Page images
PDF
EPUB

Great men are indeed delivered from the burthen of their natural children, or bastards, as to their maintenance. This is the main affliction in other cases, where there is not substance sufficient without breaking into the fortunes of the family. In those cases, either a man's legitimate children suffer, which is very unnatural, or the unfortunate mother of that illegitimate birth has a dreadful affliction, either of being turned off with her child, and be left to starve, &c., or of seeing the poor infant packed off with a piece of money to some of those she-butchers, who take children off their hands, as ’tis called, that is to say, starve 'em, and, in a word, murder 'em. Great men,

I say, are delivered from this burthen, because they are always furnished to supply the expense of their out-of-the-way offspring, by making little assignments upon the bank of Lyons, or the town-house of Paris, and settling those sums, to be received for the maintenance of such expense as they see cause.

Thus, in the case of this child of mine, while he and I conversed, there was no need to make any appointment as an appanage or maintenance for the child or its nurse, for he supplied me more than sufficiently for all those things; but afterwards, when time, and a particular circumstance, put an end to our conversing together (as such things always meet with a period, and generally break off abruptly), I say, after that, I found he appointed the children a settled allowance, by an assignment of annual rent upon the bank of Lyons, which was sufficient for bringing them handsomely, though privately, up in the world, and that not in a manner unworthy of their father's blood, though I came to be sunk and forgotten in the case; nor did the children ever know anything of their mother to this day, other than as you may have an account hereafter.

But to look back to the particular observation I was making, which I hope may be of use to those who read my story, I say it was something wonderful to me to see this person so exceedingly delighted at the birth of this child, and so pleased with it; for he would sit and look at it, and with an air of seriousness sometimes, a great while together, and particularly, I observed, he loved to look at it when it was asleep.

It was indeed a lovely, charming child, and had a certain

REVOLTING IDEAS OF THE PENALTY OF CRIME.

69

vivacity in its countenance that is far from being common to all children so young; and he would often say to me, that he believed there was something extraordinary in the child, and he did not doubt but he would come to be a great man.

I could never hear him say so, but though secretly it pleased me, yet it so closely touched me another

way

that I could not refrain sighing, and sometimes tears; and one time in particular it so affected me that I could not conceal it from him; but when he saw tears run down my face, there was no concealing the occasion from him; he was too importunate to be denied in a thing of that moment, so I frankly answered, It sensibly affects me, my lord, said I, that whatever the merit of this little creature may be, he must always have a bend on his arms. The disaster of his birth will be always, not a blot only to his honour, but a bar to his fortunes in the world. Our affection will be ever his affliction, and his mother's crime be the son's reproach; the blot can never be wiped out by the most glorious actions ; nay, if it lives to raise a family, said I, the infamy must descend even to its innocent posterity.

He took the thought, and sometimes told me afterwards that it made a deeper impression on him than he discovered to me at that time; but for the present he put it off with telling me these things could not be helped; that they served for a spur to the spirits of brave men, inspired them with the principles of gallantry, and prompted them to brave actions; that though it might be true that the mention of illegitimacy might attend the name, yet that personal virtue placed a man of honour above the reproach of his birth ; that, as he had no share in the offence, he would have no concern at the blot; when, having by his own merit placed himself out of the reach of scandal, his fame should drown the memory of his beginning.

That as it was usual for men of quality to make such little escapes, so the number of their natural children were so great, and they generally took such good care of their education, that some of the greatest men in the world had a bend in their coats of arms, and that it was of no consequence to them, especially when their fame began to rise upon the basis of their acquired merit; and upon this he began to reckon up to me some of the greatest families in France and in England also.

This carried off our discourse for a time; but I went farther with him once, removing the discourse from the part attending our children to the reproach which those children would be apt to throw upon us, their originals ; and, when speaking a little too feelingly on the subject, he began to receive the impression a little deeper than I wished he had done. At last he told me I had almost acted the confessor to him ; that I might, perhaps, preach a more dangerous doctrine to him than we should either of us like, or than I was aware of; For, my dear, says he, if once we come to talk of repentance we must talk of parting.

If tears were in my eyes before, they flowed too fast now to be restrained, and I gave him but too much satisfaction by my looks that I had yet no reflections upon my mind strong enough to go that length, and that I could no more think of parting than he could.

He said a great many kind things, which were great, like himself; and, extenuating our crime, intimated to me that he could no more part with me than I could with him; so we both, as

I

may say, even against our light, and against our conviction, concluded to sin on; indeed, his affection to the child was one great tie to him, for he was extremely fond of it.

This child lived to be a considerable man. He was first an officer of the Garde du Corps of France, and afterwards colonel of a regiment of dragoons in Italy; and on many extraordinary occasions showed that he was not unworthy such a father, but many ways deserving a legitimate birth, and a better mother; of which hereafter.

I think I may say now that I lived indeed like a queen; or, if you will have me confess that my condition had still the reproach of a whore, I may say I was, sure, the queen of whores; for no woman was ever more valued or more caressed by a person of such quality only in the station of a mistress. I had, indeed, one deficiency which women in such circumstances seldom are chargeable with ; namely, I craved nothing of him ; I never asked him for anything in my life, nor suffered myself to be made use of, as is too much the custom of mistresses, to ask favours for others. His bounty always prevented me in the first, and my strict concealing myself, in the last, which was no less to my convenience than his.

RETURN TO PARIS AFTER CONFINEMENT.

71

The only favour I ever asked of him was for his gentleman, who he had all along intrusted with the secret of our affair, and who had once so much offended him by some omissions in his duty that he found it very hard to make his peace. He came and laid his case before my woman Amy, and begged her to speak to me to intercede for him, which I did, and on my account he was received again and pardoned, for which the grateful dog requited me by getting to bed to his benefactress, Amy, at whieh I was very angry; but Amy generously acknowledged that it was her fault as much as his; that she loved the fellow so much that she believed if he had not asked her she should have asked him ; I say this pacified me, and I only obtained of her that she should not let him know that I knew it.

I might have interspersed this part of my story with a great many pleasant parts and discourses which happened between my maid Amy and I, but I omit them on account of my own story, which has been so extraordinary. However, I must mention something as to Amy and her gentleman.

I inquired of Amy upon what terms they came to be so intimate, but Amy seemed backward to explain herself. I did not care to press her upon a question of that nature, knowing that she might have answered my question with a question, and have said, Why, how did I and the prince come to be so intimate ? so I left off farther inquiring into it, till, after some time, she told it me all freely of her own accord, which, to cut it short, amounted to no more than this, that, like mistress like maid, as they had many leisure hours together below, while they waited respectively when his lord and I were together above; I say, they could hardly avoid the usual question one to another, namely, why might not they do the same thing below that we did above ?

On that account, indeed, as I said above, I could not find in my heart to be angry with Amy. I was, indeed, afraid the girl would have been with child too, but that did not happen, and so there was no hurt done; for Amy had been hanselled before, as well as her mistress, and by the same party too, as you have heard.

After I was up again, and my child provided with a good nurse, and, withal, winter coming on, it was proper to think of coming to Paris again, which I did; but as I had now a

coach and lorses, and some servants to attend me, by my lord's allowance, I took the liberty to have them come to Paris sometimes, and so to take a tour into the garden of the Thuilleries, and the other pleasant places of the city. It happened one day that my prince (if I may call him so), had a mind to give me some diversion, and to take the air with me; but, that he might do it and not be publicly known, he comes to me in a coach of the Count de

a great officer of the court, attended by his liveries also ; so that, in a word, it was impossible to guess by the equipage who I was, or who I belonged to ; also, that I might be the more effectually concealed, he ordered me to be taken up at a mantua-maker's house, where he sometimes came,

whether

upon

other amours or not was no business of mine to inquire. I knew nothing whither he intended to carry me; but when he was in the coach with me, he told me he had ordered his servants to go to court with me, and he would show me some of the beau monde. I told him I cared not where I went while I had the honour to have him with me; so he carried me to the fine palace of Meudon, where the dauphin then was, and where he had some particular intimacy with one of the dauphin's domestics, who procured a retreat for me in his lodgings while we stayed there, which was three or four days.

While I was there, the king happened to come thither from Versailles, and making but a short stay, visited madame the dauphiness, who was then living. The prince was here incognito, only because of his being with me, and, therefore, when he heard that the king was in the gardens, he kept close within the lodgings; but the gentleman in whose lodgings we were, with his lady and several others, went out to see the king, and I had the honour to be asked to go with them.

After we had seen the king, who did not stay long in the gardens, we walked up the broad terrace, and, crossing the hall towards the great staircase, I had a sight which confounded me at once, as I doubt not it would have done to any woman in the world. The horseguards, or, what they call there, the gens d'armes, had upon some occasion, been either upon duty, or been reviewed, or something (I did not understand that part) was the matter, that occasioned their being there, I know not what; but, walking in the guard-chamber, and with his jack-boots on, and the whole habit of the troop,

« PreviousContinue »