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I wondered at this expression*; but would not interrupt
You see how I am.
O 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. 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 weak, so short breathed, and her words and actions 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 they have left upon me have 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 he 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 to your gay friend, in the style and man. ner you are master of. Who knows, as it would have come from an associate, and of an associate, how it might have affected him?
* Explained in Letter LXX. of this volume.
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 hope 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 packet were brought her by a man on horseback 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 apothe. cary 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 broken: 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 toge ther 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 for my executor-is, nevertheless, (such is the strange turn that things have taken!) 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 hundred-fold, the kindness and favour you have shown 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 godlike power, gentlemen: I once rejoiced in it in some little degree; and much more in the prospect I had of its being enlarged to me; though 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, through 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 the tongue to say weak and silly things, rather than Once more, then, I thank ye appear ungratefully silent. 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 full; and left us looking upon one another.
We had hardly recovered ourselves, when she, quite easy, cheerful, 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 for 'tis a concern that only gene. Mr. Belford; you, rous natures can show: and to such natures sweet is the pain, if I may so say, that attends such a concern. But as I have some few preparatious still to make, and would not (though 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
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
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 cheer me a little, when I am low; and putting a fee 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 to-night or to-morrow, as you have opportunity: and you, Mr. Bel