The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter XXVI.

He becomes Melancholy and Despondent — Is favoured with the condescending Letter from his Uncle — Reconciles himself to his Governor, and sets out with Emilia and her Friend for Mrs. Gauntlet’s House.

Peregrine, fortified as he was with pride and indignation, did not fail to feel the smarting suggestions of his present situation: after having lived so long in an affluent and imperious manner, he could ill brook the thoughts of submitting to the mortifying exigencies of life. All the gaudy schemes of pomp and pleasure, which his luxuriant imagination had formed, began to dissolve; a train of melancholy ideas took possession of his thoughts; and the prospect of losing Emilia was not the least part of his affliction. Though he endeavoured to suppress the chagrin that preyed upon his heart, he could not conceal the disturbance of his mind from the penetration of that amiable young lady, who sympathized with him in her heart, though she could not give her tongue the liberty of asking the cause of his disorder; for, notwithstanding all the ardour of his addresses, he never could obtain from her the declaration of a mutual flame; because, though he had hitherto treated her with the utmost reverence of respect, he had never once mentioned the final aim of his passion. However honourable she supposed it to be, she had discernment enough to foresee that vanity or interest, co-operating with the levity of youth, might one day deprive her of her lover, and she was too proud to give him any handle of exulting at her expense. Although he was received by her with the most distinguished civility, and even an intimacy of friendship, all his solicitations could never extort from her an acknowledgment of love: on the contrary, being of a gay disposition, she sometimes coquetted with other admirers, that his attention thus whetted might never abate, and that he might see she had other resources in case he should flag in his affection.

This being the prudential plan on which she acted, it cannot be supposed that she would condescend to inquire into the state of his thoughts when she saw him thus affected; but she, nevertheless, imposed that task on her cousin and confidant, who, as they walked together in the park observed that he seemed to be out of humour. When this is the case, such a question generally increases the disease; at least it had that effect upon Peregrine, who replied somewhat peevishly, “I assure you, madam, you never were more mistaken in your observations.”—“I think so, too,” said Emilia, “for I never saw Mr. Pickle in higher spirits.” This ironical encomium completed his confusion: he affected to smile, but it was a smile of anguish, and in his heart he cursed the vivacity of both. He could not for his soul recollect himself so as to utter one connected sentence; and the suspicion that they observed every circumstance of his behaviour, threw such a damp on his spirits that he was quite overwhelmed with shame and resentment, when Sophy, casting her eyes towards the gate, said, “Yonder is your servant, Mr. Pickle, with another man who seems to have a wooden leg.” Peregrine started at this intelligence, and immediately underwent sundry changes of complexion, knowing that his fate, in a great measure, depended upon the information he would receive from his friend.

Hatchway, advancing to the company, after a brace of sea bows to the ladies, took the youth aside, and put the commodore’s letter into his hand, which threw him into such an agitation that he could scarce pronounce, “Ladies, will you give me leave?” When, in consequence of their permission, he attempted to open the billet, he fumbled with such manifest disorder, that his mistress, who watched his motions, began to think that there was something very interesting in the message; and so much was she affected with his concern, that she was fain to turn her head another way, and wipe the tears from her lovely eyes.

Meanwhile, Peregrine no sooner read the first sentence than his countenance, which before was overcast with a deep gloom, began to be lighted up, and every feature unbending by degrees, he recovered his serenity. Having perused the letter, his eyes sparkling with joy and gratitude, he hugged the lieutenant in his arms, and presented him to the ladies as one of his best friends. Jack met with a most gracious reception, and shook Emilia by the hand, telling her, with the familiar appellation of “old acquaintance” that he did not care how soon he was master of such another clean-going frigate as herself. The whole company partook of this favourable change that evidently appeared in our lover’s recollection, and enlivened his conversation with such an uncommon flow of sprightliness and good humour, as even made an impression on the iron countenance of Pipes himself, who actually smiled with satisfaction as he walked behind them.

The evening being pretty far advanced, they directed their course homeward; and while the valet attended Hatchway to the inn, Peregrine escorted the ladies to their lodgings, where he owned the justness of Sophy’s remark in saying he vas out of humour, and told them he had been extremely chagrined at a difference which had happened between him and his uncle, to whom, by the letter which they had seen him receive, he now found himself happily reconciled.

Having received their congratulations, and declined staying to sup with them, on account of the longing desire he had to converse with his friend Jack, he took his leave, and repaired to the inn, where Hatchway informed him of everything that had happened in the garrison upon his presentations. Far from being disgusted, he was perfectly well pleased with the prospect of going abroad, which flattered his vanity and ambition, gratified his thirst after knowledge, and indulged that turn for observation, for which he had been remarkable from his most tender years. Neither did he believe a short absence would tend to the prejudice of his love, but, on the contrary, enhance the value of his heart, because he should return better accomplished, consequently, a more welcome offering to his mistress. Elevated with these sentiments, his heart dilated with joy; and the sluices of his natural benevolence being opened by this happy turn of his affairs, he sent his compliment to Mr. Jolter, to whom he had not spoken during a whole week, and desired he would favour Mr. Hatchway and him with his company at supper.

The governor was not weak enough to decline this invitation; in consequence of which he forthwith appeared, and was cordially welcomed by the relenting pupil, who expressed his sorrow for the misunderstanding which had prevailed between them, and assured him that for the future he would avoid giving him any just cause of complaint. Jolter, who did not want affections, was melted by this acknowledgment, which he could not have expected; and earnestly protested, that his chief study had always been, and ever should be, to promote Mr. Pickle’s interest and happiness.

The best part of the night being spent in the circulation of a cheerful glass, the company broke up; and next morning Peregrine went out with a view of making his mistress acquainted with his uncle’s intention of sending him out of the kingdom for his improvement, and of saying everything which he thought necessary for the interest of his love. He found her at breakfast with her cousin; and, as he was very full of the subject of his visit, had scarce fixed himself in his seat, when he brought it upon the carpet, by asking, with a smile, if the ladies had any commands for Paris? Emilia at this question began to stare, and her confidant desired to know who was going thither? He no sooner gave to understand that he himself intended in a short time to visit that capital, than his mistress with great precipitation wished him a good journey, and affected to talk with indifference the pleasures he would enjoy in France; but when he seriously assured Sophy, who asked if he was in earnest, and his uncle actually insisted upon his making a short tour, the tears gushed in poor Emilia’s eyes, and she was at great pains to conceal her concern, by observing that the tea was so scalding hot, as to make her eyes water. This pretext was too thin to impose upon her lover, or even deceive the observation of her friend Sophy, who, after breakfast, took an opportunity of quitting the room.

Thus left by themselves, Peregrine imparted to her what he had learnt of the commodore’s intention, without, however, mentioning a syllable of his being offended at their correspondence; and accompanied his information with such fervent vows of eternal constancy and solemn promises of a speedy return, that Emily’s heart, which had been invaded by a suspicion that this scheme of travelling was an effect of her lover’s inconstancy, began to be more at ease; and she could not help signifying her approbation of his design.

This affair being amicably compromised, he asked how soon she proposed to set out for her mother’s house; and understanding that her departure was fixed for next day but one, and that her Cousin Sophy intended to accompany her in her father’s chariot, he repeated his intention of attending her. In the mean time he dismissed the governor and the lieutenant to the garrison, with his compliments to his aunt and the commodore, and a faithful promise of his being with them in six days at farthest. These previous measures being taken, he, attended by Pipes, set out with the ladies; and they had also a convoy for twelve miles from Sophy’s father, who, at parting, recommended them piously to the care of Peregrine, with whom by this time, he was perfectly well acquainted.

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