Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXIX


It was now high time to acquaint my spouse, that Captain Tomlinson was come. And the rather, as the maid told us, that the lady had asked her if such a gentleman [describing him] was not in the parlour?

Mrs. Moore went up, and requested, in my name, that she would give us audience.

But she returned, reporting my beloved’s desire, that Captain Tomlinson would excuse her for the present. She was very ill. Her spirits were too weak to enter into conversation with him; and she must lie down.

I was vexed, and at first extremely disconcerted. The Captain was vexed too. And my concern, thou mayest believe, was the greater on his account.

She had been very much fatigued, I own. Her fits in the morning must have disordered her: and she had carried her resentment so high, that it was the less wonder she should find herself low, when her raised spirits had subsided. Very low, I may say; if sinkings are proportioned to risings; for she had been lifted up above the standard of a common mortal.

The Captain, however, sent up his own name, that if he could be admitted to drink one dish of tea with her, he should take it for a favour: and would go to town, and dispatch some necessary business, in order, if possible, to leave his morning free to attend her.

But she pleaded a violent head-ache; and Mrs. Moore confirmed the plea to be just.

I would have had the Captain lodge there that night, as well in compliment to him, as introductory to my intention of entering myself upon my new-taken apartment: but his hours were of too much importance to him to stay the evening.

It was indeed very inconvenient for him, he said, to return in the morning; but he is willing to do all in his power to heal this breach, and that as well for the sakes of me and my lady, as for that of his dear friend Mr. John Harlowe; who must not know how far this misunderstanding had gone. He would therefore only drink one dish of tea with the ladies and me.

And accordingly, after he had done so, and I had had a little private conversation with him, he hurried away.

His fellow had given him, in the interim, a high character to Mrs. Moore’s servants: and this reported by the widow Bevis (who being no proud woman, is hail fellow well met, as the saying is, with all her aunt’s servants) he was a fine gentleman, a discreet gentleman, a man of sense and breeding, with them all: and it was pity, that, with such great business upon his hands, he should be obliged to come again.

My life for your’s, audibly whispered the widow Bevis, there is humour as well as head-ache in somebody’s declining to see this worthy gentleman.— Ah, Lord! how happy might some people be if they would!

No perfect happiness in this world, said I, very gravely, and with a sigh; for the widow must know that I heard her. If we have not real unhappiness, we can make it, even from the overflowings of our good fortune.

Very true, and very true, the two widows. A charming observation! Mrs. Bevis. Miss Rawlins smiled her assent to it; and I thought she called me in her heart charming man! for she professes to be a great admirer of moral observations.

I had hardly taken leave of the Captain, and sat down again with the women, when Will. came; and calling me out, ’Sir, Sir,’ said he, grinning with a familiarity in his looks as if what he had to say entitled him to take liberties; ’I have got the fellow down!—I have got old Grimes—hah, hah, hah, hah!—He is at the Lower Flask—almost in the condition of David’s sow, and please your honour—[the dog himself not much better] here is his letter—from—from Miss Howe—ha, ha, ha, ha,’ laughed the varlet; holding it fast, as if to make conditions with me, and to excite my praises, as well as my impatience.

I could have knocked him down; but he would have his say out—’old Grimes knows not that I have the letter—I must get back to him before he misses it—I only make a pretence to go out for a few minutes—but—but’—and then the dog laughed again—’he must stay—old Grimes must stay—till I go back to pay the reckoning.’

D—n the prater; grinning rascal! The letter! The letter!

He gathered in his wide mothe, as he calls it, and gave me the letter; but with a strut, rather than a bow; and then sidled off like one of widow Sorlings’s dunghill cocks, exulting after a great feat performed. And all the time that I was holding up the billet to the light, to try to get at its contents without breaking the seal, [for, dispatched in a hurry, it had no cover,] there stood he, laughing, shrugging, playing off his legs; now stroking his shining chin, now turning his hat upon his thumb! then leering in my face, flourishing with his head—O Christ! now-and-then cried the rascal—

What joy has this dog in mischief!—More than I can have in the completion of my most favourite purposes!—These fellows are ever happier than their masters.

I was once thinking to rumple up this billet till I had broken the seal. Young families [Miss Howe’s is not an ancient one] love ostentatious sealings: and it might have been supposed to have been squeezed in pieces in old Grimes’s breeches-pocket. But I was glad to be saved the guilt as well as suspicion of having a hand in so dirty a trick; for thus much of the contents (enough for my purpose) I was enabled to scratch out in character without it; the folds depriving me only of a few connecting words, which I have supplied between hooks.

My Miss Harlowe, thou knowest, had before changed her name to Miss Laetitia Beaumont. Another alias now, Jack, to it; for this billet was directed to her by the name of Mrs. Harriot Lucas. I have learned her to be half a rogue, thou seest.

’I congratulate you, my dear, with all my heart and soul, upon [your escape] from the villain. [I long] for the particulars of all. [My mother] is out; but, expecting her return every minute, I dispatched [your] messenger instantly. [I will endeavour to come at] Mrs. Townsend without loss of time; and will write at large in a day or two, if in that time I can see her. [Mean time I] am excessively uneasy for a letter I sent you yesterday by Collins, [who must have left it at] Wilson’s after you got away. [It is of very] great importance. [I hope the] villain has it not. I would not for the world [that he should.] Immediately send for it, if, by doing so, the place you are at [will not be] discovered. If he has it, let me know it by some way [out of] hand. If not, you need not send.

’Ever, ever your’s, ’A.H. ’June 9.’


O Jack! what heart’s-ease does this interception give me!—I sent the rascal back with the letter to old Grimes, and charged him to drink no deeper. He owned, that he was half-seas over, as he phrased it.

Dog! said I, are you not to court one of Mrs. Moore’s maids to-night?—

Cry your mercy, Sir!—I will be sober.—I had forgot that—but old Grimes is plaguy tough, I thought I should never have got him down.

Away, villain! Let old Grimes come, and on horseback too, to the door—

He shall, and please your honour, if I can get him on the saddle, and if he can sit—

And charge him not to have alighted, nor to have seen any body—

Enough, Sir, familiarly nodding his head, to show he took me. And away went the villain—into the parlour, to the women, I.

In a quarter of an hour came old Grimes on horseback, waving to his saddle-bow, now on this side, now on that; his head, at others, joining to that of his more sober beast.

It looked very well to the women that I made no effort to speak to old Grimes, (though I wished, before them, that I knew the contents of what he brought;) but, on the contrary, desired that they would instantly let my spouse know that her messenger was returned.

Down she flew, violently as she had the head-ache!

O how I prayed for an opportunity to be revenged of her for the ungrateful trouble she had given to her uncle’s friend!

She took the letter from old Grimes with her own hands, and retired to an inner parlour to read it.

She presently came out again to the fellow, who had much ado to sit his horse—Here is your money, friend.—I thought you long: but what shall I do to get somebody to go to town immediately for me? I see you cannot.

Old Grimes took his money, let fall his hat in doffing it; had it given him, and rode away; his eyes isinglass, and set in his head, as I saw through the window, and in a manner speechless—all his language hiccup. My dog needed not to have gone so deep with this tough old Grimes. But the rascal was in his kingdom with him.

The lady applied to Mrs. Moore; she mattered not the price. Could a man and horse be engaged for her?—Only to go for a letter left for her, at one Mr. Wilson’s, in Pall-mall.

A poor neighbour was hired—a horse procured for him—he had his directions.

In vain did I endeavour to engaged my beloved, when she was below. Her head-ache, I suppose, returned.—She, like the rest of her sex, can be ill or well when she pleases.

I see her drift, thought I; it is to have all her lights from Miss Howe before she resolves, and to take her measures accordingly.

Up she went expressing great impatience about the letter she had sent for; and desired Mrs. Moore to let her know if I offered to send any one of my servants to town—to get at the letter, I suppose, was her fear; but she might have been quite easy on that head; and yet, perhaps, would not, had she known that the worthy Captain Tomlinson, (who will be in town before her messenger,) will leave there the important letter, which I hope will help to pacify her, and reconcile her to me.

O Jack, Jack! thinkest thou that I will take all this roguish pains, and be so often called villain for nothing?

But yet, is it not taking pains to come at the finest creature in the world, not for a transitory moment only, but for one of our lives! The struggle only, Whether I am to have her in my own way, or in her’s?

But now I know thou wilt be frightened out of thy wits for me—What, Lovelace! wouldest thou let her have a letter that will inevitably blow thee up; and blow up the mother, and all her nymphs!—yet not intend to reform, nor intend to marry?

Patience, puppy!—Canst thou not trust thy master?