The next day Pembroke called and asked me to give him a dinner. Augusta delighted him. He made proposals to her which excited her laughter as he did not want to pay till after the event, and she would not admit this condition. However, he gave her a bank note for ten guineas before he left, and she accepted it with much grace. The day after he wrote her a letter, of which I shall speak presently.
A few minutes after the nobleman had gone the mother sent for me to come to her, and after paying an eloquent tribute to my virtues, my generosity, and my unceasing kindness towards her family, she made the following proposal:
"As I feel sure that you have all the love of a father for my daughters, I wish you to become their father in reality! I offer you my hand and heart; become my husband, you will be their father, their lord and mine. What do you say to this?"
I bit my lips hard and had great difficulty in restraining my inclination to laughter. Nevertheless, the amazement, the contempt, and the indignation which this unparalleled piece of impudence aroused in me soon brought me to myself. I perceived that this consummate hypocrite had counted on an abrupt refusal, and had only made this ridiculous offer with the idea of convincing me that she was under the impression that I had left her daughters as I had found them, and that the money I had spent on them was merely a sign of my tender and fatherly affection. Of course she knew perfectly well how the land lay, but she thought to justify herself by taking this step. She was aware that I could only look upon such a proposal as an insult, but she did not care for that.
I resolved to keep on the mask, and replied that her proposition was undoubtedly a very great honour for me, but it was also a very important question, and so I begged her to allow me some time for consideration.
When I got back to my room I found there the mistress of the wretched Marquis Petina, who told me that her happiness depended on a certificate from the Neapolitan ambassador that her lover was really the person he professed to be. With this document he would be able to claim a sum of two hundred guineas, and then they could both go to Naples, and he would marry her there. "He will easily obtain the royal pardon," said she. "You, and you alone, can help us in the matter, and I commend myself to your kindness."
I promised to do all I could for her. In fact, I called on the ambassador, who made no difficulty about giving the required certificate. For the moment my chilly conquest was perfectly happy, but though I saw she was very grateful to me I did not ask her to prove her gratitude.
Augusta Becomes Lord Pembroke's Titular Mistress The King of Corsica's Son--M. du Claude, or the Jesuit Lavalette--Departure of the Hanoverians I Balance My Accounts--The Baron Stenau--The English Girl, and What She Gave Me--Daturi--My Flight from London--Comte St. Germain--Wesel
Lord Pembroke wrote to Augusta offering her fifty guineas a month for three years, with lodging, board, servants, and carriage at St. Albans, without reckoning what she might expect from his grateful affection if it were returned.
Augusta translated the letter for me, and asked for my advice.
"I can't give you any counsel," said I, "in a matter which only concerns your own heart and your own interests."
She went up to her mother, who would come to no conclusion without first consulting me, because, as she said, I was the wisest and most virtuous of men. I am afraid the reader will differ from her here, but I comfort myself by the thought that I, too, think like the reader. At last it was agreed that Augusta should accept the offer if Lord Pembroke would find a surety in the person of some reputable London merchant, for with her beauty and numerous graces she was sure to, become Lady Pembroke before long. Indeed, the mother said she was perfectly certain of it, as otherwise she could not have given her consent, as her daughters were countesses, and too good to be any man's mistresses.