Mr. Lovelace, To John Belford, Esq;
Hamstead, Friday Night, June 9.
Now, Belford, for the narrative of narratives. I will continue it, as I have opportunity; and that so dextrously, that if I break off twenty times, thou shalt not discern where I piece my thread.
Although grievously afflicted with the gout, I alighted out of my chariot (leaning very hard on my cane with one hand, and on my new servant’s shoulder with the other) the same instant almost that he had knock’d at the door, that I might be sure of admission into the house.
I took care to button my great coat about me, and to cover with it even the pommel of my sword; it being a little too gay for my years. I knew not what occasion I might have for my sword. I stoop’d forward; blink’d with my eyes to conceal their lustre [No vanity in saying that, Jack!]; my chin wrapt up for the tooth-ach; my slouch’d, laced hat, and so much of my wig as was visible, giving me, all together, the appearance of an antiquated beau.
My wife, I resolved beforehand, should have a complication of disorders.
The maid came to the door. I ask’d for her mistress. She shew’d me into one of the parlours; and I sat down, with a gouty Oh!—
Enter goody Moore .
Your servant, Madam—but you must excuse me; I cannot well stand. —I find by the bill at the door, that you have lodgings to let [Mumbling my words as if, like my man Will, I had lost some of my foreteeth]: Be pleased to inform me what they are; for I like your situation: —And I will tell you my family —I have a wife, a good old woman—Older than myself, by the way, a pretty deal. She is in a bad state of health, and is advised into the Hamstead air. She will have two maid-servants and a footman. The coach or chariot (I shall not have them up both together), we can put up any-where, and the coachman will be with his horses.
When, Sir, shall you want to come in?
I will take them from this very day; and, if convenient, will bring my wife in the afternoon.
Perhaps, Sir, you would board, as well as lodge?
That as you please. It will save me the trouble of bringing my cook, if we do. And I suppose you have servants who know how to dress a couple of dishes. My wife must eat plain food, and I don’t love kickshaws.
We have a single lady, who will be gone in two or three days. She has one of the best apartments: That will then be at liberty.
You have one or two good ones mean time, I presume, Madam, just to receive my wife; for we have lost time—These damn’d physicians—Excuse me, Madam, I am not used to curse; but it is owing to the love I have for my wife—They have kept her in hand, till they are asham’d to take more fees, and now advise her to the air. I wish we had sent her hither at first. But we must now make the best of it.
Excuse me, Madam (for she looked hard at me), that I am muffled up thus in this warm weather. I am but too sensible, that I have left my chamber sooner than I ought, and perhaps shall have a return of my gout for it. I came out thus muffled up, with a dreadful pain in my jaws; an ague in them, I believe. But my poor dear will not be satisfied with any body’s care but mine. And, as I told you, we have lost time.
You shall see what accommodations I have, if you please, Sir. But I doubt, you are too lame to walk up stairs.
I can make shift to hobble up, now I have rested a little. I’ll just look upon the apartment my wife is to have. Any thing may do for the servants: And as you seem to be a good sort of gentlewoman, I shan’t stand for a price, and will pay well, besides, for the trouble I shall give.
She led the way; and I, leaning upon the banisters, made shift to get up with less fatigue than I expected from ancles so weak. But oh! Jack, What was Sixtus the Vth’s artful depression of his natural powers to mine, when, as the half-dead Montalto, he gaped for the pretendedly unsought Pontificate, and, the moment he was chosen, leapt upon the prancing beast, which it was thought, by the amazed conclave, he was not able to mount without help of chairs and men? Never was there a more joyous heart and lighter heels than mine, joined together, yet both denied their functions; the one fluttering in secret, ready to burst its bars for relief-ful expression, the others obliged to an hobbling motion; when, unrestrained, they would, in their master’s imagination, have mounted him to the lunar world, without the help of a ladder.
There were three rooms on a floor; two of them handsome; and the third, she said, still handsomer; but the lady was in it.
I saw! —I saw, she was! for as I hobbled up, crying out upon my weak ancles, in the hoarse mumbling voice I had assumed, I beheld a little piece of her, just casting an eye, with the door a-jar, as they call it, to observe who was coming up; and, seeing such an old clumsy fellow great-coated in weather so warm, slouched, and muffled up, she withdrew, shutting the door without any emotion. But it was not so with me; for thou canst not imagine how my heart danced to my mouth, at the very glimpse of her; so that I was afraid the thump, thump, thumping villain, which had so lately thumped as much to no purpose, would have choak’d me.
I liked the lodgings well; and the more, as she said the third room was still handsomer. I must sit down, Madam (and chose the darkest part of the room): Won’t you take a seat yourself? No price shall part us. But I will leave the terms to you and my wife, if you please: And also whether for board or not. Only please to take This for earnest, putting a guinea into her hand. —And one thing I will say; My poor wife loves money; but is not an ill-natured woman. She was a great fortune to me: But, as the real estate goes away at her death, I would fain preserve her for that reason, as well as for the love I bear her, as an honest man. But if she makes too close a bargain with you, tell me ; and, unknown to her, I will make it up. This is my constant way: She loves to have her pen’worths; and I would not have her vexed or made uneasy on any account.
She said, I was a very considerate gentleman; and, upon the condition I had mentioned, she was content to leave the terms to my lady.
But, Madam, cannot a-body just peep into the other apartment, that I may be more particular to my wife in the furniture of it?
The lady desires to be private, Sir—But—And was going to ask her leave.
I caught hold of her hand—However, stay, stay,
Madam: It mayn’t be proper, if the lady loves to be private. Don’t let me intrude upon the lady—
No intrusion, Sir, I dare say: The lady is good-humoured. She will be so kind as to step down into the parlour, I dare say. As she stays so little a while, I am sure she will not wish to stand in my way.
No, Madam, that’s true, if she be good-humoured, as you say—Has she been with you long, Madam?
But yesterday, Sir—
I believe I just now saw the glimpse of her. She seems to be an elderly lady.
No, Sir; you’re mistaken. She’s a young lady; and one of the handsomest I ever saw.
Cot so, I beg her pardon! Not but that I should have liked her the better, were she to stay longer, if she had been elderly. I have a strange taste, Madam, you’ll say, but I really, for my wife’s sake, love every elderly woman: Indeed I ever thought age was to be reverenced, which made me (taking the fortune into the scale too, that I own) make my addresses to my present dear.
Very good of you, Sir, to respect age: We all hope to live to be old.
Right, Madam. But you say the lady is beautiful. Now you must know, that tho’ I chuse to converse with the elderly, yet I love to see a beautiful young woman, just as I love to see fine flowers in a garden. There’s no casting an eye upon her, is there, without her notice? For in this dress, and thus muffled up about my jaws, I should not care to be seen, any more than she, let her love privacy as much as she will.
I will go ask, if I may shew a gentleman the apartment, Sir; and, as you are a married gentleman, and not over -young, she’ll perhaps make the less scruple.
Then, like me, she loves elderly folks best, perhaps. But it may be she has suffered by young ones?
I fancy she has, Sir, or is afraid she shall. She desired to be very private, and if by description inquired after, to be denied.
Thou art true woman, goody Moore, thought I!
Good lack! —Good lack! —What may be her story then, I pray?
She is pretty reserv’d in her story; but, to tell you my thoughts, I believe Love is in the case: She is always in tears, and does not much care for company.
Nay, Madam, it becomes not me to dive into ladies secrets; I want not to pry into other peoples affairs. But, pray, how does she employ herself? —Yet she came but yesterday; so you can’t tell.
Writing continually, Sir.
These women, Jack, when you ask them questions by way of information, don’t care to be ignorant of any thing.
Nay, excuse me, Madam, I am very far from being an inquisitive man. But if her case be difficult, and not merely Love, as she is a friend of yours, I would give her my advice.
Then you are a lawyer, Sir—
Why, indeed, Madam, I was some time at the Bar; but I have long left practice; yet am much consulted by my friends in difficult points. In a pauper case I frequently give money; but never take any from the richest.
You are a very good gentleman, then, Sir.
Ay, Madam, we cannot live always here; and we ought to do what good we can—But I hate to appear officious. If the lady stays any time, and thinks fit, upon better acquaintance, to let me in to her case, it may be a happy day for her, if I find it a just one; for, you must know, that when I was at the Bar, I never was such a sad fellow as to undertake, for the sake of a paltry fee, to make white black, and black white; for what would that have been, but to endeavour to establish iniquity by quirks, while I robbed the innocent?
You are an excellent gentleman, Sir: I wish (and then she sighed) I had had the happiness to know there was such a lawyer in the world; and to have been acquainted with him.
Come, come, Mrs. Moore, I think your name is, it may not be too late—When you and I are better acquainted, I may help you perhaps. —But mention nothing of this to the lady; for, as I said, I hate to appear officious.
This prohibition, I knew, if goody Moore answer’d the specimen she had given of her womanhood, would make her take the first opportunity to tell, were it to be necessary to my purpose that she should.
I appeared, upon the whole, so indifferent about seeing the room, or the lady, that the good woman was the more eager I should see both. And the rather, as I, to stimulate her, declared, that there was more required in my eye to merit the character of a handsome woman, than most people thought necessary; and that I had never seen six truly lovely ladies in my life.
To be brief, she went in; and after a little while came out again. The lady, Sir, is retired to her closet, so you may go in and look at the room.
Then how my heart began again to play its pug’s tricks!
I hobbled in, and stump’d about, and liked it very much; and was sure my wife would. I begg’d excuse for sitting down, and ask’d, Who was the minister of the place? If he were a good preacher? Who preached at the chapel? And if he were a good preacher, and good liver too, Madam—I must inquire after That : For I love, I must needs say, that the Clergy should practise what they preach.
Very right, Sir; but that is not so often the case, as were to be wished.
More’s the pity, Madam. But I have a great veneration for the Clergy in general. It is more a satire upon Human nature, than upon the Cloth, if we suppose those who have the best opportunities to be good, less perfect than other people. For my part, I don’t love professional any more thannational reflections. —But I keep the lady in her closet. My gout makes me rude.
Then up from my seat stumped I—What do you call these window-curtains, Madam?
It looks mighty well, truly. I like it better than silk. It is warmer to be sure, and much fitter for lodgings in the country; especially for people in years. The bed is in a pretty taste.
It is neat and clean, Sir: That’s all we pretend to.
Ay, mighty well—Very well—A silk camlet, I think—Very well, truly! —I am sure my wife will like it. But we would not turn the lady out of her lodging for the world. The other two apartments will do for us at the present.
Then stumping towards the closet, over the door of which hung a picture—What picture is that? — Oh! I see: A St. Cæcilia!
A common print, Sir—
Pretty well, pretty well! It is after an Italian master. —I would not for the world turn the lady out of her apartment. We can make shift with the other two, repeated I, louder still: But yet mumblingly hoarse; for I had as great regard to uniformity in accent, as to my words.
O Belford! to be so near my angel, think what a painful constraint I was under!—
I was resolved to fetch her out, if possible: And pretending to be going—You can’t agree as to any time, Mrs. Moore, when we can have this third room, can you? —Not that (whisper’d I, loud enough to be heard in the next room; Not that) I would incommode the lady: But I would tell my wifewhere abouts —And women, you know, Mrs. Moore, love to have every thing before them of this nature.
Mrs. Moore, says my charmer [and never did her voice sound to harmonious to me: Oh how my heart bounded again! It even talked to me, in a manner; for I thought I heard, as well as felt, its unruly flutters; and every vein about me seemed a pulse: Mrs. Moore], you may acquaint the gentleman, that I shall stay here only for two or three days, at most, till I receive an answer to a letter I have written into the country; and rather than be your hindrance, I will take up with any apartment a pair of stairs higher.
Not for the world! Not for the world, young lady, cried I! —My wife, well as I love her, should lie in a garret, rather than put such a considerate lady, as you seem to be, to the least inconvenien-cy.
She opened not the door yet; and I said, But since you have so much goodness, Madam, if I could but just look into the closet, as I stand, I could tell my wife, whether it is large enough to hold a cabinet she much values, and will have with her where-ever she goes.
Then my charmer opened the door, and blazed upon me, as it were, in a flood of light, like what one might imagine would strike a man, who, born blind, had by some propitious power been blessed with his sight, all at once, in a meridian sun.
Upon my soul, I never was so strangely affected before. I had much ado to forbear discovering myself that instant: But, hesitatingly, and in great disorder, I said, looking into the closet, and around it, There is room, I see, for my wife’s cabinet; and it has many jewels in it of high price; but, upon my soul (for I could not forbear swearing, like a puppy: —Habit is a cursed thing, Jack—) Nothing so valuable as the lady I see, can be brought into it!—
She started, and looked at me with terror. The truth of the compliment, as far as I know, had taken dissimulation from my accent.
I saw it was impossible to conceal myself longer from her, any more than (from the violent impulses of my passion) to forbear manifesting myself. I unbuttoned therefore my cape, I pulled off my flapt, slouched hat; I threw open my great coat, and, like the devil in Milton (an odd comparison tho’!),
I started up in my own form divine,
Touch’d by the beam of her celestial eye,
More potent than Ithuriel’s spear!—
Now, Belford, for a similitude—Now for a likeness to illustrate the surprising scene, and the effect it had upon my charmer, and the gentlewoman! —But nothing was like it, or equal to it. The plain fact can only describe it, and set it off. Thus then take it.
She no sooner saw who it was, than she gave three violent screams; and, before I could catch her in my arms (as I was about to do the moment I discover’d myself), down she sunk at my feet, in a fit; which made me curse my indiscretion for so suddenly, and with so much emotion, revealing myself.
The gentlewoman, seeing so strange an alteration in my person, and features, and voice, and dress, cried out, Murder, help! Murder, help! by turns, for half a dozen times running. This alarmed the house, and up ran two servant maids, and my servant after them. I cried out for water and hartshorn, and every one flew a different way, one of the maids as fast down as she came up; while the gentlewoman ran out of one room into another, and by turns up and down the apartment we were in, without meaning or end, wringing her foolish hands, and not knowing what she did.
Up then came running a gentleman and his sister, fetched, and brought in by the maid who had run down; and who having let in a cursed crabbed old wretch, hobbling with his gout, and mumbling with his hoarse broken-toothed voice, was metamorphosed all at once into a lively gay young fellow, with a clear accent, and all his teeth; and she would have it, that I was neither more nor less than the devil, and could not keep her eye from my foot; expecting, no doubt, every minute to see it discover itself to be cloven.
For my part, I was so intent upon restoring my angel, that I regarded nobody else. And at last, she slowly recovering motion, with bitter sighs and sobs (only the whites of her eyes however appearing for some moments), I called upon her in the tenderest accent, as I kneeled by her, my arm supporting her head; My angel! My charmer! My Clarissa! look upon me, my dearest life! —I am not angry with you! —I will forgive you, my best beloved!—
The gentleman and his sister knew not what to make of all this: And the less, when my fair one, recovering her sight, snatched another look at me; and then again groaned, and fainted away.
I threw up the closet-sash for air, and then left her to the care of the young gentlewoman, the same notable Miss Rawlins, whom I had heard of at the Flask; and to that of Mrs. Moore; who by this time had recover’d herself; and then retiring to one corner of the room, I made my servant pull off my gouty stockens, brush my hat, and loop it up into the usual smart cock.
I then stept to the closet to Mr. Rawlins, whom, in the general confusion, I had not much minded before. —Sir, said I, you have an uncommon scene before you. The lady is my wife, and no gentleman’s presence is necessary here but my own.
I beg pardon, Sir: If the lady is your wife, I have no business here. But, Sir, by her concern at seeing you—
Pray, Sir, none of your if’s, and but’s, I beseech you: Nor your concern about the lady’s concern. You are a very unqualified judge in this cause; and I beg of you, Sir, to oblige me with your absence.
The ladies only are proper to be present on this occasion, added I; and I think myself obliged to them for their care and kind assistance.
Tis well he made not another word: For I found my choler begin to rise. I could not bear, that the finest neck, and arms, and foot, in the world, should be exposed to the eyes of any man living but mine.
I withdrew once more from the closet, finding her beginning to recover, lest the sight of me too soon, should throw her back again.
The first words she said, looking round her with great emotion, were, O hide me! Hide me! Is he gone! —O hide me! Is he gone!
Sir, said Miss Rawlins, coming to me with an air somewhat peremptory and assured, This is some surprising case. The lady cannot bear the sight of you. What you have done, is best known to yourself. But another such fit will probably be her last. It would be but kind, therefore, for you to retire.
It behov’d me to have so notable a person of my party; and the rather, as I had disobliged her impertinent brother.
The dear creature, said I, may well be concerned to see me. If you, Madam, had a husband who loved you, as I love her, you would not, I am confident, fly from him, and expose yourself to hazards, as she does whenever she has not all her way—And yet with a mind not capable of intentional evil—But, mother-spoilt! This is her fault, and All her fault: And the more inexcusable it is, as I am the man of her choice, and have reason to think she loves me above all the men in the world.
Here, Jack, was a story to support to the lady; face to face too [ a ] !
You speak like a gentleman; you look like a gentleman, said Miss Rawlins—But, Sir, this is a strange case; the lady seems to dread the sight of you.
No wonder, Madam; taking her a little on one side, nearer to Mrs. Moore. I have three times already forgiven the dear creature. —But this jealousy —There is a spice of that in it—and of phrensy too (whispered I, that it might have the face of a secret, and, of consequence, the more engage their attention) —But our story is too long—
I then made a motion to go to the lady. But they desired, that I would walk into the next room; and they would endeavour to prevail upon her to lie down.
I begg’d that they would not suffer her to talk; for that she was accustomed to fits, and would, when in this way, talk of any thing that came uppermost; and the more she was suffered to run on, the worse she was; and if not kept quiet, would fall into raveings; which might possibly hold her a week.
They promised to keep her quiet; and I withdrew into the next room; ordering every one down but Mrs. Moore and Miss Rawlins.
She was full of exclamations. Unhappy creature! miserable! ruined! and undone! she called herself; wrung her hands, and begged they would assist her to escape from the terrible evils she should otherwise be made to suffer.
They preached patience and quietness to her; and would have had her to lie down; but she refused; sinking, however, into an easy chair; for she trembled so, she could not stand.
By this time, I hoped that she was enough recover’d to bear a presence, that it behoved me to make her bear; and fearing she would throw out something in her exclamations, that would still more disconcert me, I went into the room again.
O! there he is! said she, and threw her apron over her face—I cannot see him! —I cannot look upon him! —Begone! begone! touch me not!—
For I took her struggling hand, beseeching her to be pacified; and assuring her, that I would make all up with her, upon her own terms and wishes.
Base man! said the violent lady, I have no wishes, but never to behold you more! Why must I be thus pursued and haunted? Have you not made me miserable enough already? Despoiled of all succour and help, and of every friend, I am contented to be poor low, and miserable, so I may be free from your persecutions!—
Miss Rawlins stared at me [A confident slut this Miss Rawlins, thought I!] So did Mrs. Moore—I told you so! whisperingly said I, turning to the women; shaking my head with a face of great concern and pity; and then to my charmer, My dear creature, how you rave! —You will not easily recover from the effects of this violence! Have patience, my love! Be pacified! and we will coolly talk this matter over: For you expose yourself, as well as me: These ladies will certainly think, you have fallen among robbers; and that I am the chief of them.
So you are! so you are! stamping, her face still covered [She thought of Wednesday night, no doubt]; and, sighing as if her heart were breaking, she put her hand to her forehead—I shall be quite distracted!
I will not, my dearest love, uncover your face. You shall not look upon me, since I am so odious to you. But this is a violence I never thought you capable of.—
And I would have pressed her hand, as I held it, with my lips; but she drew it from me with indignation.
Unhand me, Sir, said she. I will not be touched by you. Leave me to my fate. What right, what title, have you to persecute me thus?
What right, what title, my dear! —But this is not a time—I have a letter from Captain Tomlinson— Here it is—offering it to her—
I will receive nothing from your hands—Tell me not of Captain Tomlinson—Tell me not of anybody —You have no right to invade me thus—Once more, leave me to my fate—Have you not made me miserable enough?—
I touched a delicate string, on purpose to set her in such a passion before the women, as might confirm the intimation I had given of a phrensical disorder.
What a turn is here! —Lately so happy! —Nothing wanting but a reconciliation between you and your friends! —That reconciliation in such a happy train! — Shall so slight, so accidental an occasion be suffered to overturn all our happiness?
She started up with a trembling impatience, her apron falling from her indignant face—Now, said she, that thou darest to call the occasion slightand accidental, and that I am happily out of thy vile hands, and out of a house I have reason to believe as vile, traitor and wretch that thou art, I will venture to cast an eye upon thee—And O that it were in my power, in mercy to my sex, to look thee first into shame and remorse, and then into death!
This violent tragedy-speech, and the high manner in which she uttered it, had its desired effect. I looked upon the women, and upon her, by turns, with a pitying eye; and they shook their wise heads, and besought me to retire, and her to lie down to compose herself.
This hurricane, like other hurricanes, was presently allayed by a shower. She threw herself once more into her armed chair—And begg’d pardon of the women for her passionate excess; but not of me: Yet I was in hopes, that when compliments were stirring, I should have come in for a share.
Indeed, ladies, said I (with assurance enough, thou’lt say), this violence is not natural to my beloved’s temper—Misapprehension—
Misapprehension, wretch! —And want I excuses from thee!
What a scorn was every lovely feature agitated by!
Then turning her face from me, I have not patience, O thou guileful betrayer, to look upon thee! —Begone! Begone! With a face so unblushing, how darest thou my presence?
I thought then, that the character of a husband obliged me to be angry.
You may one day, Madam, repent this treatment:
—By my soul you may. —You know I have not deserved it of you—You know I have not.
Do I know you have not? —Wretch! Do I know—
You do, Madam! —And never did man of my figure and consideration [I thought it was proper to throw that in] meet with such treatment. [She lifted up her hands: Indignation kept her silent.] —But all is of a piece with the charge you bring against me of despoiling you of all succour and help, of making you poor and low, and with other unprecedented language. I will only say, before these two gentlewomen, that since it must be so, and since your former esteem for me is turned into so riveted an aversion, I will soon, very soon, make you intirely easy. I will be gone: —I will leave you to your own fate, as you call it; and may That be happy! —Only, that I may not appear to be a spoiler, a robber indeed, let me know whither I shall send your apparel, and every thing that belongs to you, and I will send it.
Send it to this place; and assure me, that you will never molest me more; never more come near me; and that is all I ask of you.
I will do so, Madam, said I, with a dejected air. But did I ever think I should be so indifferent to you? —However, you must permit me to insist on your reading this letter; and on your seeing Captain Tomlinson, and hearing what he has to say from your uncle. He will be here by-and-by.
Don’t trifle with me, said she, in an imperious tone—Do as you offer. I will not receive any letter from your hands. If I see Captain Tomlinson, it shall be on his own account; not on yours . You tell me you will send me my apparel: If you would have me believe any thing you say, let This be the test of your sincerity—Leave me now, and send my things.
The women stared. They did nothing but stare; and appeared to be more and more at a loss what to make of the matter between us.
I pretended to be going from her in a pet: But when I had got to the door, I turned back; and, as if I had recollected myself, One word more, my dearest creature! —Charming even in your anger! —O my fond soul! said I, turning half round, and pulling out my handkerchief.
I believe, Jack, my eyes did glisten a little—I have no doubt but they did. —The women pitied me. Honest souls! —They shew’d, that they had each of them a handkerchief as well as I. So, hast thou not observed (to give a familiar illustration) every man in a company of a dozen, or more, obligingly pull out his watch, when some one has asked, What’s o’clock?
One word only, Madam, repeated I, as soon as my voice had recovered its tone—I have represented to Captain Tomlinson in the most favourable light the cause of our present misunderstanding. You know what your uncle insists upon; and which you have acquiesced with. The letter in my hand [and again I offered it to her] will acquaint you with what you have to apprehend from your brother’s active malice.
She was going to speak in a high accent, putting the letter from her, with an open palm—Nay, hear me out, Madam—The Captain, you know, has reported our marriage to two different persons. It is come to your brother’s ears. My own relations have also heard of it. Letters were brought me from town this morning, from Lady Betty Lawrance and Miss Montague. Here they are [I pulled them out of my pocket, and offered them to her, with That of the Captain; but she held back her still open palm, that she might not receive them]: Reflect, Madam, I beseech you reflect, upon the fatal consequences which this your high resentment may be attended with.
Ever since I knew you, said she, I have been in a wilderness of doubt and error. I bless God that I am out of your hands. I will transact for myself what relates to myself. I dismiss all your solicitude for me. Am I not my own mistress! —Am I not—
The women stared [The devil stare ye, thought I, can ye do nothing but stare?]. It was high time to stop her here. I raised my voice to drown hers— You used, my dearest creature, to have a tender and apprehensive heart—You never had so much reason for such a one as now.
Let me judge for myself, upon what I shall see, not upon what I shall hear —Do you think I shall ever—
I dreaded her going on—I must be heard, Madam, raising my voice still higher. You must let me read one paragraph or two of This letter to you, if you will not read it yourself—
Begone from me, Man! —Begone from me with thy Letters! What pretence hast thou for tormenting me thus—
Dearest creature, what questions you ask! Questions that you can as well answer yourself—
I can, I will —And thus I answer them—
Still louder raised I my voice. She was overborne. Sweet soul! It would be hard, thought I [and yet I was very angry with her], if such a spirit as thine cannot be brought to yield to such a one as mine!
I lowered my voice on her silence. All gentle, all intreative, my accent: My head bowed; one hand held out; the other on my honest heart: —For heaven’s sake, my dearest creature, resolve to see Captain Tomlinson with temper. He would have come along with me: But I was willing to try to soften your mind first, on this fatal misapprehension; and This for the sake of your own wishes: For what is it otherwise to me, whether your friends, are, or are not, reconciled to us? Do I want any favour from them? —For your own mind’s sake therefore, frustrate not Captain Tomlinson’s negotiation. That worthy gentleman will be here in the afternoon—Lady Betty will be in town with my cousin Montague, in a day or two. They will be your visiters. I beseech you do not carry this misunderstanding so far, as that Lord M. and Lady Betty, and Lady Sarah, may know it [ How considerable this made me look to the women !]. Lady Betty will not let you rest till you consent to accompany her to her own seat—And to that lady may you safely intrust your cause.
Again, upon my pausing a moment, she was going to break out. I liked not the turn of her countenance, nor the tone of her voice—“And thinkest thou, base wretch,” were the words she did utter. I again raised my voice, and drowned hers— Base wretch, Madam! —You know, that I have not deserved the violent names you have called me. Words so opprobrious, from a mind so gentle—But this treatment is from you, Madam! —Fromyou, whom I love more than my own soul—By that soul, I swear that I do—[The women looked upon each other.
They seemed pleased with my ardor. Women, whether wives, maids, or widows, love ardors. Even Miss Howe, thou knowest, speaks up for ardors ( a ) 218 ] —Nevertheless, I must say, that you have carried matters too far for the occasion. I see you hate me—
She was just going to speak—If we are to seperate for ever, in a strong and solemn voice, proceeded I, this island shall not long be troubled with me. —Mean time, only be pleased to give these letters a perusal, and consider what is to be said to your uncle’s friend; and what he is to say to your uncle. —Any thing will I come into (renounce me if you will), that shall make for your peace, and for the reconciliation your heart was so lately set upon. But I humbly conceive, that it is necessary, that you should come into better temper with me, were it but to give a favourable appearance to what has passed, and weight to any future application to your friends, in whatever way you shall think proper to make it.
I then put the letters into her lap, and retired into the next apartment with a low bow, and a very solemn air.
I was soon followed by the two women. Mrs. Moore withdrew to give the fair Perverse time to read them: Miss Rawlins for the same reason; and because she was sent for home.
The widow besought her speedy return. I joined in the same request; and she was ready enough to promise to oblige us.
I excused myself to Mrs. Moore for the disguise I had appeared in at first, and for the story I had invented. I told her, that I held myself obliged to satisfy her for the whole floor we were upon; and for an upper room for my servant; and that for a month certain.
She made many scruples, and begg’d she might not be urged on this head, till she had consulted Miss Rawlins.
I consented; but told her, that she had taken my earnest; and I hoped there was no room for dispute.
Just then Miss Rawlins return’d, with an air of eager curiosity; and having been told, what had passed between Mrs. Moore and me, she gave herself airs of office immediately: Which I humoured, plainly perceiving, that if I had her with me, I had the other.
She wished, if there were time for it, and if it were not quite impertinent in her to desire it, that I would give Mrs. Moore and her a brief history of an affair, which, as she said, bore the face of novelty, mystery, and surprize: For sometimes it looked to her as if we were married; at other times, that point appeared doubtful; and yet the lady did not absolutely deny it; but, upon the whole, thought herself highly injured.
I said, That ours was a very particular case: That were I to acquaint them with it, some part of it would hardly appear credible. But, however, I would give them, as they seemed to be persons of discretion, a brief account of the whole; and this in so plain and sincere a manner, that it should clear up to their satisfaction every thing that had passed, or might hereafter pass between us.
They sat down by me, and threw every feature of their faces into attention. I was resolved to go as near the truth as possible, lest any thing should drop from my spouse to impeach my veracity; and yet keep in view what passed at the Flask.
It is necessary, altho’ thou knowest my whole story, and a good deal of my views, that thou shouldst be apprized of the substance of what I told them.
‘I gave them, in as concise a manner as I was able, the history of our families, fortunes, alliances, antipathies (her brother’s, and mine, particularly). I averred the truth of our private marriage.’ The Captain’s letter, which I will inclose, will give thee my reasons for that: And besides, the women might also, perhaps, have proposed a parson to me by way of compromise. ‘I told them the condition my spouse had made me swear to; and which she held me to, in order, I said, to induce me the sooner to be reconciled to her relations.’
‘I owned, that this restraint made me sometimes ready to fly out.’ And Mrs. Moore was so good as to declare, that she did not much wonder at it.
Thou art a very good sort of woman, Mrs. Moore, thought I.
As Miss Howe has actually detected our mother; and might possibly find some way still to acquaint her friend with her discoveries; I thought it proper to prepossess them in Mrs. Sinclair’s favour; and in that of her two nieces.
I said, ‘They were gentlewomen born; had not bad hearts; that indeed my spouse did not love them; they having once jointly taken the liberty to blame her for her over-niceness with regard to me. People, I said, even good people, who knew themselves to be guilty of a fault they had no inclination to mend, were too often least patient, when told of it; as they could less bear than others, to be thought indifferently of.’
Too often the case, they owned.
‘Mrs. Sinclair’s house was a very handsome house, and fit to receive the first quality [True enough, Jack!]: Mrs. Sinclair was a woman very easy in her circumstances: A widow-gentlewoman—as you, Mrs. Moore, are. Lets lodgings—as you, Mrs. Moore, do. Once had better prospects—as you,Mrs. Moore, may have had: The relict of Colonel Sinclair: You, Mrs. Moore, might know Colonel Sinclair—He had lodgings at Hamstead.’
She had heard of the name.
‘O, he was related to the best families in Scotland: And his widow is not to be reflected upon, because she lets lodgings, you know Mrs. Moore; —You know, Miss Rawlins.’
Very true, and, Very true: And they must needs say, it did not look quite so pretty in such a lady as my spouse, to be so censorious.
A foundation here, thought I, to procure these womens help to get back the fugitive, or their connivance at least at my doing so; as well as for anticipating any future information from Miss Howe.
I gave them a character of that virago: And intimated, ‘that for a head to contrive mischief, and a heart to execute it, she had hardly her equal in her sex.’
To this Miss Howe it was, Mrs. Moore said, she supposed, that my spouse was so desirous to dispatch a man and horse, by day-dawn, with a letter she wrote before she went to bed last night; proposing to stay no longer than till she had received an answer to it.
The very same, said I. I knew she would have immediate recourse to her. I should have been but too happy, could I have prevented such a letter from passing, or so to have managed, as to have it given into Mrs. Howe’s hands, instead of her daughter’s. Women who had lived some time in the world, knew better, than to encourage such skittish pranks in young wives.
Let me just stop to tell thee, while it is in my head, that I have since given Will. his cue to find out where the man lives who is gone with the fair fugitive’s letter; and, if possible, to see him on his return, before he sees her.
I told the women, ‘That I despaired it would ever be better with us, while Miss Howe had so strange a predominance over my spouse, and remained herself unmarried ; and until the reconciliation with her friends could be effected; or a still happier event,—as I should think it, who am the last male of my family; and which my foolish vow, and her rigour, had hitherto’—
Here I stopt, and looked modest, turning my diamond ring round my finger: While goody Moore looked mighty significant, calling it a very particular case; and the maiden lady fann’d away, and primm’d and purs’d, to shew, that what I said needed no farther explanation.
‘I told them the occasion of our present difference: Avowed the reality of the fire: But owned, that I would have made no scruple of breaking the unnatural oath she had bound me in (having an husband’s right of my side), when she was so accidentally frighted into my arms: And I blamed myself excessively, that I did not; since she thought fit to carry her resentment so high, and had the injustice to suppose the fire to be a contrivance of mine.’
Nay, for that matter, Mrs. Moore said—as we were married, and Madam was so odd—Every gentleman would not—And there stopt Mrs. Moore.
‘To suppose I should have recourse to such a poor contrivance, said I, when I saw the dear creature every hour —‘ Was not this a bold put, Jack?
A most extraordinary case, truly! the maiden lady: Fanning, yet coming in with her Well-buts, and her sifting Pray Sir’s ! —And her restrainingEnough-Sir’s !—flying from the question to the question; her seat now-and-then uneasy, for fear my want of delicacy should hurt her abundant modesty; and yet it was difficult to satisfy her super abundant curiosity.
‘My beloved’s jealousy; which of itself, to female minds, accounts for a thousand unaccountablenesses; and the imputation of her half-phrensy brought upon her by her father’s wicked curse, and by the previous persecutions she had undergone from all her family; were what I dwelt upon, in order to provide against what might happen.’
In short, ‘I owned against myself most of the offences which I did not doubt but she would charge me with in their hearing: And as every cause has a black and a white side, I gave the worst parts of our story the gentlest turn. And when I had done, gave them some partial hints of the contents of Captain Tomlinson’s letter, which I had left with her: With a caution, to be guarded against the inquiries of James Harlowe, and of Captain Singleton, or of any sailor-looking men.’ This thou wilt see from the letter itself was necessary to be done. Here therefore thou mayest read it. And a charming letter to my purpose, if thou givest the least attention to its contents, wilt thou find it to be.
To Robert Lovelace, Esq;.
Wedn. June 7.
Altho’ I am obliged to be in town to-morrow, or next day at farthest, yet I would not dispense with writing to you, by one of my servants, (whom I send up before me upon a particular occasion) in order to advertise you, that it is probable you will hear from some of your own relations on your [supposed219 ] nuptials . One of the persons (Mr. Lilburne by name) to whom I hinted my belief of your marriage, happens to be acquainted with Mr. Spurrier, Lady Betty Lawrance’s steward; and (not being under any restriction) mentioned it to Mr. Spurrier, and he to Lady Betty, as a thing certain: And this (tho’ I have not the honour to be personally known to her ladyship ) brought on an inquiry from her ladyship to me by her gentleman; who coming to me in company with Mr. Lilburne, I had no way but to confirm the report. And I understand, that Lady Betty takes it amiss, that she was not acquainted with so desirable a piece of news from yourself.
Her ladyship, it seems, has business that calls her to town ; [and you will possibly choose to put her right. If you do, it will, I presume, be in confidence ; that nothing may perspire from your own family to contradict what I have given out.]
[I have ever been of opinion, That truth ought to be strictly adhered to on all occasions : And am concerned that I have departed (tho’ with so good a view) from my old maxim. But my dear friend Mr. John Harlowe would have it so. Yet I never knew a departure of this kind a single departure. But, to make the best of it now, allow me, Sir, once more to beg the lady, as soon as possible, to authenticate the report given out.] When you both join in the acknowlegement, it will be impertinent in any one to be inquisitive as to the day or week : [And, if as privately celebrated as you intend (while the gentlewomen with whom you lodge are properly instructed, as you say they are, and who actually believe you were married long ago), who shall be able to give a contradiction to my report?]
And yet it is very probable, that minute inquiries will be made; and this is what renders precaution necessary. For Mr. James Harlowe will not believe that you are married; and is sure, he says, that you both lived together when Mr. Hickman’s application was made to Mr. John Harlowe: And if you lived together any time unmarried, he infers from your character, Mr. Lovelace, that it is not probable, that you would ever marry. And he leaves it to his two uncles to decide, if you even should be married, whether there be not room to believe, that his sister was first dishonoured; and if so, to judge of the title she will have to their favour, or to the forgiveness of any of her family. I believe, Sir, this part of my letter had best to be kept from the lady.
What makes young Mr. Harlowe the more earnest to find this out (and find it out he is resolved, and to come at his sister’s speech too; and for that purpose sets out to-morrow, as I am well-informed, with a large attendance, armed, and Mr. Solmes is to be of the party) is this: —Mr. John Harlowe has told the whole family, that he will alter and new-settle his will. Mr. Antony Harlowe is resolved to do the same by his; for, it seems, he has now given over all thoughts of changing his condition; having lately been disappointed in a view he had of that sort with Mrs. Howe . These two brothers generally act in concert; and Mr. James Harlowe dreads (and let me tell you, that he has reason for it, on my Mr. Harlowe’s account), that his younger sister will be, at last, more benefited than he wishes for, by the alteration intended. He has already been endeavouring to sound his uncle Harlowe on this subject; and wanted to know whether any new application had been made to him on his sister’s part. Mr. Harlowe avoided a direct answer, and expressed his wishes for a general reconciliation, and his hopes that his niece was married. This offended the furious young man, and he reminded his uncle of engagements they had all entered into at his sister’s going away, not to be reconciled but by general consent .
Mr. John Harlowe complains to me often, of the uncontroulableness of his nephew; and says, that now, that the young man has not any-body of whose superior sense he stands in awe, he observes not decency in his behaviour to any of them. And this makes my Mr. Harlowe still more desirous than ever of bringing his younger niece into favour again. I will not say all I might of this young man’s extraordinary rapaciousness: —But one would think, that these grasping men expect to live for ever !
‘I took the liberty but within these two hours, to propose to set on foot (and offer’d my cover) to a correspondence between my friend, and his daughter-niece, as he still sometimes fondly calls her. She was mistress of so much prudence, I said, that I was sure she could better direct every thing to its desirable end, than any-body else could. But he said, he did not think himself intirely at liberty to take such a step at present ; and that it was best that he should have it in his power to say, occasionally, that he had not any correspondence with her, or letter from her.
‘You will see, Sir, from all this, the necessity of keeping our treaty an absolute secret ; and if the lady has mentioned it to her worthy friend Miss Howe, I hope it is in confidence.’
[And now, Sir, a few lines in answer to yours of Monday last.]
[Mr. Harlowe was very well pleased with your readiness to come into his proposal. But as to what you both desire, that he will be present at the ceremony, he said, that his nephew watched all his steps so narrowly, that he thought it was not practicable (if he were inclinable) to oblige you: But that he consented with all his heart, that I should be the person privately present at the ceremony, on his part.]
[However, I think, I have an expedient for this, if your lady continues to be very desirous of her uncle’s presence (except he should be more determined than his answer seemed to import); of which I shall acquaint you, and perhaps of what he says to it, when I have the pleasure to see you in town. But, indeed, I think you have no time to lose. Mr. Harlowe is impatient to hear, that you are actually one; and I hope I may carry him down word, when I leave you next, that I saw the ceremony performed.]
[If any obstacle arises from the lady (from you it cannot), I shall be tempted to think a little hardly of her punctilio.]
Mr. Harlowe hopes, Sir, that you will rather take pains to avoid, than to meet, this violent young man. He has the better opinion of you, let me tell you, Sir, from the account I gave him of your moderation and politeness; neither of which are qualities with his nephew. But we have all of us something to amend.
You cannot imagine how dearly my friend still loves this excellent niece of his—I will give you an instance of it, which affected me a good deal—‘If once more (said he, the last time but one we were together) I can but see this sweet child gracing the upper-end of my table, as mistress of my house, in my allotted month ; all the rest of the family present but as her guests; for so I would have it; and had her mother’s consent for it ‘—There he stopt; for he was forced to turn his reverend face from me.
Tears ran down his cheeks. Fain would he have hid them: But he could not—‘Yet,—yet, said he—how —how—‘ (poor gentleman, he perfectly sobbed)— ‘how shall I be able to bear the first meeting!’
I bless God I am no hard-hearted man, Mr. Lovelace: My eyes shewed to my worthy friend, that he had no reason to be ashamed of his humanity before me.
I will put an end to this long epistle. Be pleased to make my compliments acceptable to the most excellent of women; as well as believe me to be,
Your faithful friend, and humble servant,
Antony Tomlinson .
During the above conversation I had planted myself at the further end of the apartment we were in, over-against the door; which was open; and opposite to the lady’s chamber-door; which was shut. I spoke so low, that it was impossible, at that distance, that she should hear what we said; and in this situation I could see if her door opened.
I told the women, that what I had mentioned of Lady Betty’s and her niece’s coming to town, and of their intention to visit my spouse, whom they had never seen, nor she them, was real; and that I expected news of their arrival every hour. I then shewed them copies of the other two letters, which I had left with her; the one from lady Betty, the other from my cousin Montague. —And here thou mayest read them if thou wilt.
Eternally reproaching, eternally upbraiding me, are my impertinent relations. But they are fond of occasions to find fault with me. Their love, their love Jack, and their dependence on my known good humour, their inducement!
To Robert Lovelace, Esq;.
Wedn. Morn. June 7.
I understand, that at length all our wishes are answered in your happy marriage. But I think, we might as well have heard of it directly from you, as from the round-about way by which we have been made acquainted with it. Methinks, Sir, the power and the will we have to oblige you, should not expose us the more to your slights and negligence. My brother had set his heart upon giving to you the wife we have all so long wished you to have. But if you were actually married at the time you made him that request (supposing, perhaps, that his gout, would not let him attend you), it is but like you220 . —If your lady had her reasons to wish it to be private while the differences between her family and self continue, you might nevertheless have communicated it to us, with that restriction; and we should have forborn the public manifestations of our joy, upon an event we have so long desired.
The distant way we have come to know it, is by my steward; who is acquainted with a friend of Captain Tomlinson, to whom that gentleman revealed it: And he, it seems, had it from yourself and lady, with such circumstances as leave it not to be doubted.
I am, indeed, very much disobliged with you: So is my sister Sadleir. But I shall have a very speedy opportunity to tell you so in person; being obliged to go to town on my old Chancery-affair. My cousin Leeson, who is, it seems, removed to Albemarle-street, has notice of it. I shall be at herhouse, where I bespeak your attendance on Sunday night. I have written to my cousin Charlotte for either her, or her sister, to meet me at Reading, and accompany me to town. I shall stay but a few days; my business being matter of form only: On my return I shall pop upon my brother, at M. Hall, to see in what way his last fit has left him.
Mean time, having told you my mind on your negligence, I cannot help congratulating you both upon the occasion: Your fair lady particularly, upon her entrance into a family, which is prepared to admire and love her.
My principal intention of writing to you (dispensing with the necessary punctilio) is, that you may acquaint my dear new niece, that I will not be denied the honour of her company down with me into Oxfordshire. I understand, that your proposed house and equipages cannot be soon ready. She shall be with me till they are. I insist upon it. This shall make all up. My house shall be her own: My servants and equipages hers.
Lady Sarah, who has not been out of her own house for months, will oblige me with her company for a week, in honour of a niece so dearly beloved, as I am sure she will be of us all.
Being but in lodgings in town, neither you nor your lady can require much preparation.
Some time on Monday I hope to attend the dear young lady, to make her my compliments; and to receive her apology for your negligence: Which, and her going down with me, as I said before, shall be full satisfaction. Mean time, God bless her for her courage (Tell her I say so): And bless youboth in each other; and that will be happiness to us all— particularly, to
Your truly affectionate Aunt,
Eliz. Lawrance .
To Robert Lovelace, Esq;.
At last, as we understand, there is some hope of you. Now does my good Lord run over his bead-roll of proverbs; of Black oxen, Wild oats, Long lanes, and so forth.
Now, cousin, say I, is your time come; and you will be no longer, I hope, an infidel either to the power or excellence of the sex you have pretended hitherto so much to undervalue; nor a ridiculer or scoffer at an institution which all sober people reverence, and all rakes, sooner or later, are brought to reverence, or to wish they had.
I want to see how you become your silken fetters: Whether the charming yoke fits light upon your shoulders. If, with such a sweet yoke-fellow it does not, my Lord, and my sister, as well as I, think, that you will deserve a closer tie about your neck.
His Lordship frets like gum’d taffaty, that you have not written him word of the day, the hour, the manner, and every thing. But I ask him, How he can already expect any mark of deference or politeness from you? He must stay, I tell him, till that sign of reformation, among others, must appear from the influence and example of your lady: But that, if ever you will be good for any thing, it will be quickly seen. And Oh cousin, what a vast, vast, journey have you to take from the dreary land of Libertinism, thro’ the bright province of Reformation, into the serene kingdom of Happiness! —You had need to lose no time. You have many a weary step to tread, before you can overtake those travellers, who set out for it from a less remote quarter. But you have a charming pole-star to guide you, that’s your advantage. I wish you joy of it: And as I have never yet expected any highly complaisant thing from you, I make no scruple to begin first; but it is purely, I must tell you, in respect to my new cousin; whose accession into our family we most heartily congratulate and rejoice in.
I have a letter from Lady Betty. She commands my attendance, or my sister’s, at Reading, to proceed with her to the great beastly town, to cousin Leeson’s. She puts Lord M. in hopes, that she shall certainly bring down with her our lovely new relation; for she says, she will not be denied. His Lordship is the willinger to let me be the person, as I am in a manner wild to see her; my sister having two years ago had that honour at Sir Robert Biddulph’s. So get ready to accompany us in our return; except your lady has objections strong enough to satisfy us all. Lady Sarah longs to see her; and says, This accession to the family will supply to it the loss of her beloved daughter.
I shall soon, I hope, pay my compliments to the dear lady in person: So have nothing to add, but that, I am
Your old man Playfellow and Cousin,
Charlotte Montague .
The women having read the copies of these two letters, I thought that I might then threaten and swagger—‘But very little heart have I, said I, to encourage such a visit from Lady Betty and Miss Montague to my spouse. For after all, I am tired out with her strange ways. She is not what she was, and (as I told her in your hearing, ladies) I will leave this plaguy island, tho’ the place of my birth, and tho’ the stake I have in it is very considerable; and go and reside in France or Italy, and never think of myself as a married man, nor live like one .’
O dear! said one.
That would be a sad thing! said the other.
Nay, Madam, turning to Mrs. Moore—Indeed, Madam, to Miss Rawlins—I am quite desperate. I can no longer bear such usage. I have had the good fortune to be favoured by the smiles of very fine ladies, tho’ I say it (and I looked modest), both abroad and at home—[Thou knowest this to be true, Jack]. With regard to my spouse here, I had but one hope left
(for as to the reconciliation with her friends, I scorn them all too much to value that, but for her sake); and that was, that if it pleased God to bless us with children, she might intirely recover her usual serenity; and we might then be happy. But the reconciliation her heart was so much set upon, is now, as I hinted before, intirely hopeless—Made so, by this rash step of hers, and by the rasher temper she is in; since (as you will believe) her brother and sister, when they come to know it, will make a fine handle of it against us both;—affecting, as they do at present, to disbelieve our marriage—and the dear creature herself too ready to countenance such a disbelief,—as nothing more than the ceremony —
Here I was bashful; for Miss Rawlins by her preparatory primness, put me in mind, that it was proper to be so —
I turned half round; then facing the fan-player, and the matron—You yourselves, ladies, knew not what to believe till Now, that I have told you our story: And I do assure you, that I shall not give myself the same trouble to convince people I hate: People from whom I neither expect nor desire any favour; and who are determined not to be convinced. And what, pray, must be the issue, when her uncle’s friend comes, altho’ he seems to be a truly worthy man ? Is it not natural for him to say, ‘To what purpose, Mr. Lovelace, should I endeavour to bring about a reconciliation between Mrs. Lovelace and her friends, by means of her elder uncle, when a good understanding is wanting between yourselves?’ —A fair inference, Mrs. Moore! —A fair inference, Miss Rawlins! —And here is the unhappiness—Till she is reconciled to them, this cursed oath, in her notion, is binding!
The women seem’d moved; for I spoke with great earnestness, tho’ low—And besides, they love to have their sex, and its favours, appear of importance to us. They shook their deep heads at each other, and looked sorrowful: And this moved my tender heart too.
‘Tis an unheard-of case, ladies—Had she not preferred me to all mankind—There I stopped—And that, resumed I, feeling for my handkerchief, is, what staggered Captain Tomlinson, when he heard of her flight; who, the last time he saw us together, saw the most affectionate couple on earth! —The most affectionate couple on earth!—in the accent-grievous, repeated I.
Out then I pulled my handkerchief, and, putting it to my eyes, arose, and walked to the window—It makes me weaker than a woman! —Did I not love her, as never man loved his wife [I have no doubt but I do, Jack]—
There again I stopt; and resuming—Charming creature, as you see she is, I wish I had never beheld her face! —Excuse me, ladies; traversing the room. And having rubbed my eyes till I supposed them red, I turned to the women; and, pulling out my letter-case, I will shew you one letter—Here it is—Read it, Miss Rawlins, if you please—It will confirm to you, how much all my family are prepared to admire her. I am freely treated in it;—so I am in the two others: But after what I have told you, nothing need be a secret to you two.
She took it, with an air of eager curiosity, and looked at the seal, ostentatiously coronetted; and at the superscription, reading out, To Robert Lovelace, Esq ;—Ay, Madam—Ay, Miss—that’s my name (giving myself an air, tho’ I had told it to them before) I am not ashamed of it. My wife’s maiden name— Unmarried name, I should rather say,—fool that I am!—and I rubbed my cheek for vexation [Fool enough in conscience, Jack!] was Harlowe— Clarissa Harlowe—You heard me call her My Clarissa .—
I did—but thought it to be a feigned or love-name, said Miss Rawlins.
I wonder what is Miss Rawlins’s love-name, Jack. Most of the fair Romancers have in their early womanhood chosen Love-names. No parson ever gave more real names, than I have given fictitious ones. And to very good purpose: Many a sweet dear has answered me a letter for the sake of owning a name which her godmother never gave her.
No—It was her real name, I said.
I bid her read out the whole letter. If the spelling be not exact, Miss Rawlins, said I, you will excuse it; the writer is a Lord. But, perhaps, I may not shew it to my spouse; for if those I have left with her have no effect upon her, neither will this: And I shall not care to expose my Lord M. to her scorn. Indeed I begin to be quite careless of consequences.
Miss Rawlins, who could not but be pleased with this mark of my confidence, looked as if she pitied me.
And here thou mayest read the letter, No. III.
To Robert Lovelace, Esq;.
M. Hall, Wedn. June 7.
I think you might have found time to let us know of your nuptials being actually solempnized. I might have expected this piece of civility from you. But perhaps the ceremony was performed at the very time that you asked me to be your lady’s father—But I shall be angry if I proceed in my guesses—And little said is soon amended .
But I can tell you, that Lady Betty Lawrance, whatever Lady Sarah does, will not so soon forgive you, as I have done. Women resent slights longer than men. You that know so much of the sex (I speak it not however to your praise) might have known That . But never was you before acquainted with a lady of such an amiable character. I hope there will be but one soul between you. I have before now said, that I will disinherit you, and settle all I can upon her, if you prove not a good husband to her.
May this marriage be crowned with a great many fine boys (I desire no girls) to build up again a family so antient! The first boy shall take my surname by act of parliament. That is in my will.
Lady Betty and niece Charlotte will be in town about business before you know where you are . They long to pay their compliments to your fair bride. I suppose you will hardly be at the Lawn when they get to town; because Greme informs me, you have sent no orders there for your lady’s accommodation.
Pritchard has all things in readiness for signing. I will take no advantage of your slights. Indeed I am too much used to them—More praise to my patience, than to your complaisance, however.
One reason for Lady Betty’s going up, as I may tell you under the rose, is, to buy some suitable presents for Lady Sarah and all of us to make on this agreeable occasion.
We would have blazed it away, could we have had timely notice, and thought it would have been agreeable to all round. The like occasions don’t happen every day .
My most affectionate compliments and congratulations to my new niece, conclude me, for the present, in violent pains, that with all your heroicalness would make you mad,
Your truly affectionate Uncle,
This letter clench’d the nail. Not but that, Miss Rawlins said, she saw I had been a wild gentleman; and, truly, she thought so, the moment she beheld me.
They began to intercede for my spouse (so nicely had I turn’d the tables), and that I would not go abroad, and disappoint a reconciliation so much wished for on one side, and such desirable prospects on the other in my own family.
Who knows, thought I to myself, but more may come of this plot, than I had even promised myself? What a happy man shall I be, if these women can be brought to join to carry my marriage into consummation?
Ladies, you are exceeding good to us both. I should have some hopes, if my unhappily-nice spouse could be brought to dispense with the unnatural oath she has laid me under. You see what my case is. Do you think I may not insist upon her absolving me from this abominable oath? Will you be so good, as to give your advice, that one apartment may serve for a man and his wife at the hour of retirement? —Modestly put, Belford! —And let me here observe, that few rakes, besides me, would find a language so decent, as to engage modest women to talk with him in, upon such subjects.
They both simper’d, and look’d upon one another.
These subjects always make women simper, at least. No need but of the most delicate hints to them . A man who is gross in a woman’s company, ought to be knock’d down with a club: For, like so many musical instruments, touch but a single wire, and the dear souls are sensible all over.
To be sure, Miss Rawlins learnedly said, playing with her fan, a casuist would give it, that the matrimonial vow ought to supersede any other obligation.
Mrs. Moore, for her part, was of opinion, that, if the lady owned herself to be a wife, she ought to behave like one.
Whatever be my luck, thought I, with this all-eyed fair one, any other woman in the world, from fifteen to five-and-twenty, would be mine upon my own terms before the morning.
And now, that I may be at hand to take all advantages,
I will endeavour, said I to myself, to make sure of good quarters.
I am your lodger, Mrs. Moore, in virtue of the earnest I have given you, for these apartments, and for any one you can spare above for my servants; Indeed for all you have to spare—for who knows what my spouse’s brother may attempt? I will pay you your own demand: and that for a month or two certain (board included), as I shall or shall not be your hindrance. Take that as a pledge; or in part of payment. —Offering her a thirty pound bank note.
She declined taking it; desiring she might consult the lady first; adding, that she doubted not my honour; and that she would not lett her apartments to any other person, whom she knew not something of, while I and the lady were here.
The lady, The lady ! from both the womens mouths continually (which still implied a doubt in their hearts): And not Your spouse, and Your lady, Sir .
I never met with such women, thought I;—So thoroughly convinced but this moment, yet already doubting! I am afraid I have a couple of Sceptics to deal with.
I knew no reason, I said, for my wife to object to my lodging in the same house with her here, any more than in town, at Mrs. Sinclair’s. But were she to make such objection, I would not quit possession; since it was not unlikely, that the same freakish disorder which brought her to Hamstead, might carry her absolutely out of my knowlege.
They both seemed embarrassed; and looked upon one another; yet with such an air, as if they thought there was reason in what I said. And I declared myself her boarder, as well as lodger; and, dinner-time approaching, was not denied to be the former.