“She is gone!” Julia writes to Lucy. “Yes, my dear friend, our beloved Eliza, is gone!” A few days earlier, Eliza had gone to the garden to meet “her detestable paramour,” and when she returned, she immediately retired to her room where she wept and wrote. She refused to come downstairs and begged Julia to make an excuse to Mrs. Wharton on her behalf. Later, she appeared calm and claimed: “It is finished, […]. You will know all to morrow, Julia.”
Julia is surprised that Eliza has fled, but she has given her no reason to stay. Julia explicitly told Eliza that her friends would not forgive her affair with Sanford, so it seems only appropriate that she has left them. Eliza has already said she can’t face her mother “in her condition,” so Julia’s surprise seems a bit misplaced, and a bit overdramatic.
That evening, Eliza refused dinner, and then she fell to Mrs. Wharton’s feet and wept. “Oh madam!” she cried. “Can you forgive a wretch, who has forfeited your love, your kindness, and your compassion?” Her mother assured Eliza she could never be such a person, but she swore forgiveness no matter the offense. That night, Eliza gave Julia two letters—one for Mrs. Wharton, the other for Julia—and she made her promise not to open them until the next day. The letter, Eliza said to Julia, “must close the account between you and me.”
Mrs. Wharton’s forgiveness is clearly important to Eliza, but she seems to have given up on Julia’s. Eliza’s comment that the letter “must close the account” of their friendship is another reflection of Eliza’s preoccupation with money, but it also suggests that she has given up on Julia, as well. She no longer wishes to have her forgiveness or her friendship.
Later, Julia woke to the sound of the front door and saw Eliza leave, followed by a man. Of course, it was Major Sanford, Julia says. Mrs. Wharton was roused from sleep as well and came out of her room. “Eliza has left us!” Julia cried. She ran for the letters, and after they read them, they were both struck with grief. “O Julia,” Mrs. Wharton cried, “this is more than the bitterness of death!”
The fact that Mrs. Wharton believes Eliza running away with a man and getting pregnant “is more than the bitterness of death” reflects the importance of virtue in early American society. Eliza’s death probably would be easier on Mrs. Wharton; at least that way Eliza wouldn’t be considered immoral and lacking virtue.