|THE FORTUNES AND MISFORTUNES OF MOLL FLANDERS||127|
still, for I did not come barely to let you know that I was informed of these things, as if I wanted a bribe to conceal them; assure yourself, sir', said she, 'that whatever you think fit to do or say to me, it shall be all a secret, as it is, as much as if I were in my grave.'
He was astonished at her discourse, and said gravely to her, 'Madam, you are a stranger to me, but it is very unfortunate that you should be let into the secret of the worst action of my life, and a thing that I am justly ashamed of, in which the only satisfaction I had was, that I thought it was known only to God and my own conscience.' 'Pray, sir', says she, 'do not reckon the discovery of it to me to be any part of your misfortune. It was a thing, I believe, you were surprised into, and perhaps the woman used some art to prompt you to it. However, you will never find any just cause', said she, 'to repent that I came to hear of it; nor can your mouth be more silent in it than I have been, and ever shall be.'
'Well', says he, 'but let me do some justice to the woman too; whoever she is, I do assure you she prompted me to nothing, she rather declined me. It was my own folly and madness that brought me into it all; ay, and brought her into it too; I must give her her due so far. As to what she took from me, I could expect no less from her in the condition I was in, and to this hour I know not whether she robbed me or the coachman; if she did it, I forgive her. I think all gentlemen that do so should be used in the same manner; but I am more concerned for some other things than I am for all that she took from me.'
My governess now began to come into the whole matter, and he opened himself freely to her. First, she said to him, in answer to what he had said about me, 'I am glad, sir, you are so just to the person that you were with. I assure you she is a gentlewoman, and no woman of thf town; and however you prevailed with her as you did, I am sure 'tis no her practice. You ran a great venture indeed, sir; but if that be part of your care, you may be perfectly easy, for I do assure you no man has touched her before you, since her husband, and he has been dead now almost eight years.'
It appeared that this was his grievance, and that he was in a very great fright about it; however, when my governess said this to him, he appeared very well pleased, and said, 'Well, madam, to be plain with you, if I was satisfied of that, the temptation was great, and perhaps she was poor, and wanted it.' 'If she had not been poor, sir', says she, 'I assure you she would never have yielded to you; and as her poverty first prevailed with you to let you do as you did, so the same poverty prevailed with her to pay herself at last, when she saw you was in such a condition, that if she had not done it, perhaps the next coachman or chairman might have done it more to your hurt.'
'Well', says he, 'much good may it do her. I say again, all the gentlemen that do so ought to be used in the same manner, and then they would be cautious of themselves. I have no concern about it, but on the score which you hinted at before.' Here he entered into some freedoms with her on the subject of what passed between us, which are not so proper for a woman to write, and the great terror that was upon his mind with relation to his wife, for fear he should have received any injury from me, and should communicate it farther; and asked her at last if she could not procure him an opportunity to speak with me. My governess gave him further assurances of my being a woman clear from any such