“Oh, my friend,” Julia writes Lucy. “I have a tale to unfold!” While staying with Eliza, Julia noticed that Eliza had left the house in the middle of the night and returned in the company of a man. “My blood thrilled with horror at this sacrifice in virtue!” Julia cries. She confronted Eliza the next day, and she admitted that she had been with Major Sanford. Eliza “is ruined!” Julia writes. She has “sacrificed [her] virtue to an abandoned, despicable, profligate!” Eliza’s physical health is also suffering; she has a “decaying frame,” “faded cheek[s],” and “tottering limbs.”
Eliza’s condition has worsened far beyond depression and is beginning to take over her entire body. Still, Julia gives very little attention to Eliza’s physical health and wellbeing and is more interested in gossiping about Eliza and condemning her behavior. Eliza is clearly in need of her friends’ sympathy and comfort, and they give her neither. Both Julia and Lucy are more concerned with Eliza’s reputation and failure to live up to expected womanly ideals.
“It is the purest friendship,” Julia told Eliza, “which thus interests me in your concerns.” Julia can’t understand how Eliza could behave this way after all the warnings her friends have given her. “You have forfeited the favor of your friends,” Julia said to Eliza, “and reluctant will be their forgiveness.” Eliza begged for Julia’s forgiveness and asked her to keep “this distressing tale” from Mrs. Wharton for the time being. Eliza promised to write her mother a letter. “After she knows my condition,” Eliza said, “I cannot see her.”
Julia’s treatment of Eliza is nothing short of cruel. Julia claims to be her friend, but then implies that she has reached her limit and can’t forgive Eliza. As Eliza’s relationship with Sanford has nothing to do with Julia, it seems strange that Eliza should need forgiveness for it in the first place, and it is particularly awful that Julia is “reluctant” to grant it. Eliza hints that she is pregnant in her refusal to face her mother, but she doesn’t say it directly and Julia doesn’t seem to notice, as she is too preoccupied by judging Eliza.
Despite Julia’s insistence that Eliza stay away from Major Sanford, Eliza claimed that she could not comply with her friend’s wishes. In fact, she had tried to “flee from him” but “found it too late.” Eliza’s “circumstances called for attention,” and she had “no one to participate [her] cares, to witness [her] distress, and to alleviate [her] sorrows, but him.” Eliza again spoke of her waning health. “I have not a single wish to live,” Eliza said.
It is “too late” because Eliza is pregnant, and since her patriarchal society insists that she be dependent upon a man, she has no one to turn to but Sanford. Eliza’s friends have clearly forsaken her as well. They gave her little sympathy when they merely suspected she slept with Sanford, now that she officially has, she has no reason to believe that they will ever accept her again. In this way, their rejection has sent her right back to Sanford.