Part 1 out of 7
The Fortunes & Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders &c.
Who was Born in Newgate, and during a Life of
continu'd Variety for Threescore Years, besides her
Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a
Wife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year
a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia,
at last grew Rich, liv'd Honest, and dies a Penitent.
Written from her own Memorandums . . .
by Daniel Defoe
THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE
The world is so taken up of late with novels and romances,
that it will be hard for a private history to be taken for genuine,
where the names and other circumstances of the person are
concealed, and on this account we must be content to leave
the reader to pass his own opinion upon the ensuing sheet,
and take it just as he pleases.
The author is here supposed to be writing her own history,
and in the very beginning of her account she gives the reasons
why she thinks fit to conceal her true name, after which there
is no occasion to say any more about that.
It is true that the original of this story is put into new words,
and the style of the famous lady we here speak of is a little
altered; particularly she is made to tell her own tale in modester
words that she told it at first, the copy which came first to
hand having been written in language more like one still in
Newgate than one grown penitent and humble, as she
afterwards pretends to be.
The pen employed in finishing her story, and making it what
you now see it to be, has had no little difficulty to put it into
a dress fit to be seen, and to make it speak language fit to be
read. When a woman debauched from her youth, nay, even
being the offspring of debauchery and vice, comes to give an
account of all her vicious practices, and even to descend to the
particular occasions and circumstances by which she ran through
in threescore years, an author must be hard put to it wrap it
up so clean as not to give room, especially for vicious readers,
to turn it to his disadvantage.
All possible care, however, has been taken to give no lewd
ideas, no immodest turns in the new dressing up of this story;
no, not to the worst parts of her expressions. To this purpose
some of the vicious part of her life, which could not be
modestly told, is quite left out, and several other parts are
very much shortened. What is left 'tis hoped will not offend
the chastest reader or the modest hearer; and as the best use
is made even of the worst story, the moral 'tis hoped will keep
the reader serious, even where the story might incline him to
be otherwise. To give the history of a wicked life repented of,
necessarily requires that the wicked part should be make as
wicked as the real history of it will bear, to illustrate and give
a beauty to the penitent part, which is certainly the best and
brightest, if related with equal spirit and life.
It is suggested there cannot be the same life, the same brightness
and beauty, in relating the penitent part as is in the criminal
part. If there is any truth in that suggestion, I must be allowed
to say 'tis because there is not the same taste and relish in the
reading, and indeed it is to true that the difference lies not in
the real worth of the subject so much as in the gust and palate
of the reader.
But as this work is chiefly recommended to those who know
how to read it, and how to make the good uses of it which the
story all along recommends to them, so it is to be hoped that
such readers will be more leased with the moral than the fable,
with the application than with the relation, and with the end
of the writer than with the life of the person written of.
There is in this story abundance of delightful incidents, and
all of them usefully applied. There is an agreeable turn artfully
given them in the relating, that naturally instructs the reader,
either one way or other. The first part of her lewd life with the
young gentleman at Colchester has so many happy turns given
it to expose the crime, and warn all whose circumstances are
adapted to it, of the ruinous end of such things, and the foolish,
thoughtless, and abhorred conduct of both the parties, that it
abundantly atones for all the lively description she gives of her
folly and wickedness.
The repentance of her lover at the Bath, and how brought by
the just alarm of his fit of sickness to abandon her; the just
caution given there against even the lawful intimacies of the
dearest friends, and how unable they are to preserve the most
solemn resolutions of virtue without divine assistance; these
are parts which, to a just discernment, will appear to have
more real beauty in them all the amorous chain of story which
In a word, as the whole relation is carefully garbled of all the
levity and looseness that was in it, so it all applied, and with
the utmost care, to virtuous and religious uses. None can,
without being guilty of manifest injustice, cast any reproach
upon it, or upon our design in publishing it.
The advocates for the stage have, in all ages, made this the
great argument to persuade people that their plays are useful,
and that they ought to be allowed in the most civilised and in
the most religious government; namely, that they are applied
to virtuous purposes, and that by the most lively representations,
they fail not to recommend virtue and generous principles, and
to discourage and expose all sorts of vice and corruption of
manners; and were it true that they did so, and that they
constantly adhered to that rule, as the test of their acting on
the theatre, much might be said in their favour.
Throughout the infinite variety of this book, this fundamental
is most strictly adhered to; there is not a wicked action in any
part of it, but is first and last rendered unhappy and unfortunate;
there is not a superlative villain brought upon the stage, but
either he is brought to an unhappy end, or brought to be a
penitent; there is not an ill thing mentioned but it is condemned,
even in the relation, nor a virtuous, just thing but it carries its
praise along with it. What can more exactly answer the rule
laid down, to recommend even those representations of things
which have so many other just objections leaving against them?
namely, of example, of bad company, obscene language, and
Upon this foundation this book is recommended to the reader
as a work from every part of which something may be learned,
and some just and religious inference is drawn, by which the
reader will have something of instruction, if he pleases to make
use of it.
All the exploits of this lady of fame, in her depredations upon
mankind, stand as so many warnings to honest people to
beware of them, intimating to them by what methods innocent
people are drawn in, plundered and robbed, and by consequence
how to avoid them. Her robbing a little innocent child, dressed
fine by the vanity of the mother, to go to the dancing-school,
is a good memento to such people hereafter, as is likewise her
picking the gold watch from the young lady's side in the Park.
Her getting a parcel from a hare-brained wench at the coaches
in St. John Street; her booty made at the fire, and again at
Harwich, all give us excellent warnings in such cases to be
more present to ourselves in sudden surprises of every sort.
Her application to a sober life and industrious management at
last in Virginia, with her transported spouse, is a story fruitful
of instruction to all the unfortunate creatures who are obliged
to seek their re-establishment abroad, whether by the misery
of transportation or other disaster; letting them know that
diligence and application have their due encouragement, even
in the remotest parts of the world, and that no case can be so
low, so despicable, or so empty of prospect, but that an
unwearied industry will go a great way to deliver us from it,
will in time raise the meanest creature to appear again the
world, and give him a new case for his life.
There are a few of the serious inferences which we are led
by the hand to in this book, and these are fully sufficient to
justify any man in recommending it to the world, and much
more to justify the publication of it.
There are two of the most beautiful parts still behind, which
this story gives some idea of, and lets us into the parts of them,
but they are either of them too long to be brought into the same
volume, and indeed are, as I may call them, whole volumes of
themselves, viz.: 1. The life of her governess, as she calls her,
who had run through, it seems, in a few years, all the eminent
degrees of a gentlewoman, a whore, and a bawd; a midwife
and a midwife-keeper, as they are called; a pawnbroker, a
childtaker, a receiver of thieves, and of thieves' purchase,
that is to say, of stolen goods; and in a word, herself a thief,
a breeder up of thieves and the like, and yet at last a penitent.
The second is the life of her transported husband, a highwayman,
who it seems, lived a twelve years' life of successful villainy
upon the road, and even at last came off so well as to be a
volunteer transport, not a convict; and in whose life there is
an incredible variety.
But, as I have said, these are things too long to bring in here,
so neither can I make a promise of the coming out by
We cannot say, indeed, that this history is carried on quite to
the end of the life of this famous Moll Flanders, as she calls
herself, for nobody can write their own life to the full end of it,
unless they can write it after they are dead. But her husband's
life, being written by a third hand, gives a full account of them
both, how long they lived together in that country, and how
they both came to England again, after about eight years, in
which time they were grown very rich, and where she lived,
it seems, to be very old, but was not so extraordinary a penitent
as she was at first; it seems only that indeed she always spoke
with abhorrence of her former life, and of every part of it.
In her last scene, at Maryland and Virginia, many pleasant
things happened, which makes that part of her life very
agreeable, but they are not told with the same elegancy as those
accounted for by herself; so it is still to the more advantage that
we break off here.
My true name is so well known in the records or registers
at Newgate, and in the Old Bailey, and there are some things
of such consequence still depending there, relating to my
particular conduct, that it is not be expected I should set my
name or the account of my family to this work; perhaps, after
my death, it may be better known; at present it would not be
proper, no not though a general pardon should be issued, even
without exceptions and reserve of persons or crimes.
It is enough to tell you, that as some of my worst comrades,
who are out of the way of doing me harm (having gone out of
the world by the steps and the string, as I often expected to go ),
knew me by the name of Moll Flanders, so you may give me
leave to speak of myself under that name till I dare own who
I have been, as well as who I am.
I have been told that in one of neighbour nations, whether it
be in France or where else I know not, they have an order from
the king, that when any criminal is condemned, either to die,
or to the galleys, or to be transported, if they leave any children,
as such are generally unprovided for, by the poverty or forfeiture
of their parents, so they are immediately taken into the care of
the Government, and put into a hospital called the House of
Orphans, where they are bred up, clothed, fed, taught, and
when fit to go out, are placed out to trades or to services, so
as to be well able to provide for themselves by an honest,
Had this been the custom in our country, I had not been left
a poor desolate girl without friends, without clothes, without
help or helper in the world, as was my fate; and by which I
was not only exposed to very great distresses, even before I
was capable either of understanding my case or how to amend
it, but brought into a course of life which was not only scandalous
in itself, but which in its ordinary course tended to the swift
destruction both of soul and body.
But the case was otherwise here. My mother was convicted
of felony for a certain petty theft scarce worth naming, viz.
having an opportunity of borrowing three pieces of fine holland
of a certain draper in Cheapside. The circumstances are too
long to repeat, and I have heard them related so many ways,
that I can scarce be certain which is the right account.
However it was, this they all agree in, that my mother pleaded
her belly, and being found quick with child, she was respited
for about seven months; in which time having brought me into
the world, and being about again, she was called down, as they
term it, to her former judgment, but obtained the favour of
being transported to the plantations, and left me about half a
year old; and in bad hands, you may be sure.
This is too near the first hours of my life for me to relate
anything of myself but by hearsay; it is enough to mention,
that as I was born in such an unhappy place, I had no parish
to have recourse to for my nourishment in my infancy; nor
can I give the least account how I was kept alive, other than
that, as I have been told, some relation of my mother's took
me away for a while as a nurse, but at whose expense, or by
whose direction, I know nothing at all of it.
The first account that I can recollect, or could ever learn of
myself, was that I had wandered among a crew of those people
they call gypsies, or Egyptians; but I believe it was but a very
little while that I had been among them, for I had not had my
skin discoloured or blackened, as they do very young to all the
children they carry about with them; nor can I tell how I came
among them, or how I got from them.
It was at Colchester, in Essex, that those people left me; and
I have a notion in my head that I left them there (that is, that
I hid myself and would not go any farther with them), but I am
not able to be particular in that account; only this I remember,
that being taken up by some of the parish officers of Colchester,
I gave an account that I came into the town with the gypsies,
but that I would not go any farther with them, and that so they
had left me, but whither they were gone that I knew not, nor
could they expect it of me; for though they send round the
country to inquire after them, it seems they could not be found.
I was now in a way to be provided for; for though I was not a
parish charge upon this or that part of the town by law, yet as
my case came to be known, and that I was too young to do any
work, being not above three years old, compassion moved the
magistrates of the town to order some care to be taken of me,
and I became one of their own as much as if I had been born
in the place.
In the provision they made for me, it was my good hap to be
put to nurse, as they call it, to a woman who was indeed poor
but had been in better circumstances, and who got a little
livelihood by taking such as I was supposed to be, and keeping
them with all necessaries, till they were at a certain age, in
which it might be supposed they might go to service or get
their own bread.
This woman had also had a little school, which she kept to
teach children to read and to work; and having, as I have said,
lived before that in good fashion, she bred up the children she
took with a great deal of art, as well as with a great deal of care.
But that which was worth all the rest, she bred them up very
religiously, being herself a very sober, pious woman, very house-
wifely and clean, and very mannerly, and with good behaviour.
So that in a word, expecting a plain diet, coarse lodging, and
mean clothes, we were brought up as mannerly and as genteelly
as if we had been at the dancing-school.
I was continued here till I was eight years old, when I was
terrified with news that the magistrates (as I think they called
them) had ordered that I should go to service. I was able to
do but very little service wherever I was to go, except it was
to run of errands and be a drudge to some cookmaid, and this
they told me of often, which put me into a great fright; for I
had a thorough aversion to going to service, as they called it
(that is, to be a servant), though I was so young; and I told my
nurse, as we called her, that I believed I could get my living
without going to service, if she pleased to let me; for she had
taught me to work with my needle, and spin worsted, which
is the chief trade of that city, and I told her that if she would
keep me, I would work for her, and I would work very hard.
I talked to her almost every day of working hard; and, in short,
I did nothing but work and cry all day, which grieved the good,
kind woman so much, that at last she began to be concerned
for me, for she loved me very well.
One day after this, as she came into the room where all we
poor children were at work, she sat down just over against me,
not in her usual place as mistress, but as if she set herself on
purpose to observe me and see me work. I was doing something
she had set me to; as I remember, it was marking some shirts
which she had taken to make, and after a while she began to
talk to me. 'Thou foolish child,' says she, 'thou art always
crying (for I was crying then); 'prithee, what dost cry for?'
'Because they will take me away,' says I, 'and put me to service,
and I can't work housework.' 'Well, child,' says she, 'but
though you can't work housework, as you call it, you will learn
it in time, and they won't put you to hard things at first.' 'Yes,
they will,' says I, 'and if I can't do it they will beat me, and the
maids will beat me to make me do great work, and I am but a
little girl and I can't do it'; and then I cried again, till I could
not speak any more to her.
This moved my good motherly nurse, so that she from that
time resolved I should not go to service yet; so she bid me not
cry, and she would speak to Mr. Mayor, and I should not go to
service till I was bigger.
Well, this did not satisfy me, for to think of going to service
was such a frightful thing to me, that if she had assured me I
should not have gone till I was twenty years old, it would have
been the same to me; I should have cried, I believe, all the
time, with the very apprehension of its being to be so at last.
When she saw that I was not pacified yet, she began to be
angry with me. 'And what would you have?' says she; 'don't
I tell you that you shall not go to service till your are bigger?'
'Ay,' said I, 'but then I must go at last.' 'Why, what?' said she;
'is the girl mad? What would you be -- a gentlewoman?'
'Yes,' says I, and cried heartily till I roared out again.
This set the old gentlewoman a-laughing at me, as you may be
sure it would. 'Well, madam, forsooth,' says she, gibing at me,
'you would be a gentlewoman; and pray how will you come to
be a gentlewoman? What! will you do it by your fingers' end?'
'Yes,' says I again, very innocently.
'Why, what can you earn?' says she; 'what can you get at your
'Threepence,' said I, 'when I spin, and fourpence when I work
'Alas! poor gentlewoman,' said she again, laughing, 'what will
that do for thee?'
'It will keep me,' says I, 'if you will let me live with you.' And
this I said in such a poor petitioning tone, that it made the poor
woman's heart yearn to me, as she told me afterwards.
'But,' says she, 'that will not keep you and buy you clothes
too; and who must buy the little gentlewoman clothes?' says
she, and smiled all the while at me.
'I will work harder, then,' says I, 'and you shall have it all.'
'Poor child! it won't keep you,' says she; 'it will hardly keep
you in victuals.'
'Then I will have no victuals,' says I, again very innocently;
'let me but live with you.'
'Why, can you live without victuals?' says she.
'Yes,' again says I, very much like a child, you may be sure,
and still I cried heartily.
I had no policy in all this; you may easily see it was all nature;
but it was joined with so much innocence and so much passion
that, in short, it set the good motherly creature a-weeping too,
and she cried at last as fast as I did, and then took me and led
me out of the teaching-room. 'Come,' says she, 'you shan't
go to service; you shall live with me'; and this pacified me
for the present.
Some time after this, she going to wait on the Mayor, and
talking of such things as belonged to her business, at last my
story came up, and my good nurse told Mr. Mayor the whole
tale. He was so pleased with it, that he would call his lady
and his two daughters to hear it, and it made mirth enough
among them, you may be sure.
However, not a week had passed over, but on a sudden comes
Mrs. Mayoress and her two daughters to the house to see my
old nurse, and to see her school and the children. When they
had looked about them a little, 'Well, Mrs. ----,' says the
Mayoress to my nurse, 'and pray which is the little lass that
intends to be a gentlewoman?' I heard her, and I was terribly
frighted at first, though I did not know why neither; but Mrs.
Mayoress comes up to me. 'Well, miss,' says she, 'and what
are you at work upon?' The word miss was a language that
had hardly been heard of in our school, and I wondered what
sad name it was she called me. However, I stood up, made a
curtsy, and she took my work out of my hand, looked on it,
and said it was very well; then she took up one of the hands.
'Nay,' says she, 'the child may come to be a gentlewoman for
aught anybody knows; she has a gentlewoman's hand,' says she.
This pleased me mightily, you may be sure; but Mrs. Mayoress
did not stop there, but giving me my work again, she put her
hand in her pocket, gave me a shilling, and bid me mind my
work, and learn to work well, and I might be a gentlewoman
for aught she knew.
Now all this while my good old nurse, Mrs. Mayoress, and all
the rest of them did not understand me at all, for they meant
one sort of thing by the word gentlewoman, and I meant quite
another; for alas! all I understood by being a gentlewoman was
to be able to work for myself, and get enough to keep me
without that terrible bugbear going to service, whereas they
meant to live great, rich and high, and I know not what.
Well, after Mrs. Mayoress was gone, her two daughters came
in, and they called for the gentlewoman too, and they talked
a long while to me, and I answered them in my innocent way;
but always, if they asked me whether I resolved to be a
gentlewoman, I answered Yes. At last one of them asked me
what a gentlewoman was? That puzzled me much; but,
however, I explained myself negatively, that it was one that
did not go to service, to do housework. They were pleased
to be familiar with me, and like my little prattle to them, which,
it seems, was agreeable enough to them, and they gave me
As for my money, I gave it all to my mistress-nurse, as I called
her, and told her she should have all I got for myself when I
was a gentlewoman, as well as now. By this and some other
of my talk, my old tutoress began to understand me about what
I meant by being a gentlewoman, and that I understood by it
no more than to be able to get my bread by my own work; and
at last she asked me whether it was not so.
I told her, yes, and insisted on it, that to do so was to be a
gentlewoman; 'for,' says I, 'there is such a one,' naming a
woman that mended lace and washed the ladies' laced-heads;
'she,' says I, 'is a gentlewoman, and they call her madam.'
"Poor child,' says my good old nurse, 'you may soon be such
a gentlewoman as that, for she is a person of ill fame, and has
had two or three bastards.'
I did not understand anything of that; but I answered, 'I am
sure they call her madam, and she does not go to service nor
do housework'; and therefore I insisted that she was a
gentlewoman, and I would be such a gentlewoman as that.
The ladies were told all this again, to be sure, and they made
themselves merry with it, and every now and then the young
ladies, Mr. Mayor's daughters, would come and see me, and
ask where the little gentlewoman was, which made me not a
little proud of myself.
This held a great while, and I was often visited by these young
ladies, and sometimes they brought others with them; so that I
was known by it almost all over the town.
I was now about ten years old, and began to look a little
womanish, for I was mighty grave and humble, very mannerly,
and as I had often heard the ladies say I was pretty, and would
be a very handsome woman, so you may be sure that hearing
them say so made me not a little proud. However, that pride
had no ill effect upon me yet; only, as they often gave me
money, and I gave it to my old nurse, she, honest woman,
was so just to me as to lay it all out again for me, and gave
me head-dresses, and linen, and gloves, and ribbons, and I
went very neat, and always clean; for that I would do, and if
I had rags on, I would always be clean, or else I would dabble
them in water myself; but, I say, my good nurse, when I had
money given me, very honestly laid it out for me, and would
always tell the ladies this or that was bought with their money;
and this made them oftentimes give me more, till at last I was
indeed called upon by the magistrates, as I understood it, to
go out to service; but then I was come to be so good a
workwoman myself, and the ladies were so kind to me, that it
was plain I could maintain myself--that is to say, I could earn
as much for my nurse as she was able by it to keep me--so she
told them that if they would give her leave, she would keep
the gentlewoman, as she called me, to be her assistant and
teach the children, which I was very well able to do; for I was
very nimble at my work, and had a good hand with my needle,
though I was yet very young.
But the kindness of the ladies of the town did not end here,
for when they came to understand that I was no more maintained
by the public allowance as before, they gave me money oftener
than formerly; and as I grew up they brought me work to do
for them, such as linen to make, and laces to mend, and heads
to dress up, and not only paid me for doing them, but even
taught me how to do them; so that now I was a gentlewoman
indeed, as I understood that word, I not only found myself
clothes and paid my nurse for my keeping, but got money in
my pocket too beforehand.
The ladies also gave me clothes frequently of their own or
their children's; some stockings, some petticoats, some gowns,
some one thing, some another, and these my old woman
managed for me like a mere mother, and kept them for me,
obliged me to mend them, and turn them and twist them to
the best advantage, for she was a rare housewife.
At last one of the ladies took so much fancy to me that she
would have me home to her house, for a month, she said, to
be among her daughters.
Now, though this was exceeding kind in her, yet, as my old
good woman said to her, unless she resolved to keep me for
good and all, she would do the little gentlewoman more harm
than good. 'Well,' says the lady, 'that's true; and therefore I'll
only take her home for a week, then, that I may see how my
daughters and she agree together, and how I like her temper,
and then I'll tell you more; and in the meantime, if anybody
comes to see her as they used to do, you may only tell them
you have sent her out to my house.'
This was prudently managed enough, and I went to the lady's
house; but I was so pleased there with the young ladies, and
they so pleased with me, that I had enough to do to come away,
and they were as unwilling to part with me.
However, I did come away, and lived almost a year more with
my honest old woman, and began now to be very helpful to
her; for I was almost fourteen years old, was tall of my age,
and looked a little womanish; but I had such a taste of genteel
living at the lady's house that I was not so easy in my old
quarters as I used to be, and I thought it was fine to be a
gentlewoman indeed, for I had quite other notions of a
gentlewoman now than I had before; and as I thought, I say,
that it was fine to be a gentlewoman, so I loved to be among
gentlewomen, and therefore I longed to be there again.
About the time that I was fourteen years and a quarter old,
my good nurse, mother I rather to call her, fell sick and died.
I was then in a sad condition indeed, for as there is no great
bustle in putting an end to a poor body's family when once
they are carried to the grave, so the poor good woman being
buried, the parish children she kept were immediately removed
by the church-wardens; the school was at an end, and the
children of it had no more to do but just stay at home till they
were sent somewhere else; and as for what she left, her daughter,
a married woman with six or seven children, came and swept
it all away at once, and removing the goods, they had no more
to say to me than to jest with me, and tell me that the little
gentlewoman might set up for herself if she pleased.
I was frighted out of my wits almost, and knew not what to do,
for I was, as it were, turned out of doors to the wide world, and
that which was still worse, the old honest woman had two-and-
twenty shillings of mine in her hand, which was all the estate the
little gentlewoman had in the world; and when I asked the
daughter for it, she huffed me and laughed at me, and told me
she had nothing to do with it.
It was true the good, poor woman had told her daughter of it,
and that it lay in such a place, that it was the child's money,
and had called once or twice for me to give it me, but I was,
unhappily, out of the way somewhere or other, and when I
came back she was past being in a condition to speak of it.
However, the daughter was so honest afterwards as to give it
me, though at first she used me cruelly about it.
Now was I a poor gentlewoman indeed, and I was just that
very night to be turned into the wide world; for the daughter
removed all the goods, and I had not so much as a lodging to
go to, or a bit of bread to eat. But it seems some of the neighbours,
who had known my circumstances, took so much compassion
of me as to acquaint the lady in whose family I had been a week,
as I mentioned above; and immediately she sent her maid to
fetch me away, and two of her daughters came with the maid
though unsent. So I went with them, bag and baggage, and
with a glad heart, you may be sure. The fright of my condition
had made such an impression upon me, that I did not want now
to be a gentlewoman, but was very willing to be a servant, and
that any kind of servant they thought fit to have me be.
But my new generous mistress, for she exceeded the good
woman I was with before, in everything, as well as in the
matter of estate; I say, in everything except honesty; and for
that, though this was a lady most exactly just, yet I must not
forget to say on all occasions, that the first, though poor, was
as uprightly honest as it was possible for any one to be.
I was no sooner carried away, as I have said, by this good
gentlewoman, but the first lady, that is to say, the Mayoress
that was, sent her two daughters to take care of me; and another
family which had taken notice of me when I was the little
gentlewoman, and had given me work to do, sent for me after
her, so that I was mightily made of, as we say; nay, and they
were not a little angry, especially madam the Mayoress, that
her friend had taken me away from her, as she called it; for,
as she said, I was hers by right, she having been the first that
took any notice of me. But they that had me would not part
with me; and as for me, though I should have been very well
treated with any of the others, yet I could not be better than
where I was.
Here I continued till I was between seventeen and eighteen
years old, and here I had all the advantages for my education
that could be imagined; the lady had masters home to the
house to teach her daughters to dance, and to speak French,
and to write, and other to teach them music; and I was always
with them, I learned as fast as they; and though the masters
were not appointed to teach me, yet I learned by imitation and
inquiry all that they learned by instruction and direction; so
that, in short, I learned to dance and speak French as well as
any of them, and to sing much better, for I had a better voice
than any of them. I could not so readily come at playing on
the harpsichord or spinet, because I had no instrument of my
own to practice on, and could only come at theirs in the intervals
when they left it, which was uncertain; but yet I learned tolerably
well too, and the young ladies at length got two instruments,
that is to say, a harpsichord and a spinet too, and then they
taught me themselves. But as to dancing, they could hardly
help my learning country-dances, because they always wanted
me to make up even number; and, on the other hand, they were
as heartily willing to learn me everything that they had been
taught themselves, as I could be to take the learning.
By this means I had, as I have said above, all the advantages
of education that I could have had if I had been as much a
gentlewoman as they were with whom I lived; and in some
things I had the advantage of my ladies, though they were my
superiors; but they were all the gifts of nature, and which all
their fortunes could not furnish. First, I was apparently
handsomer than any of them; secondly, I was better shaped;
and, thirdly, I sang better, by which I mean I had a better voice;
in all which you will, I hope, allow me to say, I do not speak
my own conceit of myself, but the opinion of all that knew
I had with all these the common vanity of my sex, viz. that
being really taken for very handsome, or, if you please, for a
great beauty, I very well knew it, and had as good an opinion
of myself as anybody else could have of me; and particularly
I loved to hear anybody speak of it, which could not but happen
to me sometimes, and was a great satisfaction to me.
Thus far I have had a smooth story to tell of myself, and in all
this part of my life I not only had the reputation of living in a
very good family, and a family noted and respected everywhere
for virtue and sobriety, and for every valuable thing; but I had
the character too of a very sober, modest, and virtuous young
woman, and such I had always been; neither had I yet any
occasion to think of anything else, or to know what a temptation
to wickedness meant.
But that which I was too vain of was my ruin, or rather my
vanity was the cause of it. The lady in the house where I was
had two sons, young gentlemen of very promising parts and
of extraordinary behaviour, and it was my misfortune to be
very well with them both, but they managed themselves with
me in a quite different manner.
The eldest, a gay gentleman that knew the town as well as the
country, and though he had levity enough to do an ill-natured
thing, yet had too much judgment of things to pay too dear
for his pleasures; he began with the unhappy snare to all
women, viz. taking notice upon all occasions how pretty I was,
as he called it, how agreeable, how well-carriaged, and the
like; and this he contrived so subtly, as if he had known as
well how to catch a woman in his net as a partridge when he
went a-setting; for he would contrive to be talking this to his
sisters when, though I was not by, yet when he knew I was
not far off but that I should be sure to hear him. His sisters
would return softly to him, 'Hush, brother, she will hear you;
she is but in the next room.' Then he would put it off and talk
softlier, as if he had not know it, and begin to acknowledge he
was wrong; and then, as if he had forgot himself, he would
speak aloud again, and I, that was so well pleased to hear it,
was sure to listen for it upon all occasions.
After he had thus baited his hook, and found easily enough
the method how to lay it in my way, he played an opener game;
and one day, going by his sister's chamber when I was there,
doing something about dressing her, he comes in with an air
of gaiety. 'Oh, Mrs. Betty,' said he to me, 'how do you do,
Mrs. Betty? Don't your cheeks burn, Mrs. Betty?' I made a
curtsy and blushed, but said nothing. 'What makes you talk so,
brother?' says the lady. 'Why,' says he, 'we have been talking
of her below-stairs this half-hour.' 'Well,' says his sister,
'you can say no harm of her, that I am sure, so 'tis no matter
what you have been talking about.' 'Nay,' says he, ''tis so far
from talking harm of her, that we have been talking a great
deal of good, and a great many fine things have been said of
Mrs. Betty, I assure you; and particularly, that she is the
handsomest young woman in Colchester; and, in short, they
begin to toast her health in the town.'
'I wonder at you, brother,' says the sister. 'Betty wants but one
thing, but she had as good want everything, for the market is
against our sex just now; and if a young woman have beauty,
birth, breeding, wit, sense, manners, modesty, and all these to
an extreme, yet if she have not money, she's nobody, she had
as good want them all for nothing but money now recommends
a woman; the men play the game all into their own hands.'
Her younger brother, who was by, cried, 'Hold, sister, you run
too fast; I am an exception to your rule. I assure you, if I find
a woman so accomplished as you talk of, I say, I assure you, I
would not trouble myself about the money.'
'Oh,' says the sister, 'but you will take care not to fancy one,
then, without the money.'
'You don't know that neither,' says the brother.
'But why, sister,' says the elder brother, 'why do you exclaim
so at the men for aiming so much at the fortune? You are none
of them that want a fortune, whatever else you want.'
'I understand you, brother,' replies the lady very smartly; 'you
suppose I have the money, and want the beauty; but as times
go now, the first will do without the last, so I have the better
of my neighbours.'
'Well,' says the younger brother, 'but your neighbours, as you
call them, may be even with you, for beauty will steal a husband
sometimes in spite of money, and when the maid chances to be
handsomer than the mistress, she oftentimes makes as good a
market, and rides in a coach before her.'
I thought it was time for me to withdraw and leave them, and
I did so, but not so far but that I heard all their discourse, in
which I heard abundance of the fine things said of myself,
which served to prompt my vanity, but, as I soon found, was
not the way to increase my interest in the family, for the sister
and the younger brother fell grievously out about it; and as he
said some very disobliging things to her upon my account, so
I could easily see that she resented them by her future conduct
to me, which indeed was very unjust to me, for I had never
had the least thought of what she suspected as to her younger
brother; indeed, the elder brother, in his distant, remote way,
had said a great many things as in jest, which I had the folly
to believe were in earnest, or to flatter myself with the hopes
of what I ought to have supposed he never intended, and
perhaps never thought of.
It happened one day that he came running upstairs, towards
the room where his sisters used to sit and work, as he often
used to do; and calling to them before he came in, as was his
way too, I, being there alone, stepped to the door, and said,
'Sir, the ladies are not here, they are walked down the garden.'
As I stepped forward to say this, towards the door, he was just
got to the door, and clasping me in his arms, as if it had been
by chance, 'Oh, Mrs. Betty,' says he, 'are you here? That's
better still; I want to speak with you more than I do with them';
and then, having me in his arms, he kissed me three or four times.
I struggled to get away, and yet did it but faintly neither, and
he held me fast, and still kissed me, till he was almost out of
breath, and then, sitting down, says, 'Dear Betty, I am in love
His words, I must confess, fired my blood; all my spirits flew
about my heart and put me into disorder enough, which he
might easily have seen in my face. He repeated it afterwards
several times, that he was in love with me, and my heart spoke
as plain as a voice, that I liked it; nay, whenever he said, 'I am
in love with you,' my blushes plainly replied, 'Would you
However, nothing else passed at that time; it was but a sur-
prise, and when he was gone I soon recovered myself again.
He had stayed longer with me, but he happened to look out
at the window and see his sisters coming up the garden, so
he took his leave, kissed me again, told me he was very serious,
and I should hear more of him very quickly, and away he went,
leaving me infinitely pleased, though surprised; and had there
not been one misfortune in it, I had been in the right, but the
mistake lay here, that Mrs. Betty was in earnest and the
gentleman was not.
From this time my head ran upon strange things, and I may
truly say I was not myself; to have such a gentleman talk to
me of being in love with me, and of my being such a charming
creature, as he told me I was; these were things I knew not
how to bear, my vanity was elevated to the last degree. It is
true I had my head full of pride, but, knowing nothing of the
wickedness of the times, I had not one thought of my own
safety or of my virtue about me; and had my young master
offered it at first sight, he might have taken any liberty he
thought fit with me; but he did not see his advantage, which
was my happiness for that time.
After this attack it was not long but he found an opportunity
to catch me again, and almost in the same posture; indeed, it
had more of design in it on his part, though not on my part. It
was thus: the young ladies were all gone a-visiting with their
mother; his brother was out of town; and as for his father, he
had been in London for a week before. He had so well watched
me that he knew where I was, though I did not so much as know
that he was in the house; and he briskly comes up the stairs and,
seeing me at work, comes into the room to me directly, and
began just as he did before, with taking me in his arms, and
kissing me for almost a quarter of an hour together.
It was his younger sister's chamber that I was in, and as there
was nobody in the house but the maids below-stairs, he was,
it may be, the ruder; in short, he began to be in earnest with me
indeed. Perhaps he found me a little too easy, for God knows
I made no resistance to him while he only held me in his arms
and kissed me; indeed, I was too well pleased with it to resist
However, as it were, tired with that kind of work, we sat down,
and there he talked with me a great while; he said he was
charmed with me, and that he could not rest night or day till
he had told me how he was in love with me, and, if I was able
to love him again, and would make him happy, I should be the
saving of his life, and many such fine things. I said little to
him again, but easily discovered that I was a fool, and that I
did not in the least perceive what he meant.
Then he walked about the room, and taking me by the hand,
I walked with him; and by and by, taking his advantage, he
threw me down upon the bed, and kissed me there most
violently; but, to give him his due, offered no manner of
rudeness to me, only kissed a great while. After this he
thought he had heard somebody come upstairs, so got off from
the bed, lifted me up, professing a great deal of love for me,
but told me it was all an honest affection, and that he meant
no ill to me; and with that he put five guineas into my hand,
and went away downstairs.
I was more confounded with the money than I was before with
the love, and began to be so elevated that I scarce knew the
ground I stood on. I am the more particular in this part, that
if my story comes to be read by any innocent young body, they
may learn from it to guard themselves against the mischiefs
which attend an early knowledge of their own beauty. If a
young woman once thinks herself handsome, she never doubts
the truth of any man that tells her he is in love with her; for if
she believes herself charming enough to captivate him, 'tis
natural to expect the effects of it.
This young gentleman had fired his inclination as much as he
had my vanity, and, as if he had found that he had an opportunity
and was sorry he did not take hold of it, he comes up again in
half an hour or thereabouts, and falls to work with me again as
before, only with a little less introduction.
And first, when he entered the room, he turned about and shut
the door. 'Mrs. Betty,' said he, 'I fancied before somebody
was coming upstairs, but it was not so; however,' adds he,
'if they find me in the room with you, they shan't catch me
a-kissing of you.' I told him I did not know who should be
coming upstairs, for I believed there was nobody in the house
but the cook and the other maid, and they never came up those
stairs. 'Well, my dear,' says he, ''tis good to be sure, however';
and so he sits down, and we began to talk. And now, though
I was still all on fire with his first visit, and said little, he did
as it were put words in my mouth, telling me how passionately
he loved me, and that though he could not mention such a thing
till he came to this estate, yet he was resolved to make me happy
then, and himself too; that is to say, to marry me, and abundance
of such fine things, which I, poor fool, did not understand the
drift of, but acted as if there was no such thing as any kind of
love but that which tended to matrimony; and if he had spoke
of that, I had no room, as well as no power, to have said no;
but we were not come that length yet.
We had not sat long, but he got up, and, stopping my very
breath with kisses, threw me upon the bed again; but then
being both well warmed, he went farther with me than decency
permits me to mention, nor had it been in my power to have
denied him at that moment, had he offered much more than
However, though he took these freedoms with me, it did not
go to that which they call the last favour, which, to do him
justice, he did not attempt; and he made that self-denial of his
a plea for all his freedoms with me upon other occasions after
this. When this was over, he stayed but a little while, but he
put almost a handful of gold in my hand, and left me, making
a thousand protestations of his passion for me, and of his
loving me above all the women in the world.
It will not be strange if I now began to think, but alas! it was
but with very little solid reflection. I had a most unbounded
stock of vanity and pride, and but a very little stock of virtue.
I did indeed case sometimes with myself what young master
aimed at, but thought of nothing but the fine words and the
gold; whether he intended to marry me, or not to marry me,
seemed a matter of no great consequence to me; nor did my
thoughts so much as suggest to me the necessity of making
any capitulation for myself, till he came to make a kind of
formal proposal to me, as you shall hear presently.
Thus I gave up myself to a readiness of being ruined without
the least concern and am a fair memento to all young women
whose vanity prevails over their virtue. Nothing was ever so
stupid on both sides. Had I acted as became me, and resisted
as virtue and honour require, this gentleman had either desisted
his attacks, finding no room to expect the accomplishment of
his design, or had made fair and honourable proposals of
marriage; in which case, whoever had blamed him, nobody
could have blamed me. In short, if he had known me, and
how easy the trifle he aimed at was to be had, he would have
troubled his head no farther, but have given me four or five
guineas, and have lain with me the next time he had come at me.
And if I had known his thoughts, and how hard he thought I
would be to be gained, I might have made my own terms with
him; and if I had not capitulated for an immediate marriage,
I might for a maintenance till marriage, and might have had
what I would; for he was already rich to excess, besides what
he had in expectation; but I seemed wholly to have abandoned
all such thoughts as these, and was taken up only with the pride
of my beauty, and of being beloved by such a gentleman. As
for the gold, I spent whole hours in looking upon it; I told the
guineas over and over a thousand times a day. Never poor
vain creature was so wrapt up with every part of the story as
I was, not considering what was before me, and how near my
ruin was at the door; indeed, I think I rather wished for that
ruin than studied to avoid it.
In the meantime, however, I was cunning enough not to give
the least room to any in the family to suspect me, or to imagine
that I had the least correspondence with this young gentleman.
I scarce ever looked towards him in public, or answered if he
spoke to me when anybody was near us; but for all that, we
had every now and then a little encounter, where we had room
for a word or two, an now and then a kiss, but no fair opportunity
for the mischief intended; and especially considering that he
made more circumlocution than, if he had known by thoughts,
he had occasion for; and the work appearing difficult to him,
he really made it so.
But as the devil is an unwearied tempter, so he never fails to
find opportunity for that wickedness he invites to. It was one
evening that I was in the garden, with his two younger sisters
and himself, and all very innocently merry, when he found
means to convey a note into my hand, by which he directed
me to understand that he would to-morrow desire me publicly
to go of an errand for him into the town, and that I should see
him somewhere by the way.
Accordingly, after dinner, he very gravely says to me, his
sisters being all by, 'Mrs. Betty, I must ask a favour of you.'
'What's that?' says his second sister. 'Nay, sister,' says he
very gravely, 'if you can't spare Mrs. Betty to-day, any other
time will do.' Yes, they said, they could spare her well enough,
and the sister begged pardon for asking, which they did but of
mere course, without any meaning. 'Well, but, brother,' says
the eldest sister, 'you must tell Mrs. Betty what it is; if it be
any private business that we must not hear, you may call her
out. There she is.' 'Why, sister,' says the gentleman very
gravely, 'what do you mean? I only desire her to go into the
High Street' (and then he pulls out a turnover), 'to such a shop';
and then he tells them a long story of two fine neckcloths he
had bid money for, and he wanted to have me go and make an
errand to buy a neck to the turnover that he showed, to see if
they would take my money for the neckcloths; to bid a shilling
more, and haggle with them; and then he made more errands,
and so continued to have such petty business to do, that I should
be sure to stay a good while.
When he had given me my errands, he told them a long story
of a visit he was going to make to a family they all knew, and
where was to be such-and-such gentlemen, and how merry
they were to be, and very formally asks his sisters to go with
him, and they as formally excused themselves, because of
company that they had notice was to come and visit them that
afternoon; which, by the way, he had contrived on purpose.
He had scarce done speaking to them, and giving me my
errand, but his man came up to tell him that Sir W---- H----'s
coach stopped at the door; so he runs down, and comes up
again immediately. 'Alas!' says he aloud, 'there's all my
mirth spoiled at once; sir W---- has sent his coach for me,
and desires to speak with me upon some earnest business.'
It seems this Sir W---- was a gentleman who lived about three
miles out of town, to whom he had spoken on purpose the day
before, to lend him his chariot for a particular occasion, and
had appointed it to call for him, as it did, about three o'clock.
Immediately he calls for his best wig, hat, and sword, and
ordering his man to go to the other place to make his excuse--
that was to say, he made an excuse to send his man away--he
prepares to go into the coach. As he was going, he stopped a
while, and speaks mighty earnestly to me about his business,
and finds an opportunity to say very softly to me, 'Come away,
my dear, as soon as ever you can.' I said nothing, but made a
curtsy, as if I had done so to what he said in public. In about
a quarter of an hour I went out too; I had no dress other than
before, except that I had a hood, a mask, a fan, and a pair of
gloves in my pocket; so that there was not the least suspicion
in the house. He waited for me in the coach in a back-lane,
which he knew I must pass by, and had directed the coachman
whither to go, which was to a certain place, called Mile End,
where lived a confidant of his, where we went in, and where
was all the convenience in the world to be as wicked as we
When we were together he began to talk very gravely to me,
and to tell me he did not bring me there to betray me; that his
passion for me would not suffer him to abuse me; that he
resolved to marry me as soon as he came to his estate; that in
the meantime, if I would grant his request, he would maintain
me very honourably; and made me a thousand protestations
of his sincerity and of his affection to me; and that he would
never abandon me, and as I may say, made a thousand more
preambles than he need to have done.
However, as he pressed me to speak, I told him I had no
reason to question the sincerity of his love to me after so many
protestations, but--and there I stopped, as if I left him to
guess the rest. 'But what, my dear?' says he. 'I guess what
you mean: what if you should be with child? Is not that it?
Why, then,' says he, 'I'll take care of you and provide for you,
and the child too; and that you may see I am not in jest,' says
he, 'here's an earnest for you,' and with that he pulls out a silk
purse, with an hundred guineas in it, and gave it me. 'And I'll
give you such another,' says he, 'every year till I marry you.'
My colour came and went, at the sight of the purse and with
the fire of his proposal together, so that I could not say a word,
and he easily perceived it; so putting the purse into my bosom,
I made no more resistance to him, but let him do just what he
pleased, and as often as he pleased; and thus I finished my
own destruction at once, for from this day, being forsaken of
my virtue and my modesty, I had nothing of value left to
recommend me, either to God's blessing or man's assistance.
But things did not end here. I went back to the town, did the
business he publicly directed me to, and was at home before
anybody thought me long. As for my gentleman, he stayed
out, as he told me he would, till late at night, and there was
not the least suspicion in the family either on his account or
We had, after this, frequent opportunities to repeat our crime
--chiefly by his contrivance--especially at home, when his
mother and the young ladies went abroad a-visiting, which he
watched so narrowly as never to miss; knowing always
beforehand when they went out, and then failed not to catch
me all alone, and securely enough; so that we took our fill of
our wicked pleasure for near half a year; and yet, which was
the most to my satisfaction, I was not with child.
But before this half-year was expired, his younger brother, of
whom I have made some mention in the beginning of the story,
falls to work with me; and he, finding me alone in the garden
one evening, begins a story of the same kind to me, made
good honest professions of being in love with me, and in short,
proposes fairly and honourably to marry me, and that before
he made any other offer to me at all.
I was now confounded, and driven to such an extremity as
the like was never known; at least not to me. I resisted the
proposal with obstinacy; and now I began to arm myself with
arguments. I laid before him the inequality of the match; the
treatment I should meet with in the family; the ingratitude it
would be to his good father and mother, who had taken me
into their house upon such generous principles, and when I
was in such a low condition; and, in short, I said everything
to dissuade him from his design that I could imagine, except
telling him the truth, which would indeed have put an end to
it all, but that I durst not think of mentioning.
But here happened a circumstance that I did not expect
indeed, which put me to my shifts; for this young gentleman,
as he was plain and honest, so he pretended to nothing with
me but what was so too; and, knowing his own innocence, he
was not so careful to make his having a kindness for Mrs. Betty
a secret I the house, as his brother was. And though he did
not let them know that he had talked to me about it, yet he
said enough to let his sisters perceive he loved me, and his
mother saw it too, which, though they took no notice of it to
me, yet they did to him, an immediately I found their carriage
to me altered, more than ever before.
I saw the cloud, though I did not foresee the storm. It was
easy, I say, to see that their carriage to me was altered, and
that it grew worse and worse every day; till at last I got
information among the servants that I should, in a very little
while, be desired to remove.
I was not alarmed at the news, having a full satisfaction that
I should be otherwise provided for; and especially considering
that I had reason every day to expect I should be with child,
and that then I should be obliged to remove without any
pretences for it.
After some time the younger gentleman took an opportunity
to tell me that the kindness he had for me had got vent in the
family. He did not charge me with it, he said, for he know
well enough which way it came out. He told me his plain way
of talking had been the occasion of it, for that he did not make
his respect for me so much a secret as he might have done,
and the reason was, that he was at a point, that if I would
consent to have him, he would tell them all openly that he
loved me, and that he intended to marry me; that it was true
his father and mother might resent it, and be unkind, but that
he was now in a way to live, being bred to the law, and he did
not fear maintaining me agreeable to what I should expect;
and that, in short, as he believed I would not be ashamed of
him, so he was resolved not to be ashamed of me, and that he
scorned to be afraid to own me now, whom he resolved to
own after I was his wife, and therefore I had nothing to do but
to give him my hand, and he would answer for all the rest.
I was now in a dreadful condition indeed, and now I repented
heartily my easiness with the eldest brother; not from any
reflection of conscience, but from a view of the happiness I
might have enjoyed, and had now made impossible; for though
I had no great scruples of conscience, as I have said, to struggle
with, yet I could not think of being a whore to one brother and
a wife to the other. But then it came into my thoughts that the
first brother had promised to made me his wife when he came
to his estate; but I presently remembered what I had often
thought of, that he had never spoken a word of having me for
a wife after he had conquered me for a mistress; and indeed,
till now, though I said I thought of it often, yet it gave me no
disturbance at all, for as he did not seem in the least to lessen
his affection to me, so neither did he lessen his bounty, though
he had the discretion himself to desire me not to lay out a
penny of what he gave me in clothes, or to make the least show
extraordinary, because it would necessarily give jealousy in
the family, since everybody know I could come at such things
no manner of ordinary way, but by some private friendship,
which they would presently have suspected.
But I was now in a great strait, and knew not what to
do. The main difficulty was this: the younger brother not
only laid close siege to me, but suffered it to be seen. He
would come into his sister's room, and his mother's room,
and sit down, and talk a thousand kind things of me, and to
me, even before their faces, and when they were all there.
This grew so public that the whole house talked of it, and his
mother reproved him for it, and their carriage to me appeared
quite altered. In short, his mother had let fall some speeches,
as if she intended to put me out of the family; that is, in
English, to turn me out of doors. Now I was sure this could
not be a secret to his brother, only that he might not think, as
indeed nobody else yet did, that the youngest brother had made
any proposal to me about it; but as I easily could see that it
would go farther, so I saw likewise there was an absolute
necessity to speak of it to him, or that he would speak of it to
me, and which to do first I knew not; that is, whether I should
break it to him or let it alone till he should break it to me.
Upon serious consideration, for indeed now I began to consider
things very seriously, and never till now; I say, upon serious
consideration, I resolved to tell him of it first; and it was not
long before I had an opportunity, for the very next day his
brother went to London upon some business, and the family
being out a-visiting, just as it had happened before, and as
indeed was often the case, he came according to his custom,
to spend an hour or two with Mrs. Betty.
When he came had had sat down a while, he easily perceived
there was an alteration in my countenance, that I was not so
free and pleasant with him as I used to be, and particularly,
that I had been a-crying; he was not long before he took notice
of it, and asked me in very kind terms what was the matter,
and if anything troubled me. I would have put it off if I could,
but it was not to be concealed; so after suffering many
importunities to draw that out of me which I longed as much
as possible to disclose, I told him that it was true something
did trouble me, and something of such a nature that I could
not conceal from him, and yet that I could not tell how to tell
him of it neither; that it was a thing that not only surprised me,
but greatly perplexed me, and that I knew not what course to
take, unless he would direct me. He told me with great
tenderness, that let it be what it would, I should not let it
trouble me, for he would protect me from all the world.
I then began at a distance, and told him I was afraid the ladies
had got some secret information of our correspondence; for
that it was easy to see that their conduct was very much
changed towards me for a great while, and that now it was
come to that pass that they frequently found fault with me,
and sometimes fell quite out with me, though I never gave
them the least occasion; that whereas I used always to lie
with the eldest sister, I was lately put to lie by myself, or with
one of the maids; and that I had overheard them several times
talking very unkindly about me; but that which confirmed it
all was, that one of the servants had told me that she had heard
I was to be turned out, and that it was not safe for the family
that I should be any longer in the house.
He smiled when he herd all this, and I asked him how he
could make so light of it, when he must needs know that if
there was any discovery I was undone for ever, and that even
it would hurt him, though not ruin him as it would me. I
upbraided him, that he was like all the rest of the sex, that,
when they had the character and honour of a woman at their
mercy, oftentimes made it their jest, and at least looked upon
it as a trifle, and counted the ruin of those they had had their
will of as a thing of no value.
He saw me warm and serious, and he changed his style
immediately; he told me he was sorry I should have such a
thought of him; that he had never given me the least occasion
for it, but had been as tender of my reputation as he could be
of his own; that he was sure our correspondence had been
managed with so much address, that not one creature in the
family had so much as a suspicion of it; that if he smiled when
I told him my thoughts, it was at the assurance he lately
received, that our understanding one another was not so much
as known or guessed at; and that when he had told me how
much reason he had to be easy, I should smile as he did, for
he was very certain it would give me a full satisfaction.
'This is a mystery I cannot understand,' says I, 'or how it
should be to my satisfaction that I am to be turned out of
doors; for if our correspondence is not discovered, I know
not what else I have done to change the countenances of the
whole family to me, or to have them treat me as they do now,
who formerly used me with so much tenderness, as if I had
been one of their own children.'
'Why, look you, child,' says he, 'that they are uneasy about
you, that is true; but that they have the least suspicion of the
case as it is, and as it respects you and I, is so far from being
true, that they suspect my brother Robin; and, in short, they
are fully persuaded he makes love to you; nay, the fool has
put it into their heads too himself, for he is continually bantering
them about it, and making a jest of himself. I confess I think
he is wrong to do so, because he cannot but see it vexes them,
and makes them unkind to you; but 'tis a satisfaction to me,
because of the assurance it gives me, that they do not suspect
me in the least, and I hope this will be to your satisfaction too.'
'So it is,' says I, 'one way; but this does not reach my case at
all, nor is this the chief thing that troubles me, though I have
been concerned about that too.' 'What is it, then?' says he.
With which I fell to tears, and could say nothing to him at all.
He strove to pacify me all he could, but began at last to be
very pressing upon me to tell what it was. At last I answered
that I thought I ought to tell him too, and that he had some
right to know it; besides, that I wanted his direction in the case,
for I was in such perplexity that I knew not what course to take,
and then I related the whole affair to him. I told him how
imprudently his brother had managed himself, in making
himself so public; for that if he had kept it a secret, as such a
thing out to have been, I could but have denied him positively,
without giving any reason for it, and he would in time have
ceased his solicitations; but that he had the vanity, first, to
depend upon it that I would not deny him, and then had taken
the freedom to tell his resolution of having me to the whole house.
I told him how far I had resisted him, and told him how sincere
and honourable his offers were. 'But,' says I, 'my case will
be doubly hard; for as they carry it ill to me now, because he
desires to have me, they'll carry it worse when they shall find
I have denied him; and they will presently say, there's something
else in it, and then out it comes that I am married already to
somebody else, or that I would never refuse a match so much
above me as this was.'
This discourse surprised him indeed very much. He told me
that it was a critical point indeed for me to manage, and he
did not see which way I should get out of it; but he would
consider it, and let me know next time we met, what resolution
he was come to about it; and in the meantime desired I would
not give my consent to his brother, nor yet give him a flat
denial, but that I would hold him in suspense a while.
I seemed to start at his saying I should not give him my
consent. I told him he knew very well I had no consent to
give; that he had engaged himself to marry me, and that my
consent was the same time engaged to him; that he had all
along told me I was his wife, and I looked upon myself as
effectually so as if the ceremony had passed; and that it was
from his own mouth that I did so, he having all along persuaded
me to call myself his wife.
'Well, my dear,' says he, 'don't be concerned at that now;
if I am not your husband, I'll be as good as a husband to you;
and do not let those things trouble you now, but let me look
a little farther into this affair, and I shall be able to say more
next time we meet.'
He pacified me as well as he could with this, but I found he
was very thoughtful, and that though he was very kind to me
and kissed me a thousand times, and more I believe, and gave
me money too, yet he offered no more all the while we were
together, which was above two hours, and which I much
wondered at indeed at that time, considering how it used to be,
and what opportunity we had.
His brother did not come from London for five or six days,
and it was two days more before he got an opportunity to talk
with him; but then getting him by himself he began to talk
very close to him about it, and the same evening got an
opportunity (for we had a long conference together) to repeat
all their discourse to me, which, as near as I can remember,
was to the purpose following. He told him he heard strange
news of him since he went, viz. that he made love to Mrs.
Betty. 'Well, says his brother a little angrily, 'and so I do.
And what then? What has anybody to do with that?' 'Nay,'
says his brother, 'don't be angry, Robin; I don't pretend to
have anything to do with it; nor do I pretend to be angry with
you about it. But I find they do concern themselves about it,
and that they have used the poor girl ill about it, which I should
take as done to myself.' 'Whom do you mean by THEY?'
says Robin. 'I mean my mother and the girls,' says the elder
brother. 'But hark ye,' says his brother, 'are you in earnest?
Do you really love this girl? You may be free with me, you
know.' 'Why, then,' says Robin, 'I will be free with you; I do
love her above all the women in the world, and I will have her,
let them say and do what they will. I believe the girl will not
It struck me to the heart when he told me this, for though
it was most rational to think I would not deny him, yet I knew
in my own conscience I must deny him, and I saw my ruin in
my being obliged to do so; but I knew it was my business to
talk otherwise then, so I interrupted him in his story thus.
'Ay!,' said I, 'does he think I cannot deny him? But he shall
find I can deny him, for all that.'
'Well, my dear,' says he, 'but let me give you the whole story
as it went on between us, and then say what you will.'
Then he went on and told me that he replied thus: 'But,
brother, you know she has nothing, and you may have several
ladies with good fortunes.'
''Tis no matter for that,' said Robin; 'I love the girl, and I will
never please my pocket in marrying, and not please my fancy.'
'And so, my dear,' adds he, 'there is no opposing him.'
'Yes, yes,' says I, 'you shall see I can oppose him; I have
learnt to say No, now though I had not learnt it before; if the
best lord in the land offered me marriage now, I could very
cheerfully say No to him.'
'Well, but, my dear,' says he, 'what can you say to him? You
know, as you said when we talked of it before, he well ask
you many questions about it, and all the house will wonder
what the meaning of it should be.'
'Why,' says I, smiling, 'I can stop all their mouths at one clap
by telling him, and them too, that I am married already to his
He smiled a little too at the word, but I could see it startled
him, and he could not hide the disorder it put him into.
However, he returned, 'Why, though that may be true in some
sense, yet I suppose you are but in jest when you talk of
giving such an answer as that; it may not be convenient on
'No, no,' says I pleasantly, 'I am not so fond of letting the
secret come out without your consent.'
'But what, then, can you say to him, or to them,' says he,
'when they find you positive against a match which would
be apparently so much to your advantage?'
'Why,' says I, 'should I be at a loss? First of all, I am not
obliged to give me any reason at all; on the other hand, I may
tell them I am married already, and stop there, and that will
be a full stop too to him, for he can have no reason to ask one
question after it.'
'Ay,' says he; 'but the whole house will tease you about that,
even to father and mother, and if you deny them positively,
they will be disobliged at you, and suspicious besides.'
'Why,' says I, 'what can I do? What would have me do? I
was in straight enough before, and as I told you, I was in
perplexity before, and acquainted you with the circumstances,
that I might have your advice.'
'My dear,' says he, 'I have been considering very much upon
it, you may be sure, and though it is a piece of advice that has
a great many mortifications in it to me, and may at first seem
strange to you, yet, all things considered, I see no better way
for you than to let him go on; and if you find him hearty and
in earnest, marry him.'
I gave him a look full of horror at those words, and, turning
pale as death, was at the very point of sinking down out of the
chair I sat in; when, giving a start, 'My dear,' says he aloud,
'what's the matter with you? Where are you a-going?' and a
great many such things; and with jogging and called to me,
fetched me a little to myself, though it was a good while before
I fully recovered my senses, and was not able to speak for
several minutes more.
When I was fully recovered he began again. 'My dear,' says
he, 'what made you so surprised at what I said? I would have
you consider seriously of it? You may see plainly how the
family stand in this case, and they would be stark mad if it
was my case, as it is my brother's; and for aught I see, it
would be my ruin and yours too.'
'Ay!' says I, still speaking angrily; 'are all your protestations
and vows to be shaken by the dislike of the family? Did I not
always object that to you, and you made light thing of it, as
what you were above, and would value; and is it come to
this now?' said I. 'Is this your faith and honour, your love,
and the solidity of your promises?'
He continued perfectly calm, notwithstanding all my reproaches,
and I was not sparing of them at all; but he replied at last,
'My dear, I have not broken one promise with you yet; I did
tell you I would marry you when I was come to my estate; but
you see my father is a hale, healthy man, and may live these
thirty years still, and not be older than several are round us in
town; and you never proposed my marrying you sooner,
because you knew it might be my ruin; and as to all the rest, I
have not failed you in anything, you have wanted for nothing.'
I could not deny a word of this, and had nothing to say to it
in general. 'But why, then,' says I, 'can you persuade me to
such a horrid step as leaving you, since you have not left me?
Will you allow no affection, no love on my side, where there
has been so much on your side? Have I made you no returns?
Have I given no testimony of my sincerity and of my passion?
Are the sacrifices I have made of honour and modesty to you
no proof of my being tied to you in bonds too strong to be
'But here, my dear,' says he, 'you may come into a safe station,
and appear with honour and with splendour at once, and the
remembrance of what we have done may be wrapt up in an
eternal silence, as if it had never happened; you shall always
have my respect, and my sincere affection, only then it shall
be honest, and perfectly just to my brother; you shall be my
dear sister, as now you are my dear----' and there he stopped.
'Your dear whore,' says I, 'you would have said if you had
gone on, and you might as well have said it; but I understand
you. However, I desire you to remember the long discourses
you have had with me, and the many hours' pains you have
taken to persuade me to believe myself an honest woman;
that I was your wife intentionally, though not in the eyes of
the world, and that it was as effectual a marriage that had
passed between us as is we had been publicly wedded by the
parson of the parish. You know and cannot but remember
that these have been your own words to me.'
I found this was a little too close upon him, but I made it up
in what follows. He stood stock-still for a while and said
nothing, and I went on thus: 'You cannot,' says I, 'without
the highest injustice, believe that I yielded upon all these
persuasions without a love not to be questioned, not to be
shaken again by anything that could happen afterward. If you
have such dishonourable thoughts of me, I must ask you what
foundation in any of my behaviour have I given for such a
'If, then, I have yielded to the importunities of my affection,
and if I have been persuaded to believe that I am really, and
in the essence of the thing, your wife, shall I now give the lie
to all those arguments and call myself your whore, or mistress,
which is the same thing? And will you transfer me to your
brother? Can you transfer my affection? Can you bid me
cease loving you, and bid me love him? It is in my power,
think you, to make such a change at demand? No, sir,' said I,
'depend upon it 'tis impossible, and whatever the change of
your side may be, I will ever be true; and I had much rather,
since it is come that unhappy length, be your whore than your
He appeared pleased and touched with the impression of this
last discourse, and told me that he stood where he did before;
that he had not been unfaithful to me in any one promise he
had ever made yet, but that there were so many terrible things
presented themselves to his view in the affair before me, and
that on my account in particular, that he had thought of the
other as a remedy so effectual as nothing could come up to it.
That he thought this would not be entire parting us, but we
might love as friends all our days, and perhaps with more
satisfaction than we should in the station we were now in,
as things might happen; that he durst say, I could not apprehend
anything from him as to betraying a secret, which could not
but be the destruction of us both, if it came out; that he had
but one question to ask of me that could lie in the way of it,
and if that question was answered in the negative, he could
not but think still it was the only step I could take.
I guessed at his question presently, namely, whether I was
sure I was not with child? As to that, I told him he need not
be concerned about it, for I was not with child. 'Why, then,
my dear,' says he, 'we have no time to talk further now.
Consider of it, and think closely about it; I cannot but be of
the opinion still, that it will be the best course you can take.'
And with this he took his leave, and the more hastily too, his
mother and sisters ringing at the gate, just at the moment that
he had risen up to go.
He left me in the utmost confusion of thought; and he easily
perceived it the next day, and all the rest of the week, for it
was but Tuesday evening when we talked; but he had no
opportunity to come at me all that week, till the Sunday after,
when I, being indisposed, did not go to church, and he, making
some excuse for the like, stayed at home.
And now he had me an hour and a half again by myself, and
we fell into the same arguments all over again, or at least so
near the same, as it would be to no purpose to repeat them.
At last I asked him warmly, what opinion he must have of my
modesty, that he could suppose I should so much as entertain
a thought of lying with two brothers, and assured him it could
never be. I added, if he was to tell me that he would never
see me more, than which nothing but death could be more
terrible, yet I could never entertain a thought so dishonourable
to myself, and so base to him; and therefore, I entreated him,
if he had one grain of respect or affection left for me, that he
would speak no more of it to me, or that he would pull his
sword out and kill me. He appeared surprised at my obstinacy,
as he called it; told me I was unkind to myself, and unkind to
him in it; that it was a crisis unlooked for upon us both, and
impossible for either of us to foresee, but that he did not see
any other way to save us both from ruin, and therefore he
thought it the more unkind; but that if he must say no more
of it to me, he added with an unusual coldness, that he did
not know anything else we had to talk of; and so he rose up to
take his leave. I rose up too, as if with the same indifference;
but when he came to give me as it were a parting kiss, I burst
out into such a passion of crying, that though I would have spoke,
I could not, and only pressing his hand, seemed to give him the
adieu, but cried vehemently.
He was sensibly moved with this; so he sat down again, and
said a great many kind things to me, to abate the excess of my
passion, but still urged the necessity of what he had proposed;
all the while insisting, that if I did refuse, he would
notwithstanding provide for me; but letting me plainly see that
he would decline me in the main point--nay, even as a mistress;
making it a point of honour not to lie with the woman that,
for aught he knew, might come to be his brother's wife.
The bare loss of him as a gallant was not so much my affliction
as the loss of his person, whom indeed I loved to distraction;
and the loss of all the expectations I had, and which I always
had built my hopes upon, of having him one day for my
husband. These things oppressed my mind so much, that, in
short, I fell very ill; the agonies of my mind, in a word, threw
me into a high fever, and long it was, that none in the family
expected my life.
I was reduced very low indeed, and was often delirious and
light-headed; but nothing lay so near me as the fear that, when
I was light-headed, I should say something or other to his
prejudice. I was distressed in my mind also to see him, and
so he was to see me, for he really loved me most passionately;
but it could not be; there was not the least room to desire it
on one side or other, or so much as to make it decent.
It was near five weeks that I kept my bed and though the
violence of my fever abated in three weeks, yet it several
times returned; and the physicians said two or three times,
they could do no more for me, but that they must leave nature
and the distemper to fight it out, only strengthening the first
with cordials to maintain the struggle. After the end of five
weeks I grew better, but was so weak, so altered, so melancholy,
and recovered so slowly, that they physicians apprehended I
should go into a consumption; and which vexed me most,
they gave it as their opinion that my mind was oppressed,
that something troubled me, and, in short, that I was in love.
Upon this, the whole house was set upon me to examine me,
and to press me to tell whether I was in love or not, and with
whom; but as I well might, I denied my being in love at all.
They had on this occasion a squabble one day about me at
table, that had like to have put the whole family in an uproar,
and for some time did so. They happened to be all at table but
the father; as for me, I was ill, and in my chamber. At the
beginning of the talk, which was just as they had finished
their dinner, the old gentlewoman, who had sent me somewhat
to eat, called her maid to go up and ask me if I would have any
more; but the maid brought down word I had not eaten half
what she had sent me already.
'Alas, says the old lady, 'that poor girl! I am afraid she will
never be well.'
'Well!' says the elder brother, 'how should Mrs. Betty be well?
They say she is in love.'
'I believe nothing of it,' says the old gentlewoman.
'I don't know,' says the eldest sister, 'what to say to it;
they have made such a rout about her being so handsome, and
so charming, and I know not what, and that in her hearing too,
that has turned the creature's head, I believe, and who knows
what possessions may follow such doings? For my part, I
don't know what to make of it.'
'Why, sister, you must acknowledge she is very handsome,'
says the elder brother.
'Ay, and a great deal handsomer than you, sister,' says Robin,
'and that's your mortification.'
'Well, well, that is not the question,' says his sister; 'that girl
is well enough, and she knows it well enough; she need not
be told of it to make her vain.'
'We are not talking of her being vain,' says the elder brother,
'but of her being in love; it may be she is in love with herself;
it seems my sisters think so.'
'I would she was in love with me,' says Robin; 'I'd quickly
put her out of her pain.'
'What d'ye mean by that, son,' says the old lady; 'how can
you talk so?'
'Why, madam,' says Robin, again, very honestly, 'do you
think I'd let the poor girl die for love, and of one that is near
at hand to be had, too?'
'Fie, brother!', says the second sister, 'how can you talk so?
Would you take a creature that has not a groat in the world?'
'Prithee, child,' says Robin, 'beauty's a portion, and good-
humour with it is a double portion; I wish thou hadst half her
stock of both for thy portion.' So there was her mouth stopped.
'I find,' says the eldest sister, 'if Betty is not in love, my
brother is. I wonder he has not broke his mind to Betty; I
warrant she won't say No.'
'They that yield when they're asked,' says Robin, 'are one
step before them that were never asked to yield, sister, and
two steps before them that yield before they are asked; and
that's an answer to you, sister.'
This fired the sister, and she flew into a passion, and said,
things were come to that pass that it was time the wench,
meaning me, was out of the family; and but that she was not
fit to be turned out, she hoped her father and mother would
consider of it as soon as she could be removed.
Robin replied, that was business for the master and mistress
of the family, who where not to be taught by one that had so
little judgment as his eldest sister.
It ran up a great deal farther; the sister scolded, Robin rallied
and bantered, but poor Betty lost ground by it extremely in
the family. I heard of it, and I cried heartily, and the old lady
came up to me, somebody having told her that I was so much
concerned about it. I complained to her, that it was very hard
the doctors should pass such a censure upon me, for which
they had no ground; and that it was still harder, considering
the circumstances I was under in the family; that I hoped I
had done nothing to lessen her esteem for me, or given any
occasion for the bickering between her sons and daughters,
and I had more need to think of a coffin than of being in love,
and begged she would not let me suffer in her opinion for
anybody's mistakes but my own.
She was sensible of the justice of what I said, but told me,
since there had been such a clamour among them, and that her
younger son talked after such a rattling way as he did, she
desired I would be so faithful to her as to answer her but one
question sincerely. I told her I would, with all my heart, and
with the utmost plainness and sincerity. Why, then, the
question was, whether there way anything between her son
Robert and me. I told her with all the protestations of sincerity
that I was able to make, and as I might well, do, that there was
not, nor every had been; I told her that Mr. Robert had rattled
and jested, as she knew it was his way, and that I took it always,
as I supposed he meant it, to be a wild airy way of discourse
that had no signification in it; and again assured her, that there
was not the least tittle of what she understood by it between
us; and that those who had suggested it had done me a great
deal of wrong, and Mr. Robert no service at all.
The old lady was fully satisfied, and kissed me, spoke
cheerfully to me, and bid me take care of my health and want
for nothing, and so took her leave. But when she came down
she found the brother and all his sisters together by the ears;
they were angry, even to passion, at his upbraiding them with
their being homely, and having never had any sweethearts,
never having been asked the question, and their being so
forward as almost to ask first. He rallied them upon the
subject of Mrs. Betty; how pretty, how good-humoured, how
she sung better then they did, and danced better, and how
much handsomer she was; and in doing this he omitted no
ill-natured thing that could vex them, and indeed, pushed too
hard upon them. The old lady came down in the height of it,
and to put a stop it to, told them all the discourse she had had
with me, and how I answered, that there was nothing between
Mr. Robert and I.
'She's wrong there,' says Robin, 'for if there was not a great
deal between us, we should be closer together than we are.
I told her I loved her hugely,' says he, 'but I could never make
the jade believe I was in earnest.' 'I do not know how you
should,' says his mother; 'nobody in their senses could believe
you were in earnest, to talk so to a poor girl, whose circumstances
you know so well.
'But prithee, son,' adds she, 'since you tell me that you could
not make her believe you were in earnest, what must we
believe about it? For you ramble so in your discourse, that
nobody knows whether you are in earnest or in jest; but as I
find the girl, by your own confession, has answered truly, I
wish you would do so too, and tell me seriously, so that I may
depend upon it. Is there anything in it or no? Are you in
earnest or no? Are you distracted, indeed, or are you not?
'Tis a weighty question, and I wish you would make us easy
'By my faith, madam,' says Robin, ''tis in vain to mince the
matter or tell any more lies about it; I am in earnest, as much
as a man is that's going to be hanged. If Mrs. Betty would
say she loved me, and that she would marry me, I'd have her
tomorrow morning fasting, and say, 'To have and to hold,'
instead of eating my breakfast.'
'Well,' says the mother, 'then there's one son lost'; and she
said it in a very mournful tone, as one greatly concerned at it.
'I hope not, madam,' says Robin; 'no man is lost when a good
wife has found him.'
'Why, but, child,' says the old lady, 'she is a beggar.'
'Why, then, madam, she has the more need of charity,' says
Robin; 'I'll take her off the hands of the parish, and she and
I'll beg together.'
'It's bad jesting with such things,' says the mother.
'I don't jest, madam,' says Robin. 'We'll come and beg your
pardon, madam; and your blessing, madam, and my father's.'
'This is all out of the way, son,' says the mother. 'If you are
in earnest you are undone.'
'I am afraid not,' says he, 'for I am really afraid she won't
have me; after all my sister's huffing and blustering, I believe
I shall never be able to persuade her to it.'
'That's a fine tale, indeed; she is not so far out of her senses
neither. Mrs. Betty is no fool,' says the younger sister. 'Do
you think she has learnt to say No, any more than other people?'
'No, Mrs. Mirth-wit,' says Robin, 'Mrs. Betty's no fool; but
Mrs. Betty may be engaged some other way, and what then?'
'Nay,' says the eldest sister, 'we can say nothing to that. Who
must it be to, then? She is never out of the doors; it must be
'I have nothing to say to that,' says Robin. 'I have been
examined enough; there's my brother. If it must be between
us, go to work with him.'
This stung the elder brother to the quick, and he concluded
that Robin had discovered something. However, he kept
himself from appearing disturbed. 'Prithee,' says he, 'don't
go to shame your stories off upon me; I tell you, I deal in no
such ware; I have nothing to say to Mrs. Betty, nor to any of
the Mrs. Bettys in the parish'; and with that he rose up and
'No,' says the eldest sister, 'I dare answer for my brother; he
knows the world better.'
Thus the discourse ended, but it left the elder brother quite
confounded. He concluded his brother had made a full
discovery, and he began to doubt whether I had been concerned
in it or not; but with all his management he could not bring
it about to get at me. At last he was so perplexed that he was
quite desperate, and resolved he would come into my chamber
and see me, whatever came of it. In order to do this, he
contrived it so, that one day after dinner, watching his eldest
sister till he could see her go upstairs, he runs after her. 'Hark
ye, sister,' says he, 'where is this sick woman? May not a
body see her?' 'Yes,' says the sister, 'I believe you may; but
let me go first a little, and I'll tell you.' So she ran up to the
door and gave me notice, and presently called to him again.
'Brother,' says she, 'you may come if you please.' So in he
came, just in the same kind of rant. 'Well,' says he at the door
as he came in, 'where is this sick body that's in love? How
do ye do, Mrs. Betty?' I would have got up out of my chair,
but was so weak I could not for a good while; and he saw it,
and his sister to, and she said, 'Come, do not strive to stand
up; my brother desires no ceremony, especially now you are
so weak.' 'No, no, Mrs. Betty, pray sit still,' says he, and so
sits himself down in a chair over against me, and appeared as
if he was mighty merry.
He talked a lot of rambling stuff to his sister and to me,
sometimes of one thing, sometimes of another, on purpose
to amuse his sister, and every now and then would turn it
upon the old story, directing it to me. 'Poor Mrs. Betty,' says
he, 'it is a sad thing to be in love; why, it has reduced you
sadly.' At last I spoke a little. 'I am glad to see you so merry,
sir,' says I; 'but I think the doctor might have found something
better to do than to make his game at his patients. If I had
been ill of no other distemper, I know the proverb too well to
have let him come to me.' 'What proverb?' says he, 'Oh! I
remember it now. What--
"Where love is the case,
The doctor's an ass."
Is not that it, Mrs. Betty?' I smiled and said nothing. 'Nay,'
says he, 'I think the effect has proved it to be love, for it
seems the doctor has been able to do you but little service;
you mend very slowly, they say. I doubt there's somewhat in
it, Mrs. Betty; I doubt you are sick of the incurables, and that
is love.' I smiled and said, 'No, indeed, sir, that's none of my
We had a deal of such discourse, and sometimes others that
signified as little. By and by he asked me to sing them a song,
at which I smiled, and said my singing days were over. At last
he asked me if he should play upon his flute to me; his sister
said she believe it would hurt me, and that my head could
not bear it. I bowed, and said, No, it would not hurt me.
'And, pray, madam.' said I, 'do not hinder it; I love the music
of the flute very much.' Then his sister said, 'Well, do, then,
brother.' With that he pulled out the key of his closet. 'Dear
sister,' says he, 'I am very lazy; do step to my closet and fetch
my flute; it lies in such a drawer,' naming a place where he
was sure it was not, that she might be a little while a-looking
As soon as she was gone, he related the whole story to me
of the discourse his brother had about me, and of his pushing
it at him, and his concern about it, which was the reason of
his contriving this visit to me. I assured him I had never
opened my mouth either to his brother or to anybody else.
I told him the dreadful exigence I was in; that my love to him,
and his offering to have me forget that affection and remove
it to another, had thrown me down; and that I had a thousand
times wished I might die rather than recover, and to have the
same circumstances to struggle with as I had before, and that
his backwardness to life had been the great reason of the
slowness of my recovering. I added that I foresaw that as soon
as I was well, I must quit the family, and that as for marrying
his brother, I abhorred the thoughts of it after what had been
my case with him, and that he might depend upon it I would
never see his brother again upon that subject; that if he would
break all his vows and oaths and engagements with me, be
that between his conscience and his honour and himself; but
he should never be able to say that I, whom he had persuaded
to call myself his wife, and who had given him the liberty to
use me as a wife, was not as faithful to him as a wife ought to
be, whatever he might be to me.
He was going to reply, and had said that he was sorry I could
not be persuaded, and was a-going to say more, but he heard
his sister a-coming, and so did I; and yet I forced out these
few words as a reply, that I could never be persuaded to love
one brother and marry another. He shook his head and said,
'Then I am ruined,' meaning himself; and that moment his
sister entered the room and told him she could not find the
flute. 'Well,' says he merrily, 'this laziness won't do'; so he
gets up and goes himself to go to look for it, but comes back
without it too; not but that he could have found it, but because
his mind was a little disturbed, and he had no mind to play;
and, besides, the errand he sent his sister on was answered
another way; for he only wanted an opportunity to speak to
me, which he gained, though not much to his satisfaction.
I had, however, a great deal of satisfaction in having spoken
my mind to him with freedom, and with such an honest
plainness, as I have related; and though it did not at all work
the way I desired, that is to say, to oblige the person to me
the more, yet it took from him all possibility of quitting me
but by a downright breach of honour, and giving up all the
faith of a gentleman to me, which he had so often engaged by,
never to abandon me, but to make me his wife as soon as he
came to his estate.
It was not many weeks after this before I was about the house
again, and began to grow well; but I continued melancholy,
silent, dull, and retired, which amazed the whole family, except
he that knew the reason of it; yet it was a great while before
he took any notice of it, and I, as backward to speak as he,
carried respectfully to him, but never offered to speak a word
to him that was particular of any kind whatsoever; and this
continued for sixteen or seventeen weeks; so that, as I expected
every day to be dismissed the family, on account of what
distaste they had taken another way, in which I had no guilt,
so I expected to hear no more of this gentleman, after all his
solemn vows and protestations, but to be ruined and abandoned.
At last I broke the way myself in the family for my removing;
for being talking seriously with the old lady one day, about
my own circumstances in the world, and how my distemper
had left a heaviness upon my spirits, that I was not the same
thing I was before, the old lady said, 'I am afraid, Betty, what
I have said to you about my son has had some influence upon
you, and that you are melancholy on his account; pray, will
you let me know how the matter stands with you both, if it
may not be improper? For, as for Robin, he does nothing but
rally and banter when I speak of it to him.' 'Why, truly,
madam,' said I 'that matter stands as I wish it did not, and I
shall be very sincere with you in it, whatever befalls me for it.
Mr. Robert has several times proposed marriage to me, which
is what I had no reason to expect, my poor circumstances
considered; but I have always resisted him, and that perhaps
in terms more positive than became me, considering the regard
that I ought to have for every branch of your family; but,' said
I, 'madam, I could never so far forget my obligation to you
and all your house, to offer to consent to a thing which I know
must needs be disobliging to you, and this I have made my
argument to him, and have positively told him that I would
never entertain a thought of that kind unless I had your consent,
and his father's also, to whom I was bound by so many
'And is this possible, Mrs. Betty?' says the old lady. 'Then
you have been much juster to us than we have been to you;
for we have all looked upon you as a kind of snare to my son,
and I had a proposal to make to you for your removing, for
fear of it; but I had not yet mentioned it to you, because I
thought you were not thorough well, and I was afraid of
grieving you too much, lest it should throw you down again;
for we have all a respect for you still, though not so much as
to have it be the ruin of my son; but if it be as you say, we have
all wronged you very much.'
'As to the truth of what I say, madam,' said I, 'refer you to
your son himself; if he will do me any justice, he must tell you
the story just as I have told it.'
Away goes the old lady to her daughters and tells them the
whole story, just as I had told it her; and they were surprised
at it, you may be sure, as I believed they would be. One said
she could never have thought it; another said Robin was a fool;
a third said she would not believe a word of it, and she would
warrant that Robin would tell the story another way. But the
old gentlewoman, who was resolved to go to the bottom of it
before I could have the least opportunity of acquainting her
son with what had passed, resolved too that she would talk
with her son immediately, and to that purpose sent for him,
for he was gone but to a lawyer's house in the town, upon
some petty business of his own, and upon her sending he
Upon his coming up to them, for they were all still together,
'Sit down, Robin,' says the old lady, 'I must have some talk
with you.' 'With all my heart, madam,' says Robin, looking
very merry. 'I hope it is about a good wife, for I am at a great
loss in that affair.' 'How can that be?' says his mother; 'did
not you say you resolved to have Mrs. Betty?' 'Ay, madam,'
says Robin, 'but there is one has forbid the banns.' 'Forbid,
the banns!' says his mother; 'who can that be?' 'Even Mrs.
Betty herself,' says Robin. 'How so?' says his mother. 'Have
you asked her the question, then?' 'Yes, indeed, madam,' says
Robin. 'I have attacked her in form five times since she was sick,
and am beaten off; the jade is so stout she won't capitulate nor
yield upon any terms, except such as I cannot effectually grant.'
'Explain yourself,' says the mother, 'for I am surprised; I do
not understand you. I hope you are not in earnest.'
'Why, madam,' says he, 'the case is plain enough upon me,