Clarissa Harlowe LETTER VIII


I am very much vexed and disturbed at an odd incident. Mrs. Sinclair has just now left me; I believe in displeasure, on my declining to comply with a request she made me: which was, to admit Miss Partington to a share in my bed, her house being crowded by her nieces’s guests and by their attendants, as well as by those of Miss Partington.

There might be nothing in it; and my denial carried a stiff and ill- natured appearance. But instantly, upon her making the request, it came into my thought, ’that I was in a manner a stranger to every body in the house: not so much as a servant I could call my own, or of whom I had any great opinion: that there were four men of free manners in the house, avowed supporters of Mr. Lovelace in matters of offence; himself a man of enterprise; all, as far as I knew, (and as I had reason to think by their noisy mirth after I left them,) drinking deeply: that Miss Partington herself is not so bashful a person as she was represented to me to be: that officious pains were taken to give me a good opinion of her: and that Mrs. Sinclair made a greater parade in prefacing the request, than such a request needed. To deny, thought I, can carry only an appearance of singularity to people who already think me singular. To consent may possibly, if not probably, be attended with inconveniencies. The consequences of the alternative so very disproportionate, I thought it more prudent to incur the censure, than to risque the inconvenience.’

I told her that I was writing a long letter: that I should choose to write till I were sleepy, and that a companion would be a restraint upon me, and I upon her.

She was loth, she said, that so delicate a young creature, and so great a fortune as Miss Partington, should be put to lie with Dorcas in a press-bed. She should be very sorry, if she had asked an improper thing. She had never been so put to it before. And Miss would stay up with her till I had done writing.

Alarmed at this urgency, and it being easier to persist in a denial given, than to give it at first, I said, Miss Partington should be welcome to my whole bed, and I would retire into the dining-room, and there, locking myself in, write all the night.

The poor thing, she said, was afraid to lie alone. To be sure Miss Partington would not put me to such an inconvenience.

She then withdrew,—but returned—begged my pardon for returning, but the poor child, she said, was in tears.—Miss Partington had never seen a young lady she so much admired, and so much wished to imitate as me. The dear girl hoped that nothing had passed in her behaviour to give me dislike to her.—Should she bring her to me?

I was very busy, I said: the letter I was writing was upon a very important subject. I hoped to see the young lady in the morning, when I would apologize to her for my particularity. And then Mrs. Sinclair hesitating, and moving towards the door, (though she turned round to me again,) I desired her, (lighting her,) to take care how she went down.

Pray, Madam, said she, on the stairs-head, don’t give yourself all this trouble. God knows my heart, I meant no affront: but, since you seem to take my freedom amiss, I beg you will not acquaint Mr. Lovelace with it; for he perhaps will think me bold and impertinent.

Now, my dear, is not this a particular incident, either as I have made it, or as it was designed? I don’t love to do an uncivil thing. And if nothing were meant by the request, my refusal deserves to be called uncivil. Then I have shown a suspicion of foul usage by it, which surely dare not be meant. If just, I ought to apprehend every thing, and fly the house and the man as I would an infection. If not just, and if I cannot contrive to clear myself of having entertained suspicions, by assigning some other plausible reason for my denial, the very staying here will have an appearance not at all reputable to myself.

I am now out of humour with him,—with myself,—with all the world, but you. His companions are shocking creatures. Why, again I repeat, should he have been desirous to bring me into such company? Once more I like him not.—Indeed I do not like him!