LETTER 125: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TO MISS HOWE

Mr. Lovelace told me, that on the supposition that his proposal in relation to my cousin Morden might not be accepted, he had been studying to find out, if possible, somewhat that might be agreeable, and which might convince me, that he preferr’d my satisfaction to his own.

 

He then offered to go himself, and procure my Hannah to come and attend me: As I had declin’d the service of either of the young Mrs. Sorlings’s, he was extremely solicitous, he said, that I should have a servant, in whose integrity I might confide.

 

I told him, that you would be so kind, as to send to engage Hannah, if possible.If any thing, he said, should prevent her from comeing, suppose he himself waited upon Miss Howe, to desire her, to lend me her servant till I was provided to my mind?

 

I said, Your mamma’s high displeasure at the step I had taken (as she supposed, voluntarily), had deprived me of any open assistance of that sort from you.

 

He was amazed, so much as Mrs. Howe herself used to admire me; and so great an influence as Miss was supposed to have over her mamma (anddeserved to have) that that lady should take upon herself to be so much offended with me. He wish’d, that the man, who took such pains to keep up and inflame the passions of my father and uncles, were not at the bottom of this mischief too.

 

I was afraid, I said, that my brother was ; or else my uncle Antony, I dared to say, would not have taken such pains to set Mrs. Howe against me, as I understood he had done.

 

Since I had declined visiting his aunts, he asked me, If I would admit of a visit from his cousinMontague, and accept of a servant of hers for the present?

 

That was not, I said, an unacceptable proposal: But I would first see, if my friends would send me my cloaths, that I might not make such a giddy and run-away appearance to any of his relations.

 

If I pleased, he would make another journey to Windsor, to make more particular inquiry among the canons, or in any worthy family.

 

Were not his objections as to the publicness of the place, I asked him, as strong now as before?

 

I remember, my dear, in one of your former letters, you mentioned London, as the privatest place to be in ( a ) : And I said, that since he made such pretences against leaving me here, as shewed he had no intention to do so; and since he engag’d to go from me, and to leave me to pursue my own measures, if I were elsewhere; and since his presence made these lodgings inconvenient to me, I should not be disinclined to go to London, did I know any-body there.

 

As he had several times proposed London to me, I expected, that he would eagerly have embraced that motion from me. But he took not ready hold of it: Yet I thought his eye approved of it.

 

We are both great watchers of each other’s eyes; and indeed seem to be more than half-afraid of each other.

 

He then made a grateful proposal to me; that I would send for my Mrs. Norton to attend me.

 

He saw by my eyes, he said, that he had at last been happy in an expedient, which would answer both our wishes. Why, says he, did not I think of it before? —And snatching my hand, Shall I write, Madam? Shall I send? Shall I go and fetch the good woman myself?

 

After a little consideration, I told him, that this was indeed a grateful motion: But that I apprehended, it would put her to a difficulty, which she would not be able to get over; as it would make a woman of her known prudence appear to countenance a fugitive daughter, in opposition to her parents: And as her coming to me would deprive her of my mamma’s favour, without its being in my power to make it up to her.

 

O my beloved creature! said he, generously enough, let not this be an obstacle. I will do every thing for the good woman you wish to have done—Let me go for her.

 

More coolly than perhaps his generosity deserved, I told him, It was impossible but I must soon hear from my friends. I should not, mean time, embroil any-body with them. Not Mrs. Norton especially, from whose interest in, and mediation with, my mamma, I might expect some good, were she to keep herself in a neutral state: That, besides, the good woman had a mind above her fortune; and would sooner want, than be beholden to any-body improperly.

 

Improperly, said he! —Have not persons of merit a right to all the benefits conferr’d upon them? — Mrs. Norton is so good a woman, that I shall think she lays me under an obligation, if she will put it in my power to serve her; altho’ she were not to augment it, by giving me the opportunity at the same time, of contributing to your pleasure and satisfaction.

 

How could this man, with such powers of right thinking, be so far deprav’d by evil habits, as to disgrace his talents by wrong acting?

 

Is there not room, after all, thought I, at the time, for hope (as he so lately led me to hope) that the example it will behove me, for both our sakes, to endeavour to set him, may influence him toa change of manners, in which both may find their account?

 

Give me leave, Sir, said I, to tell you, there is a strange mixture in your mind. You must have taken pains to suppress many good motions and reflections, as they arose, or levity must have been surprisingly predominant in it. —But as to the subject we were upon, there is no taking any resolutions till I hear from my friends.

 

Well, Madam, I can only say, I would find out some expedient, if I could, that should be agreeable to you. But since I cannot, will you be so good as to tell me, what you would wish to have done? Nothing in the world but I will comply with, excepting leaving you here, at such a distance from the place I shall be in, if any thing should happen; and in a place where my gossiping rascals have made me in a manner public, for want of proper cautions at first.

 

These vermin, added he, have a pride they can hardly rein-in, when they serve a man of family. They boast of their master’s pedigree and descent, as if they were related to him. Nor is any thing they know of him, or of his affairs, a secret to one another, were it what would hang him.

 

If so, thought I, men of family should take care to give them subjects worth boasting of.

 

I am quite at a loss, said I, what to do, or whither to go. Would you, Mr. Lovelace, in earnest, advise me to think of going to London?

 

And I looked at him with stedfastness. But nothing could I gather from his looks.

 

At first, Madam, said he, I was for proposing London, as I was then more apprehensive of pursuit. But as your relations seem cooler on that head, I am the more indifferent about the place you go to. —So as you are pleased—So as you are easy, I shall be happy.

 

This indifference of his to London, I cannot but

say, made me like going thither the better. I asked him [to hear what he would say], if he could recommend me to any particular place in London?

 

No, he said: None that was fit for me, or that I should like. His friend Belford indeed, had very handsome lodgings, near Soho-Square, at a relation’s, a lady of virtue and honour. These, as Mr. Belford was generally in the country, he could borrow till I were better accommodated.

 

I was resolved to refuse these at the first mention, as I should any other he had named. Nevertheless, I will see, thought I, if he has really thoughts of these for me. If I break off the talk here, and he resume this proposal with earnestness in the morning, I shall apprehend, that he is less indifferent than he seems to be, about my going to London; and that he has already a lodging in his eye for me. —And then I won’t go at all.

 

But after such generous motions from him, I really think it a little barbarous to act and behave as if I thought him capable of the blackest and most ingrateful baseness. But his character, his principles, are so faulty! —He is so light, so vain, so various, that there is no certainty that he will be next hour what he is This. Then, my dear, I have no guardian now; no father, no mother! Nothing but God and my vigilance to depend upon. And I have no reason to expect a miracle in my favour.

 

Well, Sir, said I, rising, to leave him, something must be resolved upon: But I will postpone this subject till to-morrow morning.

 

He would fain have engag’d me longer; but I said, I would see him as early as he pleased in the morning. He might think of any convenient place in London, or near it, mean time.

 

And so I retired from him. As I do from my pen; hoping for better rest for the few hours that will remain

for that desirable refreshment, than I have had of a long time.

 

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