The Lining of the Patch-Work Screen, by Jane Barker

The Story of Mrs. Goodwife.

In the late Troubles of Ireland, said she, my Husband betaking himself to King James's Party, we were stript of all we had, our Estate was forfeited, our House plunder'd, even to our wearing Cloaths; so that we were reduced to the utmost Exigence. Being thus distressed, we came away for England; and I being of an English Family, came amongst my Friends, to consult and take measures with them, what course to take to help us in this our Extremity. But, alas, being reduced to a deplorable Condition, with two small Children, we found but cold Reception, there having been several Changes in our Family; some Friends being dead, others grown up and married, which caused new Methods, new Establishments, &c. However, by their help we came to London, thinking to get away to France; but when we came hither, we heard that the King had a greater Burthen of poor Followers than he knew well how to sustain. We staid here some time, considering what to do, or which way to direct our Course, endeavouring to get some Place or Business for my Husband, or my self, till we had spent all we had in the World, and all that we could borrow of any Friend or Acquaintance; insomuch that we were forced to go often supperless to Bed. In the Morning, when our poor Babes wak'd, one cry'd, Mamma, me want Breakfast, me is hungry; the other cry'd, Pappa, me want a Bit of Bread, me is hungry.

These poor Infants thus pealing in our Ears, my Husband one Morning leap'd out of Bed, saying, he had lived long enough, since he heard his Children cry for Bread, and he had none to give 'em. I seeing him in this desperate Condition, leap'd out also, put on my Cloaths, and pray'd him to look to the Children, whilst I went to seek out for something.

Thus, down stairs I went, not knowing whither, or what about. But as I pass'd in the Entry, my Landlady called to me, as she was in her Parlour, saying, Mistress, I believe you are going to the Baker's; pray do so much as bring me a Loaf with you. I went accordingly, and desir'd a Loaf for my Landlady, which the Baker's Wife delivered to me immediately. I stood a while looking on the Shop full of Bread; but had not Courage to beg, nor Money to buy. Whether the Mistress saw, I look'd with a longing Eye, and a needy Stomach, I know not; but she said, Mistress, I believe you want a Loaf for your self; To which I answer'd with flowing Tears, yes; but I have no Money to pay for one; then the good Woman replied, In the Name of God, take one, and pay for it when you can; and gave me a good large Loaf, so I came away joyfully. Of this, with a little Salt, my Husband, my self and Children made a comfortable Repast, washing it down with clear Element.

As soon as we had thus refresh'd our selves, the good Baker's Wife, who had taken notice of my dejected Behaviour, sent a Servant with some Flower to make us a Pudding, a Piece of Meat to make the Children some Broth, together with a Pound of Butter, in which was stuck an Half−Crown Piece, to buy us Drink. I was transported at the good Woman's Charity, got on the Pot with speed, and made us a sumptuous Meal, such a one as we had not tasted in many Days. When this our plentiful Dinner was over, I began to consider which way I might dispose of my Half−Crown to make us live for the time to come: Which, you will say, was a very small Sum wherewith to begin any Business, for a Livelihood.

After revolving divers things in my Mind, I at last took it in my thoughts to go buy a little Wheat, and boyl it, and try to sell Bowls of Wheat; which accordingly I did, and next Day when my Wheat was ready, I went with it, with a Basket on my Arm. I must confess, I had Confusion to knock at Doors, and ask if they wanted a Bowl of Wheat; and what was an additional Mortification, when I took off my Gloves to deliver my Merchandize, my Hands discover'd that I was not brought up to such Business; insomuch, that the Servants would sometimes take notice, and say, that these Hands look'd more like the Hands of one used to sit in a Drawing−Room and play with a Fan, than of one who sells things about the Streets. How far these kind of Complements might have given me Vanity at another time, I know not; but now they were a true Mortification; for nothing made this humble Task sit more easie, than the Belief, that no body knew me. However, I got as much by this Day's Industry, as bought us Food the next. Thus I went on, daily leaving my Husband to take care of the Children, and get the Wheat prepar'd for the ensuing Day. And thus did my Husband content himself in this poor Employment, for the sake of his dear Babes, who himself had been bred a Gentleman.

In my going to good Houses to sell my Wheat, I got many a Piece of boyl'd, bak'd, and roast Meat, which I brought home to my hungry Children; nor did my Husband refuse his Share. By degrees frequenting those Houses, I got acquainted with the Maids, so that they trusted me to sell old things for them, paying me so much in the Shilling, as I could get for them. Thus I fell into a little way of Merchandize, selling at one House what I got at another. The Cook maid at one House wanted this thing, the House−maid that; the Chamber maid this thing to sell here, the Nurse had that thing to buy there; so that by degrees I sell into a pretty Trade of this kind of buying and selling old Cloaths, and grew so skill'd in it, that we took a Shop; and by such time as our Daughter was grown up, we had a Portion to dispose of her handsomely in the City. Our Son is our Assistant in this our Trade, and is our Book−keeper. Thus Ladies (said she) we have made out the Proverb,

Something doing, something coming.

They were all thankful to the Gentlewoman for her Relation; and the Lady invited her, with the others, to dinner; but she excus'd her self to her Ladyship, it being inconsistent with some Affairs she had at that time. The Lady and her Friends, together with Galecia, went with my Lady to dinner where we will suppose, they regaled themselves very well; together with my Lady's Husband, and his Friends till the coming of the Punch−Bowl, drove the Ladies into the Drawing−room, where the Tea−table attended their approach. They were scarcely seated when a Lady came to make my Lady Allgood a Visit; (for that was our Lady's Name) who receiv'd her with Transports of Kindness, after a very long Absence, she being just come out of France, where she had been many Years following the Fortune of King James. They made her many Congratulations for her safe Arrival, and divers Inquiries after the Health and Circumstances of their Friends and Acquaintance in those Parts, and the Condition of the Court of St. Germain's, since the Death of the King. To which she answer'd, that they all acted a melancholy Scene. However, they had this Advantage, the Change of Fortune brought every one to a right understanding of themselves, and a due Consideration of others. The Poor are become respectful, the Rich (if such there be) compassionate, Inferiours are humble, Superiours are affable, the Women vertuous, the Men valiant, the Matrons prudent, Daughters obedient, Fathers obliging, Sons observant, Patrons readily assisting, Supplicants gratefully accepting; whilst true Piety and Devotion are the Cement of all the other Vertues, to build up a holy Court, like those we read of in the time of Constantine or Theodosius. In short, there is a Pattern, by which every one may square their Lives, so as to make vertuous and honest Figures amongst Mankind, and in some degree honourable also, Vertue and Honour being inseparable Companions.

The Ladies proceeded to ask her, if she had had a happy Voyage by Sea and Land, without any dangerous Adventures? To which she replied, that all was very easie and happy; only in the Coach between Paris and Callisthere was a Lawyer, who told us a Story carrying something of Horror along with it; which being short, if your Ladyship please, I will relate it: It is something of the Porteugueze Nun, whose amorous Letters have been the Entertainment of all the World. Her Story must needs be acceptable, replied the Ladies, wherefore, pray proceed to oblige us with the relation of it.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51