Mrs. Sambre (Belton’s sister) had several times proposed to him a minister to pray by him, but the poor man could not, he said, bear the thoughts of one; for that he should certainly die in an hour or two after; and he was willing to hope still, against all probability, that he might recover; and was often asking his sister if she had not seen people as bad as he was, who, almost to a miracle, when every body gave them over, had got up again?
She, shaking her head, told him she had; but, once saying, that their disorders were of an acute kind, and such as had a crisis in them, he called her Small-hopes, and Job’s comforter; and bid her say nothing, if she could not say more to the purpose, and what was fitter for a sick man to hear. And yet, poor fellow, he has no hopes himself, as is plain by his desponding terrors; one of which he fell into, and a very dreadful one, soon after the doctor went.
The poor man had been in convulsions, terrible convulsions! for an hour past. O Lord! Lovelace, death is a shocking thing! by my faith it is!— I wish thou wert present on this occasion. It is not merely the concern a man has for his friend; but, as death is the common lot, we see, in his agonies, how it will be one day with ourselves. I am all over as if cold water were poured down my back, or as if I had a strong ague-fit upon me. I was obliged to come away. And I write, hardly knowing what.—I wish thou wert here.
Though I left him, because I could stay no longer, I can’t be easy by myself, but must go to him again.
Poor Belton!—Drawing on apace! Yet was he sensible when I went in—too sensible, poor man! He has something upon his mind to reveal, he tells me, that is the worst action of his life; worse than ever you or I knew of him, he says. It must then be very bad!
He ordered every body out; but was seized with another convulsion-fit, before he could reveal it; and in it he lies struggling between life and death—but I’ll go in again.
All now must soon be over with him: Poor, poor fellow! He has given me some hints of what he wanted to say; but all incoherent, interrupted by dying hiccoughs and convulsions.
Bad enough it must be, Heaven knows, by what I can gather!—Alas! Lovelace, I fear, I fear, he came too soon into his uncle’s estate.
If a man were to live always, he might have some temptation to do base things, in order to procure to himself, as it would then be, everlasting ease, plenty, or affluence; but, for the sake of ten, twenty, thirty years of poor life to be a villain—Can that be worth while? with a conscience stinging him all the time too! And when he comes to wind up all, such agonizing reflections upon his past guilt! All then appearing as nothing! What he most valued, most disgustful! and not one thing to think of, as the poor fellow says twenty and twenty times over, but what is attended with anguish and reproach!—