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

The History of Malhurissa

Related by her Friend.

This Gentlewoman, said he, had the misfortune to lose her Parents when very young, who left her to the Care of her Uncle, a worthy Gentleman; but his Duty calling him to the Army, she was educated in a Convent, according to the Custom of those Countries, where they grow to under a constant Instruction and Practice of Vertue and Piety, in which she made a Proficiency suitable to the Endeavours of those holy Votaries. Her Uncle being to go to the Army to make his Campagne, thought it convenient to remove her to a Convent of a less rigorous Order, where she might learn the more polite Parts of Education; as Dancing, Singing, Musick, and the like; get acquainted with young Ladies of Quality, and be permitted to dress, something more according to the Mode of the World, than than was us'd in the other.

This Removal he committed to the Care of one, whom her Mother had brought out of England with her at the Revolution, and had always attended this young Creature. He left with this young Niece her Mother's Rings, Watch, Necklace, and divers Suits of Apparel, with fine Linnen, rich Laces, and the like; and that she might want nothing for that Year, he left an hundred Louis' D'ors for her Pension and other necessary Occasions. Having thus disposs'd this Affair, he together with other Officers, went away to the Army.

Now it was, that this wicked Wretch the foresaid Attendant, had the Opportunity to betray the poor young Creature. When they were come out of the Convent, and in the Coach, in order to go to the other, together with their Trunks, and other Necessaries, her Attendant ask'd her, if she had not a Fancy to go to St. Germain's, which had been the Court of their English Sovereign; for, said she, now we are got in the Coach, we can go thither, and divert you for a Day or two, e'er you enter your Enclosure. The young Lady, who had never seen anything but her Cloyster, was eager to embrace this Proposal; so to St. Germain's they went; and stayed some days, viewing the Castle, and all the Appartments, where the King, Queen, and Prince kept their respective Courts, the Garden, Walks in the Wood and Park, the Churches of the Fryers, both in the Town and Forest.

Going to the Parish Church to Prayers they met a Gentleman that claim'd acquaintance with Mrs. Vileman (for that was the name of our Attendant.) He told her, that he was going directly to Paris, to enquire for her, to let her know that her Father in England was dead, and had left her very considerable Effects, and shew'd them a Letter which he pretended to have receiv'd to this Purpose. Mrs. Vileman seem'd struck with Affliction, Confusion and Hurry, in which the Gentleman pretended to comfort her; particularly in reference to the good Fortune left her, for which it was necessary to go to England, as soon as possible.

Then the Question arose, whether she should go by Callis or Diepe; but the Gentleman advis'd her, by Diepe; for being got so far towards Rohan, it was easie and cheap getting, to Diepe, and so cross over to Rye; But Mrs. Vileman reply'd, she could not go directly thence; because she must carry that young Gentlewoman to the Conventassign'd for her Reception. Ah me, said the young Lady, it breaks my heart to think of parting with you; Methinks, I wish I was to go along with you to England: For beside the Unwillingness of being separated from you, I long to see England, and in particular, London, with all its Pomp and Riches; they say, it is much beyond Paris.

Thus this poor young Thing nibbled at the Bait they had lay'd for her; and they reply'd in delusive Words very fit to excite and improve their Curiosity. At last, the Gentleman said, it would be but a Frolick suitable to her Youth, to make use of this Opportunity; and being with the Person into whose Hands she was committed, no body would have great reason to blame the Enterprize; but on the contrary, applaud her Endeavours to improve her Knowledge of the World, when she had so fair an Opportunity. In short, the poor young Creature fell into the Trap they had lay'd for her, and consented to go with them to England: so they made their Coach carry them to Poisey, where they took Water, and away they went to Rohan; the Gentleman making Love to our young Lady all the way. They stay'd at Rohan some time, under colour of buying Goods to freight the Ship; For he pretended to be a great London−Merchant, Son to a Country−Gentleman of an Estate, in which Vileman joyn'd her Attestation; whilst he assur'd her of his everlasting Love and earnestly press'd her to be married. The poor young Girl was soon catch'd in the Ambuscade of Cupid, this being the first Onset she ever made in the Field of Love. She consented to a Marriage, but he put it off with one Shuffle or another. However, having gained her Consent to Marry, the next thing was, to advise her to let him lay out her Money in Merchandize, which would be so advantageous to her, that one hundred Pistoles would be at least two hundred in England; to which she agreed, and accordingly parted with her Money, with satisfaction, to the Man she thought her Husband, or at least, to be such very soon; so next Morning they were to be married.

I need not tell you what Arguments he used to persuade her to be his Bedfellow that Night; we will suppose they were such as is common on those occasions; as, that their promise to each other was the true and substantial Marriage; that the Parson was only as a Witness to that Promise; that if she refus'd him, he had very little reason to depend upon her Affection, or else that she doubted of his, and took him to be the worst of Miscreants and a thousand such idle Stories, wherewith innocent Maids are betray'd to Ruin, as was this young Gentlewoman.

In short, she consented to lye with him upon promise of Marriage next Morning. But, behold, when Morning came, he had so lay'd the Business, that the Sailors came with Noise and Hurry, saying that the Wind serv'd, and they were ready to set sail, so they arose in great haste to get to the Ship, and so away they came for England; she all the while believing her self his Wife; and that she had a great Cargo of Merchandize in the Ship. They got safe to London, and plac'd themselves in a Lodging among their own Gang of Villains. Here he pretended to great Business at the Exchange, Custom−House, and Post−Office, always in a hurry, and full of Employment. At last, he told her, that he wanted Money to discharge the Duties of his Merchandize at the Custom−House; so begs her to lend him some of her Rings and Jewels to raise it for that use: She believing her self his Wife, parted with every thing he requir'd; and as soon as the Goods should be discharg'd, they were to make a glorious publick Wedding.

On the other hand, Mrs. Vileman was hurried in looking after the Effects of her dead Father; so she borrow'd the young Gentlewoman's Cloaths, thereby to appear genteel amongst her Relations, as she pretended, till she could get her self equip'd in Mourning; tho' in reality, she had no Relations, being only a Bastard of an Officer in the Army, who never own'd her by reason of her Mother's insatiable Lewdness.

Thus was this poor young Creature drip'd of all she had, by one Sham or another. Nevertheless, they liv'd very well, both in Meat, Drink, and Lodging.

When they had got all from her, (then, according as it was concerted amongst em) the Landlady arrested them for Board and Lodging; only by a Sham−Officer; and so pretended to carry Vileman and the Rogue to Prison; whereas it was only a Shuffle, to get them away, and drop, her, when they had got all: For she being the supposed Wife, was not to be taken to Prison with them.

This poor Creature being thus strip'd of all, debauch'd, disgrac'd, deluded, and abandon'd, helpless, friendless, pennyless, in a Country where she understood not a Word of the Language; she knew not what to do. In the midst of this her Distress, she bethought her self to go to the Chapel of an Embassador, where she hop'd to find some body that could speak French: She addressing her self to the Porter, he immediately call'd me to her, (said the Gentleman) and she soon made me understand her Business; so I recommended her to go into the Chapel, and there offer her self to God, at his holy Altar, and then I promis'd to come to her again; which accordingly I did, and took her into a little Room, where she repeated to me all this lamentable Story. After I had heard her out, I knew she was the Person on whose account I had receiv'd a letter from France; which, if you please to peruse, you are welcome.

The Letter.

SIR, I Am so well assured of your Readiness to do any good Office, that I address my self to you with the utmost Freedom, begging you, if possible, to find out a poor lost Sheep, my Niece, and to send her home to her Friends, particularly to me: For thus it is, Sir, The only Child of my dear deceas'd Sister, has been deluded away into England by a wicked Fellow, who has abandon'd his Wife here in Paris, a very honest industrious Woman; but he an idle Villain. My Enquiry reach'd after them to Rohan, where it is said, they lived together as Man and Wife; after which, they went for England. I hope, there is a Possibility of finding her, because she cannot speak one Word of English. She is young, and tolerably handsome. Sir, if you can find her, be pleased to send her to me: Assure her, that I will receive, and forgive her, even tho' she should be with Child by the Villain; and shall own my self extreamly oblig'd to you, who am, Sir,

Your Obedient Humble Servant, GOODMAN.

Having thus found her (continu'd the Gentleman) I was about to take her to a House, where I might give her something to eat (for she was faint,) when, just at the Chapel−Door, I met her pretended Husband; who immediately took hold of her, calling her Wife. Vile Wretch, said I, thou knowest, she is none of thy Wife; therefore touch her not. How! (reply'd he) will you dare to say, she is not my Wife? I have sought her three or four Days, and now I find who has debauch'd and detained her from me, for which I shall make you pay dearly, (He not dreaming I had any Letter from her Uncle;) and, I believe, he would have had the impudence to have enter'd a Process against me, in hopes to have squeez'd Money from me, supposing, no doubt, that I would give something to be quiet, and not be expos'd in the Face of the Church, and my Lord Embassador. This made him very clamorous, audacious and insolent; insomuch that a Mob gather'd about us, and there was no passing; he striving to get her from me, I holding her fast, and the People were clamorous, according to their several sentiments, so that I was going to call a Constable both for her security and my own.

But Providence sent us a better Officer of Justice, than any other in the King's Dominions: For at this juncture, his real Wife appear'd, crying out to him, Vile Wretch, how dar'st thou call any body Wife, but me. She had a Constable with her, who seiz'd him, in order to carry him before a Magistrate; for which reason the Mob dispers'd; so that we got out of the Crowd; and after I had refreshed her and my self at an Eating−House, I conducted her hither, and now beg you to entertain her in French, whilst I go seek a safe Lodging for her, till I can convey her to her Uncle.

The Gentleman being gone, Galecia amus'd the young Lady as well as she could, by giving her Consolation, and blaming the Wickedness of Vileman, her Governante, excusing her Folly, imputing it to her want of knowing the World; but chiefly applauding the extream Goodness of her Uncle, who verify'd our English Proverb,

A Friend in Need, is a Friend indeed.

Moreover, Galecia, the better to divert Malhurissa from the Thoughts of her Misfortunes, ask'd her, if she had no diverting Story or Rencounter that had hapned in her Convent amongst the Novices, or young Ladies the Pensioners. To which Malhurissa reply'd, No; saying, nothing remarkable had appeared there, but extraordinary. Vertue and Piety, the Religious performing their Devotions in exact Regularity, and the Seculars as perfect in their Respect and Obedience; so that all things went on in a constant Harmony, without the least Discord; which I am bound to acknowledge, though with Shame and Confusion of Face, for having so ill practis'd those excellent Precepts and Examples.

'Tis true, indeed, the wicked Vileman my Governante, for her abominable Behaviour, is extreamly blameable; but that would not excuse me, Madam, in the Thoughts of any less charitable Person than your self, who is pleased to disguise my Crimes in the Robes of Youth and Ignorance, and hide them under the Umbrage of unthinking Innocence: Yet they appear to me in too true a Light, for my inward Repose; which brings to my Thoughts a Story I heard at Rohan, of a Vile Governante, who is a kind of Parallel with my Wicked Vileman; only her Crime exceeds, if possible, that of Vileman's: And it is a dreadful Truth, being recorded in the Courts of Justice at Rohan; as hereafter related.

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