§ 19

Daniel Defoe

BEING NOW in part removed from my old station, I seemed to be in a fair way of retiring from my old acquaintances, and consequently from the vile abominable trade I had driven so long, so that the door seemed to be, as it were, particularly opened to my reformation if I had any mind to it in earnest. But for all that, some of my old friends, as I had used to call them, enquired me out and came to visit me at Kensington, and that more frequently than I wished they would do; but it being once known where I was, there was no avoiding it, unless I would have downright refused and affronted them, and I was not yet in earnest enough with my resolutions to go that length.

The best of it was, my old lewd favourite, whom I now heartily hated, entirely dropped me. He came once to visit me, but I caused Amy to deny me and say I was gone out. She did it so oddly too, that when his lordship went away he said coldly to her, “Well, well, Mrs. Amy, I find your mistress does not desire to be seen; tell her I won’t trouble her any more,” repeating the words “any more” two or three times over just at his going away.

I reflected a little on it at first, as unkind to him, having had so many considerable presents from him; but, as I have said, I was sick of him, and that on some accounts which, if I could suffer myself to publish them, would fully justify my conduct; but that part of the story will not bear telling, so I must leave it and proceed.

I had begun a little, as I have said above, to reflect upon my manner of living and to think of putting a new face upon it, and nothing moved me to it more than the consideration of my having three children who were now grown up, and yet, that while I was in that station of life, I could not converse with them or make myself known to them; and this gave me a great deal of uneasiness. At last I entered into talk on this part of it with my woman Amy.

We lived at Kensington, as I have said, and though I had done with my old wicked Lord ——, as above, yet I was frequently visited, as I said, by some others, so that, in a word, I began to be known in the town, not by my name only, but by my character too, which was worse.

It was one morning when Amy was in bed with me, and I had some of my dullest thoughts about me, that Amy, hearing me sigh pretty often, asked me if I was not well. “Yes, Amy, I am well enough,” says I, ”but my mind is oppressed with heavy thoughts, and has been so a good while ”; and then I told her how it grieved me that I could not make myself known to my own children, or form any acquaintances in the world. “Why so?” says Amy. “Why, prithee, Amy,” says I, “what will my children say to themselves, and to one another, when they find their mother, however rich she may be, is at best but a whore, a common whore? And as for acquaintance, prithee, Amy, what sober lady or what family of any character will visit or be acquainted with a whore?”

“Why, all that’s true, madam,” says Amy, “but how can it be remedied now?” “’Tis true, Amy,” said I, “the thing cannot be remedied now, but the scandal of it, I fancy, may be thrown off.”

“Truly,” says Amy, “I do not see how, unless you will go abroad again and live in some other nation where nobody has known us or seen us, so that they cannot say they ever saw us before.”

That very thought of Amy’s put what follows into my head, and I returned, “Why, Amy,” says I, “is it not possible for me to shift my being from this part of the town and go and live in another part of the country, and be as entirely concealed as if I had never been known?”

“Yes,” says Amy, “I believe it might, but then you must put off all your equipages and servants, coaches and horses, change your liveries, nay, your own clothes, and, if it was possible, your very face.”

“Well,” says I, “and that’s the way, Amy, and that I’ll do, and that forthwith, for I am not able to live in this manner any longer.” Amy came into this with a kind of pleasure particular to herself, that is to say, with an eagerness not to be resisted; for Amy was apt to be precipitant in her motions, and was for doing it immediately. “Well,” says I, “Amy, as soon as you will, but what course must we take to do it? We cannot put off servants and coach and horses and everything, leave off housekeeping, and transform ourselves into a new shape, all in a moment; servants must have warning, and the goods must be sold off, and a thousand things”; and this began to perplex us, and in particular took us up two or three days’ consideration.

At last, Amy, who was a clever manager in such cases, came to me with a scheme, as she called it. “I have found it out, madam,” says she; “I have found a scheme how you shall, if you have a mind to it, begin and finish a perfect entire change of your figure and circumstances in one day, and shall be as much unknown, madam, in twenty-four hours as you would be in so many years.”

“Come, Amy,” says I, “let us hear it, for you please me mightily with the thoughts of it.” “Why, then,” says Amy, “let me go into the city this afternoon, and I’ll enquire out some honest, plain, sober family, where I will take lodgings for you as for a country gentlewoman that desires to be in London for about half a year, and to board yourself and a kinswoman that is half a servant, half a companion, meaning myself, and so agree with them by the month.

“To this lodging, if I hit upon one to your mind, you may go to-morrow morning, in a hackney-coach, with nobody but me, and leave such clothes and linen as you think fit, but to be sure the plainest you have; and then you are removed at once, you need never so much as set your foot in this house again (meaning where we then were) or see anybody belonging to it. In the meantime I’ll let the servants know that you are going over to Holland upon extraordinary business, and will leave off your equipages, and so I’ll give them warning, or, if they will accept of it, give them a month’s wages. Then I’ll sell off your furniture as well as I can; as to your coach, it is but having it new painted and the lining changed, and getting new harness and hammercloths, and you may keep it still or dispose of it as you think fit. And only take care to let this lodging be in some remote part of the town, and you may be as perfectly unknown as if you had never been in England in your life.”

This was Amy’s scheme, and it pleased me so well that I resolved not only to let her go, but was resolved to go with her myself; but Amy put me off that, because, she said, she should have occasion to hurry up and down so long, that if I was with her it would rather hinder than further her; so I waived it.

In a word, Amy went, and was gone five long hours; but when she came back I could see by her countenance that her success had been suitable to her pains, for she came laughing and gaping. “Oh, madam!” says she, “I have pleased you to the life “; and with that she tells me how she had fixed upon a house in a court in the Minories, that she was directed to it merely by accident. that it was a female family, the master of the house being gone to New England, and that the woman had four children, kept two maids, and lived very handsomely, but wanted company to divert her, and that on that very account she had agreed to take boarders.

Amy agreed for a good handsome price, because she was resolved I should be used well; so she bargained to give her £35 for the half-year and £50 if we took a maid, leaving that to my choice; and that we might be satisfied we should meet with nothing very gay; the people were Quakers, and I liked them the better.

I was so pleased that I resolved to go with Amy the next day to see the lodgings, and to see the woman of the house, and see how I liked them; but if I was pleased with the general, I was much more pleased with the particular, for the gentlewoman, I must call her so, though she was a Quaker, was a most courteous, obliging, mannerly person, perfectly well bred, and perfectly well humoured, and, in short, the most agreeable conversation that ever I met with; and which was worth all, so grave, and yet so pleasant and so merry, that ’tis scarce possible for me to express how I was pleased and delighted with her company; and particularly, I was so pleased that I would go away no more, so I e’en took up my lodging there the very first night.

In the meantime, though it took up Amy almost a month so entirely to put off all the appearances of housekeeping, as above, it need take me up no time to relate it; ’tis enough to say that Amy quitted all that part of the world and came pack and baggage to me, and here we took up our abode.

I was now in a perfect retreat indeed; remote from the eyes of all that ever had seen me, and as much out of the way of being ever seen or heard of by any of the gang that used to follow me, as if I had been among the mountains in Lancashire; for when did a blue garter or a coach-and-six come into a little narrow passage in the Minories or Goodman’s Fields? And as there was no fear of them, so really I had no desire to see them, or so much as to hear from them any more as long as I lived.

I seemed in a little hurry while Amy came and went so every day, at first, but when that was over I lived here perfectly retired, and with a most pleasant and agreeable lady. I must call her so, for though a Quaker, she had a full share of good breeding sufficient to her if she had been a duchess; in a word, she was the most agreeable creature in her conversation, as I said before, that ever I met with.

I pretended, after I had been there some time, to be extremely in love with the dress of the Quakers, and this pleased her so much that she would needs dress me up one day in a suit of her own clothes, but my real design was to see whether it would pass upon me for a disguise.

Amy was struck with the novelty, though I had not mentioned my design to her, and when the Quaker was gone out of the room, says Amy, ”I guess your meaning; it is a perfect disguise to you; why, you look quite another body, I should not have known you myself. Nay,” says Amy, “more than that, it makes you look ten years younger than you did.”

Nothing could please me better than that, and when Amy repeated it I was so fond of it that I asked my Quaker (I won’t call her landlady, ’tis indeed too coarse a word for her, and she deserved a much better)—I say I asked her if she would sell it. I told her I was so fond of it that I would give her enough to buy her a better suit. She declined it at first, but I soon perceived that it was chiefly in good manners, because I should not dishonour myself, as she called it, to put on her old clothes, but if I pleased to accept of them, she would give me them for my dressing clothes, and go with me and buy a suit for me that might be better worth my wearing.

But as I conversed in a very frank, open manner with her, I bid her do the like with me; that I made no scruples of such things, but that if she would let me have them, I would satisfy her. So she let me know what they cost, and to make her amends I gave her three guineas more than they cost her.

This good (though unhappy) Quaker had the misfortune to have had a bad husband, and he was gone beyond-sea; she had a good house and well-furnished, and had some jointure of her own estate which supported her and her children, so that she did not want; but she was not at all above such a help as my being there was to her, so she was as glad of me as I was of her.

However, as I knew there was no way to fix this new acquaintance like making myself a friend to her, I began with making her some handsome presents, and the like to her children; and first, opening my bundles one day in my chamber, I heard her in another room, and called her in with a kind of familiar way; there I showed her some of my fine clothes, and having among the rest of my things a piece of very fine new holland which I had bought a little before, worth about nine shillings an ell, I pulled it out. “Here, my friend,” says I, “I will make you a present if you will accept of it”; and with that I laid the piece of holland in her lap.

I could see she was surprised, and that she could hardly speak. “What dost thou mean?” says she; “indeed, I cannot have the face to accept so fine a present as this “; adding, “’tis fit for thy own use, but ’tis above my wear indeed.” I thought she had meant she must not wear it so fine because she was a Quaker, so I returned, “Why, do not you Quakers wear fine linen neither?” “Yes,” says she, “we wear fine linen when we can afford it, but this is too good for me.” However, I made her take it, and she was very thankful too. But my end was answered another way, for by this I engaged her so that as I found her a woman of understanding and of honesty too, I might upon any occasion have a confidence in her, which was indeed what I very much wanted.

By accustoming myself to converse with her, I had not only learnt to dress like a Quaker, but so used myself to “thee” and “thou,” that I talked like a Quaker too, as readily and naturally as if I had been born among them; and, in a word, I passed for a Quaker among all people that did not know me. I went but little abroad, but I had been so used to a coach that I knew not how well to go without one; besides, I thought it would be a further disguise to me, so I told my Quaker friend one day that I thought I lived too close, that I wanted air. She proposed taking a hackney-coach sometimes or a boat, but I told her I had always had a coach of my own till now and I could find in my heart to have one again.

She seemed to think it strange at first, considering how close I lived, but had nothing to say when she found that I did not value the expense; so, in short, I resolved I would have a coach. When we came to talk of equipages, she extolled the having all things plain; I said so too. So I left it to her direction, and a coachmaker was sent for, and he provided me a plain coach, no gilding or painting, lined with a light-grey cloth, and my coachman had a coat of the same, and no lace on his hat.

When all was ready I dressed myself in the dress I bought of her, and said, “Come, I’ll be a Quaker to-day, and you and I’ll go abroad ”; which we did, and there was not a Quaker in the town looked less like a counterfeit than I did. But all this was my particular plot to be the more completely concealed, and that I might depend upon being not known and yet need not be confined like a prisoner and be always in fear; so that all the rest was grimace.

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