Mr. Lovelace, To John Belford, Esq;
A letter is put into my hands by Wilson himself—
Such a letter!—
A letter from Miss Howe to her cruel friend!—
I made no scruple to open it.
It is a miracle, that I fell not into fits at the reading of it; and at the thought of what might have been the consequence, had it come to the hands ofthis Clarissa Harlowe . Let my justly-excited rage excuse my irreverence.
Collins, tho’ not his day, brought it this afternoon to Wilson’s, with a particular desire, that it might be sent with all speed to Miss Beaumont’s lodgings, and given, if possible, into her own hands. He had before been here (at Mrs. Sinclair’s), with intent to deliver it to her himself; but was told [ too truly told !], that she was abroad; but that they would give her any thing he should leave for her, the moment she returned. — But he cared not to trust them with his business, and went away to Wilson’s (as I find by the description of him at both places), and there left the letter; but not till he had a second time called here, and found her not come in.
The letter (which I shall inclose; for it is too long to transcribe) will account to thee for his coming hither.
O this devilish Miss Howe! —Something must be resolved upon, and done with that little Fury!
Thou wilt see the margin of this cursed letter crouded with indices [<-]. I put them to mark the places devoted for vengeance, or requiring animadversion. Return thou it to me the moment thou hast read it.
Read it here; and avoid trembling for me, if thou canst.
To Miss Lætitia Beaumont .
Wednesday, June 7.
My dearest Friend,
You will perhaps think, that I have been too long silent. But I had begun two letters at different times since my last, and written a great deal each time; and with spirit enough, I assure you; incensed as I was against the abominable wretch you are with; particularly on reading yours of the 21st of the past month ( a ) 109 .
110 The first I intended to keep open till I could give you some account of my proceedings with Mrs. Townsend. 111 It was some days before I saw her: And this intervenient space giving me time to re-peruse what I had written, I thought it proper to lay that aside, and to write in a stile a little less fervent; for you would have blamed me, I know, for the freedom of some of my expressions ( execrations, if you please). 112 And when I had gone a good way in the second, the change in your prospects, on his communicating to you Miss Montague’s letter, and his better behaviour, occasioning a change in your mind, I laid that aside also. And in this uncertainty, thought I would wait to see the issue of affairs between you, before I wrote again; believing that all would soon be decided one way or other.
I had still, perhaps, held this resolution (as every appearance, according to your letters, was more and more promising), had not the two passed days furnished me with intelligence which it highly imports you to know.
113 But I must stop here, and take a little walk, to try to keep down that just indignation which rises to my pen, when I am about to relate to you what I must communicate.
I am not my own mistress enough—Then my mother—Always up and down—And watching as if I were writing to a fellow— 114 But I will try if I can contain myself in tolerable bounds.—
The women of the house where you are—O my dear—The women of the house—But you never thought highly of them—So it cannot be so very surprizing— 115 Nor would you have staid so long with them; had not the notion of removing to one of your own, made you less uneasy, and less curious about their characters, and behaviour. 116 Yet I could now wish, that you had been less reserved among them—But I teaze you—In short, my dear, you are certainly in a devilish house! — 117 Be assured, that the woman is one of the vilest of women! —Nor does she go to you by her right name—Very true—Her name is not Sinclair— Nor is the street she lives in Dover-street. —Did you never go out by yourself, and discharge the coach or chair, and return by another coach or chair? 118 If you did (yet I don’t remember that you ever wrote to me, that you did), you would never have found your way to the vile house, either by the woman’s name, Sinclair, or by the street’s name, mentioned by that Doleman in his letter about the lodgings ( a ) 119 .
The wretch might indeed have held out these false lights a little more excusably, had the house been an honest house; and had his end only been to prevent mischief from your brother—But this contrivance was antecedent, as I think, to your brother’s project: So that no excuse can be made for his intentions at the time — 120 The man, whatever he may now intend, was certainly then, even then, a villain in his heart!
I am excessively concerned, that I should be prevailed upon, between your over-niceness, on one hand, and my mother’s positiveness, on the other, to be satisfied without knowing how to direct to you at your lodgings. I think too, that the proposal that I should be put off to a third-handknowlege, or rather veiled in a first-hand ignorance, came from him—and that it was only acquiesced in by you, as it was by me ( a ) 121 , upon needless and weak considerations—Because, truly, I might have it to say, if challenged, that I knew not where to send to you! —I am ashamed of myself! 122 —Had this been at first excusable, it could not be a good reason for going on in the folly, when you had no liking to the house, and when he began to play tricks, and delay with you. — What! I was to mistrust myself, was I? 123 —I was to allow it to be thought, that I could not keep my own secret? 124 —But the house to be taken at this time, and at that time, led us both on—like fools, like tame fools in a string. 125 —Upon my life, my dear, this man is a vile, a contemptible villain—I must speak out! —How has he laughed in his sleeve at us both, I warrant, for I can’t tell how long!
126 And yet who could have thought, that a man of fortune, and some reputation [This Doleman, I mean; not your wretch, to be sure!]—formerly a Rake indeed—[I have inquired after him—long ago; and so was the easier satisfied]—but married to a woman of family—having had a palsy-blow —and one would think a penitent—should recommend such a house— 127 [Why, my dear, he could not inquire of it, but must find it to be bad] —to such a man as Lovelace, to bring his future, nay, his then supposed bride, to?
I write, perhaps, with too much violence, to be clear. But I cannot help it. Yet I lay down my pen, and take it up every ten minutes, in order to write with some temper—My mother too in and out— 128 What need I (she asks me) lock myself in, if I am only reading past correspondencies? —for that is my pretence, when she comes poking in with her face sharpened to an edge, as I may say, by a curiosity that gives her more pain than pleasure— 129 The Lord forgive me; but I believe I shall huff her next time she comes in.
Do You forgive me too, my dear. My mother ought ; because she says, I am my father’s girl; and because I am sure I am hers . 130 I don’t know what to do—I don’t know what to write next—I have so much to write, yet have so little patience, and so little opportunity.
But I will tell you how I came by my intelligence.
131 That being a fact, and requiring the less attention, I will try to account to you for that .
Thus then it came about—‘Miss Lardner (whom you have seen at her cousin Biddulph’s) saw you at St. James’s church on Sunday was fortnight. She kept you in her eye during the whole time; but could not once obtain the notice of yours, tho’ she courtesy’d to you twice. She thought to pay her compliments to you when the Service was over; for she doubted not but you were married—and for an odd reason— because you came to church by yourself . 132 —Every eye, as usual, she said, was upon you; and this seeming to give you hurry, and you being nearer the door than she, you slid out, before she could get to you. But she ordered her servant to follow you till you were housed. This servant saw you step into a chair, which waited for you; and you ordered the men to carry you to the place where they took you up.
‘The next day, Miss Lardner sent the same servant, out of mere curiosity, to make private inquiry whether Mr. Lovelace were, or were not, with you there. 133 And this inquiry brought out, from different people, that the house was suspected to be one of those genteel wicked houses, which receive and accommodate fashionable people of both sexes.
‘Miss Lardner, confounded at this strange intelligence, made further inquiry; injoining secrecy to the servant she had sent, as well as to the gentleman whom she employed: 134 Who had it confirmed from a rakish friend, who knew the house; and told him, that there were two houses; the one, in which all decent appearances were preserved, and guests rarely admitted; the other, the receptacle of those who were absolutely engaged, and broken to the vile yoke.’—
Say—my dear creature-say-Shall I not execrate the wretch? —But words are weak-What can I say, that will suitably express my abhorrence of such a villain as he must have been, when he meditated to bring a Clarissa Harlowe to such a place!
‘Miss Lardner kept this to herself some days, not knowing what to do; for she loves you, and admires you of all women. At last, she revealed it, but in confidence, to Miss Biddulph, by letter. Miss Biddulph, in like confidence, being afraid it would distract me, were I to know it, communicated it to Miss Lloyd; and so, like a whisper’d scandal, it passed through several canals; and then it came to me. Which was not till last Monday.’
I thought I should have fainted upon the surprising communication. But rage taking place, it blew away the sudden illness. 135 I besought Miss Lloyd to re-injoin secrecy to every-one. I told her, that I would not for the world, that my mother, or any of your family, should know it. 136 And I instantly caused a trusty friend to make what inquiries he could about Tomlinson.
137 I had thoughts to have done it before: But not imagining it to be needful, and little thinking that you could be in such a house, and as you were pleased with your changed prospects, I forbore. 138 And the rather forbore, as the matter is so laid, that Mrs. Hodges is supposed to know nothing of the projected treaty of accommodation; but, on the contrary, that it was designed to be a secret to her, and to every-body but immediate parties; and it was Mrs. Hodges that I had proposed to sound by a second hand.
139 Now, my dear, it is certain, without applying to that too-much favoured housekeeper, that there is not such a man within ten miles of your Uncle. Very true! One Tomkins there is, about four miles off; but he is a day-labourer: And one Thompson, about five miles distant the other way; but he is a parish schoolmaster, poor, and about seventy.
140 A man, tho’ but of 800 l. a year, cannot come from one county to settle in another, but everybody in both must know it, and talk of it.
141 Mrs. Hodges may yet be sounded at a distance, if you will. Your uncle is an old man. Old men imagine themselves under obligation to their paramours, if younger than themselves, and seldom keep anything from their knowlege. 142 But if we suppose him to make a secret of the designed treaty, it is impossible, before that treaty was thought of, but she must have seen him, at least have heard your uncle speak praisefully of a man he is said to be so intimate with, let him have been ever so little a while in those parts.
143 Yet, methinks, the story is so plausible. 144 Tomlinson, as you describe him, is so good a man, and so much of a gentleman; the end to be answered by his being an impostor, so much more than necessary, if Lovelace has villainy in his head; and as you are in such a house— 145 Your wretch’s behaviour to him was so petulant and lordly; and Tomlinson’s answer so full of spirit and circumstance; 146 and then what he communicated to you of Mr. Hickman’s application to your uncle, and of Mrs. Norton’s to your mother (some of which particulars, 147 I am satisfied, his vile agent Joseph Leman could not reveal to his viler employer); his pressing on the marriage-day, in the name of your uncle, which it could not answer any wicked purpose for him to do; and what he writes of your uncle’s proposal, 148 to have it thought that you were married from the time that you had lived in one house together; and that to be made to agree with the time of Mr. Hickman’s visit to your uncle: 149 The insisting on a trusty person’s being present at the ceremony, at that uncle’s nomination—These things make me willing to try for a tolerable construction to be made of all; tho’ I am so much puzzled, by what occurs on both sides of the question, 150 that I cannot but abhor the devilish wretch, 151 whose inventions and contrivances are for ever employing an inquisitive head, without affording the means of absolute detection.
But this is what I am ready to conjecture, that Tomlinson, specious as he is, is a machine of Lovelace; and that he is employed for some end, which has not yet been answered. 152 —This is certain, that not only Tomlinson, but Mennell, who, I think, attended you more than once at this vile house, must know it to be a vile house.
What can you then think of Tomlinson’s declaring himself in favour of it, upon inquiry?
Lovelace too must know it to be so; if not before he brought you to it, soon after.
153 Perhaps the company he found there, may be the most probable way of accounting for his bearing with the house, and for his strange suspensions of marriage, when it was in his power to call such an angel of a woman his.—
154 O my dear, the man is a villain! the greatest of villains, in every light! —I am convinced that he is—And this Doleman must be another of his implements!
155 There are so many wretches who think that to be no sin, which is one of the greatest, and the most ingrateful, of all sins; to ruin young creatures of our sex, who place their confidence in them; that the wonder is less than the shame, that people of figure, of appearance, at least, are found to promote the horrid purposes of profligates of fortune and interest!—
156 But can I think (you will ask, with indignant astonishment), that Lovelace can have designs upon your honour?
157 That such designs he has had, if he still hold them not, I can have no doubt, now that I know the house he has brought you to, to be a vile one. This is a clue that has led me to account for all his behaviour to you ever since you have been in his hands.
Allow me a brief retrospection of it all.
158 We both know, that Pride, Revenge, and a delight to tread in unbeaten paths, are principal ingredients in the character of this finished libertine.
159 He hates all your family, yourself excepted; and I have several times thought, that I have seen him stung and mortified, that Love has obliged him to kneel at your footstool, because you are a Harlowe . 160 —Yet is this wretch a Savage in Love. — Love that humanizes the fiercest spirits, has not been able to subdue his. 161 His pride, and the credit which a few plausible qualities, sprinkled among his odious ones, 162 have given him, have secured him too good a reception from our eye-judging, our undistinguishing, our self-flattering, our too-confiding Sex, to make assiduity and obsequiousness, and a conquest of his unruly passions, any part of his study.
163 He has some reason for his animosity to all the men, and to one woman of your family. He has always shewn you, and all his own family too, that he prefers his Pride to his Interest. 164 He is a declared marriage-hater: A notorious intriguer: Full of his inventions; and glorying in them. — He never could draw you in to declarations of Love: Nor, till your wise relations persecuted you, as they did, to receive his addresses as a Lover.165 —He knew, that you professedly disliked him for his immoralities; he could not therefore justly blame you, for the coldness and indifference of your behaviour to him.
166 The prevention of mischief was your first main view in the correspondence he drew you into.
He ought not, then, to have wonder’d, that you declared your preference of the Single Life to any matrimonial engagement. He knew, that this wasalways your preference; and that before he tricked you away so artfully. 167 What was his conduct to you afterwards, that you should of a sudden change it?
Thus was your whole behaviour regular, consistent, and dutiful to those to whom, by birth, you owed duty; and neither prudish, coquetish, nor tyrannical to him.
168 He had agreed to go on with you upon those your own terms, and to rely only on his own merits and future reformation, for your favour.
169 It was plain to me, indeed, to whom you communicated all that you knew of your own heart, tho’ not all of it that I found out, that Love had pretty early gained footing in it. And this you yourself would have discovered sooner than you did, 170 had not his alarming, his unpolite, his rough conduct, kept it under.
171 I knew, by experience, that Love is a fire that is not to be played with, without burning one’s fingers: I knew it to be a dangerous thing for two single persons of different sexes, to enter into familiarity and correspondence with each other; since, as to the latter, must not a person be capable of premeditated art, who can sit down to write, and not write from the heart? —And a woman to write her heart to a man practised in deceit, or even to a man of some character, what advantage does it give him over her?
172 As this man’s vanity had made him imagine, that no woman could be proof against Love, when his address was honourable; no wonder that he struggled, like a lion held in toils, against a passion that he thought not returned. —And how could you, at first, shew a return in love, to so fierce a spirit, and who had seduced you away by vile artifices, but to the approval of those artifices?
173 Hence, perhaps, it is not difficult to believe, that it became possible for such a wretch as this to give way to his old prejudices against marriage; and to that Revenge which had always been a first passion with him.
This is the only way, I think, to account for his horrid views in bringing you to a vile house.
And now may not all the rest be naturally accounted for? 174 —His delays—His teazing ways— His bringing you to bear with his lodging in the same house—His making you pass to the people of it, as his wife; tho’ restrictively so, yet with hope, no doubt (vilest of villains as he is!), to take you at advantage.—
175 His bringing you into the company of his libertine companions; The attempt of imposing upon you that Miss Partington for a bedfellow, very probably his own invention, for the worst of purposes; His terrifying you at many different times; His obtruding himself upon you when you went out to church; no doubt to prevent your finding out what the people were; The advantages he made of your brother’s foolish project with Singleton.
176 See, my dear, how naturally all this follows from the discovery made by Miss Lardner. 177 —See how the monster, whom I thought, and so often called, a fool, 178 comes out to have been all the time one of the greatest villains in the world!
But if this be so, what (it would be asked by an indifferent person) has hitherto saved you? Glorious creature! —What (morally speaking) but your watchfulness! What but That, and the majesty of your virtue; the native dignity, which, in a situation so very difficult (friendless, destitute, passing for a wife, cast into the company of creatures accustomed to betray and ruin innocent hearts) has hitherto enabled you to baffle, overawe, and confound, such a dangerous libertine as this; so habitually remorseless, as you have observed him to be; so very various in his temper; so inventive; so seconded, so supported, so instigated, too probably, as he has been! —That native dignity, that heroism I will call it, which has, on all proper occasions, exerted itself, in its full lustre, 179 unmingled with that charming obligingness and condescending sweetness, which is evermore the softner of that dignity, when your mind is free and unapprehensive!
180 Let me stop to admire, and to bless my beloved friend, who, unhappily for herself, at an age so tender, unacquainted as she was with the world, and with the vile arts of libertines, having been called upon to sustain the hardest and most shocking trials, from persecuting Relations on one hand, and from a villainous Lover on the other, has been enabled to give such an illustrious example of fortitude and prudence, as never woman gave before her; and who, as I have heretofore observed ( a ) 181 , has made a far greater figure in adversity, than she possibly could have made, 182 had all her shining qualities been exerted in their full force and power, by the continuance of that prosperous run of fortune, which attended her for Eighteen years of life out of Nineteen.
183 But now, my dear, do I apprehend, that you are in greater danger than ever yet you have been in; if you are not married in a week; and yet stay in this abominable house. For were you out of it, I own, I should not be much afraid for you. These are my thoughts, on the most deliberate consideration: 184 ‘That he is now convinced, that he has not been able to draw you off your guard: That therefore, if he can obtain no new advantage over you, as he goes along, he is resolved to do you all the poor justice that it is in the power of such a wretch as he, to do you. He is the rather induced to this, as he sees, that all his own family have warmly engaged themselves in your cause; and that it is his highest interest to be just to you. 185 Then the horrid wretch loves you, as well he may, above all women. I have no doubt of this—With such a love as such a wretch is capable of: With such a love as Herod loved his Mariamne. 186 —He is now therefore, very probably, at last, in earnest.’
I took time for inquiries of different natures, as I knew by the train you are in, that whatever his designs are, they cannot ripen either for good or evil, 187 till something shall result from this new device of his about Tomlinson and your uncle.Device I have no doubt that it is, whatever this dark, this impenetrable spirit, intends by it.
188 And yet I find it to be true, that Counsellor Williams (whom Mr. Hickman knows to be a man of eminence in his profession) has actually as good as finished the settlements: 189 That two draughts of them have been made; one avowedly to be sent to one Captain Tomlinson, as the clerk says! —And I find, that a license has actually been more than once endeavoured to be obtained; and that difficulties have hitherto been made, equally to Lovelace’s vexation and disappointment. 190 My mother’s proctor, who is very intimate with the proctor applied to by the wretch, has come at this information in confidence; and hints, that, as Mr. Lovelace is a man of high fortunes, these difficulties will probably be got over. But here follow the causes of my apprehension of your danger; which I should not have had a thought of 191 (since nothing very vile has yet been attempted) but on finding what a house you are in, and, on that discovery, laying together, and ruminating on past occurrences.
192 ‘You are obliged, from the present favourable appearances, to give him your company whenever he requests it. —You are under a necessity of forgetting, or seeming to forget, past disobligations; and to receive his addresses as those of a betrothed lover. —You will incur the censure of prudery and affectation, even perhaps in your own apprehension, if you keep him at that distance which has hitherto been your security. — 193His sudden (and as suddenly recovered) illness, has given him an opportunity to find out, that you love him. [Alas, my dear, I knew you loved him!] 194 He is, as you relate, every hour more and more an incroacher, upon it. He has seem’d to change his nature, and is all love and gentleness. The wolf has put on the sheep’s cloathing; yet more than once has shewn his teeth, and his hardly sheathed claws. 195 The instance you have given of his freedom with your person, which you could not but resent; and yet, as matters are circumstanced between you, could not but pass over, when Tomlinson’s letter called you into his company ( a ) 196 , shew the advantage he has now over you; 197 and also, that if he can obtain greater, he will. —And for this very reason (as I apprehend) it is, that Tomlinson is introduced; that is to say, to give you the greater security, 198 and to be a mediator, if mortal offence be given you, by any villainous attempt. —The day seems not now to be so much in your power as it ought to be, since That now partly depends on your uncle, whose presence, at your own motion, he has wished on the occasion. —A wish, were all real, very unlikely, I think, to be granted.’
199 And thus situated, should he offer greater freedoms, must you not forgive him?
I fear nothing (as I know who has said), that devil carnate or incarnate can fairly do against a virtue so established ( a ) 200 — 201 But surprizes, my dear, in such a house as that you are in, and in such circumstances as I have mentioned, I greatly fear! 202 —The man, one, who has already triumphed over persons worthy of his alliance.
203 What then have you to do, but to fly this house, this infernal house! —O that your heart would let you fly him !
204 If you should be disposed so to do, Mrs. Townsend shall be ready at your command. —But if you meet with no impediments, no new causes of doubt, I think your reputation in the eye of the world, tho’ not your happiness, is concerned, that you should be his. 205 — And yet I cannot bear, that these libertines should be rewarded for their villainy with the best of the Sex, when the worst of it are too good for them.
But if you meet with the least ground for suspicion; if he would detain you at the odious house, or wish you to stay, now you know what the people are, 206 fly him, whatever your prospects are, as well as them .
In one of your next airings, if you have no other way, 207 refuse to return with him. Name me for your intelligencer, that you are in a bad house; and if you think you cannot now break with him, seem rather to believe that he may not know it to be so; and that I do not believe he does: 208And yet this belief in us both must appear to be very gross.
209 But suppose you desire, and insist upon it, to go out of town for the air, this sultry weather? — You may plead your health for so doing. He dare not resist such a plea. Your brother’s foolish scheme, I am told, is certainly given up; so you need not be afraid on that account.
If you do not fly the house upon reading of this, or some way or other get out of it, I shall judge of his power over you, by the little you will have over either him or yourself.
210 One of my informants has made slight inquiries, concerning Mrs. Fretchville. Did he ever name to you the street or square she lived in? —I don’t remember, that you, in any of yours, mentioned either to me. 211 Strange, very strange, This, I think! No such person or house can be found, near any of the new streets or squares, where the lights I had from your letters led me to imagine her house might be. 212 —Ask him, What street the house is in, if he has not told you. And let me know. If he make a difficulty of that circumstance, it will amount to a detection. 213 —And yet, I think, you have enough without this.
I shall send this long letter by Collins, who changes his day to oblige me; and that he may try (now I know where you are), to get it into your own hands. If he cannot, he will leave it at Wilson’s. As none of our letters by that conveyance have miscarried, when you have been in more apparentlydisagreeable situations than you are in at present, I hope that This will go safe, if Collins should be obliged to leave it there.
214 I wrote a short letter to you in my first agitations. It contained not above twenty lines, all full of fright, alarm, and execration. But being afraid, that my vehemence would too much affect
you, I thought it better to wait a little, as well for the reasons already hinted at, as to be able to give you as many particulars as I could; and my thoughts upon all. And now, I think, taking to your aid other circumstances as they have offer’d, or may offer, you will be sufficiently armed to resist all his machinations, be they what they will.
215 One word more. Command me up, if I can be of the least service or pleasure to you. I value not fame: I value not censure; nor even life itself, I verily think, as I do your honour, and your friendship—For, is not your honour my honour? And is not your friendship the pride of my life?
May heaven preserve you, my dearest creature, in honour and safety, is the prayer, the hourly prayer, of
Your ever-faithful and affectionate
Anna Howe .
Thursday Morn. 5. I have
written all night.
To Miss Howe .
My dearest creature,
How you have shock’d, confounded, surpriz’d, astonish’d me, by your dreadful communication! —My heart is too weak to bear up against such a stroke as this! —When all hope was with me! When my prospects were so much mended! —But can there be such villainy in men, as in this vile principal, and equally vile agent!
I am really ill—Very ill—Grief and surprize, and, now I will say, despair, have overcome me! —All, all, you have laid down as conjecture, appears to me now to be more than conjecture!
O that your mother would have the goodness to permit me the presence of the only comforter that my afflicted, my half-broken heart, could be raised by! But I charge you, think not of coming up without her indulgent permission. —I am too ill, at present, my dear, to think of combating with this dreadful man; and of flying from this horrid house! —My bad writing will shew you this. —But my illness will be my present security, should he indeed have meditated villainy. — Forgive, O forgive me, my dearest friend, the trouble I have given you! —All must soon—But why add I grief to grief, and trouble to trouble? —But I charge you, my beloved creature, not to think of coming up, without your mother’s leave, to the truly desolate, and broken-spirited
Well, Jack! —And what thinkest thou of this last letter? —Miss Howe values not either fame or censure ; and thinkest thou, that this letter will not bring the little fury up, tho’ she could procure no other conveyance than her higgler’s paniers, one for herself, the other for her maid? —She knows where to come now! —Many a little villain have I punished for knowing more than I would have her know; and that by adding to her knowlege and experience. — What thinkest thou, Belford, if by getting hither this virago, and giving cause for a lamentable letter from her, to the fair fugitive, I should be able to recover her ? —Would she not visit that friend in her distress, thinkest thou, whose intended visit to her in hers, brought her into the condition she herself had so perfidiously escaped from?
Let me enjoy the thought!
Shall I send this letter? —Thou seest I have left room, if I fail in the exact imitation of so charming a hand, to avoid too strict a scrutiny. —Do they not both deserve it of me? —Seest thou not how the raving girl threatens her mother? —Ought she not to be punish’d? —And can I be a worse devil, or villain, or monster, than she calls me in this letter; and has called me in her former letters; were I to punish them both, as my vengeance urges me to punish them. And when I have executed That my vengeance, how charmingly satisfied may they both go down into the country, and keep house together, and have a much better reason than their pride could give them, for living the Single-life they have both seemed so fond of?
I will set about transcribing it this moment, I think. I can resolve afterwards. Yet what has poor Hickman done to deserve this of me? —But gloriously would it punish the mother (as well as daughter) for all her sordid avarice; and for her undutifulness to honest Mr. Howe, whose heart she actually broke. I am on tip-toe, Jack, to enter upon this project. —Is not one country as good to me as another, if I should be obliged to take another tour upon it?
But I will not venture. Mr. Hickman is a good man, they tell me. I love a good man. I hope one of these days to be a good man myself. Besides, I have heard within this week, something of this honest fellow that shews he has a soul; when I thought, if he had one, that it lay a little of the deepest to emerge to notice, except on very extraordinary occasions; and that then it presently sunk again into its Cellula adiposa . —The man is aplump man . —Didst ever see him, Jack?
But the principal reason that withholds me (for ’tis a tempting project!) is, for fear of being utterly blown up, if I should not be quick enough with my letter, or if Miss Howe should deliberate on setting out, or try her mother’s consent first; in which time, a letter from my frighted beauty might reach her; for I have no doubt, where-ever she has refuged, but her first work was to write to her vixen friend. I will therefore go on patiently; and take my revenge upon the little fury at my leisure.
But, in spite of my compassion for Hickman, whose better character is sometimes my envy, and who is one of those mortals that bring clumsiness into credit with the mothers, to the disgrace of us clever fellows, and often to our disappointment with the daughters ; and who has been very busy in assisting these double-arm’d beauties against me; I swear by all the Dii Majores, as well as Minores, that I will have Miss Howe, if I cannot have her more exalted friend! —And then, if there be so much flaming love between these girls as they pretend, what will my charmer profit by her escape?
And now, that I shall permit Miss Howe to reign a little longer, let me ask thee, If thou hast not, in the inclosed letter, a fresh instance, that a great many of my difficulties with her sister-toast are owing to this flighty girl? —‘Tis true, that here was naturally a confounded sharp wintry air; and, if a little cold water was thrown into the path, no wonder that it was instantly frozen; and that a poor honest traveller found it next to impossible to keep his way; one foot sliding back as fast as the other advanced; to the endangering of his limbs or neck. But yet I think it impossible, that she should have baffled me as she has done (novice as she is, and never before from under her parents wing), had she not been armed by a virago, who was formerly very near shewing, that she could better advise than practise. But this, I believe, I have said more than once before.
I am loth to reproach myself, now the cruel creature has escaped me; for what would that do, but add to my torment? Since evils self-caused, and avoidable, admit not of palliation or comfort. And yet, if thou tellest me, that all her strength was owing to my weakness, and that I have been a cursed coward in this whole affair; why then, Jack, I may blush, and be vexed; but, by my soul, I cannot contradict thee.But this, Belford, I hope—that if I can turn the poison of this letter into wholesome aliment; that is to say, if I can make use of it to my advantage; I shall have thy free consent to do it.
I am always careful to open covers cautiously, and to preserve seals intire. I will draw out from this cursed letter an alphabet. Nor was Nick Rowe ever half so diligent to learn Spanish, at the Quixote recommendation of a certain Peer, as I will be to gain a mastery of this vixen’s hand.