Roxana was born of French parents and came to England with them because her non-Roman Catholic family members were persecuted in France. Her father was well-to-do, trading in alcoholic beverages.
From childhood, Roxana was a handsome young girl, taller than average, with a strong body and legs; her physique made her a very good dancer. Moreover, as a consequence of coming to England as an infant, she was able to speak English without accent. She was a happy, gregarious teenager, with a flair for conversation and a penchant for irony.
Roxana's father provided well for her, bequeathing to her over 3,000 livres (well over $100,000 dollars in contemporary money), on which a family could live practically a whole lifetime unless the money was squandered.
But Roxana's good-for-nothing husband does squander it. At fifteen, she marries him because he was uncommonly handsome. But, alas, the man was only interested in hunting, drinking and whoring. The son of a fairly well-to-do brewer, Roxana's husband does not help at all in the family business; instead, he is prone to spending recklessly what his parsimonious father had accumulated. The indulgent father spoils his only son and does not prepare him at all in the family business. After the brewer's death, the inevitable happens. He spends every penny left to him, and Roxana's money too. Having neither the inclination for business nor any head for it, he fails with every business adventure he launches. Then one day, having literally lost every penny, he simply disappears from Roxana's life all together, leaving her in utter poverty.
Roxana is both destitute and furious at her ne’er-do-well husband. Calling him a "fool," Roxana launches into a tirade on foolish husbands that is at once true and extremely funny. If you have any intention of being happy, Roxana says to women in general, do not marry a fool. With other husbands you may be unhappy, but with a fool you are bound to be! And not just unhappy, but totally miserable! Imagine, says Roxana, walking into a room with your handsome husband, feeling proud that everybody is noticing his good looks until he opens his mouth. He does not, cannot speak a word of sense, and does not stop speaking! Oh, how embarrassing that is, how utterly humiliating!
Small wonder then that Roxana is hardly saddened by his disappearance. At first she almost does not notice his absence, expecting him to turn up like a bad penny any day. But then when weeks go by, she becomes concerned, not about his safety, but about herself and her five children. The fool has left them absolutely penniless.
For quite a while Roxana and her five children along with a maid servant, Amy, live in utter penury. They could not pay rent or feed the children. The landlord threatens them with eviction, and, in fact, ransacks their house, cleaning them out of whatever few possession are worth anything.
Soon it becomes obvious that Roxana cannot bring up the children. Amy, her intelligent and highly pragmatic servant, persuades her to elicit the help of her husband's sisters. Not surprisingly, they refuse. Then Amy thinks of an ingenious plan.
She will take the five children to the two sisters' house when the sisters are not at home. Amy will meet with one of the maids, telling her that she is having a difficult time managing the children; could please leave a couple of them for a few minutes while she goes to get the others from down the street? She will promise to be gone for just a few minutes. The maid will agree.
The plan works to perfection. The sisters return to their house only to find them laden with five children between them. They hit the ceiling and insist on sending them away to the local parish. Fortunately for the children, one of the sisters' husbands is willing to take them in, much to the chagrin and irritation of the sisters.
Something must be said about Amy here. She was not only intelligent and spritely and handsome to boot, but her loyalty to her mistress is phenomenal. For one thing, even though Roxana has no money to pay her wages, she absolutely refused to leave her and her five little children. Secondly, she is a brilliant strategist, maneuvering her mistress' and her lives avoiding and dodging the mine fields of poverty, and all this in good cheer. Mistress and maid live together, sharing each other's poverty, keeping up each other's spirits.
Meanwhile, their economic situation keeps getting worse. At this point, on the verge of utter destruction, both Roxana and Amy start noticing a discernible change in the landlord's attitude toward Roxana. He is gentler, kinder and has not only stopped insisting on rent but also started bringing them food and other types of subsistence. The intelligent and...