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thing is too shocking for them to look upon, or see acted, that has but novelty and curiosity in it.
Down I posted; got a chair; and was carried home, extremely shocked and discomposed: yet, weighing the lady's arguments, I know not why I was so affected-ex. cept, as she said, at the unusualness of the thing.
While I waited for a chair, Mrs. Smith came down, and told me that there were devices and inscriptions upon the lid. Lord bless me! is a coffin a proper subject to display fancy upon ?-But these great minds cannot avoid doing extraordinary things!
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ.
Friday Morn, Sept. 1. It is surprising, that I, a man, should be so much af. fected as I was, at such an object as is the subject of my former letter; who also, in my late uncle's case, and poor Belton's had the like before me, and the directing of it when she, a woman, of so weak and tender a frame, who was to fill it (so soon perhaps to fill it!) could give orders about it, and draw out the devices upon it, and explain them with so little concern as the women tell me she did to them last night after I was gone.
I really was ill, and restless all night. Thou wert the subject of my execration, as she of my admiration, all the time I was quite awake: and, when I dozed, I dreamt of nothing but of flying hour-glasses, deaths-heads, spades,
mattocks, and eternity; the hint of her devices (as given me by Mrs. Smith) running in my head.
However, not being able to keep away from Smith's, I went thither about seven. The lady was just gone out: she had slept better, I found, than I, though her solemn repository was under her window, not far from her bedside.
I was prevailed upon by Mrs. Smith and her nurse Shelburne (Mrs. Lovick being abroad with her) to go up and look at the devices. Mrs. Lovick has since shown me a copy of the draught by which all was ordered; and I will give thee a sketch of the symbols.
The principal device, neatly etched on a plate of white metal, is a crowned serpent, with its tail in its mouth, forming a ring, the emblem of eternity: and in the circle made by it is this inscription:
For ornaments at top, an hour-glass, winged. At bottom, an urn.
Under the hour-glass, on another plate, this inscription: HERE the wicked cease from troubling; and HERE the weary be at rest. Job. iii. 17.
Over the urn, near the bottom :
Turn again unto thy rest, O my soul! for the Lord hath rewarded thee: And why? Thou hast delivered my soul from death; mine eyes from tears; and my feet from falling. Ps. cxvi. 7, &.
Over this is the head of a white lily snapt short off, and just falling from the stalk; and this inscription over that, between the principal plate and the lily:
The days of man are but as grass. For he flourisheth as a flower of the field: for, as soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. Ps. ciii. 15, 16.
She excused herself to the women, on the score of her youth, and being used to draw for her needleworks, for having shown more fancy than would perhaps be thought suitable on so solemn an occasion.
The date, April 10, she accounted for, as not being able to tell what her closing-day would be; and as that was the fatal day of her leaving her father's house.
She discharged the undertaker's bill after I went away, with as much cheerfulness as she could ever have paid for the clothes she sold to purchase this her palace: for such she called it; reflecting upon herself for the expensiveness of it, saying, that they might observe in her, that pride left not poor mortals to the last but indeed she did not know but her father would permit it, when furnished, to be carried down to be deposited with her ancestors; and, in that case, she ought not to discredit those ancestors in her appearance amongst them.
It is covered with fine black cloth, and lined with white sattin; soon, she said, to be tarnished by viler earth than any it could be covered by.
The burial-dress was brought home with it. The women had curiosity enough, I suppose, to see her open that, if she did open it. And, perhaps, thou wouldst have been glad to have been present to have admired it too!—
Mrs. Lovick said, she took the liberty to blame her; and wished the removal of such an object-from her bed.
chamber, at least: and was so affected with the noble answer she made upon it, that she entered it down the moment she left her.
To persons in health, said she, this sight may be shocking; and the preparation, and my unconcernedness ' in it, may appear affected: but to me, who have had so 6 gradual a weaning-time from the world, and so much 6 reason not to love it, I must say, I dwell on, I indulge, 6 (and, strictly speaking, I enjoy,) the thoughts of death. 6 For, believe me,' [looking stedfastly at the awful receptacle,] 'believe what at this instant I feel to be most 6 true, That there is such a vast superiority of weight and 6 importance in the thought of death, and its hoped-for happy consequences, that it in a manner annihilates all other considerations and concerns. Believe me, my ' good friends, it does what nothing else can do: it teaches · me, by strengthening in me the force of the divinest ' example, to forgive the injuries I have received; and shuts out the remembrance of past evils from my soul.' And now let me ask thee, Lovelace, Dost thou think that, when the time shall come that thou shalt be obliged to launch into the boundless ocean of eternity, thou wilt be able (any more than poor Belton) to act thy part with such true heroism, as this sweet and tender blossom of a woman has manifested, and continues to manifest!
Oh! no! it cannot be !-And why can't it be?—The reason is evident: she has no wilful errors to look back upon with self-reproach-and her mind is strengthened by the consolations which flow from that religious rectitude which has been the guide of all her actions; and which has taught her rather to choose to be a sufferer than an aggressor!
This was the support of the divine Socrates, as thou
hast read. When led to execution, his wife lamenting that he should suffer being innocent, Thou fool, said he, wouldst thou wish me to be guilty!
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ.
Friday, Sept. 1. How astonishing, in the midst of such affecting scenes, is thy mirth on what thou callest my own aspirations! Never, surely, was there such another man in this world, thy talents and thy levity taken together!--Surely, what I shall send thee with this will affect thee. If not, nothing can, till thy own hour come: and heavy will then thy reflections be!
I am glad, however, that thou enablest me to assure the lady that thou wilt no more molest her; that is to say, in other words, that, after having ruined her fortunes, and all her worldly prospects, thou wilt be so gracious, as to let her lie down and die in peace.
Thy giving up to poor Belton's sister the little legacy, and thy undertaking to make Mowbray and Tourville follow thy example, are, I must say to thy honour, of a piece with thy generosity to thy Rose-bud and her Johnny; and to a number of other good actions in pecuniary matters: although thy Rosebud's is, I believe, the only instance, where a pretty woman was concerned, of such a disinterested bounty.
Upon my faith, Lovelace, I love to praise thee; and often and often, as thou knowest, have I studied for oc