Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXVIII


What shall I say now!—I, who but a few hours ago had such faith in dreams, and had proposed out of hand to begin my treatise of dreams sleeping and dreams waking, and was pleasing myself with the dialogues between the old matronal lady and the young lady, and with the metamorphoses, (absolutely assured that every thing would happen as my dream chalked it out,) shall never more depend upon those flying follies, those illusions of a fancy depraved, and run mad.

Thus confoundedly have matters happened.

I went out at eight o’clock in high good humour with myself, in order to give the sought-for opportunity to the plotting mistress and corrupted maid; only ordering Will. to keep a good look-out for fear his lady should mistrust my plot, or mistake a hackney-coach for the dowager-lady’s chariot. But first I sent to know how she did; and receiving for answer, Very ill: had a very bad night: which latter was but too probable; since this I know, that people who have plots in their heads as seldom have as deserve good ones.

I desired a physician might be called in; but was refused.

I took a walk in St. James’s Park, congratulating myself all the way on my rare inventions: then, impatient, I took coach, with one of the windows quite up, the other almost up, playing at bo-peep in every chariot I saw pass in my way to Lincoln’s-inn-fields: and when arrived there I sent the coachman to desire any one of Mother H.’s family to come to me to the coach-side, not doubting but I should have intelligence of my fair fugitive there; it being then half an hour after ten.

A servant came, who gave me to understand that the matronly lady was just returned by herself in the chariot.

Frighted out of my wits, I alighted, and heard from the mother’s own mouth, that Dorcas had engaged her to protect the lady; but came to tell her afterwards, that she had changed her mind, and would not quit the house.

Quite astonished, not knowing what might have happened, I ordered the coachman to lash away to our mother’s.

Arriving here in an instant, the first word I asked, was, If the lady was safe?

[Mr. Lovelace here gives a very circumstantial relation of all that passed between the Lady and Dorcas. But as he could only guess at her motives for refusing to go off, when Dorcas told her that she had engaged for her the protection of the dowager-lady, it is thought proper to omit this relation, and to supply it by some memoranda of the Lady’s. But it is first necessary to account for the occasion on which those memoranda were made.

The reader may remember, that in the letter written to Miss Howe, on her escape to Hampstead,* she promises to give her the particulars of her flight at leisure. She had indeed thoughts of continuing her account of every thing that had passed between her and Mr. Lovelace since her last narrative letter. But the uncertainty she was in from that time, with the execrable treatment she met with on her being deluded back again, followed by a week’s delirium, had hitherto hindered her from prosecuting her intention. But, nevertheless, having it still in her view to perform her promise as soon as she had opportunity, she made minutes of every thing as it passed, in order to help her memory:—‘Which,’ as she observes in one place, ‘she could less trust to since her late disorders than before.’ In these minutes, or book of memoranda, she observes, ‘That having apprehensions that Dorcas might be a traitress, she would have got away while she was gone out to see for a coach; and actually slid down stairs with that intent. But that, seeing Mrs. Sinclair in the entry, (whom Dorcas had planted there while she went out,) she speeded up again unseen.’

* See Vol. V. Letter XXI.

She then went up to the dining-room, and saw the letter of Captain Tomlinson: on which she observes in her memorandum-book as follows:]

‘How am I puzzled now!—He might leave this letter on purpose: none of the other papers left with it being of any consequence: What is the alternative?—To stay, and be the wife of the vilest of men—how my heart resists that!—To attempt to get off, and fail, ruin inevitable!—Dorcas may betray me!—I doubt she is still his implement!—At his going out, he whispered her, as I saw, unobserved—in a very familiar manner too—Never fear, Sir, with a courtesy.

‘In her agreeing to connive at my escape, she provided not for her own safety, if I got away: yet had reason, in that case, to expect his vengeance. And wants not forethought.—To have taken her with me, was to be in the power of her intelligence, if a faithless creature.—Let me, however, though I part not with my caution, keep my charity!—Can there be any woman so vile to a woman?—O yes!—Mrs. Sinclair: her aunt.—The Lord deliver me!—But, alas!—I have put myself out of the course of his protection by the natural means—and am already ruined! A father’s curse likewise against me! Having made vain all my friends’ cautions and solicitudes, I must not hope for miracles in my favour!

‘If I do escape, what may become of me, a poor, helpless, deserted creature!—Helpless from sex!—from circumstances!—Exposed to every danger!—Lord protect me!

‘His vile man not gone with him!—Lurking hereabouts, no doubt, to watch my steps!—I will not go away by the chariot, however.——

‘That the chariot should come so opportunely! So like his many opportunities!—That Dorcas should have the sudden thought!—Should have the courage with the thought, to address a lady in behalf of an absolute stranger to that lady! That the lady should so readily consent! Yet the transaction between them to take up so much time, their distance in degree considered: for, arduous as the case was, and precious as the time, Dorcas was gone above half an hour! Yet the chariot was said to be ready at a grocer’s not many doors off!

‘Indeed some elderly ladies are talkative: and there are, no doubt, some good people in the world.——

‘But that it should chance to be a widow lady, who could do what she pleased! That Dorcas should know her to be so by the lozenge! Persons in her station are not usually so knowing, I believe, in heraldry.

‘Yet some may! for servants are fond of deriving collateral honours and distinctions, as I may call them, from the quality, or people of rank, whom they serve. But this sly servant not gone with him! Then this letter of Tomlinson!——

‘Although I am resolved never to have this wretch, yet, may I not throw myself into my uncle’s protection at Kentish-town, or Highgate, if I cannot escape before: and so get clear of him? May not the evil I know be less than what I may fall into, if I can avoid farther villany? Farther villany he has not yet threatened; freely and justly as I have treated him!—I will not go, I think. At least, unless I can send this fellow away.*——

* She tried to do this; but was prevented by the fellow’s pretending to put his ankle out, by a slip down stairs—A trick, says his contriving master, in his omitted relation, I had taught him, on a like occasion, at Amiens.

‘The fellow a villain! The wench, I doubt, a vile wench. At last concerned for her own safety. Plays off and on about a coach.

‘All my hopes of getting off at present over!—Unhappy creature! to what farther evils art thou reserved! Oh! how my heart rises at the necessity I must still be under to see and converse with so very vile a man!’