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They joined most heartily in the same hope: and, giving the letter to them again, I civilly took leave, and went away.
But I will be there again presently; for I fancy my courteous behaviour to these women will, on their report of it, procure me the favour I so earnestly covet. And so I will leave my letter unsealed, to tell thee the event of my next visit at Smith's.
THY servant just calling, I sent thee this: and will soon follow it by another. Mean time, I long to hear how poor Belton is: to whom my best wishers.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ.
Tuesday, Aug. 22.
I HAVE been under such concern for the poor man, whose exit I almost hourly expect, and at the shocking scenes his illness and his agonies exhibit, that I have been only able to make memoranda of the melancholy passages, from which to draw up a more perfect account, for the instruction of us all, when the writing appetite shall return.
Ir is returned! Indignation has revived it, on receipt of thy letters of Sunday and yesterday; by which I have reason to reproach thee in very serious terms, that thou hast not kept thy honour with me: and if thy breach of it be attended with such effects as I fear it will be, I shall let thee know more of my mind on this head.
If thou wouldst be thought in earnest in thy wishes to move the poor lady in thy favour, thy ludicrous behaviour at Smith's, when it comes to be represented to her, will have a very consistent appearance; will it not?—I will, indeed, confirm her in her opinion, that the grave is more to be wished-for, by one of her serious and pious turn, than a husband incapable either of reflection or remorse; just recovered, as thou art, from a dangerous, at least a sharp illness.
I am extremely concerned for the poor unprotected lady. She was so excessively low and weak on Saturday, that I could not be admitted to her speech; and to be driven out of her lodgings, when it was fitter for her to he in bed, is such a piece of cruelty, as he only could be guilty of who could act as thou hast done by such an angel.
Canst thou thyself say, on reflection, that it has not the look of a wicked and hardened sportiveness, in thee, for the sake of a wanton humour only, (since it can answer no end that thou proposest to thyself, but the direct con trary,) to hunt from place to place a poor lady, who, like a harmless deer, that has already a barbed shaft in her breast, seeks only a refuge from thee in the shades of death.
But I will leave this matter upon thy own conscience, to paint thee such a scene from my memoranda, as thou perhaps wilt be moved by more effectually than by any other: because it is such a one as thou thyself must one day be a principal actor in, and, as I thought, hadst very lately in apprehension: and is the last scene of one of thy most intimate friends, who has been for the four past days labouring in the agonies of death. For, Lovelace, let this truth, this undoubted truth, be engraved on thy memory,
in all thy gaieties, That the life we are so fond of is hardly life; a mere breathing space only; and that, at the end of its longest date,
Thou must die, as well as Belton.
Thou knowest, by Tourville, what we had done as to the poor man's worldly affairs; and that we had got his unhappy sister to come and live with him (little did we think him so very near his end): and so I will proceed to tell thee, that when I arrived at his house on Saturday night, I found him excessively ill: but just raised, and in his elbow-chair, held up by his nurse and Mowbray (the roughest and most untouched creature that ever entered a sick man's chamber); while the maid-servants were try ing to make that bed easier for him which he was to return to; his mind ten times uneasier than that could be, and the true cause that the down was no softer to him.
He had so much longed to see me, as I was told by his sister, (whom I sent for down to inquire how he was,) that they all rejoiced when I entered: Here, said Mowbray, here, Tommy, is honest Jack Belford!
Where, where? said the poor man.
I hear his voice, cried Mowbray: he is coming up stairs.
In a transport of joy, he would have raised himself at my entrance, but had like to have pitched out of the chair: and when recovered, called me his best friend! his kindest friend! but burst out into a flood of tears: O Jack! O Belford! said he, see the way I am in! See how weak! So much, and so soon reduced! Do you know me? Do you know your poor friend Belton?
You are not so much altered, my dear Belton, as you
think you are.
Weak, weak, indeed, my dearest Belford, said he, and weaker in mind, if possible, than in body; and wept bitterly-or I should not thus unman myself. I, who never feared any thing, to be forced to show myself such a nursling!-I am quite ashamed of myself!-But don't despise me; dear Belford, don't despise me, I beseech thee.
But I see you are weak; very weak
I ever honoured a man that could weep for the distresses of others; and ever shall, said I; and such a one cannot be insensible of his own.
However, I could not help being visibly moved at the poor fellow's emotion.
Now, said the brutal Mowbray, do I think thee in. sufferable, Jack. Our poor friend is already a peg too low; and here thou art letting him down lower and lower still. This soothing of him in his dejected moments, and joining thy womanish tears with his, is not the way; I am sure it is not. If our Lovelace were here, he'd tell thee so.
Thou art an impenetrable ereature, replied I; unfit to be present at a scene, the terrors of which thou wilt not be able to feel till thou feelest them in thyself; and then, if thou hadst time for feeling, my life for thine, thou behavest as pitifully as those thou thinkest most pitiful.
Then turning to the poor sick man, Tears, my dear Belton, are no signs of an unmanly, but, contrarily of a humane nature; they ease the over-charged heart, which would burst but for that kindly and natural relief.
Give sorrow words (says Shakspeare)
-The grief that does not speak,
Whispers the o'er-fraught heart, and bids it break.
I know, my dear Belton, thou usedst to take pleasure in repetitions from the poets; but thou must be tasteless of their beauties now: yet be not discountenanced by this uncouth and unreflecting Mowbray, for, as Juvenal says, Tears are the prerogative of manhood.
'Tis at least seasonably said, my dear Belford. It is kind to keep me in countenance for this womanish weak. ness, as Mowbray has been upbraidingly calling it, ever since he has been with me: and in so doing, (whatever I might have thought in such high health as he enjoys, has convinced me, that bottle-friends feel nothing but what moves in that little circle.
Well, well, proceed in your own way, Jack. I love my friend Belton as well as you can do; yet for the blood of me, I cannot but think, that soothing a man's weakness is increasing it.
If it be a weakness, to be touched at great and concerning events, in which our humanity is concerned, said I, thou mayest be right.
I have seen many a man, said the rough creature, going up Holborn-hill, that has behaved more like a man than either of you.
Ay, but, Mowbray, replied the poor man, those wretches have not had their minds enervated by such infirmities of body as I have long laboured under.. Thou art a shocking fellow, and ever wert.-But to be able to remember nothing in these moments but what reproaches me, and to know that I cannot hold it long, and what may then be my lot, if-but interrupting himself, and turning to me, Give me thy pity, Jack; 'tis balm to my wounded soul; and let Mowbray sit indifferent enough to the pangs of a dying friend, to laugh at us both.
The hardened fellow then retired, with the air of a