But judge you what an unaccountable surprise I must be in when I came on board the ship and was brought into the captain’s cabin, or what they call it, the great cabin of the ship, to see his lady or wife, and another young person with her, who when I came to see her near-hand was my old cook-maid in the Pall Mall, and, as appeared by the sequel of the story, was neither more nor less than my own daughter. That I knew her was out of doubt, for though she had not had opportunity to see me very often, yet I had often seen her, as I must needs, being in my own family so long.
If ever I had need of courage and a full presence of mind, it was now; it was the only valuable secret in the world to me; all depended upon this occasion. If the girl knew me, I was undone, and to discover any surprise or disorder had been to make her know me, or guess it, and discover herself.
I was once going to feign a swooning, and faint away, and so falling on the ground or floor, put them all into a hurry and fright, and by that means get an opportunity to be continually holding something to my nose to smell to, and so hold my hand or my handkerchief, or both, before my mouth, then pretend I could not bear the smell of the ship or the closeness of the cabin. But that would have been only to remove into a clearer air upon the quarter-deck, where we should with it have had a clearer light too; and if I had pretended the smell of the ship, it would have served only to have carried us all on shore to the captain’s house, which was hard by; for the ship lay so close to the shore that we only walked over a plank to go on board, and over another ship which lay within her. So this not appearing feasible, and the thought not being two minutes old, there was no time, for the two ladies rose up and we saluted, so that I was bound to come so near my girl as to kiss her, which I would not have done had it been possible to have avoided it, but there was no room to escape.
I cannot but take notice here that, notwithstanding there was a secret horror upon my mind and I was ready to sink when I came close to her to salute her, yet it was a secret inconceivable pleasure to me when I kissed her, to know that I kissed my own child, my own flesh and blood, born of my body, and whom I had never kissed since I took the fatal farewell of them all, with a million of tears and a heart almost dead with grief, when Amy and the good woman took them all away and went with them to Spitalfields. No pen can describe, no words can express, I say, the strange impression which this thing made upon my spirits. I felt something shoot through my blood, my heart fluttered, my head flashed and was dizzy, and all within me, as I thought, turned about, and much ado I had not to abandon myself to an excess of passion at the first sight of her, much more when my lips touched her face. I thought I must have taken her in my arms and kissed her again a thousand times, whether I would or no.
But I roused up my judgment and shook it off, and with infinite uneasiness in my mind I sat down. You will not wonder if upon this surprise I was not conversible for some minutes, and that the disorder had almost discovered itself. I had a complication of severe things upon me; I could not conceal my disorder without the utmost difficulty, and yet upon my concealing it depended the whole of my prosperity, so I used all manner of violence with myself to prevent the mischief which was at the door.
Well, I saluted her, but as I went first forward to the captain’s lady, who was at the farther end of the cabin, towards the light, I had the occasion offered to stand with my back to the light when I turned about to her, who stood more on my left hand, so that she had not a fair sight of me though I was so near her. I trembled and knew neither what I did nor said; I was in the utmost extremity between so many particular circumstances as lay upon me, for I was to conceal my disorder from everybody, at the utmost peril, and at the same time expected everybody would discern it. I was to expect she would discover that she knew me, and yet was by all means possible to prevent it; I was to conceal myself if possible, and yet had not the least room to do anything towards it; in short, there was no retreat, no shifting anything off, no avoiding or preventing her having a full sight of me; nor was there any counterfeiting my voice, for then my husband would have perceived it; in short, there was not the least circumstance that offered me any assistance or any favourable thing to help me in this exigence.
After I had been upon the rack for near half an hour, during which I appeared stiff and reserved and a little too formal, my spouse and the captain fell into discourses about the ship and the sea, and business remote from us women, and by and by the captain carried him out upon the quarter-deck and left us all by ourselves in the great cabin. Then we began to be a little freer one with another, and I began to be a little revived by a sudden fancy of my own, namely, I thought I perceived that the girl did not know me; and the chief reason of my having such a notion was, because I did not perceive the least disorder in her countenance or the least change in her carriage, no confusion, no hesitation in her discourse, nor, which I had my eye particularly upon, did I observe that she fixed her eyes much upon me; that is to say, not singling me out to look steadily at me, as I thought would have been the case, but that she rather singled out my friend the Quaker and chatted with her on several things, but I observed too that it was all about indifferent matters.
This greatly encouraged me, and I began to be a little cheerful; but I was knocked down again as with a thunder-clap when, turning to the captain’s wife and discoursing of me, she said to her, “Sister, I cannot but think (my lady) to be very much like such a person.” Then she named the person, and the captain’s wife said she thought so too. The girl replied again she was sure she had seen me before, but she could not recollect where. I answered (though her speech was not directed to me) that I fancied she had not seen me before in England, but asked if she had lived in Holland. She said, No, no, she had never been out of England; and I added that she could not then have known me in England, unless it was very lately, for I had lived at Rotterdam a great while. This carried me out of that part of the broil pretty well; and to make it go off the better, when a little Dutch boy came into the cabin, who belonged to the captain and who I easily perceived to be Dutch, I jested and talked Dutch to him, and was merry about the boy, that is to say, as merry as the consternation I was still in would let me be.
However, I began to be thoroughly convinced by this time that the girl did not know me, which was an infinite satisfaction to me; or, at least, that though she had some notion of me, yet that she did not think anything about my being who I was, and which perhaps she would have been as glad to have known as I would have been surprised if she had; indeed, it was evident that had she suspected anything of the truth, she would not have been able to have concealed it.
Thus this meeting went off, and you may be sure I was resolved, if once I got off of it, she should never see me again to revive her fancy; but I was mistaken there too, as you shall hear. After we had been on board, the captain’s lady carried us home to her house, which was but just on shore, and treated us there again very handsomely, and made us promise that we would come again and see her before we went, to concert our affairs for the voyage, and the like; for she assured us that both she and her sister went the voyage at that time for our company. And I thought to myself, “Then you’ll never go the voyage at all,” for I saw from that moment that it would be no way convenient for my ladyship to go with them, for that frequent conversation might bring me to her mind, and she would certainly claim her kindred to me in a few days, as indeed would have been the case.
It is hardly possible for me to conceive what would have been our part in this affair had my woman Amy gone with me on board this ship; it had certainly blown up the whole affair, and I must for ever after have been this girl’s vassal, that is to say, have let her into the secret, and trusted to her keeping it too, or have been exposed and undone; the very thought filled me with horror.
But I was not so unhappy neither, as it fell out, for Amy was not with us, and that was my deliverance indeed; yet we had another chance to get over still. As I resolved to put off the voyage, so I resolved to put off the visit, you may be sure, going upon this principle, namely, that I was fixed in it that the girl had seen her last of me and should never see me more.
However, to bring myself well off, and withal to see (if I could) a little further into the matter, I sent my friend the Quaker to the captain’s lady to make the visit promised, and to make my excuse that I could not possibly wait on her, for that I was very much out of order; and in the end of the discourse I bade her insinuate to them that she was afraid I should not be able to get ready to go the voyage so soon as the captain would be obliged to go, and that perhaps we might put it off to his next voyage. I did not let the Quaker into any other reason for it than that I was indisposed, and not knowing what other face to put upon that part, I made her believe that I thought I was a-breeding.
It was easy to put that into her head, and she of course hinted to the captain’s lady that she found me very ill, that she was afraid I would miscarry, and then, to be sure, I could not think of going.
She went, and she managed that part very dexterously, as I knew she would, though she knew not a word of the grand reason of my indisposition; but I was all sunk and dead-hearted again when she told me she could not understand the meaning of one thing in her visit, namely, that the young woman, as she called her, that was with the captain’s lady, and whom she called sister, was most impertinently inquisitive into things, as who I was, how long I had been in England, where I had lived, and the like; and that, above all the rest, she enquired if I did not live once at the other end of the town.
“I thought her enquiries so out of the way,” says the honest Quaker, “that I gave her not the least satisfaction; but as I saw by thy answers on board the ship, when she talked of thee, that thou didst not incline to let her be acquainted with thee, so I was resolved that she should not be much the wiser for me; and when she asked me if thou ever livedst here or there, I always said no, but that thou wast a Dutch lady, and was going home again to thy family, and lived abroad.
I thanked her very heartily for that part, and indeed she served me in it more than I let her know she did; in a word, she thwarted the girl so cleverly, that if she had known the whole affair she could not have done it better.
But I must acknowledge all this put me upon the rack again, and I was quite discouraged, not at all doubting but that the jade had a right scent of things and that she knew and remembered my face, but had artfully concealed her knowledge of me till she might perhaps do it more to my disadvantage. I told all this to Amy, for she was all the relief I had. The poor soul (Amy) was ready to hang herself, that, as she said, she had been the occasion of it all; and that if I was ruined (which was the word I always used to her), she had ruined me; and she tormented herself about it so much, that I was sometimes fain to comfort her and myself too.
What Amy vexed herself at was chiefly that she should be surprised so by the girl, as she called her, I mean surprised into a discovery of herself to the girl, which indeed was a false step of Amy’s, and so I had often told her. But ’twas to no purpose to talk of that now, the business was how to get clear of the girl’s suspicions, and of the girl too, for it looked more threatening every day than another; and if I was uneasy at what Amy had told me of her rambling and rattling to her (Amy), I had a thousand times as much reason to be uneasy now when she had chopped upon me so unhappily as this, and not only had seen my face, but knew too where I lived, what name I went by, and the like.
And I am not come to the worst of it yet neither; for a few days after my friend the Quaker had made her visit and excused me on the account of indisposition, as if they had done it in over and above kindness because they had been told I was not well, they comes both directly to my lodgings to visit me; the captain’s wife and my daughter (whom she called sister), and the captain to show them the place. The captain only brought them to the door, put them in, and went away upon some business.
Had not the kind Quaker in a lucky moment come running in before them, they had not only clapped in upon me in the parlour, as it had been a surprise, but, which would have been a thousand times worse, had seen Amy with me; I think if that had happened I had had no remedy but to take the girl by herself and have made myself known to her, which would have been all distraction.
But the Quaker, a lucky creature to me, happened to see them come to the door before they rang the bell, and instead of going to let them in, came running in with some confusion in her countenance, and told me who was a-coming; at which Amy ran first, and I after her, and bid the Quaker come up as soon as she had let them in.
I was going to bid her deny me, but it came into my thoughts, that having been represented so much out of order, it would have looked very odd; besides, I knew the honest Quaker, though she would do anything else for me, would not lie for me, and it would have been hard to have desired it of her.
After she had let them in and brought them into the parlour, she came up to Amy and I, who were hardly out of the fright, and yet were congratulating one another that Amy was not surprised again.
They paid their visit in form, and I received them as formally, but took occasion two or three times to hint that I was so ill that I was afraid I should not be able to go to Holland, at least not so soon as the captain must go off, and made my compliments, how sorry I was to be disappointed of the advantage of their company and assistance in the voyage; and sometimes I talked as if I thought I might stay till the captain returned, and would be ready to go again. Then the Quaker put in, that then I might be too far gone, meaning with child, that I should not venture at all; and then (as if she should be pleased with it) added, she hoped I would stay and lie in at her house; so as this carried its own face with it, ’twas well enough.
But it was now high time to talk of this to my husband, which, however, was not the greatest difficulty before me. For after this and other chat had taken up some time, the young fool began her tattle again, and two or three times she brought it in that I was so like a lady that she had the honour to know at the other end of the town, that she could not put that lady out of her mind when I was by; and once or twice I fancied the girl was ready to cry. By and by she was at it again, and at last I plainly saw tears in her eyes, upon which I asked her if the lady was dead, because she seemed to be in some concern for her. She made me much easier by her answer than ever she did before; she said she did not really know, but she believed she was dead.
This, I say, a little relieved my thoughts, but I was soon down again; for after some time the jade began to grow talkative, and as it was plain that she had told all that her head could retain of Roxana and the days of joy which I had spent at that part of the town, another accident had like to have blown us all up again.
I was in a kind of déshabillé when they came, having on a loose robe like a morning-gown, but much after the Italian way, and I had not altered it when I went up, only dressed my head a little, and as I had been represented as having been lately very ill, so the dress was becoming enough for a chamber.
This morning-vest or robe, call it as you please, was more shaped to the body than we wear them, since showing the body in its true shape, and perhaps a little too plainly if it had been to be worn where any men were to come, but among ourselves it was well enough, especially for hot weather; the colour was green, figured, and the stuff a French damask, very rich.
This gown or vest put the girl’s tongue a-running again, and her sister, as she called her, prompted it; for as they both admired my vest and were taken up much about the beauty of the dress, the charming damask, the noble trimming, and the like, my girl puts in a word to the sister (captain’s wife). “This is just such a thing as I told you,” says she, “the lady danced in.” “What!” says the captain’s wife, “the Lady Roxana that you told me of? Oh! that’s a charming story,” says she; “tell it my lady.” I could not avoid saying so too, though from my soul I wished her in heaven for but naming it; nay, I won’t say but if she had been carried t’other way, it had been much at one to me, if I could but have been rid of her and her story too. For when she came to describe the Turkish dress, it was impossible but the Quaker, who was a sharp, penetrating creature, should receive the impression in a more dangerous manner than the girl; only that indeed she was not so dangerous a person, for if she had known it all I could more freely have trusted her than I could the girl, by a great deal; nay, I should have been perfectly easy in her.
However, as I have said, her talk made me dreadfully uneasy, and the more when the captain’s wife mentioned but the name of Roxana. What my face might do towards betraying me I knew not, because I could not see myself, but my heart beat as if it would have jumped out of my mouth, and my passion was so great, that for want of vent I thought I should have burst. In a word, I was in a kind of a silent rage, for the force I was under of restraining my passion was such as I never felt the like of. I had no vent, nobody to open myself to or to make a complaint to for my relief; I durst not leave the room by any means, for then she would have told all the story in my absence, and I should have been perpetually uneasy to know what she had said or had not said; so that, in a word, I was obliged to sit and hear her tell all the story of Roxana, that is to say, of myself, and not know at the same time whether she was in earnest or in jest; whether she knew me or no, or, in short, whether I was to be exposed or not exposed.
She began only in general with telling where she lived; what a place she had of it, how gallant a company her lady had always had in the house, how they used to sit up all night in the house gaming and dancing, what a fine lady her mistress was, and what a vast deal of money the upper servants got. As for her, she said, her whole business was in the next house, so that she got but little; except one night that there was twenty guineas given to be divided among the servants, when, she said, she got two guineas and a half for her share.
She went on, and told them how many servants there was and how they were ordered; but, she said, there was one Mrs. Amy, who was over them all, and that she, being the lady’s favourite, got a great deal. She did not know, she said, whether Amy was her Christian name or her surname, but she supposed it was her surname; that they were told she got threescore pieces of gold at one time, being the same night that the rest of the servants had the twenty guineas divided among them.
I put in at that word and said ’twas a vast deal to give away. “Why,” says I, “ ’twas a portion for a servant.” “Oh, madam!” says she, “it was nothing to what she got afterwards; we that were servants hated her heartily for it, that is to say, we wished it had been our lot in her stead.” Then I said again, “Why, it was enough to get her a good husband and settle her for the world, if she had sense to manage it.” “So it might, to be sure, madam,” says she, “for we were told she laid up above £500. But I suppose Mrs. Amy was too sensible that her character would require a good portion to put her off.”
“Oh,” said I, “if that was the case, ’twas another thing.”
“Nay,” says she, “I don’t know, but they talked very much of a young lord that was very great with her.”
“And pray what came of her at last?” said I; for I was willing to hear a little (seeing she would talk of it) what she had to say, as well of Amy as of myself.
“I don’t know, madam,” said she, “I never heard of her for several years till t’other day I happened to see her.”
“Did you indeed!” says I, and made mighty strange of it; ”what, and in rags, it may be,” said I; “that’s often the end of such creatures.”
“Just the contrary, madam,” says she, “she came to visit an acquaintance of mine, little thinking, I suppose, to see me, and I assure you she came in her coach.”
“In her coach!” said I; “upon my word, she had made her market then. I suppose she made hay while the sun shone; was she married, pray?”
“I believe she had been married, madam,” says she, “but it seems she had been at the East Indies, and if she was married, it was there, to be sure. I think she said she had good luck in the Indies.”
“That is, I suppose,” said I, “had buried her husband there.”
“I understand it so, madam,” says she, “and that she had got his estate.”
“Was that her good luck?” said I. It might be good to her as to the money indeed, but it was but the part of a jade to call it good luck.
Thus far our discourse of Mrs. Amy went, and no further, for she knew no more of her; but then the Quaker unhappily, though undesignedly, put in a question, which the honest, good-humoured creature would have been far from doing if she had known that I had carried on the discourse of Amy on purpose to drop Roxana out of the conversation.
But I was not to be made easy too soon. The Quaker put in, “But I think thou saidst something was behind of thy mistress; what didst thou call her: Roxana, was it not? Pray what became of her?”
“Ay, ay, Roxana,” says the captain’s wife; “pray, sister, let’s hear the story of Roxana; it will divert my lady, I’m sure.”
“That’s a damned lie,” said I to myself; “if you knew how little ’twould divert me, you would have too much advantage over me.” Well, I saw no remedy but the story must come on, so I prepared to hear the worst of it.
“Roxana!” says she, “I know not what to say of her; she was so much above us, and so seldom seen, that we could know little of her but by report, but we did sometimes see her too; she was a charming woman indeed, and the footmen used to say that she was to be sent for to Court.”
“To Court!” said I, “why, she was at Court, wasn’t she? The Pall Mall is not far from Whitehall.”
“Yes, madam,” says she, “but I mean another way.”
“I understand thee,” says the Quaker. “Thou meanest, I suppose, to be mistress to the King.”
“Yes, madam,” says she.
I cannot help confessing what a reserve of pride still was left in me; and though I dreaded the sequel of the story, yet when she talked how handsome and how fine a lady this Roxana was, I could not help being pleased and tickled with it, and put in questions two or three times of how handsome she was, and was she really so fine a woman as they talked of, and the like, on purpose to hear her repeat what the people’s opinion of me was and how I had behaved.
“Indeed,” says she at last, “she was a most beautiful creature as ever I saw in my life.” “But then,” said I, “you never had the opportunity to see her but when she was set out to the best advantage.”
“Yes, yes, madam,” says she, “I have seen her several times in her déshabillé, and I can assure you she was a very fine woman; and that which was more still, everybody said she did not paint.”
This was still agreeable to me one way, but there was a devilish sting in the tail of it all, and this last article was one, wherein she said she had seen me several times in my déshabillé. This put me in mind that then she must certainly know me, and it would come out at last, which was death to me but to think of.
“Well, but, sister,” says the captain’s wife, “tell my lady about the ball, that’s the best of all the story, and of Roxana’s dancing in a fine outlandish dress.”
“That’s one of the brightest parts of her story indeed,” says the girl; “the case was this. We had balls and meetings in her ladyship’s apartments every week almost, but one time my lady invited all the nobles to come such a time and she would give them a ball; and there was a vast crowd indeed,” says she.
“I think you said the King was there, sister, didn’t you?”
“No, madam,” says she, “that was the second time, when they said the King had heard how finely the Turkish lady danced, and that he was there to see her; but the King, if His Majesty was there, came disguised.”
“That is what they call incog.,” says my friend the Quaker; “thou canst not think the King would disguise himself.” “Yes,” says the girl, “it was so; he did not come in public with his Guards, but we all knew which was the King, well enough; that is to say, which they said was the King.”
“Well,” says the captain’s wife, “about the Turkish dress; pray let us hear that.” “Why,” says she, “my lady sat in a fine little drawing-room, which opened into the great room, and where she received the compliments of the company; and when the dancing began, a great lord,” says she, “I forget who they called him (but he was a very great lord or duke, I don’t know which), took her out and danced with her; but after a while my lady on a sudden shut the drawing-room and ran upstairs with her woman Mrs. Amy, and though she did not stay long (for I suppose she had contrived it all beforehand), she came down dressed in the strangest figure that ever I saw in my life, but it was exceeding fine.”
Here she went on to describe the dress as I have done already, but did it so exactly that I was surprised at the manner of her telling it; there was not a circumstance of it left out.
I was now under a new perplexity, for this young slut gave so complete an account of everything in the dress, that my friend the Quaker coloured at it, and looked two or three times at me to see if I did not do so too; for (as she told me afterwards) she immediately perceived it was the same dress that she had seen me have on, as I have said before. However, as she saw I took no notice of it, she kept her thoughts private to herself, and I did so too as well as I could.
I put it two or three times, that she had a good memory that could be so particular in every part of such a thing.
“Oh, madam!” says she, “we that were servants stood by ourselves in a corner, but so as we could see more than some strangers; besides,” says she, “it was all our conversation for several days in the family, and what one did not observe, another did.” “Why,” says I to her, “this was no Persian dress; only, I suppose, your lady was some French comedian, that is to say, a stage Amazon, that put on a counterfeit dress to please the company, such as they used in the play of Tamerlane at Paris, or some such.”
“No, indeed, madam,” says she, “I assure you my lady was no actress; she was a fine, modest lady, fit to be a princess; everybody said if she was a mistress, she was fit to be a mistress to none but the King, and they talked her up for the King as if it had really been so. Besides, madam,” says she, “my lady danced a Turkish dance, all the lords and gentry said it was so, and one of them swore he had seen it danced in Turkey himself; so that it could not come from the theatre at Paris; and then the name Roxana,” says she, “was a Turkish name.”
“Well,” said I, “but that was not your lady’s name, I suppose.”
“No, no, madam,” said she, “I know that; I know my lady’s name and family very well. Roxana was not her name, that’s true indeed.”
Here she ran me aground again, for I durst not ask her what was Roxana’s real name, lest she had really dealt with the devil and had boldly given my own name in for answer. So that I was still more and more afraid that the girl had really gotten the secret somewhere or other, though I could not imagine neither how that could be.
In a word, I was sick of the discourse, and endeavoured many ways to put an end to it, but it was impossible, for the captain’s wife, who called her sister, prompted her and pressed her to tell it, most ignorantly thinking that it would be a pleasant tale to all of us.
Two or three times the Quaker put in that this Lady Roxana had a good stock of assurance, and that ’twas likely if she had been in Turkey, she had lived with or been kept by some great Bassa there. But still she would break in upon all such discourse, and fly out into the most extravagant praises of her mistress, the famed Roxana. I ran her down as some scandalous woman, that it was not possible to be otherwise, but she would not hear of it; her lady was a person of such and such qualifications that nothing but an angel was like her, to be sure. And yet, after all she could say, her own account brought her down to this, that, in short, her lady kept little less than a gaming-ordinary, or, as it would be called in the times since that, an assembly for gallantry and play.
All this while I was very uneasy, as I said before, and yet the whole story went off again without any discovery, only that I seemed a little concerned that she should liken me to this gay lady whose character I pretended to run down very much, even upon the foot of her own relation.
But I was not at the end of my mortifications yet neither, for now my innocent Quaker threw out an unhappy expression which put me upon the tenters again. Says she to me, “This lady’s habit, I fancy, is just such a one as thine, by the description of it”; and then turning to the captain’s wife, says she, “I fancy my friend has a finer Turkish or Persian dress, a great deal.” “Oh!” says the girl, “’tis impossible to be finer; my lady’s,” says she, “was all covered with gold and diamonds; her hair and head-dress, I forgot the name they gave it,” says she, “shone like the stars, there was so many jewels in it.”
I never wished my good friend the Quaker out of my company before now, but indeed I would have given some guineas to have been rid of her just now; for beginning to be curious in the comparing the two dresses, she innocently began a description of mine, and nothing terrified me so much as the apprehension lest she should importune me to show it, which I was resolved I would never agree to.
But before it came to this she pressed my girl to describe the Tyhiaai or head-dress, which she did so cleverly that the Quaker could not help saying mine was just such a one; and after several other similitudes, all very vexatious to me, out comes the kind of motion to me to let the ladies see my dress, and they joined their eager desires of it, even to importunity.
I desired to be excused, though I had little to say at first why I declined it; but at last it came into my head to say it was packed up with my other clothes that I had least occasion for, in order to be sent on board the captain’s ship, but that if we lived to come to Holland together (which, by the way, I resolved should never happen), then, I told them, at unpacking my clothes they should see me dressed in it; but they must not expect I should dance in it, like the Lady Roxana in all her fine things.
This carried it off pretty well, and getting over this got over most of the rest, and I began to be easy again; and, in a word, that I may dismiss the story too as soon as may be, I got rid at last of my visitors, whom I had wished gone two hours sooner than they intended it.