HotFreeBooks.com
The Fortunate Mistress (Parts 1 and 2)
by Daniel Defoe
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
Home - Random Browse

The time, I own, went very sluggishly on. I had no company but Amy and Isabel, and it was given out among the servants of noblemen and gentry that I was very much indisposed, for I thought it a very improper time either to receive or pay visits.

In this manner I lived till the month was up that my daughter was to come again to my lord, for although I went morning, noon, and night, into his apartment to see him, I seldom had a quarter of an hour's discourse with him, and oftentimes one of his valets would be sent to tell me his lord was busy, a little before the time I usually went, which I found was to prevent my going in to him, but this was only when he was in an ill humour, as his man called it.

Whether my lord used to make himself uneasy for want of mine or other company, I cannot tell, but the servants complained every day, as I heard by Amy, that his lordship ate little or nothing, and would sometimes shed tears when he sat down by himself to breakfast, dinner, or supper; and, indeed, I began to think that he looked very thin, his countenance grew pale, and that he had every other sign of a grieved or broken heart.

My daughter came to him one Monday morning, and stayed with him in his study near two hours. I wondered at the reason of it, but could guess at nothing certain; and at last she went away, but I fixed myself so as to see her as she passed by me, and she appeared to have a countenance full of satisfaction.

In the evening, when I went in as usual, he spoke to me in a freer style than he had done since our breach. "Well, madam" (for he had not used the words "my lady" at any time after my daughter's coming to our house), said he, "I think I have provided for your daughter." "As how, my lord, pray will you let me know?" said I. "Yes," replied he, "as I have reason to think you will be sorry to hear of her welfare in any shape, I will tell you. A gentleman who is going factor for the Dutch East India Company, on the coast of Malabar, I have recommended her to; and he, on my character and promise of a good fortune, will marry her very soon, for the Company's ships sail in about twelve days; so, in a fortnight, like a great many mothers as there are nowadays, you may rejoice at having got rid of one of your children, though you neither know where, how, or to whom."

Although I was very glad my lord spoke to me at all, and more especially so at my daughter's going to be married, and settling in the Indies, yet his words left so sharp a sting behind them as was exceeding troublesome to me to wear off. I did not dare venture to make any further inquiries, but was very glad of what I heard, and soon bidding my lord goodnight, went and found Amy, who was reading a play in the chamber.

I waited with the greatest impatience for this marriage; and when I found the day was fixed, I made bold to ask my lord if I should not be present in his chamber when the ceremony was performed. This favor was also denied me. I then asked my lord's chaplain to speak to him on that head, but he was deaf to his importunities, and bade him tell me that I very well knew his mind. The wedding was performed on a Wednesday evening, in my lord's presence, and he permitted nobody to be there but a sister of the bridegroom's, and Thomas (now my lord's secretary or chief clerk), who was brother to the bride, and who gave her away. They all supped together after the ceremony was over in the great dining-room, where the fortune was paid, which was L2000 (as I heard from Thomas afterwards), and the bonds for the performance of the marriage were redelivered.

Next morning my lord asked me if I was willing to see my daughter before she sailed to the Indies. "My lord," said I, "as the seeing of her was the occasion of this great breach that has happened between us, so if your lordship will let me have a sight of her and a reconciliation with you at the same time, there is nothing can be more desirable to me, or would more contribute to my happiness during the rest of my life."

"No, madam," says he, "I would have you see your daughter, to be reconciled to her, and give her your blessing (if a blessing can proceed from you) at parting; but our reconciliation will never be completed till one of us comes near the verge of life, if then; for I am a man that am never reconciled without ample amends, which is a thing that is not in your power to give, without you can alter the course of nature and recall time."

On hearing him declare himself so open, I told him that my curse instead of my blessing would pursue my daughter for being the author of all the mischiefs that had happened between us. "No, madam," said he, "if you had looked upon her as a daughter heretofore, I should have had no occasion to have had any breach with you. The whole fault lies at your own door; for whatever your griefs may inwardly be, I would have you recollect they were of your own choosing."

I found I was going to give way to a very violent passion, which would perhaps be the worse for me, so I left the room and went up to my own chamber, not without venting bitter reproaches both against my daughter and her unknown husband.

However, the day she was to go on shipboard, she breakfasted with my lord, and as soon as it was over, and my lord was gone into his study to fetch something out, I followed him there, and asked him if he would give me leave to present a gold repeating watch to my daughter before she went away. I thought he seemed somewhat pleased with this piece of condescension in me, though it was done more to gain his goodwill than to express any value I had for her. He told me that he did not know who I could better make such a present to, and I might give it to her if I pleased. Accordingly I went and got it out of my cabinet in a moment, and bringing it to my lord, desired he would give it her from me. He asked me if I would not give it her myself. I told him no; I wished her very well, but had nothing to say to her till I was restored to his lordship's bed and board.

About two hours after all this, the coach was ordered to the door, and my daughter and her new husband, the husband's sister, and my son Thomas, all went into it, in order to go to the house of a rich uncle of the bridegroom's, where they were to dine before they went on board, and my lord went there in a sedan about an hour after. And having eaten their dinner, which on this occasion was the most elegant, they all went on board the Indiaman, where my lord and my son Thomas stayed till the ship's crew was hauling in their anchors to sail, and then came home together in the coach, and it being late in the evening, he told Thomas he should sup with him that night, after which they went to bed in their several apartments.

Next morning when I went to see my lord as usual, he told me that as he had handsomely provided for my daughter, and sent her to the Indies with a man of merit and fortune, he sincerely wished her great prosperity. "And," he added, "to let you see, madam, that I should never have parted from my first engagements of love to you, had you not laid yourself so open to censure for your misconduct, my next care shall be to provide for your son Thomas in a handsome manner, before I concern myself with my son by you."

This was the subject of our discourse, with which I was very well pleased. I only wished my daughter had been married and sent to the Indies before I had married myself; but I began to hope that the worst would be over when Thomas was provided for too, and the son my lord had by me, who was now at the university, was at home; which I would have brought to pass could my will be obeyed, but I was not to enjoy that happiness.

My lord and I lived with a secret discontent of each other for near a twelvemonth before I saw any provision made for my son Thomas, and then I found my lord bought him a very large plantation in Virginia, and was furnishing him to go there in a handsome manner; he also gave him four quarter parts in four large trading West India vessels, in which he boarded a great quantity of merchandise to traffic with when he came to the end of his journey, so that he was a very rich man before he (what we call) came into the world.

The last article that was to be managed, was to engage my son to a wife before he left Holland; and it happened that the gentleman who was the seller of the plantation my husband bought, had been a Virginia planter in that colony a great many years; but his life growing on the decline, and his health very dubious, he had come to Holland with an intent to sell his plantation, and then had resolved to send for his wife, son, and daughter, to come to him with the return of the next ships. This gentleman had brought over with him the pictures of all his family, which he was showing to my lord at the same time he was paying for the effects; and on seeing the daughter's picture, which appeared to him very beautiful, my lord inquired if she was married. "No, my lord," says the planter, "but I believe I shall dispose of her soon after she comes to me." "How old is your daughter?" said my lord. "Why, my lord," replied the planter, "she is twenty-two years of age." Then my lord asked my son if he should like that young lady for a wife. "Nothing, my lord," said Thomas, "could lay a greater obligation upon me than your lordship's providing me with a wife."

"Now, sir," said my lord to the planter, "what do you say to a match between this young gentleman and your daughter? Their ages are agreeable, and if you can, or will, give her more fortune than he has, his shall be augmented. You partly know his substance, by the money I have now paid you."

This generous proposal of my lord's pleased the planter to a great degree, and he declared to my lord that he thought nothing could be a greater favour done him, for two reasons; one of which was, that he was certain the young gentleman was as good as he appeared, because he had taken for his plantation so large a sum of money as none but a gentleman could pay. The next reason was, that this marriage, to be performed as soon as my son arrived there, would be a great satisfaction to his wife, whose favourite the daughter was. "For," added he, "my wife will not only have the pleasure of seeing her daughter settled on what was our own hereditary estate, but also see her married to a man of substance, without the danger of crossing the seas to be matched to a person equal to herself."

"Pray, sir," said my lord, "let me hear what fortune you are willing to give with your daughter; you have but two children, and I know you must be rich." "Why, my lord," replied the planter, "there is no denying that; but you must remember I have a son as well as a daughter to provide for, and he I intend to turn into the mercantile way as soon as he arrives safe from Virginia. I have, my lord," continued he, "a very large stock-in-trade there, as warehouses of tobacco, &c., lodged in the custom-houses of the ports, to the value of L7000, to which I will add L3000 in money, and I hope you will look upon that as a very competent estate; and when the young gentleman's fortune is joined to that, I believe he will be the richest man in the whole American colonies of his age."

It was then considered between my lord and Thomas, that no woman with a quarter of that fortune would venture herself over to the West Indies with a man that had ten times as much; so it being hinted to the planter that my lord had agreed to the proposals, they promised to meet the next morning to settle the affair.

In the evening, my lord, with Thomas in his company, hinted the above discourse to me. I was frightened almost out of my wits to think what a large sum of money had been laid out for my son, but kept what I thought to myself. It was agreed that my son was to marry the old planter's daughter, and a lawyer was sent for, with instructions to draw up all the writings for the marriage-settlement, &c., and the next morning a messenger came from the planter with a note to my lord, letting him know, if it was not inconvenient, he would wait on his lordship to breakfast. He came soon after with a Dutch merchant of great estate, who was our neighbour at The Hague, where they settled every point in question, and the articles were all drawn up and signed by the several parties the next day before dinner.

There was nothing now remaining but my son's departure to his new plantation in Virginia. Great despatch was made that he might be ready to sail in one of his own ships, and take the advantage of an English convoy, which was almost ready to sail. My lord sent several valuable presents to my son's lady, as did her father; and as I was at liberty in this case to do as I would, and knowing my lord had a very great value for my son, I thought that the richer my presents were, the more he would esteem me (but there was nothing in it, the enmity he took against me had taken root in his heart); so I sent her a curious set of china, the very best I could buy, with a silver tea-kettle and lamp, tea-pot, sugar-dish, cream-pot, teaspoons, &c., and as my lord had sent a golden repeater, I added to it a golden equipage, with my lord's picture hanging to it, finely painted; (This was another thing I did purposely to please him, but it would not do.) A few days after, he came to take his leave of me, by my lord's order, and at my parting with him I shed abundance of tears, to think I was then in an almost strange place, no child that could then come near me, and under so severe a displeasure of my lord, that I had very little hopes of ever being friends with him again.

My life did not mend after my son was gone; all I could do would not persuade my lord to have any free conversation with me. And at this juncture it was that the foolish jade Amy, who was now advanced in years, was catched in a conversation with one of my lord's men, which was not to her credit; for, it coming to his ears, she was turned out of the house by my lord's orders, and was never suffered to come into it again during his lifetime, and I did not dare to speak a word in her favour for fear he should retort upon me, "Like mistress, like maid."

I could hear nothing of Amy for the first three months after she had left me, till one day, as I was looking out of a dining-room window, I saw her pass by, but I did not dare ask her to come in, for fear my lord should hear of her being there, which would have been adding fuel to the fire; however, she, looking up at the house, saw me. I made a motion to her to stay a little about the door, and in the meantime I wrote a note, and dropped it out of the window, in which I told her how I had lived in her absence, and desired her to write me a letter, and carry it the next day to my sempstress's house, who would take care to deliver it to me herself.

I told Isabel that she should let me know when the milliner came again, for I had some complaints to her about getting up my best suit of Brussels lace nightclothes. On the Saturday following, just after I had dined, Isabel came into my apartment. "My lady," says she, "the milliner is in the parlour; will you be pleased to have her sent upstairs, or will your ladyship be pleased to go down to her?" "Why, send her up, Isabel," said I, "she is as able to come to me as I am to go to her; I will see her here."

When the milliner came into my chamber, I sent Isabel to my dressing-room to fetch a small parcel of fine linen which lay there, and in the interim she gave me Amy's letter, which I put into my pocket, and, having pretended to be angry about my linen, I gave her the small bundle Isabel brought, and bid her be sure to do them better for the future.

She promised me she would, and went about her business; and when she was gone, I opened Amy's letter, and having read it, found it was to the following purpose, viz., that she had opened a coffee-house, and furnished the upper part of it to let out in lodgings; that she kept two maids and a man, but that the trade of it did not answer as she had reason to expect; she was willing to leave it off, and retire into the country to settle for the rest of her life, but was continually harassed by such disturbance in her conscience as made her unfit to resolve upon anything, and wished there was a possibility for her to see me, that she might open her mind with the same freedom as formerly, and have my advice upon some particular affairs; and such-like discourse.

It was a pretty while before I heard from Amy again, and when I did, the letter was in much the same strain as the former, excepting that things were coming more to a crisis; for she told me in it that her money was so out, that is, lent as ready money to traders, and trusted for liquors in her house, that if she did not go away this quarter, she should be obliged to run away the next. I very much lamented her unfortunate case, but that could be no assistance to her, as I had it not now in my power to see her when I would, or give her what I pleased, as it had always used to be; so all I could do was to wish her well, and leave her to take care of herself.

About this time it was that I perceived my lord began to look very pale and meagre, and I had a notion he was going into a consumption, but did not dare tell him so, for fear he should say I was daily looking for his death, and was now overjoyed that I saw a shadow of it; nevertheless, he soon after began to find himself in a very bad state of health, for he said to me one morning, that my care would not last long, for he believed he was seized by a distemper it was impossible for him to get over. "My lord," said I, "you do not do me justice in imagining anything concerning me that does not tend to your own happiness, for if your body is out of order, my mind suffers for it." Indeed, had he died then, without making a will, it might have been well for me; but he was not so near death as that; and, what was worse, the distemper, which proved a consumption (which was occasioned chiefly by much study, watchings, melancholy thoughts, wilful and obstinate neglect of taking care of his body, and such like things), held him nine weeks and three days after this, before it carried him off.

He now took country lodgings, most delightfully situated both for air and prospect, and had a maid and man to attend him. I begged on my knees to go with him, but could not get that favour granted; for, if I could, it might have been the means of restoring me to his favour, but our breach was too wide to be thoroughly reconciled, though I used all the endearing ways I had ever had occasion for to creep into his favour.

Before he went out of town he locked and sealed up every room in the house, excepting my bedchamber, dressing-room, one parlour, and all the offices and rooms belonging to the servants; and, as he had now all my substance in his power, I was in a very poor state for a countess, and began to wish, with great sincerity, that I had never seen him, after I had lived so happy a life as I did at the Quaker's. For notwithstanding our estates joined together, when we were first married, amounted to L3376 per annum, and near L18,000 ready money, besides jewels, plate, goods, &c., of a considerable value, yet we had lived in a very high manner since our taking the title of earl and countess upon us; setting up a great house, and had a number of servants; our equipage, such as coach, chariot, horses, and their attendants; a handsome fortune my lord had given to my daughter, and a very noble one to my son, whom he loved very well, not for his being my son, but for the courteous behaviour of him in never aspiring to anything above a valet after he knew who he was, till my lord made him his secretary or clerk. Besides all these expenses, my lord, having flung himself into the trade to the Indies, both East and West, had sustained many great and uncommon losses, occasioned by his merchandise being mostly shipped in English bottoms; and that nation having declared war against the crown of Spain, he was one of the first and greatest sufferers by that power; so that, on the whole, our estate, which was as above, dwindled to about L1000 per annum, and our home stock, viz., about L17,000, was entirely gone. This, I believe, was another great mortification to his lordship, and one of the main things that did help to hasten his end; for he was observed, both by me and all his servants, to be more cast down at hearing of his losses, that were almost daily sent to him, than he was at what had happened between him and me.

Nothing could give more uneasiness than the damage our estate sustained by this traffic. He looked upon it as a mere misfortune that no person could avoid; but I, besides that, thought it was a judgment upon me, to punish me in the loss of all my ill-got gain. But when I found that his own fortune began to dwindle as well as mine, I was almost ready to think it was possible his lordship might have been as wicked a liver as I had, and the same vengeance as had been poured upon me for my repeated crimes might also be a punishment for him.

As his lordship was in a bad state of health, and had removed to a country lodging, his study and counting-house, as well as his other rooms, were locked and sealed up; all business was laid aside, excepting such letters as came to him were carried to his lordship to be opened, read, and answered. I also went to see him morning and evening, but he would not suffer me to stay with him a single night. I might have had another room in the same house, but was not willing the people who kept it should know that there was a misunderstanding between us; so I contented myself to be a constant visitor, but could not persuade him to forgive me the denying of my daughter, and acting the part of Roxana, because I had kept those two things an inviolable secret from him and everybody else but Amy, and it was carelessness in her conduct at last that was the foundation of all my future misery.

As my lord's weakness increased, so his ill temper, rather than diminish, increased also. I could do nothing to please him, and began to think that he was only pettish because he found it was his turn to go out of the world first. A gentleman that lived near him, as well as his chaplain, persuaded him to have a physician, to know in what state his health was; and by all I could learn, the doctor told him to settle his worldly affairs as soon as he conveniently could. "For," says he, "although your death is not certain, still your life is very precarious."

The first thing he did after this was to send for the son he had by me from the university. He came the week afterwards, and the tutor with him, to take care of his pupil. The next day after my lord came home, and sending for six eminent men that lived at The Hague he made his will, and signed it in the presence of them all; and they, with the chaplain, were appointed the executors of it, and guardians of my son.

As I was in a great concern at his making his will unknown to me, and before we were friends, I thought of it in too serious a manner not to speak about it. I did not know where to apply first, but after mature consideration sent for the chaplain, and he coming to me, I desired he would give me the best intelligence he could about it. "My lady," said he, "you cannot be so unacquainted with the duty of my function, and the trust my lord has reposed in me, but you must know I shall go beyond my trust in relating anything of that nature to you; all that I can say on that head is, that I would have you make friends with my lord as soon as you possibly can, and get him to make another will, or else take the best care of yourself as lies in your power; for, I assure you, if his lordship dies, you are but poorly provided for."

These last words of the chaplain's most terribly alarmed me. I knew not what to do; and, at last, as if I was to be guided by nothing but the furies, I went to his chamber, and after inquiring how he did, and hearing that he was far from well, I told him I had heard he had made his will. "Yes," said he, "I have; and what then?" "Why, my lord," replied I, "I thought it would not have been derogatory to both our honours for you to have mentioned it to me before you did it, and have let me known in what manner you intended to settle your estate. This would have been but acting like a man to his wife, even if you had married me without a fortune; but as you received so handsomely with me, you ought to have considered it as my substance, as well as your own, that you were going to dispose of."

My lord looked somewhat staggered at what I had said, and pausing a little while, answered, that he thought, and also looked upon it as a granted opinion, that after a man married a woman, all that she was in possession of was his, excepting he had made a prior writing or settlement to her of any part or all she was then possessed of. "Besides, my lady," added he, "I have married both your children, and given them very noble fortunes, especially your son. I have also had great losses in trade, both by sea and land, since you delivered your fortune to me, and even at this time, notwithstanding the appearance we make in the world, I am not worth a third of what I was when we came to settle in Holland; and then, here is our own son shall be provided for in a handsome manner by me; for I am thoroughly convinced there will be but little care taken of him if I leave anything in your power for that purpose: witness Thomas and Susanna."

"My lord," said I, "I am not come into your chamber to know what care you have taken of our child. I do not doubt but you have acted like a father by it. What I would be informed in is, what I am to depend upon in case of your decease; which I, however, hope may be a great many years off yet." "You need not concern yourself about that," said he; "your son will take care that you shall not want; but yet, I will tell you, too," said he, "that it may prevent your wishing for my death. I have, in my will, left all I am possessed of in the world to my son, excepting L1500; out of that there is L500 for you, L500 among my executors, and the other L500 is to bury me, pay my funeral expenses, and what is overplus I have ordered to be equally divided among my servants."

When I had heard him pronounce these words, I stared like one that was frightened out of his senses. "Five hundred pounds for me!" says I; "pray, what do you mean? What! am I, that brought you so handsome a fortune, to be under the curb of my son, and ask him for every penny I want? No, sir," said I, "I will not accept it. I expect to be left in full possession of one-half of your fortune, that I may live the remainder of my life like your wife." "Madam," replied my lord, "you may expect what you please. If you can make it appear since I found you out to be a jilt that I have looked upon you as my wife, everything shall be altered and settled just as you desire, which might then be called your will; but as the case now stands, the will is mine, and so it shall remain."

I thought I should have sunk when I had heard him make this solemn and premeditated declaration. I raved like a mad woman, and, at the end of my discourse, told him that I did not value what could happen to me, even if I was forced to beg my bread, for I would stand the test of my own character; and as I could get nothing by being an honest woman, so I should not scruple to declare that "the son you have left what you have to is a bastard you had by me several years before we were married."

"Oh," says he, "madam, do you think you can frighten me? no, not in the least; for if you ever mention anything of it, the title, as well as all the estate, will go to another branch of my family, and you will then be left to starve in good earnest, without having the least glimpse of hope to better your fortune; for," added he, "it is not very probable that you will be courted for a wife by any man of substance at these years; so if you have a mind to make yourself easy in your present circumstances, you must rest contented with what I have left you, and not prove yourself a whore to ruin your child, in whose power it will be to provide for you in a handsome manner, provided you behave yourself with that respect to him and me as you ought to do; for if any words arise about what I have done, I shall make a fresh will, and, as the laws of this nation will give me liberty, cut you off with a shilling."

My own unhappiness, and his strong and lasting resentment, had kept me at high words, and flowing in tears, for some time; and as I was unwilling anybody should see me in that unhappy condition, I stayed coolly talking to him, till our son, who had been to several gentlemen's houses about my lord's business, came home to tell his father the success he had met with abroad. He brought in with him bank-notes to the amount of L12,000, which he had received of some merchants he held a correspondence with; at which my lord was well pleased, for he was pretty near out of money at this juncture. After our son had delivered the accounts and bills, and had withdrawn, I asked my lord, in a calm tone, to give me the satisfaction of knowing in what manner the losses he had complained to have suffered consisted. "You must consider, my lord," said I, "that according to what you have been pleased to inform me of, we are upwards of L2000 per annum, besides about L17,000 ready money, poorer than we were when we first came to settle in Holland."

"You talk," replied my lord, "in a very odd manner. Do not you know that I had children of my own by a former wife? and of these I have taken so much care as to provide with very handsome fortunes, which are settled irrevocably upon them. I have, Providence be thanked, given each of them L5000, and that is laid in East India stock, sufficient to keep them genteelly, above the frowns of fortune, and free from the fear of want. This, joined to the money I mentioned to you before, as losses at sea, deaths, and bankruptcies, your children's fortunes, which are larger than my own children's, the buying the estate we live on, and several other things, which my receipts and notes will account for, as you may see after my decease. I have, to oblige you on this head, almost descended to particulars, which I never thought to have done; but as I have, rest yourself contented, and be well assured that I have not wilfully thrown any of your substance away."

I could not tell what he meant by saying he had not wilfully thrown any of my substance away. These words puzzled me, for I found by his discourse I was to have but L500 of all I had brought him, at his decease, which I looked upon to be near at hand. I had but one thing that was any satisfaction to me, which was this: I was assured by him that he had not bestowed above the L15,000 he mentioned to me, on his children by his former wife; and, on an exact calculation, he made it appear that he had bestowed on my son Thomas alone near L13,000 in buying the plantation, shares in vessels, and merchandise, besides several valuable presents sent to his wife, both by him and me; and as for my daughter Susanna, she was very well married to a factor, with a fortune of L2000 (which was a great sum of money for a woman to have who was immediately to go to the East Indies), besides some handsome presents given to her both by him and me. In fact, her fortune was, in proportion, as large as her brother's, for there is but very few women in England or Holland with L2000 fortune that would venture to the coast of Malabar, even to have married an Indian king, much more to have gone over with a person that no one could tell what reception he might meet with, or might be recalled at the pleasure of the Company upon the least distaste taken by the merchants against him. Neither would I, though her own mother, hinder her voyage, for she had been the author of all the misfortunes that happened to me; and if my speaking a word would have saved her from the greatest torment, I believe I should have been quite silent. And I had but one reason to allege for the girl's going so hazardous a voyage, which is, she knew that the match was proposed by my lord, and if he had not thought it would have been advantageous for her, he would never have given L2000 to her husband as a fortune; and again, as my lord was the only friend she had in our family, she was cunning enough to know that the bare disobliging of him would have been her ruin for ever after; to which I may add, that it is possible, as she had made so much mischief about me, she was glad to get what she could and go out of the way, for fear my lord and I should be friends; which, if that had happened, she would have been told never to come to our house any more.

As my lord's death began to be daily the discourse of the family, I thought that he might be more reconciled if I entered into the arguments again, pro and con, which we had together before. I did so, but all I could say was no satisfaction, till I importuned him on my knees, with a flood of tears. "Madam," said he, "what would you have me do?" "Do, my lord," said I, "only be so tender to my years and circumstances as to alter your will, or, at least, add a codicil to it; I desire nothing more, for I declare I had rather be a beggar, than live under my child's jurisdiction." To this he agreed with some reluctance, and he added a codicil to his will.

This pleased me greatly, and gave me comfort, for I dreaded nothing so much, after all my high living, as being under any person, relation or stranger, and whether they exercised any power over me or not.

I saw the lawyer come out of the chamber first, but was above asking him any questions; the next were the executors and chaplain. I asked the last how they came to have words. He did not answer me directly, but begged to know whose pleasure it was to have the codicil annexed. "It was mine, sir," replied I; "and it made me very uneasy before I could have the favour granted." He only replied by saying, "Ah! poor lady, the favour, as you are pleased to term it, is not calculated for any benefit to you; think the worst you can of it."

I was terribly uneasy at what the chaplain had said, but I imagined to myself that I could not be worse off than I thought I should be before the codicil was annexed; and as he withdrew without saying any more, I was fain to rest satisfied with what I had heard, and that amounted to nothing.

The next day after this the physicians that attended my lord told him it was time for him to settle his worldly affairs, and prepare himself for a hereafter. I now found all was over, and I had no other hopes of his life than the physicians' declaration of his being near his death. For it often happens that the gentlemen of the faculty give out that a man is near his death, to make the cure appear to be the effect of their great skill in distempers and medicine; as others, when they cannot find out the real disease, give out that a man's end is near, rather than discover their want of judgment; and this I thought might be the case with our doctors of physic.

Our son was still kept from the university, and lodged at the house of one of his future guardians; but when he heard that his father was so near his end, he was very little out of his presence, for he dearly loved him. My lord sent the day before his death to lock and seal up all the doors in his dwelling house at The Hague; and the steward had orders, in case of my lord's decease, not to let anybody come in, not even his lady (who had for some time lodged in the same house with her lord), without an order from the executors.

The keys of the doors were carried to him, and as he saw his death approach, he prepared for it, and, in fact, resigned up the keys of everything to the executors, and having bid them all a farewell, they were dismissed. The physicians waited; but as the verge of life approached, and it was out of their power to do him any service, he gave them a bill of L100 for the care they had taken of him, and dismissed them.

I now went into the chamber, and kneeling by his bedside, kissed him with great earnestness, and begged of him, if ever I had disobliged him in any respect, to forgive me. He sighed, and said he most freely forgave me everything that I had reason to think I had offended him in; but he added, "If you had been so open in your conversation to me before our marriage as to discover your family and way of life, I know not but that I should have married you as I did. I might now have been in a good state of health, and you many years have lived with all the honours due to the Countess de Wintselsheim." These words drew tears from my eyes, and they being the last of any consequence he said, they had the greater impression upon me. He faintly bid me a long farewell, and said, as he had but a few moments to live, he hoped I would retire, and leave him with our son and chaplain. I withdrew into my own chamber, almost drowned in tears, and my son soon followed me out, leaving the chaplain with his father, offering up his prayers to Heaven for the receiving of his soul into the blessed mansions of eternal bliss.

A few minutes after our son went into the chamber with me again, and received his father's last blessing. The chaplain now saw him departing, and was reading the prayer ordered by the Church for that occasion; and while he was doing it, my lord laid his head gently on the pillow, and turning on his left side, departed this life with all the calmness of a composed mind, without so much as a groan, in the fifty-seventh year of his age.

As soon as he was dead an undertaker was sent for, by order of the executors, who met together immediately to open his will, and take care of all my son's effects. I was present when it was opened and read; but how terribly I was frightened at hearing the codicil repeated any person may imagine by the substance of it, which was to this effect; that if I had given me any more after his decease than the L500 he had left me, the L500 left to his executors, and the L1000 of my son's estate (which was now a year's interest), was to be given to such poor families at The Hague as were judged to be in the greatest want of it; not to be divided into equal sums, but every family to have according to their merit and necessity. But this was not all. My son was tied down much harder; for if it was known that he gave me any relief, let my condition be ever so bad, either by himself, by his order, or in any manner of way, device, or contrivance that he could think of, one-half of his estate, which was particularly mentioned, was to devolve to the executors for ever; and if they granted me ever so small a favour, that sum was to be equally divided among the several parishes where they lived, for the benefit of the poor.

Any person would have been surprised to have seen how we all sat staring at each other; for though it was signed by all the executors, yet they did not know the substance of it till it was publicly read, excepting the chaplain; and he, as I mentioned before, had told me the codicil had better never have been added.

I was now in a fine dilemma; had the title of a countess, with L500, and nothing else to subsist on but a very good wardrobe of clothes, which were not looked upon by my son and the executors to be my late lord's property, and which were worth, indeed, more than treble the sum I had left me.

I immediately removed from the lodgings, and left them to bury the body when they thought proper, and retired to a lodging at a private gentleman's house, about a mile from The Hague. I was now resolved to find out Amy, being, as it were, at liberty; and accordingly went to the house where she had lived, and finding that empty, inquired for her among the neighbours, who gave various accounts of what had become of her; but one of them had a direction left at his house where she might be found. I went to the place and found the house shut up, and all the windows broken, the sign taken down, and the rails and benches pulled from before the door. I was quite ashamed to ask for her there, for it was a very scandalous neighbourhood, and I concluded that Amy had been brought to low circumstances, and had kept a house of ill-fame, and was either run away herself, or was forced to it by the officers of justice. However, as nobody knew me here, I went into a shop to buy some trifles, and asked who had lived in the opposite house (meaning Amy's). "Really, madam," says the woman, "I do not well know; but it was a woman who kept girls for gentlemen; she went on in that wickedness for some time, till a gentleman was robbed there of his watch and a diamond ring, on which the women were all taken up, and committed to the house of correction; but the young ones are now at liberty, and keep about the town." "Pray," said I, "what may have become of the old beast that could be the ruin of those young creatures?" "Why, I do not well know," says she; "but I have heard that, as all her goods were seized upon, she was sent to the poorhouse; but it soon after appearing that she had the French disease to a violent degree, was removed to a hospital to be taken care of, but I believe she will never live to come out; and if she should be so fortunate, the gentleman that was robbed, finding that she was the guilty person, intends to prosecute her to the utmost rigour of the law."

I was sadly surprised to hear this character of Amy; for I thought whatever house she might keep, that the heyday of her blood had been over. But I found that she had not been willing to be taken for an old woman, though near sixty years of age; and my not seeing or hearing from her for some time past was a confirmation of what had been told me.

I went home sadly dejected, considering how I might hear of her. I had known her for a faithful servant to me, in all my bad and good fortune, and was sorry that at the last such a miserable end should overtake her, though she, as well as I, deserved it several years before.

A few days after I went pretty near the place I had heard she was, and hired a poor woman to go and inquire how Amy —— did, and whether she was likely to do well. The woman returned, and told me that the matron, or mistress, said, the person I inquired after died in a salivation two days before, and was buried the last night in the cemetery belonging to the hospital.

I was very sorry to hear of Amy's unhappy and miserable death; for when she came first into my service she was really a sober girl, very witty and brisk, but never impudent, and her notions in general were good, till my forcing her, as it were, to have an intrigue with the jeweller. She had also lived with me between thirty and forty years, in the several stages of life as I had passed through; and as I had done nothing but what she was privy to, so she was the best person in the universal world to consult with and take advice from, as my circumstances now were.

I returned to my lodgings much chagrined, and very disconsolate; for as I had for several years lived at the pinnacle of splendour and satisfaction, it was a prodigious heart-break to me now to fall from upwards of L3000 per annum to a poor L500 principal.

A few days after this I went to see my son, the Earl of Wintselsheim. He received me in a very courteous (though far from a dutiful) manner. We talked together near an hour upon general things, but had no particular discourse about my late lord's effects, as I wanted to have. Among other things he told me that his guardians had advised him to go to the university for four years longer, when he would come of age, and his estate would be somewhat repaired; to which he said he had agreed; and for that purpose all the household goods and equipages were to be disposed of the next week, and the servants dismissed. I immediately asked if it would be looked upon as an encroachment upon his father's will if I took Isabel (who had been my waiting-maid ever since I came from England) to live with me. "No, my lady," very readily replied he; "as she will be dismissed from me, she is certainly at liberty and full freedom to do for herself as soon and in the best manner she possibly can." After this I stayed about a quarter of an hour with him, and then I sent for Isabel, to know if she would come and live with me on her dismission from her lord's. The girl readily consented, for I had always been a good mistress to her; and then I went to my own lodgings in my son's coach, which he had ordered to be got ready to carry me home.

Isabel came, according to appointment, about ten days after, and told me the house was quite cleared both of men and movables, but said her lord (meaning my son) was not gone to the university as yet, but was at one of his guardians' houses, where he would stay about a month, and that he intended to make a visit before his departure, which he did, attended by my late chaplain; and I, being in handsome lodgings, received them with all the complaisance and love as was possible, telling them that time and circumstances having greatly varied with me, whatever they saw amiss I hoped they would be so good as to look over it at that time, by considering the unhappy situation of my affairs.

After this visit was over, and I had myself and Isabel to provide for, handsome lodgings to keep (which were as expensive as they were fine), and nothing but my principal money to live on (I mean what I happened to have in my pocket at my lord's death, for I had not been paid my L500 as yet), I could not manage for a genteel maintenance as I had done some years before. I thought of divers things to lay my small sums out to advantage, but could fix on nothing; for it always happens that when people have but a trifle, they are very dubious in the disposal of it.

Having been long resolving in my mind, I at last fixed on merchandise as the most genteel and profitable of anything else. Accordingly I went to a merchant who was intimate with my late lord, and letting him know how my circumstances were, he heartily condoled with me, and told me he could help me to a share in two ships—one was going a trading voyage to the coast of Africa, and the other a-privateering. I was now in a dilemma, and was willing to have a share in the trader, but was dubious of being concerned in the privateer; for I had heard strange stories told of the gentlemen concerned in that way of business. Nay, I had been told, but with what certainty I cannot aver, that there was a set of men who took upon them to issue ships, and as they always knew to what port they are bound, notice was sent to their correspondent abroad to order out their privateers on the coast the other sailed, and they knowing the loading, and the numbers of hands and guns were on board, soon made prizes of the vessels, and the profits were equally divided, after paying what was paid for their insurance, among them all.

However, I at last resolved, by the merchant's advice, to have a share in the trader, and the next day he over-persuaded me to have a share in the privateer also. But that I may not lay out my money before I have it, it may not be amiss to observe that I went to the executors and received my L500 at an hour's notice, and then went to the merchant's to know what the shares would come to, and being told L1500, I was resolved to raise the money; so I went home, and, with my maid Isabel, in two days' time disposed of as many of my clothes as fetched me near L1100, which, joined to the above sum, I carried to the merchant's, where the writings were drawn, signed, sealed, and delivered to me in the presence of two witnesses, who went with me for that purpose. The ships were near ready for sailing; the trader was so well manned and armed, as well as the privateer, that the partners would not consent to insure them, and out they both sailed, though from different ports, and I depended on getting a good estate between them.

When I was about this last ship a letter came from the count, my son, full of tender expressions of his duty to me, in which I was informed that he was going again to the university at Paris, where he should remain four years; after that he intended to make the tour of Europe, and then come and settle at The Hague. I returned him thanks in a letter for his compliment, wished him all happiness, and a safe return to Holland, and desired that he would write to me from time to time that I might hear of his welfare, which was all I could now expect of him. But this was the last time I heard from him, or he from me.

In about a month's time the news came that the privateer (which sailed under British colours, and was divided into eight shares) had taken a ship, and was bringing it into the Texel, but that it accidentally foundered, and being chained to the privateer, had, in sinking, like to have lost that too. Two or three of the hands got on shore, and came to The Hague; but how terribly I was alarmed any one may judge, when I heard the ship the privateer had was the Newfoundland merchantman, as I had bought two shares in out of four. About two months after news was current about The Hague of a privateer or merchantman, one of them of the town, though not known which, having an engagement in the Mediterranean, in which action both the privateer and trader was lost. Soon after their names were publicly known, and, in the end, my partners heard that they were our ships, and unhappily sailing under false colours (a thing often practised in the time of war), and never having seen each other, had, at meeting, a very smart engagement, each fighting for life and honour, till two unfortunate shots; one of them, viz., the privateer, was sunk by a shot between wind and water, and the trader unhappily blown up by a ball falling in the powder-room. There were only two hands of the trader, and three of the privateer, that escaped, and they all fortunately met at one of the partners' houses, where they confirmed the truth of this melancholy story, and to me a fatal loss.

What was to be done now? I had no money, and but few clothes left; there, was no hope of subsistence from my son or his guardians; they were tied down to be spectators of my misfortunes, without affording me any redress, even if they would.

Isabel, though I was now reduced to the last penny, would live with me still, and, as I observed before and may now repeat, I was in a pretty situation to begin the world—upwards of sixty years of age, friendless, scanty of clothes, and but very little money.

I proposed to Isabel to remove from lodgings and retire to Amsterdam, where I was not known, and might turn myself into some little way of business, and work for that bread now which had been too often squandered away upon very trifles. And upon consideration I found myself in a worse condition than I thought, for I had nothing to recommend me to Heaven, either in works or thoughts; had even banished from my mind all the cardinal and moral virtues, and had much more reason to hide myself from the sight of God, if possible, than I had to leave The Hague, that I might not be known of my fellow-creatures. And farther to hasten our removing to Amsterdam, I recollected I was involved in debt for money to purchase a share in the Newfoundland trader, which was lost, and my creditors daily threatened me with an arrest to make me pay them.

I soon discharged my lodgings and went with Isabel to Amsterdam, where I thought, as I was advanced in years, to give up all I could raise in the world, and on the sale of everything I had to go into one of the Proveniers' houses, where I should be settled for life. But as I could not produce enough money for it, I turned it into a coffee-house near the Stadt-house, where I might have done well; but as soon as I was settled one of my Hague creditors arrested me for a debt of L75, and I not having a friend in the world of whom to raise the money, was, in a shameful condition, carried to the common jail, where poor Isabel followed me with showers of tears, and left me inconsolable for my great misfortunes. Here, without some very unforeseen accident, I shall never go out of it until I am carried to my grave, for which my much-offended God prepare me as soon as possible.

The continuation of the Life of Roxana, by Isabel Johnson, who had been her waiting-maid, from the time she was thrown into jail to the time of her death.

After my lady, as it was my duty to call her, was thrown into jail for a debt she was unable to pay, she gave her mind wholly up to devotion. Whether it was from a thorough sense of her wretched state, or any other reason, I could never learn; but this I may say, that she was a sincere penitent, and in every action had all the behaviour of a Christian. By degrees all the things she had in the world were sold, and she began to find an inward decay upon her spirits. In this interval she repeated all the passages of her ill-spent life to me, and thoroughly repented of every bad action, especially the little value she had for her children, which were honestly born and bred. And having, as she believed, made her peace with God, she died with mere grief on the 2nd of July 1742, in the sixty-fifth year of her age, and was decently buried by me in the churchyard belonging to the Lutherans, in the city of Amsterdam.

THE END.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
Home - Random Browse