Our Hero goes to the University of Cambridge.
POMPEY had the good fortune to bark one day, when his lady's head was at the worst; whether designedly, or nor, is difficult to determine; but the sound so pierced her brain, and affected her nerves, that she resolved no longer to keep him in her own apartments. And thus the same action, which had unfortunately banished him from the presence of Aurora, was now altogether as favourable in redeeming him from the sick chamber, or rather hospital of Mrs. Qualmsick.
Mrs. Qualmsick had a son, who was about this time going to the University of Cambridge, and as the young gentleman had taken a fancy to Pompey, he easily prevailed to carry him along with him, as a companion to that great seat of learning.
Young Qualmsick inherited neither the hypochondriacal disposition of his mother, nor the insipid meekness of his father; but, on the contrary, was blessed with a good share of health, had a great flow of animal spirits, and a most violent appetite for pleasure. He had received the first part of his education at Westminster school, where he had acquired what is usually called, a very pretty knowledge of the town; that is to say, he had been introduced, at the age of thirteen, into the most noted bagnios, knew the names of the most celebrated women of pleasure, and could drink his two bottles of claret in an evening, without being greatly disordered in his understanding. At the age of seventeen, it was judged proper for him, merely out of fashion, and to be like other young gentlemen of his acquaintance, to take lodgings at a university; whither he went with a hearty contempt of the place, and a determined resolution never to receive any profit from it.
He was admitted under a tutor, who knew no more of the world than if he had been bred up in a forest, and whose sour pedantic genius was ill-qualified to cope with the vivacity and spirit of a young gentleman, warm in the pursuit of pleasure, and one who required much address, and very artful management, to make any kind of restraint palatable and easy to him.
He was admitted in the rank of a fellow-commoner, which, according to the definition given by a member of the university in a court of justice, is one who sits at the same table, and enjoys the conversation of the fellows. It differs from what is called a gentleman-commoner at Oxford, not only in the name, but also in the greater privileges and licenses indulged to members of this order; who do not only enjoy the conversation of the fellows, but likewise a full liberty of following their own imaginations in everything. For as tutors and governors of colleges have usually pretty sagacious noses after preferment, they think it impolitic to cross the inclinations of young gentlemen, who are heirs to great estates, and from whom they expect benefices and dignities hereafter, as rewards for their want of care of them, while they were under their protection. From hence it comes to pass, that pupils of this rank are excused from all public exercises, and allowed to absent themselves at pleasure from the private lectures in their tutors' rooms, as often as they have made a party for hunting, or an engagement at the tennis-court, or are not well recovered from their evening's debauch. And whilst a poor unhappy soph, of no fortune, is often expelled for the most trivial offences, or merely to humour the capricious resentment of his tutor, who happens to dislike his face; young noblemen, and heirs of great estates, may commit any illegalities, and, if they please, overturn a college with impunity.
Young Qualmsick very early began to display his genius, and was soon distinguished for one of the most enterprising spirits in the university. Nobody set order and regularity at greater defiance or with more heroic bravery than he did; which made him quickly be chosen captain-general by his comrades, in all their parties of pleasure, and expeditions of jollity. Many pranks are recorded of his performing, which made the place resound with his name; but one of his exploits being attended with circumstances of a very droll nature, we cannot forbear relating it.
There was in the same college, a young Master of Arts, Williams by name, who had been elected into the society, in preference to one of greater genius and learning, because he used to make a lower bow to the fellows, whenever he passed by them, and was not likely to disgrace any of his seniors by the superiority of his parts. This gentleman concluding now there was no farther occasion of study, after he had obtained a fellowship, which had long been the object of his ambition, gave himself over to pursuits more agreeable to his temper, and spent the chief of his time in drinking tea with barbers' daughters, and other young ladies of fashion in the university, who there take to themselves the name of misses, and receive amorous gownsmen at their ruelles. For nothing more is necessary to accomplish a young lady at Cambridge, than a second-hand capuchin, a white washing gown, a pair of dirty silk shoes, and long muslin ruffles; in which dress they take the air in the public walks every Sunday, to make conquests, and receive their admirers all the rest of the week at their tea-tables. Now Williams, having a great deal of dangling good-nature about him, was very successful in winning the affections of these academical misses, and had a large acquaintance among them. The three Miss Higginses, whose mother kept the sun tavern; Miss Polly Jackson, a baker's daughter; the celebrated Fanny Hill, sole heiress of a tailor, and Miss Jenny of the coffee-house, were all great admirers of our college-gallant; and fame reported, that he had admission to some of their bed-chambers, as well as to their tea-tables. Upon this presumption, young Qualmsick laid his head together with other young gentlemen, his comrades, to play him a trick, which we now proceed to disclose.
About this time, a bed-maker of the college was unfortunately brought to-bed, without having any husband to father the child; and as our master of arts was suspected, among others, to have had a share in the generation of the new-born infant, being a gentleman of an amorous nature, it occurred to young Qualmsick to make the following experiment upon him.
As Mr. Williams was coming out of his chamber one morning early to go to chapel, he found a basket standing at his door, on the top of his stair-case, with a direction to himself, and a letter tied to the handle of the basket. He stood some little time guessing from whom such a present could come, but as he had expected a parcel from London by the coach for a week before, he naturally concluded this to be the same, and that it had been brought by a porter from the inn, and left at his door before he was awake in the morning. With this thought he opened the letter, and read to the following effect.
'Am surprised should use me in such a manner; have never seen one farthing of your money, since was brought to-bed, which is a shame, and a wicked sin. Wherefore have sent you your own bastard to provide for, and am your dutiful sarvant to command till death.—
The astonishment, which seized our master of arts at the perusal of this letter, may easily be imagined, but not so easily described: he turned pale, staggered, and looked like Banquo's ghost in the play; but as his conscience excused him from the crime laid to his charge, he resolved, (as soon as his confusion would suffer him to resolve) to make a public example of the wretch, that had dared to lay her iniquities at his door. To this end, as soon as chapel was over, he desired the master of the college to convene all the fellows in the common-room, for he had an affair of great consequence to lay before them. When the reverend divan was met according to his desire, he produced the basket, and with an audible voice read the letter, which had been annexed to it: after which he made a long oration on the unparallelled impudence of the harlot, who had attempted to scandalize him in this audacious manner, and concluded with desiring the most exemplary punishment might be inflicted on her; for he said, unless they discouraged such a piece of villainy with proper severity, it might hereafter be their own loss, if they were remiss in punishing the present offender. They all heard him with great astonishment, and many of them seemed to rejoice inwardly, that the basket had not travelled to their doors; as thinking, perhaps, it would have been unfatherly and unnatural to have refused it admittance. But the master of the college taking the thing a little more seriously, declared that if Mr. Williams had not been known to trespass in that way, the girl would never have singled him out to father her iniquities upon him; however as the thing had happened, and he had protested himself innocent, he said he would take care the strumpet mould be punished for her impudence. He then ordered the basket to be unpacked; which was performed by the butler of the college, in presence of the whole fraternity; when lo!—instead of a child puling and crying for its father, out leaped Pompey, the little hero of this little history; who had been enclosed in that osier confinement by his Qualmsick, and conveyed very early in the morning to Mr. Williams's chamber-door. The grave assembly were astonished and enraged at the discovery, finding themselves convened only to be ridiculed; and all of them gazed on our hero with the same kind of aspect, as did the daughters of Cecrops on the deformed Erichthonius, when their curiosity tempted them to peep into the basket, which Minerva had put into their hands, with positive commands to the contrary.