« PreviousContinue »
I got good advice at Paris from an eminent lawyer, a counsellor of the parliament there, and laying my case before him, he directed me to make a process in dower upon the estate, for making good my new fortune upon matrimony, which accordingly I did; and, upon the whole, the manager went back to England well satisfied that he had gotten the unaccepted bill of exchange, which was for two thousand five hundred pounds, with some other things, which together amounted to seventeen thousand livres; and thus I got rid of him.
I was visited with great civility on this sad occasion of the loss of my husband, as they thought him, by a great manr ladies of quality. And the prince of
to whom it wareported he was carrying the jewels, sent his gentleman with a very handsome compliment of condolence to me; and his gentleman, whether with or without order, hinted as if his highness did intend to have visited me himself, but that some accident, which he made a long story of, had prevented him.
By the concourse of ladies and others that thus came to visit me, I began to be much known; and as I did not forget to set myself out with all possible advantage, considering the dress of a widow, which in those days was a most frightful thing; I say, as I did thus from my own vanity, for I was not ignorant that I was very handsome; I say, on this account I was soon made very public, and was known by the name of la belle veufeu de Poictou, or the pretty widow of Poictou. As I was very well pleased to see myself thus handsomely used in my affliction, it soon dried
and though I appeared as a widow, yet, as we say in England, it was of a widow comforted. I took care to let the ladies see that I knew how to receive them, that I was not at a loss how to behave to any of them; and, in short, I began to be very popular there; but I had an occasion afterwards which made me decline that kind of management, as you shall hear presently.
About four days after I had received the compliments of condolence from the prince the same gentleman he had sent before came to tell me that his highness was coming to give me a visit. I was indeed surprised at that, and perfectly at a loss how to behave. However, as there was no remedy, I prepared to receive him as well as I could. It was not many minutes after, but he was at the door, and came in,
THE PRINCE CONDESCENDS TO VISIT ME.
introduced by his own gentleman, as above, and after, by my woman Amy.
He treated me with abundance of civility, and condoled handsomely the loss of my husband, and likewise the manner of it. He told me he understood he was coming to Versailles to himself, to show him some jewels; that it was true that he had discoursed with him about jewels, but could not imagine how any villains should hear of his coming at that time with them; that he had not ordered him to attend with them at Versailles, but told him that he would come to Paris by such a day, so that he was no way accessary to the disaster. I told him gravely I knew very well that all his highness had said of that part was true ; that these villains knew his profession, and knew, no doubt, that he always carried a casket of jewels about him, and that he always wore a diamond ring on his finger worth a hundred pistoles, which report had magnified to five hundred; and that if he had been going to any other place, it would have been the same thing. After this his highness rose up to go, and told · me he had resolved however to make me some reparation; and with these words put a silk purse into my hand with a hundred pistoles, and told me he would make me a farther compliment of a small pension, which his gentleman would inform me of. You may
be sure I behaved with a due sense of so much goodness, and offered to kneel to kiss his hand; but he took me up and saluted me, and sat down again (though before he made as if he was going away), making me sit down by him.
He then began to talk with me more familiarly; told me he hoped I was not left in bad circumstances; that Mr. was reputed to be very rich, and that he had gained lately great sums by some jewels, and he hoped, he said, that I had still a fortune agreeable to the condition I had lived in before.
I replied, with some tears, which, I confess, were a little forced, that I believed, if Mr. had lived, we should have been out of danger of want, but that it was impossible to estimate the loss which I had sustained, besides that of the life of my husband. That, by the opinion of those that knew something of his affairs, and of what value the jewels were which he intended to have shown to his highness, he
could not have less about him than the value of a hundred thousand livres. That it was a fatal blow to me, and to his whole family, especially that they should be lost in such
His highness returned, with an air of concern, that he was very sorry for it; but he hoped, if I settled in Paris, I might find ways to restore my fortune ; at the same time he complimented me upon my being very handsome, as he pleased to call it, and that I could not fail of admirers. ] stood
up and humbly thanked his highness, but told him I had no expectations of that kind ; that I thought I should be obliged to go over to England, to look after my husband's effects there, which I was told were considerable; but that I did not know what justice a poor stranger would get among them; and as for Paris, my fortune being so impaired, I saw nothing before me but to go back to Poictou to my friends, where some of my relations, I hoped, might do something for me, and added, that one of my brothers was an abbot at
near Poictiers. He stood up, and taking me by the hand, led me to a large looking-glass, which made up the pier in the front of the parlour, Look there, madam, said he, is it fit that that face (pointing to my figure in the glass) should go back to Poictou? No, madam, says he, stay and make some gentleman of quality happy, that may, in return, make you forget all your sorrows; and with that he took me in his arms, and kissing me twice, told me he would see me again, but with less ceremony.
Some little time after this, but the same day, his gentleman came to me again, and, with great ceremony and respect, delivered me a black box tied with a scarlet riband, and sealed with a noble coat of arms, which I suppose was the prince's.
There was in it a grant from his highness, or an assignment, I know not which to call it, with a warrant to his banker to pay me two thousand livres a year, during my stay in Paris, as the widow of Monsieur - the jeweller, mentioning the horrid murder of my late husband as the occasion of it, as above.
I received it with great submission, and expressions of being infinitely obliged to his master, and of my showing myself on all occasions his highness's most obedient servant ; and after giving my most humble duty to his highness, with the utmost acknowledgments of the obligation, &c., I went to
BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS.
a little cabinet, and taking out some money, which made a little sound in taking it out, offered to give him five pistoles.
He drew back, but with the greatest respect, and told me he humbly thanked me, but that he durst not take a farthing; that his highness would take it so ill of him, he was sure he would never see his face more; but that he would not fail to acquaint his highness what respect I had oftered ; and added, I assure you, madam, you are more in the good graces of my master, the Prince of than you are aware of; and I believe
will hear more of him. Now I began to understand him, and resolved, if his highness did come again, he should see me under no disadvantages, if I could help it. I told him if his highness did me the honour to see me again, I hoped he would not let me be so surprised as I was before; that I would be glad to have
me little notice of it, and would be obliged to him if he would procure it me. He told me he was very sure that when his highness intended to visit me he should be sent before to give me notice of it, and that he would give me as much warning of it as possible.
He came several times after this on the same errand, that is, about the settlement, the grant requiring several things yet to be done, for making it payable without going every time to the prince again for a fresh warrant. The particulars of this part I did not understand; but as soon as it was finished, which was above two months, the gentleman came one afternoon, and said his highness designed to visit me in the evening, but desired to be admitted without ceremony.
I prepared not my rooms only, but myself; and when he came in there was nobody appeared in the house but his gentleman and my maid Amy; and of her I bid the gentleman acquaint his highness that she was an English woman, that she did not understand a word of French, and that she was one also that might be trusted.
When he came into my room, I fell down at his feet before he could come to salute me, and with words that I had prepared, full of duty and respect, thanked him for his bounty and goodness to a poor desolate woman, oppressed under the weight of so terrible a disaster; and refused to rise till he would allow me the honour to kiss his hand.
Levez vous donc, says the prince, taking me in his arms, I design more favours for you than this trifle; and going on,
he added, You shall for the future find a friend where you did not look for it, and I resolve to let you see how kind I can be to one who is to me the most agreeable creature on earth.
I was dressed in a kind of half mourning, had turned off my weeds, and my head, though I had yet no ribands or lace, was so dressed, as failed not to set me out with advantage enough, for I began to understand his meaning; and the prince professed I was the most beautiful creature on earth. And where have I lived, says he, and how ill have I been served, that I should never till now be showed the finest woman in France !
This was the way in all the world the most likely to break in upon my virtue, if I had been mistress of any; for I was now become the vainest creature upon earth, and particularly of my beauty, which, as other people admired, so I became every day more foolishly in love with myself than before.
He said some very kind things to me after this, and sat down with me for an hour or more, when getting up, and calling his gentleman by his name, he threw open the door : Au boir, says he ; upon which his gentleman immediately brought up a little table covered with a fine damask cloth, the table no bigger than he could bring in his two hands, but upon it was set two decanters, one of champagne and the other of water, six silver plates, and a service of fine sweetmeats in fine china dishes, on a set of rings standing up about twenty inches high, one above another. Below was three roasted partridges and a quail. As soon as his gentleman had set it all down, he ordered him to withdraw. Now, says the prince, I intend to sup with you.
When he sent away his gentleman, I stood up and offered to wait on his highness, while he eat; but he positively refused, and told me, No, to-morrow you shall be the widow of Monsieur -, the jeweller, but to night you shall be my mistress; therefore sit here, says he, and eat with me, or I will get up and serve.
I would then have called up my woman Amy, but I thought that would not be proper neither; so I made my excuse, that since his highness would not let his own servant wait, I would not presume to let my woman come up; but if he would please to let me wait, it would be my honour to fill his highness's wine. But, as before, he would by no mears allow me; so we zat and eat together.