The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter XXXIV.

He adjusts the Method of his Correspondence with Gauntlet; meets by accident with an Italian Charlatan, and a certain Apothecary, who proves to be a noted Character.

There the two friends adjusted the articles of a future correspondence; and Peregrine, having written a letter to his mistress, wherein he renewed his former vows of eternal fidelity, it was intrusted to the care of her brother, while Mr. Jolter, at the desire of his pupil, provided an elegant supper, and some excellent Burgundy, that they might spend this eve of his departure with the greater enjoyment.

Things being thus disposed, and a servant employed in laying the cloth, their ears were of a sudden invaded by a strange tumultuous noise in the next room, occasioned by the overthrow of tables, chairs, and glasses, with odd unintelligible exclamations in broken French, and a jargon of threats in the Welsh dialect. Our young gentlemen ran immediately into the apartment from whence this clamour seemed to proceed, and found a thin, meagre, swarthy figure, gasping, in all the agony of fear, under the hands of a squat, thick, hard-featured man, who collared him with great demonstrations of wrath, saying, “If you was as mighty a magician as Owen Glendower or the witch of Entor, look you, ay, ay, or as Paul Beor himself, I will meke pold, by the assistance of Got, and in his majesty’s name, to seize and secure, and confine and confront you, until such time as you suffer and endure and undergo the pains and penalties of the law, for your diabolical practices. Shentlements,” added he, turning to our adventurers, “I take you to witness, that I protest, and assert, and avow, that this person is as pig a necromancer as you would desire to behold; and I supplicate, and beseech, and entreat of you, that he may be prought pefore his petters, and compelled to give an account of his compact and commerce with the imps of darkness, look you; for, as I am a Christian soul, and hope for joyful resurrection, I have this plessed evening seen him perform such things as could not be done without the aid and instruction and connivance of the tevil.”

Gauntlet seemed to enter into the sentiments of this Welsh reformer, and actually laid hold on the delinquent’s shoulder, crying, “D— n the rascal! I’ll lay any wager that he’s a Jesuit; for none of his order travel without a familiar.” But Peregrine, who looked upon the affair in another point of view, interposed in behalf of the stranger, whom he freed from his aggressors, observing, that there was no occasion to use violence; and asked, in French, what he had done to incur the censure of the informer. The poor foreigner, more dead than alive, answered that he was an Italian charlatan, who had practised with some reputation in Padua, until he had the misfortune to attract the notice of the Inquisition, by exhibiting certain wonderful performances by his skill in natural knowledge, which that tribunal considered as the effects of sorcery, and persecuted him accordingly; so that he had been fain to make a precipitate retreat into France, where not finding his account in his talents, he was now arrived in England, with a view of practising his art in London; and that, in consequence of a specimen which he had given to a company below, the choleric gentleman had followed him up-stairs to his own apartment, and assaulted him in that inhospitable manner: he therefore earnestly begged that our hero would take him under his protection; and, if he entertained the least suspicion of his employing preternatural means in the operations of his art, he would freely communicate all the secrets in his possession.

The youth dispelled his apprehension by assuring him that he was in no danger of suffering for his art in England, where, if ever he should he questioned by the zeal of superstitious individuals, he had nothing to do but appeal to the justice of the peace, who would immediately acquit him of the charge, and punish his accusers for their impertinence and indiscretion.

He then told Gauntlet and the Welshman that the stranger had a good action against them for an assault, by virtue of an Act of Parliament, which makes it criminal for any person to accuse another of sorcery and witchcraft, these idle notions being now justly exploded by all sensible men. Mr. Jolter, who had by this time joined the company, could not help signifying his dissent from this opinion of his pupil, which he endeavoured to invalidate by the authority of Scripture, quotations from the Fathers, and the confession of many wretches who suffered death for having carried on correspondence with evil spirits together with the evidence of “Satan’s Invisible World,” and Moreton’s “History of Witchcraft.”

The soldier corroborated these testimonies by facts that had happened within the sphere of his own knowledge, and in particular mentioned the case of an old woman of the parish in which he was born, who used to transform herself into the shapes of sundry animals, and was at last killed by small shot in the character of a hare. The Welshman, thus supported, expressed his surprise at hearing that the legislature had shown such tenderness for criminals of so dark a hue, and offered to prove, by undeniable instances, that there was not a mountain in Wales which had not been, in his memory, the scene of necromancy and witchcraft. “Wherefore,” said he, “I am assuredly more than above astonished and confounded and concerned that the Parliament of Great Britain should, in their great wisdoms, and their prudence, and their penetration, give countenance and encouragement, look you, to the works of darkness and the empire of Pelzepup — ofer and apove the evidence of holy writ, and those writers who have been quoted by that aggurate and learned shentleman, we are informed, by profane history, of the pribbles and pranks of the old serpent, in the bortents and oragles of antiquity, as you will find in that most excellent historian Bolypius, and Titus Lifius; ay, and moreofer, in the Commentaries of Julius Caesar himself, who, as the ole world knows, was a most famous, and a most faliant, and a most wise, and a most prudent, and a most fortunate chieftain, and a most renowned orator; ay, and a most elegant writer to boot.”

Peregrine did not think proper to enter the lists of dispute with three such obstinate antagonists, but contented himself with saying that he believed it would be no difficult matter to impugn the arguments they had advanced; though he did not find himself at all disposed to undertake the task, which must of course break in upon the evening’s entertainment. He therefore invited the Italian to supper, and asked the same favour of his accuser, who seemed to have something curious and characteristic in his manner and disposition, resolving to make himself an eye-witness of those surprising feats which had given offence to the choleric Briton. This scrupulous gentleman thanked our hero for his courtesy, but declined communicating with the stranger until his character should be further explained; upon which his inviter, after some conversation with the charlatan, assured him that he would himself undertake for the innocence of his art; and then he was prevailed upon to favour them with his company.

In the course of the conversation, Peregrine learned that the Welshman was a surgeon of Canterbury, who had been called in to a consultation at Dover; and, understanding that his name was Morgan, took the liberty of asking if he was not the person so respectfully mentioned in the “Adventures of Roderick Random.” Mr. Morgan assumed a look of gravity and importance at this interrogation, and, screwing up his mouth, answered, “Mr. Rantum, my good sir, I believe, upon my conscience and salfation, is my very goot frient and well-wisher; and he and I have been companions and messmates and fellow-sufferers, look you; but nevertheless, for all that, peradventure he hath not pehaved with so much complaisance and affability and respect as I might have expected from him; pecause he hath revealed and tivulged and buplished our private affairs, without my knowledge and privity and consent; but as Got is my Safiour, I think he had no evil intention in his pelly; and though there be certain persons, look you, who, as I am told, take upon them to laugh at his descriptions of my person, deportment, and conversation, I do affirm and maintain, and insist with my heart, and my plood, and my soul, that those persons are no petter than ignorant asses, and that they know not how to discern and distinguish and define true ridicule, or, as Aristotle calls it, the to Geloion, no more, look you, than a herd of mountain goats; for I will make pold to observe — and I hope this goot company will be of the same opinion — that there is nothing said of me in that performance which is unworthy of a Christian and a shentleman.”

Our young gentleman and his friends acquiesced in the justness of his observation. Peregrine particularly assured him that, from reading the book, he had conceived the utmost regard and veneration for his character, and that he thought himself extremely fortunate in having this opportunity of enjoying his conversation. Morgan, not a little proud of such advances from a person of Peregrine’s appearance, returned the compliment with a profusion of civility, and, in the warmth of acknowledgment, expressed a desire of seeing him and his company at his house in Canterbury. “I will not pretend, or presume, kind sir,” said he, “to entertain you according to your merits and deserts; but you shall be as welcome to my poor cottage, and my wife and family, as the prince of Wales himself; and it shall go hard if, one way or other, I do not find ways and means of making you confess that there is some goot fellowship in an ancient Priton; for though I am no petter than a simple apothecary, I have as goot plood circulating in my veins as any he in the county; and I can describe and delineate and demonstrate my pedigree to the satisfaction of the ‘ole ‘orld; and, moreofer, by Got’s goot providence and assistance, I can afford to treat my friend with joint of good mutton and a pottle of excellent wine, and no tradesman can peard me with a bill.”

He was congratulated on his happy situation, and assured that our youth would visit him on his return from France, provided he should take Canterbury in his route. As Peregrine manifested an inclination of being acquainted with the state of his affairs, he very complaisantly satisfied his curiosity by giving him to know that his spouse had left off breeding, after having blessed him with two boys and a girl, who were still alive and well; that he lived in good esteem with his neighbors; and by his practice, which was considerably extended immediately after the publication of Roderick Random, had saved some thousand pounds. He had begun to think of retiring among his own relations in Glamorganshire, though his wife had made objection to this proposal, and opposed the execution of it with such obstinacy, that he had been at infinite pains in asserting his own prerogative by convincing her, both from reason and example, that he was king, and priest in his own family, and that she owed the most implicit submission to his will. He likewise informed the company that he had lately seen his friend Roderick, who had come from London on purpose to visit him, after having gained his lawsuit with Mr. Topeball, who was obliged to pay Narcissa’s fortune; that Mr. Random, in all appearance, led a very happy life in the conversation of his father and bed-fellow, by whom he enjoyed a son and daughter; and that Morgan had received, in a present from him, a piece of very fine linen of his wife’s own making, several kits of salmon, and two casks of pickled pork — the most delicate he had ever tasted; together with a barrel of excellent herrings for salmagundy, which he knew to be his favourite dish.

This topic of conversation being discussed, the Italian was desired to exhibit a specimen of his art, and in a few minutes he conducted the company into the next room, where, to their great astonishment and affright, they beheld a thousand serpents winding along the ceiling. Morgan, struck with this phenomenon, which he had not seen before, began to utter exorcisms with great devotion, Mr. Jolter ran of the room, Gauntlet drew his hanger, and Peregrine himself was disconcerted. The operator, perceiving their confusion, desired them to retire, and, calling them back in an instant, there was not a viper to be seen. He raised their admiration by sundry other performances and the Welshman’s former opinion and abhorrence of his character began to recur, when, in consideration of the civility with which he had been treated, this Italian imparted to them all the methods by which he had acted such wonders, that were no other than the effects of natural causes curiously combined; so that Morgan became a convert to his skill, asked pardon for the suspicion he had entertained, and invited the stranger to pass a few days with him at Canterbury. The scruples of Godfrey and Jolter were removed at the same time, and Peregrine testified his satisfaction by a handsome gratuity which he bestowed upon their entertainer.

The evening being spent in this sociable manner, every man retired to his respective chamber, and next morning they breakfasted together, when Morgan declared he would stay till he should see our hero fairly embarked, that he might have the pleasure of Mr. Gauntlet’s company to his own habitation: meanwhile, by the skipper’s advice, the servants were ordered to carry a store of wine and provision on board, in case of accident; and, as the packet-boat could not sail before one o’clock, the company walked up hill to visit the castle, where they saw the sword of Julius Caesar, and Queen Elizabeth’s pocket pistol; repeated Shakespeare’s description, while they surveyed the chalky cliffs on each side, and cast their eyes towards the city of Calais, that was obscured by a thick cloud which did not much regale their eye-sight, because it seemed to portend foul weather.

Having viewed everything remarkable in this place, they returned to the pier, where, after the compliments of parting, and an affectionate embrace between the two young gentlemen, Peregrine and his governor stepped aboard, the sails were hoisted, and they went to sea with a fair wind, while Godfrey, Morgan, and the conjurer walked back to the inn, from whence they set out for Canterbury before dinner.

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