The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter III.

Mrs. Grizzle exerts herself in finding a proper Match for her Brother; who is accordingly introduced to the young Lady, whom he marries in due Season.

I have been the more circumstantial in opening the character of Trunnion, because he bears a considerable share in the course of these memoirs; but now it is high time to resume the consideration of Mrs. Grizzle, who, since her arrival in the country, had been engrossed by a double care, namely, that of finding a suitable match for her brother, and a comfortable yoke-fellow for herself.

Neither was this aim the result of any sinister or frail aggression, but the pure dictates of that laudable ambition, which prompted her to the preservation of the family name. Nay, so disinterested was she in this pursuit, that, postponing her nearest concern, or at least leaving her own fate to the silent operation of her charms, she laboured with such indefatigable zeal in behalf of her brother, that before they had been three months settled in the country, the general topic of conversation in the neighbourhood was an intended match between the rich Mr. Pickle and the fair Miss Appleby, daughter of a gentleman who lived in the next parish, and who though he had but little fortune to bestow upon his children, had, to use his own phrase, replenished their veins with some of the best blood in the country.

This young lady, whose character and disposition Mrs. Grizzle had investigated to her own satisfaction, was destined for the spouse of Mr. Pickle; and an overture accordingly made to her father, who, being overjoyed at the proposal, gave his consent without hesitation, and even recommended the immediate execution of the project with such eagerness, as seemed to indicate either a suspicion of Mr. Pickle’s constancy, or a diffidence of his own daughter’s complexion, which perhaps he thought too sanguine to keep much longer cool. The previous point being thus settled, our merchant, at the instigation of Mrs. Grizzle, went to visit his future father-in-law, and was introduced to the daughter, with whom he had, that same afternoon, an opportunity of being alone. What passed in that interview I never could learn, though from the character of the suitor, the reader may justly conclude that she was not much teased with the impertinence of his addresses. He was not, I believe, the less welcome for that reason: certain it is she made no objection to his taciturnity; and when her father communicated his resolution, acquiesced with the most pious resignation. But Mrs. Grizzle, in order to give the lady a more favourable idea of his intellects than his conversation could possibly inspire, resolved to dictate a letter, which her brother should transcribe and transmit to his mistress as the produce of his own understanding, and had actually composed a very tender billet for this purpose; yet her intention was entirely frustrated by the misapprehension of the lover himself, who, in consequence of his sister’s repeated admonitions, anticipated her scheme, by writing, for himself, and despatching the letter one afternoon, while Mrs. Grizzle was visiting at the parson’s.

Neither was this step the effect of his vanity or precipitation; but having been often assured by his sister that it was absolutely necessary for him to make a declaration of his love in writing, he took this opportunity of acting in conformity with her advice, when his imagination was unengaged or undisturbed by any other suggestion, without suspecting in the least that she intended to save him the trouble of exercising his own genius. Left, therefore, as he imagined, to his own inventions, he sat down, and produced the following morceau, which was transmitted to Miss Appleby, before his sister and counsellor had the least intimation of the affair:—

“Miss Sally Appleby.
“Madam — Understanding you have a parcel of heart, warranted sound, to be disposed of, shall be pleased to treat for said commodity, on reasonable terms; doubt not, shall agree for same; shall wait on you for further information, when and where you shall appoint. This the needful from — Yours, etc.
“Gam. Pickle.”

This laconic epistle, simple and unadorned as it was, met with as cordial a reception from the person to whom it was addressed, as if it had been couched in the most elegant terms that delicacy of passion and cultivated genius could supply; nay, I believe, was the more welcome on account of its mercantile plainness; because when an advantageous match is in view, a sensible woman often considers the flowery professions and rapturous exclamations of love as ensnaring ambiguities, or, at best, impertinent preliminaries, that retard the treaty they are designed to promote; whereas Mr. Pickle removed all disagreeable uncertainty, by descending at once to the most interesting particular.

She had no sooner, as a dutiful child, communicated this billet-doux to her father, than he, as a careful parent, visited Mr. Pickle, and, in presence of Mrs. Grizzle, demanded a formal explanation of his sentiments with regard to his daughter Sally. Mr. Gamaliel, without any ceremony, assured him he had a respect for the young woman, and, with his good leave, would take her for better, for worse. Mr. Appleby, after having expressed his satisfaction that he had fixed his affections in his family, comforted the lover with the assurance of his being agreeable to the young lady; and they forthwith proceeded to the articles of the marriage-settlement, which being discussed and determined, a lawyer was ordered to engross them; the wedding-clothes were bought, and, in short, a day was appointed for the celebration of their nuptials, to which everybody of any fashion in the neighbourhood was invited. Among these, commodore Trunnion and Mr. Hatchway were not forgotten, being the sole companions of the bridegroom, with whom, by this time, they had contracted a sort of intimacy at their nocturnal rendezvous.

They had received a previous intimation of what was on the anvil, from the landlord, before Mr. Pickle thought proper to declare himself; in consequence of which, the topic of the one-eyed commander’s discourse, at their meeting, for several evenings before, had been the folly and plague of matrimony, on which he held forth with great vehemence of abuse, leveled at the fair sex, whom he represented as devils incarnate, sent from hell to torment mankind; and in particular inveighed against old maids, for whom he seemed to entertain a singular aversion; while his friend Jack confirmed the truth of all his allegations, and gratified his own malignant vein at the same time by clenching every sentence with a sly joke upon the married state, built upon some allusion to a ship or sea-faring life. He compared a woman to a great gun loaded with fire, brimstone, and noise, which, being violently heated, will bounce and fly, and play the devil, if you don’t take special care of her breechings. He said she was like a hurricane that never blows from one quarter, but veers about to all points of the compass. He likened her to a painted galley, curiously rigged, with a leak in her hold, which her husband would never be able to stop. He observed that her inclinations were like the Bay of Biscay; for why? because you may heave your deep sea lead long enough without ever reaching the bottom; that he who comes to anchor on a wife may find himself moored in d — d foul ground, and after all, can’t for his blood slip his cable; and that, for his own part, though he might make short trips for pastime, he would never embark in woman on the voyage of life, he was afraid of foundering in the first foul weather.

In all probability, these insinuations made some impression on the mind of Mr. Pickle, who was not very much inclined to run great risks of any kind; but the injunctions and importunities of his sister, who was bent upon the match, overbalanced the opinion of his sea friends, who finding him determined to marry, notwithstanding all the hints of caution they had thrown out, resolved to accept his invitation, and honoured his nuptials with their presence accordingly.

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