A letter is put into my hands by Wilson himself.—Such a letter!
A letter from Miss Howe to her cruel friend!—
I made no scruple to open it.
It is a miracle that I fell not into fits at the reading of it; and at the thought of what might have been the consequence, had it come into the hands of this Clarissa Harlowe. Let my justly-excited rage excuse my irreverence. […]
Oh this devilish Miss Howe;—something must be resolved upon and done with that little fury! […]
Thou wilt see the margin of this cursed letter crowded with indices [>>>]. I put them to mark the places which call for vengeance upon the vixen writer, or which require animadversion. Return thou it to me the moment thou hast perused it.
Read it here; and avoid trembling for me, if thou canst.
[…] >>> It was plain to me, indeed, to whom you communicated all that you knew of your own heart, though not all of it that I found out, that love had pretty early gained footing in it.
>>> And this you yourself would have discovered sooner than you did, had not his alarming, his unpolite, his rough conduct, kept it under. […]
>>> As this man’s vanity had made him imagine, that no woman could be proof against love, when his address was honourable; no wonder that he struggled, like a lion held in toils, against a passion that he thought not returned. And how could you, at first, show a return in love, to so fierce a spirit, and who had seduced you away by vile artifices, but to the approval of those artifices. […]
[…] Many a little villain have I punished for knowing more than I would have her know, and that by adding to her knowledge and experience. What thinkest thou, Belford, if, by getting hither this virago, and giving cause for a lamentable letter from her to the fair fugitive, I should be able to recover her? Would she not visit that friend in her distress, thinkest thou, whose intended visit to her in her’s brought her into the condition from which she herself had so perfidiously escaped?
Let me enjoy the thought!
Shall I send this letter?—Thou seest I have left room, if I fail in the exact imitation of so charming a hand, to avoid too strict a scrutiny. Do they not both deserve it of me? Seest thou now how the raving girl threatens her mother? Ought she not to be punished? And can I be a worse devil, or villain, or monster, that she calls me in the long letter I enclose (and has called me in her former letters) were I to punish them both as my vengeance urges me to punish them? And when I have executed that my vengeance, how charmingly satisfied may they both go down into the country and keep house together, and have a much better reason than their pride could give them, for living the single life they have both seemed so fond of! […]
But this, Belford, I hope—that if I can turn the poison of the enclosed letter into wholesome ailment; that is to say, if I can make use of it to my advantage; I shall have thy free consent to do it.
I am always careful to open covers cautiously, and to preserve seals entire. I will draw out from this cursed letter an alphabet. Nor was Nick Rowe ever half so diligent to learn Spanish, at the Quixote recommendation of a certain peer, as I will be to gain the mastery of this vixen’s hand.