We were all silent still, the women in grief; I in a manner stunned. She would not ask me, she said; but would be glad, since it had thus earlier than she had intended been brought in, that her two good friends would walk in and look upon it. They would be less shocked when it was made more familiar to their eye: don’t you lead back, said she, a starting steed to the object he is apt to start at, in order to familiarize him to it, and cure his starting? The same reason will hold in this case. Come, my good friends, I will lead you in.
I took my leave; telling her she had done wrong, very wrong; and ought not, by any means, to have such an object before her.
The women followed her in.—’Tis a strange sex! Nothing is too shocking for them to look upon, or see acted, that has but novelty and curiosity in it.
Down I posted; got a chair; and was carried home, extremely shocked and discomposed: yet, weighing the lady’s arguments, I know not why I was so affected—except, as she said, at the unusualness of the thing.
While I waited for a chair, Mrs. Smith came down, and told me that there were devices and inscriptions upon the lid. Lord bless me! is a coffin a proper subject to display fancy upon?—But these great minds cannot avoid doing extraordinary things!
Mr. Belford, to Robert Lovelace,
Friday Morn. Sept. 1.
It is surprising, that I, a man, should be so much affected as I was, at such an object as is the subject of my former letter; who also, in my late uncle’s case, and poor Belton’s had the like before me, and the directing of it: when she, a woman, of so weak and tender a frame, who was to fill it (so soon perhaps to fill it!) could give orders about it, and draw out the devices upon it, and explain them with so little concern as the women tell me she did to them last night after I was gone.
I really was ill, and restless all night. Thou wert the subject of my execration, as she was of my admiration, all the time I was quite awake: and, when I dozed, I dreamt of nothing but of flying hour-glasses, deaths-heads, spades, mattocks, and eternity; the hint of her devices (as given me by Mrs. Smith) running in my head.
However, not being able to keep away from Smith’s, I went thither about seven. The lady was just gone out: she had slept better, I found, than I, though her solemn repository was under her window, not far from her bed-side.
I was prevailed upon by Mrs. Smith and her nurse Shelburne (Mrs. Lovick being abroad with her) to go up and look at the devices. Mrs. Lovick has since shown me a copy of the draught by which all was ordered; and I will give thee a sketch of the symbols.
The principal device, neatly etched on a plate of white metal, is a crowned serpent, with its tail in its mouth, forming a ring, the emblem of eternity: and in the circle made by it is this inscription: