But he put the occasion into my hands, for he came no more to me for two months; indeed, I expected a fit of absence, for such I had had several times before, but not for above a fortnight or three weeks at most. But after I had stayed a month, which was longer than ever he kept away yet, I took a new method with him, for I was resolved now it should be in my power to continue or not as I thought fit. At the end of a month, therefore. I removed and took lodgings at Kensington Gravel Pits, and that part next to the road to Acton, and left nobody in my lodgings but Amy and a footman, with proper instructions how to behave when his lordship being come to himself should think fit to come again, which I knew he would.
About the end of two months, he came in the dusk of the evening as usual. The footman answered him, and told him his lady was not at home, but there was Mrs. Amy above; so he did not order her to be called down, but went upstairs into the dining-room, and Mrs. Amy came to him. He asked where I was. “My Lord,” said she, “my mistress has been removed a good while from hence, and lives at Kensington.” “Ay, Mrs. Amy! how come you to be here, then?” “My Lord,” said she, “we are here till the quarter-day, because the goods are not removed, and to give answers if any comes to ask for my lady.” “Well, and what answer are you to give me?” “Indeed, my Lord,” says Amy, “I have no particular answer to your lordship but to tell you and everybody else where my lady lives, that they may not think she’s run away.” “No, Mrs. Amy,” says he, “I don’t think she’s run away, but indeed I can’t go after her so far as that.” Amy said nothing to that, but made a curtsy, and said she believed I would be there again for a week or two in a little time. “How little time, Mrs. Amy?” says my Lord. “She comes next Tuesday,” says Amy. “Very well,” says my Lord, “I’ll call and see her then “; and so he went away.
Accordingly I came on the Tuesday and stayed a fortnight, but he came not; so I went back to Kensington, and after that I had very few of his lordship’s visits, which I was very glad of, and in a little time after was more glad of it than I was at first, and upon a far better account too.
For now I began not to be sick of his lordship only, but really I began to be sick of the vice; and as I had good leisure now to divert and enjoy myself in the world as much as it was possible for any woman to do that ever lived in it, so I found that my judgment began to prevail upon me to fix my delight upon nobler objects than I had formerly done, and the very beginning of this brought some just reflections upon me relating to things past and to the former manner of my living. And though there was not the least hint in all this from what may be called religion or conscience, and far from anything of repentance or anything that was akin to it, especially at first, yet the sense of things and the knowledge I had of the world, and the vast variety of scenes that I had acted my part in, began to work upon my senses, and it came so very strong upon my mind one morning when I had been lying awake some time in my bed, as if somebody had asked me the question, what was I a whore for now? It occurred naturally upon this enquiry that at first I yielded to the importunity of my circumstances, the misery of which the devil dismally aggravated, to draw me to comply; for I confess I had strong natural aversions to the crime at first, partly owing to a virtuous education, and partly to a sense of religion; but the devil, and that greater devil of poverty, prevailed, and the person who laid siege to me did it in such an obliging, and I may almost say, irresistible manner, all still managed by the evil spirit—for I must be allowed to believe that he had a share in all such things, if not the whole management of them—but I say it was carried on by that person in such an irresistible manner, that (as I said when I related the fact) there was no withstanding it. These circumstances I say the devil managed, not only to bring me to comply, but he continued them as arguments to fortify my mind against all reflection, and to keep me in that horrid course I had engaged in, as if it were honest and lawful.
But not to dwell upon that now. This was a pretence, and here was something to be said, though I acknowledge it ought not to have been sufficient to me at all, but I say to leave that, all this was out of doors; the devil himself could not form one argument or put one reason into my head now that could serve for an answer, no, not so much as a pretended answer to this question, why I should be a whore now.
It had for a while been a little kind of excuse to me that I was engaged with this wicked old lord, and that I could not in honour forsake him; but how foolish and absurd did it look to repeat the word of honour on so vile an occasion. As if a woman should prostitute her honour in point of honour—horrid inconsistency. Honour called upon me to detest the crime and the man too, and to have resisted all the attacks which from the beginning had been made upon my virtue; and honour, had it been consulted, would have preserved me honest from the beginning:
This, however, shows us with what faint excuses and with what trifles we pretend to satisfy ourselves and suppress the attempts of conscience in the pursuit of agreeable crime, and in the possessing those pleasures which we are loath to part with.
But this objection would now serve no longer, for my lord had, in some sort, broken his engagements (I won’t call it honour again) with me, and had so far slighted me as fairly to justify my entire quitting of him now; and so, as the objection was fully answered, the question remained still unanswered, why am I a whore now? Nor indeed had I anything to say for myself, even to myself. I could not without blushing, as wicked as I was, answer that I loved it for the sake of the vice, and that I delighted in being a whore as such—I say I could not say this even to myself, and all alone, nor indeed would it have been true. I was never able in justice and with truth to say I was so wicked as that, but as necessity first debauched me and poverty made me a whore at the beginning, so excess of avarice for getting money and excess of vanity continued me in the crime, not being able to resist the flatteries of great persons; being called the finest woman in France, being caressed by a Prince, and afterwards, I had pride enough to expect and folly enough to believe, though indeed without ground, by a great monarch. These were my baits, these the chains by which the devil held me bound, and by which I was indeed too fast held for any reasoning that I was then mistress of to deliver me from.
But this was all over now. Avarice could have no pretence, I was out of the reach of all that Fate could be supposed to do to reduce me; now I was so far from poor or the danger of it that I had £50,000 in my pocket at least—nay, I had the income of £50,000, for I had £2,500 a year coming in upon very good land security, besides £3,000 or £4,000 in money which I kept by me for ordinary occasions, and besides jewels and plate and goods which were worth near £5,600 more. These put together, when I ruminated on it all in my thoughts, as you may be sure I did often, added weight still to the question, as above, and it sounded continually in my head, what’s next? what am I a whore for now?
It is true this was, as I say, seldom out of my thoughts, but yet it made no impressions upon me of that kind which might be expected from a reflection of so important a nature, and which had so much of substance and seriousness in it.
But, however, it was not without some little consequences, even at that time, and which gave a little turn to my way of living at first, as you shall hear in its place.
But one particular thing intervened besides this, which gave me some uneasiness at this time, and made way for other things that followed. I have mentioned in several little digressions the concern I had upon me for my children, and in what manner I had directed that affair. I must go on a little with that part in order to bring the subsequent parts of my story together.
My boy, the only son I had left that I had a legal right to call son, was, as I have said, rescued from the unhappy circumstances of being apprentice to a mechanic, and was brought up upon a new foot; but though this was infinitely to his advantage, yet it put him back near three years in his coming into the world, for he had been near a year at the drudgery he was first put to, and it took up two years more to form him for what he had hopes given him he should hereafter be, so that he was full nineteen years old, or rather twenty years, before he came to be put out as I intended; at the end of which time I put him to a very flourishing Italian merchant, and he again sent him to Messina in the island of Sicily. And a little before the juncture I am now speaking of, I had letters from him, that is to say, Mrs. Amy had letters from him, intimating that he was out of his time, and that he had an opportunity to be taken into an English house there, on very good terms, if his support from hence might answer what he was bid to hope for; and so begged that what would be done for him might be so ordered that he might have it for his present advancement, referring for the particulars to his master, the merchant in London whom he had been put apprentice to here, who, to cut the story short, gave such a satisfactory account of it, and of my young man, to my steady and faithful counsellor, Sir Robert Clayton, that I made no scruple to pay £4,000, which was £1,000 more than he demanded, or rather proposed, that he might have encouragement to enter into the world better than he expected.
His master remitted the money very faithfully to him, and, finding by Sir Robert Clayton that the young gentleman, for so he called him, was well supported, wrote such letters on his account as gave him a credit at Messina equal in value to the money itself.
I could not digest it very well that I should all this while conceal myself thus from my own child, and make all this favour due, in his opinion, to a stranger, and yet I could not find in my heart to let my son know what a mother he had and what a life she lived, when at the same time that he must think himself infinitely obliged to me, he must be obliged, if he was a man of virtue, to hate his mother and abhor the way of living by which all the bounty he enjoyed was raised.
This is the reason of mentioning this part of my son’s story, which is otherwise no ways concerned in my history, but as it put me upon thinking how to put an end to that wicked course I was in, that my own child, when he should afterwards come to England in a good figure and with the appearance of a merchant, should not be ashamed to own me.
But there was another difficulty which lay heavier upon me a great deal, and that was my daughter, who, as before, I had relieved by the hands of another instrument, which Amy had procured. The girl, as I have mentioned, was directed to put herself into a good garb, take lodgings, and entertain a maid to wait upon her, and to give herself some breeding, that is to say, to learn to dance and fit herself to appear as a gentlewoman, being made to hope that she should, some time or other, find that she should be put into a condition to support her character and to make herself amends for all her former troubles. She was only charged not to be drawn into matrimony till she was secured of a fortune that might assist to dispose of herself suitable not to what she then was but what she was to be.
The girl was too sensible of her circumstances not to give all possible satisfaction of that kind, and indeed she was mistress of too much understanding not to see how much she should be obliged to that part for her own interest.
It was not long after this, but being well equipped and in everything well set out, as she was directed, she came as I have related above, and paid a visit to Mrs. Amy, and to tell her of her good fortune. Amy pretended to be much surprised at the alteration, and overjoyed for her sake, and began to treat her very well, entertained her handsomely, and, when she would have gone away, pretended to ask my leave and sent my coach home with her; and in short, learning from her where she lodged, which was in the city, Amy promised to return her visit, and did so; and in a word, Amy and Susan (for she was my own name) began an intimate acquaintance together.
There was an inexpressible difficulty in the poor girl’s way, or else I should not have been able to have forborne discovering myself to her, and this was her having been a servant in my particular family; and I could by no means think of ever letting the children know what a kind of creature they owed their being to, or giving them an occasion to upbraid their mother with her scandalous life, much less to justify the like practice from my example.
Thus it was with me, and thus, no doubt, considering parents always find it that their own children are a restraint to them in their worst courses, when the sense of a superior Power has not the same influence. But of that hereafter.
There happened, however, one good circumstance in the case of this poor girl which brought about a discovery sooner than otherwise it would have been, and it was thus. After she and Amy had been intimate for some time and had exchanged several visits, the girl now grown a woman, talking to Amy of the gay things that used to fall out when she was servant in my family, spoke of it with a kind of concern that she could not see (me) her lady, and at last she adds, “’Twas very strange, madam,” says she to Amy, “but though I lived near two years in the house, I never saw my mistress in my life, except it was that public night when she danced in the fine Turkish habit, and then she was so disguised that I knew nothing of her afterwards.”
Amy was glad to hear this; but as she was a cunning girl from the beginning, she was not to be bit, and so she laid no stress upon that at first, but gave me an account of it; and I must confess it gave me a secret joy to think that I was not known to her, and that, by virtue of that only accident, I might, when other circumstances made room for it, discover myself to her and let her know she had a mother in a condition fit to be owned.
It was a dreadful restraint to me before, and this gave me some very sad reflections and made way for the great question I have mentioned above; and by how much the circumstance was bitter to me, by so much the more agreeable it was to understand that the girl had never seen me, and consequently did not know me again if she was to be told who I was.
However, the next time she came to visit Amy, I was resolved to put it to a trial and to come into the room and let her see me, and to see by that whether she knew me or not; but Amy put me by, lest indeed, as there was reason enough to question, I should not be able to contain or forbear discovering myself to her; so it went off for that time.
But both these circumstances, and that is the reason of mentioning them, brought me to consider of the life I lived, and to resolve to put myself into some figure of life in which I might not be scandalous to my own family and be afraid to make myself known to my own children, who were my own flesh and blood.
There was another daughter I had, which, with all our enquiries, we could not hear of, high nor low, for several years after the first. But I return to my own story.