Clarissa Harlowe LETTER II

MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. COCOA-TREE, SATURDAY, MAY 27.

This ipecacuanha is a most disagreeable medicine. That these cursed physical folks can find out nothing to do us good, but what would poison the devil! In the other world, were they only to take physic, it would be punishable enough of itself for a mis-spent life. A doctor at one elbow, and an apothecary at the other, and the poor soul labouring under their prescribed operations, he need no worse tormentors.

But now this was to take down my countenance. It has done it: for, with violent reachings, having taken enough to make me sick, and not enough water to carry it off, I presently looked as if I had kept my bed a fortnight. Ill jesting, as I thought in the midst of the exercise, with edge tools, and worse with physical ones.

Two hours it held me. I had forbid Dorcas to let her lady know any thing of the matter; out of tenderness to her; being willing, when she knew my prohibition, to let her see that I expected her to be concerned for me.—

Well, but Dorcas was nevertheless a woman, and she can whisper to her lady the secret she is enjoined to keep!

Come hither, toad, [sick as the devil at the instant]; let me see what a mixture of grief and surprize may be beat up together in thy puden-face.

That won’t do. That dropt jaw, and mouth distended into the long oval, is more upon the horrible than the grievous.

Nor that pinking and winking with thy odious eyes, as my charmer once called them.

A little better that; yet not quite right: but keep your mouth closer. You have a muscle or two which you have no command of, between your cheek-bone and your lips, that should carry one corner of your mouth up towards your crow’s-foot, and that down to meet it.

There! Begone! Be in a plaguy hurry running up stair and down, to fetch from the dining-room what you carry up on purpose to fetch, till motion extraordinary put you out of breath, and give you the sigh natural.

What’s the matter, Dorcas?

Nothing, Madam.

My beloved wonders she has not seen me this morning, no doubt; but is too shy to say she wonders. Repeated What’s the matter, however, as Dorcas runs up and down stairs by her door, bring on, O Madam! my master! my poor master!

What! How! When!—and all the monosyllables of surprize.

[Within parentheses let me tell thee, that I have often thought, that the little words in the republic of letters, like the little folks in a nation, are the most significant. The trisyllables, and the rumblers of syllables more than three, are but the good-for-little magnates.]

I must not tell you, Madam—My master ordered me not to tell you—but he is in a worse way than he thinks for!—But he would not have you frighted.

High concern took possession of every sweet feature. She pitied me!—by my soul, she pitied me!

Where is he?

Too much in a hurry for good manners, [another parenthesis, Jack! Good manners are so little natural, that we ought to be composed to observe them: politeness will not live in a storm]. I cannot stay to answer questions, cries the wench—though desirous to answer [a third parenthesis—Like the people crying proclamations, running away from the customers they want to sell to]. This hurry puts the lady in a hurry to ask, [a fourth, by way of establishing the third!] as the other does the people in a hurry to buy. And I have in my eye now a whole street raised, and running after a proclamation or express-crier, as if the first was a thief, the other his pursuers.

At last, O Lord! let Mrs. Lovelace know!—There is danger, to be sure! whispered from one nymph to another; but at the door, and so loud, that my listening fair-one might hear.

Out she darts—As how! as how, Dorcas!

O Madam—A vomiting of blood! A vessel broke, to be sure!

Down she hastens; finds every one as busy over my blood in the entry, as if it were that of the Neapolitan saint.

In steps my charmer, with a face of sweet concern.

How do you, Mr. Lovelace?

O my best love!—Very well!—Very well!—Nothing at all! nothing of consequence!—I shall be well in an instant!—Straining again! for I was indeed plaguy sick, though no more blood came.

In short, Belford, I have gained my end. I see the dear soul loves me. I see she forgives me all that’s past. I see I have credit for a new score.

Miss Howe, I defy thee, my dear—Mrs. Townsend!—Who the devil are you?— Troop away with your contrabands. No smuggling! nor smuggler, but myself! Nor will the choicest of my fair-one’s favours be long prohibited goods to me!

***

Every one is now sure that she loves me. Tears were in her eyes more than once for me. She suffered me to take her hand, and kiss it as often as I pleased. On Mrs. Sinclair’s mentioning, that I too much confined myself, she pressed me to take an airing; but obligingly desired me to be careful of myself. Wished I would advise with a physician. God made physicians, she said.

I did not think that, Jack. God indeed made us all. But I fancy she meant physic instead of physicians; and then the phrase might mean what the vulgar phrase means;—God sends meat, the Devil cooks.

I was well already, on taking the styptic from her dear hands.

On her requiring me to take the air, I asked, If I might have the honour of her company in a coach; and this, that I might observe if she had an intention of going out in my absence.

If she thought a chair were not a more proper vehicle for my case, she would with all her heart!

There’s a precious!

I kissed her hand again! She was all goodness!—Would to Heaven I better deserved it, I said!—But all were golden days before us!—Her presence and generous concern had done every thing. I was well! Nothing ailed me. But since my beloved will have it so, I’ll take a little airing!— Let a chair be called!—O my charmer! were I to have owned this indisposition to my late harasses, and to the uneasiness I have had for disobliging you; all is infinitely compensated by your goodness.—All the art of healing is in your smiles!—Your late displeasure was the only malady!

While Mrs. Sinclair, and Dorcas, and Polly, and even poor silly Mabell [for Sally went out, as my angel came in] with uplifted hands and eyes, stood thanking Heaven that I was better, in audible whispers: See the power of love, cried one!—What a charming husband, another!—Happy couple, all!

O how the dear creature’s cheek mantled!—How her eyes sparkled!—How sweetly acceptable is praise to conscious merit, while it but reproaches when applied to the undeserving!—What a new, what a gay creation it makes all at once in a diffident or dispirited heart!

And now, Belford, was it not worth while to be sick? And yet I must tell thee, that too many pleasanter expedients offer themselves, to make trial any more of this confounded ipecacuanha.