But in spite of my compassion for Hickman, whose better character is sometimes my envy, and who is one of those mortals that bring clumsiness into credit with the mothers, to the disgrace of us clever fellows, and often to our disappointment, with the daughters; and who has been very busy in assisting these double-armed beauties against me; I swear by all the dii majores, as well as minores, that I will have Miss Howe, if I cannot have her more exalted friend! And then, if there be as much flaming love between these girls as they pretend, will my charmer profit by her escape?
And now, that I shall permit Miss Howe to reign a little longer, let me ask thee, if thou hast not, in the enclosed letter, a fresh instance, that a great many of my difficulties with her sister-toast are owing to this flighty girl?—’Tis true that here was naturally a confounded sharp winter air; and if a little cold water was thrown into the path, no wonder that it was instantly frozen; and that the poor honest traveller found it next to impossible to keep his way; one foot sliding back as fast as the other advanced, to the endangering of his limbs or neck. But yet I think it impossible that she should have baffled me as she has done (novice as she is, and never before from under her parents’ wings) had she not been armed by a virago, who was formerly very near showing that she could better advise than practise. But this, I believe, I have said more than once before.
I am loth to reproach myself, now the cruel creature has escaped me; For what would that do, but add to my torment? since evils self-caused, and avoidable, admit not of palliation or comfort. And yet, if thou tellest me, that all her strength was owing to my weakness, and that I have been a cursed coward in this whole affair; why, then, Jack, I may blush, and be vexed; but, by my soul, I cannot contradict thee.
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.
Miss Clarissa Harlowe, to miss
Thursday evening, June 8.
After my last, so full of other hopes, the contents of this will surprise you. O my dearest friend, the man has at last proved himself to be a villain!
It was with the utmost difficulty last night, that I preserved myself from the vilest dishonour. He extorted from me a promise of forgiveness, and that I would see him next day, as if nothing had happened: but if it were possible to escape from a wretch, who, as I have too much reason to believe, formed a plot to fire the house, to frighten me, almost naked, into his arms, how could I see him next day?