Clarissa Harlowe LETTER IV


I had a charming airing. No return of my malady. My heart was perfectly easy, how could my stomach be otherwise?

But when I came home, I found that my sweet soul had been alarmed by a new incident—The inquiry after us both, in a very suspicious manner, and that by description of our persons, and not by names, by a servant in a blue livery turn’d up and trimm’d with yellow.

Dorcas was called to him, as the upper servant; and she refusing to answer any of the fellow’s questions, unless he told his business, and from whom he came, the fellow (as short as she) said, that if she would not answer him, perhaps she might answer somebody else; and went away out of humour.

Dorcas hurried up to her Lady, and alarmed her, not only with the fact, but with her own conjectures; adding, that he was an ill-looking fellow, and she was sure could come for no good.

The livery and the features of the servant were particularly inquired after, and as particularly described—Lord bless her! no end of her alarms, she thought! And then did her apprehensions anticipate every evil that could happen.

She wished Mr. Lovelace would come in.

Mr. Lovelace came in soon after; all lively, grateful, full of hopes, of duty, of love, to thank his charmer, and to congratulate with her upon the cure she had performed. And then she told the story, with all its circumstances; and Dorcas, to point her lady’s fears, told us, that the servant was a sun-burnt fellow, and looked as if he had been at sea.

He was then, no doubt, Captain Singleton’s servant, and the next news she should hear, was, that the house was surrounded by a whole ship’s crew; the vessel lying no farther off, as she understood, than Rotherhithe.

Impossible, I said. Such an attempt would not be ushered in by such a manner of inquiry. And why may it not rather be a servant of your cousin Morden, with notice of his arrival, and of his design to attend you?

This surmise delighted her. Her apprehensions went off, and she was at leisure to congratulate me upon my sudden recovery; which she did in the most obliging manner.

But we had not sat long together, when Dorcas again came fluttering up to tell us, that the footman, the very footman, was again at the door, and inquired, whether Mr. Lovelace and his lady, by name, had not lodgings in this house? He asked, he told Dorcas, for no harm. But his disavowing of harm, was a demonstration with my apprehensive fair-one, that harm was intended. And as the fellow had not been answered by Dorcas, I proposed to go down to the street-parlour, and hear what he had to say.

I see your causeless terror, my dearest life, said I, and your impatience —Will you be pleased to walk down—and, without being observed, (for he shall come no farther than the parlour-door,) you may hear all that passes?

She consented. We went down. Dorcas bid the man come forward. Well, friend, what is your business with Mr. and Mrs. Lovelace?

Bowing, scraping, I am sure you are the gentleman, Sir. Why, Sir, my business is only to know if your honour be here, and to be spoken with; or if you shall be here for any time?

Whom came you from?

From a gentleman who ordered me to say, if I was made to tell, but not else, it was from a friend of Mr. John Harlowe, Mrs. Lovelace’s eldest uncle.

The dear creature was ready to sink upon this. It was but of late that she had provided herself with salts. She pulled them out.

Do you know anything of Colonel Morden, friend? said I.

No; I never heard of his name.

Of Captain Singleton?

No, Sir. But the gentleman, my master, is a Captain too.

What is his name?

I don’t know if I should tell.

There can be no harm in telling the gentleman’s name, if you come upon a good account.

That I do; for my master told me so; and there is not an honester gentleman on the face of God’s yearth.—His name is Captain Tomlinson, Sir.

I don’t know such a one.

I believe not, Sir. He was pleased to say, he don’t know your honor, Sir; but I heard him say as how he should not be an unwelcome visiter to you for all that.

Do you know such a man as Captain Tomlinson, my dearest life, [aside,] your uncle’s friend?

No; but my uncle may have acquaintance, no doubt, that I don’t know.— But I hope [trembling] this is not a trick.

Well, friend, if your master has anything to say to Mr. Lovelace, you may tell him, that Mr. Lovelace is here; and will see him whenever he pleases.

The dear creature looked as if afraid that my engagement was too prompt for my own safety; and away went the fellow—I wondering, that she might not wonder, that this Captain Tomlinson, whoever he were, came not himself, or sent not a letter the second time, when he had reason to suppose that I might be here.

Mean time, for fear that this should be a contrivance of James Harlowe, who, I said, love plotting, though he had not a head turned for it, I gave some precautionary directions to the servants, and the women, whom, for the greater parade, I assembled before us, and my beloved was resolved not to stir abroad till she saw the issue of this odd affair.

And here must I close, though in so great a puzzle.

Only let me add, that poor Belton wants thee; for I dare not stir for my life.

Mowbray and Tourville skulk about like vagabonds, without heads, without hands, without souls; having neither you nor me to conduct them. They tell me, they shall rust beyond the power of oil or action to brighten them up, or give them motion.

How goes it with thy uncle?