|8||THE FORTUNES AND MISFORTUNES OF MOLL FLANDERS|
gentlemen of extraordinary parts and behaviour, and it was my misfortune to be very well with them both, but they managed themselves with me in a quite different manner.
The eldest, a gay gentleman, that knew the town as well as the country, and, though he had levity enough to do an ill-natured thing, yet had too much judgment of things to pay too dear for his pleasures; he began with that unhappy snare to all women, viz. taking notice upon all occasions how pretty I was, as he called it, how agreeable, how well-carriaged, and the like; and this he contrived so subtly, as if he had known as well how to catch a woman in his net as a partridge when he went a-setting, for he would contrive to be talking this to his sisters, when, though I was not by, yet he knew I was not so far off but that I should be sure to hear him. His sisters would return softly to him, 'Hush, brother, she will hear you; she is but in the next room.' Then he would put it off and talk softlier, as if he had not known it, and begin to acknowledge he was wrong; and then, as if he had forgot himself, he would speak aloud again, and I, that was so well pleased to hear it, was sure to listen for it upon all occasions.
After he had thus baited his hook, and found easily enough the method how to lay it in my way, he played an open game; and one day, going by his sister's chamber when I was there, he comes in with an air of gaiety. 'Oh, Mrs Betty', said he to me, 'how do you do, Mrs Betty? Don't your cheeks burn, Mrs Betty?' I made a curtsey and blushed, but said nothing. 'What makes you talk so, brother?' said the lady. 'Why', says he, 'we have been talking of her below-stairs this half-hour.'Well', says his sister, 'you can say no harm of her, that I am sure, so 'tis no matter what you have been talking about.' 'Nay', says he, ''tis so far from talking harm of her, that we have been talking a great deal of good, and a great many fine things have been said of Mrs Betty, I assure you; and particularly, that she is the handsomest young woman in Colchester; and, in short, they begin to toast her health in the town.'
'I wonder at you, brother', says the sister. 'Betty wants but one thing, but she had as good want everything, for the market is against our sex just now; and if a young woman has beauty, birth, breeding, wit, sense, manners, modesty, and all to an extreme, yet if she has not money she's nobody, she had as good want them all; nothing but money now recommends a woman; the men play the game all into their own hands.'
Her younger brother, who was by, cried, 'Hold, sister, you run too fast; I am an exception to your rule. I assure you, if I find a woman so accomplished as you talk of, I won't trouble myself about the money.' 'Oh', says the sister, 'but you will take care not to fancy one then without the money.'
'You don't know that neither', says the brother.
'But why, sister', says the elder brother, 'why do you exclaim so about the fortune? You are none of them that want a fortune, whatever else you want.'
'I understand you, brother', replies the lady very smartly; 'you suppose I have the money, and want the beauty; but as times go now, the first will do, so I have the better of my neighbours.'
'Well', says the younger brother, 'but your neighbours may be even with you, for beauty will steal a husband sometimes in spite of money, and, when the maid chances to be handsomer than the mistress, she oftentimes makes as good a market, and rides in a coach before her.'