I will pursue my melancholy story.
Being thus hurried to the chariot, it would have been to no purpose to have refused entering into it, had he not in my fright lifted me in, as he did: and it instantly drove away a full gallop, and stopped not till it brought us to St. Alban’s; which was just as the day shut in.
I thought I should have fainted several times by the way. With uplifted hands and eyes, God protect me! said I often to myself: Can it be I, that am here! My eyes running over, and my heart ready to burst with sighs as involuntarily as my flight.
How different, how inexpressibly different, the gay wretch; visibly triumphing (as I could not but construe his almost rapturous joy) in the success of his arts! But overflowing with complimental flourishes, yet respectfully distant his address, all the way we flew; for that, rather than galloping, was the motion of the horses; which took, as I believe, a round-about way, to prevent being traced.
I have reason to think, there were other horsemen at his devotion; three or four different persons, above the rank of the servants, galloping by us now-and-then, on each side of the chariot: but he took no notice of them; and I had too much grief, mingled with indignation, notwithstanding all his blandishments, to ask any questions about them, or any thing else.
Think, my dear, what were my thoughts on alighting from the chariot; having no attendant of my own sex; no clothes but what I had on, and those little suited to such a journey as I had already taken, and was still to take: neither hood nor hat, nor any thing but a handkerchief round my head and shoulders: fatigued to death: my mind still more fatigued than my body: and in such a foam the horses, that every one in the inn we put up at guessed [they could not do otherwise] that I was a young giddy creature, who had run away from her friends. This it was easy to see, by their whispering and gaping: more of the people of the house also coming in by turns, than were necessary for the attendance.
The mistress of the house, whom he sent in to me, showed me another apartment; and, seeing me ready to faint, brought me hartshorn and water; and then, upon my desiring to be left alone for half an hour, retired: for I found my heart ready to burst, on revolving every thing in my thoughts: and the moment she was gone, fastening the door, I threw myself into an old great chair, and gave way to a violent flood of tears, which a little relieved me.
Mr. Lovelace, sooner than I wished, sent up the gentlewoman, who pressed me, in his name, to admit my brother, or to come down to him: for he had told her I was his sister; and that he had brought me, against my will, and without warning, from a friend’s house, where I had been all the winter, in order to prevent my marrying against the consent of my friends; to whom he was now conducting me; and that, having given me no time for a travelling-dress, I was greatly offended at him.
So, my dear, your frank, your open-hearted friend, was forced to countenance this tale; which indeed suited me the better, because I was unable for some time to talk, speak, or look up; and so my dejection, and grief, and silence, might very well pass before the gentlewoman and her niece who attended me, as a fit of sullenness.
The room I was in being a bed-chamber, I chose to go down, at his repeated message, attended by the mistress of the house, to that in which he was. He approached me with great respect, yet not exceeding a brotherly politeness, where a brother is polite; and, calling me his dearest sister, asked after the state of my mind; and hoped I would forgive him; for never brother half so well loved a sister, as he me.
A wretch! how naturally did he fall into the character, although I was so much out of mine!
Unthinking creatures have some comfort in the shortness of their views; in their unapprehensiveness; and that they penetrate not beyond the present moment: in short that they are unthinking!—But, for a person of my thoughtful disposition, who has been accustomed to look forward, as well to the possible, as to the probable, what comfort can I have in my reflections?
But let me give you the particulars of our conversation a little before and after our supper-time, joining both in one.
When we were alone, he besought me (I cannot say but with all the tokens of a passionate and respectful tenderness) to be better reconciled to myself and to him: he repeated all the vows of honour and inviolable affection that he ever made me: he promised to be wholly governed by me in every future step. He asked me to give him leave to propose, whether I chose to set out next day to either of his aunts?
I was silent. I knew not what to say, nor what to do.
Whether I chose to have private lodgings procured for me in either of those ladies’ neighbourhood, as were once my thoughts?
I was still silent.
Whether I chose to go to either of Lord M.’s seats; that of Berks, or that in the county we were in?
In lodgings, I said, any where, where he was not to be.
He had promised this, he owned; and he would religiously keep to his word, as soon as he found all danger of pursuit over; and that I was settled to my mind. But, if the place were indifferent to me, London was the safest, and the most private: and his relations should all visit me there, the moment I thought fit to admit them. His cousin Charlotte, particularly, should attend me, as my companion, if I would accept of her, as soon as she was able to go abroad. Mean time, would I go to Lady Betty Lawrance’s (Lady Sarah was a melancholy woman)? I should be the most welcome guest she ever received.
I told him, I wished not to go (immediately, however, and in the frame I was in, and not likely to be out of) to any of his relations: that my reputation was concerned, to have him absent from me: that, if I were in some private lodging, the meaner the less to be suspected, (as it would be known, that I went away by his means; and he would be supposed to have provided me handsome accommodations,) it would be most suitable both to my mind and to my situation: that this might be best, I should think, in the country for me; in town for him. And no matter how soon he was known to be there.
If he might deliver his opinion, he said, it was, that since I declined going to any of his relations, London was the only place in the world to be private in. Every new comer in a country town or village excited a curiosity: A person of my figure [and many compliments he made me] would excite more. Even messages and letters, where none used to be brought, would occasion inquiry. He had not provided a lodging any where, supposing I would choose to go either to London, where accommodations of that sort might be fixed upon in an hour’s time, or to Lady Betty’s; or to Lord M.’s Herfordshire seat, where was the housekeeper, an excellent woman, Mrs. Greme, such another as my Norton.
To be sure, I said, if I were pursued, it would be in their first passion; and some one of his relations’ houses would be the place they would expect to find me at—I knew not what to do.
My pleasure should determine him, he said, be it what it would. Only that I were safe, was all he was solicitous about. He had lodgings in town; but he did not offer to propose them. He knew, I would have more objections to go to them, than I could to go to Lord M.’s, or to Lady Betty’s.
No doubt of it, I replied, with such an indignation in my manner, as made him run over with professions, that he was far from proposing them, or wishing for my acceptance of them. And again he repeated, that my honour and safety were all he was solicitous about; assuring me, that my will should be a law to him in every particular.
I was too peevish, and too much afflicted, and indeed too much incensed against him, to take well any thing he said.
I thought myself, I said, extremely unhappy. I knew not what to determine upon: my reputation now, no doubt, utterly ruined: destitute of clothes: unfit to be seen by any body: my very indigence, as I might call it, proclaiming my folly to every one who saw me; who would suppose that I had been taken at advantage, or had given an undue one; and had no power over either my will or my actions: that I could not but think I had been dealt artfully with: that he had seemed to have taken, what he might suppose, the just measure of my weakness, founded on my youth and inexperience: that I could not forgive myself for meeting him: that my heart bled for the distresses of my father and mother, on this occasion: that I would give the world, and all my hopes in it, to have been still in my father’s house, whatever had been my usage: that, let him protest and vow what he would, I saw something low and selfish in his love, that he could study to put a young creature upon making such a sacrifice of her duty and conscience: when a person, actuated by a generous love, must seek to oblige the object of it, in every thing essential to her honour, and to her peace of mind.
He was very attentive to all I said, never offering to interrupt me once. His answer to every article, almost methodically, shewed his memory.
‘What I had said, he told me, made him very grave; and he would answer accordingly.
‘He was grieved at his heart, to find that he had so little share in my favour or confidence.
‘As to my reputation, (he must be very sincere with me,) that could not suffer half so much by the step I so regretted to have taken, as by the confinement, and equally foolish and unjust treatment, I had met with from my relations: that every mouth was full of blame of them, of my brother and sister particularly; and of wonder at my patience: that he must repeat what he had written to me he believed more than once, That my friends themselves expected that I should take a proper opportunity to free myself from their persecutions; why else did they confine me? That my exalted character, as he called it, would still bear me out, with those who knew me; who knew my brother’s and sister’s motives; and who knew the wretch they were for compelling me to have.
‘With regard to clothes; who, as matters were circumstanced, could expect that I should be able to bring away any others than those I had on at the time? For present use or wear, all the ladies of his family would take a pride to supply me: for future, the product of the best looms, not only in England, but throughout the world, were at my command.
‘If I wanted money, as no doubt I must, he should be proud to supply me: Would to heaven, he might presume to hope, there were but one interest between us!’
And then he would fain have had me to accept of a bank note of a hundred pounds; which, unawares to me, he put into my hand: but which, you may be sure, I refused with warmth.
‘He was inexpressibly grieved and surprised, he said, to hear me say he had acted artfully by me. He came provided, according to my confirmed appointment,’ [a wretch to upbraid me thus!] ‘to redeem me from my persecutors; and little expected a change of sentiment, and that he should have so much difficulty to prevail upon me, as he had met with: that perhaps I might think his offer to go into the garden with me, and to face my assembled relations, was a piece of art only: but that if I did, I wronged him: since to this hour, seeing my excessive uneasiness, he wished, with all his soul he had been permitted to accompany me in. It was always his maxim to brave a threatened danger. Threateners, where they have an opportunity to put in force their threats, were seldom to be feared. But had he been assured of a private stab, or of as many death’s wounds as there were persons in my family, (made desperate as he should have been by my return,) he would have attended me into the house.’
So, my dear, what I have to do, is to hold myself inexcusable for meeting such a determined and audacious spirit; that’s all! I have hardly any question now, but that he would have contrived some wicked stratagem or other to have got me away, had I met him at a midnight hour, as once or twice I had thoughts to do; and that would have been more terrible still.
He concluded this part of his talk, with saying, ‘That he doubted not but that, had he attended me in, he should have come off in every one’s opinion well, that he should have had general leave to renew his visits.’
He went on—’He must be so bold as to tell me, that he should have paid a visit of this kind, (but indeed accompanied by several of his trusty friends,) had I not met him; and that very afternoon too; for he could not tamely let the dreadful Wednesday come, without making some effort to change their determinations.’
What, my dear, was to be done with such a man!
‘That therefore for my sake, as well as for his own, he had reason to wish that a disease so desperate had been attempted to be overcome by as desperate a remedy. We all know, said he, that great ends are sometimes brought about by the very means by which they are endeavoured to be frustrated.’
My present situation, I am sure, thought I, affords a sad evidence of this truth!
I was silent all this time. My blame was indeed turned inward. Sometimes, too, I was half-frighted at his audaciousness: at others, had the less inclination to interrupt him, being excessively fatigued, and my spirits sunk to nothing, with a view even of the best prospects with such a man.
This gave his opportunity to proceed: and that he did; assuming a still more serious air.
‘As to what further remained for him to say, in answer to what I had said, he hoped I would pardon him; but, upon his soul, he was concerned, infinitely concerned, he repeated, (his colour and his voice rising,) that it was necessary for him to observe, how much I chose rather to have run the risque of being Solmes’s wife, than to have it in my power to reward a man who, I must forgive him, had been as much insulted on my account, as I had been on his—who had watched my commands, and (pardon me, Madam) ever changeable motion of your pen, all hours, in all weathers, and with a cheerfulness and ardour, that nothing but the most faithful and obsequious passion could inspire.’
I now, my dear, began to revive into a little more warmth of attention.—
‘And all, Madam, for what?’—How I stared! for he stopt then a moment or two—’Only,’ went he on, ‘to prevail upon you to free yourself from ungenerous and base oppressions’—
Sir, Sir, indignantly said I—
‘Hear me but out, dearest Madam!—My heart is full—I must speak what I have to say—To be told (for your words are yet in my ears, and at my heart!) that you would give the world, and all your hopes in it, to have been still in your cruel and gloomy father’s house’—
Not a word, Sir, against my father!—I will not bear that—
‘Whatever had been your usage:—and you have a credulity, Madam, against all probability, if you believe you should have avoided being Solmes’s wife: That I have put you upon sacrificing your duty and conscience—yet, dearest creature! see you not the contradiction that your warmth of temper has surprised you into, when the reluctance you shewed to the last to leave your persecutors, has cleared your conscience from the least reproach of this sort?’—
O Sir! Sir! are you so critical then? Are you so light in your anger as to dwell upon words?—
Indeed, my dear, I have since thought that his anger was not owing to that sudden impetus, which cannot be easily bridled; but rather was a sort of manageable anger let loose to intimidate me.
‘Forgive me, Madam—I have just done—Have I not, in your opinion, hazarded my life to redeem you from oppression? Yet is not my reward, after all, precarious?—For, Madam, have you not conditioned with me (and, hard as the condition is, most sacredly will I observe it) that all my hope must be remote? That you are determined to have it in your power to favour or reject me totally, as you please?’
See, my dear! in every respect my condition changed for the worse! Is it in my power to take your advice, if I should think it ever so right to take it?*
* Clarissa had been censured as behaving to Mr. Lovelace, in their first conversation at St. Alban's, and afterwards, with too much reserve, and even with haughtiness. Surely those, who have thought her to blame on this account, have not paid a due attention to the story. How early, as above, and in what immediately follows, does he remind her of the terms of distance which she had prescribed to him, before she was in his power, in hopes to leave the door open for a reconciliation with her friends, which her heart was set upon? And how artfully does he (unrequired) promise to observe the conditions in which she in her present circumstances and situation (in pursuance of Miss Howe's advice) would gladly have dispensed with?—To say nothing of the resentment she was under a necessity to shew, at the manner of his getting her away, in order to justify to him the sincerity of her refusal to go off with him. See, in her subsequent Letter to Miss Howe, No. IX., her own sense upon the subject.
‘And have you not furthermore declared,’ proceeded he ‘that you will engage to renounce me for ever, if your friends insist upon that cruel renunciation, as the terms of being reconciled to you?
‘But nevertheless, Madam, all the merit of having saved you from an odious compulsion, shall be mine. I glory in it, though I were to lose you for ever. As I see I am but too likely to do, from your present displeasure; and especially, if your friends insist upon the terms you are ready to comply with.
‘That you are your own mistress, through my means, is, I repeat, my boast. As such, I humbly implore your favour, and that only upon the conditions I have yielded to hope for it. As I do now, thus humbly, [the proud wretch falling on one knee,] your forgiveness, for so long detaining your ear, and for all the plain dealing that my undesigning heart would not be denied to utter by my lips.’
O Sir, pray rise! Let the obliged kneel, if one of us must kneel! But, nevertheless, proceed not in this strain, I beseech you. You have had a great deal of trouble about me: but had you let me know in time, that you expected to be rewarded for it at the price of my duty, I should have spared you much of it.
Far be it from me, Sir, to depreciate merit so extraordinary. But let me say, that had it not been for the forbidden correspondence I was teased by you into; and which I had not continued (every letter, for many letters, intended to be the last) but because I thought you a sufferer from my friends; I had not been either confined or ill treated: nor would my brother’s low-meant violence have had a foundation to work upon.
I am far from thinking my case would have been so very desperate as you imagine had I staid. My father loved me in his heart: he would not see me before; and I wanted only to see him, and to be heard; and a delay of his sentence was the least thing I expected from the trial I was to stand.
You are boasting of your merits, Sir: let merit be your boast; nothing else can attract me. If personal considerations had principal weight with me, either in Solmes’s disfavour, or in your favour, I shall despise myself: if you value yourself upon them, in preference to the person of the poor Solmes, I shall despise you!
You may glory in your fancied merits in getting me away: but the cause of your glory, I tell you plainly, is my shame.
Make to yourself a title to my regard, which I can better approve of; or else you will not have so much merit with me, as you have with yourself.
But here, Sir, like the first pair, (I, at least, driven out of my paradise,) are we recriminating. No more shall you need to tell me of your sufferings, and your merits! your all hours, and all weathers! For I will bear them in memory as long as I live; and if it be impossible for me to reward them, be ever ready to own the obligation. All that I desire of you now is, to leave it to myself to seek for some private abode: to take the chariot with you to London, or elsewhere: and, if I have any further occasion for your assistance and protection, I will signify it to you, and be still further obliged to you.
You are warm, my dearest life!—But indeed there is no occasion for it. Had I any views unworthy of my faithful love for you, I should not have been so honest in my declarations.
Then he began again to vow the sincerity of his intentions—
But I took him up short: I am willing to believe you, Sir. It would be insupportable but to suppose there were a necessity for such solemn declarations. [At this he seemed to collect himself, as I may say, into a little more circumspection.] If I thought there were, I would not sit with you here, in a public inn, I assure you, although cheated hither, as far as I know, by methods (you must excuse me, Sir) which, but to suspect, will hardly let me have patience either with you or with myself—but no more of this, just now: Let me, I beseech you, good Sir, bowing [I was very angry!] let me only know whether you intend to leave me; or whether I have only escaped from one confinement to another?
Cheated hither, as far as I know, Madam! Let you know (and with that air, too, charming, though grievous to my heart!) if you have only escaped from one confinement to another—amazing! perfectly amazing! And can there be a necessity for me to answer this? You are absolutely your own mistress—it was very strange, if you were not. The moment you are in a place of safety, I will leave you. To one condition only, give me leave to beg your consent: it is this, that you will be pleased, now you are so entirely in your own power, to renew a promise voluntarily made before; voluntarily, or I would not now presume to request it; for although I would not be thought capable of growing upon concession, yet I cannot bear to think of losing the ground your goodness had given me room to hope I had gained; ‘That, make up how you please with your relations, you will never marry any other man, while I am living and single, unless I should be so wicked as to give new cause for high displeasure.’
I hesitate not to confirm this promise, Sir, upon your own condition. In what manner do you expect to confirm it?
Only, Madam, by your word.
Then I never will.
He had the assurance (I was now in his power) to salute me as a sealing of my promise, as he called it. His motion was so sudden, that I was not aware of it. It would have looked affected to be very angry; yet I could not be pleased, considering this as a leading freedom, from a spirit so audacious and encroaching: and he might see, that I was not.
He passed all that by with an air peculiar to himself—Enough, enough, dearest Madam! And now let me beg of you but to conquer this dreadful uneasiness, which gives me to apprehend too much for my jealous love to bear; and it shall be my whole endeavour to deserve your favour, and to make you the happiest woman in the world; as I shall be the happiest of men.
I broke from him to write to you my preceding letter; but refused to send it by his servant, as I told you. The mistress of the house helped me to a messenger, who was to carry what you should give him to Lord M.’s seat in Hertfordshire, directed for Mrs. Greme, the housekeeper there. And early in the morning, for fear of pursuit, we were to set out that way: and there he proposed to change the chariot and six for a chaise and pair of his own, which he had at that seat, as it would be a less-noticed conveyance.
I looked over my little stock of money; and found it to be no more than seven guineas and some silver: the rest of my stock was but fifty guineas, and that five more than I thought it was, when my sister challenged me as to the sum I had by me:* and those I left in my escritoire, little intending to go away with him.
* See Vol. I. Letter XLIII.
Indeed my case abounds with a shocking number of indelicate circumstances. Among the rest, I was forced to account to him, who knew I could have no clothes but what I had on, how I came to have linen with me (for he could not but know I sent for it); lest he should imagine I had an early design to go away with him, and made that part of the preparation.
He most heartily wished, he said, for my mind’s sake, that your mother would have afforded me her protection; and delivered himself upon this subject with equal freedom and concern.
There are, my dear Miss Howe, a multitude of punctilios and decorums, which a young creature must dispense with, who, in a situation like mine, makes a man the intimate attendant of her person. I could now, I think, give twenty reasons stronger than any I have heretofore mentioned, why women of the least delicacy should never think of incurring the danger and the disgrace of taking the step I have been drawn in to take, but with horror and aversion; and why they should look upon the man who should tempt them to it, as the vilest and most selfish of seducers.
Before five o’clock (Tuesday morning) the maidservant came up to tell me that my brother was ready, and that breakfast also waited for me in the parlour. I went down with a heart as heavy as my eyes, and received great acknowledgements and compliments from him on being so soon dressed, and ready (as he interpreted it) to continue on our journey.
He had the thought which I had not (for what had I to do with thinking, who had it not when I stood most in need of it?) to purchase for me a velvet hood, and a short cloke, trimmed with silver, without saying any thing to me. He must reward himself, the artful encroacher said, before the landlady and her maids and niece, for his forethought; and would salute his pretty sullen sister!—He took his reward; and, as he said before, a tear with it. While he assured me, still before them [a vile wretch!] that I had nothing to fear from meeting with parents who so dearly loved me.—
How could I be complaisant, my dear, to such a man as this?
When we had got in the chariot, and it began to move, he asked me, whether I had any objection to go to Lord M.’s Hertfordshire seat? His Lordship, he said, was at his Berkshire one.
I told him, I chose not to go, as yet, to any of his relations; for that would indicate a plain defiance to my own. My choice was, to go to a private lodging, and for him to be at a distance from me: at least, till I heard how things were taken by my friends: for that, although I had but little hopes of a reconciliation as it was; yet if they knew I was in his protection, or in that of any of his friends, (which would be looked upon as the same thing,) there would not be room for any hopes at all.
I should govern him as I pleased, he solemnly assured me, in every thing. But he still thought London was the best place for me; and if I were once safe there, and in a lodging to my liking, he would go to M. Hall. But, as I approved not of London, he would urge it no further.
He proposed, and I consented, to put up at an inn in the neighbourhood of The Lawn (as he called Lord M.’s seat in this county) since I chose not to go thither. And here I got two hours to myself; which I told him I should pass in writing another letter to you, (meaning my narrative, which, though greatly fatigued, I had begun at St. Alban’s,) and in one to my sister, to apprise the family (whether they were solicitous about it or not) that I was well; and to beg that my clothes, some particular books, and the fifty guineas I had left in my escritoire, might be sent me.
He asked, if I had considered whither to have them directed?
Indeed, not I, I told him: I was a stranger to—
So was he, he interrupted me; but it struck him by chance—
But, added he, I will tell you, Madam, how it shall be managed—If you don’t choose to go to London, it is, nevertheless, best that your relations should think you there; for then they will absolutely despair of finding you. If you write, be pleased to direct, to be left for you, at Mr. Osgood’s, near Soho-square. Mr. Osgood is a man of reputation: and this will effectually amuse them.
Amuse them, my dear!—Amuse whom?—My father!—my uncles!—But it must be so!——All his expedients ready, you see!
I had no objection to this: and I have written accordingly. But what answer I shall have, or whether any, that is what gives me no small anxiety.
This, however, is one consolation, that if I have an answer, and although my brother should be the writer, it cannot be more severe than the treatment I have of late received from him and my sister.
Mr. Lovelace staid out about an hour and half; and then came in; impatiently sending up to me no less than four times, to desire admittance. But I sent him word as often, that I was busy; and at last, that I should be so, till dinner was ready. He then hastened that, as I heard him now-and-then, with a hearty curse upon the cook and waiters.
This is another of his perfections. I ventured afterwards to check him for his free words, as we sat at dinner.
Having heard him swear at his servant, when below, whom, nevertheless, he owns to be a good one; it is a sad life, said I, these innkeepers live, Mr. Lovelace.
No; pretty well, I believe—but why, Madam, think you, that fellows, who eat and drink at other men’s cost, or they are sorry innkeepers, should be entitled to pity?
Because of the soldiers they are obliged to quarter; who are generally, I believe, wretched profligates. Bless me! said I, how I heard one of them swear and curse, just now, at a modest, meek man, as I judge by his low voice, and gentle answers!—Well do they make it a proverb—Like a trooper!
He bit his lip; arose; turned upon his heel; stept to the glass; and looking confidently abashed, if I may say so, Ay, Madam, said he, these troopers are sad swearing fellows. I think their officers should chastise them for it.
I am sure they deserve chastisement, replied I: for swearing is a most unmanly vice, and cursing as poor and low a one; since they proclaim the profligate’s want of power, and his wickedness at the same time; for, could such a one punish as he speaks, he would be a fiend!
Charmingly observed, by my soul, Madam!—The next trooper I hear swear and curse, I’ll tell him what an unmanly, and what a poor wretch he is.
Mrs. Greme came to pay her duty to me, as Mr. Lovelace called it; and was very urgent with me to go to her lord’s house; letting me know what handsome things she had heard of her lord, and his two nieces, and all the family, say of me; and what wishes for several months past they had put up for the honour she now hoped would soon be done them all.
This gave me some satisfaction, as it confirmed from the mouth of a very good sort of woman all that Mr. Lovelace had told me.
Upon inquiry about a private lodging, she recommended me to a sister-in-law of hers, eight miles from thence—where I now am. And what pleased me the better, was, that Mr. Lovelace (of whom I could see she was infinitely observant) obliged her, of his own motion, to accompany me in the chaise; himself riding on horseback, with his two servants, and one of Lord M.’s. And here we arrived about four o’clock.
But, as I told you in my former, the lodgings are inconvenient. Mr. Lovelace indeed found great fault with them: and told Mrs. Greme (who had said, that they were not worthy of us) that they came not up even to her own account of them. As the house was a mile from a town, it was not proper for him, he said, to be so far distant from me, lest any thing should happen: and yet the apartments were not separate and distinct enough for me to like them, he was sure.
This must be agreeable enough for him, you will believe.
Mrs. Greme and I had a good deal of talk in the chaise about him: she was very easy and free in her answers to all I asked; and has, I find, a very serious turn.
I led her on to say to the following effect; some part of it not unlike what Lord M.’s dismissed bailiff had said before; by which I find that all the servants have a like opinion of him.
‘That Mr. Lovelace was a generous man: that it was hard to say, whether the servants of her lord’s family loved or feared him most: that her lord had a very great affection for him: that his two noble aunts were not less fond of him: that his cousins Montague were as good natured young ladies as ever lived: that Lord M. and Lady Sarah, and Lady Betty had proposed several ladies to him, before he made his addresses to me: and even since; despairing to move me and my friends in his favour.—But that he had no thoughts of marrying at all, she had heard him say, if it were not to me: that as well her lord as the two ladies his sisters were a good deal concerned at the ill-usage he received from my family: but admired my character, and wished to have him married to me (although I were not to have a shilling) in preference to any other person, from the opinion they had of the influence I should have over him. That, to be sure, Mr. Lovelace was a wild gentleman: but wildness was a distemper which would cure itself. That her lord delighted in his company, whenever he could get it: but that they often fell out; and his lordship was always forced to submit—indeed, was half afraid of him, she believed; for Mr. Lovelace would do as he pleased. She mingled a thousand pities often, that he acted not up to the talents lent him—yet would have it, that he had fine qualities to found a reformation upon: and, when the happy day came, would make amends for all: and of this all his friends were so assured, that they wished for nothing so earnestly, as for his marriage.’
This, indifferent as it is, is better than my brother says of him.
The people of the house here are very honest-looking industrious folks: Mrs. Sorlings is the gentlewoman’s name. The farm seems well stocked, and thriving. She is a widow; has two sons, men grown, who vie with each other which shall take most pains in promoting the common good; and they are both of them, I already see, more respectful to two modest young women their sisters, than my brother was to his sister.
I believe I must stay here longer than at first I thought I should.
I ought to have mentioned, that, before I set out for this place, I received your kind letter.* Every thing is kind from so dear a friend.
* See Vol. II. Letter XLVII.
I own, that after I had told you of my absolute determination not to go away with him, you might well be surprised, at your first hearing that I was actually gone. The Lord bless me, my dear, I myself, at times, can hardly believe it is I, that have been led to take so strange a step.
I have not the better opinion of Mr. Lovelace for his extravagant volubility. He is too full of professions. He says too many fine things of me, and to me. True respect, true value, I think, lies not in words: words cannot express it: the silent awe, the humble, the doubting eye, and even the hesitating voice, better shew it by much, than, as our beloved Shakespeare says,
——The rattling tongue Of saucy and audacious eloquence.
The man indeed at times is all upon the ecstatic; one of his phrases. But, to my shame and confusion, I must say, that I know too well to what to attribute his transports. In one word, it is to his triumph, my dear. And, to impute it to that perhaps equally exposes my vanity, and condemns my folly.
We have been alarmed with notions of a pursuit, founded upon a letter from his intelligencer.
How do different circumstances either sanctify or condemn the same action!—What care ought we to take not to confound the distinctions of right and wrong, when self comes in the question!—I condemned in Mr. Lovelace the corrupting of a servant of my father’s; and now I am glad to give a kind of indirect approbation of that fault, by inquiring of him what he hears, by that or any other way, of the manner in which my relations took my flight. A preconcerted, forward, and artful flight, it must undoubtedly appear to them. How grievous is that to think of! yet how, as long as I am situated, can I put them right?
Most heavily, he says, they take it; but shew not so much grief as rage. And he can hardly have patience to hear of the virulence and menaces of my brother against himself. Then a merit is made to me of his forbearance.
What a satisfaction am I robbed of, my dearest friend, when I reflect upon my inconsiderateness! O that I had it still in my power to say I suffered wrong, rather than did wrong! That others were more wanting in their kindness to me than I duty (where duty is owing) to them.
Fie upon me! for meeting the seducer!—Let all end as happily as it now may, I have laid up for myself remorse for my whole life.
What still more concerns me is, that every time I see this man, I am still at a greater loss than before what to make of him. I watch every turn of his countenance: and I think I see very deep lines in it. He looks with more meaning, I verily think, than he used to look; yet not more serious; not less gay—I don’t know how he looks—but with more confidence a great deal than formerly; and yet he never wanted that.
But here is the thing; I behold him with fear now, as conscious of the power my indiscretion has given him over me. And well may he look more elate, when he sees me deprived of all the self-supposed significance, which adorns and exalts a person who has been accustomed to respect; and who now, by a conscious inferiority, allows herself to be overcome, and in a state of obligation, as I may say, to a man who from a humble suitor to her for her favour, assumes the consequence and airs of a protector.
I shall send this, as my former, by a poor man, who travels every day with pedlary matters. He will leave it at Mrs. Knolly’s, as you direct.
If you hear any thing of my father and mother, and of their health, and how my friends were affected by my unhappy step, pray be so good as to write me a few lines by the messenger, if his waiting for them can be known to you.
I am afraid to ask you, Whether, upon reading that part of my narrative already in your hands, you think any sort of extenuation lies for