Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXIV

MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE FRIDAY, MAY 12.

I must be silent, my exalted friend, under praises that oppress my heart with a consciousness of not deserving them; at the same time that the generous design of those praises raises and comforts it: for it is a charming thing to stand high in the opinion of those we love; and to find that there are souls that can carry their friendships beyond accidents, beyond body and ties of blood. Whatever, my dearest creature, is my shining-time, the time of a friend’s adversity is yours. And it would be almost a fault in me to regret those afflictions, which give you an opportunity so gloriously to exert those qualities, which not only ennoble our sex, but dignify human nature.

But let me proceed to subjects less agreeable.

I am sorry you have reason to think Singleton’s projects are not at an end. But who knows what the sailor had to propose?—Yet had any good been intended me, this method would hardly have been fallen upon.

Depend upon it, my dear, your letters shall be safe.

I have made a handle of Mr. Lovelace’s bold attempt and freedom, as I told you I would, to keep him ever since at a distance, that I may have an opportunity to see the success of the application to my uncle, and to be at liberty to embrace any favourable overtures that may arise from it. Yet he has been very importunate, and twice brought Mr. Mennell from Mrs. Fretchvill to talk about the house.—If I should be obliged to make up with him again, I shall think I am always doing myself a spite.

As to what you mention of his newly-detected crimes; and your advice to attach Dorcas to my interest; and to come at some of his letters; these things will require more or less of my attention, as I may hope favour or not from my uncle Harlowe.

I am sorry that my poor Hannah continues ill. Pray, my dear, inform yourself, and let me know, whether she wants any thing that befits her case.

I will not close this letter till to-morrow is over; for I am resolved to go to church; and this as well for the sake of my duty, as to see if I am at liberty to go out when I please without being attended or accompanied.

SUNDAY, MAY 14.

I have not been able to avoid a short debate with Mr. Lovelace. I had ordered a coach to the door. When I had noticed that it was come, I went out of my chamber to go to it; but met him dressed on the stairs head, with a book in his hand, but without his hat and sword. He asked, with an air very solemn yet respectful, if I were going abroad. I told him I was. He desired leave to attend me, if I were going to church. I refused him. And then he complained heavily of my treatment of him; and declared that he would not live such another week as the past, for the world.

I owned to him very frankly, that I had made an application to my friends; and that I was resolved to keep myself to myself till I knew the issue of it.

He coloured, and seemed surprised. But checking himself in something he was going to say, he pleaded my danger from Singleton, and again desired to attend me.

And then he told me, that Mrs. Fretchville had desired to continue a fortnight longer in the house. She found, said he, that I was unable to determine about entering upon it; and now who knows when such a vapourish creature will come to a resolution? This, Madam, has been an unhappy week; for had I not stood upon such bad terms with you, you might have been new mistress of that house; and probably had my cousin Montague, if not Lady Betty, actually with you.

And so, Sir, taking all you say for granted, your cousin Montague cannot come to Mrs. Sinclair’s? What, pray, is her objection to Mrs. Sinclair’s? Is this house fit for me to live in a month or two, and not fit for any of your relations for a few days?—And Mrs. Fretchville has taken more time too!—Then, pushing by him, I hurried down stairs.

He called to Dorcas to bring him his sword and hat; and following me down into the passage, placed himself between me and the door; and again desired leave to attend me.

Mrs. Sinclair came out at that instant, and asked me, if I did not choose a dish of chocolate?

I wish, Mrs. Sinclair, said I, you would take this man in with you to your chocolate. I don’t know whether I am at liberty to stir out without his leave or not.

Then turning to him, I asked, if he kept me there his prisoner?

Dorcas just then bringing him his sword and hat, he opened the street- door, and taking my reluctant hand, led me, in a very obsequious manner, to the coach. People passing by, stopped, stared, and whispered—But he is so graceful in his person and dress, that he generally takes every eye.

I was uneasy to be so gazed at; and he stepped in after me, and the coachman drove to St. Paul’s.

He was very full of assiduities all the way; while I was as reserved as possible: and when I returned, dined, as I had done the greatest part of the week, by myself.

He told me, upon my resolving to do so, that although he would continue his passive observance till I knew the issue of my application, yet I must expect, that then I should not rest one moment till I had fixed his happy day: for that his very soul was fretted with my slights, resentments, and delays.

A wretch! when can I say, to my infinite regret, on a double account, that all he complains of is owing to himself!

O that I may have good tidings from my uncle!

Adieu, my dearest friend—This shall lie ready for an exchange (as I hope for one to-morrow from you) that will decide, as I may say, the destiny of

Your CLARISSA HARLOWE.