Your dutiful and ever-obliged servant,
Mrs. Harlowe, to Mrs. Judith
Sunday, July 30.
We all know your virtuous prudence, worthy woman: we all do. But your partiality to this your rash favourite is likewise known. And we are no less acquainted with the unhappy body’s power of painting her distresses so as to pierce a stone.
Every one is of opinion that the dear naughty creature is working about to be forgiven and received: and for this reason it is that Betty has been forbidden, [not by me, you may be assured!] to mention any more of her letters; for she did speak to my Bella of some moving passages you read to her.
This will convince you that nothing will be heard in her favour. To what purpose then should I mention any thing about her?—But you may be sure that I will, if I can have but one second. However, that is not at all likely, until we see what the consequences of her crime will be: And who can tell that?—She may—How can I speak it, and my once darling daughter unmarried?—She may be with child!—This would perpetuate her stain. Her brother may come to some harm; which God forbid!—One child’s ruin, I hope, will not be followed by another’s murder!
As to her grief, and her present misery, whatever it be, she must bear with it; and it must be short of what I hourly bear for her! Indeed I am afraid nothing but her being at the last extremity of all will make her father, and her uncles, and her other friends, forgive her.
The easy pardon perverse children meet with, when they have done the rashest and most rebellious thing they can do, is the reason (as is pleaded to us every day) that so may follow their example. They depend upon the indulgent weakness of their parents’ tempers, and, in that dependence, harden their own hearts: and a little humiliation, when they have brought themselves into the foretold misery, is to be a sufficient atonement for the greatest perverseness.
But for such a child as this [I mention what others hourly say, but what I must sorrowfully subscribe to] to lay plots and stratagems to deceive her parents as well as herself! and to run away with a libertine! Can there be any atonement for her crime? And is she not answerable to God, to us, to you, and to all the world who knew her, for the abuse of such talents as she has abused?
You say her heart is half-broken: Is it to be wondered at? Was not her sin committed equally against warning and the light of her own knowledge?
That he would now marry her, or that she would refuse him, if she believed him in earnest, as she has circumstanced herself, is not at all probable; and were I inclined to believe it, nobody else here would. He values not his relations; and would deceive them as soon as any others: his aversion to marriage he has always openly declared; and still occasionally declares it. But, if he be now in earnest, which every one who knows him must doubt, which do you think (hating us too as he professes to hate and despise us all) would be most eligible here, To hear of her death, or of her marriage to such a vile man?