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N° 159. SATURDAY, SEPT. 12, 1713.
Præsens vel imo tollere de gradu
Vertere funeribus triumphos.
HOR. 1 Od. xxxv. 2.
Whose force is strong, and quick to raise
Or with a wond'rous fall
To bring the haughty lower,
And turn proud triumphs to a funeral.
HAVING read over your paper of Tuesday last, in which you recommend the pursuits of wisdom and knowledge to those of the fair sex, who have much time lying upon their hands, and among other motives make use of this, that several women, thus accomplished, have raised themselves by it to considerable posts of honour and fortune: I shall beg leave to give you an instance of this kind, which many now living can testify the truth of, and which I can assure you is matter of fact.
About twelve years ago, I was familiarly acquainted with a gentleman, who was in a post that brought him a yearly revenue, sufficient to live very handsomely upon. He had a wife, and no child but a daughter, whom he bred up, as I thought, too high for one that could expect no other fortune than such a one as her father could raise out of the income of his place; which as they managed it was
scarce sufficient for their ordinary expences. Miss Betty had always the best sort of clothes, and was hardly allowed to keep company but with those above her rank; so that it was no wonder she grew proud and haughty towards those she looked upon as her inferiors. There lived by them a barber who had a daughter about miss's age, that could speak French, had read several books at her leisure hours, and was a perfect mistress of her needle, and in all kinds of female manufacture. She was at the same time a pretty, modest, witty girl. She was hired to come to miss an hour or two every day, to talk French with her, and teach her to work; but miss always treated her with great contempt; and when Molly gave her any advice, rejected it with scorn.
About the same time several young fellows made their addresses to miss Betty, who had indeed a great deal of wit and beauty, had they not been infected with so much vanity and self-conceit. Among the rest was a plain sober young man, who loved her almost to distraction. passion was the common talk of the neighbourhood, who used to be often discoursing of Mr. T angel, for that was the name he always gave her in ordinary conversation. As his circumstances were very indifferent, he being a younger brother, Mrs. Betty rejected him with disdain. Insomuch that the young man, as is usual among those who are crossed in love, put himself aboard the fleet, with a resolution to seek his fortune, and forget his mistress. This was very happy for him, for in a very few years, being concerned in several captures, he brought home with him an estate of about twelve thousand pounds.
Meanwhile days and years went on, miss lived high, and learnt but little, most of her time being
employed in reading plays and practising to dance, in which she arrived at great perfection. When of a sudden, at a change of ministry, her father lost his place, and was forced to leave London, where he could no longer live upon the foot he had formerly done. Not many years after I was told the poor gentleman was dead, and had left his widow and daughter in a very desolate condition, but I could not learn where to find them, though I made what inquiry I could; and I must own, I imme2 diately suspected their pride would not suffer them to be seen or relieved by any of their former acquaintance. I had left inquiring after them for some years, when I happened, not long ago, as I was asking at a house for a gentleman I had some business with, to be led into a parlour by a handsome young woman, who I presently fancied was that very daughter I had so long sought in vain. My suspicion increased, when I observed her to blush at the sight of me, and to avoid, as much as possible, looking upon, or speaking to me; "Madam," said I, are not you Mrs. Such-a-one ?" At which words the tears ran down her cheeks, and she would fain have retired without giving me an answer; but I stopped her, and being to wait a while for the gentleman I was to speak to, I resolved not to lose this opportunity of satisfying my curiosity. I could not well discern by her dress, which was genteel though not fine, whether she was the mistress of the house, or only a servant; but supposing her to be the first, "I am glad, madam," said I, "after having long inquired after you, to have so happily met with you, and to find you mistress of so fine a place." These words were like to have spoiled all, and threw her into such a disorder, that it was some time before she could
recover herself; but as soon as she was able to speak, "Sir," said she, " you are mistaken; I am but a servant." Her voice fell in these last words, and she burst again into tears. I was sorry to haveoccasioned in her so much grief and confusion, and Isaid what I could to comfort her. "Alas, sir," said she, 66 my condition is much better than I deserve, I have the kindest and best of women for my mistress. She is wife to the gentleman you come to speak withal. You know her very well, and have often seen her with me." To make my story short, I found that my late friend's daughter was now a servant to the barber's daughter, whom she had formerly treated so disdainfully. The gentleman at whose house I now was, fell in love with Moll, and being master of a great fortune, married her, and lives with her as happily, and as much to his satisfaction as he could desire. He treats her with all the friendship and respect possible, but not with more than her behaviour and good qualities deserve. And it was with a great deal of pleasure I heard her maid dwell so long upon her commendation. She informed me, that after her father's death, her mother and she lived for a while together in great poverty. But her mother's spirit could not bear the thoughts of asking relief of any of her own, or her husband's acquaintance, so they retired from all their friends, until they were providentially discovered by this new-married woman, who heaped on them favours upon favours. Her mother died shortly after, who, while she lived, was better pleased to see her daughter a beggar, than a servant; but being freed by her death, she was taken into this gentlewoman's family, where she now lived, though much more like a friend or a companion, than like a servant.
I went home full of this strange adventure; and about a week after chancing to be in company with Mr. T. the rejected lover, whom I mentioned in the beginning of my letter, I told him the whole story of his angel, not questioning but he would feel on this occasion, the usual pleasures of a resenting lover, when he hears that fortune has avenged him of the cruelty of his mistress. As I was recounting to him at large these several particulars, I observed that he covered his face with his hand, and that his breast heaved as though it would have bursted, which I took at first to have been a fit of laughter; but upon lifting up his head, I saw his eyes all red with weeping. He forced a smile at the end of my story, and we parted.
About a fortnight after I received from him the following letter.
I AM infinitely obliged to you for bringing me news of my angel. I have since married her, and think the low circumstances she was reduced to a piece of good luck to both of us, since it has quite removed that little pride and vanity, which was the only part of her character that I disliked, and given me an opportunity of shewing her the constant and sincere affection which I prófessed to her in the time of her prosperity.