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denial or evasion would but, in this case, as it generally did, defeat its own end, and strengthen what it aimed to weaken.
Is there no obtaining such a mother, thought I, without marrying Lord D-?-And should I refuse to see him, if an interview is desired, especially when Lady L- has seemed to encourage the Countess to think, that Somebody has no thoughts-Indeed I don't desire that that Somebody should-If-I don't know what I was going to add to that if. But pray tell my grandmamma, that I hope her Harriet will never give her cause to lament her being entangled in a hopeless passion. No, indeed!
But, my Lucy, one silly question to you who have been a little entangled, and more happily disentangled: I catch myself of late in saying him, and he, and writing to you somebody, and such like words, instead of saying and writing boldly, as I used to do, Sir Charles, and Sir Charles Grandison; which would sound more respectfully, and yet am sure I want not respect. What is the meaning of this?—Is it a sign-Ah! my Lucy! you said you would keep a sharp look out; and did I not say I would upon myself? Surely I said truth: Surely you will think so, when you see such little silly things as these do not escape me. But when you think me too trifling, my dear, don't expose me. Don't read it out in the venerable circle. That to some may appear very weak and silly, which by others will be thought excusable, because natural. It would be wrong (as I yet never did it) to write separately to you. And what have I in my heart, were it to be laid open to all the world, that I should be-afraid-I was going to write, that I should be ashamed of? But I think I am a little ashamed, at times, for all that-Ah, Lucy! don't add," and so I ought."
Lady D- repeated her desire of being acquainted with Sir Charles. She has no daughter: so it was purely for the sake of his great character. She heard, she said, that he was the politest of brothers. That was always a good sign with her. He gives you, Miss Grandison, I am told, a great deal of his company.
Miss Grandison said, that her brother, she believed, was one of the busiest men in the kingdom, who was not engaged in public affairs; and yet the most of a family man. I endeavour, said she, to make home delightful to him. I never break in upon him when he is in his study, without leave; indeed I seldom ask it; for when he is inclined to give me his company, he sends his compliments to me, and requests, as a favour, from me, what I am always ready to consider as one done to me. And I see he loves me. He is not uneasy in my company: he comes for half an hour, and stays an hour-But don't set me into talking of him; for my heart always dilates, when I enter into the agreeable subject, and I know not where to stop.
Lady L. Charlotte is a happy girl. Miss Gr. And Lady L- is a happy woman; for he loves her as well as he loves me. Indeed he is so good as to say, (but I know it is to keep us from pulling caps,) that he knows not which he loves best: we have different qualities, he says; and he admires in each what the other has not.
Lady D. But what are his employments? What can he be so much busied in?
Miss Gr. A continual round of good offices. He has a ward. She has a large fortune. The attention he pays to her affairs takes up a good deal of his time. He is his own steward; and then he has a variety of other engagements, of which we ask him not one word; yet long to know something about them.-But this we are sure of, that, if he thinks anything will give us pleasure, we shall hear of it: if the contrary, he is as secret as the night.
Will nobody say one bad or one indifferent thing of this man, Lucy! There is no bearing these things! O, my dear, what a nobody is your poor Harriet!
Lady D. He is one of the handsomest men in England, they tell me.
Miss Gr. Sisters are not judges. They may be partial. His benignity of heart makes his face shine. Had I a lover but half as handsome as I think my brother, I should make no objection to him on account of the person.
Lady L. But he is the genteelest of men !What think you, sister Harriet ? Har. "Sisters are not judges. They may be partial."
What meant Lady L―
to apply to me? But I had been sometime silent. She could not mean anything: and both sisters complimented me on recognizing the relation. Lady Din town?
asked me how long I should stay
I said, I believed not long. I had leave for three months. Those would be soon elapsed; and as my friends were so good as to be pleased with my company, I should rather choose to walk within than step out of my limits.
The Countess, with a nod of approbation, said, With good young people it will be always so: and this is more praiseworthy in Miss Byron, as she may do what she pleases.
Then taking me a little aside-I hope, my dear, you meant nothing contrary to my wishes, when you referred, in so doubtful a manner, to what you had written to your aunt? You don't answer me! This is a call upon your frankness. Women, when anything is depending, on which they have set their hearts, are impatient-Don't you know that?-They love not suspense.
It is painful to me, madam, to decline a proposal that would give me a relation to so excelfent a lady—But
But what, my dear ?-Let not maidenly affec
tation step in with its cold water. You are above it. Woman to woman, daughter to motherYou are above it.
Then, turning to the ladies, and to my cousins-You don't know, any of you, (we are by ourselves,) that Miss Byron's heart is engaged? Miss Grandison, let me apply to you: maiden ladies open their hearts to one another. Know you whether Miss Byron has yet seen the man to whom she wishes to give her hand? Her aunt Selby writes to me, that she has not.
Miss Gr. We young women, madam, often know least of our own hearts. We are almost as unwilling to find out ourselves, in certain cases, as to be found out by others. Speak, sister Harriet: answer for yourself.
[Was not this grievous, Lucy? And yet what ailed me, that I could not speak without hesitation! But this lady's condescending goodness -Yet this wicked Sir Hargrave! His attempt, his cruel treatment of me, has made me quite another creature than I was.]
My aunt Selby, madam, wrote the truth. To say I wish not to marry for some time to come, may sound like an affectation, because I have ever honoured the state-But something has happened that has put me out of conceit with myself, and with men too.
Lady D. With all men, child?—I will allow for a great many things in a weak mind, that I will not in yours. I have had a hint or two about an insult, or I know not what, from Sir Hargrave Pollexfen, since I came to town; for I have asked after you, my dear: but what is that but a confirmation of your merits? What a disagreeable woman must she be, whom but one man in the world could like!
But excuse me, Miss Byron, I have said abundance of impertinent things: I have gone farther on this first visit than I intended. You must thank for this that ingenuous and open countenance, which confirms, at first sight, the character I had heard given by everybody who spoke of you. I shall see, perhaps, what your aunt Selby, to whom you refer, writes, when I get down. I shall soon be in town, as I said, for the rest of the winter; and then I will make myself mistress of your whole history from these ladies, and from yourself: and there shall end all my inquiries, and, I hope, all my solicitudes, on an article that is next my heart.-Meantime, adieu, my dear-Adieu.
She then, courtesying to all round, gave her hand to Mr Reeves, who led her to her chair; leaving us all full of her praises.
Miss Gr. Looking archly I say nothing as to her particular errand, because I would not be too curious; and because you ask me no questions, Harriet.
Lady L. This must do, Miss Byron: who would not wish for such a mother?
Har. Is the mother to be the principal inducement in such an article as this?
Miss Gr. Why, my dear, do you pretend in such an age of petits-maîtres, to live single, till you meet with a man who deserves you?-But, Harriet, you must voluntarily open your heart to me. I have a good deal of curiosity; and, whenever you are disposed to gratify it, will not withdraw my attention.
Har. I will read to you this moment, if you please, ladies, as to my sisters, what Lady Dwrote to my aunt Selby; and what my aunt answered on the occasion.
Miss Gr. That's my best Harriet! I love to hear how and everything about these sort of matters. Lady L. These girls, Mrs Reeves, delight in love subjects: there is a kind of enthusiasm in these matters that runs away with them.
Miss Gr. Say you so, Lady L—? And pray had you ever any of this enthusiasm ? And if you had, did matrimony cure you of it?— See, Harriet! My sister has not been married many months; yet how quietly she now talks of the enthusiasm of love to us maidens !-Ah! my dear Lady L-! women, I see, have their free-masonry, as well as men! Don't you think so, Mrs Reeves? A poor secret after all, I believe, on both sides, whispered the lively lady; but loud enough for every one to hear what she
Lady L called her a mad girl. But let us be favoured, said she to me, with your communications.
I pulled out the letters. I read the two first paragraphs in my aunt's letter to me, entire; for they propose the matter, and nothing else.
What follows, said I, is full of love and care, and so forth; but here is one paragraph more Í can read to you.
Miss Gr. As much reserve as you please, sister Harriet. I am learning how to deal with you.
Lady L. Why that, Charlotte? No fear that you will tell us more than you have a mind we should know. Regard not, therefore, this threatening, Miss Byron.
Har. To own the truth, I cannot read everything my aunt writes: but the Countess of D- -'s proposal, and what relates to that, I will read, if you please.
Miss Gr. What you will-Read what you will. I find we are not at present so well acquainted, as we shall be hereafter.
What could Miss Grandison mean by that? I read the last paragraph but one, in which my aunt proposes my coming down; and that I will either encourage the Countess's proposal, or accept of Mr Orme; ending with the earnest desire of my friends to have me married.
I then gave into Miss Grandison's hands the Countess's first letter; and she read it out.
She gave it me back, and thanked me. Were all women, said she, capable of acting thus frankly, the sex would leave affectation to the men-monkeys. Remember, Harriet, that your
openness of heart is one of the graces for which I principally admire you.
Lady L. O the rogue! Take care of her, Miss Byron! She tells you this, to get out of you all your secrets.
Har. Miss Grandison may easily obtain her end, madam. She need only tell me what she best likes I should be; and I must try to be that. Miss Gr. Good girl! And take this along with you; that when you convince me, that you will not hide, I will convince you, that I will not seek. But what is next?
I then gave into her hand the copy of my aunt Selby's answer.
Miss Gr. May I read it all?
Har. If you please: the fondness of my aunt, and the partiality of――
Miss Gr. Away, away, Harriet !-No affectation, child!
She read it out. Both sisters praised the heart of the dear and thrice indulgent writer; and called her their aunt Selby.
I then gave Miss Grandison the Countess's second letter. They were no less pleased with that than with the first.
Miss Gr. But now your opinion of the proposal, child? Will you trust us with that? Have you a copy of what you wrote? Har. I kept a copy only of what immediately respected the proposal; and that, because it was possible I might want to have recourse to it, as my aunt might, or might not, write farther about it. I took it out of my pocket-book, and gave it to her to read.
Thank you, child, said she: I should have no curiosity if I did not love you.
She read it out. It was the paragraph that begins with, "You will, upon the strength of what I have said," &c.-ending with," Such is my meaning."-Luckily, I had not transcribed the concluding sentence of that paragraph; having been ashamed of the odd words, hope of your hope.
Lady L. But why should that be your meaning, my dear?
Har. I added, I remember, that I was pained by the teazings of these men, one after another; that I never took delight in the airy adulation; and was now the more pained, because of the vile attempt of Sir Hargrave, which had given me a surfeit of the sex.
Miss Gr. A temporary surfeit! it is over, I hope, by this time. But, my dear-And yet, as I owe to your generosity the communication, I would not take occasion from it to teaze you
Har. Miss Grandison will oblige me, say what she pleases.
Miss Gr. As you intend to marry—As your friends are very desirous that you should-As Lady D- is an excellent woman-As her son is, as men go, a tolerable ran-As he is a peer of the realm; which is something in the scale, though it is not of weight, singly considered
As his estate is very considerable-As you may have your own terms-As you like not any one of your numerous admirers:-All these as's considered, why, why, in the name of goodness, should you give so flat a denial? Yet have not seen the gentleman, and therefore can have no dislike either to his sense or his person? I wish, my dear, you would give such a reason for your denial, a denial so strongly expressed, as one would imagine such a woman as the Countess of D would be satisfied with, from such a one as Miss Byron.
Lady L. Perhaps, now that Miss Byron has seen what a lady the Countess of D- isMiss Gr. And now that she has overcome the temporary surfeit
Lady L. She will change her mind.
[Are you not, my dear aunt Selby, are you not, my Lucy, distressed for me at this place? I was at the time greatly so for myself.]
Har. My mind has been disturbed by Sir Hargrave's violence; and by apprehensions of fatal mischiefs that might too probably have followed the generous protection given me: wonder not, therefore, ladies, if I am unable, on a sudden, to give such reasons for having refused to listen to Lady D's proposal, as you require; although, at the same time, I find not in my heart the least inclination to encourage it.
Miss Gr. You have had your difficulties of late, my Harriet, to contend with: and those you must look upon as a tax to be paid by a merit so conspicuous. Even in this slighter case, as you love to oblige, I can pity you for the situation you are likely to be in, betwixt the refused son and the deserving mother. But when you consider, that the plagues of the discreet proceed from other people, those of the indiscreet from themselves, you will sit down with a just compliment to yourself, and be content. You see I can be grave now and then, child.
Har. May I deserve to be called prudent and discreet! On that condition I am willing to incur the penalty.
Lady L. Come, come; that is out of the question, my dear: so you are contented of course, or in the way to be so.
The ladies took their leave, and seemed plcased with their visit.
It is now, my dear friends, somehow or other, become necessary, I think, to let you minutely into my situation, that you may advise, caution, and instruct me-For, I protest, I am in a sort of wilderness.-Pray, my Lucy, tell me-But it cannot be from love: so I don't care-Yet to lie under such a weight of obligation; and to find myself so much surpassed by these ladies -Yet it is not from envy, surely that is a very bad passion. I hope my bosom has not a place in it for such a mean self-tormentor. Can it
be from pride? Pride is a vice that always produces mortification: and proud you all made me of your favour-Yet I thought it was grateful to be proud of it.
[I wish I were with you, Lucy. I should ask you abundance of questions; and repose my anxious heart on your faithful bosom ; and, at the same time, from your answers, arm it against too great a sensibility before it is too late.
But, pray, don't I remember, that you said, you found sighing a relief to you, on a certain occasion?-I am serious, my dear. That there was a sort of you know not what of pleasure in sighing? Yet that it was involuntary?-Did you not say, that you were ready to quarrel with yourself, you knew not why?-And, pray, had you not a fretting gnawing pain in your stomach, that made you-I can't tell how to describe it; yet were humble, meek, as if looking out for pity from everybody, and ready to pity everybody? -Were you not attentive to stories of people, young women especially, labouring under doubts and difficulties?-Was not your humanity raised? your self-consequence lowered? But did you not think suspense the greatest of all torments?-I think, my dear, you lived without eating or drinking; yet looked not pining, but fresh. Your rest-I remember it was broken. In your sleep you seemed to be disturbed. You were continually rolling down mountains, or tumbling from precipices-or were borne down by tempests, carried away with sudden inundations; or sinking in deep waters; or flying from fires, thieves, robbers
How apt are we to recollect, or to try to recollect, when we are apprehensive that a case may possibly be our own, all those circumstances, of which, while another's, (however dear that other might be to us,) we had not any clear or adequate ideas!-But I know, that such of these as I recollect not from you, must be owing to the danger, to the terror, I was in from the violence of Sir Hargrave Pollexfen. Often and often do I dream over again what I suffered from him. I am now imploring mercy from him; and meet with nothing but upbraidings and me naces. He is now stopping my mouth with his handkerchief; his horrible clergyman, if a clergyman he was, is reading the service quite through and I am contending against the legality of the asserted marriage. At other times, I have escaped; and he is pursuing me: he gains upon my flying feet; and I wake myself with endeavouring in vain to cry out for help.
But when fancy is more propitious to me, then comes my rescuer, my deliverer and he is sometimes a mighty prince, (dreams then make me a perfect romancer,) and I am a damsel in distress. The milk-white palfrey once came in. All the marvellous takes place; and lions and tigers are slain, and armies are routed, by the puissance of his single arm.
Now, do not these reveries convince you, that I owe all my uneasiness to what I suffered from Sir Hargrave's barbarity? I think I must take my aunt's advice; leave London; and then I shall better find out, whether, as all my friends suspect, and as, to be ingenuous, I myself now begin sometimes to fear, a passion stronger than gratitude has not taken hold of my heart. Of this I am sure; my reasoning faculties are weakened. Miss Grandison says, that, in my illness at Colnebrook, I was delirious; and that the doctor they called in was afraid of my head: and should I suffer myself to be entangled in a hopeless passion, there will want no farther proof, that my reason has suffered.]
Adieu, my Lucy! What a letter have I written! The conclusion of it, I doubt, will, of itself, be a sufficient evidence of the weakness I have mentioned, both of head and heart of your HARRIET.
On perusal of the latter part of this letter, [which I have enclosed in hooks, if you can avoid it, Lucy, read it not before my uncle.
MISS HARRIET BYRON TO MISS LUCY SELBY.
Saturday, March 4.
THIS morning Sir Hargrave Pollexfen made Mr Reeves a visit. He said it was to him ; but I was unluckily below; and forced to hear all he had to say, or to appear unpolite.
He proposed visiting my grandmamma, and aunt Selby, in order to implore their forgiveness. But Mr Reeves diverted him from thinking of that.
He had not sought me, he said, at Lady Betty Williams's, but from his desire, (on the character he had heard of me,) to pay his addresses to me in preference to every other woman. He had laid out for several opportunities to get into my company, before he heard I was to dine there. Particularly, he once resolved to pay a visit in form to my uncle Selby, in Northamptonshire, and had got all his equipage in readiness to set out; but heard that I was come to town with Mr and Mrs Reeves. He actually then set out, he said, for Peterborough, with intent to propose the affair to my godfather Deane : but found that he was gone to Cambridge; and then being resolved to try his fate with me, he came to town; and hardly questioned succeeding, when he understood that my friends left me to my own choice: and knowing that he could offer such proposals as none of the gentlemen who had made pretensions to me, were able to make. His intentions, therefore, were not sudden, and such as arose upon what he saw of
me at Lady Betty Williams's; though the part I supported in the conversation there, precipitated his declaration.
He was very unhappy, he said, to have so mortally disobliged me; and repeated all his former pleas; his love, [rough love, I am sure, compassion, sufferings, and I cannot tell what; insisting, that he had forgiven much greater injuries, as was but too apparent.
I told him, that I had suffered more than he could have done, though his hurt was more visible than mine; that, nevertheless, I forgave him, as no bad consequences had followed between him and my protector-Protector! muttered he-But that he knew my mind before he made that barbarous attempt: and I besought him never more to think of me; and he must excuse me to say, that this must be the very last time I ever would see him.
A great deal was said on both sides; my cousins remaining attentively silent all the time; and at last he insisted that I would declare, that I never would be the wife either of Mr Greville or Mr Fenwick; assuring me that the rash step he had taken to make me his, was owing principally to his apprehension, that Mr Greville was more likely to succeed with me than any other man.
I owed him, I told him, no such declaration. But Mr Reeves, to get rid of his importunity, gave it as his opinion, that there was no ground for his apprehensions that I would give my hand to either; and I did not contradict him.
Mr Bagenhall and Mr Jordan, before I could get away from this importunate man, came to inquire for him. He then owned, that they came in hope of seeing me; and besought me to favour him and them for one quarter of an hour only.
I was resolved to withdraw; but, at Sir Hargrave's command, as impertinently given as officiously obeyed, Mr Reeves's servant led them (his master indeed not contradicting) into the parlour where we were.
The two strangers behaved with great respect. Never did men run praises higher, than both these gentleman gave to Sir Charles Grandison. And indeed the subject made me easier in their company than I should otherwise have been.
It is not possible, I believe, for the vainest mind to hear itself profusely praised, without some pain; but it is surely one of the sweetest pleasures in the world, to hear a whole company join in applauding the absent person who stands high in our opinion; and especially if he be one to whose unexceptionable goodness we owe, and are not ashamed to own, obligation.
What farther pleased me, was to hear Mr Bagenhall declare, which he did in a very serious manner, that Sir Charles Grandison's great behaviour, as he justly called it, had made such impressions not only upon him, but upon Mr Merceda, that they were both determined to turn
over a new leaf, was his phrase; and to live very different lives from what they had lived; though they were far, they blessed God, from being before the worst of men.
These gentlemen, with Mr Merceda and Sir Hargrave, are to dine with Sir Charles to-day. They both mentioned it with great pleasure; but Sir Hargrave did not seem so well pleased, and doubted of his being able to persuade himself to go.
The invitation was given at Mr Jordan's motion, who took hold of a slight invitation of Sir Charles's; Mr Jordan declaring, that he resolved not to let slip any opportunity of improving an acquaintance with so extraordinary a man.
Sir Hargrave talked of soon leaving the town, and retiring to one of his country-seats; or of going abroad, for a year or two, if he must have no hopes-Hopes! a wretch!
Yet he shewed so much dejection, and is so really mortified with the damage done to a face that he used to take pleasure to see reflected in the glass, (never once looking into either of those in the parlour he was in, all the time he staid,) that I could once or twice have been concerned for him; but when I seriously reflect, I do not know whether his mortification is not the happiest thing that could have befallen him. It wants only to be attended with patience.-He is not now an ugly man in his person. His estate will always give him consequence. He will now think the better of others; and the worse of himself; he may, much worse; and not want as much vanity as comes to his share.
But say you, my uncle, (as I fancy you do,) that I also may spare some of my vanity, and not be the worse girl?-Ah! no! I am now very sensible of my own defects. I am poor, low, silly, weak-Was I ever insolent? Was I ever saucy? Was I ever-O my uncle, hide my faults! I am mortified. Let me not reproach myself with having deserved mortification. If I did, I knew it not. I intended not to be saucy, vain, insolent-And if I was so, lay it to a flow of health, and good spirits; to time of life; young, gay, and priding myself in every one's love; yet most in the love, in the fond indulgence, of all you, my good friends; and then you will have some of my faults to lay at your own doors; nor will you, even you, my uncle, be clear of reproach, because your correction was always mingled with so much praise, that I thought you were but at play with your niece, and that you levelled your blame more at the sex than at your Harriet.
BUT what have I written against myself! I believe I am not such a low, silly, weak creature, as I had thought myself. For just as I had laid down my pen with a pensive air, and to look into the state of my own heart, in order