King of the Beggars - Chapter I

Chapter II

His First Ventures as an Imposter

            We are now entering into the busy part of our hero's life, where we shall find him acting in various characters, and performing all with propriety, dignity, and decorum.—We shall, therefore, rather choose to account for some of the actions of our hero, by desiring the reader to keep in mind the principles of the government of the mendicants, which are, like those of the Algerines and other states of Barbary, in a perpetual state of hostility with most other people; so that whatsoever stratagems or deceits they can over-reach them by, are not only allowed by their laws, but considered as commendable and praise-worthy; and, as the Algerines are looked upon as a very honest people by those who are in alliance with them, though they plunder the rest of mankind; and as most other governments have thought that they might very honestly attack any weak neighbouring state, whenever it was convenient for them, and murder forty or fifty thousand of the human species; we hope, to the unprejudiced eye of reason, the government of the Gypsies in general, and our hero as a member of it, will not appear in so disadvantageous a light, for exercising a few stratagems to over-reach their enemies, especially when it is considered they never, like other states, do any harm to the persons of their enemies, and nothing considerable to their fortunes.

            Our hero being again admitted at the first general assembly of the Gypsies, and having taken the proper oaths of allegiance to the sovereign, was soon after sent out by him on a cruise upon their enemies.

            Our hero's wit was now set to work, by what stratagems he might best succeed. The first that occurred to his thoughts was that of equipping himself with an old pair of trousers, enough of a jacket to cover his nakedness, stockings such as nature gave, shoes (or rather the body of shoes, for soles they had none) which had leaks enough to sink a first rate man of war, and a woollen cap, so black that one might more safely swear it had not been washed since Noah's flood, than any electors can that they receive no bribes. Being thus attired, our hero changed his manners with his dress; he forgot entirely his family, education, and politeness, and became neither more nor less than an unfortunate shipwrecked seaman.

            Here, if we may be allowed to compare great things with small, we could wish that all orders of men were strict imitators of our hero; we mean that they would put on the characteristics and qualifications of their employment, at the same time they invest themselves with the ensigns of it; that the divine, when he puts on his sacred and venerable habit, would clothe himself with piety, goodness, gentleness, long-suffering, charity, temperance, contempt of filthy lucre, and other godlike qualifications of his office; that the judge, at the time he puts on his ermined robes, would put on righteousness and equity as an upper garment, with an integrity of mind more white and spotless than the fairest ermine; that the grave physician, when he puts on his large periwig, would put under it the knowledge of the human frame, of the virtues and effects of his medicines, of the signs and nature of diseases, with the most approved and experienced forms of cure; that the mechanic, when he puts on his leather or woollen apron, put on diligence, frugality, temperance, modesty, and good nature; and that kings themselves, when the crown, which is adorned with many precious stones, is put on their heads, would put on at the same time the more inestimable gems of all the precious virtues; that they would remember at times, they were invested with the dalmatica at their coronation, only as an emblem of the ornament of a good life and holy actions; that the rod they received was the rod of virtue and equity, to encourage and make much of the godly, and to terrify the wicked; to show the way to those that go astray, and to offer the hand to those that fall; to repress the proud, and to lift up the lowly; and the sword they were girt with, was to protect the liberties of their people, to defend and help widows and orphans, restore the things which have gone to decay, maintain those which are restored, and confirm things that are in good order.

[Note: At the coronation of the kings of England, before the Archbishop puts the crown upon the king's head, he makes this prayer, holding the crown in his hand:—"O God, the crown of the faithful, who crowneth their heads with precious stones that trust in thee, bless and sanctify this crown, that, as the same is adorned with many precious stones, so this thy servant, that weareth the same, may of thy grace be replenished with the manifest gift of all precious virtues," &c.
            When the Archbishop puts the dalmatica, or white robe studded with purple, on the king, he makes the following prayer:—"O God, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; by whom kings do reign, and lawgivers do make good laws, vouchsafe in thy grace to bless this kingly ornament, and grant that thy servant, our king, who doth wear it, may shine in thy sight with the ornament of a good life and holy actions," &c.
            When the Archbishop delivers the rod with the dove into the king's left hand, he say:—"Receive the rod of virtue and equity: learn to make much of the godly, and to terrify the wicked: show the way to those that go astray, offer the hand to those that fall, repress the proud, lift up the lowly," &c.
            When the Archbishop delivers the sword into the king's right hand, he says:—"Receive this kingly sword for the defence of the faith of Christ's holy church, and with it exercise thou the force of equity, and mightily destroy the growth of iniquity, protect the holy church of God, and his people : defend and help widows and orphans; restore the things that are going to decay; maintain those things which are restored; be revenged of injustice, and confirm things that are in good order."]

            As to our hero, he so fully put on the character of a shipwrecked seaman, that in his first excursion he gained a very considerable booty, having likewise ingeniously imitated the passes and certificates that were necessary for him to travel with unmolested.

            After about a month's travel, he accidentally, at Kingsbridge, in Devonshire, met with Coleman, his late school-fellow, one of those who entered with him into the community, as before related, but had, after a year and a half's sojourn, left them and returned to his friends: however, not finding that satisfaction among them as with the Gypsies, he had again joined that people: great was the joy, therefore, of these two friends at their meeting, and they soon agreed to travel together for some time; and accordingly proceeded to Totness, from thence to the city of Exeter, where they raised a contribution in one day amounting to several pounds.

            Having obtained all he could desire from this stratagem, his fruitful invention soon hinted another. He now became the plain honest country farmer, who, living in the Isle of Sheppey, in Kent, had the misfortune to have his grounds overflowed, and all his cattle drowned. His habit was now neat but rustic; his air and behaviour simple and inoffensive; his speech in the Kentish dialect; his countenance dejected; his tale pitiful, nay wondrous pitiful; a wife and seven helpless infants being partakers of his misfortunes; so that if his former stratagem answered his wishes, this did still more so, he now getting seldom less than a guinea a day.

            Having raised a considerable booty by these two stratagems, he made the best of his way towards Stratton, in Devonshire, where was soon to be held a general assembly of the Gypsies: here he was received with great applause, on account of the successful stratagems he had executed, and he had an honourable mark of distinction bestowed upon him, being seated near the king.

            Though our hero, by means of these stratagems, abounded with all the pleasures he could desire, yet he began now to reflect with himself on that grand and noble maxim of life, that we are not born for ourselves only, but indebted to all mankind, to be of as great use and service to them, as our capacities and abilities will enable us to be; he, therefore, gave a handsome gratuity to a famous rat-catcher (who assumed the honour of being rat-catcher to the king, and produced a patent for the free exercise of his art) to be initiated into that, and the still more useful secret of curing madness in dogs or cattle.

            Our hero, by his close application, soon attained so considerable a knowledge in his profession, that he practised with much success and applause, to the great advantage of the public in general, not confining the good effects of his knowledge to his own community only, but extending them universally to all sorts of people, wheresoever they were wanted; for though we have before observed that the mendicants are in a constant state of hostility with all other people, and Mr. Carew was as alert as anyone in laying all manner of schemes and stratagems to carry off a booty from them; yet he thought, as a member of the grand society of human kind, he was obliged to do them all the good in his power, when it was not opposite to the interest of that particular community of which he was a member.

            Mr. Carew's invention being never at a loss, he now formed a new stratagem; to execute which, he exchanged his habit, shirt, &c., for only an old blanket; shoes and stockings he laid aside, because they did not suit his present purpose. Being thus accoutred, or rather unaccoutred, he was now no more than "Poor Mad Tom, whom the foul fiend had led through fire and through flame, through ford and whirlpool, over bog and quagmire, that hath laid knives under his pillow, and halters in his pew, set ratsbane by his porridge, made him proud at heart to ride on a bay trotting horse over four-inch bridges, to curse his own shadow for a traitor; who eats the swimming frog, the toad, the tadpole, the wall-newt, and the water-newt; that in the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages, swallows the old rat and ditch dog, drinks the green mantle off the standing pool;

And mice and rats, and such small gear,
Have been Tom's food for seven long year.

            O do, de, do, de, do, de; bless thee from whirlwind, star-blasting, and taking; do poor Tom some charity, whom the foul fiend vexes; there could I have him now, and there, and there again, and there; through the sharp hawthorn blows the cold wind; Tom's a-cold! who gives anything to poor Tom?"—In this character, and with such like expressions, our hero entered the house both of great and small, claiming kindred to them, and committing all manner of frantic actions; such as beating himself, offering to eat coals of fire, running against the wall, and tearing to pieces those garments that were given him to cover his nakedness; by which means he raised very considerable contributions.

            But these different habits and characters were still of farther use to our hero, for by their means he had a better opportunity of seeing the world, and knowing mankind, than most of our youths who make the grand tour; for, as he had none of those petty amusements and raree-shows, which so much divert our young gentlemen abroad, to engage his attention, it was wholly applied to the study of mankind, their various passions and inclinations; and he made the greater improvement in his study, as in many of his characters they acted before him without reserve or disguise. He saw in little and plain houses hospitality, charity and compassion, the children of frugality; and found under gilded and spacious roofs, littleness, uncharitableness and inhumanity, the offspring of luxury and riot; he saw servants waste their master's substance, and that there were no greater nor more crafty thieves than domestic ones; and met with masters who roared out for liberty abroad, acting the arbitrary tyrants in their own houses:—he saw ignorance and passion exercise the rod of justice; oppression, the handmaid of power; self-interest outweighing friendship and honesty in the opposite scale; pride and envy spurning and trampling on what was more worthy than themselves;—he saw the pure white robes of truth sullied with the black hue of hypocrisy and dissimulation; he sometimes, too, met much riches unattended by pomp and pride, but diffusing themselves in numberless unexhausted streams, conducted by the hands of two lovely servants, Goodness and Beneficence;—and he saw honesty, integrity and goodness of mind, inhabitants of the humble cot of poverty.

            All these observations afforded him no little pleasure, but he felt a much greater in the indulgence of the emotions of filial piety, paying his parents frequent visits, unknown to them, in different disguises; at which time, the tenderness he saw them express in their inquiries after him (it being their constant custom so to do of all travellers) always melted him into real tears.

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