§ 21

Daniel Defoe

I HAD long waited for a letter from Amy, who it seems was just at that time gone to Rouen the second time, to make her enquiries about him; and I received a letter from her at this unhappy juncture which gave me the following account of my business:

1. That for my gentleman, whom I had now, as I may say, in my arms, she said he had been gone from Paris, as I have hinted, having met with some great losses and misfortunes; that he had been in Holland on that very account, whither he had also carried his children; that he was after that settled for some time at Rouen; that she had been at Rouen, and found there (by a mere accident), from a Dutch skipper, that he was in London, had been there above three years; that he was to be found upon the Exchange, on the French Walk, and that he lodged at Laurence Pountney Lane, and the like.

So Amy said she supposed I might soon find him out, but that she doubted he was poor, and not worth looking after. This she did because of the next clause, which the jade had most mind to on many accounts.

2. That as to the Prince ——, that, as above, he was gone into Germany, where his estate lay; that he had quitted the French service, and lived retired; that she had seen his gentleman, who remained at Paris to solicit his arrears, etc.; that he had given her an account how his lord had employed him to enquire for me and find me out, as above, and told her what pains he had taken to find me; that he had understood that I was gone to England; that he once had orders to go to England to find me; that his lord had resolved, if he could have found me, to have called me a countess, and so have married me and leave carried me into Germany with him; and that his commission was still to assure me that the Prince would marry me if I would come to him; and that he would send him an account that he had found me, and did not doubt but he would have orders to come over to England to attend me, in a figure suitable to my quality.

Amy, an ambitious jade, who knew my weakest part, namely, that I loved great things and that I loved to be flattered and courted, said abundance of kind things upon this occasion which she knew were suitable to me and would prompt my vanity, and talked big of the Prince’s gentleman having orders to come over to me with a procuration to marry me by proxy (as princes usually do in like cases), and to furnish me with an equipage and I know not how many fine things, but told me withal, that she had not yet let him know that she belonged to me still, or that she knew where to find me or to write to me, because she was willing to see the bottom of it, and whether it was a reality or a gasconade. She had indeed told him that if he had any such commission, she would endeavour to find me out, but no more.

3. For the Jew, she assured me that she had not been able to come at a certainty what was become of him or in what part of the world he was; but that thus much she had learned from good hands, that he had committed a crime, in being concerned in a design to rob a rich banker at Paris, and that he was fled, and had not been heard of there for above six years.

4. For that of my husband the brewer, she learned that, being commanded into the field upon an occasion of some action in Flanders, he was wounded at the battle of Mons, and died of his wounds in the hospital of the Invalides; so there was an end of my four enquiries which I sent her over to make.

This account of the Prince and the return of his affection for me, with all the flattering great things which seemed to come along with it, and especially as they came gilded and set out by my maid Amy—I say this account of the Prince came to me in a very unlucky hour, and in the very crisis of my affair.

The merchant and I had entered into close conferences upon the grand affair. I had left off talking my platonics, and of my independency and being a free woman, as before; and he having cleared up my doubts too, as to his circumstances and the misfortunes he had spoken of, I had gone so far that we had begun to consider where we should live, and in what figure, what equipage, what house, and the like.

I had made some harangues upon the delightful retirement of a country life, and how we might enjoy ourselves so effectually without the encumbrances of business and the world; but all this was grimace, and purely because I was afraid to make any public appearance in the world for fear some impertinent person of quality should chop upon again and cry out, Roxana! Roxana! by ——, with an oath, as had been done before.

My merchant, bred to business and used to converse among men of business, could hardly tell how to live without it; at least it appeared he should be like a fish out of water, uneasy and dying. But, however, he joined with me, only argued that we might live as near London as we could; that he might sometimes come to ’Change and hear how the world should go abroad, and how it fared with his friends and his children.

I answered that if he chose, still to embarrass himself with business, I supposed it would be more to his satisfaction to be in his own country, and where his family was so well known, and where his children also were.

He smiled at the thoughts of that, and let me know that he should be very willing to embrace such an offer, but that he could not expect it of me, to whom England was, to be sure, so naturalised now, as that it would be carrying me out of my native country, which he would not desire by any means, however agreeable it might be to him.

I told him he was mistaken in me; that as I had told him so much of a married state being a captivity and the family being a house of bondage, that when I married I expected to be but an upper servant, so if I did, notwithstanding, submit to it I hoped he should see I knew how to act the servant’s part and do everything to oblige my master; that if I did not resolve to go with him wherever he desired to go, he might depend I would never have him. “And did I not,” said I, “offer myself to go with you to the East Indies?”

All this while this was indeed but a copy of my countenance, for as my circumstances would not admit my stay in London, at least not so as to appear publicly, I resolved, if I took him, to live remote in the country or go out of England with him.

But in an evil hour just now came Amy’s letter, in the very middle of all these discourses, and the fine things she had said about the Prince began to make strange work with me. The notion of being a Princess and going over to live where all that had happened here would have been quite sunk out of knowledge, as well as out of memory (conscience excepted), was mighty taking; the thoughts of being surrounded with domestics, honoured with titles, be called Her Highness and live in all the splendour of a Court, and, which was still more, in the arms of a man of such rank, and who, I knew, loved and valued me—all this, in a word, dazzled my eyes, turned my head, and I was as truly crazed and distracted for about a fortnight as most of the people in Bedlam, though perhaps not quite so far gone.

When my gentleman came to me the next time I had no notion of him; I wished I had never received him at all; in short, I resolved to have no more to say to him, so I feigned myself indisposed, and though I did come down to him and speak to him a little, yet I let him see that I was so ill that I was (as we say) no company, and that it would be kind in him to give me leave to quit him for that time.

The next morning he sent a footman to enquire how I did, and I let him know I had a violent cold and was very ill with it. Two days after, he came again, and I let him see me again, but feigned myself so hoarse that I could not speak to be heard, and that it was painful to me but to whisper; and, in a word, I held him in this suspense near three weeks.

During this time I had a strange elevation upon my mind, and the Prince, or the spirit of him, had such a possession of me that I spent most of this time in the realising all the great things of a life with the Prince, to my mind; pleasing my fancy with the grandeur I was supposing myself to enjoy, and, withal, wickedly studying in what manner to put off this gentleman and be rid of him for ever.

I cannot but say that sometimes the baseness of the action struck hard with me; the honour and sincerity with which he had always treated me, and, above all, the fidelity he had shown me at Paris, and that I owed my life to him—I say all these stared in my face, and I frequently argued with myself upon the obligation I was under to him, and how base would it be now, too, after so many obligations and engagements, to cast him off.

But the title of Highness and of a Princess, and all those fine things as they came in, weighed down all this, and the sense of gratitude vanished as if it had been a shadow.

At other times I considered the wealth I was mistress of, that I was able to live like a princess though not a princess, and that my merchant (for he had told me all the affair of his misfortune) was far from being poor, or even mean; that together we were able to make up an estate of between three and four thousand pounds a year, which was in itself equal to some princes abroad. But though this was true, yet the name of Princess and the flutter of it, in a word, the pride weighed them down, and all these arguings generally ended to the disadvantage of my merchant; so that, in short, I resolved to drop him and give him a final answer at his next coming, namely, that something had happened in my affairs which had caused me to alter my measures unexpectedly; and, in a word, to desire him to trouble himself no further.

I think, verily, this rude treatment of him was for some time the effect of a violent fermentation in my blood, for the very motion which the steady contemplation of my fancied greatness had put my spirits into had thrown me into a kind of fever, and I scarce knew what I did.

I have wondered since that it did not make me mad, nor do I now think it strange to hear of those who have been quite lunatic with their pride, that fancied themselves queens and empresses, and have made their attendants serve them upon the knee, given visitors their hands to kiss, and the like; for certainly, if pride will not turn the brain, nothing can.

However, the next time my gentleman came I had not courage enough, or not ill-nature enough, to treat him in the rude manner I had resolved to do; and it was very well I did not, for soon after I had another letter from Amy in which was the mortifying news, and indeed surprising to me, that my Prince (as I with a secret pleasure had called him) was very much hurt by a bruise he had received in hunting (and engaging with) a wild boar, a cruel and desperate sport which the noblemen of Germany, it seems, much delight in.

This alarmed me indeed, and the more because Amy wrote me word that his gentleman was gone away express to him, not without apprehensions that he should find his master was dead before his coming home, but that he (the gentleman) had promised her that as soon as he arrived he would send back the same courier to her with an account of his master’s health, and of the main affair; and that he had obliged Amy to stay at Paris fourteen days for his return, she having promised him before to make it her business to go to England and to find me out for his lord if he sent her such orders; and he was to send her a bill for fifty pistoles for her journey. So Amy told me she waited for the answer.

This was a blow to me several ways; for, first, I was in a state of uncertainty as to his person, whether he was alive or dead, and I was not unconcerned in that part, I assure you; for I had an inexpressible affection remaining for his person, besides the degree to which it was revived by the view of a firmer interest in him; but this was not all, for in losing him I for ever lost the prospect of all the gaiety and glory that had made such an impression upon my imagination.

In this state of uncertainty, I say, by Amy’s letter, I was like still to remain another fortnight, and had I now continued the resolution of using my merchant in the rude manner I once intended, I had made perhaps a sorry piece of work of it indeed, and it was very well my heart failed me as it did.

However, I treated him with a great many shuffles, and feigned stories to keep him off from any closer conferences than we had already had, that I might act afterwards as occasion might offer, one way or other. But that which mortified me most was that Amy did not write, though the fourteen days were expired. At last, to my great surprise, when I was with the utmost impatience looking out at the window expecting the postman that usually brought the foreign letters—I say I was agreeably surprised to see a coach come to the yard gate where we lived, and my woman Amy alight out of it and come towards the door, having the coachman bringing several bundles after her.

I flew like lightning downstairs to speak to her, but was soon damped with her news. “Is the Prince alive or dead, Amy?” says I. She spoke coldly and slightly. “He is alive, madam,” said she, “but it is not much matter, I had as lieu he had been dead.” So we went upstairs again to my chamber, and there we began a serious discourse of the whole matter.

First she told me a long story of his being hurt by a wild boar, and of the condition he was reduced to, so that everyone expected he should die, the anguish of the wound having thrown him into a fever; with abundance of circumstances too long to relate here; how he recovered of that extreme danger, but continued very weak; how the gentleman had been homme de parole and had sent back the courier as punctually as if it had been to the King; that he had given a long account of his lord, and of his illness and recovery. But the sum of the matter, as to me, was, that as to the lady, his lord was turned penitent, was under some vows for his recovery, and could not think any more on that affair; and especially, the lady being gone, and that it had not been offered to her, so there was no breach of honour; but that his lord was sensible of the good offices of Mrs. Amy, and had sent her the fifty pistoles for her trouble, as if she had really gone the journey.

I was, I confess, hardly able to bear the first surprise of this disappointment. Amy saw it, and gapes out {as was her way), “Lawd, madam! never be concerned at it; you see he is gotten among the priests, and I suppose they have saucily imposed some penance upon him, and, it may be, sent him off an errand barefoot to some Madonna or Nostredame or other, and he is off of his amours for the present; I’ll warrant you he’ll be as wicked again as ever he was when he is got thorough well and gets but out of their hands again. I hate this out-o’-season repentance; what occasion had he in his repentance to be off of taking a good wife? I should have been glad to see you have been a Princess and all that, but if it can’t be, never afflict yourself, you are rich enough to be a princess to yourself; you don’t want him, that’s the best of it.”

Well, I cried for all that, and was heartily vexed, and that a great while; but as Amy was always at my elbow and always jogging it out of my head with her mirth and her wit, it wore off again.

Then I told Amy all the story of my merchant, and how he had found me out when I was in such a concern to find him; how it was true that he lodged in Laurence Pountney Lane, and how I had had all the story of his misfortune which she had heard of, in which he had lost above £8,000 sterling, and that he had told me frankly of it before she had sent me any account of it, or at least before I had taken any notice that I had heard of it.

Amy was very joyful at that part. “Well, madam. then,” says Amy, “what need you value the story of the Prince, and going I know not whither into Germany, to lay your bones in another world and learn the devil’s language called High-Dutch. You are better here, by half,” says Amy. “Lawd, madam.” says she, “why, are not you as rich as Croesus?”

Well, it was a great while still before I could bring myself off of this fancied sovereignty, and I, that was so willing once to be mistress to a King, was now ten thousand times more fond of being wife to a Prince.

So fast a hold has pride and ambition upon our minds, that when once it gets admission, nothing is so chimerical but under this possession we can form ideas of, in our fancy, and realise to our imagination. Nothing can be so ridiculous as the simple steps we take in such cases; a man or a woman becomes a mere malade imaginaire, and, I believe, may as easily die with grief or run mad with joy (as the affair in his fancy appears right or wrong), as if all was real and actually under the management of the person.

I had indeed two assistants to deliver me from this snare, and these were, first, Amy, who knew my disease, but was able to do nothing as to the remedy; the second, the merchant, who really brought the remedy but knew nothing of the distemper.

I remember when all these disorders were upon my thoughts, in one of the visits my friend the merchant made me, he took notice that he perceived I was under some unusual disorder; he believed, he said, that my distemper, whatever it was, lay much in my head, and, it being summer weather and very hot, proposed to me to go a little way into the air.

I started at his expression. “What,” says I, “do you think then that I am crazed? You should then propose a madhouse for my cure.” “No, no,” says he, “I do not mean anything like that, I hope the head may be distempered and not the brain.” Well, I was too sensible that he was right, for I knew I had acted a strange wild kind of part with him, but he insisted upon it, and pressed me to go into the country. I took him short again. “What need you,” says I, “send me out of your way? It is in your power to be less troubled with me, and with less inconvenience to us both.”

He took that ill, and told me I used to have a better opinion of his sincerity, and desired to know what he had done to forfeit my charity. I mention this only to let you see how far I had gone in my measures of quitting him, that is to say, how near I was of showing him how base, ungrateful, and how vilely I could act. But I found I had carried the jest far enough, and that a little matter might have made him sick of me again as he was before, so I began by little and little to change my way of talking to him, and to come to discourse to the purpose again, as we had done before.

A while after this, when we were very merry and talking familiarly together, he called me, with an air of particular satisfaction, his princess. I coloured at the word, for it indeed touched me to the quick; but he knew nothing of the reason of my being touched with it. “What d’ye mean by that?” said I. “Nay,” says he, “I mean nothing but that you are a princess to me.” “Well,” says I, “as to that, I am content; and yet I could tell you I might have been a princess if I would have quitted you, and believe I could be so still.” “It is not in my power to make you a princess,” says he, “but I can easily make you a lady here in England, and a countess too, if you will go out of it.”

I heard both with a great deal of satisfaction, for my pride remained, though it had been balked, and I thought with myself that this proposal would make me some amends for the loss of the title that had so tickled my imagination another way; and I was impatient to understand what he meant, but I would not ask him by any means, so it passed off for that time.

When he was gone I told Amy what he had said, and Amy was as impatient to know the manner, how it could be, as I was; but the next time (perfectly unexpected to me) he told me that he had accidentally mentioned a thing to me last time he was with me, having not the least thought of the thing itself; but not knowing but such a thing might be of some weight to me, and that it might bring me respect among people where I might appear, he had thought since of it, and was resolved to ask me about it.

I made light of it, and told him that as he knew I had chosen a retired life, it was of no value to me to be called Lady, or Countess either; but that if he intended to drag me, as I might call it, into the world again, perhaps it might be agreeable to him; but, besides that, I could not judge of the thing, because I did not understand how either of them was to be done.

He told me that money purchased titles of honour in almost all parts of the world, though money could not give principles of honour, they must come by birth and blood; that, however, titles sometimes assist to elevate the soul and to infuse generous principles into the mind, and especially where there was a good foundation laid in the persons; that he hoped we should neither of us misbehave if we came to it, and that as we knew how to wear a title without undue elevations, so it might sit as well upon us as on another; that as to England, he had nothing to do but to get an Act of Naturalisation in his favour, and he knew where to purchase a patent for Baronet, that is to say, to have the honour and title transferred to him. But if I intended to go abroad with him, he had a nephew, the son of his elder brother, who had the title of Count, with the estate annexed, which was but small, and that he had frequently offered to make it over to him for a thousand pistoles, which was not a great deal of money, and considering it was in the family already, he would, upon my being willing, purchase it immediately.

I told him I liked the last best, but then I would not let him buy it unless he would let me pay the thousand pistoles. “No, no,” says he, “I refused a thousand pistoles that I had more right to have accepted than that, and you shall not be at so much expense now.” “Yes,” says I, “you did refuse it, and perhaps repented it afterwards.”

“I never complained,” says he. “But I did,” says I, “and often repented it for you.” “I do not understand you,” says he. “Why,” says I, “I repented that I suffered you to refuse it.” “Well, well,” said he, “we may talk of that hereafter, when you shall resolve which part of the world you will make your settled residence in.” Here he talked very handsomely to me, and for a good while together; how it had been his lot to live all his days out of his native country, and to be often shifting and changing the situation of his affairs, and that I myself had not always had a fixed abode; but that now, as neither of us was very young, he fancied I would be for taking up our abode, where, if possible, we might remove no more; that as to his part, he was of that opinion entirely, only with this exception, that the choice of the place should be mine, for that all places in the world were alike to him; only with this single addition, namely, that I was with him.

I heard him with a great deal of pleasure, as well for his being willing to give me the choice as for that I resolved to live abroad, for the reason I have mentioned already, namely, lest I should at any time be known in England, and all that story of Roxana and the balls should come out; as also I was not a little tickled with the satisfaction of being still a countess, though I could not be a Princess.

I told Amy all this story, for she was still my privy counsellor, but when I asked her opinion she made me laugh heartily. “Now, which of the two shall I take, Amy?” said I. “Shall I be a Lady, that is, a baronet’s lady in England, or a Countess in Holland?” The ready-witted jade, that knew the pride of my temper too almost as well as did myself, answered without the least hesitation, “Both, madam. Which of them!” says she, repeating the words, “why not both of them? and then you will be really a Princess; for sure, to be a Lady in English and a Countess in Dutch may make a Princess in High-Dutch.” Upon the whole, though Amy was in jest, she put the thought into my head, and I resolved that, in short, I would be both of them; which I managed as you shall hear.

First, I seemed to resolve that I would live and settle in England, only with this condition, namely, that I would not live in London. I pretended that it would choke me up, that I wanted breath when I was in London, but that anywhere else I would be satisfied; and then I asked him whether any seaport town in England would not suit him, because I knew, though he seemed to leave off, he would always love to be among business and conversing with men of business; and I named several places, either nearest for business with France or with Holland, as Dover or Southampton for the first, and Ipswich or Yarmouth or Hull for the last; but I took care that we would resolve upon nothing. Only by this it seemed to be certain that we should live in England.

It was time now to bring things to a conclusion, and so in about six weeks’ time more we settled all our preliminaries; and among the rest he let me know that he should have the Bill for his naturalisation passed time enough, so that he would be (as he called it) an Englishman before we married. That was soon perfected, the parliament being then sitting, and several other foreigners joining in the said Bill to save the expense.

It was not above three or four days after, but that, without giving me the least notice that he had so much as been about the patent for Baronet, he brought it me in a fine embroidered bag, and, saluting me by the name of my Lady —— (joining his own surname to it), presented it to me with his picture set with diamonds, and at the same time gave me a breast jewel worth a thousand pistoles, and the next morning we were married. Thus I put an end to all the intriguing part of my life, a life full of prosperous wickedness; the reflections upon which were so much the more afflicting, as the time had been spent in the grossest crimes, which the more I looked back upon, the more black and horrid they appeared, effectually drinking up all the comfort and satisfaction which I might otherwise have taken in that part of life which was still before me.

Roxana - Contents    |     § 22

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