The Lining of the Patch-Work Screen, by Jane Barker

The Story of Bellemien

Related by Amarantha.

There was a Widow−Gentlewoman somewhat decayed in the World, who had but one only Child, a beautiful Daughter. This Gentlewoman apply'd her self, by Industry, to salve those Sores which hard Fortune had made in her Circumstances, thereby to enable her to educate this her Daughter a little suitable to her Birth, without being dependant on her Relations. This caused her to let her House to Lodgers, but chiefly to Men, as being supposed the least Trouble: She likewise took their Linen to mend and starch; or any sowing−work, whereby she could honestly get a Penny. Amongst these Gentlemen that lodged at, or frequented her House, there was one who became extreamly enamour'd with Favorella (for that is the Name of her beautiful Daughter;) which, as soon as the Mother perceiv'd, she took all possible care to prevent any dangerous Correspondence, and the Daughter was no less circumspect. All which so inflam'd the young Gentleman, that sometimes he resolved to marry her: For though Riches were wanting, (which in these days is counted the main Article) yet where Beauty, Vertue, and Prudence, are united there is reason to hope for a happy Espousal; those three ingredients being of force to draw in that other, to wit Riches. Nevertheless, though this Inclinations were strong, and the young Creature's Affections correspondent; yet they fear'd to marry, he having only a younger Brother's Fortune to depend upon, of which he should be depriv'd if he married without the Consent of his Mother, which he knew would be in vain to ask, when a suitable Fortune did not accompany this Request. Nevertheless, such were the Charms of the young Favorella, that maugre all the oppositions of Reason and Interest, he was forced to comply with this Passion, in the Espousing her. However, they were so discreet, as to take care to keep their Marriage absolutely a Secret, till time should help them through the Difficulty. But as these clandestine Marriages seldom prove happy, so this between Palemon and Favorella was wholly unfortunate.

Now thus it hapned, Palemon's elder Brother being married some time, and having no prospect of Children he began to joyn his Importunities with those of his Mother and other Friends, to make Palemon betake himself to a Wife, whereby to provide Heirs for the Family; and to further their Design, pitcht upon our Friend Bellemien,who, you know, is the only Child of her Mother, and has a Fortune suitable to his Family; and indeed, such was her Fortune, that her Mother would not have accepted a younger Brother, but that the way to the paternal Estate lay open, by the Defect of Heirs on the Elder Brother's side. At the same time, Palemon and Favorella, began to find their Circumstances too narrow for a decent Subsistance, which began to call loud on them to change the Measures of their living. His Friends knowing he had a sufficient Allowance from his Family, wonder'd that he could not live within compass; and thought he surely kept Company with lewd Women; therefore they pressed him the more to marry. The poor Favorella, told him, she was willing to ease him of the Burden of maintaining her, and so would go to Service, work to the Exchange, or any thing to make him easie.

At this time there was a Clerk just out of his time, who had a pretty paternal Estate, which he offered to settle upon her a Joynture, as not knowing of her prior Marriage.

Things being on this footing on both sides, truly, Palemon and Favorella agreed between themselves, that both of them should try to enlarge their Circumstances, by the way which seem'd chalk'd out by Fortune, and so each of them to marry the respective Persons thus provided; promising to continue a mutual Affection for each other, and if Fortune should ever turn things about, so as to have it proper for them to come together again, then to remember their first conjugal Vows, and live no longer asunder; in the mean time, endeavour to bear their Yoke in Patience in these their new Espousals, which courted their acceptance.

Thus the unhappy Couple dispensed each with other to an absolute Separation: He married our Friend Bellemien,and she married the young Lawyer, who honestly settled his Estate upon her: and they both lived in these their new Espousals well enough: Whether they held any secret correspondence, is unknown, we are bound to hope the best, and conclude they did not (if one may call that the best;) but it is a moot point, which is best, or rather, which is worst, every way in such a Station, being bad, even to a great Degree of Wickedness. In due time Palemon had a Child; by this his new Wife, and all things went on in pretty good Order and Harmony amongst them; the Relations on both sides were pleas'd to see an Heir to inherit the Riches of both Families.

This Tranquillity held till the Death of our young Lawyer, Favorella's Husband; for he lived but few Years with her, and then Palemon's Flame began to revive, and burn with Violence. Then he began to have Gripes in Conscience, or at least, his Passion was disguis'd in that dress; Favorella's Beaty dazled him, Favorella's Wrongs stung him; Favorella was his first Love, his first Wife, and ought to be the Object of his Affection; she ought to be righted, his Conscience quieted; But chiefly, (as one may suppose) his Inclinations gratified; which was no way to be done, but by quitting his latter Spouse, and cleaving to the former. We will suppose, that his Thoughts met with great Obstacles on the other side, to think how he should ruine a vertuous young Gentlewoman, expose the Child he had by her arm all her Relations with Revenge, and disoblige his own Family.

Thus was this unhappy Gentleman become miserable through his own Folly. His Days he pass'd in Anxiety, and his Nights in Despair; his Bed was no place of Rest, nor his Table of Refreshment; his House was a Den of Horror, and abroad a Wilderness of Woe; his Wife's Kindness was disagreeable, and her very Caresses nauceous. He betook himself to Devotion, and reading good Books; all which served but to augment his Grief, by setting his Crimes in a just light, before the Eyes of his Understanding. He had no third Person to whom he could or durst to communicate this his Affliction, thereby to receive Counsel or Consolation; but was forced to feed this gnawing Worm of an ill Conscience secretly, till it devoured his whole internal Quiet.

Thus, after many Debates with himself, he at last comply'd with Inclination, and resolv'd secretly to leave his House, Wife, and Family, and go live in private Lodgings with Favorella, whom he thought was his true and lawful Wife. This he put in Execution, and writ the following Billet to his latter Wise, our friend Bellemien:

Madam, I have taken a resolution to live from you; I desire you, as you favour your own Quiet, not to inquire after me; I have very good reason for what I do; be kind to the poor Babe you have by me, for its sake and your own; for, I confess there is nothing due to it for my sake, its wretched Father,

Palemon.

Having writ this Letter, he step'd into the Nursery, where the innocent Babe lay smiling in its cradle.

At his approach, it fliggar'd and stretch'd out his little Hands to catch hold of him, as if with dumb Shews, it would have said, Pappa, will you leave me to the risque of Fortune? Will you leave me, your only Child, whom God has given you to support your Name and Family, by whom your Race must be continued? Ah, unkind Pappa!And then its little face drew into a form of crying. He look'd on the innocent Babe with tenderness; and bowing down to kiss it, the poor innocent clasp'd its little Fingers in his Wig, as loth to part with its Father. This brought Tears from the Eyes of the unhappy Palemon. Oh, Wretch that I am, said he to himself, thus to leave this lovely Innocent, the Pledge of his Mother's tender Love! and thus to part from a faithful vertuous Woman; to leave her to the Censure of this World, as if guilty of some heinous Crime; or at least, as if she was of some ill Temper or froward Humour, unfit to cohabit withal! Whereas she is sweet, vertuous, and mild, as Summer−dew, or the Vernal Sun. Her Family and Fortune have enrich'd and honoured thee, brought thee to be esteem'd and respected, above thy Merit! Palemon, to what exigence have thy Crimes and Follies reduced thee!

Thus sighing, thus weeping, thus regarding the Child with Tenderness, he heard the Nurse coming up stairs; upon which he hastily step'd into his Closet, where he made up the foresaid Billet; and then left his House, never more to return.

When his Lady arose, and saw his Closet−door open, she thought to run to him with open Arms, and wonted kind Caresses; but instead of her dear Palemon, she found the said surprizing Letter. At which her Grief and Wonder was such, as I cannot describe; therefore leave you (good Ladies) to guess. Her Mother and all her Relations, soon became Co−partners of her Grief and Disgrace. Which way to turn themselves in it, they knew not; where to enquire, or what measures to take, they were wholly ignorant. But length of time and much Enquiry, brought them to the Knowledge of his Habitation, and how he lived with Favorella, as Man and Wife. But when they came to the Knowledge hereof, they were at a loss where to begin, or at which End of this ill−spun Thread to take hold; some advis'd 'em to the spiritual Court, there to prosecute him as an Adulterer; others, on the contrary, saying, that was playing the Game for them, just as they had dealt the Cards, and the way to bring on a Divorce; which was most useful to them of all things; Others advised differently, nobody knowing how the affair was, touching his former Marriage with Favorella. Amongst many Enquiries, and Consultations, Bellemien chanc'd to be at a Friend's House, where she was relating her Griefs, and telling the differing sorts of Advice given her by several Friends; some for the Spiritual Court, some for Common Law, others for bringing the Case into Parliament.

Amongst these Gentlewomen, there was one (an absolute Stranger) who told her that she believed she could give her better Counsel than any Lawyer in the three Inns of Court, if she would go privately with her into the next Room; which accordingly she did; and there she told Bellemien the whole Story of his first Marriage, the Cause and Manner of the Separation, all that had pass'd in his second Espousals; the manner of leaving his House, and the Grief he underwent in parting with his Child; insomuch that Bellemien was greatly surpriz'd, and thought this Gentleman at least, a Scotch−Seer, if not a She−Conjurer, or else that she had feign'd a Story.

Now, Madam, said the unknown Person, that you are inform'd of the true state of the Case, consider well how to act. Suppose you could get proof of this first Marriage, which will be difficult, what will it avail? 'Twill only make the Man you once lov'd affectionately, appear a great Villain, your self Mother of an illegitimate Child, and deprive it too of the Right of Inheritance, by proving it a Bastard; and his first Wife of a comfortable Subsistance, which she enjoys now in right of her second Husband, the young Lawyer, she married afterwards: For if a prior Marriage be proved, that Joynture reverts to his Family.

Now, Madam, though this Woman enjoys your Husband, she lies under the scandal of a kept−Mistress, a Prostitute, a Concubine, a Strumpit, &c. despised by all vertuous People; whilst you enjoy your Honour, your Reputation, the Compassion of all the World, who esteem you for your Patience, and your Child is Heir to its Family on both sides. Now, if you please, take the Counsel of the unhappy Favorella, your Rival: I say, take this Counsel from me, who am Palemon's first and lawful Wife; and remember, that, with the Proverb,

'Tis better, to sit still, than rise up, and fall.

At these Words, Bellemien swoon'd in her Chair, whilst Favorella fled out at a Back−door, resolving for the future eternally to avoid her Presence.

This Story being ended, Galecia and Miranda took their Leaves, in hopes to get to Prayers, in their Way home: But they came too late, for the People were just coming out of Church, as they got thither.

Returning back, they found a Mob gathering, which almost obstructed their Passage; one crying out, You Rogue, you detain my Wife from me; but I will make you produce her, or Newgate shall hold you. Then another cry'd aloud, Out upon thee, Villain, I am thy Wife. Our two Friends thought, this was a feign'd Noise, design'd only to gather a Crowd, for the conveniency of picking Pockets; so they hastned by as fast as they could, each to their respective Lodgings.

By such time as Galecia had rested and dined, there came a Gentleman to visit her, bringing with him a young Gentlewoman, whom he presented to Galecia, telling her, that he took the Liberty to bring this Stranger to her, that she might receive a little Consolation, by discoursing in a Language she understood; because English was utterly unknown to her: For though she was the King of England's Subject, yet being born at Paris, and always educated in a French Convent, she knew no other Language. Galecia received her with a civil Decency, bidding her welcome into England, and wishing her Happiness, in the Country which ought to have been the Place of her Nativity, as it is now (and I hope, said she will continue to be) the Place of your Abode.

No indeed, reply'd the Gentleman, such is her Misfortune, as deprives her of that Happiness, the Particulars of which I shall leave her to relate, and wait upon you again. O good Sir, said the young Stranger, do you inform this Gentlewoman of my unhappy Adventures; and do it in English, lest I sink with Confusion to hear my Follies related in a Language I understand. Hereupon the Gentleman began the story as follows.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/barker/jane/lining/chapter12.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31