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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withdrawn (which I permitted under promise of a speedy return, and on her consent to dismiss the chair) all the motions of my heart were as pure as her own.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 had 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 Fll 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 their cares.
This has so terrified the widow, that she is taken with
all the symptoms that threaten an attack from that dreadful enemy of fair faces.—So must not think of removing: yet cannot expect, that we should be further delayed on her account.
So this affair of the house will be over; at least, for one while. But then I can fall upon an expedient which will make amends for this disappointment. I must move slow, in order to be sure. I have a charming contrivance or two in my head, even supposing my beloved should get away, to bring her back again.
But what is become of Lord M. I trow, that he writes not to me, in answer to my invitation? If he would send me such a letter as I could show, it might go a great way towards a perfect reconciliation. I have written to Charlotte about it.
At my repeated request she condescended to meet me in the dining-room to afternoon tea, and not before.
She entered with bashfulness, as I thought; in a pretty confusion, for having earned her apprehensions too far. Sullen and slow moved she towards the tea-table.— Dorcas present, busy in tea-cup preparations. I took her reluctant hand, and pressed it to my lips—Dearest, loveliest of creatures, why this distance? Why this displeasure?—How can you thus torture the faithfullest heart in the world?
She disengaged her hand. Again I would have snatched it.
Be quiet, peevishly withdrawing it: and down she sat; a gentle palpitation in the beauty of beauties indicating mingled sullenness and resentment; her snowy handkerchief rising and falling, and a sweet flush overspreading her charming cheeks.
For God's sake, madam!—And a third time I would have taken her repulsing hand.
And for the same sake, sir; no more teazing.
My indignation rises against you, Mr. Lovelace, while I speak to you, when I recollect the many instances, equally ungenerous and unpolite, of your behaviour to one whom you have brought into distress—and I can hardly bear you in my sight.
She turned from me, standing up; and lifting up her folded hands, and charming eyes swimming in tears, O my Father, said the inimitable creature, you might have spared your heavy curse, had you known how I have been punished, ever since my swerving feet led me out of your garden-doors to meet this man !—Then, sinking into her chair, a burst of passionate tears forced their way down her glowing cheeks.
My dearest life, taking her still folded hands in mine, who can bear an invocation so affecting, though so passionate?
And, as I hope to live, my nose tingled, as I once, when a boy, remember it did (and indeed once more very lately) just before some tears came into my eyes; and I durst hardly trust my face in view of hers.
What have I done to deserve this impatient exclamation?
O Mr. Lovelace, we have been long enough together, to be tired of each other's humours and ways; ways and humours so different, that perhaps you ought to dislike me, as much as I do you.— I think, I think, that I cannot make an answerable return to the value you profess for me. My temper is utterly ruined. You have given me an ill opinion of all mankind; of yourself in particular: and withal so bad a one of myself, that I shall never be able to look up, having utterly and for ever lost all that self-complacency, and conscious pride, which are so necessary to carry a woman through this life with tolerable satisfaction to herself.
She paused. I was silent. By my soul, thought I, this sweet creature will at last undo me!
She proceeded.—What now remains, but that you pronounce me free of all obligation to you? And that you hinder me not from pursuing the destiny that shall be allotted me?
Again she paused. I was still silent; meditating whether to renounce all further designs upon her; whether I had not received sufficient evidence of a virtue, and of a greatness of soul, that could not be questioned or impeached.
She went on: Propitious to me be your silence, Mr. Lovelace !—Tell me, that I am free of all obligation to you. You know, I never made you promises.—You know, that you are not under any to me.—My broken fortunes I matter not—
She was proceeding—My dearest life, said I, I have been all this time, though you fill me with doubts of your favour, busy in the nuptial preparations. I am actually in treaty for equipage.
Equipage, sir !—Trappings, tinsel!—What is equipage; what is life ; what is anything; to a creature sunk so low as I am in my own opinion!
I had not a word to say for myself. Such a war in my mind had I never known. Gratitude, and admiration of the excellent creature before me, combating with villainous habit, with resolutions so premeditatedly made, and with views so much gloried in!—A hundred new contrivances in my head, and in my heart, that, to be honest, as it is called, must all be given up, by a heart delighting in intrigue and difficulty—Miss Howe's virulences endeavoured to be recollected—Yet recollection refusing to bring them forward with the requisite efficacy— I had certainly been a lost man, had not Dorcas come seasonably in, with a letter.—On the superscription written —Be pleased, sir, to open it now.
I retired to the window—opened it.—It was from Dorcas herself.—These the contents.—" Be pleased to detain my