When the unhappy mourners were all retired, I directed the lid of the coffin to be unscrewed, and caused some fresh aromatics and flowers to be put into it.
The corpse was very little altered, notwithstanding the journey. The sweet smile remained.
The maids who brought the flowers were ambitious of strewing them about it: They poured forth fresh lamentations over her; each wishing she had been so happy as to have been allowed to attend her in London. One of them particularly, who is, it seems, my cousin Arabella’s personal servant, was more clamorous in her grief than the rest; and the moment she turned her back, all the others allowed she had reason for it. I enquired afterwards about her, and found, that this creature was set over my dear cousin, when she was confined to her chamber by their indiscreet severity.
Good heaven! that they should treat, and suffer thus to be treated, a young lady, who was qualified to give laws to all her family!
When my cousins were told, that the lid was unscrew’d, they press’d in again, all but the mournful Father and Mother, as if by consent. Mrs. Hervey kissed her pale lips. Flower of the world! was all she could say; and gave place to Miss Arabella; who kissing the forehead ofher whom she had so cruelly treated, could only say, to my cousin James (looking upon the corpse, and upon him) O Brother! —While he, taking the fair lifeless hand, kissed it, and retreated with precipitation.
Her two Uncles were speechless. They seemed to wait each other’s example, whether to look upon the corpse, or not. I ordered the lid to be replaced; and then they pressed forward, as the others again did, to take a last farewell of the casket which so lately contained so rich a jewel.
Then it was that the grief of each found fluenter expression; and the fair corpse was addressed to (with all the tenderness that the sincerest love and warmest admiration could inspire) by each, according to their different degrees of relationship, as if none of them had before looked upon her. She was their very Niece, both uncles said; The injured Saint, her uncle Harlowe; The same smiling Sister, Arabella! —The dear creature! all of them—The same benignity of countenance! The same sweet composure! The same natural dignity—She was questionless happy! That sweet smile betokened her being so; Themselves most unhappy! —And then, once more, the Brother took the lifeless hand, and vowed Revenge upon it, on the cursed author of all this distress.
The unhappy parents proposed to take one last view and farewel of their once darling daughter. The Father was got to the parlour-door, after the inconsolable Mother: But neither of them were able to enter it. The Mother said, She must once more see the child of her heart, or she should never enjoy herself. But they both agreed to refer their melancholy curiosity till the next day; and hand in hand retired inconsolable, and speechless both, their faces overspread with woe, and turned from each other, as unable each to behold the distress of the other.
When all were withdrawn, I retired, and sent for my cousin James, and acquainted him with his sister’s request in relation to the discourse to be pronounced at her interrment; telling him, how necessary it was, that the Minister, whoever he were to be, should have the earliest notice given him that the case would admit.
He lamented the death of the reverend Dr. Lewen, who, as he said, was a great admirer of his sister, as she was of him, and would have been the fittest of all men for that office.
He spoke with great asperity of Mr. Brand, upon whose light enquiry after his sister’s character in town, he was willing to lay some of the blame due to himself.
Mr. Melvill, Dr. Lewen’s assistant, must, he said, be the man; and he praised him for his abilities, his elocution, and unexceptionable manners; and promised to engage him early in the morning.
He called out his Sister, and she was of his opinion. So I left this upon them.
They both, with no little warmth, hinted their disapprobation of you, Sir, for their sister’s Executor, on the score of your intimate friendship with the author of her ruin.
You must not resent any thing I shall communicate to you of what they say on this occasion. Depending that you will not, I shall write with the greater freedom.
I told them how much my dear cousin was obliged to your friendship and humanity: The injunctions she had laid you under, and your own inclination to observe them. I said, That you were a man of honour: That you were desirous of consulting me, because you would not willingly give offence to any of them; and that I was very fond of cultivating your favour and correspondence.
They said, There was no need of an Executor out of their family, and they hoped that you, Sir, would relinquish so unnecessary a trust, as they called it. My cousin James declared, that he would write to you as soon as the funeral was over, to desire that you would do so, upon proper assurances that all that the Will prescribed should be performed.
I said, You were a man of resolution: That I thought he would hardly succeed; for that you made a point of honour of it.
I then shewed them their Sister’s posthumous Letter to you; in which she confesses her obligations to you, and regard for you, and for your future welfare. You may believe, Sir, they were extremely affected with the perusal of it.
They were surprized, that I had given up to you the proceed of her grandfather’s estate, since his death. I told them plainly, that they must thank themselves if any thing disagreeable to them occurred from their sister’s devise; deserted and thrown into the hands of strangers, as she had been.
They said, they would report all I had said to their father and mother; adding, That great as their trouble was, they found they had more still to come. But if Mr. Belford were to be the Executor of her Will, contrary to their hopes, they besought me to take the trouble of transacting every thing with you; that a friend of the man, to whom they owed all their calamity, might not appear to them.
They were extremely moved at the text their sister had chosen for the subject of the funeral discourse. I had extracted from the Will that article, supposing it probable, that I might not so soon have an opportunity to shew them the Will itself, as would otherwise have been necessary, on account of the interrment: Which cannot be delayed.
Monday morning between Eight and Nine.
The unhappy family are preparing for a mournful meeting at breakfast. Mr. James Harlowe, who has had as little rest as I, has written to Mr. Melvill, who has promised to draw up a brief Eulogium on the deceased. Miss Howe is expected here by-and-by, to see, for the last time, her beloved friend.
Miss Howe, by her messenger, desires she may not be taken any notice of. She shall not tarry six minutes, was the word. Her desire will be easily granted her.
Her servant, who brought the request, if it were denied, was to return, and meet her; for she was ready to set out in her chariot when he got on horseback.
If he met her not with the refusal, he was to stay here till she came. I am, Sir,
Your faithful humble Servant,
William Morden .