§ 25

Daniel Defoe

I MUST NOW go back to another scene and join it to this end of my story, which will complete all my concern with England, at least all that I shall bring into this account. I have hinted at large what I had done for my two sons, one at Messina and the other in the Indies.

But I have not gone through the story of my two daughters. I was so in danger of being known by one of them, that I durst not see her, so as to let her know who I was; and for the other, I could not well know how to see her and own her, and let her see me, because she must then know that I would not let her sister know me, which would look strange. So that, upon the whole, I resolved to see neither of them at all, but Amy managed all that for me; and when she had made gentlewomen of them both, by giving them a good though late education, she had like to have blown up the whole case, and herself and me too, by an unhappy discovery of herself to the last of them, that is, to her who was our cook-maid, and who, as I said before, Amy had been obliged to turn away for fear of the very discovery which now happened. I have observed already in what manner Amy managed her by a third person, and how the girl, when she was set up for a lady, as above, came and visited Amy at my lodgings; after which, Amy going as was her custom to see the girl’s brother (my son), at the honest man’s house in Spitalfields, both the girls were there, merely by accident, at the same time, and the other girl unawares discovered the secret, namely, that this was the lady that had done all this for them.

Amy was greatly surprised at it, but as she saw there was no remedy, she made a jest of it, and so after that conversed openly, being still satisfied that neither of them could make much of it as long as they knew nothing of me. So she took them together one time and told them the history, as she called it, of their mother, beginning at the miserable carrying them to their aunt’s; she owned she was not their mother, herself, but described her to them. However, when she said she was not their mother, one of them expressed herself very much surprised, for the girl had taken up a strong fancy that Amy was really her mother, and that she had for some particular reasons concealed it from her; and therefore when she told her frankly that she was not her mother, the girl fell a-crying, and Amy had much ado to keep life in her. This was the girl who was at first my cook-maid in the Pall Mall. When Amy had brought her to again a little, and she had recovered her first disorder, Amy asked what ailed her. The poor girl hung about her and kissed her, and was in such a passion still, though she was a great wench of nineteen or twenty years old, that she could not be brought to speak a great while. At last, having recovered her speech, she said still, “But oh! do not say you ain’t my mother. I’m sure you are my mother”; and then the girl cried again like to kill herself. Amy could not tell what to do with her a good while; she was loath to say again she was not her mother, because she would not throw her into a fit of crying again; but she went round about a little with her. “Why, child,” says she, “why would you have me be your mother? If it be because I am so kind to you, be easy, my dear,” says Amy, “I’ll be as kind to you still as if I was your mother.”

“Ay, but,” says the girl, “I am sure you are my mother too; and what have I done that you won’t own me, and that you will not be called my mother? Though I am poor, you have made me a gentlewoman,” says she, “and I won’t do anything to disgrace you. Besides,” adds she, “I can keep a secret too, especially for my own mother, sure.” Then she calls Amy her dear mother, and hung about her neck again, crying still vehemently.

This last part of the girl’s words alarmed Amy, and, as she told me, frighted her terribly; nay, she was so confounded with it, that she was not able to govern herself or to conceal her disorder from the girl herself, as you shall hear. Amy was at a full stop and confused to the last degree, and the girl, a sharp jade, turned it upon her. “My dear mother,” says she, “do not be uneasy about it, I know it all; but do not be uneasy, I won’t let my sister know a word of it, or my brother either, without you give me leave; but don’t disown me now you have found me, don’t hide yourself from me any longer; I can’t bear that,” says she, “it will beak my heart.”

“I think the girl’s mad,” says Amy. “Why, child, I tell thee if I was thy mother I would not disown thee; don’t you see I am as kind to you as if I was your mother?” Amy might as well have sung a song to a kettledrum as talk to her. “Yes,” says the girl, “you are very good to me indeed,” and that was enough to make anybody believe she was her mother too; but however that was not the case, she had other reasons to believe and to know that she was her mother, and it was a sad thing she would not let her call her mother, who was her own child.

Amy was so heart-full with the disturbance of it that she did not enter further with her into the enquiry, as she would otherwise have done, I mean as to what made the girl so positive, but comes away and tells me the whole story.

I was thunderstruck with the story at first, and much more afterwards, as you shall hear; but, I say, I was thunderstruck at first, and amazed, and said to Amy, “There must be something or other in it more than we know of”; but having examined further into it, I found the girl had no notion of anybody but of Amy, and glad I was that I was not concerned in the pretence and that the girl had no notion of me in it. But even this easiness did not continue long, for the next time Amy went to see her she was the same thing, and rather more violent with Amy than she was before. Amy endeavoured to pacify her by all the ways imaginable. First she told her she took it ill that she would not believe her, and told her if she would not give over such a foolish whimsy she would leave her to the wide world as she found her.

This put the girl into fits, and she cried ready to kill herself and hung about Amy again like a child. “Why,” says Amy, “why can you not be easy with me then and compose yourself, and let me go on to do you good and show you kindness, as I would do, and as I intend to do? Can you think that if I was your mother I would not tell you so? What whimsy is this that possesses your mind?” says Amy. Well, the girl told her in a few words, but those few such as frighted Amy out of her wits, and me too, that she knew well enough how it was. “I know,” says she, “when you left ——,” naming the village, “where I lived when my father went away from us all, that you went over to France; I know that too, and who you went with,” says the girl. “Did not my Lady Roxana come back again with you? I know it all well enough, though I was but a child, I have heard it all.” And thus she ran on with such discourse as put Amy out of all temper again; and she raved at her like a bedlam, and told her she would never come near her any more; she might go a-begging again if she would, she’d have nothing to do with her. The girl, a passionate wench, told her she knew the worst of it, she could go to service again, and if she would not own her own child she must do as she pleased; then she fell into a passion of crying again, as if she would kill herself.

In short, this girl’s conduct terrified Amy to the last degree, and me too, and was it not that we knew the girl was quite wrong in some things, she was yet so right in some other, that it gave me a great deal of perplexity. But that which put Amy the most to it, was that the girl (my daughter) told her that she (meaning me her mother) had gone away with the jeweller, and into France too—she did not call him the jeweller, but with the landlord of the house; who, after her mother fell into distress, and that Amy had taken all the children from her, made much of her, and afterwards married her.

In short, it was plain the girl had but a broken account of things, but yet that she had received some accounts that had a reality in the bottom of them; so that it seems our first measures and the amour of the jeweller were not so concealed as I thought they had been, and, it seems, came in a broken manner to my sister-in-law, whom Amy carried the children to, and she made some bustle, it seems, about it; but as good luck was, it was too late, and I was removed and gone none knew whither, or else she would have sent all the children home to me again, to be sure.

This we picked out of the girl’s discourse, that is to say, Amy did, at several times; but it all consisted of broken fragments of stories such as the girl herself had heard so long ago, that she herself could make very little of it; only that in the main, that her mother had played the whore, had gone away with the gentleman that was landlord of the house, that he married her, that she went into France; and as she had learnt in my family, where she was a servant, that Mrs. Amy and her Lady Roxana had been in France together, so she put all these things together, and, joining them with the great kindness that Amy now showed her, possessed the creature that Amy was really her mother; nor was it possible for Amy to conquer it for a long time.

But this, after I had searched into it as far as by Amy’s relation I could get an account of it, did not disquiet me half so much as that the young slut had got the name of Roxana by the end, and that she knew who her Lady Roxana was, and the like; though this neither did not hang together, for then she would not have fixed upon Amy for her mother. But some time after, when Amy had almost persuaded her out of it, and that the girl began to be so confounded in her discourses of it that they made neither head nor tail, at last the passionate creature flew out in a kind of rage, and said to Amy that if she was not her mother, Madam Roxana was her mother then, for one of them, she was sure, was her mother; and then, all this that Amy had done for her was by Madam Roxana’s order. “And I am sure,” says she, “it was my Lady Roxana’s coach that brought the gentlewoman (whoever it was) to my uncle’s in Spitalfields, for the coachman told me so.” Amy fell a-laughing at her aloud, as was her usual way; but as Amy told me, it was but on one side of her mouth, for she was so confounded at her discourse that she was ready to sink into the ground; and so was I too, when she told it me.

However, Amy brazened her out of it all; told her, “Well, since you think you are so high-born as to be my Lady Roxana’s daughter, you may go to her and claim your kindred, can’t you? I suppose,” says Amy, “you know where to find her?” She said she did not question to find her, for she knew where she was gone to live privately, but thought she might be removed again; “for I know how it is,” says she, with a kind of a smile or a grin, “I know how it all is, well enough.”

Amy was so provoked that she told me, in short, she began to think it would be absolutely necessary to murder her. That expression filled me with horror; all my blood ran chill in my veins, and a fit of trembling seized me that I could not speak a good while, At last, “What, is the devil in you, Amy.” said I. “Nay, nay,” says she, “let it be the devil or not the devil, if I thought she knew one tittle of your history I would dispatch her if she were my own daughter a thousand times.” “And I,” says I in a rage, “as well as I love you, would be the first that should put the halter about your neck and see you hanged, with more satisfaction than ever I saw you in my life. Nay,” says I, “you would not live to be hanged, I believe I should cut your throat with my own hand; I am almost ready to do it,” said I, “as ’tis, for your but naming the thing.” With that I called her “cursed devil,” and bade her get out of the room.

I think it was the first time that ever I was angry with Amy in all my life, and when all was done, though she was a devilish jade in having such a thought, yet it was all of it the effect of her excess of affection and fidelity to me.

But this thing gave me a terrible shock, for it happened just after I was married, and served to hasten my going over to Holland; for I would not have been seen, so as to be known by the name of Roxana, no, not for ten thousand pounds. It would have been enough to have ruined me to all intents and purposes with my husband, and everybody else too; I might as well have been the German Princess.

Well, I set Amy to work; and, give Amy her due, she set all her wits to work to find out which way this girl had her knowledge, but more particularly how much knowledge she had, that is to say, what she really knew, and what she did not know; for this was the main thing with me, how she could say she knew who Madam Roxana was, and what notions she had of that affair was very mysterious to me; for ’twas certain she could not have a right notion of me, because she would have it be that Amy was her mother.

I scolded heartily at Amy for letting the girl ever know her, that is to say, know her in this affair; for that she knew her, could not be hid, because she, as I might say, served Amy, or rather under Amy, in my family, as is said before; but she (Amy) talked with her at first by another person, and not by herself, and that secret came out by an accident, as I have said above.

Amy was concerned at it as well as I, but could not help it, and though it gave us great uneasiness, yet as there was no remedy we were bound to make as little noise of it as we could, that it might go no further. I bade Amy punish the girl for it, and she did so, for she parted with her in a huff, and told her she should see she was not her mother, for that she could leave her just where she found her; and seeing she could not be content to be served by the kindness of a friend, but that she would needs make a mother of her, she would for the future be neither mother nor friend; and so bid her go to service again and be a drudge as she was before.

The poor girl cried most lamentably, but would not be beaten out of it still; but that which dumbfounded Amy more than all the rest, was that when she had rated the poor girl a long time and could not beat her out of it, and had, as I have observed, threatened to leave her, the girl kept to what she said before, and put this turn to it again, that she was sure, if Amy wasn’t, my Lady Roxana was her mother, and that she would go find her out; adding that she made no doubt but she could do it, for she knew where to enquire the name of her new husband.

Amy came home with this piece of news in her mouth to me. I could easily perceive when she came in that she was mad in her mind, and in a rage at something or other, and was in great pain to get it out; for when she came first in, my husband was in the room. However, Amy going up to undress her, I soon made an excuse to follow her, and coming into the room, “What the devil is the matter, Amy?” says I; “I am sure you have some bad news.” “News!” says Amy aloud, “ay, so I have; I think the devil is in that young wench—she’ll ruin us all and herself too, there’s no quieting her.” So she went on and told me all the particulars; but sure nothing was so astonished as I was when she told me that the girl knew I was married, that she knew my husband’s name, and would endeavour to find me out; I thought I should have sunk down at the very words. In the middle of all my amazement Amy starts up and runs about the room like a distracted body. “I’ll put an end to it, that I will; I can’t bear it; I must murder her; I’ll kill her, by God!” and swears by her Maker in the most serious tone in the world; and then repeated it over three or four times, walking to and again in the room; “I will,” in short, “I will kill her if there was not another wench in the world.”

“Prithee hold thy tongue, Amy,” says I; “why, thou art mad.” “Ay, so I am,” says she, “stark mad, but I’ll be the death of her for all that, and then I shall be sober again.” “But you shan’t,” says I, “you shan’t hurt a hair of her head; why, you ought to be hanged for what you have done already, for having resolved on it, is doing it, as to the guilt of the fact; you are a murderer already, as much as if you had done it already.”

“I know that,” says Amy, “and it can be no worse. I’ll put you out of your pain, and her too; she shall never challenge you for her mother in this world, whatever she may in the next.” “Well, well,” says I, “be quiet, and do not talk thus, I can’t bear it”; so she grew a little soberer after a while.

I must acknowledge, the notion of being discovered carried with it so many frightful ideas, and hurried my thoughts so much, that I was scarce myself, any more than Amy, so dreadful a thing is a load of guilt upon the mind.

And yet when Amy began the second time to talk thus abominably of killing the poor child, of murdering her, and swore by her Maker that she would, so that I began to see that she was in earnest, I was terrified a great deal, and it helped to bring me to myself again in other cases.

We laid our heads together then, to see if it was possible to discover by what means she had learnt to talk so, and how she (I mean my girl) came to know that her mother had married a husband. But it would not do, the girl would acknowledge nothing, and gave but a very imperfect account of things still, being disgusted to the last degree with Amy’s leaving her so abruptly as she did.

Well, Amy went to the house where the boy was, but it was all one; there they had only heard a confused story of the Lady somebody, they knew not who, which this same wench had told them, but they gave no heed to it at all. Amy told them how foolishly the girl had acted, and how she had carried on the whimsy so far in spite of all they could say to her; that she had taken it so ill, she would see her no more, and so she might e’en go to service again if she would, for she (Amy) would have nothing to do with her unless she humbled herself and changed her note, and that quickly too.

The good old gentleman who had been the benefactor to them all was greatly concerned at it, and the good woman his wife was grieved beyond all expressing, and begged her ladyship, meaning Amy, not to resent it; they promised too they would talk with her about it, and the old gentlewoman added with some astonishment, “Sure, she cannot be such a fool but she will be prevailed with to hold her tongue, when she has it from your own mouth that you are not her mother, and sees that it disobliges your ladyship to have her insist upon it “; and so Amy came away, with some expectation that it would be stopped here.

But the girl was such a fool for all that, and persisted in it obstinately, notwithstanding all they could say to her, nay, her sister begged and entreated her not to play the fool, for that it would ruin her too, and that the lady (meaning Amy) would abandon them both.

Well, notwithstanding this, she insisted, I say, upon it, and which was worse, the longer it lasted the more she began to drop Amy’s Ladyship, and would have it that the Lady Roxana was her mother, and that she had made some enquiries about it, and did not doubt but that she should find her out.

When it was come to this, and we found there was nothing to be done with the girl, but that she was so obstinately bent upon the search after me that she ventured to forfeit all she had in view—I say when I found it was come to this, I began to be more serious in my preparations of my going beyond sea, and particularly it gave me some reason to fear that there was something in it; but the following accident put me beside all my measures, and struck me into the greatest confusion that ever I was in in my life.

I was so near going abroad that my spouse and I had taken measures for our going off; and because I would be sure not to go too public, but so as to take away all possibility of being seen, I had made some exception to my spouse against going in the ordinary public passage boats. My pretence to him was the promiscuous crowds in those vessels, want of convenience, and the like; so he took the hint and found me out an English merchant ship which was bound for Rotterdam, and getting soon acquainted with the master, he hired his whole ship, that is to say, his great cabin, for I do not mean his ship for freight, that so we had all the conveniences possible for our passage. And all things being near ready, he brought home the captain one day to dinner with him, that I might see him and be acquainted a little with him. So we came after dinner to talk of the ship and the conveniences on board, and the captain pressed me earnestly to come on board and see the ship, intimating that he would treat us as well as he could; and in discourse I happened to say I hoped he had no other passengers. He said, No, he had not; but he said his wife had courted him a good while to let her go over to Holland with him, for he always used that trade, but he never could think of venturing all he had in one bottom. But if I went with him he thought to take her and her kinswoman along with him this voyage, that they might both wait upon me; and so added, that if we would do him the honour to dine on board the next day, he would bring his wife on board, the better to make us welcome.

Roxana - Contents    |     § 26

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