Hannah Webster Foster (1759–1840). The Coquette, or The History of Eliza Wharton. 1855.

Letter XLII


Well, Charles, the show is over, as we Yankees say, and the girl is my own; that is, if I will have her. I shall take my own time for that, however. I have carried my point, and am amply revenged on the whole posse of those dear friends of hers. She was entangled by a promise (not to marry this priest without my knowledge) which her conscience would not let her break. Thank God, I have no conscience. If I had, I believe it would make wretched work with me. I suppose she intended to have one or the other of us, but preferred me. I have escaped the noose this time, and I’ll be fairly hanged if I ever get so near it again; for indeed, Charles, I was seriously alarmed. I watched all their motions, and the appearance of harmony between them awakened all my activity and zeal. So great was my infatuation, that I verily believe I should have asked her in marriage, and risked the consequences, rather than to have lost her.

I went to the house while Mr. Boyer was in town; but her mamma refused to call her, or to acquaint her that I was there. I then wrote a despairing letter, and obtained a conference with her in the garden. This was a fortunate event for me. True, Eliza was very haughty, and resolutely insisted on an immediate declaration or rejection; and I cannot say what would have been the result if Mr. Boyer had not surprised us together. He gave us a pretty harsh look, and retired without speaking a word.

I endeavored to detain Eliza, but in vain. She left me on my knees, which are always ready to bend on such occasions.

This finished the matter, it seems. I rose, and went into a neighbor’s to observe what happened, and in about half an hour saw Mr. Boyer come out and go to his lodgings. “This,” said I to myself, “is a good omen.” I went home, and was informed, next day, that he had mounted his horse and departed.

I heard nothing more of her till yesterday, when I determined to know how she stood affected towards me. I therefore paid her a visit, her mamma being luckily abroad.

She received me very placidly, and told me, on inquiry, that Mr. Boyer’s resentment at her meeting me in the garden was so great that he had bade her a final adieu. I congratulated myself on having no rival, hoped that her favor would now be unbiased, and that in due time I should reap the reward of my fidelity. She begged me not to mention the subject, said she had been perplexed by our competition, and wished not to hear any thing further about it at present. I bowed in obedience to her commands, and changed the discourse.

I informed her that I was about taking a tour to the southward; that I should be absent several months, and trusted that on my return her embarrassments would be over.

I left her with regret After all, Charles, she is the summum bonum of my life. I must have her in some way or other. Nobody else shall, I am resolved.

I am making preparations for my journey, which, between you and me, is occasioned by the prospect of making a speculation, by which I hope to mend my affairs. The voyage will at least lessen my expenses, and screen me from the importunity of creditors till I can look about me.