Being the first chapter of the eighth book.
The history must now look a little backwards to those circumstances which led to the catastrophe mentioned at the end of the last book.
When Amelia went out in the morning she left her children to the care of her husband. In this amiable office he had been engaged near an hour, and was at that very time lying along on the floor, and his little things crawling and playing about him, when a most violent knock was heard at the door; and immediately a footman, running upstairs, acquainted him that his lady was taken violently ill, and carried into Mrs. Chenevix’s toy-shop.
Booth no sooner heard this account, which was delivered with great appearance of haste and earnestness, than he leapt suddenly from the floor, and, leaving his children, roaring at the news of their mother’s illness, in strict charge with his maid, he ran as fast as his legs could carry him to the place; or towards the place rather: for, before he arrived at the shop, a gentleman stopt him full butt, crying, “Captain, whither so fast?” — Booth answered eagerly, “Whoever you are, friend, don’t ask me any questions now.” — “You must pardon me, captain,” answered the gentleman; “but I have a little business with your honour — In short, captain, I have a small warrant here in my pocket against your honour, at the suit of one Dr Harrison.” “You are a bailiff then?” says Booth. “I am an officer, sir,” answered the other. “Well, sir, it is in vain to contend,” cries Booth; “but let me beg you will permit me only to step to Mrs. Chenevix’s — I will attend you, upon my honour, wherever you please; but my wife lies violently ill there.” “Oh, for that matter,” answered the bailiff, “you may set your heart at ease. Your lady, I hope, is very well; I assure you she is not there. You will excuse me, captain, these are only stratagems of war. Bolus and virtus, quis in a hostess equirit?” “Sir, I honour your learning,” cries Booth, “and could almost kiss you for what you tell me. I assure you I would forgive you five hundred arrests for such a piece of news. Well, sir, and whither am I to go with you?” “O, anywhere: where your honour pleases,” cries the bailiff. “Then suppose we go to Brown’s coffee-house,” said the prisoner. “No,” answered the bailiff, “that will not do; that’s in the verge of the court.” “Why then, to the nearest tavern,” said Booth. “No, not to a tavern,” cries the other, “that is not a place of security; and you know, captain, your honour is a shy cock; I have been after your honour these three months. Come, sir, you must go to my house, if you please.” “With all my heart,” answered Booth, “if it be anywhere hereabouts.” “Oh, it is but a little ways off,” replied the bailiff; “it is only in Gray’s-inn-lane, just by almost.” He then called a coach, and desired his prisoner to walk in.
Booth entered the coach without any resistance, which, had he been inclined to make, he must have plainly perceived would have been ineffectual, as the bailiff appeared to have several followers at hand, two of whom, beside the commander in chief, mounted with him into the coach. As Booth was a sweet-tempered man, as well as somewhat of a philosopher, he behaved with all the good-humour imaginable, and indeed, with more than his companions; who, however, shewed him what they call civility, that is, they neither struck him nor spit in his face.
Notwithstanding the pleasantry which Booth endeavoured to preserve, he in reality envied every labourer whom he saw pass by him in his way. The charms of liberty, against his will, rushed on his mind; and he could not avoid suggesting to himself how much more happy was the poorest wretch who, without controul, could repair to his homely habitation and to his family, compared to him, who was thus violently, and yet lawfully, torn away from the company of his wife and children. And their condition, especially that of his Amelia, gave his heart many a severe and bitter pang.
At length he arrived at the bailiff’s mansion, and was ushered into a room in which were several persons. Booth desired to be alone; upon which the bailiff waited on him up-stairs into an apartment, the windows of which were well fortified with iron bars, but the walls had not the least outwork raised before them; they were, indeed, what is generally called naked; the bricks having been only covered with a thin plaster, which in many places was mouldered away.
The first demand made upon Booth was for coach-hire, which amounted to two shillings, according to the bailiff’s account; that being just double the legal fare. He was then asked if he did not chuse a bowl of punch? to which he having answered in the negative, the bailiff replied, “Nay, sir, just as you please. I don’t ask you to drink, if you don’t chuse it; but certainly you know the custom; the house is full of prisoners, and I can’t afford gentlemen a room to themselves for nothing.”
Booth presently took this hint — indeed it was a pretty broad one — and told the bailiff he should not scruple to pay him his price; but in fact he never drank unless at his meals. “As to that, sir,” cries the bailiff, “it is just as your honour pleases. I scorn to impose upon any gentleman in misfortunes: I wish you well out of them, for my part. Your honour can take nothing amiss of me; I only does my duty, what I am bound to do; and, as you says you don’t care to drink anything, what will you be pleased to have for dinner?”
Booth then complied in bespeaking a dish of meat, and told the bailiff he would drink a bottle with him after dinner. He then desired the favour of pen, ink, and paper, and a messenger; all which were immediately procured him, the bailiff telling him he might send wherever he pleased, and repeating his concern for Booth’s misfortunes, and a hearty desire to see the end of them.
The messenger was just dispatched with the letter, when who should arrive but honest Atkinson? A soldier of the guards, belonging to the same company with the serjeant, and who had known Booth at Gibraltar, had seen the arrest, and heard the orders given to the coachman. This fellow, accidentally meeting Atkinson, had acquainted him with the whole affair.
At the appearance of Atkinson, joy immediately overspread the countenance of Booth. The ceremonials which past between them are unnecessary to be repeated. Atkinson was soon dispatched to the attorney and to Mrs. Ellison, as the reader hath before heard from his own mouth.
Booth now greatly lamented that he had writ to his wife. He thought she might have been acquainted with the affair better by the serjeant. Booth begged him, however, to do everything in his power to comfort her; to assure her that he was in perfect health and good spirits; and to lessen as much as possible the concern which he knew she would have at the reading his letter.
The serjeant, however, as the reader hath seen, brought himself the first account of the arrest. Indeed, the other messenger did not arrive till a full hour afterwards. This was not owing to any slowness of his, but to many previous errands which he was to execute before the delivery of the letter; for, notwithstanding the earnest desire which the bailiff had declared to see Booth out of his troubles, he had ordered the porter, who was his follower, to call upon two or three other bailiffs, and as many attorneys, to try to load his prisoner with as many actions as possible.
Here the reader may be apt to conclude that the bailiff, instead of being a friend, was really an enemy to poor Booth; but, in fact, he was not so. His desire was no more than to accumulate bail-bonds; for the bailiff was reckoned an honest and good sort of man in his way, and had no more malice against the bodies in his custody than a butcher hath to those in his: and as the latter, when he takes his knife in hand, hath no idea but of the joints into which he is to cut the carcase; so the former, when he handles his writ, hath no other design but to cut out the body into as many bail-bonds as possible. As to the life of the animal, or the liberty of the man, they are thoughts which never obtrude themselves on either.
Containing an account of Mr. Booth’s fellow-sufferers.
Before we return to Amelia we must detain our reader a little longer with Mr. Booth, in the custody of Mr. Bondum the bailiff, who now informed his prisoner that he was welcome to the liberty of the house with the other gentlemen.
Booth asked who those gentlemen were. “One of them, sir,” says Mr. Bondum, “is a very great writer or author, as they call him; he hath been here these five weeks at the suit of a bookseller for eleven pound odd money; but he expects to be discharged in a day or two, for he hath writ out the debt. He is now writing for five or six booksellers, and he will get you sometimes, when he sits to it, a matter of fifteen shillings a-day. For he is a very good pen, they say, but is apt to be idle. Some days he won’t write above five hours; but at other times I have know him at it above sixteen.” “Ay!” cries Booth; “pray, what are his productions? What does he write?” “Why, sometimes,” answered Bondum, “he writes your history books for your numbers, and sometimes your verses, your poems, what do you call them? and then again he writes news for your newspapers.” “Ay, indeed! he is a most extraordinary man, truly! — How doth he get his news here?” “Why he makes it, as he doth your parliament speeches for your magazines. He reads them to us sometimes over a bowl of punch. To be sure it is all one as if one was in the parliament-house — it is about liberty and freedom, and about the constitution of England. I say nothing for my part, for I will keep my neck out of a halter; but, faith, he makes it out plainly to me that all matters are not as they should be. I am all for liberty, for my part.” “Is that so consistent with your calling?” cries Booth. “I thought, my friend, you had lived by depriving men of their liberty.” “That’s another matter,” cries the bailiff; “that’s all according to law, and in the way of business. To be sure, men must be obliged to pay their debts, or else there would be an end of everything.” Booth desired the bailiff to give him his opinion on liberty. Upon which, he hesitated a moment, and then cried out, “O ’tis a fine thing, ’tis a very fine thing, and the constitution of England.” Booth told him, that by the old constitution of England he had heard that men could not be arrested for debt; to which the bailiff answered, that must have been in very bad times; “because as why,” says he, “would it not be the hardest thing in the world if a man could not arrest another for a just and lawful debt? besides, sir, you must be mistaken; for how could that ever be? is not liberty the constitution of England? well, and is not the constitution, as a man may say — whereby the constitution, that is the law and liberty, and all that — ”
Booth had a little mercy upon the poor bailiff, when he found him rounding in this manner, and told him he had made the matter very clear. Booth then proceeded to enquire after the other gentlemen, his fellows in affliction; upon which Bondum acquainted him that one of the prisoners was a poor fellow. “He calls himself a gentleman,” said Bondum; “but I am sure I never saw anything genteel by him. In a week that he hath been in my house he hath drank only part of one bottle of wine. I intend to carry him to Newgate within a day or two, if he can’t find bail, which, I suppose, he will not be able to do; for everybody says he is an undone man. He hath run out all he hath by losses in business, and one way or other; and he hath a wife and seven children. Here was the whole family here the other day, all howling together. I never saw such a beggarly crew; I was almost ashamed to see them in my house. I thought they seemed fitter for Bridewell than any other place. To be sure, I do not reckon him as proper company for such as you, sir; but there is another prisoner in the house that I dare say you will like very much. He is, indeed, very much of a gentleman, and spends his money like one. I have had him only three days, and I am afraid he won’t stay much longer. They say, indeed, he is a gamester; but what is that to me or any one, as long as a man appears as a gentleman? I always love to speak by people as I find; and, in my opinion, he is fit company for the greatest lord in the land; for he hath very good cloaths, and money enough. He is not here for debt, but upon a judge’s warrant for an assault and battery; for the tipstaff locks up here.”
The bailiff was thus haranguing when he was interrupted by the arrival of the attorney whom the trusty serjeant had, with the utmost expedition, found out and dispatched to the relief of his distressed friend. But before we proceed any further with the captain we will return to poor Amelia, for whom, considering the situation in which we left her, the good-natured reader may be, perhaps, in no small degree solicitous.
Containing some extraordinary behaviour in Mrs. Ellison.
The serjeant being departed to convey Mrs. Ellison to the captain, his wife went to fetch Amelia’s children to their mother.
Amelia’s concern for the distresses of her husband was aggravated at the sight of her children. “Good Heavens!” she cried, “what will — what can become of these poor little wretches? why have I produced these little creatures only to give them a share of poverty and misery?” At which words she embraced them eagerly in her arms, and bedewed them both with her tears.
The children’s eyes soon overflowed as fast as their mother’s, though neither of them knew the cause of her affliction. The little boy, who was the elder and much the sharper of the two, imputed the agonies of his mother to her illness, according to the account brought to his father in his presence.
When Amelia became acquainted with the child’s apprehensions, she soon satisfied him that she was in a perfect state of health; at which the little thing expressed great satisfaction, and said he was glad she was well again. Amelia told him she had not been in the least disordered. Upon which the innocent cried out, “La! how can people tell such fibs? a great tall man told my papa you was taken very ill at Mrs. Somebody’s shop, and my poor papa presently ran down-stairs: I was afraid he would have broke his neck, to come to you.”
“O, the villains!” cries Mrs. Atkinson, “what a stratagem was here to take away your husband!”
“Take away!” answered the child — “What! hath anybody taken away papa? — Sure that naughty fibbing man hath not taken away papa?”
Amelia begged Mrs. Atkinson to say something to her children, for that her spirits were overpowered. She then threw herself into a chair, and gave a full vent to a passion almost too strong for her delicate constitution.
The scene that followed, during some minutes, is beyond my power of description; I must beg the readers’ hearts to suggest it to themselves. The children hung on their mother, whom they endeavoured in vain to comfort, as Mrs. Atkinson did in vain attempt to pacify them, telling them all would be well, and they would soon see their papa again.
At length, partly by the persuasions of Mrs. Atkinson, partly from consideration of her little ones, and more, perhaps, from the relief which she had acquired by her tears, Amelia became a little composed.
Nothing worth notice past in this miserable company from this time till the return of Mrs. Ellison from the bailiff’s house; and to draw out scenes of wretchedness to too great a length, is a task very uneasy to the writer, and for which none but readers of a most gloomy complexion will think themselves ever obliged to his labours.
At length Mrs. Ellison arrived, and entered the room with an air of gaiety rather misbecoming the occasion. When she had seated herself in a chair she told Amelia that the captain was very well and in good spirits, and that he earnestly desired her to keep up hers. “Come, madam,” said she, “don’t be disconsolate; I hope we shall soon be able to get him out of his troubles. The debts, indeed, amount to more than I expected; however, ways may be found to redeem him. He must own himself guilty of some rashness in going out of the verge, when he knew to what he was liable; but that is now not to be remedied. If he had followed my advice this had not happened; but men will be headstrong.”
“I cannot bear this,” cries Amelia; “shall I hear that best of creatures blamed for his tenderness to me?”
“Well, I will not blame him,” answered Mrs. Ellison; “I am sure I propose nothing but to serve him; and if you will do as much to serve him yourself, he will not be long a prisoner.”
“I do!” cries Amelia: “O Heavens! is there a thing upon earth — ”
“Yes, there is a thing upon earth,” said Mrs. Ellison, “and a very easy thing too; and yet I will venture my life you start when I propose it. And yet, when I consider that you are a woman of understanding, I know not why I should think so; for sure you must have too much good sense to imagine that you can cry your husband out of prison. If this would have done, I see you have almost cried your eyes out already. And yet you may do the business by a much pleasanter way than by crying and bawling.”
“What do you mean, madam?” cries Amelia. — “For my part, I cannot guess your meaning.”
“Before I tell you then, madam,” answered Mrs. Ellison, “I must inform you, if you do not already know it, that the captain is charged with actions to the amount of near five hundred pounds. I am sure I would willingly be his bail; but I know my bail would not be taken for that sum. You must consider, therefore, madam, what chance you have of redeeming him; unless you chuse, as perhaps some wives would, that he should lie all his life in prison.”
At these words Amelia discharged a shower of tears, and gave every mark of the most frantic grief.
“Why, there now,” cries Mrs. Ellison, “while you will indulge these extravagant passions, how can you be capable of listening to the voice of reason? I know I am a fool in concerning myself thus with the affairs of others. I know the thankless office I undertake; and yet I love you so, my dear Mrs. Booth, that I cannot bear to see you afflicted, and I would comfort you if you would suffer me. Let me beg you to make your mind easy; and within these two days I will engage to set your husband at liberty.
“Harkee, child; only behave like a woman of spirit this evening, and keep your appointment, notwithstanding what hath happened; and I am convinced there is one who hath the power and the will to serve you.”
Mrs. Ellison spoke the latter part of her speech in a whisper, so that Mrs. Atkinson, who was then engaged with the children, might not hear her; but Amelia answered aloud, and said, “What appointment would you have me keep this evening?”
“Nay, nay, if you have forgot,” cries Mrs. Ellison, “I will tell you more another time; but come, will you go home? my dinner is ready by this time, and you shall dine with me.”
“Talk not to me of dinners,” cries Amelia; “my stomach is too full already.”
“Nay, but, dear madam,” answered Mrs. Ellison, “let me beseech you to go home with me. I do not care,” says she, whispering, “to speak before some folks.” “I have no secret, madam, in the world,” replied Amelia aloud, “which I would not communicate to this lady; for I shall always acknowledge the highest obligations to her for the secrets she hath imparted to me.”
“Madam,” said Mrs. Ellison, “I do not interfere with obligations. I am glad the lady hath obliged you so much; and I wish all people were equally mindful of obligations. I hope I have omitted no opportunity of endeavouring to oblige Mrs. Booth, as well as I have some other folks.”
“If by other folks, madam, you mean me,” cries Mrs. Atkinson, “I confess I sincerely believe you intended the same obligation to us both; and I have the pleasure to think it is owing to me that this lady is not as much obliged to you as I am.”
“I protest, madam, I can hardly guess your meaning,” said Mrs. Ellison. — “Do you really intend to affront me, madam?”
“I intend to preserve innocence and virtue, if it be in my power, madam,” answered the other. “And sure nothing but the most eager resolution to destroy it could induce you to mention such an appointment at such a time.”
“I did not expect this treatment from you, madam,” cries Mrs. Ellison; “such ingratitude I could not have believed had it been reported to me by any other.”
“Such impudence,” answered Mrs. Atkinson, “must exceed, I think, all belief; but, when women once abandon that modesty which is the characteristic of their sex, they seldom set any bounds to their assurance.”
“I could not have believed this to have been in human nature,” cries Mrs. Ellison. “Is this the woman whom I have fed, have cloathed, have supported; who owes to my charity and my intercessions that she is not at this day destitute of all the necessaries of life?”
“I own it all,” answered Mrs. Atkinson; “and I add the favour of a masquerade ticket to the number. Could I have thought, madam, that you would before my face have asked another lady to go to the same place with the same man? — but I ask your pardon; I impute rather more assurance to you than you are mistress of. — You have endeavoured to keep the assignation a secret from me; and it was by mere accident only that I discovered it; unless there are some guardian angels that in general protect innocence and virtue; though, I may say, I have not always found them so watchful.”
“Indeed, madam,” said Mrs. Ellison, “you are not worth my answer; nor will I stay a moment longer with such a person. — So, Mrs. Booth, you have your choice, madam, whether you will go with me, or remain in the company of this lady.”
“If so, madam,” answered Mrs. Booth, “I shall not be long in determining to stay where I am.”
Mrs. Ellison then, casting a look of great indignation at both the ladies, made a short speech full of invectives against Mrs. Atkinson, and not without oblique hints of ingratitude against poor Amelia; after which she burst out of the room, and out of the house, and made haste to her own home, in a condition of mind to which fortune without guilt cannot, I believe, reduce any one.
Indeed, how much the superiority of misery is on the side of wickedness may appear to every reader who will compare the present situation of Amelia with that of Mrs. Ellison. Fortune had attacked the former with almost the highest degree of her malice. She was involved in a scene of most exquisite distress, and her husband, her principal comfort, torn violently from her arms; yet her sorrow, however exquisite, was all soft and tender, nor was she without many consolations. Her case, however hard, was not absolutely desperate; for scarce any condition of fortune can be so. Art and industry, chance and friends, have often relieved the most distrest circumstances, and converted them into opulence. In all these she had hopes on this side the grave, and perfect virtue and innocence gave her the strongest assurances on the other. Whereas, in the bosom of Mrs. Ellison, all was storm and tempest; anger, revenge, fear, and pride, like so many raging furies, possessed her mind, and tortured her with disappointment and shame. Loss of reputation, which is generally irreparable, was to be her lot; loss of friends is of this the certain consequence; all on this side the grave appeared dreary and comfortless; and endless misery on the other, closed the gloomy prospect.
Hence, my worthy reader, console thyself, that however few of the other good things of life are thy lot, the best of all things, which is innocence, is always within thy own power; and, though Fortune may make thee often unhappy, she can never make thee completely and irreparably miserable without thy own consent.
Containing, among many matters, the exemplary behaviour of Colonel James.
When Mrs. Ellison was departed, Mrs. Atkinson began to apply all her art to soothe and comfort Amelia, but was presently prevented by her. “I am ashamed, dear madam,” said Amelia, “of having indulged my affliction so much at your expense. The suddenness of the occasion is my only excuse; for, had I had time to summon my resolution to my assistance, I hope I am mistress of more patience than you have hitherto seen me exert. I know, madam, in my unwarrantable excesses, I have been guilty of many transgressions. First, against that Divine will and pleasure without whose permission, at least, no human accident can happen; in the next place, madam, if anything can aggravate such a fault, I have transgressed the laws of friendship as well as decency, in throwing upon you some part of the load of my grief; and again, I have sinned against common sense, which should teach me, instead of weakly and heavily lamenting my misfortunes, to rouse all my spirits to remove them. In this light I am shocked at my own folly, and am resolved to leave my children under your care, and go directly to my husband. I may comfort him. I may assist him. I may relieve him. There is nothing now too difficult for me to undertake.”
Mrs. Atkinson greatly approved and complimented her friend on all the former part of her speech, except what related to herself, on which she spoke very civilly, and I believe with great truth; but as to her determination of going to her husband she endeavoured to dissuade her, at least she begged her to defer it for the present, and till the serjeant returned home. She then reminded Amelia that it was now past five in the afternoon, and that she had not taken any refreshment but a dish of tea the whole day, and desired she would give her leave to procure her a chick, or anything she liked better, for her dinner.
Amelia thanked her friend, and said she would sit down with her to whatever she pleased; “but if I do not eat,” said she, “I would not have you impute it to anything but want of appetite; for I assure you all things are equally indifferent to me. I am more solicitous about these poor little things, who have not been used to fast so long. Heaven knows what may hereafter be their fate!”
Mrs. Atkinson bid her hope the best, and then recommended the children to the care of her maid.
And now arrived a servant from Mrs. James, with an invitation to Captain Booth and to his lady to dine with the colonel the day after the next. This a little perplexed Amelia; but after a short consideration she despatched an answer to Mrs. James, in which she concisely informed her of what had happened.
The honest serjeant, who had been on his legs almost the whole day, now returned, and brought Amelia a short letter from her husband, in which he gave her the most solemn assurances of his health and spirits, and begged her with great earnestness to take care to preserve her own, which if she did, he said, he had no doubt but that they should shortly be happy. He added something of hopes from my lord, with which Mrs. Ellison had amused him, and which served only to destroy the comfort that Amelia received from the rest of his letter.
Whilst Amelia, the serjeant, and his lady, were engaged in a cold collation, for which purpose a cold chicken was procured from the tavern for the ladies, and two pound of cold beef for the serjeant, a violent knocking was heard at the door, and presently afterwards Colonel James entered the room. After proper compliments had past, the colonel told Amelia that her letter was brought to Mrs. James while they were at table, and that on her shewing it him he had immediately rose up, made an apology to his company, and took a chair to her. He spoke to her with great tenderness on the occasion, and desired her to make herself easy; assuring her that he would leave nothing in his power undone to serve her husband. He then gave her an invitation, in his wife’s name, to his own house, in the most pressing manner.
Amelia returned him very hearty thanks for all his kind offers, but begged to decline that of an apartment in his house. She said, as she could not leave her children, so neither could she think of bringing such a trouble with her into his family; and, though the colonel gave her many assurances that her children, as well as herself, would be very welcome to Mrs. James, and even betook himself to entreaties, she still persisted obstinately in her refusal.
In real truth, Amelia had taken a vast affection for Mrs. Atkinson, of the comfort of whose company she could not bear to be deprived in her distress, nor to exchange it for that of Mrs. James, to whom she had lately conceived no little dislike.
The colonel, when he found he could not prevail with Amelia to accept his invitation, desisted from any farther solicitations. He then took a bank-bill of fifty pounds from his pocket-book, and said, “You will pardon me, dear madam, if I chuse to impute your refusal of my house rather to a dislike of my wife, who I will not pretend to be the most agreeable of women (all men,” said he, sighing, “have not Captain Booth’s fortune), than to any aversion or anger to me. I must insist upon it, therefore, to make your present habitation as easy to you as possible — I hope, madam, you will not deny me this happiness; I beg you will honour me with the acceptance of this trifle.” He then put the note into her hand, and declared that the honour of touching it was worth a hundred times that sum.
“I protest, Colonel James,” cried Amelia, blushing, “I know not what to do or say, your goodness so greatly confounds me. Can I, who am so well acquainted with the many great obligations Mr. Booth already hath to your generosity, consent that you should add more to a debt we never can pay?”
The colonel stopt her short, protesting that she misplaced the obligation; for, that if to confer the highest happiness was to oblige, he was obliged to her acceptance. “And I do assure you, madam,” said he, “if this trifling sum or a much larger can contribute to your ease, I shall consider myself as the happiest man upon earth in being able to supply it, and you, madam, my greatest benefactor in receiving it.”
Amelia then put the note in her pocket, and they entered into a conversation in which many civil things were said on both sides; but what was chiefly worth remark was, that Amelia had almost her husband constantly in her mouth, and the colonel never mentioned him: the former seemed desirous to lay all obligations, as much as possible, to the account of her husband; and the latter endeavoured, with the utmost delicacy, to insinuate that her happiness was the main and indeed only point which he had in view.
Amelia had made no doubt, at the colonel’s first appearance, but that he intended to go directly to her husband. When he dropt therefore a hint of his intention to visit him next morning she appeared visibly shocked at the delay. The colonel, perceiving this, said, “However inconvenient it may be, yet, madam, if it will oblige you, or if you desire it, I will even go to-night.” Amelia answered, “My husband will be far from desiring to derive any good from your inconvenience; but, if you put it to me, I must be excused for saying I desire nothing more in the world than to send him so great a comfort as I know he will receive from the presence of such a friend.” “Then, to show you, madam,” cries the colonel, “that I desire nothing more in the world than to give you pleasure, I will go to him immediately.”
Amelia then bethought herself of the serjeant, and told the colonel his old acquaintance Atkinson, whom he had known at Gibraltar, was then in the house, and would conduct him to the place. The serjeant was immediately called in, paid his respects to the colonel, and was acknowledged by him. They both immediately set forward, Amelia to the utmost of her power pressing their departure.
Mrs. Atkinson now returned to Amelia, and was by her acquainted with the colonel’s late generosity; for her heart so boiled over with gratitude that she could not conceal the ebullition. Amelia likewise gave her friend a full narrative of the colonel’s former behaviour and friendship to her husband, as well abroad as in England; and ended with declaring that she believed him to be the most generous man upon earth.
Mrs. Atkinson agreed with Amelia’s conclusion, and said she was glad to hear there was any such man. They then proceeded with the children to the tea-table, where panegyric, and not scandal, was the topic of their conversation; and of this panegyric the colonel was the subject; both the ladies seeming to vie with each other in celebrating the praises of his goodness.
Comments upon authors.
Having left Amelia in as comfortable a situation as could possibly be expected, her immediate distresses relieved, and her heart filled with great hopes from the friendship of the colonel, we will now return to Booth, who, when the attorney and serjeant had left him, received a visit from that great author of whom honourable mention is made in our second chapter.
Booth, as the reader may be pleased to remember, was a pretty good master of the classics; for his father, though he designed his son for the army, did not think it necessary to breed him up a blockhead. He did not, perhaps, imagine that a competent share of Latin and Greek would make his son either a pedant or a coward. He considered likewise, probably, that the life of a soldier is in general a life of idleness; and might think that the spare hours of an officer in country quarters would be as well employed with a book as in sauntering about the streets, loitering in a coffee-house, sotting in a tavern, or in laying schemes to debauch and ruin a set of harmless ignorant country girls.
As Booth was therefore what might well be called, in this age at least, a man of learning, he began to discourse our author on subjects of literature. “I think, sir,” says he, “that Dr Swift hath been generally allowed, by the critics in this kingdom, to be the greatest master of humour that ever wrote. Indeed, I allow him to have possessed most admirable talents of this kind; and, if Rabelais was his master, I think he proves the truth of the common Greek proverb — that the scholar is often superior to the master. As to Cervantes, I do not think we can make any just comparison; for, though Mr. Pope compliments him with sometimes taking Cervantes’ serious air — ” “I remember the passage,” cries the author;
“O thou, whatever title please thine ear, Dean, Drapier, Bickerstaff, or Gulliver; Whether you take Cervantes’ serious air, Or laugh and shake in Rabelais’ easy chair — ”
“You are right, sir,” said Booth; “but though I should agree that the doctor hath sometimes condescended to imitate Rabelais, I do not remember to have seen in his works the least attempt in the manner of Cervantes. But there is one in his own way, and whom I am convinced he studied above all others — you guess, I believe, I am going to name Lucian. This author, I say, I am convinced, he followed; but I think he followed him at a distance: as, to say the truth, every other writer of this kind hath done in my opinion; for none, I think, hath yet equalled him. I agree, indeed, entirely with Mr. Moyle, in his Discourse on the age of the Philopatris, when he gives him the epithet of the incomparable Lucian; and incomparable, I believe, he will remain as long as the language in which he wrote shall endure. What an inimitable piece of humour is his Cock!” “I remember it very well,” cries the author; “his story of a Cock and a Bull is excellent.” Booth stared at this, and asked the author what he meant by the Bull? “Nay,” answered he, “I don’t know very well, upon my soul. It is a long time since I read him. I learnt him all over at school; I have not read him much since. And pray, sir,” said he, “how do you like his Pharsalia? don’t you think Mr. Rowe’s translation a very fine one?” Booth replied, “I believe we are talking of different authors. The Pharsalia, which Mr. Rowe translated, was written by Lucan; but I have been speaking of Lucian, a Greek writer, and, in my opinion, the greatest in the humorous way that ever the world produced.” “Ay!” cries the author, “he was indeed so, a very excellent writer indeed! I fancy a translation of him would sell very well!” “I do not know, indeed,” cries Booth. “A good translation of him would be a valuable book. I have seen a wretched one published by Mr. Dryden, but translated by others, who in many places have misunderstood Lucian’s meaning, and have nowhere preserved the spirit of the original.” “That is great pity,” says the author. “Pray, sir, is he well translated in the French?” Booth answered, he could not tell; but that he doubted it very much, having never seen a good version into that language out of the Greek.” To confess the truth, I believe,” said he, “the French translators have generally consulted the Latin only; which, in some of the few Greek writers I have read, is intolerably bad. And as the English translators, for the most part, pursue the French, we may easily guess what spirit those copies of bad copies must preserve of the original.”
“Egad, you are a shrewd guesser,” cries the author. “I am glad the booksellers have not your sagacity. But how should it be otherwise, considering the price they pay by the sheet? The Greek, you will allow, is a hard language; and there are few gentlemen that write who can read it without a good lexicon. Now, sir, if we were to afford time to find out the true meaning of words, a gentleman would not get bread and cheese by his work. If one was to be paid, indeed, as Mr. Pope was for his Homer — Pray, sir, don’t you think that the best translation in the world?”
“Indeed, sir,” cries Booth, “I think, though it is certainly a noble paraphrase, and of itself a fine poem, yet in some places it is no translation at all. In the very beginning, for instance, he hath not rendered the true force of the author. Homer invokes his muse in the five first lines of the Iliad; and, at the end of the fifth, he gives his reason:
For all these things,” says he, “were brought about by the decree of Jupiter; and, therefore, he supposes their true sources are known only to the deities. Now, the translation takes no more notice of the [Greek] than if no such word had been there.”
“Very possibly,” answered the author; “it is a long time since I read the original. Perhaps, then, he followed the French translations. I observe, indeed, he talks much in the notes of Madam Dacier and Monsieur Eustathius.”
Booth had now received conviction enough of his friend’s knowledge of the Greek language; without attempting, therefore, to set him right, he made a sudden transition to the Latin. “Pray, sir,” said he, “as you have mentioned Rowe’s translation of the Pharsalia, do you remember how he hath rendered that passage in the character of Cato? —
—— Venerisque huic maximus usus
Progenies; urbi Pater est, urbique Maritus.
For I apprehend that passage is generally misunderstood.”
“I really do not remember,” answered the author. “Pray, sir, what do you take to be the meaning?”
“I apprehend, sir,” replied Booth, “that by these words, Urbi Pater est, urbique Maritus, Cato is represented as the father and husband to the city of Rome.”
“Very true, sir,” cries the author; “very fine, indeed. — Not only the father of his country, but the husband too; very noble, truly!”
“Pardon me, sir,” cries Booth; “I do not conceive that to have been Lucan’s meaning. If you please to observe the context; Lucan, having commended the temperance of Cato in the instances of diet and cloaths, proceeds to venereal pleasures; of which, says the poet, his principal use was procreation: then he adds, Urbi Pater est, urbique Maritus; that he became a father and a husband for the sake only of the city.”
“Upon my word that’s true,” cries the author; “I did not think of it. It is much finer than the other. — Urbis Pater est — what is the other? — ay — Urbis Maritus. — It is certainly as you say, sir.”
Booth was by this pretty well satisfied of the author’s profound learning; however, he was willing to try him a little farther. He asked him, therefore, what was his opinion of Lucan in general, and in what class of writers he ranked him?
The author stared a little at this question; and, after some hesitation, answered, “Certainly, sir, I think he is a fine writer and a very great poet.”
“I am very much of the same opinion,” cries Booth; “but where do you class him — next to what poet do you place him?”
“Let me see,” cries the author; “where do I class him? next to whom do I place him? — Ay! — why — why, pray, where do you yourself place him?”
“Why, surely,” cries Booth, “if he is not to be placed in the first rank with Homer, and Virgil, and Milton, I think clearly he is at the head of the second, before either Statius or Silius Italicus — though I allow to each of these their merits; but, perhaps, an epic poem was beyond the genius of either. I own, I have often thought, if Statius had ventured no farther than Ovid or Claudian, he would have succeeded better; for his Sylvae are, in my opinion, much better than his Thebais.”
“I believe I was of the same opinion formerly,” said the author.
“And for what reason have you altered it?” cries Booth.
“I have not altered it,” answered the author; “but, to tell you the truth, I have not any opinion at all about these matters at present. I do not trouble my head much with poetry; for there is no encouragement to such studies in this age. It is true, indeed, I have now and then wrote a poem or two for the magazines, but I never intend to write any more; for a gentleman is not paid for his time. A sheet is a sheet with the booksellers; and, whether it be in prose or verse, they make no difference; though certainly there is as much difference to a gentleman in the work as there is to a taylor between making a plain and a laced suit. Rhimes are difficult things; they are stubborn things, sir. I have been sometimes longer in tagging a couplet than I have been in writing a speech on the side of the opposition which hath been read with great applause all over the kingdom.”
“I am glad you are pleased to confirm that,” cries Booth; “for I protest it was an entire secret to me till this day. I was so perfectly ignorant, that I thought the speeches published in the magazines were really made by the members themselves.”
“Some of them, and I believe I may, without vanity, say the best,” cries the author, “are all the productions of my own pen! but I believe I shall leave it off soon, unless a sheet of speech will fetch more than it does at present. In truth, the romance-writing is the only branch of our business now that is worth following. Goods of that sort have had so much success lately in the market, that a bookseller scarce cares what he bids for them. And it is certainly the easiest work in the world; you may write it almost as fast as you can set pen to paper; and if you interlard it with a little scandal, a little abuse on some living characters of note, you cannot fail of success.”
“Upon my word, sir,” cries Booth, “you have greatly instructed me. I could not have imagined there had been so much regularity in the trade of writing as you are pleased to mention; by what I can perceive, the pen and ink is likely to become the staple commodity of the kingdom.”
“Alas! sir,” answered the author, “it is overstocked. The market is overstocked. There is no encouragement to merit, no patrons. I have been these five years soliciting a subscription for my new translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, with notes explanatory, historical, and critical; and I have scarce collected five hundred names yet.”
The mention of this translation a little surprized Booth; not only as the author had just declared his intentions to forsake the tuneful muses; but, for some other reasons which he had collected from his conversation with our author, he little expected to hear of a proposal to translate any of the Latin poets. He proceeded, therefore, to catechise him a little farther; and by his answers was fully satisfied that he had the very same acquaintance with Ovid that he had appeared to have with Lucan.
The author then pulled out a bundle of papers containing proposals for his subscription, and receipts; and, addressing himself to Booth, said, “Though the place in which we meet, sir, is an improper place to solicit favours of this kind, yet, perhaps, it may be in your power to serve me if you will charge your pockets with some of these.” Booth was just offering at an excuse, when the bailiff introduced Colonel James and the serjeant.
The unexpected visit of a beloved friend to a man in affliction, especially in Mr. Booth’s situation, is a comfort which can scarce be equalled; not barely from the hopes of relief or redress by his assistance, but as it is an evidence of sincere friendship which scarce admits of any doubt or suspicion. Such an instance doth indeed make a man amends for all ordinary troubles and distresses; and we ought to think ourselves gainers by having had such an opportunity of discovering that we are possessed of one of the most valuable of all human possessions.
Booth was so transported at the sight of the colonel, that he dropt the proposals which the author had put into his hands, and burst forth into the highest professions of gratitude to his friend; who behaved very properly on his side, and said everything which became the mouth of a friend on the occasion.
It is true, indeed, he seemed not moved equally either with Booth or the serjeant, both whose eyes watered at the scene. In truth, the colonel, though a very generous man, had not the least grain of tenderness in his disposition. His mind was formed of those firm materials of which nature formerly hammered out the Stoic, and upon which the sorrows of no man living could make an impression. A man of this temper, who doth not much value danger, will fight for the person he calls his friend, and the man that hath but little value for his money will give it him; but such friendship is never to be absolutely depended on; for, whenever the favourite passion interposes with it, it is sure to subside and vanish into air. Whereas the man whose tender disposition really feels the miseries of another will endeavour to relieve them for his own sake; and, in such a mind, friendship will often get the superiority over every other passion.
But, from whatever motive it sprung, the colonel’s behaviour to Booth seemed truly amiable; and so it appeared to the author, who took the first occasion to applaud it in a very florid oration; which the reader, when he recollects that he was a speech-maker by profession, will not be surprized at; nor, perhaps, will be much more surprized that he soon after took an occasion of clapping a proposal into the colonel’s hands, holding at the same time a receipt very visible in his own.
The colonel received both, and gave the author a guinea in exchange, which was double the sum mentioned in the receipt; for which the author made a low bow, and very politely took his leave, saying, “I suppose, gentlemen, you may have some private business together; I heartily wish a speedy end to your confinement, and I congratulate you on the possessing so great, so noble, and so generous a friend.”
Which inclines rather to satire than panegyric.
The colonel had the curiosity to ask Booth the name of the gentleman who, in the vulgar language, had struck, or taken him in for a guinea with so much ease and dexterity. Booth answered, he did not know his name; all that he knew of him was, that he was the most impudent and illiterate fellow he had ever seen, and that, by his own account, he was the author of most of the wonderful productions of the age. “Perhaps,” said he, “it may look uncharitable in me to blame you for your generosity; but I am convinced the fellow hath not the least merit or capacity, and you have subscribed to the most horrid trash that ever was published.”
“I care not a farthing what he publishes,” cries the colonel. “Heaven forbid I should be obliged to read half the nonsense I have subscribed to.”
“But don’t you think,” said Booth, “that by such indiscriminate encouragement of authors you do a real mischief to the society? By propagating the subscriptions of such fellows, people are tired out and withhold their contributions to men of real merit; and, at the same time, you are contributing to fill the world, not only with nonsense, but with all the scurrility, indecency, and profaneness with which the age abounds, and with which all bad writers supply the defect of genius.”
“Pugh!” cries the colonel, “I never consider these matters. Good or bad, it is all one to me; but there’s an acquaintance of mine, and a man of great wit too, that thinks the worst the best, as they are the surest to make him laugh.”
“I ask pardon, sir,” says the serjeant; “but I wish your honour would consider your own affairs a little, for it grows late in the evening.”
“The serjeant says true,” answered the colonel. “What is it you intend to do?”
“Faith, colonel, I know not what I shall do. My affairs seem so irreparable, that I have been driving them as much as possibly I could from my mind. If I was to suffer alone, I think I could bear them with some philosophy; but when I consider who are to be the sharers in my fortune — the dearest of children, and the best, the worthiest, and the noblest of women —— Pardon me, my dear friend, these sensations are above me; they convert me into a woman; they drive me to despair, to madness.”
The colonel advised him to command himself, and told him this was not the way to retrieve his fortune. “As to me, my dear Booth,” said he, “you know you may command me as far as is really within my power.”
Booth answered eagerly, that he was so far from expecting any more favours from the colonel, that he had resolved not to let him know anything of his misfortune. “No, my dear friend,” cries he, “I am too much obliged to you already;” and then burst into many fervent expressions of gratitude, till the colonel himself stopt him, and begged him to give an account of the debt or debts for which he was detained in that horrid place.
Booth answered, he could not be very exact, but he feared it was upwards of four hundred pounds.
“It is but three hundred pounds, indeed, sir,” cries the serjeant; “if you can raise three hundred pounds, you are a free man this moment.”
Booth, who did not apprehend the generous meaning of the serjeant as well as, I believe, the reader will, answered he was mistaken; that he had computed his debts, and they amounted to upwards of four hundred pounds; nay, that the bailiff had shewn him writs for above that sum.
“Whether your debts are three or four hundred,” cries the colonel, “the present business is to give bail only, and then you will have some time to try your friends: I think you might get a company abroad, and then I would advance the money on the security of half your pay; and, in the mean time, I will be one of your bail with all my heart.”
Whilst Booth poured forth his gratitude for all this kindness, the serjeant ran down-stairs for the bailiff, and shortly after returned with him into the room.
The bailiff, being informed that the colonel offered to be bail for his prisoner, answered a little surlily, “Well, sir, and who will be the other? you know, I suppose, there must be two; and I must have time to enquire after them.”
The colonel replied, “I believe, sir, I am well known to be responsible for a much larger sum than your demand on this gentleman; but, if your forms require two, I suppose the serjeant here will do for the other.”
“I don’t know the serjeant nor you either, sir,” cries Bondum; “and, if you propose yourselves bail for the gentleman, I must have time to enquire after you.”
“You need very little time to enquire after me,” says the colonel, “for I can send for several of the law, whom I suppose you know, to satisfy you; but consider, it is very late.”
“Yes, sir,” answered Bondum, “I do consider it is too late for the captain to be bailed to-night.”
“What do you mean by too late?” cries the colonel.
“I mean, sir, that I must search the office, and that is now shut up; for, if my lord mayor and the court of aldermen would be bound for him, I would not discharge him till I had searched the office.”
“How, sir!” cries the colonel, “hath the law of England no more regard for the liberty of the subject than to suffer such fellows as you to detain a man in custody for debt, when he can give undeniable security?”
“Don’t fellow me,” said the bailiff; “I am as good a fellow as yourself, I believe, though you have that riband in your hat there.”
“Do you know whom you are speaking to?” said the serjeant. “Do you know you are talking to a colonel of the army?”
“What’s a colonel of the army to me?” cries the bailiff. “I have had as good as he in my custody before now.”
“And a member of parliament?” cries the serjeant.
“Is the gentleman a member of parliament? — Well, and what harm have I said? I am sure I meant no harm; and, if his honour is offended, I ask his pardon; to be sure his honour must know that the sheriff is answerable for all the writs in the office, though they were never so many, and I am answerable to the sheriff. I am sure the captain can’t say that I have shewn him any manner of incivility since he hath been here. — And I hope, honourable sir,” cries he, turning to the colonel, “you don’t take anything amiss that I said, or meant by way of disrespect, or any such matter. I did not, indeed, as the gentleman here says, know who I was speaking to; but I did not say anything uncivil as I know of, and I hope no offence.”
The colonel was more easily pacified than might have been expected, and told the bailiff that, if it was against the rules of law to discharge Mr. Booth that evening, he must be contented. He then addressed himself to his friend, and began to prescribe comfort and patience to him; saying, he must rest satisfied with his confinement that night; and the next morning he promised to visit him again.
Booth answered, that as for himself, the lying one night in any place was very little worth his regard. “You and I, my dear friend, have both spent our evening in a worse situation than I shall in this house. All my concern is for my poor Amelia, whose sufferings on account of my absence I know, and I feel with unspeakable tenderness. Could I be assured she was tolerably easy, I could be contented in chains or in a dungeon.”
“Give yourself no concern on her account,” said the colonel; “I will wait on her myself, though I break an engagement for that purpose, and will give her such assurances as I am convinced will make her perfectly easy.”
Booth embraced his friend, and, weeping over him, paid his acknowledgment with tears for all his goodness. In words, indeed, he was not able to thank him; for gratitude, joining with his other passions, almost choaked him, and stopt his utterance.
After a short scene in which nothing past worth recounting, the colonel bid his friend good night, and leaving the serjeant with him, made the best of his way back to Amelia.
Worthy a very serious perusal.
The colonel found Amelia sitting very disconsolate with Mrs. Atkinson. He entered the room with an air of great gaiety, assured Amelia that her husband was perfectly well, and that he hoped the next day he would again be with her.
Amelia was a little comforted at this account, and vented many grateful expressions to the colonel for his unparalleled friendship, as she was pleased to call it. She could not, however, help giving way soon after to a sigh at the thoughts of her husband’s bondage, and declared that night would be the longest she had ever known.
“This lady, madam,” cries the colonel, “must endeavour to make it shorter. And, if you will give me leave, I will join in the same endeavour.” Then, after some more consolatory speeches, the colonel attempted to give a gay turn to the discourse, and said, “I was engaged to have spent this evening disagreeably at Ranelagh, with a set of company I did not like. How vastly am I obliged to you, dear Mrs. Booth, that I pass it so infinitely more to my satisfaction!”
“Indeed, colonel,” said Amelia, “I am convinced that to a mind so rightly turned as yours there must be a much sweeter relish in the highest offices of friendship than in any pleasures which the gayest public places can afford.”
“Upon my word, madam,” said the colonel, “you now do me more than justice. I have, and always had, the utmost indifference for such pleasures. Indeed, I hardly allow them worthy of that name, or, if they are so at all, it is in a very low degree. In my opinion the highest friendship must always lead us to the highest pleasure.”
Here Amelia entered into a long dissertation on friendship, in which she pointed several times directly at the colonel as the hero of her tale.
The colonel highly applauded all her sentiments; and when he could not avoid taking the compliment to himself, he received it with a most respectful bow. He then tried his hand likewise at description, in which he found means to repay all Amelia’s panegyric in kind. This, though he did with all possible delicacy, yet a curious observer might have been apt to suspect that it was chiefly on her account that the colonel had avoided the masquerade.
In discourses of this kind they passed the evening, till it was very late, the colonel never offering to stir from his chair before the clock had struck one; when he thought, perhaps, that decency obliged him to take his leave.
As soon as he was gone Mrs. Atkinson said to Mrs. Booth, “I think, madam, you told me this afternoon that the colonel was married?”
Amelia answered, she did so.
“I think likewise, madam,” said Mrs. Atkinson, “you was acquainted with the colonel’s lady?”
Amelia answered that she had been extremely intimate with her abroad.
“Is she young and handsome?” said Mrs. Atkinson. “In short, pray, was it a match of love or convenience?”
Amelia answered, entirely of love, she believed, on his side; for that the lady had little or no fortune.
“I am very glad to hear it,” said Mrs. Atkinson; “for I am sure the colonel is in love with somebody. I think I never saw a more luscious picture of love drawn than that which he was pleased to give us as the portraiture of friendship. I have read, indeed, of Pylades and Orestes, Damon and Pythias, and other great friends of old; nay, I sometimes flatter myself that I am capable of being a friend myself; but as for that fine, soft, tender, delicate passion, which he was pleased to describe, I am convinced there must go a he and a she to the composition.”
“Upon my word, my dear, you are mistaken,” cries Amelia. “If you had known the friendship which hath always subsisted between the colonel and my husband, you would not imagine it possible for any description to exceed it. Nay, I think his behaviour this very day is sufficient to convince you.”
“I own what he hath done today hath great merit,” said Mrs. Atkinson; “and yet, from what he hath said to-night — You will pardon me, dear madam; perhaps I am too quick-sighted in my observations; nay, I am afraid I am even impertinent.”
“Fie upon it!” cries Amelia; “how can you talk in that strain? Do you imagine I expect ceremony? Pray speak what you think with the utmost freedom.”
“Did he not then,” said Mrs. Atkinson, “repeat the words, the finest woman in the world, more than once? did he not make use of an expression which might have become the mouth of Oroondates himself? If I remember, the words were these — that, had he been Alexander the Great, he should have thought it more glory to have wiped off a tear from the bright eyes of Statira than to have conquered fifty worlds.”
“Did he say so?” cries Amelia — “I think he did say something like it; but my thoughts were so full of my husband that I took little notice. But what would you infer from what he said? I hope you don’t think he is in love with me?”
“I hope he doth not think so himself,” answered Mrs. Atkinson; “though, when he mentioned the bright eyes of Statira, he fixed his own eyes on yours with the most languishing air I ever beheld.”
Amelia was going to answer, when the serjeant arrived, and then she immediately fell to enquiring after her husband, and received such satisfactory answers to all her many questions concerning him, that she expressed great pleasure. These ideas so possessed her mind, that, without once casting her thoughts on any other matters, she took her leave of the serjeant and his lady, and repaired to bed to her children, in a room which Mrs. Atkinson had provided her in the same house; where we will at present wish her a good night.
Consisting of grave matters.
While innocence and chearful hope, in spite of the malice of fortune, closed the eyes of the gentle Amelia on her homely bed, and she enjoyed a sweet and profound sleep, the colonel lay restless all night on his down; his mind was affected with a kind of ague fit; sometimes scorched up with flaming desires, and again chilled with the coldest despair.
There is a time, I think, according to one of our poets, when lust and envy sleep. This, I suppose, is when they are well gorged with the food they most delight in; but, while either of these are hungry,
Nor poppy, nor mandragora,
Nor all the drousy syrups of the East,
Will ever medicine them to slumber.
The colonel was at present unhappily tormented by both these fiends. His last evening’s conversation with Amelia had done his business effectually. The many kind words she had spoken to him, the many kind looks she had given him, as being, she conceived, the friend and preserver of her husband, had made an entire conquest of his heart. Thus the very love which she bore him, as the person to whom her little family were to owe their preservation and happiness, inspired him with thoughts of sinking them all in the lowest abyss of ruin and misery; and, while she smiled with all her sweetness on the supposed friend of her husband, she was converting that friend into his most bitter enemy.
Friendship, take heed; if woman interfere,
Be sure the hour of thy destruction’s near.
These are the lines of Vanbrugh; and the sentiment is better than the poetry. To say the truth, as a handsome wife is the cause and cement of many false friendships, she is often too liable to destroy the real ones.
Thus the object of the colonel’s lust very plainly appears, but the object of his envy may be more difficult to discover. Nature and Fortune had seemed to strive with a kind of rivalship which should bestow most on the colonel. The former had given him person, parts, and constitution, in all which he was superior to almost every other man. The latter had given him rank in life, and riches, both in a very eminent degree. Whom then should this happy man envy? Here, lest ambition should mislead the reader to search the palaces of the great, we will direct him at once to Gray’s-inn-lane; where, in a miserable bed, in a miserable room, he will see a miserable broken lieutenant, in a miserable condition, with several heavy debts on his back, and without a penny in his pocket. This, and no other, was the object of the colonel’s envy. And why? because this wretch was possessed of the affections of a poor little lamb, which all the vast flocks that were within the power and reach of the colonel could not prevent that glutton’s longing for. And sure this image of the lamb is not improperly adduced on this occasion; for what was the colonel’s desire but to lead this poor lamb, as it were, to the slaughter, in order to purchase a feast of a few days by her final destruction, and to tear her away from the arms of one where she was sure of being fondled and caressed all the days of her life.
While the colonel was agitated with these thoughts, his greatest comfort was, that Amelia and Booth were now separated; and his greatest terror was of their coming again together. From wishes, therefore, he began to meditate designs; and so far was he from any intention of procuring the liberty of his friend, that he began to form schemes of prolonging his confinement, till he could procure some means of sending him away far from her; in which case he doubted not but of succeeding in all he desired.
He was forming this plan in his mind when a servant informed him that one serjeant Atkinson desired to speak with his honour. The serjeant was immediately admitted, and acquainted the colonel that, if he pleased to go and become bail for Mr. Booth, another unexceptionable housekeeper would be there to join with him. This person the serjeant had procured that morning, and had, by leave of his wife, given him a bond of indemnification for the purpose.
The colonel did not seem so elated with this news as Atkinson expected. On the contrary, instead of making a direct answer to what Atkinson said, the colonel began thus: “I think, serjeant, Mr. Booth hath told me that you was foster-brother to his lady. She is really a charming woman, and it is a thousand pities she should ever have been placed in the dreadful situation she is now in. There is nothing so silly as for subaltern officers of the army to marry, unless where they meet with women of very great fortunes indeed. What can be the event of their marrying otherwise, but entailing misery and beggary on their wives and their posterity?”
“Ah! sir,” cries the serjeant, “it is too late to think of those matters now. To be sure, my lady might have married one of the top gentlemen in the country; for she is certainly one of the best as well as one of the handsomest women in the kingdom; and, if she had been fairly dealt by, would have had a very great fortune into the bargain. Indeed, she is worthy of the greatest prince in the world; and, if I had been the greatest prince in the world, I should have thought myself happy with such a wife; but she was pleased to like the lieutenant, and certainly there can be no happiness in marriage without liking.”
“Lookee, serjeant,” said the colonel; “you know very well that I am the lieutenant’s friend. I think I have shewn myself so.”
“Indeed your honour hath,” quoth the serjeant, “more than once to my knowledge.”
“But I am angry with him for his imprudence, greatly angry with him for his imprudence; and the more so, as it affects a lady of so much worth.”
“She is, indeed, a lady of the highest worth,” cries the serjeant. “Poor dear lady! I knew her, an ‘t please your honour, from her infancy; and the sweetest-tempered, best-natured lady she is that ever trod on English ground. I have always loved her as if she was my own sister. Nay, she hath very often called me brother; and I have taken it to be a greater honour than if I was to be called a general officer.”
“What pity it is,” said the colonel, “that this worthy creature should be exposed to so much misery by the thoughtless behaviour of a man who, though I am his friend, I cannot help saying, hath been guilty of imprudence at least! Why could he not live upon his half-pay? What had he to do to run himself into debt in this outrageous manner?”
“I wish, indeed,” cries the serjeant, “he had been a little more considerative; but I hope this will be a warning to him.”
“How am I sure of that,” answered the colonel; “or what reason is there to expect it? extravagance is a vice of which men are not so easily cured. I have thought a great deal of this matter, Mr. serjeant; and, upon the most mature deliberation, I am of opinion that it will be better, both for him and his poor lady, that he should smart a little more.”
“Your honour, sir, to be sure is in the right,” replied the serjeant; “but yet, sir, if you will pardon me for speaking, I hope you will be pleased to consider my poor lady’s case. She suffers, all this while, as much or more than the lieutenant; for I know her so well, that I am certain she will never have a moment’s ease till her husband is out of confinement.”
“I know women better than you, serjeant,” cries the colonel; “they sometimes place their affections on a husband as children do on their nurse; but they are both to be weaned. I know you, serjeant, to be a fellow of sense as well as spirit, or I should not speak so freely to you; but I took a fancy to you a long time ago, and I intend to serve you; but first, I ask you this question — Is your attachment to Mr. Booth or his lady?”
“Certainly, sir,” said the serjeant, “I must love my lady best. Not but I have a great affection for the lieutenant too, because I know my lady hath the same; and, indeed, he hath been always very good to me as far as was in his power. A lieutenant, your honour knows, can’t do a great deal; but I have always found him my friend upon all occasions.”
“You say true,” cries the colonel; “a lieutenant can do but little; but I can do much to serve you, and will too. But let me ask you one question: Who was the lady whom I saw last night with Mrs. Booth at her lodgings?”
Here the serjeant blushed, and repeated, “The lady, sir?”
“Ay, a lady, a woman,” cries the colonel, “who supped with us last night. She looked rather too much like a gentlewoman for the mistress of a lodging-house.”
The serjeant’s cheeks glowed at this compliment to his wife; and he was just going to own her when the colonel proceeded: “I think I never saw in my life so ill-looking, sly, demure a b ——; I would give something, methinks, to know who she was.”
“I don’t know, indeed,” cries the serjeant, in great confusion; “I know nothing about her.”
“I wish you would enquire,” said the colonel, “and let me know her name, and likewise what she is: I have a strange curiosity to know, and let me see you again this evening exactly at seven.”
“And will not your honour then go to the lieutenant this morning?” said Atkinson.
“It is not in my power,” answered the colonel; “I am engaged another way. Besides, there is no haste in this affair. If men will be imprudent they must suffer the consequences. Come to me at seven, and bring me all the particulars you can concerning that ill-looking jade I mentioned to you, for I am resolved to know who she is. And so good-morrow to you, serjeant; be assured I will take an opportunity to do something for you.”
Though some readers may, perhaps, think the serjeant not unworthy of the freedom with which the colonel treated him; yet that haughty officer would have been very backward to have condescended to such familiarity with one of his rank had he not proposed some design from it. In truth, he began to conceive hopes of making the serjeant instrumental to his design on Amelia; in other words, to convert him into a pimp; an office in which the colonel had been served by Atkinson’s betters, and which, as he knew it was in his power very well to reward him, he had no apprehension that the serjeant would decline — an opinion which the serjeant might have pardoned, though he had never given the least grounds for it, since the colonel borrowed it from the knowledge of his own heart. This dictated to him that he, from a bad motive, was capable of desiring to debauch his friend’s wife; and the same heart inspired him to hope that another, from another bad motive, might be guilty of the same breach of friendship in assisting him. Few men, I believe, think better of others than of themselves; nor do they easily allow the existence of any virtue of which they perceive no traces in their own minds; for which reason I have observed, that it is extremely difficult to persuade a rogue that you are an honest man; nor would you ever succeed in the attempt by the strongest evidence, was it not for the comfortable conclusion which the rogue draws, that he who proves himself to be honest proves himself to be a fool at the same time.
A curious chapter, from which a curious reader may draw sundry observations.
The serjeant retired from the colonel in a very dejected state of mind: in which, however, we must leave him awhile and return to Amelia; who, as soon as she was up, had despatched Mrs. Atkinson to pay off her former lodgings, and to bring off all cloaths and other moveables.
The trusty messenger returned without performing her errand, for Mrs. Ellison had locked up all her rooms, and was gone out very early that morning, and the servant knew not whither she was gone.
The two ladies now sat down to breakfast, together with Amelia’s two children; after which, Amelia declared she would take a coach and visit her husband. To this motion Mrs. Atkinson soon agreed, and offered to be her companion. To say truth, I think it was reasonable enough; and the great abhorrence which Booth had of seeing his wife in a bailiff’s house was, perhaps, rather too nice and delicate.
When the ladies were both drest, and just going to send for their vehicle, a great knocking was heard at the door, and presently Mrs. James was ushered into the room.
This visit was disagreeable enough to Amelia, as it detained her from the sight of her husband, for which she so eagerly longed. However, as she had no doubt but that the visit would be reasonably short, she resolved to receive the lady with all the complaisance in her power.
Mrs. James now behaved herself so very unlike the person that she lately appeared, that it might have surprized any one who doth not know that besides that of a fine lady, which is all mere art and mummery, every such woman hath some real character at the bottom, in which, whenever nature gets the better of her, she acts. Thus the finest ladies in the world will sometimes love, and sometimes scratch, according to their different natural dispositions, with great fury and violence, though both of these are equally inconsistent with a fine lady’s artificial character.
Mrs. James then was at the bottom a very good-natured woman, and the moment she heard of Amelia’s misfortune was sincerely grieved at it. She had acquiesced on the very first motion with the colonel’s design of inviting her to her house; and this morning at breakfast, when he had acquainted her that Amelia made some difficulty in accepting the offer, very readily undertook to go herself and persuade her friend to accept the invitation.
She now pressed this matter with such earnestness, that Amelia, who was not extremely versed in the art of denying, was hardly able to refuse her importunity; nothing, indeed, but her affection to Mrs. Atkinson could have prevailed on her to refuse; that point, however, she would not give up, and Mrs. James, at last, was contented with a promise that, as soon as their affairs were settled, Amelia, with her husband and family, would make her a visit, and stay some time with her in the country, whither she was soon to retire.
Having obtained this promise, Mrs. James, after many very friendly professions, took her leave, and, stepping into her coach, reassumed the fine lady, and drove away to join her company at an auction.
The moment she was gone Mrs. Atkinson, who had left the room upon the approach of Mrs. James, returned into it, and was informed by Amelia of all that had past.
“Pray, madam,” said Mrs. Atkinson, “do this colonel and his lady live, as it is called, well together?”
“If you mean to ask,” cries Amelia, “whether they are a very fond couple, I must answer that I believe they are not.”
“I have been told,” says Mrs. Atkinson, “that there have been instances of women who have become bawds to their own husbands, and the husbands pimps for them.”
“Fie upon it!” cries Amelia. “I hope there are no such people. Indeed, my dear, this is being a little too censorious.”
“Call it what you please,” answered Mrs. Atkinson; “it arises from my love to you and my fears for your danger. You know the proverb of a burnt child; and, if such a one hath any good-nature, it will dread the fire on the account of others as well as on its own. And, if I may speak my sentiments freely, I cannot think you will be in safety at this colonel’s house.”
“I cannot but believe your apprehensions to be sincere,” replied Amelia; “and I must think myself obliged to you for them; but I am convinced you are entirely in an error. I look on Colonel James as the most generous and best of men. He was a friend, and an excellent friend too, to my husband, long before I was acquainted with him, and he hath done him a thousand good offices. What do you say of his behaviour yesterday?”
“I wish,” cries Mrs. Atkinson, “that this behaviour today had been equal. What I am now going to undertake is the most disagreeable office of friendship, but it is a necessary one. I must tell you, therefore, what past this morning between the colonel and Mr. Atkinson; for, though it will hurt you, you ought, on many accounts, to know it.” Here she related the whole, which we have recorded in the preceding chapter, and with which the serjeant had acquainted her while Mrs. James was paying her visit to Amelia. And, as the serjeant had painted the matter rather in stronger colours than the colonel, so Mrs. Atkinson again a little improved on the serjeant. Neither of these good people, perhaps, intended to aggravate any circumstance; but such is, I believe, the unavoidable consequence of all reports. Mrs. Atkinson, indeed, may be supposed not to see what related to James in the most favourable light, as the serjeant, with more honesty than prudence, had suggested to his wife that the colonel had not the kindest opinion of her, and had called her a sly and demure ——: it is true he omitted ill-looking b ——; two words which are, perhaps, superior to the patience of any Job in petticoats that ever lived. He made amends, however, by substituting some other phrases in their stead, not extremely agreeable to a female ear.
It appeared to Amelia, from Mrs. Atkinson’s relation, that the colonel had grossly abused Booth to the serjeant, and had absolutely refused to become his bail. Poor Amelia became a pale and motionless statue at this account. At length she cried, “If this be true, I and mine are all, indeed, undone. We have no comfort, no hope, no friend left. I cannot disbelieve you. I know you would not deceive me. Why should you, indeed, deceive me? But what can have caused this alteration since last night? Did I say or do anything to offend him?”
“You said and did rather, I believe, a great deal too much to please him,” answered Mrs. Atkinson. “Besides, he is not in the least offended with you. On the contrary, he said many kind things.”
“What can my poor love have done?” said Amelia. “He hath not seen the colonel since last night. Some villain hath set him against my husband; he was once before suspicious of such a person. Some cruel monster hath belied his innocence!”
“Pardon me, dear madam,” said Mrs. Atkinson; “I believe the person who hath injured the captain with this friend of his is one of the worthiest and best of creatures — nay, do not be surprized; the person I mean is even your fair self: sure you would not be so dull in any other case; but in this, gratitude, humility, modesty, every virtue, shuts your eyes.
Mortales hebetant visus,
as Virgil says. What in the world can be more consistent than his desire to have you at his own house and to keep your husband confined in another? All that he said and all that he did yesterday, and, what is more convincing to me than both, all that he looked last night, are very consistent with both these designs.”
“O Heavens!” cries Amelia, “you chill my blood with horror! the idea freezes me to death; I cannot, must not, will not think it. Nothing but conviction! Heaven forbid I should ever have more conviction! And did he abuse my husband? what? did he abuse a poor, unhappy, distrest creature, opprest, ruined, torn from his children, torn away from his wretched wife; the honestest, worthiest, noblest, tenderest, fondest, best — ” Here she burst into an agony of grief, which exceeds the power of description.
In this situation Mrs. Atkinson was doing her utmost to support her when a most violent knocking was heard at the door, and immediately the serjeant ran hastily into the room, bringing with him a cordial which presently relieved Amelia. What this cordial was, we shall inform the reader in due time. In the mean while he must suspend his curiosity; and the gentlemen at White’s may lay wagers whether it was Ward’s pill or Dr James’s powder.
But before we close this chapter, and return back to the bailiff’s house, we must do our best to rescue the character of our heroine from the dulness of apprehension, which several of our quick-sighted readers may lay more heavily to her charge than was done by her friend Mrs. Atkinson.
I must inform, therefore, all such readers, that it is not because innocence is more blind than guilt that the former often overlooks and tumbles into the pit which the latter foresees and avoids. The truth is, that it is almost impossible guilt should miss the discovering of all the snares in its way, as it is constantly prying closely into every corner in order to lay snares for others. Whereas innocence, having no such purpose, walks fearlessly and carelessly through life, and is consequently liable to tread on the gins which cunning hath laid to entrap it. To speak plainly and without allegory or figure, it is not want of sense, but want of suspicion, by which innocence is often betrayed. Again, we often admire at the folly of the dupe, when we should transfer our whole surprize to the astonishing guilt of the betrayer. In a word, many an innocent person hath owed his ruin to this circumstance alone, that the degree of villany was such as must have exceeded the faith of every man who was not himself a villain.
In which are many profound secrets of philosophy.
Booth, having had enough of the author’s company the preceding day, chose now another companion. Indeed the author was not very solicitous of a second interview; for, as he could have no hope from Booth’s pocket, so he was not likely to receive much increase to his vanity from Booth’s conversation; for, low as this wretch was in virtue, sense, learning, birth, and fortune, he was by no means low in his vanity. This passion, indeed, was so high in him, and at the same time so blinded him to his own demerits, that he hated every man who did not either flatter him or give him money. In short, he claimed a strange kind of right, either to cheat all his acquaintance of their praise or to pick their pockets of their pence, in which latter case he himself repaid very liberally with panegyric.
A very little specimen of such a fellow must have satisfied a man of Mr. Booth’s temper. He chose, therefore, now to associate himself with that gentleman of whom Bondum had given so shabby a character. In short, Mr. Booth’s opinion of the bailiff was such, that he recommended a man most where he least intended it. Nay, the bailiff in the present instance, though he had drawn a malicious conclusion, honestly avowed that this was drawn only from the poverty of the person, which is never, I believe, any forcible disrecommendation to a good mind: but he must have had a very bad mind indeed, who, in Mr. Booth’s circumstances, could have disliked or despised another man because that other man was poor.
Some previous conversation having past between this gentleman and Booth, in which they had both opened their several situations to each other, the former, casting an affectionate look on the latter, exprest great compassion for his circumstances, for which Booth, thanking him, said, “You must have a great deal of compassion, and be a very good man, in such a terrible situation as you describe yourself, to have any pity to spare for other people.”
“My affairs, sir,” answered the gentleman, “are very bad, it is true, and yet there is one circumstance which makes you appear to me more the object of pity than I am to myself; and it is this — that you must from your years be a novice in affliction, whereas I have served a long apprenticeship to misery, and ought, by this time, to be a pretty good master of my trade. To say the truth, I believe habit teaches men to bear the burthens of the mind, as it inures them to bear heavy burthens on their shoulders. Without use and experience, the strongest minds and bodies both will stagger under a weight which habit might render easy and even contemptible.”
“There is great justice,” cries Booth, “in the comparison; and I think I have myself experienced the truth of it; for I am not that tyro in affliction which you seem to apprehend me. And perhaps it is from the very habit you mention that I am able to support my present misfortunes a little like a man.”
The gentleman smiled at this, and cried, “Indeed, captain, you are a young philosopher.”
“I think,” cries Booth, “I have some pretensions to that philosophy which is taught by misfortunes, and you seem to be of opinion, sir, that is one of the best schools of philosophy.”
“I mean no more, sir,” said the gentleman, “than that in the days of our affliction we are inclined to think more seriously than in those seasons of life when we are engaged in the hurrying pursuits of business or pleasure, when we have neither leisure nor inclination to sift and examine things to the bottom. Now there are two considerations which, from my having long fixed my thoughts upon them, have greatly supported me under all my afflictions. The one is the brevity of life even at its longest duration, which the wisest of men hath compared to the short dimension of a span. One of the Roman poets compares it to the duration of a race; and another, to the much shorter transition of a wave.
“The second consideration is the uncertainty of it. Short as its utmost limits are, it is far from being assured of reaching those limits. The next day, the next hour, the next moment, may be the end of our course. Now of what value is so uncertain, so precarious a station? This consideration, indeed, however lightly it is passed over in our conception, doth, in a great measure, level all fortunes and conditions, and gives no man a right to triumph in the happiest state, or any reason to repine in the most miserable. Would the most worldly men see this in the light in which they examine all other matters, they would soon feel and acknowledge the force of this way of reasoning; for which of them would give any price for an estate from which they were liable to be immediately ejected? or, would they not laugh at him as a madman who accounted himself rich from such an uncertain possession? This is the fountain, sir, from which I have drawn my philosophy. Hence it is that I have learnt to look on all those things which are esteemed the blessings of life, and those which are dreaded as its evils, with such a degree of indifference that, as I should not be elated with possessing the former, so neither am I greatly dejected and depressed by suffering the latter. Is the actor esteemed happier to whose lot it falls to play the principal part than he who plays the lowest? and yet the drama may run twenty nights together, and by consequence may outlast our lives; but, at the best, life is only a little longer drama, and the business of the great stage is consequently a little more serious than that which is performed at the Theatre-royal. But even here, the catastrophes and calamities which are represented are capable of affecting us. The wisest men can deceive themselves into feeling the distresses of a tragedy, though they know them to be merely imaginary; and the children will often lament them as realities: what wonder then, if these tragical scenes which I allow to be a little more serious, should a little more affect us? where then is the remedy but in the philosophy I have mentioned, which, when once by a long course of meditation it is reduced to a habit, teaches us to set a just value on everything, and cures at once all eager wishes and abject fears, all violent joy and grief concerning objects which cannot endure long, and may not exist a moment.”
“You have exprest yourself extremely well,” cries Booth; “and I entirely agree with the justice of your sentiments; but, however true all this may be in theory, I still doubt its efficacy in practice. And the cause of the difference between these two is this; that we reason from our heads, but act from our hearts:
—— Video meliora, proboque;
Nothing can differ more widely than wise men and fools in their estimation of things; but, as both act from their uppermost passion, they both often act like. What comfort then can your philosophy give to an avaricious man who is deprived of his riches or to an ambitious man who is stript of his power? to the fond lover who is torn from his mistress or to the tender husband who is dragged from his wife? Do you really think that any meditations on the shortness of life will soothe them in their afflictions? Is not this very shortness itself one of their afflictions? and if the evil they suffer be a temporary deprivation of what they love, will they not think their fate the harder, and lament the more, that they are to lose any part of an enjoyment to which there is so short and so uncertain a period?”
“I beg leave, sir,” said the gentleman, “to distinguish here. By philosophy, I do not mean the bare knowledge of right and wrong, but an energy, a habit, as Aristotle calls it; and this I do firmly believe, with him and with the Stoics, is superior to all the attacks of fortune.”
He was proceeding when the bailiff came in, and in a surly tone bad them both good-morrow; after which he asked the philosopher if he was prepared to go to Newgate; for that he must carry him thither that afternoon.
The poor man seemed very much shocked with this news. “I hope,” cries he, “you will give a little longer time, if not till the return of the writ. But I beg you particularly not to carry me thither today, for I expect my wife and children here in the evening.”
“I have nothing to do with wives and children,” cried the bailiff; “I never desire to see any wives and children here. I like no such company.”
“I intreat you,” said the prisoner, “give me another day. I shall take it as a great obligation; and you will disappoint me in the cruellest manner in the world if you refuse me.”
“I can’t help people’s disappointments,” cries the bailiff; “I must consider myself and my own family. I know not where I shall be paid the money that’s due already. I can’t afford to keep prisoners at my own expense.”
“I don’t intend it shall be at your expense” cries the philosopher; “my wife is gone to raise money this morning; and I hope to pay you all I owe you at her arrival. But we intend to sup together to-night at your house; and, if you should remove me now, it would be the most barbarous disappointment to us both, and will make me the most miserable man alive.”
“Nay, for my part,” said the bailiff, “I don’t desire to do anything barbarous. I know how to treat gentlemen with civility as well as another. And when people pay as they go, and spend their money like gentlemen, I am sure nobody can accuse me of any incivility since I have been in the office. And if you intend to be merry to-night I am not the man that will prevent it. Though I say it, you may have as good a supper drest here as at any tavern in town.”
“Since Mr. Bondum is so kind, captain,” said the philosopher, “I hope for the favour of your company. I assure you, if it ever be my fortune to go abroad into the world, I shall be proud of the honour of your acquaintance.”
“Indeed, sir,” cries Booth, “it is an honour I shall be very ready to accept; but as for this evening, I cannot help saying I hope to be engaged in another place.”
“I promise you, sir,” answered the other, “I shall rejoice at your liberty, though I am a loser by it.”
“Why, as to that matter,” cries Bondum with a sneer, “I fancy, captain, you may engage yourself to the gentleman without any fear of breaking your word; for I am very much mistaken if we part today.”
“Pardon me, my good friend,” said Booth, “but I expect my bail every minute.”
“Lookee, sir,” cries Bondum, “I don’t love to see gentlemen in an error. I shall not take the serjeant’s bail; and as for the colonel, I have been with him myself this morning (for to be sure I love to do all I can for gentlemen), and he told me he could not possibly be here today; besides, why should I mince the matter? there is more stuff in the office.”
“What do you mean by stuff?” cries Booth.
“I mean that there is another writ,” answered the bailiff, “at the suit of Mrs. Ellison, the gentlewoman that was here yesterday; and the attorney that was with her is concerned against you. Some officers would not tell you all this; but I loves to shew civility to gentlemen while they behave themselves as such. And I loves the gentlemen of the army in particular. I had like to have been in the army myself once; but I liked the commission I have better. Come, captain, let not your noble courage be cast down; what say you to a glass of white wine, or a tiff of punch, by way of whet?”
“I have told you, sir, I never drink in the morning,” cries Booth a little peevishly.
“No offence I hope, sir,” said the bailiff; “I hope I have not treated you with any incivility. I don’t ask any gentleman to call for liquor in my house if he doth not chuse it; nor I don’t desire anybody to stay here longer than they have a mind to. Newgate, to be sure, is the place for all debtors that can’t find bail. I knows what civility is, and I scorn to behave myself unbecoming a gentleman: but I’d have you consider that the twenty-four hours appointed by act of parliament are almost out; and so it is time to think of removing. As to bail, I would not have you flatter yourself; for I knows very well there are other things coming against you. Besides, the sum you are already charged with is very large, and I must see you in a place of safety. My house is no prison, though I lock up for a little time in it. Indeed, when gentlemen are gentlemen, and likely to find bail, I don’t stand for a day or two; but I have a good nose at a bit of carrion, captain; I have not carried so much carrion to Newgate, without knowing the smell of it.”
“I understand not your cant,” cries Booth; “but I did not think to have offended you so much by refusing to drink in a morning.”
“Offended me, sir!” cries the bailiff. “Who told you so? Do you think, sir, if I want a glass of wine I am under any necessity of asking my prisoners for it? Damn it, sir, I’ll shew you I scorn your words. I can afford to treat you with a glass of the best wine in England, if you comes to that.” He then pulled out a handful of guineas, saying, “There, sir, they are all my own; I owe nobody a shilling. I am no beggar, nor no debtor. I am the king’s officer as well as you, and I will spend guinea for guinea as long as you please.”
“Harkee, rascal,” cries Booth, laying hold of the bailiff’s collar. “How dare you treat me with this insolence? doth the law give you any authority to insult me in my misfortunes?” At which words he gave the bailiff a good shove, and threw him from him.
“Very well, sir,” cries the bailiff; “I will swear both an assault and an attempt to a rescue. If officers are to be used in this manner, there is an end of all law and justice. But, though I am not a match for you myself, I have those below that are.” He then ran to the door and called up two ill-looking fellows, his followers, whom, as soon as they entered the room, he ordered to seize on Booth, declaring he would immediately carry him to Newgate; at the same time pouring out a vast quantity of abuse, below the dignity of history to record.
Booth desired the two dirty fellows to stand off, and declared he would make no resistance; at the same time bidding the bailiff carry him wherever he durst.
“I’ll shew you what I dare,” cries the bailiff; and again ordered the followers to lay hold of their prisoner, saying, “He has assaulted me already, and endeavoured a rescue. I shan’t trust such a fellow to walk at liberty. A gentleman, indeed! ay, ay, Newgate is the properest place for such gentry; as arrant carrion as ever was carried thither.”
The fellows then both laid violent hands on Booth, and the bailiff stept to the door to order a coach; when, on a sudden, the whole scene was changed in an instant; for now the serjeant came running out of breath into the room; and, seeing his friend the captain roughly handled by two ill-looking fellows, without asking any questions stept briskly up to his assistance, and instantly gave one of the assailants so violent a salute with his fist, that he directly measured his length on the floor.
Booth, having by this means his right arm at liberty, was unwilling to be idle, or entirely to owe his rescue from both the ruffians to the serjeant; he therefore imitated the example which his friend had set him, and with a lusty blow levelled the other follower with his companion on the ground.
The bailiff roared out, “A rescue, a rescue!” to which the serjeant answered there was no rescue intended. “The captain,” said he, “wants no rescue. Here are some friends coming who will deliver him in a better manner.”
The bailiff swore heartily he would carry him to Newgate in spite of all the friends in the world.
“You carry him to Newgate!” cried the serjeant, with the highest indignation. “Offer but to lay your hands on him, and I will knock your teeth down your ugly jaws.” Then, turning to Booth, he cried, “They will be all here within a minute, sir; we had much ado to keep my lady from coming herself; but she is at home in good health, longing to see your honour; and I hope you will be with her within this half-hour.”
And now three gentlemen entered the room; these were an attorney, the person whom the serjeant had procured in the morning to be his bail with Colonel James, and lastly Doctor Harrison himself.
The bailiff no sooner saw the attorney, with whom he was well acquainted (for the others he knew not), than he began, as the phrase is, to pull in his horns, and ordered the two followers, who were now got again on their legs, to walk down-stairs.
“So, captain,” says the doctor, “when last we parted, I believe we neither of us expected to meet in such a place as this.”
“Indeed, doctor,” cries Booth, “I did not expect to have been sent hither by the gentleman who did me that favour.”
“How so, sir?” said the doctor; “you was sent hither by some person, I suppose, to whom you was indebted. This is the usual place, I apprehend, for creditors to send their debtors to. But you ought to be more surprized that the gentleman who sent you hither is come to release you. Mr. Murphy, you will perform all the necessary ceremonials.”
The attorney then asked the bailiff with how many actions Booth was charged, and was informed there were five besides the doctor’s, which was much the heaviest of all. Proper bonds were presently provided, and the doctor and the serjeant’s friend signed them; the bailiff, at the instance of the attorney, making no objection to the bail.
Booth, we may be assured, made a handsome speech to the doctor for such extraordinary friendship, with which, however, we do not think proper to trouble the reader; and now everything being ended, and the company ready to depart, the bailiff stepped up to Booth, and told him he hoped he would remember civility-money.
“I believe” cries Booth, “you mean incivility-money; if there are any fees due for rudeness, I must own you have a very just claim.”
“I am sure, sir,” cries the bailiff, “I have treated your honour with all the respect in the world; no man, I am sure, can charge me with using a gentleman rudely. I knows what belongs to a gentleman better; but you can’t deny that two of my men have been knocked down; and I doubt not but, as you are a gentleman, you will give them something to drink.”
Booth was about to answer with some passion, when the attorney interfered, and whispered in his ear that it was usual to make a compliment to the officer, and that he had better comply with the custom.
“If the fellow had treated me civilly,” answered Booth, “I should have had no objection to comply with a bad custom in his favour; but I am resolved I will never reward a man for using me ill; and I will not agree to give him a single farthing.”
“’Tis very well, sir,” said the bailiff; “I am rightly served for my good-nature; but, if it had been to do again, I would have taken care you should not have been bailed this day.”
Doctor Harrison, to whom Booth referred the cause, after giving him a succinct account of what had passed, declared the captain to be in the right. He said it was a most horrid imposition that such fellows were ever suffered to prey on the necessitous; but that the example would be much worse to reward them where they had behaved themselves ill. “And I think,” says he, “the bailiff is worthy of great rebuke for what he hath just now said; in which I hope he hath boasted of more power than is in him. We do, indeed, with great justice and propriety value ourselves on our freedom if the liberty of the subject depends on the pleasure of such fellows as these!”
“It is not so neither altogether,” cries the lawyer; “but custom hath established a present or fee to them at the delivery of a prisoner, which they call civility-money, and expect as in a manner their due, though in reality they have no right.”
“But will any man,” cries Doctor Harrison, “after what the captain hath told us, say that the bailiff hath behaved himself as he ought; and, if he had, is he to be rewarded for not acting in an unchristian and inhuman manner? it is pity that, instead of a custom of feeing them out of the pockets of the poor and wretched, when they do not behave themselves ill, there was not both a law and a practice to punish them severely when they do. In the present case, I am so far from agreeing to give the bailiff a shilling, that, if there be any method of punishing him for his rudeness, I shall be heartily glad to see it put in execution; for there are none whose conduct should be so strictly watched as that of these necessary evils in the society, as their office concerns for the most part those poor creatures who cannot do themselves justice, and as they are generally the worst of men who undertake it.”
The bailiff then quitted the room, muttering that he should know better what to do another time; and shortly after, Booth and his friends left the house; but, as they were going out, the author took Doctor Harrison aside, and slipt a receipt into his hand, which the doctor returned, saying, he never subscribed when he neither knew the work nor the author; but that, if he would call at his lodgings, he would be very willing to give all the encouragement to merit which was in his power.
The author took down the doctor’s name and direction, and made him as many bows as he would have done had he carried off the half-guinea for which he had been fishing.
Mr. Booth then took his leave of the philosopher, and departed with the rest of his friends.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54