I had the same particular to insist upon here with the Prince that I had with my gentleman before. I hesitated much at consenting at first asking, but the Prince told me princes did not court like other men, that they brought more powerful arguments, and he very prettily added that they were sooner repulsed than other men and ought to be sooner complied with, intimating, though very genteelly, that after a woman had positively refused him once, he could not, like other men, wait with importunities and stratagems and laying long sieges; but as such men as he stormed warmly, so, if repulsed, they made no second attacks; and indeed it was but reasonable, for as it was below their rank to be long battering a woman’s constancy, so they ran greater hazards in being exposed in their amours than other men did.
I took this for a satisfactory answer, and told His Highness that I had the same thoughts in respect to the manner of his attacks, for that his person and his arguments were irresistible; that a person of his rank and a munificence so unbounded could not be withstood; that no virtue was proof against him, except such as was able too to suffer martyrdom; that I thought it impossible I could be overcome, but that now I found it was impossible I should not be overcome; that so much goodness, joined with so much greatness, would have conquered a saint; and that I confessed he had the victory over me by a merit infinitely superior to the conquest he had made.
He made me a most obliging answer; told me abundance of fine things which still flattered my vanity, till at last I began to have pride enough to believe him and fancied myself a fit mistress for a prince.
As I had thus given the Prince the last favour, and he had all the freedom with me that it was possible for me to grant, so he gave me leave to use as much freedom with him another way, and that was to have everything of him I thought fit to command. And yet I did not ask of him with an air of avarice, as if I was greedily making a penny of him, but I managed him with such art that he generally anticipated my demands; he only requested of me that I would not think of taking another house, as I had intimated to His Highness that I had intended, not thinking it good enough to receive his visits in. But, he said, my house was the most convenient that could possibly be found in all Paris for an amour, especially for him, having a way out into three streets, and not overlooked by any neighbours, so that he could pass and repass without observation, for one of the back ways opened into a narrow dark alley, which alley was a thoroughfare or passage out of one street into another, and any person that went in or out by the door had no more to do but to see that there was nobody following him in the alley before he went in at the door. This request I knew was reasonable, and therefore I assured him I would not change my dwelling, seeing His Highness did not think it too mean for me to receive him in.
He also desired me that I would not take any more servants or set up any equipage, at least for the present, for that it would then be immediately concluded I had been left very rich, and then I should be thronged with the impertinence of admirers, who would be attracted by the money as well as by the beauty of a young widow, and he should be frequently interrupted in his visits; or that the world would conclude I was maintained by somebody and would be indefatigable to find out the person; so that he should have spies peeping at him every time he went out or in, which it would be impossible to disappoint, and that he should presently have it talked over all the toilets in Paris that the Prince de —— had got the jeweller’s widow for a mistress.
This was too just to oppose, and I made no scruple to tell His Highness that since he had stooped so low as to make me his own, he ought to have all the satisfaction in the world that I was all his own; that I would take all the measures he should please to direct me to avoid the impertinent attacks of others; and that if he thought fit I would be wholly within doors, and have it given out that I was obliged to go to England to solicit my affairs there after my husband’s misfortune, and that I was not expected there again for at least a year or two. This he liked very well; only, he said, that he would by no means have me confined, that it would injure my health, and that I should then take a country house in some village, a good way off from the city, where it should not be known who I was, and that I should be there sometimes, to divert me.
I made no scruple of the confinement, and told His Highness no place could be a confinement where I had such a visitor; and so I put off the country house, which would have been to remove myself further from him and have less of his company, and I made the house be, as it were, shut up. Amy indeed appeared, and when any of the neighbours and servants enquired, she answered in broken French that I was gone to England to look after my affairs, which presently went current through the streets about us. For you are to note that the people of Paris, especially the women, are the most busy and impertinent enquirers into the conduct of their neighbours, especially that of a single woman, that are in the world; though there are no greater intriguers in the universe than themselves, and perhaps that may be the reason of it, for it is an old but a sure rule that
When deep intrigues are close and shy,|
The guilty are the first that spy.
Thus His Highness had the most easy and yet the most undiscoverable access to me imaginable, and he seldom failed to come two or three nights in a week, and sometimes stayed two or three nights together. Once he told me he was resolved I should be weary of his company, and that he would learn to know what it was to be a prisoner; so he gave out among his servants that he was gone to ——, where he often went a-hunting, and that he should not return under a fortnight. And that fortnight he stayed wholly with me, and never went out of my doors.
Never woman in such a station lived a fortnight in so complete a fullness of human delight. For, to have the entire possession of one of the most accomplished princes in the world, and of the politest, best-bred man, to converse with him all day and, as he professed, charm him all night, what could be more inexpressibly pleasing, and especially to a woman of a vast deal of pride as I was?
To finish the felicity of this part, I must not forget that the devil had played a new game with me, and prevailed with me to satisfy myself with this amour as a lawful thing; that a prince of such grandeur and majesty, so infinitely superior to me, and one who had made such an introduction by an unparalleled bounty, I could not resist; and therefore that it was very lawful for me to do it, being at that time perfectly single and unengaged to any other man—as I was, most certainly, by the unaccountable absence of my first husband, and the murder of my gentleman who went for my second.
It cannot be doubted but that I was the easier to persuade myself of the truth of such a doctrine as this, when it was so much for my ease and for the repose of my mind to have it be so.
In things we wish, ’tis easy to deceive;|
What we would have, we willingly believe.
Besides, I had no casuists to resolve this doubt. The same devil that put this into my head bade me go to any of the Romish clergy and, under the pretence of confession, state the case exactly, and I should see they would either resolve it to be no sin at all, or absolve me upon the easiest penance. This I had a strong inclination to try, but I know not what scruple put me off it, for I could never bring myself to like having to do with those priests. And though it was strange that I, who had thus prostituted my chastity and given up all sense of virtue in two such particular cases, living a life of open adultery, should scruple anything; yet so it was, I argued with myself, that I could not be a cheat in anything that was esteemed sacred, that I could not be of one opinion and then pretend myself to be of another, nor could I go to confession who knew nothing of the manner of it, and should betray myself to the priest to be a Huguenot, and then might come into trouble; but, in short, though I was a whore, yet I was a Protestant whore, and could not act as if I was Popish upon any account whatsoever.
But, I say, I satisfied myself with the surprising occasion that as it was all irresistible, so it was all lawful; for that Heaven would not suffer us to be punished for that which it was not possible for us to avoid. And with these absurdities I kept conscience from giving me any considerable disturbance in all this matter, and I was as perfectly easy as to the lawfulness of it as if I had been married to the Prince and had had no other husband. So possible is it for us to roll ourselves up in wickedness, till we grow invulnerable by conscience; and that sentinel, once dozed, sleeps fast, not to be awakened while the tide of pleasure continues to flow or till something dark and dreadful brings us to ourselves again.
I have, I confess, wondered at the stupidity that my intellectual part was under all that while, what lethargic fumes dozed the soul, and how it was possible that I, who in the case before, where the temptation was many ways more forcible and the arguments stronger and more irresistible, was yet under a continued inquietude on account of the wicked life I led, could now live in the most profound tranquillity, and with an uninterrupted peace, nay, even rising up to satisfaction and joy, and yet in a more palpable state of adultery than before; for before, my gentleman who had called me wife had the pretence of his wife, being parted from him, refusing to do the duty of her once as a wife to him. As for me, my circumstances were the same; but as for the Prince, as he had a fine and extraordinary lady, or Princess, of his own, so he had had two or three mistresses more besides me and made no scruple of it at all.
However, I say, as to my own part I enjoyed myself in perfect tranquillity, and as the Prince was the only deity I worshipped, so I was really his idol. And however it was with his Princess, I assure you his other mistresses found a sensible difference; and though they could never find me out, yet I had good intelligence that they guessed very well that their lord had got some new favourite that robbed them of his company, and perhaps of some of his usual bounty too. And now I must mention the sacrifices he made to his idol; and they were not a few, I assure you.
As he loved like a prince, so he rewarded like a prince; for though he declined my making a figure, as above, he let me see that he was above doing it for the saving the expense of it—and so he told me—and that he would make it up in other things. First of all he sent me a toilet with all the appurtenances of silver, even so much as the frame of the table, and then for the house he gave me the table or sideboard of plate I mentioned above, with all things belonging to it of massy silver; so that, in short, I could not for my life study to ask him for any thing of plate which I had not.
He could then accommodate me in nothing more but jewels and clothes, or money for clothes. He sent his gentleman to the mercers, and bought me a suit or whole piece of the finest brocaded silk, figured with gold, and another with silver, and another of crimson, so that I had three suits of clothes such as the Queen of France would not have disdained to have worn at that time. Yet I went out nowhere; but as these were for me to put on when I went out of mourning, I dressed myself in them, one after another, always when His Highness came to see me.
I had no less than five several morning dresses besides these, so that I need never be seen twice in the same dress. To these he added several parcels of fine linen and of lace, so much that I had no room to ask for more, or indeed for so much.
I took the liberty once in our freedoms to tell him he was too bountiful and that I was too chargeable to him for a mistress, and that I would be his faithful servant at less expense to him, and that he not only left me no room to ask him for anything, but that he supplied me with such a profusion of good things that I scarce could wear them or use them unless I kept a great equipage, which he knew was no way convenient for him or for me. He smiled and took me in his arms, and told me he was resolved, while I was his, I should never be able to ask him for anything, but that he would be daily asking new favours of me.
After we were up, for this conference was in bed, he desired I would dress me in the best suit of clothes I had. It was a day or two after the three suits were made and brought home. I told him, if he pleased, I would rather dress me in that suit which I knew he liked best. He asked me how I could know which he would like best before he had seen them. I told him I would presume for once to guess at his fancy by my own, so I went away and dressed me in the second suit brocaded with silver, and returned in full dress, with a suit of lace upon my head which would have been worth in England £200 sterling; and I was every way set out as well as Amy could dress me, who was a very genteel dresser too. In this figure I came to him out of my dressing-room, which opened with folding doors into his bedchamber.
He sat as one astonished a good while, looking at me without speaking a word, till I came quite up to him, knelt on one knee to him, and almost, whether he would or no, kissed his hand. He took me up, and stood up himself, but was surprised when, taking me in his arms, he perceived tears to run down my cheeks. “My dear,” says he aloud, “what mean these tears?” ”My lord,” said I after some little check, for I could not speak presently, “I beseech you to believe me, they are not tears of sorrow but tears of joy. It is impossible for me to see myself snatched from the misery I was fallen into and at once to be in the arms of a Prince of such goodness, such immense bounty, and be treated in such a manner—’tis not possible, my lord,” said I, “to contain the satisfaction of it, and it will break out in an excess in some measure proportioned to your immense bounty and to the affection which Your Highness treats me with, who am so infinitely below you.”
It would look a little too much like a romance here to repeat all the kind things he said to me on that occasion, but I can’t omit one passage. As he saw the tears drop down my cheek, he pulls out a fine cambric handkerchief and was going to wipe the tears off, but checked his hand as if he was afraid to deface something. I say he checked his hand, and tossed the handkerchief to me to do it myself. I took the hint immediately, and with a kind of pleasant disdain, “How! my lord,” said I, “have you kissed me so often and don’t you know whether I am painted or not? Pray let Your Highness satisfy yourself that you have no cheats put upon you; for once let me be vain enough to say I have not deceived you with false colours.” With this I put a handkerchief into his hand and, taking his hand into mine, I made him wipe my face so hard that he was unwilling to do it for fear of hurting me.
He appeared surprised more than ever, and swore, which was the first time that I had heard him swear from my first knowing him, that he could not have believed there was any such skin, without paint, in the world. “Well, my lord,” said I, “Your Highness shall have a further demonstration than this—as to that which you are pleased to accept for beauty, that it is the mere work of nature.” And with that I stepped to the door, and rang a little bell for my woman Amy and bade her bring me a cupful of hot water, which she did. And when it was come I desired His Highness to feel if it was warm, which he did, and I immediately washed my face all over with it before him. This was indeed more than satisfaction, that is to say, than believing, for it was an undeniable demonstration, and he kissed my cheeks and breasts a thousand times with expressions of the greatest surprise imaginable.
Nor was I a very indifferent figure as to shape. Though I had had two children by my gentleman and five by my true husband, I say I was no despisable shape. And my Prince (I must be allowed the vanity to call him so) was taking his view of me as I walked from one end of the room to the other. At last he leads me to the darkest part of the room and, standing behind me, bade me hold up my head, when putting both his hands round my neck, as if he was spanning my neck to see how small it was, for it was long and small, he held my neck so long and so hard in his hands that I complained he hurt me a little. What he did it for I knew not, nor had I the least suspicion but that he was spanning my neck. But when I said he hurt me, he seemed to let go, and in half a minute more led me to a pier-glass, and behold I saw my neck clasped with a fine necklace of diamonds. whereas I felt no more what he was doing at all than if he had really done nothing at all, nor did I suspect it in the least. If I had an ounce of blood in me that did not fly up into my face, neck, and breasts, it must be from some interruption in the vessels. I was all on fire with the sight, and began to wonder what it was that was coming to me.
However, to let him see that I was not unqualified to receive benefits, I turned about: “My lord,” says I, “Your Highness is resolved to conquer by your bounty the very gratitude of your servants; you will leave no room for anything but thanks, and make those thanks useless too by their bearing no proportion to the occasion.”
“I love, child,” says he, “to see everything suitable: a fine gown and petticoat, a fine laced head. A fine face and neck and no necklace would not have made the object perfect. But why that blush, my dear?” says the Prince. “My lord,” said I, “all your gifts call for blushes, but above all I blush to receive what I am so ill able to merit, and may become so ill also.”
Thus far I am a standing mark of the weakness of great men in their vice, that value not squandering away immense wealth upon the most worthless creatures; or, to sum it up in a word, they raise the value of the object which they pretend to pitch upon by their fancy—I say, raise the value of it at their own expense, give vast presents for a ruinous favour which is so far from being equal to the price, that nothing will at last prove more absurd than the cost men are at to purchase their own destruction.
I could not, in the height of all this fine doing, I say I could not be without some just reflection, though conscience was, as I said, dumb as to any disturbance it gave me in my wickedness. My vanity was fed up to such a height that I had no room to give way to such reflections.
But I could not but sometimes look back with astonishment at the folly of men of quality, who, immense in their bounty as in their wealth, give, to a profusion and without bounds, to the most scandalous of our sex for granting them the liberty of abusing themselves and ruining both.
I that knew what this carcase of mine had been but a few years before, how overwhelmed with grief, drowned in tears, frighted with the prospect of beggary, and surrounded with rags and fatherless children; that was pawning and selling the rags that covered me, for a dinner, and sat on the ground, despairing of help and expecting to be starved, till my children were snatched from me to be kept by the parish—I that was after this a whore for bread and, abandoning conscience and virtue, lived with another woman’s husband; I that was despised by all my relations and my husband’s too; I that was left so entirely desolate, friendless, and helpless that I knew not how to get the least help to keep me from starving—that I should be caressed by a prince for the honour of having the scandalous use of my prostituted body, common before to his inferiors, and perhaps would not have denied one of his footmen but a little while before if I could have got my bread by it.
I say I could not but reflect upon the brutality and blindness of mankind, that, because nature had given me a good skin and some agreeable features, should suffer that beauty to be such a bait for appetite as to do such sordid, unaccountable things to obtain the possession of it.
It is for this reason that I have so largely set down the particulars of the caresses I was treated with by the jeweller, and also by this Prince; not to make the story an incentive to the vice, which I am now such a sorrowful penitent for being guilty of—God forbid any should make so vile a use of so good a design—but to draw the just picture of a man enslaved to the rage of his vicious appetite: how he defaces the image of God in his soul, dethrones his reason, causes conscience to abdicate the possession, and exalts sense into the vacant throne; how he deposes the man and exalts the brute.
Oh, could we hear now the reproaches this great man afterwards loaded himself with when he grew weary of this admired creature and became sick of his vice, how profitable would the report of them be to the reader of this story. But had he himself also known the dirty history of my actings upon the stage of life that little time I had been in the world, how much more severe would those reproaches have been upon himself. But I shall come to this again.