Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XX


I renewed my inquiries after the lady’s health, in the morning, by my servant: and, as soon as I had dined, I went myself.

I had but a poor account of it: yet sent up my compliments. She returned me thanks for all my good offices; and her excuses, that they could not be personal just then, being very low and faint: but if I gave myself the trouble of coming about six this evening, she should be able, she hoped, to drink a dish of tea with me, and would then thank me herself.

I am very proud of this condescension; and think it looks not amiss for you, as I am your avowed friend. Methinks I want fully to remove from her mind all doubts of you in this last villanous action: and who knows then what your noble relations may be able to do for you with her, if you hold your mind? For your servant acquainted me with their having actually engaged Miss Howe in their and your favour, before this cursed affair happened. And I desire the particulars of all from yourself, that I may the better know how to serve you.

She has two handsome apartments, a bed-chamber and dining-room, with light closets in each. She has already a nurse, (the people of the house having but one maid,) a woman whose care, diligence, and honesty, Mrs. Smith highly commends. She has likewise the benefit of a widow gentlewoman, Mrs. Lovick her name, who lodges over her apartment, and of whom she seems very fond, having found something in her, she thinks, resembling the qualities of her worthy Mrs. Norton.

About seven o’clock this morning, it seems, the lady was so ill, that she yielded to their desires to have an apothecary sent for—not the fellow, thou mayest believe, she had had before at Rowland’s; but one Mr. Goddard, a man of skill and eminence; and of conscience too; demonstrated as well by general character, as by his prescriptions to this lady: for pronouncing her case to be grief, he ordered, for the present, only innocent juleps, by way of cordial; and, as soon as her stomach should be able to bear it, light kitchen-diet; telling Mrs. Lovick, that that, with air, moderate exercise, and cheerful company, would do her more good than all the medicines in his shop.

This has given me, as it seems it has the lady, (who also praises his modest behaviour, paternal looks, and genteel address,) a very good opinion of the man; and I design to make myself acquainted with him, and, if he advises to call in a doctor, to wish him, for the fair patient’s sake, more than the physician’s, (who wants not practice,) my worthy friend Dr. H.—whose character is above all exception, as his humanity, I am sure, will distinguish him to the lady.

Mrs. Lovick gratified me with an account of a letter she had written from the lady’s mouth to Miss Howe; she being unable to write herself with steadiness.

It was to this effect; in answer, it seems, to her two letters, whatever were the contents of them:

’That she had been involved in a dreadful calamity, which she was sure, when known, would exempt her from the effects of her friendly displeasure, for not answering her first; having been put under an arrest.—Could she have believed it?—That she was released but the day before: and was now so weak and so low, that she was obliged to account thus for her silence to her [Miss Howe’s] two letters of the 13th and 16th: that she would, as soon as able, answer them—begged of her, mean time, not to be uneasy for her; since (only that this was a calamity which came upon her when she was far from being well, a load laid upon the shoulders of a poor wretch, ready before to sink under too heavy a burden) it was nothing to the evil she had before suffered: and one felicity seemed likely to issue from it; which was, that she would be at rest, in an honest house, with considerate and kind-hearted people; having assurance given her, that she should not be molested by the wretch, whom it would be death for her to see: so that now she, [Miss Howe,] needed not to send to her by private and expensive conveyances: nor need Collins to take precautions for fear of being dogged to her lodgings; nor need she write by a fictitious name to her, but by her own.’

You can see I am in a way to oblige you: you see how much she depends upon my engaging for your forbearing to intrude yourself into her company: let not your flaming impatience destroy all; and make me look like a villain to a lady who has reason to suspect every man she sees to be so.—Upon this condition, you may expect all the services that can flow from

Your sincere well-wisher, J. BELFORD.