King of the Beggars - Chapter XXX

Chapter XXX

He Bilks Several Parsons

            Some time after this, he called upon the Miss Hawkers, of Thorn, near Yeovil, who treated him very hospitably, and inquired what news he had heard, it being in the late rebellion. Whilst he was talking with them, he observed a new house almost opposite, and inquired who lived there. They told him one parson Marks, a dissenting clergyman; upon which, taking leave of the ladies, he stepped over the way, and knocked boldly at the door, which was opened by the parson himself. Sir, said Mr. Carew, pulling off his hat, and accosting him with a demure countenance, I have come two miles out of my road on purpose to call upon you. I believe, Sir, you are acquainted with my brother, Mr. John Pike, of Tiverton, teacher of a dissenting congregation of that place; and you have undoubtedly heard something of his brother Roger Pike, which unfortunate man I am, having been taken prisoner coming from Boston in New England, by two French privateers, and carried into Boulogne, where we were cruelly treated. Alack, alack! said the parson; pray come in, good Mr. Roger. I am indeed very well acquainted with that worthy servant of God, your brother, Mr. John Pike, and a gracious man he is; I have likewise heard him mention his brother Roger. He then ordered some victuals and drink to be instantly brought out for good Roger Pike. While he was eating, he inquired how he got away from Boulogne. He replied, that twenty-five of them had broken out of prison, and seized upon a vessel, in the harbour, by which they had got safe to the English coast. Well, said the parson, what news did you hear in France? It is reported there, replied he, that the rebels are very powerful in Scotland, and that great numbers are gone over to them safe from France. Stop a little, Roger, cried the parson; and running upstairs, soon after came down with a letter in his hand, which he read to him, wherein it was said that the rebels were very powerful; then shaking his head very sorrowfully, cried, indeed, Mr. Pike, I cannot be at ease, for they say they will make us examples, on account of the 30th of January. Never fear them, Sir, said Mr. Carew; we shall be a match for them in Devonshire and Cornwall. I am afraid not, cries the parson, shaking his head again; I have had no rest for thinking of them these several nights past. After some farther discourse, he fetched Mr. Pike a good Holland shirt, and clapped a half-guinea into his hand, entreating him to take a bed with him that night, for that he should be heartily welcome; but he desired to be excused, and took his leave with many thanks, and returned to Miss Hawker's again. Well, Mr. Carew, cried the ladies, you have had a very long conference with the parson. Ay, ay, replied he, and to good purpose too, for this shirt and a half-guinea are the fruits of it; and then told them in what manner he had deceived the parson, which made them laugh very heartily; they then gave him five shillings, and promised to keep Mr. Pike's secret for a day or two.

            A few days after, the parson going over to see the ladies, they asked him if a poor seaman had been at his house. Yes, replied the parson, it was one Roger Pike, whose brother had a congregation in Tiverton, and whom I am very well acquainted with. And did you give him any assistance? Yes, I gave him a shirt and a half-guinea: and we gave him five shillings, said the ladies, not as being Roger Pike, but as Mr. Bampfylde-Moore Carew; at which the parson was in a very great hurry, and would scarce be convinced but that it was old Roger Pike. Thus had Mr. Carew the happy art of suiting his eloquence to every temper and every circumstance; for his being the brother of good Mr. Pike, of Tiverton, was as powerful a loadstone to attract the parson, as his marrying of Betty Larkey had been to Lady Tynte.

            From hence he went to parson White's, at Cocker, where he found Justice Proctor: here he passed for an unfortunate sailor, who had been cast away coming from the Baltic, and was now travelling to his native place, Tintagel, in Cornwall. Parson White asked who was minister there, he replied, that one Atkins was curate, and that there was no other there at that time. The justice asked but few questions, and told him he ought to have a pass, and asked where he landed. He replied, at Dover. Had you a pass, then, from the mayor there? We had one, said he, very readily; but some of our company being sick, and myself in good health, I left them the pass, and came forward by myself, they not being able to travel so fast. Why then, says the justice, you are liable to be taken up as a vagrant, for begging without a pass: however, we will relieve you; and if you call upon gentlemen only, they will scarcely molest you. He returned them a great many thanks for this civility, and then went to a tanner's hard by, where he changed his story, and passed for a bankrupt tanner. Here he was likewise relieved, as he touched upon the right string; for had he passed here for an unfortunate sailor, probably his eloquence would have had no effect.

            From hence he went to the parson of East Chinock, and told him that he belonged to a man-of-war, in which his brother was lieutenant. Being then about dinner time, the parson asked if he could eat sea provisions, such as pork and peas, which he readily accepting of, they sat down together, and had a great deal of discourse about the lieutenant. Next he went to Madam Philips, of Montacute, where happened to be Parson Bower, of Martock, who asked him if he knew Bampfylde-Moore Carew? Sir, replied he, I am of Tintagel, in Cornwall, and know the Carews there very well, and have heard of the wanderer you speak of, who, I'm told, is a great dog stealer, but know not what has become of him; for some say he is hanged. God forbid he is hanged, cried the parson, upon account of his family; and after some other questions, he was relieved with sixpence. Leaving Montacute, he went forward to Yeovil, having appointed to meet his wife and daughter at the sign of the Boot, Sherborne, and from Yeovil to Squire Hellier's, at Leweston, who treated him very handsomely, and would have had him stay there all night, but he excused himself, being impatient to see his wife and daughter.

            As soon as he came to Sherborne, he went to his usual quarters, the sign of the Boot, where he inquired for his wife and daughter; but how was he thunder-struck, when he was told they were in hold, at Webb's the bailiff! He inquired for what reason, and was informed, that four officers had been walking all through the town to take up all strangers, such as chimney-sweepers, tinkers, pedlars, and the like. What could our hero do? he revolved it over and over in his mind, and at last determined to go to Webb's, resolving either to free his wife and daughter, or else to share their fate. When he came there, he asked to see the prisoners, and demanded upon what account they had apprehended his wife, as she had neither stolen nor begged in the town: this occasioned high words, and at last ended in blows. Long did our hero maintain an unequal fight with great valour. At length, being overpowered with numbers, he fell, but not till his assailants had felt the force of his arms. He was kept in safe custody that night, and the next morning taken, with the rest of the prisoners, before Thomas Medlycott, Esq., at Milbourn Port, where they were all examined, and all maintained their professions to be extremely useful. The chimney-sweeper alleged, he preserved houses from taking fire, whereby he saved whole towns, and consequently was a useful member to his country. The tinker harangued on the usefulness of kettles, brass pans, frying-pans, &c., and of consequence, what use he was of to the public: and our hero declared he was the famous Bampfylde-Moore Carew, and had served his king and country both by sea and land.

            The justice thought proper to send these useful men to their respective parishes, at the public expense: accordingly Mr. Carew, with his wife and daughter, were ordered to Bickley, in Devonshire. The Sherborne people waited upon them to Yeovil, where they were delivered to the care of the chief magistrate. The next day, horses being provided, they set out for Thomas Proctor's, Esq., at Cocker: but, he refusing to sign the pass, they proceeded to Axminster, where the magistrate refused to receive them, on account of the pass not being signed; upon which they would have left Mr. Carew, but he insisted upon being accommodated to the end of his journey, they therefore adjourned to Mr. Tucker's, about two miles from Axminster, who asked him if he had a mind to have his attendants dismissed, or chose to have their company to Bickley; and he replying that he did not choose to have them dismissed, Mr. Tucker signed the warrant, and our hero, with his wife and daughter, rode all the way very triumphantly into Bickley, where, as soon as they arrived, the bells were set a ringing, and the greatest joy spread through all the place.

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