King of the Beggars - Chapter VIII

Chapter VIII

Not resting on His Authority, He Continues his Career

            Though Mr. Carew was now privileged by the dignity of his office from going out on any cruise, and was provided with everything necessary, by joint contributions of the community, yet he did not give himself up to the slow poison of the mind, indolence, which, though its operations are imperceptible, is more hurtful and fatal than any of the quicker passions; for we often see great virtues break through the cloud of other vices, but indolence is a standing corrupted pool, which always remains in the same state, unfit for every purpose. Our hero, therefore, notwithstanding the particular privilege of his office, was as active in his stratagems as ever, and ready to encounter any difficulties which seemed to promise success, of which the following is an instance.

            Happening to be in the parish of Fleet, near Portland Race, in Dorsetshire, he happened to hear in the evening of a ship in imminent danger of being cast away, she having been driven on some shoals. Early in the morning, before it was well light, he pulled off his clothes, which he flung into a deep pit, and then unseen by anyone swam to the vessel, which now parted asunder; he found only one of the crew alive, who was hanging by his hands on the side of the vessel, the rest being either washed overboard, or drowned in attempting to swim to the shore. Never was there a more piteous object than this poor wretch hanging between life and death; Mr. Carew immediately offered him his assistance to get him to shore, at the same time inquiring the name of the vessel, and her master, what cargo on board, whence she came, and whither bound.

            The poor wretch replied, she belonged to Bristol, captain Griffin, master, came from Hamburg, was bound to Bristol with a cargo of Hamburg goods, and had seven men and a boy on board; at the same time our hero was pressing him to let go his hold, and commit himself to his care, and he would endeavour to swim with him to shore: but, when the danger is so imminent, and death stands before our eyes, it is no easy matter to be persuaded to quit the weakest stay; thus the poor wretch hesitated so long before he would quit his hold of the vessel, that a large sea broke upon the wreck, and overwhelmed him in the great deep. Mr. Carew was in no little danger, but, being an excellent swimmer, he with great difficulty got to shore, though not without hurt, the sea throwing him with great violence on the beach, whereby one of his arms was wounded. By this time a great number of spectators were gathered on the strand, who rejoiced to see Mr. Carew come ashore alive, supposing him to be one of the poor wretches belonging to the ship. Naked, spent with fatigue, and wounded, he raised a feeling of pity in all the spectators; for, so strongly is this tender passion connected with our frame by the beneficent Author of Nature, to promote the assistance of each other, that, no sooner does the eye see a deplorable object, than the heart feels it, and as quickly forces the hand to relieve it; so that those whom the love of money, for we think that the greatest opposite to pity, has rendered unfeeling of another's woes, are said to have no hearts, or hearts of stone; as we naturally conclude no one can be void of that soft and Godlike passion—pity, but either one who by some cause or other happens to be made up without a heart, or one in whom continual droppings of self-love or avarice have quite changed the nature of it; which, by the most skilful anatomist, is allowed in its natural state to be fleshy, soft, and tender; but has been found, without exception, upon inspection into the bodies of several money-lovers, to be nothing but a callous stony substance, from which the chemists, by most intense fires, have been able to extract nothing but a caput mortuum, or an earthy, dry, useless powder.

            Amongst the spectators of Mr. Carew, was the housekeeper of Madam Mohun, in the parish of Fleet, who had a heart made of the softest substance; for she immediately, agreeable to the beneficent precepts of the gospel, pulled off her own cloak to give to him that had none: and, like the good Samaritan, giving him a handkerchief to bind up his wounds, bid him follow her, and led him to her mistress's house, where, placing him before a good fire, she gave him two large glasses of brandy, with loaf sugar in it; then bringing him a shirt and other apparel, she went upstairs and acquainted Madam Mohun, her venerable mistress, in the most feeling manner, with the whole affair.

            Here, could we hope our work would last to future ages, we might immortalize this generous woman.—Her mistress was so affected with her relation, that she immediately ordered a warm bed to be prepared for the poor wretch, and that he should be taken great care of, which was accordingly soon done, and Mr. Carew lay very quiet for three or four hours; then waking, he seemed to be very much disturbed in his mind; his talk was incoherent, his groans moving, and he tossed from one side of the bed to the other, but seemed to find ease in none: the good people seeing him so uneasy in bed, brought him a good suit of clothes, and he got up. Being told the bodies of some of his shipmates were flung up by the sea on the shore, he seemed greatly affected, and the tears dropped from his eyes. Having received from Justice Farwell, who happened to be there, ill of the gout, a guinea and a pass for Bristol, and considerable contributions from the great number of people who flocked to see him, to the amount of nine or ten pounds, he expressed an inclination of making the best of his way to Bristol: and the good Justice Farwell lent him his own horse to ride as far as the town of Dorchester, and the parson of the parish sent his man to show him the way.

            Mr. Carew would have been gladly excused from going through Dorchester, as he had appeared there but four or five days before in the character of a broken miller, and had thereby raised a contribution of the mayor and corporation of that place; but as it lay in the direct road to Bristol, and he was attended by a guide, he could not possibly avoid it. As soon as they came there, his guide presented the pass in behalf of Mr. Carew to the mayor, who thereupon ordered the town-bell to be rung, and assembled the heads of the corporation. Though he had been so lately with them, yet, being now in a quite different dress, and a pass which they knew to be signed by Justice Farwell, and the guide testifying that he was an unfortunate shipwrecked seaman, escaped from the most imminent danger, they had no notion of his being the broken miller who had been with them a few days before; they therefore treated him with great humanity, and relieved him very generously. After this, the guide took his leave of him with a great many good wishes for his safe arrival at Bristol; but Mr. Carew, instead of pursuing his way thither, steered his course towards Devonshire, and raised contributions by the way, as a shipwrecked seaman, on Colonel Brown of Framton, Squire Trenchard, and Squire Falford of Tolla, Colonel Broadrip, Colonel Mitchell, and Squire Richards of Long Britty, and several other gentlemen.

            It was not long after this, that, being in the city of Bristol, he put in execution a very bold and ingenious stratagem. Calling to mind one Aaron Cock, a trader of considerable worth and note, at St. John's in Newfoundland, whom he resembled both in person and speech, he resolved to be the son of Aaron Cock for some time; he therefore went upon the Tolsey, and other places of public resort for the merchants of Bristol, and there modestly acquainted them with his name, as well as his misfortunes; that he was born and lived all his life at St. John's in Newfoundland; that he was bound for England, in the Nicholas, Captain Newman; which vessel springing a leak, they were obliged to quit her, and were taken up by an Irishman, Patrick Pore, and by him carried into Waterford; whence he had got passage, and landed at King's Road; that his business in England was to buy provisions and fishing craft, and to see his relations, who lived in the parish of Cockington, near Torbay, where, he said, his father was born. The Captains Elton, Galloway, Masters, Thomas, Turner, and several other Newfoundland traders, many of whom personally knew his pretended father and mother, asked him many questions about the family, their usual place of fishing, &c., particularly if he remembered how the quarrel happened at his father's (when he was but a boy) which was of so unhappy a consequence to Governor Collins? Mr. Carew very readily replied, that though he was then very young, he remembered that the governor, the parson and his wife, Madam Short, Madam Bengy, Madam Brown, and several other women of St. John's, having met together, and feasting at his father's, a warm dispute happened among the men in the heat of liquor, concerning the virtue of women, the governor obstinately averring that there was not one honest woman in all Newfoundland. What think you then of my wife? said the parson. The same as I do of all other women, all whores alike, answered the governor roughly. Hereupon the women, not able to bear this gross aspersion on their honour, with one accord attacked the governor, who, being overpowered by their fury, could not defend his face from being disfigured by their nails, nor his clothes from being torn off his back; and what was much worse, the parson's wife thinking herself most injured, cut the hamstring of his leg with a knife, which rendered him a cripple his whole life after.

            This circumstantial account, which was in every point exactly as the affair happened, and many other questions concerning the family which the captains asked him, and he as readily answered, (having got every particular information concerning them when in Newfoundland,) fully convinced them that he must really be the son of their good old friend Mr. Aaron Cock; they therefore not only very generously relieved him, but offered to lend him any moderate sum, to be paid again in Newfoundland, the next fishing season; but Mr. Carew had too high a sense of honour to abuse their generosity so far; he therefore excused himself from accepting their offer, by saying he would be furnished with as much as he should have occasion for, by merchant Pemm of Exeter. They then took him with them to Guildhall, recommending him to the benevolence of the mayor and corporation, testifying he was a man of reputable family in Newfoundland. Here a very handsome collection was made for him; and the circumstances of his misfortunes becoming public, many other respectable ladies and gentlemen gave him that assistance according to their abilities, which is always due to unfortunate strangers. Three days did the captains detain him by their civilities in Bristol, showing him all the curiosities and pleasures of the place to divert his melancholy. He then set out for Cockington, where his relations lived, and Bridgewater being on his road, he had a letter, from one of the Bristol captains, to Captain Drake in that place. As soon as he came to Bridgewater, he went directly to the mayor's house, and knocking at the gate, it was opened to him by madam mayoress, to whom he related his misfortune; and the good lady, pitying him as an unfortunate stranger, so far distant from his home, gave him half-a-crown, and engaged her daughter, a child, to give him a shilling. We cannot pass by this amiable lady, without paying her the due tribute of praise; for tenderness and compassion ought to be the peculiar ornament of every female breast; and it were to be wished that every parent would betimes, like this good lady, instil into their children a tender sense of humanity, and feeling for another's woes, they would by this means teach them the enjoyment of the most godlike and pleasing of all other pleasures, that of relieving the distressed; and would extinguish that sordid selfish spirit, which is the blot of humanity. The good lady not content with what she had already done, ushered him into the room, where her husband, an aged gentleman, was writing; to whom she related Mr. Cook's misfortunes in as moving a manner as she was able; the old gentleman laid aside his spectacles, and asked him several questions, then dispatched his servant into the town, who soon returned with two Newfoundland captains, one of whom happened to be Captain Drake, to whom our hero had a letter of recommendation given him by one of the Bristol captains; and the other Captain Morris, whose business having called him to Bristol, he had there been already informed by the captains of the circumstances of Mr. Cock's misfortunes; and he repeating the same now to the mayor, Captain Morris confirmed this relation, told them how he had been treated at Bristol, and made him a present of a guinea and a greatcoat, it being then very rainy weather; Captain Drake likewise gave him a guinea, for both these gentlemen perfectly well knew Mr. Cook's father and mother; the mayor likewise made him a present, and entertained him very hospitably in his house. In the same character he visited Sir Haswell Tent, and several other gentlemen, raising considerable contributions.

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