The conversation was here taken up by two other travellers, recently arrived, Mr. Hobbs and Mr. Dobbs, a linen-draper and a green-grocer, just returning from a tour in Greece and the Holy Land: and who were full of the story of Alderman Popkins. They were astonished that the robbers should dare to molest a man of his importance on ’change; he being an eminent dry-salter of Throgmorton street, and a magistrate to boot.
In fact, the story of the Popkins family was but too true; it was attested by too many present to be for a moment doubted; and from the contradictory and concordant testimony of half a score, all eager to relate it, the company were enabled to make out all the particulars.
It was but a few days before that the carriage of Alderman Popkins had driven up to the inn of Terracina. Those who have seen an English family carriage on the continent, must know the sensation it produces. It is an epitome of England; a little morsel of the old island rolling about the world—every thing so compact, so snug, so finished and fitting. The wheels that roll on patent axles without rattling; the body that hangs so well on its springs, yielding to every motion, yet proof against every shock. The ruddy faces gaping out of the windows; sometimes of a portly old citizen, sometimes of a voluminous dowager, and sometimes of a fine fresh hoyden, just from boarding school. And then the dickeys loaded with well-dressed servants, beef-fed and bluff; looking down from their heights with contempt on all the world around; profoundly ignorant of the country and the people, and devoutly certain that every thing not English must be wrong.
Such was the carriage of Alderman Popkins, as it made its appearance at Terracina. The courier who had preceded it, to order horses, and who was a Neapolitan, had given a magnificent account of the riches and greatness of his master, blundering with all an Italian’s splendor of imagination about the alderman’s titles and dignities; the host had added his usual share of exaggeration, so that by the time the alderman drove up to the door, he was Milor—Magnifico—Principe—the Lord knows what!
The alderman was advised to take an escort to Fondi and Itri, but he refused. It was as much as a man’s life was worth, he said, to stop him on the king’s highway; he would complain of it to the ambassador at Naples; he would make a national affair of it. The principezza Popkins, a fresh, motherly dame, seemed perfectly secure in the protection of her husband, so omnipotent a man in the city. The signorini Popkins, two fine bouncing girls, looked to their brother Tom, who had taken lessons in boxing; and as to the dandy himself, he was sure no scaramouch of an Italian robber would dare to meddle with an Englishman. The landlord shrugged his shoulders and turned out the palms of his hands with a true Italian grimace, and the carriage of Milor Popkins rolled on.