Pompey the Little - CHAP. XII.<br> <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>A description of Counsellor Tanturian</i>.</p>

A description of Counsellor Tanturian.

            BUT among the many people, who frequented this coffee-house, Pompey was delighted with nobody more than with the person of counsellor Tanturian; who used to crawl out once a week, to read all the public papers from Monday to Monday, at the moderate price of a penny. His dress and character were both so extraordinary, as will excuse a short digression upon him.

            He set out originally with a very humble fortune at the Temple, not without hopes, however, of arriving, some time or other, at the chancellor's seat: But having tried his abilities once or twice at the bar, to little purpose, nature soon whispered in his ear, that he was never designed for an orator. He attended the judges indeed, after this, through two or three circuits, but finding his gains by no means equivalent to his expenses, he thought it most prudent to decline the noisy forum, and content himself with giving advice to clients in a chamber. Either his talents here also were deficient, or fame had not sufficiently divulged his merit, but his chamber was seldom disturbed with visitors, and he had few occasions to envy the tranquillity of a country life, according to the lawyer in Horace;

Agricolam laudat juris legumque peritus,
Sub Galli cantum consultor ubi ostia pulsat.
["The lawyer, when his client knocks at the door
at cock-crow, praises the farmer's quiet." Horace, Satires, Bk. I. Satire 1. l. 9-10]

            His temper grew soured and unsocial by miscarriages, and the narrowness of his fortune obliging him to a strict frugality, he soon degenerated into avarice. The rust of money is very apt to infect the soul; and people, whose circumstances condemn them to economy, in time grow misers from very habit. This was the case with counsellor Tanturian, who having quite discarded the relish of pleasure, and finding his little pittance, by that means, more than adequate to his expenses, resolved to apply the overplus to the laudable purposes of usury. This noble occupation he had followed a long time, and by it accumulated a sum of ten thousand pounds, which his heart would not suffer him to enjoy, though he had neither relation or friend to leave it to at his death. He lived almost constantly alone in a dirty chamber, denying himself every comfort of life, and half-starved for want of sustenance. Neither love, nor ambition, nor joy, disturbed his repose; his passions all centered in money, and he was a kind of savage within doors.

            The furniture of his person was not less curious than his character. At home indeed he wore nothing but a greasy flannel cap about his head, and a dingy night-gown about his body; but when he went abroad, he arrayed himself in a suit of black, of full twenty years standing, and very like in colour to what is worn by undertakers at a funeral. His peruke, which had once adorned the head of a judge in the reign of Queen Anne, spread copiously over his back, and down his shoulders. By his side hung an aged sword, long rusted in its scabbard; and his black silk stockings had been so often darned with a different material, that, like Sir John Cutler's, they were now metamorphosed into black worsted stockings.

            Such was counsellor Tanturian, who once a week came to read the newspapers at the coffee-house where Pompey lived. A dog of any talents for humour, could not help being diverted with his appearance, and our hero found great pleasure in playing him tricks, in which he was secretly encouraged by everybody in the coffee-room. At first indeed, he never saw him without barking at him, as at a monster just dropped out of the moon; but when time had a little reconciled him to his figure, he entertained the company every time he came with some new prank, at the counsellor's expense. Once he ran away with his spectacles; at another time, he laid violent teeth on his shirt, which hung out of his breeches, and shook it, to the great diversion of all beholders: But what occasioned more laughter than anything, was a trick that follows.

            Tanturian had been tempted one day, by two old acquaintance, to indulge his genius at a tavern; where he complained highly of the expensiveness of the dinner, though it consisted only of a beef-steak and two fowls. That nothing might be lost, he took an opportunity, unobserved by the company, to slip the leg of a pullet into his pocket; intending to carry it home for his supper at night. In his way he called at the coffee-house, where little Pompey playing about him as usual, unfortunately happened to scent the provision in the counsellor's pocket. Tanturian, mean time, was deeply engaged with his newspaper, and Pompey getting slily behind him, thrust his head into the pocket, and boldly seizing the spoils, displayed them in triumph to the sight of the whole room. The poor counsellor could not stand the laugh, but retired home in a melancholy mood, vexed at the discovery, and more vexed at the loss of his supper.

            But these diversions were soon interrupted by a most unlucky accident, and our hero, unfortunate as he has hitherto been, is now going to suffer a turn of fate more grievous than any he yet has known. Following the maid one evening into the streets, he unluckily missed her at the turning of an alley, and happening to take a wrong way, prowled out of his knowledge before he was aware. He wandered about the streets for many hours, in vain endeavouring to explore his way home; in which distress, his memory brought back the cruel chance that had separated him from his best mistress Lady Tempest, and this reflection aggravated his misery beyond description. At last, a watchman picked him up, and carried him to the watch-house. There he spent his night in all the agonies of horror and despair. 'How deplorable,' thought he, 'is my condition, and what is fortune preparing to do with me? Have I not already gone through scenes of wretchedness enough, and must I again be turned adrift to the mercy of fate? What unrelenting tyrant shall next be my master? Or what future oyster-woman shall next torture me with her caresses? Cruel, cruel, fortune! When will thy persecutions end?'

Prev Next