The only favour I ever asked of him was for his gentleman, whom he had all along entrusted with the secret of our affair, and who had once so much offended him by some omissions in his duty, that he found it very hard to make his peace. He came and laid his case before my woman Amy and begged her to speak to me, to intercede for him, which I did, and on my account he was received again and pardoned; for which, the grateful dog requited me by getting to bed to his benefactress Amy. At which I was very angry, but Amy generously acknowledged that it was her fault as much as his, that she loved the fellow so much that she believed if he had not asked her, she should have asked him; I say this pacified me, and I only obtained of her that she should not let him know that I knew it.
I might have interspersed this part of my story with a great many pleasant parts and discourses which happened between my maid Amy and I, but I omit them on account of my own story, which has been so extraordinary. However, I must mention something as to Amy and her gentleman. I enquired of Amy upon what terms they came to be so intimate, but Amy seemed backward to explain herself. I did not care to press her upon a question of that nature, knowing that she might have answered my question with a question and have said, Why, how did I and the Prince come to be so intimate? So I left off further enquiring into it, till after some time she told it me all freely of her own accord; which, to cut it short, amounted to no more than this, that like mistress, like maid. As they had many leisure hours together below while they waited respectively when my lord and I were together above, I say they could hardly avoid the usual question one to another, namely, Why might not they do the same thing below that we did above?
On that account indeed, as I said above, I could not find in my heart to be angry with Amy. I was indeed afraid the girl would have been with cold too, but that did not happen, and so there was no hurt done; for Amy had been hanselled before as well as her mistress, and by the same party too, as you have heard.
After I was up again and my child provided with a good nurse, and, withal, winter coming on, it was proper to think of coming to Paris again, which I did. But as I had now a coach and horses, and some servants to attend me, by my lord’s allowance, I took the liberty to have them come to Paris sometimes, and so to take a tour into the Garden of the Tuileries and the other pleasant places of the city. It happened one day that my Prince (if I may call him so) had a mind to give me some diversion and to take the air with me, but that he might do it and not be publicly known, he comes to me in a coach of the Count de ——, a great officer of the Court, attended by his liveries also; so that, in a word, it was impossible to guess by the equipage who I was or whom I belonged to. Also, that I might be the more effectually concealed, he ordered me to be taken up at a mantua-maker’s house, where he sometimes came, whether upon other amours or not was no business of mine to enquire. I knew nothing whither he intended to carry me, but when he was in the coach with me, he told me he had ordered his servants to go to Court with me, and he would show me some of the beau-monde. I told him I cared not where I went while I had the honour to have him with me. So he carried me to the fine palace of Meudon, where the Dauphin then was, and where he had some particular intimacy with one of the Dauphin’s domestics, who procured a retreat for me in his lodgings while we stayed there, which was three or four days.
While I was there the King happened to come thither from Versailles, and, making but a short stay, visited madam the Dauphiness, who was then living. The Prince was here incognito only because of his being with me, and therefore when he heard that the King was in the Gardens he kept close within the lodgings; but the gentleman in whose lodgings we were, with his lady and several others, went out to see the King, and I had the honour to be asked to go with them.
After we had seen the King, who did not stay long in the Gardens, we walked up the broad terrace and, crossing the hall towards the great staircase, I had a sight which confounded me at once, as I doubt not it would have done to any woman in the world. The Horse Guards, or what they call there the Gendarmes, had upon some occasion been either upon duty or been reviewed, or something (I did not understand that part) was the matter that occasioned their being there, I know not what; but walking in the guard-chamber, and with his jack-boots on and the whole habit of the troop as it is worn when our Horse Guards are upon duty, as they call it, at St. James’s Park, I say, there, to my inexpressible confusion, I saw Mr. ——, my first husband, the brewer.
I could not be deceived. I passed so near him that I almost brushed him with my clothes, and looked him full in the face, but having my fan before my face so that he could not know me. However, I knew him perfectly well, and I heard him speak, which was a second way of knowing him. Besides being, you may be sure, astonished and surprised at such a sight, I turned about after I had passed him some steps, and pretending to ask the lady that was with me some questions, I stood as if I had viewed the great hall, the outer guard-chamber, and some other things; but I did it to take a full view of his dress, that I might further inform myself.
While I stood thus amusing the lady that was with me with questions, he walked, talking with another man of the same cloth, back again, just by me; and to my particular satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, take it which way you will, I heard him speak English, the other being, it seems, an Englishman.
I then asked the lady some other questions. “Pray, madam,” says I, “what are these troopers here? Are they the King’s Guards.” “No,” says she, “they are the Gendarmes; a small detachment of them, I suppose, attended the King to-day, but they are not His Majesty’s ordinary guard.” Another lady that was with her said, “No, madam, it seems that is not the case, for I heard them saying the Gendarmes were here to-day by special order, some of them being to march towards the Rhine, and these attend for orders, but they go back to-morrow to Orleans where they are expected.”
This satisfied me in part, but I found means after this to enquire whose particular troop it was that the gentlemen that were here belonged to, and with that I heard they would all be at Paris the week after.
Two days after this we returned for Paris, when I took occasion to speak to my lord that I heard the Gendarmes were to be in the city the next week, and that I should be charmed with seeing them march if they came in a body. He was so obliging in such things, that I need but just name a thing of that kind and it was done; so he ordered his gentleman (I should now call him Amy’s gentleman) to get me a place in a certain house, where I might see them march.
As he did not appear with me on this occasion, so I had the liberty of taking my woman Amy with me, and stood where we were very well accommodated for the observation which I was to make. I told Amy what I had seen, and she was as forward to make the discovery as I was to have her, and almost as much surprised at the thing itself. In a word, the Gendarmes entered the city, as was expected, and made a most glorious show indeed, being new clothed and armed, and being to have their standards blessed by the Archbishop of Paris. On this occasion they indeed looked very gay, and as they marched very leisurely I had time to take as critical a view and make as nice a search among them as I pleased. Here, in a particular rank eminent for one monstrous-sized man on the right, here, I say, I saw my gentleman again, and a very handsome jolly fellow he was as any in the troop, though not so monstrous large as that great one I spoke of, who it seems was, however, a gentleman of a good family in Gascony, and was called the Giant of Gascony.
It was a kind of good fortune to us, among the other circumstances of it, that something caused the troops to halt in their march a little before that particular rank came right against that window which I stood in, so that then we had occasion to take our full view of him at a small distance, and so as not to doubt of his being the same person.
Amy, who thought she might on many accounts venture with more safety to be particular than I could, asked her gentleman how a particular man whom she saw there among the Gendarmes might be enquired after and found out, she having seen an Englishman riding there which was supposed to be dead in England for several years before she came out of London, and that his wife had married again. It was a question the gentleman did not well understand how to answer, but another person that stood by told her, if she would tell him the gentleman’s name, he would endeavour to find him out for her, and asked jestingly if he was her lover. Amy put that off with a laugh but still continued her enquiry, and in such a manner as the gentleman easily perceived she was in earnest; so he left bantering and asked her in what part of the troop he rode. She foolishly told him his name, which she should not have done, and pointing to the cornet that troop carried, which was not then quite out of sight, she let him easily know whereabouts he rode, only she could not name the captain. However, he gave her such directions afterwards that, in short, Amy, who was an indefatigable girl, found him out. It seems he had not changed his name, not supposing any enquiry would be made after him here; but I say Amy found him out and went boldly to his quarters, asked for him, and he came out to her immediately.
I believe I was not more confounded at my first seeing him at Meudon than he was at seeing Amy. He started, and turned pale as death; Amy believed if he had seen her at first in any convenient place for so villainous a purpose, he would have murdered her.
But he started, as I say above, and asked in English, with an admiration, “What are you?” “Sir,” says she, “don’t you know me?” ”Yes,” says he, “I knew you when you were alive, but what you are now, whether ghost or substance, I know not.” “Be not afraid, sir, of that,” says Amy, ”I am the same Amy that I was in your service, and do not speak to you now for any hurt, but that I saw you accidentally, yesterday, ride among the soldiers, I thought you might be glad to hear from your friends at London.” “Well, Amy,” says he then, having a little recovered himself, “how does everybody do? What, is your mistress here?” Thus they began:—
Amy. “My mistress, sir, alas! not the mistress you meant; poor gentlewoman, you left her in a sad condition.”
Gent. “Why, that’s true, Amy, but it could not be helped. I was in a sad condition myself.”
Amy. “I believe so indeed, sir, or else you had not gone away as you did; for it was a very terrible condition you left them all in, that I must say.”
Gent. “What did they do after I was gone?”
Amy. “Do, sir! very miserably, you may be sure. How could it be otherwise?”
Gent. “Well, that’s true indeed, but you may tell me, Amy, what became of them, if you please; for though I went so away, it was not because I did not love them all very well, but because I could not bear to see the poverty that was coming upon them and which it was not in my power to help. What could I do?”
Amy. “Nay, I believe so indeed, and I have heard my mistress say many times she did not doubt but your affliction was as great as hers almost, wherever you were.”
Gent. “Why, did she believe I was alive, then?”
Amy. “Yes, sir, she always said she believed you were alive, because she thought she should have heard something of you if you had been dead.”
Gent. “Ay, ay, my perplexity was very great indeed, or else I had never gone away.”
Amy. “It was very cruel, though, to the poor lady, sir, my mistress. She almost broke her heart for you at first, for fear of what might befall you, and at last because she could not hear from you.”
Gent. “Alas! Amy, what could I do? things were driven to the last extremity before I went. I could have done nothing but help starve them all if I had stayed, and besides, I could not bear to see it.”
Amy. “You know, sir, I can say little to what passed before, but I am a melancholy witness to the sad distresses of my poor mistress as long as I stayed with her, and which would grieve your heart to hear them.”
Here she tells my whole story to the time that the parish took off one of my children, and which she perceived very much affected him, and he shook his head and said some things very bitter when he heard of the cruelty of his own relations to me.
Gent. “Well, Amy, I have heard enough so far; what did she do afterwards?”
Amy. “I can’t give you any further account, sir; my mistress would not let me stay with her any longer, she said she could neither pay me nor subsist me. I told her I would serve her without any wages; but I could not live without victuals, you know, so I was forced to leave her, poor lady, sore against my will, and I heard afterwards that the landlord seized her goods. So she was, I suppose, turned out of doors, for as I went by the door about a month after I saw the house shut up, and about a fortnight after that I found there were workmen at work fitting it up, as I suppose, for a new tenant. But none of the neighbours could tell me what was become of my poor mistress, only that they said she was so poor that it was next to begging; that some of the neighbouring gentlefolks had relieved her or that else she must have starved.”
Then she went on and told him that after that they never heard any more of (me) her mistress, but that she had been seen once or twice in the city, very shabby and poor in clothes, and it was thought she worked with her needle for her bread. All this the jade said with so much cunning, and managed and humoured it so well, and wiped her eyes and cried so artificially, that he took it all as it was intended he should, and once or twice she saw tears in his eyes too. He told her it was a moving, melancholy story and it had almost broken his heart at first, but that he was driven to the last extremity and could do nothing but stay and see them all starve, which he could not bear the thoughts of, but should have pistoled himself if any such thing had happened while he was there. That he left (me) his wife all the money he had in the world but £25, which was as little as he could take with him to seek his fortune in the world; he could not doubt but that his relations, seeing they were all rich, would have taken the poor children off and not let them come to the parish; and that his wife was young and handsome and, he thought, might marry again, perhaps to her advantage, and for that very reason he never wrote to her or let her know he was alive, that she might in a reasonable term of years marry, and perhaps mend her fortunes. That he resolved never to claim her, because he should rejoice to hear that she had settled to her mind, and that he wished there had been a law made to empower a woman to marry if her husband was not heard of in so long time, which time he thought should not be above four years, which was long enough to send word in to a wife or family from any part of the world.
Amy said she could say nothing to that but this, that she was satisfied her mistress would marry nobody unless she had certain intelligence that he had been dead from somebody that saw him buried. “But, alas!” says Amy, “my mistress was reduced to such dismal circumstances that nobody would be so foolish to think of her unless it had been somebody to go a-begging with her.”
Amy then, seeing him so perfectly deluded, made a long and lamentable outcry, how she had been deluded away to marry a poor footman. ”For he is no worse or better,” says she, “though he calls himself a lord’s gentleman; and here,” says Amy, “he has dragged me over into a strange country to make a beggar of me.” And then she falls a-howling again and snivelling, which, by the way, was all hypocrisy, but acted so to the life as perfectly deceived him, and he gave entire credit to every word of it.
“Why, Amy,” says he, “you are very well dressed, you don’t look as if you were in danger of being a beggar.” “Ay, hang him,” says Amy, “they love to have fine clothes here if they have never a smock under them, but I love to have money in cash rather than a chest full of fine clothes; besides, sir,” says she, “most of the clothes I have were given me in the last place I had when I went away from my mistress.”
Upon the whole of the discourse Amy got out of him what condition he was in and how he lived, upon her promise to him that if ever she came to England and should see her old mistress, she should not let her know that he was alive. “Alas! sir,” says Amy, “I may never come to see England again as long as I live, and if I should, it would be ten thousand to one whether I shall see my old mistress; for how should I know which way to look for her, or what part of England she may be in? Not I,” says she, “I don’t so much as know how to enquire for her; and if I should,” says Amy, “ever be so happy as to see her, I would not do her so much mischief as to tell her where you were, sir, unless she was in a condition to help herself and you too.” This further deluded him, and made him entirely open in his conversing with her. As to his own circumstances, he told her she saw him in the highest preferment he had arrived to or was ever like to arrive to, for having no friends or acquaintances in France, and which was worse, no money, he never expected to rise; that he could have been made a lieutenant to a troop of light horse but the week before, by the favour of an officer in the Gendarmes who was his friend, but that he must have found 8,000 livres to have paid for it to the gentleman who possessed it and had leave given him to sell. “But where could I get 8,000 livres,” says he, “that have never been master of 500 livres ready money at a time since I came into France?”
“Oh dear! sir,” says Amy, “I am very sorry to hear you say so. I fancy if you once got up to some preferment you would think of my old mistress again and do something for her. Poor lady,” says Amy, “she wants it, to be sure.” And then she falls a-crying again. “’tis a sad thing indeed,” says she, “that you should be so hard put to it for money when you had got a friend to recommend you, and should lose it for want of money.” “Ay, so it was, Amy, indeed,” says he; “but what can a stranger do that has neither money nor friends?” Here Amy puts in again on my account. “Well,” says she, “my poor mistress has had the loss, though she knows nothing of it. Oh dear! how happy it would have been, to be sure, sir, you would have helped her all you could.” “Ay,” says he, “Amy, so I would, with all my heart, and even as I am I would send her some relief if I thought she wanted it; only that then letting her know I was alive might do her some prejudice in case of her settling, or marrying anybody.”
“Alas!” says Amy. “Marry! who will marry her in the poor condition she is in?” And so their discourse ended for that time.
All this was mere talk on both sides, and words of course, for on further enquiry Amy found that he had no such offer of a lieutenant’s commission or anything like it, and that he rambled in his discourse from one thing to another. But of that in its place.
You may be sure that this discourse as Amy at first related it was moving to the last degree upon me, and I was once going to have sent him the 8,000 livres to purchase the commission he had spoken of; but as I knew his character better than anybody, I was willing to search a little further into it; and so I sent Amy to enquire of some other of the troop to see what character he had, and whether there was anything in the story of a lieutenant’s commission or no.
But Amy soon came to a better understanding of him. for she presently learnt that he had a most scoundrelly character, that there was nothing of weight in anything he said, but that he was, in short, a mere sharper, one that would stick at nothing to get money, and that there was no depending on anything he said; and that, more especially about the lieutenant’s commission, she understood that there was nothing at all in it, but they told her how he had often made use of that sham to borrow money, and move gentlemen to pity him and lend him money in hopes to get him preferment; that he had reported that he had a wife and five children in England whom he maintained out of his pay, and by these shifts had run into debt in several places, and upon several complaints for such things he had been threatened to be turned out of the Gendarmes; and that, in short, he was not to be believed in anything he said, or trusted on any account.
Upon this information Amy began to cool in her further meddling with him, and told me it was not safe for me to attempt doing him any good, unless I resolved to put him upon suspicions and enquiries, which might be to my ruin in the condition I was now in.
I was soon confirmed in this part of his character, for the next time that Amy came to talk with him he discovered himself more effectually; for while she had put him in hopes of procuring one to advance the money for the lieutenant’s commission for him upon easy conditions, he by degrees dropped the discourse, then pretended it was too late and that he could not get it, and then descended to ask poor Amy to lend him 500 pistoles.
Amy pretended poverty, that her circumstances were but mean, and that she could not raise such a sum; and this she did to try him to the utmost. He descended to 300, then to 100, then to 50, and then to a pistole, which she lent him; and he, never intending to pay it, played out of her sight as much as he could. And thus being satisfied that he was the same worthless thing he had ever been, I threw off all thoughts of him; whereas had he been a man of any sense and of any principle of honour, I had it in my thoughts to retire to England again, send over for him, and have lived honestly with him. But as a fool is the worst of husbands to do a woman good, so a fool is the worst husband a woman can do good to. I would willingly have done him good, but he was not qualified to receive it or make the best use of it. Had I sent him 10,000 crowns instead of 8,000 livres, and sent it with the express condition that he should immediately have bought himself the commission he talked of with part of the money, and have sent some of it to relieve the necessities of his poor miserable wife at London and to prevent his children to be kept by the parish, it was evident he would have been still but a private trooper, and his wife and children should still have starved at London or been kept of mere charity, as, for aught he knew, they then were.
Seeing therefore no remedy, I was obliged to withdraw my hand from him that had been my first destroyer, and reserve the assistance that I intended to have given him for another more desirable opportunity. All that I had now to do was to keep myself out of his sight, which was not very difficult for me to do considering in what station he lived.
Amy and I had several consultations then upon the main question, namely, how to be sure never to chop upon him again by chance and so be surprised into a discovery, which would have been a fatal discovery indeed. Amy proposed that we should take care always to know where the Gendarmes were quartered, and thereby effectually avoid them; and this was one way.
But this was not so as to be fully to my satisfaction. No ordinary ways of enquiring where the Gendarmes were quartered were sufficient to me, but I found out a fellow who was completely qualified for the work of a spy (for France has plenty of such people). This man I employed to be a constant and particular attendant upon his person and motions, and he was especially employed and ordered to haunt him as a ghost, that he should scarce let him be ever out of his sight. He performed this to a nicety, and failed not to give me a perfect journal of all his motions from day to day; and, whether for his pleasures or his business, was always at his heels.
This was somewhat expensive, and such a fellow merited to be well paid; but he did his business so exquisitely punctual, that this poor man scarce went out of the house without my knowing the way he went, the company he kept, when he went abroad, and when he stayed at home.
By this extraordinary conduct I made myself safe, and so went out in public or stayed at home, as I found he was or was not in a possibility of being at Paris, at Versailles, or any place I had occasion to be at. This, though it was very chargeable, yet as I found it absolutely necessary, so I took no thought about the expense of it, for I knew I could not purchase my safety too dear.
By this management I found an opportunity to see what a most insignificant, unthinking life the poor indolent wretch, who by his unactive temper had at first been my ruin, now lived; how he only rose in the morning to go to bed at night; that saving the necessary motion of the troops, which he was obliged to attend, he was a mere motionless animal, of no consequence in the world; that he seemed to be one who, though he was indeed alive, had no manner of business in life but to stay to be called out of it. He neither kept any company, minded any sport, played at any game, nor indeed did anything of moment, but, in short, sauntered about like one that it was not two livres’ value whether he was dead or alive; that when he was gone would leave no remembrance behind him that ever he was here; that if he ever did anything in the world to be talked of, it was only to get five beggars and starve his wife. The journal of his life, which I had constantly sent me every week, was the least significant of anything of its kind that was ever seen. As it had really nothing of earnest in it, so it would make no jest to relate it; it was not important enough so much as to make the reader merry withal, and for that reason I omit it.
Yet this nothing-doing wretch I was obliged to watch and guard against, as against the only thing that was capable of doing me hurt in the world. I was to shun him as we would shun a spectre, or even the devil if he was actually in our way, and it cost me after the rate of 150 livres a month, and very cheap too, to have this creature constantly kept in view. That is to say, my spy undertook never to let him be out of his sight an hour but so as that he could give an account of him; which was much the easier to be done, considering his way of living, for he was sure that for whole weeks together he would be ten hours of the day half asleep on a bench at the tavern door where he quartered, or drunk within the house.
Though this wicked life he led sometimes moved me to pity him and to wonder how so ill-bred, gentlemanly a man as he once was could degenerate into such a useless thing as he now appeared, yet at the same time it gave me most contemptible thoughts of him, and made me often say I was a warning for all the ladies of Europe against marrying of fools. A man of sense falls in the world and gets up again, and a woman has some chance for herself; but with a fool, once fall and ever undone, once in the ditch and die in the ditch, once poor and sure to starve.
But ’tis time to have done with him. Once I had nothing to hope for but to see him again, now my only felicity was if possible never to see him, and above all to keep him from seeing me; which, as above, I took effectual care of.