The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter XV.

The Commodore detects the Machinations of the Conspirators, and hires a tutor for Peregrine, whom he settles in Winchester School.

This was not the least affliction he had suffered from the unwearied endeavours and unexhausted invention of his tormentors, who harassed him with such a variety of mischievous pranks, that he began to think all the devils in hell had conspired against his peace; and accordingly became very serious and contemplative on the subject.

In the course of his meditations, when he recollected and compared the circumstances of every mortification to which he had been lately exposed, he could not help suspecting that some of them must have been contrived to vex him; and, as he was not ignorant of his lieutenant’s disposition, nor unacquainted with the talents of Peregrine, he resolved to observe them both for the future with the utmost care and circumspection. This resolution, aided by the incautious conduct of the conspirators, whom, by this time, success had rendered heedless and indiscreet, was attended with the desired effect. He in a little time, detected Perry in a new plot; and by dint of a little chastisement, and a great many threats, extorted from him a confession of all the contrivances in which he had been concerned. The commodore was thunderstruck at the discovery, and so much incensed against Hatchway for the part he had acted in the whole, that he deliberated with himself, whether he should demand satisfaction with sword and pistol, or dismiss him from the garrison, and renounce all friendship with him at once. But he bad been so long accustomed to Jack’s company, that he could not live without him; and upon more cool reflection, perceiving that what he had done was rather the effect of wantonness than malice, which he himself would have laughed to see take place upon any other person, he determined to devour his chagrin, and extended his forgiveness even to Pipes, whom, in the first sally of his passion, he had looked upon in a more criminal light than that of a simple mutineer. This determination was seconded by another, which he thought absolutely necessary for his own repose, and in which his own interest, and that of his nephew, concurred.

Peregrine, who was now turned of twelve, had made such advances under the instruction of Jennings, that he often disputed upon grammar, and was sometimes thought to have the better in his contests, with the parish-priest, who, notwithstanding this acknowledged superiority of his antagonist, did great justice to his genius which he assured Mr. Trunnion would be lost for want of cultivation, if the boy was not immediately sent to prosecute his studies at some proper seminary of learning.

This maxim had been more than once inculcated upon the commodore by Mrs. Trunnion, who, over and above the deference she paid to the parson’s opinion, had a reason of her own for wishing to see the house clear of Peregrine, at whose prying disposition she began to be very uneasy. Induced by these motives, which were joined by the solicitation of the youth himself, who ardently longed to see a little more of the world, his uncle determined to send him forthwith to Winchester, under the immediate care and inspection of a governor, to whom he allowed a very handsome appointment for that purpose. This gentleman, whose name was Mr. Jacob Jolter, had been school-fellow with the parson of the parish, who recommended him to Mrs. Trunnion as a person of great worth and learning, in every respect qualified for the office of a tutor. He likewise added, by way of eulogium, that he was a man of exemplary piety. and particularly zealous for the honour of the church, of which he was a member, having been many years in holy orders, though he did not then exercise any function of the priesthood. Indeed, Mr. Jolter’s zeal was so exceedingly fervent, as, on some occasions, to get the better of his discretion; for, being a high churchman and of consequence a malcontent, his resentment was habituated into an insurmountable prejudice against the present disposition of affairs, which, by confounding the nation with the ministry, sometimes led him into erroneous, not to say absurd calculations; otherwise, a man of good morals, well versed in mathematics and school divinity, studies which had not at all contributed to sweeten and unbend the natural sourness and severity of his complexion.

This gentleman being destined to the charge of superintending Perry’s education, everything was prepared for their departure; and Tom Pipes, in consequence of his own petition, put into livery, and appointed footman to the young squire. But, before they set out, the commodore paid the compliment of communicating his design to Mr. Pickle, who approved of the plan, though he durst not venture to see the boy; so much was he intimidated by the remonstrances of his wife, whose aversion to her first-born became every day more inveterate and unaccountable. This unnatural caprice seemed to be supported by a consideration which, one would imagine, might have rather vanquished her disgust. Her second son Gam, who was now in the fourth year of his age, had been rickety from the cradle, and as remarkably unpromising in appearance as Perry was agreeable in his person. As the deformity increased, the mother’s fondness was augmented, and the virulence of her hate against the other son seemed to prevail in the same proportion.

Far from allowing Perry to enjoy the common privileges of a child, she would not suffer him to approach his father’s house, expressed uneasiness whenever his name happened to be mentioned, sickened at his praise, and in all respects behaved like a most rancorous step-mother. Though she no longer retained that ridiculous notion of his being an impostor, she still continued to abhor him, as if she really believed him to be such; and when any person desired to know the cause of her surprising dislike, she always lost her temper, and peevishly replied, that she had reasons of her own, which she was not obliged to declare: nay, so much was she infected by this vicious partiality, that she broke off all commerce with her sister-in-law and the commodore, because they favoured the poor child with their countenance and protection.

Her malice, however, was frustrated by the love and generosity of Trunnion, who, having adopted him as his own son, equipped him accordingly, and carried him and his governor in his own coach to the place of destination, where they were settled on a very genteel footing, and everything regulated according to their desires.

Mrs. Trunnion with great decency at the departure of her nephew, to whom, with a great many pious advices and injunctions to behave with submission and reverence towards his tutor, she presented a diamond ring of small value, and a gold medal, as tokens of her affection and esteem. As for the lieutenant, he accompanied them in the coach; and such was the friendship he had contracted for Perry, that when the commodore proposed to return, after having accomplished the intent of his journey, Jack absolutely refused to attend him, and signified his resolution to stay where he was.

Trunnion was the more startled a this declaration, as Hatchway was become so necessary to him in almost all the purposes of his life, that he foresaw he should not be able to exist without his company. Not a little affected with this consideration, he turned his eye ruefully upon the lieutenant, saying, in a piteous tone, “What! leave me at last, Jack, after we have weathered so many hard gales together? D— my limbs! I thought you had been more of an honest heart: I looked upon you as my foremast, and Tom Pipes as my mizen: now he is carried away, if so be as you go too, my standing rigging being decayed, d’ye see, the first squall will bring me by the board. D— ye, if in case I have given offence, can’t you speak above-board? and I shall make you amends.”

Jack, being ashamed to own the true situation of his thoughts, after some hesitation, answered with perplexity and incoherence, “No, d — me! that an’t the case neither: to be sure you always used me in an officer-like manner, that I must own, to give the devil his due, as the saying is; but for all that, this here is the case, I have some thoughts of going to school myself to learn your Latin lingo: for, as the saying is, Better late mend than never: and I am informed as how one can get more for the money here than anywhere else.”

In vain did Trunnion endeavour to convince him of the folly of going to school at his years, by representing that the boys would make game of him, and that he would become a laughing-stock to all the world: he persisted in his resolution to stay, and the commodore was fain to have recourse to the mediation of Pipes and Perry, who employed their influence with Jack, and at last prevailed upon him to return to the garrison, after Trunnion had promised he should be at liberty to visit them once a month. This stipulation being settled, he and his friend took leave of the pupil, governor, and attendant, and next morning, set out for their habitation, which they reached in safety that same night.

Such was Hatchway’s reluctance to leave Peregrine, that he is said, for the first time in his life, to have looked misty at parting: certain I am, that on the road homewards, after a long pause of silence, which the commodore never dreamt of interrupting, he exclaimed all of a sudden, “I’ll be d — d if the dog ha’nt given me some stuff to make me love him!” Indeed, there was something congenial in the disposition of these two friends, which never failed to manifest itself in the sequel, howsoever different their education, circumstances, and connections happened to be.

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