On my entering the dining-room, he took my hand in his, in such a humour, I saw plainly he was resolved to quarrel with me—And for what?—What had I done to him?—I never in my life beheld in any body such wild, such angry, such impatient airs. I was terrified; and instead of being as angry as I intended to be, I was forced to be all mildness. I can hardly remember what were his first words, I was so frighted. But you hate me, Madam! you hate me, Madam! were some of them—with such a fierceness—I wished myself a thousand miles distant from him. I hate nobody, said I: I thank God I hate nobody—You terrify me, Mr. Lovelace—let me leave you.—The man, my dear, looked quite ugly—I never saw a man look so ugly as passion made him look—and for what?—And so he grasped my hands!— fierce creature;—he so grasped my hands! In short, he seemed by his looks, and by his words (once putting his arms about me) to wish me to provoke him. So that I had nothing to do but to beg of him (which I did repeatedly) to permit me to withdraw: and to promise to meet him at his own time in the morning.
It was with a very ill grace that he complied, on that condition; and at parting he kissed my hand with such a savageness, that a redness remains upon it still.
Do you not think, my dear, that I have reason to be incensed at him, my situation considered? Am I not under a necessity, as it were, of quarrelling with him; at least every other time I see him? No prudery, no coquetry, no tyranny in my heart, or in my behaviour to him, that I know of. No affected procrastination. Aiming at nothing but decorum. He as much concerned, and so he ought to think, as I, to have that observed. Too much in his power: cast upon him by the cruelty of my relations. No other protection to fly to but his. One plain path before us; yet such embarrasses, such difficulties, such subjects for doubt, for cavil, for uneasiness; as fast as one is obviated, another to be introduced, and not by myself—know not how introduced—What pleasure can I propose to myself in meeting such a wretch?
Perfect for me, my dearest Miss Howe, perfect for me, I beseech you, your kind scheme with Mrs. Townsend; and I will then leave this man.
My temper, I believe, is changed. No wonder if it be. I question whether ever it will be what it was. But I cannot make him half so uneasy by the change, as I am myself. See you not how, from step to step, he grows upon me?—I tremble to look back upon his encroachments. And now to give me cause to apprehend more evil from him, than indignation will permit me to express!—O my dear, perfect your scheme, and let me fly from so strange a wretch!
Yet, to be first an eloper from my friends to him, as the world supposes; and now to be so from him [to whom I know not!] how hard to one who ever endeavoured to shun intricate paths! But he must certainly have views in quarrelling with me thus, which he dare not own!—Yet what can they be?— I am terrified but to think of what they may be!
Let me but get from him!—As to my reputation, if I leave him—that is already too much wounded for me, now, to be careful about any thing, but how to act so as that my own heart shall not reproach me. As to the world’s censure, I must be content to suffer that—an unhappy composition, however.—What a wreck have my fortunes suffered, to be obliged to throw overboard so many valuables, to preserve, indeed, the only valuable!—A composition that once it would have half broken my heart to think there would have been the least danger that I should be obliged to submit to.
You, my dear, could not be a stranger to my most secret failings, although you would not tell me of them. What a pride did I take in the applause of every one!—What a pride even in supposing I had not that pride!—Which concealed itself from my unexamining heart under the specious veil of humility, doubling the merit to myself by the supposed, and indeed imputed, gracefulness in the manner of conferring benefits, when I had not a single merit in what I did, vastly overpaid by the pleasure of doing some little good, and impelled, as I may say, by talents given me—for what!—Not to be proud of.
So, desirous, in short, to be considered as an example! A vanity which my partial admirers put into my head!—And so secure in my own virtue!
I am punished enough, enough mortified, for this my vanity—I hope, enough, if it so please the all-gracious inflictor: since now, I verily think, I more despise myself for my presumptuous self-security, as well as vanity, than ever I secretly vaunted myself on my good inclinations: secretly, I say, however; for, indeed, I had not given myself leisure to reflect, till I was thus mortified, how very imperfect I was; nor how much truth there is in what divines tell us, that we sin in our best performances.
But I was very young.—But here let me watch over myself again: for in those four words, I was very young, is there not a palliation couched, that were enough to take all efficacy from the discovery and confession?
What strange imperfect beings!—but self here, which is at the bottom of all we do, and of all we wish, is the grand misleader.
I will not apologize to you, my dear, for these grave reflections. Is it not enough to make the unhappy creature look into herself, and endeavour to detect herself, who, from such a high reputation, left to proud and presumptuous self, should by one thoughtless step, be brought to the dreadful situation I am in?
Let me, however, look forward: to despond would be to add sin to sin. And whom have I to raise me up, whom to comfort me, if I desert myself?— Thou, O Father, who, I hope, hast not yet deserted, hast not yet cursed me!—For I am thine!—It is fit that mediation should supply the rest.—