King of the Beggars - Chapter IV

Chapter IV

He Falls Victim to the Tender Passion

It was about this time our hero became sensible of the power of love; we mean of that sort which has more of the mind than the body, and is tender, delicate and constant; the object of which remains constantly fixed in the mind, and will not admit of any partner with it. It was in the town of Newcastle, so famous for its coal-works, which our hero visited out of curiosity, appearing there undisguised and making a very genteel appearance, that he became enamoured with the daughter of Mr. Gray, an eminent surgeon there. This young lady had charms perhaps equal to any of her sex; and we might in that style, which one, who calls himself an author of the first rate, calls the sublime, say, "Here was whiteness, which no lilies, ivory, nor alabaster could match. The finest cambric might be supposed from envy to cover that bosom, which was much whiter than itself;" but we must confess we always feel a cold horror shoot through our limbs at the reading of this puerile sublime, and we make no doubt but many other readers do the same, as it greatly tends "infandum renovare dolorem" [to remember frightful suffering] to make our hearts ache by putting us in mind of what our posteriors have suffered from us at school. We shall therefore content ourselves by saying, this lady had charms sufficient to captivate the heart of any man not unsusceptible of love; and they made so deep an impression upon our hero, that they wholly effaced every object which before had created any desire in him, and never permitted any other to raise them afterwards; and, wonderful to tell, we have after about thirty years enjoyment, seen him lament her occasional absence almost with tears, and talk of her with all the fondness of one who had been in love but three days. Our hero tried all love's soft persuasions with his fair one in an honourable way; and, as his person was very engaging, and his appearance genteel, he did not find her greatly averse to the proposals. As he was aware that his being of the community of the Gypsies might prejudice her against him without examination, he passed with her for the mate of a collier's vessel, in which he was supported by Captain Ln of Dartmouth, an old acquaintance of our hero's, who then commanded a vessel lying at Newcastle, and acknowledged him for his mate. These assertions satisfied the young lady very well, and she at length consented to exchange the tender care and love of a parent for that of a husband. The reader may perhaps be surprised that she did not make any farther inquiries about him; it is therefore necessary that we should inform him, that our hero had engaged on his side a very eloquent and persuasive advocate or counsellor, for we know not which denomination most properly belongs to him; one, though still beardless, existed as soon as the first woman was created, and has had ever since, till within this last century, very great practice in the business of uniting both sexes for life; but of late years a neighbouring counsellor, named self-interest, has by underhand dealings, false insinuations, and mean suggestions, taken away the greatest part of his business, so that he is seldom retained on either side. Our hero, however, engaged him in his service, and he pleaded so strongly for him in the young lady, that he removed all her objections, and silenced all her scruples, and at last persuaded her to leave her home and venture on board Captain Ln's vessel with her lover; for, though this counsellor, according to a very good picture of him drawn by a famous master, has more of the wanton roguish smiles of a boy in his countenance, than the formality, wisdom, and gravity of those counsellors whom thou hast perhaps seen in Westminster-hall; and never wore one of those ponderous perukes which are so essential to the knowledge, wisdom, and eloquence of those gentlemen; yet we are assured none of them ever equalled him in persuasive arguments, removing of difficulties, and silencing of doubts; for he indeed differs in practice from most of the counsellors we ever heard of: for, as these are apt to puzzle and perplex their clients by their answers, and make intricate what was plain before, on the contrary, the gentleman we are speaking of had a wonderful faculty of making the greatest difficulties plain and easy, and always answered every objection and scruple to the entire satisfaction of his client.

The lover and his fair one being on board, they soon hoisted sail, and the very winds being willing to favour these two happy lovers, they had an exceeding quick passage to Dartmouth, where they landed. Our hero being now no longer able to conceal his being a member of the community of Gypsies, after some previous introduction, declared it to the young lady, who was not a little surprised and troubled at it; but the counsellor we have already spoken of being near at hand, soon composed her mind, by suggesting to her the worthy family her lover was sprung from; that the community of the Gypsies was more happy, and less disreputable than she imagined, that the person of her lover was quite amiable, and that he had good nature, and love enough to make her happy in any condition.

As these suggestions entirely satisfied her, the lovers in a few days set out for Bath, where they lawfully solemnized their nuptials with great gaiety and splendour, and were those two persons whom many of the old standers at Bath remembered for many years after to have made such an clat, but nobody could, at the time, conjecture who they were, which was the occasion of much speculation and many false surmises.

We cannot conclude on this head, but with the deserved praises of our hero, from whose mouth we have had repeated assurance, that, during their voyage to Dartmouth, and their journey from thence to Bath, not the least indignity was offered to the innocence or modesty of his dear Miss Gray.

Our lovers began to be at length weary of the same repeated rounds of pleasure at Bath, for at that time the wit of man had not reached so high as the invention of that most charming, entertaining, never-cloying diversion, called EO, which seems to have been reserved among the secrets of fate to do honour to the present age; for upon the nicest scrutiny, we are quite convinced it is entirely new, and cannot find the least traces of its being borrowed from any nation under the sun; for, though we have with great pains and labour inquired into all the games and diversions of the ancients; though we have followed untutored Indians through all their revels, and though we have accurately examined into the dull pleasures of the uncouth Hottentots; yet in all these we find either some marks of ingenuity to exercise and refresh the mind, or something of labour to invigorate the body;we therefore could not avoid interrupting our history, to do honour to this truly interesting and original game.

Our lovers having left Bath, visited next the city of Bristol, where they stayed some time, and caused more speculation there than they had before done at Bath, and did as much damage to that city as the famous Lucullus did at Rome, on his return from his victorious expedition; we have some reason to think they first introduced the love of dress among those plain and frugal citizens. After some stay here, they made a tour through Somerset and Dorset to Hampshire, where they paid a visit to an uncle of our hero's living then at Dorchester, near Gosport, who was a clergyman of distinguished merit and character; here they were received with great politeness and hospitality, and abode a considerable time. His uncle took this opportunity of making use of every argument to persuade him to quit the community of the Gypsies; but our hero was so thoroughly fixed in his principles, that even that argument which oftentimes convinces patriots in a few hours, that all they said and did before was wrong, that kings have a divine right to grind the faces of their subjects, and that power which lays its iron hand on Nabal's goodly vineyard, and says, This is mine, for so I will, is preferable to heavenly liberty, which says to every man, Possess what is thine own, reap what thou hast sown, gather what thou hast planted, eat, drink, and lie down secure; even this powerful argument had no effect upon our hero; for, though his uncle made him very lucrative offers for the present, and future promises of making him heir of all his possessions, yet remembering his engagements with the Gypsies, he rejected them all; and reflecting that he had long lived useless to that community, he began to prepare for his departure from his uncle's, in order to make some incursions on the enemy.

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