I have a letter from Lord M. Such a one as I would wish for, if I intended matrimony. But as matters are circumstanced, I cannot think of showing it to my beloved.
My Lord regrets, ‘that he is not to be the Lady’s nuptial father. He seems apprehensive that I have still, specious as my reasons are, some mischief in my head.’
He graciously consents, ‘that I may marry when I please; and offers one or both of my cousins to assist my bride, and to support her spirits on the occasion; since, as he understands, she is so much afraid to venture with me.
‘Pritchard, he tells me, has his final orders to draw up deeds for assigning over to me, in perpetuity, £1000 per annum: which he will execute the same hour that the lady in person owns her marriage.’
He consents, ‘that the jointure be made from my own estate.’
He wishes, ‘that the Lady would have accepted of his draught; and commends me for tendering it to her. But reproaches me for my pride in not keeping it myself. What the right side gives up, the left, he says, may be the better for.‘
The girls, he means.
With all my heart. If I can have Miss Clarissa Harlowe, the devil take every thing else.
A good deal of other stuff writes the stupid peer; scribbling in several places half a dozen lines, apparently for no other reason but to bring in as many musty words in an old saw.
If thou askest, ‘How I can manage, since my beloved will wonder that I have not an answer from my Lord to such a letter as I wrote to him; and if I own I have one, will expect that I should shew it to her, as I did my letter?—This I answer—’That I can be informed by Pritchard, that my Lord has the gout in his right-hand; and has ordered him to attend me in form, for my particular orders about the transfer:’ And I can see Pritchard, thou knowest, at the King’s Arms, or wherever I please, at an hour’s warning; though he be at M. Hall, I in town; and he, by word of mouth, can acquaint me with every thing in my Lord’s letter that is necessary for my charmer to know.
Whenever it suits me, I can resolve the old peer to his right hand, and then can make him write a much more sensible letter than this that he has now sent me.
Thou knowest, that an adroitness in the art of manual imitation, was one of my earliest attainments. It has been said, on this occasion, that had I been a bad man in meum and tuum matters, I should not have been fit to live. As to the girls, we hold it no sin to cheat them. And are we not told, that in being well deceived consists the whole of human happiness? […]
All still happier and happier. A very high honour done me: a chariot, instead of a coach, permitted, purposely to indulge me in the subject of subjects.
Our discourse in this sweet airing turned upon our future manner of life. The day is bashfully promised me. Soon, was the answer to my repeated urgency. Our equipage, our servants, our liveries, were parts of the delightful subject. A desire that the wretch who had given me intelligence out of the family (honest Joseph Leman) might not be one of our menials; and her resolution to have her faithful Hannah, whether recovered or not; were signified; and both as readily assented to.
The reconciliation-prospect was enlarged upon. If her uncle Harlowe will but pave the way to it, and if it can be brought about, she shall be happy.—Happy, with a sigh, as it is now possible she can be!—She won’t forbear, Jack!
I told her, that I had heard from Pritchard, just before we set out on our airing, and expected him in town to-morrow from Lord M. to take my directions. I spoke with gratitude of my Lord’s kindness to me; and with pleasure of Lady Sarah’s, Lady Betty’s, and my two cousins Montague’s veneration for her: as also of his Lordship’s concern that his gout hindered him from writing a reply with his own hand to my last.
She pitied my Lord. She pitied poor Mrs. Fretchville too; for she had the goodness to inquire after her. The dear creature pitied every body that seemed to want pity. Happy in her own prospects, she had leisure to look abroad, and wishes every body equally happy.
It is likely to go very hard with Mrs. Fretchville. Her face, which she had valued herself upon, will be utterly ruined. ‘This good, however, as I could not but observe, she may reap from so great an evil—as the greater malady generally swallows up the less, she may have a grief on this occasion, that may diminish the other grief, and make it tolerable.’
I had a gentle reprimand for this light turn on so heavy an evil—’For what was the loss of beauty to the loss of a good husband?’—Excellent creature!
Her hopes (and her pleasure upon those hopes) that Miss Howe’s mother would be reconciled to her, were also mentioned. Good Mrs. Howe was her word, for a woman so covetous, and so remorseless in her covetousness, that no one else will call her good. But this dear creature has such an extension in her love, as to be capable of valuing the most insignificant animal related to those whom she respects. Love me, and love my dog, I have heard Lord M. say.—Who knows, but that I may in time, in compliment to myself, bring her to think well of thee, Jack?
But what am I about? Am I not all this time arraigning my own heart?—I know I am, by the remorse I feel in it, while my pen bears testimony to her excellence. But yet I must add (for no selfish consideration shall hinder me from doing justice to this admirable creature) that in this conversation she demonstrated so much prudent knowledge in every thing that relates to that part of the domestic management which falls under the care of a mistress of a family, that I believe she has no equal of her years in the world.
But, indeed, I know not the subject on which she does not talk with admirable distinction; insomuch that could I but get over my prejudices against matrimony, and resolve to walk in the dull beaten path of my ancestors, I should be the happiest of men—and if I cannot, I may be ten times more to be pitied than she.
My heart, my heart, Belford, is not to be trusted—I break off, to re-peruse some of Miss Howe’s virulence. […]
Cursed letters, these of Miss Howe, Jack!—Do thou turn back to those of mine, where I take notice of them—I proceed—
Upon the whole, my charmer was all gentleness, all ease, all serenity, throughout this sweet excursion. Nor had she reason to be otherwise: for it being the first time that I had the honour of her company sola, I was resolved to encourage her, by my respectfulness, to repeat the favour.
On our return, I found the counsellor’s clerk waiting for me, with a draught of the marriage-settlements.
They are drawn, with only the necessary variations, from those made for my mother. The original of which (now returned by the counsellor) as well as the new draughts, I have put into my beloved’s hands.
These settlements of my mother made the lawyer’s work easy; nor can she have a better precedent; the great Lord S. having settled them, at the request of my mother’s relations; all the difference, my charmer’s are £100 per annum more than my mother’s.
I offered to read to her the old deed, while she looked over the draught; for she had refused her presence at the examination with the clerk: but this she also declined.
I suppose she did not care to hear of so many children, first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh sons, and as many daughters, to be begotten upon the body of the said Clarissa Harlowe.
Charming matrimonial recitativoes!—though it is always said lawfully begotten too—as if a man could beget children unlawfully upon the body of his own wife.—But thinkest thou not that these arch rogues the lawyers hereby intimate, that a man may have children by his wife before marriage?—This must be what they mean. Why will these sly fellows put an honest man in minds of such rogueries?—But hence, as in numberless other instances, we see, that Law and Gospel are two very different things.
Dorcas, in our absence, tried to get at the wainscot-box in the dark closet. But it cannot be done without violence. And to run a risk of consequence now, for mere curiosity-sake, would be inexcusable.
Mrs. Sinclair and the nymphs are all of opinion, that I am now so much a favourite, and have such a visible share in her confidence, and even in her affections, that I may do what I will, and plead for excuse violence of passion; which, they will have it, makes violence of action pardonable with their sex; as well as allowed extenuation with the unconcerned of both sexes; and they all offer their helping hands. Why not? they say: Has she not passed for my wife before them all?—And is she not in a fine way of being reconciled to her friends?—And was not the want of that reconciliation the pretence for postponing the consummation?
They again urge me, since it is so difficult to make night my friend, to an attempt in the day. They remind me, that the situation of their house is such, that no noises can be heard out of it; and ridicule me for making it necessary for a lady to be undressed. It was not always so with me, poor old man! Sally told me; saucily flinging her handkerchief in my face.