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I hope no mischief will happen on the road.—I hope these violent spirits will not meet.
Every one is waiting for me.—Pardon me, my best, my kindest friend, that I return your Norris. In these more promising prospects, I cannot have occasion for your favour. Besides, I have some hope, that with my clothes they will send me the money I wrote for, although it is denied me in the letter. If they do not, and if I should have occasion, I can but signify my want to so ready a friend. And I have promised to be obliged only to you. But I had rather methinks you should have it still to say, if challenged, that nothing of this nature has been either requested or done. I say this, with a view entirely to my future hopes of recovering your mother's favour, which, next to that of my own father and mother, I am most solicitous to recover.
I must acquaint you with one thing more, notwithstanding my hurry; and that is, that Mr. Lovelace offered either to attend me to Lord M.'s, or to send for his chaplain, yesterday. He pressed me to consent to this proposal, most earnestly; and even seemed desirous rather to have the ceremony pass here, than in London: for when there I had told him, it was time enough to consider of so weighty and important a matter. Now, upon the receipt of your kind, your consolatory letter, methinks I could almost wish it had been in my power to comply with his earnest solicitations. But this dreadful letter has unhinged my whole frame. Then some little punctilio surely is necessary. No preparation made. No articles drawn. No licence ready. Grief so extreme: no pleasure in prospect, nor so much as in wish—O my dear, who could think of entering into so solemn an engagement! Who, so unprepared, could seem to be so ready!
Adieu, my best beloved and kindest friend! Pray for your Clarissa.
MR. LOVELACE TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
Monday, April 24. ATE is weaving a whimsical web for thy friend; and see not but I shall be inevitably manacled. Here have I been at work, dig, dig, dig, like a cunning miner, at one time, and spreading my snares, like an artful fowler, at another, and exulting in my contrivances to get this inimitable creature absolutely into my power. Everything made for me. Her brother and uncles were but my pioneers: Her father stormed as I directed him to storm. Mrs. Howe was acted by the springs I set at work: Her daughter was moving for me, and yet imagined herself plump against me: And the dear creature herself had already run her stubborn neck into my gin, and knew not that she was caught; for I had not drawn my springes close about her—And just as all this was completed, wouldst thou believe, that I should be my own enemy, and her friend ?—That I should be so totally diverted from all my favourite purposes, as to propose to marry her before I went to town, in order to put it out of my own power to resume them 1
Well, but how comes this all about, methinks thou askest ?—Thou, Lovelace, dealest in wonders; yet aimest not at the marvellous—How did all this come about?
I will tell thee—I was in danger of losing my charmer for ever.—She was soaring upward to her native skies. She was got above earth, by means, too, of the earth-born: And something extraordinary was to be done to keep her with us sublunaries. And what so effectually as the soothing voice of love, and the attracting offer of matrimony from a man not hated, can fix the attention of the maiden heart aching with uncertainty ; and before impatient of the questionable question?
This, in short, was the case—while she was refusing all manner of obligation to me, keeping me at haughty distance, in hopes that her cousin Morden's arrival would soon fix her in a full and absolute independence of me; disgusted likewise at her adorer, for holding himself the reins of his own passions, instead of giving them up to her control—She writes a letter, urging an answer to a letter before sent, for her apparel, her jewels, and some gold, which she had left behind her; all which was to save her pride from obligation, and to promote the independence her heart was set upon. And what followed but a shocking answer, made still more shocking by the communication of a father's curse upon a daughter deserving only blessings?— A curse upon the curser's heart, and a double one upon the transmitter's, the spiteful, the envious Arabella!
Absent when it came; on my return, I found her recovering from fits, again to fall into stronger fits; and nobody expecting her life; half-a-dozen messengers despatched to find me out. Nor wonder at her being so affected; she, whose filial piety gave her dreadful faith in a father's curses; and the curse of this gloomy tyrant extending (to use her own words, when she could speak) to both worlds—O that it had turned, in the moment of its utterance, to a mortal quinsy, and sticking in his gullet had choked the old execrator, as a warning to all such unnatural fathers!
What a miscreant had I been, not to have endeavoured to bring her back, by all the endearments, by all the vows, by all the offers, that I could make her?
I did bring her back. More than a father to her; for I have given her a life her unnatural father had wellnigh taken away: Shall I not cherish the fruits of my own benefaction 1 I was earnest in my vows to marry; and my ardour to urge the present time was a real ardour. But extreme dejection, with a mingled delicacy, that in her dying moments I doubt not she will preserve, have caused her to refuse me the time, though not the solemnity; for she has told me, that now she must be wholly in my protection (being destitute of every other !)—more indebted, still, thy friend, as thou seest, to her cruel relations, than to herself, for her favour!
She has written to Miss Howe an account of their barbarity; but has not acquainted her, how very ill she was.
Low, very low, she remains; yet, dreading her stupid brother's enterprise, she wants to be in London where, but for this accident, and (wouldst thou have believed it V) for my persuasions, seeing her so very ill, she would have been this night; and we shall actually set out on Wednesday morning, if she be not worse.
Well, but to return to my principal subject; let me observe, that be my future resolutions what they will as to this lady, the contents of the violent letter she has received, have set me at least a month forward with her. I can now, as I hinted, talk of love and marriage, without control or restriction; her injunctions no more my terror.
In this sweetly familiar way shall we set out together for London. Mrs. Sorlings's eldest daughter, at my motion, is to attend her in the chaise; while I ride by way of escort: For she is extremely apprehensive of the Singleton plot; and has engaged me to be all patience, if anything should happen on the road. But nothing I am sure will happen: for, by a letter received just now from Joseph, I understand, that James Harlowe has already laid aside his stupid project: and this by the earnest desire of all those of his friends to whom he had communicated it; who were afraid of the consequences that might attend it. But it is not over with me however; although I am not determined at present as to the uses I may make of it.
But, after all, I hope I shall be enabled to be honest to a merit so transcendent. The devil take thee though for thy opinion given so mal-a-propos, that she may be overcome.
If thou designest to be honest, methinks thou sayest why should not Singleton's plot be over with thee, as it is with her brother?
Because (if I must answer thee) where people are so modestly doubtful of what they are able to do, it is good to leave a loophole. And let me add, that when a man's heart is set upon a point, and anything occurs to beat him off, he will find it very difficult, when the suspending reason ceases, to forbear resuming it.
Wednesday, April 26.
At last my lucky star has directed us into the desired port, and we are safely landed. Well says Howe:
The wise and active conquer difficulties
But in the midst of my exultation, something, I know not what to call it, checks my joys, and glooms over my brighter prospects. If it be not conscience, it is wondrously like what I thought so, many, many years ago.
Surely, Lovelace, methinks thou sayest, thy good motions are not gone off already! Surely thou wilt not now at last be a villain to this lady!
I can't tell what to say to it. Why would not the dear creature accept of me, when I so sincerely offered myself to her acceptance? Things already appear with a very different face now I have got her here. Already have our mother and her daughters been about me: "Charming lady! What a complexion! What eyes! What majesty in her person '—O Mr. Lovelace, you are a happy man !— You owe us such a lady !"—Then they remind me of my revenge, and of my hatred to her whole family.
Sally was so struck with her, at first sight, that she broke out to me in those lines of Dryden: