John_Pilkington - CHAPTER V.

CHAPTER V.

I Return to Cork and am Taken up by Mr. O'Neill

            I recollected that I had some superfluous apparel, which I the next morning disposed of to a broker for half value, and took my voyage in the same vessel, to the place from whence I came. Though I had now brought no provisions with me, made but a shabby appearance, and had considerably less money than when I entered his sloop before, yet the Captain's behaviour was totally different: he gave me his own cabin, made tea for me morning and afternoon, treated me with punch every night and, in short, by his kindness, endeavoured to obliterate the remembrance of his former usage of me, which he told me, had I been his son, he could not have avoided, when he had such a number of passengers: but the true reason of all this civility was, his knowing my uncle, and knowing, that if I related the manner of his first behaviour, he would not go unpunished. When I came on shore, he would accept no gratuity for my passage, but brought me to his house, and made so much of me, that I concluded he was one of the honestest fellows I had ever seen.

            From the intimacy I had, through the interest of my uncle, with all the persons of consequence in this city, I. imagined myself surrounded with friends, with any of whom might have had. a twelvemonth's board and lodging, if the worst came to the worst this I had also strong reason to judge from the ardent desire they all expressed for my company, and. the unwillingness they all showed to part with me,—as well as the most lavish professions of friendship made me at a time when I needed not their service. The Captain recommended me to a cheap little lodging, where I sat down for the present to study the plan of my future operations, which I did not doubt would be attended with all the success I could wish. The first visit I made, was to a Roman Catholic widow, whom my uncle called cousin; a lady who had a good fortune, and who seemed, by the hospitality of her table, to live to the top of it. Here at least I promised myself a hearty welcome, and elegant entertainment: indeed, considering how extremely cheap all kinds of provision are in Cork, what one moderate man can eat or drink in a family; becomes so small an expense that any good-natured person might afford it, without incommoding themselves.

            On my first entrance, the whole family seemed agreeably surprised at the interview, and congratulated me on, my return to my uncle, whom they said they all knew would never be happy without me. They were just going to dinner, and begged the favour of my company, an invitation very acceptable at that time; but as soon as I had let them know I had undertaken this journey without my uncle's knowledge, and that I was not yet certain of a reception, I perceived a visible alteration in every countenance, particularly two Jesuits, who were the widow's domestic chaplains: the one of whom began a very elaborate discourse upon the ill consequences of children flying in the face of their parents; which was as impious as flying in the face of God; that the curse of disobedience attended not only the offender; but a curse was likewise entailed on all who afforded them harbour or refuge. I am not saying, said he, Master Pilkington's case is such, though I cannot but conclude, he has committed some extraordinary crime, to turn so good a man as the doctor against him, and while he continues unreconciled to him, he is doubtless unreconciled to heaven; and under those circumstances a blessing will not attend those who harbour or entertain him. This was the strangest and the newest doctrine I had ever heard; in answer to which, I related the whole story of my offence; but the pious zealot insisted, that my endeavouring to defend my innocence, was a proof of incorrigible guilt, and that he had now a worse opinion of me, than before: this Jesuitical manner of arguing put me entirely out of countenance, and made me look on myself in a very despicable light.

            The lady of the house told me, that she should see the doctor the next day; and that both herself and those worthy gentlemen would use their endeavours to obtain my forgiveness, with which assurance I left them. As I returned to my lodging, I met a young gentleman I had formerly known in the university of Dublin, who was extremely glad to see me: he told me, that he had disobliged his friends, and had betaken himself to the stage for a livelihood; that he had acted in Dublin with great applause, and was now come to spend the summer with the Cork company. After telling him how I was situated, he asked me if I had a lodging? Upon my answer, in the affirmative, he told me, that he would be obliged to me for a part of it, and that, in return, I might see a play as often as I chose. I was pleased to meet with a genteel companion in my adversity, and to have so high an entertainment as a play, which I then looked on as the greatest enjoyment in life. I have no money, said my friend, but I have good credit, of which you will immediately have a proof; saying this, he led me to a tavern, where most of the comedians resorted. I found the conversation of these men made up of buffoonery, effrontery, and quotations from plays; for all which I was so much at a loss, that I appeared a mere novice amongst them. At length one of them was requested by the rest of the company to sing a song; which, after numberless entreaties and apologies for a cold and hoarseness, he was prevailed on to do; but indeed his performance needed more excuses than he had offered for it, being intolerably bad. After having received the thanks and compliment of the company, for his masterly execution and judgment, my friend desired I would favour the gentlemen with a specimen of my singing, which I readily did, and was repaid by a thundering clap of approbation. The master of the theatre, who was present, told me, that if I would join the company, I should have all suitable encouragement; to which my acquaintance earnestly pressed me, by way of showing the old rogue, my uncle, how little I valued him.

            Whatever reluctance my pride felt at entertaining a thought of appearing in the despicable light of a strolling player; yet when I reflected on my necessitous condition, I could not but be almost tempted to embrace the offer; nay, I was determined to have done it, if I found my uncle persist in his resolution: and therefore told the manager, that I would consider of his proposal, and give him an answer in a few days. After having supped and drank very hearty, my friend and I retired to our lodgings, he first having answered the reckoning.

            As I determined in the interim, not to neglect the main chance, I went to the widow's the next afternoon; but had no admittance farther than a back parlour, where one of the priests came to acquaint me that my uncle had been there; and as soon as he was informed of my being in town, flew in a great rage, not only solemnly protesting he would never be reconciled to me by any entreaties, but likewise, that he would break off all friendship and connection with any of his acquaintance who received me. You know, Sir, said he, what a regard and intimacy has long subsisted between the doctor's family and this. You likewise know, that you are utterly a stranger to us, and were only acceptable as his relation. You cannot possibly suppose, that a family breach will at this time of day be made upon your account. When you consider all this, you cannot be displeased, or think it unreasonable in the widow, to desire the favour you will not come here again. She wishes you very well, and you have the prayers of the family for your better fortune, but that is the most you can expect. I told him, I could not blame the widow, or my uncle, and only hoped they would retain the same charitable opinion of me, if I made use of means for my own support, without being a burden to anyone. He assured me, they always would, and earnestly recommended to me to pursue such measures as I thought most conducive to it; concluding with your most humble servant, Sir. When I returned to my lodgings, I found my friend preparing to go to the play; I went with him behind the scenes, and either as good or ill-fortune would have it, the doctor and his family were in the pit, and saw me. When the play was over, the company went to their usual rendezvous, where my friend brought me to supper. I told the manager I was now ready to embrace his offer, since I found I had no longer the hopes of being a gentleman. A gentleman! Sir, said he; why, what do you take me for? there is not a man in the company, who is not a gentleman by birth and education. If we were not men of learning and parts, we should be badly qualified to represent the human passions; but you are too young to make proper distinctions, therefore should be forgiven for a sarcasm otherwise inexcusable.

            This lesson had a proper effect on me, and persuaded me, that players were gentlemen, especially as by their dress and expenses they assumed the character as much as could be; so that I was quite reconciled to be a gentleman player; upon which I received the congratulations of the company, and was to have sung between the acts the Monday following.

            The next morning after breakfast somebody rapped very hard at our door; my companion, who was apprehensive of a bailiff, betook himself to a closet to hide. When I opened the door, I discovered the manager and some other of the principal actors: they asked for my friend, who knowing their voices, ventured to make his appearance. So, says the manager, I have brought an old house over my head, through your acquaintance here; the mayor of the town has shut up the playhouse, and we may now go thrash in a barn for our maintenance. How so, said my companion? Why, Sir, it seems this young man is doctor Vanlewen's nephew, and the doctor having seen him at the house last night, and judging we were going to entertain him, has made interest to deprive us of bread, until I was obliged to give very great security, that master Pilkington should never appear on our stage: I am very sorry for it, as I know it would have been mutually serviceable; but such is the case, and there is no help for it.

            My companion and myself were thunderstruck with this relation, which utterly disconcerted all the plans we had laid for the enjoyment of life; but to give me what comfort my condition would admit of, my friend assured me, that if I did not adjust matters with my Uncle, he would share the last shilling with me, and therefore entreated I would keep up my spirits.

            How inconsistent this part of my uncle's behaviour was with the rest of his character, may seem extraordinary to a reader, who does not consider, that with all his good qualities, he was haughty, positive, and inflexible. He would, perhaps, have as willingly beheld me going to make a hempen exit, as entering on the stage; and indeed I do not now wonder at it, as it certainly would have made him look very contemptible in the eyes of a people, to whom he had himself so warmly recommended me; besides that, the dissolute lives and idle dispositions of those men, their absurd composition of pride and meanness, their impertinence and presumption in all companies where they have the least countenance shown them, renders them but too justly the objects of universal derision; neither did I ever know a single one of them, except the person above named, who was not lavish, ostentatious, ignorant, and ungrateful; whose vanity did not exempt him from all feeling of obligations, through an opinion, that whatever favour could possibly be shown him, was a stipend justly paid to his distinguished merit.

            The generous offer of assistance, made me by my friend, by no means afforded me a quiet mind; to drag a dependent existence from the labours of a distressed gentleman, did not tally with my sentiments of life; I therefore went every day. amongst my former acquaintances, in the behaviour of whom I found all the coolness and reserve that could possibly discourage me from visiting one place a second time; and discovered, that the true characteristic of the people of this country, is to make extravagant professions of regard to all those who want no favours, and to treat with the utmost indifference all those who do; for this they are indeed remarkable through the known world.
[Note: By "This country" I mean the province of Munster: if the critics should say here that I contradict myself in the characteristics of the people of Ireland, I answer, there is no general rule without an exception; 'tis the genius of the province alluded to, to act as I have described, and I copy nature.]

            My apparel, which was but tolerable at my arrival here; daily grew more weather-beaten; so that at length I was ashamed to walk out except at night. I began now to experience the pinching effects of want, in the midst of which my spirit kept me from complaining even to my bedfellow. I have frequently been a whole day without food of any kind, and wandered in the lonely fields, to hide it. One evening about dusk I passed by the place where the concert was held, and concluding from a number of chairs and coaches about the house that there must be a great audience, I begged leave of the stage door keeper, who knew me, to let me go behind the scenes, which favour I obtained. The first act of the music was then playing, and I observed that the boxes were fuller than usual. When the act was over the gentlemen came out to take a glass of wine, and as soon as they saw me, unanimously solicited I would sing a song in the next act. I excused myself on account of my dress. Oh! said one of them, your singing will make amends for that defect: in short, I found it impossible to refuse them, and accordingly I began the second as with a song. I had the pleasure to be highly applauded, and encored; I sung it a second time, and after saluting the company, made my exit.. As soon as I retired behind the scenes, a gentleman came and .acquainted me, that Charles O'Neill Esq. and some ladies, who were with him, desired the favour of my company to supper at the Cork arms tavern: I said I did not know the gentleman: yes, Sir, said he, but he knows you, and your family, and your going will be to your advantage. He has heard, said he, of your affair with your uncle, and therefore you need not be uneasy about your appearance. I promised to wait on Mr. O'Neill, and in the meantime flew to inform my friend of my adventure. He was sincerely rejoiced at it; and as he had no clean shirt but that on his back, even stripped it off, and lent it to me. By the time I had put myself in order, the hour arrived for my repairing to the tavern: I was shown up stairs directly, where the cloth was laid, and I found the gentleman with two ladies: he immediately arose and saluted me, introducing me full to Lady Freke, and then to Miss Broderick; both of whom were his wife's sisters.

            After an elegant supper was over, Mr. O'Neill entered into a very serious discourse with me, about my uncle's displeasure, and the causes of it: I told him candidly the whole story, gave my uncle an admirable character, and imputed the blame of it to my unguarded conduct. He confessed my sincerity gave him as much satisfaction as my singing had done, and that he thought it a pity the Doctor could not be mollified; that, Sir, said he, by all accounts he never will: but child, don't despair, for providence may raise you some other friend. After having drank a glass or two of wine, he hummed a tune himself, and then requested a song from Lady Freke, who excused herself, by saying, she would prevail on Master Pilkington to do it for her, and she would, in return, play him a tune on the harpsichord, whenever he did her the honour to pay her a visit. This polite manner of treating a person in my desolate state, appeared the highest pitch of good breeding and delicacy. There is no merit in being complaisant to those who are upon an equality with us in fortune and station; none but truly refined spirits are capable of making the distinction, or of bestowing their favours with that becoming dignity, that leaves the most grateful impression on a sensible mind. This perfection of soul eminently adorns the admirable lady to whom I have inscribed this work; every mark of whose friendship is accompanied by a mark of her good sense, condescension, and unlimited benevolence.

            I readily complied with Lady Freke's request, and sung for her ladyship and Miss Broderick; withal declaring; that I found so much pleasure in the hope of pleasing, that I should never be tired of singing, till they were weary of indulging my vanity, by attending to it. Mr. O'Neill remarked, that I was the first obliging good singer he had ever met with; for pox on them, said he, one has so much trouble to persuade them to open their mouths, that when they do it, it is not worth a farthing.

            After entertaining them with all the songs I could recollect, and receiving all the compliments usual amongst the musical connoisseurs, they desired I would come and breakfast with them next morning. Mr. asked me where I lodged, and with whom: this gave an opportunity to introduce the obligations, I lay under to my friend, and to picture him in the most amiable light, in hopes to procure him some recompense for his readiness upon all occasions to serve me. Mr. O'Neill was pleased to find the ardent expressions of gratitude I made use of on this subject; and while I endeavoured to promote the welfare of another, promoted my own, by confirming in this instance, the good opinion which had been conceived of me in other respects: we parted, I believe, thoroughly pleased with each other; at least in appearance and consequence it seemed so.

            The reader will judge in what raptures I returned to communicate my good tidings; I found my friend amongst the comedians, whom now looked on in their proper light, and could not be prevailed on even to sit down amongst them. My companion, who was impatient to know the event of my supping with these great folks, presently took his hat and accompanied me home: I related every circumstance to him, which he heard with equal rapture, attention, and astonishment. You must know, said he, that Charles O'Neill is a man of five thousand a year; he is a person of extreme good sense, penetration and judgment; though I only conceived he had sent for you to sing a song or two, and have given you a few guineas, yet I was very uneasy, lest you should have said or done anything amiss. By the manner you have been received, and his inviting you to his lodgings, I conclude, he intends to make you a companion, which, if you make proper use of, will be the establishment of your fortune: I believe, my dear Jack, continued he, 'tis needless to remind you of my condition; no, I am persuaded you'll think of me, when you are encircled with splendour and happiness, which I plainly foresee will be shortly your lot. I told him I never made protestations, it was so like the Munster men, but he would find his expectations more than answered, in my friendship, if his prophecy was fulfilled.

            I waited on Mr. O'Neill the next morning, at the hour appointed, and found the ladies with him at breakfast: after tea was over, he asked me how I should like to go to the North? I answered, I would be pleased to accompany him anywhere. Well then, said he, you shall go with me, if you please, to Shane's Castle, and though your uncle should never come into terms with you, I have a fortune sufficient to make you happy; but I hope you will not take offence at one request I shall make to you, and that is, as you are too young to borrow money, and yet have occasions for the use of it, that you will permit me to supply you for the present with such things as you stand most in need of. My tailor is to be here presently, and you may choose whatever dress is best suited to your fancy; in the meantime, as I have but a short stay to make in town, these ladies have themselves undertaken to make a few shirts for you. So much goodness left me rather stupefied, than capable to speak what I thought of it: all I could say, with tears in my eyes, was, that I submitted everything to his judgment. After this Mr. O'Neill went out, and left me with the ladies, who, in his absence, congratulated me on my good fortune, in knowing their bother, who they said was so much taken with me, that I might date my future happiness from the hour I met with him.

            Meantime the tailor came, with an unlimited order to equip me, but, to his entire disappointment, I bespoke no more than a suit of fustian, in which dress I perceived Mr. O'Neill generally went. After having been taken measure of, I again returned to my friend, who told me, that his benefit play was to be the Thursday sennight following; that he hoped I would be present at it, as he was to perform his favourite character that night. I took a bill and some tickets from him, which I brought with me when I went to dinner, as I should have observed, that I received a general invitation in the morning.

            Mr. O'Neill asked what clothes I had ordered? I answered, that having no emulation but that of resembling him, I had desired the tailor to make a suit in the manner of his: this pleased him extremely, and he assured me, that modesty laid more claim to his friendship, than even the title I had to it from my conversation and condition; promising, that as soon as we went to Dublin, I should have an elegant wardrobe, and every encouragement that could most conduce to my felicity.

            After dinner, I took occasion to introduce one of my friend's play-bills, and again to enumerate his good qualities; relating, without disguise, all our past conversation on the happy omens of my better fate; not omitting the character he had given me of Mr. O'Neill: this succeeded to my wish. Mr. O'Neill sent for the gentleman, and after taking about ten pounds-worth of his tickets, and paying for them, now, Sir, said he, as neither myself, or any of my family, can possibly have the pleasure to see this play, being obliged before the time mentioned, to be out of town; whether will it oblige you most to give these papers away, or put them into the fire? But again, said he, I need not ask, because, from what Master Pilkington has told me of your theatrical abilities, you will undoubtedly have a full house, exclusive of this trifling number; therefore Sir, said he, to the flames they go: so saying, he put them in the midst of the grate, where they were consumed in an instant. My friend, at his departure, returned Mr. O'Neill many thanks. He very politely told him, that if there was any obligations subsisting, it must be between himself and Mr. Pilkington. The gentleman was too much confused and overjoyed to say much on the subject, therefore he silently retired with a low bow.

     Had Mr. O'Neill put me in possession of his whole fortune, it could not have given me more rapture, than this instance of his humanity inspired. Debts of honour are a most painful burden to a heart abstracted from the sordid self-devoted principles that actuate the generality of mortals. Favours conferred without a view of recompense, demand of themselves the fullest return. Good God! How often, in the transient span of my life, have I prayed for an opportunity like this, of demonstrating what an unlimited ascendancy gratitude has over my bosom. How often wished, that instead of soliciting one favour for myself, I could bestow fifty on others; but, alas! I was born to be still a poor dependent, in which light, all that even the muse inspires with truth, is looked on as venial; and though I endeavour that way to express the sense I have of the goodness of my benefactors, yet I am apprised that my poverty makes many just commendations of virtue and merit, falling from my pen, but too liable to be thought flattery; even by such as are conscious in themselves, that much more might be said on the subject by a man of fortune, without the least suspicion of it.

            If my reader finds this work interspersed with some panegyrics, they must do me the justice to own, they are addressed to such as are unexceptionably distinguished for the qualities I have assigned to them: that my pen, whether good or bad, has never been the prostitute of party, or the press: that I never wrote a single syllable in verse, that was not literally true in prose; and which, from the sincerity of my heart, I did not believe: but stay, it's time enough to talk of that when we come to recite the verses; I had better now go on where I left off.

 

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