Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXXIV


What will be the issue of all my plots and contrivances, devil take me if I am able to divine. But I will not, as Lord M. would say, forestall my own market.

At four, the appointed hour, I sent up, to desire admittance in the Captain’s name and my own.

She would wait upon the Captain presently; [not upon me!] and in the parlour, if it were not engaged.

The dining-room being mine, perhaps that was the reason of her naming the parlour—mighty nice again, if so! No good sign for me, thought I, this stiff punctilio.

In the parlour, with me and the Captain, were Mrs. Moore, Miss Rawlins, and Mrs. Bevis.

The women said, they would withdraw when the lady came down.

Lovel. Not, except she chooses you should, Ladies.—People who are so much above-board as I am, need not make secrets of any of their affairs. Besides, you three ladies are now acquainted with all our concerns.

Capt. I have some things to say to your lady, that perhaps she would not herself choose that any body should hear; not even you, Mr. Lovelace, as you and her family are not upon such a good foot of understanding as were to be wished.

Lovel. Well, well, Captain, I must submit. Give us a sign to withdraw, and we will withdraw.

It was better that the exclusion of the women should come from him, than from me.

Capt. I will bow, and wave my hand, thus—when I wish to be alone with the lady. Her uncle dotes upon her. I hope, Mr. Lovelace, you will not make a reconciliation more difficult, for the earnestness which my dear friend shows to bring it to bear. But indeed I must tell you, as I told you more than once before, that I am afraid you have made lighter of the occasion of this misunderstanding to me, than it ought to have been made.

Lovel. I hope, Captain Tomlinson, you do not question my veracity!

Capt. I beg your pardon, Mr. Lovelace—but those things which we men may think lightly of, may not be light to a woman of delicacy.—And then, if you have bound yourself by a vow, you ought—

Miss Rawlins bridling, her lips closed, (but her mouth stretched to a smile of approbation, the longer for not buttoning,) tacitly showed herself pleased with the Captain for his delicacy.

Mrs. Moore could speak—Very true, however, was all she said, with a motion of her head that expressed the bow-approbatory.

For my part, said the jolly widow, staring with eyes as big as eggs, I know what I know.—But man and wife are man and wife; or they are not man and wife.—I have no notion of standing upon such niceties.

But here she comes! cried one, hearing her chamber-door open—Here she comes! another, hearing it shut after her—And down dropt the angel among us.

We all stood up, bowing and courtesying, and could not help it; for she entered with such an air as commanded all our reverence. Yet the Captain looked plaguy grave.

Cl. Pray keep your seats, Ladies—Pray do not go, [for they made offers to withdraw; yet Miss Rawlins would have burst had she been suffered to retire.] Before this time you have all heard my story, I make no doubt— pray keep your seats—at least all Mr. Lovelace’s.

A very saucy and whimsical beginning, thought I.

Captain Tomlinson, your servant, addressing herself to him with inimitable dignity. I hope you did not take amiss my declining your visit yesterday. I was really incapable of talking upon any subject that required attention.

Capt. I am glad to see you better now, Madam. I hope I do.

Cl. Indeed I am not well. I would not have excused myself from attending you some hours ago, but in hopes I should have been better. I beg your pardon, Sir, for the trouble I have given you; and shall the rather expect it, as this day will, I hope, conclude it all.

Thus set; thus determined; thought I,—yet to have slept upon it!—But, as what she said was capable of a good, as well as a bad, construction, I would not put an unfavourable one upon it.

Lovel. The Captain was sorry, my dear, he did not offer his attendance the moment he arrived yesterday. He was afraid that you took it amiss that he did not.

Cl. Perhaps I thought that my uncle’s friend might have wished to see me as soon as he came, [how we stared!]—But, Sir, [to me,] it might be convenient to you to detain him.

The devil, thought I!—So there really was resentment as well as head- ache, as my good friend Mrs. Bevis observed, in her refusing to see the honest gentleman.

Capt. You would detain me, Mr. Lovelace—I was for paying my respects to the lady the moment I came—

Cl. Well, Sir, [interrupting him,] to wave this; for I would not be thought captious—if you have not suffered inconvenience, in being obliged to come again, I shall be easy.

Capt. [Half disconcerted.] A little inconvenience, I can’t say but I have suffered. I have, indeed, too many affairs upon my hands; but the desire I have to serve you and Mr. Lovelace, as well as to oblige my dear friend, your uncle Harlowe, make great inconveniencies but small ones.

Cl. You are very obliging, Sir.—Here is a great alteration since you parted with us last.

Capt. A great one indeed, Madam! I was very much surprised at it, on Thursday evening, when Mr. Lovelace conducted me to your lodgings, where we hoped to find you.

Cl. Have you any thing to say to me, Sir, from my uncle himself, that requires my private ear!—Don’t go, Ladies, [for the women stood up, and offered to withdraw,]—if Mr. Lovelace stays, I am sure you may.

I frowned—I bit my lip—I looked at the women—and shook my head.

Capt. I have nothing to offer, but what Mr. Lovelace is a party to, and may hear, except one private word or two, which may be postponed to the last.

Cl. Pray, Ladies, keep your seats.—Things are altered, Sir, since I saw you. You can mention nothing that relates to me now, to which that gentleman can be a party.

Capt. You surprise me, Madam! I am sorry to hear this!—Sorry for your uncle’s sake!—Sorry for your sake!—Sorry for Mr. Lovelace’s sake!—And yet I am sure he must have given greater occasion than he has mentioned to me, or—

Lovel. Indeed, Captain,—indeed, Ladies, I have told you great part of my story!—And what I told you of my offence was the truth:—what I concealed of my story was only what I apprehended would, if known, cause this dear creature to be thought more censorious than charitable.

Cl. Well, well, Sir, say what you please. Make me as black as you please—make yourself as white as you can—I am not now in your power: that consideration will comfort me for all.

Capt. God forbid that I should offer to plead in behalf of a crime, that a woman of virtue and honour cannot forgive! But surely, surely, Madam, this is going too far.

Cl. Do not blame me, Captain Tomlinson. I have a good opinion of you, as my uncle’s friend; but if you are Mr. Lovelace’s friend, that is another thing; for my interest and Mr. Lovelace’s must now be for ever separated.

Capt. One word with you, Madam, if you please—offering to retire.

Cl. You may say all that you please to say before these gentlewomen.— Mr. Lovelace may have secrets—I have none:—you seem to think me faulty: I should be glad that all the world knew my heart. Let my enemies sit in judgment upon my actions; fairly scanned, I fear not the result; let them even ask me my most secret thoughts, and, whether they make for me, or against me, I will reveal them.

Capt. Noble Lady! who can say as you say?

The women held up their hands and eyes; each, as if she had said,—Not I.

No disorder here! said Miss Rawlins:—but, (judging by her own heart,) a confounded deal of improbability, I believe she thought.

Finely said, to be sure, said the widow Bevis, shrugging her shoulders.

Mrs. Moore sighed.

Jack Belford, thought I, knows all mine; and in this I am more ingenuous than any of the three, and a fit match for this paragon.

Cl. How Mr. Lovelace has found me out here I cannot tell: but such mean devices, such artful, such worse than Waltham disguises put on, to obtrude himself into my company; such bold, such shocking untruths—

Capt. The favour of but one word, Madam, in private—

Cl. In order to support a right which he has not over me!—O Sir!—O Captain Tomlinson!—I think I have reason to say, that the man, (there he stands!) is capable of any vileness!—

The women looked upon one another, and upon me, by turns, to see how I bore it. I had such dartings in my head at the instant, that I thought I should have gone distracted. My brain seemed on fire. What would I have given to have had her alone with me!—I traversed the room; my clenched fist to my forehead. O that I had any body here, thought I, that, Hercules-like, when flaming in the tortures of Dejanira’s poisoned shirt, I could tear in pieces!

Capt. Dear Lady! see you not how the poor gentleman—Lord, how have I imposed upon your uncle, at this rate! How happy did I tell him I saw you! How happy I was sure you would be in each other!

Cl. O Sir, you don’t know how many premeditated offences I had forgiven when I saw you last, before I could appear to you what I hoped then I might for the future be!—But now you may tell my uncle, if you please, that I cannot hope for his mediation. Tell him, that my guilt, in giving this man an opportunity to spirit me away from my tried, my experienced, my natural friends, (harshly as they treated me,) stares me every day more and more in the face; and still the more, as my fate seems to be drawing to a crisis, according to the malediction of my offended father!

And then she burst into tears, which even affected that dog, who, brought to abet me, was himself all Belforded over.

The women, so used to cry without grief, as they are to laugh without reason, by mere force of example, [confound their promptitudes;] must needs pull out their handkerchiefs. The less wonder, however, as I myself, between confusion, surprise, and concern, could hardly stand it.

What’s a tender heart good for?—Who can be happy that has a feeling heart?—And yet, thou’lt say, that he who has it not, must be a tiger, and no man.

Capt. Let me beg the favour of one word with you, Madam, in private; and that on my own account.

The women hereupon offered to retire. She insisted that, if they went, I should not stay.

Capt. Sir, bowing to me, shall I beg—

I hope, thought I, that I may trust this solemn dog, instructed as he is. She does not doubt him. I’ll stay out no longer than to give her time to spend her first fire.

I then passively withdrew with the women.—But with such a bow to my goddess, that it won for me every heart but that I wanted most to win; for the haughty maid bent not her knee in return.

The conversation between the Captain and the lady, when we were retired, was to the following effect:—They both talked loud enough for me to hear them—the lady from anger, the Captain with design; and thou mayest be sure there was no listener but myself. What I was imperfect in was supplied afterwards; for I had my vellum-leaved book to note all down. If she had known this, perhaps she would have been more sparing of her invectives—and but perhaps neither.

He told her that as her brother was absolutely resolved to see her; and as he himself, in compliance with her uncle’s expedient, had reported her marriage; and as that report had reached the ears of Lord M., Lady Betty, and the rest of my relations; and as he had been obliged, in consequence of his first report, to vouch it; and as her brother might find out where she was, and apply to the women here for a confirmation or refutation of the marriage; he had thought himself obliged to countenance the report before the women. That this had embarrassed him not a little, as he would not for the world that she should have cause to think him capable of prevarication, contrivance, or double dealing; and that this made him desirous of a private conversation with her.

It was true, she said, she had given her consent to such an expedient, believing it was her uncle’s; and little thinking that it would lead to so many errors. Yet she might have known that one error is frequently the parent of many. Mr. Lovelace had made her sensible of the truth of that observation, on more occasions than one; and it was an observation that he, the Captain, had made, in one of the letters that was shown her yesterday.*

* See Letter XXIV.

He hoped that she had no mistrust of him: that she had no doubt of his honour. If, Madam, you suspect me—if you think me capable—what a man! the Lord be merciful to me!—What a man must you think me!

I hope, Sir, there cannot be a man in the world who could deserve to be suspected in such a case as this. I do not suspect you. If it were possible there could be one such a man, I am sure, Captain Tomlinson, a father of children, a man in years, of sense and experience, cannot be that man.

He told me, that just then, he thought he felt a sudden flash from her eye, an eye-beam as he called it, dart through his shivering reins; and he could not help trembling.

The dog’s conscience, Jack!—Nothing else!—I have felt half a dozen such flashes, such eye-beams, in as many different conversations with this soul-piercing beauty.

Her uncle, she must own, was not accustomed to think of such expedients; but she had reconciled this to herself, as the case was unhappily uncommon; and by the regard he had for her honour.

This set the puppy’s heart at ease, and gave him more courage.

She asked him if he thought Lady Betty and Miss Montague intended her a visit?

He had no doubt but they did.

And does he imagine, said she, that I could be brought to countenance to them the report you have given out?

[I had hoped to bring her to this, Jack, or she had seen their letters. But I had told the Captain that I believed I must give up this expectation.]

No.—He believed that I had not such a thought. He was pretty sure, that I intended, when I saw them, to tell them, (as in confidence,) the naked truth.

He then told her that her uncle had already made some steps towards a general reconciliation. The moment, Madam, that he knows you are really married, he will enter into confidence with your father upon it; having actually expressed to your mother his desire to be reconciled to you.

And what, Sir, said my mother? What said my dear mother?

With great emotion she asked this question; holding out her sweet face, as the Captain described her, with the most earnest attention, as if she would shorten the way which his words were to have to her heart.

Your mother, Madam, burst into tears upon it: and your uncle was so penetrated by her tenderness, that he could not proceed with the subject. But he intends to enter upon it with her in form, as soon as he hears that the ceremony is over.

By the tone of her voice she wept. The dear creature, thought I, begins to relent!—And I grudged the dog his eloquence. I could hardly bear the thought that any man breathing should have the power which I had lost, of persuading this high-souled woman, though in my own favour. And wouldest thou think it? this reflection gave me more uneasiness at the moment than I felt from her reproaches, violent as they were; or than I had pleasure in her supposed relenting: for there is beauty in every thing she says and does!—Beauty in her passion!—Beauty in her tears!—Had the Captain been a young fellow, and of rank and fortune, his throat would have been in danger; and I should have thought very hardly of her.

O Captain Tomlinson, said she, you know not what I have suffered by this man’s strange ways! He had, as I was not ashamed to tell him yesterday, a plain path before him. He at first betrayed me into his power—but when I was in it—There she stopt.—Then resuming—O Sir, you know not what a strange man he has been!—An unpolite, a rough-manner’d man! In disgrace of his birth, and education, and knowledge, an unpolite man!— And so acting, as if his worldly and personal advantages set him above those graces which distinguish a gentleman.

The first woman that ever said, or that ever thought so of me, that’s my comfort, thought I!—But this, (spoken of to her uncle’s friend, behind my back,) helps to heap up thy already-too-full measure, dearest!—It is down in my vellum-book.

Cl. When I look back on his whole behaviour to a poor young creature, (for I am but a very young creature,) I cannot acquit him either of great folly or of deep design. And, last Wednesday—There she stopt; and I suppose turned away her face.

I wonder she was not ashamed to hint at what she thought so shameful; and that to a man, and alone with him.

Capt. Far be it from me, Madam, to offer to enter too closely into so tender a subject. Mr. Lovelace owns, that you have reason to be displeased with him. But he so solemnly clears himself of premeditated offence—

Cl. He cannot clear himself, Captain Tomlinson. The people of the house must be very vile, as well as he. I am convinced that there was a wicked confederacy—but no more upon such a subject.

Capt. Only one word more, Madam.—He tells me, that you promised to pardon him. He tells me—

He knew, interrupted she, that he deserved not pardon, or he had not extorted the promise from me. Nor had I given it to him, but to shield myself from the vilest outrage—

Capt. I could wish, Madam, inexcusable as his behaviour has been, since he has something to plead in the reliance he made upon your promise, that, for the sake of appearances to the world, and to avoid the mischiefs that may follow if you absolutely break with him, you could prevail upon your naturally-generous mind to lay an obligation upon him by your forgiveness.

She was silent.

Capt. Your father and mother, Madam, deplore a daughter lost to them, whom your generosity to Mr. Lovelace may restore: do not put it to the possible chance, that they may have cause to deplore a double loss; the losing of a son, as well as a daughter, who, by his own violence, which you may perhaps prevent, may be for ever lost to them, and to the whole family.

She paused—she wept—she owned that she felt the force of this argument.

I will be the making of this fellow, thought I.

Capt. Permit me, Madam, to tell you, that I do not think it would be difficult to prevail upon your uncle, if you insist upon it, to come up privately to town, and to give you with his own hand to Mr. Lovelace— except, indeed, your present misunderstanding were to come to his ears. Besides, Madam, your brother, it is likely, may at this very time be in town; and he is resolved to find you out—

Cl. Why, Sir, should I be so much afraid of my brother? My brother has injured me, not I him. Will my brother offer to me what Mr. Lovelace has offered?—Wicked, ungrateful man! to insult a friendless, unprotected creature, made friendless by himself!—I cannot, cannot think of him in the light I once thought of him. What, Sir, to put myself into the power of a wretch, who has acted by me with so much vile premeditation!—Who shall pity, who shall excuse me, if I do, were I to suffer ever so much from him?—No, Sir.—Let Mr. Lovelace leave me—let my brother find me. I am not such a poor creature as to be afraid to face the brother who has injured me.

Capt. Were you and your brother to meet only to confer together, to expostulate, to clear up difficulties, it were another thing. But what, Madam, can you think will be the issue of an interview, (Mr. Solmes with him,) when he finds you unmarried, and resolved never to have Mr. Lovelace; supposing Mr. Lovelace were not to interfere, which cannot be imagined?

Cl. Well, Sir, I can only say, I am a very unhappy creature!—I must resign to the will of Providence, and be patient under evils, which that will not permit me to shun. But I have taken my measures. Mr. Lovelace can never make me happy, nor I him. I wait here only for a letter from Miss Howe—that must determine me—

Determine you as to Mr. Lovelace, Madam? interrupted the Captain.

Cl. I am already determined as to him.

Capt. If it be not in his favour, I have done. I cannot use stronger arguments than I have used, and it would be impertinent to repeat them. If you cannot forgive his offence, I am sure it must have been much greater than he has owned to me. If you are absolutely determined, be pleased to let me know what I shall say to your uncle? You were pleased to tell me, that this day would put an end to what you called my trouble: I should not have thought it any, could I have been an humble mean of reconciling persons of worth and honour to each other.

Here I entered with a solemn air.

Lovel. Captain Tomlinson, I have heard a part of what has passed between you and this unforgiving (however otherwise excellent) lady. I am cut to the heart to find the dear creature so determined. I could not have believed it possible, with such prospects, that I had so little share in her esteem. Nevertheless I must do myself justice with regard to the offence I was so unhappy as to give, since I find you are ready to think it much greater than it really was.

Cl. I hear not, Sir, your recapitulations. I am, and ought to be, the sole judge of insults offered to my person. I enter not into discussion with you, nor hear you on the shocking subject. And was going.

I put myself between her and the door—You may hear all I have to say, Madam. My fault is not of such a nature, but that you may. I will be a just accuser of myself; and will not wound your ears.

I then protested that the fire was a real fire. [So it was.] I disclaimed [less truly] premeditation. I owned that I was hurried on by the violence of a youthful passion, and by a sudden impulse, which few other persons, in the like situation, would have been able to check: that I withdrew, at her command and entreaty, on the promise of pardon, without having offered the least indecency, or any freedom, that would not have been forgiven by persons of delicacy, surprised in an attitude so charming—her terror, on the alarm of fire, calling for a soothing behaviour, and personal tenderness, she being ready to fall into fits: my hoped-for happy day so near, that I might be presumed to be looked upon as a betrothed lover—and that this excuse might be pleaded even for the women of the house, that they, thinking us actually married, might suppose themselves to be the less concerned to interfere on so tender an occasion.—[There, Jack, was a bold insinuation on behalf of the women!]

High indignation filled her disdainful eye, eye-beam after eye-beam flashing at me. Every feature of her sweet face had soul in it. Yet she spoke not. Perhaps, Jack, she had a thought, that this plea for the women accounted for my contrivance to have her pass to them as married, when I first carried her thither.

Capt. Indeed, Sir, I must say that you did not well to add to the apprehensions of a lady so much terrified before.

The dear creature offered to go by me. I set my back against the door, and besought her to stay a few moments. I had not said thus much, my dearest creature, but for your sake, as well as for my own, that Captain Tomlinson should not think I had been viler than I was. Nor will I say one word more on the subject, after I have appealed to your own heart, whether it was not necessary that I should say so much; and to the Captain, whether otherwise he would not have gone away with a much worse opinion of me, if he had judged of my offence by the violence of your resentment.

Capt. Indeed I should. I own I should. And I am very glad, Mr. Lovelace, that you are able to defend yourself thus far.

Cl. That cause must be well tried, where the offender takes his seat upon the same bench with the judge.—I submit not mine to men—nor, give me leave to say, to you, Captain Tomlinson, though I am willing to have a good opinion of you. Had not the man been assured that he had influenced you in his favour, he would not have brought you up to Hampstead.

Capt. That I am influenced, as you call it, Madam, is for the sake of your uncle, and for your own sake, more (I will say to Mr. Lovelace’s face) than for his. What can I have in view but peace and reconciliation? I have, from the first, blamed, and I now, again, blame Mr. Lovelace, for adding distress to distress, and terror to terror; the lady, as you acknowledge, Sir, [looking valiantly,] ready before to fall into fits.

Lovel. Let me own to you, Captain Tomlinson, that I have been a very faulty, a very foolish man; and, if this dear creature ever honoured me with her love, an ungrateful one. But I have had too much reason to doubt it. And this is now a flagrant proof that she never had the value for me which my proud heart wished for; that, with such prospects before us; a day so near; settlements approved and drawn; her uncle meditating a general reconciliation which, for her sake, not my own, I was desirous to give into; she can, for an offence so really slight, on an occasion so truly accidental, renounce me for ever; and, with me, all hopes of that reconciliation in the way her uncle had put it in, and she had acquiesced with; and risque all consequences, fatal ones as they may too possibly be.—By my soul, Captain Tomlinson, the dear creature must have hated me all the time she was intending to honour me with her hand. And now she must resolve to abandon me, as far as I know, with a preference in her heart of the most odious of men—in favour of that Solmes, who, as you tell me, accompanies her brother: and with what hopes, with what view, accompanies him!—How can I bear to think of this?—

Cl. It is fit, Sir, that you should judge of my regard for you by your own conscienceness of demerit. Yet you know, or you would not have dared to behave to me as sometimes you did, that you had more of it than you deserved.

She walked from us; and then returning, Captain Tomlinson, said she, I will own to you, that I was not capable of resolving to give my hand, and —nothing but my hand. Had I not given a flagrant proof of this to the once most indulgent of parents? which has brought me into a distress, which this man has heightened, when he ought, in gratitude and honour, to have endeavoured to render it supportable. I had even a bias, Sir, in his favour, I scruple not to own it. Long (much too long!) bore I with his unaccountable ways, attributing his errors to unmeaning gaiety, and to a want of knowing what true delicacy, and true generosity, required from a heart susceptible of grateful impressions to one involved by his means in unhappy circumstances.

It is now wickedness in him (a wickedness which discredits all his professions) to say, that this last cruel and ungrateful insult was not a premeditated one—But what need I say more of this insult, when it was of such a nature, and that it has changed that bias in his favour, and make me choose to forego all the inviting prospects he talks of, and to run all hazards, to free myself from his power?

O my dearest creature! how happy for us both, had I been able to discover that bias, as you condescend to call it, through such reserves as man never encountered with!

He did discover it, Capt. Tomlinson. He brought me, more than once, to own it; the more needlessly brought me to own it, as I dare say his own vanity gave him no cause to doubt it; and as I had apparently no other motive in not being forward to own it, than my too-justly-founded apprehensions of his want of generosity. In a word, Captain Tomlinson, (and now, that I am determined upon my measures, I the less scruple to say,) I should have despised myself, had I found myself capable of affectation or tyranny to the man I intended to marry. I have always blamed the dearest friend I have in the world for a fault of this nature. In a word—

Lovel. And had my angel really and indeed the favour for me she is pleased to own?—Dearest creature, forgive me. Restore me to your good opinion. Surely I have not sinned beyond forgiveness. You say that I extorted from you the promise you made me. But I could not have presumed to make that promise the condition of my obedience, had I not thought there was room to expect forgiveness. Permit, I beseech you, the prospects to take place, that were opening so agreeably before us. I will go to town, and bring the license. All difficulties to the obtaining of it are surmounted. Captain Tomlinson shall be witness to the deeds. He will be present at the ceremony on the part of your uncle. Indeed he gave me hope that your uncle himself—

Capt. I did, Mr. Lovelace: and I will tell you my grounds for the hope I gave. I promised to my dear friend, (your uncle, Madam,) that he should give out that he would take a turn with me to my little farm-house, as I call it, near Northampton, for a week or so.—Poor gentleman! he has of late been very little abroad!—Too visibly declining!—Change of air, it might be given out, was good for him.—But I see, Madam, that this is too tender a subject—

The dear creature wept. She knew how to apply as meant the Captain’s hint to the occasion of her uncle’s declining state of health.

Capt. We might indeed, I told him, set out in that road, but turn short to town in my chariot; and he might see the ceremony performed with his own eyes, and be the desired father, as well as the beloved uncle.

She turned from us, and wiped her eyes.

Capt. And, really, there seem now to be but two objections to this, as Mr. Harlowe discouraged not the proposal—The one, the unhappy misunderstanding between you; which I would not by any means he should know; since then he might be apt to give weight to Mr. James Harlowe’s unjust surmises.—The other, that it would necessarily occasion some delay to the ceremony; which certainly may be performed in a day or two —if—

And then he reverently bowed to my goddess.—Charming fellow!—But often did I curse my stars, for making me so much obliged to his adroitness.

She was going to speak; but, not liking the turn of her countenance (although, as I thought, its severity and indignation seemed a little abated) I said, and had like to have blown myself up by it—one expedient I have just thought of—

Cl. None of your expedients, Mr. Lovelace!—I abhor your expedients, your inventions—I have had too many of them.

Lovel. See, Capt. Tomlinson!—See, Sir!—O how we expose ourselves to you!—Little did you think, I dare say, that we have lived in such a continued misunderstanding together!—But you will make the best of it all. We may yet be happy. Oh! that I could have been assured that this dear creature loved me with the hundredth part of the love I have for her!—Our diffidences have been mutual. I presume to say that she has too much punctilio: I am afraid that I have too little. Hence our difficulties. But I have a heart, Captain Tomlinson, a heart, that bids me hope for her love, because it is resolved to deserve it as much as man can deserve it.

Capt. I am indeed surprised at what I have seen and heard. I defend not Mr. Lovelace, Madam, in the offence he has given you—as a father of daughters myself, I cannot defend him; though his fault seems to be lighter than I had apprehended—but in my conscience, Madam, I think you carry your resentment too high.

Cl. Too high, Sir!—Too high to the man that might have been happy if he would! Too high to the man that has held my soul in suspense an hundred times, since (by artifice and deceit) he obtained a power over me!—Say, Lovelace, thyself say, art thou not the very Lovelace, who by insulting me, hast wronged thine own hopes?—The wretch that appeared in vile disguises, personating an old, lame creature, seeking for lodgings for thy sick wife?—Telling the gentlewomen here stories all of thine own invention; and asserting to them an husband’s right over me, which thou hast not!—And is it [turning to the Captain] to be expected, that I should give credit to the protestations of such a man?

Lovel. Treat me, my dearest creature, as you please, I will bear it: and yet your scorn and your violence have fixed daggers in my heart—But was it possible, without those disguises, to come at your speech?—And could I lose you, if study, if invention, would put it in my power to arrest your anger, and give me hope to engage you to confirm to me the promised pardon? The address I made to you before the women, as if the marriage-ceremony had passed, was in consequence of what your uncle had advised, and what you had acquiesced with; and the rather made, as your brother, and Singleton, and Solmes, were resolved to find out whether what was reported of your marriage were true or not, that they might take their measures accordingly; and in hopes to prevent that mischief, which I have been but too studious to prevent, since this tameness has but invited insolence from your brother and his confederates.

Cl. O thou strange wretch, how thou talkest!—But, Captain Tomlinson, give me leave to say, that, were I inclined to enter farther upon this subject, I would appeal to Miss Rawlins’s judgment (whom else have I to appeal to?) She seems to be a person of prudence and honour; but not to any man’s judgment, whether I carry my resentment beyond fit bounds, when I resolve—

Capt. Forgive, Madam, the interruption—but I think there can be no reason for this. You ought, as you said, to be the sole judge of indignities offered you. The gentlewomen here are strangers to you. You will perhaps stay but a little while among them. If you lay the state of your case before any of them, and your brother come to inquire of them, your uncle’s intended mediation will be discovered, and rendered abortive —I shall appear in a light that I never appeared in, in my life—for these women may not think themselves obliged to keep the secret.

Charming fellow!

Cl. O what difficulties has one fatal step involved me in—but there is no necessity for such an appeal to any body. I am resolved on my measures.

Capt. Absolutely resolved, Madam?

Cl. I am.

Capt. What shall I say to your uncle Harlowe, Madam?—Poor gentleman! how will he be surprised!—You see, Mr. Lovelace—you see, Sir,—turning to me with a flourishing hand—but you may thank yourself—and admirably stalked he from us.

True, by my soul, thought I. I traversed the room, and bit my unpersuasive lips, now upper, now under, for vexation.

He made a profound reverence to her—and went to the window, where lay his hat and whip; and, taking them up, opened the door. Child, said he, to some body he saw, pray order my servant to bring my horse to the door—

Lovel. You won’t go, Sir—I hope you won’t!—I am the unhappiest man in the world!—You won’t go—yet, alas!—But you won’t go, Sir!—there may be yet hopes that Lady Betty may have some weight—

Capt. Dear Mr. Lovelace! and may not my worthy friend, and affectionate uncle, hope for some influence upon his daughter-niece?—But I beg pardon —a letter will always find me disposed to serve the lady, and that as well for her sake as for the sake of my dear friend.

She had thrown herself into her chair: her eyes cast down: she was motionless, as in a profound study.

The Captain bowed to her again: but met with no return to his bow. Mr. Lovelace, said he, (with an air of equality and independence,) I am your’s.

Still the dear unaccountable sat as immovable as a statue; stirring neither hand, foot, head, nor eye—I never before saw any one in so profound a reverie in so waking a dream.

He passed by her to go out at the door she sat near, though the passage by the other door was his direct way; and bowed again. She moved not. I will not disturb the lady in her meditations, Sir.—Adieu, Mr. Lovelace —no farther, I beseech you.

She started, sighing—Are you going, Sir?

Capt. I am, Madam. I could have been glad to do you service; but I see it is not in my power.

She stood up, holding out one hand, with inimitable dignity and sweetness —I am sorry you are going, Sir!—can’t help it—I have no friend to advise with—Mr. Lovelace has the art (or good fortune, perhaps I should call it) to make himself many.—Well, Sir—if you will go, I can’t help it.

Capt. I will not go, Madam; his eyes twinkling. [Again seized with a fit of humanity!] I will not go, if my longer stay can do you either service or pleasure. What, Sir, [turning to me,] what, Mr. Lovelace, was your expedient;—perhaps something may be offered, Madam—

She sighed, and was silent.

REVENGE, invoked I to myself, keep thy throne in my heart. If the usurper LOVE once more drive thee from it, thou wilt never again regain possession!

Lovel. What I had thought of, what I had intended to propose, [and I sighed,] was this, that the dear creature, if she will not forgive me, as she promised, will suspend the displeasure she has conceived against me, till Lady Betty arrives.—That lady may be the mediatrix between us. This dear creature may put herself into her protection, and accompany her down to her seat in Oxfordshire. It is one of her Ladyship’s purposes to prevail on her supposed new niece to go down with her. It may pass to every one but to Lady Betty, and to you, Captain Tomlinson, and to your friend Mr. Harlowe (as he desires) that we have been some time married: and her being with my relations will amount to a proof to James Harlowe that we are; and our nuptials may be privately, and at this beloved creature’s pleasure, solemnized; and your report, Captain, authenticated.

Capt. Upon my honour, Madam, clapping his hand upon his breast, a charming expedient!—This will answer every end.

She mused—she was greatly perplexed—at last, God direct me! said she: I know not what to do—a young unfriended creature! Whom can I have to advise with?—Let me retire, if I can retire.

She withdrew with slow and trembling feet, and went up to her chamber.

For Heaven’s sake, said the penetrated varlet [his hands lifted up]; for Heaven’s sake, take compassion upon this admirable woman!—I cannot proceed—she deserves all things—

Softly!—d—n the fellow!—the women are coming in.

He sobbed up his grief—turned about—hemm’d up a more manly accent—Wipe thy cursed eyes—He did. The sunshine took place on one cheek, and spread slowly to the other, and the fellow had his whole face again.

The women all three came in, led by that ever-curious Miss Rawlins. I told them, that the lady was gone up to consider of every thing: that we had hopes of her. And such a representation we made of all that had passed, as brought either tacit or declared blame upon the fair perverse for hardness of heart and over-delicacy.

The widow Bevis, in particular, put out one lip, tossed up her head, wrinkled her forehead, and made such motions with her now lifted-up, now cast-down eyes, as showed that she thought there was a great deal of perverseness and affectation in the lady. Now-and-then she changed her censuring looks to looks of pity of me—but (as she said) she loved not to aggravate!—A poor business, God help’s! shrugging up her shoulders, to make such a rout about! And then her eyes laughed heartily— Indulgence was a good thing! Love was a good thing!—but too much was too much!

Miss Rawlins, however, declared, after she had called the widow Bevis, with a prudish simper, a comical gentlewoman! that there must be something in our story, which she could not fathom; and went from us into a corner, and sat down, seemingly vexed that she could not.