« PreviousContinue »
REFLECTIONS ON THE EVIL PROPENSITY OF NATURE.
it at their own expense; give vast presents for a ruinous favour, which is so far from being equal to the price, that nothing will at last prove more absurd than the cost men are at to purchase their own destruction.
I could not, in the height of all this fine doings, I say, I could not be without some just reflection, though conscience was, as I said, dumb, as to any disturbance it gave me in my wickedness. My vanity was fed up to such a height, that I had no room to give way to such reflections. But I could not but sometimes look back with astonishment at the folly of men of quality, who, immense in their bounty as in their wealth, give to a profusion and without bounds to the most scandalous of our sex, for granting them the liberty of abusing themselves and ruining both.
I, that knew what this carcase of mine had been but a few years before; how overwhelmed with grief, drowned in tears, frightened with the prospect of beggary, and surrounded with rags and fatherless children; that was pawning and selling the
rags that covered me, for a dinner, and sat on the ground despairing of help, and expecting to be starved, till my children were snatched from me to be kept by the parish ; I, that was after this a whore for bread, and, abandoning conscience and virtue, lived with another woman's husband ; I, that was despised by all my relations, and my husband's too ; I, that was left so entirely desolate, friendless, and helpless, that I knew not how to get the least help to keep me from starving; that I should be caressed by a prince, for the honour of having the scandalous use of my prostituted body, common before to his inferiors, and perhaps would not have denied one of his footmen but a little while before, if I could have got my bread by it. I
say, I could not but reflect upon the brutality and blindness of mankind; that because nature had given me a good skin and some agreeable features, should suffer that beauty to be such a bait to appetite, as to do such sordid unaccountable things to obtain the possession of it.
It is for this reason that I have so largely set down the particulars of the caresses I was treated with by the jeweller, and also by this prince. Not to make the story an incentive to the vice, which I am now such a sorrowful penitent for being guilty of (God forbid any should make so vile a úse of 80 good a design), but to draw the just picture of a man
enslaved to the rage of his vicious appetite; how he defaces the image of God in his soul; dethrones his reason, causes conscience to abdicate the possession, and exalts sense into the vacant throne; how he deposes the man and exalts the brute.
Oh! could hear how the reproaches this great man afterwards loaded himself with, when he grew weary of this admired creature, and became sick of his vice ! how profitable would the report of them be to the reader of this story ; but had he himself also known the dirty history of my actings upon the stage of life, that little time I had been in the world, how much more severe would those reproaches have been upon himself: but I shall come to this again. I lived in this gay sort of retirement almost three years,
in which time no amour of such a kind, sure, was ever carried up so high. The prince knew no bounds to his munificence; he could give me nothing either for my wearing, or using, or eating, or drinking, more than he had done from the beginning
His presents were after that in gold, and very frequent and large, often a hundred pistoles, never less than fifty at a time; and I must do myself the justice, that I seemed rather backward to receive, than craving and encroaching; not that I had not an avaricious temper, nor was it that I did not foresee that this was my harvest, in which I was to gather up, and that it would not last long; but it was that really his bounty always anticipated my expectations, and even my wishes; and he gave me money so fast, that he rather poured it in upon me than left me room to ask it; so that before I could spend fifty pistoles, I had always a hundred to make
After I had been near a year and a half in his arms as above, or thereabouts, I proved with child. I did not take any notice of it to him till I was satisfied that I was not deceived; when one morning early, when we were in bed together, I said to him, My lord, I doubt your highness never gives yourself leave to think what the case should be, if I should have the honour to be with child by you. Why, my dear, says he, we are able to keep it if such a thing should happen : I hope you are not concerned about that. No, my Bord, said I, I should think myself very happy if I could bring your highness a son; I should hope to see him a lieutenant
general of the king's armies by the interest of his father, and by his own merit. Assure yourself, child, says he, if it should be so, I will not refuse owning him for my son, though it be, as they call it, a natural son ; and shall never slight or neglect him, for the sake of his mother. Then he began to importune me to know if it was so, but I positively denied it so long, till at last I was able to give him the satisfaction of knowing it himself by the motion of the child within me.
He professed himself overjoyed at the discovery, but told me that now it was absolutely necessary for me to quit the confinement which, he said, I had suffered for his sake, and to take a house somewhere in the country, in order for health as well as for privacy, against my lying-in. This was quite out of my way, but the prince, who was a man of pleasure, had, it seems, several retreats of this kind, which he had made use of, I suppose, upon like occasions; and so leaving it, as it were, to his gentleman, he provided a very convenient house, about four miles south of Paris, at the village of where I had very agreeable lodgings, good gardens, and all things very easy to my content; but one thing did not please me at all, viz., that an old woman was provided, and put into the house to furnish everything necessary to my lying-in, and to assist at my travail.
I did not like this old woman at all; she looked so like a spy upon me, or (as sometimes I was frightened to imagine) like one set privately to despatch me out of the world, as might best suit with the circumstance of my lying-in; and when his highness came the next time to see me, which was not many days, I expostulated a little on the subject of the old woman; and by the management of my tongue, as well as by the strength of reasoning, I convinced him that it would not be at all convenient; that it would be the greater risk on his side; and at first or last it would certainly expose him and me also. I assured him that my servant, being an English-woman, never knew to that hour who his highness was; that I always called him the Count de Clerac, and that she knew nothing else of him, nor ever should ; that if he would give me leave to choose proper persons for my use, it should be so ordered, that not one of them should know who he was, or perhaps ever see his face; and that for the reality of the child that should be born, his highness, who had alone been at the frst of it, should, if he pleased, be present in tho
room all the time, so that he would need no witnesses on that account.
This discourse fully satisfied him, so that he ordered his gentleman to dismiss the old woman the same day; and without any difficulty I sent my maid Amy to Calais, and thence to Dover, where she got an English midwife and ar English nurse, to come over on purpose, to attend an English lady of quality, as they styled me, for four months certain.
The midwife, Amy had agreed to pay a hundred guineas to, and bear her charges to Paris, and back again to Dover. The poor woman that was to be my nurse had twenty pounds, and the same terms for charges as the other.
I was very easy when Amy returned, and the more because she brought with the midwife a good motherly sort of woman, who was to be her assistant, and would be very helpful on occasion ; and bespoke a man midwife at Paris too, if there should be any necessity for his help. Having thus made provision for everything, the count, for so we all called him in public, came as often to see me as I could expect, and continued exceeding kind, as he had always been. One day, conversing together upon the subject of my being with child, I told him how all things were in order, but that I had a strange apprehension that I should die with that child. He smiled, So all the ladies say, my dear, says he, when they are with child. Well however, my lord, said I, it is but just that care should be taken that what you have bestowed in your excess of bounty upon me should not be lost; and I pulled a paper out of my bosom, folded up, but not sealed, and I read it to him, wherein I had left order, that all the plate and jewels, and fine furniture which his highness had given me, should be restored to him by my women, and the keys be immediately delivered to his gentleman in case of disaster.
Then I recommended my woman, Amy, to his favour for a hundred pistoles, on condition she gave the keys up as above to his gentleman, and his gentleman's receipt for them. When he saw this, My dear child, said he (and took me in his arms), what! have you been making your will and disposing of your effects? Pray, who do you make your universal heir ? So far as to do justice to your highness, in case of mortality, I have, my lord, said I, and who should I dispose the valuable things to, which I have had from your
THE PRINCE PRESENT AT THE CONFINEMENT.
hand as pledges of your favour and testimonies of your bounty, but to the giver of them? If the child should live, your highness will, I don't question, act like yourself in that part, and I shall have the utmost satisfaction that it will be well used by your direction.
I could see he took this very well. I have forsaken all the ladies in Paris, says he, for you, and I have lived every day since I knew you to see that you know how to merit all that a man of honour can do for you. Be easy, child ; I hope you shall not die, and all you have is your own, to do what with it you please.
I was then within about two months of my time, and that soon wore off. When I found my time was come, it fell out very happily that he was in the house, and I entreated he would continue a few hours in the house, which he agreed to. They called his highness to come into the room, if he pleased, as I had offered and as I desired him; and I sent word I would make as few cries as possible to prevent disturbing him. He came into the room once, and called to me to be of good courage, it would soon be over, and then he withdrew again; and in about half an hour more Amy carried him the news that I was delivered, and had brought him a charming boy. He gave her ten pistoles for her news, stayed till they had adjusted things about me, and then came into the room again, cheered me and spoke kindly to me, and looked on the child, then withdrew, and came again the next day to visit me.
Since this, and when I have looked back upon these things with eyes unpossessed with crime, when the wicked part has appeared in its clearer light, and I have seen it in its own natural colours, when no more blinded with the glittering appearances which at that time deluded me, and as in like cases, if I may guess at others by myself, too much possessed the mind; I say, since this, I have often wondered with what pleasure or satisfaction the prince could look upon
the poor innocent infant, which though his own, and that he might that way have some attachment in his affections to it, yet must always afterwards be a remembrancer to him of his most early crime, and, which was worse, must bear upon itself, unrerited, an eternal mark of infamy, which should be spoken of, upon all occasions, to its reproach, from the folly of its father and wickedness of its mother.