Clarissa Harlowe; or the history of a young lady is a web novel created by Samuel Richardson.
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Cl. You may say all that you please to say before these gentlewomen.– Mr. Lovelace may have secrets–I have none:–you seem to think me faulty: I should be glad that all the world knew my heart. Let my enemies sit in judgment upon my actions; fairly scanned, I fear not the result; let them even ask me my most secret thoughts, and, whether they make for me, or against me, I will reveal them.
Capt. n.o.ble Lady! who can say as you say?
The women held up their hands and eyes; each, as if she had said,–Not I.
No disorder here! said Miss Rawlins:–but, (judging by her own heart,) a confounded deal of improbability, I believe she thought.
Finely said, to be sure, said the widow Bevis, shrugging her shoulders.
Mrs. Moore sighed.
Jack Belford, thought I, knows all mine; and in this I am more ingenuous than any of the three, and a fit match for this paragon.
Cl. How Mr. Lovelace has found me out here I cannot tell: but such mean devices, such artful, such worse than Waltham disguises put on, to obtrude himself into my company; such bold, such shocking untruths–
Capt. The favour of but one word, Madam, in private–
Cl. In order to support a right which he has not over me!–O Sir!–O Captain Tomlinson!–I think I have reason to say, that the man, (there he stands!) is capable of any vileness!–
The women looked upon one another, and upon me, by turns, to see how I bore it. I had such dartings in my head at the instant, that I thought I should have gone distracted. My brain seemed on fire. What would I have given to have had her alone with me!–I traversed the room; my clenched fist to my forehead. O that I had any body here, thought I, that, Hercules-like, when flaming in the tortures of Dejanira’s poisoned shirt, I could tear in pieces!
Capt. Dear Lady! see you not how the poor gentleman–Lord, how have I imposed upon your uncle, at this rate! How happy did I tell him I saw you! How happy I was sure you would be in each other!
Cl. O Sir, you don’t know how many premeditated offences I had forgiven when I saw you last, before I could appear to you what I hoped then I might for the future be!–But now you may tell my uncle, if you please, that I cannot hope for his mediation. Tell him, that my guilt, in giving this man an opportunity to spirit me away from my tried, my experienced, my natural friends, (harshly as they treated me,) stares me every day more and more in the face; and still the more, as my fate seems to be drawing to a crisis, according to the malediction of my offended father!
And then she burst into tears, which even affected that dog, who, brought to abet me, was himself all Belforded over.
The women, so used to cry without grief, as they are to laugh without reason, by mere force of example, [confound their prompt.i.tudes;] must needs pull out their handkerchiefs. The less wonder, however, as I myself, between confusion, surprise, and concern, could hardly stand it.
What’s a tender heart good for?–Who can be happy that has a feeling heart?–And yet, thou’lt say, that he who has it not, must be a tiger, and no man.
Capt. Let me beg the favour of one word with you, Madam, in private; and that on my own account.
The women hereupon offered to retire. She insisted that, if they went, I should not stay.
Capt. Sir, bowing to me, shall I beg–
I hope, thought I, that I may trust this solemn dog, instructed as he is.
She does not doubt him. I’ll stay out no longer than to give her time to spend her first fire.
I then pa.s.sively withdrew with the women.–But with such a bow to my G.o.ddess, that it won for me every heart but that I wanted most to win; for the haughty maid bent not her knee in return.
The conversation between the Captain and the lady, when we were retired, was to the following effect:–They both talked loud enough for me to hear them–the lady from anger, the Captain with design; and thou mayest be sure there was no listener but myself. What I was imperfect in was supplied afterwards; for I had my vellum-leaved book to note all down.
If she had known this, perhaps she would have been more sparing of her invectives–and but perhaps neither.
He told her that as her brother was absolutely resolved to see her; and as he himself, in compliance with her uncle’s expedient, had reported her marriage; and as that report had reached the ears of Lord M., Lady Betty, and the rest of my relations; and as he had been obliged, in consequence of his first report, to vouch it; and as her brother might find out where she was, and apply to the women here for a confirmation or refutation of the marriage; he had thought himself obliged to countenance the report before the women. That this had embarra.s.sed him not a little, as he would not for the world that she should have cause to think him capable of prevarication, contrivance, or double dealing; and that this made him desirous of a private conversation with her.
It was true, she said, she had given her consent to such an expedient, believing it was her uncle’s; and little thinking that it would lead to so many errors. Yet she might have known that one error is frequently the parent of many. Mr. Lovelace had made her sensible of the truth of that observation, on more occasions than one; and it was an observation that he, the Captain, had made, in one of the letters that was shown her yesterday.*
* See Letter XXIV.
He hoped that she had no mistrust of him: that she had no doubt of his honour. If, Madam, you suspect me–if you think me capable–what a man!
the Lord be merciful to me!–What a man must you think me!
I hope, Sir, there cannot be a man in the world who could deserve to be suspected in such a case as this. I do not suspect you. If it were possible there could be one such a man, I am sure, Captain Tomlinson, a father of children, a man in years, of sense and experience, cannot be that man.
He told me, that just then, he thought he felt a sudden flash from her eye, an eye-beam as he called it, dart through his shivering reins; and he could not help trembling.
The dog’s conscience, Jack!–Nothing else!–I have felt half a dozen such flashes, such eye-beams, in as many different conversations with this soul-piercing beauty.
Her uncle, she must own, was not accustomed to think of such expedients; but she had reconciled this to herself, as the case was unhappily uncommon; and by the regard he had for her honour.
This set the puppy’s heart at ease, and gave him more courage.
She asked him if he thought Lady Betty and Miss Montague intended her a visit?
He had no doubt but they did.
And does he imagine, said she, that I could be brought to countenance to them the report you have given out?
[I had hoped to bring her to this, Jack, or she had seen their letters.
But I had told the Captain that I believed I must give up this expectation.]
No.–He believed that I had not such a thought. He was pretty sure, that I intended, when I saw them, to tell them, (as in confidence,) the naked truth.
He then told her that her uncle had already made some steps towards a general reconciliation. The moment, Madam, that he knows you are really married, he will enter into confidence with your father upon it; having actually expressed to your mother his desire to be reconciled to you.
And what, Sir, said my mother? What said my dear mother?
With great emotion she asked this question; holding out her sweet face, as the Captain described her, with the most earnest attention, as if she would shorten the way which his words were to have to her heart.
Your mother, Madam, burst into tears upon it: and your uncle was so penetrated by her tenderness, that he could not proceed with the subject.
But he intends to enter upon it with her in form, as soon as he hears that the ceremony is over.
By the tone of her voice she wept. The dear creature, thought I, begins to relent!–And I grudged the dog his eloquence. I could hardly bear the thought that any man breathing should have the power which I had lost, of persuading this high-souled woman, though in my own favour. And wouldest thou think it? this reflection gave me more uneasiness at the moment than I felt from her reproaches, violent as they were; or than I had pleasure in her supposed relenting: for there is beauty in every thing she says and does!–Beauty in her pa.s.sion!–Beauty in her tears!–Had the Captain been a young fellow, and of rank and fortune, his throat would have been in danger; and I should have thought very hardly of her.
O Captain Tomlinson, said she, you know not what I have suffered by this man’s strange ways! He had, as I was not ashamed to tell him yesterday, a plain path before him. He at first betrayed me into his power–but when I was in it–There she stopt.–Then resuming–O Sir, you know not what a strange man he has been!–An unpolite, a rough-manner’d man! In disgrace of his birth, and education, and knowledge, an unpolite man!– And so acting, as if his worldly and personal advantages set him above those graces which distinguish a gentleman.
The first woman that ever said, or that ever thought so of me, that’s my comfort, thought I!–But this, (spoken of to her uncle’s friend, behind my back,) helps to heap up thy already-too-full measure, dearest!–It is down in my vellum-book.
Cl. When I look back on his whole behaviour to a poor young creature, (for I am but a very young creature,) I cannot acquit him either of great folly or of deep design. And, last Wednesday–There she stopt; and I suppose turned away her face.
I wonder she was not ashamed to hint at what she thought so shameful; and that to a man, and alone with him.
Capt. Far be it from me, Madam, to offer to enter too closely into so tender a subject. Mr. Lovelace owns, that you have reason to be displeased with him. But he so solemnly clears himself of premeditated offence–
Cl. He cannot clear himself, Captain Tomlinson. The people of the house must be very vile, as well as he. I am convinced that there was a wicked confederacy–but no more upon such a subject.
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