The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter IV.

The Behaviour of Mrs. Grizzle at the Wedding, with an Account of the Guests.

I hope it will not be thought uncharitable, if I advance, by way of conjecture, that Mrs. Grizzle, on this grand occasion, summoned her whole exertion to play off the artillery of her charms on the single gentlemen who were invited to the entertainment; sure I am, she displayed to the best advantage all the engaging qualities she possessed; her affability at dinner was altogether uncommon, her attention to the guests was superfluously hospitable, her tongue was sheathed with a most agreeable and infantine lisp, her address was perfectly obliging, and though conscious of the extraordinary capacity of her month, she would not venture to hazard a laugh, she modelled her lips into an enchanting simper, which played on her countenance all day long; nay, she even profited by that defect in her vision we have already observed, and securely contemplated those features which were most to her liking, while the rest of the company believed her regards were disposed in a quite contrary direction. With what humility of complaisance did she receive the compliments of those who could not help praising the elegance of the banquet; and how piously did she seize that opportunity of commemorating the honours of her sire, by observing that it was no merit in her to understand something of entertainments, as she had occasion to preside at so many, during the mayoralty of her papa!

Far from discovering the least symptom of pride and exultation when the opulence of her family became the subject of conversation, she assumed a severity of countenance; and, after having moralized on the vanity of riches, declared that those who looked on her as a fortune were very much mistaken; for her father had left her no more than a poor five thousand pounds, which, with what little she had saved of the interest since his death, was all she had to depend on: indeed, if she had placed her chief felicity in wealth, she should not have been so forward in destroying her own expectations, by advising and promoting the event at which they were now so happily assembled; but she hoped she should always have virtue enough to postpone any interested consideration, when it should happen to clash with the happiness of her friends. Finally, such was her modesty and self-denial that she industriously informed those whom it might concern, that she was no less than three years older than the bride; though had she added ten to the reckoning, she would have committed no mistake in point of computation.

To contribute as much as lay in her power to the satisfaction of all present, she in the afternoon regaled them with a tune on the harpsichord, accompanied with her voice, which, though not the most melodious in the world, I dare say, would have been equally at their service could she have vied with Philomel in song; and as the last effort of her complaisance, when dancing was proposed, she was prevailed on, at the request of her new sister, to open the ball in person.

In a word, Mrs. Grizzle was the principal figure in this festival, and almost eclipsed the bride; who, far from seeming to dispute the pre-eminence, very wisely allowed her to make the best of her talents; contenting herself with the lot to which fortune had already called her and which she imagined would not be the less desirable if her sister-in-law were detached from the family.

I believe I need scarce advertise the reader that, during this whole entertainment, the commodore and his lieutenant were quite out of their element; and this, indeed, was the case with the bridegroom himself, who being utterly unacquainted with any sort of polite commerce, found himself under a very disagreeable restraint during the whole scene.

Trunnion, who had scarce ever been on shore till he was paid off, and never once in his whole life in the company of any females above the rank of those who herd on the Point at Portsmouth, was more embarrassed about his behaviour than if he had been surrounded at sea by the whole French navy. He had never pronounced the word “madam” since he was born; so that, far from entering into conversation with the ladies, he would not even return the compliment, or give the least note of civility when they drank to his health, and, I verily believe, would rather have suffered suffocation than allowed the simple phrase —“your servant,” to proceed from his mouth. He was altogether as inflexible with respect to the attitudes of his body; for, either through obstinacy or bashfulness, he sat upright without motion, insomuch that he provoked the mirth of a certain wag, who, addressing himself to the lieutenant, asked whether that was the commodore himself, or the wooden lion that used to stand at his gate? — an image, to which, it must be owned, Mr. Trunnion’s person bore no faint resemblance.

Mr. Hatchway, who was not quite so unpolished as the commodore, and had certain notions that seemed to approach the ideas of common life, made a less uncouth appearance; but then he was a wit, and though of a very peculiar genius, partook largely of that disposition which is common to all wits, who never enjoy themselves except when their talents meet with those marks of distinction and veneration, which, in their own opinion, they deserve.

These circumstances being premised, it is not to be wondered at, if this triumvirate made no objections to the proposal, when some of the graver personages of the company made a motion for adjourning into another apartment, where they might enjoy their pipes and bottles, while the young folks indulged themselves in the continuance of their own favourite diversion. Thus rescued, as it were, from a state of annihilation, the first use the two lads of the castle made of their existence, was to ply the bridegroom so hard with bumpers, that in less than an hour he made divers efforts to sing, and soon after was carried to bed, deprived of all manner of sensation, to the utter disappointment of the bridemen and maids, who, by this accident, were prevented from throwing the stocking, and performing certain other ceremonies practised on such occasions. As for the bride, she bore this misfortune with great good humour, and indeed, on all occasions, behaved like a discreet woman, perfectly well acquainted with the nature of her own situation.

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