« VorigeDoorgaan »
Part Third.—Her Flight from Lovelace.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
Thursday Evening, June 8. FOR a curse to kill with !—Ruined! undone! outwitted! tricked !—Zounds, man, the lady is gone off!—Absolutely gone off! Escaped! Thou knowest not, nor canst conceive, the pangs that wring my heart!—What can I do !—O Lord, O Lord, O Lord!
And thou, too, who hast endeavoured to weaken my hands, wilt but clap thy dragon's wings at the tidings!
Yet I must write, or I shall go distracted. Little less have I been these two hours; dispatching messengers to every stage, to every inn, to every waggon or coach, whether flying or creeping, and to every house with a bill up, for five miles round.
How she could effect this her wicked escape, is my astonishment; the whole sisterhood having charge of her:—for, as yet, I have not had patience enough to enquire into the particulars, nor to let a soul of them approach me.
Of this I am sure, or I had not brought her hither; there is not a creature belonging to this house, that could be corrupted either by virtue or remorse: the highest joy every infernal nymph of this worse than infernal habitation could have known, would have been to reduce this proud beauty to her own level.—And as to
VOL. II. L
my villain, who also had charge of her, he is such a seasoned varlet, that he delights in mischief for the sake of it : no bribe could seduce him to betray his trust, were there but wickedness in it!—"lis well, however, he was out of my way when the cursed news was imparted to me.—Gone, the villain! in quest of her: not to return, nor to see my face (so it seems he declared) till he has heard some tidings of her; and all the out-ofplace varlets of his numerous acquaintance are summoned and employed in the same business.
To what purpose brought I this angel (angel I must yet call her) to this hellish house ?—And was I not meditating to do her deserved honour? By my soul, Belford, I was resolved—but thou knowest what I had conditionally resolved—and now, who can tell into what hands she may have fallen!
I am mad, stark mad, by Jupiter, at the thoughts of this !—Unprovided, destitute, unacquainted—some villain, worse than myself, who adores her not as I adore her, may have seized her, and taken advantage of her distress! —Let me perish, Belford, if a whole hecatomb of innocents, as the little plagues are called, shall atone for the broken promise and wicked artifices of this cruel creature!
This is the substance of the vile Sinclair's account.
She told me, That I had no sooner left the vile house, than Dorcas acquainted the siren (Do, Jack, let me call her names !—I beseech thee, Jack, to permit me to call her names !) than Dorcas acquainted her lady with it; and that I had left word, that I was gone to Doctors' Commons, and should be heard of for some hours at the Horn there, if inquired after by the counsellor, or anybody else: that afterwards I should be either at the Cocoa-Tree, or King's-Arms, and should not return till late. She then urged her to take some refreshment.
She was in tears when Dorcas approached her; her
saucy eyes swelled with weeping: she refused either to eat or drink; sighed as if her heart would break.—False, devilish grief! not the humble, silent grief, that only deserves pity !—Contriving to ruin me, to despoil me of all that I held valuable, in the very midst of it.
Nevertheless, being resolved not to see me for a week at least, she ordered her to bring her up three or four French rolls, with a little butter, and a decanter of water; telling her she would dispense with her attendance; and that should be all she would live upon in the interim. So, artful creature! pretending to lay up for a week's siege.—For, as to substantial food, she, no more than other angels—Angels, said I!—The devil take me if she shall be any more an angel!—For she is odious in my eyes ; and I hate her mortally !—
Dorcas consulted the old wretch about obeying her. O yes, by all means ; for Mr. Lovelace knew how to come at her at any time; and directed a bottle of sherry to be added.
This cheerful compliance so obliged her that she was prevailed upon to go up, and look at the damage done by the fire; and seemed not only shocked at it, but, as they thought, satisfied it was no trick; as she owned she had at first apprehended it to be. All this made them secure; and they laughed in their sleeves, to think what a childish way of showing her resentment she had found out; Sally throwing out her witticisms, that Mrs. Lovelace was right, however, not to quarrel with her bread and butter.
She sent Will with a letter to Wilson's, directed to Miss Howe, ordering him to inquire if there were not one for her there.
He only pretended to go, and brought word there was none; and put her letter in his pocket for me.
She then ordered him to carry another (which she gave him) to the Horn Tavern to me.—All this done without any seeming hurry; yet she appeared to be very
solemn; and put her handkerchief frequently to her eyes.
Will went out, pretending to bring the letter to me; but quickly returned; his heart still misgiving him, on recollecting my frequent cautions, that he was not to judge for himself, when he had positive orders; but if any doubt occurred, from circumstances I could not foresee, literally to follow them, as the only way to avoid blame.
But it must have been in this little interval, that she escaped; for soon after his return, they made fast the street-door and hatch, the mother and the two nymphs taking a little turn into the garden; Dorcas going upstairs, and Will (to avoid being seen by his lady, or his voice heard) down into the kitchen.
About half an hour after, Dorcas, who had planted herself where she could see her lady's door open, had the curiosity to go to look through the keyhole, having a misgiving, as she said, that her lady might offer some violence to herself, in the mood she had been in all day; and finding the key in the door, which was not very usual, she tapped at it three or four times, and having no answer, opened it, with Madam, Madam, did you call ?—supposing her in her closet.
Having no answer, she stepped forward, and was astonished to find she was not there. She hastily ran into the dining-room, then into my apartments; searched every closet; dreading all the time to behold some sad catastrophe.
Not finding her anywhere, she ran down to the old creature and her nymphs, with a Have you seen my lady? —Then she's gone !—She's nowhere above!
The whole house was in an uproar in an instant; some running up-stairs, some down, from the upper rooms to the lower; and all screaming, How should they look me in the face!
Will cried out, he was a dead man: he blamed them: they him; and every one was an accuser, and an excuser at the same time.
When they had searched the whole house, and every closet in it, ten times over, to no purpose, they took it into their heads to send to all the porters, chairmen, and hackney-coachmen, that had been near the house for two hours past, to inquire if any of them saw such a young lady; describing her.
This brought them some light: the only dawning for hope that I can have, and which keeps me from absolute despair. One of the chairmen gave them this account: That he saw such a one come out of the house a little before four (in a great hurry, and as if frighted) with a little parcel tied up in a handkerchief, in her hand: that he took notice to his fellow, who plied her without her answering, that she was a fine young lady: that he'd warrant, she had either a bad husband, or very cross parents; for that her eyes seemed swelled with crying.
From these appearances, the fellow who gave this information, had the curiosity to follow her, unperceived. She often looked back. Everybody who passed her, turned to look after her; passing their verdict upon her tears, her hurry, and her charming person; till coming to a stand of coaches, a coachman plied her; was accepted; alighted; opened the coach-door in a hurry, seeing her hurry; and in she stumbled for haste; and, as the fellow believed, hurt her shins with the stumble.
The fellow heard her say, Drive fast! very fast! Where, Madam? To Holborn Bars, answered she; repeating, Drive very fast!—And up she pulled both the windows: and he lost sight of the coach in a minute.
Will as soon as he had this intelligence, speeded away in hopes to trace her out; declaring, that he would never think of seeing me, till he had heard some tidings of his lady.
And now, Belford, all my hope is, that this fellow (who