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My gentlewoman guessed presently what was the matter, and sent her back with a short note, that I might depend upon the honesty of her maid ; that she would be answerable for her upon all accounts; ; and that she took no servants without very good security. I was then perfectly easy ; and indeed the maid's behaviour spoke for itself, for a modester, quieter, soberer girl never came into anybody's family, and I found her so afterwards.
As soon as I was well enough to go abroad, I went with the maid to see the house, and to see the apartment I was to have; and everything was so handsome and so clean, that, in short, I had nothing to say, but was wonderfully pleased with what I had met with, which, considering the melancholy circumstances I was in, was beyond what I looked for.
It might be expected that I should give some account of the nature of the wicked practices of this woman, in whose hands I was now fallen; but it would be but too much encouragement to the vice, to let the world see what easy measures were here taken to rid the women's burthen of a child clandestinely gotten. This grave matron had several sorts of practice, and this was one, that if a child was born, though not in her house (for she had the occasion to be called to many private labours), she had people always ready, who for a piece of money would take the child off their hands, and off from the hands of the parish too; and those children, as she said, were honestly taken care of. What should become of them all, considering so many, as by her account she was concerned with, I cannot conceive.
I had many times discourses upon that subject with her; but she was full of this argument, that she saved the life of many an innocent lamb, as she called them, which would perhaps have been murdered; and of many a woman, who, made desperate by the misfortune, would otherwise be tempted to destroy their children. I granted her that this was true, and a very commendable thing, provided the poor children fell into good hands afterwards, and were not abused and neglected by the nurses. She answered, that she always took care of that, and had no nurses in her business but what were very good people, and such as might be depended upon.
I could say nothing to the contrary, and so was obliged to say, “ Madam, I do not question but you do your part, but what those people do is the main question ;” and she stopped my mouth again with saying she took the utmost care about it.
The only thing I found in all her conversation on these subjects, that gave me any distaste, was, that one time in discoursing about my being so far gone with child, she said something that looked as if she could help me off with my burthen sooner, if I was willing; or in English, that she could give me something to make me miscarry, if I had a desire to put an end to my troubles that way; but I soon let her see that I abhorred the thoughts of it; and, to do her justice, she put it off so cleverly, that I could not say she really intended it, or whether she only mentioned the practice as a horrible thing; for she couched her words so well, and took my meaning so quickly, that she gave her negative before I could explain myself.
To bring this part into as narrow a compass as possible, I quitted my lodging at St. Jones's, and went to my new governess, for so they called her in the house, and there I was indeed treated with so much courtesy, so carefully looked to, and everything so well, that I was surprised at it, and could not at first see what advantage my governess made of it; but I found afterwards that she professed to make no profit of the lodgers' diet, nor indeed could she get much by it, but that her profit lay in the other articles of her management, and she made enough I assure you;
for 't is scarce credible what practice she had, as well abroad as at home, and yet all upon the private account, or, in plain English, the whoring account.
While I was in her house, which was near four months, she had no less than twelve ladies of pleasure brought to bed within doors, and I think she had two-and-thirty, or thereabouts, under her conduct
without doors; whereof one, as nice as she was with me, was lodged with my old landlady at St. Jones's.
This was a strange testimony of the growing vice of the age, and as bad as I had been myself, it shocked my very sense; I began to nauseate the place I was in, and, above all, the practice; and yet I must say
that I never saw, or do I believe there was to be seen, the least indecency in the house the whole time I was there.
Not a man was ever seen to come upstairs, except to visit the lying-in-ladies within their month, nor then without the old lady with them, who made it a piece of the honour of her management that no man should touch a woman, no, not his own wife, within the month ; nor would she permit any man to lie in the house upon any pretence whatever, no, not though it was with his own wife ; and her saying for it was, that she cared not how
children were born in her house, but she would have none got there if she could help it.
It might perhaps be carried farther than was needful, but it was an error of the right hand if it was an error, for by this she kept up the reputation, such as it was, of her business, and obtained this character, that though she did take care of the women when they were debauched, yet she was not instrumental to their being debauched at all; and yet it was a wicked trade she drove too.
While I was here, and before I was brought to bed, I received a letter from my trustee at the bank, full of kind, obliging things, and earnestly pressing me to return to London ; it was near a fortnight old when it came to me, because it had first been sent into Lancashire, and then returned to me.
He concludes with telling me that he had obtained a decree against his wife, and that he would be ready to make good his engagement to me, if I would accept of him, adding a great many protestations of kindness and affection, such as he would have been far from offering if he had known the circumstances I had been in, and which, as it was, I had been very far from deserving
I returned an answer to this letter, and dated it at Liverpool, but sent it by a messenger, alleging that it came in cover to a friend in town. I gave him joy of his deliverance, but raised some scruples at the lawfulness of his marrying again, and told him I supposed he would consider very seriously upon that point before he resolved on it, the consequence being too great for a man of his judgment to venture rashly upon ; so concluded wishing him very well in whatever he resolved, without letting him into anything of my own mind, or giving any answer to his proposal of my coming to London to him, but mentioned at a distance my intention to return the latter end of the year, this being dated in April,