Mr. Williams pays another visit but, as Mrs. Jewkes forbids Pamela to walk with him in the garden, Pamela retires to her closet to write another letter to put between the tiles. In it, she chastises the clergyman for being so open with Mrs. Jewkes and demands to know what he has told her. She deposits the letter between the tiles and waits for an answer.
Pamela receives a letter from Mr. Williams in which he apologizes for his lack of guile and passes on what he has learned from John the footman, the fact that Mr. B. will go to London before long and visit Lincolnshire soon thereafter. He confirms that he has told Mrs. Jewkes nothing of the key but reports one worrisome fact, that John the footman has sent him a letter that appears to have gone missing. Pamela writes back to Mr. Williams expressing her concern about the missing letter and wondering whether John the footman may be lying about the destination of Mr. B.’s upcoming trip. She implores Mr. Williams to hurry up and supply her with a horse.
Pamela receives a letter from Mr. Williams in which he takes exception to her implication that he has not been doing his utmost to assist her. He defends John the footman and expresses confidence in his information. Through Mr. Williams, she also receives a letter from her father in which Mr. Andrews encourages her to marry the clergyman, though ultimately he defers to his daughter’s inclinations.
Mr. Williams visits on both Saturday and Sunday, but Pamela learns from Mrs. Jewkes that the housekeeper and the clergyman have quarreled. Pamela suspects that “there is Mischief brewing,” especially as Mrs. Jewkes seems impatient for a response to her most recent letter to Mr. B.
“Monday, Tuesday, the 25th and 26th Days of [her] heavy Restraint.”
Two letters have arrived from Mr. B., one for Pamela and one for Mrs. Jewkes, but with their addresses switched so that each woman reads the other’s letter. In Mrs. Jewkes’s letter, Mr. B. accuses Mr. Williams of “perfidious Intrigue” with Pamela and reveals that he has arranged to send the clergyman to prison for debt. Of Pamela he declares, “I now hate her perfectly,” and he plans to be in Lincolnshire in three weeks, at which time he will take his “Revenge” for her alleged intrigue with Mr. Williams.
Mrs. Jewkes appears, takes her letter from Pamela, and gives Pamela her own letter from Mr. B. After taking a few minutes to recover from what she has already read, Pamela reads what Mr. B. intended for her eyes. He accuses her of hypocrisy in standing on her purity while intending to run away with a clergyman she barely knows. He concludes that, while once he considered her innocence worth preserving, now “my Honor owes you nothing” and he will soon make clear the low regard in which he holds her.
Pamela laments that she now receives accusations of duplicity, simply because she strives to preserve her integrity. She asks Mrs. Jewkes to warn Mr. Williams of the impending action against him for debt, but the housekeeper insists that any such action would violate her duty toward Mr. B. Mrs. Jewkes then takes Pamela downstairs and introduces her to Monsieur Colbrand, a monstrous Swiss man whom Mr. B. has sent to keep watch over Pamela. His appearance appalls Pamela, who dreams that night of Mr. B. and Colbrand approaching her bedside with nefarious designs.
“Wednesday, the 27th Day of [her] Distress.”
Mr. Williams has been arrested for debt, and Pamela regrets it for both his sake and her own. Judging that the time for desperate measures has arrived, Pamela hatches a plan to escape through the window while Mrs. Jewkes is sleeping. Once outside, she will fake her own suicide by throwing her petticoat into the pond, thereby creating a diversion that will occupy the household while she gets away. She will bury her writings in the garden, because she expects to be searched thoroughly if she fails to escape.
Pamela overhears Mrs. Jewkes telling Colbrand that the waylaying of Mr. Williams was a contrivance of the housekeeper to acquire Pamela’s letters.
“Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, the 28th, 29th, 30th, and 31st Days of [her] Distress.”
On Wednesday night, once Mrs. Jewkes has fallen asleep, Pamela squeezes through the window bars and drops to the roof beneath her and thence to the ground. She buries her papers under a rose bush, tosses her petticoat and some other items into the pond, and runs to the door that leads from the garden into the pasture. She finds, however, that Mrs. Jewkes has changed the locks, so that Pamela’s key will not work. She tries climbing the wall but falls when the mortar crumbles, injuring her head, shins, and ankle. She seeks a ladder, but in vain.
Pamela’s next thought is to drown herself in earnest. She creeps toward the pond, sits on the bank, and reflects on her situation. She envisions the remorse of her persecutors upon the discovery of her corpse and rises to throw herself in. Her bruises slow her, however, and give her a chance to consider what purposes providence may have for subjecting her to such afflictions. She reasons that God would not try her beyond her strength and that even Mr. B. may undergo a change of heart. She chastises herself for presuming to shorten the life and trials God has given her and recognizes the folly of keeping herself free of sin for so many months, only to commit the unforgivable sin in the end.
Too maimed to reach the house, Pamela takes refuge in an outhouse, where she lies until Nan finds her in the morning. The servants, having been fooled by Pamela’s suicide diversion, are glad to find her alive. They carry Pamela to her bed, where Mrs. Jewkes and Nan tend to her injuries. Pamela remains in bed until Saturday morning, when Mrs. Jewkes reveals that Mr. B., who is a Justice of the Peace, has provided the housekeeper with a warrant for the apprehension of Pamela in the case of her escape, so that Pamela would almost certainly not have gotten far even had she made it over the wall.
Pamela learns that Mr. B. nearly drowned a few days ago while hunting, and she marvels at her sympathetic reaction to this news: she rejoices for his safety in spite of all he has done to her. She also learns, through Mrs. Jewkes, that a number of the servants at the Bedfordshire estate have incurred Mr. B.’s displeasure. Mr. Longman, Mr. Jonathan, and Mrs. Jervis have spoken to him and to his sister in Pamela’s behalf, and Mr. B. has even dismissed John the footman for having corresponded with Mr. Williams.
“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, the 32nd, 33rd, and 34th Days of [her] Imprisonment.”
Pamela has little to report besides continued “Squabblings” with Mrs. Jewkes.
Pamela perceives that the servants are busy tidying the house, and she infers that Mr. B. is on his way.
Pamela makes this, her final attempt at escape, in spite of the fact that all of her human supports have fallen away. Mr. Williams is in debtor’s prison without having supplied her with a horse, the neighbors have all refused to help her, and the arrival of the monstrous Monsieur Colbrand has stacked the deck of human agency further against her. She undertakes the attempt with no hope of human assistance, trusting only to herself and to God, who may “succeed to me my dangerous, but innocent Devices.”
In this episode, it becomes clear why Richardson chose to keep Mr. B. away from Lincolnshire for a symbolic forty days. Lincolnshire is the site of Pamela’s greatest temptation in spite of the fact that Mr. B. is not present to seduce her: the temptation turns out to be a classically religious one, namely despair, and Pamela’s fumbling in the darkened garden has biblical echoes of being fallen and spiritual wandering. When she overcomes her impulse to suicide beside the pond, thereby “escap[ing] from an Enemy worse than any she ever met with,” she will come to a new self-knowledge and a new humility.
The enemy, in Pamela’s analysis, is “the Weakness and Presumption . . . of her own Mind.” In her self-examination, she lays emphasis on her own “Presumption” and pride, demanding of herself, “who gave thee, presumptuous as thou art, a Power over thy Life?” Again, “how do I know, but that God . . . may have permitted these Sufferings . . . to make me rely solely on his Grace and Assistance, who, perhaps, have too much prided myself in a vain Dependence on my own foolish Contrivances?” Despite her continual references to God and grace, Pamela has relied in Lincolnshire on her own relentless plotting, an occupation that has had the double bad effect of distracting her from her ultimate dependence on divine providence and cultivating her disposition to be suspicious of those around her. When her final, desperate escape attempt collapses in such a spectacular manner, and due to such prosaic obstacles, her human limitations become plain, and despair is the result. Aside from her pride of earthly achievement, however, perhaps the most important casualty of her struggle against despair is her spiritual pride. Pamela has always had faith in God, but she must have greater faith in the value of human life on earth, lest her striving for perfection end with her destroying herself in order to be avatar of inhuman virtue.
The scene of Pamela’s near-suicide is crucial, then, to her moral and spiritual development; it is also an instructive example of how Richardson recommends that we “read” both his novel and real life. Pamela’s intuition of a divine intervention in her psychological struggle beside the pond may seem far-fetched to modern readers; certainly, her constant praise and supplication of the divine will has proven alienating to the modern mind where it endeared her to her eighteenth-century audience. To dismiss Richardson’s conviction of the providential significance of all events would be, however, to miss a major premise of the novel. Fortuna contends, “those times in the novel when Pamela is saved, dissuaded from suicide or protected from rape, however improbable, fantastic, or silly these may seem to the casual reader, are in fact fictive counterparts, thematic mirroring, of that providential rule and order which Richardson himself, along with the theologians and divines of his day, saw evidenced in the events of everyday life.” The discovery of just this “providential rule” in “everyday life” clarifies for Pamela her situation, endowing her with a sense of her ultimate weakness and paradoxically renewing her strength to meet earthly challenges.
One of the effects of this “Ray of Grace” is to impart to Pamela greater spiritual equipoise, which will manifest itself in her attitude and conduct henceforward. Though her captivity continues and her assailant approaches, and despite the fact that she has run entirely out of plans to escape his designs upon her purity, Pamela will not give up on her defense of her virtue, nor will she fail in charity toward her Master. On Sunday afternoon, she genuinely rejoices to learn that he has avoided the same fate, drowning, that he nearly drove her to embrace in desperation. Pamela has reached and passed the crisis of her moral and spiritual life; what remains is for her struggle against her earthly tormentor to reach its long-deferred culmination.