|THE FORTUNES AND MISFORTUNES OF MOLL FLANDERS||17|
His brother did not come from London for five or six days, and it was two days more before he got an opportunity to talk with him; but then getting him by himself, he talked very close to him about it, and the same evening found means (for we had a long conference together) to repeat all their discourse to me, which, as near as I can remember, was to the purpose following. He told him he heard strange news of him since he went, viz., that he made love to Mrs Betty. 'Well', says his brother, a little angrily, 'and what then? What has anybody to do with that?' 'Nay', says his brother, 'don't be angry, Robin; I don't pretend to have anything to do with it, but I find they do concern themselves about it, and that they have used the poor girl ill about it, which I should take as done to myself.' 'Whom do you mean by they?' says Robin. 'I mean my mother and the girls', says the elder brother.
'But hark ye', says his brother, 'are you in earnest? Do you really love the girl?' 'Why, then', says Robin, 'I will be free with you; I do love her above all the women in the world, and I will have her, let them say and do what they will. I believe the girl will not deny me.'
It stuck me to the heart when he told me this, for though it was most rational to think I would not deny him, yet I knew in my own conscience I must, and I saw my ruin in my being obliged to do so; but I knew it was my business to talk otherwise then, so I interrupted him in his story thus: 'Ay!', said I, 'does he think I cannot deny him? But he shall find I can deny him for all that.' 'Well, my dear', says he, 'but let me give you the whole story as it went on between us, and then say what you will.' Then he went on and told me that he replied thus: 'But, brother, you know she has nothing, and you may have several ladies with good fortunes.' '’Tis no matter for that', said Robin; 'I love the girl, and I will never please my pocket in marrying, and not please my fancy.' 'And so, my dear', adds he, 'there is no opposing him.'
'Yes, yes', says I; 'I can oppose him; I have learned to say No, now, though I had not learnt it before; if the best lord in the land offered me marriage now, I could very cheerfully say No to him.'
'Well, but, my dear', says he, 'what can you say to him? You know, as you said before, he will ask you many questions about it, and all the house will wonder what the meaning of it should be.'
'Why', says I, smiling, 'I can stop all their mouths at one clap by telling him, and them too, that I am married already to his elder brother.' He smiled a little too at the word, but I could see it startled him, and he could not hide the disorder it put him into. However, he returned, 'Why, though that may be true in some sense, yet I suppose you are but in jest when you talk of giving such an answer as that; it may not be convenient on many accounts.'
'No, no', says I pleasantly, 'I am not so fond of letting that secret come out, without your consent.'
'But what, then, can you say to them', says he, 'when they find you positive against a match which would be apparently so much to your advantage?' 'Why', says I, 'should I be at a loss? First, I am not obliged to give them any reason; on the other hand, I may tell them I am married already, and stop there, and that will be a full stop too to him, for he can have no reason to ask one question after it.'
'Ay!' says he; 'but the whole house will tease you about that, and if you deny them positively, they will be disobliged at you, and suspicious besides.'