Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXXVI


About the time of poor Belton’s interment last night, as near as we could guess, Lord M., Mowbray, and myself, toasted once, To the memory of honest Tom. Belton; and, by a quick transition to the living, Health to Miss Harlowe; which Lord M. obligingly began, and, To the happy reconciliation; and then we stuck in a remembrance To honest Jack Belford, who, of late, we all agreed, is become an useful and humane man; and one who prefers his friend’s service to his own.

But what is the meaning I hear nothing from thee?* And why dost thou not let me into the grounds of the sudden reconciliation between my beloved and her friends, and the cause of the generous invitation which she gives me of attending her at her father’s some time hence?

* Mr. Belford has not yet sent him his last-written letter. His reason for which see Letter XXIII. of this volume.

Thou must certainly have been let into the secret by this time; and I can tell thee, I shall be plaguy jealous if there is to be any one thing pass between my angel and thee that is to be concealed from me. For either I am a principal in this cause, or I am nothing.

I have dispatched Will. to know the reason of thy neglect.

But let me whisper a word or two in thy ear. I begin to be afraid, after all, that this letter was a stratagem to get me out of town, and for nothing else: for, in the first place, Tourville, in a letter I received this morning, tells me, that the lady is actually very ill! [I am sorry for it with all my soul!]. This, thou’lt say, I may think a reason why she cannot set out as yet: but then I have heard, on the other hand, but last night, that the family is as implacable as ever; and my Lord and I expect this very afternoon a visit from Colonel Morden; who, undertakes, it seems, to question me as to my intention with regard to his cousin.

This convinces me, that if she has apprized her friends of my offers to her, they will not believe me to be in earnest, till they are assured that I am so from my own mouth. But then I understand, that the intended visit is an officiousness of Morden’s own, without the desire of any of her friends.

Now, Jack, what can a man make of all this? My intelligence as to the continuance of her family’s implacableness is not to be doubted; and yet when I read her letter, what can one say?—Surely, the dear little rogue will not lie!

I never knew her dispense with her word, but once; and that was, when she promised to forgive me after the dreadful fire that had like to have happened at our mother’s, and yet would not see me the next day, and afterwards made her escape to Hampstead, in order to avoid forgiving me: and as she severely smarted for this departure from her honour given, (for it is a sad thing for good people to break their word when it is in their power to keep it,) one would not expect that she should set about deceiving again; more especially by the premeditation of writing. Thou, perhaps, wilt ask, what honest man is obliged to keep his promise with a highwayman? for well I know thy unmannerly way of making comparisons; but I say, every honest man is—and I will give thee an illustration.

Here is a marauding varlet, who demands your money, with a pistol at your breast. You have neither money nor valuable effects about you; and promise solemnly, if he will spare your life, that you will send him an agreed-upon sum, by such a day, to such a place.

The question is, if your life is not in the fellow’s power?

How he came by the power is another question; for which he must answer with his life when caught—so he runs risque for risque.

Now if he give you your life, does he not give, think you, a valuable consideration for the money you engage your honour to send him? If not, the sum must be exorbitant, or your life is a very paltry one, even in your own opinion.

I need not make the application; and I am sure that even thou thyself, who never sparest me, and thinkest thou knowest my heart by thy own, canst not possibly put the case in a stronger light against me.

Then, why do good people take upon themselves to censure, as they do, persons less scrupulous than themselves? Is it not because the latter allow themselves in any liberty, in order to carry a point? And can my not doing my duty, warrant another for not doing his?—Thou wilt not say it can.

And how would it sound, to put the case as strongly once more, as my greatest enemy would put it, both as to fact and in words—here has that profligate wretch Lovelace broken his vow with and deceived Miss Clarissa Harlowe.—A vile fellow! would an enemy say: but it is like him. But when it comes to be said that the pious Clarissa has broken her word with and deceived Lovelace; Good Lord! would every one say; sure it cannot be!

Upon my soul, Jack, such is the veneration I have for this admirable woman, that I am shocked barely at putting the case—and so wilt thou, if thou respectest her as thou oughtest: for thou knowest that men and women, all the world over, form their opinions of one another by each person’s professions and known practices. In this lady, therefore, it would be unpardonable to tell a wilful untruth, as it would be strange if I kept my word.—In love cases, I mean; for, as to the rest, I am an honest, moral man, as all who know me can testify.

And what, after all, would this lady deserve, if she has deceived me in this case? For did she not set me prancing away, upon Lord M.’s best nag, to Lady Sarah’s, and to Lady Betty’s, with an erect and triumphing countenance, to show them her letter to me?

And let me tell thee, that I have received their congratulations upon it: Well, and now, cousin Lovelace, cries one: Well, and now, cousin Lovelace, cries t’other; I hope you will make the best of husbands to so excellent and so forgiving a lady!—And now we shall soon have the pleasure of looking upon you as a reformed man, added one! And now we shall see you in the way we have so long wished you to be in, cried the other!

My cousins Montague also have been ever since rejoicing in the new relationship. Their charming cousin, and their lovely cousin, at every word! And how dearly they will love he! What lessons they will take from her! And yet Charlotte, who pretends to have the eye of an eagle, was for finding out some mystery in the style and manner, till I overbore her, and laughed her out of it.

As for Lord M. he has been in hourly expectation of being sent to with proposals of one sort or other from the Harlowes; and still we have it, that such proposals will be made by Colonel Morden when he comes; and that the Harlowes only put on a face of irreconcileableness, till they know the issue of Morden’s visit, in order to make the better terms with us.

Indeed, if I had not undoubted reason, as I said, to believe the continuance of their antipathy to me, and implacableness to her, I should be apt to think there might be some foundation for my Lord’s conjecture; for there is a cursed deal of low cunning in all that family, except in the angel of it; who has so much generosity of soul, that she despises cunning, both name and thing.

What I mean by all this is, to let thee see what a stupid figure I shall make to all my own family, if my Clarissa has been capable, as Gulliver in his abominable Yahoo story phrases it, if it were only that I should be outwitted by such a novice at plotting, and that it would make me look silly to my kinswomen here, who know I value myself upon my contrivances, it would vex me to the heart; and I would instantly clap a featherbed into a coach and six, and fetch her away, sick or well, and marry her at my leisure.

But Col. Morden is come, and I must break off.