« PreviousContinue »
No 48. SATURDAY, JULY 30, 1709.
Virtutem verba putant, ut
Hor. Ep. vi. 31.
They look on virtue as an empty name.'
From my own Apartment, July 29. This day I obliged Pacolet to entertain me with matters which regarded persons of his own character and occupation. We chose to take our walk on Tower-hill: and as were coming from thence, in order to stroll as far as Garraway's *, I observed two men, who had but just landed, coming from the water-side. I thought there was something uncommon in their mien and aspect; but though they seemed by their visage to be related, yet there was a warmth in their manner, as if they differed
much in their sentiments of the subject on which they were talking. One of them seemed to have a natural confidence, mixed with an ingenuous freedom, in his gesture ; his dress very plain, but very graceful and becoming : the other, in the midst of an over-bearing carriage, betrayed, by frequently looking round him, a suspicion that he was not enough regarded by those he met, or that he feared they would make some attack upon him, This person was much taller than his companion, and added to that height the advantage of a feather in his hat, and heels to his shoes so monstrously high, that he had three or four times fallen down, had he not been supported by his friend. They made a full stop as they came within a few yards of the place where we stood. The plain gentleman bowed to Pacolet, the other looked upon him with some displeasure; upon which I asked him who they both were; when he thus informed me of their persons and circumstances :
* Garraway kept a coffee-house at that time, opposite to the Royal Exchange, probably in the place where there is now a coffee house well known by the same name.
• You may remember, Isaac, that I have often told you, there are beings of a superior rank to mankind; who frequently visit the habitations of men, in order to call them from some wrong pursuits in which they are actually engaged, or divert them from methods which will lead them into errors for the future. He that will carefully reflect upon the occurrences of his life will find he has been sometimes extricated out of difficulties, and received favours where he could never have expected such benefits; as well as met with cross events from some unseen hand, which has disappointed his bestlaid designs. Such accidents arrive from the interventions of aërial beings, as they are benevolent or hurtful to the nature of man; and attend his steps in the tracks of ambition, of business, and of plea
Before I ever appeared to you in the manner I do now, I have frequently followed you in your evening walks; and have often, by throwing some accident in your way, as the passing by of a funeral, or the appearance of some other solemn object, given your imagination a new turn, and changed a night you have destined to mirth and jollity, into an exercise of study and contemplation. I was the old soldier who met you last summer in Chelsea fields, and pretended that I had broken my wooden leg, and could not get home; but I snapped
it short off, on purpose that you might fall into the reflections you did on that subject, and take me into your hack. If you remember, you made yourself very merry on that fracture, and asked me whether I thought I should next winter feel cold in the toes of that leg! as is usually observed, that those who lose limbs are sensible of pains in the extreme parts, even after those limbs are cut off
. However, my keeping you then in the story of the battle of the Boyne prevented an assignation, which would have led you
into more disasters than I then related. 'To be short; those two persons whom you see yonder are such as I am; they are not real men, but are mere shades and figures; one is named Alethes, the other Verisimilis. Their office is to be the guardians and representatives of conscience and honour. They are now going to visit the several parts of the town, to see how their interests in the world decay or flourish, and to purge themselves from the many false imputations they daily meet with in the commerce and conversation of men. You observed Verisimilis frowned when he first saw
What he is provoked at is, that I told him one day, though he strutted and dressed, with so much ostentation, if he kept himself within his own bounds, he was but a lacquey, and wore only that gentleman's livery whom he is now with. This frets him to the heart: for you must know, he has pretended a long time to set up for himself, and gets among a crowd of the more unthinking part of mankind, who take him for a person of the first quality; though his introduction into the world was wholly owing to his present companion.
This encounter was very agreeable to me, and I was resolved to dog them, and desired Pacolet to accompany me. I soon perceived what he told me, in the gesture of the persons ; for when they looked
at each other in discourse, the well-dressed man suddenly cast down his eyes, and discovered that the other had a painful superiority over him. After some further discourse, they took leave. The plain gentleman went down towards Thames-street, in order to be present, at least, at the oaths taken at the Custom-house ; and the other made directly for the heart of the city. It is incredible how great a change there immediately appeared in the man of honour, when he got rid of his uneasy companion: he adjusted the cock of his hat a-new, settled his sword-knot, and had an appearance that attracted a sudden inclination for him and his interests in all who beheld him. For my part,' said I to Pacolet, · I cannot but think you are mistaken in calling this person of the lower quality: for he looks more like a gentleman than the other. Do not you observe all eyes are upon him, as he advances ! how each sex gazes at his stature, aspect, address, and motion !' Pacolet only smiled, and shaked his head; as leaving me to be convinced by my own further observation, We kept on our way after him until we came to Exchange-alley, where the plain gentleman again came up to the other; and they stood together after the manner of eminent merchants, as if ready to receive application ; but I could observe no man talk to either of them. The one was laughed at as a fop; and I heard many whispers against the other, as a whimsical sort of a fellow, and a great enemy to trade. They crossed Cornhill together, and came into the full Exchange, where some bowed, and gave themselves airs in being known to so fine a man as Verisimilis, who, they said, had great interest in all princes' courts : and the other was taken notice of by several, as one they had seen somewhere long before. One more particularly said, he had formerly been a man of consideration in the world; but was so unlucky, that they who dealt with him, by some strange infatuation or other, had a way of cutting off their own bills, and were prodigiously slow in improving their stock. But as much as I was curious to observe the reception these gentlemen met with upon the Exchange, I could not help being interrupted by one that came up towards us, to whom every body made their compliments. He was of the common height, and in his dress there seemed to be great care to appear no way particular, except in a certain exact and feat manner of behaviour and circumspection. He was wonderfully careful that his shoes and clothes should be without the least speck upon them; and seemed to think, that on such an accident depended his very life and fortune. There was hardly a man on the Exchange who had not a note upon him; and each seemed
well satisfied that their money lay in his hands, without demanding payment. I asked Pacolet, what great merchant that was, who was so universally addressed to, yet made too familiar an appearance to command that extraordinary deference? Pacolet answered, · This person is the dæmon or genius of credit; his name is Umbra. If you observe, he follows Alethes and Verisimilis at a distance; and indeed has no foundation for the figure he makes in the world, but that he is thought to keep their cash; though, at the same time, none who trust him would trust the others for a groat. As the company
rolled about, the three spectres were jumbled into one place: when they were so, and all thought there was an alliance between them, they immediately drew upon them the business of the whole Exchange. But their affairs soon increased to such an unwieldy bulk, that Alethes took his leave, and said, • he would not engage further than he had an