I know not what may still be the perverse beauty’s fate: I want thee, therefore, to see and admire her, while she is serene and full of hope: before her apprehensions are realized, if realized they are to be; and if evil apprehensions of me she really has; before her beamy eyes have lost their lustre; while yet her charming face is surrounded with all its virgin glories; and before the plough of disappointment has thrown up furrows of distress upon every lovely feature.
If I can procure you this honour you will be ready to laugh out, as I have often much ado to forbear, at the puritanical behaviour of the mother before this lady. Not an oath, not a curse, nor the least free word, escapes her lips. She minces in her gait. She prims up her horse-mouth. Her voice, which, when she pleases, is the voice of thunder, is sunk into an humble whine. Her stiff hams, that have not been bent to a civility for ten years past, are now limbered into courtesies three deep at ever word. Her fat arms are crossed before her; and she can hardly be prevailed upon to sit in the presence of my goddess.
I am drawing up instructions for ye all to observe on Monday night.
Most confoundedly alarmed!—Lord, Sir, what do you think? cried Dorcas —My lady is resolved to go to church to-morrow! I was at quadrille with the women below.—To church! said I, and down I laid my cards. To church! repeated they, each looking upon the other. We had done playing for that night.
Who could have dreamt of such a whim as this?—Without notice, without questions! Her clothes not come! No leave asked!—Impossible she should think of being my wife!—Besides, she don’t consider, if she go to church, I must go too!—Yet not to ask for my company! Her brother and Singleton ready to snap her up, as far as she knows!—Known by her clothes—her person, her features, so distinguished!—Not such another woman in England!—To church of all places! Is the devil in the girl? said I, as soon as I could speak.
Well, but to leave this subject till to-morrow morning, I will now give you the instructions I have drawn up for your’s and your companions’ behaviour on Monday night.
Instructions to be observed by John Belford, Richard
Belton, and James Tourville, Esquires of the Body to General Robert
Lovelace, on their admission to the presence of his Goddess.
Ye must be sure to let it sink deep into your heavy heads, that there is no such lady in the world as Miss Clarissa Harlowe; and that she is neither more nor less than Mrs. Lovelace, though at present, to my shame be it spoken, a virgin.
Be mindful also, that your old mother’s name, after that of her mother when a maid, is Sinclair: that her husband was a lieutenant-colonel, and all that you, Belford, know from honest Doleman’s letter of her,* that let your brethren know.