Peg Plunkett's Memoirs - CHAP. XXXVII.

Memoirs of Mrs. Margaret Leeson


            I WAS now as to pecuniary matters tolerably easy, I had what would support me and my servant girl, with decency for some time; exclusive of which I was every day receiving subscriptions for my third volume, the first two having been bought up with the greatest avidity:—I now began to lead a life of some comfort, my circumstances were good, my health in some measure reinstated, and my mind in a perfect calm; I regularly attended to my devotions, and was constantly visited by my spiritual guide a Mr. L——d, who was not only the good priest but the gentleman, and who spared no pains to bring me not only to a proper way of thinking, but to a good opinion of myself, and indeed to this gentleman I in a great measure owe my preservation; else I certainly should through desperation, have been guilty of the horrid sin of a second time attempting to make an end of my poor self.—In this situation I happened accidentally to meet with a woman, in whom I placed much confidence, she came to me recommended very strongly, and I hired her on my own terms:—she was a very fine elegant woman, of about thirty years of age, though perfectly grey; she told me she was the daughter of a respectable Farmer in Roscrea, that she had very early privately married the Valet de chambre of M—— B——, Esq; near Borrisokane, and that her husband having saved a little money in that poor gentleman's service (whose wife a lovely woman, eloped from him with a military Cornuter,) brought her up to Dublin, and set up an alehouse in Essex-street, where they had not carried on business for above three years when her husband failed, was arrested and thrown into the Four-courts Marshalsea, where they both remained in great distress, until he was liberated by the benefit of the late Insolvent act; when the base villain, her husband, deserted her (under pretence of jealousy, insinuating that she had granted favours to a married gentleman then in prison) and entirely quit the kingdom; in consequence of which, she applied in her distress to the gentleman whom Collins her husband pretended to be jealous of, who told her it would be ridiculous in the extreme, not to give the miscreant cause for his unjust suspicions; and the gentleman having been very kind to her when in the prison, which gave rise to Collins's surmises, and having buried his own lady, she gave way to his desires, and proved pregnant by him; which he for some time could hardly give credit to, as from her snowy head he conceived she was an old woman; however at last he was thoroughly convinced, on her being brought to bed of a fine boy, as like himself as one egg to another:—however as his circumstances were greatly deranged, Mrs. Collins was obliged to put her child into the Poor-house, and to go to a service herself, which he provided for her, by recommending her to his own sister; with whom she lived till about a month before that angelic woman died; when she gave her the discharge; on the strength of which I agreed to hire her. This poor pretty woman proved a great comfort to me, as I found her intelligent, faithful, sober, discreet and honest; indeed when my distresses became too severe for human nature to bear, I found every consolation in my poor dear Peggy Collins, who never forsook me; and very shortly after my hiring her, I had great occasion for a trusty, faithful friend, who would sympathize in my uncommon and unheard of misfortunes.—Peggy and I continued together in tolerable tranquillity for several months, until one evening I took it into my head to take a walk towards Drumcondra, to see my old poetical friend Mrs. H——, and took poor Peggy with me as a safeguard; and on our return in the dusk of the evening, we were attacked by five ruffians, who dragged us into an adjoining field, and after stripping us to our shifts, and robbing us of what cash we had about us, actually compelled us by force to comply with their infamous desires, and otherwise used us most cruelly, as we made as much resistance as was in our power; particularly poor Mrs. Collins, who in her rage thrust her scissors, into one of the villains' bellies at the very moment he was enjoying her, after they severally satiated their brutal appetites, they left us as I said before, stripped to our shifts, carrying off even our shoes and stockings, and indeed was it not for one of them, who had less ferocity than the others, they would have taken away our very shifts;—in this wretched situation we were obliged to return to Mrs. H——, who kindly procured for us from her friend Broadhead's, shoes and stockings, with two old plaid cloaks; and in this miserable plight we arrived at our lodgings, very much cut and bruised, at about two o'clock in the morning: Mrs. T—— was astonished when she saw us, and when we related the way we had been treated, she absolutely shed tears of compassion, and would not let us retire till she made us take some warm punch, at the same time giving us every consolation in her power.—Poor Peggy and I went to bed, but not to rest, and what was a greater affliction to us than all, in a few days afterwards, we found we were infected with the most wretched of disorders; in fact we were injured by the nefarious villains in the most virulent degree, and this in all my round of pollution was what I never experienced before;—almost frantic, and not knowing what to do; I was at first resolved to lie under the foul disease till it should terminate my wretched existence, but then on reflection I considered my poor Peggy's case, and at last determined to send for either blind Billy J——ns or Surgeon B——r, but in sending a note to the former, I found he had been for a considerable time a Sunday beau, and the poor surgeon was to my great grief in durance vile, for large sums of money;—I therefore applied to my worthy friend Mr. Brady, who was obliged, our diseases were so virulent and obstinate, to put us both in a salivation,—in which we were for near three months, at the end of which time, we found ourselves reduced to skeletons, all our money exhausted, deeply involved with Mrs. T——, our landlady, and our clothes in pawn:— A glorious situation for two poor miserable repentant sinners, who had not by any crime of their own, in any shape contributed to bring on these unheard of misfortunes; what to do we knew not, and what was still worse (as misfortune seldom comes alone) Mrs. T——, and who could blame her, gave us warning to quit her house, at the same time assuring me she never would ask me for what I owed her, which amounted to about ten pounds, but that her husband wanted the room, we occupied, and she hoped that I would not take it amiss, in requesting me to provide myself by that day week at the farthest. I told her I was far from being displeased; on the contrary, I should ever hold the many obligations I lay under to her in grateful remembrance, and that I would provide as soon as possible, though very unequal to the arduous task, as I was so debilitated, as to be unable to stand, and was not worth


"a ducat in the world."

            Just as Mrs. T—— had left me, my apothecary Mr. Brady called upon me, to whom I related the result of my interview with my landlady; a consultation upon this took place, upon which it was resolved Mr. Brady should immediately call to Mrs.  W—— of Temple-bar, who had lodgings to let, and who some few years before had received some favours from me; a very good-natured sort of woman, Brady also knew her, and that she had one or two furnished rooms vacant; he accordingly immediately went to her and settling every matter with her, Peggy and I took possession of our new apartments; where we lived in extreme want and misery, enduring both cold and hunger, and entirely indebted to our hospitable landlady for our support:—poor Peggy Collins soon recovered strength, but as for my part, I became weaker and weaker every day, and from anxiety and uneasiness, I fear I have contracted a fever; as poor Brady who has just left me, on feeling my pulse and inspecting my tongue declared I was not in a condition to sit up.—Though I found my head light, I had recollection enough to know my situation; and I candidly confess I had forebodings of my speedy decease, however by the proper use of doctor James's fever powders, I got rid of my disorder; but for a considerable time felt a languor on my spirits, and a weakness in all my limbs:—I deeply regretted my present situation, not for fear of death as I was perfectly well reconciled to meet it with fortitude, but to be taken away when I was on the eve of handsomely repaying all my friends for their trouble; my volume now being not only finished, but nearly transcribed for the press: and as the public had generously encouraged my former publication, beyond what I could hope or expect, I had sanguine hopes the present volume, being more interesting, would be very productive,—and thereby enable me to be not only just, but generous; I hoped at least it would bring me in five hundred pounds clear;—but while I write I feel a gradual decline, from a broken heart and a destroyed constitution! Destroyed alas! near the last moments of my life; and in the most shameful barbarous manner. Good Heaven! my fingers refuse to do their office:—Oh! I am sick at heart,—my very brain wonders,—I fear it is dooms day with me! The Lord God of mercy, take compassion on me, oh! oh! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . !!!

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