* * *
CHAPTER XXV—HIS SKILL IN PHYSIOGNOMY
The company at the baronet’s removed to the playhouse accordingly, and Harley took his usual route into the Park. He observed, as he entered, a fresh-looking elderly gentleman in conversation with a beggar, who, leaning on his crutch, was recounting the hardships he had undergone, and explaining the wretchedness of his present condition. This was a very interesting dialogue to Harley; he was rude enough, therefore, to slacken his pace as he approached, and at last to make a full stop at the gentleman’s back, who was just then expressing his compassion for the beggar, and regretting that he had not a farthing of change about him. At saying this, he looked piteously on the fellow: there was something in his physiognomy which caught Harley’s notice: indeed, physiognomy was one of Harley’s foibles, for which he had been often rebuked by his aunt in the country, who used to tell him that when he was come to her years and experience he would know that all’s not gold that glitters: and it must be owned that his aunt was a very sensible, harsh-looking maiden lady of threescore and upwards. But he was too apt to forget this caution and now, it seems, it had not occurred to him. Stepping up, therefore, to the gentleman, who was lamenting the want of silver, “Your intentions, sir,” said he, “are so good, that I cannot help lending you my assistance to carry them into execution,” and gave the beggar a shilling. The other returned a suitable compliment, and extolled the benevolence of Harley. They kept walking together, and benevolence grew the topic of discourse.
The stranger was fluent on the subject. “There is no use of money,” said he, “equal to that of beneficence. With the profuse, it is lost; and even with those who lay it out according to the prudence of the world, the objects acquired by it pall on the sense, and have scarce become our own till they lose their value with the power of pleasing; but here the enjoyment grows on reflection, and our money is most truly ours when it ceases being in our possession.
“Yet I agree in some measure,” answered Harley, “with those who think that charity to our common beggars is often misplaced; there are objects less obtrusive whose title is a better one.”
“We cannot easily distinguish,” said the stranger; “and even of the worthless, are there not many whose imprudence, or whose vice, may have been one dreadful consequence of misfortune?”
Harley looked again in his face, and blessed himself for his skill in physiognomy.
By this time they had reached the end of the walk, the old gentleman leaning on the rails to take breath, and in the meantime they were joined by a younger man, whose figure was much above the appearance of his dress, which was poor and shabby. Harley’s former companion addressed him as an acquaintance, and they turned on the walk together.