“Indeed,” says I, “so I was; that foolish young girl held us all in a Canterbury story, I thought she would never have done with it.” “Why, truly I thought she was very careful to let thee know she was but a cook-maid.” “Ay,” says I, “and at a gaming-house, or gaming-ordinary, and at t’other end of the town too; all which (by the way) she might know, would add very little to her good name among us citizens.”
“I can’t think,” says the Quaker, “but she had some other drift in that long discourse; there’s something else in her head,” says she, “I am satisfied of that.” Thought I, “Are you satisfied of it? I am sure I am the less satisfied for that; at least ’tis but small satisfaction to me to hear you say so. What can this be?” says I; “and when will my uneasiness have an end?” But this was silent, and to myself, you may be sure. But in answer to my friend the Quaker, I returned by asking her a question or two about it; as what she thought was in it, and why she thought there was anything in it; “for,” says I, “she can have nothing in it relating to me.”
“Nay,” says the kind Quaker, “if she had any view towards thee, that’s no business of mine, and I should be far from desiring thee to inform me.”
This alarmed me again; not that I feared trusting the good-humoured creature with it if there had been anything of just suspicion in her, but this affair was a secret I cared not to communicate to anybody. However, I say, this alarmed me a little, for as I had concealed everything from her, I was willing to do so still; but as she could not but gather up abundance of things from the girl’s discourse which looked towards me, so she was too penetrating to be put off with such answers as might stop another’s mouth. Only there was this double felicity in it: first, that she was not inquisitive to know or find anything out, and not dangerous if she had known the whole story. But, as I say, she could not but gather up several circumstances from the girl’s discourse, as particularly the name of Amy, and the several descriptions of the Turkish dress which my friend the Quaker had seen and taken so much notice of, as I have said above.
As for that, I might have turned it off by jesting with Amy and asking her who she lived with before she came to live with me; but that would not do, for we had unhappily anticipated that way of talking by having often talked how long Amy had lived with me, and which was still worse, by having owned formerly that I had had lodgings in the Pall Mall; so that all those things corresponded too well. There was only one thing that helped me out with the Quaker, and that was the girl’s having reported how rich Mrs. Amy was grown, and that she kept her coach. Now as there might be many more Mrs. Amy’s besides mine, so it was not likely to be my Amy, because she was far from such a figure as keeping her coach; and this carried it off from the suspicions which the good, friendly Quaker might have in her head.
But as to what she imagined the girl had in her head, there lay more real difficulty in that part a great deal, and I was alarmed at it very much; for my friend the Quaker told me she observed that the girl was in a great passion when she talked of the habit, and more when I had been importuned to show her mine but declined it. She said she several times perceived her to be in disorder and to restrain herself with great difficulty, and once or twice she muttered to herself that she had found it out or that she would find it out, she could not tell whether, and that she often saw tears in her eyes; that when I said my suit of Turkish clothes was put up, but that she should see it when we arrived in Holland, she heard her say softly she would go over on purpose then.
After she had ended her observations, I added I observed too that the girl talked and looked oddly, and that she was mighty inquisitive, but I could not imagine what it was she aimed at. “Aimed at!” says the Quaker, “’tis plain to me what she aims at; she believes thou art the same Lady Roxana that danced in the Turkish vest, but she is not certain.” “Does she believe so?” says I; “if I had thought that, I would have put her out of her pain.” “Believe so!” says the Quaker, “yes, and I began to believe so too, and should have believed so still if thou hadst not satisfied me to the contrary by thy taking no notice of it and by what thou hast said since.” “Should you have believed so?” said I warmly, “I am very sorry for that; why, would you have taken me for an actress or a French stage-player?” “No,” says the good, kind creature, “thou carry’st it too far; as soon as thou mad’st thy reflections upon her I knew it could not be; but who could think any other when she described the Turkish dress which thou hast here, with the head-tire and jewels, and when she named thy maid Amy too, and several other circumstances concurring? I should certainly have believed it,” said she, “if thou hadst not contradicted it, but as soon as I heard thee speak I concluded it was otherwise.” “That was very kind,” said I, “and I am obliged to you for doing me so much justice; ’tis more, it seems, than that young talking creature does.” “Nay,” says the Quaker, “indeed she does not do thee justice, for she as certainly believes it still as ever she did.” “Does she?” said I. “Ay,” says the Quaker, “and I warrant thee she’ll make thee another visit about it.” “Will she?” says I; “then I believe I shall downright affront her.” “No, thou shalt not affront her,” says she (full of her good humour and temper), “I’ll take that part off thy hands, for I’ll affront her for thee, and not let her see thee.” I thought that was a very kind offer, but was at a loss how she would be able to do it; and the thought of seeing her there again distracted me, not knowing what temper she would come in, much less what manner to receive her in. But my fast friend and constant comforter the Quaker said she perceived the girl was impertinent, and that I had no inclination to converse with her, and she was resolved I should not be troubled with her. But I shall have occasion to say more of this presently, for this girl went further yet than I thought she had.
It was now time, as I said before, to take measures with my husband in order to put off my voyage; so I fell into talk with him one morning as he was dressing, and while I was in bed. I pretended I was very ill, and as I had but too easy a way to impose upon him, because he so absolutely believed everything I said, so I managed my discourse so as that he should understand by it I was a-breeding, though I did not tell him so.
However, I brought it about so handsomely, that before he went out of the room he came and sat down by my bedside, and began to talk very seriously to me upon the subject of my being so every-day ill; and that as he hoped I was with child, he would have me consider well of it whether I had not best alter my thoughts of the voyage to Holland, for that being seasick, and which was worse, if a storm should happen, might be very dangerous to me. And after saying abundance of the kindest things that the kindest of husbands in the world could say, he concluded that it was his request to me that I would not think any more of going till after all should be over, but that I would, on the contrary, prepare to lie in where I was, and where I knew, as well as he, I could be very well provided and very well assisted.
This was just what I wanted, for I had, as you have heard, a thousand good reasons why I should put off the voyage, especially with that creature in company; but I had a mind the putting it off should be at his motion, not my own, and he came into it of himself, just as I would have had it. This gave me an opportunity to hang back a little, and to seem as if I was unwilling. I told him I could not abide to put him to difficulties and perplexities in his business; that now he had hired the great cabin in the ship, and perhaps paid some of the money, and, it may be, taken freight for goods, and to make him break it all off again would be a needless charge to him, or perhaps a damage to the captain.
As to that, he said it was not to be named, and he would not allow it to be any consideration at all; that he could easily pacify the captain of the ship by telling him the reason of it, and that if he did make him some satisfaction for the disappointment, it should not be much.
“But, my dear,” says I, “you haven’t heard me say I am with child, neither can I say so, and if it should not be so at last, then I shall have made a fine piece of work of it indeed. Besides,” says I, “the two ladies, the captain’s wife and her sister, they depend upon our going over, and have made great preparations, and all in compliment to me; what must I say to them?”
“Well, my dear,” says he, “if you should not be with child, though I hope you are, yet there is no harm done; the staying three or four months longer in England will be no damage to me, and we can go when we please, when we are sure you are not with child, or when it appearing that you are with child, you shall be down and up again. And as for the captain’s wife and sister, leave that part to me, I’ll answer for it there shall be no quarrel raised upon that subject; I’ll make your excuse to them by the captain himself, so all will be well enough there, I’ll warrant you.”
This was as much as I could desire, and thus it rested for a while. I had indeed some anxious thoughts about this impertinent girl, but believed that putting off the voyage would have put an end to it all; so I began to be pretty easy. But I found myself mistaken, for I was brought to the point of destruction by her again, and that in the most unaccountable manner imaginable.
My husband, as he and I had agreed, meeting the captain of the ship, took the freedom to tell him that he was afraid he must disappoint him, for that something had fallen out which had obliged him to alter his measures, and that his family could not be ready to go time enough for him.
“I know the occasion, sir,” says the captain. “I hear your lady has got a daughter more than she expected; I give you joy of it.” “What do you mean by that?” says my spouse. “Nay, nothing,” says the captain, ”but what I hear the women tattle over the tea-table; I know nothing but that you don’t go the voyage upon it, which I am sorry for. But you know your own affairs,” added the captain, “that’s no business of mine.”
“Well, but,” says my husband, “I must make you some satisfaction for the disappointment,” and so pulls out his money. “No, no,” says the captain, and so they fell to straining their compliments one upon another. But, in short, my spouse gave him three or four guineas, and made him take it, and so the first discourse went off again and they had no more of it.
But it did not go off so easily with me; for now, in a word, the clouds began to thicken about me and I had alarms on every side. My husband told me what the captain had said, but very happily took it that the captain had brought a tale by halves, and, having heard it one way, had told it another; and that neither could he understand the captain, neither did the captain understand himself; so he contented himself to tell me, he said, word for word, as the captain delivered it.
How I kept my husband from discovering my disorder, you shall hear presently; but let it suffice to say just now that if my husband did not understand the captain, nor the captain understand himself, yet I understood them both very well; and to tell the truth, it was a worse shock than ever I had had yet. Invention supplied me indeed with a sudden motion to avoid showing my surprise, for as my spouse and I were sitting by a little table near the fire, I reached out my hand, as if I had intended to take a spoon which lay on the other side, and threw one of the candles off of the table, and then, snatching it up, started up upon my feet, and stooped to the lap of my gown and took it in my hand. “Oh!” says I, “my gown’s spoiled; the candle has greased it prodigiously.” This furnished me with an excuse to my spouse to break off the discourse for the present and call Amy down. And Amy not coming presently, I said to him, “My dear, I must run upstairs and put it off and let Amy clean it a little.” So my husband rose up too, and went into a closet where he kept his papers and books, and fetched a book out and sat down by himself to read.
Glad I was that I had got away, and up I ran to Amy, who, as it happened, was alone. “Oh, Amy!” says I, “we are all utterly undone ”; and with that I burst out a-crying, and could not speak a word for a great while.
I cannot help saying that some very good reflections offered themselves upon this head; it presently occurred, what a glorious testimony it is to the justice of Providence, and to the concern Providence has in guiding all the affairs of men (even the least as well as the greatest), that the most secret crimes are, by the most unforeseen accidents, brought to light and discovered.
Another reflection was, how just it is that sin and shame follow one another so constantly at the heels, that they are not like attendants only, but like cause and consequence, necessarily connected one with another; that the crime going before, the scandal is certain to follow, and that ’tis not in the power of human nature to conceal the first or avoid the last.
“What shall I do, Amy?” said I as soon as I could speak, “and what will become of me?” And then I cried again so vehemently, that I could say no more a great while. Amy was frighted almost out of her wits, but knew nothing what the matter was; but she begged to know, and persuaded me to compose myself and not cry so. “Why, madam, if my master should come up now,” says she, “he will see what a disorder you are in; he will know you have been crying, and then he will want to know the cause of it.” With that I broke out again. “Oh! he knows it already, Amy,” says I; “he knows all! ’tis all discovered! and we are undone!” Amy was thunderstruck now indeed. “Nay,” says Amy, “if that be true we are undone indeed; but that can never be, that’s impossible, I’m sure.”
“No, no,” says I, “’tis far from impossible, for I tell you ’tis so.” And by this time being a little recovered, I told her what discourse my husband and the captain had had together, and what the captain had said. This put Amy into such a hurry that she cried, she raved, she swore and cursed like a mad thing; then she upbraided me that I would not let her kill the girl when she would have done it; and that it was all my own doing, and the like. Well, however, I was not for killing the girl yet, I could not bear the thoughts of that neither.
We spent half an hour in these extravagances, and brought nothing out of them neither; for indeed we could do nothing or say nothing that was to the purpose, for if anything was to come out-of-the-way, there was no hindering it nor help for it. So after thus giving a vent to myself by crying, I began to reflect how I had left my spouse below, and what I had pretended to come up for; so I changed my gown that I pretended the candle fell upon, and put on another and went down.
When I had been down a good while, and found my spouse did not fall into the story again as I expected, I took heart and called for it. “My dear,” said I, “the fall of the candle put you out of your history; won’t you go on with it?” “What history?” says he. “Why,” says I, “about the captain.” “Oh!” says he, “I had done with it; I know no more than that the captain told a broken piece of news that he had heard by halves, and told more by halves than he heard it; namely, of your being with child, and that you could not go the voyage.”
I perceived my husband entered not into the thing at all, but took it for a story, which, being told two or three times over, was puzzled and come to nothing; and that all that was meant by it was what he knew or thought he knew already, viz. that I was with child, which he wished might be true.
His ignorance was cordial to my soul, and I cursed them in my thoughts that should ever undeceive him; and as I saw him willing to have the story end there, as not worth being further mentioned, I closed it too, and said I supposed the captain had it from his wife, she might have found somebody else to make her remarks upon; and so it passed off with my husband well enough, and I was still safe there where I thought myself in most danger. But I had two uneasinesses still: the first was, lest the captain and my spouse should meet again and enter into further discourse about it; and the second was, lest the busy, impertinent girl should come again, and when she came, how to prevent her seeing Amy, which was an article as material as any of the rest; for seeing Amy would have been as fatal to me as her knowing all the rest.
As to the first of these, I knew the captain could not stay in town above a week, but that his ship being already full of goods, and fallen down the river, he must soon follow; so I contrived to carry my husband somewhere out of town for a few days, that they might be sure not to meet.
My greatest concern was, where we should go. At last I fixed upon Northall; not, I said, that I would drink the waters, but that I thought the air was good, and might be for my advantage. He, who did everything upon the foundation of obliging me, readily came into it, and the coach was appointed to be ready the next morning; but as we were settling matters he put in an ugly word that thwarted all my design. And that was, that he had rather I would stay till afternoon, for that he should speak to the captain next morning if he could, to give him some letters, which he could do and be back again about twelve o’clock.
I said, “Ay, by all means”; but it was but a cheat on him, and my voice and my heart differed, for I resolved, if possible, he should not come near the captain nor see him, whatever came of it.
In the evening therefore, a little before we went to bed, I pretended to have altered my mind, and that I would not go to Northall, but I had a mind to go another way, but I told him I was afraid his business would not permit him; he wanted to know where it was. I told him, smiling, I would not tell him, lest it should oblige him to hinder his business. He answered, with the same temper but with infinitely more sincerity, that he had no business of so much consequence as to hinder him going with me anywhere that I had a mind to go. “Yes,” says I, “you want to speak with the captain before he goes away.” “Why, that’s true,” says he, “so I do,” and paused a while; and then added, “But I’ll write a note to a man that does business for me, to go to him; ’tis only to get some bills of loading signed, and he can do it.” When I saw I had gained my point I seemed to hang back a little. “My dear,” says I, “don’t hinder an hour’s business for me; I can put it off for a week or two, rather than you shall do yourself any prejudice.” “No, no,” says he, “you shall not put it of an hour for me, for I can do my business by proxy with anybody but my wife “; and then he took me in his arms and kissed me. How did my blood flush up into my face when I reflected how sincerely, how affectionately this good-humoured gentleman embraced the most cursed piece of hypocrisy that ever came into the arms of an honest man! His was all tenderness, all kindness, and the utmost sincerity; mine all grimace and deceit, a piece of mere manage and framed conduct to conceal a past life of wickedness and prevent his discovering that he had in his arms a she-devil, whose whole conversation for twenty-five years had been black as hell, a complication of crime, and for which, had he been let into it, he must have abhorred me and the very mention of my name. But there was no help for me in it, all I had to satisfy myself was that it was my business to be what I was and conceal what I had been; that all the satisfaction I could make him was to live virtuously for the time to come, not being able to retrieve what had been in time past; and this I resolved upon, though had the great temptation offered, as it did afterwards, I had reason to question my stability. But of that hereafter.
After my husband had kindly thus given up his measures to mine, we resolved to set out in the morning early. I told him that my project, if he liked it, was to go to Tunbridge; and he, being entirely passive in the thing, agreed to it with the greatest willingness, but said if I had not named Tunbridge, he would have named Newmarket (there being a great Court there, and abundance of fine things to be seen). I offered him another piece of hypocrisy here, for I pretended to be willing to go thither, as the place of his choice, but indeed I would not have gone for a thousand pounds; for the Court being there at that time, I durst not run the hazard of being known at a place where there were so many eyes that had seen me before. So that, after some time, I told my husband that I thought Newmarket was so full of people at that time, that we should get no accommodation; that seeing the Court and the crowd was no entertainment at all to me, unless as it might be so to him, that if he thought fit, we would rather put it off to another time; and that if when we went to Holland, we should go by Harwich, we might take a round by Newmarket and Bury, and so come down to Ipswich, and go from thence to the seaside. He was easily put off from this, as he was from anything else that I did not approve; and so with all imaginable facility he appointed to be ready early in the morning, to go with me for Tunbridge.
I had a double design in this, viz. first, to get away my spouse from seeing the captain any more; and secondly, to be out of the way myself, in case this impertinent girl, who was now my plague, should offer to come again, as my friend the Quaker believed she would; and as indeed happened within two or three days afterwards.