King of the Beggars - Chapter XVII

Chapter XVII

He Returns to his Impostures

            From hence our hero went to Squire Bell's, of Mamheap; in the way he met with Mr. Jackson, his steward, who was lame with the gout; he presently knew Mr. Carew, gave him half-a-crown, and told him, he would hop back on his crutches to give him something to drink. While they were drinking a glass, the steward advised him to make application to the squire. Presently after, he came out, and Mr. Carew soon began his attack upon him. Pray, who are you? said the justice. I am a poor unfortunate West Indian, replied he, who has been shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland, and was taken up by a Bristol ship. Ay, ay, you are one of Carew's gang, I suppose, said the justice, but he is transported. Bless your honour, returned he, I am no impostor; I have heard that he was a very great one, and I think deserved more than transportation. Well, well, there's a shilling for you, replied the justice, and go about your business.

            From hence he steered towards Mr. Oxenham's, at New-house: when he came near the house, he pulled off his shirt, and gave it to an old man he met, as though he had been amazed: then marched up to the house, and just at the stable met Mrs. Oxenham and another lady, whom he immediately accosted with a doleful complaint of being a poor shipwrecked mariner. Mrs. Oxenham told him, she should have taken him for Bampfylde-Moore Carew, but she knew him to be transported. He was not disconcerted at this, but readily told her, with great composure, that his name was Thomas Jones, belonging to Bridport, in Dorsetshire. The ladies gave each a shilling, and then bid him to go into the house, where he had victuals set before him; before he went away the lady sent him a Holland shirt. Being thus equipped, he inquired out the churchwardens of the parish, and by the same story got a crown of them. From hence he went to Lord Clifford's, at Uggbroke, in the parish of Chudleigh: here he sent in a petition to my Lord as an unfortunate Roman Catholic, and received a guinea; he lay that night at Sandy-gate, and behaved as a Roman Catholic, under the name of William Passmore.

            The next day, at Moll Upton's, in Newton Bushel, he met with one of the sisters of that order of mendicants commonly called cousin Betties; and he, having an inclination to pay a visit to Sir Thomas Carew, at Hackum, soon made an agreement with the cousin Betty to exchange habits for that day. The barber was then called in to make his beard as smooth as his art and razor could make it, and his hair was dressed up with ribbons; thus metamorphosed, our hero set out, having a little dog under his arm. Being come to Sir Thomas Carew's, he rushed into the house without ceremony, demanding his rent in an imperious tone. None of the men-servants being in the way, the women first ran one way and then another; but he, taking notice of this confusion, continued to act the mad woman, beating his head against the wall, kissing the dog, and demanding his rent; at last, one of the women-servants came out, crying, lady, you are welcome to the rent, and gave him a crown; but he was not to be removed so easily, for now he fell a raving again, and demanded some merry-go-down; they then brought him some ale, which having drunk, he took his leave, thanking them with a very low courtesy. From hence he returned in his progress to parson Sandford's, of Stoke, in Tinney, where, having entered the house with as little ceremony as before, he not only demanded his rent, as usual, but a gown for some of his cousins: neither would he take his leave till he had got a shilling for rent, a good gown, and some pinners. He next called upon parson Richards, at Coombe, in Tinney, where he got a shilling and a shift. Having thus succeeded in his new adventure, he returned to his quarters at mother Upton's, in Newton-Bushel, where he divided the profits of the day with his good cousin Betty, and also passed the night very merrily with her.

            The next day he restored his borrowed accoutrements to cousin Betty, and, calling for a pen and ink, wrote a petition in the character of a poor unfortunate soap-boiler, whose house was set on fire by the carelessness of an apprentice, in the parish of Monksilver, not forgetting to sign it with the names of several neighbouring gentlemen. With this fictitious petition he went to Justice Taylor's, at Dembury, where he was handsomely relieved: thence he went to Justice Neil's, and finding upon inquiry the justice himself was at home, he did not venture to deliver his petition, but begged as an unfortunate man, and was relieved with a cup of cider, and some bread and cheese. At Darlington he assumed the character of a rat-catcher, and sold a receipt to a gentleman's steward for a crown: and under this character he travelled forward to Plymouth. Here, learning that there was to be a great cock-match, he laid aside his rat-catcher's habit, and put on that of a gentleman, and not the habit only, as too many do, but the manners and behaviour likewise. At the cock-match, he betted several wagers with Sir Coventry Carew, and his own brother Mr. Henry Carew, the minister of Saltash, which he had the good fortune to win, and left the cock-pit undiscovered by anyone. Thus great is the power of dress, which transforms and metamorphoses the beggar into a gentleman, and the cinder wench into a fine lady; therefore let not the little great (I mean those who have nothing to recommend them but their equipage) pride themselves as though they had something superior in them to the poor wretch they spurn with so much contempt; for, let me tell them, if we are apt to pay them respect, they are solely indebted for it to the mercer and tailor; strip them of their gaudy plumes, and we shall not be able to distinguish them from the lowest order of mumpers. This puts us in mind of a remarkable adventure of our hero's life, which he always told with a great deal of pleasure.

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