« ForrigeFortsett »
cousin, and three others; to whom, soon after we were seated, she related my story, intermixing much invective against my mistress, and much flattery to me, with neither of which, if the truth be confessed, I was much displeased.
After dinner, as I understood that company was expected, I entreated leave to retire, and was shewed up stairs into a small chamber very neatly furnished, which I was desired to consider as my own. As the company staid till it was very late, I drank tea and supped alone, one of the servants being ordered to attend me.
The next morning, when I came down stairs to breakfast, Mrs. Wellwood presented me with a piece of printed cotton sufficient for a sack and coat, and about twelve yards of slight silk for a night-gown, which, she said, I should make up myself as a specimen of my skill. I attempted to excuse myself from accepting this benefaction, with much hesitation and confusion ; but I was commanded with a kind frown, and in a peremptory' tone, to be silent. I was told, that, when business came in, I should pay all my debts ; that in the mean time, I should be solicitous only to set up; and that a change of genteel apparel might be considered as my stock in trade, since without it my business could neither be procured nor transacted.
To work, therefore, I went ; my clothes were made and worn; many encomiums were lavished upon my dexterity and my person ; and thus I was entangled in the snare that had been laid for me, before I discovered my danger. I had contracted debts which it was impossible I should pay; the power of the law could now be applied to effect the purposes of guilt; and my creditor could urge me to her purpose, both by hope and fear.
I had now been near a month in my new lodging;
árd great care had hitherto been taken to conceal whatever might shock my modesty, or acquaint me with the danger of my situation. Some incidents, however, notwithstanding this caution, had fallen under my notice, that might well have alarmed me; but as those who are waking from a pleasing dream, shut their eyes against the light, and endeavour to prolong the delusion by slumbering again, I checked my suspicions the moment they rose, as if danger that was not known would not exist ; without considering that inquiry alone could confirm the good, and enable me to escape the evil.
The house was often filled with company, which divided into separate rooms;
the visits were frequently continued till midnight, and sometimes till morning ; I had, however, always desired leave to retire, which had hitherto been permitted, though not without reluctance; but at length I was pressed to make tea, with an importunity that I could not resist. The company was very gay, and some fa. miliarities passed between the gentlemen and ladies which threw me into confusion and covered me with blushes ; yet I was still zealous to impose upon myself, and, therefore, was contented with the supposition, that they were liberties allowed among persons of fashion, many of whose polite levities I had heard described and censured by the dear monitor of my youth, to whom I owed all my virtue and all my knowledge. I could not, however, reflect without solicitude and anxiety, that since the first week of my arrival I had heard no more of my business. I had, indeed, frequently ventured to mention it; and still hoped that when my patroness had procured me a little set of customers among her friends, I should be permitted to venture into a room of my own; for I could not think of carrying it on where it would degrade my benefac
tress, of whom it could not without an affront be said, tha: she la lodgings to a mantua-maker ; nor could I witout indecorum distribute directions where I was to be found, till I had moved to another house. Bat whenever I introduced this subject of conversation, I was either rallied for my grasity, or gently reproached with pride, as impatient of obligation : sometimes I was told, with an "air of merriment, that my business should be pleasure ; and sometimes I was entertained with amorous stories, and excited by licentious and flattering descriptions, to a relish of luxurious idleness and ex. pensive amusements. In short, my suspicions gradually increased ; and my fears grew stronger, till my dream was at an end, and I could slumber no more. The terror that seized me, when I could no longer doubt into what hands I had fallen, is not to be expressed, nor, indeed, could it be concealed : the effect which it produced in my aspect and be haviour, afforded the wretch who attempted to seduce me, no prospect of success; and as she despaired of exciting me by the love of pleasure to voluntary guilt, she determined to effect her purpose by surprize, and drive me into her toils by desperation.
It was not less my misfortune than reproach, that I did not immediately quit a place in which I knew myself devoted to destruction. This, indeed, Mrs. Wellwood was very assiduous to prevent: the morning after I had discovered her purpose, the talk about my business was renewed ; and as soon as we had breakfasted, she took me out with her in a hackney-coach, under pretence of procuring me a lodging ; but she had still some plausible objection against all that we saw. Thus she contrived to busy my mind, and keep me with her the greatest part of the day; at three we returned to dinner, and passed the afternoon without company. I drank tea with the family, and in the evening, being uncommonly drowsy, I went to bed near two hours sooner than usual.
N° 136. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 1754.
-Quis talia fando
And who can hear this tale without a tear ?
To the transactions of this night I was not consci.
; but what they had been the circumstances of the morning left me no room to doubt. I discovered with astonishment, indignation and despair, which for a time suspended all my faculties, that I had suffered irreparable injury in a state of insensibility; not so much to gratify the wretch by whom I had been abused, as that I might with less scruple ad. mit another, and by reflecting that it was impossible to recover what I had lost, become careless of all that remained. Many artifices were used to soothe me; and when these were found to be ineffectual, attempts were made to intimidate me with menaces. I knew not exactly what passed in the first fury of my distraction, but at length it quite exhausted me. In the evening, being calm through mere languor and debility, and no precaution having been taken to detain me, because I was not thought able to escape, I found means to steal down
stairs, and get into the street without being missed, Wretched as I was, I felt some emotions of joy when I first found myself at liberty ;, though it was no better than the liberty of an exile in a desart, where having escaped from the dungeon and the wheel, he must yet, without a miracle, be destroyed by savages or hunger. It was not long, indeed, before I reflected, that I knew no house that would receive me, and that I had no money in my pocket. I had not, however, the least inclination to go back. I sometimes thought of returning to my old mistress, the mantua-maker ; but the moment I began to anticipate the malicious inference she would draw from my absence and appearance, and her triumph in the mournful necessity that urged me to return, I determined rather to suffer any other evil that could
Thus destitute and forlorn, feeble and dispirited, I continued to creep along till the shops were all shut, and the deserted streets became silent. The busy crowds, which had almost borne me before them, were now dissipated ; and every one was rea tired home, except a few wretched outcasts like my. self, who were either huddled together in a corner, or strolling about not knowing whither they went. It is not easy to conceive the anguish, with which I reflected upon my condition ; and, perhaps, it would scarcely have been thought possible, that a person who was not a fugitive from justice, nor an enemy to labour, could be thus destitute even of the little that is essential to life, and in danger of perishing for want in the midst of a populous city, abounding with accommodations for every rank, from the peer to the beggar. Such, however, was my lot. I found my, self compelled by necessity to pass the night in the street, without hope of passing the next in
any other place, or, indeed, of procuring food to support me