He gives, in several letters, the substance of what is contained in the last of the Lady’s.He tells his friend, that calling at the Lawn, in his way to M. Hall (for he owns that he went not to Windsor), he found the letters from Lady Betty Lawrance, and his cousin Montague, which Mrs. Greme was about sending to him by a special messenger.
He gives the particulars from Mrs. Greme’s report, of what passed between the Lady and her, as in p. 48, 49. and makes such declarations to Mrs. Greme of his honour and affection to the Lady, as put her upon writing the letter to her sister Sorlings, the contents of which are given by the Lady, in p. 152, 153.He then accounts, as follows, for the serious humour he found her in, on his return.
Upon such good terms when we parted, I was surpriz’d to find so solemn a brow upon my return, and her charming eyes red with weeping. But when I had understood she had received letters from Miss Howe, it was easy to imagine, that that little devil had put her out of humour with me.
This gives me infinite curiosity to find out the subject of their letters. But this must not be attempted yet. An invasion in an article so sacred, would ruin me beyond retrieve. Yet it vexes me to the heart to think, that she is hourly writing her whole mind, on all that passes between her and me;—I under the same roof with her;—yet kept at such awful distance, that I dare not break into a correspondence, that may perhaps be a means to blow me, and all my devices, up together!
Would it be very wicked, Jack, to knock her messenger o’the head, as he is carrying my beloved’s letters, or returning with Miss Howe’s? To attempt to bribe him, and not succeed, would utterly ruin me. And the man seems to be one used to poverty, oce who can sit down satisfy’d with it, and enjoy it; contented with hand-to-mouth conveniencies, and not aiming to live better to-morrow, than he does today, and than he did yesterday. Such a one is above temptation, unless it could come cloath’d in the guise of truth and trust . What likelihood of corrupting a man who has no hope, no ambition?
Yet the rascal has but half -life, and groans under that. —Should I be answerable in his case for a whole one? —But hang the fellow! —Let him live. —Were I a king, or a minister of state, an Antonio Perez ( a ) , it were another thing. And yet, on second thoughts, am not I a Rake, as it is called? And who ever knew a Rake to stick at any thing? But thou knowest, Jack, that the greatest half of my wickedness is vapour, to shew my invention; and that I could be mischievous if I would.
He collects the Lady’s expressions, which his pride cannot bear: —Such as, That he is a stranger to the decorums which she thought inseparable from a man of birth and education; and that he is not the accomplish’d man he imagines himself to be; and threatens to remember them against her.He values himself upon his proposals and speeches, which he gives to his friend pretty much to the same purpose that the Lady does in her four last letters.When he recites his endeavouring to put her upon borrowing a servant from Miss Howe, till Hannah could come, he writes as follows:
Thou seest, Belford, that my charmer has no notion, that Miss Howe herself is but a puppet danc’d upon my wires, at second or third hand. To outwit, and impel, as one pleases, two such girls as these, who think they know every thing; and, by taking advantage of the pride and ill-nature of the old ones of both families, to play them off likewise, at the very time that they think they are doing me spiteful displeasure; what charming revenge! —Then the sweet Lady, when I wished, that her brother was not at the bottom of Mrs. Howe’s resentment, to tell me, That
she was afraid he was, or her uncle would not have appear’d against her to that lady. —Pretty dear! how innocent!
But don’t think me the cause neither of her family’s malice and resentment. It is all in their hearts. I work but with their materials. They, if left to their own wicked direction, would perhaps express their revenge by fire and fagot; that is to say, by the private dagger, or by Lord Chief Justices warrants, by Law, and so forth: I only point the lightning, and teach it where to dart, without the thunder: In other words, I only guide the effects: The cause is in their malignant hearts: And, while I am doing a little mischief, I prevent a great deal.
Thus he exults on her mentioning London.
I could hardly contain myself. My heart was at my throat—Down, down, said I to myself, exuberant exultation! —A sudden cough befriended me: I again turned to her, all as indifferenced-over, as a girl at the first long-expected question, who waits for two more. I heard out the rest of her speech: And when she had done, instead of saying any thing of London, I proposed to her to send for her Mrs. Norton.
As I knew she would be afraid of lying under obligations, had she accepted of my offer, I could have proposed to do so much for the good woman and her son, as would have made her resolve, that I should do nothing. —This, however, not merely to avoid expence: But there was no such thing as allowing of the presence of Mrs. Norton. I might as well have had her mother, or aunt Hervey with her. Hannah, had she been able to come, and had she come, I could have done well enough with. What do I keep fellows idling in the country for, but to fall in love, and even to marry, whom I would have them marry?
How unequal is a modest woman to the adventure, when she throws herself into the power of a rake! — Punctilio will, at any time, stand for reasons with such a one. She cannot break thro’ a well-tested modesty. None but the impudent little rogues, who can name the parson and the church before you can ask them for either, and undress and go to bed before you the next hour, should think of running away with a man.
I am in the right train now. Every hour, I doubt not, will give me an increasing interest in the affections of this proud beauty! —I have just carried un-politeness far enough to make her afraid of me ; and to shew her, that I am no whiner : Every instance of politeness, now, will give me double credit with her! My next point will be to make her acknowlege a lambent flame, a preference of me to all other men, at least: And then my happy hour is not far off. An acknowleged love sanctifies every freedom: And one freedom begets another. And if she call me ungenerous, I can call hercruel . The sex love to be called cruel. Many a time have I complained of cruelty, even in the act of yielding, because I knew it gratified their pride.
Mentioning that he had only hinted at Mr. Belford’s lodgings, as an instance to confirm what he had said, that he knew of none in London fit for her, he says,
I had a mind to alarm her with something furthest from my purpose; for (as much as she disliked mymotion) I intended nothing by it: Mrs. Osgood is too pious a woman; and would have been more her friend than mine .
I had a view, moreover, to give her an high opinion of her own sagacity. I love, when I dig a pit, to have my prey tumble in with secure feet, and open eyes: Then a man can look down upon her, with an O-ho, charmer! how came you there!
Monday, April 17.
I have just now received a fresh piece of intelligence from my agent, honest Joseph Leman. Thou knowest the history of poor Miss Betterton of Nottingham. James Harlowe is plotting to revive the resentments of that family against me. The Harlowes took great pains, some time ago, to get to the bottom of that story. But now the foolish devils are resolved to do something in it, if they can. My head is working to make this booby ‘Squire a plotter, and a clever fellow, in order to turn his plots to my advantage, supposing the Lady shall aim to keep me at arm’s length when in town, and to send me from her. —But I will, in proper time, let thee see Joseph’s letter, and what I shall answer to it ( a ) 57 To know, in time, a designed mischief, is, with me, to disappoint it, and to turn it upon the contriver’s head.
Joseph is plaguy squeamish again; but, I know, he only intends, by his qualms, to swell his merits with me. O Belford, Belford! what a vile corruptible rogue, whether in poor or in rich, is human nature!