Monday Morn. May 22.
No generosity in this lady. None at all. Wouldst thou not have thought, that after I had permitted her to withdraw, primed for mischief as I was, that she would meet me next morning early; and that with a smile; making me one of her best courtesies?
I was in the dining-room before six, expecting her. She opened not her door. I went up-stairs and down, and hemm’d, and called Will. called Dorcas: Threw the doors hard to; but still she opened not her door. Thus till half an hour after eight, fooled I away my time; and then, breakfast ready, I sent Dorcas to request her company.
But I was astonished, when, following the wench at the first invitation, I saw her enter dressed, all but her gloves, and those and her fan in her hand; in the same moment, bidding Dorcas direct Will to get her a chair to the door.
Cruel creature, thought I, to expose me thus to the derision of the women below!
Going abroad, Madam?
I am, Sir.
I looked cursed silly, I am sure. —You will breakfast first, I hope, Madam, in a very humble strain! Yet with an hundred tenter-hooks in my heart.
Had she given me more notice of her intention, I had perhaps wrought myself up to the frame I was in the day before, and begun my vengeance. And immediately came into my head all the virulence that had been transcribed for me from Miss Howe’s letters, and in that I had transcribed myself.
Yes, she would drink one dish; and then laid her gloves and fan in the window just by.
I was perfectly disconcerted. I hemm’d and haw’d, and was going to speak several times; but knew not in what key. Who’s modest now, thought I! Who’s insolent now! —How a tyrant of a woman confounds a bashful man! —She was my Miss Howe, I thought; and I the spiritless Hickman.
At last, I will begin, thought I.
She a dish—I a dish.
Sip, her eyes her own, she; like an haughty and imperious sovereign, conscious of dignity, every look a favour.
Sip, like her vassal, I; lips and hands trembling, and not knowing that I sipp’d or tasted.
I was—I was—Issp’d—drawing in my breath and the liquor together, tho’ I scalded my mouth with it—I was in hopes, Madam—
Dorcas came in just then. —Dorcas, said she, is a chair gone for?
Damn’d impertinence, thought I, putting me out of my speech! And I was forced to wait for the servant’s answer to the insolent mistress’s question.
William is gone for one, Madam.
This cost me a minute’s silence before I could begin again. —And then it was with my hopes, and my hopes, and my hopes, that I should have been early admitted to—
What weather is it, Dorcas? said she, as regardless of me, as if I had not been present.
A little lowering, Madam—The sun is gone in— It was very fine half an hour ago.
I had no patience—Up I rose. Down went the tea-cup, saucer and all. —Confound the weather, the sunshine, and the wench! —Begone for a devil, when I am speaking to your lady, and have so little opportunity given me.
Up rose the lady, half frighted; and snatched from the window her gloves and fan.
You must not go, Madam! —By my soul, you must not—Taking her hand.
Must not, Sir! —But I must—You can curse your maid in my absence, as well as if I were present— Except—Except—you intend for me,what you direct to her .
Dearest creature, you must not go! —You must not leave me! —Such determined scorn! Such contempts! —Questions ask’d your servant of no meaning but to break in upon me; who could bear it?
Detain me not, struggling. —I will not be withheld. —I like you not, nor your ways. —You sought to quarrel with me yesterday, for no reason in the world that I can think of, but because I was too obliging. You are an ingrateful man; and I hate you with my whole heart, Mr. Lovelace!
Do not make me desperate, Madam. —Permit me to say, that you shall not leave me in this humour. Where-ever you go, I will attend you. —Had Miss Howe been my friend, I had not been thus treated. — It is but too plain to whom my difficulties are owing. I have long observed, that every letter you receive from her, makes an alteration in your behaviour to me. She would have you treat me, as she treats Mr. Hickman, I suppose: But neither does that treatment become your admirable temper to offer, nor me to receive.
This startled her. She did not care to have me think hardly of Miss Howe.
But recollecting herself, Miss Howe, said she, is a friend to virtue, and to good men. —If she like not you, it is because you are not one of those.
Yes, Madam; and therefore, to speak of Mr. Hickman and Myself, as you both, I suppose, think of each, she treats him as she would not treat a Lovelace . —I challenge you, Madam, to shew me but one of the many letters you have received from her, where I am mentioned.
Whither will this lead us? replied she. Miss Howe is just; Miss Howe is good. —She writes, she speaks, of every-body as they deserve. If you point me out but any one occasion, upon which you have reason to build a merit to yourself, as either just or good, or even generous, I will look out for her letter on that occasion (if it be one I have acquainted her with); and will engage it shall be in your favour.
Devilish severe! And as indelicate as severe, to put a modest man upon hunting backward after his own merits.
She would have flung from me: I will go out, Mr. Lovelace. I will not be detained.
Indeed you must not, Madam, in this humour. And I placed myself between her and the door. — And then she threw herself into a chair, fanning herself, her sweet face all crimsoned over with passion.
I cast myself at her feet. —Begone, Mr. Lovelace, said she, with a rejecting motion, her fan in her hand; for your own sake leave me! —My soul is above thee, man! With both her hands pushing me from her! — Urge me not to tell thee, how sincerely I think my soul above thee! —Thou hast a proud, a too proud heart, to contend with! —Leave me, and leave me for ever! —Thou hast a proud heart to contend with!
Her air, her manner, her voice, were bewitchingly noble, tho’ her words were so severe.
Let me worship an angel, said I, no woman. Forgive me, dearest creature! —Creature if you be, forgive me! —Forgive my inadvertencies! Forgive my inequalities! —Pity my infirmity! —Who is equal to my Clarissa?
I trembled between admiration and love; and wrapt my arms about her knees, as she sat. She try’d to rise at the moment; but my clasping round her thus ardently, drew her down again; and never was woman more affrighted. But free as my clasping emotion might appear to her apprehensive heart, I had not, at the instant, any thought but what reverence inspired. And till she had actually withdrawn (which I permitted under promise of a speedy return, and on her consent to dismiss the chair), all the motions of my heart were as pure as her own.
She kept not her word. An hour I waited, before I sent to claim her promise. She could not possibly see me yet, was the answer. As soon as she could, she would.
Dorcas says, she still excessively trembled; and ordered her to give her water and hartshorn.
A strange apprehensive creature! —Her terror is too great for the occasion. —Evils in apprehension are often greater than evils in reality. Hast thou never observed, that the terrors of a bird caught, and actually in the hand, bear no comparison to what we might have supposed those terrors would be, were we to have formed a judgment of the same bird by its shyness before taken?
Dear creature! —Did she never romp? Did she ever from girlhood to now, hoyden? The innocent kinds of freedom taken and all owed on these occasions, would have familiarized her to greater. Sacrilege but to touch the hem of her garment! —Excess of delicacy! —O the consecrated beauty! —How can she think to be a wife!
But how do I know till I try, whether she may not by a less alarming treatment be prevailed upon, or whether [Day, I have done with thee!] she may not yield to nightly surprizes? This is still the burden of my song, I can marry her when I will. And if I do, after prevailing (whether by surprize or reluctant consent) whom but myself shall I have injured?
It is now eleven o’clock. She will see me as soon as she can, she tells Polly Horton, who made her a tender visit, and to whom she is less reserved than to any-body else. Her emotion, she assures her, was not owing to perverseness, to nicety, to ill-humour; but to weakness of heart . She has not strength of mind sufficient, she says, to enable her to support her condition, and her apprehensions, under the weight of a father’s curse; which she fears is more than beginning to operate.
Yet what a contradiction! — Weakness of heart, says she, with such a strength of will ! —O Belford! she is a lion-hearted lady, in every case where her honour, her punctilio rather, calls for spirit. But I have had reason more than once in her case, to conclude, that the passions of the gentlest, slower to be moved than those of the quick, are the most flaming, the most irresistible, when raised. —Yet her charming body is not equally organized. The unequal partners pull two ways; and the divinity within her tears her silken frame. But had the same soul informed a masculine body, never would there have been a truer hero.
Monday, two o’clock.
My beloved not yet visible. She is not well. What expectations had she from my ardent admiration of her! —More rudeness than revenge apprehended. Yet, how my soul thirsts for revenge upon both these ladies! —I must have recourse to my master-strokes. This cursed project of Miss Howe and her Mrs. Townsend, if I cannot contrive to render it abortive, will be always a sword hanging over my head. Upon every little disobligation my beloved will be for taking wing; and the pains I have taken, to deprive her of every other refuge or protection, in order to make her absolutely dependent upon me, will be all thrown away. But, perhaps, I shall find out a Smuggler to counteract Miss Howe.
Thou remembrest the contention between the Sun and the North wind, in the fable; which should first make an honest Traveller throw off his cloak.
Boreas began first. He puffed away most vehemently; and often made the poor fellow curve and stagger: But with no other effect, than to cause him to wrap his surtout the closer about him.
But when it came to Phoebus’s turn, he so played upon the traveller with his beams, that he made him first unbutton, and then throw it quite off: —Nor left he, till he obliged him to take to the friendly shade of a spreading beech; where prostrating himself on the thrown-off cloak, he took a comfortable nap.
The victor-god then laughed outright, both at Boreas and the Traveller, and pursued his radiant course, shining upon, and warming and cherishing a thousand new objects, as he danced along: And at night, when he put up his fiery coursers, he diverted his Thetis with the relation of his pranks in the passed day.
I, in like manner, will discard all my boistrous inventions; and if I can oblige my sweet Traveller to throw aside, but for one moment, the cloak of her rigid virtue, I shall have nothing to do, but, like the sun, to bless new objects with my rays. —But my chosen hours of conversation and repose, after all my peregrinations, will be devoted to my godde
And now, Belford, according to my new system, I think this house of Mrs. Fretchville an embarass upon me. I will get rid of it; for some time at least. Mennell, when I am out, shall come to her, inquiring for me. What for? thou’lt ask. What for! —Hast thou not heard what has befallen poor Mrs. Fretchville? —Then I’ll tell thee.
One of her maids, about a week ago, was taken with the small-pox. The rest kept their mistress ignorant of it till Friday; and then she came to know it by accident. —The greater half of the plagues poor mortals of condition are tormented with, proceed from the servants they take, partly for shew, partly for use, and with a view to lessen their cares.
This has so terrified the widow, that she is taken with all the symptoms which threaten an attack from that dreadful enemy of fair faces. —So must not think of removing: Yet cannot expect, that we should be further delayed on her account.
She now wishes, with all her heart, that she had known her own mind, and gone into the country at first when I treated about the house: This evil then had not happened! —A cursed cross accident for us, too! —High-ho! Nothing else, I think, in this mortal life! —People need not study to bring crosses upon themselves by their petulancies.
So this affair of the house will be over; at least, for one while. But then I can fall upon an expedient which will make amends for this disappointment. Since I must move slow, in order to be sure, I have a charming contrivance or two in my head—Even supposing she should get away, to bring her back again.
But what is become of Lord M. I trow, that he writes not to me, in answer to my invitation? If he would send me such a letter, as I could shew, it might go a great way towards a perfect reconciliation. I have written to Charlotte about it. He shall soon
hear from me, and that in a way he won’t like, if he writes not quickly. He has sometimes threatened to disinherit me : But if I should renounce him, it would be but justice, and would vex him ten times more, than any thing he can do, will vex me. Then, the settlements unavoidably delayed, by his neglect! — How shall I bear such a life of procrastination! I, who, as to my will, and impatience, and so forth, am of the true lady-make ! and can as little bear controul and disappointment as the best of them!
Another letter from Miss Howe. I suppose it is that which she promises in her last to send her, relating to the courtship between old Tony the uncle, and Annabella the mother. I should be extremely rejoiced to see it. No more of the smuggler-plot in it, I hope. This, it seems, she has put in her pocket. But I hope I shall soon find it deposited with the rest.
At my repeated request she condescended to meet me in the dining-room to afternoon tea, and not before.
She entered with bashfulness, as I thought; in a pretty confusion, for having carried her apprehensions too far. Sullen and slow moved she towards the tea-table. —Dorcas present, busy in tea cup preparations. I took her reluctant hand, and pressed it to my lips. — Dearest, loveliest of creatures, why this distance? Why this displeasure? —How can you thus torture the faithfullest heart in the world? —She disengaged her hand. Again I would have snatch’d it.
Be quiet, peevishly withdrawing it; and down she sat; a gentle palpitation in the beauty of beauties indicating mingled sullenness and resentment; her snowy handkerchief rising and falling, and a sweet flush overspreading her charming cheeks.
For God’s sake, Madam! —And a third time I would have taken her repulsing hand.
And for the same sake, Sir; no more teazing.
Dorcas retired; I drew my chair nearer hers, and with the most respectful tenderness took her hand; and told her, that I could not, without the utmost concern, forbear to express my apprehensions (from the distance she was so desirous to keep me at), that if any man in the world was more indifferent to her, to use no harsher a word, than another, it was the unhappy wretch before her.
She looked steadily upon me for a moment, and with her other hand, not withdrawing that I held, pulled her handkerchief out of her pocket; and by a twinkling motion, tried to dissipate a tear or two, which stood ready in each eye, to meander themselves a passage down her glowing cheeks; but answered me only with a sigh, and an averted face.
I urged her to speak; to look up at me; to bless me with an eye more favourable.
I had reason, she told me, for my complaint of her indifference. She saw nothing in my mind that was generous. I was not a man to be obliged or favoured. My strange behaviour to her since Saturday night, for no cause at all that she knew of, convinced her of this. Whatever hopes she had conceived of me, were utterly dissipated: All my ways were disgustful to her.
This cut me to the heart. The guilty, I believe, in every case, less patiently bear the detecting truth, than the innocent do the degrading falshood.
I bespoke her patience, while I took the liberty to account for this change, on my part. —I re-acknowleged the pride of my heart, which could not bear the thought of that want of preference in the heart of a lady, whom I hoped to call mine, which she had always manifested. Marriage, I said, was a state that was not to be entered upon with indifference on either side.
It is insolence, interrupted she, it is presumption, Sir, to expect tokens of value, without resolving to deserve them. You have no whining creature before you, Mr. Lovelace, overcome by weak motives, to love where there is no merit. Miss Howe can tell you, Sir, that I never loved the faults of my friend; nor ever wished her to love me for mine. It was a rule with us, not to spare each other. And would a man who has nothing but faults (for pray, Sir, what are your virtues?) expect that I should shew a value for him? Indeed, if I did, I should not deserve even his value, but ought to be despised by him.
Well have you, Madam, kept up to this noble manner of thinking. You are in no danger of being despised for any marks of tenderness or favour shewn to the man before you. You have been perhaps, you’ll think, laudably studious of making and taking occasions to declare, that it was far from being owing to your choice, that you had any thoughts of me. My whole soul, Madam, in all its errors, in all its wishes, in all its views, had been laid open and naked before you, had I been encouraged by such a share in your confidence and esteem, as would have secured me against your apprehended worst constructions of what I should from time to time have revealed to you, and consulted you upon. For never was there a franker heart; nor a man so ready to accuse himself. [This, Belford, is true]. But you know, Madam, how much otherwise it has been between us. —Doubt, distance, reserve, on your part, begat doubt, fear, awe, on mine. —How little confidence! as if we apprehended each other to be a plotter rather than a lover. How have I dreaded every letter that has been brought you from Wilson’s! —And with reason; since the last, from which I expected so much, on account of the proposals I had made you in writing, has, if I may judge by the effects, and by your denial of seeing me yesterday (tho’ you could go abroad, and in a chair too, to avoid my attendance on you), set you against me more than ever.
I was guilty, it seems, of going to church, said the indignant charmer; and without the company of a man, whose choice it would not have been to go, had I not gone. I was guilty of desiring to have the whole Sunday to myself, after I had obliged you, against my will, at a play; and after you had detained me, equally to my dislike, to a very late hour over night. —These were my faults: For these I was to be punished; I was to be compelled to see you, and to be terrified when I did see you, by the most shocking ill-humour that was ever shewn to a creature in my circumstances, and not bound to bear it. You have pretended to find free fault with my father’s temper, Mr. Lovelace: But the worst that he ever shewed after marriage, was not in the least to be compared to what you have shewn twenty times beforehand . — And what are my prospects with you, at the very best? —My indignation rises against you, Mr. Lovelace, while I speak to you, when I recollect the many instances, equally ungenerous and unpolite, of your behaviour to one whom you have brought into distress —And I can hardly bear you in my sight.
She turned from me, standing up; and lifting up her folded hands and charming eyes, swimming in tears—O my dear papa, said the inimitable creature, you might have spared your heavy curse, had you known how I have been punished, ever since my swerving feet led me out of your garden-doors to meet this man! Then, sinking into her chair, a burst of passionate tears forced their way down her glowing cheeks.
My dearest life, taking her still folded hands in mine, who can bear an invocation so affecting, tho’ so passionate? [And, as I hope to live, my nose tingled, as I once when a boy, remember it did (and indeed once more very lately), just before some tears came into my eyes; and I durst hardly trust my face in view of hers] What have I done to deserve this impatient exclamation? —Have I, at any time, by word, by deeds, by looks, given you cause to doubt my honour, my reverence, my adoration, I may call it, of your virtues? —All is owing to misapprehension, I hope, on both sides. —Condescend to clear up but your part, as I will mine, and all must speedily be happy. — Would to heaven I loved that heaven as I love you! And yet, if I doubted a return in love, let me perish if I should know how to wish you mine! —Give me hope, dearest creature, give me but hope, that I am your preferable choice! —Give me but hope, that you hate me not; that you do not despise me.
O Mr. Lovelace, we have been long enough together, to be tired of each others humours and ways; ways and humours so different, that perhaps you ought to dislike me, as much as I do you . —I think, I think, that I cannot make an answerable return to the value you profess for me. My temper is utterly ruined. You have given me an ill opinion of all mankind; of yourself in particular: And withal so bad a one of myself, that I shall never be able to look up, having utterly and for ever lost all that self-complacency, and conscious pride, which are so necessary to carry a woman through this life with tolerable satisfaction to herself.
She paused. I was silent. By my soul, thought I, this sweet creature will at last undo me!
She proceeded. —What now remains, but that you pronounce me free of all obligation to you? And that you will not hinder me from pursuing the destiny that shall be allotted me?
Again she paused. I was still silent; meditating whether to renounce all further designs upon her; whether I had not received sufficient evidence of a virtue, and of a greatness of soul, that could not be questioned, or impeached.
She went on: Propitious to me be your silence, Mr. Lovelace! —Tell me, that I am free of all obligation to you. You know, I never made youpromises. —You know, that you are not under any to me . —My broken fortunes I matter not.—
She was proceeding. —My dearest life, said I, I have been all this time, tho’ you fill me with doubts of your favour, busy in the nuptial preparations. —I am actually in treaty for equipage.
Equipage, Sir! —Trappings, Tinsel! —What is Equipage; what is Life; what is Any-thing, to a creature sunk so low, as I am in my own opinion! —Labouring under a father’s curse! —Unable to look backward without reproach, or forward without terror! — These reflections strengthen’d by every cross accident! —And what but cross accidents befal me! —All my darling schemes dashed in pieces; all my hopes at an end; deny me not the liberty to refuge myself in some obscure corner, where neither the enemies you have made me, nor the few friends you have left me, may ever hear of the supposed rash one, till those happy moments are at hand, which shall expiate for all.
I had not a word to say for myself. Such a war in my mind had I never known. Gratitude, and admiration of the excellent creature before me, combating with villainous habit, with resolutions so premeditately made, and with views so much gloried in! —An hundred new contrivances in my head, and in my heart, that, to be honest, as it is called; must all be given up, by a heart delighting in intrigue and difficulty—Miss Howe’s virulences endeavoured to be recollected—Yet recollection refusing to bring them forward with the requisite efficacy—I had certainly been a lost man, had not Dorcas come seasonably in, with a letter. —On the superscription written— Be pleased, Sir, to open it now .
I returned to the window—opened it. —It was from herself. —These the contents—‘Be pleased to detain my lady; a paper of importance to transcribe. —I will cough when I have done.’
I put the paper in my pocket, and turned to my charmer, less disconcerted, as she, by that time, had also a little recovered herself. —One favour, dearest creature—Let me but know, whether Miss Howe approves or disapproves of my proposals? —I know her to be my enemy. I was intending to account to you for the change of behaviour you accused me of at the beginning of this conversation; but was diverted from it by your vehemence. —Indeed, my beloved creature, you was very vehement. —Do you think, it must not be matter of high regret to me, to find my wishes so often delayed and postponed, in favour of your predominant view to a reconciliation with relations, who will not be reconciled to you? —To this was owing your declining to celebrate before we came to town, tho’ you were so atrociously treated by your sister, and your whole family; and tho’ so ardently pressed to celebrate by me? To this was owing the ready offence you took at my four friends; and at the unavailing attempt I made to see a dropt letter, little imagining that there could be room for mortal displeasure on that account, from what two such ladies could write to each other. —To this was owing the week’s distance you held me at, till you knew the issue of another application. —But when they had rejected that; when you had sent my coldly-received proposals to Miss Howe for her approbation or advice, as indeed I advised, and had honoured me with your company at the play on Saturday night (my whole behaviour unobjectible to the last hour); must not, Madam, the sudden change in your conduct, the very next morning, astonish and distress me? —And this persisted in with still stronger declarations, after you had received the impatiently-expected letter from Miss Howe; must I not conclude, that all was owing to her influence; and that some other application or project was meditating, that made it necessary to keep me again at distance till the result were known, and which was to deprive me of you for ever? for was not that your constantly proposed preliminary? —Well, Madam, might I be wrought up to a half-frenzy by this apprehension; and well might I charge you with hating me. —And now, dearest creature, let me know, I once more ask you, what is Miss Howe’s opinion of my proposals?
Were I disposed to debate with you, Mr. Lovelace, I could very easily answer your fine harangue. But at present, I shall only say, that your ways have been very unaccountable. You seem to me, if your meanings were always just, to have taken great pains to embarass them. Whether owing in you to the want of a clear head, or a sound heart, I cannot determine; but it is to the want of one of them, I verily think, that I am to ascribe the greatest part of your strange conduct.
Curse upon the heart of the little devil, said I, who instigates you to think so hardly of the faithfullest heart in the world!
How dare you, Sir? —And there she stopt; having almost overshot herself; as I designed she should.
How dare I what, Madam? And I looked with meaning. How dare I what ?
Vile man! —And do you—And there again she stopt.
Do I what, Madam? —And why vile man ?
How dare you to curse any-body in my presence?
O the sweet receder! —But that was not to go off so with a Lovelace.
Why then, dearest creature, is there any body that instigates you? —If there be, again I curse them, be they who they will.
She was in a charming pretty passion. —And this was the first time that I had the odds in my favour.
Well, Madam, it is just as I thought. And now I know how to account for a temper, that I hope is not natural to you.
Artful wretch! And is it thus you would entrap me? —But know, Sir, that I receive letters from nobody but Miss Howe. Miss Howe likes some of your ways as little as I do; for I have set every-thing before her. —Yet she is thus far your enemy, as she is mine : —She thinks I should not refuse your offers; but endeavour to make the best of my lot. And now you have the truth. Would to heaven you were capable of dealing with equal sincerity!
I am, Madam. And here, on my knee, I renew my vows, and my supplication, that you will make me yours—Yours for ever. —And let me have cause to bless you and Miss Howe in the same breath.
To say the truth, Belford, I had before begun to think, that that vixen of a girl, who certainly likes not Hickman, was in love with me .
Rise, Sir, from your too-ready knees; and mock me not.
Too-ready knees, thought I! —Tho’ this humble posture so little affects this proud beauty, she knows not how much I have obtained of others of her sex, nor how often I have been forgiven the last attempts, by kneeling.
Mock you, Madam! —And I arose, and re-urged her for the day. I blamed myself at the same time, for my invitation to Lord M. as it might subject me to delay, from his infirmities: But told her, that I would write to him to excuse me, if she had no objection; or to give him the day she would give me, and not wait for him, if he could not come in time.
My day, Sir, said she, is never. Be not surprized. A person of politeness judging between us, would not be surprized that I say so. But indeed, Mr. Lovelace, and wept thro’ impatience, you either know not how to treat with a mind of the least degree of delicacy, notwithstanding your birth and education, or you are an ingrateful man; and (after a pause) a worse than ingrateful one. But I will retire. I will see you again to-morrow. I cannot before. I think I hate you— You may look—Indeed I think I hate you. And if, upon a re-examination of my own heart, I find I do, I would not for the world that matters should go on farther between us.
I was too much vex’d, disconcerted, mortify’d, to hinder her retiring—And yet she had not gone, if Dorcas had not cough’d.
The wench came in, as soon as her lady had retired, and gave me the copy she had taken. And what should it be of, but the answer the truly admirable creature had intended to give to my written proposals in relation to settlements?
I have but just dipt into this affecting paper. Were I to read it attentively, not a wink should I sleep this night. To-morrow it shall obtain my serious consideration.