But poverty was my snare; dreadful poverty! The misery I had been in was great, such as would make the heart tremble at the apprehensions of its return; and I might appeal to any that has had any experience of the world, whether one so entirely destitute as I was of all manner of all helps or friends, either to support me or to assist me to support myself, could withstand the proposal; not that I plead this as a justification of my conduct, but that it may move the pity even of those that abhor the crime.
Besides this, I was young, handsome, and, with all the mortifications I had met with, was vain, and that not a little; and, as it was a new thing, so it was a pleasant thing to be courted, caressed, embraced, and high professions of affection made to me, by a man so agreeable and so able to do me good.
Add to this, that if I had ventured to disoblige this gentleman, I had no friend in the world to have recourse to; I had no prospect—no, not of a bit of bread; I had nothing before me but to fall back into the same misery that I had been in before.
Amy had but too much rhetoric in this cause; she represented all those things in their proper colours; she argued them all with her utmost skill; and at last the merry jade, when she came to dress me, "Look ye, madam," said she, "if you won't consent, tell him you will do as Rachel did to Jacob, when she could have no children—put her maid to bed to him; tell him you cannot comply with him, but there's Amy, he may ask her the question; she has promised me she won't deny you."
"And would you have me say so, Amy?" said I.
"No, madam; but I would really have you do so. Besides, you are undone if you do not; and if my doing it would save you from being undone, as I said before, he shall, if he will; if he asks me, I won't deny him, not I; hang me if I do," says Amy.
"Well, I know not what to do," says I to Amy.
"Do!" says Amy. "Your choice is fair and plain. Here you may have a handsome, charming gentleman, be rich, live pleasantly and in plenty, or refuse him, and want a dinner, go in rags, live in tears; in short, beg and starve. You know this is the case, madam," says Amy. "I wonder how you can say you know not what to do."
"Well, Amy," says I, "the case is as you say, and I think verily I must yield to him; but then," said I, moved by conscience, "don't talk any more of your cant of its being lawful that I ought to marry again, and that he ought to marry again, and such stuff as that; 'tis all nonsense," says I, "Amy, there's nothing in it; let me hear no more of that, for if I yield, 'tis in vain to mince the matter, I am a whore, Amy; neither better nor worse, I assure you."
"I don't think so, madam, by no means," says Amy. "I wonder how you can talk so;" and then she run on with her argument of the unreasonableness that a woman should be obliged to live single, or a man to live single, in such cases as before. "Well, Amy," said I, "come, let us dispute no more, for the longer I enter into that part, the greater my scruples will be; but if I let it alone, the necessity of my present circumstances is such that I believe I shall yield to him, if he should importune me much about it; but I should be glad he would not do it at all, but leave me as I am."
"As to that, madam, you may depend," says Amy, "he expects to have you for his bedfellow to-night. I saw it plainly in his management all day; and at last he told you so too, as plain, I think, as he could." "Well, well, Amy," said I, "I don't know what to say; if he will he must, I think; I don't know how to resist such a man, that has done so much for me." "I don't know how you should," says Amy.
Thus Amy and I canvassed the business between us; the jade prompted the crime which I had but too much inclination to commit, that is to say, not as a crime, for I had nothing of the vice in my constitution; my spirits were far from being high, my blood had no fire in it to kindle the flame of desire; but the kindness and good humour of the man and the dread of my own circumstances concurred to bring me to the point, and I even resolved, before he asked, to give up my virtue to him whenever he should put it to the question.
In this I was a double offender, whatever he was, for I was resolved to commit the crime, knowing and owning it to be a crime; he, if it was true as he said, was fully persuaded it was lawful, and in that persuasion he took the measures and used all the circumlocutions which I am going to speak of.
About two hours after he was gone, came a Leadenhall basket-woman, with a whole load of good things for the mouth (the particulars are not to the purpose), and brought orders to get supper by eight o'clock. However, I did not intend to begin to dress anything till I saw him; and he gave me time enough, for he came before seven, so that Amy, who had gotten one to help her, got everything ready in time.
We sat down to supper about eight, and were indeed very merry. Amy made us some sport, for she was a girl of spirit and wit, and with her talk she made us laugh very often, and yet the jade managed her wit with all the good manners imaginable.
But to shorten the story. After supper he took me up into his chamber, where Amy had made a good fire, and there he pulled out a great many papers, and spread them upon a little table, and then took me by the hand, and after kissing me very much, he entered into a discourse of his circumstances and of mine, how they agreed in several things exactly; for example, that I was abandoned of a husband in the prime of my youth and vigour, and he of a wife in his middle age; how the end of marriage was destroyed by the treatment we had either of us received, and it would be very hard that we should be tied by the formality of the contract where the essence of it was destroyed. I interrupted him, and told him there was a vast difference between our circumstances, and that in the most essential part, namely, that he was rich, and I was poor; that he was above the world, and I infinitely below it; that his circumstances were very easy, mine miserable, and this was an inequality the most essential that could be imagined. "As to that, my dear," says he, "I have taken such measures as shall make an equality still;" and with that he showed me a contract in writing, wherein he engaged himself to me to cohabit constantly with me, to provide for me in all respects as a wife, and repeating in the preamble a long account of the nature and reason of our living together, and an obligation in the penalty of L7000 never to abandon me; and at last showed me a bond for L500, to be paid to me, or to my assigns, within three months after his death.
He read over all these things to me, and then, in a most moving, affectionate manner, and in words not to be answered, he said, "Now, my dear, is this not sufficient? Can you object anything against it? If not, as I believe you will not, then let us debate this matter no longer." With that he pulled out a silk purse, which had threescore guineas in it, and threw them into my lap, and concluded all the rest of his discourse with kisses and protestations of his love, of which indeed I had abundant proof.
Pity human frailty, you that read of a woman reduced in her youth and prime to the utmost misery and distress, and raised again, as above, by the unexpected and surprising bounty of a stranger; I say, pity her if she was not able, after all these things, to make any more resistance.
However, I stood out a little longer still. I asked him how he could expect that I could come into a proposal of such consequence the very first time it was moved to me; and that I ought, if I consented to it, to capitulate with him that he should never upbraid me with easiness and consenting too soon. He said no; but, on the contrary, he would take it as a mark of the greatest kindness I could show him. Then he went on to give reasons why there was no occasion to use the ordinary ceremony of delay, or to wait a reasonable time of courtship, which was only to avoid scandal; but, as this was private, it had nothing of that nature in it; that he had been courting me some time by the best of courtship, viz., doing acts of kindness to me; and that he had given testimonies of his sincere affection to me by deeds, not by flattering trifles and the usual courtship of words, which were often found to have very little meaning; that he took me, not as a mistress, but as his wife, and protested it was clear to him he might lawfully do it, and that I was perfectly at liberty, and assured me, by all that it was possible for an honest man to say, that he would treat me as his wife as long as he lived. In a word, he conquered all the little resistance I intended to make; he protested he loved me above all the world, and begged I would for once believe him; that he had never deceived me, and never would, but would make it his study to make my life comfortable and happy, and to make me forget the misery I had gone through. I stood still a while, and said nothing; but seeing him eager for my answer, I smiled, and looking up at him, "And must I, then," says I, "say yes at first asking? Must I depend upon your promise? Why, then," said I, "upon the faith of that promise, and in the sense of that inexpressible kindness you have shown me, you shall be obliged, and I will be wholly yours to the end of my life;" and with that I took his hand, which held me by the hand, and gave it a kiss.
And thus, in gratitude for the favours I received from a man, was all sense of religion and duty to God, all regard to virtue and honour, given up at once, and we were to call one another man and wife, who, in the sense of the laws both of God and our country, were no more than two adulterers; in short, a whore and a rogue. Nor, as I have said above, was my conscience silent in it, though it seems his was; for I sinned with open eyes, and thereby had a double guilt upon me. As I always said, his notions were of another kind, and he either was before of the opinion, or argued himself into it now, that we were both free and might lawfully marry.
But I was quite of another side—nay, and my judgment was right, but my circumstances were my temptation; the terrors behind me looked blacker than the terrors before me; and the dreadful argument of wanting bread, and being run into the horrible distresses I was in before, mastered all my resolution, and I gave myself up as above.
The rest of the evening we spent very agreeably to me; he was perfectly good-humoured, and was at that time very merry. Then he made Amy dance with him, and I told him I would put Amy to bed to him. Amy said, with all her heart; she never had been a bride in her life. In short, he made the girl so merry that, had he not been to lie with me the same night, I believe he would have played the fool with Amy for half-an-hour, and the girl would no more have refused him than I intended to do. Yet before, I had always found her a very modest wench as any I ever saw in all my life; but, in short, the mirth of that night, and a few more such afterwards, ruined the girl's modesty for ever, as shall appear by-and-by, in its place.
So far does fooling and toying sometimes go that I know nothing a young woman has to be more cautious of; so far had this innocent girl gone in jesting between her and I, and in talking that she would let him lie with her, if he would but be kinder to me, that at last she let him lie with her in earnest; and so empty was I now of all principle, that I encouraged the doing it almost before my face.
I say but too justly that I was empty of principle, because, as above, I had yielded to him, not as deluded to believe it lawful, but as overcome by his kindness, and terrified at the fear of my own misery if he should leave me. So with my eyes open, and with my conscience, as I may say, awake, I sinned, knowing it to be a sin, but having no power to resist. When this had thus made a hole in my heart, and I was come to such a height as to transgress against the light of my own conscience, I was then fit for any wickedness, and conscience left off speaking where it found it could not be heard.
But to return to our story. Having consented, as above, to his proposal, we had not much more to do. He gave me my writings, and the bond for my maintenance during his life, and for five hundred pounds after his death. And so far was he from abating his affection to me afterwards, that two years after we were thus, as he called it, married, he made his will, and gave me a thousand pounds more, and all my household stuff, plate, &c., which was considerable too.
Amy put us to bed, and my new friend—I cannot call him husband—was so well pleased with Amy for her fidelity and kindness to me that he paid her all the arrear of her wages that I owed her, and gave her five guineas over; and had it gone no farther, Amy had richly deserved what she had, for never was a maid so true to her mistress in such dreadful circumstances as I was in. Nor was what followed more her own fault than mine, who led her almost into it at first, and quite into it at last; and this may be a farther testimony what a hardness of crime I was now arrived to, which was owing to the conviction, that was from the beginning upon me, that I was a whore, not a wife; nor could I ever frame my mouth to call him husband or to say "my husband" when I was speaking of him.
We lived, surely, the most agreeable life, the grand exception only excepted, that ever two lived together. He was the most obliging, gentlemanly man, and the most tender of me, that ever woman gave herself up to. Nor was there ever the least interruption to our mutual kindness, no, not to the last day of his life. But I must bring Amy's disaster in at once, that I may have done with her.
Amy was dressing me one morning, for now I had two maids, and Amy was my chambermaid. "Dear madam," says Amy, "what! a'nt you with child yet?" "No, Amy," says I; "nor any sign of it."
"Law, madam!" says Amy, "what have you been doing? Why, you have been married a year and a half. I warrant you master would have got me with child twice in that time." "It may be so, Amy," says I. "Let him try, can't you?" "No," says Amy; "you'll forbid it now. Before, I told you he should, with all my heart; but I won't now, now he's all your own." "Oh," says I, "Amy, I'll freely give you my consent. It will be nothing at all to me. Nay, I'll put you to bed to him myself one night or other, if you are willing." "No, madam, no," says Amy, "not now he's yours."
"Why, you fool you," says I, "don't I tell you I'll put you to bed to him myself?" "Nay, nay," says Amy, "if you put me to bed to him, that's another case; I believe I shall not rise again very soon." "I'll venture that, Amy," says I.
After supper that night, and before we were risen from table, I said to him, Amy being by, "Hark ye, Mr. ——, do you know that you are to lie with Amy to-night?" "No, not I," says he; but turns to Amy, "Is it so, Amy?" says he. "No, sir," says she. "Nay, don't say no, you fool; did not I promise to put you to bed to him?" But the girl said "No," still, and it passed off.
At night, when we came to go to bed, Amy came into the chamber to undress me, and her master slipped into bed first; then I began, and told him all that Amy had said about my not being with child, and of her being with child twice in that time. "Ay, Mrs. Amy," says he, "I believe so too. Come hither, and, we'll try." But Amy did not go. "Go, you fool," says I, "can't you? I freely give you both leave." But Amy would not go. "Nay, you whore," says I, "you said, if I would put you to bed, you would with all your heart." And with that I sat her down, pulled off her stockings and shoes, and all her clothes piece by piece, and led her to the bed to him. "Here," says I, "try what you can do with your maid Amy." She pulled back a little, would not let me pull off her clothes at first, but it was hot weather, and she had not many clothes on, and particularly no stays on; and at last, when she saw I was in earnest, she let me do what I would. So I fairly stripped her, and then I threw open the bed and thrust her in.
I need say no more. This is enough to convince anybody that I did not think him my husband, and that I had cast off all principle and all modesty, and had effectually stifled conscience.
Amy, I dare say, began now to repent, and would fain have got out of bed again; but he said to her, "Nay, Amy, you see your mistress has put you to bed; 'tis all her doing; you must blame her." So he held her fast, and the wench being naked in the bed with him, it was too late to look back, so she lay still and let him do what he would with her.
Had I looked upon myself as a wife, you cannot suppose I would have been willing to have let my husband lie with my maid, much less before my face, for I stood by all the while; but as I thought myself a whore, I cannot say but that it was something designed in my thoughts that my maid should be a whore too, and should not reproach me with it.
Amy, however, less vicious than I, was grievously out of sorts the next morning, and cried and took on most vehemently, that she was ruined and undone, and there was no pacifying her; she was a whore, a slut, and she was undone! undone! and cried almost all day. I did all I could to pacify her. "A whore!" says I. "Well, and am not I a whore as well as you?" "No, no," says Amy; "no, you are not, for you are married." "Not I, Amy," says I; "I do not pretend to it. He may marry you to-morrow, if he will, for anything I could do to hinder it. I am not married. I do not look upon it as anything." Well, all did not pacify Amy, but she cried two or three days about it; but it wore off by degrees.
But the case differed between Amy and her master exceedingly; for Amy retained the same kind temper she always had; but, on the contrary, he was quite altered, for he hated her heartily, and could, I believe, have killed her after it, and he told me so, for he thought this a vile action; whereas what he and I had done he was perfectly easy in, thought it just, and esteemed me as much his wife as if we had been married from our youth, and had neither of us known any other; nay, he loved me, I believe, as entirely as if I had been the wife of his youth. Nay, he told me it was true, in one sense, that he had two wives, but that I was the wife of his affection, the other the wife of his aversion.
I was extremely concerned at the aversion he had taken to my maid Amy, and used my utmost skill to get it altered; for though he had, indeed, debauched the wench, I knew that I was the principal occasion of it; and as he was the best-humoured man in the world, I never gave him over till I prevailed with him to be easy with her, and as I was now become the devil's agent, to make others as wicked as myself, I brought him to lie with her again several times after that, till at last, as the poor girl said, so it happened, and she was really with child.
She was terribly concerned at it, and so was he too. "Come, my dear," says I, "when Rachel put her handmaid to bed to Jacob, she took the children as her own. Don't be uneasy; I'll take the child as my own. Had not I a hand in the frolic of putting her to bed to you? It was my fault as much as yours." So I called Amy, and encouraged her too, and told her that I would take care of the child and her too, and added the same argument to her. "For," says I, "Amy, it was all my fault. Did not I drag your clothes off your back, and put you to bed to him?" Thus I, that had, indeed, been the cause of all the wickedness between them, encouraged them both, when they had any remorse about it, and rather prompted them to go on with it than to repent it.
When Amy grew big she went to a place I had provided for her, and the neighbours knew nothing but that Amy and I was parted. She had a fine child indeed, a daughter, and we had it nursed; and Amy came again in about half a year to live with her old mistress; but neither my gentleman, or Amy either, cared for playing that game over again; for, as he said, the jade might bring him a houseful of children to keep.
We lived as merrily and as happily after this as could be expected, considering our circumstances; I mean as to the pretended marriage, &c.; and as to that, my gentleman had not the least concern about him for it. But as much as I was hardened, and that was as much as I believe ever any wicked creature was, yet I could not help it, there was and would be hours of intervals and of dark reflections which came involuntarily in, and thrust in sighs into the middle of all my songs; and there would be sometimes a heaviness of heart which intermingled itself with all my joy, and which would often fetch a tear from my eye. And let others pretend what they will, I believe it impossible to be otherwise with anybody. There can be no substantial satisfaction in a life of known wickedness; conscience will, and does often, break in upon them at particular times, let them do what they can to prevent it.
But I am not to preach, but to relate; and whatever loose reflections were, and how often soever those dark intervals came on, I did my utmost to conceal them from him; ay, and to suppress and smother them too in myself; and, to outward appearance, we lived as cheerfully and agreeably as it was possible for any couple in the world to live.
After I had thus lived with him something above two years, truly I found myself with child too. My gentleman was mightily pleased at it, and nothing could be kinder than he was in the preparations he made for me, and for my lying-in, which was, however, very private, because I cared for as little company as possible; nor had I kept up my neighbourly acquaintance, so that I had nobody to invite upon such an occasion.
I was brought to bed very well (of a daughter too, as well as Amy), but the child died at about six weeks old, so all that work was to do over again—that is to say, the charge, the expense, the travail, &c.
The next year I made him amends, and brought him a son, to his great satisfaction. It was a charming child, and did very well. After this my husband, as he called himself, came to me one evening, and told me he had a very difficult thing happened to him, which he knew not what to do in, or how to resolve about, unless I would make him easy; this was, that his occasions required him to go over to France for about two months.
"Well, my dear," says I, "and how shall I make you easy?"
"Why, by consenting to let me go," says he; "upon which condition, I'll tell you the occasion of my going, that you may judge of the necessity there is for it on my side." Then, to make me easy in his going, he told me he would make his will before he went, which should be to my full satisfaction.
I told him the last part was so kind that I could not decline the first part, unless he would give me leave to add that, if it was not for putting him to an extraordinary expense, I would go over along with him.
He was so pleased with this offer that he told me he would give me full satisfaction for it, and accept of it too; so he took me to London with him the next day, and there he made his will, and showed it to me, and sealed it before proper witnesses, and then gave it to me to keep. In this will he gave a thousand pounds to a person that we both knew very well, in trust, to pay it, with the interest from the time of his decease, to me or my assigns; then he willed the payment of my jointure, as he called it, viz., his bond of five hundred pounds after his death; also, he gave me all my household stuff, plate, &c.
This was a most engaging thing for a man to do to one under my circumstances; and it would have been hard, as I told him, to deny him anything, or to refuse to go with him anywhere. So we settled everything as well as we could, left Amy in charge with the house, and for his other business, which was in jewels, he had two men he intrusted, who he had good security for, and who managed for him, and corresponded with him.
Things being thus concerted, we went away to France, arrived safe at Calais, and by easy journeys came in eight days more to Paris, where we lodged in the house of an English merchant of his acquaintance, and was very courteously entertained.
My gentleman's business was with some persons of the first rank, and to whom he had sold some jewels of very good value, and received a great sum of money in specie; and, as he told me privately, he gained three thousand pistoles by his bargain, but would not suffer the most intimate friend he had there to know what he had received; for it is not so safe a thing in Paris to have a great sum of money in keeping as it might be in London.
We made this journey much longer than we intended, and my gentleman sent for one of his managers in London to come over to us in Paris with some diamonds, and sent him back to London again to fetch more. Then other business fell into his hands so unexpectedly that I began to think we should take up our constant residence there, which I was not very averse to, it being my native country, and I spoke the language perfectly well. So we took a good house in Paris, and lived very well there; and I sent for Amy to come over to me, for I lived gallantly, and my gentleman was two or three times going to keep me a coach, but I declined it, especially at Paris, but as they have those conveniences by the day there, at a certain rate, I had an equipage provided for me whenever I pleased, and I lived here in a very good figure, and might have lived higher if I pleased.
But in the middle of all this felicity a dreadful disaster befell me, which entirely unhinged all my affairs, and threw me back into the same state of life that I was in before; with this one happy exception, however, that whereas before I was poor, even to misery, now I was not only provided for, but very rich.
My gentleman had the name in Paris for a rich man, and indeed he was so, though not so immensely rich as people imagined; but that which was fatal to him was, that he generally carried a shagreen case in his pocket, especially when he went to court, or to the houses of any of the princes of the blood, in which he had jewels of very great value.
It happened one day that, being to go to Versailles to wait upon the Prince of ——, he came up into my chamber in the morning, and laid out his jewel-case, because he was not going to show any jewels, but to get a foreign bill accepted, which he had received from Amsterdam; so, when he gave me the case, he said, "My dear, I think I need not carry this with me, because it may be I may not come back till night, and it is too much to venture." I returned, "Then, my dear, you shan't go." "Why?" says he. "Because, as they are too much for you, so you are too much for me to venture, and you shall not go, unless you will promise me not to stay so as to come back in the night."
"I hope there's no danger," said he, "seeing that I have nothing about me of any value; and therefore, lest I should, take that too," says he, and gives me his gold watch and a rich diamond which he had in a ring, and always wore on his finger.
"Well, but, my dear," says I, "you make me more uneasy now than before; for if you apprehend no danger, why do you use this caution? and if you apprehend there is danger, why do you go at all?"
"There is no danger," says he, "if I do not stay late, and I do not design to do so."
"Well, but promise me, then, that you won't," says I, "or else I cannot let you go."
"I won't indeed, my dear," says he, "unless I am obliged to it. I assure you I do not intend it; but if I should, I am not worth robbing now, for I have nothing about me but about six pistoles in my little purse and that little ring," showing me a small diamond ring, worth about ten or twelve pistoles, which he put upon his finger, in the room of the rich one he usually wore.
I still pressed him not to stay late, and he said he would not. "But if I am kept late," says he, "beyond my expectation, I'll stay all night, and come next morning." This seemed a very good caution; but still my mind was very uneasy about him, and I told him so, and entreated him not to go. I told him I did not know what might be the reason, but that I had a strange terror upon my mind about his going, and that if he did go, I was persuaded some harm would attend him. He smiled, and returned, "Well, my dear, if it should be so, you are now richly provided for; all that I have here I give to you." And with that he takes up the casket or case, "Here," says he, "hold your hand; there is a good estate for you in this case; if anything happens to me 'tis all your own. I give it you for yourself;" and with that he put the casket, the fine ring, and his gold watch all into my hands, and the key of his scrutoire besides, adding, "And in my scrutoire there is some money; it is all your own."
I stared at him as if I was frighted, for I thought all his face looked like a death's-head; and then immediately I thought I perceived his head all bloody, and then his clothes looked bloody too, and immediately it all went off, and he looked as he really did. Immediately I fell a-crying, and hung about him. "My dear," said I, "I am frighted to death; you shall not go. Depend upon it some mischief will befall you." I did not tell him how my vapourish fancy had represented him to me; that, I thought, was not proper. Besides, he would only have laughed at me, and would have gone away with a jest about it; but I pressed him seriously not to go that day, or, if he did, to promise me to come home to Paris again by daylight. He looked a little graver then than he did before, told me he was not apprehensive of the least danger, but if there was, he would either take care to come in the day, or, as he had said before, would stay all night.
But all these promises came to nothing, for he was set upon in the open day and robbed by three men on horseback, masked, as he went; and one of them, who, it seems, rifled him while the rest stood to stop the coach, stabbed him into the body with a sword, so that he died immediately. He had a footman behind the coach, who they knocked down with the stock or butt-end of a carbine. They were supposed to kill him because of the disappointment they met with in not getting his case or casket of diamonds, which they knew he carried about him; and this was supposed because, after they had killed him, they made the coachman drive out of the road a long way over the heath, till they came to a convenient place, where they pulled him out of the coach and searched his clothes more narrowly than they could do while he was alive. But they found nothing but his little ring, six pistoles, and the value of about seven livres in small moneys.
This was a dreadful blow to me, though I cannot say I was so surprised as I should otherwise have been, for all the while he was gone my mind was oppressed with the weight of my own thoughts, and I was as sure that I should never see him any more that I think nothing could be like it. The impression was so strong that I think nothing could make so deep a wound that was imaginary; and I was so dejected and disconsolate that, when I received the news of his disaster, there was no room for any extraordinary alteration in me. I had cried all that day, ate nothing, and only waited, as I might say, to receive the dismal news, which I had brought to me about five o'clock in the afternoon.
I was in a strange country, and, though I had a pretty many acquaintances, had but very few friends that I could consult on this occasion. All possible inquiry was made after the rogues that had been thus barbarous, but nothing could be heard of them; nor was it possible that the footman could make any discovery of them by his description, for they knocked him down immediately, so that he knew nothing of what was done afterwards. The coachman was the only man that could say anything, and all his account amounted to no more than this, that one of them had soldier's clothes, but he could not remember the particulars of his mounting, so as to know what regiment he belonged to; and as to their faces, that he could know nothing of, because they had all of them masks on.
I had him buried as decently as the place would permit a Protestant stranger to be buried, and made some of the scruples and difficulties on that account easy by the help of money to a certain person, who went impudently to the curate of the parish of St. Sulpitius, in Paris, and told him that the gentleman that was killed was a Catholic; that the thieves had taken from him a cross of gold, set with diamonds, worth six thousand livres; that his widow was a Catholic, and had sent by him sixty crowns to the church of ——, for masses to be said for the repose of his soul. Upon all which, though not one word was true, he was buried with all the ceremonies of the Roman Church.
I think I almost cried myself to death for him, for I abandoned myself to all the excesses of grief; and indeed I loved him to a degree inexpressible; and considering what kindness he had shown me at first, and how tenderly he had used me to the last, what could I do less?
Then the manner of his death was terrible and frightful to me, and, above all, the strange notices I had of it. I had never pretended to the second-sight, or anything of that kind, but certainly, if any one ever had such a thing, I had it at this time, for I saw him as plainly in all those terrible shapes as above; first, as a skeleton, not dead only, but rotten and wasted; secondly, as killed, and his face bloody; and, thirdly, his clothes bloody, and all within the space of one minute, or indeed of a very few moments.
These things amazed me, and I was a good while as one stupid. However, after some time I began to recover, and look into my affairs. I had the satisfaction not to be left in distress, or in danger of poverty. On the contrary, besides what he had put into my hands fairly in his lifetime, which amounted to a very considerable value, I found above seven hundred pistoles in gold in his scrutoire, of which he had given me the key; and I found foreign bills accepted for about twelve thousand livres; so that, in a word, I found myself possessed of almost ten thousand pounds sterling in a very few days after the disaster.
The first thing I did upon this occasion was to send a letter to my maid, as I still called her, Amy, wherein I gave her an account of my disaster, how my husband, as she called him (for I never called him so), was murdered; and as I did not know how his relations, or his wife's friends might act upon that occasion, I ordered her to convey away all the plate, linen, and other things of value, and to secure them in a person's hands that I directed her to, and then to sell or dispose of the furniture of the house, if she could, and so, without acquainting anybody with the reason of her going, withdraw; sending notice to his head manager at London that the house was quitted by the tenant, and they might come and take possession of it for the executors. Amy was so dexterous, and did her work so nimbly, that she gutted the house, and sent the key to the said manager, almost as soon as he had notice of the misfortune that befell their master.
Upon their receiving the surprising news of his death, the head manager came over to Paris, and came to the house. I made no scruple of calling myself Madame ——, the widow of Monsieur ——, the English jeweller. And as I spoke French naturally, I did not let him know but that I was his wife, married in France, and that I had not heard that he had any wife in England, but pretended to be surprised, and exclaim against him for so base an action; and that I had good friends in Poictou, where I was born, who would take care to have justice done me in England out of his estate.
I should have observed that, as soon as the news was public of a man being murdered, and that he was a jeweller, fame did me the favour as to publish presently that he was robbed of his casket of jewels, which he always carried about him. I confirmed this, among my daily lamentations for his disaster, and added that he had with him a fine diamond ring, which he was known to wear frequently about him, valued at one hundred pistoles, a gold watch, and a great quantity of diamonds of inestimable value in his casket, which jewels he was carrying to the Prince of ——, to show some of them to him; and the prince owned that he had spoken to him to bring some such jewels, to let him see them. But I sorely repented this part afterward, as you shall hear.
This rumour put an end to all inquiry after his jewels, his ring, or his watch; and as for the seven hundred pistoles, that I secured. For the bills which were in hand, I owned I had them, but that, as I said I brought my husband thirty thousand livres portion, I claimed the said bills, which came to not above twelve thousand livres, for my amende; and this, with the plate and the household stuff, was the principal of all his estate which they could come at. As to the foreign bill which he was going to Versailles to get accepted, it was really lost with him; but his manager, who had remitted the bill to him, by way of Amsterdam, bringing over the second bill, the money was saved, as they call it, which would otherwise have been also gone; the thieves who robbed and murdered him were, to be sure, afraid to send anybody to get the bill accepted, for that would undoubtedly have discovered them.
By this time my maid Amy was arrived, and she gave me an account of her management, and how she had secured everything, and that she had quitted the house, and sent the key to the head manager of his business, and let me know how much she had made of everything very punctually and honestly.
I should have observed, in the account of his dwelling with me so long at ——, that he never passed for anything there but a lodger in the house; and though he was landlord, that did not alter the case. So that at his death, Amy coming to quit the house and give them the key, there was no affinity between that and the case of their master who was newly killed.
I got good advice at Paris from an eminent lawyer, a counsellor of the Parliament there, and laying my case before him, he directed me to make a process in dower upon the estate, for making good my new fortune upon matrimony, which accordingly I did; and, upon the whole, the manager went back to England well satisfied that he had gotten the unaccepted bill of exchange, which was for two thousand five hundred pounds, with some other things, which together amounted to seventeen thousand livres; and thus I got rid of him.
I was visited with great civility on this sad occasion of the loss of my husband, as they thought him, by a great many ladies of quality. And the Prince of ——, to whom it was reported he was carrying the jewels, sent his gentleman with a very handsome compliment of condolence to me; and his gentleman, whether with or without order, hinted as if his Highness did intend to have visited me himself, but that some accident, which he made a long story of, had prevented him.
By the concourse of ladies and others that thus came to visit me, I began to be much known; and as I did not forget to set myself out with all possible advantage, considering the dress of a widow, which in those days was a most frightful thing; I say, as I did thus from my own vanity, for I was not ignorant that I was very handsome; I say, on this account I was soon made very public, and was known by the name of La belle veufeu de Poictou, or the pretty widow of Poictou. As I was very well pleased to see myself thus handsomely used in my affliction, it soon dried up all my tears; and though I appeared as a widow, yet, as we say in England, it was of a widow comforted. I took care to let the ladies see that I knew how to receive them; that I was not at a loss how to behave to any of them; and, in short, I began to be very popular there. But I had an occasion afterwards which made me decline that kind of management, as you shall hear presently.
About four days after I had received the compliments of condolence from the Prince ——, the same gentleman he had sent before came to tell me that his Highness was coming to give me a visit. I was indeed surprised at that, and perfectly at a loss how to behave. However, as there was no remedy, I prepared to receive him as well as I could. It was not many minutes after but he was at the door, and came in, introduced by his own gentleman, as above, and after by my woman Amy.
He treated me with abundance of civility, and condoled handsomely on the loss of my husband, and likewise the manner of it. He told me he understood he was coming to Versailles to himself, to show him some jewels; that it was true that he had discoursed with him about jewels, but could not imagine how any villains should hear of his coming at that time with them; that he had not ordered him to attend with them at Versailles, but told him that he would come to Paris by such a day, so that he was no way accessory to the disaster. I told him gravely I knew very well that all his Highness had said of that part was true; that these villains knew his profession, and knew, no doubt, that he always carried a casket of jewels about him, and that he always wore a diamond ring on his finger worth a hundred pistoles, which report had magnified to five hundred; and that, if he had been going to any other place, it would have been the same thing. After this his Highness rose up to go, and told me he had resolved, however, to make me some reparation; and with these words put a silk purse into my hand with a hundred pistoles, and told me he would make me a farther compliment of a small pension, which his gentleman would inform me of.
You may be sure I behaved with a due sense of so much goodness, and offered to kneel to kiss his hand; but he took me up and saluted me, and sat down again (though before he made as if he was going away), making me sit down by him.
He then began to talk with me more familiarly; told me he hoped I was not left in bad circumstances; that Mr. —— was reputed to be very rich, and that he had gained lately great sums by some jewels, and he hoped, he said, that I had still a fortune agreeable to the condition I had lived in before.
I replied, with some tears, which, I confess, were a little forced, that I believed, if Mr. —— had lived, we should have been out of danger of want, but that it was impossible to estimate the loss which I had sustained, besides that of the life of my husband; that, by the opinion of those that knew something of his affairs, and of what value the jewels were which he intended to have shown to his Highness, he could not have less about him than the value of a hundred thousand livres; that it was a fatal blow to me, and to his whole family, especially that they should be lost in such a manner.
His Highness returned, with an air of concern, that he was very sorry for it; but he hoped, if I settled in Paris, I might find ways to restore my fortune; at the same time he complimented me upon my being very handsome, as he was pleased to call it, and that I could not fail of admirers. I stood up and humbly thanked his Highness, but told him I had no expectations of that kind; that I thought I should be obliged to go over to England, to look after my husband's effects there, which, I was told, were considerable, but that I did not know what justice a poor stranger would get among them; and as for Paris, my fortune being so impaired, I saw nothing before me but to go back to Poictou to my friends, where some of my relations, I hoped, might do something for me, and added that one of my brothers was an abbot at ——, near Poictiers.
He stood up, and taking me by the hand, led me to a large looking-glass, which made up the pier in the front of the parlour. "Look there, madam," said he; "is it fit that that face" (pointing to my figure in the glass) "should go back to Poictou? No, madam," says he; "stay and make some gentleman of quality happy, that may, in return, make you forget all your sorrows;" and with that he took me in his arms, and kissing me twice, told me he would see me again, but with less ceremony.
Some little time after this, but the same day, his gentleman came to me again, and with great ceremony and respect, delivered me a black box tied with a scarlet riband and sealed with a noble coat-of-arms, which, I suppose, was the prince's.
There was in it a grant from his Highness, or an assignment—I know not which to call it—with a warrant to his banker to pay me two thousand livres a year during my stay in Paris, as the widow of Monsieur ——, the jeweller, mentioning the horrid murder of my late husband as the occasion of it, as above.
I received it with great submission, and expressions of being infinitely obliged to his master, and of my showing myself on all occasions his Highness's most obedient servant; and after giving my most humble duty to his Highness, with the utmost acknowledgments of the obligation, &c., I went to a little cabinet, and taking out some money, which made a little sound in taking it out, offered to give him five pistoles.
He drew back, but with the greatest respect, and told me he humbly thanked me, but that he durst not take a farthing; that his Highness would take it so ill of him, he was sure he would never see his face more; but that he would not fail to acquaint his Highness what respect I had offered; and added, "I assure you, madam, you are more in the good graces of my master, the Prince of ——, than you are aware of; and I believe you will hear more of him."
Now I began to understand him, and resolved, if his Highness did come again, he should see me under no disadvantages, if I could help it. I told him, if his Highness did me the honour to see me again, I hoped he would not let me be so surprised as I was before; that I would be glad to have some little notice of it, and would be obliged to him if he would procure it me. He told me he was very sure that when his Highness intended to visit me he should be sent before to give me notice of it, and that he would give me as much warning of it as possible.
He came several times after this on the same errand, that is, about the settlement, the grant requiring several things yet to be done for making it payable without going every time to the prince again for a fresh warrant. The particulars of this part I did not understand; but as soon as it was finished, which was above two months, the gentleman came one afternoon, and said his Highness designed to visit me in the evening, but desired to be admitted without ceremony.
I prepared not my rooms only, but myself; and when he came in there was nobody appeared in the house but his gentleman and my maid Amy; and of her I bid the gentleman acquaint his Highness that she was an Englishwoman, that she did not understand a word of French, and that she was one also that might be trusted.
When he came into my room, I fell down at his feet before he could come to salute me, and with words that I had prepared, full of duty and respect, thanked him for his bounty and goodness to a poor, desolate woman, oppressed under the weight of so terrible a disaster; and refused to rise till he would allow me the honour to kiss his hand.
"Levez vous donc," says the prince, taking me in his arms; "I design more favours for you than this trifle;" and going on, he added, "You shall for the future find a friend where you did not look for it, and I resolve to let you see how kind I can be to one who is to me the most agreeable creature on earth."
I was dressed in a kind of half mourning, had turned off my weeds, and my head, though I had yet no ribands or lace, was so dressed as failed not to set me out with advantage enough, for I began to understand his meaning; and the prince professed I was the most beautiful creature on earth. "And where have I lived," says he, "and how ill have I been served, that I should never till now be showed the finest woman in France!"
This was the way in all the world the most likely to break in upon my virtue, if I had been mistress of any; for I was now become the vainest creature upon earth, and particularly of my beauty, which as other people admired, so I became every day more foolishly in love with myself than before.
He said some very kind things to me after this, and sat down with me for an hour or more, when, getting up and calling his gentleman by his name, he threw open the door: "Au boire," says he; upon which his gentleman immediately brought up a little table covered with a fine damask cloth, the table no bigger than he could bring in his two hands, but upon it was set two decanters, one of champagne and the other of water, six silver plates, and a service of fine sweetmeats in fine china dishes, on a set of rings standing up about twenty inches high, one above another. Below was three roasted partridges and a quail. As soon as his gentleman had set it all down, he ordered him to withdraw. "Now," says the prince, "I intend to sup with you."
When he sent away his gentleman, I stood up and offered to wait on his Highness while he ate; but he positively refused, and told me, "No; to-morrow you shall be the widow of Monsieur ——, the jeweller, but to-night you shall be my mistress; therefore sit here," says he, "and eat with me, or I will get up and serve."
I would then have called up my woman Amy, but I thought that would not be proper neither; so I made my excuse, that since his Highness would not let his own servant wait, I would not presume to let my woman come up; but if he would please to let me wait, it would be my honour to fill his Highness's wine. But, as before, he would by no means allow me; so we sat and ate together.
"Now, madam," says the prince, "give me leave to lay aside my character; let us talk together with the freedom of equals. My quality sets me at a distance from you, and makes you ceremonious. Your beauty exalts you to more than an equality. I must, then, treat you as lovers do their mistresses, but I cannot speak the language; it is enough to tell you how agreeable you are to me, how I am surprised at your beauty, and resolve to make you happy, and to be happy with you."
I knew not what to say to him a good while, but blushed, and looking up towards him, said I was already made happy in the favour of a person of such rank, and had nothing to ask of his Highness but that he would believe me infinitely obliged.
After he had eaten, he poured the sweetmeats into my lap; and the wine being out, he called his gentleman again to take away the table, who, at first, only took the cloth and the remains of what was to eat away; and, laying another cloth, set the table on one side of the room with a noble service of plate upon it, worth at least two hundred pistoles. Then, having set the two decanters again upon the table, filled as before, he withdrew; for I found the fellow understood his business very well, and his lord's business too.
About half-an-hour after, the prince told me that I offered to wait a little before, that if I would now take the trouble he would give me leave to give him some wine; so I went to the table, filled a glass of wine, and brought it to him on a fine salver, which the glasses stood on, and brought the bottle or decanter for water in my other hand, to mix as he thought fit.
He smiled, and bid me look on that salver, which I did, and admired it much, for it was a very fine one indeed. "You may see," says he, "I resolve to have more of your company, for my servant shall leave you that plate for my use." I told him I believed his Highness would not take it ill that I was not furnished fit to entertain a person of his rank, and that I would take great care of it, and value myself infinitely upon the honour of his Highness's visit.
It now began to grow late, and he began to take notice of it. "But," says he, "I cannot leave you; have you not a spare lodging for one night?" I told him I had but a homely lodging to entertain such a guest. He said something exceeding kind on that head, but not fit to repeat, adding that my company would make him amends.
About midnight he sent his gentleman of an errand, after telling him aloud that he intended to stay here all night. In a little time his gentleman brought him a nightgown, slippers, two caps, a neckcloth, and shirt, which he gave me to carry into his chamber, and sent his man home; and then, turning to me, said I should do him the honour to be his chamberlain of the household, and his dresser also. I smiled, and told him I would do myself the honour to wait on him upon all occasions.
About one in the morning, while his gentleman was yet with him, I begged leave to withdraw, supposing he would go to bed; but he took the hint, and said, "I'm not going to bed yet; pray let me see you again."
I took this time to undress me, and to come in a new dress, which was, in a manner, une dishabille, but so fine, and all about me so clean and so agreeable, that he seemed surprised. "I thought," says he, "you could not have dressed to more advantage than you had done before; but now," says he, "you charm me a thousand times more, if that be possible."
"It is only a loose habit, my lord," said I, "that I may the better wait on your Highness." He pulls me to him. "You are perfectly obliging," says he; and, sitting on the bedside, says he, "Now you shall be a princess, and know what it is to oblige the gratefullest man alive;" and with that he took me in his arms.... I can go no farther in the particulars of what passed at that time, but it ended in this, that, in short, I lay with him all night.
I have given you the whole detail of this story to lay it down as a black scheme of the way how unhappy women are ruined by great men; for, though poverty and want is an irresistible temptation to the poor, vanity and great things are as irresistible to others. To be courted by a prince, and by a prince who was first a benefactor, then an admirer; to be called handsome, the finest woman in France, and to be treated as a woman fit for the bed of a prince—these are things a woman must have no vanity in her, nay, no corruption in her, that is not overcome by it; and my case was such that, as before, I had enough of both.
I had now no poverty attending me; on the contrary, I was mistress of ten thousand pounds before the prince did anything for me. Had I been mistress of my resolution, had I been less obliging, and rejected the first attack, all had been safe; but my virtue was lost before, and the devil, who had found the way to break in upon me by one temptation, easily mastered me now by another; and I gave myself up to a person who, though a man of high dignity, was yet the most tempting and obliging that ever I met with in my life.
I had the same particular to insist upon here with the prince that I had with my gentleman before. I hesitated much at consenting at first asking, but the prince told me princes did not court like other men; that they brought more powerful arguments; and he very prettily added that they were sooner repulsed than other men, and ought to be sooner complied with; intimating, though very genteely, that after a woman had positively refused him once, he could not, like other men, wait with importunities and stratagems, and laying long sieges; but as such men as he stormed warmly, so, if repulsed, they made no second attacks; and, indeed, it was but reasonable; for as it was below their rank to be long battering a woman's constancy, so they ran greater hazards in being exposed in their amours than other men did.
I took this for a satisfactory answer, and told his Highness that I had the same thoughts in respect to the manner of his attacks; for that his person and his arguments were irresistible; that a person of his rank and a munificence so unbounded could not be withstood; that no virtue was proof against him, except such as was able, too, to suffer martyrdom; that I thought it impossible I could be overcome, but that now I found it was impossible I should not be overcome; that so much goodness, joined with so much greatness, would have conquered a saint; and that I confessed he had the victory over me, by a merit infinitely superior to the conquest he had made.
He made me a most obliging answer; told me abundance of fine things, which still flattered my vanity, till at last I began to have pride enough to believe him, and fancied myself a fit mistress for a prince.
As I had thus given the prince the last favour, and he had all the freedom with me that it was possible for me to grant, so he gave me leave to use as much freedom with him another way, and that was to have everything of him I thought fit to command; and yet I did not ask of him with an air of avarice, as if I was greedily making a penny of him, but I managed him with such art that he generally anticipated my demands. He only requested of me that I would not think of taking another house, as I had intimated to his Highness that I intended, not thinking it good enough to receive his visits in; but he said my house was the most convenient that could possibly be found in all Paris for an amour, especially for him, having a way out into three streets, and not overlooked by any neighbours, so that he could pass and repass without observation; for one of the back-ways opened into a narrow dark alley, which alley was a thoroughfare or passage out of one street into another; and any person that went in or out by the door had no more to do but to see that there was nobody following him in the alley before he went in at the door. This request, I knew, was reasonable, and therefore I assured him I would not change my dwelling, seeing his Highness did not think it too mean for me to receive him in.
He also desired me that I would not take any more servants or set up any equipage, at least for the present; for that it would then be immediately concluded I had been left very rich, and then I should be thronged with the impertinence of admirers, who would be attracted by the money, as well as by the beauty of a young widow, and he should be frequently interrupted in his visits; or that the world would conclude I was maintained by somebody, and would be indefatigable to find out the person; so that he should have spies peeping at him every time he went out or in, which it would be impossible to disappoint; and that he should presently have it talked over all the toilets in Paris that the Prince de —— had got the jeweller's widow for a mistress.
This was too just to oppose, and I made no scruple to tell his Highness that, since he had stooped so low as to make me his own, he ought to have all the satisfaction in the world that I was all his own; that I would take all the measures he should please to direct me to avoid the impertinent attacks of others; and that, if he thought fit, I would be wholly within doors, and have it given out that I was obliged to go to England to solicit my affairs there, after my husband's misfortune, and that I was not expected there again for at least a year or two. This he liked very well; only he said that he would by no means have me confined; that it would injure my health, and that I should then take a country-house in some village, a good way off of the city, where it should not be known who I was, and that he should be there sometimes to divert me.
I made no scruple of the confinement, and told his Highness no place could be a confinement where I had such a visitor, and so I put off the country-house, which would have been to remove myself farther from him and have less of his company; so I made the house be, as it were, shut up. Amy, indeed, appeared, and when any of the neighbours and servants inquired, she answered, in broken French, that I was gone to England to look after my affairs, which presently went current through the streets about us. For you are to note that the people of Paris, especially the women, are the most busy and impertinent inquirers into the conduct of their neighbours, especially that of a single woman, that are in the world, though there are no greater intriguers in the universe than themselves; and perhaps that may be the reason of it, for it is an old but a sure rule, that
"When deep intrigues are close and shy, The guilty are the first that spy."
Thus his Highness had the most easy, and yet the most undiscoverable, access to me imaginable, and he seldom failed to come two or three nights in a week, and sometimes stayed two or three nights together. Once he told me he was resolved I should be weary of his company, and that he would learn to know what it was to be a prisoner; so he gave out among his servants that he was gone to ——, where he often went a-hunting, and that he should not return under a fortnight; and that fortnight he stayed wholly with me, and never went out of my doors.
Never woman in such a station lived a fortnight in so complete a fulness of human delight; for to have the entire possession of one of the most accomplished princes in the world, and of the politest, best-bred man; to converse with him all day, and, as he professed, charm him all night, what could be more inexpressibly pleasing, and especially to a woman of a vast deal of pride, as I was?
To finish the felicity of this part, I must not forget that the devil had played a new game with me, and prevailed with me to satisfy myself with this amour, as a lawful thing; that a prince of such grandeur and majesty, so infinitely superior to me, and one who had made such an introduction by an unparalleled bounty, I could not resist; and, therefore, that it was very lawful for me to do it, being at that time perfectly single, and unengaged to any other man, as I was, most certainly, by the unaccountable absence of my first husband, and the murder of my gentleman who went for my second.
It cannot be doubted but that I was the easier to persuade myself of the truth of such a doctrine as this when it was so much for my ease and for the repose of my mind to have it be so:—
"In things we wish, 'tis easy to deceive; What we would have, we willingly believe."
Besides, I had no casuists to resolve this doubt; the same devil that put this into my head bade me go to any of the Romish clergy, and, under the pretence of confession, state the case exactly, and I should see they would either resolve it to be no sin at all or absolve me upon the easiest penance. This I had a strong inclination to try, but I know not what scruple put me off of it, for I could never bring myself to like having to do with those priests. And though it was strange that I, who had thus prostituted my chastity and given up all sense of virtue in two such particular cases, living a life of open adultery, should scruple anything, yet so it was. I argued with myself that I could not be a cheat in anything that was esteemed sacred; that I could not be of one opinion, and then pretend myself to be of another; nor could I go to confession, who knew nothing of the manner of it, and should betray myself to the priest to be a Huguenot, and then might come into trouble; but, in short, though I was a whore, yet I was a Protestant whore, and could not act as if I was popish, upon any account whatsoever.
But, I say, I satisfied myself with the surprising occasion, that as it was all irresistible, so it was all lawful; for that Heaven would not suffer us to be punished for that which it was not possible for us to avoid; and with these absurdities I kept conscience from giving me any considerable disturbance in all this matter; and I was as perfectly easy as to the lawfulness of it as if I had been married to the prince and had had no other husband; so possible is it for us to roll ourselves up in wickedness, till we grow invulnerable by conscience; and that sentinel, once dozed, sleeps fast, not to be awakened while the tide of pleasure continues to flow, or till something dark and dreadful brings us to ourselves again.
I have, I confess, wondered at the stupidity that my intellectual part was under all that while; what lethargic fumes dozed the soul; and how was it possible that I, who in the case before, where the temptation was many ways more forcible and the arguments stronger and more irresistible, was yet under a continued inquietude on account of the wicked life I led, could now live in the most profound tranquillity and with an uninterrupted peace, nay, even rising up to satisfaction and joy, and yet in a more palpable state of adultery than before; for before, my gentleman, who called me wife, had the pretence of his wife being parted from him, refusing to do the duty of her office as a wife to him. As for me, my circumstances were the same; but as for the prince, as he had a fine and extraordinary lady, or princess, of his own, so he had had two or three mistresses more besides me, and made no scruple of it at all.
However, I say, as to my own part, I enjoyed myself in perfect tranquillity; and as the prince was the only deity I worshipped, so I was really his idol; and however it was with his princess, I assure you his other mistresses found a sensible difference, and though they could never find me out, yet I had good intelligence that they guessed very well that their lord had got some new favourite that robbed them of his company, and, perhaps, of some of his usual bounty too. And now I must mention the sacrifices he made to his idol, and they were not a few, I assure you.
As he loved like a prince, so he rewarded like a prince; for though he declined my making a figure, as above, he let me see that he was above doing it for the saving the expense of it, and so he told me, and that he would make it up in other things. First of all, he sent me a toilet, with all the appurtenances of silver, even so much as the frame of the table; and then for the house, he gave me the table, or sideboard of plate, I mentioned above, with all things belonging to it of massy silver; so that, in short, I could not for my life study to ask him for anything of plate which I had not.
He could, then, accommodate me in nothing more but jewels and clothes, or money for clothes. He sent his gentleman to the mercer's, and bought me a suit, or whole piece, of the finest brocaded silk, figured with gold, and another with silver, and another of crimson; so that I had three suits of clothes, such as the Queen of France would not have disdained to have worn at that time. Yet I went out nowhere; but as those were for me to put on when I went out of mourning, I dressed myself in them, one after another, always when his Highness came to see me.
I had no less than five several morning dresses besides these, so that I need never be seen twice in the same dress; to these he added several parcels of fine linen and of lace, so much that I had no room to ask for more, or, indeed, for so much.
I took the liberty once, in our freedoms, to tell him he was too bountiful, and that I was too chargeable to him for a mistress, and that I would be his faithful servant at less expense to him; and that he not only left me no room to ask him for anything, but that he supplied me with such a profusion of good things that I could scarce wear them, or use them, unless I kept a great equipage, which, he knew, was no way convenient for him or for me. He smiled, and took me in his arms, and told me he was resolved, while I was his, I should never be able to ask him for anything, but that he would be daily asking new favours of me.
After we were up (for this conference was in bed), he desired I would dress me in the best suit of clothes I had. It was a day or two after the three suits were made and brought home. I told him, if he pleased, I would rather dress me in that suit which I knew he liked best. He asked me how I could know which he would like best before he had seen them. I told him I would presume for once to guess at his fancy by my own; so I went away and dressed me in the second suit, brocaded with silver, and returned in full dress, with a suit of lace upon my head, which would have been worth in England two hundred pounds sterling; and I was every way set out as well as Amy could dress me, who was a very genteel dresser too. In this figure I came to him, out of my dressing-room, which opened with folding-doors into his bedchamber.
He sat as one astonished a good while, looking at me, without speaking a word, till I came quite up to him, kneeled on one knee to him, and almost, whether he would or no, kissed his hand. He took me up, and stood up himself, but was surprised when, taking me in his arms, he perceived tears to run down my cheeks. "My dear," says he aloud, "what mean these tears?" "My lord," said I, after some little check, for I could not speak presently, "I beseech you to believe me, they are not tears of sorrow, but tears of joy. It is impossible for me to see myself snatched from the misery I was fallen into, and at once to be in the arms of a prince of such goodness, such immense bounty, and be treated in such a manner; it is not possible, my lord," said I, "to contain the satisfaction of it; and it will break out in an excess in some measure proportioned to your immense bounty, and to the affection which your Highness treats me with, who am so infinitely below you."
It would look a little too much like a romance here to repeat all the kind things he said to me on that occasion, but I can't omit one passage. As he saw the tears drop down my cheek, he pulls out a fine cambric handkerchief, and was going to wipe the tears off, but checked his hand, as if he was afraid to deface something; I say, he checked his hand, and tossed the handkerchief to me to do it myself. I took the hint immediately, and with a kind of pleasant disdain, "How, my lord," said I, "have you kissed me so often, and don't you know whether I am painted or not? Pray let your Highness satisfy yourself that you have no cheats put upon you; for once let me be vain enough to say I have not deceived you with false colours." With this I put a handkerchief into his hand, and taking his hand into mine, I made him wipe my face so hard that he was unwilling to do it, for fear of hurting me.
He appeared surprised more than ever, and swore, which was the first time that I had heard him swear from my first knowing him, that he could not have believed there was any such skin without paint in the world. "Well, my lord," said I, "your Highness shall have a further demonstration than this, as to that which you are pleased to accept for beauty, that it is the mere work of nature;" and with that I stepped to the door and rung a little bell for my woman Amy, and bade her bring me a cup full of hot water, which she did; and when it was come, I desired his Highness to feel if it was warm, which he did, and I immediately washed my face all over with it before him. This was, indeed, more than satisfaction, that is to say, than believing, for it was an undeniable demonstration, and he kissed my cheeks and breasts a thousand times, with expressions of the greatest surprise imaginable.
Nor was I a very indifferent figure as to shape; though I had had two children by my gentleman, and six by my true husband, I say I was no despisable shape; and my prince (I must be allowed the vanity to call him so) was taking his view of me as I walked from one end of the room to the other. At last he leads me to the darkest part of the room, and standing behind me, bade me hold up my head, when, putting both his hands round my neck, as if he was spanning my neck to see how small it was, for it was long and small, he held my neck so long and so hard in his hand that I complained he hurt me a little. What he did it for I knew not, nor had I the least suspicion but that he was spanning my neck; but when I said he hurt me, he seemed to let go, and in half a minute more led me to a pier-glass, and behold I saw my neck clasped with a fine necklace of diamonds; whereas I felt no more what he was doing than if he had really done nothing at all, nor did I suspect it in the least. If I had an ounce of blood in me that did not fly up into my face, neck, and breasts, it must be from some interruption in the vessels. I was all on fire with the sight, and began to wonder what it was that was coming to me.
However, to let him see that I was not unqualified to receive benefits, I turned about: "My lord," says I, "your Highness is resolved to conquer, by your bounty, the very gratitude of your servants; you will leave no room for anything but thanks, and make those thanks useless too, by their bearing no proportion to the occasion."
"I love, child," says he, "to see everything suitable. A fine gown and petticoat, a fine laced head, a fine face and neck, and no necklace, would not have made the object perfect. But why that blush, my dear?" says the prince. "My lord," said I, "all your gifts call for blushes, but, above all, I blush to receive what I am so ill able to merit, and may become so ill also."
Thus far I am a standing mark of the weakness of great men in their vice, that value not squandering away immense wealth upon the most worthless creatures; or, to sum it up in a word, they raise the value of the object which they pretend to pitch upon by their fancy; I say, raise the value of it at their own expense; give vast presents for a ruinous favour, which is so far from being equal to the price that nothing will at last prove more absurd than the cost men are at to purchase their own destruction.
I could not, in the height of all this fine doings—I say, I could not be without some just reflection, though conscience was, as I said, dumb, as to any disturbance it gave me in my wickedness. My vanity was fed up to such a height that I had no room to give way to such reflections. But I could not but sometimes look back with astonishment at the folly of men of quality, who, immense in their bounty as in their wealth, give to a profusion and without bounds to the most scandalous of our sex, for granting them the liberty of abusing themselves and ruining both.
I, that knew what this carcase of mine had been but a few years before; how overwhelmed with grief, drowned in tears, frightened with the prospect of beggary, and surrounded with rags and fatherless children; that was pawning and selling the rags that covered me for a dinner, and sat on the ground despairing of help and expecting to be starved, till my children were snatched from me to be kept by the parish; I, that was after this a whore for bread, and, abandoning conscience and virtue, lived with another woman's husband; I, that was despised by all my relations, and my husband's too; I, that was left so entirely desolate, friendless, and helpless that I knew not how to get the least help to keep me from starving,—that I should be caressed by a prince, for the honour of having the scandalous use of my prostituted body, common before to his inferiors, and perhaps would not have denied one of his footmen but a little while before, if I could have got my bread by it.
I say, I could not but reflect upon the brutality and blindness of mankind; that because nature had given me a good skin and some agreeable features, should suffer that beauty to be such a bait to appetite as to do such sordid, unaccountable things to obtain the possession of it.
It is for this reason that I have so largely set down the particulars of the caresses I was treated with by the jeweller, and also by this prince; not to make the story an incentive to the vice, which I am now such a sorrowful penitent for being guilty of (God forbid any should make so vile a use of so good a design), but to draw the just picture of a man enslaved to the rage of his vicious appetite; how he defaces the image of God in his soul, dethrones his reason, causes conscience to abdicate the possession, and exalts sense into the vacant throne; how he deposes the man and exalts the brute.
Oh! could we hear the reproaches this great man afterwards loaded himself with when he grew weary of this admired creature, and became sick of his vice, how profitable would the report of them be to the reader of this story! But had he himself also known the dirty history of my actings upon the stage of life that little time I had been in the world, how much more severe would those reproaches have been upon himself! But I shall come to this again.
I lived in this gay sort of retirement almost three years, in which time no amour of such a kind, sure, was ever carried up so high. The prince knew no bounds to his munificence; he could give me nothing, either for my wearing, or using, or eating, or drinking, more than he had done from the beginning.
His presents were after that in gold, and very frequent and large, often a hundred pistoles, never less than fifty at a time; and I must do myself the justice that I seemed rather backward to receive than craving and encroaching. Not that I had not an avaricious temper, nor was it that I did not foresee that this was my harvest, in which I was to gather up, and that it would not last long; but it was that really his bounty always anticipated my expectations, and even my wishes; and he gave me money so fast that he rather poured it in upon me than left me room to ask it; so that, before I could spend fifty pistoles, I had always a hundred to make it up.
After I had been near a year and a half in his arms as above, or thereabouts, I proved with child. I did not take any notice of it to him till I was satisfied that I was not deceived; when one morning early, when we were in bed together, I said to him, "My lord, I doubt your Highness never gives yourself leave to think what the case should be if I should have the honour to be with child by you." "Why, my dear," says he, "we are able to keep it if such a thing should happen; I hope you are not concerned about that." "No, my lord," said I; "I should think myself very happy if I could bring your Highness a son; I should hope to see him a lieutenant-general of the king's armies by the interest of his father, and by his own merit." "Assure yourself, child," says he, "if it should be so, I will not refuse owning him for my son, though it be, as they call it, a natural son; and shall never slight or neglect him, for the sake of his mother." Then he began to importune me to know if it was so, but I positively denied it so long, till at last I was able to give him the satisfaction of knowing it himself by the motion of the child within me.
He professed himself overjoyed at the discovery, but told me that now it was absolutely necessary for me to quit the confinement which, he said, I had suffered for his sake, and to take a house somewhere in the country, in order for health as well as for privacy, against my lying-in. This was quite out of my way; but the prince, who was a man of pleasure, had, it seems, several retreats of this kind, which he had made use of, I suppose, upon like occasions. And so, leaving it, as it were, to his gentleman, he provided a very convenient house, about four miles south of Paris, at the village of ——, where I had very agreeable lodgings, good gardens, and all things very easy to my content. But one thing did not please me at all, viz., that an old woman was provided, and put into the house to furnish everything necessary to my lying-in, and to assist at my travail.
I did not like this old woman at all; she looked so like a spy upon me, or (as sometimes I was frighted to imagine) like one set privately to despatch me out of the world, as might best suit with the circumstance of my lying-in. And when his Highness came the next time to see me, which was not many days, I expostulated a little on the subject of the old woman; and by the management of my tongue, as well as by the strength of reasoning, I convinced him that it would not be at all convenient; that it would be the greater risk on his side; and at first or last it would certainly expose him and me also. I assured him that my servant, being an Englishwoman, never knew to that hour who his Highness was; that I always called him the Count de Clerac, and that she knew nothing else of him, nor ever should; that if he would give me leave to choose proper persons for my use, it should be so ordered that not one of them should know who he was, or perhaps ever see his face; and that, for the reality of the child that should be born, his Highness, who had alone been at the first of it, should, if he pleased, be present in the room all the time, so that he would need no witnesses on that account.
This discourse fully satisfied him, so that he ordered his gentleman to dismiss the old woman the same day; and without any difficulty I sent my maid Amy to Calais, and thence to Dover, where she got an English midwife and an English nurse to come over on purpose to attend an English lady of quality, as they styled me, for four months certain.
The midwife, Amy had agreed to pay a hundred guineas to, and bear her charges to Paris, and back again to Dover. The poor woman that was to be my nurse had twenty pounds, and the same terms for charges as the other.
I was very easy when Amy returned, and the more because she brought with the midwife a good motherly sort of woman, who was to be her assistant, and would be very helpful on occasion; and bespoke a man midwife at Paris too, if there should be any necessity for his help. Having thus made provision for everything, the Count, for so we all called him in public, came as often to see me as I could expect, and continued exceeding kind, as he had always been. One day, conversing together upon the subject of my being with child, I told him how all things were in order, but that I had a strange apprehension that I should die with that child. He smiled. "So all the ladies say, my dear," says he, "when they are with child." "Well, however, my lord," said I, "it is but just that care should be taken that what you have bestowed in your excess of bounty upon me should not be lost;" and upon this I pulled a paper out of my bosom, folded up, but not sealed, and I read it to him, wherein I had left order that all the plate and jewels and fine furniture which his Highness had given me should be restored to him by my women, and the keys be immediately delivered to his gentleman in case of disaster.
Then I recommended my woman, Amy, to his favour for a hundred pistoles, on condition she gave the keys up as above to his gentleman, and his gentleman's receipt for them. When he saw this, "My dear child," said he, and took me in his arms, "what! have you been making your will and disposing of your effects? Pray, who do you make your universal heir?" "So far as to do justice to your Highness, in case of mortality, I have, my lord," said I, "and who should I dispose the valuable things to, which I have had from your hand as pledges of your favour and testimonies of your bounty, but to the giver of them? If the child should live, your Highness will, I don't question, act like yourself in that part, and I shall have the utmost satisfaction that it will be well used by your direction."
I could see he took this very well. "I have forsaken all the ladies in Paris," says he, "for you, and I have lived every day since I knew you to see that you know how to merit all that a man of honour can do for you. Be easy, child; I hope you shall not die, and all you have is your own, to do what with it you please."
I was then within about two months of my time, and that soon wore off. When I found my time was come, it fell out very happily that he was in the house, and I entreated he would continue a few hours in the house, which he agreed to. They called his Highness to come into the room, if he pleased, as I had offered and as I desired him; and I sent word I would make as few cries as possible to prevent disturbing him. He came into the room once, and called to me to be of good courage, it would soon be over, and then he withdrew again; and in about half-an-hour more Amy carried him the news that I was delivered, and had brought him a charming boy. He gave her ten pistoles for her news, stayed till they had adjusted things about me, and then came into the room again, cheered me and spoke kindly to me, and looked on the child, then withdrew, and came again the next day to visit me.
Since this, and when I have looked back upon these things with eyes unpossessed with crime, when the wicked part has appeared in its clearer light and I have seen it in its own natural colours, when no more blinded with the glittering appearances which at that time deluded me, and as in like cases, if I may guess at others by myself, too much possessed the mind; I say, since this I have often wondered with what pleasure or satisfaction the prince could look upon the poor innocent infant, which, though his own, and that he might that way have some attachment in his affections to it, yet must always afterwards be a remembrancer to him of his most early crime, and, which was worse, must bear upon itself, unmerited, an eternal mark of infamy, which should be spoken of, upon all occasions, to its reproach, from the folly of its father and wickedness of its mother.
Great men are indeed delivered from the burthen of their natural children, or bastards, as to their maintenance. This is the main affliction in other cases, where there is not substance sufficient without breaking into the fortunes of the family. In those cases either a man's legitimate children suffer, which is very unnatural, or the unfortunate mother of that illegitimate birth has a dreadful affliction, either of being turned off with her child, and be left to starve, &c., or of seeing the poor infant packed off with a piece of money to those she-butchers who take children off their hands, as 'tis called, that is to say, starve them, and, in a word, murder them.
Great men, I say, are delivered from this burthen, because they are always furnished to supply the expense of their out-of-the-way offspring, by making little assignments upon the Bank of Lyons or the townhouse of Paris, and settling those sums, to be received for the maintenance of such expense as they see cause.
Thus, in the case of this child of mine, while he and I conversed, there was no need to make any appointment as an appanage or maintenance for the child or its nurse, for he supplied me more than sufficiently for all those things; but afterwards, when time, and a particular circumstance, put an end to our conversing together (as such things always meet with a period, and generally break off abruptly), I say, after that, I found he appointed the children a settled allowance, by an assignment of annual rent upon the Bank of Lyons, which was sufficient for bringing them handsomely, though privately, up in the world, and that not in a manner unworthy of their father's blood, though I came to be sunk and forgotten in the case; nor did the children ever know anything of their mother to this day, other than as you may have an account hereafter.
But to look back to the particular observation I was making, which I hope may be of use to those who read my story, I say it was something wonderful to me to see this person so exceedingly delighted at the birth of this child, and so pleased with it; for he would sit and look at it, and with an air of seriousness sometimes a great while together, and particularly, I observed, he loved to look at it when it was asleep.
It was indeed a lovely, charming child, and had a certain vivacity in its countenance that is far from being common to all children so young; and he would often say to me that he believed there was something extraordinary in the child, and he did not doubt but he would come to be a great man.
I could never hear him say so, but though secretly it pleased me, yet it so closely touched me another way that I could not refrain sighing, and sometimes tears; and one time in particular it so affected me that I could not conceal it from him; but when he saw tears run down my face, there was no concealing the occasion from him; he was too importunate to be denied in a thing of that moment; so I frankly answered, "It sensibly affects me, my lord," said I, "that, whatever the merit of this little creature may be, he must always have a bend on his arms. The disaster of his birth will be always, not a blot only to his honour, but a bar to his fortunes in the world. Our affection will be ever his affliction, and his mother's crime be the son's reproach. The blot can never be wiped out by the most glorious action; nay, if it lives to raise a family," said I, "the infamy must descend even to its innocent posterity."
He took the thought, and sometimes told me afterwards that it made a deeper impression on him than he discovered to me at that time; but for the present he put it off with telling me these things could not be helped; that they served for a spur to the spirits of brave men, inspired them with the principles of gallantry, and prompted them to brave actions; that though it might be true that the mention of illegitimacy might attend the name, yet that personal virtue placed a man of honour above the reproach of his birth; that, as he had no share in the offence, he would have no concern at the blot; when, having by his own merit placed himself out of the reach of scandal, his fame should drown the memory of his beginning; that as it was usual for men of quality to make such little escapes, so the number of their natural children were so great, and they generally took such good care of their education, that some of the greatest men in the world had a bend in their coats-of-arms, and that it was of no consequence to them, especially when their fame began to rise upon the basis of their acquired merit; and upon this he began to reckon up to me some of the greatest families in France and in England also.
This carried off our discourse for a time; but I went farther with him once, removing the discourse from the part attending our children to the reproach which those children would be apt to throw upon us, their originals; and when speaking a little too feelingly on the subject, he began to receive the impression a little deeper than I wished he had done. At last he told me I had almost acted the confessor to him; that I might, perhaps, preach a more dangerous doctrine to him than we should either of us like, or than I was aware of. "For, my dear," says he, "if once we come to talk of repentance we must talk of parting."
If tears were in my eyes before, they flowed too fast now to be restrained, and I gave him but too much satisfaction by my looks that I had yet no reflections upon my mind strong enough to go that length, and that I could no more think of parting than he could.
He said a great many kind things, which were great, like himself, and, extenuating our crime, intimated to me that he could no more part with me than I could with him; so we both, as I may say, even against our light and against our conviction, concluded to sin on; indeed, his affection to the child was one great tie to him, for he was extremely fond of it.
The child lived to be a considerable man. He was first an officer of the Garde du Corps of France, and afterwards colonel of a regiment of dragoons in Italy, and on many extraordinary occasions showed that he was not unworthy such a father, but many ways deserving a legitimate birth and a better mother; of which hereafter.
I think I may say now that I lived indeed like a queen; or, if you will have me confess that my condition had still the reproach of a whore, I may say I was, sure, the queen of whores; for no woman was ever more valued or more caressed by a person of such quality only in the station of a mistress. I had, indeed, one deficiency which women in such circumstances seldom are chargeable with, namely, I craved nothing of him, I never asked him for anything in my life, nor suffered myself to be made use of, as is too much the custom of mistresses, to ask favours for others. His bounty always prevented me in the first, and my strict concealing myself in the last, which was no less to my convenience than his.
The only favour I ever asked of him was for his gentleman, who he had all along entrusted with the secret of our affair, and who had once so much offended him by some omissions in his duty that he found it very hard to make his peace. He came and laid his case before my woman Amy, and begged her to speak to me to intercede for him, which I did, and on my account he was received again and pardoned, for which the grateful dog requited me by getting to bed to his benefactress, Amy, at which I was very angry. But Amy generously acknowledged that it was her fault as much as his; that she loved the fellow so much that she believed if he had not asked her she should have asked him. I say, this pacified me, and I only obtained of her that she should not let him know that I knew it.
I might have interspersed this part of my story with a great many pleasant parts and discourses which happened between my maid Amy and I, but I omit them on account of my own story, which has been so extraordinary. However, I must mention something as to Amy and her gentleman.
I inquired of Amy upon what terms they came to be so intimate, but Amy seemed backward to explain herself. I did not care to press her upon a question of that nature, knowing that she might have answered my question with a question, and have said, "Why, how did I and the prince come to be so intimate?" So I left off farther inquiring into it, till, after some time, she told it me all freely of her own accord, which, to cut it short, amounted to no more than this, that, like mistress like maid, as they had many leisure hours together below, while they waited respectively when his lord and I were together above; I say, they could hardly avoid the usual question one to another, namely, why might not they do the same thing below that we did above?
On that account, indeed, as I said above, I could not find in my heart to be angry with Amy. I was, indeed, afraid the girl would have been with child too, but that did not happen, and so there was no hurt done; for Amy had been hanselled before, as well as her mistress, and by the same party too, as you have heard.
After I was up again, and my child provided with a good nurse, and, withal, winter coming on, it was proper to think of coming to Paris again, which I did; but as I had now a coach and horses, and some servants to attend me, by my lord's allowance, I took the liberty to have them come to Paris sometimes, and so to take a tour into the garden of the Tuileries and the other pleasant places of the city. It happened one day that my prince (if I may call him so) had a mind to give me some diversion, and to take the air with me; but, that he might do it and not be publicly known, he comes to me in a coach of the Count de ——, a great officer of the court, attended by his liveries also; so that, in a word, it was impossible to guess by the equipage who I was or who I belonged to; also, that I might be the more effectually concealed, he ordered me to be taken up at a mantua-maker's house, where he sometimes came, whether upon other amours or not was no business of mine to inquire. I knew nothing whither he intended to carry me; but when he was in the coach with me, he told me he had ordered his servants to go to court with me, and he would show me some of the beau monde. I told him I cared not where I went while I had the honour to have him with me. So he carried me to the fine palace of Meudon, where the Dauphin then was, and where he had some particular intimacy with one of the Dauphin's domestics, who procured a retreat for me in his lodgings while we stayed there, which was three or four days.
While I was there the king happened to come thither from Versailles, and making but a short stay, visited Madame the Dauphiness, who was then living. The prince was here incognito, only because of his being with me, and therefore, when he heard that the king was in the gardens, he kept close within the lodgings; but the gentleman in whose lodgings we were, with his lady and several others, went out to see the king, and I had the honour to be asked to go with them.