John_Pilkington - CHAPTER IV.

CHAPTER IV.

Expelled from my Uncle's House, I Return to Dublin and meet with a Musical Projector

The next morning a footman brought me a small trunk, containing my clothes, linen, and books; with a note from my aunt's sister, enclosing a guinea, which she told me she gave me herself, as the doctor would not bestow a shilling; and likewise, that there was a sloop to sail for Dublin that afternoon, and the would advise me to embark in it, where I might have my passage for half a crown; and that if I determined to take her counsel, she would furnish me with proper sea-store.

I consulted Mr. Bayley, who advised me, by all means, to embrace the offer, as it might probably be made to try my temper. I accordingly sent back word that I acquiesced with the proposal. My aunt and cousin, in order to make sure work of it, came themselves, and brought a basket very well filled with neats' tongues, wine, rum, tea, sugar and bread. They accompanied me to the water side, shedding tears all the way for my leaving them so suddenly; but well I ween they were the tears of joy. They advised me as soon as I landed, to write a submissive letter to my uncle, which they would strenuously back with their entreaties for my coming home again, and that they made no doubt of having me with them in less than a month. My foolish heart believed all this, and my eyes overflowed with real tears for my departure, though I made no doubt of my returning according to their suggestions.

As soon as I came on board the sloop, which was the first I had ever been in, I delivered my trunk and provisions to the Captain; these he promised to take good care of, and likewise to accommodate me with his own bed. There was nothing I asked him about, but he gave me a satisfactory promise for; how they were fulfilled, will shortly appear. There was near fifty passengers beside myself on board, men, women and children; to every one of whom, I dare say, the Captain had made the same liberal professions of care and attendance he had done to me; but it seems he intended we should all fare alike, the vessel being fully loaded, and the cabin not capable of containing above three persons with any tolerable satisfaction. As soon as night came on, and we got out to sea, a universal sickness prevailed, from which I was not exempted. I then entreated our commander to show me where I was to sleep: he at first laughed at me, but after frequent solicitations, he complimented me with this elegant sea phrase, "Dam your eyes, stow where you can." I attempted to go to the cabin, but that was filled with the most loathsome and melancholy objects; which may be better conceived by those who know what sea sickness is, than described: in short, I was glad to get into a small boat that was fastened on the deck, where I endured cold and disorder till morning. What would I then have given for a dish of tea: but, alas! my very honest Captain took such care of my stores, as never to let me see the smallest particle of them; so that, during a passage of seven days, had it not been for the hospitality of some other of my fellow sufferers, who were more careful of their stores than I was, I must have been starved with hunger as well as cold: At the end of that time, on a Sunday afternoon, we came safe into Dublin harbour; and after paying my half crown, and a shilling for a boat, I was landed with my small cargo at Ringsend.

I immediately looked out for a house where there was a large fire, and after having exhaled the friendly heat, I refreshed myself with a change of linen and apparel, which I never more stood in need of: I then called for some warm punch, and before I had drank two glasses, a tall middle-aged gentleman entered, with a bag wig and a sword on. He began a conversation with me, by asking if I came from abroad: I told him I had come from Cork by sea, and related the particulars of my passage. When I told him who I was, he seemed to know me and my family exceedingly well, with which I was not a little pleased. In the course of some general chat, I mentioned my singing at the concert in Cork; upon this he eagerly said, why, can you sing? I told him I believed I could: he begged I would just hum a tune to give him an idea of my voice and manner; when I did, he cried, bravo! bravo! by Gd, I'll make your fortune: I thought this an odd adventure, and besought him to explain himself, which he did in this manner.
You must know, Sir, that I am a gentleman who has run through, a plentiful estate in schemes for the public good; and though some of them, through the inattention of the great, have miscarried, yet I have at length hit upon one which will return me tenfold the four thousand a year I have parted with; and that your own judgment will determine, when I explain it to you. In the more gay and happy hours of my life, I studied music as an amusement, and am, perhaps, the best maker of harmony in the known world; of this I will give you an immediate demonstration: saying so, he pulled from his sleeve sixteen large pins, and from his pocket a small hammer; with this he drove the pins into a deal table, all ranged one above the other, and some almost in as far as the heads: he then took from his side pocket two pieces of brass wire, and demanded what tune I would have: I told him the Black Joke: then lay your ear to the table, says he, hear and admire: I did so, and, to my infinite amazement, he played it with all its variations, so as to sound somewhat like a dulcimer.

Encouraged by the applauses I gave to this uncommon instrument, he took a parcel of drinking glasses, and tuned them, by putting different quantities of water in each: upon these he played a number of the newer tunes in the most elegant taste, giving me delight and satisfaction. He then proceeded to inform me, that these were but sketches and outlines of his grand art and discovery; for, said he, I have at home glasses as large as bells, of my own invention, that give a sound as loud as an organ, but more delicate and pleasing to the ear: now, Sir, as we are both gentlemen, and both possessed of excellence in the science of music, if we unite them together, we must make a fortune; for after we have exhibited in Dublin this winter, for which purpose I have already taken the Taylors' hall, we may go to Bristol, Bath, Scotland, and, to crown all, to London; and in order, at once, to show you how much I prize merit, and how ready I am to encourage it, I will engage to give you a hundred pounds the first year, besides your board and lodging, and afterwards increase it, if you choose to continue with me.

Such a proposal to a person in my situation, could not fail of a ready acceptance: I blessed the happy moment I left my uncle, and began to think providence had ordered it for my advantage. I considered myself already a man of an hundred a year, without the pains of studying physic; and that for only amusing myself by singing, which I thought no manner of trouble. I told the gentleman my opinion, who allowed I was extremely judicious, and added, that if I pleased I might go to his lodgings tonight, and that we would to-morrow have articles drawn, and set about the study of such songs as were best adapted to his Angelic Organ, as he styled it. He then told me in an easy familiar way, that he had brought out no change with him; but that if I had any, and would lend it to him, he would pay the reckoning, and treat me with a coach, I gave him every penny I possessed, and set out with him to his apartments; which I made no doubt were equal to the appearance he made.

As we went along, he told me that the last house he lodged in he paid three guineas a week; but that his music, and the concourse of the virtuosi who came to see him, prevented other lodgers from staying in the house; and therefore, as he would rather discommode himself than others, he had taken rooms at his tailor's; that it was in an obscure place, but then it was cheap, retired, and commodious for his business.

Soon after we were set down at a mean-looking house in Bride-street, and the Captain, for so he had been formerly called, was suffered to go upstairs in the dark.. He left me at the outside of the room till he struck a light, which revealed to my eyes the most littered dirty hole I had ever yet seen: the furniture consisted of an old tawdry bed, one rush-bottom chair, a frame with a number of large glasses ranged on it, and the case of a violoncello. I believe the Captain observed dismay in my looks, and in order to comfort me, said, that he had made the people take all superfluous things out of the room, and: that that he never suffered a servant to clean: it, lest their damned mops and brushes would break his glasses

He then set down and played Handel's water music, and several other pieces, on the glasses, that indeed made some amends for the wretched appearance of everything about him: After this he called his landlord to provide a bed for me; this, after numberless obstacles, was done in a miserable garret, where nothing but the long want of rest could have lulled me to repose.

When I came down in the morning, I found the Captain labouring hard with a broken pair of bellows, to blow about a handful of embers, on which a tin coffee-pot, without a handle, was placed for a tea-kettle; after great industry it boiled, and he took from the case of the violoncello before mentioned a broken delft basin, with same coarse brown sugar, a paper with some nasty bohea tea, a coarse loaf, and a crock of stinking butter: all these appearances of the most abject poverty, after the scenes of plenty and delight I had just left, considerably abated the transports my hundred a year had given me; and though I had no conception of the character of a projector, yet I could not help thinking the man mad; to talk of a hundred pounds, who did not seem worth three-pence. I very modestly told him, I should be obliged to him for a shilling of the change I lent him, to get a better breakfast, as I could not possibly dispense with such homely fare?

Why there it is child, said he, that is the very rock I split on: good God! to what end do we eat? To sustain nature. Suppose this breakfast consisted of everything nice in its kind, what difference will it make in my constitution to-morrow, nay, an hour hence? Or when I go abroad in the habit of a gentleman, who is to know whether I breakfasted on Hyson tea, or water gruel? Indulging the appetite is a mere brutal custom, beneath the dignity of a prudent man, or a philosopher; and a young man like you, who has all his faculties in the highest perfection, should be quite indifferent about these matters. I will let you have a shilling with all my heart, but I would advise you to do as I do, and you'll find the comforts of it at the year's end.

His argument was enforced with such reason and gravity, that I so far adapted his sentiments as to take share, for the present, of what God sent; and the more so, as though he seemed so ready to let me have the shilling, yet I never observed he made the least motion to put his hand in his pocket. After this splendid repast we fell to practising different songs, and the Captain perceived with great rapture, that my voice accompanied the glasses very well.

It may not be improper, before I proceed further, to give my readers the real story, character, and disposition of this person, as far as I have been able to collect from my own knowledge of him, or the accounts of different gentlemen of his acquaintance, particularly Mr. Newburgh, of Ballyhaise, in, the county of Cavan, who has celebrated this second Quixote in several humorous poems, particularly one called the Pockjead, wherein he explains all his numerous, unsuccessful and impracticable projects; the one of which may give a sample of the rest. This was no less than a scheme for immortality upon earth, and his manner of obtaining it was this: that when any gentleman or lady came to be about three-score, the blood then grew cold and stagnate; this occasioned disorders, which terminated in death. The Captain, in order to remove these obstacles, proposed, that persons at that age, should have a vein opened in each arm, and at the same time a vein opened in the arm of a strong healthy cook maid, or kitchen wench; and let an inflex tube, be placed in the orifice made in her arm, and the arm of the old person; that then as the old decayed blood flowed out at one of the patient's arms, he would receive the young healthy vigorous fluid into the other, which must totally abolish the effects of age, and cause an utter renovation of the animal spirits.

Whether the operation has ever been tried, or whether it might or might not be successful, those better acquainted with the human system than myself are left to judge and determine.

Mr. Ph, at the age of twenty-five, found himself in the possession of an unencumbered estate of four thousand a year, which was so far from answering his genius for spending, that in the end of a small time he had sold every foot of it; and what is more surprising, he was never known to give one genteel entertainment, to do one benevolent act, or anything that could obtain compassion at his fall, or friends to commiserate his distress; he had plenty without the approbation of a single mortal, and want without the least pity. How he did lavish so handsome a patrimony, has been an equal mystery and wonder to his most intimate friends and acquaintance; as they do him the justice to declare, they were never the witnesses of the least extravagance in his equipage, house-keeping, or his other expenses; nor can he to this day be brought to give any account of the steps he took so suddenly, to divest himself of all the comforts of life: for my own part, there appeared so much meanness and low breeding in all his words and actions, that if I had not had it from better authority than his own relation, I could never have believed he had received the education of a gentleman, or kept company with any above the degree of a journeyman mechanic.For during my unhappy pilgrimage in his abode of famine, he made no ceremony of going to a cook's shop, opposite to his lodgings, for four pennyworth of meat, and disputing learnedly with the cook woman for another bit of fat; from this, and some other instances of the like nature, I have drawn one maxim; That where a gentleman can descend to be a blackguard, he is always of the worst kind; in short, all sense of shame leaves him with his title and fortune, and things that a reduced servant would blush to do, he transacts with all imaginable ease and serenity.

Colonel Newburgh, whom I have before named, and with whom I had the pleasure to commence an acquaintance, through my connection with the Captain, told me, that he was endeavouring to give Baron Dawson, a gentleman of true wit and humour, an idea of P's instrument, by telling him he run two sticks along the glasses, and by that means played distinct tunes; but, says the Colonel, except you were to see and hear it, you can have but little conception of its excellence: oh! but I have, said the Baron, 'tis like a blackguard boy, trailing a stick along iron rails.

If the readers, from the foregoing pages, are the least acquainted with me, they will judge how tedious and disagreeable a life of this kind must have been. The firm step I took to the advancement of a better, was writing as pathetic a letter to my uncle as possible, entreating him forgiveness and permission to return; to which I never received an answer, or indeed to many others, written to the same purpose: in the mean time, the Captain and myself laboured hard at our music. The songs I was to sing at my first appearance were fixed upon, and everything got in readiness for the important event; when I hoped my patience and long suffering would meet some reward, for by this time two months had sneaked away: at length the hour arrived. The Taylors' Hall was finely illuminated, the newspapers filled with encomiums on the angelic organ, every public corner was towered with large bills, and tickets dispersed amongst the nobility. About three hours before the concert was to begin, the Captain went to range and tune his glasses, when unfortunately stepping out for some water, a large unmannerly sow entered, and, oh! guess the rest!threw down the whole machine, and covered the ground with glittering fragments; destroying not only the hopes of the public, but ours of a present and future subsistence. When the Captain returned, and found his lofty castles in the air reduced to an heap of rubbish, he looked just like Mark Anthony, when he beholds the body of Julius Caesar on the earth, and says:

 

Mighty Caesar, dost thou lie so low?

He, however, supported the catastrophe with a dignity and heroism peculiar to great minds; and without staying for the company, desired the door-keepers would inform the world of this melancholy event, retiring himself once more to, his gloomy abode. As soon as we came home, made, I think, the only prudent speech that ever flowed from my lips; namely, that I found in his present condition I could not be an assistant to him and that I, therefore, thought it a pity to put him to an additional expense in house-keeping; that I was in hopes my uncle would receive me, if I returned to Cork; and, therefore, besought him, if possible, to let me have at least a part of the money I formerly lent him, to pay my passage there in a sloop. He said the first part of my speech spoke me a youth of good parts, which made him lament his not being able to comply with the latter, because child, said he, I am not master of a single penny.

 

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