And now, Belford, what dost think?
That thou art a cursed fellow, if—
If—no if’s—but I shall be very sick to-morrow. I shall, ‘faith.
Sick!—Why sick? What a-devil shouldst thou be sick for?
For more good reasons than one, Jack.
I should be glad to hear but one.—Sick, quotha! Of all thy roguish inventions I should not have thought of this.
Perhaps thou thinkest my view to be, to draw the lady to my bedside. That’s a trick of three or four thousand years old; and I should find it much more to my purpose, if I could get to her’s. However, I’ll condescend to make thee as wise as myself.
I am excessively disturbed about this smuggling scheme of Miss Howe. I have no doubt, that my fair-one, were I to make an attempt, and miscarry, will fly from me, if she can. I once believed she loved me: but now I doubt whether she does or not: at least, that it is with such an ardour, as Miss Howe calls it, as will make her overlook a premeditated fault, should I be guilty of one.
And what will being sick do for thee?
Have patience. I don’t intend to be so very bad as Dorcas shall represent me to be. But yet I know I shall reach confoundedly, and bring up some clotted blood. To be sure, I shall break a vessel: there’s no doubt of that: and a bottle of Eaton’s styptic shall be sent for; but no doctor. If she has humanity, she will be concerned. But if she has love, let it have been pushed ever so far back, it will, on this occasion, come forward, and show itself; not only in her eye, but in every line of her sweet face.
I will be very intrepid. I will not fear death, or any thing else. I will be sure of being well in an hour or two, having formerly found great benefit by this astringent medicine, on occasion of an inward bruise by a fall from my horse in hunting, of which perhaps this malady may be the remains. And this will show her, that though those about me may make the most of it, I do not; and so can have no design in it.
Well, methinks thou sayest, I begin to think tolerably of this device.
I knew thou wouldst, when I explained myself. Another time prepare to wonder; and banish doubt.
Now, Belford, I shall expect, that she will show some concern at the broken vessel, as it may be attended with fatal effects, especially to one so fiery in his temper as I have the reputation to be thought to be: and the rather, as I shall calmly attribute the accident to the harasses and doubts under which I have laboured for some time past. And this will be a further proof of my love, and will demand a grateful return—
And what then, thou egregious contriver?
Why then I shall have the less remorse, if I am to use a little violence: for can she deserve compassion, who shows none?
And what if she shows a great deal of concern?
Then shall I be in hopes of building on a good foundation. Love hides a multitude of faults, and diminishes those it cannot hide. Love, when acknowledged, authorizes freedom; and freedom begets freedom; and I shall then see how far I can go.
Well but, Lovelace, how the deuce wilt thou, with that full health and vigour of constitution, and with that bloom in thy face, make any body believe thou art sick?
How!—Why, take a few grains of ipecacuanha; enough to make me reach like a fury.
Good!—But how wilt thou manage to bring up blood, and not hurt thyself?
Foolish fellow! Are there no pigeons and chickens in every poulterer’s shop?
Cry thy mercy.
But then I will be persuaded by Mrs. Sinclair, that I have of late confined myself too much; and so will have a chair called, and be carried to the Park; where I will try to walk half the length of the Mall, or so; and in my return, amuse myself at White’s or the Cocoa.
And what will this do?
Questioning again!—I am afraid thou’rt an infidel, Belford—Why then shall I not know if my beloved offers to go out in my absence?—And shall I not see whether she receives me with tenderness at my return? But this is not all: I have a foreboding that something affecting will happen while I am out. But of this more in its place.
And now, Belford, wilt thou, or wilt thou not, allow, that it is a right thing to be sick?—Lord, Jack, so much delight do I take in my contrivances, that I shall be half sorry when the occasion for them is over; for never, never, shall I again have such charming exercise for my invention.