Clarissa Harlowe LETTER XXVI


I will now give thee the substance of the dialogue that passed between the two women and the lady. Wonder not, that a perverse wife makes a listening husband. The event, however, as thou wilt find, justified the old observation, That listners seldom hear good of themselves. Conscious of their own demerits, if I may guess by myself, [There’s ingenuousness, Jack!] and fearful of censure, they seldom find themselves disappointed. There is something of sense, after all in these proverbs, in these phrases, in this wisdom of nations.

Mrs. Moore was to be the messenger, but Miss Rawlins began the dialogue.

Your SPOUSE, Madam,—[Devil!—only to fish for a negative or affirmative declaration.]

Cl. My spouse, Madam—

Miss R. Mr. Lovelace, Madam, avers that you are married to him; and begs admittance, or your company in the dining-room, to talk upon the subject of the letters he left with you.

Cl. He is a poor wicked wretch. Let me beg of you, Madam, to favour me with your company as often as possible while he is hereabouts, and I remain here.

Miss R. I shall with pleasure attend you, Madam: but, methinks, I could wish you would see the gentleman, and hear what he has to say on the subject of the letters.

Cl. My case is a hard, a very hard one—I am quite bewildered!-I know not what to do!—I have not a friend in the world that can or will help me! Yet had none but friends till I knew that man!

Miss R. The gentleman neither looks nor talks like a bad man.—Not a very bad man, as men go.

As men go! Poor Miss Rawlins, thought I; and dost thou know how men go?

Cl. O Madam, you know him not! He can put on the appearance of an angel of light; but has a black, a very black heart!

Poor I!—

Miss R. I could not have thought it, truly! But men are very deceitful, now-a-days.

Now-a-days!—A fool!—Have not her history-books told her that they were always so?

Mrs. Moore, sighing. I have found it so, I am sure, to my cost!—

Who knows but in her time poor goody Moore may have met with a Lovelace, or a Belford, or some such vile fellow? My little harum-scarum beauty knows not what strange histories every woman living, who has had the least independence of will, could tell her, were such to be as communicative as she is. But here’s the thing—I have given her cause enough of offence; but not enough to make her hold her tongue.

Cl. As to the letters he has left with me, I know not what to say to them: but am resolved never to have any thing to say to him.

Miss R. If, Madam, I may be allowed to say so, I think you carry matters very far.

Cl. Has he been making a bad cause a good one with you, Madam?—That he can do with those who know him not. Indeed I heard him talking, thought not what he said, and am indifferent about it.—But what account does he give of himself?

I was pleased to hear this. To arrest, to stop her passion, thought I, in the height of its career, is a charming presage.

Then the busy Miss Rawlins fished on, to find out from her either a confirmation or disavowal of my story—Was Lord M. my uncle? Did I court her at first with the allowance of her friends, her brother excepted? Had I a rencounter with that brother? Was she so persecuted in favour of a very disagreeable man, one Solmes, as to induce her to throw herself into my protection?

None of these were denied. All the objections she could have made, were stifled, or kept in, by the considerations, (as she mentioned,) that she should stay there but a little while, and that her story was too long; but Miss Rawlins would not be thus easily answered.

Miss R. He says, Madam, that he could not prevail for marriage, till he had consented, under a solemn oath, to separate beds, while your family remained unreconciled.

Cl. O the wretch! What can be still in his head, to endeavour to pass these stories upon strangers?

So no direct denial, thought I.—Admirable!—All will do by-and-by.

Miss R. He has owned that an accidental fire had frightened you very much on Wednesday night—and that—and that—an accidental fire had frightened you—very much frightened you—last Wednesday night!

Then, after a short pause—In short, he owned, that he had taken some innocent liberties, which might have led to a breach of the oath you had imposed upon him; and that this was the cause of your displeasure.

I would have been glad to see how my charmer then looked.—To be sure she was at a loss in her own mind, to justify herself for resenting so highly an offence so trifling.—She hesitated—did not presently speak.—When she did, she wished that she, (Miss Rawlins,) might never meet with any man who would take such innocent liberties with her.

Miss Rawlins pushed further.

Your case, to be sure, Madam, is very particular: but if the hope of a reconciliation with your own friends is made more distant by your leaving him, give me leave to say, that ’tis pity—’tis pity—[I suppose the maiden then primm’d, fann’d, and blush’d—’tis pity] the oath cannot be dispensed with; especially as he owns he has not been so strict a liver.

I could have gone in and kissed the girl.

Cl. You have heard his story. Mine, as I told you before, is too long, and too melancholy: my disorder on seeing the wretch is too great; and my time here is too short, for me to enter upon it. And if he has any end to serve by his own vindication, in which I shall not be a personal sufferer, let him make himself appear as white as an angel, with all my heart.

My love for her, and the excellent character I gave her, were then pleaded.

Cl. Specious seducer!—Only tell me if I cannot get away from him by some back way?

How my heart then went pit-a-pat, to speak in the female dialect.

Cl. Let me look out—[I heard the sash lifted up.]—Whither does that path lead? Is there no possibility of getting to a coach? Surely he must deal with some fiend, or how could he have found me out? Cannot I steal to some neighbouring house, where I may be concealed till I can get quite away? You are good people!—I have not been always among such!— O help me, help me, Ladies! [with a voice of impatience,] or I am ruined!

Then pausing, Is that the way to Hendon? [pointing, I suppose.] Is Hendon a private place?—The Hampstead coach, I am told, will carry passengers thither.

Mrs. Moore. I have an honest friend at Mill-Hill, [Devil fetch her! thought I,] where, if such be your determination, Madam, and if you think yourself in danger, you may be safe, I believe.

Cl. Any where, if I can but escape from this man! Whither does that path lead, out yonder?—What is that town on the right hand called?

Mrs. Moore. Highgate, Madam.

Miss R. On the side of the heath is a little village, called North-end. A kinswoman of mine lives there. But her house is small. I am not sure she could accommodate such a lady.

Devil take her too! thought I,—I imagined that I had made myself a better interest in these women. But the whole sex love plotting—and plotters too, Jack.

Cl. A barn, an outhouse, a garret, will be a palace to me, if it will but afford me a refuge from this man!

Her senses, thought I, are much livelier than mine.—What a devil have I done, that she should be so very implacable? I told thee, Belford, all I did: Was there any thing in it so very much amiss? Such prospects of a family reconciliation before her too! To be sure she is a very sensible lady!

She then espied my new servant walking under the window, and asked if he were not one of mine?

Will. was on the look-out for old Grimes, [so is the fellow called whom my beloved has dispatched to Miss Howe.] And being told that the man she saw was my servant; I see, said she, that there is no escaping, unless you, Madam, [to Miss Rawlins, I suppose,] can befriend me till I can get farther. I have no doubt that the fellow is planted about the house to watch my steps. But the wicked wretch his master has no right to controul me. He shall not hinder me from going where I please. I will raise the town upon him, if he molests me. Dear Ladies, is there no back-door for me to get out at while you hold him in talk?

Miss R. Give me leave to ask you, Madam, Is there no room to hope for accommodation? Had you not better see him? He certainly loves you dearly: he is a fine gentleman; you may exasperate him, and make matters more unhappy for yourself.

Cl. O Mrs. Moore! O Miss Rawlins! you know not the man! I wish not to see his face, nor to exchange another word with him as long as I live.

Mrs. Moore. I don’t find, Miss Rawlins, that the gentleman has misrepresented any thing. You see, Madam, [to my Clarissa,] how respectful he is; not to come in till permitted. He certainly loves you dearly. Pray, Madam, let him talk to you, as he wishes to do, on the subject of his letters.

Very kind of Mrs. Moore!—Mrs. Moore, thought I, is a very good woman. I did not curse her then.

Miss Rawlins said something; but so low that I could not hear what it was. Thus it was answered.

Cl. I am greatly distressed! I know not what to do!—But, Mrs. Moore, be so good as to give his letters to him—here they are.—Be pleased to tell him, that I wish him and Lady Betty and Miss Montague a happy meeting. He never can want excuses to them for what has happened, any more than pretences to those he would delude. Tell him, that he has ruined me in the opinion of my own friends. I am for that reason the less solicitous how I appear to his.

Mrs. Moore then came to me; and I, being afraid that something would pass mean time between the other two, which I should not like, took the letters, and entered the room, and found them retired into the closet; my beloved whispering with an air of earnestness to Miss Rawlins, who was all attention.

Her back was towards me; and Miss Rawlins, by pulling her sleeve, giving intimation of my being there—Can I have no retirement uninvaded, Sir, said she, with indignation, as if she were interrupted in some talk her heart was in?—What business have you here, or with me?—You have your letters; have you not?

Lovel. I have, my dear; and let me beg of you to consider what you are about. I every moment expect Captain Tomlinson here. Upon my soul, I do. He has promised to keep from your uncle what has happened: but what will he think if he find you hold in this strange humour?

Cl. I will endeavour, Sir, to have patience with you for a moment or two, while I ask you a few questions before this lady, and before Mrs. Moore, [who just then came in,] both of whom you have prejudiced in your favour by your specious stories:—Will you say, Sir, that we are married together? Lay your hand upon your heart, and answer me, am I your wedded wife?

I am gone too far, thought I, to give up for such a push as this, home one as it is.

My dearest soul! how can you put such a question? It is either for your honour or my own, that it should be doubted?—Surely, surely, Madam, you cannot have attended to the contents of Captain Tomlinson’s letter.

She complained often of want of spirits throughout our whole contention, and of weakness of person and mind, from the fits she had been thrown into: but little reason had she for this complaint, as I thought, who was able to hold me to it, as she did. I own that I was excessively concerned for her several times.

You and I! Vilest of Men!—

My name is Lovelace, Madam—

Therefore it is that I call you the vilest of men. [Was this pardonable, Jack!]—You and I know the truth, the whole truth.—I want not to clear up my reputation with these gentlewomen:—that is already lost with every one I had most reason to value: but let me have this new specimen of what you are capable of—say, wretch, (say, Lovelace, if thou hadst rather,) art thou really and truly my wedded husband?—Say; answer without hesitation.

She trembled with impatient indignation; but had a wildness in her manner, which I took some advantage of, in order to parry this cursed thrust. And a cursed thrust it was; since, had I positively averred it, she would never have believed any thing I said: and had I owned that I was not married, I had destroyed my own plot, as well with the women as with her; and could have no pretence for pursuing her, or hindering her from going wheresoever she pleased. Not that I was ashamed to aver it, had it been consistent with policy. I would not have thee think me such a milk-sop neither.

Lovel. My dearest love, how wildly you talk! What would you have me answer? It is necessary that I should answer? May I not re-appeal this to your own breast, as well as to Captain Tomlinson’s treaty and letter? You know yourself how matters stand between us.—And Captain Tomlinson—

Cl. O wretch! Is this an answer to my question? Say, are we married, or are we not?

Lovel. What makes a marriage, we all know. If it be the union of two hearts, [there was a turn, Jack!] to my utmost grief, I must say that we are not; since now I see you hate me. If it be the completion of marriage, to my confusion and regret, I must own we are not. But, my dear, will you be pleased to consider what answer half a dozen people whence you came, could give to your question? And do not now, in the disorder of your mind, and the height of passion, bring into question before these gentlewomen a point you have acknowledged before those who know us better.

I would have whispered her about the treaty with her uncle, and about the contents of the Captain’s letter; but, retreating, and with a rejecting hand, Keep thy distance, man, cried the dear insolent—to thine own heart I appeal, since thou evadest me thus pitifully!—I own no marriage with thee!—Bear witness, Ladies, I do not. And cease to torment me, cease to follow me.—Surely, surely, faulty as I have been, I have not deserved to be thus persecuted!—I resume, therefore, my former language: you have no right to pursue me: you know you have not: begone then, and leave me to make the best of my hard lot. O my dear, cruel father! said she, in a violent fit of grief [falling upon her knees, and clasping her uplifted hands together] thy heavy curse is completed upon thy devoted daughter! I am punished, dreadfully punished, by the very wretch in whom I had placed my wicked confidence!

By my soul, Belford, the little witch with her words, but more by her manner, moved me! Wonder not then that her action, her grief, her tears, set the women into the like compassionate manifestations.

Had I not a cursed task of it?

The two women withdrew to the further end of the room, and whispered, a strange case! There is no phrensy here—I just heard said.

The charming creature threw her handkerchief over her head and neck, continuing kneeling, her back towards me, and her face hid upon a chair, and repeatedly sobbed with grief and passion.

I took this opportunity to step to the women to keep them steady.

You see, Ladies, [whispering,] what an unhappy man I am! You see what a spirit this dear creature has!—All, all owing to her implacable relations, and to her father’s curse.—A curse upon them all! they have turned the head of the most charming woman in the world!

Ah! Sir, Sir, replied Miss Rawlins, whatever be the fault of her relations, all is not as it should be between you and her. ’Tis plain she does not think herself married: ’tis plain she does not: and if you have any value for the poor lady, and would not totally deprive her of her senses, you had better withdraw, and leave to time and cooler consideration the event in your favour.

She will compel me to this at last, I fear, Miss Rawlins; I fear she will; and then we are both undone: for I cannot live without her; she knows it too well: and she has not a friend who will look upon her: this also she knows. Our marriage, when her uncle’s friend comes, will be proved incontestably. But I am ashamed to think I have given her room to believe it no marriage: that’s what she harps upon!

Well, ’tis a strange case, a very strange one, said Miss Rawlins; and was going to say further, when the angry beauty, coming towards the door, said, Mrs. Moore, I beg a word with you. And they both stepped into the dining-room.

I saw her just before put a parcel into her pocket; and followed them out, for fear she should slip away; and stepping to the stairs, that she might not go by me, Will., cried I, aloud [though I knew he was not near] —Pray, child, to a maid, who answered, call either of my servants to me.

She then came up to me with a wrathful countenance: do you call your servant, Sir, to hinder me, between you, from going where I please?

Don’t, my dearest life, misinterpret every thing I do. Can you think me so mean and unworthy as to employ a servant to constrain you?—I call him to send to the public-houses, or inns in this town, to inquire after Captain Tomlinson, who may have alighted at some one of them, and be now, perhaps, needlessly adjusting his dress; and I would have him come, were he to be without clothes, God forgive me! for I am stabbed to the heart by your cruelty.

Answer was returned, that neither of my servants was in the way.

Not in the way, said I!—Whither can the dogs be gone?

O Sir! with a scornful air; not far, I’ll warrant. One of them was under the window just now; according to order, I suppose, to watch my steps— but I will do what I please, and go where I please; and that to your face.

God forbid, that I should hinder you in any thing that you may do with safety to yourself!

Now I verily believe that her design was to slip out, in pursuance of the closet-whispering between her and Miss Rawlins; perhaps to Miss Rawlins’s house.

She then stept back to Mrs. Moore, and gave her something, which proved to be a diamond ring, and desired her [not whisperingly, but with an air of defiance to me] that that might be a pledge for her, till she defrayed her demands; which she should soon find means to do; having no more money about her than she might have occasion for before she came to an acquaintance’s.

Mrs. Moore would have declined taking it; but she would not be denied; and then, wiping her eyes, she put on her gloves—nobody has a right to stop me, said she!—I will go!—Whom should I be afraid of?—Her very question, charming creature! testifying her fear.

I beg pardon, Madam, [turning to Mrs. Moore, and courtesying,] for the trouble I have given you.—I beg pardon, Madam, to Miss Rawlins, [courtesying likewise to her,]—you may both hear of me in a happier hour, if such a one fall to my lot—and God bless you both!—struggling with her tears till she sobbed—and away was tripping.

I stepped to the door: I put it to; and setting my back against it, took her struggling hand—My dearest life! my angel! said I, why will you thus distress me?—Is this the forgiveness which you so solemnly promised?—

Unhand me, Sir!—You have no business with me! You have no right over me! You know you have not.

But whither, whither, my dearest love, would you go!—Think you not that I will follow you, were it to the world’s end!—Whither would you go?

Well do you ask me, whither I would go, who have been the occasion that I have not a friend left!—But God, who knows my innocence, and my upright intentions, will not wholly abandon me when I am out of your power; but while I am in it, I cannot expect a gleam of the divine grace or favour to reach me.

How severe is this!—How shockingly severe!—Out of your presence, my angry fair-one, I can neither hope for the one nor the other. As my cousin Montague, in the letter you have read, observes, You are my polar star and my guide, and if ever I am to be happy, either here or hereafter, it must be in and by you.

She would then have opened the door. But I, respectfully opposing her, Begone, man! Begone, Mr. Lovelace! said she, stop not in my way. If you would not that I should attempt the window, give me passage by the door; for, once more, you have no right to detain me.

Your resentments, my dearest life, I will own to be well grounded. I will acknowledge that I have been all in fault. On my knee, [and down I dropt,] I ask your pardon. And can you refuse to ratify your own promise? Look forward to the happy prospect before us. See you not my Lord M. and Lady Sarah longing to bless you, for blessing me, and their whole family? Can you take no pleasure in the promised visit of Lady Betty and my cousin Montague? And in the protection they offer you, if you are dissatisfied with mine? Have you no wish to see your uncle’s friend? Stay only till Captain Tomlinson comes. Receive from him the news of your uncle’s compliance with the wishes of both.

She seemed altogether distressed; was ready to sink; and forced to lean against the wainscot, as I kneeled at her feet. A stream of tears at last burst from her less indignant eyes. Good heaven! said she, lifting up her lovely face, and clasped hands, what is at last to be my destiny? Deliver me from this dangerous man; and direct me—I know not what to do, what I can do, nor what I ought to do!

The women, as I had owned our marriage to be but half completed, heard nothing in this whole scene to contradict (not flagrantly to contradict) what I had asserted. They believed they saw in her returning temper, and staggered resolution, a love for me, which her indignation had before suppressed; and they joined to persuade her to tarry till the Captain came, and to hear his proposals; representing the dangers to which she would be exposed; the fatigues she might endure; a lady of her appearance, unguarded, unprotected. On the other hand they dwelt upon my declared contrition, and on my promises; for the performance of which they offered to be bound. So much had my kneeling humility affected them.

Women, Jack, tacitly acknowledge the inferiority of their sex, in the pride they take to behold a kneeling lover at their feet.

She turned from me, and threw herself into a chair.

I arose and approached her with reverence. My dearest creature, said I, and was proceeding, but, with a face glowing with conscious dignity, she interrupted me—Ungenerous, ungrateful Lovelace! You know not the value of the heart you have insulted! Nor can you conceive how much my soul despises your meanness. But meanness must ever be the portion of the man, who can act vilely!

The women believing we were likely to be on better terms, retired. The dear perverse opposed their going; but they saw I was desirous of their absence; and when they had withdrawn, I once more threw myself at her feet, and acknowledged my offences; implored her forgiveness for this one time, and promised the most exact circumspection for the future.

It was impossible for her she said to keep her memory and forgive me. What hadst thou seen in the conduct of Clarissa Harlowe, that should encourage such an insult upon her as thou didst dare to make? How meanly must thou think of her, that thou couldst presume to be so guilty, and expect her to be so weak as to forgive thee?

I besought her to let me read over to her Captain Tomlinson’s letter. I was sure it was impossible she could have given it the requisite attention.

I have given it the requisite attention, said she; and the other letters too. So that what I say is upon deliberation. And what have I to fear from my brother and sister? They can but complete the ruin of my fortunes with my father and uncles. Let them and welcome. You, Sir, I thank you, have lowered my fortunes; but, I bless God, that my mind is not sunk with my fortunes. It is, on the contrary, raised above fortune, and above you; and for half a word they shall have the estate they envied me for, and an acquittal from me of all the expectations from my family that may make them uneasy.

I lifted up my hands and eyes in silent admiration of her.

My brother, Sir, may think me ruined; to the praise of your character, he may think it impossible to be with you and be innocent. You have but too well justified their harshest censures by every part of your conduct. But now that I have escaped from you, and that I am out of the reach of your mysterious devices, I will wrap myself up in mine own innocence, [and then the passionate beauty folded her arms about herself,] and leave to time, and to my future circumspection, the re-establishment of my character. Leave me then, Sir, pursue me not!—

Good Heaven! [interrupting her]—and all this, for what?—Had I not yielded to your entreaties, (forgive me, Madam,) you could not have carried farther your resentments—

Wretch! Was it not crime enough to give occasion for those entreaties? Wouldst thou make a merit to me, that thou didst not utterly ruin her whom thou oughtest to have protected? Begone, man! (turning from me, her face crimsoned over with passion.)—See me no more!—I cannot bear thee in my sight!—

Dearest, dearest creature!

If I forgive thee, Lovelace—And there she stopped.—To endeavour, proceeded she, to endeavour by premeditation, by low contrivances, by cries of Fire! to terrify a poor creature who had consented to take a wretched chance with thee for life!

For Heaven’s sake,—offering to take her repulsing hand, as she was flying from me towards the closet.

What hast thou to do to plead for the sake of Heaven in thy favour!—O darkest of human minds!

Then turning from me, wiping her eyes, and again turning towards me, but her sweet face half aside, What difficulties hast thou involved me in! That thou hadst a plain path before thee, after thou hadst betrayed me into thy power.—At once my mind takes in the whole of thy crooked behaviour; and if thou thinkest of Clarissa Harlowe as her proud heart tells her thou oughtest to think of her, thou wilt seek thy fortunes elsewhere. How often hast thou provoked me to tell thee, that my soul is above thee!

For Heaven’s sake, Madam, for a soul’s sake, which it is in your power to save from perdition, forgive me the past offence. I am the greatest villain on earth if it was a premeditated one; yet I presume not to excuse myself. On your mercy I throw myself. I will not offer at any plea but that of penitence. See but Captain Tomlinson.—See but Lady Betty and my cousin; let them plead for me; let them be guarantees for my honour.

If Captain Tomlinson come while I stay here, I may see him; but as for you, Sir—

Dearest creature! let me beg of you not to aggravate my offence to the Captain when he comes. Let me beg of you—

What askest thou? It is not that I shall be of party against myself? That I shall palliate—

Do not charge me, Madam, interrupted I, with villainous premeditation! —Do not give such a construction to my offence as may weaken your uncle’s opinion—as may strengthen your brother’s—

She flung from me to the further end of the room, [she could go no further,] and just then Mrs. Moore came up, and told her that dinner was ready, and that she had prevailed upon Miss Rawlins to give her her company.

You must excuse me, Mrs. Moore, said she. Miss Rawlins I hope also will —but I cannot eat—I cannot go down. As for you, Sir, I suppose you will think it right to depart hence; at least till the gentleman comes whom you expect.

I respectfully withdrew into the next room, that Mrs. Moore might acquaint her, (I durst not myself,) that I was her lodger and boarder, as, whisperingly, I desired that she would; and meeting Miss Rawlins in the passage, Dearest Miss Rawlins, said I, stand my friend; join with Mrs. Moore to pacify my spouse, if she has any new flights upon my having taken lodgings, and intending to board here. I hope she will have more generosity than to think of hindering a gentlewoman from letting her lodgings.

I suppose Mrs. Moore, (whom I left with my fair-one,) had apprized her of this before Miss Rawlins went in; for I heard her say, while I withheld Miss Rawlins,—’No, indeed: he is much mistaken—surely he does not think I will.’

They both expostulated with her, as I could gather from bits and scraps of what they said; for they spoke so low, that I could not hear any distinct sentence, but from the fair perverse, whose anger made her louder. And to this purpose I heard her deliver herself in answer to different parts of their talk to her:—’Good Mrs. Moore, dear Miss Rawlins, press me no further:—I cannot sit down at table with him!’

They said something, as I suppose in my behalf—’O the insinuating wretch! What defence have I against a man, who, go where I will, can turn every one, even of the virtuous of my sex, in his favour?’

After something else said, which I heard not distinctly—’This is execrable cunning!—Were you to know his wicked heart, he is not without hope of engaging you two good persons to second him in the vilest of his machinations.’

How came she, (thought I, at the instant,) by all this penetration? My devil surely does not play me booty. If I thought he did, I would marry, and live honest, to be even with him.

I suppose then they urged the plea which I hinted to Miss Rawlins at going in, that she would not be Mrs. Moore’s hindrance; for thus she expressed herself—’He will no doubt pay you your own price. You need not question his liberality; but one house cannot hold us.—Why, if it would, did I fly from him, to seek refuge among strangers?’

Then, in answer to somewhat else they pleaded—’’Tis a mistake, Madam; I am not reconciled to him, I will believe nothing he says. Has he not given you a flagrant specimen of what a man he is, and of what his is capable, by the disguises you saw him in? My story is too long, and my stay here will be but short; or I could convince you that my resentments against him are but too well founded.’

I suppose that they pleaded for her leave for my dining with them; for she said—’I have nothing to say to that: it is your own house, Mrs. Moore—it is your own table—you may admit whom you please to it, only leave me at my liberty to choose my company.’

Then, in answer, as I suppose, to their offer of sending her up a plate— ’A bit of bread, if you please, and a glass of water; that’s all I can swallow at present. I am really very much discomposed. Saw you not how bad I was? Indignation only could have supported my spirits!—

’I have no objections to his dining with you, Madam;’ added she, in reply, I suppose, to a farther question of the same nature—’But I will not stay a night in the same house where he lodges.’

I presume Miss Rawlins had told her that she would not stay dinner: for she said,—’Let me not deprive Mrs. Moore of your company, Miss Rawlins. You will not be displeased with his talk. He can have no design upon you.’

Then I suppose they pleaded what I might say behind her back, to make my own story good:—’I care not what he says or what he thinks of me. Repentance and amendment are all the harm I wish him, whatever becomes of me!’

By her accent she wept when she spoke these last words.

They came out both of them wiping their eyes; and would have persuaded me to relinquish the lodgings, and to depart till her uncle’s friend came. But I knew better. I did not care to trust the Devil, well as she and Miss Howe suppose me to be acquainted with him, for finding her out again, if once more she escaped me.

What I am most afraid of is, that she will throw herself among her own relations; and, if she does, I am confident they will not be able to withstand her affecting eloquence. But yet, as thou’lt see, the Captain’s letter to me is admirably calculated to obviate my apprehensions on this score; particularly in that passage where it is said, that her uncle thinks not himself at liberty to correspond directly with her, or to receive applications from her—but through Captain Tomlinson, as is strongly implied.*

* See Letter XXIV. of this volume.

I must own, (notwithstanding the revenge I have so solemnly vowed,) that I would very fain have made for her a merit with myself in her returning favour, and have owed as little as possible to the mediation of Captain Tomlinson. My pride was concerned in this: and this was one of my reasons for not bringing him with me.—Another was, that, if I were obliged to have recourse to his assistance, I should be better able, (by visiting without him,) to direct him what to say or do, as I should find out the turn of her humour.

I was, however, glad at my heart that Mrs. Moore came up so seasonably with notice that dinner was ready. The fair fugitive was all in all. She had the excuse for withdrawing, I had time to strengthen myself; the Captain had time to come; and the lady to cool.—Shakspeare advises well:

Oppose not rage, whilst rage is in its force;

But give it way awhile, and let it waste.

The rising deluge is not stopt with dams;

Those it o’erbears, and drowns the hope of harvest.

But, wisely manag’d, its divided strength

Is sluic’d in channels, and securely drain’d:

And when its force is spent, and unsupply’d,

The residue with mounds may be restrain’d,

And dry-shod we may pass the naked ford.

I went down with the women to dinner. Mrs. Moore sent her fair boarder up a plate, but she only ate a little bit of bread, and drank a glass of water. I doubted not but she would keep her word, when it was once gone out. Is she not an Harlowe? She seems to be enuring herself to hardships, which at the worst she can never know; since, though she should ultimately refuse to be obliged to me, or (to express myself more suitable to my own heart,) to oblige me, every one who sees her must befriend her.

But let me ask thee, Belford, Art thou not solicitous for me in relation to the contents of the letter which the angry beauty had written and dispatched away by man and horse; and for what may be Miss Howe’s answer to it? Art thou not ready to inquire, Whether it be not likely that Miss Howe, when she knows of her saucy friend’s flight, will be concerned about her letter, which she must know could not be at Wilson’s till after that flight, and so, probably, would fall into my hands?—

All these things, as thou’lt see in the sequel, are provided for with as much contrivance as human foresight can admit.

I have already told thee that Will. is upon the lookout for old Grimes— old Grimes is, it seems, a gossiping, sottish rascal; and if Will. can but light of him, I’ll answer for the consequence; For has not Will. been my servant upwards of seven years?