Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XX


I have this moment intelligence from Simon Parsons, one of Lord M.’s stewards, that his Lordship is very ill. Simon, who is my obsequious servant, in virtue of my presumptive heirship, gives me a hint in his letter, that my presence at M. Hall will not be amiss. So I must accelerate, whatever be the course I shall be allowed or compelled to take.

No bad prospects for this charming creature, if the old peer would be so kind as to surrender; and many a summons has this gout given him. A good 8000£. a-year, and perhaps the title reversionary, or a still higher, would help me up with her.

Proudly as this lady pretends to be above all pride, grandeur will have its charms with her; for grandeur always makes a man’s face shine in a woman’s eye. I have a pretty good, because a clear, estate, as it is. But what a noble variety of mischief will 8000£. a-year, enable a man to do?

Perhaps thou’lt say, I do already all that comes into my head; but that’s a mistake—not one half I will assure thee. And even good folks, as I have heard, love to have the power of doing mischief, whether they make use of it or not. The late Queen Anne, who was a very good woman, was always fond of prerogative. And her ministers, in her name, in more instances than one, made a ministerial use of this her foible.

But now, at last, am I to be admitted to the presence of my angry fair-one; after three denials, nevertheless; and a peremptory from me, by Dorcas, that I must see her in her chamber, if I cannot see her in the dining-room.

Dorcas, however, tells me that she says, if she were at her own liberty, she would never see me more; and that she had been asking after the characters and conditions of the neighbours. I suppose, now she has found her voice, to call out for help from them, if there were any to hear her.

She will have it now, it seems, that I had the wickedness from the very beginning, to contrive, for her ruin, a house so convenient for dreadful mischief.

Dorcas begs of her to be pacified—entreats her to see me with patience—tells her that I am one of the most determined of men, as she has heard say. That gentleness may do with me; but that nothing else will, she believes. And what, as her ladyship (as she always styles her,) is married, if I had broken my oath, or intended to break it!—

She hinted plain enough to the honest wench, that she was not married. But Dorcas would not understand her.

This shows she is resolved to keep no measures. And now is to be a trial of skill, whether she shall or not.

Dorcas has hinted to her my Lord’s illness, as a piece of intelligence that dropt in conversation from me.

But here I stop. My beloved, pursuant to my peremptory message, is just gone up into the dining-room.