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MRS. NORTON, TO MRS. HARLOWE.
Friday, July 28.
BEING forbidden (without leave) to send you any thing I might happen to receive from my beloved Miss Clary, and so ill, that I cannot attend to ask your leave, I give you this trouble, to let you know that I have received a letter from her; which, I think, I should hereafter be held inexcusable, as things may happen, if I did not desire permission to communicate to you, and that as soon as possible.
Applications have been made to the dear young lady from Lord M., from the two ladies his sisters, and from both his nieces, and from the wicked man himself, to forgive and marry him. This, in noble indignation for the usage she has received from him, she has absolutely refused. And perhaps, Madam, if you and the honoured family should be of opinion that to comply with their wishes is now the properest measure that can be taken, the circumstances of things may require your authority or advice, to induce her to change her mind.
I have reason to believe that one motive for her refusal is her full conviction that she shall not long be a trouble to any body; and so she would not give a husband a right to interfere with her family, in relation to the estate her grandfather devised to her. But of this, however, I have not the least intimation from her. Nor would she, I dare say, mention it as a reason, having still stronger reasons, from his vile treatment of her, to refuse him.
The letter I have received will show how truly penitent
the dear ereature is; and, if I have your permission, I will send it sealed up, with a copy of mine, to which it is an answer. But as I resolve upon this step without her knowledge, [and indeed I do,] I will not acquaint her with it, unless it be attended with desirable effects: because, otherwise, besides making me incur her displea sure, it might quite break her already half-broken heart. I am,
Your dutiful and ever-obliged servant,
MRS. HARLOWE, TO MRS. JUDITH NORTON.
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 many 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 atonement for her crime? And is she not answer. any able 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 re
fuse 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 with such a vile man?
To all of us, yet, I cannot say! For, O my good Mrs. Norton, you know what a mother's tenderness for the child of her heart would make her choose, notwithstanding all that child's faults, rather than lose her for ever!
But I must sail with the tide; my own judgment also joining with the general resentment; or I should make the unhappiness of the more worthy still greater, [my dear Mr. Harlowe's particularly ;] which is already more than enough to make them unhappy for the remainder of their days. This I know; if I were to oppose the rest, our son would fly out to find this libertine; and who could tell what would be the issue of that with such a man of violence and blood as that Lovelace is known to be?
Ail I can expect to prevail for her is, that in a week, or so, Mr. Brand may be sent up to inquire privately about her present state and way of life, and to see she is not altogether destitute: for nothing she writes herself will be regarded.
Her father indeed has, at her earnest request, with drawn the curse, which, in a passion, he laid upon her, at her first wicked flight from us. But Miss Howe, [it is a sad thing, Mrs. Norton, to suffer so many ways, at once,] had made matters so difficult by her undue lis
berties with us all, as well by speech in all companies, as by letters written to my Bella, that we could hardly pre vail upon him to hear her letter read.
These liberties of Miss Howe with us; the general cry against us abroad wherever we are spoken of; and the visible, and not seldom audible, disrespectfulness, which high and low treat us with to our faces, as we go to and from church, and even at church, (for no where else have we the heart to go,) as if none of us had been regarded but upon her account; and as if she were innocent, we all in fault; are constant aggravations, you must needs think, to the whole family.
She has made my lot heavy, I am sure, that was far from being light before!-To tell you truth, I am enjoined not to receive any thing of her's, from any hand, without leave. Should I therefore gratify my yearnings after her, so far as to receive privately the letter you mention, what would the case be, but to torment myself, without being able to do her good?-And were it to be known-Mr. Harlowe is so passionate-And should it throw his gout into his stomach, as her rash flight did-Indeed, indeed, I am very unhappy !-For, O my good woman, she is my child still!-But unless it were more in my power-Yet do I long to see the letter-you say it tells of her present way and circumstances. The poor child, who ought to be in possession of thousands!—And will!-For her fa ther will be a faithful steward for her.-But it must be in his own way, and at his own time.
And is she really ill ?—so very ill?-But she ought to sorrow she has given a double measure of it.
But does she really believe she shall not long trouble us?-But, O my Norton!-She must, she will, long trouble us-For can she think her death, if we should be