§ 16

Daniel Defoe

I WAS NOW in my element. I was as much talked of as anybody could desire, and I did not doubt but some thing or other would come of it, but the report of my being so rich rather was a balk to my view than anything else; for the gentlemen, that would perhaps have been troublesome enough otherwise, seemed to be kept off, for Roxana was too high for them.

There is a scene which came in here which I must cover from human eyes or ears. For three years and about a month Roxana lived retired, having been obliged to make an excursion in a manner and with a person which duty and private vows oblige her not to reveal, at least not yet.

At the end of this time I appeared again, but I must add that as I had in this time of retreat made hay, etc., so I did not come abroad again with the same lustre or shine with so much advantage as before; for as some people had got at least a suspicion of where I had been and who had had me all the while, it began to be public that Roxana was, in short, a mere Roxana, neither better nor worse, and not that woman of honour and virtue that was at first supposed.

You are now to suppose me about seven years come to town, and that I had not only suffered the old revenue, which I hinted was managed by Sir Robert Clayton, to grow, as was mentioned before, but I had laid up an incredible wealth, the time considered. And had I yet had the least thought of reforming, I had all the opportunity to do it with advantage that ever woman had, for the common vice of all whores, I mean money, was out of the question, nay, even avarice itself seemed to be glutted; for, including what I had saved in reserving the interest of £14,000, which, as above, I had left to grow, and including some very good presents I had made to me in mere compliment upon these shining masquerading meetings, which I held up for about two years, and what I made of three years of the most glorious retreat, as I call it, that ever woman had, I had fully doubled my first substance, and had near £5,000 in money which I kept at home, besides abundance of plate and jewels which I had either given me or had bought to set myself out for public days.

In a word, I had now £35,000 estate, and as I found ways to live without wasting either principal or interest, I laid up £2,000 every year at least, out of the mere interest, adding it to the principal; and thus I went on.

After the end of what I may call my retreat, and out of which I brought a great deal of money, I appeared again, but I seemed like an old piece of plate that has been hoarded up some years and comes out tarnished and discoloured. So I came out blown and looked like a cast-off mistress, nor indeed was I any better, though I was not at all impaired in beauty, except that I was a little fatter than I was formerly, and always granting that I was four years older.

However, I preserved the youth of my temper, was always bright, pleasant in company, and agreeable to everybody, or else everybody flattered me; and in this condition I came abroad to the world again; and though I was not so popular as before, and indeed did not seek it, because I knew it could not be, yet I was far from being without company, and that of the greatest quality, of subjects I mean, who frequently visited me, and sometimes we had meetings for mirth and play at my apartments, where I failed not to divert them in the most agreeable manner possible.

Nor could any of them make the least particular application to me from the notion they had of my excessive wealth, which, as they thought, placed me above the meanness of a maintenance, and so left no room to come easily about me.

But at last I was very handsomely attacked by a person of honour, and (which recommended him particularly to me) a person of a very great estate. He made a long introduction to me upon the subject of my wealth. “Ignorant creature,” said I to myself, “considering him as a lord; was there ever woman in the world that could stoop to the baseness of being a whore and was above taking the reward of her vice? No, no, depend upon it, if your lordship obtains anything of me you must pay for it; and the notion of my being so rich serves only to make it cost you the dearer, seeing you cannot offer a small matter to a woman of £2,000 a year estate.”

After he had harangued upon that subject a good while, and had assured me he had no design upon me, that he did not come to make a prize of me, or to pick my pocket—which, by the way, I was in no fear of, for I took too much care of my money to part with any of it that way—he then turned his discourse to the subject of love, a point so ridiculous to me without the main thing, I mean the money, that I had no patience to hear him make so long a story of it.

I received him civilly, and let him see I could bear to hear a wicked proposal without being affronted, and yet I was not to be brought into it too easily. He visited me a long while and, in short, courted me as closely and assiduously as if he had been wooing me to matrimony. He made me several valuable presents, which I suffered myself to be prevailed with to accept, but not without great difficulty.

Gradually I suffered also his other importunities, and when he made a proposal of a compliment or appointment to me for a settlement, he said that though I was rich, yet there was not the less due from him to acknowledge the favours he received, and that if I was to be his I should not live at my own expense, cost what it would. I told him I was far from being extravagant, and yet I did not live at the expense of less than £500 a year out of my own pocket; that, however, I was not covetous of settled allowances, for I looked upon that as a kind of golden chain, something like matrimony; that though I knew how to be true to a man of honour, as I knew his lordship to be, yet I had a kind of aversion to the bonds, and though I was not so rich as the world talked me up to be, yet I was not so poor as to bind myself to hardships for a pension.

He told me he expected to make my life perfectly easy, and intended it so; that he knew of no bondage there could be in a private engagement between us; that the bonds of honour, he knew, I would be tied by, and think them no burthen; and for other obligations, he scorned to expect anything from me but what he knew as a woman of honour I could grant; then as to maintenance, he told me he would soon show me that he valued me infinitely above £500 a year; and upon this foot we began.

I seemed kinder to him after this discourse, and as time and private conversation made us very intimate, we began to come nearer to the main article, namely, the £500 a year. He offered that at first word, and to acknowledge it as an infinite favour to have it be accepted of; and I, that thought it was too much by all the money, suffered myself to be mastered or prevailed with to yield, even on but a bare engagement upon parole.

When he had obtained his end that way, I told him my mind. “Now you see, my Lord,” said I, “how weakly I have acted, namely, to yield to you without capitulation, or anything secured to me but that which you may cease to allow when you please; if I am the less valued for such a confidence, I shall be injured in a manner that I will endeavour not to deserve.”

He told me that he would make it evident to me that he did not seek me by way of bargain, as such things were often done; that as I had treated him with a generous confidence, so I should find I was in the hands of a man of honour, and one that knew how to value the obligation. And upon this he pulled out a goldsmith’s bill for £300, which, putting it into my hand, he said he gave me as a pledge that I should not be a loser by my not having made a bargain with him.

This was engaging indeed, and gave me a good idea of our future correspondence; and in short, as I could not refrain treating him with more kindness than I had done before, so one thing begetting another, I gave him several testimonies that was entirely his own, by inclination as well as by the common obligation of a mistress; and this pleased him exceedingly.

Soon after this private engagement I began to consider whether it were not more suitable to the manner of life I now led, to be a little less public, and as I told my Lord it would rid me of the importunities of others, and of continual visits from a sort of people whom he knew of, and who, by the way, having now got the notion of me which I really deserved, began to talk of the old game, love and gallantry, and to offer at what was rude enough; things as nauseous to me now as if I had been married and as virtuous as other people. The visits of these people began indeed to be uneasy to me, and particularly as they were always very tedious and impertinent; nor could my Lord —— be pleased with them at all if they had gone on. It would be diverting to set down here in what manner I repulsed these sort of people; how in some I resented it as an affront, and told them that I was sorry they should oblige me to vindicate myself from the scandal of such suggestions by telling them that I could see them no more, and by desiring them not to give themselves the trouble of visiting me, who, though I was not unwilling to be uncivil, yet thought myself obliged never to receive any visit from any gentleman after he had made such proposals as those to me; but these things would be too tedious to bring in here. It was on this account I proposed to his lordship my taking new lodgings for privacy; besides, I considered that as I might live very handsomely and yet not so publicly, so I need not spend so much money, by a great deal, and if I made £500 a year of this generous person, it was more than I had any occasion to spend, by a great deal.

My Lord came readily into this proposal and went further than I expected, for he found out a lodging for me in a very handsome house where yet he was not known—I suppose he had employed somebody to find it out for him—and where he had a convenient way to come into the garden, by a door that opened into the park, a thing very rarely allowed in those times.

By this key he could come in at what time of night or day he pleased, and as we had also a little door in the lower part of the house, which was always left upon a lock, and his was the master-key, so if it was twelve, one, or two o’clock at night he could come directly into my bedchamber.

N.B.—I was not afraid I should be found a-bed with anybody else, for, in a word, I conversed with nobody at all.

It happened pleasantly enough one night; his lordship had stayed late, and I, not expecting him that night, had taken Amy to bed with me, and when my Lord came into the chamber we were both fast asleep; I think it was near three o’clock when he came in, and a little merry, but not at all fuddled or what they call in drink, and he came at once into the room.

Amy was frighted out of her wits and cried out. I said calmly, “Indeed, my Lord, I did not expect you to-night, and we have been a little frighted to-night with fire,” “Oh!” says he, “I see you have got a bedfellow with you.” I began to make an apology. “No, no,” says my Lord, ”you need no excuse, ’tis not a man-bedfellow I see.” But then, talking merrily enough, he caught his words back. “But hark ye,” says he, “now I think on’t, how shall I be satisfied it is not a man-bedfellow?” “Oh,” says I, “I dare say your lordship is satisfied ’tis poor Amy.” “Yes,” says he, “’tis Mrs. Amy, but how do I know what Amy is? It may be Mr. Amy for aught I know; I hope you’ll give me leave to be satisfied.” I told him, yes, by all means I would have his lordship satisfied, but I supposed he knew who she was.

Well, he fell foul of poor Amy, and indeed I thought once he would have carried the jest on before my face, as was once done in a like case. But his lordship was not so hot neither but he would know whether Amy was Mr. Amy or Mrs. Amy, and so I suppose he did; and then being satisfied in that doubtful case, he walked to the further end of the room and went into a little closet and sat down.

In the meantime Amy and I got up, and I bid her run and make the bed in another chamber for my Lord, and I gave her sheets to put into it, which she did immediately, and I put my Lord to bed there and, when I had done at his desire, went to bed to him. I was backward at first to come to bed to him, and made my excuse, because I had been in bed with Amy and had not shifted me, but he was past those niceties at that time, and as long as he was sure it was Mrs. Amy and not Mr. Amy he was very well satisfied, and so the jest passed over; but Amy appeared no more all that night or the next day, and when she did, my Lord was so merry with her upon his éclaircissement, as he called it, that Amy did not know what to do with herself.

Not that Amy was such a nice lady in the main if she had been fairly dealt with, as has appeared in the former part of this work, but now she was surprised and a little hurried, that she scarce knew where she was, and besides she was, as to his lordship, as nice a lady as any in the world, and, for anything he knew of her, she appeared as such; the rest was to us only that knew of it.

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