LETTER 340: MR. BELFORD TO ROBERT LOVELACE

Wednesday, July 19.

 

 

This morning I took chair to Smith’s; and, being told, that the lady had a very bad night, but was up, I sent for her worthy apothecary; who, on his coming to me, approving of my proposal of calling in Dr. H. I bid the women acquaint her with the designed visit.

 

 

It seems, she was at first displeased; yet withdrew her objection: But, after a pause, asked them, What she should do? She had effects of value, some of which she intended, as soon as she could, to turn into money; but, till then, had not a single guinea to give the Doctor for his fee.

 

 

Mrs. Lovick said, she had five guineas by her: They were at her service.

 

 

She would accept of three, she said, if she would take that (pulling a diamond ring from her finger), till she repaid her; but on no other terms.

 

 

Having been told, I was below with Mr. Goddard, she desired to speak one word with me, before she saw the Doctor.

 

 

She was sitting in an elbow-chair, leaning her head on a pillow; Mrs. Smith and the widow on each side her chair; her nurse, with a phial of hartshorn, behind her; in her own hand, her salts.

 

 

Raising her head at my entrance, she inquired, If the Doctor knew Mr. Lovelace?

 

 

I told her, No; and that I believed you never saw him in your life.

 

 

Was the Doctor my friend?

 

 

He was; and a very worthy and skilful man. I named him for his eminence in his profession: And Mr. Goddard said, he knew not a better physician.

 

 

I have but one condition to make before I see the gentleman; that he refuse not his fees from me. If I am poor, Sir, I am proud. I will not be under obligation. You may believe, Sir, I will not. I suffer this visit, because I would not appear ingrateful to the few friends I have left, nor obstinate to such of my relations,  as may some time hence, for their private satisfaction, inquire after my behaviour in my sick hours. So, Sir, you know the condition. And don’t let me be vexed: I am very ill; and cannot debate the matter.

 

 

Seeing her so determined, I told her, If it must be so, it should.

 

 

Then, Sir, the gentleman may come. But I shall not be able to answer many questions. Nurse, you can tell him, at the window there, what a night I have had, and how I have been for two days past. And Mr. Goddard, if he be here, can let him know what I have taken. Pray let me be as little questioned, as possible.

 

 

The Doctor paid his respects to her, with the gentlemanly address for which he is noted: And she cast up her sweet eyes to him, with that benignity which accompanies her every graceful look.

 

 

I would have retired; but she forbid it.

 

 

He took her hand, the lily not of so beautiful a white; Indeed, Madam, you are very low, said he: But, give me leave to say, That you can do more for yourself, than all the faculty can do for you.

 

 

He then withdrew to the window. And, after a short conference with the women, he turned to me, and to Mr. Goddard, at the other window: We can do nothing here, speaking low, but by cordials, and nourishment. What friends has the lady? She seems to be a person of condition; and, ill as she is, a very fine woman. —A single lady, I presume?

 

 

I whisperingly told him she was. That there were extraordinary circumstances in her case; as I would have apprised him, had I met with him yesterday. That her friends were very cruel to her; but that she could not hear them named, without reproaching herself; tho’ they were much more to blame, than she.

 

 

I knew I was right, said the Doctor. A love-case, Mr. Goddard! A love-case, Mr. Belford! There is one person in the world, who can do her more service, than all the faculty.

 

 

Mr. Goddard said, he had apprehended her disorder was in her mind; and had treated her accordingly: And then told the Doctor what he had done: Which he approving  of, again taking her charming hand, said, My good young Lady, you will require very little of our assistance. You must, in a great measure, be your own doctress. Come, dear Madam (Forgive me the familiar tenderness; your aspect commands love, as well as reverence; and a father of children, some of them older than yourself, may be excused for them), chear up your spirits. Resolve to do all in your power to be well; and you’ll soon grow better.

 

 

You are very kind, Sir, said she. I will take whatever you direct. My spirits have been hurried. I shall be better, I believe, before I am worse. The care of my good friends here, looking at the women, shall not meet with an ingrateful return.

 

 

The Doctor wrote. He would fain have declined his fee. As her malady, he said, was rather to be relieved by the soothings of a friend, than by the prescriptions of a physician, he should think himself greatly honoured to be admitted rather to advise her in the one character, than to prescribe to her in the other .

 

 

She answered, That she should be always glad to see so humane a gentleman: That his visits would keep her in charity with his sex : But that, were she to forget that he was her physician, she might be apt to abate of the confidence in his skill, which might be necessary to effect the amendment that was the end of his visits.

 

 

And when he urged her still further, which he did in a very polite manner, and as passing by the door two or three times a day, she said, she should always have pleasure in considering him in the kind light he offered himself to her : That that might be very generous in one person to offer, which would be as ungenerous in another to accept: That indeed she was not at present high in circumstance; and he saw by the tender (which he mustaccept of), that she had greater respect to her own convenience, than to his merit, or than to the pleasure she should take in his visits.

 

 

We all withdrew together; and the Doctor and Mr. Goddard having a great curiosity to know something more of her story, at the motion of the latter we went into a neighbouring coffee-house, and I gave them, in confidence, a brief relation of it; making all as light for you as I could; and yet you’ll suppose, that, in order to do but  common justice to the lady’s character, heavy must be that light.

Three o’clock, afternoon.

I just now called again at Smith’s; and am told she is somewhat better; which she attributed to the soothings of her Doctor. She expressed herself highly pleased with both gentlemen; and said, that their behaviour to her was perfectly paternal .—

 

 

Paternal, poor lady! —Never having been, till very lately, from under her parents wings, and now abandon’d by all her friends, she is for finding out something paternal and maternal in every one (the latter qualities in Mrs. Lovick and Mrs. Smith), to supply to herself the father and mother her dutiful heart pants after!

 

 

Mrs. Smith told me, that, after we were gone, she gave the keys of her trunks and drawers to her and the widow Lovick, and desired them to take an inventory of them; which they did, in her presence.

 

 

They also informed me, That she had requested them to find her a purchaser for two rich dress’d suits; one never worn, the other not above once or twice.

 

 

This shock’d me exceedingly: Perhaps it may thee a little !!! —Her reason for so doing, she told them, was, That she should never live to wear them: That her sister, and other relations, were above wearing them: That her mother would not endure in her sight any-thing that was hers: That she wanted the money: That she would not be obliged to any-body, when she had effects by her, which she had no occasion for: And yet, said she, I expect not, that they will fetch a price answerable to their value.

 

 

They were both very much concerned, as they own’d; and asked my advice upon it: And the richness of her apparel having given them a still higher notion of her rank, than they had before, they supposed she must be of quality; and again wanted to know her story.

 

 

I told them, That she was indeed a lady of family and fortune: I still gave them room to suppose her married: But left it to her to tell them all in her own time and manner: All I would say, was, That she had been very vilely treated; deserved it not; and was all innocence and purity.

 

You may suppose, that they both expressed their astonishment, that there could be a man in the world, who could ill-treat so fine a creature.

 

 

As to disposing of the two suits of apparel, I told Mrs. Smith, That she should pretend, that, upon inquiry, she had found a friend, who would purchase the richest of them; but ( that she might not mistrust ) would stand upon a good bargain. And having twenty guineas about me, I left them with her, in part of payment; and bid her pretend to get her to part with it for as little more as she could induce her to take.

 

 

I am setting out for Edgware with poor Belton—More of whom in my next. I shall return to-morrow; and leave This in readiness for your messenger, if he shall call in my absence. Adieu!

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