When we closed up our wedding week, in which our Quaker had been so very handsome to us, I told him how much I thought we were obliged to her for her generous carriage to us; how she had acted the kindest part through the whole, and how faithful a friend she had been to me upon all occasions; and then letting him know a little of her family unhappiness, I proposed that I thought I not only ought to be grateful to her, but really to do something extraordinary for her, towards making her easy in her affairs. And I added, that I had no hangers-on that should trouble him; that there was nobody belonged to me but what was thoroughly provided for, and that, if I did something for this honest woman that was considerable, it should be the last gift I would give to anybody in the world but Amy; and as for her, we were not agoing to turn her adrift, but whenever anything offered for her, we would do as we saw cause; that, in the meantime, Amy was not poor, that she had saved together between seven and eight hundred pounds. By the way, I did not tell him how, and by what wicked ways she got it, but that she had it; and that was enough to let him know she would never be in want of us.
My spouse was exceedingly pleased with my discourse about the Quaker, made a kind of a speech to me upon the subject of gratitude, told me it was one of the brightest parts of a gentlewoman, that it was so twisted with honesty, nay, and even with religion too, that he questioned whether either of them could be found where gratitude was not to be found; that in this act there was not only gratitude, but charity; and that to make the charity still more Christian-like, the object too had real merit to attract it; he therefore agreed to the thing with all his heart, only would have had me let him pay it out of his effects.
I told him, as for that, I did not design, whatever I had said formerly, that we should have two pockets; and that though I had talked to him of being a free woman, and an independent, and the like, and he had offered and promised that I should keep all my own estate in my own hands; yet, that since I had taken him, I would e'en do as other honest wives did—where I thought fit to give myself, I should give what I had too; that if I reserved anything, it should be only in case of mortality, and that I might give it to his children afterwards, as my own gift; and that, in short, if he thought fit to join stocks, we would see to-morrow morning what strength we could both make up in the world, and bringing it all together, consider, before we resolved upon the place of removing, how we should dispose of what we had, as well as of ourselves. This discourse was too obliging, and he too much of a man of sense not to receive it as it was meant. He only answered, we would do in that as we should both agree; but the thing under our present care was to show not gratitude only, but charity and affection too, to our kind friend the Quaker; and the first word he spoke of was to settle a thousand pounds upon her for her life—that is to say, sixty pounds a year—but in such a manner as not to be in the power of any person to reach but herself. This was a great thing, and indeed showed the generous principles of my husband, and for that reason I mention it; but I thought that a little too much too, and particularly because I had another thing in view for her about the plate; so I told him I thought, if he gave her a purse with a hundred guineas as a present first, and then made her a compliment of L40 per annum for her life, secured any such way as she should desire, it would be very handsome.
He agreed to that; and the same day, in the evening, when we were just going to bed, he took my Quaker by the hand, and, with a kiss, told her that we had been very kindly treated by her from the beginning of this affair, and his wife before, as she (meaning me) had informed him; and that he thought himself bound to let her see that she had obliged friends who knew how to be grateful; that for his part of the obligation he desired she would accept of that, for an acknowledgment in part only (putting the gold into her hand), and that his wife would talk with her about what farther he had to say to her; and upon that, not giving her time hardly to say "Thank ye," away he went upstairs into our bedchamber, leaving her confused and not knowing what to say.
When he was gone she began to make very handsome and obliging representations of her goodwill to us both, but that it was without expectation of reward; that I had given her several valuable presents before—and so, indeed, I had; for, besides the piece of linen which I had given her at first, I had given her a suit of damask table-linen, of the linen I bought for my balls, viz., three table-cloths and three dozen of napkins; and at another time I gave her a little necklace of gold beads, and the like; but that is by the way. But she mentioned them, I say, and how she was obliged by me on many other occasions; that she was not in condition to show her gratitude any other way, not being able to make a suitable return; and that now we took from her all opportunity, to balance my former friendship, and left her more in debt than she was before. She spoke this in a very good kind of manner, in her own way, but which was very agreeable indeed, and had as much apparent sincerity, and I verily believe as real as was possible to be expressed; but I put a stop to it, and bade her say no more, but accept of what my spouse had given her, which was but in part, as she had heard him say. "And put it up," says I, "and come and sit down here, and give me leave to say something else to you on the same head, which my spouse and I have settled between ourselves in your behalf." "What dost thee mean?" says she, and blushed, and looked surprised, but did not stir. She was going to speak again, but I interrupted her, and told her she should make no more apologies of any kind whatever, for I had better things than all this to talk to her of; so I went on, and told her, that as she had been so friendly and kind to us on every occasion, and that her house was the lucky place where we came together, and that she knew I was from her own mouth acquainted in part with her circumstances, we were resolved she should be the better for us as long as she lived. Then I told what we had resolved to do for her, and that she had nothing more to do but to consult with me how it should be effectually secured for her, distinct from any of the effects which were her husband's; and that if her husband did so supply her that she could live comfortably, and not want it for bread or other necessaries, she should not make use of it, but lay up the income of it, and add it every year to the principal, so to increase the annual payment, which in time, and perhaps before she might come to want it, might double itself; that we were very willing whatever she should so lay up should be to herself, and whoever she thought fit after her; but that the forty pounds a year must return to our family after her life, which we both wished might be long and happy.
Let no reader wonder at my extraordinary concern for this poor woman, or at my giving my bounty to her a place in this account. It is not, I assure you, to make a pageantry of my charity, or to value myself upon the greatness of my soul, that should give in so profuse a manner as this, which was above my figure, if my wealth had been twice as much as it was; but there was another spring from whence all flowed, and 'tis on that account I speak of it. Was it possible I could think of a poor desolate woman with four children, and her husband gone from her, and perhaps good for little if he had stayed—I say, was I, that had tasted so deep of the sorrows of such a kind of widowhood, able to look on her, and think of her circumstances, and not be touched in an uncommon manner? No, no; I never looked on her and her family, though she was not left so helpless and friendless as I had been, without remembering my own condition, when Amy was sent out to pawn or sell my pair of stays to buy a breast of mutton and a bunch of turnips; nor could I look on her poor children, though not poor and perishing, like mine, without tears; reflecting on the dreadful condition that mine were reduced to, when poor Amy sent them all into their aunt's in Spitalfields, and run away from them. These were the original springs, or fountain-head, from whence my affectionate thoughts were moved to assist this poor woman.
When a poor debtor, having lain long in the Compter, or Ludgate, or the King's Bench for debt, afterwards gets out, rises again in the world, and grows rich, such a one is a certain benefactor to the prisoners there, and perhaps to every prison he passes by as long as he lives, for he remembers the dark days of his own sorrow; and even those who never had the experience of such sorrows to stir up their minds to acts of charity would have the same charitable, good disposition did they as sensibly remember what it is that distinguishes them from others by a more favourable and merciful Providence.
This, I say, was, however, the spring of my concern for this honest, friendly, and grateful Quaker; and as I had so plentiful a fortune in the world, I resolved she should taste the fruit of her kind usage to me in a manner that she could not expect.
All the while I talked to her I saw the disorder of her mind; the sudden joy was too much for her, and she coloured, trembled, changed, and at last grew pale, and was indeed near fainting, when she hastily rung a little bell for her maid, who coming in immediately, she beckoned to her—for speak she could not—to fill her a glass of wine; but she had no breath to take it in, and was almost choked with that which she took in her mouth. I saw she was ill, and assisted her what I could, and with spirits and things to smell to just kept her from fainting, when she beckoned to her maid to withdraw, and immediately burst out in crying, and that relieved her. When she recovered herself a little she flew to me, and throwing her arms about my neck, "Oh!" says she, "thou hast almost killed me;" and there she hung, laying her head in my neck for half a quarter of an hour, not able to speak, but sobbing like a child that had been whipped.
I was very sorry that I did not stop a little in the middle of my discourse and make her drink a glass of wine before it had put her spirits into such a violent motion; but it was too late, and it was ten to one odds but that it had killed her.
But she came to herself at last, and began to say some very good things in return for my kindness. I would not let her go on, but told her I had more to say to her still than all this, but that I would let it alone till another time. My meaning was about the box of plate, good part of which I gave her, and some I gave to Amy; for I had so much plate, and some so large, that I thought if I let my husband see it he might be apt to wonder what occasion I could ever have for so much, and for plate of such a kind too; as particularly a great cistern for bottles, which cost a hundred and twenty pounds, and some large candlesticks too big for any ordinary use. These I caused Amy to sell; in short, Amy sold above three hundred pounds' worth of plate; what I gave the Quaker was worth above sixty pounds, and I gave Amy above thirty pounds' worth, and yet I had a great deal left for my husband.
Nor did our kindness to the Quaker end with the forty pounds a year, for we were always, while we stayed with her, which was above ten months, giving her one good thing or another; and, in a word, instead of lodging with her, she boarded with us, for I kept the house, and she and all her family ate and drank with us, and yet we paid her the rent of the house too; in short, I remembered my widowhood, and I made this widow's heart glad many a day the more upon that account.
And now my spouse and I began to think of going over to Holland, where I had proposed to him to live, and in order to settle all the preliminaries of our future manner of living, I began to draw in my effects, so as to have them all at command upon whatever occasion we thought fit; after which, one morning I called my spouse up to me: "Hark ye, sir," said I to him, "I have two very weighty questions to ask of you. I don't know what answer you will give to the first, but I doubt you will be able to give but a sorry answer to the other, and yet, I assure you, it is of the last importance to yourself, and towards the future part of your life, wherever it is to be."
He did not seem to be much alarmed, because he could see I was speaking in a kind of merry way. "Let's hear your questions, my dear," says he, "and I'll give the best answer I can to them." "Why, first," says I:
"I. You have married a wife here, made her a lady, and put her in expectation of being something else still when she comes abroad. Pray have you examined whether you are able to supply all her extravagant demands when she comes abroad, and maintain an expensive Englishwoman in all her pride and vanity? In short, have you inquired whether you are able to keep her?
"II. You have married a wife here, and given her a great many fine things, and you maintain her like a princess, and sometimes call her so. Pray what portion have you had with her? what fortune has she been to you? and where does her estate lie, that you keep her so fine? I am afraid that you keep her in a figure a great deal above her estate, at least above all that you have seen of it yet. Are you sure you han't got a bite, and that you have not made a beggar a lady?"
"Well," says he, "have you any more questions to ask? Let's have them all together; perhaps they may be all answered in a few words, as well as these two." "No," says I, "these are the two grand questions—at least for the present." "Why, then," says he, "I'll answer you in a few words; that I am fully master of my own circumstances, and, without farther inquiry, can let my wife you speak of know, that as I have made her a lady I can maintain her as a lady, wherever she goes with me; and this whether I have one pistole of her portion, or whether she has any portion or no; and as I have not inquired whether she has any portion or not, so she shall not have the less respect showed her from me, or be obliged to live meaner, or be anyways straitened on that account; on the contrary, if she goes abroad to live with me in my own country, I will make her more than a lady, and support the expense of it too, without meddling with anything she has; and this, I suppose," says he, "contains an answer to both your questions together."
He spoke this with a great deal more earnestness in his countenance than I had when I proposed my questions, and said a great many kind things upon it, as the consequence of former discourses, so that I was obliged to be in earnest too. "My dear," says I, "I was but in jest in my questions; but they were proposed to introduce what I am going to say to you in earnest; namely, that if I am to go abroad, 'tis time I should let you know how things stand, and what I have to bring you with your wife; how it is to be disposed and secured, and the like; and therefore come," says I, "sit down, and let me show you your bargain here; I hope you will find that you have not got a wife without a fortune."
He told me then, that since he found I was in earnest, he desired that I would adjourn it till to-morrow, and then we would do as the poor people do after they marry, feel in their pockets, and see how much money they can bring together in the world. "Well," says I, "with all my heart;" and so we ended our talk for that time.
As this was in the morning, my spouse went out after dinner to his goldsmith's, as he said, and about three hours after returns with a porter and two large boxes with him; and his servant brought another box, which I observed was almost as heavy as the two that the porter brought, and made the poor fellow sweat heartily; he dismissed the porter, and in a little while after went out again with his man, and returning at night, brought another porter with more boxes and bundles, and all was carried up, and put into a chamber, next to our bedchamber; and in the morning he called for a pretty large round table, and began to unpack.
When the boxes were opened, I found they were chiefly full of books, and papers, and parchments, I mean books of accounts, and writings, and such things as were in themselves of no moment to me, because I understood them not; but I perceived he took them all out, and spread them about him upon the table and chairs, and began to be very busy with them; so I withdrew and left him; and he was indeed so busy among them, that he never missed me till I had been gone a good while; but when he had gone through all his papers, and come to open a little box, he called for me again. "Now," says he, and called me his countess, "I am ready to answer your first question; if you will sit down till I have opened this box, we will see how it stands."
So we opened the box; there was in it indeed what I did not expect, for I thought he had sunk his estate rather than raised it; but he produced me in goldsmiths' bills, and stock in the English East India Company, about sixteen thousand pounds sterling; then he gave into my hands nine assignments upon the Bank of Lyons in France, and two upon the rents of the town-house in Paris, amounting in the whole to 5800 crowns per annum, or annual rent, as it is called there; and lastly, the sum of 30,000 rixdollars in the Bank of Amsterdam; besides some jewels and gold in the box to the value of about L1500 or L1600, among which was a very good necklace of pearl of about L200 value; and that he pulled out and tied about my neck, telling me that should not be reckoned into the account.
I was equally pleased and surprised, and it was with an inexpressible joy that I saw him so rich.
"You might well tell me," said I, "that you were able to make me countess, and maintain me as such." In short, he was immensely rich; for besides all this, he showed me, which was the reason of his being so busy among the books, I say, he showed me several adventures he had abroad in the business of his merchandise; as particularly an eighth share in an East India ship then abroad; an account-courant with a merchant at Cadiz in Spain; about L3000 lent upon bottomry, upon ships gone to the Indies; and a large cargo of goods in a merchant's hands, for sale at Lisbon in Portugal; so that in his books there was about L12,000 more; all which put together, made about L27,000 sterling, and L1320 a year.
I stood amazed at this account, as well I might, and said nothing to him for a good while, and the rather because I saw him still busy looking over his books. After a while, as I was going to express my wonder, "Hold, my dear," says he, "this is not all neither;" then he pulled me out some old seals, and small parchment rolls, which I did not understand; but he told me they were a right of reversion which he had to a paternal estate in his family, and a mortgage of 14,000 rixdollars, which he had upon it, in the hands of the present possessor; so that was about L3000 more.
"But now hold again," says he, "for I must pay my debts out of all this, and they are very great, I assure you;" and the first he said was a black article of 8000 pistoles, which he had a lawsuit about at Paris, but had it awarded against him, which was the loss he had told me of, and which made him leave Paris in disgust; that in other accounts he owed about L5300 sterling; but after all this, upon the whole, he had still L17,000 clear stock in money, and L1320 a year in rent.
After some pause, it came to my turn to speak. "Well," says I, "'tis very hard a gentleman with such a fortune as this should come over to England, and marry a wife with nothing; it shall never," says I, "be said, but what I have, I'll bring into the public stock;" so I began to produce.
First, I pulled out the mortgage which good Sir Robert had procured for me, the annual rent L700 per annum; the principal money L14,000.
Secondly, I pulled out another mortgage upon land, procured by the same faithful friend, which at three times had advanced L12,000.
Thirdly, I pulled him out a parcel of little securities, procured by several hands, by fee-farm rents, and such petty mortgages as those times afforded, amounting to L10,800 principal money, and paying six hundred and thirty-six pounds a-year. So that in the whole there was two thousand and fifty-six pounds a year ready money constantly coming in.
When I had shown him all these, I laid them upon the table, and bade him take them, that he might be able to give me an answer to the second question. What fortune he had with his wife? And laughed a little at it.
He looked at them awhile, and then handed them all back again to me: "I will not touch them," says he, "nor one of them, till they are all settled in trustees' hands for your own use, and the management wholly your own."
I cannot omit what happened to me while all this was acting; though it was cheerful work in the main, yet I trembled every joint of me, worse for aught I know than ever Belshazzar did at the handwriting on the wall, and the occasion was every way as just. "Unhappy wretch," said I to myself, "shall my ill-got wealth, the product of prosperous lust, and of a vile and vicious life of whoredom and adultery, be intermingled with the honest well-gotten estate of this innocent gentleman, to be a moth and a caterpillar among it, and bring the judgments of heaven upon him, and upon what he has, for my sake? Shall my wickedness blast his comforts? Shall I be fire in his flax? and be a means to provoke heaven to curse his blessings? God forbid! I'll keep them asunder if it be possible."
This is the true reason why I have been so particular in the account of my vast acquired stock; and how his estate, which was perhaps the product of many years' fortunate industry, and which was equal if not superior to mine at best, was, at my request, kept apart from mine, as is mentioned above.
I have told you how he gave back all my writings into my own hands again. "Well," says I, "seeing you will have it be kept apart, it shall be so, upon one condition, which I have to propose, and no other." "And what is the condition?" says he. "Why," says I, "all the pretence I can have for the making over my own estate to me is, that in case of your mortality, I may have it reserved for me, if I outlive you." "Well," says he, "that is true" "But then," said I, "the annual income is always received by the husband, during his life, as 'tis supposed, for the mutual subsistence of the family; now," says I, "here is L2000 a year, which I believe is as much as we shall spend, and I desire none of it may be saved; and all the income of your own estate, the interest of the L17,000 and the L1320 a year, may be constantly laid by for the increase of your estate; and so," added I, "by joining the interest every year to the capital you will perhaps grow as rich as you would do if you were to trade with it all, if you were obliged to keep house out of it too."
He liked the proposal very well, and said it should be so; and this way I, in some measure, satisfied myself that I should not bring my husband under the blast of a just Providence, for mingling my cursed ill-gotten wealth with his honest estate. This was occasioned by the reflections which, at some certain intervals of time, came into my thoughts of the justice of heaven, which I had reason to expect would some time or other still fall upon me or my effects, for the dreadful life I had lived.
And let nobody conclude from the strange success I met with in all my wicked doings, and the vast estate which I had raised by it, that therefore I either was happy or easy. No, no, there was a dart struck into the liver; there was a secret hell within, even all the while, when our joy was at the highest; but more especially now, after it was all over, and when, according to all appearance, I was one of the happiest women upon earth; all this while, I say, I had such constant terror upon my mind, as gave me every now and then very terrible shocks, and which made me expect something very frightful upon every accident of life.
In a word, it never lightened or thundered, but I expected the next flash would penetrate my vitals, and melt the sword (soul) in this scabbard of flesh; it never blew a storm of wind, but I expected the fall of some stack of chimneys, or some part of the house, would bury me in its ruins; and so of other things.
But I shall perhaps have occasion to speak of all these things again by-and-by; the case before us was in a manner settled; we had full four thousand pounds per annum for our future subsistence, besides a vast sum in jewels and plate; and besides this, I had about eight thousand pounds reserved in money which I kept back from him, to provide for my two daughters, of whom I have much yet to say.
With this estate, settled as you have heard, and with the best husband in the world, I left England again; I had not only, in human prudence, and by the nature of the thing, being now married and settled in so glorious a manner,—I say, I had not only abandoned all the gay and wicked course which I had gone through before, but I began to look back upon it with that horror and that detestation which is the certain companion, if not the forerunner, of repentance.
Sometimes the wonders of my present circumstances would work upon me, and I should have some raptures upon my soul, upon the subject of my coming so smoothly out of the arms of hell, that I was not ingulfed in ruin, as most who lead such lives are, first or last; but this was a flight too high for me; I was not come to that repentance that is raised from a sense of Heaven's goodness; I repented of the crime, but it was of another and lower kind of repentance, and rather moved by my fears of vengeance, than from a sense of being spared from being punished, and landed safe after a storm.
The first thing which happened after our coming to the Hague (where we lodged for a while) was, that my spouse saluted me one morning with the title of countess, as he said he intended to do, by having the inheritance to which the honour was annexed made over to him. It is true, it was a reversion, but it soon fell, and in the meantime, as all the brothers of a count are called counts, so I had the title by courtesy, about three years before I had it in reality.
I was agreeably surprised at this coming so soon, and would have had my spouse have taken the money which it cost him out of my stock, but he laughed at me, and went on.
I was now in the height of my glory and prosperity, and I was called the Countess de ——; for I had obtained that unlooked for, which I secretly aimed at, and was really the main reason of my coming abroad. I took now more servants, lived in a kind of magnificence that I had not been acquainted with, was called "your honour" at every word, and had a coronet behind my coach; though at the same time I knew little or nothing of my new pedigree.
The first thing that my spouse took upon him to manage, was to declare ourselves married eleven years before our arriving in Holland; and consequently to acknowledge our little son, who was yet in England, to be legitimate; order him to be brought over, and added to his family, and acknowledge him to be our own.
This was done by giving notice to his people at Nimeguen, where his children (which were two sons and a daughter) were brought up, that he was come over from England, and that he was arrived at the Hague with his wife, and should reside there some time, and that he would have his two sons brought down to see him; which accordingly was done, and where I entertained them with all the kindness and tenderness that they could expect from their mother-in-law; and who pretended to be so ever since they were two or three years old.
This supposing us to have been so long married was not difficult at all, in a country where we had been seen together about that time, viz., eleven years and a half before, and where we had never been seen afterwards till we now returned together: this being seen together was also openly owned and acknowledged, of course, by our friend the merchant at Rotterdam, and also by the people in the house where we both lodged in the same city, and where our first intimacies began, and who, as it happened, were all alive; and therefore, to make it the more public, we made a tour to Rotterdam again, lodged in the same house, and was visited there by our friend the merchant, and afterwards invited frequently to his house, where he treated us very handsomely.
This conduct of my spouse, and which he managed very cleverly, was indeed a testimony of a wonderful degree of honesty and affection to our little son; for it was done purely for the sake of the child.
I call it an honest affection, because it was from a principle of honesty that he so earnestly concerned himself to prevent the scandal which would otherwise have fallen upon the child, who was itself innocent; and as it was from this principle of justice that he so earnestly solicited me, and conjured me by the natural affections of a mother, to marry him when it was yet young within me and unborn, that the child might not suffer for the sin of its father and mother; so, though at the same time he really loved me very well, yet I had reason to believe that it was from this principle of justice to the child that he came to England again to seek me with design to marry me, and, as he called it, save the innocent lamb from infamy worse than death.
It was with a just reproach to myself that I must repeat it again, that I had not the same concern for it, though it was the child of my own body; nor had I ever the hearty affectionate love to the child that he had. What the reason of it was I cannot tell; and, indeed, I had shown a general neglect of the child through all the gay years of my London revels, except that I sent Amy to look upon it now and then, and to pay for its nursing; as for me, I scarce saw it four times in the first four years of its life, and often wished it would go quietly out of the world; whereas a son which I had by the jeweller, I took a different care of, and showed a different concern for, though I did not let him know me; for I provided very well for him, had him put out very well to school, and when he came to years fit for it, let him go over with a person of honesty and good business, to the Indies; and after he had lived there some time, and began to act for himself, sent him over the value of L2000, at several times, with which he traded and grew rich; and, as 'tis to be hoped, may at last come over again with forty or fifty thousand pounds in his pocket, as many do who have not such encouragement at their beginning.
I also sent him over a wife, a beautiful young lady, well-bred, an exceeding good-natured pleasant creature; but the nice young fellow did not like her, and had the impudence to write to me, that is, to the person I employed to correspond with him, to send him another, and promised that he would marry her I had sent him, to a friend of his, who liked her better than he did; but I took it so ill, that I would not send him another, and withal, stopped another article of L1000 which I had appointed to send him. He considered of it afterwards, and offered to take her; but then truly she took so ill the first affront he put upon her, that she would not have him, and I sent him word I thought she was very much in the right. However, after courting her two years, and some friends interposing, she took him, and made him an excellent wife, as I knew she would, but I never sent him the thousand pounds cargo, so that he lost that money for misusing me, and took the lady at last without it.
My new spouse and I lived a very regular, contemplative life; and, in itself, certainly a life filled with all human felicity. But if I looked upon my present situation with satisfaction, as I certainly did, so, in proportion, I on all occasions looked back on former things with detestation, and with the utmost affliction; and now, indeed, and not till now, those reflections began to prey upon my comforts, and lessen the sweets of my other enjoyments. They might be said to have gnawed a hole in my heart before; but now they made a hole quite through it: now they ate into all my pleasant things, made bitter every sweet, and mixed my sighs with every smile.
Not all the affluence of a plentiful fortune; not a hundred thousand pounds estate (for, between us, we had little less); not honour and titles, attendants and equipages; in a word, not all the things we call pleasure, could give me any relish, or sweeten the taste of things to me; at least, not so much but I grew sad, heavy, pensive, and melancholy; slept little, and ate little; dreamed continually of the most frightful and terrible things imaginable: nothing but apparitions of devils and monsters, falling into gulfs, and off from steep and high precipices, and the like; so that in the morning, when I should rise, and be refreshed with the blessing of rest, I was hag-ridden with frights and terrible things formed merely in the imagination, and was either tired and wanted sleep, or overrun with vapours, and not fit for conversing with my family, or any one else.
My husband, the tenderest creature in the world, and particularly so to me, was in great concern for me, and did everything that lay in his power to comfort and restore me; strove to reason me out of it; then tried all the ways possible to divert me: but it was all to no purpose, or to but very little.
My only relief was sometimes to unbosom myself to poor Amy, when she and I was alone; and she did all she could to comfort me. But all was to little effect there; for, though Amy was the better penitent before, when we had been in the storm, Amy was just where she used to be now, a wild, gay, loose wretch, and not much the graver for her age; for Amy was between forty and fifty by this time too.
But to go on with my own story. As I had no comforter, so I had no counsellor; it was well, as I often thought, that I was not a Roman Catholic; for what a piece of work should I have made, to have gone to a priest with such a history as I had to tell him; and what penance would any father confessor have obliged me to perform, especially if he had been honest, and true to his office!
However, as I had none of the recourse, so I had none of the absolution, by which the criminal confessing goes away comforted; but I went about with a heart loaded with crime, and altogether in the dark as to what I was to do; and in this condition I languished near two years. I may well call it languishing, for if Providence had not relieved me, I should have died in little time. But of that hereafter.
I must now go back to another scene, and join it to this end of my story, which will complete all my concern with England, at least all that I shall bring into this account.
I have hinted at large what I had done for my two sons, one at Messina, and the other in the Indies; but I have not gone through the story of my two daughters. I was so in danger of being known by one of them, that I durst not see her, so as to let her know who I was; and for the other, I could not well know how to see her, and own her, and let her see me, because she must then know that I would not let her sister know me, which would look strange; so that, upon the whole, I resolved to see neither of them at all. But Amy managed all that for me; and when she had made gentlewomen of them both, by giving them a good, though late education, she had like to have blown up the whole case, and herself and me too, by an unhappy discovery of herself to the last of them, that is, to her who was our cook-maid, and who, as I said before, Amy had been obliged to turn away, for fear of the very discovery which now happened. I have observed already in what manner Amy managed her by a third person; and how the girl, when she was set up for a lady, as above, came and visited Amy at my lodgings; after which, Amy going, as was her custom, to see the girl's brother (my son) at the honest man's house in Spitalfields, both the girls were there, merely by accident, at the same time; and the other girl unawares discovered the secret, namely, that this was the lady that had done all this for them.
Amy was greatly surprised at it; but as she saw there was no remedy, she made a jest of it, and so after that conversed openly, being still satisfied that neither of them could make much of it, as long as they knew nothing of me. So she took them together one time, and told them the history, as she called it, of their mother, beginning at the miserable carrying them to their aunt's; she owned she was not their mother herself, but described her to them. However, when she said she was not their mother, one of them expressed herself very much surprised, for the girl had taken up a strong fancy that Amy was really her mother, and that she had, for some particular reasons, concealed it from her; and therefore, when she told her frankly that she was not her mother, the girl fell a-crying, and Amy had much ado to keep life in her. This was the girl who was at first my cook-maid in the Pall Mall. When Amy had brought her to again a little, and she had recovered her first disorder, Amy asked what ailed her? The poor girl hung about her, and kissed her, and was in such a passion still, though she was a great wench of nineteen or twenty years old, that she could not be brought to speak a great while. At last, having recovered her speech, she said still, "But oh! Do not say you a'n't my mother! I'm sure you are my mother;" and then the girl cried again like to kill herself. Amy could not tell what to do with her a good while; she was loth to say again she was not her mother, because she would not throw her into a fit of crying again; but she went round about a little with her. "Why, child," says she, "why would you have me be your mother? If it be because I am so kind to you, be easy, my dear," says Amy; "I'll be as kind to you still, as if I was your mother."
"Ay, but," says the girl, "I am sure you are my mother too; and what have I done that you won't own me, and that you will not be called my mother? Though I am poor, you have made me a gentlewoman," says she, "and I won't do anything to disgrace you; besides," added she, "I can keep a secret, too, especially for my own mother, sure;" then she calls Amy her dear mother, and hung about her neck again, crying still vehemently.
This last part of the girl's words alarmed Amy, and, as she told me, frighted her terribly; nay, she was so confounded with it, that she was not able to govern herself, or to conceal her disorder from the girl herself, as you shall hear. Amy was at a full stop, and confused to the last degree; and the girl, a sharp jade, turned it upon her. "My dear mother," says she, "do not be uneasy about it; I know it all; but do not be uneasy, I won't let my sister know a word of it, or my brother either, without you giving me leave; but don't disown me now you have found me; don't hide yourself from me any longer; I can't bear that," says she, "it will break my heart."
"I think the girl's mad," says Amy; "why, child, I tell thee, if I was thy mother I would not disown thee; don't you see I am as kind to you as if I was your mother?" Amy might as well have sung a song to a kettledrum, as talk to her. "Yes," says the girl, "you are very good to me indeed;" and that was enough to make anybody believe she was her mother too; but, however, that was not the case, she had other reasons to believe, and to know, that she was her mother; and it was a sad thing she would not let her call her mother, who was her own child.
Amy was so heart-full with the disturbance of it, that she did not enter farther with her into the inquiry, as she would otherwise have done; I mean, as to what made the girl so positive; but comes away, and tells me the whole story.
I was thunderstruck with the story at first, and much more afterwards, as you shall hear; but, I say, I was thunderstruck at first, and amazed, and said to Amy, "There must be something or other in it more than we know of." But, having examined farther into it, I found the girl had no notion of anybody but of Amy; and glad I was that I was not concerned in the pretence, and that the girl had no notion of me in it. But even this easiness did not continue long; for the next time Amy went to see her, she was the same thing, and rather more violent with Amy than she was before. Amy endeavoured to pacify her by all the ways imaginable: first, she told her she took it ill that she would not believe her; and told her, if she would not give over such a foolish whimsey, she would leave her to the wide world as she found her.
This put the girl into fits, and she cried ready to kill herself, and hung about Amy again like a child. "Why," says Amy, "why can you not be easy with me, then, and compose yourself, and let me go on to do you good, and show you kindness, as I would do, and as I intend to do? Can you think that if I was your mother, I would not tell you so? What whimsey is this that possesses your mind?" says Amy. Well, the girl told her in a few words (but those few such as frighted Amy out of her wits, and me too) that she knew well enough how it was. "I know," says she, "when you left ——," naming the village, "where I lived when my father went away from us all, that you went over to France; I know that too, and who you went with," says the girl; "did not my Lady Roxana come back again with you? I know it all well enough; though I was but a child, I have heard it all." And thus she run on with such discourse as put Amy out of all temper again; and she raved at her like a bedlam, and told her she would never come near her any more; she might go a-begging again if she would; she'd have nothing to do with her. The girl, a passionate wench, told her she knew the worst of it, she could go to service again, and if she would not own her own child, she must do as she pleased; then she fell into a passion of crying again, as if she would kill herself.
In short, this girl's conduct terrified Amy to the last degree, and me too; and was it not that we knew the girl was quite wrong in some things, she was yet so right in some other, that it gave me a great deal of perplexity; but that which put Amy the most to it, was that the girl (my daughter) told her that she (meaning me, her mother) had gone away with the jeweller, and into France too; she did not call him the jeweller, but with the landlord of the house; who, after her mother fell into distress, and that Amy had taken all the children from her, made much of her, and afterwards married her.
In short, it was plain the girl had but a broken account of things, but yet that she had received some accounts that had a reality in the bottom of them, so that, it seems, our first measures, and the amour with the jeweller, were not so concealed as I thought they had been; and, it seems, came in a broken manner to my sister-in-law, who Amy carried the children to, and she made some bustle, it seems, about it. But, as good luck was, it was too late, and I was removed and gone, none knew whither, or else she would have sent all the children home to me again, to be sure.
This we picked out of the girl's discourse, that is to say, Amy did, at several times; but it all consisted of broken fragments of stories, such as the girl herself had heard so long ago, that she herself could make very little of it; only that in the main, that her mother had played the whore; had gone away with the gentleman that was landlord of the house; that he married her; that she went into France. And, as she had learned in my family, where she was a servant, that Mrs. Amy and her Lady Roxana had been in France together, so she put all these things together, and joining them with the great kindness that Amy now showed her, possessed the creature that Amy was really her mother, nor was it possible for Amy to conquer it for a long time.
But this, after I had searched into it, as far as by Amy's relation I could get an account of it, did not disquiet me half so much as that the young slut had got the name of Roxana by the end, and that she knew who her Lady Roxana was, and the like; though this, neither, did not hang together, for then she would not have fixed upon Amy for her mother. But some time after, when Amy had almost persuaded her out of it, and that the girl began to be so confounded in her discourses of it, that she made neither head nor tail, at last the passionate creature flew out in a kind of rage, and said to Amy, that if she was not her mother, Madam Roxana was her mother then, for one of them, she was sure, was her mother; and then all this that Amy had done for her was by Madam Roxana's order. "And I am sure," says she, "it was my Lady Roxana's coach that brought the gentlewoman, whoever it was, to my uncle's in Spitalfields, for the coachman told me so." Amy fell a-laughing at her aloud, as was her usual way; but, as Amy told me, it was but on one side of her mouth, for she was so confounded at her discourse, that she was ready to sink into the ground; and so was I too when she told it me.
However, Amy brazened her out of it all; told her, "Well, since you think you are so high-born as to be my Lady Roxana's daughter, you may go to her and claim your kindred, can't you? I suppose," says Amy, "you know where to find her?" She said she did not question to find her, for she knew where she was gone to live privately; but, though, she might be removed again. "For I know how it is," says she, with a kind of a smile or a grin; "I know how it all is, well enough."
Amy was so provoked, that she told me, in short, she began to think it would be absolutely necessary to murder her. That expression filled me with horror, all my blood ran chill in my veins, and a fit of trembling seized me, that I could not speak a good while; at last. "What, is the devil in you, Amy?" said I. "Nay, nay," says she, "let it be the devil or not the devil, if I thought she knew one tittle of your history, I would despatch her if she were my own daughter a thousand times." "And I," says I in a rage, "as well as I love you, would be the first that should put the halter about your neck, and see you hanged with more satisfaction than ever I saw you in my life; nay," says I, "you would not live to be hanged, I believe I should cut your throat with my own hand; I am almost ready to do it," said I, "as 'tis, for your but naming the thing." With that, I called her cursed devil, and bade her get out of the room.
I think it was the first time that ever I was angry with Amy in all my life; and when all was done, though she was a devilish jade in having such a thought, yet it was all of it the effect of her excess of affection and fidelity to me.
But this thing gave me a terrible shock, for it happened just after I was married, and served to hasten my going over to Holland; for I would not have been seen, so as to be known by the name of Roxana, no, not for ten thousand pounds; it would have been enough to have ruined me to all intents and purposes with my husband, and everybody else too; I might as well have been the "German princess."
Well, I set Amy to work; and give Amy her due, she set all her wits to work to find out which way this girl had her knowledge, but, more particularly, how much knowledge she had—that is to say, what she really knew, and what she did not know, for this was the main thing with me; how she could say she knew who Madam Roxana was, and what notions she had of that affair, was very mysterious to me, for it was certain she could not have a right notion of me, because she would have it be that Amy was her mother.
I scolded heartily at Amy for letting the girl ever know her, that is to say, know her in this affair; for that she knew her could not be hid, because she, as I might say, served Amy, or rather under Amy, in my family, as is said before; but she (Amy) talked with her at first by another person, and not by herself; and that secret came out by an accident, as I have said above.
Amy was concerned at it as well as I, but could not help it; and though it gave us great uneasiness, yet, as there was no remedy, we were bound to make as little noise of it as we could, that it might go no farther. I bade Amy punish the girl for it, and she did so, for she parted with her in a huff, and told her she should see she was not her mother, for that she could leave her just where she found her; and seeing she could not be content to be served by the kindness of a friend, but that she would needs make a mother of her, she would, for the future, be neither mother or friend, and so bid her go to service again, and be a drudge as she was before.
The poor girl cried most lamentably, but would not be beaten out of it still; but that which dumbfoundered Amy more than all the rest was that when she had berated the poor girl a long time, and could not beat her out of it, and had, as I have observed, threatened to leave her, the girl kept to what she said before, and put this turn to it again, that she was sure, if Amy wa'n't, my Lady Roxana was her mother, and that she would go find her out; adding, that she made no doubt but she could do it, for she knew where to inquire the name of her new husband.
Amy came home with this piece of news in her mouth to me. I could easily perceive when she came in that she was mad in her mind, and in a rage at something or other, and was in great pain to get it out; for when she came first in, my husband was in the room. However, Amy going up to undress her, I soon made an excuse to follow her, and coming into the room, "What the d—l is the matter, Amy?" says I; "I am sure you have some bad news." "News," says Amy aloud; "ay, so I have; I think the d—l is in that young wench. She'll ruin us all and herself too; there's no quieting her." So she went on and told me all the particulars; but sure nothing was so astonished as I was when she told me that the girl knew I was married, that she knew my husband's name, and would endeavour to find me out. I thought I should have sunk down at the very words. In the middle of all my amazement, Amy starts up and runs about the room like a distracted body. "I must put an end to it, that I will; I can't bear it—I must murder her, I'll kill the b——;" and swears by her Maker, in the most serious tone in the world, and then repeated it over three or four times, walking to and again in the room. "I will, in short, I will kill her, if there was not another wench in the world."
"Prithee hold thy tongue, Amy," says I; "why, thou art mad." "Ay, so I am," says she, "stark mad; but I'll be the death of her for all that, and then I shall be sober again." "But you sha'n't," says I, "you sha'n't hurt a hair of her head; why, you ought to be hanged for what you have done already, for having resolved on it is doing it; as to the guilt of the fact you are a murderer already, as much as if you had done it already."
"I know that," says Amy, "and it can be no worse; I'll put you out of your pain, and her too; she shall never challenge you for her mother in this world, whatever she may in the next." "Well, well," says I, "be quiet, and do not talk thus, I can't bear it." So she grew a little soberer after a while.
I must acknowledge, the notion of being discovered carried with it so many frightful ideas, and hurried my thoughts so much, that I was scarce myself any more than Amy, so dreadful a thing is a load of guilt upon the mind.
And yet when Amy began the second time to talk thus abominably of killing the poor child, of murdering her, and swore by her Maker that she would, so that I began to see that she was in earnest, I was farther terrified a great deal, and it helped to bring me to myself again in other cases.
We laid our heads together then to see if it was possible to discover by what means she had learned to talk so, and how she (I mean my girl) came to know that her mother had married a husband; but it would not do, the girl would acknowledge nothing, and gave but a very imperfect account of things still, being disgusted to the last degree with Amy's leaving her so abruptly as she did.
Well, Amy went to the house where the boy was; but it was all one, there they had only heard a confused story of the lady somebody, they knew not who, which the same wench had told them, but they gave no heed to it at all. Amy told them how foolishly the girl had acted, and how she had carried on the whimsey so far, in spite of all they could say to her; that she had taken it so ill, she would see her no more, and so she might e'en go to service again if she would, for she (Amy) would have nothing to do with her unless she humbled herself and changed her note, and that quickly too.
The good old gentleman, who had been the benefactor to them all, was greatly concerned at it, and the good woman his wife was grieved beyond all expressing, and begged her ladyship (meaning Amy), not to resent it; they promised, too, they would talk with her about it, and the old gentlewoman added, with some astonishment, "Sure she cannot be such a fool but she will be prevailed with to hold her tongue, when she has it from your own mouth that you are not her mother, and sees that it disobliges your ladyship to have her insist upon it." And so Amy came away with some expectation that it would be stopped here.
But the girl was such a fool for all that, and persisted in it obstinately, notwithstanding all they could say to her; nay, her sister begged and entreated her not to play the fool, for that it would ruin her too, and that the lady (meaning Amy) would abandon them both.
Well, notwithstanding this, she insisted, I say, upon it, and which was worse, the longer it lasted the more she began to drop Amy's ladyship, and would have it that the Lady Roxana was her mother, and that she had made some inquiries about it, and did not doubt but she should find her out.
When it was come to this, and we found there was nothing to be done with the girl, but that she was so obstinately bent upon the search after me, that she ventured to forfeit all she had in view; I say, when I found it was come to this, I began to be more serious in my preparations of my going beyond sea, and particularly, it gave me some reason to fear that there was something in it. But the following accident put me beside all my measures, and struck me into the greatest confusion that ever I was in my life.
I was so near going abroad that my spouse and I had taken measures for our going off; and because I would be sure not to go too public, but so as to take away all possibility of being seen, I had made some exception to my spouse against going in the ordinary public passage boats. My pretence to him was the promiscuous crowds in those vessels, want of convenience, and the like. So he took the hint, and found me out an English merchant-ship, which was bound for Rotterdam, and getting soon acquainted with the master, he hired his whole ship, that is to say, his great cabin, for I do not mean his ship for freight, that so we had all the conveniences possible for our passage; and all things being near ready, he brought home the captain one day to dinner with him, that I might see him, and be acquainted a little with him. So we came after dinner to talk of the ship and the conveniences on board, and the captain pressed me earnestly to come on board and see the ship, intimating that he would treat us as well as he could; and in discourse I happened to say I hoped he had no other passengers. He said no, he had not; but, he said, his wife had courted him a good while to let her go over to Holland with him, for he always used that trade, but he never could think of venturing all he had in one bottom; but if I went with him he thought to take her and her kinswoman along with him this voyage, that they might both wait upon me; and so added, that if we would do him the honour to dine on board the next day, he would bring his wife on board, the better to make us welcome.
Who now could have believed the devil had any snare at the bottom of all this? or that I was in any danger on such an occasion, so remote and out of the way as this was? But the event was the oddest that could be thought of. As it happened, Amy was not at home when we accepted this invitation, and so she was left out of the company; but instead of Amy, we took our honest, good-humoured, never-to-be-omitted friend the Quaker, one of the best creatures that ever lived, sure; and who, besides a thousand good qualities unmixed with one bad one, was particularly excellent for being the best company in the world; though I think I had carried Amy too, if she had not been engaged in this unhappy girl's affair. For on a sudden the girl was lost, and no news was to be heard of her; and Amy had haunted her to every place she could think of, that it was likely to find her in; but all the news she could hear of her was, that she was gone to an old comrade's house of hers, which she called sister, and who was married to a master of a ship, who lived at Redriff; and even this the jade never told me. It seems, when this girl was directed by Amy to get her some breeding, go to the boarding-school, and the like, she was recommended to a boarding-school at Camberwell, and there she contracted an acquaintance with a young lady (so they are all called), her bedfellow, that they called sisters, and promised never to break off their acquaintance.
But judge you what an unaccountable surprise I must be in when I came on board the ship and was brought into the captain's cabin, or what they call it, the great cabin of the ship, to see his lady or wife, and another young person with her, who, when I came to see her near hand, was my old cook-maid in the Pall Mall, and, as appeared by the sequel of the story, was neither more or less than my own daughter. That I knew her was out of doubt; for though she had not had opportunity to see me very often, yet I had often seen her, as I must needs, being in my own family so long.
If ever I had need of courage, and a full presence of mind, it was now; it was the only valuable secret in the world to me, all depended upon this occasion; if the girl knew me, I was undone; and to discover any surprise or disorder had been to make her know me, or guess it, and discover herself.
I was once going to feign a swooning and fainting away, and so falling on the ground, or floor, put them all into a hurry and fright, and by that means to get an opportunity to be continually holding something to my nose to smell to, and so hold my hand or my handkerchief, or both, before my mouth; then pretend I could not bear the smell of the ship, or the closeness of the cabin. But that would have been only to remove into a clearer air upon the quarter-deck, where we should, with it, have had a clearer light too; and if I had pretended the smell of the ship, it would have served only to have carried us all on shore to the captain's house, which was hard by; for the ship lay so close to the shore, that we only walked over a plank to go on board, and over another ship which lay within her; so this not appearing feasible, and the thought not being two minutes old, there was no time, for the two ladies rose up, and we saluted, so that I was bound to come so near my girl as to kiss her, which I would not have done had it been possible to have avoided it, but there was no room to escape.
I cannot but take notice here, that notwithstanding there was a secret horror upon my mind, and I was ready to sink when I came close to her to salute her, yet it was a secret inconceivable pleasure to me when I kissed her, to know that I kissed my own child, my own flesh and blood, born of my body, and who I had never kissed since I took the fatal farewell of them all, with a million of tears, and a heart almost dead with grief, when Amy and the good woman took them all away, and went with them to Spitalfields. No pen can describe, no words can express, I say, the strange impression which this thing made upon my spirits. I felt something shoot through my blood, my heart fluttered, my head flashed, and was dizzy, and all within me, as I thought, turned about, and much ado I had not to abandon myself to an excess of passion at the first sight of her, much more when my lips touched her face. I thought I must have taken her in my arms and kissed her again a thousand times, whether I would or no.
But I roused up my judgment, and shook it off, and with infinite uneasiness in my mind, I sat down. You will not wonder if upon this surprise I was not conversable for some minutes, and that the disorder had almost discovered itself. I had a complication of severe things upon me, I could not conceal my disorder without the utmost difficulty, and yet upon my concealing it depended the whole of my prosperity; so I used all manner of violence with myself to prevent the mischief which was at the door.
Well, I saluted her, but as I went first forward to the captain's lady, who was at the farther end of the cabin, towards the light, I had the occasion offered to stand with my back to the light, when I turned about to her, who stood more on my left hand, so that she had not a fair sight of me, though I was so near her. I trembled, and knew neither what I did or said, I was in the utmost extremity, between so many particular circumstances as lay upon me, for I was to conceal my disorder from everybody at the utmost peril, and at the same time expected everybody would discern it. I was to expect she would discover that she knew me, and yet was, by all means possible, to prevent it. I was to conceal myself, if possible, and yet had not the least room to do anything towards it. In short, there was no retreat, no shifting anything off, no avoiding or preventing her having a full sight of me, nor was there any counterfeiting my voice, for then my husband would have perceived it. In short, there was not the least circumstance that offered me any assistance, or any favourable thing to help me in this exigence.
After I had been upon the rack for near half-an-hour, during which I appeared stiff and reserved, and a little too formal, my spouse and the captain fell into discourses about the ship and the sea, and business remote from us women; and by-and-by the captain carried him out upon the quarter-deck, and left us all by ourselves in the great cabin. Then we began to be a little freer one with another, and I began to be a little revived by a sudden fancy of my own—namely, I thought I perceived that the girl did not know me, and the chief reason of my having such a notion was because I did not perceive the least disorder in her countenance, or the least change in her carriage, no confusion, no hesitation in her discourse; nor, which I had my eye particularly upon, did I observe that she fixed her eyes much upon me, that is to say, not singling me out to look steadily at me, as I thought would have been the case, but that she rather singled out my friend the Quaker, and chatted with her on several things; but I observed, too, that it was all about indifferent matters.
This greatly encouraged me, and I began to be a little cheerful; but I was knocked down again as with a thunderclap, when turning to the captain's wife, and discoursing of me, she said to her, "Sister, I cannot but think my lady to be very much like such a person." Then she named the person, and the captain's wife said she thought so too. The girl replied again, she was sure she had seen me before, but she could not recollect where; I answered (though her speech was not directed to me) that I fancied she had not seen me before in England, but asked if she had lived in Holland. She said, No, no, she had never been out of England, and I added, that she could not then have known me in England, unless it was very lately, for I had lived at Rotterdam a great while. This carried me out of that part of the broil pretty well, and to make it go off better, when a little Dutch boy came into the cabin, who belonged to the captain, and who I easily perceived to be Dutch, I jested and talked Dutch to him, and was merry about the boy, that is to say, as merry as the consternation I was still in would let me be.
However, I began to be thoroughly convinced by this time that the girl did not know me, which was an infinite satisfaction to me, or, at least, that though she had some notion of me, yet that she did not think anything about my being who I was, and which, perhaps, she would have been as glad to have known as I would have been surprised if she had; indeed, it was evident that, had she suspected anything of the truth, she would not have been able to have concealed it.
Thus this meeting went off, and, you may be sure, I was resolved, if once I got off of it, she should never see me again to revive her fancy; but I was mistaken there too, as you shall hear. After we had been on board, the captain's lady carried us home to her house, which was but just on shore, and treated us there again very handsomely, and made us promise that we would come again and see her before we went to concert our affairs for the voyage and the like, for she assured us that both she and her sister went the voyage at that time for our company, and I thought to myself, "Then you'll never go the voyage at all;" for I saw from that moment that it would be no way convenient for my ladyship to go with them, for that frequent conversation might bring me to her mind, and she would certainly claim her kindred to me in a few days, as indeed would have been the case.
It is hardly possible for me to conceive what would have been our part in this affair had my woman Amy gone with me on board this ship; it had certainly blown up the whole affair, and I must for ever after have been this girl's vassal, that is to say, have let her into the secret, and trusted to her keeping it too, or have been exposed and undone. The very thought filled me with horror.
But I was not so unhappy neither, as it fell out, for Amy was not with us, and that was my deliverance indeed; yet we had another chance to get over still. As I resolved to put off the voyage, so I resolved to put off the visit, you may be sure, going upon this principle, namely, that I was fixed in it that the girl had seen her last of me, and should never see me more.
However, to bring myself well off, and, withal, to see, if I could, a little farther into the matter, I sent my friend the Quaker to the captain's lady to make the visit promised, and to make my excuse that I could not possibly wait on her, for that I was very much out of order; and in the end of the discourse I bade her insinuate to them that she was afraid I should not be able to get ready to go the voyage as soon as the captain would be obliged to go, and that perhaps we might put it off to his next voyage. I did not let the Quaker into any other reason for it than that I was indisposed; and not knowing what other face to put upon that part, I made her believe that I thought I was a-breeding.
It was easy to put that into her head, and she of course hinted to the captain's lady that she found me so very ill that she was afraid I would miscarry, and then, to be sure, I could not think of going.
She went, and she managed that part very dexterously, as I knew she would, though she knew not a word of the grand reason of my indisposition; but I was all sunk and dead-hearted again when she told me she could not understand the meaning of one thing in her visit, namely, that the young woman, as she called her, that was with the captain's lady, and who she called sister, was most impertinently inquisitive into things; as who I was? how long I had been in England? where I had lived? and the like; and that, above all the rest, she inquired if I did not live once at the other end of the town.
"I thought her inquiries so out of the way," says the honest Quaker, "that I gave her not the least satisfaction; but as I saw by thy answers on board the ship, when she talked of thee, that thou didst not incline to let her be acquainted with thee, so I was resolved that she should not be much the wiser for me; and when she asked me if thou ever lived'st here or there, I always said, No, but that thou wast a Dutch lady, and was going home again to thy family, and lived abroad."
I thanked her very heartily for that part, and indeed she served me in it more than I let her know she did: in a word, she thwarted the girl so cleverly, that if she had known the whole affair she could not have done it better.
But, I must acknowledge, all this put me upon the rack again, and I was quite discouraged, not at all doubting but that the jade had a right scent of things, and that she knew and remembered my face, but had artfully concealed her knowledge of me till she might perhaps do it more to my disadvantage. I told all this to Amy, for she was all the relief I had. The poor soul (Amy) was ready to hang herself, that, as she said, she had been the occasion of it all; and that if I was ruined (which was the word I always used to her), she had ruined me; and she tormented herself about it so much, that I was sometimes fain to comfort her and myself too.
What Amy vexed herself at was, chiefly, that she should be surprised so by the girl, as she called her; I mean surprised into a discovery of herself to the girl; which indeed was a false step of Amy's, and so I had often told her. But it was to no purpose to talk of that now, the business was, how to get clear of the girl's suspicions, and of the girl too, for it looked more threatening every day than other; and if I was uneasy at what Amy had told me of her rambling and rattling to her (Amy), I had a thousand times as much reason to be uneasy now, when she had chopped upon me so unhappily as this; and not only had seen my face, but knew too where I lived, what name I went by, and the like.
And I am not come to the worst of it yet neither, for a few days after my friend the Quaker had made her visit, and excused me on the account of indisposition, as if they had done it in over and above kindness, because they had been told I was not well, they come both directly to my lodgings to visit me: the captain's wife and my daughter (who she called sister), and the captain, to show them the place; the captain only brought them to the door, put them in, and went away upon some business.
Had not the kind Quaker, in a lucky moment, come running in before them, they had not only clapped in upon me, in the parlour, as it had been a surprise, but which would have been a thousand times worse, had seen Amy with me; I think if that had happened, I had had no remedy but to take the girl by herself, and have made myself known to her, which would have been all distraction.
But the Quaker, a lucky creature to me, happened to see them come to the door, before they rung the bell, and instead of going to let them in, came running in with some confusion in her countenance, and told me who was a-coming; at which Amy run first and I after her, and bid the Quaker come up as soon as she had let them in.
I was going to bid her deny me, but it came into my thoughts, that having been represented so much out of order, it would have looked very odd; besides, I knew the honest Quaker, though she would do anything else for me, would not lie for me, and it would have been hard to have desired it of her.
After she had let them in, and brought them into the parlour, she came up to Amy and I, who were hardly out of the fright, and yet were congratulating one another that Amy was not surprised again.
They paid their visit in form, and I received them as formally, but took occasion two or three times to hint that I was so ill that I was afraid I should not be able to go to Holland, at least not so soon as the captain must go off; and made my compliment how sorry I was to be disappointed of the advantage of their company and assistance in the voyage; and sometimes I talked as if I thought I might stay till the captain returned, and would be ready to go again; then the Quaker put in, that then I might be too far gone, meaning with child, that I should not venture at all; and then (as if she should be pleased with it) added, she hoped I would stay and lie in at her house; so as this carried its own face with it, 'twas well enough.
But it was now high time to talk of this to my husband, which, however, was not the greatest difficulty before me; for after this and other chat had taken up some time, the young fool began her tattle again; and two or three times she brought it in, that I was so like a lady that she had the honour to know at the other end of the town, that she could not put that lady out of her mind when I was by, and once or twice I fancied the girl was ready to cry; by and by she was at it again, and at last I plainly saw tears in her eyes; upon which I asked her if the lady was dead, because she seemed to be in some concern for her. She made me much easier by her answer than ever she did before; she said she did not really know, but she believed she was dead.
This, I say, a little relieved my thoughts, but I was soon down again; for, after some time, the jade began to grow talkative; and as it was plain that she had told all that her head could retain of Roxana, and the days of joy which I had spent at that part of the town, another accident had like to have blown us all up again.
I was in a kind of dishabille when they came, having on a loose robe, like a morning-gown, but much after the Italian way; and I had not altered it when I went up, only dressed my head a little; and as I had been represented as having been lately very ill, so the dress was becoming enough for a chamber.
This morning vest, or robe, call it as you please, was more shaped to the body than we wear them since, showing the body in its true shape, and perhaps a little too plainly if it had been to be worn where any men were to come; but among ourselves it was well enough, especially for hot weather; the colour was green, figured, and the stuff a French damask, very rich.
This gown or vest put the girl's tongue a running again, and her sister, as she called her, prompted it; for as they both admired my vest, and were taken up much about the beauty of the dress, the charming damask, the noble trimming, and the like, my girl puts in a word to the sister (captain's wife), "This is just such a thing as I told you," says she, "the lady danced in." "What," says the captain's wife, "the Lady Roxana that you told me of? Oh! that's a charming story," says she, "tell it my lady." I could not avoid saying so too, though from my soul I wished her in heaven for but naming it; nay, I won't say but if she had been carried t'other way it had been much as one to me, if I could but have been rid of her, and her story too, for when she came to describe the Turkish dress, it was impossible but the Quaker, who was a sharp, penetrating creature, should receive the impression in a more dangerous manner than the girl, only that indeed she was not so dangerous a person; for if she had known it all, I could more freely have trusted her than I could the girl, by a great deal, nay, I should have been perfectly easy in her.
However, as I have said, her talk made me dreadfully uneasy, and the more when the captain's wife mentioned but the name of Roxana. What my face might do towards betraying me I knew not, because I could not see myself, but my heart beat as if it would have jumped out at my mouth, and my passion was so great, that, for want of vent, I thought I should have burst. In a word, I was in a kind of a silent rage, for the force I was under of restraining my passion was such as I never felt the like of. I had no vent, nobody to open myself to, or to make a complaint to, for my relief; I durst not leave the room by any means, for then she would have told all the story in my absence, and I should have been perpetually uneasy to know what she had said, or had not said; so that, in a word, I was obliged to sit and hear her tell all the story of Roxana, that is to say, of myself, and not know at the same time whether she was in earnest or in jest, whether she knew me or no; or, in short, whether I was to be exposed, or not exposed.
She began only in general with telling where she lived, what a place she had of it, how gallant a company her lady had always had in the house; how they used to sit up all night in the house gaming and dancing; what a fine lady her mistress was, and what a vast deal of money the upper servants got; as for her, she said, her whole business was in the next house, so that she got but little, except one night that there was twenty guineas given to be divided among the servants, when, she said, she got two guineas and a half for her share.
She went on, and told them how many servants there was, and how they were ordered; but, she said, there was one Mrs. Amy who was over them all; and that she, being the lady's favourite, got a great deal. She did not know, she said, whether Amy was her Christian name or her surname, but she supposed it was her surname; that they were told she got threescore pieces of gold at one time, being the same night that the rest of the servants had the twenty guineas divided among them.
I put in at that word, and said it was a vast deal to give away. "Why," says I, "it was a portion for a servant." "O madam!" says she, "it was nothing to what she got afterwards; we that were servants hated her heartily for it; that is to say, we wished it had been our lot in her stead." Then I said again, "Why, it was enough to get her a good husband, and settle her for the world, if she had sense to manage it." "So it might, to be sure, madam," says she, "for we were told she laid up above L500; but, I suppose, Mrs. Amy was too sensible that her character would require a good portion to put her off."
"Oh," said I, "if that was the case it was another thing."
"Nay," says she, "I don't know, but they talked very much of a young lord that was very great with her."
"And pray what came of her at last?" said I, for I was willing to hear a little (seeing she would talk of it) what she had to say, as well of Amy as of myself.
"I don't know, madam," said she, "I never heard of her for several years, till t'other day I happened to see her."
"Did you indeed?" says I (and made mighty strange of it); "what! and in rags, it may be," said I; "that's often the end of such creatures."
"Just the contrary, madam," says she. "She came to visit an acquaintance of mine, little thinking, I suppose, to see me, and, I assure you, she came in her coach."
"In her coach!" said I; "upon my word, she had made her market then; I suppose she made hay while the sun shone. Was she married, pray?"
"I believe she had been married, madam," says she, "but it seems she had been at the East Indies; and if she was married, it was there, to be sure. I think she said she had good luck in the Indies."
"That is, I suppose," said I, "had buried her husband there."
"I understood it so, madam," says she, "and that she had got his estate."
"Was that her good luck?" said I; "it might be good to her, as to the money indeed, but it was but the part of a jade to call it good luck."
Thus far our discourse of Mrs. Amy went, and no farther, for she knew no more of her; but then the Quaker unhappily, though undesignedly, put in a question, which the honest good-humoured creature would have been far from doing if she had known that I had carried on the discourse of Amy on purpose to drop Roxana out of the conversation.
But I was not to be made easy too soon. The Quaker put in, "But I think thou saidst something was behind of thy mistress; what didst thou call her? Roxana, was it not? Pray, what became of her?"
"Ay, ay, Roxana," says the captain's wife; "pray, sister, let's hear the story of Roxana; it will divert my lady, I'm sure."
"That's a damned lie," said I to myself; "if you knew how little 't would divert me, you would have too much advantage over me." Well, I saw no remedy, but the story must come on, so I prepared to hear the worst of it.
"Roxana!" says she, "I know not what to say of her; she was so much above us, and so seldom seen, that we could know little of her but by report; but we did sometimes see her too; she was a charming woman indeed, and the footmen used to say that she was to be sent for to court."
"To court!" said I; "why, she was at court, wasn't she? the Pall Mall is not far from Whitehall."
"Yes, madam," says she, "but I mean another way."
"I understand thee," says the Quaker; "thou meanest, I suppose, to be mistress to the king."
"Yes, madam," said she.
I cannot help confessing what a reserve of pride still was left in me; and though I dreaded the sequel of the story, yet when she talked how handsome and how fine a lady this Roxana was, I could not help being pleased and tickled with it, and put in questions two or three times of how handsome she was; and was she really so fine a woman as they talked of; and the like, on purpose to hear her repeat what the people's opinion of me was, and how I had behaved.
"Indeed," says she, at last, "she was a most beautiful creature as ever I saw in my life." "But then," said I, "you never had the opportunity to see her but when she was set out to the best advantage."
"Yes, yes, madam," says she, "I have seen her several times in her deshabille. And I can assure you, she was a very fine woman; and that which was more still, everybody said she did not paint."
This was still agreeable to me one way; but there was a devilish sting in the tail of it all, and this last article was one; wherein she said she had seen me several times in my deshabille. This put me in mind that then she must certainly know me, and it would come out at last; which was death to me but to think of.