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THE FORTUNES AND MISFORTUNES OF MOLL FLANDERS 73

'Why, sir', says I, '’tis easier to give advice in your case than mine.' 'Speak, then', says he, 'I beg of you, for now you encourage me.'

'Why', says I, 'if your case is so plain, you may be legally divorced, and then you may find honest women enough to ask the question of fairly; the sex is not so scarce that you can want a wife.'

'Well, then', said he, 'I am in earnest; I'll take your advice; but shall I ask you one question seriously beforehand?'

'Any question', said I; 'but that you did before.'

'No, that answer will not do', said he, 'for, in short, that is the question I shall ask.'

'You may ask what questions you please, but you have my answer to that already' said I; 'besides, sir', said I, 'can you think so ill of me as that I would give any answer to such a question beforehand? Can any woman alive believe you in earnest, or think you design anything but to banter her?'

'Well, well', says he, 'I do not banter you, I am in earnest; consider of it.'

'But, sir', says I, a little gravely, 'I came to you about my own business; I beg of you to let me know what you will advise me to do?'

'I will be prepared', says he, 'against you come again.'

'Nay', says I, 'you have forbid my coming any more.'

'Why so?' said he, and looked a little surprised.

'Because', said I, 'you can't expect I should visit you on the account you talk of.'

'Well', says he, 'you shall promise to come again, however, and I will not say any more of it till I have the divorce. But I desire you'll prepare to be better conditioned when that's done, for you shall be the woman, or I will not be divorced at all, I owe it to your unlooked-for kindness, if to nothing else, but I have other reasons too.'

He could not have said anything in the world that pleased me better; however, I knew that the way to secure him was to stand off while the thing was so remote, as it appeared to be, and that it was time enough to accept of it when he was able to perform it. So I said very respectfully to him, it was time enough to consider of these things when he was in a condition to talk of them; in the meantime, I told him, I was going a great way from him, and he would find objects enough to please him better. We broke off here for the present, and he made me promise him to come again the next day, for my own business, which after some pressing I did; though had he seen farther into me, I wanted no pressing on that account.

I came the next evening accordingly, and brought my maid with me, to let him see that I kept a maid. He would have had me let the maid have stayed, but I would not, but ordered her aloud to come for me again about nine o'clock. But he forbid that, and told me he would see me safe home, which I was not very well pleased with, supposing he might do that to know where I lived, and inquire into my character and circumstances. However, I ventured that, for all the people there knew of me was to my advantage; and all the character he had of me was, that I was a woman of fortune, and that I was a very modest, sober body; which, whether true or not in the main, yet you may see how necessary it is for all women who expect anything in the world, to preserve the character of their virtue, even when perhaps they may have sacrificed the thing itself.