LETTER 312: MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE TO MISS HOWE

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Thursday Night.He had found me out at Hamstead: Strangely found me out; for I am still at a loss to know by what means.

I was loth, in my billet of the 9th ( a ) , to tell you so, for fear of giving you apprehensions for me; and besides, I hoped then to have a shorter and happier issue account to you for, thro’ your assistance, than I met with.

She then gives a narrative of all that passed at Hamstead between herself, Mr. Lovelace, Capt. Tomlinson and the women there, to the same effect with that so amply given by Mr. Lovelace.

Mr. Lovelace, finding all he could say, and all Capt. Tomlinson could urge, ineffectual, to prevail upon me to forgive an outrage so flagrantly premeditated; rested all his hopes on a visit which was to be paid me by Lady Betty Lawrance and Miss Montague.

In my uncertain situation, my prospects all so dark, I knew not to whom I might be obliged to have recourse in the last resort: And as those ladies had the best of characters, insomuch that I had reason to regret, that I had not from the first thrown my self upon their protection (when I had forfeited that of my own friends), I thought I would not shun an interview with them, though I was too indifferent to their kinsman, to seek it, as I doubted not, that one end of their visit would be to reconcile me to him.

On Monday the 12th of June, these pretended ladies came to Hamstead, and I was presented to them, and they to me, by their kinsman.

They were richly dressed, and stuck out with jewels; the pretended Lady Betty’s were particularly very fine.

They came in a coach and four, hired, as was confessed, while their own was repairing in town: A pretence made, I now perceive, that I should not guess at the imposture by the want of the real Lady’s arms upon it. Lady Betty was attended by her woman, whom she called Morrison; a modest country-looking person.

I had heard, that Lady Betty was a fine woman, and that Miss Montague was a beautiful young lady, genteel, and graceful, and full of vivacity: Such were these impostors; and having never seen either of them, I had not the least suspicion, that they were not the ladies they personated; and being put a little out of countenance by the richness of their dresses, I could not help, fool that I was! to apologize for my own.

The pretended Lady Betty then told me, that her nephew had acquainted them with the situation of affairs between us. And altho’ she could not but say, that she was very glad, that he had not put such a flight upon his Lordship and them, as report had given them cause to apprehend (the reasons for which report, however, she much approved of); yet it had been matter of great concern to her, and to her niece Montague, and would to the whole family, to find so great a misunderstanding subsisting between us, as, if not made up, might distance all their hopes.

She could easily tell who was in fault, she said. —And gave him a look both of anger and disdain; asking him, How it was possible for him to give an offence of such a nature to so charming a lady (so she called me), as should occasion a resentment so strong?

He pretended to be awed into shame and silence.

My dearest niece, said she, and took my hand (I must call you niece, as well from love, as to humour your uncle’s laudable expedient), permit me to be, not an advocate, but a mediatrix for him; and not for his sake, so much as for my own, my Charlotte’s, and all our family’s. The indignity he has offered to you, may be of too tender a nature to be inquired into. But as he declares, that it was not a premeditated offence; whether, my dear (for I was going to rise upon it in my temper), it were or not; and as he declares his sorrow for it (and never did creature express a deeper sorrow for any offence than he!); and as it is a reparable one; let Us, for this one time, forgive him; and thereby lay an obligation upon this man of errors—Let US, I say, my dear: For, Sir (turning to him), an offence against such a peerless lady as This, must be an offence against me, against your cousin, here; and against all the virtuous of our Sex.

See, my dear, what a creature he had picked out! Could you have thought there was a woman in the world who could thus express herself, and yet be vile? But she had her principal instructions from him, and those written down too, as I have reason to think: For I have recollected since, that I once saw this Lady Betty (who often rose from her seat, and took a turn to the other end of the room with such emotion as if the joy of her heart would not let her sit still) take out a paper from her stays, and look into it, and put it there again. She might oftener, and I not observe it; for I little thought, that there could be such impostors in the world.

I could not forbear paying great attention to what she said. I found tears ready to start; I drew out my handkerchief, and was silent. I had not been so indulgently treated a great while by a person of character and distinction (such I thought her), and durst not trust to the accent of my voice.

The pretended Miss Montague joined in, on this occasion; and, drawing her chair close to me, took my other hand, and besought me to forgive her cousin; and consent to rank myself as one of the principals of a family, that had long, very long, coveted the honour of my alliance.

I am ashamed to repeat to you, my dear, now I know what wretches they are, the tender, the obliging, and the respectful things I said to them.

The wretch himself then came forward. He threw himself at my feet. How was I beset! —The women grasping one my right hand, the other my left: The pretended Miss Montague pressing to her lips more than once the hand she held: The wicked man on his knees, imploring my forgiveness; and setting before me my happy and my unhappy prospects, as I should forgive or not forgive him. All that he thought would affect me in his former pleas, and those of Capt. Tomlinson, he repeated. He vowed, he promised, he bespoke the pretended ladies to answer for him; and they engaged their honours in his behalf.

Indeed, my dear, I was distressed, perfectly distressed. I was sorry that I had given way to this visit. For I knew not how, in tenderness to relations (as I thought them) so worthy, to treat so freely as he deserved, a man nearly allied to them: —So that my arguments, and my resolutions, were deprived of their greatest force.

I pleaded, however, my application to you. I expected every hour, I told them, an answer from you to a letter I had written, which would decide my future destiny.

They offered to apply to you themselves in person, in their own behalf, as they politely termed it. They besought me to write to you to hasten your answer.

I said, I was sure, that you would write the moment that the event of an application to be made to a third person enabled you to write. —But as to the success of their requests in behalf of their kinsman, That depended not upon the expected answer; for that, I begged their pardon, was out of the question. I wished him well. I wished him happy. But I was convinced, that I neither could make him so, nor he me .

Then, again, how the wretch promised! —How he vowed! —How he intreated! —And how the women pleaded! And they engaged themselves, and the honour of their whole family, for his just, his kind, his tender behaviour to me.

In short, my dear, I was so hard set, that I was obliged to come to a more favourable compromise with them, than I had intended. I would wait for your answer to my letter, I said: And if it made doubtful or difficult the change of measures I had resolved upon, and the scheme of life I had formed, I would then consider of the matter; and, if they would permit me, lay all before them, and take their advice upon it, in conjunction with yours, as if the one were my own aunt, and the other were my own cousin.

They shed tears upon this—Of joy they called them— But since, I believe, to their credit, bad as they are, that they were tears of temporary remorse; for the pretended Miss Montague turned about, and, as I remember, said, There was no standing it.

But Mr. Lovelace was not so easily satisfied. He was fixed upon his villainous measures perhaps; and so might not be sorry to have a pretence against me. He bit his lip—He had been but too much used, he said, to such indifference, such coldness, in the very midst of his happiest prospects. —I had on twenty occasions, shewn him, to his infinite regret, that any favour I was to confer upon him was to be the result of—There he stopt—And not of my choice.

This had like to have set all back again. I was exceedingly offended. But the pretended ladies interposed. The elder severely took him to task. He ought, she told him, to be satisfied with what I had said. She desired no other condition. And what, Sir, said she, with an air of authority, would you commit errors, and expect to be rewarded for them?

They then engaged me in more agreeable conversation —The pretended Lady declared, that she, Lord M. and Lady Sarah, would directly and personally interest themselves to bring about a general reconciliation between the two families, and this either in open or private concert with my uncle Harlowe, as should be thought fit. Animosities on one side had been carried a great way, she said; and too little care had been shewn on the other to mollify or heal. My father should see, that they could treat him as a brother and a friend; and my brother and sister should be convinced, that there was no room either for the jealousy or envy they had conceived from motives too unworthy to be avowed.

Could I help, my dear, being pleased with them?—

Permit me here to break off. The task grows too heavy, at present, for the heart of

Your Clarissa Harlowe .

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