LETTER 426: MR BELFORD TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ

Sat. Aug. 26.

On Thursday afternoon I assisted at the opening of poor Belton’s will, in which he has left me his sole Executor, and bequeathed me a legacy of 100 guineas; which I shall present to his unfortunate sister, to whom he has not been so kind as I think he ought to have been. He has also left 20 l.apiece to Mowbray, Tourville, thyself, and me, for a ring to be worn in remembrance of him.

 

After I had given some particular orders about the preparations to be made for his funeral, I went to town; but having made it late before I got in on Thursday night, and being fatigued for want of rest several nights before, and low in my spirits, [I could not help it, Lovelace!] I contented myself to send my compliments to the innocent sufferer, to inquire after her health.

 

My servant saw Mrs. Smith, who told him, she was very glad I was come to town; for that the lady was worse than she had yet been.

 

It is impossible to account for the contents of her letter to you; or, to reconcile those contents to the facts I have to communicate.

 

I was at Smith’s by seven yesterday (Friday) morning; and found that the lady was just gone in a chair to St. Dunstan’s to prayers; she was too ill to get out by six to Covent Garden church; and was forced to be supported to her chair by Mrs. Lovick. They would have persuaded her against going; but she said she knew not but it would be her last opportunity. Mrs. Lovick, dreading that she would be taken worse at church, walked thither before her.

 

Mrs. Smith told me, she was so ill on Wednesday night, that she had desired to receive the Sacrament; and accordingly it was administred to her, by the parson of the parish: Whom she besought to take all opportunities of assisting her in her solemn Preparation.

 

This the gentleman promised: And called in the morning to enquire after her health; and was admitted at the first word. He staid with her about half an hour; and when he came down, with his face turned aside, and a faltering accent, ‘Mrs. Smith, said he, you have anc

 

angel in your house. —I will attend her again in the evening, as she desires, and as often as I think it will be agreeable to her.’

 

Her increased weakness she attributed to the fatigues she had undergone by your means; and to a letter she had received from her sister, which she answered the same day.

 

Mrs. Smith told me, that two different persons had called there, one on Thursday morning, one in the evening, to inquire after her state of health; and seemed as if commissioned from her relations for that purpose; but asked not to see her, only were very inquisitive after her visitors, (particularly, it seems, after me : What could they mean by that?) after her way of life, and expences; and one of them inquired after her manner of supporting them; to the latter of which, Mrs. Smith said, she had answered, as the truth was, that she had been obliged to sell some of her cloaths, and was actually about parting with more; at which the inquirist (a grave old farmer-looking man) held up his hands, and said, Good God!—this will be sad, sad news to somebody! I believe I must not mention it. But Mrs. Smith says, she desired he would ; let him come from whom he would. He shook his head, and said, if she died, the flower of the world would be gone, and the family she belonged to, would be no more than a common family ( a ) . I was pleased with the man’s expression.

 

You may be curious to know how she passed her time, when she was obliged to leave her lodging to avoid you.

 

Mrs. Smith tells me, ‘That she was very ill, when she went out on Monday morning, and sighed as if her heart would break as she came down stairs, and as she went through the shop into the coach, her nurse with her, as you had informed me before: That she ordered the coachman (whom she hired for the day) to drive any-whither, so it was into the air: He accordingly drove her to Hamstead, and thence to Highgate. There she alighted at the Bowling-green House, extremely ill, and having breakfasted, ordered the coachman to drive very slowly, any-where. He crept along to Muswell-hill,

 

and put up at a public house there; where she employed herself two hours in writing, tho’ exceedingly weak and low; till the dinner she had ordered was brought in: She endeavoured to eat; but could not; her appetite was gone, quite gone, she said. And then she wrote on for three hours more: After which, being heavy, she dozed a little in an elbow-chair. When she awoke, she ordered the coachman to drive her very slowly to town, to the house of a friend of Mrs. Lovick, whom, as agreed upon, she met there: But, being extremely ill, she would venture home at a late hour, altho’ she heard from the widow, that you had been there, and had reason to be shocked at your behaviour. She said, She found there was no avoiding you: She was apprehensive she should not live many hours, and it was not impossible but the shock the sight of you must give her, would determine her fate in your presence.

 

‘She accordingly went home. She heard the relation of your astonishing vagaries, with hands and eyes often lifted up; and with the words, Shocking creature! Incorrigible wretch! and, Will nothing make him serious! intermingled. And not being able to bear an interview with a man so hardened, she took to her usual chair early in the morning, and was carried to the Temple-stairs, whither she had ordered her nurse before her, to get a pair of oars in readiness (for her fatigues the day before, made her unable to bear a coach); and then she was rowed to Chelsea, where she breakfasted; and after rowing about, put in at the Swan at Brentford-Aight, where she dined; and would have written, but had no conveniency either of tolerable pens, or ink, or private room; and then proceeding to Richmond, they rowed her back to Mortlack; where she put in, and drank tea at a house her waterman recommended to her. She wrote there for an hour; and returned to the Temple; and, when she landed, made one of the watermen get her a chair, and so was carried to the widow’s friend, as the night before; where she again met the widow, who informed her, that you had been after her twice that day.

 

‘Mrs. Lovick gave here there her sister’s letter ( a ) 347 ; and

 

she was so much affected with the contents of it, that she was twice very near fainting away; and wept bitterly, as Mrs. Lovick told Mrs. Smith; dropping some warmer expressions than ever they had heard proceed from her lips, in relation to her friends; calling them cruel, and complaining of ill offices done her, and of vile reports raised against her.

 

‘While she was thus disturbed, Mrs. Smith came to her, and told her, that you had been there a third time, and was just gone, (at half an hour after nine) having left word, how civil and respectful you would be; but that you was determined to see her at all events.

 

‘She said, It was hard she could not be permitted to die in peace: That her lot was a severe one: That she began to be afraid she should not forbear repining, and to think her punishment greater than her fault; but recalling herself immediately, she comforted herself that her life would be short, and with the assurance of a better.’

 

By what I have mentioned, You will conclude with me, that the letter brought her by Mrs. Lovick (the superscription of which you saw to be written in her sister’s hand) could not be the letter on the contents of which she grounded that she wrote to you, on her return home. And yet neither Mrs. Lovick, nor Mrs. Smith, nor the servant of the latter, know of any other brought her. But as the women assured me, that she actually did write to you, I was eased of a suspicion which I had begun to entertain, that you (for some purpose I could not guess at) had forged the letter from her of which you sent me a copy.

 

On Wednesday morning, when she received your letter in answer to hers, she said, Necessity may well be called the mother of Invention—But Calamity is the test of Integrity. —I hope I have not taken an inexcusable step— and there she stopt a minute or two, and then said, I shall now, perhaps, be allowed to die in peace.

 

I staid till she came in. She was glad to see me; but, being very weak, said, she must sit down before she could go up stairs; and so went into the back-shop; leaning upon Mrs. Lovick: And when she had sat down, ‘I am glad to see you, Mr. Belford, said she; I must say so—let misreporters say what they will.’

 

I wondered at this expression ( a ) 348 ; but would not interrupt her.

 

Oh! Sir, said she, I have been grievously harassed. Your friend, who would not let me live with reputation, will not permit me to die in peace. —You see how I am—Is there not a great alteration in me within this week? —But ’tis all for the better. —Yet were I to wish for life, I must say, that your friend, your barbarous friend, has hurt me greatly.

 

She was so very weak, so short-breath’d, and her words and action so very moving, that I was forced to walk from her; the two women and her nurse, turning away their faces also, weeping.

 

I have had, Madam, said I, since I saw you, a most shocking scene before my eyes for days together. My poor friend Belton is no more. He quitted the world yesterday morning in such dreadful agonies, that the impression it has left upon me, has so weakened my mind—I was loth to have her think, that my grief was owing to the weak state I saw her in, for fear of dispiriting her.

 

That is only, Mr. Belford, interrupted she, in order to strengthen it, if a proper use be made of the impression. — But I should be glad, since you are so humanely affected with the solemn circumstance, that you could have written an account of it in the style and manner you are master of, to your gay friend. Who knows, as it would have come from an associate and of an associate, how it might have affected him?

 

That I had done, I told her, in such a manner as had, I believed, some effect upon you.

 

His behaviour in this honest family so lately, said she, and his cruel pursuit of me, give but little hopes, that any thing serious or solemn will affect him.

 

We had some talk about Belton’s dying behaviour, and I gave her several particulars of the poor man’s impatience and despair; to which she was very attentive; and made fine observations upon the subject of procrastination.

 

A letter and pacquet were brought her by a man on horse-back from Miss Howe, while we were talking. She retired up-stairs to read it; and while I was in discourse

 

with Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Lovick, the doctor and apothecary both came in together. They confirmed to me my fears, as to the dangerous way she is in. They had both been apprized of the new instances of implacableness in her friends, and of your persecutions: And the doctor said, He would not for the world be either the unforgiving father of that lady, or the man who had brought her to this distress. Her heart’s broke; she’ll die, said he: There is no saving her. But how, were I either the one or the other of the people I have named, I should support myself afterwards, I cannot tell.

 

When she was told we were all three together, she desired us to walk up. She arose to receive us, and after answering two or three general questions relating to her health, she addressed herself to us, to the following effect.

 

As I may not, said she, see you three gentlemen together again, let me take this opportunity to acknowlege my obligations to you all. I am inexpressibly obliged to You, Sir, and to You, Sir (courtesying to the doctor and to Mr. Goddard) for your more than friendly, your paternal care and concern for me. Humanity in your profession, I dare say, is far from being a rare qualification, because you are gentlemen by your profession: But so much kindness, so much humanity, did never desolate creature meet with, as I have met with from you both. But indeed I have always observed, that where a person relies upon Providence, it never fails to raise up a new friend for every old one that falls off.

 

This gentleman, (bowing to me) who, some people think, should have been one of the last I should have thought of as my Executor—is nevertheless, (such is the strange chance of things!) the only one I can choose; and therefore I have chosen him for that charitable office, and he has been so good as to accept of it: For rich, as I may boast myself to be, I am rather so in right, than in fact, at this present. I repeat therefore my humble thanks to you all three, and beg of God to return to You and Yours, (looking to each) an hundredfold, the kindness and favour you have shewn me; and that it may be in the power of You and of Yours to the end of time, to confer

 

benefits, rather than to be obliged to receive them. This is a god-like power, gentlemen: I once rejoiced in it, in some little degree; and much more in the prospect I had of its being inlarged to me; tho’ I have had the mortification to experience the reverse, and to be obliged almost to every body I have seen or met with: But all, originally, thro’ my own fault; so I ought to bear the punishment without repining: And I hope I do. —Forgive these impertinencies: A grateful heart, that wants the power it wishes for, to express itself suitably to its own impulses, will be at a loss what properly to dictate to the tongue; and yet, unable to restrain its overflowings, will force it to say weak and silly things, rather than appear ingratefully silent. Once more then, I thank ye all three for your kindness to me: And God Almighty make you that amends which at present I cannot!

 

She retired from us to her closet with her eyes sull; and left us looking upon one another.

 

We had hardly recovered ourselves, when she, quite easy, chearful, and smiling, returned to us. Doctor, said she (seeing we had been moved) you will excuse me for the concern I give you; and so will You, Mr. Goddard, and You, Mr. Belford; for ’tis a concern that only generous natures can shew; and to such natures sweet is the pain, if I may so say, that attends such a concern. But as I have some few preparations still to make, and would not (tho’ in ease of Mr. Belford’s future cares, which is, and ought to be, part of my study) undertake more than it is likely I shall have time lent me to perform, I would beg of you to give me your opinions, (You see my way of living; and you may be assured, that I will do nothing wilfully to shorten my life) how long it may possibly be, before I may hope to be released from all my troubles.

 

They both hesitated, and looked upon each other. Don’t be afraid to answer me, said she, each sweet hand pressing upon the arm of each gentleman, with that mingled freedom and reserve, which virgin modesty, mixed with conscious dignity, can only express, and with a look serenely earnest, Tell me how long you think I may hold it? And believe me, gentlemen, the shorter

 

you tell me my time is likely to be, the more comfort you will give me.

 

With what pleasing woe, said the doctor, do you fill the minds of those who have the happiness to converse with you, and see the happy frame you are in! What you have undergone within a few days past, has much hurt you: And should you have fresh troubles of those kinds, I could not be answerable for your holding it— And there he paused.

 

How long, doctor? —I believe I shall have a little more ruffling—I am afraid I shall—But there can happen only one thing that I shall not be tolerably easy under—How long then, Sir?—

 

He was silent.

 

A Fortnight, Sir?

 

He was still silent.

 

Ten days? —A week? —How long, Sir? with smiling earnestness.

 

If I must speak, Madam, If you have not better treatment than you have lately met with, I am afraid—There again he stopt.

 

Afraid of what, doctor? Don’t be afraid—How long, Sir?

 

That a fortnight or three weeks may deprive the world of the finest flower in it.

 

A fortnight or three weeks yet, doctor! —But, God’s will be done! I shall, however, by this means, have full time, if I have but strength and intellect, to do all that is now upon my mind to do. And so, Sirs, I can but once more thank you, turning to each of us, for all your goodness to me; and, having letters to write, will take up no more of your time—Only, doctor, be pleased to order me some more of those drops: They chear me a little, when I am low; and, putting a see into his unwilling hand— You know the terms, Sir! —Then, turning to Mr. Goddard, You’ll be so good, Sir, as to look in upon me tonight, or to-morrow, as you have opportunity: And you, Mr. Belford, I know, will be desirous to set out to prepare for the last office for you late friend: So I wish you a good journey, and hope to see you when that is performed.

 

She then retired, with a chearful and serene air. The two gentlemen went away together. I went down to the women, and, inquiring, found, that Mrs. Lovick was this day to bring her twenty guineas more, for some other of her apparel.

 

The widow told me, that she had taken the liberty to expostulate with her, upon the occasion she had for raising this money, to such great disadvantage; and it produced the following short, and affecting conversation between them.

 

None of my friends will wear any thing of mine, said she. I shall leave a great many good things behind me— And as to what I want the money for—don’t be surprized: —but suppose I want it to purchase a house?

 

You are all mystery, Madam, I don’t comprehend you.

 

Why, then, Mrs. Lovick, I will explain myself: I have a man, not a woman, for my Executor: And think you that I will leave to his care any thing that concerns my own person? —Now, Mrs. Lovick, smiling, do you comprehend me?

 

Mrs. Lovick wept.

 

O fie! proceeded the lady, drying up her tears with her own handkerchief, and giving her a kiss—Why this kind weakness for one, whom you have been so little a while acquainted with? Dear, good Mrs. Lovick, don’t be concerned for me on a prospect which I have occasion to be pleased with; but go to-morrow to your friends, and bring me the money they have agreed to give you.

 

Thus, Lovelace, is it plain, that she means to bespeak her last house! Here’s presence of mind; here’s tranquillity of heart, on the most affecting occasion! —This is magnanimity indeed! —Couldst thou, or could I, with all our boist’rous bravery, and offensive false courage, act thus? —Poor Belton! how unlike was thy behaviour?

 

Mrs. Lovick tells me, that the lady spoke of a letter she had received from her favourite divine Dr. Lewin, in the time of my absence. And of an answer she had returned to it. But Mrs. Lovick knows not the contents of either.When thou receivest this letter, thou wilt see what will soon be the end of all thy injuries to this divine lady. I

 

say, when thou receivest it; for I will delay it for some little time, lest thou shouldst take it into thy head (under pretence of resenting the disappointment her letter must give thee) to molest her again.

 

This letter having detained me by its length, I shall not now set out for Epsom till to-morrow.

 

I should have mentioned, that the lady explained to me, what the one thing was, that she was afraid might happen to ruffle her. It was the apprehension of what may result from a visit which Col. Morden, as she is informed, designs to make you .

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