Fortune grows favourable to our hero, and restores him to high-life.
THE blind beggar, to whose tyranny fortune had committed our hero, groaned out his soul, as the reader has already seen, in a stable at a public inn. Pompey, standing by, had the pleasure of seeing the tyrant fall as he deserved, and exulted over him, like Cicero in the senate-house over the dying Cæsar. This misfortune was first discovered by an An ostler, who first discovered the misfortune, ran with horror in his countenance to tell his mistress; but the good woman was not immediately at leisure to hear his intelligence, being taken up in her civilities to a coach-and-six, just then arrived, and very busy in conducting the ladies to their apartments. However, when dinner was over, she bethought herself of what had happened, and went into the stable, attended by two of her chamber-maids, to survey the corpse, and give orders for its burial. There little Pompey, for the first time, presented himself to her view; but sorrow and ill-usage had so impaired his beauty, and his coat too was in such a dishabille of dirt and mire, that he bespake no favourable opinion in his beholders. We must not therefore think Mrs. Wilkins of a cruel nature, because she ordered him to be hanged, for, in reality, she is a very humane and friendly woman; but perceiving no beauty in the dog to incline her to compassion, and concluding him to be a thief, from the company he was found with, it was natural for her to show him no mercy. A consultation therefore was held in the yard, and sentence of death pronounced upon him; which had been executed as soon as commanded (for the ostler was instantly preparing a rope with great delight) had not one of the chamber-maids interposed, saying, 'she believed he was a sweet pretty creature, if he was washed,' and desired her mistress to save him. A word of this kind was enough for Mrs. Wilkins, who immediately granted him a reprieve, and ordered him into the kitchen for a turn-spit. But when he had gone through the ceremony of lustration, and was thoroughly cleaned, everybody was struck with his beauty, and the good landlady in particular; who now changed her resolutions, and, instead of condemning him to the drudgery of a turn-spit, made him her companion, and taught him to follow her about the house. He soon grew to be a favourite with the whole family, as indeed he always was wherever he came; and the chamber-maids used to quarrel with one another who should take him to their beds at night. He likewise got acquainted with Captain, the great house-dog, who, like Cerberus, terrified the regions round-about with his barking: yet would he often condescend to be pleased with the frolicks of little Pompey, and vouchsafe now and then to unbend his majesty with a game of play.
After he had lived there near a fortnight, a post-chaise stopped one day at the door, out of which alighted two ladies, just arrived from Bath. They ran directly to the fire, declaring they were almost frozen to death with cold; whereupon Mrs. Wilkins began to thunder for wood, and assisted in making up an excellent fire: after which, she begged the favour to know what their ladyships would please to have for dinner. 'If you please, Madam,' said the eldest, 'I'll look into your lardery.' 'With all my heart, Madam,' answered the good landlady; 'I have fish and fowls of all kinds, and rabbets and hares, and variety of butcher's meat—but your ladyship says you will be so good to accommodate yourself on the spot—I am ready to attend your ladyship, whenever your ladyship pleases.'
While the eldest was gone to examine the lardery, the youngest of these ladies, having seized little Pompey, who followed his mistress into the room, was infinitely charmed with its beauty, and caressed him during the whole time of her sister's absence. Pompey, in return, seemed pleased to be taken notice of by so fair a lady; for though he had long been disused to the company of people of fashion, he had not yet forgot how to behave himself with complaisance and good-manners. He felt a kind of pride returning, which all his misfortunes had not been able to extinguish, and began to hope the time was come, which should restore him to the beau-monde. With these hopes he continued in the room all the time the ladies were at dinner, paying great court to them both, and receiving what they were pleased to bestow upon him with much fawning, and officious civility.
As soon as the ladies had dined, Mrs. Wilkins came in to make her compliments, as usual, hoping the dinner was dressed to their ladyships minds, and that the journey had not destroyed their appetites. She received very courteous answers to all she said, and after some other conversation on indifferent topics, little Pompey came at last upon the carpet. 'Pray Madam,' said the youngest of the ladies, 'how long have you had this very pretty dog?' Mrs. Wilkins, who never was deficient, when she had an opportunity of talking, having started so fair a subject, began to display her eloquence in the following manner. 'Madam,' says she, 'the little creature fell into my hands by the strangest accident in life, and it is a mercy he was not hanged—An old blind beggar, ladies, died in my stable about a fortnight ago, and it seems, this little animal used to lead him about the country. 'Tis amazing how they come by the instinct they have in them—and such a little creature too—But as I was telling you, ladies, the old blind beggar was just returned from Bath, as your ladyships may be now, and the poor miserable wretch perished in my stable. There he left this little dog, and, will you believe it, ladies? as I am alive, I ordered him to be hanged, not once dreaming he was such a beauty; for indeed he was quite covered over with mire and nastiness, as to be sure he could not be otherwise, after leading the old blind man so long a journey; but a maid-servant of mine took a fancy to the little wretch, and begged his life; and, would you think it, ladies? I am now grown as fond of the little fool, as if he was my own child.'
The two sisters, diverted with Mrs. Wilkins's oration, could not help smiling on one another; but disguising their laughter as well as they could, 'I do not wonder,' said the youngest, 'at your fondness for him, Madam! he is so remarkably handsome; and that being the case, I can't find in my heart to rob you of him, otherwise I was just going to ask if you should be willing to part with him.' 'Bless me, Madam,' said the obliging hostess, 'I am sure there is nothing I would not do to oblige your ladyship, and if your ladyship has such an affection for the little wretch—Not part with him indeed!' 'Nay, Madam,' said the lady interrupting her, 'I would willingly make you any amends, and if you will please to name your price, I'll purchase him of you.' 'Alack a-day, Madam,' replied the landlady, 'I am sorry your ladyship suspects me to be of such a mercenary disposition; purchase him indeed! he is extremely at your ladyship's service, if you please to accept of him.'—With these words she took him up, and delivered him into the lady's arms, who received him with many acknowledgements of the favour done her; all which Mrs. Wilkins repaid with abundant interest.
Word was now brought, that the chaise was ready, and waited at the door; whereupon, the two ladies were obliged to break off their conversation, and Mrs. Wilkins to restrain her eloquence. She attended them, with a million of civil speeches, to their equipage, and handling little Pompey to them, when they were seated in it, took her leave with a great profusion of smiles and curtsies. The postillion blew his horn; the ladies bowed; and our hero's heart exulted with transport, to think of the amendment of his fate.