Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXIX

MRS. NORTON, TO MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TUESDAY, AUG. 22.

After I had sealed up the enclosed, I had the honour of a private visit from your aunt Hervey; who has been in a very low-spirited way, and kept her chamber for several weeks past; and is but just got abroad.

She longed, she said, to see me, and to weep with me, on the hard fate that had befallen her beloved niece.

I will give you a faithful account of what passed between us; as I expect that it will, upon the whole, administer hope and comfort to you.

’She pitied very much your good mother, who, she assured me, is obliged to act a part entirely contrary to her inclinations; as she herself, she owns, had been in a great measure.

’She said, that the poor lady was with great difficulty with-held from answering your letter to her; which had (as was your aunt’s expression) almost broken the heart of every one: that she had reason to think that she was neither consenting to your two uncles writing, nor approving of what they wrote.

’She is sure they all love you dearly; but have gone so far, that they know not how to recede.

’That, but for the abominable league which your brother had got every body into (he refusing to set out for Scotland till it was renewed, and till they had all promised to take no step towards a reconciliation in his absence but by his consent; and to which your sister’s resentments kept them up); all would before now have happily subsided.

’That nobody knew the pangs which their inflexible behaviour gave them, ever since you had begun to write to them in so affecting and humble a style.

’That, however, they were not inclined to believe that you were either so ill, or so penitent as you really are; and still less, that Mr. Lovelace is in earnest in his offers of marriage.

’She is sure, however, she says, that all will soon be well: and the sooner for Mr. Morden’s arrival: who is very zealous in your behalf.

’She wished to Heaven that you would accept of Mr. Lovelace, wicked as he has been, if he were now in earnest.

’It had always,’ she said, ’been matter of astonishment to her, that so weak a pride in her cousin James, of making himself the whole family, should induce them all to refuse an alliance with such a family as Mr. Lovelace’s was.

’She would have it, that your going off with Mr. Lovelace was the unhappiest step for your honour and your interest that could have been taken; for that although you would have had a severe trial the next day, yet it would probably have been the last; and your pathetic powers must have drawn you off some friends—hinting at your mother, at your uncle Harlowe, at your uncle Hervey, and herself.’

But here (that the regret that you did not trust to the event of that meeting, may not, in your present low way, too much afflict you) I must observe, that it seems a little too evident, even from this opinion of your aunt’s, that it was not absolutely determined that all compulsion was designed to be avoided, since your freedom from it must have been owing to the party to be made among them by your persuasive eloquence and dutiful expostulation.

’She owned, that some of them were as much afraid of meeting you as you could be of meeting them:’—But why so, if they designed, in the last instance, to give you your way?

Your aunt told me, ’That Mrs. Williams* had been with her, and asked her opinion, if it would be taken amiss, if she desired leave to go up, to attend her dearest young lady in her calamity. Your aunt referred her to your mother: but had heard no more of it.

* The former housekeeper at Harlowe-place.

’Her daughter,’ (Miss Dolly,) she said, ’had been frequently earnest with her on the same subject; and renewed her request with the greatest fervour when your first letter came to hand.’

Your aunt says, ’That she then being very ill, wrote to your mother upon it, hoping it would not be taken amiss if she permitted Dolly to go; but that your sister, as from your mother, answered her, That now you seemed to be coming-to, and to have a due sense of your faults, you must be left entirely to their own management.

’Miss Dolly,’ she said, ’had pined ever since she had heard of Mr. Lovelace’s baseness, being doubly mortified by it: first, on account of your sufferings; next, because she was one who rejoiced in your getting off, and vindicated you for it; and had incurred censure and ill-will on that account; especially from your brother and sister; so that she seldom went to Harlowe-place.’

Make the best use of these intelligences, my dearest young lady, for your consolation.

I will only add, that I am, with the most fervent prayers for your recovery and restoration to favour,

Your ever-faithful JUDITH NORTON.