§ 10

Daniel Defoe

IN ALL THIS affluence of my good fortune I did not forget that I had been rich and poor once already, alternately, and that I ought to know that the circumstances I was now in were not to be expected to last always; that I had one child and expected another, and if I bred often it would something impair me in the great article that supported my interest, I mean what he called beauty; that as that declined I might expect the fire would abate, and the warmth with which I was now so caressed would cool, and in time, like the other mistresses of great men, I might be dropped again; and that, therefore, it was my business to take care that I should fall as softly as I could.

I say I did not forget, therefore, to make as good provision for myself as if I had had nothing to have subsisted on but what I now gained, whereas I had not less than ten thousand pounds, as I said above, which I had amassed, or secured rather, out of the ruins of my faithful friend the jeweller; and which, he little thinking of what was so near him when he went out, told me, though in a kind of a jest, was all my own if he was knocked on the head, and which, upon that title, I took care to preserve.

My greatest difficulty now was how to secure my wealth and to keep what I had got, for I had greatly added to this wealth by the generous bounty of the Prince ——, and the more by the private retired manner of living, which he rather desired for privacy than parsimony, for he supplied me for a more magnificent way of life than I desired if it had been proper.

I shall cut short the history of this prosperous wickedness with telling you I brought him a third son within little more than eleven months after our return from Italy, that now I lived a little more openly, and went by a particular name which he gave me abroad, but which I must omit, viz. the Countess de ——, and had coaches and servants suitable to the quality he had given me the appearance of. And which is more than usually happens in such cases, this held eight years from the beginning, during which time, as I had been very faithful to him, so I must say, as above, that I believe he was so separated to me, that whereas he usually had two or three women which he kept privately, he had not in all that time meddled with any of them, but that I had so perfectly engrossed him that he dropped them all. Not perhaps that he saved much by it, for I was a very chargeable mistress to him, that I must acknowledge, but it was all owing to his particular affection to me, not to my extravagance; for, as I said, he never gave me leave to ask him for anything, but poured in his favours and presents faster than I expected, and so fast as I could not have the assurance to make the least mention of desiring more.

Nor do I speak this of my own guess—I mean about his constancy to me and his quitting all other women—but the old harridan, as I may call her, whom he made the guide of our travelling, and who was a strange old creature, told me a thousand stories of his gallantry, as she called it, and how, as he had no less than three mistresses at one time and, as I found, all, of her procuring, he had of a sudden dropped them all, and that he was entirely lost to both her and them, that they did believe he had fallen into some new hands, but she could never hear whom or where till he sent for her to go this journey. And then the old hag complimented me upon his choice: that she did not wonder I had so engrossed him—so much beauty, etc.—and there she stopped.

Upon the whole I found by her what was, you may be sure, to my particular satisfaction, viz. that, as above, I had him all my own.

But the highest tide has its ebb, and in all things of this kind there is a reflux which sometimes also is more impetuously violent than the first aggression. My Prince was a man of a vast fortune, though no sovereign, and therefore there was no probability that the expense of keeping a mistress could be injurious to him as to his estate. He had also several employments, both out of France as well as in it, for, as above, I say he was not a subject of France, though he lived in that Court. He had a Princess, a wife with whom he had lived several years, and a woman (so the voice of fame reported) the most valuable of her sex, of birth equal to him if not superior, and of fortune proportionable, but in beauty, wit, and a thousand good qualities superior not to most women but even to all her sex; and as to her virtue, the character, which was most justly her due, was that of not only the best of princesses but even the best of women.

They lived in the utmost harmony, as with such a Princess it was impossible to be otherwise. But yet the Princess was not insensible that her lord had his foibles, that he did make some excursions, and particularly that he had one favourite mistress which sometimes engrossed him more than she (the Princess) could wish or be easily satisfied with. However, she was so good, so generous, so truly kind a wife, that she never gave him any uneasiness on this account, except so much as must arise from his sense of her bearing the affront of it with such patience and such a profound respect for him as was in itself enough to have reformed him, and did sometimes shock his generous mind so as to keep him at home, as I may call it, a great while together; and it was not long before I not only perceived it by his absence, but really got a knowledge of the reason of it, and once or twice he even acknowledged it to me.

It was a point that lay not in me to manage. I made a kind of motion once or twice to him to leave me and keep himself to her, as he ought by the laws and rites of matrimony to do, and argued the generosity of the Princess to him to persuade him; but I was a hypocrite, for had I prevailed with him really to be honest, I had lost him, which I could not bear the thoughts of; and he might easily see I was not in earnest. One time in particular, when I took upon me to talk at this rate, I found when I argued so much for the virtue and honour, the birth, and above all the generous usage he found in the person of the Princess with respect to his private amours, and how it should prevail upon him, etc.—I found it began to affect him, and he returned, “And do you indeed,” says he, “persuade me to leave you? Would you have me think you sincere?” I looked up in his face, smiling, ”Not for any other favourite, my lord,” said I, “that would break my heart, but for madam the Princess!” said I; and then I could say no more. Tears followed, and I sat silent awhile. “Well,” said he, “if ever I do leave you it shall be on the virtuous account; it shall be for the Princess, I assure you it shall be for no other woman.” “That’s enough, my lord,” said I, “there I ought to submit; and while I am assured it shall be for no other mistress, I promise Your Highness I will not repine, or that, if I do, it shall be a silent grief, it shall not interrupt your felicity.”

All this while I said I knew not what, and said what I was no more able to do than he was able to leave me, which, at that time, he owned he could not do, no, not for the Princess herself.

But another turn of affairs determined this matter, for the Princess was taken very ill, and in the opinion of all her physicians, very dangerously so. In her sickness she desired to speak with her lord and to take her leave of him. At this grievous parting she said so many passionate kind things to him, lamented that she had left him no children (she had had three but they were dead), hinted to him that it was one of the chief things which gave her satisfaction in death, as to this world, that she should leave him room to have heirs to his family by some princess that should supply her place; with all humility, but with a Christian earnestness, recommended to him to do justice to such princess, whoever it should be, from whom, to be sure, he would expect justice; that is to say, to keep to her singly according to the solemnest part of the marriage covenant; humbly asked His Highness’s pardon if she had any way offended him, and appealing to Heaven, before whose tribunal she was to appear, that she had never violated her honour or her duty to him, and praying to Jesus and the Blessed Virgin for His Highness;—and thus, with the most moving and most passionate expressions of her affection to him, took her last leave of him and died the next day.

This discourse from a Princess so valuable in herself and so dear to him, and the loss of her following so immediately after, made such deep impressions on him that he looked back with detestation upon the former part of his life, grew melancholy and reserved, changed his society and much of the general conduct of his life, resolved on a life regulated most strictly by the rules of virtue and piety, and, in a word, was quite another man.

The first part of his reformation was a storm upon me, for about ten days after the Princess’s funeral he sent a message to me by his gentleman, intimating, though in very civil terms and with a short preamble or introduction, that he desired I would not take it ill that he was obliged to let me know that he could see me no more. His gentleman told me a long story of the new regulation of life his lord had taken up, and that he had been so afflicted for the loss of his Princess, that he thought it would either shorten his life or he would retire into some religious house to end his days in solitude.

I need not direct anybody to suppose how I received the news. I was indeed exceedingly surprised at it, and had much to do to support myself when the first part of it was delivered, though the gentleman delivered his errand with great respect, and with all the regard to me that he was able and with a great deal of ceremony, also telling me how much he was concerned to bring me such a message.

But when I heard the particulars of the story at large, and especially that of the lady’s discourse to the Prince a little before her death, I was fully satisfied. I knew very well he had done nothing but what any man must do that had a true sense upon him of the justice of the Princess’s discourse to him, and of the necessity there was of his altering his course of life if he intended to be either a Christian or an honest man. I say, when I heard this, I was perfectly easy. I confess it was a circumstance that it might be reasonably expected should have wrought something also upon me. I that had so much to reflect upon more than the Prince, that had now no more temptation of poverty or of the powerful motive which Amy used with me—namely, comply and live, deny and starve—I say, that I that had no poverty to introduce vice, but was grown not only well supplied but rich, and not only rich but was very rich; in a word, richer than I knew how to think of: for the truth of it was that thinking of it some times almost distracted me for want of knowing how to dispose of it and for fear of losing it all again by some cheat or trick, not knowing anybody that I could commit the trust of it to.

Besides, I should add at the close of this affair that the Prince did not, as I may say, turn me off rudely and with disgust, but with all the decency and goodness peculiar to himself and that could consist with a man reformed and struck with the sense of his having abused so good a lady as his late Princess had been. Nor did he send me away empty, but did everything like himself, and in particular ordered his gentleman to pay the rent of the house and all the expense of his two sons, and to tell me how they were taken care of and where; and also that I might at all times inspect the usage they had, and if I disliked anything it should be rectified. And having thus finished everything, he retired into Lorraine or somewhere that way, where he had an estate, and I never heard of him more, I mean not as a mistress.

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