There was a Dutch merchant in Paris that was a person of great reputation for a man of substance and of honesty, but I had no manner of acquaintance with him, nor did I know how to get acquainted with him so as to discover my circumstances to him; but at last I employed my maid Amy (such I must be allowed to call her, notwithstanding what has been said of her, because she was in the place of a maidservant)—I say I employed my maid Amy to go to him, and she got a recommendation to him from somebody else, I knew not who, so that she got access to him well enough.
But now was my case as bad as before; for when I came to him what could I do? I had money and jewels to a vast value, and I might leave all those with him. That I might indeed do, and so I might with several other merchants in Paris, who would give me bills for it payable at London, but then I ran a hazard of my money, and I had nobody at London to send the bills to and so to stay till I had an account that they were accepted; for I had not one friend in London that I could have recourse to, so that indeed I knew not what to do.
In this case I had no remedy but that I must trust somebody, so I sent Amy to this Dutch merchant, as I said above. He was a little surprised when Amy came to him and talked to him of remitting a sum of about 12,000 pistoles to England, and began to think she came to put some cheat upon him; but when he found that Amy was but a servant, and that I came to him myself, the case was altered presently.
When I came to him myself I presently saw such a plainness in his dealing and such honesty in his countenance, that I made no scruple to tell him my whole story, viz. that I was a widow, that I had some jewels to dispose of, and also some money which I had a mind to send to England and to follow there myself, but being but a woman, and having no correspondence in London or anywhere else, I knew not what to do or how to secure my effects.
He dealt very candidly with me, but advised me, when he knew my case so particularly, to take bills upon Amsterdam and to go that way to England; for that I might lodge my treasure in the bank there in the most secure manner in the world, and that there he could recommend me to a man who perfectly understood jewels and would deal faithfully with me in the disposing them.
I thanked him; but scrupled very much the travelling so far in a strange country, and especially with such a treasure about me, that whether known or concealed, I did not know how to venture with it. Then he told me he would try to dispose of them there, that is, at Paris, and convert them into money, and so get me bills for the whole; and in a few days he brought a Jew to me who pretended to buy the jewels.
As soon as the Jew saw the jewels, I saw my folly, and it was ten thousand to one but I had been ruined and perhaps put to death in as cruel a manner as possible; and I was put in such a fright by it that I was once upon the point of flying for my life, and leaving the jewels and money too in the hands of the Dutchman without any bills or anything else. The case was thus:
As soon as the Jew saw the jewels he falls a-jabbering in Dutch or Portuguese to the merchant, and I could presently perceive that they were in some great surprise, both of them. The Jew held up his hands, looked at me with some horror, then talked Dutch again, and put himself into a thousand shapes, twisting his body and wringing up his face this way and that way in his discourse, stamping with his feet and throwing abroad his hands, as if he was not in a rage only but in a mere fury; then he would turn and give a look at me like the devil; I thought I never saw anything so frightful in my life.
At length I put in a word. “Sir,” says I to the Dutch merchant, “what is all this discourse to my business? What is this gentleman in all these passions about? I wish, if he is to treat with me, he would speak, that I may understand him; or if you have business of your own between you that is to be done first, let me withdraw and I’ll come again when you are at leisure.”
“No, no, madam,” says the Dutchman very kindly, “you must not go, all our discourse is about you and your jewels, and you shall hear it presently; it concerns you very much, I assure you.” “Concerns me,” says I, “what can it concern me so much as to put this gentleman into such agonies? And what makes him give me such devil’s looks as he does? Why, he looks as if he would devour me.”
The Jew understood me presently, continuing in a kind of rage and speaking in French, “Yes, madam, it does concern you much, very much, very much,” repeating the words, shaking his head, and then turning to the Dutchman, “Sir,” says he, “pray tell her what is the case.” “No,” says the merchant, “not yet, let us talk a little further of it by ourselves.” Upon which they withdrew into another room, where still they talked very high, but in a language I did not understand. I began to be a little surprised at what the Jew had said, you may be sure, and eager to know what he meant, and was very impatient till the Dutch merchant came back, and that so impatient that I called one of his servants to let him know I desired to speak with him. When he came in I asked his pardon for being so impatient, but told him I could not be easy till he had told me what the meaning of all this was. “Why, madam,” says the Dutch merchant, “in short, the meaning is what I am surprised at too. This man is a Jew and understands jewels perfectly well, and that was the reason I sent for him, to dispose of them to him for you; but as soon as he saw them he knew the jewels very distinctly, and flying out in a passion, as you see he did, told me in short that they were the very parcel of jewels which the English jeweller had about him, who was robbed going to Versailles (about eight years ago), to show them to the Prince de ——, and that it was for these very jewels that the poor gentleman was murdered. And he is in all this agony to make me ask you how you came by them, and he says you ought to be charged with the robbery and murder, and put to the question to discover who were the persons that did it, that they might be brought to justice.” While he said this the Jew came impudently back into the room without calling, which a little surprised me again.
The Dutch merchant spoke pretty good English, and he knew that the Jew did not understand English at all, so he told me the latter part, when the Jew came into the room, in English; at which I smiled, which put the Jew into his mad fit again, and shaking his head, and making his devil’s faces again, he seemed to threaten me for laughing, saying in French this was an affair I should have little reason to laugh at, and the like. At this I laughed again and flouted him, letting him see that I scorned him, and turning to the Dutch merchant, “Sir,” says I, “that those jewels were belonging to Mr. —— the English jeweller,” naming his name readily, “in that,” says I, “this person is right, but that I should be questioned how I came to have them is a token of his ignorance, which, however, he might have managed with a little more good manners till I had told him who I am. And both he and you too will be more easy in that part when I should tell you that I am the unhappy widow of that Mr. —— who was so barbarously murdered going to Versailles, and that he was not robbed of those jewels but of others, Mr. —— having left those behind him with me lest he should be robbed. Had I, sir, come otherwise by them, I should not have been weak enough to have exposed them to sale here, where the thing was done, but have carried them further off.”
This was an agreeable surprise to the Dutch merchant, who, being an honest man himself, believed everything I said; which indeed, being all really and literally true except the deficiency of my marriage, I spoke with such an unconcerned easiness, that it might plainly be seen that I had no guilt upon me as the Jew suggested.
The Jew was confounded when he heard that I was the jeweller’s wife; but as I had raised his passion with saying he looked at me with a devil’s face, he studied mischief in his heart, and answered that should not serve my turn; so called the Dutchman out again, when he told him that he resolved to prosecute this matter further.
There was one kind chance in this affair which indeed was my deliverance, and that was that the fool could not restrain his passion but must let it fly to the Dutch merchant, to whom, when they withdrew a second time, as above, he told that he would bring a process against me for the murder, and that it should cost me dear for using him at that rate; and away he went, desiring the Dutch merchant to tell him when I would be there again. Had he suspected that the Dutchman would have communicated the particulars to me, he would never have been so foolish as to have mentioned that part to him.
But the malice of his thoughts anticipated him, and the Dutch merchant was so good as to give me an account of his design, which indeed was wicked enough in its nature; but to me it would have been worse than otherwise it would to another, for upon examination I could not have proved myself to be the wife of the jeweller, so the suspicion might have been carried on with the better face; and then I should also have brought all his relations in England upon me, who, finding by the proceedings that I was not his wife but a mistress, or in English a whore, would immediately have laid claim to the jewels, as I had owned them to be his.
This thought immediately rushed into my head as soon as the Dutch merchant had told me what wicked things were in the head of that cursed Jew; and the villain (for so I must call him) convinced the Dutch merchant that he was in earnest by an expression which showed the rest of his design, and that was a plot to get the rest of the jewels into his hand.
When first he hinted to the Dutchman that the jewels were such a man’s, meaning my husband’s, he made wonderful explanations on account of their having been concealed so long. Where must they have lain? and what was the woman that brought them? and that she, meaning me, ought to be immediately apprehended and put into the hands of justice; and this was the time that, as I said, he made such horrid gestures and looked at me so like a devil.
The merchant hearing him talk at that rate, and seeing him in earnest, said to him, “Hold your tongue a little, this is a thing of consequence; if it be so, let you and I go into the next room and consider of it there.” And so they withdrew and left me.
Here, as before, I was uneasy and called him out, and having heard how it was, gave him that answer, that I was his wife, or widow, which the malicious Jew said should not serve my turn. And then it was that the Dutchman called him out again; and in this time of his withdrawing the merchant, finding, as above, that he was really in earnest, counterfeited a little to be of his mind and entered into proposals with him for the thing itself.
In this they agreed to go to an advocate or counsel for directions how to proceed, and to meet again the next day, against which time the merchant was to appoint me to come again with the jewels in order to sell them. “No,” says the merchant, “I will go further with her than so; I will desire her to leave the jewels with me, to show to another person, in order to get the better price for them.” “That’s right,” says the Jew, ”and I’ll engage she shall never be mistress of them again. They shall either be seized by us,” says he, “in the King’s name, or she shall be glad to give them up to us to prevent her being put to the torture.”
The merchant said yes to everything he offered, and they agreed to meet the next morning about it, and I was to be persuaded to leave the jewels with him and come to them the next day at four o’clock in order to make a good bargain for them, and on these conditions they parted. But the honest Dutchman, filled with indignation at the barbarous design, came directly to me and told me the whole story. “And now, madam,” says he, “you are to consider immediately what you have to do.”
I told him if I was sure to have justice I would not fear all that such a rogue could do to me, but how such things were carried on in France I knew not. I told him the greatest difficulty would be to prove our marriage, for that it was done in England, and in a remote part of England too, and which was worse, it would be hard to produce authentic vouchers of it, because we were married in private. “But as to the death of your husband, madam, what can be said to that?” said he. “Nay,” said I, “what can they say to it? In England,” added I, “if they would offer such an injury to anyone, they must prove the fact or give just reason for their suspicions. That my husband was murdered, that everyone knows; but that he was robbed, or of what or how much, that none knows, no, not myself; and why was I not questioned for it then? I have lived in Paris ever since, lived publicly, and no man has had yet the impudence to suggest such a thing of me.”
“I am fully satisfied of that,” says the merchant, “but as this is a rogue who will stick at nothing, what can we say? And who knows what he may swear? Suppose he should swear that he knows your husband had those particular jewels with him the morning when he went out, and that he showed them to him to consider their value and what price he should ask the Prince de —— for them.”
“Nay, by the same rule,” said I, “he may swear that I murdered my husband, if he finds it for his turn.”
“That’s true,” said he, “and if he should, I do not see what could save you. But,” he added, “I have found out his more immediate design. His design is to have you carried to the Châtelet, that the suspicion may appear just, and then to get the jewels out of your hands if possible, then at last to drop the prosecution on your consenting to quit the jewels to him; and how you will do to avoid this is the question which I would have you consider of.”
“My misfortune, sir,” said I, “is that I have no time to consider, and I have no person to consider with or advise about it. I find that innocence may be oppressed by such an impudent fellow as this; he that does not value a perjury has any man’s life at his mercy. But, sir,” said I, “is the justice such here, that while I may be in the hands of the public and under prosecution, he may get hold of my effects and get my jewels into his hands?”
“I don’t know,” says he, “what may be done in that case; but if not he, if the court of justice should get hold of them, I do not know but you may find it as difficult to get them out of their hands again, and at least it may cost you half as much as they are worth; so I think it would be a much better way to prevent their coming at them at all.”
“But what course can I take to do that,” says I, “now they have got notice that I have them? If they get me into their hands they will oblige me to produce them, or perhaps sentence me to prison till I do.”
“Nay,” says he, “as this brute says too, put you to the question, that is, to the torture, on pretence of making you confess who were the murderers of your husband.”
“Confess!” said I; “how can I confess what I know nothing of?”
“If they come to have you to the rack,” said he, “they will make you confess you did it yourself, whether you did it or no, and then you are cast.”
The very word rack frighted me to death almost, and I had no spirit left in me. “Did it myself!” said I; “that’s impossible!”
“No, madam,” says he, “’tis far from impossible; the most innocent people in the world have been forced to confess themselves guilty of what they never heard of, much less had any hand in.”
“What then must I do?” said I; “what would you advise me to?”
“Why,” says he, “I would advise you to be gone. You intended to go away in four or five days, and you may as well go in two days; and if you can do so, I shall manage it so that he shall not suspect your being gone for several days after.” Then he told me how the rogue would have me ordered to bring the jewels the next day for sale, and that then he would have me apprehended; how he had made the Jew believe he would join with him in his design, and that he (the merchant) would get the jewels into his hands. ”Now,” says the merchant, “I shall give you bills for the money you desired, immediately, and such as shall not fail of being paid. Take your jewels with you and go this very evening to St. Germain-en-Laye; I’ll send a man thither with you, and from thence he shall guide you to-morrow to Rouen, where there lies a ship of mine just ready to sail for Rotterdam. You shall have your passage in that ship on my account, and I will send orders for him to sail as soon as you are on board, and a letter to my friend at Rotterdam to entertain and take care of you.”
This was too kind an offer for me, as things stood, not to be accepted and be thankful for; and as to my going away, I had prepared everything for parting, so that I had little to do but to go back, take two or three boxes and bundles and such things, and my maid Amy, and be gone.
Then the merchant told me the measures he had resolved to take to delude the Jew while I made my escape, which were very well contrived indeed. “First,” said he, “when he comes to-morrow, I shall tell him that I proposed to you to leave the jewels with me as we agreed, but that you said you would come and bring them in the afternoon, so that we must stay for you till four o’clock; but then at that time I will show a letter from you as if just come in, wherein you shall excuse your not coming for that some company came to visit you and prevented you, but that you desire me to take care that the gentleman be ready to buy your jewels, and that you will come to-morrow at the same hour without fail.
“When to-morrow is come we shall wait at the time, but you not appearing, I shall seem most dissatisfied and wonder what can be the reason; and so we shall agree to go the next day to get out a process against you. But the next day, in the morning, I’ll send to give him notice that you have been at my house, but, he not being there, have made another appointment, and that I desire to speak with him. When he comes I’ll tell him you appear perfectly blind as to your danger, and that you appeared much disappointed that he did not come, though you could not meet the night before, and obliged me to have him here to-morrow at three o’clock. When to-morrow comes,” says he, “you shall send word that you are taken so ill that you cannot come out for that day, but that you will not fail the next day; and the next day you shall neither come nor send or let us ever hear any more of you, for by that time you shall be in Holland, if you please.”
I could not but approve all his measures, seeing they were so well contrived and in so friendly a manner for my benefit; and as he seemed to be so very sincere, I resolved to put my life in his hands. Immediately I went to my lodgings and sent away Amy with such bundles as I had prepared for my travelling. I also sent several parcels of my fine furniture to the merchant’s house to be laid up for me, and bringing the key of the lodgings with me, I came back to his house. Here we finished our matters of money, and I delivered into his hands 7,800 pistoles in bills and money, a copy of an assignment on the Town House of Paris for 4,000 pistoles at 3 per cent. interest, attested, and a procuration for receiving the interest half-yearly, but the original I kept myself.
I could have trusted all I had with him, for he was perfectly honest and had not the least view of doing me any wrong; indeed, after it was so apparent that he had, as it were, saved my life, or at least saved me from being exposed and ruined—I say, after this, how could I doubt him in anything?
When I came to him he had everything ready as I wanted and as he had proposed. As to my money, he gave me first of all an accepted bill, payable at Rotterdam, for 4,000 pistoles, and drawn from Genoa upon a merchant at Rotterdam, payable to a merchant at Paris and endorsed by him to my merchant. This he assured me would be punctually paid, and so it was, to a day; the rest I had in other bills of exchange drawn by himself upon other merchants in Holland. Having secured my jewels too, as well as I could, he sent me away the same evening in a friend’s coach, which he had procured for me, to St. Germain, and the next morning to Rouen. He also sent a servant of his own on horseback with me, who provided everything for me, and who carried his orders to the captain of the ship, which lay about three miles below Rouen, in the river, and by his directions I went immediately on board. The third day after I was on board the ship went away, and we were out at sea the next day after that. And thus I took my leave of France and got clear of an ugly business, which, had it gone on, might have ruined me and sent me back as naked to England as I was a little before I left it.