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ADVICE OF TWO FRIENDS.
and at their seeing me in such a condition, that I fell into another violent fit of crying, so that in short I could not speak to them again for a great while longer.
During my being in such an agony, they went to my maid Amy at another part of the same room, and talked with her. Amy told them all my circumstances, and set them forth in such moving terms, and so to the life, that I could not upon any terms have done it like her myself, and, in a word, affected them both with it in such a manner, that the old aunt came to me, and though hardly able to speak for tears, Look ye, cousin, said she, in a few words; things must not stand thus, some course must be taken, and that forthwith; pray where were these children born? I told her the parish where we lived before, that four of them were born there, and one in the house where I now was, where the landlord, after having seized my goods for the rent past, not then knowing my circumstances, had now given me leave to live for a whole year more without any rent, being moved with compassion; but that this year was now almost expired.
Upon hearing this account, they came to this resolution, that the children should be all carried by them to the door of one of the relations mentioned above, and be set down there by the maid Amy, and that I, the mother, should remove for some days, shut up the doors, and be gone : that the people should be told, that if they did not think fit to take some care of the children, they might send for the churchwardens, if they thought that better, for that they were born in that parish, and there they must be provided for; as for the other child, which was born in the parish of that was already taken care of by the parish officers there, for indeed they were so sensible of the distress of the family that they had at first word done what was their part to do.
This was what these good women proposed, and bade me leave the rest to them. I was at first sadly afflicted at the thoughts of parting with my children, and especially at that terrible thing, their being taken into the parish keeping ; and then a hundred terrible things came into my thoughts, viz., of parish children being starved at nurse; of their being ruined, let grow crooked, lamed, and the like, for want of being taken care of; and this sunk my very heart within
But the misery of my own circumstances hardened my
heart against my own flesh and blood; and when I considered they must inevitably be starved, and I too, if I continued to keep them about me, I began to be reconciled to parting with them all, any how, and any where, that I might be freed from the dreadful necessity of seeing them all perish, and perishing with them myself; so I agreed to go away out oi the house, and leave the management of the whole matter to my maid Amy and to them, and accordingly I did so; and the same afternoon they carried them all away to one of their aunts.
Amy, a resolute girl, knocked at the door, with the children all with her, and bade the eldest, as soon as the door was open, run in, and the rest after her. She set them all down at the door before she knocked, and when she knocked she stayed till a maid-servant came to the door ; Sweetheart, said she, pray go in and tell your mistress here are her little cousins come to see her from naming the town where we lived, at which the maid offered to go back. Here, child, says Amy, take one of 'em in your hand, and I'll bring the rest; so she gives her the least, and the wench goes in mighty innocently, with the little one in her hand, upon which Amy turns the rest in after her, shuts the door softly, and inarches off as fast as she could.
Just in the interval of this, and even while the maid and her mistress were quarrelling (for the mistress raved and scolded at her like a mad woman, and had ordered her to go and stop the maid Amy, and turn all the children out of the doors again; but she had been at the door, and Amy was gone, and the wench was out of her wits, and the mistress too), I say, just at this juncture, came the
old woman, not the aunt, but the other of the two that had been with me, and knocks at the door; the aunt did not go, because she had pretended to advocate for me, and they would have suspected her of some contrivance; but as for the other woman, they did not so much as know that she had kept up any correspondence with me.
Amy and she had concerted this between them, and it was well enough contrived that they did so.
When she came into the house, the mistress was fuming and raging like one distracted, and called the maid all the foolish jades and sluts that she could think of, and that she would take the childreu and turn them all out into the streets. The good poor woman,
MY CHILDREN SENT TO THEIR AUNT.
seeing lier in such a passion, turned about as if she would be gone again, and said, Madam, I'll come again another time, I see you are engaged. No, no, Mrs.
says the mistress, I am not much engaged, sit down; this senseless creature here has brought in my fool of a brother's whole house of children upon me, and tells me, that a wench brought them to the door, and thrust them in, and bade her carry them to me; but it shall be no disturbance to me, for I have ordered them to be set in the street without the door, and so let the churchwardens take care of them, or else make this dull jade carry 'em back to again, and let her that brought them into the world look after them if she will ; what does she send her brats to me for ?
The last indeed had been the best of the two, says the poor woman, if it had been to be done; and that brings me to tell you my errand, and the occasion of my coming, for I came on purpose about this very business, and to have prevented this being put upon you, if I could, but I see I am come too late.
How do you mean too late ? says the mistress; what ! have you been concerned in this affair then? what! have you helped bring this family slur upon us? I hope you do not think such a thing of me, madam, says the poor woman, but I went this morning to to see my old mistress and benefactor, for she had been very kind to me, and when I came to the door, I found all fast locked and bolted, and the house looking as if nobody was at home.
I knocked at the door, but nobody came, till at last some of the neighbours' servants called to me, and said, There's nobody lives there, mistress; what do you knock for? I seemed surprised at that. What, nobody lives there! said I; what d’ye mean? does not Mrs. live there? The answer was, No, she is gone; at which I parleyed with one of them, and asked her what was the matter. Matter ! says she, why, it is matter enougb : the poor gentlewoman has lived there all alone, and without anything to subsist her a long time, and this morning the landlord turned her out of doors.
Out of doors ! says I; what! with all her children ? Poor lambs, what is become of them? Why, truly, nothing worse, said they, can come to them than staying here, for they were almost starved with hunger; so the neighbours, seeing the
poor lady in such distress, for she stood crying and wringing her hands over her children like one distracted, sent for the churchwardens to take care of the children; and they, when they came, took the youngest, which was born in this parish, and have got it a very good nurse, and taken care of it; but as for the other four, they had sent them away to some of their father's relations, and who were very substantial people, and who, besides that, lived in the parish where they were born.
I was not so surprised at this as not presently to foresee that this trouble would be brought upon you, or upon Mr.
-; so I came immediately to bring you word of it, that you might be prepared for it, and might not be surprised, but I see they have been too nimble for me, so that I know not what to advise. The poor woman, it seems, is turned out of doors into the street; and another of the neighbours there told me, that when they took her children from her, she swooned away, and when they recovered her out of that, she run distracted, and is put into a madhouse by the parish, for there is nobody else to take any care of her.
This was all acted to the life by this good, kind, poor creature; for though her design was perfectly good and charitable, yet there was not one word of it true in fact: for I was not turned out of doors by the landlord, nor gone distracted. It was true, indeed, that at parting with my poor children I fainted, and was like one mad when I came to myself and found they were gone; but I remained in the house a good while after that, as you shall hear.
While the poor woman was telling this dismal story, in came the gentlewoman's husband, and though her heart was hardened against all pity, who was really and nearly related to the children, for they were the children of her own brother, yet the good man was quite softened with the dismal relation of the circumstances of the family; and when the poor woman had done, he said to his wife, This is a dismal case, my dear, indeed, and something must be done. His wife fell a raving at him: What, says she, do you want to have four children to keep? Have we not children of our own ? Would
you have these brats come and eat up my children's bread ? No, no, let 'em go to the parish, and let them take care of them; I'll take care of my own.
Come, come, my dear, says the husband, charity is a duty
VINTIICTIVE BEHAVIOUR OF THE AUNT.
to the poor, and he that gives to the poor lends to the Lord; let us lend our heavenly Father a little of our children's bread, as you call it; it will be a store well laid up for them, and will be the best security that our children shall never come to want charity, or be turned out of doors, as these poor innocent creatures are. Don't tell me of security, says the wife, 'tis a good security for our children to keep what we have together, and provide for them, and then 'tis time enough to help keep other folks children. Charity begins at home.
Well, my dear, says he again, I only talk of putting out a little money to interest: our Maker is a good borrower : never fear making a bad debt there, child ; I'll be bound for it.
Don't banter me with your charity, and your allegories, says the wife, angrily; I tell you they are my relations, not yours, and they shall not roost here; they shall go to the parish.
All your relations are my relations now, says the good gentleman very calmly, and I won't see your relations in distress, and not pity them, any more than I would my own; indeed, my dear, they shan't go to the parish. I assure you, none of
wife's relations shall come to the parish, if I can help it. What! will
you take four children to keep? says the wife. No, no, my dear, says he, there's your sister and talk with her; and your uncle I'll send for him and the rest. I'll warrant you, when we are all together, we will find ways and means to keep four poor little creatures from beggary and starving, or else it would be very hard ; we are none of us in so bad circumstances, but we are able to spare a mite for the fatherless. Don't shut up your bowels of compassion against your own flesh and blood. Could you hear these poor innocent children
door for hunger, and give them no bread.
Prithee, what need they cry at our door? says she; 'tis the business of the parish to provide for them; they shan't cry at our door. If they do, I'll give them nothing. Won't you ? says he; but I will. Remember that dreadful Scripture is directly against us, Prov. xxi. 13, Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.