Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
Mr. Belford to Robert Lovelace, Esq.
By Samuel Richardson (16891761)
I MAY as well try to write; since, were I to go to bed, I shall not sleep. I never had such a weight of grief upon my mind in my life, as upon the demise of this admirable woman; whose soul is now rejoicing in the regions of light. You may be glad to know the particulars of her happy exit. I will try to proceed; for all is hush and still; the family retired; but not one of them, and least of all her poor cousin, I daresay, to rest. At four oclock, as I mentioned in my last, I was sent for down; and as thou usedst to like my descriptions, I will give thee the woful scene that presented itself to me as I approached the bed. The Colonel was the first that took my attention, kneeling on the side of the bed, the ladys right hand in both his, which his face covered, bathing it with his tears; although she had been comforting him, as the women since told me, in elevated strains, but broken accents.
On the other side of the bed sat the good widow; her face overwhelmed with tears, leaning her head against the beds head in a most disconsolate manner; and turning her face to me, as soon as she saw meO Mr. Belford, cried she with folded handsthe dear ladya heavy sob permitted her not to say more. Mrs. Smith, with clasped fingers and uplifted eyes, as if imploring help from the only power which could give it, was kneeling down at the beds foot, tears in large drops trickling down her cheeks. Her nurse was kneeling between the widow and Mrs. Smith, her arms extended. In one hand she held an ineffectual cordial which she had just been offering her dying mistress; her face was swollen with weeping (though used to such scenes as this); and she turned her eyes towards me, as if she called upon me by them to join in the helpless sorrow; a fresh stream bursting from them as I approached the bed.
The maid of the house with her face upon her folded arms, as she stood leaning against the wainscot, more audibly expressed her grief than any of the others. The lady had been silent a few minutes, and speechless, as they thought, moving her lips without uttering a word; one hand, as I said, in her cousins. But when Mrs. Lovick, on my approach, pronounced my nameO Mr. Belford, said she, with a faint inward voice, but very distinct neverthelessNow!Now(in broken periods she spoke). I bless God for His mercies to His poor creatureall will soon be overa fewa very few momentswill end the strifeand I shall be happy! Comfort here, sir (turning her head to the Colonel)comfort my cousinsee! the blameable kindnesshe would not wish me to be happyso soon! Here she stopped for two or three minutes, earnestly looking upon him. Then resumingMy dearest cousin, said she, be comfortedwhat is dying but the common lot?The mortal frame may seem to labourbut that is all!It is not so hard to die as I believed it to be!The preparation is the difficultyI bless God I have had time for thatthe rest is worse to beholders than to me!I am all blessed hopehope itself. She looked what she said, a sweet smile beaming over her countenance.
After a short silenceOnce more, my dear cousin, said she but still in broken accents, commend me most dutifully to my father and mother.There she stopped. And then proceedingTo my sister, to my brother, to my unclesand tell them, I bless them with my parting breathfor all their goodness to meeven for their displeasure, I bless themmost happy has been to me my punishment here! Happy indeed! She was silent for a few moments, lifting up her eyes, and the hand her cousin held not between his. Then O death! said she, where is thy sting! (the words I remember to have heard in the burial-service read over my uncle and poor Belton). And after a pauseIt is good for me that I was afflicted! Words of Scripture, I suppose. Then turning towards us, who were lost in speechless sorrowO dear, dear gentlemen, said she, you know not what foretasteswhat assurancesand there she again stopped, and looked up as if in a thankful rapture, sweetly smiling.
Then turning her head towards meDo you, sir, tell your friend that I forgive him! And I pray to God to forgive him! Again pausing, and lifting up her eyes, as if praying that he would. Let him know how happily I die:and that, such as my own, I wish to be his last hour. She was again silent a few moments: and then resumingMy sight fails me!Your voices only(for we both applauded her Christian, her divine frame, though in accents as broken as her own) and the voice of grief is alike in all. Is not this Mr. Mordens hand? pressing one of his with that he had just let goWhich is Mr. Belfords? holding out the other. I gave her mine. God Almighty bless you both, said she, and make you bothin your last hourfor you must come to thishappy as I am.
She paused again, her breath growing shorter; and after a few minutesAnd now, my dearest cousin, give me your handnearerstill nearerdrawing it towards her; and she pressed it with her dying lipsGod protect you, dear, dear sir, and once more receive my best and most grateful thanksand tell my dear Miss Howe, and vouchsafe to see and to tell my worthy Nortonshe will be one day, I fear not, though now lowly in her fortunes, a saint in heaventell them both that I remember them with thankful blessings in my last moments! And pray God to give them happiness here for many, many years for the sake of their friends and lovers; and a heavenly crown hereafter; and such assurances of it, as I have, through the all-satisfying merits of our blessed Redeemer.
Her sweet voice and broken periods methinks still fill my ears, and never will be out of my memory. After a short silence, in a more broken and faint accentAnd you, Mr. Belford, pressing my hand, may God preserve you, and make you sensible of all your errorsyou see, in me, how all endsmay you beand down sank her head upon her pillow, she fainting away and drawing from us her hands. We thought she was then gone; and each gave way to a violent burst of grief. But soon showing signs of returning life, our attention was again engaged; and I besought her, when a little recovered, to complete in my favour her half-pronounced blessing. She waved her hand to us both, and bowed her head six times, as we have since recollected, as if distinguishing every person present; not forgetting the nurse and the maid-servant; the latter having approached the bed, weeping as if crowding in for the divine ladys last blessing; and she spake faltering and inwardlyBlessblessblessyou allandnowand now(holding up her almost lifeless hands for the last time) comeO comeBlessed Lord JESUS! And with these words, the last but half-pronounced, expired:such a smile, such a charming serenity overspreading her sweet face at the instant, as seemed to manifest her eternal happiness already begun. O Lovelace!But I can write no more!