My landlord had been very kind indeed after he came to know my circumstances, though before he was acquainted with that part he had gone so far as to seize my goods, and to carry some of them off too.
But I had lived three-quarters of a year in his house after that and had paid him no rent, and, which was worse, I was in no condition to pay him any. However, I observed he came oftener to see me, looked kinder upon me, and spoke more friendly to me than he used to do; particularly the last two or three times he had been there he observed, he said, how poorly I lived, how low I was reduced, and the like, told me it grieved him for my sake; and the last time of all he was kinder still, told me he came to dine with me, and that I should give him leave to treat me. So he called my maid Amy and sent her out to buy a joint of meat; he told her what she should buy, but naming two or three things, either of which she might take. The maid, a cunning wench, and faithful to me as the skin to my back, did not buy anything outright, but brought the butcher along with her with both the things that she had chosen, for him to please himself; the one was a large very good leg of veal, the other a piece of the fore-ribs of roasting beef. He looked at them, but bade me chaffer with the butcher for him, and I did so, and came back to him and told him what the butcher demanded for either of them and what each of them came to; so he pulls out 11s. 3d., which they came to together, and bade me take them both; the rest, he said, would serve another time.
I was surprised, you may be sure, at the bounty of a man that had but a little while ago been my terror and had torn the goods out of my house like a fury; but I considered that my distresses had mollified his temper, and that he had afterwards been so compassionate as to give me leave to live rent free in the house a whole year.
But now he put on the face, not of a man of compassion only, but of a man of friendship and kindness, and this was so unexpected that it was surprising. We chatted together, and were, as I may call it, cheerful, which was more than I could say I had been for three years before. He sent for wine and beer too, for I had none; poor Amy and I had drank nothing but water for many weeks, and indeed I have often wondered at the faithful temper of the poor girl, for which I but ill requited her at last.
When Amy was come with the wine he made her fill a glass to him, and with the glass in his hand he came to me and kissed me, which I was, I confess, a little surprised at, but more at what followed; for he told me that as the sad condition which I was reduced to had made him pity me, so my conduct in it and the courage I bore it with had given him a more than ordinary respect for me, and made him very thoughtful for my good; that he was resolved for the present to do something to relieve me, and to employ his thoughts in the meantime to see if he could, for the future, put me into a way to support myself.
While he found me change colour and look surprised at his discourse, for so I did, to be sure, he turns to my maid Amy, and looking at her, he says to me “I say all this, madam, before your maid, because both she and you shall know that I have no ill design, and that I have in mere kindness resolved to do something for you if I can; and as I have been a witness of the uncommon honesty and fidelity of Mrs. Amy here to you in all your distresses, I know she may be trusted with so honest a design as mine is, for, I assure you, I bear a proportioned regard to your maid too for her affection to you.”
Amy made him a curtsy, and the poor girl looked so confounded with joy that she could not speak, but her colour came and went, and every now and then she blushed as red as scarlet and the next minute looked as pale as death. Well, having said this, he sat down, made me sit down, and then drank to me and made me drink two glasses of wine together. “For,” says he, “you have need of it”; and so indeed I had. When he had done so, “Come, Amy,” says he, “with your mistress’s leave you shall have a glass too”; so he made her drink two glasses also. And then rising up, “And now, Amy,” says he, “go and get dinner; and you, madam,” says he to me, “go up and dress you, and come down and smile and be merry,” adding, “I’ll make you easy if I can “; and in the meantime, he said, he would walk in the garden.
When he was gone, Amy changed her countenance indeed and looked as merry as ever she did in her life. “Dear madam,” says she, “what does this gentleman mean.” “Nay, Amy,” said I, “he means to do us good, you see, don’t he? I know no other meaning he can have, for he can get nothing by me.” “I warrant you, madam,” says she, “he’ll ask you a favour by and by.” “No, no, you are mistaken, Amy, I dare say,” said I; “you heard what he said, didn’t you?” “Ay,” says Amy, “it’s no matter for that; you shall see what he will do after dinner.” “Well, well, Amy,” says I, “you have hard thoughts of him; I cannot be of your opinion. I don’t see anything in him yet that looks like it.” “As to that, madam,” says Amy, “I don’t see anything of it yet neither; but what should move a gentleman to take pity on us as he does?” “Nay,” says I, “that’s a hard thing too, that we should judge a man to be wicked because he’s charitable, and vicious because he’s kind.” “Oh, madam,” says Amy, “there’s abundance of charity begins in that vice, and he is not so unacquainted with things as not to know that poverty is the strongest incentive, a temptation against which no virtue is powerful enough to stand out; he knows your condition as well as you do.” “Well, and what then?” “Why, then he knows too that you are young and handsome, and he has the surest bait in the world to take you with.”
“Well, Amy,” said I, “but he may find himself mistaken too in such a thing as that.” “Why, madam,” says Amy, “I hope you won’t deny him if he should offer it.”
“What d’ye mean by that, hussy?” said I. “No, I’d starve first.”
“I hope not, madam, I hope you would be wiser; I’m sure if he will set you up, as he talks of, you ought to deny him nothing; and you will starve if you do not consent, that’s certain.”
“What! consent to lie with him for bread? Amy,” said I, ”how can you talk so?”
“Nay, madam,” says Amy, “I don’t think you would for anything else; it would not be lawful for anything else but for bread, madam. Why, nobody can starve; there’s no bearing that, I’m sure.”
“Ay,” says I, “but if he would give me an estate to live on, he should not lie with me, I assure you.”
“Why, look you, madam, if he would but give you enough to live easy upon, he should lie with me for it with all my heart.”
“That’s a token, Amy, of inimitable kindness to me,” said I, “and I know how to value it; but there’s more friendship than honesty in it, Amy.”
“Oh, madam,” says Amy, “I’d do anything to get you out of this sad condition. As to honesty, I think honesty is out of the question when starvation is the case; are not we almost starved to death?”
“I am indeed,” said I, “and thou art for my sake; but to be a whore, Amy!”—and there I stopped.
“Dear madam,” says Amy, “if I will starve for your sake, I will be a whore or anything for your sake; why, I would die for you if I were put to it.”
“Why, that’s an excess of affection, Amy,” said I, “I never met with before; I wish I may be ever in condition to make some returns suitable. But, however, Amy, you shall not be a whore to him, to oblige him to be kind to me; no, Amy, nor I won’t be a whore to him if he would give me much more than he is able to give me or do for me.”
“Why, madam,” says Amy, “I don’t say I will go and ask him; but I say if he should promise to do so and so for you, and the condition was such that he would not serve you unless I would let him lie with me, he should lie with me as often as he would rather than you should not have his assistance. But this is but talk, madam, I don’t see any need of such discourse, and you are of opinion that there will be no need of it.”
“Indeed, so I am, Amy; but,” said I, “if there was, I tell you again I’d die before I would consent, or before you should consent for my sake.”
Hitherto I had not only preserved the virtue itself, but the virtuous inclination and resolution; and had I kept myself there I had been happy, though I had perished of mere hunger; for, without question, a woman ought rather to die than to prostitute her virtue and honour, let the temptation be what it will.
But to return to my story. He walked about the garden, which was indeed all in disorder and overrun with weeds, because I had not been able to hire a gardener to do anything to it, no, not so much as to dig up ground enough to sow a few turnips and carrots for family use. After he had viewed it, he came in and sent Amy to fetch a poor man, a gardener that used to help our manservant, and carried him into the garden and ordered him to do several things in it to put it into a little order; and this took him up near an hour.
By this time I had dressed me as well as I could, for though I had good linen left still, yet I had but a poor head-dress, and no knots but old fragments, no necklace, no ear-rings; all those things were gone long ago for mere bread.
However, I was tight and clean, and in better plight than he had seen me in a great while, and he looked extremely pleased to see me so, for he said I looked so disconsolate and so afflicted before, that it grieved him to see me; and he bade me pluck up a good heart, for he hoped to put me in a condition to live in the world and be beholden to nobody.
I told him that was impossible, for I must be beholden to him for it, for all the friends I had in the world would not or could not do so much for me as that he spoke of. “Well, widow,” says he (so he called me, and so indeed I was in the worst sense that desolate word could be used in), “if you are beholden to me, you shall be beholden to nobody else.”
By this time dinner was ready and Amy came in to lay the cloth, and indeed it was happy there was none to dine but he and I, for I had but six plates left in the house and but two dishes. However, he knew how things were, and bade me make no scruple about bringing out what I had, he hoped to see me in a better plight. He did not come, he said, to be entertained, but to entertain me and comfort and encourage me. Thus he went on, speaking so cheerfully to me and such cheerful things, that it was a cordial to my very soul to hear him speak.
Well, we went to dinner. I’m sure I had not eaten a good meal hardly in a twelvemonth, at least not of such a joint of meat as the leg of veal was. I ate indeed very heartily, and so did he, and he made me drink three or four glasses of wine, so that, in short, my spirits were lifted up to a degree I had not been used to; and I was not only cheerful but merry, and so he pressed me to be.
I told him I had a great deal of reason to be merry, seeing he had been so kind to me and had given me hopes of recovering me from the worst circumstances that ever woman of any sort of fortune was sunk into; that he could not but believe that what he had said to me was like life from the dead; that it was like recovering one sick from the brink of the grave. How I should ever make him a return any way suitable was what I had not yet had time to think of; I could only say that I should never forget it while I had life, and should be always ready to acknowledge it.
He said that was all he desired of me, that his reward would be the satisfaction of having rescued me from misery; that he found he was obliging one that knew what gratitude meant; that he would make it his business to make me completely easy, first or last, if it lay in his power; and in the meantime he bade me consider of anything that I thought he might do for me for my advantage and in order to make me perfectly easy.
After we had talked thus he bade me be cheerful. “Come,” says he, “lay aside these melancholy things and let us be merry.” Amy waited at the table, and she smiled and laughed and was so merry she could hardly contain it, for the girl loved me to an excess hardly to be described; and it was such an unexpected thing to hear any one talk to her mistress, that the wench was beside herself almost; and as soon as dinner was over, Amy went upstairs and put on her best clothes too, and came down dressed like a gentlewoman.
We sat together talking of a thousand things, of what had been and what was to be, all the rest of the day, and in the evening he took his leave of me with a thousand expressions of kindness and tenderness and true affection to me, but offered not the least of what my maid Amy had suggested.
At his going away he took me in his arms, protested an honest kindness to me, said a thousand kind things to me which I cannot now recollect, and, after kissing me twenty times or thereabouts, put a guinea into my hand, which he said was for my present supply, and told me that he would see me again before ’twas out; also, he gave Amy half a crown.
When he was gone, “Well, Amy,” said I, “are you convinced now that he is an honest as well as a true friend, and that there has been nothing, not the least appearance of anything of what you imagined, in his behaviour?” “Yes,” says Amy, “I am, but I admire at it; he is such a friend as the world sure has not abundance of to show.”
“I am sure,” says I, “he is such a friend as I have long wanted, and as I have as much need of as any creature in the world has or ever had” and, in short, I was so overcome with the comfort of it that I sat down and cried for joy a good while, as I had formerly cried for sorrow. Amy and I went to bed that night (for Amy lay with me) pretty early, but lay chatting almost all night about it, and the girl was so transported that she got up two or three times in the night and danced about the room in her shift; in short, the girl was half distracted with the joy of it, a testimony still of her violent affection for her mistress, in which no servant ever went beyond her.
We heard no more of him for two days, but the third day he came again; then he told me, with the same kindness, that he had ordered me a supply of household goods for the furnishing the house; that in particular he had sent me back all the goods that he had seized for rent, which consisted indeed of the best of my former furniture. “And now,” says he, “I’ll tell you what I have had in my head for you for your present supply, and that is,” says he, “that the house being well furnished, you shall let it out to lodgings for the summer gentry,” says he, “by which you will easily get a good, comfortable subsistence, especially seeing you shall pay me no rent for two years, nor after neither, unless you can afford it.”
This was the first view I had of living comfortably indeed, and it was a very probable way, I must confess, seeing we had very good conveniences, six rooms on a floor, and three storeys high. While he was laying down the scheme of my management, came a cart to the door with a load of goods, and an upholsterer’s man to put them up; they were chiefly the furniture of two rooms which he had carried away for his two years’ rent, with two fine cabinets and some pier-glasses out of the parlour, and several other valuable things.
These were all restored to their places, and he told me he gave them as freely as a satisfaction for the cruelty he had used me with before; and the furniture of one room being finished and set up, he told me he would furnish one chamber for himself, and would come and be one of my lodgers if I would give him leave.
I told him he ought not to ask me leave, who had so much right to make himself welcome. So the house began to look in some tolerable figure and clean; the garden also in about a fortnight’s work began to look something less like a wilderness than it used to do; and he ordered me to put up a bill for letting rooms, reserving one for himself to come to as he saw occasion.
When all was done to his mind, as to placing the goods, he seemed very well pleased, and we dined together again of his own providing, and the upholsterer’s man gone. After dinner he took me by the hand. “Come now, madam,” says he, “you must show me your house” (for he had a mind to see everything over again). “No, sir,” said I, “but I’ll go show you your house, if you please.” So we went up through all the rooms, and in the room which was appointed for himself Amy was doing something. “Well, Amy,” says he, “I intend to lie with you to-morrow night.” “To-night, if you please, sir,” says Amy very innocently; “your room is quite ready.” “Well, Amy,” says he, “I am glad you are so willing.” “No,” says Amy, “I mean your chamber is ready to-night”; and away she ran out of the room, ashamed enough, for the girl meant no harm, whatever she had said to me in private.
However, he said no more then; but when Amy was gone he walked about the room and looked at everything, and taking me by the hand he kissed me and spoke a great many kind, affectionate things to me indeed: as of his measures for my advantage, and what he would do to raise me again in the world; told me that my afflictions and the conduct I had shown in bearing them to such an extremity had so engaged him to me, that he valued me infinitely above all the women in the world; that though he was under such engagements that he could not marry me (his wife and he had been parted for some reasons which make too long a story to intermix with mine), yet that he would be everything else that a woman could ask in a husband. And with that he kissed me again and took me in his arms, but offered not the least uncivil action to me, and told me he hoped I would not deny him all the favours he should ask, because he resolved to ask nothing of me but what it was fit for a woman of virtue and modesty, for such he knew me to be, to yield.
I confess the terrible pressure of my former misery, the memory of which lay heavy upon my mind, and the surprising kindness with which he had delivered me, and withal, the expectations of what he might still do for me, were powerful things and made me have scarce the power to deny him anything he would ask. However, I told him thus, with an air of tenderness too, that he had done so much for me that I thought I ought to deny him nothing, only I hoped and depended upon him that he would not take the advantage of the infinite obligations I was under to him, to desire anything of me the yielding to which would lay me lower in his esteem than I desired to be; that as I took him to be a man of honour, so I knew he could not like me the better for doing anything that was below a woman of honesty and good manners to do.
He told me that he had done all this for me without so much as telling me what kindness or real affection he had for me; that I might not be under any necessity of yielding to him in anything for want of bread, and he would no more oppress my gratitude now than he would my necessity before, nor ask anything, supposing he would stop his favours or withdraw his kindness, if he was denied. It was true, he said, he might tell me more freely his mind now than before, seeing I had let him see that I accepted his assistance and saw that he was sincere in his design of serving me; that he had gone thus far to show me that he was kind to me, but that now he would tell me that he loved me, and yet would demonstrate that his love was both honourable and that what he should desire was what he might honestly ask and I might honestly grant.
I answered that, within those two limitations, I was sure I ought to deny him nothing, and I should think myself not ungrateful only but very unjust if I should; so he said no more, but I observed he kissed me more and took me in his arms in a kind of familiar way more than usual, and which once or twice put me in mind of my maid Amy’s words. And yet I must acknowledge I was so overcome with his goodness to me in those many kind things he had done, that I not only was easy at what he did and made no resistance, but was inclined to do the like, whatever he had offered to do. But he went no further than what I have said, nor did he offer so much as to sit down on the bedside with me, but took his leave, said he loved me tenderly and would convince me of it by such demonstrations as should be to my satisfaction. I told him I had a great deal of reason to believe him, that he was full master of the whole house and of me as far as was within the bounds we had spoken of, which I believed he would not break, and asked him if he would not lodge there that night.
He said he could not well stay that night, business requiring him in London, but added, smiling, that he would come the next day and take a night’s lodging with me. I pressed him to stay that night, and told him I should be glad a friend so valuable should be under the same roof with me; and indeed I began at that time not only to be much obliged to him, but to love him too, and that in a manner that I had not been acquainted with myself.
Oh let no woman slight the temptation that being generously delivered from trouble is to any spirit furnished with gratitude and just principles. This gentleman had freely and voluntarily delivered me from misery, from poverty, and rags; he had made me what I was, and put me into a way to be even more than I ever was, namely, to live happy and pleased, and on his bounty I depended. What could I say to this gentleman when he pressed me to yield to him and argued the lawfulness of it? But of that in its place.
I pressed him again to stay that night, and told him it was the first completely happy night that I had ever had in the house in my life, and I should be very sorry to have it without his company, who was the cause and foundation of it all; that we would be innocently merry, but that it could never be without him; and, in short, I courted him so, that he said he could not deny me, but he would take his horse and go to London, do the business he had to do, which, it seems, was to pay a foreign bill that was due that night and would else be protested, and that he would come back in three hours at furthest and sup with me; but bade me get nothing there, for since I was resolved to be merry, which was what he desired above all things, he would send me something from London. “And we will make it a wedding supper, my dear,” says he, and with that word took me in his arms and kissed me so vehemently that I made no question but he intended to do everything else that Amy had talked of.
I started a little at the word “wedding.” “What do you mean, to call it by such a name?” says I; adding, “We will have a supper, but t’other is impossible as well on your side as mine.” He laughed. “Well,” says he, “you shall call it what you will, but it may be the same thing, for I shall satisfy you it is not so impossible as you make it.”
“I don’t understand you,” said I; “have not I a husband and you a wife?”
“Well, well,” says he, “we will talk of that after supper.” So he rose up, gave me another kiss, and took his horse for London.
This kind of discourse had fired my blood, I confess, and I knew not what to think of it. It was plain now that he intended to lie with me, but how he would reconcile it to a legal thing like a marriage, that I could not imagine. We had both of us used Amy with so much intimacy and trusted her with everything, having such unexampled instances of her fidelity, that he made no scruple to kiss me and say all these things to me before her, nor had he cared one farthing, if I would have let him lie with me, to have had Amy there too all night. When he was gone, “Well, Amy,” says I, “what will all this come to now? I am all in a sweat at him.” “Come to, madam,” says Amy, “I see what it will come to; I must put you to bed to-night together,” “Why, you would not be so impudent, you jade you,” says I, “would you?” “Yes, I would,” says she, “with all my heart, and think you both as honest as ever you were in your lives.”
“What ails the slut to talk so?” said I. “Honest! how can it be honest?” “Why, I’ll tell you, madam.” says Amy; “I sounded it as soon as I heard him speak, and it is very true too. He calls you widow, and such indeed you are, for as my master has left you so many years, he is dead to be sure—at least he is dead to you, he is no husband—you are and ought to be free to marry who you will; and his wife being gone from him and refuses to lie with him, then he is a single man again as much as ever; and though you cannot bring the laws of the land to join you together, yet one refusing to do the once of a wife, and the other of a husband, you may certainly take one another fairly.”
“Nay, Amy,” says I, “if I could take him fairly, you may be sure I’d take him above all the men in the world. It turned the very heart within me when I heard him say he loved me; how could it do otherwise when you know what a condition I was in before, despised and trampled on by all the world? I could have taken him in my arms and kissed him as freely as he did me, if it had not been for shame.”
“Ay, and all the rest too,” says Amy, “at the first word. I don’t see how you can think of denying him anything. Has he not brought you out of the devil’s clutches, brought you out of the blackest misery that ever poor lady was reduced to? Can a woman deny such a man anything?”
“Nay, I don’t know what to do, Amy,” says I. “I hope he won’t desire anything of that kind of me, I hope he won’t attempt it; if he does, I know not what to say to him.”
“Not ask you!” says Amy; “depend upon it, he will ask you, and you will grant it, too; I’m sure my mistress is no fool. Come, pray, madam, let me go air you a clean shift; don’t let him find you in foul linen the wedding night.”
“But that I know you to be a very honest girl, Amy,” says I, “you would make me abhor you; why, you argue for the devil, as if you were one of his privy counsellors.”
“It’s no matter for that, madam, I say nothing but what I think. You own you love this gentleman, and he has given you sufficient testimony of his affection to you; your conditions are alike unhappy, and he is of opinion that he may take another woman, his first wife having broke her honour, and living from him, and that, though the laws of the land will not allow him to marry formally, yet that he may take another woman into his arms, provided he keeps true to the other woman as a wife; nay, he says it is usual to do so, and allowed by the custom of the place, in several countries abroad. And I must own I’m of the same mind, else ’tis in the power of a whore, after she has jilted and abandoned her husband, to confine him from the pleasure as well as convenience of a woman all the days of his life, which would be very unreasonable and, as times go, not tolerable to all people; and the like on your side, madam.”
Had I now had my senses about me, and had my reason not been overcome by the powerful attraction of so kind, so beneficent a friend, had I consulted conscience and virtue, I should have repelled this Amy, however faithful and honest to me in other things, as a viper and engine of the devil. I ought to have remembered that neither he nor I, either by the laws of God or man, could come together upon any other terms than that of notorious adultery. The ignorant jade’s argument that he had brought me out of the hands of the devil, by which she meant the devil of poverty and distress, should have been a powerful motive to me not to plunge myself into the jaws of hell and into the power of the real devil, in recompense for that deliverance. I should have looked upon all the good this man had done for me to have been the particular work of the goodness of Heaven, and that goodness should have moved me to a return of duty and humble obedience. I should have received the mercy thankfully, and applied it soberly to the praise and honour of my Maker, whereas by this wicked course all the bounty and kindness of this gentleman became a snare to me, was a mere bait to the devil’s hook. I received his kindness at the dear expense of body and soul, mortgaging faith, religion, conscience, and modesty for (as I may call it) a morsel of bread, or, if you will, ruined my soul from a principle of gratitude and gave myself up to the devil to show myself grateful to my benefactor. I must do the gentleman that justice as to say I verily believe that he did nothing but what he thought was lawful, and I must do that justice upon myself as to say I did what my own conscience convinced me at the very time I did it was horribly unlawful, scandalous, and abominable.
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 as 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’ll 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 ran 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 £7,000 never to abandon me, and at last showed me a bond for £500 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 three-score 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 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 awhile 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.