LETTER 90: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TO MISS HOWE

 

 

Sunday Morning, April 9.

Nobody, it seems, will go to church this day. No blessing to be expected perhaps upon views so worldly, and in some so cruel.

 

They have a mistrust that I have some device in my head. Betty has been looking among my cloaths. I found her, on coming up from depositing my letter to Lovelace [for I have written!] peering among them, the key being in the lock. She colour’d, and was

 

confounded to be caught. But I only said, I should be accustom’d to any sort of treatment in time! — If she had her orders—those were enough for her.

 

She own’d, in her confusion, that a motion had been made to abridge me of my airings; and the report she should make, would be no disadvantage to me. One of my friends, she told me, urged in my behalf, That there was no need of laying me under greater restraint, since Mr. Lovelace’s threatening to rescue me by violence, were I to have been carry’d to my uncle’s, was a conviction that I had no design to go off to him voluntarily; and that if I had, I should have made preparations of that kind before now ; and, most probably, been detected in them. — Hence, it was also inferr’d, that there was no room to doubt, but I would at last comply. And, added the bold creature, if you don’t intend to do so, Your conduct, Miss, seems strange to me. —Only thus she reconciled it; That I had gone so far, I knew not how to come off genteelly : And she fancy’d I should, in full congregation, on Wednesday, give Mr. Solmes my hand. And then, said the confident wench, as the learned Dr. Brand took his text last Sunday, There will be joy in heaven

 

This is the substance of my letter to Mr. Lovelace:

 

‘That I have reasons, of the greatest consequence to myself, and which, when known, must satisfy him, to suspend, for the present, my intention of leaving my father’s house: That I have hopes that matters may be brought to an happy conclusion, without taking a step, which nothing but the last necessity could justify: And that he may depend upon promise, that I will die, rather than consent to marry Mr. Solmes.’

 

And so, I am preparing myself to stand the shock of his exclamatory reply. But be that what it will, it cannot affect me so much, as the apprehensions of what may happen to me next Tuesday or Wednesday;

 

day; for now those apprehensions engage my whole attention, and make me sick at the very heart.

Sunday, Four o’Clock, P. M.

My letter is not yet taken away! —If he should not send for it, or take it, and come hither on my not meeting him to-morrow, in doubt of what may have befallen me, what shall I do? Why had I any concerns with this Sex! —I, that was so happy till I knew This man!

 

I din’d in the Ivy summer-house. It was comply’d with at the first word. To shew I meant nothing, I went again into the house with Betty, as soon as I had dined. I thought it was not amiss to ask this liberty; the weather seeming to be set in fine. One does not know what Tuesday or Wednesday may produce.

 

Sunday Evening, Seven o’Clock.

 

There remains my letter still! —He is busied, I suppose, in his preparations for to-morrow. But then he has servants. Does the man think he is so secure of me, that having appointed, he need not give himself any further concern about me, till the very moment! —He knows how I am beset. He knows not what may happen. I might be ill, or still more closely watched or confined, than before. The correspondence might be discovered. It might be necessary to vary the scheme. I might be forced into measures, which might intirely frustrate my purpose. I might have new doubts: I might suggest something more convenient, for any thing he knew. What can the man mean, I wonder! —Yet it shall lie; for if he has it any time before the appointed hour, it will save me declaring to him personally my changed purpose, and the trouble of contending with him on that score. If he send for it at all, he will see by the date, that he might have had it in time; and if he be put to any

 

inconvenience from shortness of notice, let him take it for his pains.

 

Sunday Night, Nine o’Clock.

It is determined, it seems, to send to Mrs. Norton, to be here on Tuesday to dinner; and she is to stay with me for a whole week.

 

So she is first to endeavour to persuade me to comply, and, when the violence is done, she is to comfort me, and try to reconcile me to my fate. They expect fits and fetches, Betty insolently tells me, and expostulations, and exclamations, without number : But every-body will be prepared for them: And when it’s over, it’s over; and I shall be easy and pacified, when I find I cannot help it.

 

Mond. Morn. April 10, Seven o’Clock.

 

O my dear! There yet lies the letter, just as I left it!

 

Does he think he is so sure of me! —Perhaps he imagines that I dare not alter my purpose. I wish I had never known him! —I begin now to see this rashness in the light every-one else would have seen it in, had I been guilty of it. —But what can I do, if he come to-day at the appointed time! —If he receive not the letter, I must see him, or he will think something has befallen me; and certainly will come to the house. As certainly he will be insulted. And what, in that case, may be the consequence! —Then I as good as promised, that I would take the first opportunity to see him, if I changed my mind, and to give him my reasons for it. I have no doubt but he will be out of humour upon it: But better he meet me, and go away dissatisfied with me, than that I should go away dissatisfied with myself .

 

Yet, short as the time is, he may still perhaps send, and get the letter. Something may have happened to prevent him, which, when known, will excuse him.

 

After I have disappointed him more than once before, on a requested interview only, it is impossible he should not have curiosity, at least, to know if something has not happened; and if my mind hold in this more important case . And yet, as I rashly confirm’d my resolution by a second letter, I begin now to doubt it.

 

Nine o’Clock.

My cousin Dolly Hervey slid the inclosed letter into my hand, as I passed by her, coming out of the garden.

 

Dearest Madam,

I have got intelligence from one as says she knows, that you must be married on Wednesday morning to Mr. Solmes. May-be, howsoever, only to vex me; for it is Betty Barnes: A saucy creature, I’m sure. A license is got, as she says: And so far she went as to tell me (bidding me say nothing; but she knew as that I would) that Mr. Brand the young Oxford Clergyman, and fine scholar, is to marry you. For Dr. Lewin, I hear, refuses, unless you consent; and they have heard that he does not like over-well their proceedings against you; and says, as that you don’t deserve to be treated so cruelly as you are treated: But Mr. Brand, I am told, is to have his fortune made by uncle Harlowe, and among them.

 

You will know better than I what to make of all these matters; for sometimes I think Betty tells me things as if I should not tell you, and yet expects as that I will. She, and all the world knows how I love you: And so I would have them. It is an honour to me to love such a dear young Lady, who is an honour to all her family, let them say what they will. But there is such whispering between this Betty, and Miss Harlowe, as you can’t imagine; and when that is done, Betty comes and tells me something.

 

This seems to be sure (and that is why I write: But

 

pray burn it) you are to be searched once more for letters, and for pen and ink; for they know you write. Something they pretend to have betray’d out of one of Mr. Lovelace’s servants, as they hope to make something of; I know not what. That must be a very vilde and wicked man, who would brag of Lady’s goodness to him, and tell secrets. Mr. Lovelace is too much of a gentleman for that, I dare say. If not, who can be safe of young innocent creatures, such as we be?

 

Then they have a notion, from that false Betty, I beliefe, as that you intend to take something to make yourself sick, or some such thing; and so they will search for phials and powders, and such-like.

 

Strange searching among them! God bless us young creatures, when we come among such suspicious relations. But, thank God, my mamma is not such a one, at the present.

 

If nothing be found, you are to be used kindlier for that, by your papa, at the grand judgment, as I may call it.

 

Yet, sick or well, alas, my dear cousin! you must be married, belike. So says this same creature; and I don’t doubt it: But your husband is to go home every night, till you are reconciled to go to him. And so illness can be no pretence to save you.

 

They are sure you will make a good wife, when you be one. So would not I, unless I liked my husband. And Mr. Solmes is always telling them how he will purchase your love and all that, by jewels and fine things. —A siccofant of a man! —I wish he and Betty Barnes were to come together; and he would beat her every-day till she was good. —So, in brief, secure every thing you would not have seen: And burn This, I beg you. And, pray, dearest Madam, do not take nothing as may hurt your health: For that will not do. I am,

 

Your truly loving Cousin,
D. H.

 

When I first read my cousin’s letter, I was half inclin’d to resume my former intention; especially as my countermanding letter is not taken away: And as my heart akes at the thoughts of the conflict I must expect to have with him on my refusal. For, see him for a few moments I doubt I must, lest he should take some rash resolutions; especially, as he has reason to expect I will. But here your words, That all punctilio is at an end, the moment I am out of my father’s house, added to the still more cogent considerations of Duty and Reputation, determin’d me once more against taking the rash step. And it will be very hard (altho’ no seasonable fainting, or wish’d-for fit, should stand my friend) if I cannot gain one month, or fortnight, or week. And I have still more hopes that I shall prevail for some delay, from my cousin’s intimation, that the good Doctor Lewin refuses to give his assistance to their projects, if they have not my consent, and thinks me cruelly used: Since, without taking notice that I am apprized of this, I can plead a scruple of conscience, and insist upon having that worthy Divine’s opinion upon it: Which, inforced as I shall inforce it, my mamma will surely second me in: My aunt Hervey, and my Mrs. Norton, will support her : The suspension must follow: And I can but get away afterwards.

 

But, if they will compel me: If they will give me no time: If no-body will be moved: If it be resolved that the ceremony shall be read over my constrained hand—Why then—Alas! What then! —I can but—But what? O my dear! This Solmes shall never have my vows I am resolved! And I will say nothing but No, as long as I shall be able to speak. And who will presume to look upon such an act of violence, as a marriage? —It is impossible, surely, that a father and mother can see such a dreadful compulsion offer’d to their child—But if mine found

 

withdraw, and leave the task to my brother and sister, they will have no mercy!

 

I am griev’d to be driven to have recourse to the following artifices.

 

I have given them a clue, by the feather of a pen sticking out, where they will find such of my hidden stores, as I intend they shall find.

 

Two or three little essays I have left easy to be seen, of my own writing.

 

About a dozen lines also of a letter begun to you, in which I express my hopes, (altho’ I say, that appearances are against me) that my friends will relent. They know from your mamma, by my uncle Antony, that, some how or other, I now and then get a letter to you. In this piece of a letter, I declare renewedly my firm resolution to give up the man so obnoxious to my family, on their releasing me from the address of the other.

 

Near the essays, I have left a copy of my letter to Lady Drayton ( a ) ; which, affording arguments suitable to my case, may chance (thus accidentally to be fallen upon) to incline them to favour me.

 

I have reserves of pens and ink you may believe; and one or two in the Ivy summer-house; with which I shall amuse myself in order to lighten, if possible, those apprehensions which more and more affect me as Wednesday the day of trial approaches.

 

Cl. Harlowe.

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