MISS CLARISSA HARLOWE, TO MISS HOWE TUESDAY, MARCH 21.
Would you not have thought, my dear Miss Howe, as well as I, that my
proposal must have been accepted: and that my brother, by the last
article of his unbrotherly letter (where he threatens to go to
Scotland if it should be hearkened to) was of opinion that it would.
For my part, after I had read the unkind letter over and over, I
concluded, upon the whole, that a reconciliation upon terms so
disadvantageous to myself, as hardly any other person in my case, I
dare say, would have proposed, must be the result of this morning's
conference. And in that belief I had begun to give myself new trouble
in thinking (this difficulty over) how I should be able to pacify
Lovelace on that part of my engagement, by which I undertook to break
off all correspondence with him, unless my friends should be brought,
by the interposition of his powerful friends, and any offers they
might make, (which it was rather his part to suggest, than mine to
intimate,) to change their minds.
Thus was I employed, not very agreeably, you may believe, because of
the vehemence of the tempers I had to conflict with; when
breakfasting-time approached, and my judges began to arrive.
And oh! how my heart fluttered on hearing the chariot of the one, and
then of the other, rattle through the court-yard, and the hollow- sounding foot-step giving notice of each person's stepping out, to
take his place on the awful bench which my fancy had formed for them
and my other judges!
That, thought I, is my aunt Hervey's! That my uncle Harlowe's! Now
comes my uncle Antony! And my imagination made a fourth chariot for
the odious Solmes, although it happened he was not there.
And now, thought I, are they all assembled: and now my brother calls
upon my sister to make her report! Now the hard-hearted Bella
interlards her speech with invective! Now has she concluded her
report! Now they debate upon it!--Now does my brother flame! Now
threaten to go to Scotland! Now is he chidden, and now soothed!
And then I ran through the whole conference in my imagination, forming
speeches for this person and that, pro and con, till all concluded, as
I flattered myself, in an acceptance of my conditions, and in giving
directions to have an instrument drawn to tie me up to my good
behaviour; while I supposed all agreed to give Solmes a wife every way
more worthy of him, and with her the promise of my grandfather's
estate, in case of my forfeiture, or dying unmarried, on the righteous
condition he proposes to entitle himself to it with me.
And now, thought I, am I to be ordered down to recognize my own
proposals. And how shall I look upon my awful judges? How shall I
stand the questions of some, the set surliness of others, the
returning love of one or two? How greatly shall I be affected!
Then I wept: then I dried my eyes: then I practised at my glass for a
look more cheerful than my heart.
And now [as any thing stirred] is my sister coming to declare the
issue of all! Tears gushing again, my heart fluttering as a bird
against its wires; drying my eyes again and again to no purpose.
And thus, my Nancy, [excuse the fanciful prolixity,] was I employed,
and such were my thoughts and imaginations, when I found a very
different result from the hopeful conference.
For about ten o'clock up came my sister, with an air of cruel triumph,
waving her hand with a light flourish--
Obedience without reserve is required of you, Clary. My papa is
justly incensed, that you should presume to dispute his will, and to
make conditions with him. He knows what is best for you: and as you
own matters are gone a great way between this hated Lovelace and you,
they will believe nothing you say; except you will give the one only
instance, that will put them out of doubt of the sincerity of your
What, child, are you surprised?--Cannot you speak?--Then, it seems,
you had expected a different issue, had you?--Strange that you could! --With all your acknowledgements and confessions, so creditable to
your noted prudence!--
I was indeed speechless for some time: my eyes were even fixed, and
ceased to flow. But upon the hard-hearted Bella's proceeding with her
airs of insult, Indeed I was mistaken, said I; indeed I was!----For in
you, Bella, I expected, I hoped for, a sister--
What! interrupted she, with all your mannerly flings, and your
despising airs, did you expect that I was capable of telling stories
for you?--Did you think, that when I was asked my own opinion of the
sincerity of your declarations, I could not tell tem, how far matters
had gone between you and your fellow?--When the intention is to bend
that stubborn will of yours to your duty, do you think I would deceive
them?--Do you think I would encourage them to call you down, to
contradict all that I should have invented in your favour?
Well, well, Bella; I am the less obliged to you; that's all. I was
willing to think that I had still a brother and sister. But I find I
Pretty mopsy-eyed soul!--was her expression!--And was it willing to
think it had still a brother and sister? And why don't you go on,
Clary? [mocking my half-weeping accent] I thought I had a father, and
mother, two uncles, and an aunt: but I am mis--taken, that's all-- come, Clary, say this, and it will in part be true, because you have
thrown off all their authority, and because you respect one vile
wretch more than them all.
How have I deserved this at your hands, Sister?--But I will only say,
I pity you.
And with that disdainful air too, Clary!--None of that bridled neck!
none of your scornful pity, girl!--I beseech you!
This sort of behaviour is natural to you, surely, Bella!--What new
talents does it discover in you!--But proceed--If it be a pleasure to
you, proceed, Bella. And since I must not pity you, I will pity
myself: for nobody else will.
Because you don't, said she--
Hush, Bella, interrupting her, because I don't deserve it--I know you
were going to say so. I will say as you say in every thing; and
that's the way to please you.
Then say, Lovelace is a villain.
So I will, when I think him so.
Then you don't think him so?
Indeed I don't. You did not always, Bella.
And what, Clary, mean you by that? [bristling up to me]--Tell me what
you mean by that reflection?
Tell me why you call it a reflection?--What did I say?
Thou art a provoking creature--But what say you to two or three duels
of that wretch's?
I can't tell what to say, unless I knew the occasions.
Do you justify duelling at all?
I do not: neither can I help his duelling.
Will you go down, and humble that stubborn spirit of yours to your
I said nothing.
Shall I conduct your Ladyship down? [offering to take my declined
What! not vouchsafe to answer me?
I turned from her in silence.
What! turn your back upon me too!--Shall I bring up your mamma to you,
love? [following me, and taking my struggling hand] What? not speak
yet! Come, my sullen, silent dear, speak one word to me--you must say
two very soon to Mr. Solmes, I can tell you that.
Then [gushing into tears, which I could not hold in longer] they shall
be the last words I will ever speak.
Well, well, [insultingly wiping my averted face with her handkerchief,
while her other hand held mine, in a ridiculing tone,] I am glad any
thing will make thee speak: then you think you may be brought to speak
the two words--only they are to be the last!--How like a gentle lovyer
from its tender bleeding heart was that!
Saucy Clary! [changing her sneering tone to an imperious one] But do
you think you can humble yourself to go down to your mamma?
I am tired of such stuff as this. Tell me, Bella, if my mamma will
condescend to see me?
Yes, if you can be dutiful at last.
I can. I will.
But what call you dutiful?
To give up my own inclinations--That's something more for you to tell
of--in obedience to my parents' commands; and to beg that I may not be
made miserable with a man that is fitter for any body than for me.
For me, do you mean, Clary?
Why not? since you have put the question. You have a better opinion
of him than I have. My friends, I hope, would not think him too good
for me, and not good enough for you. But cannot you tell me, Bella,
what is to become of me, without insulting over me thus?--If I must be
thus treated, remember, that if I am guilty of any rashness, the usage
I meet with will justify it.
So, Clary, you are contriving an excuse, I find, for somewhat that we
have not doubted has been in your head a great while.
If it were so, you seem resolved, for your part, and so does my
brother for his, that I shall not want one.--But indeed, Bella, I can
bear no longer this repetition of the worst part of yesterday's
conversation: I desire I may throw myself at my father's and mother's
feet, and hear from them what their sentence is. I shall at least
avoid, by that means, the unsisterly insults I meet with from you.
Hey-day! What, is this you? Is it you, my meek sister Clary?
Yes, it is I, Bella; and I will claim the protection due to a child of
the family, or to know why I am to be thus treated, when I offer only
to preserve to myself the liberty of refusal, which belongs to my sex;
and, to please my parents, would give up my choice. I have contented
myself till now to take second-hand messengers, and first-hand
insults: you are but my sister: my brother is not my sovereign. And
while I have a father and mother living, I will not be thus treated by
a brother and sister, and their servants, all setting upon me, as it
should seem, to make me desperate, and do a rash thing.--I will know,
in short, sister Bella, why I am to be constrained thus?--What is
intended by it?--And whether I am to be considered as a child or a
She stood aghast all this time, partly with real, partly with
And is it you? Is it indeed you?--Well, Clary, you amaze me! But
since you are so desirous to refer yourself to your father and mother,
I will go down, and tell them what you say. Your friends are not yet
gone, I believe: they shall assemble again; and then you may come
down, and plead your own cause in person.
Let me then. But let my brother and you be absent. You have made
yourselves too much parties against me, to sit as my judges. And I
desire to have none of yours or his interpositions. I am sure you
could not have represented what I proposed fairly: I am sure you could
not. Nor is it possible you should be commissioned to treat me thus.
Well, well, I'll call up my brother to you.--I will indeed.--He shall
justify himself, as well as me.
I desire not to see my brother, except he will come as a brother,
laying aside the authority he has unjustly assumed over me.
And so, Clary, it is nothing to him, or to me, is it, that our sister
shall disgrace her whole family?
As how, Bella, disgrace it?--The man whom you thus freely treat, is a
man of birth and fortune: he is a man of parts, and nobly allied.--He
was once thought worthy of you: and I wish to Heaven you had had him.
I am sure it was not thus my fault you had not, although you treat me
This set her into a flame: I wish I had forborne it. O how the poor
Bella raved! I thought she would have beat me once or twice: and she
vowed her fingers itched to do so--but I was not worth her anger: yet
she flamed on.
We were heard to be high.--And Betty came up from my mother to command
my sister to attend her.--She went down accordingly, threatening me
with letting every one know what a violent creature I had shewn myself
TUESDAY NOON, MARCH 21.
I have as yet heard no more of my sister: and have not courage enough
to insist upon throwing myself at the feet of my father and mother, as
I thought in my heat of temper I should be able to do. And I am now
grown as calm as ever; and were Bella to come up again, as fit to be
played upon as before.
I am indeed sorry that I sent her from me in such disorder. But my
papa's letter threatening me with my uncle Antony's house and chapel,
terrifies me strangely; and by their silence I'm afraid some new storm
But what shall I do with this Lovelace? I have just now, but the
unsuspected hole in the wall (that I told you of in my letter by
Hannah) got a letter from him--so uneasy is he for fear I should be
prevailed upon in Solmes's favour; so full of menaces, if I am; so
resenting the usage I receive [for, how I cannot tell, but he has
undoubtedly intelligence of all that is done in the family]; such
protestations of inviolable faith and honour; such vows of
reformation; such pressing arguments to escape from this disgraceful
confinement--O my Nancy, what shall I do with this Lovelace?--