King of the Beggars - Chapter XVI

Chapter XVI

He Revisits Some Old Friends

            Thus our hero, after seeing many cities and men, undergoing great hardships, and encountering many dangers and difficulties, once more set foot on his beloved country. Notwithstanding the joy he felt at being safe on shore, he did not lay aside his small-pox, but travelled on towards Bristol as one very bad in that distemper. Coming to Justice Cann's, near Derham Downs, he met with the gardener, whom he asked if the justice lived there, and was at home? Being told he was, he made a most lamentable moan, and said, he was just come from New England, and had the small-pox on him. The gardener went into the house, and, soon returning, told him the justice was not at home; but gave him half-a-crown. He still kept crying, I am a dying man, and I beseech you let me lie and die in some hay-tallet, or any place of shelter. The gardener, seeing him so ill, went in again, and brought out a cordial dram, and a mug of warm ale, which Mr. Carew made shift to swallow. The gardener then left him, being so much affrighted at his appearance and lamentable moans, that he let both glass and mug fall to the ground, before he reached the house. Mr. Carew then made a shift, notwithstanding his dying condition, to reach the city of Bristol; and being now freed from his apprehensions of being pressed, at the first barber's he came to he got rid of his beard, and bid adieu to the small-pox; he then made the best of his way to the mendicants' hall, on Mile-hill. Just as he came there, the landlady and an old crony, a tinker's wife, were standing at the door; as soon as the landlady espied him, she clapped her hands, and swore it was either Mr. Carew or his ghost. As soon as they were convinced he was flesh and blood, great were the kisses, hugs, and embraces, of the three. Our hero's first inquiry was, when they had seen his dear Polly, meaning his wife: the landlady told him she had not seen her lately, but had heard that she and his daughter were well; but that his wife never expected to see him more.

            Mr. Carew soon called for a room above stairs, ordered an elegant dinner to be provided, and passed the afternoon very merrily. The next morning he waited on the merchant with his bill, and received the money for it; then weighed anchor, and steered for Bridgewater, where he arrived at night. He immediately repaired to a mumper's house, kept by a one-eyed woman, named Laskey, from whence he went to the Swan, where several gentlemen were passing the evening together, viz. Mr. More, Dr. Deptford, Counsellor Bedford, and others, all of whom were particularly acquainted with him; however, he pretended to be a West Indian who had been cast away in a ship, coming from Antigua, which foundered behind Cape Clear; that he was taken up by an Irishman, and afterwards put on board a Bristol ship. Having by this story raised a handsome contribution from the gentlemen, he discovered himself, knowing them to be his good friends; but the gentlemen could scarcely credit him, till he gave them sufficient proofs of his being the real Bampfylde-Moore Carew.

            The next morning he went to Sir John Tynte, and made the same complaint he had done the night before at the Swan in Bridgewater: the servant telling him Sir John would come forth soon, he waited till he did so, and then discovered himself; Sir John would not believe him, but at last made him a present. He afterwards visited Justice Grose, of Bromfylde, who presently knew him, and made him very welcome; from whence, setting out for Exeter, he visited on the road Mr. John Bampfylde, of Hesticomb, the Rev. Mr. Boswell, and Dr. Hildyard, of Taunton, the Rev. Mr. Manifee, Squire Bluet, of Melcombe Regis, the Rev. Mr. Newt, of Tiverton, Squire Blundel, and Major Worth, in the neighbourhood of that place, who, being all his particular friends, were very glad to see him return, and treated him very handsomely. Major Worth took him a-hunting with him: but he soon found an opportunity of slipping away, and directed his steps to his own parish of Bickley. Here he happened to meet Lady Carew; but so great was his respect for her, that he, who used to attempt everything, had not courage to accost this lady, and therefore turned off to a place called Codbury, the seat of Mr. Fursdon. As soon as he came there, he was known to Mr. Fursdon's sister, who told him he should not stir thence till her brother came home; soon after Mr. Fursdon returned, and brought with him one Mr. Land, of Silverton: he was very much surprised to see him, and treated him very generously, making him a very handsome present, as did also Mr. Land. He abode there that night, went a-hunting with Mr. Fursdon the next day, and likewise to see Mr. Bampfylde Rode, at Stoke, who would not believe Mr. Carew had been in America; he treated him handsomely, and made him a present at his departure. He came next into Exeter, the place he had sailed from to Maryland, and going into St. Peter's church-yard, saw Sir Henry Northcote, Dr. Andrews, and two other gentlemen, who were walking there; he accosted them with a God bless you, Sir Harry, Dr. Andrews, and the rest of the company. Sir Harry, staring very wistfully at him, cried, are you flesh and blood? why you can never have been in America. Dr. Andrews then asked if it was Carew; and the report being spread that he was in Exeter, it drew a number of spectators to see him; and amongst the rest merchant Davy himself, who asked him, in a very great hurry, if the ship was cast away. No, no, said he, I have been in America, have had the honour of seeing your factor, Mr. Mean, and saw Griffiths sold for a thousand weight of tobacco: did I not tell you that I would be at home before Captain Froade? He then gave an account of several particulars, which convinced the gentlemen he had really been in America. Mr. Davy asked him, if he had been sold before he ran away; and he replying he had not, the merchant told him jeeringly, that he was his servant still, that he should charge him five pounds for his passage, and five pounds for costs and charges, besides Captain Froade's bill. He next inquired where he had left Captain Froade. Mr. Carew told him he had left him in Miles's river. The gentlemen then gave him money, as did likewise merchant Davy.

            Two months after this came home Captain Froade, laden with tobacco. As soon as he came to an anchor, several gentlemen of Exeter went on board, and inquired what passage, and where he left Mr. Carew? Damn him, replied the captain, you will never see him again: he ran away, was taken, put into New Town gaol, brought back again, and whipped, had a pot-hook put upon him, ran away with it on his neck, and has never been heard of since; so that, without doubt, he must either be killed by some wild beast, or drowned in some river. At this the gentlemen fell a-laughing, telling the captain he had been at home two months before him. Captain Froade swore it could never be; however, they confirmed it to him that it was so.

            Soon after this Mr. Carew went and paid his respects to Sir William Courtenay, returning him many thanks for what he had furnished him with when he sailed for Maryland; adding, he had been as good as his word, in coming home before Captain Froade. Sir William told him he thought he had; and then called to his butler to give him something to drink. In a little time Sir William came to him again, with his brother, Mr. Henry Courtenay, who conducted him to a noble parlour, where was a great company of fine ladies sitting, whom our hero accosted with all that respect which is ever due to beauty and merit. Sir William then asked him jocosely if he could find out which was his dove. He replied, he knew some of the ladies there; and that, unless his judgment deceived him, such a lady, (singling out one of them) was the happy person. You are right, replied Sir William; this is indeed my dove, and turtle-dove. Sir William then put a piece of money in his hat, as did Mr. Courtenay, and bid him go round to the ladies, which he did, addressing them in a very handsome manner; and, we need not add, gathered a plentiful harvest, as the fair sex are, in general, so much inclined to humanity and good-nature. Sir William asked him if he would not drink to the ladies' health? and filled him up a bumper of excellent wine; he then took his leave of this truly noble and hospitable gentleman.—Here, reader, if my pen were equal to the task, I would describe to you one whom, in this degenerate age, thou mayest gaze at as a prodigy; one who, like the phœnix rising from the ashes of his father, inherits all the virtues of his glorious ancestors; I would describe to you magnificence without extravagance, pomp without ostentation, plenty without luxury or riot, and greatness undiminished by little pride; I would set before you something more than a king, surrounded and imprisoned by worthless and impervious favourites, fawning sycophants, and tasteless grandeur. Such are the scenes within thy walls, such thy master, happy Powderham![Note: Powderham is the seat of Sir William Courtney, near Exon.]

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