Mrs Smith, stepping up before us, bid Mrs Lovick and the nurse not stir when we entered: and then we went up softly together.
We beheld the lady in a charming attitude. Dressed, as I told you before, in her virgin white, she was sitting in her elbow-chair, Mrs Lovick close by her in another chair, with her left arm round her neck, supporting it as it were; for it seems the lady had bid her do so, saying she had been a mother to her, and she would delight herself in thinking she was in her mamma’s arms; for she found herself drowsy; perhaps, she said, for the last time she should ever be so.
One faded cheek rested upon the good woman’s bosom, the kindly warmth of which had overspread it with a faint, but charming flush; the other paler, and hollow, as if already iced over by death. Her hands, white as the lily, with her meandering veins more transparently blue than ever I had seen even hers (veins so soon, alas! to be choked up by the congealment of that purpose stream, which already so languidly creeps rather than flows through them!), her hands hanging lifelessly, one before her, the other grasped by the right hand of the kind widow, whose tears bedewed the sweet face which her motherly bosom supported, though unfelt by the fair sleeper; and either insensibly to the good woman, or what she would not disturb her to wipe off, or to change her posture. Her aspect was sweetly calm and serene: and though she started now and then, yet her sleep seemed easy; her breath indeed short and quick; but tolerably free, and not like that of a dying person.
May my story be a warning to all, how they prefer a libertine to a man of true honour; and how they permit themselves to be misled (where they mean the best) by the specious yet foolish hope of subduing riveted habits, and as I may say of altering natures! — The more foolish, as experience might convince us, that there is hardly one in ten of even tolerably happy marriages, in which the wife keeps the hold in the husband‘s affections which she had in the lover‘s. What influence then can she hope to have over the morals of an avowed libertine, who marries perhaps for conveniency, who despises the tie, and whom, it is too probable, nothing but old age, or sickness, or disease (the consequence of ruinous riot) can reclaim?
…she started, and a blush overspread her face, on hearing, as I also did, a sort of lumbering noise upon the stairs, as if a large trunk were bringing up between two people: and looking upon me with an eye of concern, Blunderers! said she, they have brought in something two hours before the time — Don’t be surprised, sir: it is all to save you trouble.
We all remaining silent, the women having their aprons at their eyes — Why this concern for nothing at all, said she? — If I am to be blamed for anything, it is for showing too much solicitude, as it may be thought, for this earthly part. I love to do everything for myself that I can do. I ever did. Every other material point is so far done and taken care of, that I have had leisure for things of lesser moment. Minutenesses may be observed where greater articles are not neglected for them. I might have had this to order, perhaps, when less fit to order it. I have no mother, no sister, no Mrs Norton, no Miss Howe, near me. Some of you must have seen this in a few days, if not now; perhaps have had the friendly trouble of directing it. And what is the difference of a few days to you, when I am gratified rather than discomposed by it? — I shall not die the sooner for such a preparation — Should not everybody make their will, that has anything to bequeath? And who that makes a will, should be afraid of a coffin? — My dear friends (to the women), I have considered these things; do not give me reason to think you have not, with such an object before you as you have had in me, for weeks.
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. But 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 meaning on perusal of my letter. You have seen what I wrote, no doubt?
I read it to myself — Indeed, madam, I can find nothing but that you are going down to Harlowe Place to be reconciled to your father and other friends: and Mr Lovelace presumed that a letter from your sister, which he saw brought when he was at Mr Smith’s, gave you the welcome news of it.
She then explained all to me, and that, as I may say, in six words — A religious meaning is couched under it, and that’s the reason that neither you nor I could find it out. Continue reading
I shall now be convinced that there is something in dreams. The ceiling opening is the reconciliation in view. The bright form, lifting her up through it to another ceiling stuck round with golden Cherubims and Seraphims, indicates the charming little boys and girls that will be the fruits of this happy reconciliation. The welcomes, thrice repeated, are those of her family, now no more to be deemed implacable. Yet are they a family too, that my soul cannot mingle with.
But then what is my tumbling over and over, through the floor, into a frightful hole
as she ascends
)? Ho! only this; it alludes to my disrelish to matrimony: which is a bottomless pit, a gulf, and I know not what. And I suppose, had I not awoke (in such a plaguy fright) I had been soused into some river at the bottom of the hole, and then been carried (mundified or purified from my past iniquities) by the same bright form (waiting for me upon the mossy banks) to my beloved girl
; and we should have gone on, cherubiming of it, and carolling, to the end of the chapter. Continue reading
I subjoin a list of the papers or letters I shall enclose. You must return them all when perused.
I am very much tired and fatigued — with — I don’t know what — with writing, I think — but most with myself, and with a situation I cannot help aspiring to get out of, and above!
Oh, my dear, ’tis a sad, a very sad world! — While under our parents’ protecting wings, we know nothing at all of it. Book-learned and a scribbler, and looking at people as I saw them as visitors or visiting, I thought I knew a great deal of it. Pitiable ignorance! — Alas! I knew nothing at all!
You will see by these several letters, written and received in so little a space of time (to say nothing of what I have received and written, which I cannot show you), how little opportunity or leisure I can have for writing my own story.