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“It is a sorry entertainment, I confess," said the ex-corporal, "and a dismal way for a gentleman to spend his bridal night; but somebody must stay with you, my dears : for who knows but you might take a fancy to scream out of window, and then there would be murder, and the deuce and all to pay ? One of us must stay, and my friends love a pipe, so you must put up with my company until we can relieve guard.”
The reader will not, of course, expect that three people who were to pass the night, however unwillingly, together in an inn-room, should sit there dumb and moody, and without any personal communication; on the contrary, Mr. Brock, as an old soldier, entertained his prisoners with the utmost courtesy, and did all that lay in his power, by the help of liquor and conversation, to render their durance tolerable. On the bridegroom his attentions were a good déal thrown away : Mr. Hayes consented to drink copiously, but could not be made to talk much ; and, in fact, the fright of the seizure, the fate hanging over him should his parents refuse a ransom, and the tremendous outlay of money
which would take place should they accede to it, weighed altogether on his mind so much as utterly to unman it.
As for Mrs. Cat, I don't think she was at all sorry in her heart to see the old Corporal : for he had been a friend of old times-dear times to her ; she had had from him, too, and felt for him, not a little kindness; and there was really a very tender, innocent friendship subsisting between this pair of rascals, who relished much a night's conversation together.
The Corporal, after treating his prisoners to punch in great quantities, proposed the amusement of cards : over which Mr. Hayes had not been occupied more than an hour, when he found himself so excessively sleepy as to be persuaded to fling himself down on the bed, dressed as he was, and there to snore away until morning.
Mrs. Catherine had no inclination for sleep; and the Corporal, equally wakeful, plied incessantly the bottle, and held with her a great deal of conversation. The sleep, which was equivalent to the absence, of John Hayes took all restraint from their talk. She explained to Brock the circumstances of her marriage, which we have already described ; they wondered at the chance which had brought them together at the “Three Rooks"; nor did Brock at all hesitate to tell her at once that his calling was quite illegal, and that his intention was simply to extort money. The worthy Corporal had not the slightest shame regarding his own profession, and cut many jokes with Mrs. Cat about her late 'one; her attempt to murder the Count, and her future prospects as a wife.
And here, having brought him upon the scene again, we may as well shortly narrate some of the principal circumstances which befell him after his sudden departure from Birmingham; and which he narrated with much candour to Mrs. Catherine.
He rode the Captain's horse to Oxford (having exchanged his military dress for a civil costume on the road), and at Oxford he disposed of "George of Denmark," a great bargain, to one of the heads of colleges.' As soon as Mr. Brock, who took on himself the style and title of Captain Wood, had sufficiently examined the curiosities of the University, he proceeded at once to the capital : the only place for a gentleman of his fortune and figure.
Here he read, with a great deal of philosophical indifference in the Daily Post, the Courant, the Observator, the Gazette, and the chief journals of those days, which he made a point of examining at “Button's” and “Will's," an accurate description of his person, his clothes, and the horse he rode, and a promise of fifty guineas' reward to any person who would give an account of him (so that he might be captured) to Captain Count Galgenstein at Birmingham, to Mr. Murfey at the “Golden Ball” in the Savoy, or Mr. Bates at the * Blew Anchor in Pickadilly:" But Captain Wood, in an enormous full-bottomed periwig that cost him sixty pounds,* with high red heels to his shoes, a silver-sword, and a gold snuff-box, and a large wound (obtained, he said, at the siege of Barcelona), which disfigured much of his countenance, and caused him to cover one eye, was in small danger, he thought, of being mistaken for Corporal Brock, the deserter of Cutts's ; and strutted along the Mall with as grave an air as the very best nobleman who appeared there. He was generally, indeed, voted to be very good company; and as 'his expenses were unlimited (“A few convent candlesticks, my dear," he used
* In the ingenious contemporary history of Moll Flanders, a periwig is mentioned as costing that sum.
to whisper, “melt into a vast number of doubloons "), he commanded as good society as he chose to ask for; and it was speedily known as a fact throughout town, that Captain Wood, who had served under his Majesty Charles III. of Spain, had carried off the diamond petticoat of our Lady of Compostella, and lived upon the proceeds of the fraud. People were good Protestants in those days, and many a one longed to have been his partner in the pious plunder.
All surmises concerning his wealth, Captain Wood, with much discretion, encouraged. He contradicted no report, but was quite ready to confirm all; and when two different rumours were positively put to him, he used only to laugh, and say, “My dear sir, I don't make the stories ; but I'm not called upon to deny them; and I give you fair warning, that I shall assent to every one of them; so you may believe them or not, as you please.” And so he had the reputation of being a gentleman, not only wealthy, but discreet. In truth, it was almost a pity that worthy Brock had not been a gentleman born; in which case, doubtless, he would have lived and died as became his station ; for he spent his money like a gentleman, he loved women like a gentleman, he would fight like a gentleman, he gambled and got drunk like a gentleman. What did he want else? Only a matter of six descents, a little money, and an estate, to render him the equal of St. John or Harley. “Ah, those were merry days !” would Mr. Brock say,--for he loved, in a good old age, to recount the story of his London fashionable campaign ;-"and when I think how near I was to become a great man, and to die perhaps a general, I can't but marvel at the wicked obstinacy of my ill-luck."
"I will tell you what I did, my dear : I had lodgings in Piccadilly, as if I were a lord; I had two large periwigs, and three suits of laced clothes; I kept a little black dressed out like a Turk; I walked daily in the Mall; I dined at the politest ordinary in Covent Garden; I frequented the best of coffeehouses and knew all the pretty fellows of the town; I cracked a bottle with Mr. Addison, and lent many a piece to Dick Steele (a sad debauched rogue, my dear); and, above all, I'll tell what I did—the noblest stroke that sure ever a gentleman performed in my situation.
“One day, going into Will's,' I saw a crowd of gentlemen gathered together, and heard one of them say, 'Captain Wood! I don't know the man; but there was a Captain Wood in Southwell's regiment.' Egad it was my Lord Peterborough himself who was talking about me! So, putting off my hat, I made a most gracious congee to my lord, and said I knew him, and rode behind him at Barcelona on our entry into that town.
"No doubt you did, Captain Wood,' says my lord, taking my hand; "and no doubt you know me; for many more know Tom Fool, than Tom Fool knows.' And with this, at which all of us laughed, my lord called for a bottle, and he and I sat down and drank it together.
“Well, he was in disgrace, as you know, but he grew mighty fond of me, and—would you believe it?—nothing would satisfy him but presenting me at Court! Yes, to her sacred Majesty the Queen, and my Lady Marlborough, who was in high feather. Ay, truly, the sentinels on duty used to salute me as if I were Corporal John himself! I was in the high road to fortune. Charley Mordaunt used to call me Jack, and drink canary at my chambers; I used to make one at my Lord Treasurer's levee ; I had even got Mr. Army-Secretary Walpole to take a hundred guineas in a compliment; and he had promised me a majority: when bad luck turned, and all my fine hopes were overthrown in a twinkling.
“You see, my dear, that after we had left that gaby, Galgenstein,-ha, ha, -with a gag in his mouth, and twopencehalfpenny in his pocket, the honest Count was in the sorriest plight in the world ; owing money here and there to tradesmen, a cool thousand to the Warwickshire Squire : and all this on eighty pounds a year! Well, for a little time the tradesmen held their hands; while the jolly Count moved heaven and earth to catch hold of his dear Corporal and his dear moneybags over again, and placarded every town from London to Liverpool with descriptions of my pretty person. The bird was flown, however,--the money clean gone,-and when there was no hope of regaining it, what did the creditors do but clap my gay gentleman into Shrewsbury gaol: where I wish he had rotted, for my part.
“But no such luck for honest Peter Brock, or Captain
Wood, as he was in those days. One blessed Monday I went to wait on Mr. Secretary, and he squeezed my hand, and whispered to me that I was to be Major of a regiment in Virginia—the very thing : for you see, my dear, I didn't care about joining my Lord Duke in Flanders ; being pretty well known to the army there. The Secretary squeezed my hand (it had a fifty-pound bill in it) and wished me joy, and called me Mor; and bowed me out of his closet into the ante-room; and, As gay as may be, I went off to' the “Tilt-yard Coffeehouse' in Whitehall, which is much frequented by gentlemen of our profession, where I bragged not a little of my good luck.
Amongst the company were several of my acquaintance, and amongst them a gentleman I did not much care to see, look you!
I saw a uniform that I knew-red and yellow facings—Cutts's, my dear; and the wearer of this was no other than his Excellency Gustavus Adolphus Maximilian, whom we all know of!
“He stared me full in the face, right into my eye (tother one was patched, you know); and after standing stock-still with his mouth open, gave a step back, and then a step forward, and then screeched out, “It's Brock!'
“I beg your pardon, sir,' says I ; did you speak to me?'
“I'll swear it's Brock,' cries Gal, as soon as he hears my voice, and laid hold of my cuff (a pretty bit of mechlin as ever you saw, by the way).
“Sirrah!' says I, drawing it back, and giving my lord a little touch of the fist (just at the last button of the waistcoat,
,--a rare place if you wish to prevent a man from speaking too much: it sent him reeling to the other end of the room). "Ruffian !' says I. 'Dog !' says I. 'Insolent puppy and coxcomb! what do you mean by laying your hand on me?'
“Faith, Major, you giv' him his billyful, roared out a long Irish unattached ensign, that I had treated with many a glass of Nantz at the tavern. And so, indeed, I had ; for the wretch could not speak for some minutes, and all the officers stood laughing at him, as he writhed and wriggled hideously.
“Gentlemen, this is a monstrous scandal,' says one officer. "Men of rank and honour at fists like a parcel of carters !'
“«Men of honour !' says the Count, who had fetched up his breath by this time. (I made for the door, but Macshane