"Truly," says Amy, "I do not see how, unless you will go abroad again, and live in some other nation where nobody has known us or seen us, so that they cannot say they ever saw us before."
That very thought of Amy put what follows into my head, and I returned, "Why, Amy," says I, "is it not possible for me to shift my being from this part of the town and go and live in another part of the city, or another part of the country, and be as entirely concealed as if I had never been known?"
"Yes," says Amy, "I believe it might; but then you must put off all your equipages and servants, coaches and horses, change your liveries—nay, your own clothes, and, if it was possible, your very face."
"Well," says I, "and that's the way, Amy, and that I'll do, and that forthwith; for I am not able to live in this manner any longer." Amy came into this with a kind of pleasure particular to herself—that is to say, with an eagerness not to be resisted; for Amy was apt to be precipitant in her motions, and was for doing it immediately. "Well," says I, "Amy, as soon as you will; but what course must we take to do it? We cannot put off servants, and coach and horses, and everything, leave off housekeeping, and transform ourselves into a new shape all in a moment; servants must have warning, and the goods must be sold off, and a thousand things;" and this began to perplex us, and in particular took us up two or three days' consideration.
At last Amy, who was a clever manager in such cases, came to me with a scheme, as she called it. "I have found it out, madam," says she, "I have found a scheme how you shall, if you have a mind to it, begin and finish a perfect entire change of your figure and circumstances in one day, and shall be as much unknown, madam, in twenty-four hours, as you would be in so many years."
"Come, Amy," says I, "let us hear of it, for you please me mightily with the thoughts of it." "Why, then," says Amy, "let me go into the city this afternoon, and I'll inquire out some honest, plain sober family, where I will take lodgings for you, as for a country gentlewoman that desires to be in London for about half a year, and to board yourself and a kinswoman—that is, half a servant, half a companion, meaning myself; and so agree with them by the month. To this lodging (if I hit upon one to your mind) you may go to-morrow morning in a hackney-coach, with nobody but me, and leave such clothes and linen as you think fit, but, to be sure, the plainest you have; and then you are removed at once; you never need set your foot in this house again" (meaning where we then were), "or see anybody belonging to it. In the meantime I'll let the servants know that you are going over to Holland upon extraordinary business, and will leave off your equipages, and so I'll give them warning, or, if they will accept of it, give them a month's wages. Then I'll sell off your furniture as well as I can. As to your coach, it is but having it new painted and the lining changed, and getting new harness and hammercloths, and you may keep it still or dispose of it as you think fit. And only take care to let this lodging be in some remote part of the town, and you may be as perfectly unknown as if you had never been in England in your life."
This was Amy's scheme, and it pleased me so well that I resolved not only to let her go, but was resolved to go with her myself; but Amy put me off of that, because, she said, she should have occasion to hurry up and down so long that if I was with her it would rather hinder than further her, so I waived it.
In a word, Amy went, and was gone five long hours; but when she came back I could see by her countenance that her success had been suitable to her pains, for she came laughing and gaping. "O madam!" says she, "I have pleased you to the life;" and with that she tells me how she had fixed upon a house in a court in the Minories; that she was directed to it merely by accident; that it was a female family, the master of the house being gone to New England, and that the woman had four children, kept two maids, and lived very handsomely, but wanted company to divert her; and that on that very account she had agreed to take boarders.
Amy agreed for a good, handsome price, because she was resolved I should be used well; so she bargained to give her L35 for the half-year, and L50 if we took a maid, leaving that to my choice; and that we might be satisfied we should meet with nothing very gay, the people were Quakers, and I liked them the better.
I was so pleased that I resolved to go with Amy the next day to see the lodgings, and to see the woman of the house, and see how I liked them; but if I was pleased with the general, I was much more pleased with the particulars, for the gentlewoman—I must call her so, though she was a Quaker—was a most courteous, obliging, mannerly person, perfectly well-bred and perfectly well-humoured, and, in short, the most agreeable conversation that ever I met with; and, which was worth all, so grave, and yet so pleasant and so merry, that 'tis scarcely possible for me to express how I was pleased and delighted with her company; and particularly, I was so pleased that I would go away no more; so I e'en took up my lodging there the very first night.
In the meantime, though it took up Amy almost a month so entirely to put off all the appearances of housekeeping, as above, it need take me up no time to relate it; 'tis enough to say that Amy quitted all that part of the world and came pack and package to me, and here we took up our abode.
I was now in a perfect retreat indeed, remote from the eyes of all that ever had seen me, and as much out of the way of being ever seen or heard of by any of the gang that used to follow me as if I had been among the mountains in Lancashire; for when did a blue garter or a coach-and-six come into a little narrow passage in the Minories or Goodman's Fields? And as there was no fear of them, so really I had no desire to see them, or so much as to hear from them any more as long as I lived.
I seemed in a little hurry while Amy came and went so every day at first, but when that was over I lived here perfectly retired, and with a most pleasant and agreeable lady; I must call her so, for, though a Quaker, she had a full share of good breeding, sufficient to her if she had been a duchess; in a word, she was the most agreeable creature in her conversation, as I said before, that ever I met with.
I pretended, after I had been there some time, to be extremely in love with the dress of the Quakers, and this pleased her so much that she would needs dress me up one day in a suit of her own clothes; but my real design was to see whether it would pass upon me for a disguise.
Amy was struck with the novelty, though I had not mentioned my design to her, and when the Quaker was gone out of the room says Amy, "I guess your meaning; it is a perfect disguise to you. Why, you look quite another body; I should not have known you myself. Nay," says Amy, "more than that, it makes you look ten years younger than you did."
Nothing could please me better than that, and when Amy repeated it, I was so fond of it that I asked my Quaker (I won't call her landlady; 'tis indeed too coarse a word for her, and she deserved a much better)—I say, I asked her if she would sell it. I told her I was so fond of it that I would give her enough to buy her a better suit. She declined it at first, but I soon perceived that it was chiefly in good manners, because I should not dishonour myself, as she called it, to put on her old clothes; but if I pleased to accept of them, she would give me them for my dressing-clothes, and go with me, and buy a suit for me that might be better worth my wearing.
But as I conversed in a very frank, open manner with her, I bid her do the like with me; that I made no scruples of such things, but that if she would let me have them I would satisfy her. So she let me know what they cost, and to make her amends I gave her three guineas more than they cost her.
This good (though unhappy) Quaker had the misfortune to have had a bad husband, and he was gone beyond sea. She had a good house, and well furnished, and had some jointure of her own estate which supported her and her children, so that she did not want; but she was not at all above such a help as my being there was to her; so she was as glad of me as I was of her.
However, as I knew there was no way to fix this new acquaintance like making myself a friend to her, I began with making her some handsome presents and the like to her children. And first, opening my bundles one day in my chamber, I heard her in another room, and called her in with a kind of familiar way. There I showed her some of my fine clothes, and having among the rest of my things a piece of very fine new holland, which I had bought a little before, worth about 9s. an ell, I pulled it out: "Here, my friend," says I, "I will make you a present, if you will accept of it;" and with that I laid the piece of Holland in her lap.
I could see she was surprised, and that she could hardly speak. "What dost thou mean?" says she. "Indeed I cannot have the face to accept so fine a present as this;" adding, "'Tis fit for thy own use, but 'tis above my wear, indeed." I thought she had meant she must not wear it so fine because she was a Quaker. So I returned, "Why, do not you Quakers wear fine linen neither?" "Yes," says she, "we wear fine linen when we can afford it, but this is too good for me." However, I made her take it, and she was very thankful too. But my end was answered another way, for by this I engaged her so, that as I found her a woman of understanding, and of honesty too, I might, upon any occasion, have a confidence in her, which was, indeed, what I very much wanted.
By accustoming myself to converse with her, I had not only learned to dress like a Quaker, but so used myself to "thee" and "thou" that I talked like a Quaker too, as readily and naturally as if I had been born among them; and, in a word, I passed for a Quaker among all people that did not know me. I went but little abroad, but I had been so used to a coach that I knew not how well to go without one; besides, I thought it would be a farther disguise to me, so I told my Quaker friend one day that I thought I lived too close, that I wanted air. She proposed taking a hackney-coach sometimes, or a boat; but I told her I had always had a coach of my own till now, and I could find in my heart to have one again.
She seemed to think it strange at first, considering how close I lived, but had nothing to say when she found I did not value the expense; so, in short, I resolved I would have a coach. When we came to talk of equipages, she extolled the having all things plain. I said so too; so I left it to her direction, and a coachmaker was sent for, and he provided me a plain coach, no gilding or painting, lined with a light grey cloth, and my coachman had a coat of the same, and no lace on his hat.
When all was ready I dressed myself in the dress I bought of her, and said, "Come, I'll be a Quaker to-day, and you and I'll go abroad;" which we did, and there was not a Quaker in the town looked less like a counterfeit than I did. But all this was my particular plot, to be the more completely concealed, and that I might depend upon being not known, and yet need not be confined like a prisoner and be always in fear; so that all the rest was grimace.
We lived here very easy and quiet, and yet I cannot say I was so in my mind; I was like a fish out of water. I was as gay and as young in my disposition as I was at five-and-twenty; and as I had always been courted, flattered, and used to love it, so I missed it in my conversation; and this put me many times upon looking back upon things past.
I had very few moments in my life which, in their reflection, afforded me anything but regret: but of all the foolish actions I had to look back upon in my life, none looked so preposterous and so like distraction, nor left so much melancholy on my mind, as my parting with my friend, the merchant of Paris, and the refusing him upon such honourable and just conditions as he had offered; and though on his just (which I called unkind) rejecting my invitation to come to him again, I had looked on him with some disgust, yet now my mind run upon him continually, and the ridiculous conduct of my refusing him, and I could never be satisfied about him. I flattered myself that if I could but see him I could yet master him, and that he would presently forget all that had passed that might be thought unkind; but as there was no room to imagine anything like that to be possible, I threw those thoughts off again as much as I could.
However, they continually returned, and I had no rest night or day for thinking of him, who I had forgot above eleven years. I told Amy of it, and we talked it over sometimes in bed, almost whole nights together. At last Amy started a thing of her own head, which put it in a way of management, though a wild one too. "You are so uneasy, madam," says she, "about this Mr. ——, the merchant at Paris; come," says she, "if you'll give me leave, I'll go over and see what's become of him."
"Not for ten thousand pounds," said I; "no, nor if you met him in the street, not to offer to speak to him on my account." "No," says Amy, "I would not speak to him at all; or if I did, I warrant you it shall not look to be upon your account. I'll only inquire after him, and if he is in being, you shall hear of him; if not, you shall hear of him still, and that may be enough."
"Why," says I, "if you will promise me not to enter into anything relating to me with him, nor to begin any discourse at all unless he begins it with you, I could almost be persuaded to let you go and try."
Amy promised me all that I desired; and, in a word, to cut the story short, I let her go, but tied her up to so many particulars that it was almost impossible her going could signify anything; and had she intended to observe them, she might as well have stayed at home as have gone, for I charged her, if she came to see him, she should not so much as take notice that she knew him again; and if he spoke to her, she should tell him she was come away from me a great many years ago, and knew nothing what was become of me; that she had been come over to France six years ago, and was married there, and lived at Calais; or to that purpose.
Amy promised me nothing, indeed; for, as she said, it was impossible for her to resolve what would be fit to do, or not to do, till she was there upon the spot, and had found out the gentleman, or heard of him; but that then, if I would trust her, as I had always done, she would answer for it that she would do nothing but what should be for my interest, and what she would hope I should be very well pleased with.
With this general commission, Amy, notwithstanding she had been so frighted at the sea, ventured her carcass once more by water, and away she goes to France. She had four articles of confidence in charge to inquire after for me, and, as I found by her, she had one for herself—I say, four for me, because, though her first and principal errand was to inform myself of my Dutch merchant, yet I gave her in charge to inquire, second, after my husband, who I left a trooper in the gens d'armes; third, after that rogue of a Jew, whose very name I hated, and of whose face I had such a frightful idea that Satan himself could not counterfeit a worse; and, lastly, after my foreign prince. And she discharged herself very well of them all, though not so successful as I wished.
Amy had a very good passage over the sea, and I had a letter from her, from Calais, in three days after she went from London. When she came to Paris she wrote me an account, that as to her first and most important inquiry, which was after the Dutch merchant, her account was, that he had returned to Paris, lived three years there, and quitting that city, went to live at Rouen; so away goes Amy for Rouen.
But as she was going to bespeak a place in the coach to Rouen, she meets very accidentally in the street with her gentleman, as I called him—that is to say, the Prince de ——'s gentleman, who had been her favourite, as above.
You may be sure there were several other kind things happened between Amy and him, as you shall hear afterwards; but the two main things were, first, that Amy inquired about his lord, and had a full account of him, of which presently; and, in the next place, telling him whither she was going and for what, he bade her not go yet, for that he would have a particular account of it the next day from a merchant that knew him; and, accordingly, he brought her word the next day that he had been for six years before that gone for Holland, and that he lived there still.
This, I say, was the first news from Amy for some time—I mean about my merchant. In the meantime Amy, as I have said, inquired about the other persons she had in her instructions. As for the prince, the gentleman told her he was gone into Germany, where his estate lay, and that he lived there; that he had made great inquiry after me; that he (his gentleman) had made all the search he had been able for me, but that he could not hear of me; that he believed, if his lord had known I had been in England, he would have gone over to me; but that, after long inquiry, he was obliged to give it over; but that he verily believed, if he could have found me, he would have married me; and that he was extremely concerned that he could hear nothing of me.
I was not at all satisfied with Amy's account, but ordered her to go to Rouen herself, which she did, and there with much difficulty (the person she was directed to being dead)—I say, with much difficulty she came to be informed that my merchant had lived there two years, or something more, but that, having met with a very great misfortune, he had gone back to Holland, as the French merchant said, where he had stayed two years; but with this addition, viz., that he came back again to Rouen, and lived in good reputation there another year; and afterwards he was gone to England, and that he lived in London. But Amy could by no means learn how to write to him there, till, by great accident, an old Dutch skipper, who had formerly served him, coming to Rouen, Amy was told of it; and he told her that he lodged in St. Laurence Pountney's Lane, in London, but was to be seen every day upon the Exchange, in the French walk.
This, Amy thought, it was time enough to tell me of when she came over; and, besides, she did not find this Dutch skipper till she had spent four or five months and been again in Paris, and then come back to Rouen for farther information. But in the meantime she wrote to me from Paris that he was not to be found by any means; that he had been gone from Paris seven or eight years; that she was told he had lived at Rouen, and she was agoing thither to inquire, but that she had heard afterwards that he was gone also from thence to Holland, so she did not go.
This, I say, was Amy's first account; and I, not satisfied with it, had sent her an order to go to Rouen to inquire there also, as above.
While this was negotiating, and I received these accounts from Amy at several times, a strange adventure happened to me which I must mention just here. I had been abroad to take the air as usual with my Quaker, as far as Epping Forest, and we were driving back towards London, when, on the road between Bow and Mile End, two gentlemen on horseback came riding by, having overtaken the coach and passed it, and went forwards towards London.
They did not ride apace though they passed the coach, for we went very softly; nor did they look into the coach at all, but rode side by side, earnestly talking to one another and inclining their faces sideways a little towards one another, he that went nearest the coach with his face from it, and he that was farthest from the coach with his face towards it, and passing in the very next tract to the coach, I could hear them talk Dutch very distinctly. But it is impossible to describe the confusion I was in when I plainly saw that the farthest of the two, him whose face looked towards the coach, was my friend the Dutch merchant of Paris.
If it had been possible to conceal my disorder from my friend the Quaker I would have done it, but I found she was too well acquainted with such things not to take the hint. "Dost thou understand Dutch?" said she. "Why?" said I. "Why," says she, "it is easy to suppose that thou art a little concerned at somewhat those men say; I suppose they are talking of thee." "Indeed, my good friend," said I, "thou art mistaken this time, for I know very well what they are talking of, but 'tis all about ships and trading affairs." "Well," says she, "then one of them is a man friend of thine, or somewhat is the case; for though thy tongue will not confess it, thy face does."
I was going to have told a bold lie, and said I knew nothing of them; but I found it was impossible to conceal it, so I said, "Indeed, I think I know the farthest of them; but I have neither spoken to him or so much as seen him for about eleven years." "Well, then," says she, "thou hast seen him with more than common eyes when thou didst see him, or else seeing him now would not be such a surprise to thee." "Indeed," said I, "it is true I am a little surprised at seeing him just now, for I thought he had been in quite another part of the world; and I can assure you I never saw him in England in my life." "Well, then, it is the more likely he is come over now on purpose to seek thee." "No, no," said I, "knight-errantry is over; women are not so hard to come at that men should not be able to please themselves without running from one kingdom to another." "Well, well," says she, "I would have him see thee for all that, as plainly as thou hast seen him." "No, but he shan't," says I, "for I am sure he don't know me in this dress, and I'll take care he shan't see my face, if I can help it;" so I held up my fan before my face, and she saw me resolute in that, so she pressed me no farther.
We had several discourses upon the subject, but still I let her know I was resolved he should not know me; but at last I confessed so much, that though I would not let him know who I was or where I lived, I did not care if I knew where he lived and how I might inquire about him. She took the hint immediately, and her servant being behind the coach, she called him to the coach-side and bade him keep his eye upon that gentleman, and as soon as the coach came to the end of Whitechapel he should get down and follow him closely, so as to see where he put up his horse, and then to go into the inn and inquire, if he could, who he was and where he lived.
The fellow followed diligently to the gate of an inn in Bishopsgate Street, and seeing him go in, made no doubt but he had him fast; but was confounded when, upon inquiry, he found the inn was a thoroughfare into another street, and that the two gentlemen had only rode through the inn, as the way to the street where they were going; and so, in short, came back no wiser than he went.
My kind Quaker was more vexed at the disappointment, at least apparently so, than I was; and asking the fellow if he was sure he knew the gentleman again if he saw him, the fellow said he had followed him so close and took so much notice of him, in order to do his errand as it ought to be done, that he was very sure he should know him again; and that, besides, he was sure he should know his horse.
This part was, indeed, likely enough; and the kind Quaker, without telling me anything of the matter, caused her man to place himself just at the corner of Whitechapel Church wall every Saturday in the afternoon, that being the day when the citizens chiefly ride abroad to take the air, and there to watch all the afternoon and look for him.
It was not till the fifth Saturday that her man came, with a great deal of joy, and gave her an account that he had found out the gentleman; that he was a Dutchman, but a French merchant; that he came from Rouen, and his name was ——, and that he lodged at Mr. ——'s, on Laurence Pountney's Hill. I was surprised, you may be sure, when she came and told me one evening all the particulars, except that of having set her man to watch. "I have found out thy Dutch friend," says she, "and can tell thee how to find him too." I coloured again as red as fire. "Then thou hast dealt with the evil one, friend," said I very gravely. "No, no," says she, "I have no familiar; but I tell thee I have found him for thee, and his name is So-and-so, and he lives as above recited."
I was surprised again at this, not being able to imagine how she should come to know all this. However, to put me out of pain, she told me what she had done. "Well," said I, "thou art very kind, but this is not worth thy pains; for now I know it, 'tis only to satisfy my curiosity; for I shall not send to him upon any account." "Be that as thou wilt," says she. "Besides," added she, "thou art in the right to say so to me, for why should I be trusted with it? Though, if I were, I assure thee I should not betray thee." "That's very kind," said I, "and I believe thee; and assure thyself, if I do send to him, thou shalt know it, and be trusted with it too."
During this interval of five weeks I suffered a hundred thousand perplexities of mind. I was thoroughly convinced I was right as to the person, that it was the man. I knew him so well, and saw him so plain, I could not be deceived. I drove out again in the coach (on pretence of air) almost every day in hopes of seeing him again, but was never so lucky as to see him; and now I had made the discovery I was as far to seek what measures to take as I was before.
To send to him, or speak to him first if I should see him, so as to be known to him, that I resolved not to do, if I died for it. To watch him about his lodging, that was as much below my spirit as the other. So that, in a word, I was at a perfect loss how to act or what to do.
At length came Amy's letter, with the last account which she had at Rouen from the Dutch skipper, which, confirming the other, left me out of doubt that this was my man; but still no human invention could bring me to the speech of him in such a manner as would suit with my resolutions. For, after all, how did I know what his circumstances were? whether married or single? And if he had a wife, I knew he was so honest a man he would not so much as converse with me, or so much as know me if he met me in the street.
In the next place, as he entirely neglected me, which, in short, is the worst way of slighting a woman, and had given no answer to my letters, I did not know but he might be the same man still; so I resolved that I could do nothing in it unless some fairer opportunity presented, which might make my way clearer to me; for I was determined he should have no room to put any more slights upon me.
In these thoughts I passed away near three months; till at last, being impatient, I resolved to send for Amy to come over, and tell her how things stood, and that I would do nothing till she came. Amy, in answer, sent me word she would come away with all speed, but begged of me that I would enter into no engagement with him, or anybody, till she arrived; but still keeping me in the dark as to the thing itself which she had to say; at which I was heartily vexed, for many reasons.
But while all these things were transacting, and letters and answers passed between Amy and I a little slower than usual, at which I was not so well pleased as I used to be with Amy's despatch—I say, in this time the following scene opened.
It was one afternoon, about four o'clock, my friendly Quaker and I sitting in her chamber upstairs, and very cheerful, chatting together (for she was the best company in the world), when somebody ringing hastily at the door, and no servant just then in the way, she ran down herself to the door, when a gentleman appears, with a footman attending, and making some apologies, which she did not thoroughly understand, he speaking but broken English, he asked to speak with me, by the very same name that I went by in her house, which, by the way, was not the name that he had known me by.
She, with very civil language, in her way, brought him into a very handsome parlour below stairs, and said she would go and see whether the person who lodged in her house owned that name, and he should hear farther.
I was a little surprised, even before I knew anything of who it was, my mind foreboding the thing as it happened (whence that arises let the naturalists explain to us); but I was frighted and ready to die when my Quaker came up all gay and crowing. "There," says she, "is the Dutch French merchant come to see thee." I could not speak one word to her nor stir off of my chair, but sat as motionless as a statue. She talked a thousand pleasant things to me, but they made no impression on me. At last she pulled me and teased me. "Come, come," says she, "be thyself, and rouse up. I must go down again to him; what shall I say to him?" "Say," said I, "that you have no such body in the house." "That I cannot do," says she, "because it is not the truth. Besides, I have owned thou art above. Come, come, go down with me." "Not for a thousand guineas," said I. "Well," says she, "I'll go and tell him thou wilt come quickly." So, without giving me time to answer her, away she goes.
A million of thoughts circulated in my head while she was gone, and what to do I could not tell; I saw no remedy but I must speak with him, but would have given L500 to have shunned it; yet had I shunned it, perhaps then I would have given L500 again that I had seen him. Thus fluctuating and unconcluding were my thoughts, what I so earnestly desired I declined when it offered itself; and what now I pretended to decline was nothing but what I had been at the expense of L40 or L50 to send Amy to France for, and even without any view, or, indeed, any rational expectation of bringing it to pass; and what for half a year before I was so uneasy about that I could not be quiet night or day till Amy proposed to go over to inquire after him. In short, my thoughts were all confused and in the utmost disorder. I had once refused and rejected him, and I repented it heartily; then I had taken ill his silence, and in my mind rejected him again, but had repented that too. Now I had stooped so low as to send after him into France, which if he had known, perhaps, he had never come after me; and should I reject him a third time! On the other hand, he had repented too, in his turn, perhaps, and not knowing how I had acted, either in stooping to send in search after him or in the wickeder part of my life, was come over hither to seek me again; and I might take him, perhaps, with the same advantages as I might have done before, and would I now be backward to see him! Well, while I was in this hurry my friend the Quaker comes up again, and perceiving the confusion I was in, she runs to her closet and fetched me a little pleasant cordial; but I would not taste it. "Oh," says she, "I understand thee. Be not uneasy; I'll give thee something shall take off all the smell of it; if he kisses thee a thousand times he shall be no wiser." I thought to myself, "Thou art perfectly acquainted with affairs of this nature; I think you must govern me now;" so I began to incline to go down with her. Upon that I took the cordial, and she gave me a kind of spicy preserve after it, whose flavour was so strong, and yet so deliciously pleasant, that it would cheat the nicest smelling, and it left not the least taint of the cordial on the breath.
Well, after this, though with some hesitation still, I went down a pair of back-stairs with her, and into a dining-room, next to the parlour in which he was; but there I halted, and desired she would let me consider of it a little. "Well, do so," says she, and left me with more readiness than she did before. "Do consider, and I'll come to thee again."
Though I hung back with an awkwardness that was really unfeigned, yet when she so readily left me I thought it was not so kind, and I began to think she should have pressed me still on to it; so foolishly backward are we to the thing which, of all the world, we most desire; mocking ourselves with a feigned reluctance, when the negative would be death to us. But she was too cunning for me; for while I, as it were, blamed her in my mind for not carrying me to him, though, at the same time, I appeared backward to see him, on a sudden she unlocks the folding-doors, which looked into the next parlour, and throwing them open. "There," says she (ushering him in), "is the person who, I suppose, thou inquirest for;" and the same moment, with a kind decency, she retired, and that so swift that she would not give us leave hardly to know which way she went.
I stood up, but was confounded with a sudden inquiry in my thoughts how I should receive him, and with a resolution as swift as lightning, in answer to it, said to myself, "It shall be coldly." So on a sudden I put on an air of stiffness and ceremony, and held it for about two minutes; but it was with great difficulty.
He restrained himself too, on the other hand, came towards me gravely, and saluted me in form; but it was, it seems, upon his supposing the Quaker was behind him, whereas she, as I said, understood things too well, and had retired as if she had vanished, that we might have full freedom; for, as she said afterwards, she supposed we had seen one another before, though it might have been a great while ago.
Whatever stiffness I had put on my behaviour to him, I was surprised in my mind, and angry at his, and began to wonder what kind of a ceremonious meeting it was to be. However, after he perceived the woman was gone he made a kind of a hesitation, looking a little round him. "Indeed," said he, "I thought the gentlewoman was not withdrawn;" and with that he took me in his arms and kissed me three or four times; but I, that was prejudiced to the last degree with the coldness of his first salutes, when I did not know the cause of it, could not be thoroughly cleared of the prejudice though I did know the cause, and thought that even his return, and taking me in his arms, did not seem to have the same ardour with which he used to receive me, and this made me behave to him awkwardly, and I know not how for a good while; but this by the way.
He began with a kind of an ecstasy upon the subject of his finding me out; how it was possible that he should have been four years in England, and had used all the ways imaginable, and could never so much as have the least intimation of me, or of any one like me; and that it was now above two years that he had despaired of it, and had given over all inquiry; and that now he should chop upon me, as it were, unlooked and unsought for.
I could easily have accounted for his not finding me if I had but set down the detail of my real retirement; but I gave it a new, and indeed a truly hypocritical turn. I told him that any one that knew the manner of life I led might account for his not finding me; that the retreat I had taken up would have rendered it a hundred thousand to one odds that he ever found me at all; that, as I had abandoned all conversation, taken up another name, lived remote from London, and had not preserved one acquaintance in it, it was no wonder he had not met with me; that even my dress would let him see that I did not desire to be known by anybody.
Then he asked if I had not received some letters from him. I told him no, he had not thought fit to give me the civility of an answer to the last I wrote to him, and he could not suppose I should expect a return after a silence in a case where I had laid myself so low and exposed myself in a manner I had never been used to; that indeed I had never sent for any letters after that to the place where I had ordered his to be directed; and that, being so justly, as I thought, punished for my weakness, I had nothing to do but to repent of being a fool, after I had strictly adhered to a just principle before; that, however, as what I did was rather from motions of gratitude than from real weakness, however it might be construed by him, I had the satisfaction in myself of having fully discharged the debt. I added, that I had not wanted occasions of all the seeming advancements which the pretended felicity of a marriage life was usually set off with, and might have been what I desired not to name; but that, however low I had stooped to him, I had maintained the dignity of female liberty against all the attacks either of pride or avarice; and that I had been infinitely obliged to him for giving me an opportunity to discharge the only obligation that endangered me, without subjecting me to the consequence; and that I hoped he was satisfied I had paid the debt by offering myself to be chained, but was infinitely debtor to him another way for letting me remain free.
He was so confounded at this discourse that he knew not what to say, and for a good while he stood mute indeed; but recovering himself a little, he said I run out into a discourse he hoped was over and forgotten, and he did not intend to revive it; that he knew I had not had his letters, for that, when he first came to England, he had been at the place to which they were directed, and found them all lying there but one, and that the people had not known how to deliver them; that he thought to have had a direction there how to find me, but had the mortification to be told that they did not so much as know who I was; that he was under a great disappointment; and that I ought to know, in answer to all my resentments, that he had done a long and, he hoped, a sufficient penance for the slight that I had supposed he had put upon me; that it was true (and I could not suppose any other) that upon the repulse I had given them in a case so circumstanced as his was, and after such earnest entreaties and such offers as he had made me, he went away with a mind heartily grieved and full of resentment; that he had looked back on the crime he had committed with some regret, but on the cruelty of my treatment of the poor infant I went with at that time with the utmost detestation, and that this made him unable to send an agreeable answer to me; for which reason he had sent none at all for some time; but that in about six or seven months, those resentments wearing off by the return of his affection to me and his concern in the poor child ——. There he stopped, and indeed tears stood in his eyes; while in a parenthesis he only added, and to this minute he did not know whether it was dead or alive. He then went on: Those resentments wearing off, he sent me several letters—I think he said seven or eight—but received no answer; that then his business obliging him to go to Holland, he came to England, as in his way, but found, as above, that his letters had not been called for, but that he left them at the house after paying the postage of them; and going then back to France, he was yet uneasy, and could not refrain the knight-errantry of coming to England again to seek me, though he knew neither where or of who to inquire for me, being disappointed in all his inquiries before; that he had yet taken up his residence here, firmly believing that one time or other he should meet me, or hear of me, and that some kind chance would at last throw him in my way; that he had lived thus above four years, and though his hopes were vanished, yet he had not any thoughts of removing any more in the world, unless it should be at last, as it is with other old men, he might have some inclination to go home to die in his own country, but that he had not thought of it yet; that if I would consider all these steps, I would find some reasons to forget his first resentments, and to think that penance, as he called it, which he had undergone in search of me an amende honorable, in reparation of the affront given to the kindness of my letter of invitation; and that we might at last make ourselves some satisfaction on both sides for the mortifications past.
I confess I could not hear all this without being moved very much, and yet I continued a little stiff and formal too a good while. I told him that before I could give him any reply to the rest of his discourse I ought to give him the satisfaction of telling him that his son was alive, and that indeed, since I saw him so concerned about it, and mention it with such affection, I was sorry that I had not found out some way or other to let him know it sooner; but that I thought, after his slighting the mother, as above, he had summed up his affection to the child in the letter he had wrote to me about providing for it; and that he had, as other fathers often do, looked upon it as a birth which, being out of the way, was to be forgotten, as its beginning was to be repented of; that in providing sufficiently for it he had done more than all such fathers used to do, and might be well satisfied with it.
He answered me that he should have been very glad if I had been so good but to have given him the satisfaction of knowing the poor unfortunate creature was yet alive, and he would have taken some care of it upon himself, and particularly by owning it for a legitimate child, which, where nobody had known to the contrary, would have taken off the infamy which would otherwise cleave to it, and so the child should not itself have known anything of its own disaster; but that he feared it was now too late.
He added that I might see by all his conduct since that what unhappy mistake drew him into the thing at first, and that he would have been very far from doing the injury to me, or being instrumental to add une miserable (that was his word) to the world, if he had not been drawn into it by the hopes he had of making me his own; but that, if it was possible to rescue the child from the consequences of its unhappy birth, he hoped I would give him leave to do it, and he would let me see that he had both means and affection still to do it; and that, notwithstanding all the misfortunes that had befallen him, nothing that belonged to him, especially by a mother he had such a concern for as he had for me, should ever want what he was in a condition to do for it.
I could not hear this without being sensibly touched with it. I was ashamed that he should show that he had more real affection for the child, though he had never seen it in his life, than I that bore it, for indeed I did not love the child, nor love to see it; and though I had provided for it, yet I did it by Amy's hand, and had not seen it above twice in four years, being privately resolved that when it grew up it should not be able to call me mother.
However, I told him the child was taken care of, and that he need not be anxious about it, unless he suspected that I had less affection for it than he that had never seen it in his life; that he knew what I had promised him to do for it, namely, to give it the thousand pistoles which I had offered him, and which he had declined; that I assured him I had made my will, and that I had left it L5000, and the interest of it till he should come of age, if I died before that time; that I would still be as good as that to it; but if he had a mind to take it from me into his government, I would not be against it; and to satisfy him that I would perform what I said, I would cause the child to be delivered to him, and the L5000 also for its support, depending upon it that he would show himself a father to it by what I saw of his affection to it now.
I had observed that he had hinted two or three times in his discourse, his having had misfortunes in the world, and I was a little surprised at the expression, especially at the repeating it so often; but I took no notice of that part yet.
He thanked me for my kindness to the child with a tenderness which showed the sincerity of all he had said before, and which increased the regret with which, as I said, I looked back on the little affection I had showed to the poor child. He told me he did not desire to take him from me, but so as to introduce him into the world as his own, which he could still do, having lived absent from his other children (for he had two sons and a daughter which were brought up at Nimeguen, in Holland, with a sister of his) so long that he might very well send another son of ten years old to be bred up with them, and suppose his mother to be dead or alive, as he found occasion; and that, as I had resolved to do so handsomely for the child, he would add to it something considerable, though, having had some great disappointments (repeating the words), he could not do for it as he would otherwise have done.
I then thought myself obliged to take notice of his having so often mentioned his having met with disappointments. I told him I was very sorry to hear he had met with anything afflicting to him in the world; that I would not have anything belonging to me add to his loss, or weaken him in what he might do for his other children; and that I would not agree to his having the child away, though the proposal was infinitely to the child's advantage, unless he would promise me that the whole expense should be mine, and that, if he did not think L5000 enough for the child, I would give it more.
We had so much discourse upon this and the old affairs that it took up all our time at his first visit. I was a little importunate with him to tell me how he came to find me out, but he put it off for that time, and only obtaining my leave to visit me again, he went away; and indeed my heart was so full with what he had said already that I was glad when he went away. Sometimes I was full of tenderness and affection for him, and especially when he expressed himself so earnestly and passionately about the child; other times I was crowded with doubts about his circumstances. Sometimes I was terrified with apprehensions lest, if I should come into a close correspondence with him, he should any way come to hear what kind of life I had led at Pall Mall and in other places, and it might make me miserable afterwards; from which last thought I concluded that I had better repulse him again than receive him. All these thoughts, and many more, crowded in so fast, I say, upon me that I wanted to give vent to them and get rid of him, and was very glad when he was gone away.
We had several meetings after this, in which still we had so many preliminaries to go through that we scarce ever bordered upon the main subject. Once, indeed, he said something of it, and I put it off with a kind of a jest. "Alas!" says I, "those things are out of the question now; 'tis almost two ages since those things were talked between us," says I. "You see I am grown an old woman since that." Another time he gave a little push at it again, and I laughed again. "Why, what dost thou talk of?" said I in a formal way. "Dost thou not see I am turned Quaker? I cannot speak of those things now." "Why," says he, "the Quakers marry as well as other people, and love one another as well. Besides," says he, "the Quakers' dress does not ill become you," and so jested with me again, and so it went off for a third time. However, I began to be kind to him in process of time, as they call it, and we grew very intimate; and if the following accident had not unluckily intervened, I had certainly married him, or consented to marry him, the very next time he had asked me.
I had long waited for a letter from Amy, who, it seems, was just at that time gone to Rouen the second time, to make her inquiries about him; and I received a letter from her at this unhappy juncture, which gave me the following account of my business:—
I. That for my gentleman, who I had now, as I may say, in my arms, she said he had been gone from Paris, as I have hinted, having met with some great losses and misfortunes; that he had been in Holland on that very account, whither he had also carried his children; that he was after that settled for some time at Rouen; that she had been at Rouen, and found there (by a mere accident), from a Dutch skipper, that he was at London, had been there above three years; that he was to be found upon the Exchange, on the French walk; and that he lodged at St. Laurence Pountney's Lane, and the like; so Amy said she supposed I might soon find him out, but that she doubted he was poor, and not worth looking after. This she did because of the next clause, which the jade had most mind to on many accounts.
II. That as to the Prince ——; that, as above, he was gone into Germany, where his estate lay; that he had quitted the French service, and lived retired; that she had seen his gentleman, who remained at Paris to solicit his arrears, &c.; that he had given her an account how his lord had employed him to inquire for me and find me out, as above, and told her what pains he had taken to find me; that he had understood that I was gone to England; that he once had orders to go to England to find me; that his lord had resolved, if he could have found me, to have called me a countess, and so have married me, and have carried me into Germany with him; and that his commission was still to assure me that the prince would marry me if I would come to him, and that he would send him an account that he had found me, and did not doubt but he would have orders to come over to England to attend me in a figure suitable to my quality.
Amy, an ambitious jade, who knew my weakest part—namely, that I loved great things, and that I loved to be flattered and courted—said abundance of kind things upon this occasion, which she knew were suitable to me and would prompt my vanity; and talked big of the prince's gentleman having orders to come over to me with a procuration to marry me by proxy (as princes usually do in like cases), and to furnish me with an equipage, and I know not how many fine things; but told me, withal, that she had not yet let him know that she belonged to me still, or that she knew where to find me, or to write to me; because she was willing to see the bottom of it, and whether it was a reality or a gasconade. She had indeed told him that, if he had any such commission, she would endeavour to find me out, but no more.
III. For the Jew, she assured me that she had not been able to come at a certainty what was become of him, or in what part of the world he was; but that thus much she had learned from good hands, that he had committed a crime, in being concerned in a design to rob a rich banker at Paris; and that he was fled, and had not been heard of there for above six years.
IV. For that of my husband, the brewer, she learned, that being commanded into the field upon an occasion of some action in Flanders, he was wounded at the battle of Mons, and died of his wounds in the Hospital of the Invalids; so there was an end of my four inquiries, which I sent her over to make.
This account of the prince, and the return of his affection to me, with all the flattering great things which seemed to come along with it; and especially as they came gilded and set out by my maid Amy—I say this account of the prince came to me in a very unlucky hour, and in the very crisis of my affair.
The merchant and I had entered into close conferences upon the grand affair. I had left off talking my platonics, and of my independency, and being a free woman, as before; and he having cleared up my doubts too, as to his circumstances and the misfortunes he had spoken of, I had gone so far that we had begun to consider where we should live, and in what figure, what equipage, what house, and the like.
I had made some harangues upon the delightful retirement of a country life, and how we might enjoy ourselves so effectually without the encumbrances of business and the world; but all this was grimace, and purely because I was afraid to make any public appearance in the world, for fear some impertinent person of quality should chop upon me again and cry out, "Roxana, Roxana, by ——!" with an oath, as had been done before.
My merchant, bred to business and used to converse among men of business, could hardly tell how to live without it; at least it appeared he should be like a fish out of water, uneasy and dying. But, however, he joined with me; only argued that we might live as near London as we could, that he might sometimes come to 'Change and hear how the world should go abroad, and how it fared with his friends and his children.
I answered that if he chose still to embarrass himself with business, I supposed it would be more to his satisfaction to be in his own country, and where his family was so well known, and where his children also were.
He smiled at the thoughts of that, and let me know that he should be very willing to embrace such an offer; but that he could not expect it of me, to whom England was, to be sure, so naturalised now as that it would be carrying me out of my native country, which he would not desire by any means, however agreeable it might be to him.
I told him he was mistaken in me; that as I had told him so much of a married state being a captivity, and the family being a house of bondage, that when I married I expected to be but an upper servant; so, if I did notwithstanding submit to it, I hoped he should see I knew how to act the servant's part, and do everything to oblige my master; that if I did not resolve to go with him wherever he desired to go, he might depend I would never have him. "And did I not," said I, "offer myself to go with you to the East Indies?"
All this while this was indeed but a copy of my countenance; for, as my circumstances would not admit of my stay in London, at least not so as to appear publicly, I resolved, if I took him, to live remote in the country, or go out of England with him.
But in an evil hour, just now came Amy's letter, in the very middle of all these discourses; and the fine things she had said about the prince began to make strange work with me. The notion of being a princess, and going over to live where all that had happened here would have been quite sunk out of knowledge as well as out of memory (conscience excepted), was mighty taking. The thoughts of being surrounded with domestics, honoured with titles, be called her Highness, and live in all the splendour of a court, and, which was still more, in the arms of a man of such rank, and who, I knew, loved and valued me—all this, in a word, dazzled my eyes, turned my head, and I was as truly crazed and distracted for about a fortnight as most of the people in Bedlam, though perhaps not quite so far gone.
When my gentleman came to me the next time I had no notion of him; I wished I had never received him at all. In short, I resolved to have no more to say to him, so I feigned myself indisposed; and though I did come down to him and speak to him a little, yet I let him see that I was so ill that I was (as we say) no company, and that it would be kind in him to give me leave to quit him for that time.
The next morning he sent a footman to inquire how I did; and I let him know I had a violent cold, and was very ill with it. Two days after he came again, and I let him see me again, but feigned myself so hoarse that I could not speak to be heard, and that it was painful to me but to whisper; and, in a word, I held him in this suspense near three weeks.
During this time I had a strange elevation upon my mind; and the prince, or the spirit of him, had such a possession of me that I spent most of this time in the realising all the great things of a life with the prince, to my mind pleasing my fancy with the grandeur I was supposing myself to enjoy, and with wickedly studying in what manner to put off this gentleman and be rid of him for ever.
I cannot but say that sometimes the baseness of the action stuck hard with me; the honour and sincerity with which he had always treated me, and, above all, the fidelity he had showed me at Paris, and that I owed my life to him—I say, all these stared in my face, and I frequently argued with myself upon the obligation I was under to him, and how base would it be now too, after so many obligations and engagements, to cast him off.
But the title of highness, and of a princess, and all those fine things, as they came in, weighed down all this; and the sense of gratitude vanished as if it had been a shadow.
At other times I considered the wealth I was mistress of; that I was able to live like a princess, though not a princess; and that my merchant (for he had told me all the affair of his misfortunes) was far from being poor, or even mean; that together we were able to make up an estate of between three and four thousand pounds a year, which was in itself equal to some princes abroad. But though this was true, yet the name of princess, and the flutter of it—in a word, the pride—weighed them down; and all these arguings generally ended to the disadvantage of my merchant; so that, in short, I resolved to drop him, and give him a final answer at his next coming; namely, that something had happened in my affairs which had caused me to alter my measures unexpectedly, and, in a word, to desire him to trouble himself no farther.
I think, verily, this rude treatment of him was for some time the effect of a violent fermentation in my blood; for the very motion which the steady contemplation of my fancied greatness had put my spirits into had thrown me into a kind of fever, and I scarce knew what I did.
I have wondered since that it did not make me mad; nor do I now think it strange to hear of those who have been quite lunatic with their pride, that fancied themselves queens and empresses, and have made their attendants serve them upon the knee, given visitors their hand to kiss, and the like; for certainly, if pride will not turn the brain, nothing can.
However, the next time my gentleman came, I had not courage enough, or not ill nature enough, to treat him in the rude manner I had resolved to do, and it was very well I did not; for soon after, I had another letter from Amy, in which was the mortifying news, and indeed surprising to me, that my prince (as I, with a secret pleasure, had called him) was very much hurt by a bruise he had received in hunting and engaging with a wild boar, a cruel and desperate sport which the noblemen of Germany, it seems, much delight in.
This alarmed me indeed, and the more because Amy wrote me word that his gentleman was gone away express to him, not without apprehensions that he should find his master was dead before his coming home; but that he (the gentleman) had promised her that as soon as he arrived he would send back the same courier to her with an account of his master's health, and of the main affair; and that he had obliged Amy to stay at Paris fourteen days for his return; she having promised him before to make it her business to go to England and to find me out for his lord if he sent her such orders; and he was to send her a bill for fifty pistoles for her journey. So Amy told me she waited for the answer.
This was a blow to me several ways; for, first, I was in a state of uncertainty as to his person, whether he was alive or dead; and I was not unconcerned in that part, I assure you; for I had an inexpressible affection remaining for his person, besides the degree to which it was revived by the view of a firmer interest in him. But this was not all, for in losing him I forever lost the prospect of all the gaiety and glory that had made such an impression upon my imagination.
In this state of uncertainty, I say, by Amy's letter, I was like still to remain another fortnight; and had I now continued the resolution of using my merchant in the rude manner I once intended, I had made perhaps a sorry piece of work of it indeed, and it was very well my heart failed me as it did.
However, I treated him with a great many shuffles, and feigned stories to keep him off from any closer conferences than we had already had, that I might act afterwards as occasion might offer, one way or other. But that which mortified me most was, that Amy did not write, though the fourteen days were expired. At last, to my great surprise, when I was, with the utmost impatience, looking out at the window, expecting the postman that usually brought the foreign letters—I say I was agreeably surprised to see a coach come to the yard-gate where we lived, and my woman Amy alight out of it and come towards the door, having the coachman bringing several bundles after her.
I flew like lightning downstairs to speak to her, but was soon damped with her news. "Is the prince alive or dead, Amy?" says I. She spoke coldly and slightly. "He is alive, madam," said she. "But it is not much matter; I had as lieu he had been dead." So we went upstairs again to my chamber, and there we began a serious discourse of the whole matter.
First, she told me a long story of his being hurt by a wild boar, and of the condition he was reduced to, so that every one expected he should die, the anguish of the wound having thrown him into a fever, with abundance of circumstances too long to relate here; how he recovered of that extreme danger, but continued very weak; how the gentleman had been homme de parole, and had sent back the courier as punctually as if it had been to the king; that he had given a long account of his lord, and of his illness and recovery; but the sum of the matter, as to me, was, that as to the lady, his lord was turned penitent, was under some vows for his recovery, and could not think any more on that affair; and especially, the lady being gone, and that it had not been offered to her, so there was no breach of honour; but that his lord was sensible of the good offices of Mrs. Amy, and had sent her the fifty pistoles for her trouble, as if she had really gone the journey.
I was, I confess, hardly able to bear the first surprise of this disappointment. Amy saw it, and gapes out (as was her way), "Lawd, madam! never be concerned at it; you see he is gotten among the priests, and I suppose they have saucily imposed some penance upon him, and, it may be, sent him of an errand barefoot to some Madonna or Notredame, or other; and he is off of his amours for the present. I'll warrant you he'll be as wicked again as ever he was when he is got thorough well, and gets but out of their hands again. I hate this out-o'-season repentance. What occasion had he, in his repentance, to be off of taking a good wife? I should have been glad to see you have been a princess, and all that; but if it can't be, never afflict yourself; you are rich enough to be a princess to yourself; you don't want him, that's the best of it."
Well, I cried for all that, and was heartily vexed, and that a great while; but as Amy was always at my elbow, and always jogging it out of my head with her mirth and her wit, it wore off again.
Then I told Amy all the story of my merchant, and how he had found me out when I was in such a concern to find him; how it was true that he lodged in St. Laurence Pountney's Lane; and how I had had all the story of his misfortune, which she had heard of, in which he had lost above L8000 sterling; and that he had told me frankly of it before she had sent me any account of it, or at least before I had taken any notice that I had heard of it.
Amy was very joyful at that part. "Well, madam, then," says Amy, "what need you value the story of the prince, and going I know not whither into Germany to lay your bones in another world, and learn the devil's language, called High Dutch? You are better here by half," says Amy. "Lawd, madam!" says she; "why, are you not as rich as Croesus?"
Well, it was a great while still before I could bring myself off of this fancied sovereignty; and I, that was so willing once to be mistress to a king, was now ten thousand times more fond of being wife to a prince.
So fast a hold has pride and ambition upon our minds, that when once it gets admission, nothing is so chimerical but, under this possession, we can form ideas of in our fancy and realise to our imagination. Nothing can be so ridiculous as the simple steps we take in such cases; a man or a woman becomes a mere malade imaginaire, and, I believe, may as easily die with grief or run mad with joy (as the affair in his fancy appears right or wrong) as if all was real, and actually under the management of the person.
I had indeed two assistants to deliver me from this snare, and these were, first, Amy, who knew my disease, but was able to do nothing as to the remedy; the second, the merchant, who really brought the remedy, but knew nothing of the distemper.
I remember, when all these disorders were upon my thoughts, in one of the visits my friend the merchant made me, he took notice that he perceived I was under some unusual disorder; he believed, he said, that my distemper, whatever it was, lay much in my head, and it being summer weather and very hot, proposed to me to go a little way into the air.
I started at his expression. "What!" says I; "do you think, then, that I am crazed? You should, then, propose a madhouse for my cure." "No, no," says he, "I do not mean anything like that; I hope the head may be distempered and not the brain." Well, I was too sensible that he was right, for I knew I had acted a strange, wild kind of part with him; but he insisted upon it, and pressed me to go into the country. I took him short again. "What need you," says I, "send me out of your way? It is in your power to be less troubled with me, and with less inconvenience to us both."
He took that ill, and told me I used to have a better opinion of his sincerity, and desired to know what he had done to forfeit my charity. I mention this only to let you see how far I had gone in my measures of quitting him—that is to say, how near I was of showing him how base, ungrateful, and how vilely I could act; but I found I had carried the jest far enough, and that a little matter might have made him sick of me again, as he was before; so I began by little and little to change my way of talking to him, and to come to discourse to the purpose again as we had done before.
A while after this, when we were very merry and talking familiarly together, he called me, with an air of particular satisfaction, his princess. I coloured at the word, for it indeed touched me to the quick; but he knew nothing of the reason of my being touched with it. "What d'ye mean by that?" said I. "Nay," says he, "I mean nothing but that you are a princess to me." "Well," says I, "as to that I am content, and yet I could tell you I might have been a princess if I would have quitted you, and believe I could be so still." "It is not in my power to make you a princess," says he, "but I can easily make you a lady here in England, and a countess too if you will go out of it."
I heard both with a great deal of satisfaction, for my pride remained though it had been balked, and I thought with myself that this proposal would make me some amends for the loss of the title that had so tickled my imagination another way, and I was impatient to understand what he meant, but I would not ask him by any means; so it passed off for that time.
When he was gone I told Amy what he had said, and Amy was as impatient to know the manner how it could be as I was; but the next time (perfectly unexpected to me) he told me that he had accidentally mentioned a thing to me last time he was with me, having not the least thought of the thing itself; but not knowing but such a thing might be of some weight to me, and that it might bring me respect among people where I might appear, he had thought since of it, and was resolved to ask me about it.
I made light of it, and told him that, as he knew I had chosen a retired life, it was of no value to me to be called lady or countess either; but that if he intended to drag me, as I might call it, into the world again, perhaps it might be agreeable to him; but, besides that, I could not judge of the thing, because I did not understand how either of them was to be done.
He told me that money purchased titles of honour in almost all parts of the world, though money could not give principles of honour, they must come by birth and blood; that, however, titles sometimes assist to elevate the soul and to infuse generous principles into the mind, and especially where there was a good foundation laid in the persons; that he hoped we should neither of us misbehave if we came to it; and that as we knew how to wear a title without undue elevations, so it might sit as well upon us as on another; that as to England, he had nothing to do but to get an act of naturalisation in his favour, and he knew where to purchase a patent for baronet—that is say, to have the honour and title transferred to him; but if I intended to go abroad with him, he had a nephew, the son of his eldest brother, who had the title of count, with the estate annexed, which was but small, and that he had frequently offered to make it over to him for a thousand pistoles, which was not a great deal of money, and considering it was in the family already, he would, upon my being willing, purchase it immediately.
I told him I liked the last best, but then I would not let him buy it unless he would let me pay the thousand pistoles. "No, no," says he, "I refused a thousand pistoles that I had more right to have accepted than that, and you shall not be at so much expense now." "Yes," says I, "you did refuse it, and perhaps repented it afterwards." "I never complained," said he. "But I did," says I, "and often repented it for you." "I do not understand you," says he. "Why," said I, "I repented that I suffered you to refuse it." "Well, well," said he, "we may talk of that hereafter, when you shall resolve which part of the world you will make your settled residence in." Here he talked very handsomely to me, and for a good while together; how it had been his lot to live all his days out of his native country, and to be often shifting and changing the situation of his affairs; and that I myself had not always had a fixed abode, but that now, as neither of us was very young, he fancied I would be for taking up our abode where, if possible, we might remove no more; that as to his part, he was of that opinion entirely, only with this exception, that the choice of the place should be mine, for that all places in the world were alike to him, only with this single addition, namely, that I was with him.
I heard him with a great deal of pleasure, as well for his being willing to give me the choice as for that I resolved to live abroad, for the reason I have mentioned already, namely, lest I should at any time be known in England, and all that story of Roxana and the balls should come out; as also I was not a little tickled with the satisfaction of being still a countess, though I could not be a princess.
I told Amy all this story, for she was still my privy councillor; but when I asked her opinion, she made me laugh heartily. "Now, which of the two shall I take, Amy?" said I. "Shall I be a lady—that is, a baronet's lady in England, or a countess in Holland?" The ready-witted jade, that knew the pride of my temper too, almost as well as I did myself, answered (without the least hesitation), "Both, madam. Which of them?" says she (repeating the words). "Why not both of them? and then you will be really a princess; for, sure, to be a lady in English and a countess in Dutch may make a princess in High Dutch." Upon the whole, though Amy was in jest, she put the thought into my head, and I resolved that, in short, I would be both of them, which I managed as you shall hear.
First, I seemed to resolve that I would live and settle in England, only with this condition, namely, that I would not live in London. I pretended that it would choke me up; that I wanted breath when I was in London, but that anywhere else I would be satisfied; and then I asked him whether any seaport town in England would not suit him; because I knew, though he seemed to leave off, he would always love to be among business, and conversing with men of business; and I named several places, either nearest for business with France or with Holland; as Dover or Southampton, for the first; and Ipswich, or Yarmouth, or Hull for the last; but I took care that we would resolve upon nothing; only by this it seemed to be certain that we should live in England.
It was time now to bring things to a conclusion, and so in about six weeks' time more we settled all our preliminaries; and, among the rest, he let me know that he should have the bill for his naturalisation passed time enough, so that he would be (as he called it) an Englishman before we married. That was soon perfected, the Parliament being then sitting, and several other foreigners joining in the said bill to save the expense.
It was not above three or four days after, but that, without giving me the least notice that he had so much as been about the patent for baronet, he brought it me in a fine embroidered bag, and saluting me by the name of my Lady —— (joining his own surname to it), presented it to me with his picture set with diamonds, and at the same time gave me a breast-jewel worth a thousand pistoles, and the next morning we were married. Thus I put an end to all the intriguing part of my life—a life full of prosperous wickedness; the reflections upon which were so much the more afflicting as the time had been spent in the grossest crimes, which, the more I looked back upon, the more black and horrid they appeared, effectually drinking up all the comfort and satisfaction which I might otherwise have taken in that part of life which was still before me.
The first satisfaction, however, that I took in the new condition I was in was in reflecting that at length the life of crime was over, and that I was like a passenger coming back from the Indies, who, having, after many years' fatigues and hurry in business, gotten a good estate, with innumerable difficulties and hazards, is arrived safe at London with all his effects, and has the pleasure of saying he shall never venture upon the seas any more.
When we were married we came back immediately to my lodgings (for the church was but just by), and we were so privately married that none but Amy and my friend the Quaker was acquainted with it. As soon as we came into the house he took me in his arms, and kissing me, "Now you are my own," says he. "Oh that you had been so good to have done this eleven years ago!" "Then," said I, "you, perhaps, would have been tired of me long ago; it is much better now, for now all our happy days are to come. Besides," said I, "I should not have been half so rich;" but that I said to myself, for there was no letting him into the reason of it. "Oh!" says he, "I should not have been tired of you; but, besides having the satisfaction of your company, it had saved me that unlucky blow at Paris, which was a dead loss to me of above eight thousand pistoles, and all the fatigues of so many years' hurry and business;" and then he added, "But I'll make you pay for it all, now I have you." I started a little at the words. "Ay," said I, "do you threaten already? Pray what d'ye mean by that?" and began to look a little grave.
"I'll tell you," says he, "very plainly what I mean;" and still he held me fast in his arms. "I intend from this time never to trouble myself with any more business, so I shall never get one shilling for you more than I have already; all that you will lose one way. Next, I intend not to trouble myself with any of the care or trouble of managing what either you have for me or what I have to add to it; but you shall e'en take it all upon yourself, as the wives do in Holland; so you will pay for it that way too, for all the drudgery shall be yours. Thirdly, I intend to condemn you to the constant bondage of my impertinent company, for I shall tie you like a pedlar's pack at my back. I shall scarce ever be from you; for I am sure I can take delight in nothing else in this world." "Very well," says I; "but I am pretty heavy. I hope you'll set me down sometimes when you are aweary." "As for that," says he, "tire me if you can."
This was all jest and allegory; but it was all true, in the moral of the fable, as you shall hear in its place. We were very merry the rest of the day, but without any noise or clutter; for he brought not one of his acquaintance or friends, either English or foreigner. The honest Quaker provided us a very noble dinner indeed, considering how few we were to eat it; and every day that week she did the like, and would at last have it be all at her own charge, which I was utterly averse to; first, because I knew her circumstances not to be very great, though not very low; and next, because she had been so true a friend, and so cheerful a comforter to me, ay, and counsellor too, in all this affair, that I had resolved to make her a present that should be some help to her when all was over.
But to return to the circumstances of our wedding. After being very merry, as I have told you, Amy and the Quaker put us to bed, the honest Quaker little thinking we had been abed together eleven years before. Nay, that was a secret which, as it happened, Amy herself did not know. Amy grinned and made faces, as if she had been pleased; but it came out in so many words, when he was not by, the sum of her mumbling and muttering was, that this should have been done ten or a dozen years before; that it would signify little now; that was to say, in short, that her mistress was pretty near fifty, and too old to have any children. I chid her; the Quaker laughed, complimented me upon my not being so old as Amy pretended, that I could not be above forty, and might have a house full of children yet. But Amy and I too knew better than she how it was, for, in short, I was old enough to have done breeding, however I looked; but I made her hold her tongue.
In the morning my Quaker landlady came and visited us before we were up, and made us eat cakes and drink chocolate in bed; and then left us again, and bid us take a nap upon it, which I believe we did. In short, she treated us so handsomely, and with such an agreeable cheerfulness, as well as plenty, as made it appear to me that Quakers may, and that this Quaker did, understand good manners as well as any other people.
I resisted her offer, however, of treating us for the whole week; and I opposed it so long that I saw evidently that she took it ill, and would have thought herself slighted if we had not accepted it. So I said no more, but let her go on, only told her I would be even with her; and so I was. However, for that week she treated us as she said she would, and did it so very fine, and with such a profusion of all sorts of good things, that the greatest burthen to her was how to dispose of things that were left; for she never let anything, how dainty or however large, be so much as seen twice among us.
I had some servants indeed, which helped her off a little; that is to say, two maids, for Amy was now a woman of business, not a servant, and ate always with us. I had also a coachman and a boy. My Quaker had a man-servant too, but had but one maid; but she borrowed two more of some of her friends for the occasion, and had a man-cook for dressing the victuals.
She was only at a loss for plate, which she gave me a whisper of; and I made Amy fetch a large strong-box, which I had lodged in a safe hand, in which was all the fine plate which I had provided on a worse occasion, as is mentioned before; and I put it into the Quaker's hand, obliging her not to use it as mine, but as her own, for a reason I shall mention presently.
I was now my Lady ——, and I must own I was exceedingly pleased with it; 'twas so big and so great to hear myself called "her ladyship," and "your ladyship," and the like, that I was like the Indian king at Virginia, who, having a house built for him by the English, and a lock put upon the door, would sit whole days together with the key in his hand, locking and unlocking, and double-locking, the door, with an unaccountable pleasure at the novelty; so I could have sat a whole day together to hear Amy talk to me, and call me "your ladyship" at every word; but after a while the novelty wore off and the pride of it abated, till at last truly I wanted the other title as much as I did that of ladyship before.
We lived this week in all the innocent mirth imaginable, and our good-humoured Quaker was so pleasant in her way that it was particularly entertaining to us. We had no music at all, or dancing; only I now and then sung a French song to divert my spouse, who desired it, and the privacy of our mirth greatly added to the pleasure of it. I did not make many clothes for my wedding, having always a great many rich clothes by me, which, with a little altering for the fashion, were perfectly new. The next day he pressed me to dress, though we had no company. At last, jesting with him, I told him I believed I was able to dress me so, in one kind of dress that I had by me, that he would not know his wife when he saw her, especially if anybody else was by. No, he said, that was impossible, and he longed to see that dress. I told him I would dress me in it, if he would promise me never to desire me to appear in it before company. He promised he would not, but wanted to know why too; as husbands, you know, are inquisitive creatures, and love to inquire after anything they think is kept from them; but I had an answer ready for him. "Because," said I, "it is not a decent dress in this country, and would not look modest." Neither, indeed, would it, for it was but one degree off from appearing in one's shift, but was the usual wear in the country where they were used. He was satisfied with my answer, and gave me his promise never to ask me to be seen in it before company. I then withdrew, taking only Amy and the Quaker with me; and Amy dressed me in my old Turkish habit which I danced in formerly, &c., as before. The Quaker was charmed with the dress, and merrily said, that if such a dress should come to be worn here, she should not know what to do; she should be tempted not to dress in the Quaker's way any more.
When all the dress was put on, I loaded it with jewels, and in particular I placed the large breast-jewel which he had given me of a thousand pistoles upon the front of the tyhaia, or head-dress, where it made a most glorious show indeed. I had my own diamond necklace on, and my hair was tout brilliant, all glittering with jewels.
His picture set with diamonds I had placed stitched to my vest, just, as might be supposed, upon my heart (which is the compliment in such cases among the Eastern people); and all being open at the breast, there was no room for anything of a jewel there.
In this figure, Amy holding the train of my robe, I came down to him. He was surprised, and perfectly astonished. He knew me, to be sure, because I had prepared him, and because there was nobody else there but the Quaker and Amy; but he by no means knew Amy, for she had dressed herself in the habit of a Turkish slave, being the garb of my little Turk which I had at Naples, as I have said; she had her neck and arms bare, was bareheaded, and her hair braided in a long tassel hanging down her back; but the jade could neither hold her countenance or her chattering tongue, so as to be concealed long.
Well, he was so charmed with this dress that he would have me sit and dine in it; but it was so thin, and so open before, and the weather being also sharp, that I was afraid of taking cold; however, the fire being enlarged and the doors kept shut, I sat to oblige him, and he professed he never saw so fine a dress in his life. I afterwards told him that my husband (so he called the jeweller that was killed) bought it for me at Leghorn, with a young Turkish slave which I parted with at Paris; and that it was by the help of that slave that I learned how to dress in it, and how everything was to be worn, and many of the Turkish customs also, with some of their language. This story agreeing with the fact, only changing the person, was very natural, and so it went off with him; but there was good reason why I should not receive any company in this dress—that is to say, not in England. I need not repeat it; you will hear more of it.
But when I came abroad I frequently put it on, and upon two or three occasions danced in it, but always at his request.
We continued at the Quaker's lodgings for above a year; for now, making as though it was difficult to determine where to settle in England to his satisfaction, unless in London, which was not to mine, I pretended to make him an offer, that, to oblige him, I began to incline to go and live abroad with him; that I knew nothing could be more agreeable to him, and that as to me, every place was alike; that, as I had lived abroad without a husband so many years, it could be no burthen to me to live abroad again, especially with him. Then we fell to straining our courtesies upon one another. He told me he was perfectly easy at living in England, and had squared all his affairs accordingly; for that, as he had told me he intended to give over all business in the world, as well the care of managing it as the concern about it, seeing we were both in condition neither to want it or to have it be worth our while, so I might see it was his intention, by his getting himself naturalised, and getting the patent of baronet, &c. Well, for all that, I told him I accepted his compliment, but I could not but know that his native country, where his children were breeding up, must be most agreeable to him, and that, if I was of such value to him, I would be there then, to enhance the rate of his satisfaction; that wherever he was would be a home to me, and any place in the world would be England to me if he was with me; and thus, in short, I brought him to give me leave to oblige him with going to live abroad, when, in truth, I could not have been perfectly easy at living in England, unless I had kept constantly within doors, lest some time or other the dissolute life I had lived here should have come to be known, and all those wicked things have been known too, which I now began to be very much ashamed of.