I had now all my effects secured; but my money being my great concern at that time, I found it a difficulty how to dispose of it so as to bring me in an annual interest. However, in some time I got a substantial safe mortgage for L14,000 by the assistance of the famous Sir Robert Clayton, for which I had an estate of L1800 a year bound to me, and had L700 per annum interest for it.
This, with some other securities, made me a very handsome estate of above a thousand pounds a year; enough, one would think, to keep any woman in England from being a whore.
I lay in at ——, about four miles from London, and brought a fine boy into the world, and, according to my promise, sent an account of it to my friend at Paris, the father of it; and in the letter told him how sorry I was for his going away, and did as good as intimate that, if he would come once more to see me, I should use him better than I had done. He gave me a very kind and obliging answer, but took not the least notice of what I had said of his coming over, so I found my interest lost there for ever. He gave me joy of the child, and hinted that he hoped I would make good what he had begged for the poor infant as I had promised, and I sent him word again that I would fulfil his order to a tittle; and such a fool and so weak I was in this last letter, notwithstanding what I have said of his not taking notice of my invitation, as to ask his pardon almost for the usage I gave him at Rotterdam, and stooped so low as to expostulate with him for not taking notice of my inviting him to come to me again, as I had done; and, which was still more, went so far as to make a second sort of an offer to him, telling him, almost in plain words, that if he would come over now I would have him; but he never gave me the least reply to it at all, which was as absolute a denial to me as he was ever able to give; so I sat down, I cannot say contented, but vexed heartily that I had made the offer at all, for he had, as I may say, his full revenge of me in scorning to answer, and to let me twice ask that of him which he with so much importunity begged of me before.
I was now up again, and soon came to my City lodging in the Pall Mall, and here I began to make a figure suitable to my estate, which was very great; and I shall give you an account of my equipage in a few words, and of myself too.
I paid L60 a year for my new apartments, for I took them by the year; but then they were handsome lodgings indeed, and very richly furnished. I kept my own servants to clean and look after them, found my own kitchen ware and firing. My equipage was handsome, but not very great; I had a coach, a coachman, a footman, my woman Amy, who I now dressed like a gentlewoman and made her my companion, and three maids; and thus I lived for a time. I dressed to the height of every mode, went extremely rich in clothes, and as for jewels, I wanted none. I gave a very good livery, laced with silver, and as rich as anybody below the nobility could be seen with; and thus I appeared, leaving the world to guess who or what I was, without offering to put myself forward.
I walked sometimes in the Mall with my woman Amy, but I kept no company and made no acquaintances, only made as gay a show as I was able to do, and that upon all occasions. I found, however, the world was not altogether so unconcerned about me as I seemed to be about them; and first I understood that the neighbours began to be mighty inquisitive about me, as who I was, and what my circumstances were.
Amy was the only person that could answer their curiosity or give any account of me; and she, a tattling woman and a true gossip, took care to do that with all the art that she was mistress of. She let them know that I was the widow of a person of quality in France, that I was very rich, that I came over hither to look after an estate that fell to me by some of my relations who died here, that I was worth L40,000 all in my own hands, and the like.
This was all wrong in Amy, and in me too, though we did not see it at first, for this recommended me indeed to those sort of gentlemen they call fortune-hunters, and who always besieged ladies, as they called it—on purpose to take them prisoners, as I called it—that is to say, to marry the women and have the spending of their money. But if I was wrong in refusing the honourable proposals of the Dutch merchant, who offered me the disposal of my whole estate, and had as much of his own to maintain me with, I was right now in refusing those offers which came generally from gentlemen of good families and good estates, but who, living to the extent of them, were always needy and necessitous, and wanted a sum of money to make themselves easy, as they call it—that is to say, to pay off encumbrances, sisters' portions, and the like; and then the woman is prisoner for life, and may live as they give her leave. This life I had seen into clearly enough, and therefore I was not to be catched that way. However, as I said, the reputation of my money brought several of those sort of gentry about me, and they found means, by one stratagem or other, to get access to my ladyship; but, in short, I answered them well enough, that I lived single and was happy; that as I had no occasion to change my condition for an estate, so I did not see that by the best offer that any of them could make me I could mend my fortune; that I might be honoured with titles indeed, and in time rank on public occasions with the peeresses (I mention that because one that offered at me was the eldest son of a peer), but that I was as well without the title as long as I had the estate, and while I had L2000 a year of my own I was happier than I could be in being prisoner of state to a nobleman, for I took the ladies of that rank to be little better.
As I have mentioned Sir Robert Clayton, with whom I had the good fortune to become acquainted, on account of the mortgage which he helped me to, it is necessary to take notice that I had much advantage in my ordinary affairs by his advice, and therefore I called it my good fortune; for as he paid me so considerable an annual income as L700 a year, so I am to acknowledge myself much a debtor, not only to the justice of his dealings with me, but to the prudence and conduct which he guided me to, by his advice, for the management of my estate. And as he found I was not inclined to marry, he frequently took occasion to hint how soon I might raise my fortune to a prodigious height if I would but order my family economy so far within my revenue as to lay up every year something to add to the capital.
I was convinced of the truth of what he said, and agreed to the advantages of it. You are to take it as you go that Sir Robert supposed by my own discourse, and especially by my woman Amy, that I had L2000 a year income. He judged, as he said, by my way of living that I could not spend above one thousand, and so, he added, I might prudently lay by L1000 every year to add to the capital; and by adding every year the additional interest or income of the money to the capital, he proved to me that in ten years I should double the L1000 per annum that I laid by. And he drew me out a table, as he called it, of the increase, for me to judge by; and by which, he said, if the gentlemen of England would but act so, every family of them would increase their fortunes to a great degree, just as merchants do by trade; whereas now, says Sir Robert, by the humour of living up to the extent of their fortunes, and rather beyond, the gentlemen, says he, ay, and the nobility too, are almost all of them borrowers, and all in necessitous circumstances.
As Sir Robert frequently visited me, and was (if I may say so from his own mouth) very well pleased with my way of conversing with him, for he knew nothing, not so much as guessed at what I had been; I say, as he came often to see me, so he always entertained me with this scheme of frugality; and one time he brought another paper, wherein he showed me, much to the same purpose as the former, to what degree I should increase my estate if I would come into his method of contracting my expenses; and by this scheme of his, it appeared that, laying up a thousand pounds a year, and every year adding the interest to it, I should in twelve years' time have in bank one-and-twenty thousand and fifty-eight pounds, after which I might lay up two thousand pounds a year.
I objected that I was a young woman, that I had been used to live plentifully, and with a good appearance, and that I knew not how to be a miser.
He told me that if I thought I had enough it was well, but that if I desired to have more, this was the way; that in another twelve years I should be too rich, so that I should not know what to do with it.
"Ay, sir," says I, "you are contriving how to make me a rich old woman, but that won't answer my end; I had rather have L20,000 now than L60,000 when I am fifty years old."
"Then, madam," says he, "I suppose your honour has no children?"
"None, Sir Robert," said I, "but what are provided for." So I left him in the dark as much as I found him. However, I considered his scheme very well, though I said no more to him at that time, and I resolved, though I would make a very good figure, I say I resolved to abate a little of my expense, and draw in, live closer, and save something, if not so much as he proposed to me. It was near the end of the year that Sir Robert made this proposal to me, and when the year was up I went to his house in the City, and there I told him I came to thank him for his scheme of frugality; that I had been studying much upon it, and though I had not been able to mortify myself so much as to lay up a thousand pounds a year, yet, as I had not come to him for my interest half-yearly, as was usual, I was now come to let him know that I had resolved to lay up that seven hundred pounds a year, and never use a penny of it, desiring him to help me to put it out to advantage.
Sir Robert, a man thoroughly versed in arts of improving money, but thoroughly honest, said to me, "Madam, I am glad you approve of the method that I proposed to you; but you have begun wrong; you should have come for your interest at the half-year, and then you had had the money to put out. Now you have lost half a year's interest of L350, which is L9; for I had but 5 per cent, on the mortgage."
"Well, well, sir," says I, "can you put this out for me now?"
"Let it lie, madam," says he, "till the next year, and then I'll put out your L1400 together, and in the meantime I'll pay you interest for the L700." So he gave me his bill for the money, which he told me should be no less than L6 per cent. Sir Robert Clayton's bill was what nobody would refuse, so I thanked him and let it lie; and next year I did the same, and the third year Sir Robert got me a good mortgage for L2200 at L6 per cent interest. So I had L132 a year added to my income, which was a very satisfying article.
But I return to my history. As I have said, I found that my measures were all wrong; the posture I set up in exposed me to innumerable visitors of the kind I have mentioned above. I was cried up for a vast fortune, and one that Sir Robert Clayton managed for; and Sir Robert Clayton was courted for me as much as I was for myself. But I had given Sir Robert his cue. I had told him my opinion of matrimony, in just the same terms as I had done my merchant, and he came into it presently. He owned that my observation was just, and that if I valued my liberty, as I knew my fortune, and that it was in my own hands, I was to blame if I gave it away to any one.
But Sir Robert knew nothing of my design, that I aimed at being a kept mistress, and to have a handsome maintenance; and that I was still for getting money, and laying it up too, as much as he could desire me, only by a worse way.
However, Sir Robert came seriously to me one day, and told me he had an offer of matrimony to make to me that was beyond all that he had heard had offered themselves, and this was a merchant. Sir Robert and I agreed exactly in our notions of a merchant. Sir Robert said, and I found it to be true, that a true-bred merchant is the best gentleman in the nation; that in knowledge, in manners, in judgment of things, the merchant outdid many of the nobility; that having once mastered the world, and being above the demand of business, though no real estate, they were then superior to most gentlemen, even in estate; that a merchant in flush business and a capital stock is able to spend more money than a gentleman of L5000 a year estate; that while a merchant spent, he only spent what he got, and not that, and that he laid up great sums every year; that an estate is a pond, but that a trade was a spring; that if the first is once mortgaged, it seldom gets clear, but embarrassed the person for ever; but the merchant had his estate continually flowing; and upon this he named me merchants who lived in more real splendour and spent more money than most of the noblemen in England could singly expend, and that they still grew immensely rich.
He went on to tell me that even the tradesmen in London, speaking of the better sort of trades, could spend more money in their families, and yet give better fortunes to their children, than, generally speaking, the gentry of England from L1000 a year downward could do, and yet grow rich too.
The upshot of all this was to recommend to me rather the bestowing my fortune upon some eminent merchant, who lived already in the first figure of a merchant, and who, not being in want or scarcity of money, but having a flourishing business and a flowing cash, would at the first word settle all my fortune on myself and children, and maintain me like a queen.
This was certainly right, and had I taken his advice, I had been really happy; but my heart was bent upon an independency of fortune, and I told him I knew no state of matrimony but what was at best a state of inferiority, if not of bondage; that I had no notion of it; that I lived a life of absolute liberty now, was free as I was born, and having a plentiful fortune, I did not understand what coherence the words "honour and obey" had with the liberty of a free woman; that I knew no reason the men had to engross the whole liberty of the race, and make the woman, notwithstanding any disparity of fortune, be subject to the laws of marriage, of their own making; that it was my misfortune to be a woman, but I was resolved it should not be made worse by the sex; and, seeing liberty seemed to be the men's property, I would be a man-woman, for, as I was born free, I would die so.
Sir Robert smiled, and told me I talked a kind of Amazonian language; that he found few women of my mind, or that, if they were, they wanted resolution to go on with it; that, notwithstanding all my notions, which he could not but say had once some weight in them, yet he understood I had broke in upon them, and had been married. I answered, I had so; but he did not hear me say that I had any encouragement from what was past to make a second venture; that I was got well out of the toil, and if I came in again I should have nobody to blame but myself.
Sir Robert laughed heartily at me, but gave over offering any more arguments, only told me he had pointed me out for some of the best merchants in London, but since I forbade him he would give me no disturbance of that kind. He applauded my way of managing my money, and told me I should soon be monstrous rich; but he neither knew or mistrusted that, with all this wealth, I was yet a whore, and was not averse to adding to my estate at the farther expense of my virtue.
But to go on with my story as to my way of living. I found, as above, that my living as I did would not answer; that it only brought the fortune-hunters and bites about me, as I have said before, to make a prey of me and my money; and, in short, I was harassed with lovers, beaux, and fops of quality, in abundance, but it would not do. I aimed at other things, and was possessed with so vain an opinion of my own beauty, that nothing less than the king himself was in my eye. And this vanity was raised by some words let fall by a person I conversed with, who was, perhaps, likely enough to have brought such a thing to pass, had it been sooner; but that game began to be pretty well over at court. However, the having mentioned such a thing, it seems a little too publicly, it brought abundance of people about me, upon a wicked account too.
And now I began to act in a new sphere. The court was exceedingly gay and fine, though fuller of men than of women, the queen not affecting to be very much in public. On the other hand, it is no slander upon the courtiers to say, they were as wicked as anybody in reason could desire them. The king had several mistresses, who were prodigious fine, and there was a glorious show on that side indeed. If the sovereign gave himself a loose, it could not be expected the rest of the court should be all saints; so far was it from that, though I would not make it worse than it was, that a woman that had anything agreeable in her appearance could never want followers.
I soon found myself thronged with admirers, and I received visits from some persons of very great figure, who always introduced themselves by the help of an old lady or two who were now become my intimates; and one of them, I understood afterwards, was set to work on purpose to get into my favour, in order to introduce what followed.
The conversation we had was generally courtly, but civil. At length some gentlemen proposed to play, and made what they called a party. This, it seems, was a contrivance of one of my female hangers-on, for, as I said, I had two of them, who thought this was the way to introduce people as often as she pleased; and so indeed it was. They played high and stayed late, but begged my pardon, only asked leave to make an appointment for the next night. I was as gay and as well pleased as any of them, and one night told one of the gentlemen, my Lord ——, that seeing they were doing me the honour of diverting themselves at my apartment, and desired to be there sometimes, I did not keep a gaming-table, but I would give them a little ball the next day if they pleased, which they accepted very willingly.
Accordingly, in the evening the gentlemen began to come, where I let them see that I understood very well what such things meant. I had a large dining-room in my apartments, with five other rooms on the same floor, all which I made drawing-rooms for the occasion, having all the beds taken down for the day. In three of these I had tables placed, covered with wine and sweetmeats, the fourth had a green table for play, and the fifth was my own room, where I sat, and where I received all the company that came to pay their compliments to me. I was dressed, you may be sure, to all the advantage possible, and had all the jewels on that I was mistress of. My Lord ——, to whom I had made the invitation, sent me a set of fine music from the playhouse, and the ladies danced, and we began to be very merry, when about eleven o'clock I had notice given me that there were some gentlemen coming in masquerade. I seemed a little surprised, and began to apprehend some disturbance, when my Lord —— perceiving it, spoke to me to be easy, for that there was a party of the guards at the door which should be ready to prevent any rudeness; and another gentleman gave me a hint as if the king was among the masks. I coloured as red as blood itself could make a face look, and expressed a great surprise; however, there was no going back, so I kept my station in my drawing-room, but with the folding-doors wide open.
A while after the masks came in, and began with a dance a la comique, performing wonderfully indeed. While they were dancing I withdrew, and left a lady to answer for me that I would return immediately. In less than half-an-hour I returned, dressed in the habit of a Turkish princess; the habit I got at Leghorn, when my foreign prince bought me a Turkish slave, as I have said. The Maltese man-of-war had, it seems, taken a Turkish vessel going from Constantinople to Alexandria, in which were some ladies bound for Grand Cairo in Egypt; and as the ladies were made slaves, so their fine clothes were thus exposed; and with this Turkish slave I bought the rich clothes too. The dress was extraordinary fine indeed; I had bought it as a curiosity, having never seen the like. The robe was a fine Persian or India damask, the ground white, and the flowers blue and gold, and the train held five yards. The dress under it was a vest of the same, embroidered with gold, and set with some pearl in the work and some turquoise stones. To the vest was a girdle five or six inches wide, after the Turkish mode; and on both ends where it joined, or hooked, was set with diamonds for eight inches either way, only they were not true diamonds, but nobody knew that but myself.
The turban, or head-dress, had a pinnacle on the top, but not above five inches, with a piece of loose sarcenet hanging from it; and on the front, just over the forehead, was a good jewel which I had added to it.
This habit, as above, cost me about sixty pistoles in Italy, but cost much more in the country from whence it came; and little did I think when I bought it that I should put it to such a use as this, though I had dressed myself in it many times by the help of my little Turk, and afterwards between Amy and I, only to see how I looked in it. I had sent her up before to get it ready, and when I came up I had nothing to do but slip it on, and was down in my drawing-room in a little more than a quarter of an hour. When I came there the room was full of company; but I ordered the folding-doors to be shut for a minute or two till I had received the compliments of the ladies that were in the room, and had given them a full view of my dress.
But my Lord ——, who happened to be in the room, slipped out at another door, and brought back with him one of the masks, a tall, well-shaped person, but who had no name, being all masked; nor would it have been allowed to ask any person's name on such an occasion. The person spoke in French to me, that it was the finest dress he had ever seen, and asked me if he should have the honour to dance with me. I bowed, as giving my consent, but said, as I had been a Mahometan, I could not dance after the manner of this country; I supposed their music would not play a la Moresque. He answered merrily. I had a Christian's face, and he'd venture it that I could dance like a Christian; adding that so much beauty could not be Mahometan. Immediately the folding-doors were flung open, and he led me into the room. The company were under the greatest surprise imaginable; the very music stopped awhile to gaze, for the dress was indeed exceedingly surprising, perfectly new, very agreeable, and wonderful rich.
The gentleman, whoever he was, for I never knew, led me only a courant, and then asked me if I had a mind to dance an antic—that is to say, whether I would dance the antic as they had danced in masquerade, or anything by myself. I told him anything else rather, if he pleased; so we danced only two French dances, and he led me to the drawing-room door, when he retired to the rest of the masks. When he left me at the drawing-room door I did not go in, as he thought I would have done, but turned about and showed myself to the whole room, and calling my woman to me, gave her some directions to the music, by which the company presently understood that I would give them a dance by myself. Immediately all the house rose up and paid me a kind of a compliment by removing back every way to make me room, for the place was exceedingly full. The music did not at first hit the tune that I directed, which was a French tune, so I was forced to send my woman to them again, standing all this while at my drawing-room door; but as soon as my woman spoke to them again, they played it right, and I, to let them see it was so, stepped forward to the middle of the room. Then they began it again, and I danced by myself a figure which I learnt in France, when the Prince de —— desired I would dance for his diversion. It was, indeed, a very fine figure, invented by a famous master at Paris, for a lady or a gentleman to dance single; but being perfectly new, it pleased the company exceedingly, and they all thought it had been Turkish; nay, one gentleman had the folly to expose himself so much as to say, and I think swore too, that he had seen it danced at Constantinople, which was ridiculous enough.
At the finishing the dance the company clapped, and almost shouted; and one of the gentlemen cried out "Roxana! Roxana! by ——," with an oath; upon which foolish accident I had the name of Roxana presently fixed upon me all over the court end of town as effectually as if I had been christened Roxana. I had, it seems, the felicity of pleasing everybody that night to an extreme; and my ball, but especially my dress, was the chat of the town for that week; and so the name of Roxana was the toast at and about the court; no other health was to be named with it.
Now things began to work as I would have them, and I began to be very popular, as much as I could desire. The ball held till (as well as I was pleased with the show) I was sick of the night; the gentlemen masked went off about three o'clock in the morning, the other gentlemen sat down to play; the music held it out, and some of the ladies were dancing at six in the morning.
But I was mighty eager to know who it was danced with me. Some of the lords went so far as to tell me I was very much honoured in my company; one of them spoke so broad as almost to say it was the king, but I was convinced afterwards it was not; and another replied if he had been his Majesty he should have thought it no dishonour to lead up a Roxana; but to this hour I never knew positively who it was; and by his behaviour I thought he was too young, his Majesty being at that time in an age that might be discovered from a young person, even in his dancing.
Be that as it would, I had five hundred guineas sent me the next morning, and the messenger was ordered to tell me that the persons who sent it desired a ball again at my lodgings on the next Tuesday, but that they would have my leave to give the entertainment themselves. I was mighty well pleased with this, to be sure, but very inquisitive to know who the money came from; but the messenger was silent as death as to that point, and bowing always at my inquiries, begged me to ask no questions which he could not give an obliging answer to.
I forgot to mention, that the gentlemen that played gave a hundred guineas to the box, as they called it, and at the end of their play they asked for my gentlewoman of the bedchamber, as they called her (Mrs. Amy, forsooth), and gave it her, and gave twenty guineas more among the servants.
These magnificent doings equally both pleased and surprised me, and I hardly knew where I was; but especially that notion of the king being the person that danced with me, puffed me up to that degree, that I not only did not know anybody else, but indeed was very far from knowing myself.
I had now, the next Tuesday, to provide for the like company. But, alas! it was all taken out of my hand. Three gentlemen, who yet were, it seems, but servants, came on the Saturday, and bringing sufficient testimonies that they were right, for one was the same who brought the five hundred guineas; I say, three of them came, and brought bottles of all sorts of wines, and hampers of sweetmeats to such a quantity, it appeared they designed to hold the trade on more than once, and that they would furnish everything to a profusion.
However, as I found a deficiency in two things, I made provision of about twelve dozen of fine damask napkins, with tablecloths of the same, sufficient to cover all the tables, with three tablecloths upon every table, and sideboards in proportion. Also I bought a handsome quantity of plate, necessary to have served all the sideboards; but the gentlemen would not suffer any of it to be used, telling me they had bought fine china dishes and plates for the whole service, and that in such public places they could not be answerable for the plate. So it was set all up in a large glass cupboard in the room I sat in, where it made a very good show indeed.
On Tuesday there came such an appearance of gentlemen and ladies, that my apartments were by no means able to receive them, and those who in particular appeared as principals gave order below to let no more company come up. The street was full of coaches with coronets, and fine glass chairs, and, in short, it was impossible to receive the company. I kept my little room as before, and the dancers filled the great room; all the drawing-rooms also were filled, and three rooms below stairs, which were not mine.
It was very well that there was a strong party of the guards brought to keep the door, for without that there had been such a promiscuous crowd, and some of them scandalous too, that we should have been all disorder and confusion; but the three head servants managed all that, and had a word to admit all the company by.
It was uncertain to me, and is to this day, who it was that danced with me the Wednesday before, when the ball was my own; but that the king was at this assembly was out of question with me, by circumstances that, I suppose, I could not be deceived in, and particularly that there were five persons who were not masked; three of them had blue garters, and they appeared not to me till I came out to dance.
This meeting was managed just as the first, though with much more magnificence, because of the company. I placed myself (exceedingly rich in clothes and jewels) in the middle of my little room, as before, and made my compliment to all the company as they passed me, as I did before. But my Lord ——, who had spoken openly to me the first night, came to me, and, unmasking, told me the company had ordered him to tell me they hoped they should see me in the dress I had appeared in the first day, which had been so acceptable that it had been the occasion of this new meeting. "And, madam," says he, "there are some in this assembly who it is worth your while to oblige."
I bowed to my Lord ——, and immediately withdrew. While I was above, a-dressing in my new habit, two ladies, perfectly unknown to me, were conveyed into my apartment below, by the order of a noble person, who, with his family, had been in Persia; and here, indeed, I thought I should have been outdone, or perhaps balked.
One of these ladies was dressed most exquisitely fine indeed, in the habit of a virgin lady of quality of Georgia, and the other in the same habit of Armenia, with each of them a woman slave to attend them.
The ladies had their petticoats short to their ankles, but plaited all round, and before them short aprons, but of the finest point that could be seen. Their gowns were made with long antique sleeves hanging down behind, and a train let down. They had no jewels, but their heads and breasts were dressed up with flowers, and they both came in veiled.
Their slaves were bareheaded, but their long, black hair was braided in locks hanging down behind to their waists, and tied up with ribands. They were dressed exceeding rich, and were as beautiful as their mistresses; for none of them had any masks on. They waited in my room till I came down, and all paid their respects to me after the Persian manner, and sat down on a safra—that is to say, almost crosslegged, on a couch made up of cushions laid on the ground.
This was admirably fine, and I was indeed startled at it. They made their compliment to me in French, and I replied in the same language. When the doors were opened, they walked into the dancing-room, and danced such a dance as indeed nobody there had ever seen, and to an instrument like a guitar, with a small low-sounding trumpet, which indeed was very fine, and which my Lord —— had provided.
They danced three times all alone, for nobody indeed could dance with them. The novelty pleased, truly, but yet there was something wild and bizarre in it, because they really acted to the life the barbarous country whence they came; but as mine had the French behaviour under the Mahometan dress, it was every way as new, and pleased much better indeed.
As soon as they had shown their Georgian and Armenian shapes, and danced, as I have said, three times, they withdrew, paid their compliment to me (for I was queen of the day), and went off to undress.
Some gentlemen then danced with ladies all in masks; and when they stopped, nobody rose up to dance, but all called out "Roxana, Roxana." In the interval, my Lord —— had brought another masked person into my room, who I knew not, only that I could discern it was not the same person that led me out before. This noble person (for I afterwards understood it was the Duke of ——), after a short compliment, led me out into the middle of the room.
I was dressed in the same vest and girdle as before, but the robe had a mantle over it, which is usual in the Turkish habit, and it was of crimson and green, the green brocaded with gold; and my tyhiaai, or head-dress, varied a little from that I had before, as it stood higher, and had some jewels about the rising part, which made it look like a turban crowned.
I had no mask, neither did I paint, and yet I had the day of all the ladies that appeared at the ball, I mean of those that appeared with faces on. As for those masked, nothing could be said of them, no doubt there might be many finer than I was; it must be confessed that the habit was infinitely advantageous to me, and everybody looked at me with a kind of pleasure, which gave me great advantage too.
After I had danced with that noble person, I did not offer to dance by myself, as I had before; but they all called out "Roxana" again; and two of the gentlemen came into the drawing-room to entreat me to give them the Turkish dance, which I yielded to readily, so I came out and danced just as at first.
While I was dancing, I perceived five persons standing all together, and among them only one with his hat on. It was an immediate hint to me who it was, and had at first almost put me into some disorder; but I went on, received the applause of the house, as before, and retired into my own room. When I was there, the five gentlemen came across the room to my side, and, coming in, followed by a throng of great persons, the person with his hat on said, "Madam Roxana, you perform to admiration." I was prepared, and offered to kneel to kiss his hand, but he declined it, and saluted me, and so, passing back again through the great room, went away.
I do not say here who this was, but I say I came afterwards to know something more plainly. I would have withdrawn, and disrobed, being somewhat too thin in that dress, unlaced and open-breasted, as if I had been in my shift; but it could not be, and I was obliged to dance afterwards with six or eight gentlemen most, if not all of them, of the first rank; and I was told afterwards that one of them was the Duke of M[onmou]th.
About two or three o'clock in the morning the company began to decrease; the number of women especially dropped away home, some and some at a time; and the gentlemen retired downstairs, where they unmasked and went to play.
Amy waited at the room where they played, sat up all night to attend them, and in the morning when they broke up they swept the box into her lap, when she counted out to me sixty-two guineas and a half; and the other servants got very well too. Amy came to me when they were all gone; "Law, madam," says Amy, with a long gaping cry, "what shall I do with all this money?" And indeed the poor creature was half mad with joy.
I was now in my element. I was as much talked of as anybody could desire, and I did not doubt but something or other would come of it; but the report of my being so rich rather was a balk to my view than anything else; for the gentlemen that would perhaps have been troublesome enough otherwise, seemed to be kept off, for Roxana was too high for them.
There is a scene which came in here which I must cover from human eyes or ears. For three years and about a month Roxana lived retired, having been obliged to make an excursion in a manner, and with a person which duty and private vows obliges her not to reveal, at least not yet.
At the end of this time I appeared again; but, I must add, that as I had in this time of retreat made hay, &c., so I did not come abroad again with the same lustre, or shine with so much advantage as before. For as some people had got at least a suspicion of where I had been, and who had had me all the while, it began to be public that Roxana was, in short, a mere Roxana, neither better nor worse, and not that woman of honour and virtue that was at first supposed.
You are now to suppose me about seven years come to town, and that I had not only suffered the old revenue, which I hinted was managed by Sir Robert Clayton, to grow, as was mentioned before, but I had laid up an incredible wealth, the time considered; and had I yet had the least thought of reforming, I had all the opportunity to do it with advantage that ever woman had. For the common vice of all whores, I mean money, was out of the question, nay, even avarice itself seemed to be glutted; for, including what I had saved in reserving the interest of L14,000, which, as above, I had left to grow, and including some very good presents I had made to me in mere compliment upon these shining masquerading meetings, which I held up for about two years, and what I made of three years of the most glorious retreat, as I call it, that ever woman had, I had fully doubled my first substance, and had near L5000 in money which I kept at home, besides abundance of plate and jewels, which I had either given me or had bought to set myself out for public days.
In a word, I had now five-and-thirty thousand pounds estate; and as I found ways to live without wasting either principal or interest, I laid up L2000 every year at least out of the mere interest, adding it to the principal, and thus I went on.
After the end of what I call my retreat, and out of which I brought a great deal of money, I appeared again, but I seemed like an old piece of plate that had been hoarded up some years, and comes out tarnished and discoloured; so I came out blown, and looked like a cast-off mistress; nor, indeed, was I any better, though I was not at all impaired in beauty except that I was a little fatter than I was formerly, and always granting that I was four years older.
However, I preserved the youth of my temper, was always bright, pleasant in company, and agreeable to everybody, or else everybody flattered me; and in this condition I came abroad to the world again. And though I was not so popular as before, and indeed did not seek it, because I knew it could not be, yet I was far from being without company, and that of the greatest quality (of subjects I mean), who frequently visited me, and sometimes we had meetings for mirth and play at my apartments, where I failed not to divert them in the most agreeable manner possible.
Nor could any of them make the least particular application to me, from the notion they had of my excessive wealth, which, as they thought, placed me above the meanness of a maintenance, and so left no room to come easily about me.
But at last I was very handsomely attacked by a person of honour, and (which recommended him particularly to me) a person of a very great estate. He made a long introduction to me upon the subject of my wealth. "Ignorant creature!" said I to myself, considering him as a lord, "was there ever woman in the world that could stoop to the baseness of being a whore, and was above taking the reward of her vice! No, no, depend upon it, if your lordship obtains anything of me, you must pay for it; and the notion of my being so rich serves only to make it cost you the dearer, seeing you cannot offer a small matter to a woman of L2000 a year estate."
After he had harangued upon that subject a good while, and had assured me he had no design upon me, that he did not come to make a prize of me, or to pick my pocket, which, by the way, I was in no fear of, for I took too much care of my money to part with any of it that way, he then turned his discourse to the subject of love, a point so ridiculous to me without the main thing, I mean the money, that I had no patience to hear him make so long a story of it.
I received him civilly, and let him see I could bear to hear a wicked proposal without being affronted, and yet I was not to be brought into it too easily. He visited me a long while, and, in short, courted me as closely and assiduously as if he had been wooing me to matrimony. He made me several valuable presents, which I suffered myself to be prevailed with to accept, but not without great difficulty.
Gradually I suffered also his other importunities; and when he made a proposal of a compliment or appointment to me for a settlement, he said that though I was rich, yet there was not the less due from him to acknowledge the favours he received; and that if I was to be his I should not live at my own expense, cost what it would. I told him I was far from being extravagant, and yet I did not live at the expense of less than L500 a year out of my own pocket; that, however, I was not covetous of settled allowances, for I looked upon that as a kind of golden chain, something like matrimony; that though I knew how to be true to a man of honour, as I knew his lordship to be, yet I had a kind of aversion to the bonds; and though I was not so rich as the world talked me up to be, yet I was not so poor as to bind myself to hardships for a pension.
He told me he expected to make my life perfectly easy, and intended it so; that he knew of no bondage there could be in a private engagement between us; that the bonds of honour he knew I would be tied by, and think them no burthen; and for other obligations, he scorned to expect anything from me but what he knew as a woman of honour I could grant. Then as to maintenance, he told me he would soon show me that he valued me infinitely above L500 a year, and upon this foot we began.
I seemed kinder to him after this discourse, and as time and private conversation made us very intimate, we began to come nearer to the main article, namely, the L500 a year. He offered that at first word, and to acknowledge it as an infinite favour to have it be accepted of; and I, that thought it was too much by all the money, suffered myself to be mastered, or prevailed with to yield, even on but a bare engagement upon parole.
When he had obtained his end that way, I told him my mind. "Now you see, my lord," said I, "how weakly I have acted, namely, to yield to you without any capitulation, or anything secured to me but that which you may cease to allow when you please. If I am the less valued for such a confidence, I shall be injured in a manner that I will endeavour not to deserve."
He told me that he would make it evident to me that he did not seek me by way of bargain, as such things were often done; that as I had treated him with a generous confidence, so I should find I was in the hands of a man of honour, and one that knew how to value the obligation; and upon this he pulled out a goldsmith's bill for L300, which (putting it into my hand), he said, he gave me as a pledge that I should not be a loser by my not having made a bargain with him.
This was engaging indeed, and gave me a good idea of our future correspondence; and, in short, as I could not refrain treating him with more kindness than I had done before, so one thing begetting another, I gave him several testimonies that I was entirely his own by inclination as well as by the common obligation of a mistress, and this pleased him exceedingly.
Soon after this private engagement I began to consider whether it were not more suitable to the manner of life I now led to be a little less public; and, as I told my lord, it would rid me of the importunities of others, and of continual visits from a sort of people who he knew of, and who, by the way, having now got the notion of me which I really deserved, began to talk of the old game, love and gallantry, and to offer at what was rude enough—things as nauseous to me now as if I had been married and as virtuous as other people. The visits of these people began indeed to be uneasy to me, and particularly as they were always very tedious and impertinent; nor could my Lord —— be pleased with them at all if they had gone on. It would be diverting to set down here in what manner I repulsed these sort of people; how in some I resented it as an affront, and told them that I was sorry they should oblige me to vindicate myself from the scandal of such suggestions by telling them that I could see them no more, and by desiring them not to give themselves the trouble of visiting me, who, though I was not willing to be uncivil, yet thought myself obliged never to receive any visit from any gentleman after he had made such proposals as those to me. But these things would be too tedious to bring in here. It was on this account I proposed to his lordship my taking new lodgings for privacy; besides, I considered that as I might live very handsomely, and yet not so publicly, so I needed not spend so much money by a great deal; and if I made L500 a year of this generous person, it was more than I had any occasion to spend by a great deal.
My lord came readily into this proposal, and went further than I expected, for he found out a lodging for me in a very handsome house, where yet he was not known—I suppose he had employed somebody to find it out for him—and where he had a convenient way to come into the garden by a door that opened into the park, a thing very rarely allowed in those times.
By this key he could come in at what time of night or day he pleased; and as we had also a little door in the lower part of the house which was always left upon a lock, and his was the master-key, so if it was twelve, one, or two o'clock at night, he could come directly into my bedchamber. N.B.—I was not afraid I should be found abed with anybody else, for, in a word, I conversed with nobody at all.
It happened pleasantly enough one night, his lordship had stayed late, and I, not expecting him that night, had taken Amy to bed with me, and when my lord came into the chamber we were both fast asleep. I think it was near three o'clock when he came in, and a little merry, but not at all fuddled or what they call in drink; and he came at once into the room.
Amy was frighted out of her wits, and cried out. I said calmly, "Indeed, my lord, I did not expect you to-night, and we have been a little frighted to-night with fire." "Oh!" says he, "I see you have got a bedfellow with you." I began to make an apology. "No, no," says my lord, "you need no excuse, 'tis not a man bedfellow, I see;" but then, talking merrily enough, he catched his words back: "But, hark ye," says he, "now I think on 't, how shall I be satisfied it is not a man bedfellow?" "Oh," says I, "I dare say your lordship is satisfied 'tis poor Amy." "Yes," says he, "'tis Mrs. Amy; but how do I know what Amy is? it may be Mr. Amy for aught I know; I hope you'll give me leave to be satisfied." I told him, yes, by all means, I would have his lordship satisfied; but I supposed he knew who she was.
Well, he fell foul of poor Amy, and indeed I thought once he would have carried the jest on before my face, as was once done in a like case; but his lordship was not so hot neither, but he would know whether Amy was Mr. Amy or Mrs. Amy, and so, I suppose, he did; and then being satisfied in that doubtful case, he walked to the farther end of the room, and went into a little closet and sat down.
In the meantime Amy and I got up, and I bid her run and make the bed in another chamber for my lord, and I gave her sheets to put into it; which she did immediately, and I put my lord to bed there, and when I had done, at his desire went to bed to him. I was backward at first to come to bed to him, and made my excuse because I had been in bed with Amy, and had not shifted me; but he was past those niceties at that time; and as long as he was sure it was Mrs. Amy, and not Mr. Amy, he was very well satisfied, and so the jest passed over. But Amy appeared no more all that night, or the next day, and when she did, my lord was so merry with her upon his eclaircissement, as he called it, that Amy did not know what to do with herself.
Not that Amy was such a nice lady in the main, if she had been fairly dealt with, as has appeared in the former part of this work; but now she was surprised, and a little hurried, that she scarce knew where she was; and besides, she was, as to his lordship, as nice a lady as any in the world, and for anything he knew of her she appeared as such. The rest was to us only that knew of it.
I held this wicked scene of life out eight years, reckoning from my first coming to England; and though my lord found no fault, yet I found, without much examining, that any one who looked in my face might see I was above twenty years old; and yet, without flattering myself, I carried my age, which was above fifty, very well too.
I may venture to say that no woman ever lived a life like me, of six-and-twenty years of wickedness, without the least signals of remorse, without any signs of repentance, or without so much as a wish to put an end to it; I had so long habituated myself to a life of vice, that really it appeared to be no vice to me. I went on smooth and pleasant, I wallowed in wealth, and it flowed in upon me at such a rate, having taken the frugal measures that the good knight directed, so that I had at the end of the eight years two thousand eight hundred pounds coming yearly in, of which I did not spend one penny, being maintained by my allowance from my Lord ——, and more than maintained by above L200 per annum; for though he did not contract for L500 a year, as I made dumb signs to have it be, yet he gave me money so often, and that in such large parcels, that I had seldom so little as seven to eight hundred pounds a year of him, one year with another.
I must go back here, after telling openly the wicked things I did, to mention something which, however, had the face of doing good. I remembered that when I went from England, which was fifteen years before, I had left five little children, turned out as it were to the wide world, and to the charity of their father's relations; the eldest was not six years old, for we had not been married full seven years when their father went away.
After my coming to England I was greatly desirous to hear how things stood with them, and whether they were all alive or not, and in what manner they had been maintained; and yet I resolved not to discover myself to them in the least, or to let any of the people that had the breeding of them up know that there was such a body left in the world as their mother.
Amy was the only body I could trust with such a commission, and I sent her into Spitalfields, to the old aunt and to the poor woman that were so instrumental in disposing the relations to take some care of the children, but they were both gone, dead and buried some years. The next inquiry she made was at the house where she carried the poor children, and turned them in at the door. When she came there she found the house inhabited by other people, so that she could make little or nothing of her inquiries, and came back with an answer that indeed was no answer to me, for it gave me no satisfaction at all. I sent her back to inquire in the neighbourhood what was become of the family that lived in that house; and if they were removed, where they lived, and what circumstances they were in; and, withal, if she could, what became of the poor children, and how they lived, and where; how they had been treated; and the like.
She brought me back word upon this second going, that she heard, as to the family, that the husband, who, though but uncle-in-law to the children, had yet been kindest to them, was dead; and that the widow was left but in mean circumstances—that is to say, she did not want, but that she was not so well in the world as she was thought to be when her husband was alive; that, as to the poor children, two of them, it seems, had been kept by her, that is to say, by her husband, while he lived, for that it was against her will, that we all knew; but the honest neighbours pitied the poor children, they said, heartily; for that their aunt used them barbarously, and made them little better than servants in the house to wait upon her and her children, and scarce allowed them clothes fit to wear.
These were, it seems, my eldest and third, which were daughters; the second was a son, the fourth a daughter, and the youngest a son.
To finish the melancholy part of this history of my two unhappy girls, she brought me word that as soon as they were able to go out and get any work they went from her, and some said she had turned them out of doors; but it seems she had not done so, but she used them so cruelly that they left her, and one of them went to service to a neighbour's, a little way off, who knew her, an honest, substantial weaver's wife, to whom she was chambermaid, and in a little time she took her sister out of the Bridewell of her aunt's house, and got her a place too.
This was all melancholy and dull. I sent her then to the weaver's house, where the eldest had lived, but found that, her mistress being dead, she was gone, and nobody knew there whither she went, only that they heard she had lived with a great lady at the other end of the town; but they did not know who that lady was.
These inquiries took us up three or four weeks, and I was not one jot the better for it, for I could hear nothing to my satisfaction. I sent her next to find out the honest man who, as in the beginning of my story I observed, made them be entertained, and caused the youngest to be fetched from the town where we lived, and where the parish officers had taken care of him. This gentleman was still alive; and there she heard that my youngest daughter and eldest son was dead also; but that my youngest son was alive, and was at that time about seventeen years old, and that he was put out apprentice by the kindness and charity of his uncle, but to a mean trade, and at which he was obliged to work very hard.
Amy was so curious in this part that she went immediately to see him, and found him all dirty and hard at work. She had no remembrance at all of the youth, for she had not seen him since he was about two years old; and it was evident he could have no knowledge of her.
However, she talked with him, and found him a good, sensible, mannerly youth; that he knew little of the story of his father or mother, and had no view of anything but to work hard for his living; and she did not think fit to put any great things into his head, lest it should take him off of his business, and perhaps make him turn giddy-headed and be good for nothing; but she went and found out that kind man, his benefactor, who had put him out, and finding him a plain, well-meaning, honest, and kind-hearted man, she opened her tale to him the easier. She made a long story, how she had a prodigious kindness for the child, because she had the same for his father and mother; told him that she was the servant-maid that brought all of them to their aunt's door, and run away and left them; that their poor mother wanted bread, and what came of her after she would have been glad to know. She added that her circumstances had happened to mend in the world, and that, as she was in condition, so she was disposed to show some kindness to the children if she could find them out.
He received her with all the civility that so kind a proposal demanded, gave her an account of what he had done for the child, how he had maintained him, fed and clothed him, put him to school, and at last put him out to a trade. She said he had indeed been a father to the child. "But, sir," says she, "'tis a very laborious, hard-working trade, and he is but a thin, weak boy." "That's true," says he; "but the boy chose the trade, and I assure you I gave L20 with him, and am to find him clothes all his apprenticeship; and as to its being a hard trade," says he, "that's the fate of his circumstances, poor boy. I could not well do better for him."
"Well, sir, as you did all for him in charity," says she, "it was exceeding well; but, as my resolution is to do something for him, I desire you will, if possible, take him away again from that place, where he works so hard, for I cannot bear to see the child work so very hard for his bread, and I will do something for him that shall make him live without such hard labour."
He smiled at that. "I can, indeed," says he, "take him away, but then I must lose my L20 that I gave with him."
"Well, sir," said Amy, "I'll enable you to lose that L20 immediately;" and so she put her hand in her pocket and pulls out her purse.
He begun to be a little amazed at her, and looked her hard in the face, and that so very much that she took notice of it, and said, "Sir, I fancy by your looking at me you think you know me, but I am assured you do not, for I never saw your face before. I think you have done enough for the child, and that you ought to be acknowledged as a father to him; but you ought not to lose by your kindness to him, more than the kindness of bringing him up obliges you to; and therefore there's the L20," added she, "and pray let him be fetched away."
"Well, madam," says he, "I will thank you for the boy, as well as for myself; but will you please to tell me what I must do with him?"
"Sir," says Amy, "as you have been so kind to keep him so many years, I beg you will take him home again one year more, and I'll bring you a hundred pounds more, which I will desire you to lay out in schooling and clothes for him, and to pay you for his board. Perhaps I may put him in a condition to return your kindness."
He looked pleased, but surprised very much, and inquired of Amy, but with very great respect, what he should go to school to learn, and what trade she would please to put him out to.
Amy said he should put him to learn a little Latin, and then merchants' accounts, and to write a good hand, for she would have him be put to a Turkey merchant.
"Madam," says he, "I am glad for his sake to hear you talk so; but do you know that a Turkey merchant will not take him under L400 or L500?"
"Yes, sir," says Amy, "I know it very well."
"And," says he, "that it will require as many thousands to set him up?"
"Yes, sir," says Amy, "I know that very well too;" and, resolving to talk very big, she added, "I have no children of my own, and I resolve to make him my heir, and if L10,000 be required to set him up, he shall not want it. I was but his mother's servant when he was born, and I mourned heartily for the disaster of the family, and I always said, if ever I was worth anything in the world, I would take the child for my own, and I'll be as good as my word now, though I did not then foresee that it would be with me as it has been since." And so Amy told him a long story how she was troubled for me, and what she would give to hear whether I was dead or alive, and what circumstances I was in; that if she could but find me, if I was ever so poor, she would take care of me, and make a gentlewoman of me again.
He told her that, as to the child's mother, she had been reduced to the last extremity, and was obliged (as he supposed she knew) to send the children all among her husband's friends; and if it had not been for him, they had all been sent to the parish; but that he obliged the other relations to share the charge among them; that he had taken two, whereof he had lost the eldest, who died of the smallpox, but that he had been as careful of this as of his own, and had made very little difference in their breeding up, only that when he came to put him out he thought it was best for the boy to put him to a trade which he might set up in without a stock, for otherwise his time would be lost; and that as to his mother, he had never been able to hear one word of her, no, not though he had made the utmost inquiry after her; that there went a report that she had drowned herself, but that he could never meet with anybody that could give him a certain account of it.
Amy counterfeited a cry for her poor mistress; told him she would give anything in the world to see her, if she was alive; and a great deal more such-like talk they had about that; then they returned to speak of the boy.
He inquired of her why she did not seek after the child before, that he might have been brought up from a younger age, suitable to what she designed to do for him.
She told him she had been out of England, and was but newly returned from the East Indies. That she had been out of England, and was but newly returned, was true, but the latter was false, and was put in to blind him, and provide against farther inquiries; for it was not a strange thing for young women to go away poor to the East Indies, and come home vastly rich. So she went on with directions about him, and both agreed in this, that the boy should by no means be told what was intended for him, but only that he should be taken home again to his uncle's, that his uncle thought the trade too hard for him, and the like.
About three days after this Amy goes again, and carried him the hundred pounds she promised him, but then Amy made quite another figure than she did before; for she went in my coach, with two footmen after her, and dressed very fine also, with jewels and a gold watch; and there was indeed no great difficulty to make Amy look like a lady, for she was a very handsome, well-shaped woman, and genteel enough. The coachman and servants were particularly ordered to show her the same respect as they would to me, and to call her Madam Collins, if they were asked any questions about her.
When the gentleman saw what a figure she made it added to the former surprise, and he entertained her in the most respectful manner possible, congratulated her advancement in fortune, and particularly rejoiced that it should fall to the poor child's lot to be so provided for, contrary to all expectation.
Well, Amy talked big, but very free and familiar, told them she had no pride in her good fortune (and that was true enough, for, to give Amy her due, she was far from it, and was as good-humoured a creature as ever lived); that she was the same as ever; and that she always loved this boy, and was resolved to do something extraordinary for him.
Then she pulled out her money, and paid him down a hundred and twenty pounds, which, she said, she paid him that he might be sure he should be no loser by taking him home again, and that she would come and see him again, and talk farther about things with him, so that all might be settled for him, in such a manner as accidents, such as mortality, or anything else, should make no alteration to the child's prejudice.
At this meeting the uncle brought his wife out, a good, motherly, comely, grave woman, who spoke very tenderly of the youth, and, as it appeared, had been very good to him, though she had several children of her own. After a long discourse, she put in a word of her own. "Madam," says she, "I am heartily glad of the good intentions you have for this poor orphan, and I rejoice sincerely in it for his sake; but, madam, you know, I suppose, that there are two sisters alive too; may we not speak a word for them? Poor girls," says she, "they have not been so kindly used as he has, and are turned out to the wide world."
"Where are they, madam?" says Amy.
"Poor creatures," says the gentlewoman, "they are out at service, nobody knows where but themselves; their case is very hard."
"Well, madam," says Amy, "though if I could find them I would assist them, yet my concern is for my boy, as I call him, and I will put him into a condition to take care of his sisters."
"But, madam," says the good, compassionate creature, "he may not be so charitable perhaps by his own inclination, for brothers are not fathers, and they have been cruelly used already, poor girls; we have often relieved them, both with victuals and clothes too, even while they were pretended to be kept by their barbarous aunt."
"Well, madam," says Amy, "what can I do for them? They are gone, it seems, and cannot be heard of. When I see them 'tis time enough."
She pressed Amy then to oblige their brother, out of the plentiful fortune he was like to have, to do something for his sisters when he should be able.
Amy spoke coldly of that still, but said she would consider of it; and so they parted for that time. They had several meetings after this, for Amy went to see her adopted son, and ordered his schooling, clothes, and other things, but enjoined them not to tell the young man anything, but that they thought the trade he was at too hard for him, and they would keep him at home a little longer, and give him some schooling to fit him for other business; and Amy appeared to him as she did before, only as one that had known his mother and had some kindness for him.
Thus this matter passed on for near a twelvemonth, when it happened that one of my maid-servants having asked Amy leave (for Amy was mistress of the servants, and took and put out such as she pleased)—I say, having asked leave to go into the city to see her friends, came home crying bitterly, and in a most grievous agony she was, and continued so several days till Amy, perceiving the excess, and that the maid would certainly cry herself sick, she took an opportunity with her and examined her about it.
The maid told her a long story, that she had been to see her brother, the only brother she had in the world, and that she knew he was put out apprentice to a ——; but there had come a lady in a coach to his uncle ——, who had brought him up, and made him take him home again; and so the wench run on with the whole story just as 'tis told above, till she came to that part that belonged to herself. "And there," says she, "I had not let them know where I lived, and the lady would have taken me, and, they say, would have provided for me too, as she has done for my brother; but nobody could tell where to find me, and so I have lost it all, and all the hopes of being anything but a poor servant all my days;" and then the girl fell a-crying again.
Amy said, "What's all this story? Who could this lady be? It must be some trick, sure." "No," she said, "it was not a trick, for she had made them take her brother home from apprentice, and bought him new clothes, and put him to have more learning; and the gentlewoman said she would make him her heir."
"Her heir!" says Amy. "What does that amount to? It may be she had nothing to leave him; she might make anybody her heir."
"No, no,"' says the girl; "she came in a fine coach and horses, and I don't know how many footmen to attend her, and brought a great bag of gold and gave it to my uncle ——, he that brought up my brother, to buy him clothes and to pay for his schooling and board."
"He that brought up your brother?" says Amy. "Why, did not he bring you up too as well as your brother? Pray who brought you up, then?"
Here the poor girl told a melancholy story, how an aunt had brought up her and her sister, and how barbarously she had used them, as we have heard.
By this time Amy had her head full enough, and her heart too, and did not know how to hold it, or what to do, for she was satisfied that this was no other than my own daughter, for she told her all the history of her father and mother, and how she was carried by their maid to her aunt's door, just as is related in the beginning of my story.
Amy did not tell me this story for a great while, nor did she well know what course to take in it; but as she had authority to manage everything in the family, she took occasion some time after, without letting me know anything of it, to find some fault with the maid and turn her away.
Her reasons were good, though at first I was not pleased when I heard of it, but I was convinced afterwards that she was in the right, for if she had told me of it I should have been in great perplexity between the difficulty of concealing myself from my own child and the inconvenience of having my way of living be known among my first husband's relations, and even to my husband himself; for as to his being dead at Paris, Amy, seeing me resolved against marrying any more, had told me that she had formed that story only to make me easy when I was in Holland if anything should offer to my liking.
However, I was too tender a mother still, notwithstanding what I had done, to let this poor girl go about the world drudging, as it were, for bread, and slaving at the fire and in the kitchen as a cook-maid; besides, it came into my head that she might perhaps marry some poor devil of a footman, or a coachman, or some such thing, and be undone that way, or, which was worse, be drawn in to lie with some of that coarse, cursed kind, and be with child, and be utterly ruined that way; and in the midst of all my prosperity this gave me great uneasiness.
As to sending Amy to her, there was no doing that now, for, as she had been servant in the house, she knew Amy as well as Amy knew me; and no doubt, though I was much out of her sight, yet she might have had the curiosity to have peeped at me, and seen me enough to know me again if I had discovered myself to her; so that, in short, there was nothing to be done that way.
However, Amy, a diligent indefatigable creature, found out another woman, and gave her her errand, and sent her to the honest man's house in Spitalfields, whither she supposed the girl would go after she was out of her place; and bade her talk with her, and tell her at a distance that as something had been done for her brother, so something would be done for her too; and, that she should not be discouraged, she carried her L20 to buy her clothes, and bid her not go to service any more, but think of other things; that she should take a lodging in some good family, and that she should soon hear farther.
The girl was overjoyed with this news, you may be sure, and at first a little too much elevated with it, and dressed herself very handsomely indeed, and as soon as she had done so came and paid a visit to Madam Amy, to let her see how fine she was. Amy congratulated her, and wished it might be all as she expected, but admonished her not to be elevated with it too much; told her humility was the best ornament of a gentlewoman, and a great deal of good advice she gave her, but discovered nothing.
All this was acted in the first years of my setting up my new figure here in town, and while the masks and balls were in agitation; and Amy carried on the affair of setting out my son into the world, which we were assisted in by the sage advice of my faithful counsellor, Sir Robert Clayton, who procured us a master for him, by whom he was afterwards sent abroad to Italy, as you shall hear in its place; and Amy managed my daughter too very well, though by a third hand.
My amour with my Lord —— began now to draw to an end, and indeed, notwithstanding his money, it had lasted so long that I was much more sick of his lordship than he could be of me. He grew old and fretful, and captious, and I must add, which made the vice itself begin to grow surfeiting and nauseous to me, he grew worse and wickeder the older he grew, and that to such degree as is not fit to write of, and made me so weary of him that upon one of his capricious humours, which he often took occasion to trouble me with, I took occasion to be much less complaisant to him than I used to be; and as I knew him to be hasty, I first took care to put him into a little passion, and then to resent it, and this brought us to words, in which I told him I thought he grew sick of me; and he answered in a heat that truly so he was. I answered that I found his lordship was endeavouring to make me sick too; that I had met with several such rubs from him of late, and that he did not use me as he used to do, and I begged his lordship he would make himself easy. This I spoke with an air of coldness and indifference such as I knew he could not bear; but I did not downright quarrel with him and tell him I was sick of him too, and desire him to quit me, for I knew that would come of itself; besides, I had received a great deal of handsome usage from him, and I was loth to have the breach be on my side, that he might not be able to say I was ungrateful.
But he put the occasion into my hands, for he came no more to me for two months; indeed I expected a fit of absence, for such I had had several times before, but not for above a fortnight or three weeks at most; but after I had stayed a month, which was longer than ever he kept away yet, I took a new method with him, for I was resolved now it should be in my power to continue or not, as I thought fit. At the end of a month, therefore, I removed, and took lodgings at Kensington Gravel Pits, at that part next to the road to Acton, and left nobody in my lodgings but Amy and a footman, with proper instructions how to behave when his lordship, being come to himself, should think fit to come again, which I knew he would.
About the end of two months, he came in the dusk of the evening as usual. The footman answered him, and told him his lady was not at home, but there was Mrs. Amy above; so he did not order her to be called down, but went upstairs into the dining-room, and Mrs. Amy came to him. He asked where I was. "My lord," said she, "my mistress has been removed a good while from hence, and lives at Kensington." "Ah, Mrs. Amy! how came you to be here, then?" "My lord," said she, "we are here till the quarter-day, because the goods are not removed, and to give answers if any comes to ask for my lady." "Well, and what answer are you to give to me?" "Indeed, my lord," says Amy, "I have no particular answer to your lordship, but to tell you and everybody else where my lady lives, that they may not think she's run away." "No, Mrs. Amy," says he, "I don't think she's run away; but, indeed, I can't go after her so far as that." Amy said nothing to that, but made a courtesy, and said she believed I would be there again for a week or two in a little time. "How little time, Mrs Amy?" says my lord. "She comes next Tuesday," says Amy. "Very well," says my lord; "I'll call and see her then;" and so he went away.
Accordingly I came on the Tuesday, and stayed a fortnight, but he came not; so I went back to Kensington, and after that I had very few of his lordship's visits, which I was very glad of, and in a little time after was more glad of it than I was at first, and upon a far better account too.
For now I began not to be sick of his lordship only, but really I began to be sick of the vice; and as I had good leisure now to divert and enjoy myself in the world as much as it was possible for any woman to do that ever lived in it, so I found that my judgment began to prevail upon me to fix my delight upon nobler objects than I had formerly done, and the very beginning of this brought some just reflections upon me relating to things past, and to the former manner of my living; and though there was not the least hint in all this from what may be called religion or conscience, and far from anything of repentance, or anything that was akin to it, especially at first, yet the sense of things, and the knowledge I had of the world, and the vast variety of scenes that I had acted my part in, began to work upon my senses, and it came so very strong upon my mind one morning when I had been lying awake some time in my bed, as if somebody had asked me the question, What was I a whore for now? It occurred naturally upon this inquiry, that at first I yielded to the importunity of my circumstances, the misery of which the devil dismally aggravated, to draw me to comply; for I confess I had strong natural aversions to the crime at first, partly owing to a virtuous education, and partly to a sense of religion; but the devil, and that greater devil of poverty, prevailed; and the person who laid siege to me did it in such an obliging, and I may almost say irresistible, manner, all still managed by the evil spirit; for I must be allowed to believe that he has a share in all such things, if not the whole management of them. But, I say, it was carried on by that person in such an irresistible manner that, as I said when I related the fact, there was no withstanding it; these circumstances, I say, the devil managed not only to bring me to comply, but he continued them as arguments to fortify my mind against all reflection, and to keep me in that horrid course I had engaged in, as if it were honest and lawful.
But not to dwell upon that now; this was a pretence, and here was something to be said, though I acknowledge it ought not to have been sufficient to me at all; but, I say, to leave that, all this was out of doors; the devil himself could not form one argument, or put one reason into my head now, that could serve for an answer—no, not so much as a pretended answer to this question, why I should be a whore now.
It had for a while been a little kind of excuse to me that I was engaged with this wicked old lord, and that I could not in honour forsake him; but how foolish and absurd did it look to repeat the word "honour" on so vile an occasion! as if a woman should prostitute her honour in point of honour—horrid inconsistency! Honour called upon me to detest the crime and the man too, and to have resisted all the attacks which, from the beginning, had been made upon my virtue; and honour, had it been consulted, would have preserved me honest from the beginning:
"For 'honesty' and 'honour' are the same."
This, however, shows us with what faint excuses and with what trifles we pretend to satisfy ourselves, and suppress the attempts of conscience, in the pursuit of agreeable crime, and in the possessing those pleasures which we are loth to part with.
But this objection would now serve no longer, for my lord had in some sort broke his engagements (I won't call it honour again) with me, and had so far slighted me as fairly to justify my entire quitting of him now; and so, as the objection was fully answered, the question remained still unanswered, Why am I a whore now? Nor indeed had I anything to say for myself, even to myself; I could not without blushing, as wicked as I was, answer that I loved it for the sake of the vice, and that I delighted in being a whore, as such; I say, I could not say this, even to myself, and all alone, nor indeed would it have been true. I was never able, in justice and with truth, to say I was so wicked as that; but as necessity first debauched me, and poverty made me a whore at the beginning, so excess of avarice for getting money and excess of vanity continued me in the crime, not being able to resist the flatteries of great persons; being called the finest woman in France; being caressed by a prince; and afterwards, I had pride enough to expect and folly enough to believe, though indeed without ground, by a great monarch. These were my baits, these the chains by which the devil held me bound, and by which I was indeed too fast held for any reasoning that I was then mistress of to deliver me from.
But this was all over now; avarice could have no pretence. I was out of the reach of all that fate could be supposed to do to reduce me; now I was so far from poor, or the danger of it, that I had L50,000 in my pocket at least; nay, I had the income of L50,000, for I had L2500 a year coming in upon very good land security, besides three or four thousand pounds in money, which I kept by me for ordinary occasions, and, besides, jewels, and plate, and goods which were worth near L5600 more; these put together, when I ruminated on it all in my thoughts, as you may be sure I did often, added weight still to the question, as above, and it sounded continually in my head, "What next? What am I a whore for now?"
It is true this was, as I say, seldom out of my thoughts, but yet it made no impressions upon me of that kind which might be expected from a reflection of so important a nature, and which had so much of substance and seriousness in it.
But, however, it was not without some little consequences, even at that time, and which gave a little turn to my way of living at first, as you shall hear in its place.
But one particular thing intervened besides this which gave me some uneasiness at this time, and made way for other things that followed. I have mentioned in several little digressions the concern I had upon me for my children, and in what manner I had directed that affair; I must go on a little with that part, in order to bring the subsequent parts of my story together.
My boy, the only son I had left that I had a legal right to call "son," was, as I have said, rescued from the unhappy circumstances of being apprentice to a mechanic, and was brought up upon a new foot; but though this was infinitely to his advantage, yet it put him back near three years in his coming into this world; for he had been near a year at the drudgery he was first put to, and it took up two years more to form him for what he had hopes given him he should hereafter be, so that he was full nineteen years old, or rather twenty years, before he came to be put out as I intended; at the end of which time I put him to a very flourishing Italian merchant, and he again sent him to Messina, in the island of Sicily; and a little before the juncture I am now speaking of I had letters from him—that is to say, Mrs. Amy had letters from him, intimating that he was out of his time, and that he had an opportunity to be taken into an English house there, on very good terms, if his support from hence might answer what he was bid to hope for; and so begged that what would be done for him might be so ordered that he might have it for his present advancement, referring for the particulars to his master, the merchant in London, who he had been put apprentice to here; who, to cut the story short, gave such a satisfactory account of it, and of my young man, to my steady and faithful counsellor, Sir Robert Clayton, that I made no scruple to pay L4000, which was L1000 more than he demanded, or rather proposed, that he might have encouragement to enter into the world better than he expected.
His master remitted the money very faithfully to him; and finding, by Sir Robert Clayton, that the young gentleman—for so he called him—was well supported, wrote such letters on his account as gave him a credit at Messina equal in value to the money itself.
I could not digest it very well that I should all this while conceal myself thus from my own child, and make all this favour due, in his opinion, to a stranger; and yet I could not find in my heart to let my son know what a mother he had, and what a life she lived; when, at the same time that he must think himself infinitely obliged to me, he must be obliged, if he was a man of virtue, to hate his mother, and abhor the way of living by which all the bounty he enjoyed was raised.
This is the reason of mentioning this part of my son's story, which is otherwise no ways concerned in my history, but as it put me upon thinking how to put an end to that wicked course I was in, that my own child, when he should afterwards come to England in a good figure, and with the appearance of a merchant, should not be ashamed to own me.
But there was another difficulty, which lay heavier upon me a great deal, and that was my daughter, who, as before, I had relieved by the hands of another instrument, which Amy had procured. The girl, as I have mentioned, was directed to put herself into a good garb, take lodgings, and entertain a maid to wait upon her, and to give herself some breeding—that is to say, to learn to dance, and fit herself to appear as a gentlewoman; being made to hope that she should, some time or other, find that she should be put into a condition to support her character, and to make herself amends for all her former troubles. She was only charged not to be drawn into matrimony till she was secured of a fortune that might assist to dispose of herself suitable not to what she then was, but what she was to be.
The girl was too sensible of her circumstances not to give all possible satisfaction of that kind, and indeed she was mistress of too much understanding not to see how much she should be obliged to that part for her own interest.
It was not long after this, but being well equipped, and in everything well set out, as she was directed, she came, as I have related above, and paid a visit to Mrs. Amy, and to tell her of her good fortune. Amy pretended to be much surprised at the alteration, and overjoyed for her sake, and began to treat her very well, entertained her handsomely, and when she would have gone away, pretended to ask my leave, and sent my coach home with her; and, in short, learning from her where she lodged, which was in the city, Amy promised to return her visit, and did so; and, in a word, Amy and Susan (for she was my own name) began an intimate acquaintance together.
There was an inexpressible difficulty in the poor girl's way, or else I should not have been able to have forborne discovering myself to her, and this was, her having been a servant in my particular family; and I could by no means think of ever letting the children know what a kind of creature they owed their being to, or giving them an occasion to upbraid their mother with her scandalous life, much less to justify the like practice from my example.
Thus it was with me; and thus, no doubt, considering parents always find it that their own children are a restraint to them in their worst courses, when the sense of a superior power has not the same influence. But of that hereafter.
There happened, however, one good circumstance in the case of this poor girl, which brought about a discovery sooner than otherwise it would have been, and it was thus. After she and Amy had been intimate for some time, and had exchanged several visits, the girl, now grown a woman, talking to Amy of the gay things that used to fall out when she was servant in my family, spoke of it with a kind of concern that she could not see (me) her lady; and at last she adds, "'Twas very strange, madam," says she to Amy, "but though I lived near two years in the house, I never saw my mistress in my life, except it was that public night when she danced in the fine Turkish habit, and then she was so disguised that I knew nothing of her afterwards."
Amy was glad to hear this, but as she was a cunning girl from the beginning, she was not to be bit, and so she laid no stress upon that at first, but gave me an account of it; and I must confess it gave me a secret joy to think that I was not known to her, and that, by virtue of that only accident, I might, when other circumstances made room for it, discover myself to her, and let her know she had a mother in a condition fit to be owned.
It was a dreadful restraint to me before, and this gave me some very sad reflections, and made way for the great question I have mentioned above; and by how much the circumstance was bitter to me, by so much the more agreeable it was to understand that the girl had never seen me, and consequently did not know me again if she was to be told who I was.
However, the next time she came to visit Amy, I was resolved to put it to a trial, and to come into the room and let her see me, and to see by that whether she knew me or not; but Amy put me by, lest indeed, as there was reason enough to question, I should not be able to contain or forbear discovering myself to her; so it went off for that time.
But both these circumstances, and that is the reason of mentioning them, brought me to consider of the life I lived, and to resolve to put myself into some figure of life in which I might not be scandalous to my own family, and be afraid to make myself known to my own children, who were my own flesh and blood.
There was another daughter I had, which, with all our inquiries, we could not hear of, high nor low, for several years after the first. But I return to my own story.
Being now in part removed from my old station, I seemed to be in a fair way of retiring from my old acquaintances, and consequently from the vile, abominable trade I had driven so long; so that the door seemed to be, as it were, particularly open to my reformation, if I had any mind to it in earnest; but, for all that, some of my old friends, as I had used to call them, inquired me out, and came to visit me at Kensington, and that more frequently than I wished they would do; but it being once known where I was, there was no avoiding it, unless I would have downright refused and affronted them; and I was not yet in earnest enough with my resolutions to go that length.
The best of it was, my old lewd favourite, who I now heartily hated, entirely dropped me. He came once to visit me, but I caused Amy to deny me, and say I was gone out. She did it so oddly, too, that when his lordship went away, he said coldly to her, "Well, well, Mrs. Amy, I find your mistress does not desire to be seen; tell her I won't trouble her any more," repeating the words "any more" two or three times over, just at his going away.
I reflected a little on it at first as unkind to him, having had so many considerable presents from him, but, as I have said, I was sick of him, and that on some accounts which, if I could suffer myself to publish them, would fully justify my conduct. But that part of the story will not bear telling, so I must leave it, and proceed.
I had begun a little, as I have said above, to reflect upon my manner of living, and to think of putting a new face upon it, and nothing moved me to it more than the consideration of my having three children, who were now grown up; and yet that while I was in that station of life I could not converse with them or make myself known to them; and this gave me a great deal of uneasiness. At last I entered into talk on this part of it with my woman Amy.
We lived at Kensington, as I have said, and though I had done with my old wicked l——, as above, yet I was frequently visited, as I said, by some others; so that, in a word, I began to be known in the town, not by name only, but by my character too, which was worse.
It was one morning when Amy was in bed with me, and I had some of my dullest thoughts about me, that Amy, hearing me sigh pretty often, asked me if I was not well. "Yes, Amy, I am well enough," says I, "but my mind is oppressed with heavy thoughts, and has been so a good while;" and then I told her how it grieved me that I could not make myself known to my own children, or form any acquaintances in the world. "Why so?" says Amy. "Why, prithee, Amy," says I, "what will my children say to themselves, and to one another, when they find their mother, however rich she may be, is at best but a whore, a common whore? And as for acquaintance, prithee, Amy, what sober lady or what family of any character will visit or be acquainted with a whore?"
"Why, all that's true, madam," says Amy; "but how can it be remedied now?" "'Tis true, Amy," said I, "the thing cannot be remedied now, but the scandal of it, I fancy, may be thrown off."