Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XIII

MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. LONDON, AUG. 21, MONDAY.

I believe I am bound to curse thee, Jack. Nevertheless I won’t anticipate, but proceed to write thee a longer letter than thou hast had from me for some time past. So here goes.

That thou mightest have as little notice as possible of the time I was resolved to be in town, I set out in my Lord’s chariot-and-six yesterday, as soon as I had dispatched my letter to thee, and arrived in town last night: for I knew I could have no dependence on thy friendship where Miss Harlowe’s humour was concerned.

I had no other place so ready, and so was forced to go to my old lodgings, where also my wardrobe is; and there I poured out millions of curses upon the whole crew, and refused to see either Sally or Polly; and this not only for suffering the lady to escape, but for the villanous arrest, and for their detestable insolence to her at the officer’s house.

I dressed myself in a never-worn suit, which I had intended for one of my wedding-suits; and liked myself so well, that I began to think, with thee, that my outside was the best of me:

I took a chair to Smith’s, my heart bounding in almost audible thumps to my throat, with the assured expectations of seeing my beloved. I clasped my fingers, as I was danced along: I charged my eyes to languish and sparkle by turns: I talked to my knees, telling them how they must bend; and, in the language of a charming describer, acted my part in fancy, as well as spoke it to myself.

Tenderly kneeling, thus will I complain:

Thus court her pity; and thus plead my pain:

Thus sigh for fancy’d frowns, if frowns should rise;

And thus meet favour in her soft’ning eyes.

In this manner entertained I myself till I arrived at Smith’s; and there the fellows set down their gay burden. Off went their hats; Will. ready at hand in a new livery; up went the head; out rushed my honour; the woman behind the counter all in flutters, respect and fear giving due solemnity to her features, and her knees, I doubt not, knocking against the inside of her wainscot-fence.

Your servant, Madam—Will. let the fellows move to some distance, and wait.

You have a young lady lodges here; Miss Harlowe, Madam: Is she above?

Sir, Sir, and please your Honour: [the woman is struck with my figure, thought I:] Miss Harlowe, Sir! There is, indeed, such a young lady lodges here—But, but—

But, what, Madam?—I must see her.—One pair of stairs; is it not?— Don’t trouble yourself—I shall find her apartment. And was making towards the stairs.

Sir, Sir, the lady, the lady is not at home—she is abroad—she is in the country—

In the country! Not at home!—Impossible! You will not pass this story upon me, good woman. I must see her. I have business of life and death with her.

Indeed, Sir, the lady is not at home! Indeed, Sir, she is abroad!—

She then rung a bell: John, cried she, pray step down!—Indeed, Sir, the lady is not at home.

Down came John, the good man of the house, when I expected one of his journeymen, by her saucy familiarity.

My dear, said she, the gentleman will not believe Miss Harlowe is abroad.

John bowed to my fine clothes: Your servant, Sir,—indeed the lady is abroad. She went out of town this morning by six o’clock—into the country—by the doctor’s advice.

Still I would not believe either John or his wife. I am sure, said I, she cannot be abroad. I heard she was very ill—she is not able to go out in a coach. Do you know Mr. Belford, friend?

Yes, Sir; I have the honour to know ’Squire Belford. He is gone into the country to visit a sick friend. He went on Saturday, Sir.

This had also been told from thy lodgings to Will. whom I sent to desire to see thee on my first coming to town.

Well, and Mr. Belford wrote me word that she was exceeding ill. How then can she be gone out?

O Sir, she is very ill; very ill, indeed—she could hardly walk to the coach.

Belford, thought I, himself knew nothing of the time of my coming; neither can he have received my letter of yesterday: and so ill, ’tis impossible she would go out.

Where is her servant? Call her servant to me.

Her servant, Sir, is her nurse: she has no other. And she is gone with her.

Well, friend, I must not believe you. You’ll excuse me; but I must go up stairs myself. And was stepping up.

John hereupon put on a serious, and a less respectful face—Sir, this house is mine; and—

And what, friend? not doubting then but she was above.—I must and will see her. I have authority for it. I am a justice of the peace. I have a search warrant.

And up I went; they following me, muttering, and in a plaguy flutter.

The first door I came to was locked. I tapped at it.

The lady, Sir, has the key of her own apartment.

On the inside, I question not, my honest friend; tapping again. And being assured, if she heard my voice, that her timorous and soft temper would make her betray herself, by some flutters, to my listning ear, I said aloud, I am confident Miss Harlowe is here: dearest Madam, open the door: admit me but for one moment to your presence.

But neither answer nor fluttering saluted my ear; and, the people being very quiet, I led on to the next apartment; and, the key being on the outside, I opened it, and looked all around it, and into the closet.

The man said he never saw so uncivil a gentleman in his life.

Hark thee, friend, said I; let me advise thee to be a little decent; or I shall teach thee a lesson thou never learnedst in all thy life.

Sir, said he, ’tis not like a gentleman, to affront a man in his own house.

Then prythee, man, replied I, don’t crow upon thine own dunghil.

I stept back to the locked door: My dear Miss Harlowe, I beg of you to open the door, or I’ll break it open;—pushing hard against it, that it cracked again.

The man looked pale: and, trembling with his fright, made a plaguy long face; and called to one of his bodice-makers above, Joseph, come down quickly.

Joseph came down: a lion’s-face grinning fellow; thick, and short, and bushy-headed, like an old oak-pollard. Then did master John put on a sturdier look. But I only hummed a tune, traversed all the other apartments, sounded the passages with my knuckles, to find whether there were private doors, and walked up the next pair of stairs, singing all the way; John and Joseph, and Mrs. Smith, following me up, trembling.

I looked round me there, and went into two open-door bed-chambers; searched the closets, and the passages, and peeped through the key-hole of another: no Miss Harlowe, by Jupiter! What shall I do!—what shall I do! as the girls say.—Now will she be grieved that she is out of the way.

I said this on purpose to find out whether these people knew the lady’s story; and had the answer I expected from Mrs. Smith—I believe not, Sir.

Why so, Mrs. Smith? Do you know who I am?

I can guess, Sir.

Whom do you guess me to be?

Your name is Mr. Lovelace, Sir, I make no doubt.

The very same. But how came you to guess so well, dame Smith! You never saw me before, did you?

Here, Jack, I laid out for a compliment, and missed it.

’Tis easy to guess, Sir; for there cannot be two such gentlemen as you.

Well said, dame Smith—but mean you good or bad?—Handsome was the least I thought she would have said.

I leave you to guess, Sir.

Condemned, thought I, by myself, on this appeal.

Why, father Smith, thy wife is a wit, man!—Didst thou ever find that out before?—But where is widow Lovick, dame Smith? My cousin John Belford says she is a very good woman. Is she within? or is she gone with Miss Harlowe too?

She will be within by-and-by, Sir. She is not with the lady.

Well, but my good dear Mrs. Smith, where is the lady gone? and when will she return?

I can’t tell, Sir.

Don’t tell fibs, dame Smith; don’t tell fibs, chucking her under the chin: which made John’s upper-lip, with chin shortened, rise to his nose. —I am sure you know!—But here’s another pair of stairs: let us see: Who lives up there?—but hold, here’s another room locked up, tapping at the door—Who’s at home? cried I.

That’s Mrs. Lovick’s apartment. She is gone out, and has the key with her.

Widow Lovick! rapping again, I believe you are at home: pray open the door.

John and Joseph muttered and whispered together.

No whispering, honest friends: ’tis not manners to whisper. Joseph, what said John to thee?

JOHN! Sir, disdainfully repeated the good woman.

I beg pardon, Mrs. Smith: but you see the force of example. Had you showed your honest man more respect, I should. Let me give you a piece of advice—women who treat their husbands irreverently, teach strangers to use them with contempt. There, honest master John; why dost not pull off thy hat to me?—Oh! so thou wouldst, if thou hadst it on: but thou never wearest thy hat in thy wife’s presence, I believe; dost thou?

None of your fleers and your jeers, Sir, cried John. I wish every married pair lived as happily as we do.

I wish so too, honest friend. But I’ll be hanged if thou hast any children.

Why so, Sir?

Hast thou?—Answer me, man: Hast thou, or not?

Perhaps not, Sir. But what of that?

What of that?—Why I’ll tell thee: The man who has no children by his wife must put up with plain John. Hadst thou a child or two, thou’dst be called Mr. Smith, with a courtesy, or a smile at least, at every word.

You are very pleasant, Sir, replied my dame. I fancy, if either my husband or I had as much to answer for as I know whom, we should not be so merry.

Why then, dame Smith, so much the worse for those who were obliged to keep you company. But I am not merry—I am sad!—Hey-ho!—Where shall I find my dear Miss Harlowe?

My beloved Miss Harlowe! [calling at the foot of the third pair of stairs,] if you are above, for Heaven’s sake answer me. I am coming up.

Sir, said the good man, I wish you’d walk down. The servants’ rooms, and the working-rooms, are up those stairs, and another pair; and nobody’s there that you want.

Shall I go up, and see if Miss Harlowe be there, Mrs. Smith?

You may, Sir, if you please.

Then I won’t; for, if she was, you would not be so obliging.

I am ashamed to give you all this attendance: you are the politest traders I ever knew. Honest Joseph, slapping him upon the shoulders on a sudden, which made him jump, didst ever grin for a wager, man?—for the rascal seemed not displeased with me; and, cracking his flat face from ear to ear, with a distended mouth, showed his teeth, as broad and as black as his thumb-nails.—But don’t I hinder thee? What canst earn a-day, man?

Half-a-crown I can earn a-day; with an air of pride and petulance, at being startled.

There then is a day’s wages for thee. But thou needest not attend me farther.

Come, Mrs. Smith, come John, (Master Smith I should say,) let’s walk down, and give me an account where the lady is gone, and when she will return.

So down stairs led I. John and Joseph (though I had discharged the latter,) and my dame, following me, to show their complaisance to a stranger.

I re-entered one of the first-floor rooms. I have a great mind to be your lodger: for I never saw such obliging folks in my life. What rooms have you to let?

None at all, Sir.

I am sorry for that. But whose is this?

Mine, Sir, chuffily said John.

Thine, man! why then I will take it of thee. This, and a bed-chamber, and a garret for one servant, will content me. I will give thee thine own price, and half a guinea a day over, for those conveniencies.

For ten guineas a day, Sir—

Hold, John! (Master Smith I should say)—Before thou speakest, consider— I won’t be affronted, man.

Sir, I wish you’d walk down, said the good woman. Really, Sir, you take—

Great liberties I hope you would not say, Mrs. Smith?

Indeed, Sir, I was going to say something like it.

Well, then, I am glad I prevented you; for such words better become my mouth than yours. But I must lodge with you till the lady returns. I believe I must. However, you may be wanted in the shop; so we’ll talk that over there.

Down I went, they paying diligent attendance on my steps.

When I came into the shop, seeing no chair or stool, I went behind the compter, and sat down under an arched kind of canopy of carved work, which these proud traders, emulating the royal niche-fillers, often give themselves, while a joint-stool, perhaps, serves those by whom they get their bread: such is the dignity of trade in this mercantile nation!

I looked about me, and above me; and told them I was very proud of my seat; asking, if John were ever permitted to fill this superb niche?

Perhaps he was, he said, very surlily.

That is it that makes thee looks so like a statue, man.

John looked plaguy glum upon me. But his man Joseph and my man Will. turned round with their backs to us, to hide their grinning, with each his fist in his mouth.

I asked, what it was they sold?

Powder, and wash-balls, and snuff, they said; and gloves and stockings.

O come, I’ll be your customer. Will. do I want wash-balls?

Yes, and please your Honour, you can dispense with one or two.

Give him half a dozen, dame Smith.

She told me she must come where I was, to serve them. Pray, Sir, walk from behind the compter.

Indeed but I won’t. The shop shall be mine. Where are they, if a customer shall come in?

She pointed over my head, with a purse mouth, as if she would not have simpered, could she have helped it. I reached down the glass, and gave Will. six. There—put ’em up, Sirrah.

He did, grinning with his teeth out before; which touching my conscience, as the loss of them was owing to me, Joseph, said I, come hither. Come hither, man, when I bid thee.

He stalked towards me, his hands behind him, half willing, and half unwilling.

I suddenly wrapt my arm round his neck. Will. thy penknife, this moment. D——n the fellow, where’s thy penknife?

O Lord! said the pollard-headed dog, struggling to get his head loose from under my arm, while my other hand was muzzling about his cursed chaps, as if I would take his teeth out.

I will pay thee a good price, man: don’t struggle thus? The penknife, Will.!

O Lord, cried Joseph, struggling still more and more: and out comes Will.’s pruning-knife; for the rascal is a gardener in the country. I have only this, Sir.

The best in the world to launch a gum. D——n the fellow, why dost struggle thus?

Master and Mistress Smith being afraid, I suppose, that I had a design upon Joseph’s throat, because he was their champion, (and this, indeed, made me take the more notice of him,) coming towards me with countenances tragic-comical, I let him go.

I only wanted, said I, to take out two or three of this rascal’s broad teeth, to put them into my servant’s jaws—and I would have paid him his price for them.—I would by my soul, Joseph.

Joseph shook his ears; and with both hands stroked down, smooth as it would lie, his bushy hair; and looked at me as if he knew not whether he should laugh or be angry: but, after a stupid stare or two, stalked off to the other end of the shop, nodding his head at me as he went, still stroking down his hair; and took his stand by his master, facing about and muttering, that I was plaguy strong in the arms, and he thought would have throttled him. Then folding his arms, and shaking his bristled head, added, ’twas well I was a gentleman, or he would not have taken such an affront.

I demanded where their rappee was? the good woman pointed to the place; and I took up a scollop-shell of it, refusing to let her weight it, and filled my box. And now, Mrs. Smith, said I, where are your gloves?

She showed me; and I chose four pair of them, and set Joseph, who looked as if he wanted to be taken notice of again, to open the fingers.

A female customer, who had been gaping at the door, came in for some Scots sniff; and I would serve her. The wench was plaguy homely; and I told her so; or else, I said, I would have treated her. She, in anger, [no woman is homely in her own opinion,] threw down her penny; and I put it in my pocket.

Just then, turning my eye to the door, I saw a pretty, genteel lady, with a footman after her, peeping in with a What’s the matter, good folks? to the starers; and I ran to her from behind the compter, and, as she was making off, took her hand, and drew her into the shop; begging that she would be my customer; for that I had but just begun trade.

What do you sell, Sir? said she, smiling; but a little surprised.

Tapes, ribbands, silk laces, pins, and needles; for I am a pedlar: powder, patches, wash-balls, stockings, garters, snuffs, and pin cushions—Don’t we, goody Smith?

So in I gently drew her to the compter, running behind it myself, with an air of great dilingence and obligingness. I have excellent gloves and wash-balls, Madam: rappee, Scots, Portugal, and all sorts of snuff.

Well, said she, in a very good humour, I’ll encourage a young beginner for once. Here, Andrew, [to her footman,] you want a pair of gloves, don’t you?

I took down a parcel of gloves, which Mrs. Smith pointed to, and came round to the fellow to fit them on myself.

No matter for opening them, said I: thy fingers, friend, are as stiff as drum-sticks. Push!—Thou’rt an awkward dog! I wonder such a pretty lady will be followed by such a clumsy varlet.

The fellow had no strength for laughing: and Joseph was mightily pleased, in hopes, I suppose, I would borrow a few of Andrew’s teeth, to keep him in countenance: and, father and mother Smith, like all the world, as the jest was turned from themselves, seemed diverted with the humour.

The fellow said the gloves were too little.

Thrust, and be d——d to thee, said I: why, fellow, thou hast not the strength of a cat.

Sir, Sir, said he, laughing, I shall hurt your Honour’s side.

D——n thee, thrust I say.

He did; and burst out the sides of the glove.

Will. said I, where’s thy pruning-knife? By my soul, friend, I had a good mind to pare thy cursed paws. But come, here’s a larger pair: try them, when thou gettest home; and let thy sweetheart, if thou hast one, mend the other, so take both.

The lady laughed at the humour; as did my fellow, and Mrs. Smith, and Joseph: even John laughed, though he seemed by the force put upon his countenance to be but half pleased with me neither.

Madam, said I, and stepped behind the compter, bowing over it, now I hope you will buy something for yourself. Nobody shall use you better, nor sell you cheaper.

Come, said she, give me six-penny worth of Portugal snuff.

They showed me where it was, and I served her; and said, when she would have paid me, I took nothing at my opening.

If I treated her footman, she told me, I should not treat her.

Well, with all my heart, said I: ’tis not for us tradesmen to be saucy— Is it, Mrs. Smith?

I put her sixpence in my pocket; and, seizing her hand, took notice to her of the crowd that had gathered about the door, and besought her to walk into the back-shop with me.

She struggled her hand out of mine, and would stay no longer.

So I bowed, and bid her kindly welcome, and thanked her, and hoped I should have her custom another time.

She went away smiling; and Andrew after her; who made me a fine bow.

I began to be out of countenance at the crowd, which thickened apace; and bid Will. order the chair to the door.

Well, Mrs. Smith, with a grave air, I am heartily sorry Miss Harlowe is abroad. You don’t tell me where she is?

Indeed, Sir, I cannot.

You will not, you mean.—She could have no notion of my coming. I came to town but last night. I have been very ill. She has almost broken my heart by her cruelty. You know my story, I doubt not. Tell her, I must go out of town to-morrow morning. But I will send my servant, to know if she will favour me with one half-hour’s conversation; for, as soon as I get down, I shall set out for Dover, in my way to France, if I have not a countermand from her, who has the sole disposal of my fate.

And so flinging down a Portugal six-and-thirty, I took Mr. Smith by the hand, telling him, I was sorry we had not more time to be better acquainted; and bidding farewell to honest Joseph, (who pursed up his mouth as I passed by him, as if he thought his teeth still in jeopardy,) and Mrs. Smith adieu, and to recommend me to her fair lodger, hummed an air, and, the chair being come, whipt into it; the people about the door seeming to be in good humour with me; one crying, a pleasant gentleman, I warrant him! and away I was carried to White’s, according to direction.

As soon as I came thither, I ordered Will. to go and change his clothes, and to disguise himself by putting on his black wig, and keeping his mouth shut; and then to dodge about Smith’s, to inform himself of the lady’s motions.

***

I give thee this impudent account of myself, that thou mayest rave at me, and call me hardened, and what thou wilt. For, in the first place, I, who had been so lately ill, was glad I was alive; and then I was so balked by my charmer’s unexpected absence, and so ruffled by that, and by the bluff treatment of father John, that I had no other way to avoid being out of humour with all I met with. Moreover I was rejoiced to find, by the lady’s absence, and by her going out at six in the morning, that it was impossible she should be so ill as thou representest her to be; and this gave me still higher spirits. Then I know the sex always love cheerful and humourous fellows. The dear creature herself used to be pleased with my gay temper and lively manner; and had she been told that I was blubbering for her in the back-shop, she would have despised me still more than she does.

Furthermore, I was sensible that the people of the house must needs have a terrible notion of me, as a savage, bloody-minded, obdurate fellow; a perfect woman-eater; and, no doubt, expected to see me with the claws of a lion, and the fangs of a tiger; and it was but policy to show them what a harmless pleasant fellow I am, in order to familiarize the Johns and the Josephs to me. For it was evident to me, by the good woman’s calling them down, that she thought me a dangerous man. Whereas now, John and I have shaken hands together, and dame Smith having seen that I have the face, and hands, and looks of a man, and walk upright, and prate, and laugh, and joke, like other people; and Joseph, that I can talk of taking his teeth out of his head, without doing him the least hurt; they will all, at my next visit, be much more easy and pleasant to me than Andrew’s gloves were to him; and we shall be as thoroughly acquainted, as if we had known one another a twelvemonth.

When I returned to our mother’s, I again cursed her and all her nymphs together; and still refused to see either Sally or Polly! I raved at the horrid arrest; and told the old dragon that it was owing to her and her’s that the fairest virtue in the world was ruined; my reputation for ever blasted; and that I was not married and perfectly happy in the love of the most excellent of her sex.

She, to pacify me, said she would show me a new face that would please me; since I would not see my Sally, who was dying with grief.

Where is this new face? cried I: let me see her, though I shall never see any face with pleasure but Miss Harlowe’s.

She won’t come down, replied she. She will not be at the word of command yet. She is but just in the trammels; and must be waited upon, I’ll assure you; and courted much besides.

Ay! said I, that looks well. Lead me to her this instant.

I followed her up: and who should she be, but that little toad Sally!

O curse you, said I, for a devil! Is it you? is your’s the new face?

O my dear, dear Mr. Lovelace! cried she, I am glad any thing will bring you to me!—and so the little beast threw herself about my neck, and there clung like a cat. Come, said she, what will you give me, and I’ll be as virtuous for a quarter of an hour, and mimic your Clarissa to the life?

I was Belforded all over. I could not bear such an insult upon the dear creature, (for I have a soft and generous nature in the main, whatever thou thinkest;) and cursed her most devoutly, for taking my beloved’s name in her mouth in such a way. But the little devil was not to be balked; but fell a crying, sobbing, praying, begging, exclaiming, fainting, that I never saw my lovely girl so well aped. Indeed I was almost taken in; for I could have fancied I had her before me once more.

O this sex! this artful sex! there’s no minding them. At first, indeed, their grief and their concern may be real: but, give way to the hurricane, and it will soon die away in soft murmurs, thrilling upon your ears like the notes of a well-tuned viol. And, by Sally, one sees that art will generally so well supply the place of nature, that you shall not easily know the difference. Miss Clarisa Harlowe, indeed, is the only woman in the world I believe that can say, in the words of her favourite Job, (for I can quote a text as well as she,) But it is not so with me.

They were very inquisitive about my fair-one. They told me that you seldom came near them; that, when you did, you put on plaguy grave airs; would hardly stay five minutes; and did nothing but praise Miss Harlowe, and lament her hard fate. In short, that you despised them; was full of sentences; and they doubted not, in a little while, would be a lost man, and marry.

A pretty character for thee, is it not? thou art in a blessed way; yet hast nothing to do but to go on in it: and then what work hast thou to go through! If thou turnest back, these sorceresses will be like the czar’s cossacks, [at Pultowa, I think it was,] who were planted with ready primed and cocked pieces behind the regulars, in order to shoot them dead, if they did not push on and conquer; and then wilt thou be most lamentably despised by every harlot thou hast made—and, O Jack, how formidable, in that case, will be the number of thy enemies!

I intend to regulate my motions by Will.’s intelligence; for see this dear creature I must and will. Yet I have promised Lord M. to be down in two or three days at farthest; for he is grown plaguy fond of me since I was ill.

I am in hopes that the word I left, that I am to go out of town to-morrow morning, will soon bring the lady back again.

Mean time, I thought I would write to divert thee, while thou art of such importance about the dying; and as thy servant, it seems, comes backward and forward every day, perhaps I may send thee another letter to-morrow, with the particulars of the interview between the dear creature and me; after which my soul thirsteth.