The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter XXV.

He receives a Letter from his Aunt, breaks with the Commodore, and disobliges the Lieutenant, who, nevertheless, undertakes his Cause.

Meanwhile he quitted the youth in high dudgeon, and that same evening despatched a letter for Mrs. Trunnion, which was dictated by the first transports of his passion, and of course replete with severe animadversions on the misconduct of his pupil. In consequence of this complaint, it was not long before Peregrine received an epistle from his aunt, wherein she commemorated all the circumstances of the commodore’s benevolence towards him, when he was helpless and forlorn, deserted and abandoned by his own parents; upbraided him for his misbehaviour, and neglect of his tutor’s advice; and insisted upon his breaking off an intercourse with that girl who had seduced his youth, as he valued the continuance of her affection and her husband’s regard.

As our lover’s own ideas of generosity were extremely refined, he was shocked at the indelicate insinuations of Mrs. Trunnion, and felt all the pangs of an ingenuous mind that labours under obligations to a person whom it contemns. Far from obeying her injunction, or humbling himself by a submissive answer to her reprehension, his resentment buoyed him up above every selfish consideration: he resolved to attach himself to Emilia, if possible, more than ever; and although he was tempted to punish the officiousness of Jolter, by recriminating upon his life and conversation, he generously withstood the impulse of his passion, because he knew that his governor had no other dependence than the good opinion of the commodore. He could not, however, digest in silence the severe expostulations of his aunt; to which he replied by the following letter, addressed to her husband:—

“Sir — Though my temper could never stoop to offer nor, I believe, your disposition deign to receive, that gross incense which the illiberal only expect, and none but the base-minded condescend to pay; my sentiments have always done justice to your generosity, and my intention scrupulously adhered to the dictates of my duty. Conscious of this integrity of heart, I cannot but severely feel your lady’s unkind (I will not call it ungenerous) recapitulation of the favours I have received; and, as I take it for granted that you knew and approved of her letter, I must beg leave to assure you, that, far from being swayed by menaces and reproach, I am determined to embrace the most abject extremity of fortune, rather than submit to such dishonourable compulsion. When I am treated in a more delicate and respectful manner, I hope I shall behave as becomes — Sir, your obliged
“P. Pickle.”

The commodore, who did not understand those nice distinctions of behaviour, and dreaded the consequence of Peregrine’s amour, against which he was strangely prepossessed, seemed exasperated at the insolence and obstinacy of this adopted son; to whose epistle he wrote the following answer, which was transmitted by the hands of Hatchway, who had orders to bring the delinquent along with him to the garrison:—

“Hark ye, child — You need not bring your fine speeches to bear upon me: you only expend your ammunition to no purpose. Your aunt told you nothing but truth; for it is always fair and honest to be above-board, d’ye see. I am informed as how you are in chase of a painted galley, which will decoy you upon the flats of destruction, unless you keep a better look-out and a surer reckoning than you have hitherto done; and I have sent Jack Hatchway to see how the land lies, and warn you of your danger: if so be as you will put about ship, and let him steer you into this harbour, you shall meet with a safe berth and friendly reception; but if you refuse to alter your course you cannot expect any farther assistance from yours as you behave,
“Hawser Trunnion.”

Peregrine was equally piqued and disconcerted at the receipt of this letter, which was quite different from what he had expected; and declared in a resolute tone to the lieutenant, who brought it, that he might return as soon as he pleased, for he was determined to consult his own inclination, and remain for some time longer where he was.

Hatchway endeavoured to persuade him, by all the arguments which his sagacity and friendship could supply, to show a little more deference for the old man, who was by this time rendered fretful and peevish by the gout, which now hindered him from enjoying himself as usual, who might, in his passion, take some step very much to the detriment of the young gentleman, whom he had hitherto considered as his own son. Among other remonstrances, Jack observed that mayhap Peregrine had got under Emilia’s hatches, and did not choose to set her adrift; and that if that was the case, he himself would take charge of the vessel, and see her cargo safely delivered; for he had a respect for the young woman, and his needle pointed towards matrimony; and as, in all probability, she could not be much the worse for the wear, he would make shift to scud through life with her under an easy sail.

Our lover was deaf to all his admonitions, and, having thanked him for this last instance of his complaisance, repeated his resolution of adhering to his first purpose. Hatchway, having profited so little by mild exhortations: assumed a more peremptory aspect, and plainly told him that he neither could nor would go home without him; so he had best make immediate preparation for the voyage.

Peregrine made no other reply to this declaration than by a contemptuous smile, and rose from his seat in order to retire; upon which the lieutenant started up, and, posting himself by the door, protested, with some menacing gestures, that he would not suffer him to run a-head neither. The other, incensed at his presumption in attempting to detain him by force, tripped up his wooden leg, and laid him on his back in a moment; then walked deliberately towards the park, in order to indulge his reflection, which at that time teemed with disagreeable thoughts. He had not proceeded two hundred steps when he heard something blowing and stamping behind him; and, looking back, perceived the lieutenant at his heels, with rage and indignation in his countenance. This exasperated seaman, impatient of the affront he had received, and forgetting all the circumstances of their former intimacy, advanced with great eagerness to his old friend, saying, “Look ye, brother, you’re a saucy boy, and if you was at sea, I would have your backside brought to the davit for your disobedience; but as we are on shore, you and I must crack a pistol at one another: here is a brace; you shall take which you please.”

Peregrine, upon recollection, was sorry for having been laid under the necessity of disobliging honest Jack, and very frankly asked his pardon for what he had done. But this condescension was misinterpreted by the other, who refused any other satisfaction but that which an officer ought to claim; and, with some irreverent expressions, asked if Perry was afraid of his bacon? The youth, inflamed at this unjust insinuation, darted a ferocious look at the challenger, told him he had paid but too much regard to his infirmities, and bid him walk forward to the park, where he would soon convince him of his error, if he thought his concession proceeded from fear.

About this time, they were overtaken by Pipes, who, having heard the lieutenant’s fall and seen him pocket his pistols, suspected there was a quarrel in the case, and followed him with a view of protecting his master. Peregrine, seeing him arrive, and guessing his intention, assumed an air of serenity; and pretending that he had left his handkerchief at the inn, ordered his man to go thither and fetch it to him in the park, where he would find them at his return. This command was twice repeated before Tom would take any other notice of the message, except by shaking his head; but being urged with many threats and curses to obedience, he gave them to understand that he knew their drift too well to trust them by themselves. “As for you, Lieutenant Hatchway,” said he, “I have been your shipmate, and know you to be a sailor, that’s enough; and as for master, I know him to be as good a man as ever stept betwixt stem and stern, whereby, if you have anything to say to him, I am your man, as the saying is. Here’s my sapling, and I don’t value your crackers of a rope’s end.” This oration, the longest that ever Pipes was known to make, he concluded with a flourish of his cudgel, and enforced with such determined refusals to leave them, that they found it impossible to bring the cause to mortal arbitrement at that time, and strolled about the park in profound silence; during which, Hatchway’s indignation subsiding, he, all of a sudden, thrust out his hand as an advance to reconciliation, which being cordially shaken by Peregrine, a general pacification ensued; and was followed by a consultation about the means of extricating the youth from his present perplexity. Had his disposition been like that of most other young men, it would have been no difficult task to overcome his difficulties; but such was the obstinacy of his pride, that he deemed himself bound in honour to resent the letters he had received; and instead of submitting to the pleasure of the commodore, expected an acknowledgment from him, without which he would listen to no terms of accommodation. “Had I been his own son,” said he, “I should have borne his reproof, and sued for forgiveness; but knowing myself to be on the footing of an orphan, who depends entirely upon his benevolence, I am jealous of everything that can be construed into disrespect, and insist upon being treated with the most punctual regard. I shall now make application to my father, who is obliged to provide for me by the ties of nature, as well as the laws of the land; and if he shall refuse to do me justice, I can never want employment while men are required for his Majesty’s service.”

The lieutenant, alarmed at this intimation, begged he would take no new step until he should hear from him; and that very evening set out for the garrison, where he gave Trunnion an account of the miscarriage of his negotiation, told him how highly Peregrine was offended at the letter, communicated the young gentleman’s sentiments and resolution, and finally assured him that unless he should think proper to ask pardon for the offence he had committed, he would, in all appearance, never more behold the face of his godson.

The old commodore was utterly confounded at this piece of intelligence: he had expected all the humility of obedience and contrition from the young man; and, instead of that, received nothing but the most indignant opposition, and even found himself in the circumstances of an offender, obliged to make atonement, or forfeit all correspondence with his favourite. These insolent conditions at first threw him into an agony of wrath; and he vented execrations with such rapidity that he left himself no time to breathe, and had almost been suffocated with his choler. He inveighed bitterly against the ingratitude of Peregrine, whom he mentioned with many opprobrious epithets, and swore that he ought to be keelhauled for his presumption; but when he began to reflect more coolly upon the spirit of the young gentleman, which had already manifested itself on many occasions, and listened to the suggestions of Hatchway, whom he had always considered as an oracle in his way, his resentment abated, and he determined to take Perry into favour again; this placability being not a little facilitated by Jack’s narrative of our hero’s intrepid behaviour at the assembly, as well as the contest with him in the park. But still this plaguy amour occurred like a bugbear to his imagination; for he held it as an infallible maxim, that woman was an eternal source of misery to man. Indeed, this apophthegm he seldom repeated since his marriage, except in the company of a very few intimates, to whose secrecy and discretion he could trust. Finding Jack himself at a nonplus in the affair of Emilia, he consulted Mrs. Trunnion, who was equally surprised and offended when she understood that her letter did not produce the desired effect; and after having imputed the youth’s obstinacy to his uncle’s unseasonable indulgence, had recourse to the advice of the parson, who, still with an eye to his friend’s advantage, counselled them to send the young gentleman on his travels, in the course of which he would, in all probability, forget the amusements of his greener years. The proposal was judicious, and immediately approved; when Trunnion, going into his closet, after divers efforts, produced the following billet, with which Jack departed for Windsor that same afternoon:—

“My good lad — If I gave offence in my last letter I’m sorry for’t, d’ye see: I thought it was the likeliest way to bring you up; but, in time to come, you shall have a larger swing of cable. When you can spare time, I should be glad if you will make a short trip and see your aunt, and him who is — Your loving godfather and humble servant,
“Hawser Trunnion.
P.S. If you want money, you may draw upon me payable at sight,”

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