I have been reading thy shocking letter. —Poor Belton! what a multitude of lively hours have we passed together! ‘Twas a fearless, chearful fellow! — Who’d ha’ thought all should end in such dejected whimpering and terror?
But, why didst thou not comfort the poor man about the rencounter between him and that poltroon Metcalfe? He acted in that affair like a man of true honour, and as I should have acted in the same circumstances. Tell him I say so, and what happened, he could neither help nor foresee.
Some people are as sensible of a scratch from a pin’s point, as others from a push of a sword: And who can say any thing for the sensibility of such fellows? Metcalfe would resent for his sister, when his sister resented not for herself. Had she demanded her brother’s protection and resentment, that would have been another man’s matter, as Lord M. phrases it: But she herself thought her brother a coxcomb to busy himself, undesired, in her affairs, and wished for nothing but to be provided for decently, and privately, in her lying-in; and was willing to take the chance of Maintenon-ing his conscience in her favour ( a ) , and getting him to marry, when the little stranger came; for she knew what an easy, good-natured fellow he was. And, indeed, if she had prevailed upon him, it might have been happy for both; as then he would not have fallen in with his cursed Thomasin. But truly this officious brother of hers must interpose. This made a trifling affair important: And what was the issue? Metcalfe challenged; Belton met him; disarmed him; gave him his life: But the fellow, more sensible in his skin than in his head, having received a scratch, he was frighted; it gave him first a puke, then a fever, and then he died. That was all. And how could Belton help that? —But sickness, a long tedious sickness, will make a bugbear of any thing to a languishing heart, I see that. And so far was Mowbray apropos in the verses from Nat. Lee ; which thou hast transcribed.
Merely to die, no man of reason fears ; is a mistake, say thou, or say thy author, what ye will. And thy solemn parading about the natural repugnance between life and death, is a proof that it is.
Let me tell thee, Jack, that so much am I pleased with this world, in the main; tho’ in some points too, the world, (to make a person of it,) has been a rascal to me; so delighted am I with the joys of youth; with my worldly prospects as to fortune; and now, newly, with the charming hopes given me by dear, thrice dear, and forever dear Miss Harlowe ; that were I even sure that nothing bad would come hereafter, I should be very loth, (very much afraid if thou wilt have it so) to lay down my life and them together; and yet upon a call of honour, no man fears death less than myself.
But I have not either inclination or leisure to weigh thy leaden arguments, except in the pig, or, as thou wouldst say, in the lump .
If I return thy letters, let me have them again some time hence, that is to say, when I am married, or when poor Belton is half-forgotten; or whentime has inrolled the honest fellow among those whom we have so long lost, that we may remember them with more pleasure than pain; and then I may give them a serious perusal, and enter with thee as deeply as thou wilt into the subject.
When I am married, said I? —What a sound has that!
I must wait with patience for a sight of this charming creature, till she is at her father’s: And yet, as the but blossoming beauty, as thou tellest me, is reduced to a shadow, I should have been exceedingly delighted to see her now, and every day till the happy one; that I might have the pleasure of beholding how sweetly, hour by hour, she will rise to her pristine glories, by means of that state of ease and contentment, which will take place of the stormy past, upon her reconciliation with her friends, and our happy nuptials.