This was a perplexing thing, because of the difficulty which was before me where I should get leave to lie in; it being one of the nicest things in the world at that time of day for a woman that was a stranger, and had no friends, to be entertained in that circumstance without security, which, by the way, I had not, neither could I procure any.
I had taken care all this while to preserve a correspondence with my honest friend at the bank, or rather he took care to correspond with me, for he wrote to me once a week; and though I had not spent my money so fast as to want any from him, yet I often wrote also to let him know I was alive. I had left directions in Lancashire, so that I had these letters, which he sent, conveyed to me; and during my recess at St. Jones’s received a very obliging letter from him, assuring me that his process for a divorce from his wife went on with success, though he met with some difficulties in it that he did not expect.
I was not displeased with the news that his process was more tedious than he expected; for though I was in no condition to have him yet, not being so foolish to marry him when I knew myself to be with child by another man, as some I know have ventured to do, yet I was not willing to lose him, and, in a word, resolved to have him if he continued in the same mind, as soon as I was up again; for I saw apparently I should hear no more from my husband; and as he had all along pressed to marry, and had assured me he would not be at all disgusted at it, or ever offer to claim me again, so I made no scruple to resolve to do it if I could, and if my other friend stood to his bargain; and I had a great deal of reason to be assured that he would stand to it, by the letters he wrote to me, which were the kindest and most obliging that could be.
I now grew big, and the people where I lodged perceived it, and began to take notice of it to me, and, as far as civility would allow, intimated that I must think of removing. This put me to extreme perplexity, and I grew very melancholy, for indeed I knew not what course to take. I had money, but no friends, and was like to have a child upon my hands to keep, which was a difficulty I had never had upon me yet, as the particulars of my story hitherto make appear.
In the course of this affair I fell very ill, and my melancholy really increased my distemper; my illness proved at length to be only an ague, but my apprehensions were really that I should miscarry. I should not say apprehensions, for indeed I would have been glad to miscarry, but I could never be brought to entertain so much as a thought of endeavouring to miscarry, or of taking any thing to make me miscarry; I abhorred, I say, so much as the thought of it.
However, speaking of it in the house, the gentlewoman who kept the house proposed to me to send for a midwife. I scrupled it at first, but after some time consented to it, but told her I had no particular acquaintance with any midwife, and so left it to her.
It seems the mistress of the house was not so great a stranger to such cases as mine was as I thought at first she had been, as will appear presently, and she sent for a midwife of the right sort—that is to say, the right sort for me.
The woman appeared to be an experienced woman in her business, I mean as a midwife; but she had another calling too, in which she was as expert as most women if not more. My landlady had told her I was very melancholy, and that she believed that had done me harm; and once, before me, said to her, ‘Mrs. B——’ (meaning the midwife), ‘I believe this lady’s trouble is of a kind that is pretty much in your way, and therefore if you can do anything for her, pray do, for she is a very civil gentlewoman’; and so she went out of the room.
I really did not understand her, but my Mother Midnight began very seriously to explain what she mean, as soon as she was gone. ‘Madam,’ says she, ‘you seem not to understand what your landlady means; and when you do understand it, you need not let her know at all that you do so.
‘She means that you are under some circumstances that may render your lying in difficult to you, and that you are not willing to be exposed. I need say no more, but to tell you, that if you think fit to communicate so much of your case to me, if it be so, as is necessary, for I do not desire to pry into those things, I perhaps may be in a position to help you and to make you perfectly easy, and remove all your dull thoughts upon that subject.’
Every word this creature said was a cordial to me, and put new life and new spirit into my heart; my blood began to circulate immediately, and I was quite another body; I ate my victuals again, and grew better presently after it. She said a great deal more to the same purpose, and then, having pressed me to be free with her, and promised in the solemnest manner to be secret, she stopped a little, as if waiting to see what impression it made on me, and what I would say.
I was too sensible to the want I was in of such a woman, not to accept her offer; I told her my case was partly as she guessed, and partly not, for I was really married, and had a husband, though he was in such fine circumstances and so remote at that time, as that he could not appear publicly.
She took me short, and told me that was none of her business; all the ladies that came under her care were married women to her. ‘Every woman,’ she says, ‘that is with child has a father for it,’ and whether that father was a husband or no husband, was no business of hers; her business was to assist me in my present circumstances, whether I had a husband or no. ‘For, madam,’ says she, ‘to have a husband that cannot appear, is to have no husband in the sense of the case; and, therefore, whether you are a wife or a mistress is all one to me.’
I found presently, that whether I was a whore or a wife, I was to pass for a whore here, so I let that go. I told her it was true, as she said, but that, however, if I must tell her my case, I must tell it her as it was; so I related it to her as short as I could, and I concluded it to her thus. ‘I trouble you with all this, madam,’ said I, ‘not that, as you said before, it is much to the purpose in your affair, but this is to the purpose, namely, that I am not in any pain about being seen, or being public or concealed, for ’tis perfectly indifferent to me; but my difficulty is, that I have no acquaintance in this part of the nation.’
‘I understand you, madam’ says she; ‘you have no security to bring to prevent the parish impertinences usual in such cases, and perhaps,’ says she, ‘do not know very well how to dispose of the child when it comes.’ ‘The last,’ says I, ‘is not so much my concern as the first.’ ‘Well, madam,’ answered the midwife, ‘dare you put yourself into my hands? I live in such a place; though I do not inquire after you, you may inquire after me. My name is B——; I live in such a street’—naming the street—‘at the sign of the Cradle. My profession is a midwife, and I have many ladies that come to my house to lie in. I have given security to the parish in general terms to secure them from any charge from whatsoever shall come into the world under my roof. I have but one question to ask in the whole affair, madam,’ says she, ‘and if that be answered you shall be entirely easy for all the rest.’
I presently understood what she meant, and told her, ‘Madam, I believe I understand you. I thank God, though I want friends in this part of the world, I do not want money, so far as may be necessary, though I do not abound in that neither’: this I added because I would not make her expect great things. ‘Well, madam,’ says she, ‘that is the thing indeed, without which nothing can be done in these cases; and yet,’ says she, ‘you shall see that I will not impose upon you, or offer anything that is unkind to you, and if you desire it, you shall know everything beforehand, that you may suit yourself to the occasion, and be neither costly or sparing as you see fit.’
I told her she seemed to be so perfectly sensible of my condition, that I had nothing to ask of her but this, that as I had told her that I had money sufficient, but not a great quantity, she would order it so that I might be at as little superfluous charge as possible.
She replied that she would bring in an account of the expenses of it in two or three shapes, and like a bill of fare, I should choose as I pleased; and I desired her to do so.
The next day she brought it, and the copy of her three bills was a follows:—
1. For three months’ lodging in her house, including|
my diet, at 10s. a week. . . . . . . . . . . . £6, 0s., 0d.
2. For a nurse for the month, and use of childbed
3. For a minister to christen the child, and to the
4. For a supper at the christening if I had five friends
For her fees as a midwife, and the taking off the
To her maid servant attending. . . . . . . £0, 10s., 0d.
£13, 13s., 0d.
This was the first bill; the second was the same terms:—
1. For three months’ lodging and diet, etc., at 20s.|
per week. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £13, 0s., 0d.
2. For a nurse for the month, and the use of linen
3. For the minister to christen the child, etc., as
4. For supper and for sweetmeats. . . . £3, 3s., 0d.
For her fees as above. . . . . . . . . . . . . £5, 5s., 0d.
For a servant-maid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £1, 0s., 0d.
£26, 18s., 0d.
This was the second-rate bill; the third, she said, was for a degree higher, and when the father or friends appeared:—
1. For three months’ lodging and diet, having two|
rooms and a garret for a servant. . . . . . . . . . . . £30, 0s., 0d.,
2. For a nurse for the month, and the finest suit
3. For the minister to christen the child, etc.. . . . £2, 10s., 0d.
4. For a supper, the gentlemen to send in the
For my fees, etc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £10, 10s., 0d.
The maid, besides their own maid, only. . . . . . . £0, 10s., 0d.
£53, 14s., 0d.
I looked upon all three bills, and smiled, and told her I did not see but that she was very reasonable in her demands, all things considered, and for that I did not doubt but her accommodations were good.
She told me I should be judge of that when I saw them. I told her I was sorry to tell her that I feared I must be her lowest-rated customer. ‘And perhaps, madam,’ said I, ‘you will make me the less welcome upon that account.’ ‘No, not at all,’ said she; ‘for where I have one of the third sort I have two of the second, and four to one of the first, and I get as much by them in proportion as by any; but if you doubt my care of you, I will allow any friend you have to overlook and see if you are well waited on or no.’
Then she explained the particulars of her bill. ‘In the first place, madam,’ said she, ‘I would have you observe that here is three months’ keeping; you are but ten shillings a week; I undertake to say you will not complain of my table. I suppose,’ says she, ‘you do not live cheaper where you are now?’ ‘No, indeed,’ said I, ‘not so cheap, for I give six shillings per week for my chamber, and find my own diet as well as I can, which costs me a great deal more.’
‘Then, madam,’ says she, ‘if the child should not live, or should be dead-born, as you know sometimes happens, then there is the minister’s article saved; and if you have no friends to come to you, you may save the expense of a supper; so that take those articles out, madam,’ says she, ‘your lying in will not cost you above £5, 3s. in all more than your ordinary charge of living.’
This was the most reasonable thing that I ever heard of; so I smiled, and told her I would come and be her customer; but I told her also, that as I had two months and more to do, I might perhaps be obliged to stay longer with her than three months, and desired to know if she would not be obliged to remove me before it was proper. No, she said; her house was large, and besides, she never put anybody to remove, that had lain in, till they were willing to go; and if she had more ladies offered, she was not so ill-beloved among her neighbours but she could provide accommodations for twenty, if there was occasion.
I found she was an eminent lady in her way; and, in short, I agreed to put myself into her hands, and promised her. She then talked of other things, looked about into my accommodations where I was, found fault with my wanting attendance and conveniences, and that I should not be used so at her house. I told her I was shy of speaking, for the woman of the house looked stranger, or at least I thought so, since I had been ill, because I was with child; and I was afraid she would put some affront or other upon me, supposing that I had been able to give but a slight account of myself.
‘Oh dear,’ said she, ‘her ladyship is no stranger to these things; she has tried to entertain ladies in your condition several times, but she could not secure the parish; and besides, she is not such a nice lady as you take her to be; however, since you are a-going, you shall not meddle with her, but I’ll see you are a little better looked after while you are here than I think you are, and it shall not cost you the more neither.’
I did not understand her at all; however, I thanked her, and so we parted. The next morning she sent me a chicken roasted and hot, and a pint bottle of sherry, and ordered the maid to tell me that she was to wait on me every day as long as I stayed there.
This was surprisingly good and kind, and I accepted it very willingly. At night she sent to me again, to know if I wanted anything, and how I did, and to order the maid to come to her in the morning with my dinner. The maid had orders to make me some chocolate in the morning before she came away, and did so, and at noon she brought me the sweetbread of a breast of veal, whole, and a dish of soup for my dinner; and after this manner she nursed me up at a distance, so that I was mightily well pleased, and quickly well, for indeed my dejections before were the principal part of my illness.
I expected, as is usually the case among such people, that the servant she sent me would have been some imprudent brazen wench of Drury Lane breeding, and I was very uneasy at having her with me upon that account; so I would not let her lie in that house the first night by any means, but had my eyes about me as narrowly as if she had been a public thief.
My gentlewoman guessed presently what was the matter, and sent her back with a short note, that I might depend upon the honesty of her maid; that she would be answerable for her upon all accounts; and that she took no servants into her house without very good security for their fidelity. I was then perfectly easy; and indeed the maid’s behaviour spoke for itself, for a modester, quieter, soberer girl never came into anybody’s family, and I found her so afterwards.
As soon as I was well enough to go abroad, I went with the maid to see the house, and to see the apartment I was to have; and everything was so handsome and so clean and well, that, in short, I had nothing to say, but was wonderfully pleased and satisfied with what I had met with, which, considering the melancholy circumstances I was in, was far beyond what I looked for.
It might be expected that I should give some account of the nature of the wicked practices of this woman, in whose hands I was now fallen; but it would be too much encouragement to the vice, to let the world see what easy measures were here taken to rid the women’s unwelcome burthen of a child clandestinely gotten. This grave matron had several sorts of practice, and this was one particular, that if a child was born, though not in her house (for she had occasion to be called to many private labours), she had people at hand, who for a piece of money would take the child off their hands, and off from the hands of the parish too; and those children, as she said, were honestly provided for and taken care of. What should become of them all, considering so many, as by her account she was concerned with, I cannot conceive.
I had many times discourses upon that subject with her; but she was full of this argument, that she save the life of many an innocent lamb, as she called them, which would otherwise perhaps have been murdered; and of many women who, made desperate by the misfortune, would otherwise be tempted to destroy their children, and bring themselves to the gallows. I granted her that this was true, and a very commendable thing, provided the poor children fell into good hands afterwards, and were not abused, starved, and neglected by the nurses that bred them up. She answered, that she always took care of that, and had no nurses in her business but what were very good, honest people, and such as might be depended upon.
I could say nothing to the contrary, and so was obliged to say, ‘Madam, I do not question you do your part honestly, but what those people do afterwards is the main question’; and she stopped my mouth again with saying that she took the utmost care about it.
The only thing I found in all her conversation on these subjects that gave me any distaste, was, that one time in discouraging about my being far gone with child, and the time I expected to come, she said something that looked as if she could help me off with my burthen sooner, if I was willing; or, in English, that she could give me something to make me miscarry, if I had a desire to put an end to my troubles that way; but I soon let her see that I abhorred the thoughts of it; and, to do her justice, she put it off so cleverly, that I could not say she really intended it, or whether she only mentioned the practice as a horrible thing; for she couched her words so well, and took my meaning so quickly, that she gave her negative before I could explain myself.
To bring this part into as narrow a compass as possible, I quitted my lodging at St. Jones’s and went to my new governess, for so they called her in the house, and there I was indeed treated with so much courtesy, so carefully looked to, so handsomely provided, and everything so well, that I was surprised at it, and could not at first see what advantage my governess made of it; but I found afterwards that she professed to make no profit of lodgers’ diet, nor indeed could she get much by it, but that her profit lay in the other articles of her management, and she made enough that way, I assure you; for ’tis scarce credible what practice she had, as well abroad as at home, and yet all upon the private account, or, in plain English, the whoring account.
While I was in her house, which was near four months, she had no less than twelve ladies of pleasure brought to bed within the doors, and I think she had two-and-thirty, or thereabouts, under her conduct without doors, whereof one, as nice as she was with me, was lodged with my old landlady at St. Jones’s.
This was a strange testimony of the growing vice of the age, and such a one, that as bad as I had been myself, it shocked my very senses. I began to nauseate the place I was in and, about all, the wicked practice; and yet I must say that I never saw, or do I believe there was to be seen, the least indecency in the house the whole time I was there.
Not a man was ever seen to come upstairs, except to visit the lying-in ladies within their month, nor then without the old lady with them, who made it a piece of honour of her management that no man should touch a woman, no, not his own wife, within the month; nor would she permit any man to lie in the house upon any pretence whatever, no, not though she was sure it was with his own wife; and her general saying for it was, that she cared not how many children were born in her house, but she would have none got there if she could help it.
It might perhaps be carried further than was needful, but it was an error of the right hand if it was an error, for by this she kept up the reputation, such as it was, of her business, and obtained this character, that though she did take care of the women when they were debauched, yet she was not instrumental to their being debauched at all; and yet it was a wicked trade she drove too.
While I was there, and before I was brought to bed, I received a letter from my trustee at the bank, full of kind, obliging things, and earnestly pressing me to return to London. It was near a fortnight old when it came to me, because it had been first sent into Lancashire, and then returned to me. He concludes with telling me that he had obtained a decree, I think he called it, against his wife, and that he would be ready to make good his engagement to me, if I would accept of him, adding a great many protestations of kindness and affection, such as he would have been far from offering if he had known the circumstances I had been in, and which as it was I had been very far from deserving.
I returned an answer to his letter, and dated it at Liverpool, but sent it by messenger, alleging that it came in cover to a friend in town. I gave him joy of his deliverance, but raised some scruples at the lawfulness of his marrying again, and told him I supposed he would consider very seriously upon that point before he resolved on it, the consequence being too great for a man of his judgment to venture rashly upon a thing of that nature; so concluded, wishing him very well in whatever he resolved, without letting him into anything of my own mind, or giving any answer to his proposal of my coming to London to him, but mentioned at a distance my intention to return the latter end of the year, this being dated in April.
I was brought to bed about the middle of May and had another brave boy, and myself in as good condition as usual on such occasions. My governess did her part as a midwife with the greatest art and dexterity imaginable, and far beyond all that ever I had had any experience of before.
Her care of me in my travail, and after in my lying in, was such, that if she had been my own mother it could not have been better. Let none be encouraged in their loose practices from this dexterous lady’s management, for she is gone to her place, and I dare say has left nothing behind her that can or will come up on it.
I think I had been brought to bed about twenty-two days when I received another letter from my friend at the bank, with the surprising news that he had obtained a final sentence of divorce against his wife, and had served her with it on such a day, and that he had such an answer to give to all my scruples about his marrying again, as I could not expect, and as he had no desire of; for that his wife, who had been under some remorse before for her usage of him, as soon as she had the account that he had gained his point, had very unhappily destroyed herself that same evening.
He expressed himself very handsomely as to his being concerned at her disaster, but cleared himself of having any hand in it, and that he had only done himself justice in a case in which he was notoriously injured and abused. However, he said that he was extremely afflicted at it, and had no view of any satisfaction left in his world, but only in the hope that I would come and relieve him by my company; and then he pressed me violently indeed to give him some hopes that I would at least come up to town and let him see me, when he would further enter into discourse about it.
I was exceedingly surprised at the news, and began now seriously to reflect on my present circumstances, and the inexpressible misfortune it was to me to have a child upon my hands, and what to do in it I knew not. At last I opened my case at a distance to my governess. I appeared melancholy and uneasy for several days, and she lay at me continually to know what trouble me. I could not for my life tell her that I had an offer of marriage, after I had so often told her that I had a husband, so that I really knew not what to say to her. I owned I had something which very much troubled me, but at the same time told her I could not speak of it to any one alive.
She continued importuning me several days, but it was impossible, I told her, for me to commit the secret to anybody. This, instead of being an answer to her, increased her importunities; she urged her having been trusted with the greatest secrets of this nature, that it was her business to conceal everything, and that to discover things of that nature would be her ruin. She asked me if ever I had found her tattling to me of other people’s affairs, and how could I suspect her? She told me, to unfold myself to her was telling it to nobody; that she was silent as death; that it must be a very strange case indeed that she could not help me out of; but to conceal it was to deprive myself of all possible help, or means of help, and to deprive her of the opportunity of serving me. In short, she had such a bewitching eloquence, and so great a power of persuasion that there was no concealing anything from her.
So I resolved to unbosom myself to her. I told her the history of my Lancashire marriage, and how both of us had been disappointed; how we came together, and how we parted; how he absolutely discharged me, as far as lay in him, free liberty to marry again, protesting that if he knew it he would never claim me, or disturb or expose me; that I thought I was free, but was dreadfully afraid to venture, for fear of the consequences that might follow in case of a discovery.
Then I told her what a good offer I had; showed her my friend’s two last letters, inviting me to come to London, and let her see with what affection and earnestness they were written, but blotted out the name, and also the story about the disaster of his wife, only that she was dead.
She fell a-laughing at my scruples about marrying, and told me the other was no marriage, but a cheat on both sides; and that, as we were parted by mutual consent, the nature of the contract was destroyed, and the obligation was mutually discharged. She had arguments for this at the tip of her tongue; and, in short, reasoned me out of my reason; not but that it was too by the help of my own inclination.
But then came the great and main difficulty, and that was the child; this, she told me in so many words, must be removed, and that so as that it should never be possible for any one to discover it. I knew there was no marrying without entirely concealing that I had had a child, for he would soon have discovered by the age of it that it was born, nay, and gotten too, since my parley with him, and that would have destroyed all the affair.
But it touched my heart so forcibly to think of parting entirely with the child, and, for aught I knew, of having it murdered, or starved by neglect and ill-usage (which was much the same), that I could not think of it without horror. I wish all those women who consent to the disposing their children out of the way, as it is called, for decency sake, would consider that ’tis only a contrived method for murder; that is to say, a-killing their children with safety.
It is manifest to all that understand anything of children, that we are born into the world helpless, and incapable either to supply our own wants or so much as make them known; and that without help we must perish; and this help requires not only an assisting hand, whether of the mother or somebody else, but there are two things necessary in that assisting hand, that is, care and skill; without both which, half the children that are born would die, nay, though they were not to be denied food; and one half more of those that remained would be cripples or fools, lose their limbs, and perhaps their sense. I question not but that these are partly the reasons why affection was placed by nature in the hearts of mothers to their children; without which they would never be able to give themselves up, as ’tis necessary they should, to the care and waking pains needful to the support of their children.
Since this care is needful to the life of children, to neglect them is to murder them; again, to give them up to be managed by those people who have none of that needful affection placed by nature in them, is to neglect them in the highest degree; nay, in some it goes farther, and is a neglect in order to their being lost; so that ’tis even an intentional murder, whether the child lives or dies.
All those things represented themselves to my view, and that is the blackest and most frightful form: and as I was very free with my governess, whom I had now learned to call mother, I represented to her all the dark thoughts which I had upon me about it, and told her what distress I was in. She seemed graver by much at this part than at the other; but as she was hardened in these things beyond all possibility of being touched with the religious part, and the scruples about the murder, so she was equally impenetrable in that part which related to affection. She asked me if she had not been careful and tender to me in my lying in, as if I had been her own child. I told her I owned she had. ‘Well, my dear,’ says she, ‘and when you are gone, what are you to me? And what would it be to me if you were to be hanged? Do you think there are not women who, as it is their trade and they get their bread by it, value themselves upon their being as careful of children as their own mothers can be, and understand it rather better? Yes, yes, child,’ says she, ‘fear it not; how were we nursed ourselves? Are you sure you was nursed up by your own mother? and yet you look fat and fair, child,’ says the old beldam; and with that she stroked me over the face. ‘Never be concerned, child,’ says she, going on in her drolling way; ‘I have no murderers about me; I employ the best and the honestest nurses that can be had, and have as few children miscarry under their hands as there would if they were all nursed by mothers; we want neither care nor skill.’
She touched me to the quick when she asked if I was sure that I was nursed by my own mother; on the contrary I was sure I was not; and I trembled, and looked pale at the very expression. ‘Sure,’ said I to myself, ‘this creature cannot be a witch, or have any conversation with a spirit, that can inform her what was done with me before I was able to know it myself’; and I looked at her as if I had been frightened; but reflecting that it could not be possible for her to know anything about me, that disorder went off, and I began to be easy, but it was not presently.
She perceived the disorder I was in, but did not know the meaning of it; so she ran on in her wild talk upon the weakness of my supposing that children were murdered because they were not all nursed by the mother, and to persuade me that the children she disposed of were as well used as if the mothers had the nursing of them themselves.
‘It may be true, mother,’ says I, ‘for aught I know, but my doubts are very strongly grounded indeed.’ ‘Come, then,’ says she, ‘let’s hear some of them.’ ‘Why, first,’ says I, ‘you give a piece of money to these people to take the child off the parent’s hands, and to take care of it as long as it lives. Now we know, mother,’ said I, ‘that those are poor people, and their gain consists in being quit of the charge as soon as they can; how can I doubt but that, as it is best for them to have the child die, they are not over solicitous about life?’
‘This is all vapours and fancy,’ says the old woman; ‘I tell you their credit depends upon the child’s life, and they are as careful as any mother of you all.’
‘O mother,’ says I, ‘if I was but sure my little baby would be carefully looked to, and have justice done it, I should be happy indeed; but it is impossible I can be satisfied in that point unless I saw it, and to see it would be ruin and destruction to me, as now my case stands; so what to do I know not.’
‘A fine story!’ says the governess. ‘You would see the child, and you would not see the child; you would be concealed and discovered both together. These are things impossible, my dear; so you must e’en do as other conscientious mothers have done before you, and be contented with things as they must be, though they are not as you wish them to be.’
I understood what she meant by conscientious mothers; she would have said conscientious whores, but she was not willing to disoblige me, for really in this case I was not a whore, because legally married, the force of former marriage excepted.
However, let me be what I would, I was not come up to that pitch of hardness common to the profession; I mean, to be unnatural, and regardless of the safety of my child; and I preserved this honest affection so long, that I was upon the point of giving up my friend at the bank, who lay so hard at me to come to him and marry him, that, in short, there was hardly any room to deny him.
At last my old governess came to me, with her usual assurance. ‘Come, my dear,’ says she, ‘I have found out a way how you shall be at a certainty that your child shall be used well, and yet the people that take care of it shall never know you, or who the mother of the child is.’
‘Oh mother,’ says I, ‘if you can do so, you will engage me to you for ever.’ ‘Well,’ says she, ‘are you willing to be a some small annual expense, more than what we usually give to the people we contract with?’ ‘Ay,’ says I, ‘with all my heart, provided I may be concealed.’ ‘As to that,’ says the governess, ‘you shall be secure, for the nurse shall never so much as dare to inquire about you, and you shall once or twice a year go with me and see your child, and see how ’tis used, and be satisfied that it is in good hands, nobody knowing who you are.’
‘Why,’ said I, ‘do you think, mother, that when I come to see my child, I shall be able to conceal my being the mother of it? Do you think that possible?’
‘Well, well,’ says my governess, ‘if you discover it, the nurse shall be never the wiser; for she shall be forbid to ask any questions about you, or to take any notice. If she offers it, she shall lose the money which you are suppose to give her, and the child shall be taken from her too.’
I was very well pleased with this. So the next week a countrywoman was brought from Hertford, or thereabouts, who was to take the child off our hands entirely for £10 in money. But if I would allow £5 a year more of her, she would be obliged to bring the child to my governess’s house as often as we desired, or we should come down and look at it, and see how well she used it.
The woman was very wholesome-looking, a likely woman, a cottager’s wife, but she had very good clothes and linen, and everything well about her; and with a heavy heart and many a tear, I let her have my child. I had been down at Hertford, and looked at her and at her dwelling, which I liked well enough; and I promised her great things if she would be kind to the child, so she knew at first word that I was the child’s mother. But she seemed to be so much out of the way, and to have no room to inquire after me, that I thought I was safe enough. So, in short, I consented to let her have the child, and I gave her £10; that is to say, I gave it to my governess, who gave it the poor woman before my face, she agreeing never to return the child back to me, or to claim anything more for its keeping or bringing up; only that I promised, if she took a great deal of care of it, I would give her something more as often as I came to see it; so that I was not bound to pay the £5, only that I promised my governess I would do it. And thus my great care was over, after a manner, which though it did not at all satisfy my mind, yet was the most convenient for me, as my affairs then stood, of any that could be thought of at that time.