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all three were of opinion, that she would hardly live to see the entrance of another week. I was not so much surprised as grieved; for I had feared as much when I left her on Saturday.
I sent up my compliments; and she returned, that she would take it for a favour if I would call upon her in the morning by eight o'clock. Mrs. Lovick told me that she had fainted away on Saturday, while she was writing, as she had done likewise the day before; and having received benefit then by a little turn in a chair, she was carried abroad again. She returned somewhat better; and wrote till late; yet had a pretty good night; and went to Covent-garden church in the morning; but came home so ill that she was obliged to lie down.
When she arose, seeing how much grieved Mrs. Lovick and Mrs. Smith were for her, she made apologies for the trouble she gave them-You were happy, said she, before I came hither. It was a cruel thing in me to come among honest strangers, and to be sick, and die with
When they touched upon the irreconcileableness of her friends, I have had ill offices done me to them, said she, and they do not know how ill I am; nor will they believe any thing I should write. But yet I cannot sometimes forbear thinking it a little hard, that out of so many near and dear friends as I have living, not one of them will Vouchsafe to look upon me. No old servant, no old friend, proceeded she, to be permitted to come near me, without being sure of incurring displeasure! And to have such a great work to go through by myself, a young creature as I am, and to have every thing to think of as to my temporal matters, and to order, to my very interment! No dear mother, said the sweet sufferer, to pray by me
and bless me!-No kind sister to sooth and comfort me! -But come, recollected she, how do I know but all is for the best if I can but make a right use of my dis comforts?-Pray for me, Mrs. Lovick-pray for me, Mrs. Smith, that I may-I have great need of your prayers. This cruel man has discomposed me. His persecutions have given me a pain just here, [putting her hand to her heart.] What a step has he made me take to avoid him!-Who can touch pitch, and not be defiled? He has made a bad spirit take possession of me, I think-broken in upon all my duties and will not yet, I doubt, let me be at rest. Indeed he is very cruel -but this is one of my trials, I believe. By God's grace, I shall be easier to-morrow, and especially if I have no more of his tormentings, and if I can get a tolerable night. And I will sit up till eleven, that I may.
She said, that though this was so heavy a day with her, she was at other times, within these few days past espe cially, blessed with bright hours; and particularly that she had now and then such joyful assurances, (which she hoped were not presumptuous ones,) that God would receive her to his mercy, that she could hardly contain herself, and was ready to think herself above this earth while she was in it: And what, inferred she to Mrs. Lovick, must be the state itself, the very aspirations after which have often cast a beamy light through the thickest darkness, and, when I have been at the lowest ebb, have dispelled the black clouds of despondency?-As I hope they soon will this spirit of repining.
She had a pretty good night, it seems; and this morning went in a chair to St. Dunstan's church.
The chairmen told Mrs. Smith, that after prayers. (for she did not return till between nine and ten) they carried
her to a house in Fleet-street, whither they never waited on her before. And where dost think this was?—Why to an undertaker's! Good Heaven! what a woman is this! She went into the back shop, and talked with the master of it about half an hour, and came from him with great serenity; he waiting upon her to her chair with a respectful countenance, but full of curiosity and seriousness.
'Tis evident that she went to bespeak her house that she talked of*-As soon as you can, Sir, were her words to him as she got into the chair. Mrs. Smith told me this with the same surprise and grief that I heard it.
She was very ill in the afternoon, having got cold either at St. Dunstan's, or at chapel, and sent for the clergyman to pray by her; and the women, unknown to her, sent both for Dr. H. and Mr. Goddard: who were just gone, as I told you, when I came to pay my respects to her this evening.
And thus have I recounted from the good women what passed to this night since my absence.
I long for to-morrow, that I may see her: and yet it is such a melancholy longing as I never experienced, and know not how to describe.
Tuesday, Aug. 29.
I was at Smith's at half an hour after seven. They told me that the lady was gone in a chair to St. Dunstan's: but was better than she had been in either of the two preceding days; and that she said to Mrs. Lovick and Mrs. Smith, as she went into the chair, I have a good deal to answer for to you, my good friends, for my vapourish conversation of last night.
* See Letter LXV. of this volume.
If, Mrs. Lovick, said she, smiling, I have no new matters to discompose me, I believe my spirits will hold out purely.
She returned immediately after prayers.
Mr. Belford, said she, as she entered the back shop where I was, (and upon my approaching her,) I am very glad to see you. You have been performing for your poor friend a kind last office. 'Tis not long ago since you did the same for a near relation. Is it not a little hard upon you, that these troubles should fall so thick to your lot? But they are charitable offices: and it is a praise to your humanity, that poor dying people know not where to choose so well.
I told her I was sorry to hear she had been so ill since I had the honour to attend her; but rejoiced to find that now she seemed a good deal better.
It will be sometimes better, and sometimes worse, re. plied she, with poor creatures, when they are balancing between life and death. But no more of these matters just now. I hope, Sir, you'll breakfast with me. I was quite vapourish yesterday. I had a very bad spirit upon me. Had I not, Mrs. Smith? But I hope I shall be no more so. And to-day I am perfectly serene. This day rises upon me as if it would be a bright one.
She desired me to walk up, and invited Mr. Smith and his wife, and Mrs. Lovick also, to breakfast with her. I was better pleased with her liveliness than with her looks.
The good people retiring after breakfast, the following conversation passed between us ;
Pray, Sir, let me ask you, said she, if you think I may promise myself that I shall be no more molested by your friend?
I hesitated: For how could I answer for such a man? What shall I do, if he comes again?-You see how I am.-I cannot fly from him now-If he has any pity left for the poor creature whom he has thus reduced, let him not come. But have you heard from him lately? And will he come?
I hope not, Madam. I have not heard from him since Thursday last, that he went out of town, rejoicing in the hopes your letter gave him of a reconciliation between your friends and you, and that he might in good time see you at your father's; and he is gone down to give all his friends joy of the news, and is in high spirits upon it.
Alas! for me: I shall then surely have him come up to persecute me again! As soon as he discovers that that was only a stratagem to keep him away, he will come up, and who knows but even now he is upon the road? I thought I was so bad that I should have been out of his and every body's way before now; for I expected not that this contrivance would serve me above two or three days; and by this time he must have found out that I am not so happy as to have any hope of a reconciliation with my family; and then he will come, if it be only in revenge for what he will think a deceit, but is not, I hope, a wicked one.
I believe I looked surprised to hear her confess that her letter was a stratagem only; for she said, You wonder, Mr. Belford, I observe, that I could be guilty of such an artifice. I doubt it is not right: it was done in a hurry of spirits. How could I see a man who had so mortally injured me; yet pretending sorrow for his crimes, (and wanting to see me,) could behave with so much shocking levity, as he did to the honest people of the house? Yet, 'tis strange too, that neither you nor he found out my