"Well, but, sister," says the captain's wife, "tell my lady about the ball; that's the best of all the story; and of Roxana's dancing in a fine outlandish dress."
"That's one of the brightest parts of her story indeed," says the girl. "The case was this: we had balls and meetings in her ladyship's apartments every week almost; but one time my lady invited all the nobles to come such a time, and she would give them a ball; and there was a vast crowd indeed," says she.
"I think you said the king was there, sister, didn't you?"
"No, madam," says she, "that was the second time, when they said the king had heard how finely the Turkish lady danced, and that he was there to see her; but the king, if his Majesty was there, came disguised."
"That is, what they call incog.," says my friend the Quaker; "thou canst not think the king would disguise himself." "Yes," says the girl, "it was so; he did not come in public with his guards, but we all knew which was the king well enough, that is to say, which they said was the king."
"Well," says the captain's wife, "about the Turkish dress; pray let us hear that." "Why," says she, "my lady sat in a fine little drawing-room, which opened into the great room, and where she received the compliments of the company; and when the dancing began, a great lord," says she, "I forget who they called him (but he was a very great lord or duke, I don't know which), took her out, and danced with her; but after a while, my lady on a sudden shut the drawing-room, and ran upstairs with her woman, Mrs. Amy; and though she did not stay long (for I suppose she had contrived it all beforehand), she came down dressed in the strangest figure that ever I saw in my life; but it was exceeding fine."
Here she went on to describe the dress, as I have done already; but did it so exactly, that I was surprised at the manner of her telling it; there was not a circumstance of it left out.
I was now under a new perplexity, for this young slut gave so complete an account of everything in the dress, that my friend the Quaker coloured at it, and looked two or three times at me, to see if I did not do so too; for (as she told me afterwards) she immediately perceived it was the same dress that she had seen me have on, as I have said before. However, as she saw I took no notice of it, she kept her thought private to herself; and I did so too, as well as I could.
I put in two or three times, that she had a good memory, that could be so particular in every part of such a thing.
"Oh, madam!" says she, "we that were servants, stood by ourselves in a corner, but so as we could see more than some strangers; besides," says she, "it was all our conversation for several days in the family, and what one did not observe another did." "Why," says I to her, "this was no Persian dress; only, I suppose your lady was some French comedian, that is to say, a stage Amazon, that put on a counterfeit dress to please the company, such as they used in the play of Tamerlane at Paris, or some such."
"No, indeed, madam," says she, "I assure you my lady was no actress; she was a fine modest lady, fit to be a princess; everybody said if she was a mistress, she was fit to be a mistress to none but the king; and they talked her up for the king as if it had really been so. Besides, madam," says she, "my lady danced a Turkish dance; all the lords and gentry said it was so; and one of them swore he had seen it danced in Turkey himself, so that it could not come from the theatre at Paris; and then the name Roxana," says she, "was a Turkish name."
"Well," said I, "but that was not your lady's name, I suppose?"
"No, no, madam," said she, "I know that. I know my lady's name and family very well; Roxana was not her name, that's true, indeed."
Here she run me aground again, for I durst not ask her what was Roxana's real name, lest she had really dealt with the devil, and had boldly given my own name in for answer; so that I was still more and more afraid that the girl had really gotten the secret somewhere or other; though I could not imagine neither how that could be.
In a word, I was sick of the discourse, and endeavoured many ways to put an end to it, but it was impossible; for the captain's wife, who called her sister, prompted her, and pressed her to tell it, most ignorantly thinking that it would be a pleasant tale to all of us.
Two or three times the Quaker put in, that this Lady Roxana had a good stock of assurance; and that it was likely, if she had been in Turkey, she had lived with, or been kept by, some great bashaw there. But still she would break in upon all such discourse, and fly out into the most extravagant praises of her mistress, the famed Roxana. I run her down as some scandalous woman; that it was not possible to be otherwise; but she would not hear of it; her lady was a person of such and such qualifications that nothing but an angel was like her, to be sure; and yet, after all she could say, her own account brought her down to this, that, in short, her lady kept little less than a gaming ordinary; or, as it would be called in the times since that, an assembly for gallantry and play.
All this while I was very uneasy, as I said before, and yet the whole story went off again without any discovery, only that I seemed a little concerned that she should liken me to this gay lady, whose character I pretended to run down very much, even upon the foot of her own relation.
But I was not at the end of my mortifications yet, neither, for now my innocent Quaker threw out an unhappy expression, which put me upon the tenters again. Says she to me, "This lady's habit, I fancy, is just such a one as thine, by the description of it;" and then turning to the captain's wife, says she, "I fancy my friend has a finer Turkish or Persian dress, a great deal." "Oh," says the girl, "'tis impossible to be finer; my lady's," says she, "was all covered with gold and diamonds; her hair and head-dress, I forget the name they gave it," said she, "shone like the stars, there were so many jewels in it."
I never wished my good friend the Quaker out of my company before now; but, indeed, I would have given some guineas to have been rid of her just now; for beginning to be curious in the comparing the two dresses, she innocently began a description of mine; and nothing terrified me so much as the apprehension lest she should importune me to show it, which I was resolved I would never agree to. But before it came to this, she pressed my girl to describe the tyhaia, or head-dress, which she did so cleverly that the Quaker could not help saying mine was just such a one; and after several other similitudes, all very vexatious to me, out comes the kind motion to me to let the ladies see my dress; and they joined their eager desires of it, even to importunity.
I desired to be excused, though I had little to say at first why I declined it; but at last it came into my head to say it was packed up with my other clothes that I had least occasion for, in order to be sent on board the captain's ship; but that if we lived to come to Holland together (which, by the way, I resolved should never happen), then, I told them, at unpacking my clothes, they should see me dressed in it; but they must not expect I should dance in it, like the Lady Roxana in all her fine things.
This carried it off pretty well; and getting over this, got over most of the rest, and I began to be easy again; and, in a word, that I may dismiss the story too, as soon as may be, I got rid at last of my visitors, who I had wished gone two hours sooner than they intended it.
As soon as they were gone, I ran up to Amy, and gave vent to my passions by telling her the whole story, and letting her see what mischiefs one false step of hers had like, unluckily, to have involved us all in; more, perhaps, than we could ever have lived to get through. Amy was sensible of it enough, and was just giving her wrath a vent another way, viz., by calling the poor girl all the damned jades and fools (and sometimes worse names) that she could think of, in the middle of which up comes my honest, good Quaker, and put an end to our discourse. The Quaker came in smiling (for she was always soberly cheerful). "Well," says she, "thou art delivered at last; I come to joy thee of it; I perceived thou wert tired grievously of thy visitors."
"Indeed," says I, "so I was; that foolish young girl held us all in a Canterbury story; I thought she would never have done with it." "Why, truly, I thought she was very careful to let thee know she was but a cook-maid." "Ay," says I, "and at a gaming-house, or gaming-ordinary, and at t'other end of the town too; all which (by the way) she might know would add very little to her good name among us citizens."
"I can't think," says the Quaker, "but she had some other drift in that long discourse; there's something else in her head," says she, "I am satisfied of that." Thought I, "Are you satisfied of it? I am sure I am the less satisfied for that; at least 'tis but small satisfaction to me to hear you say so. What can this be?" says I; "and when will my uneasiness have an end?" But this was silent, and to myself, you may be sure. But in answer to my friend the Quaker, I returned by asking her a question or two about it; as what she thought was in it, and why she thought there was anything in it. "For," says I, "she can have nothing in it relating to me."
"Nay," says the kind Quaker, "if she had any view towards thee, that's no business of mine; and I should be far from desiring thee to inform me."
This alarmed me again; not that I feared trusting the good-humoured creature with it, if there had been anything of just suspicion in her; but this affair was a secret I cared not to communicate to anybody. However, I say, this alarmed me a little; for as I had concealed everything from her, I was willing to do so still; but as she could not but gather up abundance of things from the girl's discourse, which looked towards me, so she was too penetrating to be put off with such answers as might stop another's mouth. Only there was this double felicity in it, first, that she was not inquisitive to know or find anything out, and not dangerous if she had known the whole story. But, as I say, she could not but gather up several circumstances from the girl's discourse, as particularly the name of Amy, and the several descriptions of the Turkish dress which my friend the Quaker had seen, and taken so much notice of, as I have said above.
As for that, I might have turned it off by jesting with Amy, and asking her who she lived with before she came to live with me. But that would not do, for we had unhappily anticipated that way of talking, by having often talked how long Amy had lived with me; and, which was still worse, by having owned formerly that I had had lodgings in the Pall Mall; so that all those things corresponded too well. There was only one thing that helped me out with the Quaker, and that was the girl's having reported how rich Mrs. Amy was grown, and that she kept her coach. Now, as there might be many more Mrs. Amys besides mine, so it was not likely to be my Amy, because she was far from such a figure as keeping her coach; and this carried it off from the suspicions which the good friendly Quaker might have in her head.
But as to what she imagined the girl had in her head, there lay more real difficulty in that part a great deal, and I was alarmed at it very much, for my friend the Quaker told me that she observed the girl was in a great passion when she talked of the habit, and more when I had been importuned to show her mine, but declined it. She said she several times perceived her to be in disorder, and to restrain herself with great difficulty; and once or twice she muttered to herself that she had found it out, or that she would find it out, she could not tell whether; and that she often saw tears in her eyes; that when I said my suit of Turkish clothes was put up, but that she should see it when we arrived in Holland, she heard her say softly she would go over on purpose then.
After she had ended her observations, I added: "I observed, too, that the girl talked and looked oddly, and that she was mighty inquisitive, but I could not imagine what it was she aimed at." "Aimed at," says the Quaker, "'tis plain to me what she aims at. She believes thou art the same Lady Roxana that danced in the Turkish vest, but she is not certain." "Does she believe so?" says I; "if I had thought that, I would have put her out of her pain." "Believe so!" says the Quaker; "yes, and I began to think so too, and should have believed so still, if thou had'st not satisfied me to the contrary by thy taking no notice of it, and by what thou hast said since." "Should you have believed so?" said I warmly; "I am very sorry for that. Why, would you have taken me for an actress, or a French stage-player?" "No," says the good kind creature, "thou carriest it too far; as soon as thou madest thy reflections upon her, I knew it could not be; but who could think any other when she described the Turkish dress which thou hast here, with the head-tire and jewels, and when she named thy maid Amy too, and several other circumstances concurring? I should certainly have believed it," said she, "if thou hadst not contradicted it; but as soon as I heard thee speak, I concluded it was otherwise." "That was very kind," said I, "and I am obliged to you for doing me so much justice; it is more, it seems, than that young talking creature does." "Nay," says the Quaker, "indeed she does not do thee justice; for she as certainly believes it still as ever she did." "Does she?" said I. "Ay," says the Quaker; "and I warrant thee she'll make thee another visit about it." "Will she?" said I; "then I believe I shall downright affront her." "No, thou shalt not affront her," says she (full of her good-humour and temper), "I'll take that part off thy hands, for I'll affront her for thee, and not let her see thee." I thought that was a very kind offer, but was at a loss how she would be able to do it; and the thought of seeing her there again half distracted me, not knowing what temper she would come in, much less what manner to receive her in; but my fast friend and constant comforter, the Quaker, said she perceived the girl was impertinent, and that I had no inclination to converse with her, and she was resolved I should not be troubled with her. But I shall have occasion to say more of this presently, for this girl went farther yet than I thought she had.
It was now time, as I said before, to take measures with my husband, in order to put off my voyage; so I fell into talk with him one morning as he was dressing, and while I was in bed. I pretended I was very ill; and as I had but too easy a way to impose upon him, because he so absolutely believed everything I said, so I managed my discourse as that he should understand by it I was a-breeding, though I did not tell him so.
However, I brought it about so handsomely that, before he went out of the room, he came and sat down by my bedside, and began to talk very seriously to me upon the subject of my being so every day ill, and that, as he hoped I was with child, he would have me consider well of it, whether I had not best alter my thoughts of the voyage to Holland; for that being sea-sick, and which was worse, if a storm should happen, might be very dangerous to me. And after saying abundance of the kindest things that the kindest of husbands in the world could say, he concluded that it was his request to me, that I would not think any more of going till after all should be over; but that I would, on the contrary, prepare to lie-in where I was, and where I knew, as well as he, I could be very well provided, and very well assisted.
This was just what I wanted, for I had, as you have heard, a thousand good reasons why I should put off the voyage, especially with that creature in company; but I had a mind the putting it off should be at his motion, not my own; and he came into it of himself, just as I would have had it. This gave me an opportunity to hang back a little, and to seem as if I was unwilling. I told him I could not abide to put him to difficulties and perplexities in his business; that now he had hired the great cabin in the ship, and, perhaps, paid some of the money, and, it may be, taken freight for goods; and to make him break it all off again would be a needless charge to him, or, perhaps, a damage to the captain.
As to that, he said, it was not to be named, and he would not allow it to be any consideration at all; that he could easily pacify the captain of the ship by telling him the reason of it, and that if he did make him some satisfaction for the disappointment, it should not be much.
"But, my dear," says I, "you ha'n't heard me say I am with child, neither can I say so; and if it should not be so at last, then I shall have made a fine piece of work of it indeed; besides," says I, "the two ladies, the captain's wife and her sister, they depend upon our going over, and have made great preparations, and all in compliment to me; what must I say to them?"
"Well, my dear," says he, "if you should not be with child, though I hope you are, yet there is no harm done; the staying three or four months longer in England will be no damage to me, and we can go when we please, when we are sure you are not with child, or, when it appearing that you are with child, you shall be down and up again; and as for the captain's wife and sister, leave that part to me; I'll answer for it there shall be no quarrel raised upon that subject. I'll make your excuse to them by the captain himself, so all will be well enough there, I'll warrant you."
This was as much as I could desire, and thus it rested for awhile. I had indeed some anxious thoughts about this impertinent girl, but believed that putting off the voyage would have put an end to it all, so I began to be pretty easy; but I found myself mistaken, for I was brought to the point of destruction by her again, and that in the most unaccountable manner imaginable.
My husband, as he and I had agreed, meeting the captain of the ship, took the freedom to tell him that he was afraid he must disappoint him, for that something had fallen out which had obliged him to alter his measures, and that his family could not be ready to go time enough for him.
"I know the occasion, sir," says the captain; "I hear your lady has got a daughter more than she expected; I give you joy of it." "What do you mean by that?" says my spouse. "Nay, nothing," says the captain, "but what I hear the women tattle over the tea-table. I know nothing, but that you don't go the voyage upon it, which I am sorry for; but you know your own affairs," added the captain, "that's no business of mine."
"Well, but," says my husband, "I must make you some satisfaction for the disappointment," and so pulls out his money. "No, no," says the captain; and so they fell to straining their compliments one upon another; but, in short, my spouse gave him three or four guineas, and made him take it. And so the first discourse went off again, and they had no more of it.
But it did not go off so easily with me, for now, in a word, the clouds began to thicken about me, and I had alarms on every side. My husband told me what the captain had said, but very happily took it that the captain had brought a tale by halves, and having heard it one way, had told it another; and that neither could he understand the captain, neither did the captain understand himself, so he contented himself to tell me, he said, word for word, as the captain delivered it.
How I kept my husband from discovering my disorder you shall hear presently; but let it suffice to say just now, that if my husband did not understand the captain, nor the captain understand himself, yet I understood them both very well; and, to tell the truth, it was a worse shock than ever I had yet. Invention supplied me, indeed, with a sudden motion to avoid showing my surprise; for as my spouse and I was sitting by a little table near the fire, I reached out my hand, as if I had intended to take a spoon which lay on the other side, and threw one of the candles off of the table; and then snatching it up, started up upon my feet, and stooped to the lap of my gown and took it in my hand. "Oh!" says I, "my gown's spoiled; the candle has greased it prodigiously." This furnished me with an excuse to my spouse to break off the discourse for the present, and call Amy down; and Amy not coming presently, I said to him, "My dear, I must run upstairs and put it off, and let Amy clean it a little." So my husband rose up too, and went into a closet where he kept his papers and books, and fetched a book out, and sat down by himself to read.
Glad I was that I had got away, and up I run to Amy, who, as it happened, was alone. "Oh, Amy!" says I, "we are all utterly undone." And with that I burst out a-crying, and could not speak a word for a great while.
I cannot help saying that some very good reflections offered themselves upon this head. It presently occurred, what a glorious testimony it is to the justice of Providence, and to the concern Providence has in guiding all the affairs of men (even the least as well as the greatest), that the most secret crimes are, by the most unforeseen accidents, brought to light and discovered.
Another reflection was, how just it is that sin and shame follow one another so constantly at the heels; that they are not like attendants only, but, like cause and consequence, necessarily connected one with another; that the crime going before, the scandal is certain to follow; and that 'tis not in the power of human nature to conceal the first, or avoid the last.
"What shall I do, Amy?" said I, as soon as I could speak, "and what will become of me?" And then I cried again so vehemently that I could say no more a great while. Amy was frighted almost out of her wits, but knew nothing what the matter was; but she begged to know, and persuaded me to compose myself, and not cry so. "Why, madam, if my master should come up now," says she, "he will see what a disorder you are in; he will know you have been crying, and then he will want to know the cause of it." With that I broke out again. "Oh, he knows it already, Amy," says I, "he knows all! 'Tis all discovered, and we are undone!" Amy was thunderstruck now indeed. "Nay," says Amy, "if that be true, we are undone indeed; but that can never be; that's impossible, I'm sure."
"No, no," says I, "'tis far from impossible, for I tell you 'tis so." And by this time, being a little recovered, I told her what discourse my husband and the captain had had together, and what the captain had said. This put Amy into such a hurry that she cried, she raved, she swore and cursed like a mad thing; then she upbraided me that I would not let her kill the girl when she would have done it, and that it was all my own doing, and the like. Well, however, I was not for killing the girl yet. I could not bear the thoughts of that neither.
We spent half-an-hour in these extravagances, and brought nothing out of them neither; for indeed we could do nothing or say nothing that was to the purpose; for if anything was to come out-of-the-way, there was no hindering it, or help for it; so after thus giving a vent to myself by crying, I began to reflect how I had left my spouse below, and what I had pretended to come up for; so I changed my gown that I pretended the candle fell upon, and put on another, and went down.
When I had been down a good while, and found my spouse did not fall into the story again, as I expected, I took heart, and called for it. "My dear," said I, "the fall of the candle put you out of your history, won't you go on with it?" "What history?" says he. "Why," says I, "about the captain." "Oh," says he, "I had done with it. I know no more than that the captain told a broken piece of news that he had heard by halves, and told more by halves than he heard it,—namely, of your being with child, and that you could not go the voyage."
I perceived my husband entered not into the thing at all, but took it for a story, which, being told two or three times over, was puzzled, and come to nothing, and that all that was meant by it was what he knew, or thought he knew already—viz., that I was with child, which he wished might be true.
His ignorance was a cordial to my soul, and I cursed them in my thoughts that should ever undeceive him; and as I saw him willing to have the story end there, as not worth being farther mentioned, I closed it too, and said I supposed the captain had it from his wife; she might have found somebody else to make her remarks upon; and so it passed off with my husband well enough, and I was still safe there, where I thought myself in most danger. But I had two uneasinesses still; the first was lest the captain and my spouse should meet again, and enter into farther discourse about it; and the second was lest the busy impertinent girl should come again, and when she came, how to prevent her seeing Amy, which was an article as material as any of the rest; for seeing Amy would have been as fatal to me as her knowing all the rest.
As to the first of these, I knew the captain could not stay in town above a week, but that his ship being already full of goods, and fallen down the river, he must soon follow, so I contrived to carry my husband somewhere out of town for a few days, that they might be sure not to meet.
My greatest concern was where we should go. At last I fixed upon North Hall; not, I said, that I would drink the waters, but that I thought the air was good, and might be for my advantage. He, who did everything upon the foundation of obliging me, readily came into it, and the coach was appointed to be ready the next morning; but as we were settling matters, he put in an ugly word that thwarted all my design, and that was, that he had rather I would stay till afternoon, for that he should speak to the captain the next morning if he could, to give him some letters, which he could do, and be back again about twelve o'clock.
I said, "Ay, by all means." But it was but a cheat on him, and my voice and my heart differed; for I resolved, if possible, he should not come near the captain, nor see him, whatever came of it.
In the evening, therefore, a little before we went to bed, I pretended to have altered my mind, and that I would not go to North Hall, but I had a mind to go another way, but I told him I was afraid his business would not permit him. He wanted to know where it was. I told him, smiling, I would not tell him, lest it should oblige him to hinder his business. He answered with the same temper, but with infinitely more sincerity, that he had no business of so much consequence as to hinder him going with me anywhere that I had a mind to go. "Yes," says I, "you want to speak with the captain before he goes away." "Why, that's true," says he, "so I do," and paused awhile; and then added, "but I'll write a note to a man that does business for me to go to him; 'tis only to get some bills of loading signed, and he can do it." When I saw I had gained my point, I seemed to hang back a little. "My dear," says I, "don't hinder an hour's business for me; I can put it off for a week or two rather than you shall do yourself any prejudice." "No, no," says he, "you shall not put it off an hour for me, for I can do my business by proxy with anybody but my wife." And then he took me in his arms and kissed me. How did my blood flush up into my face when I reflected how sincerely, how affectionately, this good-humoured gentleman embraced the most cursed piece of hypocrisy that ever came into the arms of an honest man! His was all tenderness, all kindness, and the utmost sincerity; mine all grimace and deceit;—a piece of mere manage and framed conduct to conceal a past life of wickedness, and prevent his discovering that he had in his arms a she-devil, whose whole conversation for twenty-five years had been black as hell, a complication of crime, and for which, had he been let into it, he must have abhorred me and the very mention of my name. But there was no help for me in it; all I had to satisfy myself was that it was my business to be what I was, and conceal what I had been; that all the satisfaction I could make him was to live virtuously for the time to come, not being able to retrieve what had been in time past; and this I resolved upon, though, had the great temptation offered, as it did afterwards, I had reason to question my stability. But of that hereafter.
After my husband had kindly thus given up his measures to mine, we resolved to set out in the morning early. I told him that my project, if he liked it, was to go to Tunbridge, and he, being entirely passive in the thing, agreed to it with the greatest willingness; but said if I had not named Tunbridge, he would have named Newmarket, there being a great court there, and abundance of fine things to be seen. I offered him another piece of hypocrisy here, for I pretended to be willing to go thither, as the place of his choice, but indeed I would not have gone for a thousand pounds; for the court being there at that time, I durst not run the hazard of being known at a place where there were so many eyes that had seen me before. So that, after some time, I told my husband that I thought Newmarket was so full of people at that time, that we should get no accommodation; that seeing the court and the crowd was no entertainment at all to me, unless as it might be so to him, that if he thought fit, we would rather put it off to another time; and that if, when we went to Holland, we should go by Harwich, we might take a round by Newmarket and Bury, and so come down to Ipswich, and go from thence to the seaside. He was easily put off from this, as he was from anything else that I did not approve; and so, with all imaginable facility, he appointed to be ready early in the morning to go with me for Tunbridge.
I had a double design in this, viz., first, to get away my spouse from seeing the captain any more; and secondly, to be out of the way myself, in case this impertinent girl, who was now my plague, should offer to come again, as my friend the Quaker believed she would, and as indeed happened within two or three days afterwards.
Having thus secured my going away the next day, I had nothing to do but to furnish my faithful agent the Quaker with some instructions what to say to this tormentor (for such she proved afterwards), and how to manage her, if she made any more visits than ordinary.
I had a great mind to leave Amy behind too, as an assistant, because she understood so perfectly well what to advise upon any emergence; and Amy importuned me to do so. But I know not what secret impulse prevailed over my thoughts against it; I could not do it for fear the wicked jade should make her away, which my very soul abhorred the thoughts of; which, however, Amy found means to bring to pass afterwards, as I may in time relate more particularly.
It is true I wanted as much to be delivered from her as ever a sick man did from a third-day ague; and had she dropped into the grave by any fair way, as I may call it, I mean, had she died by any ordinary distemper, I should have shed but very few tears for her. But I was not arrived to such a pitch of obstinate wickedness as to commit murder, especially such as to murder my own child, or so much as to harbour a thought so barbarous in my mind. But, as I said, Amy effected all afterwards without my knowledge, for which I gave her my hearty curse, though I could do little more; for to have fallen upon Amy had been to have murdered myself. But this tragedy requires a longer story than I have room for here. I return to my journey.
My dear friend the Quaker was kind, and yet honest, and would do anything that was just and upright to serve me, but nothing wicked or dishonourable. That she might be able to say boldly to the creature, if she came, she did not know where I was gone, she desired I would not let her know; and to make her ignorance the more absolutely safe to herself, and likewise to me, I allowed her to say that she heard us talk of going to Newmarket, &c. She liked that part, and I left all the rest to her, to act as she thought fit; only charged her, that if the girl entered into the story of the Pall Mall, she should not entertain much talk about it, but let her understand that we all thought she spoke of it a little too particularly; and that the lady (meaning me) took it a little ill to be so likened to a public mistress, or a stage-player, and the like; and so to bring her, if possible, to say no more of it. However, though I did not tell my friend the Quaker how to write to me, or where I was, yet I left a sealed paper with her maid to give her, in which I gave her a direction how to write to Amy, and so, in effect, to myself.
It was but a few days after I was gone, but the impatient girl came to my lodgings on pretence to see how I did, and to hear if I intended to go the voyage, and the like. My trusty agent was at home, and received her coldly at the door; but told her that the lady, which she supposed she meant, was gone from her house.
This was a full stop to all she could say for a good while; but as she stood musing some time at the door, considering what to begin a talk upon, she perceived my friend the Quaker looked a little uneasy, as if she wanted to go in and shut the door, which stung her to the quick; and the wary Quaker had not so much as asked her to come in; for seeing her alone she expected she would be very impertinent, and concluded that I did not care how coldly she received her.
But she was not to be put off so. She said if the Lady —— was not to be spoken with, she desired to speak two or three words with her, meaning my friend the Quaker. Upon that the Quaker civilly but coldly asked her to walk in, which was what she wanted. Note.—She did not carry her into her best parlour, as formerly, but into a little outer room, where the servants usually waited.
By the first of her discourse she did not stick to insinuate as if she believed I was in the house, but was unwilling to be seen; and pressed earnestly that she might speak but two words with me; to which she added earnest entreaties, and at last tears.
"I am sorry," says my good creature the Quaker, "thou hast so ill an opinion of me as to think I would tell thee an untruth, and say that the Lady —— was gone from my house if she was not! I assure thee I do not use any such method; nor does the Lady —— desire any such kind of service from me, as I know of. If she had been in the house, I should have told thee so."
She said little to that, but said it was business of the utmost importance that she desired to speak with me about, and then cried again very much.
"Thou seem'st to be sorely afflicted," says the Quaker, "I wish I could give thee any relief; but if nothing will comfort thee but seeing the Lady ——, it is not in my power."
"I hope it is," says she again; "to be sure it is of great consequence to me, so much that I am undone without it."
"Thou troublest me very much to hear thee say so," says the Quaker; "but why, then, didst thou not speak to her apart when thou wast here before?"
"I had no opportunity," says she, "to speak to her alone, and I could not do it in company; if I could have spoken but two words to her alone, I would have thrown myself at her foot, and asked her blessing."
"I am surprised at thee; I do not understand thee," says the Quaker.
"Oh!" says she, "stand my friend if you have any charity, or if you have any compassion for the miserable; for I am utterly undone!"
"Thou terrifiest me," says the Quaker, "with such passionate expressions, for verily I cannot comprehend thee!"
"Oh!" says she, "she is my mother! she is my mother! and she does not own me!"
"Thy mother!" says the Quaker, and began to be greatly moved indeed. "I am astonished at thee: what dost thou mean?"
"I mean nothing but what I say," says she. "I say again, she is my mother, and will not own me;" and with that she stopped with a flood of tears.
"Not own thee!" says the Quaker; and the tender good creature wept too. "Why," says she, "she does not know thee, and never saw thee before."
"No," says the girl, "I believe she does not know me, but I know her; and I know that she is my mother."
"It's impossible, thou talk'st mystery!" says the Quaker; "wilt thou explain thyself a little to me?"
"Yes, yes," says she, "I can explain it well enough. I am sure she is my mother, and I have broke my heart to search for her; and now to lose her again, when I was so sure I had found her, will break my heart more effectually."
"Well, but if she be thy mother," says the Quaker, "how can it be that she should not know thee?"
"Alas!" says she, "I have been lost to her ever since I was a child; she has never seen me."
"And hast thou never seen her?" says the Quaker.
"Yes," says she, "I have seen her; often enough I saw her; for when she was the Lady Roxana I was her housemaid, being a servant, but I did not know her then, nor she me; but it has all come out since. Has she not a maid named Amy?" Note.—The honest Quaker was—nonplussed, and greatly surprised at that question.
"Truly," says she, "the Lady —— has several women servants, but I do not know all their names."
"But her woman, her favourite," adds the girl; "is not her name Amy?"
"Why, truly," says the Quaker, with a very happy turn of wit, "I do not like to be examined; but lest thou shouldest take up any mistakes by reason of my backwardness to speak, I will answer thee for once, that what her woman's name is I know not, but they call her Cherry."
N.B.—My husband gave her that name in jest on our wedding-day, and we had called her by it ever after; so that she spoke literally true at that time.
The girl replied very modestly that she was sorry if she gave her any offence in asking; that she did not design to be rude to her, or pretend to examine her; but that she was in such an agony at this disaster that she knew not what she did or said; and that she should be very sorry to disoblige her, but begged of her again, as she was a Christian and a woman, and had been a mother of children, that she would take pity on her, and, if possible, assist her, so that she might but come to me and speak a few words to me.
The tender-hearted Quaker told me the girl spoke this with such moving eloquence that it forced tears from her; but she was obliged to say that she neither knew where I was gone or how to write to me; but that if she did ever see me again she would not fail to give me an account of all she had said to her, or that she should yet think fit to say, and to take my answer to it, if I thought fit to give any.
Then the Quaker took the freedom to ask a few particulars about this wonderful story, as she called it; at which the girl, beginning at the first distresses of my life, and indeed of her own, went through all the history of her miserable education, her service under the Lady Roxana, as she called me, and her relief by Mrs. Amy, with the reasons she had to believe that as Amy owned herself to be the same that lived with her mother, and especially that Amy was the Lady Roxana's maid too, and came out of France with her, she was by those circumstances, and several others in her conversation, as fully convinced that the Lady Roxana was her mother, as she was that the Lady —— at her house (the Quaker's) was the very same Roxana that she had been servant to.
My good friend the Quaker, though terribly shocked at the story, and not well knowing what to say, yet was too much my friend to seem convinced in a thing which she did not know to be true, and which, if it was true, she could see plainly I had a mind should not be known; so she turned her discourse to argue the girl out of it. She insisted upon the slender evidence she had of the fact itself, and the rudeness of claiming so near a relation of one so much above her, and of whose concern in it she had no knowledge, at least no sufficient proof; that as the lady at her house was a person above any disguises, so she could not believe that she would deny her being her daughter, if she was really her mother; that she was able sufficiently to have provided for her if she had not a mind to have her known; and, therefore, seeing she had heard all she had said of the Lady Roxana, and was so far from owning herself to be the person, so she had censured that sham lady as a cheat and a common woman; and that 'twas certain she could never be brought to own a name and character she had so justly exposed.
Besides, she told her that her lodger, meaning me, was not a sham lady, but the real wife of a knight-baronet; and that she knew her to be honestly such, and far above such a person as she had described. She then added that she had another reason why it was not very possible to be true. "And that is," says she, "thy age is in the way; for thou acknowledgest that thou art four-and twenty years old, and that thou wast the youngest of three of thy mother's children; so that, by thy account, thy mother must be extremely young, or this lady cannot be thy mother; for thou seest," says she, "and any one may see, she is but a young woman now, and cannot be supposed to be above forty years old, if she is so much; and is now big with child at her going into the country; so that I cannot give any credit to thy notion of her being thy mother; and if I might counsel thee, it should be to give over that thought, as an improbable story that does but serve to disorder thee, and disturb thy head; for," added she, "I perceive thou art much disturbed indeed."
But this was all nothing; she could be satisfied with nothing but seeing me; but the Quaker defended herself very well, and insisted on it that she could not give her any account of me; and finding her still importunate, she affected at last being a little disgusted that she should not believe her, and added, that indeed, if she had known where I was gone, she would not have given any one an account of it, unless I had given her orders to do so. "But seeing she has not acquainted me," says she, "where she has gone, 'tis an intimation to me she was not desirous it should be publicly known;" and with this she rose up, which was as plain a desiring her to rise up too and begone as could be expressed, except the downright showing her the door.
Well, the girl rejected all this, and told her she could not indeed expect that she (the Quaker) should be affected with the story she had told her, however moving, or that she should take any pity on her. That it was her misfortune, that when she was at the house before, and in the room with me, she did not beg to speak a word with me in private, or throw herself upon the floor at my feet, and claim what the affection of a mother would have done for her; but since she had slipped her opportunity, she would wait for another; that she found by her (the Quaker's) talk, that she had not quite left her lodgings, but was gone into the country, she supposed for the air; and she was resolved she would take so much knight-errantry upon her, that she would visit all the airing-places in the nation, and even all the kingdom over, ay, and Holland too, but she would find me; for she was satisfied she could so convince me that she was my own child, that I would not deny it; and she was sure I was so tender and compassionate, I would not let her perish after I was convinced that she was my own flesh and blood; and in saying she would visit all the airing-places in England, she reckoned them all up by name, and began with Tunbridge, the very place I was gone to; then reckoning up Epsom, North Hall, Barnet, Newmarket, Bury, and at last, the Bath; and with this she took her leave.
My faithful agent the Quaker failed not to write to me immediately; but as she was a cunning as well as an honest woman, it presently occurred to her that this was a story which, whether true or false, was not very fit to come to my husband's knowledge; that as she did not know what I might have been, or might have been called in former times, and how far there might have been something or nothing in it, so she thought if it was a secret I ought to have the telling it myself; and if it was not, it might as well be public afterwards as now; and that, at least, she ought to leave it where she found it, and not hand it forwards to anybody without my consent. These prudent measures were inexpressibly kind, as well as seasonable; for it had been likely enough that her letter might have come publicly to me, and though my husband would not have opened it, yet it would have looked a little odd that I should conceal its contents from him, when I had pretended so much to communicate all my affairs.
In consequence of this wise caution, my good friend only wrote me in few words, that the impertinent young woman had been with her, as she expected she would; and that she thought it would be very convenient that, if I could spare Cherry, I would send her up (meaning Amy), because she found there might be some occasion for her.
As it happened, this letter was enclosed to Amy herself, and not sent by the way I had at first ordered; but it came safe to my hands; and though I was alarmed a little at it, yet I was not acquainted with the danger I was in of an immediate visit from this teasing creature till afterwards; and I ran a greater risk, indeed, than ordinary, in that I did not send Amy up under thirteen or fourteen days, believing myself as much concealed at Tunbridge as if I had been at Vienna.
But the concern of my faithful spy (for such my Quaker was now, upon the mere foot of her own sagacity), I say, her concern for me, was my safety in this exigence, when I was, as it were, keeping no guard for myself; for, finding Amy not come up, and that she did not know how soon this wild thing might put her designed ramble in practice, she sent a messenger to the captain's wife's house, where she lodged, to tell her that she wanted to speak with her. She was at the heels of the messenger, and came eager for some news; and hoped, she said, the lady (meaning me) had been come to town.
The Quaker, with as much caution as she was mistress of, not to tell a downright lie, made her believe she expected to hear of me very quickly; and frequently, by the by, speaking of being abroad to take the air, talked of the country about Bury, how pleasant it was, how wholesome, and how fine an air; how the downs about Newmarket were exceeding fine, and what a vast deal of company there was, now the court was there; till at last, the girl began to conclude that my ladyship was gone thither; for, she said, she knew I loved to see a great deal of company.
"Nay," says my friend, "thou takest me wrong; I did not suggest," says she, "that the person thou inquirest after is gone thither, neither do I believe she is, I assure thee." Well, the girl smiled, and let her know that she believed it for all that; so, to clench it fast, "Verily," says she, with great seriousness, "thou dost not do well, for thou suspectest everything and believest nothing. I speak solemnly to thee that I do not believe they are gone that way; so if thou givest thyself the trouble to go that way, and art disappointed, do not say that I have deceived thee." She knew well enough that if this did abate her suspicion it would not remove it, and that it would do little more than amuse her; but by this she kept her in suspense till Amy came up, and that was enough.
When Amy came up, she was quite confounded to hear the relation which the Quaker gave her, and found means to acquaint me of it; only letting me know, to my great satisfaction, that she would not come to Tunbridge first, but that she would certainly go to Newmarket or Bury first.
However, it gave me very great uneasiness; for as she resolved to ramble in search after me over the whole country, I was safe nowhere, no, not in Holland itself. So indeed I did not know what to do with her; and thus I had a bitter in all my sweet, for I was continually perplexed with this hussy, and thought she haunted me like an evil spirit.
In the meantime Amy was next door to stark-mad about her; she durst not see her at my lodgings for her life; and she went days without number to Spitalfields, where she used to come, and to her former lodging, and could never meet with her. At length she took up a mad resolution that she would go directly to the captain's house in Redriff and speak with her. It was a mad step, that's true; but as Amy said she was mad, so nothing she could do could be otherwise. For if Amy had found her at Redriff, she (the girl) would have concluded presently that the Quaker had given her notice, and so that we were all of a knot; and that, in short, all she had said was right. But as it happened, things came to hit better than we expected; for that Amy going out of a coach to take water at Tower Wharf, meets the girl just come on shore, having crossed the water from Redriff. Amy made as if she would have passed by her, though they met so full that she did not pretend she did not see her, for she looked fairly upon her first, but then turning her head away with a slight, offered to go from her; but the girl stopped, and spoke first, and made some manners to her.
Amy spoke coldly to her, and a little angry; and after some words, standing in the street or passage, the girl saying she seemed to be angry, and would not have spoken to her, "Why," says Amy, "how can you expect I should have any more to say to you after I had done so much for you, and you have behaved so to me?" The girl seemed to take no notice of that now, but answered, "I was going to wait on you now." "Wait on me!" says Amy; "what do you mean by that?" "Why," says she again, with a kind of familiarity, "I was going to your lodgings."
Amy was provoked to the last degree at her, and yet she thought it was not her time to resent, because she had a more fatal and wicked design in her head against her; which, indeed, I never knew till after it was executed, nor durst Amy ever communicate it to me; for as I had always expressed myself vehemently against hurting a hair of her head, so she was resolved to take her own measures without consulting me any more.
In order to this, Amy gave her good words, and concealed her resentment as much as she could; and when she talked of going to her lodging, Amy smiled and said nothing, but called for a pair of oars to go to Greenwich; and asked her, seeing she said she was going to her lodging, to go along with her, for she was going home, and was all alone.
Amy did this with such a stock of assurance that the girl was confounded, and knew not what to say; but the more she hesitated, the more Amy pressed her to go; and talking very kindly to her, told her if she did not go to see her lodgings she might go to keep her company, and she would pay a boat to bring her back again; so, in a word, Amy prevailed on her to go into the boat with her, and carried her down to Greenwich.
'Tis certain that Amy had no more business at Greenwich than I had, nor was she going thither; but we were all hampered to the last degree with the impertinence of this creature; and, in particular, I was horribly perplexed with it.
As they were in the boat, Amy began to reproach her with ingratitude in treating her so rudely who had done so much for her, and been so kind to her; and to ask her what she had got by it, or what she expected to get. Then came in my share, the Lady Roxana. Amy jested with that, and bantered her a little, and asked her if she had found her yet.
But Amy was both surprised and enraged when the girl told her roundly that she thanked her for what she had done for her, but that she would not have her think she was so ignorant as not to know that what she (Amy) had done was by her mother's order, and who she was beholden to for it. That she could never make instruments pass for principals, and pay the debt to the agent when the obligation was all to the original. That she knew well enough who she was, and who she was employed by. That she knew the Lady —— very well (naming the name that I now went by), which was my husband's true name, and by which she might know whether she had found out her mother or no.
Amy wished her at the bottom of the Thames; and had there been no watermen in the boat, and nobody in sight, she swore to me she would have thrown her into the river. I was horribly disturbed when she told me this story, and began to think this would, at last, all end in my ruin; but when Amy spoke of throwing her into the river and drowning her, I was so provoked at her that all my rage turned against Amy, and I fell thoroughly out with her. I had now kept Amy almost thirty years, and found her on all occasions the faithfullest creature to me that ever woman had—I say, faithful to me; for, however wicked she was, still she was true to me; and even this rage of hers was all upon my account, and for fear any mischief should befall me.
But be that how it would, I could not bear the mention of her murdering the poor girl, and it put me so beside myself, that I rose up in a rage, and bade her get out of my sight, and out of my house; told her I had kept her too long, and that I would never see her face more. I had before told her that she was a murderer, and a bloody-minded creature; that she could not but know that I could not bear the thought of it, much less the mention of it; and that it was the impudentest thing that ever was known to make such a proposal to me, when she knew that I was really the mother of this girl, and that she was my own child; that it was wicked enough in her, but that she must conclude I was ten times wickeder than herself if I could come into it; that the girl was in the right, and I had nothing to blame her for; but that it was owing to the wickedness of my life that made it necessary for me to keep her from a discovery; but that I would not murder my child, though I was otherwise to be ruined by it. Amy replied, somewhat rough and short, Would I not? but she would, she said, if she had an opportunity; and upon these words it was that I bade her get out of my sight and out of my house; and it went so far that Amy packed up her alls, and marched off; and was gone for almost good and all. But of that in its order; I must go back to her relation of the voyage which they made to Greenwich together.
They held on the wrangle all the way by water; the girl insisted upon her knowing that I was her mother, and told her all the history of my life in the Pall Mall, as well after her being turned away as before, and of my marriage since; and which was worse, not only who my present husband was, but where he had lived, viz., at Rouen in France. She knew nothing of Paris or of where we was going to live, namely, at Nimeguen; but told her in so many words that if she could not find me here, she would go to Holland after me.
They landed at Greenwich, and Amy carried her into the park with her, and they walked above two hours there in the farthest and remotest walks; which Amy did because, as they talked with great heat, it was apparent they were quarrelling, and the people took notice of it.
They walked till they came almost to the wilderness at the south side of the park; but the girl, perceiving Amy offered to go in there among the woods and trees, stopped short there, and would go no further; but said she would not go in there.
Amy smiled, and asked her what was the matter? She replied short, she did not know where she was, nor where she was going to carry her, and she would go no farther; and without any more ceremony, turns back, and walks apace away from her. Amy owned she was surprised, and came back too, and called to her, upon which the girl stopped, and Amy coming up to her, asked her what she meant?
The girl boldly replied she did not know but she might murder her; and that, in short, she would not trust herself with her, and never would come into her company again alone.
It was very provoking, but, however, Amy kept her temper with much difficulty, and bore it, knowing that much might depend upon it; so she mocked her foolish jealousy, and told her she need not be uneasy for her, she would do her no harm, and would have done her good if she would have let her; but since she was of such a refractory humour, she should not trouble herself, for she should never come into her company again; and that neither she or her brother or sister should ever hear from her or see her any more; and so she should have the satisfaction of being the ruin of her brother and sisters as well as of herself.
The girl seemed a little mollified at that, and said that for herself, she knew the worst of it, she could seek her fortune; but it was hard her brother and sister should suffer on her score; and said something that was tender and well enough on that account. But Amy told her it was for her to take that into consideration; for she would let her see that it was all her own; that she would have done them all good, but that having been used thus, she would do no more for any of them; and that she should not need to be afraid to come into her company again, for she would never give her occasion for it any more. This, by the way, was false in the girl too; for she did venture into Amy's company again after that, once too much, as I shall relate by itself.
They grew cooler, however, afterwards, and Amy carried her into a house at Greenwich, where she was acquainted, and took an occasion to leave the girl in a room awhile, to speak to the people in the house, and so prepare them to own her as a lodger in the house; and then going in to her again told her there she lodged, if she had a mind to find her out, or if anybody else had anything to say to her. And so Amy dismissed her, and got rid of her again; and finding an empty hackney-coach in the town, came away by land to London, and the girl, going down to the water-side, came by boat.
This conversation did not answer Amy's end at all, because it did not secure the girl from pursuing her design of hunting me out; and though my indefatigable friend the Quaker amused her three or four days, yet I had such notice of it at last that I thought fit to come away from Tunbridge upon it. And where to go I knew not; but, in short, I went to a little village upon Epping Forest, called Woodford, and took lodgings in a private house, where I lived retired about six weeks, till I thought she might be tired of her search, and have given me over.
Here I received an account from my trusty Quaker that the wench had really been at Tunbridge, had found out my lodgings, and had told her tale there in a most dismal tone; that she had followed us, as she thought, to London; but the Quaker had answered her that she knew nothing of it, which was indeed true; and had admonished her to be easy, and not hunt after people of such fashion as we were, as if we were thieves; that she might be assured, that since I was not willing to see her, I would not be forced to it; and treating me thus would effectually disoblige me. And with such discourses as these she quieted her; and she (the Quaker) added that she hoped I should not be troubled much more with her.
It was in this time that Amy gave me the history of her Greenwich voyage, when she spoke of drowning and killing the girl in so serious a manner, and with such an apparent resolution of doing it, that, as I said, put me in a rage with her, so that I effectually turned her away from me, as I have said above, and she was gone; nor did she so much as tell me whither or which way she was gone. On the other hand, when I came to reflect on it that now I had neither assistant or confidant to speak to, or receive the least information from, my friend the Quaker excepted, it made me very uneasy.
I waited and expected and wondered from day to day, still thinking Amy would one time or other think a little and come again, or at least let me hear of her; but for ten days together I heard nothing of her. I was so impatient that I got neither rest by day or sleep by night, and what to do I knew not. I durst not go to town to the Quaker's for fear of meeting that vexatious creature, my girl, and I could get no intelligence where I was; so I got my spouse, upon pretence of wanting her company, to take the coach one day and fetch my good Quaker to me.
When I had her, I durst ask her no questions, nor hardly knew which end of the business to begin to talk of; but of her own accord she told me that the girl had been three or four times haunting her for news from me; and that she had been so troublesome that she had been obliged to show herself a little angry with her; and at last told her plainly that she need give herself no trouble in searching after me by her means, for she (the Quaker) would not tell her if she knew; upon which she refrained awhile. But, on the other hand, she told me it was not safe for me to send my own coach for her to come in, for she had some reason to believe that she (my daughter) watched her door night and day; nay, and watched her too every time she went in and out; for she was so bent upon a discovery that she spared no pains, and she believed she had taken a lodging very near their house for that purpose.
I could hardly give her a hearing of all this for my eagerness to ask for Amy; but I was confounded when she told me she had heard nothing of her. It is impossible to express the anxious thoughts that rolled about in my mind, and continually perplexed me about her; particularly I reproached myself with my rashness in turning away so faithful a creature that for so many years had not only been a servant but an agent; and not only an agent, but a friend, and a faithful friend too.
Then I considered too that Amy knew all the secret history of my life; had been in all the intrigues of it, and been a party in both evil and good; and at best there was no policy in it; that as it was very ungenerous and unkind to run things to such an extremity with her, and for an occasion, too, in which all the fault she was guilty of was owing to her excessive care for my safety, so it must be only her steady kindness to me, and an excess of generous friendship for me, that should keep her from ill-using me in return for it; which ill-using me was enough in her power, and might be my utter undoing.
These thoughts perplexed me exceedingly, and what course to take I really did not know. I began, indeed, to give Amy quite over, for she had now been gone above a fortnight, and as she had taken away all her clothes, and her money too, which was not a little, and so had no occasion of that kind to come any more, so she had not left any word where she was gone, or to which part of the world I might send to hear of her.
And I was troubled on another account too, viz., that my spouse and I too had resolved to do very handsomely for Amy, without considering what she might have got another way at all; but we had said nothing of it to her, and so I thought, as she had not known what was likely to fall in her way, she had not the influence of that expectation to make her come back.
Upon the whole, the perplexity of this girl, who hunted me as if, like a hound, she had had a hot scent, but was now at a fault, I say, that perplexity, and this other part of Amy being gone, issued in this—I resolved to be gone, and go over to Holland; there, I believed, I should be at rest. So I took occasion one day to tell my spouse that I was afraid he might take it ill that I had amused him thus long, and that at last I doubted I was not with child; and that since it was so, our things being packed up, and all in order for going to Holland, I would go away now when he pleased.
My spouse, who was perfectly easy whether in going or staying, left it all entirely to me; so I considered of it, and began to prepare again for my voyage. But, alas! I was irresolute to the last degree. I was, for want of Amy, destitute; I had lost my right hand; she was my steward, gathered in my rents (I mean my interest money) and kept my accounts, and, in a word, did all my business; and without her, indeed, I knew not how to go away nor how to stay. But an accident thrust itself in here, and that even in Amy's conduct too, which frighted me away, and without her too, in the utmost horror and confusion.
I have related how my faithful friend the Quaker was come to me, and what account she gave me of her being continually haunted by my daughter; and that, as she said, she watched her very door night and day. The truth was, she had set a spy to watch so effectually that she (the Quaker) neither went in or out but she had notice of it.
This was too evident when, the next morning after she came to me (for I kept her all night), to my unspeakable surprise I saw a hackney-coach stop at the door where I lodged, and saw her (my daughter) in the coach all alone. It was a very good chance, in the middle of a bad one, that my husband had taken out the coach that very morning, and was gone to London. As for me, I had neither life or soul left in me; I was so confounded I knew not what to do or to say.
My happy visitor had more presence of mind than I, and asked me if I had made no acquaintance among the neighbours. I told her, yes, there was a lady lodged two doors off that I was very intimate with. "But hast thou no way out backward to go to her?" says she. Now it happened there was a back-door in the garden, by which we usually went and came to and from the house, so I told her of it. "Well, well," says she, "go out and make a visit then, and leave the rest to me." Away I run, told the lady (for I was very free there) that I was a widow to-day, my spouse being gone to London, so I came not to visit her, but to dwell with her that day, because also our landlady had got strangers come from London. So having framed this orderly lie, I pulled some work out of my pocket, and added I did not come to be idle.
As I went out one way, my friend the Quaker went the other to receive this unwelcome guest. The girl made but little ceremony, but having bid the coachman ring at the gate, gets down out of the coach and comes to the door, a country girl going to the door (belonging to the house), for the Quaker forbid any of my maids going. Madam asked for my Quaker by name, and the girl asked her to walk in.
Upon this, my Quaker, seeing there was no hanging back, goes to her immediately, but put all the gravity upon her countenance that she was mistress of, and that was not a little indeed.
When she (the Quaker) came into the room (for they had showed my daughter into a little parlour), she kept her grave countenance, but said not a word, nor did my daughter speak a good while; but after some time my girl began and said, "I suppose you know me, madam?"
"Yes," says the Quaker, "I know thee." And so the dialogue went on.
Girl. Then you know my business too?
Quaker. No, verily, I do not know any business thou canst have here with me.
Girl. Indeed, my business is not chiefly with you.
Qu. Why, then, dost thou come after me thus far?
Girl. You know whom I seek. [And with that she cried.]
Qu. But why shouldst thou follow me for her, since thou know'st that I assured thee more than once that I knew not where she was?
Girl. But I hoped you could.
Qu. Then thou must hope that I did not speak the truth, which would be very wicked.
Girl. I doubt not but she is in this house.
Qu. If those be thy thoughts, thou may'st inquire in the house; so thou hast no more business with me. Farewell! [Offers to go.]
Girl. I would not be uncivil; I beg you to let me see her.
Qu. I am here to visit some of my friends, and I think thou art not very civil in following me hither.
Girl. I came in hopes of a discovery in my great affair which you know of.
Qu. Thou cam'st wildly, indeed; I counsel thee to go back again, and be easy; I shall keep my word with thee, that I would not meddle in it, or give thee any account, if I knew it, unless I had her orders.
Girl. If you knew my distress you could not be so cruel.
Qu. Thou hast told me all thy story, and I think it might be more cruelty to tell thee than not to tell thee; for I understand she is resolved not to see thee, and declares she is not thy mother. Will'st thou be owned where thou hast no relation?
Girl. Oh, if I could but speak to her, I would prove my relation to her so that she could not deny it any longer.
Qu. Well, but thou canst not come to speak with her, it seems.
Girl. I hope you will tell me if she is here. I had a good account that you were come out to see her, and that she sent for you.
Qu. I much wonder how thou couldst have such an account. If I had come out to see her, thou hast happened to miss the house, for I assure thee she is not to be found in this house.
Here the girl importuned her again with the utmost earnestness, and cried bitterly, insomuch that my poor Quaker was softened with it, and began to persuade me to consider of it, and, if it might consist with my affairs, to see her, and hear what she had to say; but this was afterwards. I return to the discourse.
The Quaker was perplexed with her a long time; she talked of sending back the coach, and lying in the town all night. This, my friend knew, would be very uneasy to me, but she durst not speak a word against it; but on a sudden thought, she offered a bold stroke, which, though dangerous if it had happened wrong, had its desired effect.
She told her that, as for dismissing her coach, that was as she pleased, she believed she would not easily get a lodging in the town; but that as she was in a strange place, she would so much befriend her, that she would speak to the people of the house, that if they had room, she might have a lodging there for one night, rather than be forced back to London before she was free to go.
This was a cunning, though a dangerous step, and it succeeded accordingly, for it amused the creature entirely, and she presently concluded that really I could not be there then, otherwise she would never have asked her to lie in the house; so she grew cold again presently as to her lodging there, and said, No, since it was so, she would go back that afternoon, but she would come again in two or three days, and search that and all the towns round in an effectual manner, if she stayed a week or two to do it; for, in short, if I was in England or Holland she would find me.
"In truth," says the Quaker, "thou wilt make me very hurtful to thee, then." "Why so?" says she, "Because wherever I go, thou wilt put thyself to great expense, and the country to a great deal of unnecessary trouble." "Not unnecessary," says she. "Yes, truly," says the Quaker; "it must be unnecessary, because it will be to no purpose. I think I must abide in my own house to save thee that charge and trouble."
She said little to that, except that, she said, she would give her as little trouble as possible; but she was afraid she should sometimes be uneasy to her, which she hoped she would excuse. My Quaker told her she would much rather excuse her if she would forbear; for that if she would believe her, she would assure her she should never get any intelligence of me by her.
That set her into tears again; but after a while, recovering herself, she told her perhaps she might be mistaken; and she (the Quaker) should watch herself very narrowly, or she might one time or other get some intelligence from her, whether she would or no; and she was satisfied she had gained some of her by this journey, for that if I was not in the house, I was not far off; and if I did not remove very quickly, she would find me out. "Very well," says my Quaker; "then if the lady is not willing to see thee, thou givest me notice to tell her, that she may get out of thy way."
She flew out in a rage at that, and told my friend that if she did, a curse would follow her, and her children after her, and denounced such horrid things upon her as frighted the poor tender-hearted Quaker strangely, and put her more out of temper than ever I saw her before; so that she resolved to go home the next morning, and I, that was ten times more uneasy than she, resolved to follow her, and go to London too; which, however, upon second thoughts, I did not, but took effectual measures not to be seen or owned if she came any more; but I heard no more of her for some time.
I stayed there about a fortnight, and in all that time I heard no more of her, or of my Quaker about her; but after about two days more, I had a letter from my Quaker, intimating that she had something of moment to say, that she could not communicate by letter, but wished I would give myself the trouble to come up, directing me to come with the coach into Goodman's Fields, and then walk to her back-door on foot, which being left open on purpose, the watchful lady, if she had any spies, could not well see me.
My thoughts had for so long time been kept, as it were, waking, that almost everything gave me the alarm, and this especially, so that I was very uneasy; but I could not bring matters to bear to make my coming to London so clear to my husband as I would have done; for he liked the place, and had a mind, he said, to stay a little longer, if it was not against my inclination; so I wrote my friend the Quaker word that I could not come to town yet; and that, besides, I could not think of being there under spies, and afraid to look out of doors; and so, in short, I put off going for near a fortnight more.
At the end of that time she wrote again, in which she told me that she had not lately seen the impertinent visitor which had been so troublesome; but that she had seen my trusty agent Amy, who told her she had cried for six weeks without intermission; that Amy had given her an account how troublesome the creature had been, and to what straits and perplexities I was driven by her hunting after and following me from place to place; upon which Amy had said, that, notwithstanding I was angry with her, and had used her so hardly for saying something about her of the same kind, yet there was an absolute necessity of securing her, and removing her out of the way; and that, in short, without asking my leave, or anybody's leave, she should take care she should trouble her mistress (meaning me) no more; and that after Amy had said so, she had indeed never heard any more of the girl; so that she supposed Amy had managed it so well as to put an end to it.
The innocent, well-meaning creature, my Quaker, who was all kindness and goodness in herself, and particularly to me, saw nothing in this; but she thought Amy had found some way to persuade her to be quiet and easy, and to give over teasing and following me, and rejoiced in it for my sake; as she thought nothing of any evil herself, so she suspected none in anybody else, and was exceeding glad of having such good news to write to me; but my thoughts of it run otherwise.
I was struck, as with a blast from heaven, at the reading her letter; I fell into a fit of trembling from head to foot, and I ran raving about the room like a mad woman. I had nobody to speak a word to, to give vent to my passion; nor did I speak a word for a good while, till after it had almost overcome me. I threw myself on the bed, and cried out, "Lord, be merciful to me, she has murdered my child!" and with that a flood of tears burst out, and I cried vehemently for above an hour.
My husband was very happily gone out a-hunting, so that I had the opportunity of being alone, and to give my passions some vent, by which I a little recovered myself. But after my crying was over, then I fell in a new rage at Amy; I called her a thousand devils and monsters and hard-hearted tigers; I reproached her with her knowing that I abhorred it, and had let her know it sufficiently, in that I had, at it were, kicked her out of doors, after so many years' friendship and service, only for naming it to me.
Well, after some time, my spouse came in from his sport, and I put on the best looks I could to deceive him; but he did not take so little notice of me as not to see I had been crying, and that something troubled me, and he pressed me to tell him. I seemed to bring it out with reluctance, but told him my backwardness was more because I was ashamed that such a trifle should have any effect upon me, than for any weight that was in it; so I told him I had been vexing myself about my woman Amy's not coming again; that she might have known me better than not to believe I should have been friends with her again, and the like; and that, in short, I had lost the best servant by my rashness that ever woman had.
"Well, well," says he, "if that be all your grief, I hope you will soon shake it off; I'll warrant you in a little while we shall hear of Mrs. Amy again." And so it went off for that time. But it did not go off with me; for I was uneasy and terrified to the last degree, and wanted to get some farther account of the thing. So I went away to my sure and certain comforter, the Quaker, and there I had the whole story of it; and the good innocent Quaker gave me joy of my being rid of such an unsufferable tormentor.
"Rid of her! Ay," says I, "if I was rid of her fairly and honourably; but I don't know what Amy may have done. Sure, she ha'n't made her away?" "Oh fie!" says my Quaker; "how canst thou entertain such a notion! No, no. Made her away? Amy didn't talk like that; I dare say thou may'st be easy in that; Amy has nothing of that in her head, I dare say," says she; and so threw it, as it were, out of my thoughts.
But it would not do; it run in my head continually; night and day I could think of nothing else; and it fixed such a horror of the fact upon my spirits, and such a detestation of Amy, who I looked upon as the murderer, that, as for her, I believe if I could have seen her I should certainly have sent her to Newgate, or to a worse place, upon suspicion; indeed, I think I could have killed her with my own hands.
As for the poor girl herself, she was ever before my eyes; I saw her by night and by day; she haunted my imagination, if she did not haunt the house; my fancy showed me her in a hundred shapes and postures; sleeping or waking, she was with me. Sometimes I thought I saw her with her throat cut; sometimes with her head cut, and her brains knocked out; other times hanged up upon a beam; another time drowned in the great pond at Camberwell. And all these appearances were terrifying to the last degree; and that which was still worse, I could really hear nothing of her; I sent to the captain's wife in Redriff, and she answered me, she was gone to her relations in Spitalfields. I sent thither, and they said she was there about three weeks ago, but that she went out in a coach with the gentlewoman that used to be so kind to her, but whither she was gone they knew not, for she had not been there since. I sent back the messenger for a description of the woman she went out with; and they described her so perfectly, that I knew it to be Amy, and none but Amy.
I sent word again that Mrs. Amy, who she went out with, left her in two or three hours, and that they should search for her, for I had a reason to fear she was murdered. This frighted them all intolerably. They believed Amy had carried her to pay her a sum of money, and that somebody had watched her after her having received it, and had robbed and murdered her.
I believed nothing of that part; but I believed, as it was, that whatever was done, Amy had done it; and that, in short, Amy had made her away; and I believed it the more, because Amy came no more near me, but confirmed her guilt by her absence.
Upon the whole, I mourned thus for her for above a month; but finding Amy still come not near me, and that I must put my affairs in a posture that I might go to Holland, I opened all my affairs to my dear trusty friend the Quaker, and placed her, in matters of trust, in the room of Amy; and with a heavy, bleeding heart for my poor girl, I embarked with my spouse, and all our equipage and goods, on board another Holland's trader, not a packet-boat, and went over to Holland, where I arrived, as I have said.
I must put in a caution, however, here, that you must not understand me as if I let my friend the Quaker into any part of the secret history of my former life; nor did I commit the grand reserved article of all to her, viz., that I was really the girl's mother, and the Lady Roxana; there was no need of that part being exposed; and it was always a maxim with me, that secrets should never be opened without evident utility. It could be of no manner of use to me or her to communicate that part to her; besides, she was too honest herself to make it safe to me; for though she loved me very sincerely, and it was plain by many circumstances that she did so, yet she would not lie for me upon occasion, as Amy would, and therefore it was not advisable on any terms to communicate that part; for if the girl, or any one else, should have come to her afterwards, and put it home to her, whether she knew that I was the girl's mother or not, or was the same as the Lady Roxana or not, she either would not have denied it, or would have done it with so ill a grace, such blushing, such hesitations and falterings in her answers, as would have put the matter out of doubt, and betrayed herself and the secret too.
For this reason, I say, I did not discover anything of that kind to her; but I placed her, as I have said, in Amy's stead in the other affairs of receiving money, interests, rents, and the like, and she was as faithful as Amy could be, and as diligent.
But there fell out a great difficulty here, which I knew not how to get over; and this was how to convey the usual supply of provision and money to the uncle and the other sister, who depended, especially the sister, upon the said supply for her support; and indeed, though Amy had said rashly that she would not take any more notice of the sister, and would leave her to perish, as above, yet it was neither in my nature, or Amy's either, much less was it in my design; and therefore I resolved to leave the management of what I had reserved for that work with my faithful Quaker, but how to direct her to manage them was the great difficulty.
Amy had told them in so many words that she was not their mother, but that she was the maid Amy, that carried them to their aunt's; that she and their mother went over to the East Indies to seek their fortune, and that there good things had befallen them, and that their mother was very rich and happy; that she (Amy) had married in the Indies, but being now a widow, and resolving to come over to England, their mother had obliged her to inquire them out, and do for them as she had done; and that now she was resolved to go back to the Indies again; but that she had orders from their mother to do very handsomely by them; and, in a word, told them she had L2000 apiece for them, upon condition that they proved sober, and married suitably to themselves, and did not throw themselves away upon scoundrels.