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C LA RISS A.
Part Fourth continued.—The Last
Escape of All.
MR. BELFORD TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ.
Friday Noon, July 21. HIS morning I was admitted, as soon as I sent up
my name, into the presence of the divine lady.
Such I may call her; as what I have to relate will fully prove.
She had had a tolerable night, and was much better in spirits ; though weak in person; and visibly declining in looks.
She had been writing, she said, a letter to her sister : but had not pleased herself in it; though she had made two or three essays : but that the last must go.
By hints I had dropped from time to time, she had reason, she said, to think that I knew everything that concerned her and her family ; and, if so, must be acquainted with the heavy curse her father had laid upon her; which had been dreadfully fulfilled in one part, as to her prospects in this life, and that in a very short time; which gave her great apprehensions of the other part. She had been applying herself to her sister, to obtain a revocation of it. I hope my father will revoke
it, said she, or I shall be very miserable.— Yet (and she gasped as she spoke, with apprehension) I am ready to tremble at what the answer may be; for my sister is hard-hearted.
Lord !—I was going to curse thee, Lovelace! How every instance of excellence, in this all-excelling creature, condemns thee !—Thou wilt have reason to think thyself of all men most accursed, if she die !
I then besought her, while she was capable of such glorious instances of generosity and forgiveness, to extend her goodness to a man whose heart bled in every vein of it for the injuries he had done her; and who would make it the study of his whole life to repair them.
You may let him know, said she, that I reject him with my whole heart :-Yet that, although I say this with such a determination as shall leave no room for doubt, I say it not however with passion, On the contrary, tell him, that I am trying to bring my mind into such a frame as to be able to pity him (poor perjured wretch ! what has he not to answer for !); and that I shall not think myself qualified for the state I am aspiring to, if, after a few struggles more, I cannot forgive him too: And I hope, clasping her hands together, uplifted as were her eyes, my dear earthly father will set me the example my heavenly one has already set us all ; and, by forgiving his fallen daughter, teach her to forgive the man, who then, I hope, will not have destroyed my eternal prospects, as he has my temporal !
Stop here, thou wretch -But I need not bid thee ! For I can go no farther !
You will imagine how affecting her noble speech and behaviour were to me, at the time, when the bare recollecting and transcribing them obliged me to drop-my pen.
She was silent. I proceeded-Have you no commission to employ me in ; deserted as you are by all your friends ; among strangers, though, I doubt not, worthy people ? Cannot I be serviceable by message, by letter writing, by attending personally, with either message or letter, your father, your uncles, your brother, your sister, Miss Howe, Lord M., or the ladies his sisters ? Any office to be employed in to serve you, absolutely independent of my friend's wishes, or of my own wishes to oblige him? Think, madam, if I cannot ?
I thank you, sir : very heartily I thank you : but in nothing that I can at present think of, or at least resolve upon, can you do me service. I will see what return the letter I have written will bring me.-Till then
My life and my fortune, interrupted I, are devoted to your service. Permit me to observe, that here you are, without one natural friend ; and (so much do I know of your unhappy case) that you must be in a manner destitute of the means to make friends
She was going to interrupt me, with a prohibitory kind of earnestness in her manner.
I beg leave to proceed, madam : I have cast about twenty ways how to mention this before, but never dared till now. Suffer me, now that I have broken the ice, to tender myself as your banker only.—I know you will not be obliged : you need not. You have sufficient of your own, if it were in your hands; and from that, whether you live or die, will I consent to be reimbursed. I do assure you, that the unhappy man shall never know either my offer, or your acceptance.-Only permit me this small
And down behind her chair I dropped a bank note of £100 which I had brought with me, intending somehow or other to leave it behind me : Nor shouldst thou ever have known it, had she favoured me with the acceptance of it; as I told her.
You give me great pain, Mr. Belford, said she, by these instances of your humanity. And yet, considering the company I have seen you in, I am not sorry to find you capable of such. Methinks I am glad, for the sake of human nature, that there could be but one such man in the world, as he, you and I know. But as to your kind offer, whatever it be, if you take it not up, you will greatly disturb me. I have no need of your kindness. I have effects enough, which I never can want, to supply my present occasions : and, if needful, can have recourse to Miss Howe. I have promised that I would—so, pray, sir, urge not upon me this favour.—Take it up yourself.—If you mean me peace and ease of mind, urge not this favour. -And she spoke with impatience.
I beg, madam, but one word
Not one, sir, till you have taken back what you have let fall. I doubt not either the honour, or the kindness, of your offer; but you must not say one word more on this subject. I cannot bear it.
She was stooping, but with pain. I therefore prevented her; and besought her to forgive me for a tender, which, I saw, had been more discomposing to her than I had hoped (from the purity of my intentions) it would be. But I could not bear to think, that such a mind as hers should be distressed : since the want of the conveniences she was used to abound in might affect and disturb her in the divine course she was in.
I repeated my offers to write to any of her friends; and told her, that, having taken the liberty to acquaint Dr. H. with the cruel displeasure of her relations, as what I presumed lay nearest her heart, he had proposed to write himself, to acquaint her friends how ill she was, if she would not take it amiss.
It was kind in the doctor, she said: but begged, that no step of that sort might be taken without her knowledge and consent. She would wait to see what effects her letter to ber sister would have. All she had to hope for, was, that her father would revoke his malediction,