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THE FORTUNES AND MISFORTUNES OF MOLL FLANDERS 21

elder brother. 'Ay, and a great deal handsomer than you, sister', says Robin, 'and that's your mortification.' 'Well, well, that is not the question' says his sister; 'the girl is well enough, and she knows it; she need not be told of it to make her vain.'

'We don't talk of her being vain', says the elder brother, 'but of her being in love; maybe she is in love with herself; it seems my sisters think so.'

'I would she was in love with me', says Robin; 'I'd quickly put her out of her pain.' 'What d'ye mean by that, son?' says the old lady; 'how can you talk so?' 'Why, madam', says Robin again, very honestly, 'do you think I'ld let the poor girl die for love, and of me, too, that is so near at hand to be had?' 'Fie, brother!', says the second sister, 'how can you talk so? Would you take a creature that has not a groat in the world?' 'Prithee, child', says Robin, 'beauty's a portion, and good humour with it is a double portion; I wish thou hadst half her stock of both for thy portion.' So there was her mouth stopped.

'I find', says the eldest sister, 'if Betty is not in love, my brother is. I wonder he has not broke his mind to Betty; I warrant she won't say No.' 'They that yield when they are asked', says Robin, 'are one step before them that were never asked to yield, and two steps before them that yield before they are asked; and that's an answer to you, sister.'

This fired the sister, and she flew into a passion, and said, things were come to that pass that it was time the wench, meaning me, was out of the family; and but that she was not fit to be turned out, she hoped her father and mother would consider of it, as soon as she could be removed.

Robin replied, that was for the master and mistress of the family, who were not to be taught by one that had so little judgment as his eldest sister.

It ran up a great deal further; the sister scolded, Robin rallied and bantered, but poor Betty lost ground by it extremely in the family. I heard of it, and cried heartily, and the old lady came up to me, somebody having told her that I was so much concerned about it. I complained to her that it was very hard the doctors should pass such a censure upon me, for which they had no ground; and that it was still harder, considering the circumstances I was under in the family; that I hoped I had done nothing to lessen her esteem for me, or given any occasion for the bickering between her sons and daughters, and had more need to think of a coffin than of being in love, and begged she would not let me suffer in her opinion for anybody's mistakes but my own.

She was sensible of the justice of what I said, but told me, since there had been such a clamour among them, and that her younger son talked after such a rattling way as he did, she desired I would be so faithful to her as to answer her but one question sincerely. I told her I would, and with the utmost plainness and sincerity. Why, then, the question was, whether there was anything between her son Robert and me. I told her with all the protestations of sincerity that I was able to make, and as I might well do, that there was not, nor ever had been; I told her that Mr Robert had rattled and jested, as she knew it was his way, and that I took it always as I supposed he meant it, to be a wild airy way of discourse that had no signification in it; and assured her that there was not the least tittle of what she understood by it between us; and that those who had suggested it had done me a great deal of wrong, and Mr Robert no service at all.