King of the Beggars - Chapter XVIII

Chapter XVIII

He Joins Forces with a Fellow-beggar who is not what he Seems

            One day, as he was begging in the town of Maiden Bradley, from door to door, as a poor shipwrecked seaman, he saw on the other side of the street a mendicant brother-sailor, in a habit as forlorn as his own, begging for God's sake, just like himself. Seeing Mr. Carew, he crossed the way, came up to him, and in the cant language, asked where he lay last night, what road he was going, and several other questions; then, whether he would brush into a boozing-ken and be his thrums; to this he consented, and away they went; where, in the course of their conversation, they asked each other various questions concerning the country, the charitable and uncharitable families, the moderate and severe justices, the good and queer corporations. This new acquaintance of Mr. Carew's asked him if he had been at Sir Edward Seymour's? He answered, yes, and had received his alms: the stranger, therefore, not having been there, left him at the alehouse, and went thither himself, where, having received the same alms that his new companion had, he returned to him again.

            The next day they begged through the town, one on one side of the street, and the other on the other, each on his own separate story and account: they then proceeded to the houses of several gentlemen in the neighbourhood, both in one story, which was that of the stranger. Among many others, they came to Lord Weymouth's, where it was agreed that Mr. Carew should be spokesman: upon their coming up to the house, the servants bid them begone, unless they could give a good account of themselves and the countries in which they pretended to have been, for, should Lord Weymouth come and detect them in any falsehood, he would horse-whip them without mercy, which was the treatment to all those whom he found to be counterfeits met with from him, and he had detected great numbers of them, having been abroad himself. Our travellers were not the least daunted, Mr. Carew being conscious in himself that he could give a satisfactory account of Newfoundland, and the other affirming that he had been at Rome, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, &c. and could give as good a description of those countries as his lordship himself. Therefore up they went to the kitchen door, and Mr. Carew broke ice, telling the deplorable story of their misfortune in his usual lamentable tone. The housekeeper at first turned a deaf ear to their supplication and entreaty; but Mr. Carew, at the instigation of his companion, redoubled his importunity, kneeling on one knee, and making use of all the methods of exciting charity, of which he was capable; so that at last the housekeeper gave them the greatest part of a cold shoulder of mutton, half a fine wheaten loaf, and a shilling, but did it with great haste and fear, lest his lordship should see her, and be angry. Of the butler they got a copper of good ale, and then, both expressing their thankfulness, departed.—Having reached some distance from the house there arose a dispute who should carry the victuals, both being loath to encumber themselves with it, as having neither wife nor child near to give it to. Mr. Carew was for throwing it into the hedge, but the other urged that it was both a sin and a shame to waste good victuals in that manner, so they both agreed to go to the Green Man, about a mile from my lord's, and there exchange it for liquor. At this alehouse they tarried for some time, and snacked the argot; then, after a parting glass, each went his way.

            The reader cannot but be surprised when we assure him that this mendicant companion of his was no less a person than my Lord Weymouth himself, who, being desirous of sounding the tempers and dispositions of the gentlemen and other inhabitants of the neighbourhood, put himself into a habit so vastly beneath his birth and fortune, in order to obtain that discovery. Nor was this the first time that this great nobleman had metamorphosed himself into the despicable shape and character of a beggar, as several of that neighbourhood can testify; but, when he went abroad into the world in this disguise, he took especial care to conceal it even from his own family, one servant only, in whose secrecy he greatly confided, being entrusted therewith; and this was his valet-de-chambre, who used to dress, shave, and perform other such offices about his lordship's person.

            Mr. Carew and his noble companion having thus parted from each other, he took his way into the woodlands towards Frome; and the disguised lord, by a private way through the park and gardens, returned to his own house, and there, divesting himself of his rags, put on his embroidered apparel, and re-assumed the dignity and state to which both his birth and fortune entitled him. I am informed, said his lordship, that two sailors have been at my house; and, inquiring which way they went, he ordered two men and horses to go after them, with a strict charge to bring them back to his house, for he had heard they were impostors; and, if he found them such, he would treat them accordingly. The servants obeyed his commands without the least suspicion of the intricacy of this affair, and soon came up with Mr. Carew, whom they forcibly brought up to my lord. His lordship accosted him in a very rough stern manner, asking where the other fellow was, and told him he should be made to find him. Mr. Carew in the meantime stood thunder-struck, expecting nothing less than a commitment to prison, but, upon examination, made out his story as well as he could.

            After having thus terrified and threatened him for a considerable time, his lordship went out, and, divesting himself of the habit and character of a nobleman, again put on his rags, and was, by his trusty valet-de-chambre, ushered into the room where his brother-beggar stood sweating for fear, when they compared notes together, whispering to each other what to say, in order that their accounts might agree when examined apart, as in effect they were. The steward took Mr. Carew aside into a private chamber, and there pretending that the other fellow's relation contradicted his, and proved them both to be counterfeits, he said that a prison must be the portion of both; and indeed nothing was omitted that might strike Mr. Carew with the greatest terror and confusion. By this time my lord having thrown off his rags, and put on his fine apparel, Mr. Carew was again brought into his presence to receive his final sentence; when his lordship, having sufficiently diverted himself with the fear and consternation of his brother mumper discovered himself to him.

            We might have mentioned before, that, while my lord and Mr. Carew travelled together, they asked each other whence they came, and what their names were. Mr. Carew ingeniously confessed his, but my lord disguised both his name and country; so that having accidentally met with a mendicant of the greatest note in England, his lordship thought fit to treat him in the manner aforesaid, which he would not have done to every common vagrant.—However, to satisfy himself that this was the famous and true Bampfylde-Moore Carew, for many impostors had usurped his name, he sent for Captain Atkins, a gentleman of his acquaintance in the neighbourhood, who went to school with Mr. Carew at Tiverton. This gentleman was very glad to see his old school-fellow, and assured his lordship that it was really Mr. Bampfylde-Moore Carew, upon which his lordship very nobly entertained him at his house for the space of three days, and gave him an excellent suit of clothes and ten guineas; but, remembering the trouble they had, and the loss they were at to dispose of the shoulder of mutton and bread which the housekeeper had given them, as likewise the resolution Mr. Carew had once taken to throw it away, he called his housekeeper, and strictly charged her never to give away a morsel of victuals more, but bestow the alms in money only, rightly judging that to be more acceptable to beggars than the best of provisions, the greatest part of which they either waste, give away, or exchange for an inconsiderable quantity of drink, as my lord and Mr. Carew had done. His lordship took Mr. Carew to Warminster horse-races, and there recommended him to many honourable gentlemen, who were very liberal to him. He several times after made bold to call upon his lordship in his rounds, and at every visit received a guinea, and a hearty welcome at his house. His lordship would frequently make himself merry with the story, and jocosely say, that he was more expert in the science of mumping than even Mr. Carew himself.

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