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stitution afterwards, which you are called in to help. I had a companion once, my dear Belford, thou knewest honest Blomer, as pretty a physician he would have made as any in England, had he kept himself from excess in wine and women; and he always used to say, there was nothing at all but pick-pocket parade in the physician's art; and that the best guesser was the best physician. And I used to believe him too-and yet, fond of life, and fearful of death, what do we do, when we are taken ill, but call ye in? And what do ye do, when called in, but nurse our distempers, till from pigmies yon make giants of them? and then ye come creeping with solemn faces, when ye are ashamed to prescribe, or when the stomach won't bear its natural food, by reason of your poisonous potions,—Alas! I am afraid physic can do no more for him!--Nor need it, when it has brought to the brink of the grave the poor wretch who placed all his reliance in your cursed slops, and the flattering hopes you gave him.
The doctor was out of countenance; but said, if we could make mortal men immortal, and would not, all this might be just.
I blamed the poor man ; yet excused him to the physician. To die, dear Doctor, when, like my poor friend, we are so desirous of life, is a melancholy thing. We are apt to hope too much, not considering that the seeds of death are sown in us when we begin to live, and grow up, till, like rampant weeds, they choke the tender flower of life; which declines in us as those weeds flourish. We ought, therefore, to begin early to study what our constitutions will bear, in order to root out, by temperance, the weeds which the soil is most apt to produce; or, at least, to keep them down as they rise; and not, when the flower or plant is withered at the root, and the weed in its full vigour, ex
pect, that the medical art will restore the one, or destroy the other; when that other, as I hinted, has been rooting itself in the habit from the time of our birth.
This speech, Bob., thou wilt call a prettiness; but the allegory is just; and thou hast not quite cured me of the metaphorical.
Very true, said the doctor; you have brought a good metaphor to illustrate the thing. I am sorry I can do nothing for the gentleman; and can only recommend patience, and a better frame of mind.
Well, Sir, said the poor angry man, vexed at the doctor, but more at death, you will perhaps recommend the next in succession to the physician, when he can do no more; and, I suppose, will send your brother to pray by me for those virtues which you wish me.
It seems the physician's brother is a clergyman in the neighbourhood.
I was greatly concerned to see the gentleman thus treated; and so I told poor Belton when he was gone; but he continued impatient, and would not be denied, he said, the liberty of talking to a man, who had taken so many guineas of him for doing nothing, or worse than nothing, and never declined one, though he knew all the time he could do him no good.
It seems the gentleman, though rich, is noted for being greedy after fees! and poor Belton went on raving at the extravagant fees of English physicians, compared with those of the most eminent foreign ones. But, poor man! he, like the Turks, who judge of a general by his success, (out of patience to think he must die,) would have worshipped the doctor, and not grudged three times the sum, could he have given him hopes of recovery.
But, nevertheless, I must needs say, that gentlemen of
the faculty should be more moderate in their fees, or take more pains to deserve them; for, generally, they only come into a room, feel the sick man's pulse, ask the nurse a few questions, inspect the patient's tongue, and, perhaps, his water; then sit down, look plaguy wise, and write. The golden fee finds the ready hand, and they hurry away, as if the sick man's room were infectious. So to the next they troll, and to the next, if men of great practice; valuing themselves upon the number of visits they make in a morning, and the little time they make them in. They go to dinner and unload their pockets; and sally out again to refill them. And thus, in a little time, they raise vast estates; for, as Ratcliffe said, when first told of a great loss which befell him, It was only going up and down one hundred pair of stairs to fetch it up.
Mrs. Sambre (Belton's sister) had several times proposed to him a minister to pray by him, but the poor man could not, he said, bear the thoughts of one; for that he should certainly die in an hour or two after; and he was willing to hope still, against all probability, that he might recover; and was often asking his sister if she had not seen people as bad as he was, who, almost to a miracle, when every body gave them over, had got up again?
She, shaking her head, told him she had; but, once saying, that their disorders were of an acute kind, and such as had a crisis in them, he called her Small-hopes, and Job's comforter; and bid her say nothing, if she could not say more to the purpose, and what was fitter for a sick man to hear. And yet, poor fellow, he has no hopes himself, as is plain by his desponding terrors; one of which he fell into, and a very dreadful one, soon after the doctor went.
Wednesday, Niue o'clock at Night.
THE poor man has been in convulsions, terrible convulsions! for an hour past. O Lord! Lovelace, death is a shocking thing! by my faith it is !-I wish thou wert present on this occasion. It is not merely the concern a man has for his friend; but, as death is the common lot, we see, in his agonies, how it will be one day with ourselves. I am all over as if cold water were poured down my back, or as if I had a strong ague-fit upon me. I was obliged to come away. And I write, hardly knowing what.-I wish thou wert here.
THOUGH I left him, because I could stay no longer, I can't be easy by myself, but must go to him again.
POOR Belton !-Drawing on apace! Yet was he sensible when I went in-too sensible, poor man! He has something upon his mind to reveal, he tells me, that is the worst action of his life; worse than ever you or I knew of him, he says. It must be then very bad!
He ordered every body out; but was seized with another convulsion-fit, before he could reveal it; and in it he lies struggling between life and death-but I'll go in again.
One o'clock in the Morning.
ALL now must soon be over with him: Poor, poor fellow! He has given me some hints of what he wanted to say; but all incoherent, interrupted by dying hiccoughs
Bad enough it must be, Heaven knows, by what I can gather!-Alas! Lovelace, I fear, I fear, he came too soon into his uncle's estate.
If a man were to live always, he might have some temp. tation to do base things, in order to procure to himself, as it would then be, everlasting ease, plenty, or affluence; but, for the sake of ten, twenty, thirty years of poor life to be a villain--Can that be worth while? with a conscience sting. ing him all the time too! And when he comes to wind up all, such agonizing reflections upon his past guilt! All then appearing as nothing! What he most valued, most disgustful! and not one thing to think of, as the poor fellow says twenty and twenty times over, but what is attended with anguish and reproach!
To hear the poor man wish he had never been born!To hear him pray to be nothing after death! Good God! how shocking!
By his incoherent hints, I am afraid 'tis very bad with him. No pardon, no mercy, he repeats, can lie for him!
I hope I shall make a proper use of this lesson. Laugh at me if thou wilt; but never, never more, will I take the liberties I have taken; but whenever I am tempted, will think of Belton's dying agonies, and what my own may be.
Thursday, Three in the Morning.
He is now at the last gasp-rattles in the throat-has a new convulsion every minute almost! What horror is he in! His eyes look like breath-stained glass! They roll ghastly no more; are quite set; his face distorted, and drawn out, by his sinking jaws, and erected staring eyebrows, with his lengthened furrowed forehead, to double its usual length, as it seems. It is not, it cannot be the face of Belton, thy Belton, and my Belton, whom we have beheld with so much delight over the social bottle, com. paring notes, that one day may be brought against us, and