Roxana, The Fortunate Mistress/Chapter XII

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And now Amy and I were at leisure to look upon the mischiefs that we had escaped; and had I had any religion, or any sense of a Supreme Power managing, directing, and governing in both causes and events in this world, such a case as this would have given anybody room to have been very thankful to the Power who had not only put such a treasure into my hand, but given me such an escape from the ruin that threatened me; but I had none of those things about me. I had indeed a grateful sense upon my mind of the generous friendship of my deliverer, the Dutch merchant, by whom I was so faithfully served, and by whom, as far as relates to second causes, I was preserved from destruction. I say I had a grateful sense upon my mind of his kindness and faithfulness to me, and I resolved to show him some testimony of it as soon as I came to the end of my rambles, for I was yet in a state of uncertainty, and sometimes that gave me a little uneasiness too. I had paper indeed for my money, and he had showed himself very good to me in conveying me away, as above. But I had not seen the end of things yet, for unless the bills were paid I might still be a great loser by my Dutchman, and he might perhaps have contrived all that affair of the Jew to put me into a fright and get me to run away, and that as if it were to save my life; that if the bills should be refused I was cheated, with a witness, and the like. But these were but surmises, and indeed were perfectly without cause, for the honest man acted as honest men always do, with an upright and disinterested principle, and with a sincerity not often to be found in the world. What gain he made by the exchange was just, and was nothing but what was his due and was in the way of his business, but otherwise he made no advantage of me at all.

When I passed in the ship between Dover and Calais, and saw beloved England once more under my view—England, which I counted my native country, being the place I was bred up in, though not born there—a strange kind of joy possessed my mind, and I had such a longing desire to be there that I would have given the master of the ship twenty pistoles to have stood over and set me on shore in the Downs. And when he told me he could not do it, that is, that he durst not do it if I would have given him a hundred pistoles, I secretly wishful that a storm would rise that might drive the ship over to the coast of England whether they would or not, that I might be set on shore anywhere upon English ground.

This wicked wish had not been out of my thoughts above two or three hours, but the master steering away to the north, as was his course to do, we lost sight of land on that side and only had the Flemish shore in view on our right hand, or, as the seamen call it, the starboard side; and then with the loss of the sight the wish for landing in England abated, and I considered how foolish it was to wish myself out of the way of my business; that if I had been on shore in England, I must go back to Holland on account of my bills, which were so considerable, and I having no correspondence there, that I could not have managed it without going myself. But we had not been out of sight of England many hours before the weather began to change; the winds whistled and made a noise, and the seamen said to one another that it would blow hard at night. It was then about two hours before sunset, and we were passed by Dunkirk and I think they said we were in sight of Ostend; but then the wind grew high and the sea swelled, and all things looked terrible, especially to us that understood nothing but just what we saw before us; in short, night came on, and very dark it was, the wind freshened and blew harder and harder, and about two hours within night it blew a terrible storm.

I was not quite a stranger to the sea, having come from Rochelle to England when I was a child, and gone from London by the River Thames to France afterward, as I have said. But I began to be alarmed a little with the terrible clamour of the men over my head, for I had never been in a storm, and so had never seen the like or heard it; and once, offering to look out at the door of the steerage, as they called it, it struck me with such horror, the darkness, the fierceness of the wind, the dreadful height of the waves, and the hurry the Dutch sailors were in, whose language I did not understand one word of, neither when they cursed nor when they prayed—I say all these things together filled me with terror, and, in short, I began to be very much frighted.

When I was come back into the great cabin, there sat Amy, who was very seasick, and I had a little before given her a sup of cordial water to help her stomach. When Amy saw me come back and sit down without speaking, for so I did, she looked two or three times up at me. At last she came running to me. “Dear madam!” says she, “what is the matter? What makes you look so pale? Why, you ain’t well; what is the matter?” I said nothing still, but held up my hands two or three times. Amy doubled her importunities. Upon that I said no more but, “Step to the steerage door and look out, as I did.” So she went away immediately and looked too, as I had bidden her. But the poor girl came back again in the greatest amazement and horror that ever I saw any poor creature in, wringing her hands and crying out she was undone! she was undone! she should be drowned! They were all lost! Thus she ran about the cabin like a mad thing, and as perfectly out of her senses as anyone in such a case could be supposed to be.

I was frighted myself, but when I saw the girl in such a terrible agony it brought me a little to myself, and I began to talk to her and put her in a little hope. I told her there was many a ship in a storm that was not cast away, and I hoped we should not be drowned; that it was true the storm was very dreadful, but I did not see that the seamen were so much concerned as we were. And so I talked to her as well as I could, though my heart was full enough of it as well as Amy’s, and death began to stare in my face, ay, and something else too, that is to say, conscience, and my mind was very much disturbed, but I had nobody to comfort me.

But Amy being in so much worse a condition, that is to say, so much more terrified at the storm than I was, I had something to do to comfort her. She was, as I have said, like one distracted, and went raving about the cabin crying out she was undone! undone! she should be drowned! and the like; and at last the ship giving a jerk, by the force, I suppose, of some violent wave, it threw poor Amy quite down, for she was weak enough before with being seasick; and as it threw her forward the poor girl struck her head against the bulkhead, as the seamen call it, of the cabin, and laid her as dead as a stone upon the floor, or deck, that is to say, she was so to all appearance.

I cried out for help, but it had been all one to have cried out on the top of a mountain where nobody had been within five miles of me; for the seamen were so engaged and made so much noise, that nobody heard me or came near me. I opened the great cabin door and looked into the steerage to cry for help, but there, to increase my fright, were two seamen on their knees at prayers, and only one man who steered, and he made a groaning noise too, which I took to be saying his prayers, but it seems it was answering to those above when they called to him to tell him which way to steer.

Here was no help for me or for poor Amy, and there she lay so still and in such a condition, that I did not know whether she was dead or alive. In this fright I went to her and lifted her a little way up, setting her on the deck with her back to the boards of the bulkhead, and I got a little bottle out of my pocket and held it to her nose, and rubbed her temples, and what else I could do, but still Amy showed no signs of life, till I felt for her pulse but could hardly distinguish her to be alive. However, after a great while she began to revive, and in about half an hour she came to herself, but remembered nothing at first of what had happened to her for a good while more.

When she recovered more fully she asked me where she was. I told her she was in the ship yet, but God knows how long it might be. “Why, madam,” says she, “is not the storm over?” “No, no,” says I, “Amy.” “Why, madam,” says she, “it was calm just now” (meaning when she was in the swooning fit occasioned by her fall). “Calm! Amy,” says I, “’tis far from calm; it may be it will be calm by and by, when we are all drowned and gone to heaven.”

“Heaven! madam,” says she, “what makes you talk so? Heaven! I go to heaven! No, no, if I am drowned I am damned! Don’t you know what a wicked creature I have been? I have been a whore to two men, and have lived a wretched abominable life of vice and wickedness for fourteen years. Oh, madam, you know it, and God knows it; and now I am to die, to be drowned. Oh! what will become of me? I am undone for ever! Ay, madam, for ever! to all eternity! Oh, I am lost! I am lost! If I am drowned I am lost for ever!”

All these, you will easily suppose, must be so many stabs into the very soul of one in my own case. It immediately occurred to me, ”Poor Amy! what art thou that I am not? What hast thou been that I have not been? Nay, I am guilty of my own sin and thine too.” Then it came to my remembrance that I had not only been the same with Amy, but that I had been the devil’s instrument to make her wicked; that I had stripped her and prostituted her to the very man that I had been naught with myself; that she had but followed me. I had been her wicked example, and I had led her into all, and that as we had sinned together, now we were likely to sink together.

All this repeated itself to my thoughts at that very moment, and every one of Amy’s cries sounded thus in my ears. “I am the wicked cause of it all; I have been thy ruin, Amy; I have brought thee to this, and now thou art to suffer for the sin I have enticed thee to; and if thou art lost for ever, what must I be? what must be my portion?”

It is true this difference was between us, that I said all these things within myself, and sighed and mourned inwardly; but Amy, as her temper was more violent, spoke aloud and cried and called out aloud like one in an agony.

I had but small encouragement to give her, and indeed could say but very little, but I got her to compose herself a little and not let any of the people of the ship understand what she meant or what she said. But even in her greatest composure she continued to express herself with the utmost dread and terror on account of the wicked life she had lived, and crying out she should be damned and the like, which was very terrible to me who knew what condition I was in myself.

Upon these serious considerations I was very penitent too for my former sins, and cried out, though softly, two or three times, “Lord, have mercy upon me.” To this I added abundance of resolutions of what a life I would live if it should please God but to spare my life but this one time; how I would live but a single and a virtuous life, and spend a great deal of what I had thus wickedly got in acts of charity and doing good.

Under these dreadful apprehensions I looked back on the life I had led with the utmost contempt and abhorrence. I blushed, and wondered at myself how I could act thus, how I could divest myself of modesty and honour and prostitute myself for gain; and I thought if ever it should please God to spare me this one time from death, it would not be possible that I should be the same creature again.

Amy went further. She prayed, she resolved, she vowed to lead a new life if God would spare her but this time. It now began to be daylight, for the storm held all night long, and it was some comfort to see the light of another day, which indeed none of us expected; but the sea went mountains high, and the noise of the water was as frightful to us as the sight of the waves; nor was any land to be seen, nor did the seamen know whereabout they were. At last, to our great joy, they made land, which was in England and on the coast of Suffolk; and the ship being in the utmost distress, they ran for the shore at all hazards, and with great difficulty got into Harwich, where they were safe as to the danger of death. But the ship was so full of water and so much damaged, that if they had not laid her on shore the same day she would have sunk before night, according to the opinion of the seamen, and of the workmen on shore too who were hired to assist them in stopping their leaks.

Amy was revived as soon as she heard they had espied land, and went out upon the deck, but she soon came in again to me. “Oh, madam,” says she, “there’s the land indeed to be seen; it looks like a ridge of clouds, and may be all a cloud for aught I know, but if it be land ’tis a great way off; and the sea is in such a combustion, we shall perish before we can reach it. ’Tis the dreadfullest sight to look at the waves that ever was seen; why, they are as high as mountains, we shall certainly be all swallowed up for all the land is so near.”

I had conceived some hope that if they saw land we should be delivered, and I told her she did not understand things of that nature; that she might be sure if they saw land they would go directly towards it, and would make into some harbour. But it was, as Amy said, a frightful distance to it. The land looked like clouds, and the sea went as high as mountains, so that no hope appeared in the seeing the land, but we were in fear of foundering before we could reach it. This made Amy so desponding still; but as the wind, which blew from the east or that way, drove us furiously towards the land, so when about half an hour after I stepped to the steerage door and looked out I saw the land much nearer than Amy represented it, so I went in and encouraged Amy again, and indeed was encouraged myself.

In about an hour or something more we saw, to our infinite satisfaction, the open harbour of Harwich and the vessel standing directly towards it, and in a few minutes more the ship was in smooth water, to our inexpressible comfort. And thus I had, though against my will and contrary to my true interest, what I wished for, to be driven away to England, though it was by a storm.

Nor did this incident do either Amy or me much service; for, the danger being over, the fears of death vanished with it, ay, and our fear of what was beyond death also. Our sense of the life we had lived went off, and with our return to life our wicked taste of life returned, and we were both the same as before, if not worse. So certain is it that the repentance which is brought about by the mere apprehensions of death wears off as those apprehensions wear off, and death-bed repentance, or storm repentance, which is much the same, is seldom true.

However, I do not tell you that this was all at once neither. The fright we had at sea lasted a little while afterwards, at least the impression was not quite blown off as soon as the storm; especially poor Amy, as soon as she set her foot on shore, she fell flat upon the ground and kissed it, and gave God thanks for her deliverance from the sea; and turning to me when she got up, “I hope, madam,” says she, “you will never go upon the sea again.”

I know not what ailed me, not I; but Amy was much more penitent at sea, and much more sensible of her deliverance when she landed and was safe, than I was. I was in a kind of stupidity, I know not well what to call it. I had a mind full of horror in the time of the storm, and saw death before me as plainly as Amy, but my thoughts got no vent as Amy’s did. I had a silent, sullen kind of grief which could not break out either in words or tears, and which was, therefore, much the worse to bear.

I had a terror upon me for my wicked past life, and firmly believed I was going to the bottom, launching into death, where I was to give an account of all my past actions. And in this state, and on that account, I looked back upon my wickedness with abhorrence, as I have said above. But I had no sense of repentance from the true motive of repentance; I saw nothing of the corruption of nature, the sin of my life as an offence against God, as a thing odious to the holiness of His being, as abusing His mercy and despising His goodness. In short, I had no thorough effectual repentance, no sight of my sins in their proper shape, no view of a Redeemer or hope in Him. I had only such a repentance as a criminal has at the place of execution, who is sorry, not that he has committed the crime, as it is a crime, but sorry that he is to be hanged for it.

It is true Amy’s repentance wore off too as well as mine, but not so soon. However, we were both very grave for a time.

As soon as we could get a boat from the town we went on shore, and immediately went to a public-house in the town of Harwich, where we were to consider seriously what was to be done, and whether we should go up to London or stay till the ship was refitted, which they said would be a fortnight, and then go for Holland as we intended and as business required.

Reason directed that I should go to Holland, for there I had all my money to receive, and there I had persons of good reputation and character to apply to, having letters to them from the honest Dutch merchant at Paris; and they might perhaps give me a recommendation again to merchants in London, and so I should get acquaintance with some people of figure, which was what I loved, whereas now I knew not one creature in the whole city of London or anywhere else that I could go and make myself known to. Upon these considerations I resolved to go to Holland, whatever came of it.

But Amy cried and trembled and was ready to fall into fits when I did but mention going upon the sea again, and begged of me not to go; or, if I would go, that I would leave her behind, though I was to send her a-begging. The people in the inn laughed at her and jested with her, asked her if she had any sins to confess that she was ashamed should be heard of, and that she was troubled with an evil conscience; told her if she came to sea and to be in a storm, if she had lain with her master she would certainly tell her mistress of it; and that it was a common thing for poor maids to confess all the young men they had lain with. That there was once a poor girl that went over with her mistress, whose husband was a ——r in —— in the city of London, who confessed in the terror of a storm that she had lain with her master and all the apprentices so often, and in such and such places, and made the poor mistress, when she returned to London, fly at her husband and make such a stir as was indeed the ruin of the whole family. Amy could bear all that well enough, for though she had indeed lain with her master, it was with her mistress’s knowledge and consent, and, which was worse, was her mistress’s own doing. I record it to the reproach of my own vice, and to expose the excesses of such wickedness as they deserve to be exposed.

I thought Amy’s fear would have been over by that time the ship would be gotten ready, but I found the girl was rather worse and worse; and when I came to the point that we must go on board or lose the passage, Amy was so terrified that she fell into fits, so the ship went away without us.

But my going being absolutely necessary, as above, I was obliged to go in the packet-boat some time after and leave Amy behind at Harwich, but with directions to go to London and stay there, to receive letters and orders from me what to do. Now I was become, from a lady of pleasure, a woman of business, and of great business, too, I assure you.

I got me a servant at Harwich, to go over with me, who had been at Rotterdam, knew the place and spoke the language, which was a great help to me, and away I went. I had a very quick passage and pleasant weather, and, coming to Rotterdam, soon found out the merchant to whom I was recommended, who received me with extraordinary respect; and first he acknowledged the accepted bill for 4,000 pistoles, which he afterwards paid punctually. Other bills that I had also payable at Amsterdam he procured to be received for me, and whereas one of the bills for 1,200 crowns was protested at Amsterdam, he paid it me himself, for the honour of the endorser, as he called it, which was my friend the merchant at Paris.

There I entered into a negotiation, by his means, for my jewels, and he brought me several jewellers to look on them, and particularly one to value them and to tell me what every particular was worth. This was a man who had great skill in jewels but did not trade at that time, and he was desired by the gentleman that I was with to see that I might not be imposed upon.

All this work took me up near half a year, and by managing my business thus myself and having large sums to do with, I became as expert in it as any she-merchant of them all. I had credit in the bank for a large sum of money, and bills and notes for much more.

After I had been here about three months my maid Amy writes me word that she had received a letter from her friend, as she called him—that, by the way, was the Prince’s gentleman, that had been Amy’s extraordinary friend indeed, for Amy owned to me he had lain with her a hundred times; that is to say, as often as he pleased, and perhaps in the eight years which that affair lasted it might be a great deal oftener. This was what she called her friend, whom she corresponded with upon this particular subject, and among other things sent her this particular news that my extraordinary friend, my real husband who rode in the Gendarmes, was dead, that he was killed in a rencounter, as they call it, or accidental scuffle among the troopers; and so the jade congratulated me upon my being now a real free woman. “And now, madam,” says she at the end of her letter, “you have nothing to do but come hither and set up a coach and a good equipage, and if beauty and a good fortune won’t make you a duchess, nothing will.” But I had not fixed my measures yet. I had no inclination to be a wife again; I had had such bad luck with my first husband, I hated the thoughts of it. I found that a wife is treated with indifference, a mistress with a strong passion; a wife is looked upon as but an upper servant, a mistress is a sovereign; a wife must give up all she has, have every reserve she makes for herself be thought hard of, and be upbraided with her very pin-money, whereas a mistress makes the saying true, that what a man has is hers, and what she has is her own; the wife bears a thousand insults and is forced to sit still and bear it or part and be undone, a mistress insulted helps herself immediately and takes another.

These were my wicked arguments for whoring, for I never set against them the difference another way, I may say, every other way; how that, first, a wife appears boldly and honourably with her husband, lives at home and possesses his house, his servants, his equipages, and has a right to them all and to call them her own, entertains his friends, owns his children, and has the return of duty and affection from them, as they are here her own, and claims upon his estate, by the custom of England, if he dies and leaves her a widow.

The whore skulks about in lodgings, is visited in the dark, disowned upon all occasions before God and man, is maintained indeed for a time, but is certainly condemned to be abandoned at last, and left to the miseries of fate and her own just disaster. If she has any children her endeavour is to get rid of them and not maintain them, and if she lives she is certain to see them all hate her and be ashamed of her. While the vice rages and the man is in the devil’s hand, she has him, and while she has him she makes a prey of him; but if he happen to fall sick, if any disaster befall him, the cause of all lies upon her, he is sure to lay all his misfortunes at her door; and if once he comes to repentance or makes one step towards a reformation, he begins with her, leaves her, uses her as she deserves, hates her, abhors her, and sees her no more. And that with this never-failing addition, namely, that the more sincere and unfeigned his repentance is, the more earnestly he looks up, and the more effectually he looks in, the more his aversion to her increases, and he curses her from the bottom of his soul; nay, it must be from a kind of excess of charity if he so much as wishes God may forgive her.

The opposite circumstances of a wife and whore are such and so many, and I have since seen the difference with such eyes, as I could dwell upon the subject a great while, but my business is history. I had a long sense of folly yet to run over; perhaps the moral of all my story may bring me back again to this part, and if it does I shall speak of it fully.

While I continued in Holland I received several letters from my friend (so I had good reason to call him) the merchant in Paris, in which he gave me a further account of the conduct of that rogue the Jew, and how he acted after I was gone; how impatient he was while the said merchant kept him in suspense, expecting me to come again, and how he raged when he found I came no more.

It seems, after he found I did not come, he found out by his unwearied inquiry where I had lived, and that I had been kept as a mistress by some great person, but he could never learn by whom, except that he learnt the colour of his livery. In pursuit of this enquiry he guessed at the right person, but could not make it out or offer any positive proof of it; but he found out the Prince’s gentleman, and talked so saucily to him of it that the gentleman treated him, as the French call it, au coup de bâton; that is to say, caned him very severely, as he deserved. And that not satisfying him or curing his insolence, he was met late one night upon the Pont Neuf in Paris by two men, who, muffling him up in a great cloak, carried him into a more private place and cut off both his ears, telling him it was for talking impudently of his superiors, adding that he should take care to govern his tongue better and behave with more manners, or the next time they would cut his tongue out of his head.

This put a check to his sauciness that way, but he comes back to the merchant and threatened to begin a process against him for corresponding with me and being accessory to the murder of the jeweller, etc.

The merchant found by his discourse that he supposed I was protected by the said Prince de ——, nay, the rogue said he was sure I was in his lodgings at Versailles—for he never had so much as the least intimation of the way I was really gone—but that I was there he was certain, and certain that the merchant was privy to it. The merchant bade him defiance. However, he gave him a great deal of trouble and put him to a great charge, and had like to have brought him in for a party to my escape; in which case he would have been obliged to have produced me, and that in the penalty of some capital sum of money.

But the merchant was too many for him another way; for he brought an information against him for a cheat, wherein laying down the whole fact, how he intended falsely to accuse the widow of the jeweller for the supposed murder of her husband, that he did it purely to get the jewels from her, and that he offered to bring him (the merchant) in, to be confederate with him and to share the jewels between them; proving also his design to get the jewels into his hands and then to have dropped the prosecution upon condition of my quitting the jewels to him. Upon this charge he got him laid by the heels; so he was sent to the Conciergerie, that is to say, to Bridewell, and the merchant cleared. He got out of jail in a little while, though not without the help of money, and continued teasing the merchant a long while; and at last threatening to assassinate and murder him, so the merchant, who having buried his wife about two months before was now a single man, and not knowing what such a villain might do, thought fit to quit Paris, and came away to Holland also.

It is most certain that, speaking of originals, I was the source and spring of all that trouble and vexation to this honest gentleman; and as it was afterwards in my power to have made him full satisfaction and did not, I cannot say but I added ingratitude to all the rest of my follies. But of that I shall give a fuller account presently.