The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter CVI.

He enjoys an interview with Emilia, and makes himself ample Amends for all the Mortifications of his Life.

Godfrey, who had taken leave of his sister, on pretence of making a short excursion with Peregrine, whose health required the enjoyment of fresh air, after his long confinement, sent a message to her, that same night, announcing his arrival, and giving her notice that he would breakfast with her next morning; when he and our hero, who had dressed himself for the purpose, taking a hackney-coach, repaired to her lodging, and were introduced into a parlour adjoining to that in which the tea-table was set. Here they had not waited many minutes when they heard the sound of feet coming downstairs; upon which our hero’s heart began to beat the alarm. He concealed himself behind the screen, by the direction of his friend, whose ears being saluted with Sophy’s voice from the next room, he flew into it with great ardour, and enjoyed upon her lips the sweet transports of a meeting so unexpected; for he had left her in her father’s house at Windsor.

Amidst these emotions, he had almost forgotten the situation of Peregrine; when Emilia, assuming her enchanting air: “Is not this,” said she, “a most provoking scene to a young woman like me, who am doomed to wear the willow, by the strange caprice of my lover? Upon my word, brother, you have done me infinite prejudice, in promoting this jaunt with my obstinate correspondent; who, I suppose, is so ravished with this transient glimpse of liberty, that be will never be persuaded to incur unnecessary confinement for the future.”—“My dear sister,” replied the captain tauntingly, “your own pride set him the example; so you must e’en stand to the consequence of his imitation.”—“’Tis a hard case, however,” answered the fair offender, “that I should suffer all my life, by one venial trespass. Heigh ho! who would imagine that a sprightly girl, such as I, with ten thousand pounds, should go a begging? I have a good mind to marry the next person that asks me the question, in order to be revenged upon this unyielding humourist. Did the dear fellow discover no inclination to see me, in all the term of his releasement? Well, if ever I can catch the fugitive again, he shall sing in his cage for life.”

It is impossible to convey to the reader a just idea of Peregrine’s transports, while he overheard this declaration; which was no sooner pronounced, than, unable to resist the impetuosity of his passion, he sprung from his lurking-place, exclaiming, “Here I surrender!” and rushing into her presence, was so dazzled with her beauty, that his speech failed. He was fixed like a statue to the floor; and all his faculties were absorbed in admiration. Indeed, she was now in the full bloom of her charms, and it was nearly impossible to look upon her without emotion. What then must have been the ecstasy of our youth, whose passion was whetted with all the incitements which could stimulate the human heart! The ladies screamed with surprise at his appearance, and Emilia underwent such agitation as flushed every charm with irresistible energy: her cheeks glowed with a most delicate suffusion, and her bosom heaved with such bewitching undulation, that the cambric could not conceal or contain the snowy hemispheres, that rose like a vision of paradise to his view.

While he was almost fainting with unutterable delight, she seemed to sink under the tumults of tenderness and confusion; when our hero, perceiving her condition, obeyed the impulse of his love, and circled the charmer in his arms, without suffering the least frown or symptom of displeasure. Not all the pleasures of his life had amounted to the ineffable joy of this embrace, in which he continued for some minutes totally entranced. He fastened upon her pouting lips with all the eagerness of rapture; and, while his brain seemed to whirl round with transport, exclaimed, in a delirium of bliss, “Heaven and earth! this is too much to bear.”

His imagination was accordingly relieved, and his attention in some measure divided, by the interposition of Sophy, who kindly chid him for his having overlooked his old friends. Thus accosted, he quitted his delicious armful, and, saluting Mrs. Gauntlet, asked pardon for his neglect; observing that such rudeness was excusable, considering the long and unhappy exile which he had suffered from the jewel of his soul. Then turning to Emilia, “I am come, madam,” said he, “to claim the performance of your promise, which I can produce under your own fair hand. You may, therefore, lay aside all superfluous ceremony and shyness, and crown my happiness without further delay; for, upon my soul! my thoughts are wound up to the last pitch of expectation, and I shall certainly run distracted, if I am doomed to any term of probation.”

His mistress having by this time recollected herself, replied, with a most exhilarating smile, “I ought to punish you for your obstinacy with the mortification of a twelvemonth’s trial; but it is dangerous to tamper with an admirer of your disposition, and therefore, I think, I must make sure of you while it is in my power.”—“You are willing then to take me for better, for worse, in presence of heaven and these witnesses?” cried Peregrine kneeling, and applying her hand to his lips. At this interrogation, her features softened into an amazing expression of condescending love; and, while she darted a side glance that thrilled to his marrow, and heaved a sigh more soft than Zephyr’s balmy wing, her answer was, “Why — ay — and heaven grant me patience to bear the humours of such a yoke-fellow.”—“And may the same powers,” replied the youth, “grant me life and opportunity to manifest the immensity of my love. Meanwhile, I have eighty thousand pounds, which shall be laid immediately in your lap.”

So saying, he sealed the contract upon her lips, and explained the mystery of his last words, which had begun to operate upon the wonder of the two sisters. Sophy was agreeably surprised with the account of his good fortune; nor was it, in all probability, unacceptable to the lovely Emilia; though, from this information, she took an opportunity to upbraid her admirer with the inflexibility of his pride, which, she scrupled not to say, would have baffled all the suggestions of his passion, had it not been gratified by this providential event.

Matters being thus happily matured, the lover begged that immediate recourse might be had to the church, and his happiness ascertained before night. But the bride objected with great vehemence to such precipitation, being desirous of her mother’s presence at the ceremony; and she was seconded in her opinion by her brother’s wife. Peregrine, maddening with desire, assaulted her with the most earnest entreaties, representing, that, as her mother’s consent was already obtained, there was surely no necessity for delay, that must infallibly make a dangerous impression upon his brain and constitution. He fell at her feet in all the agony of impatience; and swore his life and intellects would actually be in jeopardy by her refusal; and, when she attempted to argue him out of his demand, began to rage with such extravagance, that Sophy was frightened into conviction; and Godfrey enforcing the remonstrances of his friend, the amiable Emilia was teased into compliance.

After breakfast the bridegroom and his companion set out for the Commons for a licence, having first agreed upon the house at which the ceremony should be performed, in the lodgings of the bride; and the permission being obtained, they found means to engage a clergyman, who undertook to attend them at their own time and place. Then a ring was purchased for the occasion; and they went in search of the lieutenant, with whom they dined at a tavern, and not only made him acquainted with the steps they had taken, but desired that he would stand godfather to the bride: an employment which Jack accepted with demonstrations of particular satisfaction; till chancing to look into the street, and seeing Cadwallader approach the door, in consequence of a message they had sent to him by Pipes, be declined the office in favour of the senior, who was accordingly ordained for that purpose, on the supposition that such a mark of regard might facilitate his concurrence with a match, which otherwise he would certainly oppose, as he was a professed enemy to wedlock, and, as yet, ignorant of Peregrine’s intention.

After having congratulated Pickle upon his succession, and shook his two friends by the hand, the misanthrope asked whose mare was dead, that he was summoned in such a plaguy hurry from his dinner, which he had been fain to gobble up like a cannibal? Our hero gave him to understand, that they had made an appointment to drink tea with two agreeable ladies, and were unwilling that he should lose the opportunity of enjoying an entertainment which he loved so much. Crabtree, shrivelling up his face like an autumn leaf at this intimation, cursed his complaisance, and swore they should keep their assignation without him; for he and lechery had shook bands many years ago.

The bridegroom, however, likening him unto an old coachman who still delights in the smack of the whip, and dropping some flattering hints of his manhood, even at these years, he was gradually prevailed upon to accompany them to the place of rendezvous; where, being ushered into a dining-room, they had not waited three minutes, when they were joined by the parson, who had observed the hour with great punctuality.

This gentleman no sooner entered the room, than Cadwallader, in a whisper to Gauntlet, asked if that was not the cock-b — d; and, before the captain could make any reply, “What an unconscionable w — master the rogue is! “said he, “scarce discharged from confinement, and sweetened with a little fresh air, when he wenches with a pimp in canonicals in his pay.” The door again opened, and Emilia broke in upon them, with such dignity of mien, and divinity of aspect, as inspired every spectator with astonishment and admiration. The lieutenant, who had not seen her since her charms were ripened into such perfection, expressed his wonder and approbation in an exclamation of “Add’s zooks! what a glorious galley!” and the misanthrope’s visage was instantly metamorphosed into the face of a mountain goat. He licked his lips instinctively, snuffed the air, and squinted with a most horrible obliquity of vision.

The bride and her sister being seated, and Hatchway having renewed his acquaintance with the former, who recognized him with particular civility, Peregrine withdrew into another apartment with his friend Crabtree, to whom he imparted the design of his meeting; which the latter no sooner understood, than he attempted to retreat, without making any other reply than that of “Pshaw! rot your matrimony! can’t you put your neck in the noose, without my being a witness of your folly?”

The young gentleman, in order to vanquish this aversion, stepped to the door of the next room, and begged the favour of speaking with Emilia, to whom he introduced the testy old bachelor as one of his particular friends, who desired to have the honour of giving her away. The bewitching smile with which she received his salute, and granted his request, at once overcame the disapprobation of the misanthrope, who, with a relaxation in his countenance, which had never been perceived before that instant, thanked her in the most polite terms for such an agreeable mark of distinction. He accordingly led her to the dining-room, where the ceremony was performed without delay; and after the husband had asserted his prerogative on her lips, the whole company saluted her by the name of Mrs. Pickle.

I shall leave the sensible reader to judge what passed at this juncture within the bosoms of the new-married couple: Peregrine’s heart was fired with inexpressible ardour and impatience; while the transports of the bride were mingled with a dash of diffidence and apprehension. Gauntlet saw it would be too much for both to bear their present tantalizing situation till night, without some amusement to divert their thoughts; and therefore proposed to pass part of the evening at the public entertainments in Marylebone gardens, which were at that time frequented by the best company in town. The scheme was relished by the discreet Sophy, who saw the meaning of the proposal, and the bride submitted to the persuasion of her sister; so that, after tea, two coaches were called, and Peregrine was forcibly separated from his charmer during the conveyance.

The new-married couple and their company having made shift to spend the evening, and supped on a slight collation in one of the boxes, Peregrine’s patience was almost quite exhausted, and taking Godfrey aside, he imparted his intention to withdraw in private from the sea-wit of his friend Hatchway, who would otherwise retard his bliss with unseasonable impediments, which, at present, he could not possibly bear. Gauntlet, who sympathized with his impatience, undertook to intoxicate the lieutenant with bumpers to the joy of the bride, and, in the meantime, desired Sophy to retire with his sister, under the auspices of Cadwallader, who promised to squire them home.

The ladies were accordingly conducted to the coach, and Jack proposed to the captain, that, for the sake of the joke, the bridegroom should be plied with liquor, in such a manner as would effectually disable him from enjoying the fruits of his good-fortune for one night at least. Gauntlet seemed to relish the scheme, and they prevailed upon Pickle to accompany them to a certain tavern, on pretence of drinking a farewell glass to a single life: there the bottle was circulated, till Hatchway’s brain began to suffer innovation. As he had secured our hero’s hat and sword, he felt no apprehension of an elopement, which, however, was effected; and the youth hastened on the wings of love to the arms of his enchanting bride. He found Crabtree in a parlour waiting for his return, and disposed to entertain him with a lecture upon temperance; to which he paid very little attention, but ringing for Emilia’s maid, desired to know if her mistress was in bed. Being answered in the affirmative, he sent her up-stairs to announce his arrival, undressed himself to a loose gown and slippers, and, wishing the misanthrope good night, after having desired to see him next day, followed in person to the delicious scene, where he found her elegantly dished out, the fairest daughter of chastity and love.

When he approached, she was overwhelmed with confusion, and hid her lovely face from his transporting view. Mrs. Gauntlet, seeing his eyes kindled at the occasion, kissed her charming sister, who, throwing her snowy arms about her neck, would have detained her in the room, had not Peregrine gently disengaged her confidante from her embrace, and conducted her trembling to the door; which having bolted and barricadoed, he profited by his good fortune, and his felicity was perfect.

Next day he rose about noon, and found his three friends assembled, when he learned that Jack had fallen in his own snare, and been obliged to lie in the same tavern where he fell; a circumstance of which he was so much ashamed, that Peregrine and his wife escaped many jokes, which he would have certainly cracked, had he not lain under the imputation of this disgrace. In half an hour after he came down, Mrs. Pickle appeared with Sophy, blushing like Aurora or the goddess of health, and sending forth emanations of beauty unparalleled. She was complimented upon her change of situation by all present, and by none more warmly than by old Crabtree, who declared himself so well satisfied with his friend’s fortune, as to be almost reconciled to that institution, against which he had declaimed during the best part of his life.

An express was immediately despatched to Mrs. Gauntlet, with an account of her daughter’s marriage: a town-house was hired, and a handsome equipage set up, in which the new-married pair appeared at all public places, to the astonishment of our adventurer’s fair-weather friends, and the admiration of all the world: for, in point of figure, such another couple was not to be found in the whole United Kingdom. Envy despaired, and detraction was struck dumb, when our hero’s new accession of fortune was consigned to the celebration of public fame: Emilia attracted the notice of all observers, from the pert Templar to the Sovereign himself, who was pleased to bestow encomiums upon the excellence of her beauty. Many persons of consequence, who had dropped the acquaintance of Peregrine in the beginning of his decline, now made open efforts to cultivate his friendship anew; but he discouraged all these advances with the most mortifying disdain; and one day when the nobleman, whom he had formerly obliged, came up to him in the drawing-room, with the salutation of “Your servant, Mr. Pickle,” he eyed him with a look of ineffable contempt, saying, “I suppose your lordship is mistaken in your man,” and turned his head another way in presence of the whole court.

When he had made a circuit round all the places frequented by the beau-monde, to the utter confusion of those against whom his resentment was kindled; paid off his debts, and settled his money matters in town, Hatchway was dismissed to the country, in order to prepare for the reception of his fair Emilia. In a few days after his departure, the whole company, Cadwallader himself included, set out for his father’s house, and, in their way, took up Mrs. Gauntlet, the mother, who was sincerely rejoiced to see our hero in the capacity of her son-in-law. From her habitation they proceeded homewards at an easy pace, and, amidst the acclamations of the whole parish, entered their own house, where Emilia was received in the most tender manner by Mr. Clover’s wife, who had provided everything for her ease and accommodation; and, next day, surrendered unto her the management of her own household affairs.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30