I know how terribly this great catastrophe (as I may call it, since so many persons are interested in it) affects thee. I should have been glad to have had particulars of the distress which the first communication of it must have given to the Harlowes. Yet who but must pity the unhappy mother?
The answer which James Harlowe returned to Colonel Morden's letter of notification of his sister's death, and to her request as to her interment, will give a faint idea of what their concern must be. Here follows a copy of it:
TO WILLIAM MORDEN, ESQ. SATURDAY, SEPT. 9.
I cannot find words to express what we all suffer on the most mournful news that ever was communicated to us.
My sister Arabella (but, alas! I have now no other sister) was preparing to follow Mrs. Norton up, and I had resolved to escort her, and to have looked in upon the dear creature.
God be merciful to us all! To what purpose did the doctor write, if she was so near her end?—Why, as every body says, did he not send sooner?— Or, Why at all?
The most admirable young creature that ever swerved! Not one friend to be with her!—Alas! Sir, I fear my mother will never get over this shock. —She has been in hourly fits ever since she received the fatal news. My poor father has the gout thrown into his stomach; and Heaven knows—O Cousin!—O Sir!—I meant nothing but the honour of the family; yet have I all the weight thrown upon me—[O this cursed Lovelace!—may I perish if he escape the deserved vengeance!]*
* The words thus enclosed  were omitted in the transcript to Mr. Lovelace.
We had begun to please ourselves that we should soon see her here—Good Heaven! that her next entrance into this house, after she abandoned us so precipitately, should be in a coffin.
We can have nothing to do with her executor, (another strange step of the dear creature's!)—He cannot expect we will—nor, if he be a gentleman, will he think of acting. Do you, therefore, be pleased, Sir, to order an undertaker to convey the body down to us. My mother says she shall be for ever unhappy, if she may not in death see the dear creature whom she could not see in life. Be so kind, therefore, as to direct the lid to be only half-screwed down—that (if my poor mother cannot be prevailed upon to dispense with so shocking a spectacle) she may be obliged—she was the darling of her heart!
If we know her well in relation to the funeral, it shall be punctually complied with; as shall every thing in it that is fit or reasonable to be performed; and this without the intervention of strangers.
Will you not, dear Sir, favour us with your presence at this melancholy time? Pray do—and pity and excuse, with the generosity which is natural to the brave and the wise, what passed at our last meeting. Every one's respects attend you. And I am, Sir,
Your inexpressibly afflicted cousin and servant, JA. HARLOWE, JUN.
Every thing that's fit or reasonable to be performed! [repeated I to the Colonel from the above letter on his reading it to me;] that is every thing which she has directed, that can be performed. I hope, Colonel, that I shall have no contention with them. I wish no more for their acquaintance than they do for mine. But you, Sir, must be the mediator between them and me; for I shall insist upon a literal performance in every article.
The Colonel was so kind as to declare that he would support me in my resolution.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. SUNDAY MORN. EIGHT O'CLOCK, SEPT. 10.
I staid at Smith's till I saw the last of all that is mortal of the divine lady.
As she has directed rings by her will to several persons, with her hair to be set in crystal, the afflicted Mrs. Norton cut off, before the coffin was closed four charming ringlets; one of which the Colonel took for a locket, which, he says, he will cause to be made, and wear next his heart in memory of his beloved cousin.
Between four and five in the morning, the corpse was put into the hearse; the coffin before being filled, as intended, with flowers and aromatic herbs, and proper care taken to prevent the corpse suffering (to the eye) from the jolting of the hearse.
Poor Mrs. Norton is extremely ill. I gave particular directions to Mrs. Smith's maid (whom I have ordered to attend the good woman in a mourning chariot) to take care of her. The Colonel, who rides with his servants within view of the hearse, says that he will see my orders in relation to her enforced.
When the hearse moved off, and was out of sight, I locked up the lady's chamber, into which all that had belonged to her was removed.
I expect to hear from the Colonel as soon as he is got down, by a servant of his own.
MR. MOWBRAY, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. UXBRIDGE, SUNDAY MORN. NINE O'CLOCK.
I send you enclosed a letter from Mr. Lovelace; which, though written in the cursed Algebra, I know to be such a one as will show what a queer way he is in; for he read it to us with the air of a tragedian. You will see by it what the mad fellow had intended to do, if we had not all of us interposed. He was actually setting out with a surgeon of this place, to have the lady opened and embalmed.—Rot me if it be not my full persuasion that, if he had, her heart would have been found to be either iron or marble.
We have got Lord M. to him. His Lordship is also much afflicted at the lady's death. His sisters and nieces, he says, will be ready to break their hearts. What a rout's here about a woman! For after all she was no more.
We have taken a pailful of black bull's blood from him; and this has lowered him a little. But he threatens Col. Morden, he threatens you for your cursed reflections, [cursed reflections indeed, Jack!] and curses all the world and himself still.
Last night his mourning (which is full as deep as for a wife) was brought home, and his fellows' mourning too. And, though eight o'clock, he would put it on, and make them attend him in theirs.
Every body blames him on this lady's account. But I see not for why. She was a vixen in her virtue. What a pretty fellow she has ruined—Hey, Jack!—and her relations are ten times more to blame than he. I will prove this to the teeth of them all. If they could use her ill, why should they expect him to use her well?—You, or I, or Tourville, in his shoes, would have done as he has done. Are not all the girls forewarned? —'Has he done by her as that caitiff Miles did to the farmer's daughter, whom he tricked up to town, (a pretty girl also, just such another as Bob.'s Rosebud,) under a notion of waiting on a lady?—Drilled her on, pretending the lady was abroad. Drank her light-hearted—then carried her to a play—then it was too late, you know, to see the pretended lady —then to a bagnio—ruined her, as they call it, and all this the same day. Kept her on (an ugly dog, too!) a fortnight or three weeks, then left her to the mercy of the people of the bagnio, (never paying for any thing,) who stript her of all her clothes, and because she would not take on, threw her into prison; where she died in want and despair!'—A true story, thou knowest, Jack.—This fellow deserved to be d——d. But has our Bob. been such a villain as this?—And would he not have married this flinty-hearted lady?—So he is justified very evidently.
Why, then, should such cursed qualms take him?—Who would have thought he had been such poor blood? Now [rot the puppy!] to see him sit silent in a corner, when he has tired himself with his mock majesty, and with his argumentation, (Who so fond of arguing as he?) and teaching his shadow to make mouths against the wainscot—The devil fetch me if I have patience with him!
But he has had no rest for these ten days—that's the thing!—You must write to him; and pr'ythee coax him, Jack, and send him what he writes for, and give him all his way—there will be no bearing him else. And get the lady buried as fast as you can; and don't let him know where.
This letter should have gone yesterday. We told him it did. But were in hopes he would have inquired after it again. But he raves as he has not any answer.
What he vouchsafed to read of other of your letters has given my Lord such a curiosity as makes him desire you to continue your accounts. Pray do; but not in your hellish Arabic; and we will let the poor fellow only into what we think fitting for his present way.
I live a cursed dull poking life here. What with I so lately saw of poor Belton, and what I now see of this charming fellow, I shall be as crazy as he soon, or as dull as thou, Jack; so must seek for better company in town than either of you. I have been forced to read sometimes to divert me; and you know I hate reading. It presently sets me into a fit of drowsiness; and then I yawn and stretch like a devil.
Yet in Dryden's Palemon and Arcite have I just now met with a passage, that has in it much of our Bob.'s case. These are some of the lines.
Mr. Mowbray then recites some lines from that poem, describing a distracted man, and runs the parallel; and then, priding himself in his performance, says:
Let me tell you, that had I begun to write as early as you and Lovelace, I might have cut as good a figure as either of you. Why not? But boy or man I ever hated a book. 'Tis folly to lie. I loved action, my boy. I hated droning; and have led in former days more boys from their book, than ever my master made to profit by it. Kicking and cuffing, and orchard-robbing, were my early glory.
But I am tired of writing. I never wrote such a long letter in my life. My wrist and my fingers and thumb ache d——n——y. The pen is an hundred weight at least. And my eyes are ready to drop out of my head upon the paper.—The cramp but this minute in my fingers. Rot the goose and the goose-quill! I will write no more long letters for a twelve-month to come. Yet one word; we think the mad fellow coming to. Adieu.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. UXBRIDGE, SAT. SEPT. 9.
I think it absolutely right that my ever-dear and beloved lady should be opened and embalmed. It must be done out of hand this very afternoon. Your acquaintance, Tomkins, and old Anderson of this place, I will bring with me, shall be the surgeons. I have talked to the latter about it.
I will see every thing done with that decorum which the case, and the sacred person of my beloved require.
Every thing that can be done to preserve the charmer from decay shall also be done. And when she will descend to her original dust, or cannot be kept longer, I will then have her laid in my family-vault, between my own father and mother. Myself, as I am in my soul, so in person, chief mourner. But her heart, to which I have such unquestionable pretensions, in which once I had so large a share, and which I will prize above my own, I will have. I will keep it in spirits. It shall never be out of my sight. And all the charges of sepulture too shall be mine.
Surely nobody will dispute my right to her. Whose was she living?—Whose is she dead but mine?—Her cursed parents, whose barbarity to her, no doubt, was the true cause of her death, have long since renounced her. She left them for me. She chose me therefore; and I was her husband. What though I treated her like a villain? Do I not pay for it now? Would she not have been mine had I not? Nobody will dispute but she would. And has she not forgiven me?—I am then in statu quo prius with her, am I not? as if I had never offended?—Whose then can she be but mine?
I will free you from your executorship, and all your cares.
Take notice, Belford, that I do hereby actually discharge you, and every body, from all cares and troubles relating to her. And as to her last testament, I will execute it myself.
There were no articles between us, no settlements; and she is mine, as you see I have proved to a demonstration; nor could she dispose of herself but as I pleased.—D——n——n seize me then if I make not good my right against all opposers!
Her bowels, if her friends are very solicitous about them, and very humble and sorrowful, (and none have they of their own,) shall be sent down to them—to be laid with her ancestors—unless she has ordered otherwise. For, except that, she shall not be committed to the unworthy earth so long as she can be kept out of it, her will shall be performed in every thing.
I send in the mean time for a lock of her hair.
I charge you stir not in any part of her will but by my express direction. I will order every thing myself. For am I not her husband? and, being forgiven by her, am I not the chosen of her heart? What else signifies her forgiveness?
The two insufferable wretches you have sent me plague me to death, and would treat me like a babe in strings.—D—n the fellows, what end can they mean by it? Yet that crippled monkey Doleman joins with them. And, as I hear them whisper, they have sent for Lord M.—to controul me, I suppose.
What I write to you for is,
1. To forbid you intermeddling with any thing relating to her. To forbid Morden intermeddling also. If I remember right, he has threatened me, and cursed me, and used me ill—and let him be gone from her, if he would avoid my resentment.
2. To send me a lock of her hair instantly by the bearer.
3. To engage Tomkins to have every thing ready for the opening and embalming. I shall bring Anderson with me.
4. To get her will and every thing ready for my perusal and consideration.
I will have possession of her dear heart this very night; and let Tomkins provide a proper receptacle and spirits, till I can get a golden one made for it.
I will take her papers. And, as no one can do her memory justice equal to myself, and I will not spare myself, who can better show the world what she was, and what a villain he that could use her ill? And the world shall also see what implacable and unworthy parents she had.
All shall be set forth in words at length. No mincing of the matter. Names undisguised as well as facts. For, as I shall make the worst figure in it myself, and have a right to treat myself as nobody else shall, who shall controul me? who dare call me to account?
Let me know, if the d——d mother be yet the subject of the devil's own vengeance—if the old wretch be dead or alive? Some exemplary mischief I must yet do. My revenge shall sweep away that devil, and all my opposers of the cruel Harlowe family, from the face of the earth. Whole hecatombs ought to be offered up to the manes of my Clarissa Lovelace.
Although her will may in some respects cross mine, yet I expect to be observed. I will be the interpreter of her's.
Next to mine, her's shall be observed: for she is my wife, and shall be to all eternity.—I will never have another.
Adieu, Jack, I am preparing to be with you. I charge you, as you value my life or your own, do not oppose me in any thing relating to my Clarissa Lovelace.
My temper is entirely altered. I know not what it is to laugh, or smile, or be pleasant. I am grown choleric and impatient, and will not be controuled.
I write this in characters as I used to do, that nobody but you should know what I write. For never was any man plagued with impertinents as I am.
IN A SEPARATE PAPER ENCLOSED IN THE ABOVE.
Let me tell thee, in characters still, that I am in a dreadful way just now. My brain is all boiling like a cauldron over a fiery furnace. What a devil is the matter with me, I wonder! I never was so strange in my life.
In truth, Jack, I have been a most execrable villain. And when I consider all my actions to the angel of a woman, and in her the piety, the charity, the wit, the beauty, I have helped to destroy, and the good to the world I have thereby been a mean of frustrating, I can pronounce d——n——n upon myself. How then can I expect mercy any where else?
I believe I shall have no patience with you when I see you. Your d——d stings and reflections have almost turned my brain.
But here Lord M. they tell me, is come!—D——n him, and those who sent for him!
I know not what I have written. But her dear heart and a lock of her hair I will have, let who will be the gainsayers! For is she not mine? Whose else can she be? She has no father nor mother, no sister, no brother, no relations but me. And my beloved is mine, and I am her's— and that's enough.—But Oh!—
She's out. The damp of death has quench'd her quite! Those spicy doors, her lips, are shut, close lock'd, Which never gale of life shall open more!
And is it so?—Is it indeed so?—Good God!—Good God!—But they will not let me write on. I must go down to this officious Peer—Who the devil sent for him?
MR. BELFORD, TO RICHARD MOWBRAY, ESQ. SUNDAY, SEPT. 10. FOUR IN THE AFTERNOON.
I have your's, with our unhappy friend's enclosed. I am glad my Lord is with him. As I presume that his phrensy will be but of short continuance, I most earnestly wish, that on his recovery he could be prevailed upon to go abroad. Mr. Morden, who is inconsolable, has seen by the will, (as indeed he suspected before he read it,) that the case was more than a common seduction; and has dropt hints already, that he looks on himself, on that account, as freed from his promises made to the dying lady, which were, that he would not seek to avenge her death.
You must make the recovery of his health the motive for urging him on this head; for, if you hint at his own safety, he will not stir, but rather seek the Colonel.
As to the lock of hair, you may easily pacify him, (as you once saw the angel,) with hair near the colour, if he be intent upon it.
At my Lord's desire I will write on, and in my common hand; that you may judge what is, and what is not, fit to be read to Mr. Lovelace at present. But as I shall not forbear reflections as I go along, in hopes to reach his heart on his recovery, I think it best to direct myself to him still, and that as if he were not disordered.
As I shall not have leisure to take copies, and yet am willing to have the whole subject before me, for my own future contemplation, I must insist upon a return of my letters some time hence. Mr. Lovelace knows that this is one of my conditions; and has hitherto complied with it.
Thy letter, Mowbray, is an inimitable performance. Thou art a strange impenetrable creature. But let me most earnestly conjure thee, and the idle flutterer, Tourville, from what you have seen of poor Belton's exit; from our friend Lovelace's phrensy, and the occasion of it; and from the terrible condition in which the wretched Sinclair lies; to set about an immediate change of life and manners. For my own part, I am determined, be your resolutions what they may, to take the advice I give.
As witness, J. BELFORD.
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ.
O Lovelace! I have a scene to paint in relation to the wretched Sinclair, that, if I do it justice, will make thee seriously ponder and reflect, or nothing can. I will lead thee to it in order; and that in my usual hand, that thy compeers may be able to read it as well as thyself.
When I had written the preceding letter, not knowing what to do with myself, recollecting, and in vain wishing for that delightful and improving conversation, which I had now for ever lost; I thought I had as good begin the task, which I had for some time past resolved to begin; that is to say, to go to church; and see if I could not reap some benefit from what I should hear there. Accordingly I determined to go to hear the celebrated preacher at St. James's church. But, as if the devil (for so I was then ready to conclude) thought himself concerned to prevent my intention, a visit was made me, just as I was dressed, which took me off from my purpose.
From whom should this visit be, but from Sally Martin, accompanied by Mrs. Carter, the sister of the infamous Sinclair! the same, I suppose I need not tell you, who keeps the bagnio near Bloomsbury.
These told me that the surgeon, apothecary, and physician, had all given the wretched woman over; but that she said, she should not die, nor be at rest, till she saw me; and they besought me to accompany them in the coach they came in, if I had one spark of charity, of christian charity, as they called it, left.
I was very loth to be diverted from my purpose by a request so unwelcome, and from people so abhorred; but at last went, and we got thither by ten; where a scene so shocking presented itself to me, that the death of poor desponding Belton is not, I think, to be compared with it.
The old wretch had once put her leg out by her rage and violence, and had been crying, scolding, cursing, ever since the preceding evening, that the surgeon had told her it was impossible to save her; and that a mortification had begun to show itself; insomuch that, purely in compassion to their own ears, they had been forced to send for another surgeon, purposely to tell her, though against his judgment, and (being a friend of the other) to seem to convince him, that he mistook the case; and that if she would be patient, she might recover. But, nevertheless, her apprehensions of death, and her antipathy to the thoughts of dying, were so strong, that their imposture had not the intended effect, and she was raving, crying, cursing, and even howling, more like a wolf than a human creature, when I came; so that as I went up stairs, I said, Surely this noise, this howling, cannot be from the unhappy woman! Sally said it was; and assured me, that it was noting to the noise she had made all night; and stepping into her room before me, dear Madam Sinclair, said she, forbear this noise! It is more like that of a bull than a woman!— Here comes Mr. Belford; and you'll fright him away if you bellow at this rate.
There were no less than eight of her cursed daughters surrounding her bed when I entered; one of her partners, Polly Horton, at their head; and now Sally, her other partner, and Madam Carter, as they called her, (for they are all Madams with one another,) made the number ten; all in shocking dishabille, and without stays, except Sally, Carter, and Polly; who, not daring to leave her, had not been in bed all night.
The other seven seemed to have been but just up, risen perhaps from their customers in the fore-house, and their nocturnal orgies, with faces, three or four of them, that had run, the paint lying in streaky seams not half blowzed off, discovering coarse wrinkled skins: the hair of some of them of divers colours, obliged to the black-lead comb where black was affected; the artificial jet, however, yielding apace to the natural brindle: that of others plastered with oil and powder; the oil predominating: but every one's hanging about her ears and neck in broken curls, or ragged ends; and each at my entrance taken with one motion, stroking their matted locks with both hands under their coifs, mobs, or pinners, every one of which was awry. They were all slip-shoed; stockingless some; only under-petticoated all; their gowns, made to cover straddling hoops, hanging trollopy, and tangling about their heels; but hastily wrapt round them, as soon as I came up stairs. And half of them (unpadded, shoulder-bent, pallid-lips, limber-jointed wretches) appearing, from a blooming nineteen or twenty perhaps over-night, haggard well-worn strumpets of thirty-eight or forty.
I am the more particular in describing to thee the appearance these creatures made in my eyes when I came into the room, because I believe thou never sawest any of them, much less a group of them, thus unprepared for being seen.* I, for my part, never did before; nor had I now, but upon this occasion, being thus favoured. If thou hadst, I believe thou wouldst hate a profligate woman, as one of Swift's yahoos, or Virgil's obscene harpies, squirting their ordure upon the Trojan trenches; since the persons of such in their retirements are as filthy as their minds.— Hate them as much as I do; and as much as I admire, and next to adore, a truly virtuous and elegant woman: for to me it is evident, that as a neat and clean woman must be an angel of a creature, so a sluttish one is the impurest animal in nature. But these were the veterans, the chosen band; for now-and-then flitted in to the number of half a dozen or more, by turns, subordinate sinners, under-graduates, younger than some of the chosen phalanx, but not less obscene in their appearance, though indeed not so much beholden to the plastering focus; yet unpropt by stays, squalid, loose in attire, sluggish-haired, uner-petticoated only as the former, eyes half-opened, winking and pinking, mispatched, yawning, stretching, as if from the unworn-off effects of the midnight revel; all armed in succession with supplies of cordials (of which every one present was either taster or partaker) under the direction of the busier Dorcas, who frequently popt in, to see her slops duly given and taken.
* Whoever has seen Dean Swift's Lady's Dressing room, will think this description of Mr. Belford's not only more natural, but more decent painting, as well as better justified by the design, and by the use that may be made of it.
But when I approached the old wretch, what a spectacle presented itself to my eyes!
Her misfortune has not at all sunk, but rather, as I thought, increased her flesh; rage and violence perhaps swelling her muscular features. Behold her, then, spreading the whole troubled bed with her huge quaggy carcase: her mill-post arms held up; her broad hands clenched with violence; her big eyes, goggling and flaming ready as we may suppose those of a salamander; her matted griesly hair, made irreverend by her wickedness (her clouted head-dress being half off, spread about her fat ears and brawny neck;) her livid lips parched, and working violently; her broad chin in convulsive motion; her wide mouth, by reason of the contraction of her forehead (which seemed to be half-lost in its own frightful furrows) splitting her face, as it were, into two parts; and her huge tongue hideously rolling in it; heaving, puffing as if four breath; her bellows-shaped and various-coloured breasts ascending by turns to her chin, and descending out of sight, with the violence of her gaspings.
This was the spectacle, as recollection has enabled me to describe it, that this wretch made to my eye, by her suffragans and daughters, who surveyed her with scouling frighted attention, which one might easily see had more in it of horror and self-concern (and self-condemnation too) than of love or pity; as who should say, See! what we ourselves must one day be!
As soon as she saw me, her naturally-big voice, more hoarsened by her ravings, broke upon me: O Mr. Belford! O Sir! see what I am come to!— See what I am brought to!—To have such a cursed crew about me, and not one of them to take care of me! But to let me tumble down stairs so distant from the room I went from! so distant from the room I meant to go to!—Cursed, cursed be every careless devil!—May this or worse be their fate every one of them!
And then she cursed and swore most vehemently, and the more, as two or three of them were excusing themselves on the score of their being at that time as unable to help themselves as she. As soon as she had cleared the passage of her throat by the oaths and curses which her wild impatience made her utter, she began in a more hollow and whining strain to bemoan herself. And here, said she—Heaven grant me patience! [clenching and unclenching her hands] am I to die thus miserably!—of a broken leg in my old age!—snatched away by means of my own intemperance! Self-do! Self-undone!—No time for my affairs! No time to repent!—And in a few hours (Oh!—Oh!—with another long howling O—h!—U—gh—o! a kind of screaming key terminating it) who knows, who can tell where I shall be?—Oh! that indeed I never, never, had had a being!
What could one say to such a wretch as this, whose whole life had been spent in the most diffusive wickedness, and who no doubt has numbers of souls to answer for? Yet I told her, she must be patient: that her violence made her worse: and that, if she would compose herself, she might get into a frame more proper for her present circumstances.
Who, I? interrupted she: I get into a better frame! I, who can neither cry, nor pray! Yet already feel the torments of the d——d! What mercy can I expect? What hope is left for me?—Then, that sweet creature! that incomparable Miss Harlowe! she, it seems, is dead and gone! O that cursed man! Had it not been for him! I had never had this, the most crying of all my sins, to answer for!
And then she set up another howl.
And is she dead?—Indeed dead? proceeded she, when her howl was over—O what an angel have I been the means of destroying! For though it was that it was mine, and your's, and your's, and your's, devils as we all were [turning to Sally, to Polly, and to one or two more] that he did not do her justice! And that, that is my curse, and will one day be yours! And then again she howled.
I still advised patience. I said, that if her time were to be so short as she apprehended, the more ought she to endeavour to compose herself: and then she would at least die with more ease to herself—and satisfaction to her friends, I was going to say—But the word die put her into a violent raving, and thus she broke in upon me. Die, did you say, Sir?—Die!—I will not, I cannot die!—I know not how to die!—Die, Sir! —And must I then die?—Leave this world?—I cannot bear it!—And who brought you hither, Sir?—[her eyes striking fire at me] Who brought you hither to tell me I must die, Sir?—I cannot, I will not leave this world. Let others die, who wish for another! who expect a better!—I have had my plagues in this; but would compound for all future hopes, so as I may be nothing after this!
And then she howled and bellowed by turns.
By my faith, Lovelace, I trembled in every joint; and looking upon her who spoke this, and roared thus, and upon the company round me, I more than once thought myself to be in one of the infernal mansions.
Yet will I proceed, and try, for thy good, if I can shock thee but half as much with my descriptions, as I was shocked with what I saw and heard.
Sally!—Polly!—Sister Carter! said she, did you not tell me I might recover? Did not the surgeon tell me I might?
And so you may, cried Sally; Monsieur Garon says you may, if you'll be patient. But, as I have often told you this blessed morning, you are reader to take despair from your own fears, than comfort from all the hope we can give you.
Yet, cried the wretch, interrupting, does not Mr. Belford (and to him you have told the truth, though you won't to me; does not he) tell me that I shall die?—I cannot bear it! I cannot bear the thoughts of dying!
And then, but that half a dozen at once endeavoured to keep down her violent hands, would she have beaten herself; as it seems she had often attempted to do from the time the surgeon popt out the word mortification to her.
Well, but to what purpose, said I (turning aside to her sister, and to Sally and Polly), are these hopes given her, if the gentlemen of the faculty give her over? You should let her know the worst, and then she must submit; for there is no running away from death. If she had any matters to settle, put her upon settling them; and do not, by telling her she will live, when there is no room to expect it, take from her the opportunity of doing needful things. Do the surgeons actually give her over?
They do, whispered they. Her gross habit, they say, gives no hopes. We have sent for both surgeons, whom we expect every minute.
Both the surgeons (who are French; for Mrs. Sinclair has heard Tourville launch out in the praise of French surgeons) came in while we were thus talking. I retired to the farther end of the room, and threw up a window for a little air, being half-poisoned by the effluvia arising from so many contaminated carcases; which gave me no imperfect idea of the stench of gaols, which, corrupting the ambient air, gives what is called the prison distemper.
I came back to the bed-side when the surgeons had inspected the fracture; and asked them, If there were any expectation of her life?
One of them whispered me, there was none: that she had a strong fever upon her, which alone, in such a habit, would probably do the business; and that the mortification had visibly gained upon her since they were there six hours ago.
Will amputation save her? Her affairs and her mind want settling. A few days added to her life may be of service to her in both respects.
They told me the fracture was high in her leg; that the knee was greatly bruised; that the mortification, in all probability, had spread half-way of the femur: and then, getting me between them, (three or four of the women joining us, and listening with their mouths open, and all the signs of ignorant wonder in their faces, as there appeared of self-sufficiency in those of the artists,) did they by turns fill my ears with an anatomical description of the leg and thigh; running over with terms of art, of the tarsus, the metatarsus, the tibia, the fibula, the patella, the os tali, the os tibae, the tibialis posticus and tibialis anticus, up to the os femoris, to the acetabulum of the os ischion, the great trochanter, glutaeus, triceps, lividus, and little rotators; in short, of all the muscles, cartilages, and bones, that constitute the leg and thigh from the great toe to the hip; as if they would show me, that all their science had penetrated their heads no farther than their mouths; while Sally lifted up her hands with a Laud bless me! Are all surgeons so learned!—But at last both the gentlemen declared, that if she and her friends would consent to amputation, they would whip off her leg in a moment.
Mrs. Carter asked, To what purpose, if the operation would not save her?
Very true, they said; but it might be a satisfaction to the patient's friends, that all was done that could be done.
And so the poor wretch was to be lanced and quartered, as I may say, for an experiment only! And, without any hope of benefit from the operation, was to pay the surgeons for tormenting her!
I cannot but say I have a mean opinion of both these gentlemen, who, though they make a figure, it seems, in their way of living, and boast not only French extraction, but a Paris education, never will make any in their practice.
How unlike my honest English friend Tomkins, a plain serious, intelligent man, whose art lies deeper than in words; who always avoids parade and jargon; and endeavours to make every one as much a judge of what he is about as himself!
All the time that the surgeons ran on with their anatomical process, the wretched woman most frightfully roared and bellowed; which the gentlemen (who showed themselves to be of the class of those who are not affected with the evils they do not feel,) took no other notice of, than by raising their voices to be heard, as she raised her's—being evidently more solicitous to increase their acquaintance, and to propagate the notion of their skill, than to attend to the clamours of the poor wretch whom they were called in to relieve; though by this very means, like the dog and the shadow in the fable, they lost both aims with me; for I never was deceived in one rule, which I made early; to wit, that the stillest water is the deepest, while the bubbling stream only betrays shallowness; and that stones and pebbles lie there so near the surface, to point out the best place to ford a river dry shod.
As nobody cared to tell the unhappy wretch what every one apprehended must follow, and what the surgeons convinced me soon would, I undertook to be the denouncer of her doom. Accordingly, the operators being withdrawn, I sat down by the bed-side, and said, Come, Mrs. Sinclair, let me advise you to forbear these ravings at the carelessness of those, who, I find, at the time, could take no care of themselves; and since the accident has happened, and cannot be remedied, to resolve to make the best of the matter: for all this violence but enrages the malady, and you will probably fall into a delirium, if you give way to it, which will deprive you of that reason which you ought to make the best of for the time it may be lent you.
She turned her head towards me, and hearing me speak with a determined voice, and seeing me assume as determined an air, became more calm and attentive.
I went on, telling her, that I was glad, from the hints she had given, to find her concerned for her past misspent life, and particularly for the part she had had in the ruin of the most excellent woman on earth: that if she would compose herself, and patiently submit to the consequences of an evil she had brought upon herself, it might possibly be happy for her yet. Meantime, continued I, tell me, with temper and calmness, why was you so desirous to see me?
She seemed to be in great confusion of thought, and turned her head this way and that; and at last, after much hesitation, said, Alad for me! I hardly know what I wanted with you. When I awoke from my intemperate trance, and found what a cursed way I was in, my conscience smote me, and I was for catching like a drowning wretch, at every straw. I wanted to see every body and any body but those I did see; every body who I thought could give me comfort. Yet could I expect none from you neither; for you had declared yourself my enemy, although I had never done you harm; for what, Jackey, in her old tone, whining through her nose, was Miss Harlowe to you?—But she is happy!—But oh! what will become of me?—Yet tell me, (for the surgeons have told you the truth, no doubt,) tell me, shall I do well again? May I recover? If I may, I will begin a new course of life: as I hope to be saved, I will. I'll renounce you all—every one of you, [looking round her,] and scrape all I can together, and live a life of penitence; and when I die, leave it all to charitable uses—I will, by my soul—every doit of it to charity—but this once, lifting up her rolling eyes, and folded hands, (with a wry-mouthed earnestness, in which every muscle and feature of her face bore its part,) this one time—good God of Heaven and earth, but this once! this once! repeating those words five or six times, spare thy poor creature, and every hour of my life shall be passed in penitence and atonement: upon my soul it shall!
Less vehement! a little less vehement! said I—it is not for me, who have led so free a life, as you but too well know, to talk to you in a reproaching strain, and to set before you the iniquity you have lived in, and the many souls you have helped to destroy. But as you are in so penitent a way, if I might advise, you should send for a good clergyman, the purity of whose life and manners may make all these things come from him with a better grace than they can from me.
How, Sir! What, Sir! interrupting me: send for a parson!—Then you indeed think I shall die! Then you think there is no room for hope!——A parson, Sir!——Who sends for a parson, while there is any hope left?— The sight of a parson would be death immediate to me!—I cannot, cannot die!—Never tell me of it!—What! die!—What! cut off in the midst of my sins!
And then she began again to rave.
I cannot bear, said I, rising from my seat with a stern air, to see a reasonable creature behave so outrageously!—Will this vehemence, think you, mend the matter? Will it avail you any thing? Will it not rather shorten the life you are so desirous to have lengthened, and deprive you of the only opportunity you can ever have to settle your affairs for both worlds?—Death is but the common lot: and if it be your's soon, looking at her, it will be also your's, and your's, and your's, speaking with a raised voice, and turning to every trembling devil round her, [for they all shook at my forcible application,] and mine too. And you have reason to be thankful, turning again to her, that you did not perish in that act of intemperance which brought you to this: for it might have been your neck, as well as your leg; and then you had not had the opportunity you now have for repentance—and, the Lord have mercy upon you! into what a state might you have awoke!
Then did the poor wretch set up an inarticulate frightful howl, such a one as I never before heard of her; and seeing every one half-frighted, and me motioning to withdraw, O pity me, pity me, Mr. Belford, cried she, her words interrupted by groans—I find you think I shall die!—And what may I be, and where, in a very few hours—who can tell?
I told her it was vain to flatter her: it was my opinion she would not recover.
I was going to re-advise her to calm her spirits, and endeavour to resign herself, and to make the beset of the opportunity yet left her; but this declaration set her into a most outrageous raving. She would have torn her hair, and beaten her breast, had not some of the wretches held her hands by force, while others kept her as steady as they could, lest she should again put out her new-set leg; so that, seeing her thus incapable of advice, and in a perfect phrensy, I told Sally Martin, that there was no bearing the room; and that their best way was to send for a minister to pray by her, and to reason with her, as soon as she should be capable of it. And so I left them; and never was so sensible of the benefit of fresh air, as I was the moment I entered the street.
Nor is it to be wondered at, when it is considered that, to the various ill smells that will always be found in a close sick bed-room, (for generally, when the physician comes, the air is shut out,) this of Mrs. Sinclair was the more particularly offensive, as, to the scent of plasters, salves, and ointments, were added the stenches of spirituous liquors, burnt and unburnt, of all denominations; for one or other of the creatures, under pretence of colics, gripes, or qualms, were continually calling for supplies of these, all the time I was there. And yet this is thought to be a genteel house of the sort; and all the prostitutes in it are prostitutes of price, and their visiters people of note.
O, Lovelace! what lives do most of us rakes and libertines lead! what company do we keep! And, for such company, what society renounce, or endeavour to make like these!
What woman, nice in her person, and of purity in her mind and manners, did she know what miry wallowers the generality of men of our class are in themselves, and constantly trough and sty with, but would detest the thoughts of associating with such filthy sensualists, whose favourite taste carries them to mingle with the dregs of stews, brothels, and common sewers?
Yet, to such a choice are many worthy women betrayed, by that false and inconsiderate notion, raised and propagated, no doubt, by the author of all delusion, that a reformed rake makes the best husband. We rakes, indeed, are bold enough to suppose, that women in general are as much rakes in their hearts, as the libertines some of them suffer themselves to be take with are in their practice. A supposition, therefore, which it behoves persons of true honour of that sex to discountenance, by rejecting the address of every man, whose character will not stand the test of that virtue which is the glory of a woman: and indeed, I may say, of a man too: why should it not?
How, indeed, can it be, if this point be duly weighed, that a man who thinks alike of all the sex, and knows it to be in the power of a wife to do him the greatest dishonour man can receive, and doubts not her will to do it, if opportunity offer, and importunity be not wanting: that such a one, from principle, should be a good husband to any woman? And, indeed, little do innocents think, what a total revolution of manners, what a change of fixed habits, nay, what a conquest of a bad nature, and what a portion of Divine GRACE, is required, to make a man a good husband, a worthy father, and true friend, from principle; especially when it is considered, that it is not in a man's own power to reform when he will. This, (to say nothing of my own experience,) thou, Lovelace, hast found in the progress of thy attempts upon the divine Miss Harlowe. For whose remorses could be deeper, or more frequent, yet more transient than thine!
Now, Lovelace, let me know if the word grace can be read from my pen without a sneer from thee and thy associates? I own that once it sounded oddly in my ears. But I shall never forget what a grave man once said on this very word—that with him it was a rake's sibboleth.* He had always hopes of one who could bear the mention of it without ridiculing it; and ever gave him up for an abandoned man, who made a jest of it, or of him who used it.
* See Judges xii. 6.
Don't be disgusted, that I mingle such grave reflections as these with my narratives. It becomes me, in my present way of thinking, to do so, when I see, in Miss Harlowe, how all human excellence, and in poor Belton, how all inhuman libertinism, and am near seeing in this abandoned woman, how all diabolical profligacy, end. And glad should I be for your own sake, for your splendid family's sake, and for the sake of all your intimates and acquaintance, that you were labouring under the same impressions, that so we who have been companions in (and promoters of one another's) wickedness, might join in a general atonement to the utmost of our power.
I came home reflecting upon all these things, more edifying to me than any sermon I could have heard preached: and I shall conclude this long letter with observing, that although I left the wretched howler in a high phrensy-fit, which was excessively shocking to the by-standers; yet her phrensy must be the happiest part of her dreadful condition: for when she is herself, as it is called, what must be her reflections upon her past profligate life, throughout which it has been her constant delight and business, devil-like, to make others as wicked as herself! What must her terrors be (a hell already begun in her mind!) on looking forward to the dreadful state she is now upon the verge of!—But I drop my trembling pen.
To have done with so shocking a subject at once, we shall take notice, that Mr. Belford, in a future letter, writes, that the miserable woman, to the surprise of the operators themselves, (through hourly increasing tortures of body and mind,) held out so long as till Thursday, Sept. 21; and then died in such agonies as terrified into a transitory penitence all the wretches about her.
COLONEL MORDEN, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. SUNDAY NIGHT, SEPT. 10.
According to my promise, I send you an account of matters here. Poor Mrs. Norton was so very ill upon the road, that, slowly as the hearse moved, and the chariot followed, I was afraid we should not have got her to St. Albans. We put up there as I had intended. I was in hopes that she would have been better for the stop: but I was forced to leave her behind me. I ordered the maid-servant you were so considerately kind as to send down with her, to be very careful of her; and left the chariot to attend her. She deserves all the regard that can be paid her; not only upon my cousin's account, but on her own—she is an excellent woman.
When we were within five miles of Harlowe-place, I put on a hand-gallop. I ordered the hearse to proceed more slowly still, the cross-road we were in being rough; and having more time before us than I wanted; for I wished not the hearse to be in till near dusk. I got to Harlowe-place about four o'clock. You may believe I found a mournful house. You desire me to be very minute.
At my entrance into the court, they were all in motion. Every servant whom I saw had swelled eyes, and looked with so much concern, that at first I apprehended some new disaster had happened in the family. Mr. John and Mr. Antony Harlowe and Mrs. Hervey were there. They all helped on one another's grief, as they had before done each other's hardness of heart.
My cousin James met me at the entrance of the hall. His countenance expressed a fixed concern; and he desired me to excuse his behaviour the last time I was there.
My cousin Arabella came to me full of tears and grief.
O Cousin! said she, hanging upon my arm, I dare not ask you any questions!—About the approach of the hearse, I suppose she meant.
I myself was full of grief; and, without going farther or speaking, sat down in the hall in the first chair.
The brother sat on one hand of me, the sister on the other. Both were silent. The latter in tears.
Mr. Antony Harlowe came to me soon after. His face was overspread with all the appearance of woe. He requested me to walk into the parlour; where, as he said, were all his fellow-mourners.
I attended him in. My cousins James and Arabella followed me.
A perfect concert of grief, as I may say, broke out the moment I entered the parlour.
My cousin Harlowe, the dear creature's father, as soon as he saw me, said, O Cousin, Cousin, of all our family, you are the only one who have nothing to reproach yourself with!—You are a happy man!
The poor mother, bowing her head to me in speechless grief, sat with her handkerchief held to her eyes with one hand. The other hand was held by her sister Hervey, between both her's; Mrs. Hervey weeping upon it.
Near the window sat Mr. John Harlowe, his face and his body turned from the sorrowing company; his eyes red and swelled.
My cousin Antony, at his re-entering the parlour, went towards Mrs. Harlowe—Don't—dear Sister, said he!—Then towards my cousin Harlowe— Don't—dear Brother!—Don't thus give way—And, without being able to say another word, went to a corner of the parlour, and, wanting himself the comfort he would fain have given, sunk into a chair, and audibly sobbed.
Miss Arabella followed her uncle Antony, as he walked in before me, and seemed as if she would have spoken to the pierced mother some words of comfort. But she was unable to utter them, and got behind her mother's chair; and, inclining her face over it, on the unhappy lady's shoulder, seemed to claim the consolation that indulgent parent used, but then was unable, to afford her.
Young Mr. Harlowe, with all his vehemence of spirit, was now subdued. His self-reproaching conscience, no doubt, was the cause of it.
And what, Sir, must their thoughts be, which, at that moment, in a manner, deprived them of all motion, and turned their speech into sighs and groans!—How to be pitied, how greatly to be pitied! all of them! But how much to be cursed that abhorred Lovelace, who, as it seems, by arts uncommon, and a villany without example, has been the sole author of a woe so complicated and extensive!—God judge me, as—But I stop— the man (the man can I say?) is your friend!—He already suffers, you tell me, in his intellect.—Restore him, Heaven, to that—If I find the matter come out, as I apprehend it will—indeed her own hint of his usage of her, as in her will, is enough—nor think, my beloved cousin, thou darling of my heart! that thy gentle spirit, breathing charity and forgiveness to the vilest of men, shall avail him!—But once more I stop —forgive me, Sir!—Who could behold such a scene, who could recollect it in order to describe it, (as minutely as you wished me to relate how this unhappy family were affected on this sad occasion,) every one of the mourners nearly related to himself, and not to be exasperated against the author of all?
As I was the only person (grieved as I was myself) from whom any of them, at that instant, could derive comfort; Let us not, said I, my dear Cousin, approaching the inconsolable mother, give way to a grief, which, however just, can now avail us nothing. We hurt ourselves, and cannot recall the dear creature for whom we mourn. Nor would you wish it, if you know with what assurance of eternal happiness she left the world—She is happy, Madam!—depend upon it, she is happy! And comfort yourselves with that assurance!
O Cousin, Cousin! cried the unhappy mother, withdrawing her hand from that of her sister Hervey, and pressing mine with it, you know not what a child I have lost!—Then in a low voice, and how lost!—That it is that makes the loss insupportable.
They all joined in a kind of melancholy chorus, and each accused him and herself, and some of them one another. But the eyes of all, in turn, were cast upon my cousin James, as the person who had kept up the general resentment against so sweet a creature. While he was hardly able to bear his own remorse: nor Miss Harlowe her's; she breaking out into words, How tauntingly did I write to her! How barbarously did I insult her! Yet how patiently did she take it!—Who would have thought that she had been so near her end!—O Brother, Brother! but for you!—But for you!—Double not upon me, said he, my own woes! I have every thing before me that has passed! I thought only to reclaim a dear creature that had erred! I intended not to break her tender heart! But it was the villanous Lovelace who did that—not any of us!—Yet, Cousin, did she not attribute all to me?—I fear she did!—Tell me only, did she name me, did she speak of me, in her last hours? I hope she, who could forgive the greatest villain on earth, and plead that he may be safe from our vengeance, I hope she could forgive me.
She died blessing you all; and justified rather than condemned your severity to her.
Then they set up another general lamentation. We see, said her father, enough we see, in her heart-piercing letters to us, what a happy frame she was in a few days before her death—But did it hold to the last? Had she no repinings? Had the dear child no heart burnings?
None at all!—I never saw, and never shall see, so blessed a departure: and no wonder; for I never heard of such a preparation. Every hour, for weeks together, were taken up in it. Let this be our comfort: we need only to wish for so happy an end for ourselves, and for those who are nearest to our hearts. We may any of us be grieved for acts of unkindness to her: but had all happened that once she wished for, she could not have made a happier, perhaps not so happy an end.
Dear soul! and Dear sweet soul! the father, uncles, sister, my cousin Hervey, cried out all at once, in accents of anguish inexpressibly affecting.
We must for every be disturbed for those acts of unkindness to so sweet a child, cried the unhappy mother!—Indeed! indeed! [softly to her sister Hervey,] I have been too passive, much too passive in this case!—The temporary quiet I have been so studious all my life to preserve, has cost me everlasting disquiet!——There she stopt.
Dear Sister! was all Mrs. Hervey could say.
I have done but half my duty to the dearest and most meritorious of children, resumed the sorrowing mother!—Nay, not half!—How have we hardened our hearts against her!——Again her tears denied passage to her words.
My dearest, dearest Sister!—again was all Mrs. Hervey could say.
Would to Heaven, proceeded, exclaiming, the poor mother, I had but once seen her! Then, turning to my cousin James, and his sister—O my son! O my Arabella! if WE were to receive as little mercy—And there again she stopt, her tears interrupting her farther speech; every one, all the time, remaining silent; their countenances showing a grief in their hearts too big for expression.
Now you see, Mr. Belford, that my dearest cousin could be allowed all her merit!—What a dreadful thing is after-reflection upon a conduct so perverse and unnatural?
O this cursed friend of your's, Mr. Belford! This detested Lovelace!—To him, to him is owing—
Pardon me, Sir. I will lay down my pen till I have recovered my temper.
ONE IN THE MORNING.
In vain, Sir, have I endeavoured to compose myself to rest. You wished me to be very particular, and I cannot help it. This melancholy subject fills my whole mind. I will proceed, though it be midnight.
About six o'clock the hearse came to the outward gate—the parish church is at some distance; but the wind setting fair, the afflicted family were struck, just before it came, into a fresh fit of grief, on hearing the funeral bell tolled in a very solemn manner. A respect, as it proved, and as they all guessed, paid to the memory of the dear deceased, out of officious love, as the hearse passed near the church.
Judge, when their grief was so great in expectation of it, what it must be when it arrived.
A servant came in to acquaint us with what its lumbering heavy noise up the paved inner court-yard apprized us of before. He spoke not. He could not speak. He looked, bowed, and withdrew.
I stept out. No one else could then stir. Her brother, however, soon followed me. When I came to the door, I beheld a sight very affecting.
You have heard, Sir, how universally my dear cousin was beloved. By the poor and middling sort especially, no young lady was ever so much beloved. And with reason: she was the common patroness of all the honest poor in her neighbourhood.
It is natural for us, in every deep and sincere grief, to interest all we know in what is so concerning to ourselves. The servants of the family, it seems, had told their friends, and those their's, that though, living, their dear young lady could not be received nor looked upon, her body was permitted to be brought home. The space of time was so confined, that those who knew when she died, must easily guess near the time the hearse was to come. A hearse, passing through country villages, and from London, however slenderly attended, (for the chariot, as I have said, waited upon poor Mrs. Norton,) takes every one's attention. Nor was it hard to guess whose this must be, though not adorned by escutcheons, when the cross-roads to Harlowe-place were taken, as soon as it came within six miles of it; so that the hearse, and the solemn tolling of the bell, had drawn together at least fifty, or the neighbouring men, women, and children, and some of good appearance. Not a soul of them, it seems, with a dry eye, and each lamenting the death of this admired lady, who, as I am told, never stirred out, but somebody was the better for her.
These, when the coffin was taken out of the hearse, crowding about it, hindered, for a few moments, its being carried in; the young people struggling who should bear it; and yet, with respectful whisperings, rather than clamorous contention. A mark of veneration I had never before seen paid, upon any occasion in all my travels, from the under-bred many, from whom noise is generally inseparable in all their emulations.
At last six maidens were permitted to carry it in by the six handles.
The corpse was thus borne, with the most solemn respect, into the hall, and placed for the present upon two stools there. The plates, and emblems, and inscription, set every one gazing upon it, and admiring it. The more, when they were told, that all was of her own ordering. They wished to be permitted a sight of the corpse; but rather mentioned this as their wish than as their hope. When they had all satisfied their curiosity, and remarked upon the emblems, they dispersed with blessings upon her memory, and with tears and lamentations; pronouncing her to be happy; and inferring, were she not so, what would become of them? While others ran over with repetitions of the good she delighted to do. Nor were there wanting those among them, who heaped curses upon the man who was the author of her fall.
The servants of the family then got about the coffin. They could not before: and that afforded a new scene of sorrow: but a silent one; for they spoke only by their eyes, and by sighs, looking upon the lid, and upon one another, by turns, with hands lifted up. The presence of their young master possibly might awe them, and cause their grief to be expressed only in dumb show.
As for Mr. James Harlowe, (who accompanied me, but withdrew when he saw the crowd,) he stood looking upon the lid, when the people had left it, with a fixed attention: yet, I dare say, knew not a symbol or letter upon it at that moment, had the question been asked him. In a profound reverie he stood, his arms folded, his head on one side, and marks of stupefaction imprinted upon every feature.
But when the corpse was carried into the lesser parlour, adjoining to the hall, which she used to call her parlour, and put upon a table in the midst of the room, and the father and mother, the two uncles, her aunt Hervey, and her sister, came in, joining her brother and me, with trembling feet, and eager woe, the scene was still more affecting. Their sorrow was heightened, no doubt, by the remembrance of their unforgiving severity: and now seeing before them the receptacle that contained the glory of their family, who so lately was driven thence by their indiscreet violence; never, never more to be restored to the! no wonder that their grief was more than common grief.
They would have withheld the mother, it seems, from coming in. But when they could not, though undetermined before, they all bore her company, led on by an impulse they could not resist. The poor lady but just cast her eye upon the coffin, and then snatched it away, retiring with passionate grief towards the window; yet, addressing herself, with clasped hands, as if to her beloved daughter: O my Child, my Child! cried she; thou pride of my hope! Why was I not permitted to speak pardon and peace to thee!—O forgive thy cruel mother!
Her son (his heart then softened, as his eyes showed,) besought her to withdraw: and her woman looking in at that moment, he called her to assist him in conducting her lady into the middle parlour: and then returning, met his father going out of the door, who also had but just cast his eye on the coffin, and yielded to my entreaties to withdraw. His grief was too deep for utterance, till he saw his son coming in; and then, fetching a heavy groan, Never, said he, was sorrow like my sorrow! —O Son! Son!—in a reproaching accent, his face turned from him.
I attended him through the middle parlour, endeavouring to console him. His lady was there in agonies. She took his eye. He made a motion towards her: O my dear, said he—But turning short, his eyes as full as his heart, he hastened through to the great parlour: and when there, he desired me to leave him to himself.
The uncles and sister looked and turned away, very often, upon the emblems, in silent sorrow. Mrs. Hervey would have read to them the inscription—These words she did read, Here the wicked cease from troubling—But could read no farther. Her tears fell in large drops upon the plate she was contemplating; and yet she was desirous of gratifying a curiosity that mingled impatience with her grief because she could not gratify it, although she often wiped her eyes as they flowed.
Judge you, Mr. Belford, (for you have great humanity,) how I must be affected. Yet was I forced to try to comfort them all.
But here I will close this letter, in order to send it to you in the morning early. Nevertheless, I will begin another, upon supposition that my doleful prolixity will be disagreeable to you. Indeed I am altogether indisposed for rest, as I have mentioned before. So can do nothing but write. I have also more melancholy scenes to paint. My pen, if I may say so, is untired. These scenes are fresh upon my memory: and I myself, perhaps, may owe to you the favour of a review of them, with such other papers as you shall think proper to oblige me with, when heavy grief has given way to milder melancholy.
My servant, in his way to you with this letter, shall call at St. Alban's upon the good woman, that he may inform you how she does. Miss Arabella asked me after her, when I withdrew to my chamber; to which she complaisantly accompanied me. She was much concerned at the bad way we left her in; and said her mother would be more so.
No wonder that the dear departed, who foresaw the remorse that would fall to the lot of this unhappy family when they came to have the news of her death confirmed to them, was so grieved for their apprehended grief, and endeavoured to comfort them by her posthumous letters. But it was still a greater generosity in her to try to excuse them to me, as she did when we were alone together, a few hours before she died; and to aggravate more than (as far as I can find) she ought to have done, the only error she was ever guilty of. The more freely, however, perhaps, (exalted creature!) that I might think the better of her friends, although at her own expense. I am, dear Sir,
Your faithful and obedient servant, WM. MORDEN.
COLONEL MORDEN [IN CONTINUATION.]
When the unhappy mourners were all retired, I directed the lid of the coffin to be unscrewed, and caused some fresh aromatics and flowers to be put into it.
The corpse was very little altered, notwithstanding the journey. The sweet smile remained.
The maids who brought the flowers were ambitious of strewing them about it: they poured forth fresh lamentations over her; each wishing she had been so happy as to have been allowed to attend her in London. One of them particularly, who is, it seems, my cousin Arabella's personal servant, was more clamorous in her grief than any of the rest; and the moment she turned her back, all the others allowed she had reason for it. I inquired afterwards about her, and found, that this creature was set over my dear cousin, when she was confined to her chamber by indiscreet severity.
Good Heaven! that they should treat, and suffer thus to be treated, a young lady, who was qualified to give laws to all her family!
When my cousins were told that the lid was unscrewed, they pressed in again, all but the mournful father and mother, as if by consent. Mrs. Hervey kissed her pale lips. Flower of the world! was all she could say; and gave place to Miss Arabella; who kissing the forehead of her whom she had so cruelly treated, could only say, to my cousin James, (looking upon the corpse, and upon him,) O Brother!—While he, taking the fair, lifeless hand, kissed it, and retreated with precipitation.
Her two uncles were speechless. They seemed to wait each other's example, whether to look upon the corpse, or not. I ordered the lid to be replaced; and then they pressed forward, as the others again did, to take a last farewell of the casket which so lately contained so rich a jewel.
Then it was that the grief of each found fluent expression; and the fair corpse was addressed to, with all the tenderness that the sincerest love and warmest admiration could inspire; each according to their different degrees of relationship, as if none of them had before looked upon her. She was their very niece, both uncles said! The injured saint, her uncle Harlowe! The same smiling sister, Arabella!—The dear creature, all of them!—The same benignity of countenance! The same sweet composure! The same natural dignity!—She was questionless happy! That sweet smile betokened her being so! themselves most unhappy!—And then, once more, the brother took the lifeless hand, and vowed revenge upon it, on the cursed author of all this distress.
The unhappy parents proposed to take one last view and farewell of their once darling daughter. The father was got to the parlour-door, after the inconsolable mother: but neither of them were able to enter it. The mother said she must once more see the child of her heart, or she should never enjoy herself. But they both agreed to refer their melancholy curiosity till the next day; and had in hand retired inconsolable, speechless both, their faces overspread with woe, and turned from each other, as unable each to behold the distress of the other.
When all were withdrawn, I retired, and sent for my cousin James, and acquainted him with his sister's request in relation to the discourse to be pronounced at her interment; telling him how necessary it was that the minister, whoever he were, should have the earliest notice given him that the case would admit. He lamented the death of the reverend Dr. Lewen, who, as he said, was a great admirer of his sister, as she was of him, and would have been the fittest of all men for that office. He spoke with great asperity of Mr. Brand, upon whose light inquiry after his sister's character in town he was willing to lay some of the blame due to himself. Mr. Melvill, Dr. Lewen's assistant, must, he said, be the man; and he praised him for his abilities; his elocution, and unexceptionable manners; and promised to engage him early in the morning.
He called out his sister, and he was of his opinion. So I let this upon them.
They both, with no little warmth, hinted their disapprobation of you, Sir, for their sister's executor, on the score of your intimate friendship with the author of her ruin.
You must not resent any thing I shall communicate to you of what they say on this occasion: depending that you will not, I shall write with the greater freedom.
I told them how much my dear cousin was obliged to your friendship and humanity: the injunctions she had laid you under, and your own inclination to observe them. I said, That you were a man of honour: that you were desirous of consulting me, because you would not willingly give offence to any of them: and that I was very fond of cultivating your favour and correspondence.
They said there was no need of an executor out of their family; and they hoped that you would relinquish so unnecessary a trust, as they called it. My cousin James declared that he would write to you, as soon as the funeral was over, to desire that you would do so, upon proper assurances that all the will prescribed should be performed.
I said you were a man of resolution: that I thought he would hardly succeed; for that you made a point of honour of it.
I then showed them their sister's posthumous letter to you; in which she confesses her obligations to you, and regard for you, and for your future welfare.* You may believe, Sir, they were extremely affected with the perusal of it.
* See Letter XII. of this volume.
They were surprised that I had given up to you the produce of her grandfather's estate since his death. I told them plainly that they must thank themselves if any thing disagreeable to them occurred from their sister's devise; deserted, and thrown into the hands of strangers, as she had been.
They said they would report all I had said to their father and mother; adding, that great as their trouble was, they found they had still more to come. But if Mr. Belford were to be the executor of her will, contrary to their hopes, they besought me to take the trouble of transacting every thing with you; that a friend of the man to whom they owed all their calamity might not appear to them.
They were extremely moved at the text their sister had chosen for the subject of their funeral discourse.* I had extracted from the will that article, supposing it probable that I might not so soon have an opportunity to show them the will itself, as would otherwise have been necessary, on account of the interment, which cannot be delayed.
* See the Will, in pg. 112 of this volume.
MONDAY MORNING, BETWEEN EIGHT AND NINE.
The unhappy family are preparing for a mournful meeting at breakfast. Mr. James Harlowe, who has had as little rest as I, has written to Mr. Melvill, who has promised to draw up a brief eulogium on the deceased. Miss Howe is expected here by-and-by, to see, for the last time, her beloved friend.
Miss Howe, by her messenger, desires she may not be taken any notice of. She shall not tarry six minutes, was the word. Her desire will be easily granted her.
Her servant, who brought the request, if it were denied, was to return, and meet her; for she was ready to set out in her chariot, when he got on horseback.
If he met her not with the refusal, he was to say here till she came. I am, Sir,
Your faithful, humble servant, WILLIAM MORDEN.
COLONEL MORDEN [IN CONTINUATION.] MONDAY AFTERNOON, SEPT. 11.
We are such bad company here to one another, that it is some relief to retire and write.
I was summoned to breakfast about half an hour after nine. Slowly did the mournful congress meet. Each, lifelessly and spiritless, took our places, with swoln eyes, inquiring, without expecting any tolerable account, how each had rested.
The sorrowing mother gave for answer, that she should never more know what rest was.
By the time we were well seated, the bell ringing, the outward gate opening, a chariot rattling over the pavement of the court-yard, put them into emotion.
I left them; and was just time enough to give Miss Howe my hand as she alighted: her maid in tears remaining in the chariot.
I think you told me, Sir, you never saw Miss Howe. She is a fine, graceful young lady. A fixed melancholy on her whole aspect, overclouded a vivacity and fire, which, nevertheless, darted now-and-then through the awful gloom. I shall ever respect her for her love to my dear cousin.
Never did I think, said she, as she gave me her hand, to enter more these doors: but, living or dead, Clarissa brings me after her any where!
She entered with me the little parlour; and seeing the coffin, withdrew her hand from mine, and with impatience pushed aside the lid. As impatiently she removed the face-cloth. In a wild air, she clasped her uplifted hands together; and now looked upon the corpse, now up to Heaven, as if appealing to that. Her bosom heaved and fluttered discernible through her handkerchief, and at last she broke silence:—O Sir!—See you not here!—the glory of her sex?—Thus by the most villanous of yours—thus—laid low!
O my blessed Friend!—said she—My sweet Companion!—My lovely Monitress! —kissing her lips at every tender appellation. And is this all!—Is it all of my CLARISSA'S story!
Then, after a short pause, and a profound sigh, she turned to me, and then to her breathless friend. But is she, can she be, really dead!—O no!—She only sleeps.—Awake, my beloved Friend! My sweet clay-cold Friend, awake: let thy Anna Howe revive thee; by her warm breath revive thee, my dear creature! And, kissing her again, Let my warm lips animate thy cold ones!
Then, sighing again, as from the bottom of her heart, and with an air, as if disappointed that she answered not, And can such perfection end thus! —And art thou really and indeed flown from thine Anna Howe!—O my unkind CLARISSA!
She was silent a few moments, and then, seeming to recover herself, she turned to me—Forgive, forgive, Mr. Morden, this wild phrensy!—I am myself!—I never shall be!—You knew not the excellence, no, not half the excellence, that is thus laid low!—Repeating, This cannot, surely, be all of my CLARISSA'S story!
Again pausing, One tear, my beloved friend, didst thou allow me!—But this dumb sorrow!—O for a tear to ease my full-swoln heart that is just bursting!—
But why, Sir, why, Mr. Morden, was she sent hither? Why not to me?—She has no father, no mother, no relation; no, not one!—They had all renounced her. I was her sympathizing friend—And had not I the best right to my dear creature's remains?—And must names, without nature, be preferred to such a love as mine?
Again she kissed her lips, each cheek, her forehead;—and sighed as if her heart would break—
But why, why, said she, was I withheld from seeing my dearest, dear friend, and too easily persuaded to delay, the friendly visit that my heart panted after; what pain will this reflection give me!—O my blessed Friend! Who knows, who knows, had I come in time, what my cordial comfortings might have done for thee!—But—looking round her, as if she apprehended seeing some of the family—One more kiss, my Angel, my Friend, my ever-to-be-regretted, lost Companion! And let me fly this hated house, which I never loved but for thy sake!—Adieu then, my dearest CLARISSA!—Thou art happy, I doubt not, as thou assuredst me in thy last letter!—O may we meet, and rejoice together, where no villanous Lovelaces, no hard-hearted relations, will ever shock our innocence, or ruffle our felicity!
Again she was silent, unable to go, though seeming to intend it: struggling, as it were, with her grief, and heaving with anguish. At last, happily, a flood of tears gushed from her eyes—Now!—Now!—said she, shall I—shall I—be easier. But for this kindly relief, my heart would have burst asunder—more, many more tears than these are due to my CLARISSA, whose counsel has done for me what mine could not do for her!— But why, looking earnestly upon her, her hands clasped and lifted up—But why do I thus lament the HAPPY? And that thou art so, is my comfort. It is, it is, my dear creature! kissing her again.
Excuse me, Sir, [turning to me, who was as much moved as herself,] I loved the dear creature, as never woman loved another. Excuse my frantic grief. How has the glory of her sex fallen a victim to villany and to hard-heartedness!
Madam, said I, they all have it!—Now indeed they have it—
And let them have it;—I should belie my love for the friend of my heart, were I to pity them!—But how unhappy am I [looking upon her] that I saw her not before these eyes were shut, before these lips were for ever closed!—O Sir, you know not the wisdom that continually flowed from these lips when she spoke!—Nor what a friend I have lost!
Then surveying the lid, she seemed to take in at once the meaning of the emblems; and this gave her so much fresh grief, that though she several times wipes her eyes, she was unable to read the inscription and texts; turning, therefore, to me, Favour me, Sir, I pray you, by a line, with the description of these emblems, and with these texts; and if I might be allowed a lock of the dear creature's hair——
I told her that her executor would order both; and would also send her a copy of her last will; in which she would find the most grateful remembrances of her love for her, whom she calls The sister of her heart.
Justly, said she, does she call me so; for we had but one heart, but one soul, between us; and now my better half is torn from me—What shall I do?
But looking round her, on a servant's stepping by the door, as if again she had apprehended it was some of the family—Once more, said she, a solemn, an everlasting adieu!—Alas for me! a solemn, an everlasting adieu!
Then again embracing her face with both her hands, and kissing it, and afterwards the hands of the dear deceased, first one, then the other, she gave me her hand, and quitting the room with precipitation, rushed into her chariot; and, when there, with profound sight, and a fresh burst of tears, unable to speak, she bowed her head to me, and was driven away.
The inconsolable company saw how much I had been moved on my return to them. Mr. James Harlowe had been telling them what had passed between him and me. And, finding myself unfit for company, and observing, that they broke off talk at my coming in, I thought it proper to leave them to their consultations.
And here I will put an end to this letter, for indeed, Sir, the very recollection of this affecting scene has left me nearly as unable to proceed, as I was, just after it, to converse with my cousins. I am, Sir, with great truth,
Your most obedient humble servant, WILLIAM MORDEN.
COLONEL MORDEN [IN CONTINUATION.] TUESDAY MORNING, SEPT. 12.
The good Mrs. Norton is arrived, a little amended in her spirits; owing to the very posthumous letters, as I may call them, which you, Mr. Belford, as well as I, apprehended would have had fatal effects upon her.
I cannot but attribute this to the right turn of her mind. It seems she has been inured to afflictions; and has lived in a constant hope of a better life; and, having no acts of unkindness to the dear deceased to reproach herself with, is most considerately resolved to exert her utmost fortitude in order to comfort the sorrowing mother.
O Mr. Belford, how does the character of my dear departed cousin rise upon me from every mouth!—Had she been my own child, or my sister!—But do you think that the man who occasioned this great, this extended ruin— But I forbear.
The will is not to be looked into, till the funeral rites are performed. Preparations are making for the solemnity; and the servants, as well as principals of all the branches of the family, are put into close mourning.
I have seen Mr. Melvill. He is a serious and sensible man. I have given him particulars to go upon in the discourse he is to pronounce at the funeral; but had the less need to do this, as I find he is extremely well acquainted with the whole unhappy story; and was a personal admirer of my dear cousin, and a sincere lamenter of her misfortunes and death. The reverend Dr. Lewen, who is but very lately dead, was his particular friend, and had once intended to recommend him to her favour and notice.
I am just returned from attending the afflicted parents, in an effort they made to see the corpse of their beloved child. They had requested my company, and that of the good Mrs. Norton. A last leave, the mother said, she must take.
An effort, however, it was, and no more. The moment they came in sight of the coffin, before the lid could be put aside, O my dear, said the father, retreating, I cannot, I find I cannot bear it!—Had I—had I—had I never been hard-hearted!—Then, turning round to his lady, he had but just time to catch her in his arms, and prevent her sinking on the floor. —O, my dearest Life, said he, this is too much!—too much, indeed!—Let us—let us retire. Mrs. Norton, who (attracted by the awful receptacle) had but just left the good lady, hastened to her—Dear, dear woman, cried the unhappy parent, flinging her arms about her neck, bear me, bear me hence!—O my child! my child! my own Clarissa Harlowe! thou pride of my life so lately!—never, never more must I behold thee!
I supported the unhappy father, Mrs. Norton the sinking mother, into the next parlour. She threw herself on a settee there; he into an elbow-chair by her—the good woman at her feet, her arms clasped round her waist. The two mothers, I as may call them, of my beloved cousin, thus tenderly engaged! What a variety of distress in these woeful scenes!
The unhappy father, in endeavouring to comfort his lady, loaded himself. Would to God, my dear, said he, would to God I had no more to charge myself with than you have!—You relented!—you would have prevailed upon me to relent!
The greater my fault, said she, when I knew that displeasure was carried too high, to acquiesce as I did!—What a barbarous parent was I, to let two angry children make me forget that I was mother to a third—to such a third!
Mrs. Norton used arguments and prayers to comfort her—O, my dear Norton, answered the unhappy lady, you was the dear creature's more natural mother!—Would to Heaven I had no more to answer for than you have!
Thus the unhappy pair unavailingly recriminated, till my cousin Hervey entered, and, with Mrs. Norton, conducted up to her own chamber the inconsolable mother. The two uncles, and Mr. Hervey, came in at the same time, and prevailed upon the afflicted father to retire with them to his —both giving up all thoughts of ever seeing more the child whose death was so deservedly regretted by them.
Time only, Mr. Belford, can combat with advantage such a heavy deprivation as this. Advice will not do, while the loss is recent. Nature will have way given to it, (and so it ought,) till sorrow has in a manner exhausted itself; and then reason and religion will come in seasonably with their powerful aids, to raise the drooping heart.
I see here no face that is the same I saw at my first arrival. Proud and haughty every countenance then, unyielding to entreaty; now, how greatly are they humbled!—The utmost distress is apparent in every protracted feature, and in every bursting muscle, of each disconsolate mourner. Their eyes, which so lately flashed anger and resentment, now are turned to every one that approaches them, as if imploring pity!—Could ever wilful hard-heartedness be more severely punished?
The following lines of Juvenal are, upon the whole applicable to this house and family; and I have revolved them many times since Sunday evening:
Humani generis mores tibi nosse volenti Sufficit una domus: paucos consumere dies, & Dicere te miserum, postquam illinc veneris, aude.
Let me add, that Mrs. Norton has communicated to the family the posthumous letter sent her. This letter affords a foundation for future consolation to them; but at present it has new pointed their grief, by making them reflect on their cruelty to so excellent a daughter, niece, and sister.* I am, dear Sir,
Your faithful, humble servant, WM. MORDEN.
* This letter contains in substance—her thanks to the good woman for her care of her in her infancy; for her good instructions, and the excellent example she had set her; with self-accusations of a vanity and presumption, which lay lurking in her heart unknown to herself, till her calamities (obliging her to look into herself) brought them to light.