Clarissa Harlowe LETTER L

MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. WEDNESDAY, MAY 24.

[He gives his friend an account of their interview that morning; and of

the happy effects of his cousin Montague’s letter in his favour. Her

reserves, however, he tells him, are not absolutely banished. But

this he imputes to form.]

It is not in the power of woman, says he, to be altogether sincere on these occasions. But why?—Do they think it so great a disgrace to be found out to be really what they are?

I regretted the illness of Mrs. Fretchville; as the intention I had to fix her dear self in the house before the happy knot was tied, would have set her in that independence in appearance, as well as fact, which was necessary to show to all the world that her choice was free; and as the ladies of my family would have been proud to make their court to her there, while the settlements and our equipages were preparing. But, on any other account, there was no great matter in it; since when my happy day was over, we could, with so much convenience, go down to The Lawn, to my Lord M.’s, and to Lady Sarah’s or Lady Betty’s, in turn; which would give full time to provide ourselves with servants and other accommodations.

How sweetly the charmer listened!

I asked her, if she had had the small-pox?

Ten thousand pounds the worse in my estimation, thought I, if she has not; for no one of her charming graces can I dispense with.

’Twas always a doubtful point with her mother and Mrs. Norton, she owned. But although she was not afraid of it, she chose not unnecessarily to rush into places where it was.

Right, thought I—Else, I said, it would not have been amiss for her to see the house before she went into the country; for if she liked it not, I was not obliged to have it.

She asked, if she might take a copy of Miss Montague’s letter?

I said, she might keep the letter itself, and send it to Miss Howe, if she pleased; for that, I suppose, was her intention.

She bowed her head to me.

There, Jack! I shall have her courtesy to me by-and-by, I question not. What a-devil had I to do, to terrify the sweet creature by my termagant projects!—Yet it was not amiss, I believe, to make her afraid of me. She says, I am an unpolite man. And every polite instance from such a one is deemed a favour.

Talking of the settlements, I told her I had rather that Pritchard (mentioned by my cousin Charlotte) had not been consulted on this occasion. Pritchard, indeed, was a very honest man; and had been for a generation in the family; and knew of the estates, and the condition of them, better than either my Lord or myself: but Pritchard, like other old men, was diffident and slow; and valued himself upon his skill as a draughts-man; and, for the sake of the paltry reputation, must have all his forms preserved, were an imperial crown to depend upon his dispatch.

I kissed her unrepulsing hand no less than five times during this conversation. Lord, Jack, how my generous heart ran over!—She was quite obliging at parting.—She in a manner asked me leave to retire; to reperuse Charlotte’s letter.—I think she bent her knees to me; but I won’t be sure.—How happy might we both have been long ago, had the dear creature been always as complaisant to me! For I do love respect, and, whether I deserve it or not, always had it, till I knew this proud beauty.

And now, Belford, are we in a train, or the deuce is in it. Every fortified town has its strong and its weak place. I have carried on my attacks against the impregnable parts. I have not doubt but I shall either shine or smuggle her out of her cloke, since she and Miss Howe have intended to employ a smuggler against me.—All we wait for now is my Lord’s letter.

But I had like to have forgot to tell thee, that we have been not a little alarmed, by some inquiries that have been made after me and my beloved by a man of good appearance; who yesterday procured a tradesman in the neighbourhood to send for Dorcas: of whom he asked several questions relating to us; particularly (as we boarded and lodged in one house) whether we were married?

This has given my beloved great uneasiness. And I could not help observing upon it, to her, how right a thing it was that we had given out below that we were married. The inquiry, most probably, I said, was from her brother’s quarter; and now perhaps that our marriage was owned, we should hear no more of his machinations. The person, it seems, was curious to know the day that the ceremony was performed. But Dorcas refused to give him any other particulars than that we were married; and she was the more reserved, as he declined to tell her the motives of his inquiry.