Our hero falls into great misfortunes.
WHEN the watchman had discharged himself in the morning of these honourable prisoners, he next bethought himself of poor Pompey, who had fallen into his hands in a more inoffensive manner. Him he presented that day to a blind beggar of his acquaintance, who had lately lost his dog, and wanted a new guide to conduct him about the streets. Here Pompey fell into the most desponding meditations. 'And was this misery,' thought he, 'reserved in store to complete the series of my misfortunes? Am I destined to lead about the dark footsteps of a blind, decrepit, unworthy beggar? Must I go daggled through the streets, with a rope about my neck, linking me to a wretch that is the scorn of human nature? O that a rope were fixed about my neck indeed for a nobler purpose, and that I were here to end a dreadful, tormenting existence! Can I bear to hear the sound of, 'Pray remember the poor blind beggar?' I, who have conversed with lords and ladies; who have slept in the arms of the fairest beauties, and lived on the choicest dainties this habitable globe can afford! Cruel, cruel Fortune! when will thy persecutions end?'
But when the first emotions of his grief were a little calmed, he began to call in the aid of philosophy; the many useful lessons he had learnt from the sage Mopsa inspired him with resolution; and he fortified himself besides, with remembering a speech in King Lear, which he had formerly heard at Drury Lane playhouse.—
To be worst,
The lowest and most dejected thing of fortune,
Stands still in esperance, lives not in fear:
The lamentable change is from the best;
The worst returns to laughter. Welcome, then,
Thou unsubstantial air which I embrace;
The wretch that thou hast blown unto the worst
Owes nothing to thy blasts.
Yet to say the truth, his condition was not so deplorable upon trial, as it appeared in the prospect; for though he was condemned to travel through dirty streets all day long in quest of charity, yet at night both he and his master fared sumptuously enough on their gains; and many a lean projector or starving poet might envy the suppers of this blind beggar. He seldom failed to collect four shillings a day, and used to sit down to his hot meals with as much stateliness as a peer could to a regular entertainment and dessert.
There is a story I have often heard of a crippled beggar, who used constantly to apply for alms at Hyde-Park-Corner; where a gentleman, then just recovered from a dangerous fit of illness, never failed to give him sixpence every morning, as he passed by in his chariot for the air. A servant of this gentleman's going by chance one day into an alehouse, discovered the self-same beggar sitting down to a breast of veal with some more of the fraternity, and heard him raving at the landlord, because the bur was gone, and there was no lemon ready to squeeze over it; all of them threatening to leave the house, if their dinners were not served up with more regularity and respect. The servant informed his master of this extraordinary circumstance; and next morning when the pampered hypocrite applied for his charity as usual, the gentleman put his head out of the chariot, and told him with great indignation, 'No, sir, I can eat veal without lemon.'
The reader, I hope, will be contented to pass over many of the miseries which Pompey suffered in this wretched service; for as we have a great regard for his memory, we cannot be supposed to dwell with any pleasure on his misfortunes. After our hero had lived some months in London, his blind master set out for Bath; whither he always resorted in the public seasons; not for the sake of playing at EO, it may be imagined, nor yet for the pleasure of being taken out by the accomplished Mr. Nash to dance a minuet at a ball; but with the hopes of a plentiful harvest among infirm people, whom ill-health disposes to charity. The science of begging is reduced to certain principles of art, as well as all other professions; and as sickness generally a motive to compassion, the objects of charity flock thither in great numbers; for wherever the carrion is, there will be the crows be also.
The many adventures that befell them on their journey and at Bath; how terribly our hero was fatigued with traveling through miry highways, who had been used to ride in coaches-and-six; and how often he wished his blind tyrant would drop dead with an apoplexy, shall be left to the reader's imagination. Suffice it to say, that on their return back, Fortune gave him his wishes. His master fell sick at a public inn on the road, and died miserably in a stable, leaving Pompey at the disposal of chance.
What future scenes of good or evil are next to open upon him, fate does not yet choose to divulge, and therefore begging the reader to suspend his curiosity, till we have received a proper commission for gratifying it, we here put an end to this first book of our wonderful history.