nothing for solid and lasting improvements upon his estate ; and that he looked into his own affairs, and understood them. That he had been very expensive when abroad, and contracted a large debt (for he made no secret of his affairs), yet chose to limit himself to an annual sum, and to decline equipage, in order to avoid being obliged to his uncle and aunts, from whom he might have what money be pleased, but that he was very jealous of their control, had often quarrels with them, and treated them so freely that they were all afraid of him. However, that his estate was never mortgaged, as my brother had heard it was ; his credit was always high; and the man believed he was by this time near upon, if not quite, clear of the world.

“He was a sad gentleman, he said, as to women. If his tenants had pretty daughters, they chose to keep them out of his sight. He believed he kept no particular mistress, for he had heard newelty, that was the man's word, was everything with him. But for his uncle's and aunt's teazings, the man fancied he would not think of marriage. He was never known to be disguised with liquor, but was a great plotter, and a great writer. That he lived a wild life in town, by what he had heard, had six or seven companions as bad as himself, whom now and then he brought down with him, and the country was always glad when they went up again.' He would have it, that although passionate, he was good-humoured ; loved as well to take a jest as to give one, and would rally himself upon occasion the freest of any man he ever knew.”

This was his character from an enemy; for, as my aunt observed, everything the man said commendably of him

came grudgingly, with a “Must needs say "_"To do him justice,” &c., while the contrary was delivered with a free good-will. And this character, as a worse was expected, though this was bad enough, not answering the end of inquiring after it, my brother and sister were more apprehensive than before that his address would be encouraged, since the worst part of it was known, or supposed, when he was first introduced to my sister.

But, with regard to myself, I must observe in his disfavour, that, notwithstanding the merit he wanted to make with me for his patience upon my brother’s ill treatment of him, I owed him no compliments for trying to conciliate with him. Not that I believe it would have signified anything if he had made ever such court either to him or to my sister. Yet one might have expected from a man of his politeness, and from his pretensions, you know, that he would have been willing to try, instead of which, he showed such a contempt both of my brother and sister, especially of my brother, as was construed into a defiance of them.

After several excesses, which Mr. Lovelace still returned with contempt, and a haughtiness too much like that of the aggressor, my brother took upon himself to fill up the doorway once when he came, as if to oppose his entrance, and, upon his asking for me, demanded what his business was with his sister.

The other, with a challenging air, as my brother says, told him he would answer a gentleman any question, but he wished that Mr. James Harlowe, who had of late given himself high airs, would remember that he was not now at college.

Just then the good Dr. Lewen, who frequently honours me with a visit of conversation, as he is pleased to call it, and had parted with me in my own parlour, came to the door, and, hearing the words, interposed; both having their hands upon their swords, and telling Mr. Lovelace

« VorigeDoorgaan »