The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter XVIII.

He inquires into the Situation of this young Lady, with whom he is enamoured — Elopes from School — Is found by the Lieutenant, conveyed to Winchester, and sends a Letter with a copy of verses to his Mistress.

He was transported with pleasure at this invitation, which he assured her he should not neglect; and after a little more conversation on general topics, took his leave of the charming Emilia and her prudent mamma, who had perceived the first emotions of Mr. Pickle’s passion for her daughter, and been at some pains to inquire about his family and fortune.

Neither was Peregrine less inquisitive about the situation and pedigree of his new mistress, who, he learned, was the only daughter of a field-officer, who died before he had it in his power to make suitable provision for his children; that the widow lived in a frugal though decent manner on her pension, assisted by the bounty of her relations; that the son carried arms as a volunteer in the company which his father had commanded; and that Emilia had been educated in London, at the expense of a rich uncle, who was seized with the whim of marrying at the age of fifty-five; in consequence of which his niece had returned to her mother, without any visible dependence, except on her own conduct and qualifications.

This account, though it could not diminish his affection, nevertheless alarmed his pride; for his warm imagination had exaggerated all his own prospects; and he began to fear that his passion for Emilia might be thought to derogate from the dignity of his situation. The struggle between his interest and love produced a perplexity which had an evident effect upon his behaviour: he became pensive, solitary, and peevish; avoided public diversions; and grew so remarkably negligent in his dress, that he was scarce distinguishable by his own acquaintance. This contention of thoughts continued several weeks, at the end of which the charms of Emilia triumphed over every other consideration. Having received a supply of money from the commodore, who acted towards him with great generosity, he ordered Pipes to put up some linen and other necessaries in a sort of knapsack, which he could conveniently carry; and, thus attended, set out early one morning on foot for the village where his charmer lived, at which he arrived before two o’clock in the afternoon; having chosen this method of travelling that his route might not be so easily discovered, as it must have been had he hired horses, or taken a place in the stage-coach.

The first thing he did was to secure a convenient lodging at the inn where he dined; then he shifted himself, and, according to the direction he had received, went to the house of Mrs. Gauntlet in a transport of joyous expectation. As he approached the gate, his agitation increased; he knocked with impatience and concern, the door opened, and he had actually asked if Mrs. Gauntlet was at home, before he perceived that the portress was no other than his dear Emilia. She was not without emotion at the unexpected sight of her lover, who instantly recognising his charmer. obeyed the irresistible impulse of his love, and caught the fair creature in his arms. Nor did she seem offended at this forwardness of behaviour, which might have displeased another of a less open disposition, or less used to the freedom of a sensible education; but her natural frankness had been encouraged and improved by the easy and familiar intercourse in which she had been bred; and therefore, instead of reprimanding him with a severity of look, she with great good humour rallied him upon his assurance, which, she observed, was undoubtedly the effect of his own conscious merit; and conducted him into a parlour, where he found her mother, who, in very polite terms, expressed her satisfaction at seeing him within her house.

After tea, Miss Emy proposed an evening walk, which they enjoyed through a variety of little copses and lawns, watered by a most romantic stream, that quite enchanted the imagination of Peregrine.

It was late before they returned from this agreeable excursion, and when our lover wished the ladies good night, Mrs. Gauntlet insisted upon his staying to supper, and treated him with particular demonstrations of regard and affection. As her economy was not encumbered with an unnecessary number of domestics, her own presence was often required in different parts of the house, so that the young gentleman was supplied with frequent opportunities of promoting his suit by all the tender oaths and insinuations that his passion could suggest. He protested her idea had taken such entire possession of his heart, that finding himself unable to support her absence one day longer, he had quitted his studies, and left his governor by stealth, that he might visit the object of his adoration, and be blessed in her company for a few days without interruption.

She listened to his addresses with such affability as denoted approbation and delight, and gently chided him as a thoughtless truant, but carefully avoided the confession of a mutual flame; because she discerned, in the midst of all his tenderness, a levity of pride which she durst not venture to trust with such a declaration. Perhaps she was confirmed in this caution by her mother, who very wisely, in her civilities to him, maintained a sort of ceremonious distance, which she thought not only requisite for the honour and interest of her family, but likewise for her own exculpation, should she ever be taxed with having encouraged or abetted him in the imprudent sallies of his youth; yet, notwithstanding this affected reserve, he was treated with such distinction by both, that he was ravished with his situation, and became more and more enamoured every day.

While he remained under the influence of this sweet intoxication, his absence produced great disturbance at Winchester. Mr. Jolter was grievously afflicted at his abrupt departure, which alarmed him the more, as it happened after a long fit of melancholy which he had perceived in his pupil. He communicated his apprehensions to the master of the school, who advised him to apprise the commodore of his nephew’s disappearance, and in the mean time inquire at all the inns in town, whether he had hired horses, or any sort of carriage, for his conveyance, or was met with on the road by any person who could give an account of the direction in which he travelled.

The scrutiny, though performed with great diligence and minuteness, was altogether ineffectual; they could obtain no intelligence of the runaway. Mr. Trunnion was well distracted at the news of his flight; he raved with great fury at the imprudence of Peregrine, whom in his first transports he d — d as an ungrateful deserter; then he cursed Hatchway and Pipes, who he swore had foundered the lad by their pernicious counsels; and, lastly, transferred his execrations upon Jolter, because he had not kept a better look-out; finally, he made an apostrophe to that son of a b — the gout, which for the present disabled him from searching for his nephew in person. That he might not, however, neglect any means in his power, he immediately despatched expresses to all the sea-port towns on that coast, that he might be prevented from leaving the kingdom; and the lieutenant, at his own desire, was sent across the country, in quest of this young fugitive.

Four days had he unsuccessfully carried on his inquiries with great accuracy, when, resolving to return by Winchester, where he hoped to meet with some hints of intelligence by which he might profit in his future search, he struck off the common road to take the benefit of a nearer cut; and finding himself benighted near a village, took up his lodgings at the first inn to which his horse directed him. Having bespoke something for supper, and retired to his chamber, where he amused himself with a pipe, he heard a confused noise of rustic jollity, which being all of a sudden interrupted, after a short pause his ear was saluted with the voice of Pipes, who, at the solicitation of the company, began to entertain them with a song.

Hatchway instantly recognised the well-known sound, in which, indeed, he could not possibly be mistaken, as nothing in nature bore the least resemblance to it; he threw his pipe into the chimney, and, snatching up one of his pistols, ran immediately to the apartment from whence the voice issued; he no sooner entered, than, distinguishing his old ship-mate in a crowd of country peasants, he in a moment sprang upon him, and, clapping his pistol to his breast, exclaimed, “ D— n you, Pipes, you are a dead man, if you don’t immediately produce young master.”

This menacing application had a much greater effect upon the company than upon Tom, who, looking at the lieutenant with great tranquility, replied, “Why so I can, Master Hatchway.”—“What! safe and sound?” cried the other. “As a roach,” answered Pipes, so much to the satisfaction of his friend Jack, that he shook him by the hand, and desired him to proceed with his song. This being performed and the reckoning discharged, the two friends adjourned to the other room, where the lieutenant was informed of the manner in which the young gentleman had made his elopement from college, as well as of the other particulars of his present situation, as far as they had fallen within the sphere of his comprehension.

While they sat thus conferring together, Peregrine, having taken leave of his mistress for the night, came home, and was not a little surprised, when Hatchway, entering his chamber in his sea attitude, thrust out his hand by way of salutation. His old pupil received him as usual, with great cordiality, and expressed his astonishment at meeting him in that place; but when he understood the cause and intention of his arrival, he started with concern; and, his visage glowing with indignation, told him he was old enough to be judge of his own conduct, and, when he should see it convenient, would return of himself; but those who thought he was to be compelled to his duty, would find themselves egregiously mistaken.

The lieutenant assured him, that for his own part he had no intention to offer him the least violence; but, at the same time, he represented to him the danger of incensing the commodore, who was already almost distracted on account of his absence: and, in short, conveyed his arguments, which were equally obvious and valid, in such expressions of friendship and respect, that Peregrine yielded to his remonstrances, and promised to accompany him next day to Winchester.

Hatchway, overjoyed at the success of his negotiation, went immediately to the hostler and bespoke a post-chaise for Mr. Pickle and his man with whom he afterwards indulged himself in a double can of rumbo, and, when the night was pretty far advanced, left the lover to his repose, or rather to the thorns of his own meditation; for he slept not one moment, being incessantly tortured with the prospect of parting with his divine Emilia, who had now acquired the most absolute empire over his soul. One minute he proposed to depart early in the morning, without seeing this enchantress, in whose bewitching presence he durst not trust his own resolution; then the thoughts of leaving her in such an abrupt and disrespectful manner interposed in favour of his love and honour. This war of sentiments kept him all night upon the rack, and it was time to rise before he had determined to visit his charmer, and candidly impart the motives that induced him to leave her.

He accordingly repaired to her mother’s house with a heavy heart, being attended to the gate by Hatchway, who did not choose to leave him alone; and being admitted, found Emilia just risen, and, in his opinion, more beautiful than ever.

Alarmed at his early visit, and the gloom that overspread his countenance, she stood in silent expectation of hearing some melancholy tidings; and it was not till after a considerable pause, that he collected resolution enough to tell her he was come to take his leave. Though she strove to conceal her sorrow, nature was not to be suppressed: every feature of her countenance saddened in a moment; and it was not without the utmost difficulty that she kept her lovely eyes from overflowing. He saw the situation of her thoughts, and, in order to alleviate her concern, assured her he should find means to see her again in a very few weeks: meanwhile he communicated his reasons for departing, in which she readily acquiesced; and having mutually consoled each other, their transports of grief subsided: and before Mrs. Gauntlet came downstairs, they were in a condition to behave with great decency and resignation.

This good lady expressed her concern when she learned his resolution, saying, she hoped his occasions and inclinations would permit him to favour them with his agreeable company another time.

The lieutenant, who began to be uneasy at Peregrine’s stay, knocked at the door, and, being introduced by his friend, had the honour of breakfasting with the ladies; on which occasion his heart received such a rude shock from the charms of Emilia, that he afterwards made a merit with his friend of having constrained himself so far, as to forbear commencing his professed rival.

At length they bade adieu to their kind entertainers; and in less than an hour setting out from the inn, arrived about two o’clock in Winchester, where Mr. Jolter was overwhelmed with joy at their appearance.

The nature of this adventure being unknown to all except those who could be depended upon, everybody who inquired about the cause of Peregrine’s absence, was told that he had been with a relation in the country, and the master condescended to overlook his indiscretion; so that Hatchway, seeing everything settled to the satisfaction of his friend, returned to the garrison, and gave the commodore an account of his expedition.

The old gentleman was very much startled when he heard there was a lady in the case, and very emphatically observed, that a man had better be sucked into the gulf of Florida than once get into the indraught of a woman; because, in one case, he may with good pilotage bring out his vessel safe between the Bahamas and the Indian shore; but in the other there is no outlet at all, and it is in vain to strive against the current; so that of course he must be embayed, and run chuck upon a lee-shore. He resolved, therefore, to lay the state of the case before Gamaliel Pickle, and concert such measures with him as should be thought likeliest to detach his son from the pursuit of an idle amour, which could not fail of interfering in a dangerous manner with the plan of his education.

In the mean time, Perry’s ideas were totally engrossed by his amiable mistress, who, whether he slept or waked, was still present in his imagination, which produced the following stanzas in her praise:—

Adieu! ye streams that smoothly flow;
Ye vernal airs that softly blow;
Ye plains, by blooming spring arrayed;
Ye birds that warble through the shade.

Unhurt from you my soul could fly,
Nor drop one tear, nor heave one sigh;
But forced from Celia’s charms to part,
All joy deserts my drooping heart.

O’ fairer than the rosy morn,
When flowers the dewy fields adorn;
Unsallied as the genial ray,
That warms the balmy breeze of May;

Thy charms divinely bright appear,
And add new splendour to the year;
Improve the day with fresh delight,
And gild with joy the dreary night.

This juvenile production was enclosed in a very tender billet to Emilia, and committed to the charge of Pipes, who was ordered to set out for Mrs. Gauntlet’s habitation with a present of venison, and a compliment to the ladies; and directed to take some opportunity of delivering the letter to miss, without the knowledge of her mamma.

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