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Lovelace intercepts a letter from Anna, who expresses puzzlement at learning from Mrs. Townsend, who arrived at Mrs. Moore’s ready to rescue Clarissa, that Clarissa has gone back to Mrs. Sinclair’s. She asks for an explanation of her behavior, hinting that if Clarissa has given up her fight against Lovelace, but is not married to him, their friendship must be at an end. Lovelace does not give the letter to Clarissa. She demands that he let her go away, but he convinces her to stay until the following Thursday, when her uncle is supposedly coming to see her married. Clarissa thinks her uncle’s arrival will allow her to throw herself into his protection, so she agrees to the plan.
Unable to make any progress with Clarissa through love or gentleness, Lovelace goes back to his tricks and puts Dorcas’s note to effect. He pretends to find it and to be enraged, drawing his sword on Dorcas and shouting at her for betraying his trust. There is a great commotion, with all of the whores and servants adding to the fuss. Dorcas runs to Clarissa’s door for help, and when she steps outside, her natural majesty awes everyone into silence. She chastises Lovelace for the contrivance and excoriates the women, whom she now recognizes as whores, for the parts they have played in her downfall. Clarissa threatens to go to the law for vengeance. This frightens the women, and they pretend to take Clarissa’s side.
Lovelace advances on Clarissa, begging forgiveness, but she is frightened and thinks he is going to rape her again. She holds a penknife to her chest and is ready to kill herself, but Lovelace, terrified himself, retreats. He admits that it had been his original design to force her back to her bedroom and see if he could complete the plan that her unconsciousness had made impossible before. Having failed, and seeing Clarissa’s power, he finally gives up the cohabitation scheme and tells Belton he will really marry her. He leaves for M. Hall to tend after Lord M.
He writes pleading letters to Clarissa, asking her to return only four words to say she will marry him on Thursday. She will not answer. Lovelace keeps four messengers in constant motion to keep up the flow of letters to Clarissa. His uncle seems about to die. He asks Belford to visit Clarissa and intercede for him, but Belford refuses because he doubts Lovelace’s honesty. He then asks Tomlinson to go to Clarissa, which he does but finds that she has escaped. At this point, Belford and another friend, Mowbray, are at Mrs. Sinclair’s, trying to make sense of the matter. Clarissa had offered to give the maid Mabel some of her clothes, and while they were changing had taken Mabel’s clothes and left the house in them. Those at the house had been deceived, as they could see her only from the back, and it takes a while before the mixup is discovered. Clarissa is not to be found.
Lovelace writes in distress that Clarissa must be found and that he will marry her as soon as he can. He also mentions his disappointment that his uncle is recovering. Clarissa writes a barely coherent letter to Anna, saying she has escaped again but hinting that she has been ruined. In her confused state, Clarissa forgets to send the letter to the false name and address they’ve been using, so Mrs. Howe gets ahold of it. She writes a scathing letter in return, forbidding her to communicate with Anna and moralizing on the costs of disobedience to parents. Clarissa writes back meekly, asking for news of Anna’s health, since Lovelace’s forged letter had claimed that an illness prohibited Anna from writing. Clarissa also writes to Hannah, asking her to come see her, and to Mrs. Norton to ask whether Mr. Harlowe might be willing to lift the curse on his daughter, which she says has already been fulfilled on earth. Mrs. Norton replies that her family is still unforgiving. Clarissa writes to Lady Betty and to her uncle’s housekeeper to find out the truth about Lovelace’s tricks. They confirm that Lovelace had been lying.
Anna sees the letter that had been intercepted by her mother and blames Clarissa for her ruin. She asks Clarissa to clear up the story if she can. Clarissa says she did not receive the letters Anna mentions and explains as much as she knows about how she was deceived. Anna laments Clarissa’s horrible fate and encourages her to prosecute Lovelace. Clarissa declares that she’s dying, and Anna beseeches Clarissa not to give way to her sorrow. Clarissa refuses to go to court, saying she could not bear to repeat her story in public and that all appearances are against her, as it may seem she had voluntarily run off and lived with Lovelace before the rape.
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