Roxana, The Fortunate Mistress/Chapter XIII
I was surprised one morning when, being at the merchant’s house whom he had recommended me to in Rotterdam, and being busy in his counting-house managing my bills and preparing to write a letter to him to Paris, I heard a noise of horses at the door; which is not very common in a city where everybody passes by water; but he had, it seems, ferried over the Maas from Wilhemstad, and so came to the very door. And I, looking towards the door upon hearing the horses, saw a gentleman alight and come in at the gate. I knew nothing and expected nothing, to be sure, of the person, but, as I say was surprised, and indeed more than ordinarily surprised, when coming nearer to me I saw it was my merchant of Paris, my benefactor, and indeed my deliverer. I confess it was an agreeable surprise to me, and I was exceeding glad to see him who was so honourable and so kind to me, and who indeed had saved my life. As soon as he saw me he ran to me, took me in his arms and kissed me with a freedom that he never offered to take with me before. “Dear Madam ——,” says he, “I am glad to see you safe in this country; if you had stayed two days longer in Paris you had been undone.” I was so glad to see him that I could not speak for a good while, and I burst out into tears without speaking a word for a minute; but I recovered that disorder and said, “The more, sir, is my obligation to you that saved my life”; and added, “I am glad to see you here, that I may consider how to balance an account in which I am so much your debtor.”
“You and I will adjust that matter easily,” says he, “now we are so near together. Pray where do you lodge?” says he.
“In a very honest good house,” said I, “where that gentleman, your friend, recommended me,” pointing to the merchant in whose house we then were.
“And where you may lodge too, sir,” says the gentleman, “if it suits with your business and your other conveniency.”
“With all my heart,” says he. “Then, madam,” adds he, turning to me, “I shall be near you, and have time to tell you a story, which will be very long and yet many ways very pleasant to you, how troublesome that devilish fellow the Jew has been to me on your account, and what a hellish snare he had laid for you if he could have found you.”
“I shall have leisure too, sir,” said I, “to tell you all my adventures since that; which have not been a few, I assure you.”
In short, he took up his lodgings in the same house where I lodged, and the room he lay in opened, as he was wishing it would, just opposite to my lodging-room; so we could almost call out of bed to one another, and I was not at all shy of him on that score, for I believed him perfectly honest, and so indeed he was; and if he had not, that article was at present no part of my concern.
It was not till two or three days, and after his first hurries of business were over, that we began to enter into the history of our affairs on every side, but when we began it took up all our conversation for almost a fortnight. First I gave him a particular account of everything that happened material upon my voyage, and how we were driven into Harwich by a very terrible storm; how I had left my woman behind me, so frighted with the danger she had been in that she durst not venture to set her foot into a ship again any more; and that I had not come myself if the bills I had of him had not been payable in Holland, but that money, he might see, would make a woman go anywhere.
He seemed to laugh at all our womanish fears upon the occasion of the storm, telling me it was nothing but what was very ordinary in those seas, but that they had harbours on every coast, so near that they were seldom in danger of being lost indeed. “For,” says he, “if they cannot fetch one coast, they can always stand away for another, and run afore it,” as he called it, “for one side or other.” But when I came to tell him what a crazy ship it was, and how, even when they got into Harwich and into smooth water, they were fain to run the ship on shore or she would have sunk in the very harbour. And when I told him that when I looked out at the cabin door I saw the Dutchmen, one upon his knees here and another there, at their prayers, then indeed he acknowledged I had reason to be alarmed. But smiling, he added, “But you, madam,” says he, “are so good a lady, and so pious, you would but have gone to heaven a little the sooner, the difference had not been much to you.”
I confess when he said this it made all the blood turn in my veins, and I thought I should have fainted. “Poor gentleman!” thought I, “you know little of me; what would I give to be really what you really think me to be!” He perceived the disorder, but said nothing till I spoke; when, shaking my head, “Oh, sir!” said I, “death in any shape has some terror in it, but in the frightful figure of a storm at sea and a sinking ship it comes with a double, a treble, and indeed an inexpressible horror, and if I were that saint you think me to be, which, God knows, I am not, ’tis still very dismal; I desire to die in a calm if I can.” He said a great many good things, and very prettily ordered his discourse between serious reflection and compliment; but I had too much guilt to relish it as it was meant, so I turned it off to something else and talked of the necessity I had on me to come to Holland, but I wished myself safe on shore in England again.
He told me he was glad I had such an obligation upon me to come over into Holland, however, but hinted that he was so interested in my welfare, and besides had such further designs upon me, that if I had not so happily been found in Holland, he was resolved to have gone to England to see me, and that it was one of the principal reasons of his leaving Paris.
I told him I was extremely obliged to him for so far interesting himself in my affairs, but that I had been so far his debtor before, that I knew not how anything could increase the debt; for I owed my life to him already, and I could not be in debt for anything more valuable than that.
He answered in the most obliging manner possible that he would put it in my power to pay that debt, and all the obligations besides that ever he had or should be able to lay upon me.
I began to understand him now, and to see plainly that he resolved to make love to me. But I would by no means seem to take the hint, and beside I knew that he had a wife with him in Paris, and I had, just then at least, no gust to any more intriguing. However, he surprised me into a sudden notice of the thing a little while after by saying something in his discourse that he did, as he said, in his wife’s days. I started at that word. “What mean you by that, sir?” said I. “Have you not a wife at Paris?” “No, madam, indeed,” said he, “my wife died the beginning of September last”; which, it seems, was but a little after I came away.
We lived in the same house all this while, and as we lodged not far off of one another, opportunities were not wanting of as near an acquaintance as we might desire; nor have such opportunities the least agency in vicious minds to bring to pass even what they might not intend at first.
However, though he courted so much at a distance, yet his pretensions were very honourable; and as I had before found him a most disinterested friend and perfectly honest in his dealings, even when I trusted him with all I had, so now I found him strictly virtuous; till I made him otherwise myself, even almost whether he would or no, as you shall hear.
It was not long after our former discourse when he repeated what he had insinuated before, namely, that he had yet a design to lay before me, which, if I would agree to his proposals, would more than balance all accounts between us. I told him I could not reasonably deny him anything, and except one thing, which I hoped and believed he would not think of, I should think myself very ungrateful if I did not do everything for him that lay in my power.
He told me what he should desire of me would be fully in my power to grant, or else he should be very unfriendly to offer it, and still all this while he declined making the proposal, as he called it, and so for that time we ended our discourse, turning it off to other things. So that, in short, I began to think he might have met with some disaster in his business, and might have come away from Paris in some discredit, or had had some blow on his affairs in general. And as really I had kindness enough to have parted with a good sum to have helped him, and was in gratitude bound to have done so, he having so effectually saved to me all I had, so I resolved to make him the offer the first time I had an opportunity, which two or three days after offered itself, very much to my satisfaction.
He had told me at large, though on several occasions, the treatment he had met with from the Jew, and what expense he had put him to; how at length he had cast him, as above, and had recovered good damages of him, but that the rogue was unable to make him any considerable reparation. He had told me also how the Prince de ——’s gentleman had resented his treatment of his master, and how he had caused him to be used upon the Pont Neuf, etc., as I have mentioned above, which I laughed at most heartily.
“It is a pity,” said I, “that I should sit here and make that gentleman no amends. If you would direct me, sir,” said I, “how to do it, I would make him a handsome present, and acknowledge the justice he had done to me as well as to the Prince his master.” He said he would do what I directed in it, so I told him I would send him 500 crowns. “That’s too much,” said he, “for you are but half interested in the usage of the Jew; it was on his master’s account he corrected him, not on yours.” Well, however, we were obliged to do nothing in it, for neither of us knew how to direct a letter to him nor to direct anybody to him; so I told him I would leave it till I came to England, for that my woman Amy corresponded with him and that he had made love to her.
“Well, but, sir,” said I, “as in requital for his generous concern of me I am careful to think of him; it is but just that what expense you have been obliged to be at, which was all on my account, should be repaid you; and therefore,” said I, “let me see——” And there I paused, and began to reckon up what I had observed from his own discourse it had cost him in the several disputes and hearings which he had with that dog of a Jew, and I cast them up at something above 2,130 crowns; so I pulled out some bills which I had upon a merchant in Amsterdam and a particular account in bank, and was looking on them in order to give them to him.
When he, seeing evidently what I was going about, interrupted me with some warmth, and told me he would have nothing of me on that account, and desired I would not pull out my bills and papers on that score; that he had not told me the story on that account or with any such view; that it had been his misfortune first to bring that ugly rogue to me, which though it was with a good design, yet he would punish himself with the expense he had been at for his being so unlucky to me; that I could not think so hard of him as to suppose he would take money of me, a widow, for serving me and doing acts of kindness to me in a strange country, and in distress too. But he said he would repeat what he had said before, that he kept me for a deeper reckoning, and that, as he had told me, he would put me into a posture to even all that favour, as I called it, at once, so we should talk it over another time and balance all together.
Now I expected it would come out, but still he put it off as before, from whence I concluded it could not be a matter of love, for that those things are not usually delayed in such a manner, and therefore it must be a matter of money. Upon which thought I broke the silence and told him that as he knew I had, by obligation, more kindness for him than to deny any favour to him that I could grant, and that he seemed backward to mention his case, I begged leave of him to give me leave to ask him whether anything lay upon his mind with respect to his business and effects in the world; that if it did, he knew what I had in the world as well as I did, and that if he wanted money I would let him have any sum for his occasion as far as five or six thousand pistoles, and he should pay me as his own affairs would permit; and that if he never paid me, I would assure him that I would never give him any trouble for it.
He rose up with ceremony, and gave me thanks in terms that sufficiently told me he had been bred among people more polite and more courteous than is esteemed the ordinary usage of the Dutch; and after his compliment was over he came nearer to me, and told me that he was obliged to assure me, though with repeated acknowledgments of my kind offer, that he was not in any want of money; that he had met with no uneasiness in any of his affairs, no, not of any kind whatever, except that of the loss of his wife and one of his children, which indeed had troubled him much; but that this was no part of what he had to offer me, and by granting which I should balance all obligations. But that, in short, it was that seeing Providence had (as it were for that purpose) taken his wife from him, I would make up the loss to him; and with that he held me fast in his arms and, kissing me, would not give me leave to say no, and hardly to breathe.
At length having got room to speak, I told him that, as I had said before, I could deny him but one thing in the world; I was very sorry he should propose that thing only that I could not grant.
I could not but smile, however, to myself that he should make so many circles and roundabout motions to come at a discourse which had no such rarity at the bottom of it, if he had known all. But there was another reason why I resolved not to have him, when, at the same time, if he had courted me in a manner less honest or virtuous, I believe I should not have denied him. But I shall come to that part presently.
He was, as I have said, long a-bringing it out, but when he had brought it out he pursued it with such importunities as would admit of no denial, at least he intended they should not; but I resisted them obstinately, and yet with expressions of the utmost kindness and respect for him that could be imagined, often telling him there was nothing else in the world that I could deny him, and showing him all the respect and upon all occasions treating him with intimacy and freedom as if he had been my brother.
He tried all the ways imaginable to bring his design to pass, but I was inflexible. At last he thought of a way which, he flattered himself, would not fail; nor would he have been mistaken perhaps in any other woman in the world but me. This was to try if he could take me at an advantage and get to bed to me, and then, as was most rational to think, I should willingly enough marry him afterwards.
We were so intimate together that nothing but man and wife could, or at least ought to be, more; but still our freedoms kept within the bounds of modesty and decency. But one evening, above all the rest, we were very merry, and I fancied he pushed the mirth to watch for his advantage, and I resolved that I would, at least, feign to be as merry as he, and that, in short, if he offered anything he should have his will easily enough.
About one o’clock in the morning, for so long we sat up together, I said, “Come, ’tis one o’clock, I must go to bed.” “Well,” says he, “I’ll go with you.” “No, no,” says I, “go to your own chamber.” He said he would go to bed with me. “Nay,” says I, “if you will, I don’t know what to say; if I can’t help it, you must.” However, I got from him, left him and went into my chamber, but did not shut the door; and as he could easily see that I was undressing myself, he steps to his own room, which was but on the same floor, and in a few minutes undresses himself also and returns to my door in his gown and slippers.
I thought he had been gone indeed, and so that he had been in jest; and, by the way, thought either he had no mind to the thing or that he never intended it; so I shut my door, that is, latched it, for I seldom locked or bolted it, and went to bed. I had not been in bed a minute but he comes in his gown to the door and opens it a little way, but not enough to come in or look in, and says softly, “What, are you really gone to bed?” ”Yes, yes,” says I, “get you gone.” “No, indeed,” says he, “I shall not begone, you gave me leave before to come to bed, and you shan’t say get you gone now.” So he comes into my room, and then turns about and fastens the door, and immediately comes to the bedside to me. I pretended to scold and struggle, and bid him begone with more warmth than before, but it was all one. He had not a rag of clothes on but his gown and slippers and shirt, so he throws off his gown and throws open the bed and came in at once.
I made a seeming resistance, but it was no more indeed; for, as above, I resolved from the beginning he should lie with me if he would, and for the rest, I left it to come after.
Well, he lay with me that night and the two next, and very merry we were all the three days between; but the third night he began to be a little more grave. “Now, my dear,” says he, “though I have pushed this matter further than ever I intended, or than I believe you expected from me, who never made any pretences to you but what were very honest, yet to heal it all up and let you see how sincerely I meant at first and how honest I will ever be to you, I am ready to marry you still, and desire you to let it be done to-morrow morning; and I will give you the same fair conditions of marriage as I would have done before.”
This, it must be owned, was a testimony that he was very honest and that he loved me sincerely, but I construed it quite another way, namely, that he aimed at the money. But how surprised did he look, and how was he confounded, when he found me receive his proposal with coldness and indifference and still tell him that it was the only thing I could not grant.
He was astonished. “What, not take me now!” says he, “when I have been abed with you!” I answered coldly, though respectfully still, “It is true, to my shame be it spoken,” says I, “that you have taken me by surprise and have had your will of me, but I hope you will not take it ill that I cannot consent to marry, for all that; if I am with child,” said I, “care must be taken to manage that as you shall direct. I hope you won’t expose me for my having exposed myself to you, but I cannot go any further.” And at that point I stood, and would hear of no matrimony by any means.
Now because this may seem a little odd, I shall state the matter clearly as I understood it myself. I knew that while I was a mistress, it is customary for the person kept to receive from them that keep; but if I should be a wife, all I had then was given up to the husband, and I was thenceforth to be under his authority only; and as I had money enough, and needed not fear being what they call a cast-off mistress, so I had no need to give him twenty thousand pounds to marry me, which had been buying my lodging too dear a great deal.
Thus his project of coming to bed to me was a bite upon himself, while he intended it for a bite upon me, and he was no nearer his aim of marrying me than he was before. All his arguments he could urge upon the subject of matrimony were at an end, for I positively declined marrying him; and as he had refused the thousand pistoles which I had offered him in compensation for his expenses and loss at Paris with the Jew, and had done it upon the hopes he had of marrying me, so when he found his way difficult still he was amazed, and, I had some reason to believe, repented that he had refused the money.
But thus it is when men run into wicked measures to bring their designs about. I, that was infinitely obliged to him before, began to talk to him as if I had balanced accounts with him now, and that the favour of lying with a whore was equal, not to the thousand pistoles only, but to all the debt I owed him for saving my life and all my effects.
But he drew himself into it, and though it was a dear bargain, yet it was a bargain of his own making; he could not say I had tricked him into it. But as he projected and drew me in to lie with him, depending that it was a sure game in order to a marriage, so I granted him the favour, as he called it, to balance the account of favours received from him and keep the thousand pistoles with a good grace.
He was extremely disappointed in this article and knew not how to manage for a great while, and, as I dare say, if he had not expected to have made it an earnest for marrying me, he would never have attempted me the other way; so, I believed, if it had not been for the money which he knew I had, he would never have desired to marry me after he had lain with me. For where is the man that cares to marry a whore, though of his own making? And as I knew him to be no fool, so I did him no wrong when I supposed that, but for the money, he would not have had any thoughts of me that way, especially after my yielding as I had done; in which it is to be remembered that I made no capitulation for marrying him when I yielded to him, but let him do just what he pleased, without any previous bargain.
Well, hitherto we went upon guesses at one another’s designs; but as he continued to importune me to marry, though he had lain with me and still did lie with me as often as he pleased, and I continued to refuse to marry him, though I let him lie with me whenever he desired it—I say, as these two circumstances made up our conversation, it could not continue long thus but we must come to an explanation.
One morning in the middle of our unlawful freedoms, that is to say, when we were in bed together, he sighed and told me he desired my leave to ask me one question, and that I would give him an answer to it with the same ingenuous freedom and honesty that I had used to treat him with. I told him I would. Why, then, his question was, why I would not marry him seeing I allowed him all the freedoms of a husband. “Oh,” says he, “my dear, since you have been so kind as to take me to your bed, why will you not make me your own and take me for good and all, that we may enjoy ourselves without any reproach to one another?”
I told him that as I confessed it was the only thing I could not comply with him in, so it was the only thing in all my actions that I could not give him a reason for; that it was true I had let him come to bed to me, which was supposed to be the greatest favour a woman could grant, but it was evident, and he might see it, that as I was sensible of the obligation I was under to him for saving me from the worst circumstance it was possible for me to be brought to, I could deny him nothing; and if I had had any greater favour to yield him I should have done it, that of matrimony only excepted, and he could not but see that I loved him to an extraordinary degree, in every part of my behaviour to him; but that as to marrying, which was giving up my liberty, it was what once he knew I had done, and he had seen how it had hurried me up and down in the world and what it had exposed me to; that I had an aversion to it, and desired he would not insist upon it; he might easily see I had no aversion to him, and that if I was with child by him, he should see a testimony of my kindness to the father, for that I would settle all I had in the world upon the child.
He was mute a good while. At last says he, “Come, my dear, you are the first woman in the world that ever lay with a man and then refused to marry him, and therefore there must be some other reason for your refusal; and I have therefore one other request, and that is, if I guess at the true reason and remove the objection, will you then yield to me?” I told him if he removed the objection I must needs comply, for I should certainly do everything that I had no objection against.
“Why then, my dear, it must be that either you are already engaged and married to some other man, or you are not willing to dispose of your money to me, and expect to advance yourself higher with your fortune. Now if it be the first of these, my mouth will be stopped, and I have no more to say; but if it be the last, I am prepared effectually to remove the objection and answer all you can say on that subject.”
I took him up short at the first of these, telling him he must have base thoughts of me indeed to think that I could yield to him in such a manner as I had done, and continue it with so much freedom as he found I did, if I had a husband or were engaged to any other man; and that he might depend upon it, that was not my case, nor any part of my case.
“Why then,” said he, “as to the other, I have an offer to make to you that shall take off all the objection, viz. that I will not touch one pistole of your estate more than shall be with your own voluntary consent, neither now nor at any other time, but you shall settle it as you please, for your life, and upon whom you shall please after your death.” That I should see he was able to maintain me without it, and that it was not for that that he followed me from Paris.
I was indeed surprised at that part of his offer, and he might easily perceive it. It was not only what I did not expect, but it was what I knew not what answer to make to. He had indeed removed my principal objection, nay, all my objections, and it was not possible for me to give any answer; for if upon so generous an offer I should agree with him, I then did as good as confess that it was upon the account of my money that I refused him, and that though I could give up my virtue and expose myself, yet I would not give up my money, which, though it was true, yet was really too gross for me to acknowledge, and I could not pretend to marry him upon that principle neither. Then as to having him, and make over all my estate out of his hands, so as not to give him the management of what I had, I thought it would be not only a little gothic and inhuman, but would be always a foundation of unkindness between us and render us suspected one to another. So that, upon the whole, I was obliged to give a new turn to it and talk upon a kind of an elevated strain which really was not in my thoughts at first at all; for I own, as above, the divesting myself of my estate and putting my money out of my hand was the sum of the matter that made me refuse to marry. But, I say, I gave it a new turn upon this occasion, as follows:
I told him I had perhaps differing notions of matrimony from what the received custom had given us of it; that I thought a woman was a free agent as well as a man, and was born free, and, could she manage herself suitably, might enjoy that liberty to as much purpose as the men do; that the laws of matrimony were indeed otherwise, and mankind at this time acted quite upon other principles; and those such, that a woman gave herself entirely away from herself in marriage, and capitulated only to be at best but an upper servant, and from the time she took the man she was no better or worse than the servant among the Israelites who had his ears bored, that is, nailed to the door-post, who by that act gave himself up to be a servant during life.
That the very nature of the marriage contract was, in short, nothing but giving up liberty, estate, authority, and everything to the man, and the woman was indeed a mere woman ever after, that is to say, a slave.
He replied that though in some respects it was as I had said, yet I ought to consider that as an equivalent to this the man had all the care of things devolved upon him; that the weight of business lay upon his shoulders, and as he had the trust, so he had the toil of life upon him, his was the labour, his the anxiety of living; that the woman had nothing to do but to eat the fat and drink the sweet, to sit still and look round her, be waited on and made much of, be served and loved and made easy, especially if the husband acted as became him; and that, in general, the labour of the man was appointed to make the woman live quiet and unconcerned in the world; that they had the name of subjection without the thing, and if in inferior families they had the drudgery of the house and care of the provisions upon them, yet they had indeed much the easier part. For, in general, the women had only the care of managing, that is, spending what their husbands get; and that a woman had the name of subjection indeed, but that they generally commanded not the men only, but all they had, managed all for themselves, and where the man did his duty the woman’s life was all ease and tranquillity, and that she had nothing to do but to be easy and to make all that were about her both easy and merry.
I returned that while a woman was single she was a masculine in her politic capacity; that she had then the full command of what she had and the full direction of what she did; that she was a man in her separated capacity, to all intents and purposes that a man could be so to himself; that she was controlled by none because accountable to none, and was in subjection to none; so I sung these two lines of Mr. ——’s:
Oh! ’tis pleasant to be free, The sweetest miss is liberty.
I added that whoever the woman was that had an estate and would give it up to be the slave of a great man, that woman was a fool, and must be fit for nothing but a beggar; that it was my opinion a woman was as fit to govern and enjoy her own estate without a man as a man was without a woman, and that if she had a mind to gratify herself as to sexes, she might entertain a man as a man does a mistress; that while she was thus single she was her own, and if she gave away that power she merited to be as miserable as it was possible that any creature could be.
All he could say could not answer the force of this as to argument; only this, that the other way was the ordinary method that the world was guided by; that he had reason to expect I should be content with that which all the world was contented with; that he was of the opinion that a sincere affection between a man and his wife answered all the objections that I had made about the being a slave, a servant, and the like; and where there was a mutual love there could be no bondage, but that there was but one interest, one aim, one design, and all conspired to make both very happy.
“Ay,” said I, “that is the thing I complain of. The pretence of affection takes from a woman everything that can be called herself; she is to have no interest, no aim, no view, but all is the interest, aim, and view of the husband. She is to be the passive creature you spoke of,” said I; “she is to lead a life of perfect indolence, and living by faith (not in God, but) in her husband, she sinks or swims as he is either fool or wise man, unhappy or prosperous, and in the middle of what she thinks is her happiness and prosperity she is engulfed in misery and beggary which she had not the least notice, knowledge, or suspicion of. How often have I seen a woman living in all the splendour that a plentiful fortune ought to allow her: with her coaches and equipages, her family and rich furniture, her attendants and friends, her visitors and good company, all about her to-day, to-morrow surprised with disaster, turned out of all by a commission of bankrupt, stripped to the clothes on her back; her jointure, suppose she had it, is sacrificed to the creditors so long as her husband lived, and she turned into the street and left to live on the charity of her friends, if she has any, or follow the monarch her husband into the Mint, and live there on the wreck of his fortunes till he is forced to run away from her, even there; and then she sees her children starve, herself miserable, breaks her heart, and cries herself to death. This,” says I, “is the state of many a lady that has had ten thousand pounds to her portion.”
He did not know how feelingly I spoke this and what extremities I had gone through of this kind; how near I was to the very last article above, viz. crying myself to death, and how I really starved for almost two years together.
But he shook his head and said, where had I lived, and what dreadful families had I lived among that had frighted me into such terrible apprehensions of things? That these things indeed might happen where men ran into hazardous things in trade, and without prudence or due consideration launched their fortunes in a degree beyond their strength, grasping at adventures beyond their stocks, and the like; but that, as he was started in the world, if I would embark with him, he had a fortune equal with mine; that together we should have no occasion of engaging in business any more, but that in any part of the world where I had a mind to live, whether England, France, Holland, or where I would, we might settle and live as happily as the world could make any one live; that if I desired the management of our estate when put together, if I would not trust him with mine, he would trust me with his; that we would be upon one bottom, and I should steer. “Ay,” says I, “you’ll allow me to steer, that is, hold the helm, but you’ll conn the ship, as they call it; that is, as at sea, a boy serves to stand at the helm, but he that gives him the orders is pilot.”
He laughed at my simile. “No,” says he, “you shall be pilot, then, you shall conn the ship.” “Ay,” says I, “as long as you please, but you can take the helm out of my hand when you please and bid me go spin. It is not you,” says I, “that I suspect, but the law of matrimony puts the power into your hands, bids you do it, commands you to command, and binds me, forsooth, to obey. You, that are now upon even terms with me, and I with you,” says I, “are the next hour set up upon the throne, and the humble wife placed at your footstool; all the rest, all that you call oneness of interest, mutual auction, and the like, is courtesy and kindness, then, and a woman is indeed infinitely obliged where she meets with it, but can’t help herself where it fails.”
Well, he did not give it over yet, but came to the serious part, and there he thought he should be too many for me. He first hinted that marriage was decreed by Heaven, that it was the fixed state of life which God had appointed for man’s felicity and for establishing a legal posterity, that there could be no legal claim of estates by inheritance but by children born in wedlock, that all the rest was sunk under scandal and illegitimacy; and very well he talked upon that subject indeed.
But it would not do; I took him short there. “Look you, sir,” said I, “you have an advantage of me there indeed, in my particular case, but it would not be generous to make use of it. I readily grant that it were better for me to have married you than to admit you to the liberty I have given you, but as I could not reconcile my judgment to marriage for the reasons above, and had kindness enough for you and obligation too much on me to resist you, I suffered your rudeness and gave up my virtue. But I have two things before me to heal up that breach of honour without that desperate one of marriage, and those are, repentance for what is past, and putting an end to it for time to come.”
He seemed to be concerned to think that I should take him in that manner. He assured me that I misunderstood him; that he had more manners, as well as more kindness for me, and more justice than to reproach me with what he had been the aggressor in and had surprised me into; that what he spoke referred to my words above; that the woman, if she thought fit, might entertain a man as the man did a mistress; and that I seemed to mention that way of living as justifiable, and setting it as a lawful thing and in the place of matrimony.
Well, we strained some compliments upon those points not worth repeating, and I added I supposed when he got to bed to me he thought himself sure of me; and indeed in the ordinary course of things, after he had lain with me, he ought to think so; but that, upon the same foot of argument which I had discoursed with him upon, it was just the contrary, and when a woman had been weak enough to yield up the last point before wedlock it would be adding one weakness to another to take the man afterwards, to pin down the shame of it upon herself all the days of her life, and bind herself to live all her time with the only man that could upbraid her with it; that in yielding at first she must be a fool, but to take the man is to be sure to be called fool; that to resist a man is to act with courage and vigour and to cast off the reproach which, in the course of things, drops out of knowledge and dies. The man goes one way and the woman another, as fate and the circumstances of living direct, and if they keep one another’s counsel the folly is heard no more of. “But to take the man,” said I, “is the most preposterous thing in nature, and (saving your presence) is to befoul oneself and live always in the smell of it. No, no,” added I, “after a man has lain with me as a mistress he ought never to lie with me as a wife; that’s not only preserving the crime in memory, but it is recording it in the family. If the woman marries the man afterwards she bears the reproach of it to the last hour; if her husband is not a man of a hundred thousand he some time or other upbraids her with it; if he has children they fail not one way or other to hear of it; if the children are virtuous they do their mother the justice to hate her for it, if they are wicked they give her the mortification of doing the like, and giving her for the example. On the other hand, if the man and the woman part, there is an end of the crime, and an end of the clamour. Time wears out the memory of it, or a woman may remove but a few streets and she soon outlives it and hears no more of it.
He was confounded at this discourse and told me he could not say but I was right in the main, that as to that part relating to managing estates, it was arguing à la cavalier; it was in some sense right if the women were able to carry it on so, but that in general the sex were not capable of it, their heads were not turned for it, and they had better choose a person capable and honest, that knew how to do them justice as women as well as to love them, and that then the trouble was all taken off their hands.
I told him it was a dear way of purchasing their ease, for very often when the trouble was taken off their hands, so was their money too, and that I thought it was far safer for the sex not to be afraid of the trouble, but to be really afraid of their money; that if nobody was trusted, nobody would be deceived, and the staff in their own hands was the best security in the world.
He replied that I had started a new thing in the world; that however I might support it by subtle reasoning, yet it was a way of arguing that was contrary to the general practice, and that he confessed he was much disappointed in it; that had he known I would have made such a use of it he would never have attempted what he did, which he had no wicked design in, resolving to make me reparation, and that he was very sorry he had been so unhappy; that he was very sure he should never upbraid me with it hereafter, and had so good an opinion of me as to believe I did not suspect him; but seeing I was positive in refusing him, notwithstanding what had passed, he had nothing to do but to secure me from reproach by going back again to Paris, that so, according to my own way of arguing, it might die out of memory, and I might never meet with it again to my disadvantage.
I was not pleased with this part at all, for I had no mind to let him go neither, and yet I had no mind to give him such hold of me as he would have had; and thus I was in a kind of suspense, irresolute, and doubtful what course to take.
I was in the house with him, as I have observed, and I saw evidently that he was preparing to go back to Paris, and particularly I found he was remitting money to Paris, which was, as I understood afterwards, to pay for some wines which he had given order to have bought for him at Troyes in Champagne, and I knew not what course to take; and besides that, I was very loath to part with him. I found also that I was with child by him, which was what I had not yet told him of, and sometimes I thought not to tell him of it at all; but I was in a strange place, and had no acquaintance, though I had a great deal of substance, which indeed, having no friends there, was the more dangerous to me.
This obliged me to take him one morning, when I saw him, as I thought, a little anxious about his going and irresolute. Says I to him, “I fancy you can hardly find in your heart to leave me now.” “The more unkind is it in you,” said he, “severely unkind, to refuse a man that knows not how to part with you.”
“I am so far from being unkind to you,” said I, “that I will go all over the world with you, if you desire me, except to Paris, where you know I can’t go.”
“It is a pity so much love,” said he, “on both sides should ever separate.”
“Why then,” said I, “do you go away from me?”
“Because,” said he, “you won’t take me.”
“But if I won’t take you,” said I, “you may take me anywhere but to Paris.”
He was very loath to go anywhere, he said, without me, but he must go to Paris or to the East Indies.
I told him I did not use to court, but I durst venture myself to the East Indies with him if there was a necessity of his going.
He told me, God be thanked, he was in no necessity of going anywhere, but that he had a tempting invitation to go to the Indies.
I answered I would say nothing to that, but that I desired he would go anywhere but to Paris, because there he knew I must not go.
He said he had no remedy but to go where I could not go, for he could not bear to see me if he must not have me.
I told him that was the unkindest thing he could say of me, and that I ought to take it very ill, seeing I knew how very well to oblige him to stay without yielding to what he knew I could not yield to.
This amazed him, and he told me I was pleased to be mysterious, but that he was sure it was in nobody’s power to hinder him going if he resolved upon it, except me, who had influence enough upon him to make him do anything.
Yes, I told him, I could hinder him, because I knew he could no more do an unkind thing by me than he could do an unjust one; and to put him out of his pain, I told him I was with child.
He came to me and, taking me in his arms and kissing me a thousand times almost, said, why would I be so unkind not to tell him that before?
I told him ’twas hard that, to have him stay, I should be forced do as criminals do to avoid the gallows, plead my belly, and that I thought I had given him testimonies enough of an affection equal to that of a wife; if I had not only lain with him, been with child by him, shown myself unwilling to part with him but offered to go to the East Indies with him, and except one thing that I could not grant, what could he ask more?
He stood mute a good while, but afterwards told me he had a great deal more to say if I could assure him that I would not take ill whatever freedom he might use with me in his discourse.
I told him he might use any freedom in words with me, for a woman who had given leave to such other freedoms as I had done, had left herself no room to take anything ill, let it be what it would.
“Why then,” he said, “I hope you believe, madam, I was born a Christian, and that I have some sense of sacred things upon my mind. When I first broke in upon my own virtue and assaulted yours, when I surprised and, as it were, forced you to that which neither you intended nor I designed but a few hours before, it was upon a presumption that you would certainly marry me, if once I could go at length with you, and it was with an honest resolution to make you my wife.
“But I have been surprised with such a denial that no woman in such circumstances ever gave to a man, for certainly it was never known that any woman refused to marry a man that had first lain with her, much less a man that had gotten her with child. But you go upon different notions from all the world, and though you reason upon it so strongly that a man knows hardly what to answer, yet I must own there is something in it shocking to nature, and something very unkind to yourself. But, above all, it is unkind to the child that is yet unborn, who, if we marry, will come into the world with advantage enough, but, if not, is ruined before it is born, must bear the eternal reproach of what it is not guilty of, must be branded from its cradle with a mark of infamy, be loaded with the crimes and follies of its parents, and suffer for sins that it never committed. This I take to be very hard and indeed cruel to the poor infant not yet born, whom you cannot think of with any patience, if you have the common affection of a mother, and not do that for it which should at once place it on a level with the rest of the world, and not leave it to curse its parents for what also we ought to be ashamed of. I cannot, therefore,” says he, “but beg and entreat you, as you are a Christian and a mother, not to let the innocent lamb you go with be ruined before it is born, and leave it to curse and reproach us hereafter for what may be so easily avoided.
“Then, dear madam,” said he with a world of tenderness (and I thought I saw tears in his eyes), “allow me to repeat it, that I am a Christian, and consequently I do not allow what I have rashly, and without due consideration, done—I say I do not approve of it as lawful; and therefore though I did, with a view I have mentioned, one unjustifiable action, I cannot say that I could satisfy myself to live in a continual practice of what in judgment we must both condemn. And though I love you above all the women in the world, and have done enough to convince you of it by resolving to marry you after what has passed between us, and by offering to quit all pretensions to any part of your estate, so that I should, as it were, take a wife after I had lain with her, and without a farthing portion, which, as my circumstances are, I need not do—I say, notwithstanding my affection to you, which is inexpressible, yet I cannot give up soul as well as body, the interest of this world, and the hopes of another; and you cannot call this my disrespect to you.”
If ever any man in the world was truly valuable for the strictest honesty of intention, this was the man, and if ever woman in her senses rejected a man of merit on so trivial and frivolous a pretence, I was the woman; but surely it was the most preposterous thing that ever woman did.
He would have taken me as a wife, but would not entertain me as a whore. Was ever woman angry with any gentleman on that head? And was ever woman so stupid to choose to be a whore where she might have been an honest wife? But infatuations are next to being possessed of the devil. I was inflexible, and pretended to argue upon the point of a woman’s liberty, as before, but he took me short, and with more warmth than he had yet used with me, though with the utmost respect, replied, “Dear madam, you argue for liberty at the same time that you restrain yourself from that liberty which God and Nature has directed you to take, and, to supply the deficiency, propose a vicious liberty which is neither honourable nor religious. Will you propose liberty at the expense of modesty?”
I returned that he mistook me; I did not propose it, I only said that those that could not be content without concerning the sexes in that affair might do so indeed, might entertain a man as men do a mistress if they thought fit; but he did not hear me say I would do so, and though by what had passed he might well censure me in that part, yet he should find for the future, that I should freely converse with him without any inclination that way.
He told me he could not promise that for himself, and thought he ought not to trust himself with the opportunity; for that, as he had failed already, he was loath to lead himself into the temptation of offending again, and that this was the true reason of his resolving to go back to Paris; not that he could willingly leave me, and would be very far from wanting my invitation, but if he could not stay upon terms that became him, either as an honest man or a Christian, what could he do? And he hoped, he said, I could not blame him that he was unwilling anything that was to call him father should upbraid him with leaving him in the world to be called bastard; adding that he was astonished to think how I could satisfy myself to be so cruel to an innocent infant not yet born; professed he could neither bear the thoughts of it, much less bear to see it, and hoped I would not take it ill that he could not stay to see me delivered, for that very reason.
I saw he spoke this with a disturbed mind and that it was with some difficulty that he restrained his passion, so I declined any further discourse upon it, only said I hoped he would consider of it. “Oh, madam!” says he, “do not bid me consider, ’tis for you to consider.” And with that he went out of the room in a strange kind of confusion, as was easy to be seen in his countenance.
If I had not been one of the foolishest, as well as wickedest creatures upon earth, I could never have acted thus. I had one of the honestest, completest gentlemen upon earth at my hand; he had in one sense saved my life, but he had saved that life from ruin in a most remarkable manner. He loved me even to distraction, and had come from Paris to Rotterdam on purpose to seek me; he had offered me marriage even after I was with child by him, and had offered to quit all his pretensions to my estate, and give it up to my own management, having a plentiful estate of his own. Here I might have settled myself out of the reach even of disaster itself; his estate and mine would have purchased even then above two thousand pounds a year, and I might have lived like a queen, nay, far more happy than a queen; and which was above all, I had now an opportunity to have quitted a life of crime and debauchery which I had been given up to for several years, and to have sat down quiet in plenty and honour, and to have set myself apart to the great work which I have since seen so much necessity of and occasion for: I mean that of repentance.
But my measure of wickedness was not yet full. I continued obstinate against matrimony, and yet I could not bear the thoughts of his going away neither. As to the child, I was not very anxious about it; I told him I would promise him that it should never come to him to upbraid him with its being illegitimate; that if it was a boy I would breed it up like the son of a gentleman and use it well for his sake. And after a little more talk as this, and seeing him resolved to go, I retired, but could not help letting him see the tears run down my cheeks. He came to me and kissed me, entreated me, conjured me by the kindness he had shown me in my distress; by the justice he had done me in my bills and money affairs; by the respect which made him refuse a thousand pistoles from me for his expenses with that traitor the Jew; by the pledge of our misfortunes, so he called it, which I carried with me; and by all that the sincerest affection could propose to do, that I would not drive him away.
But it would not do. I was stupid and senseless, deaf to all his importunities, and continued so to the last; so we parted, only desiring me to promise that I would write him word when I was delivered, and how he might give me an answer. And this I engaged my word I would do; and upon his desiring to be informed which way I intended to dispose of myself, I told him I resolved to go directly to England and to London, where I proposed to lie in; but since he resolved to leave me, I told him I supposed it would be of no consequence to him what became of me.
He lay in his lodgings that night but went away early in the morning, leaving me a letter in which he repeated all he had said; recommended the care of the child, and desired of me that as he had remitted to me the offer of a thousand pistoles which I would have given him for the recompense of his charges and trouble with the Jew, and had given it me back, so he desired I would allow him to oblige me to set apart that thousand pistoles, with its improvement, for the child and for its education; earnestly pressing me to secure that little portion for the abandoned orphan when I should think fit, as he was sure I would, to throw away the rest upon something as worthless as my sincere friend at Paris. He concluded with moving me to reflect with the same regret as he did on our follies we had committed together, asked me forgiveness for being the aggressor in the fact, and forgave me everything, he said, but the cruelty of refusing him, which he owned he could not forgive me so heartily as he should do, because he was satisfied it was an injury to myself, would be an introduction to my ruin, and that I would seriously repent of it. He foretold some fatal things which he said he was well assured I should fall into, and that at last I would be ruined by a bad husband; bid me be the more wary, that I might render him a false prophet, but to remember that if ever I came into distress I had a fast friend at Paris, who would not upbraid me with the unkind things past, but would be always ready to return me good for evil.
This letter stunned me. I could not think it possible for anyone that had not dealt with the devil to write such a letter, for he spoke of some particular things which afterwards were to befall me with such an assurance that it frighted me beforehand; and when those things did come to pass I was persuaded he had some more than human knowledge. In a word, his advices to me to repent were very affectionate, his warnings of evil to happen to me were very kind, and his promises of assistance if I wanted him were so generous that I have seldom seen the like; and though I did not at first set much by that part, because I looked upon them as what might not happen and as what was improbable to happen at that time, yet all the rest of his letter was so moving that it left me very melancholy, and I cried four and twenty hours after, almost without ceasing, about it. And yet, even all this while, whatever it was that bewitched me, I had not one serious wish that I had taken him. I wished heartily indeed that I could have kept him with me, but I had a mortal aversion to marrying him, or indeed anybody else, but formed a thousand wild notions in my head that I was yet gay enough and young and handsome enough to please a man of quality, and that I would try my fortune at London, come of it what would.