The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter XLI.

Mr. Jolter threatens to leave him on account of his Misconduct, which he promises to rectify; but his Resolution is defeated by the Impetuosity of his Passions — He meets accidentally with Mrs. Hornbeck, who elopes with him from her Husband, but is restored by the Interposition of the British Ambassador.

Though Mr. Jolter was extremely well pleased at the safety of his pupil, he could not forgive him for the terror and anxiety he had undergone on his account; and roundly told him, that notwithstanding the inclination and attachment he had to his person, he would immediately depart for England, if ever he should hear of his being involved in such another adventure; for it could not be expected that he would sacrifice his own quiet, to an unrequited regard for one who seemed determined to keep him in continual uneasiness and apprehension.

To this declaration Pickle made answer, that Mr. Jolter, by this time, ought to be convinced of the attention he had always paid to his ease and satisfaction; since he well knew that he had ever looked upon him in the light of a friend rather than as a counsellor or tutor; and desired his company in France with a view of promoting his interest, not for any emolument he could expect from his instruction. This being the case, he was at liberty to consult his own inclinations, with regard to going or staying; though he could not help owning himself obliged by the concern he expressed for his safety, and would endeavour, for his own sake, to avoid giving him any cause of disturbance in time to come.

No man was more capable of moralizing upon Peregrine’s misconduct than himself: his reflections were extremely just and sagacious, and attended with no other disadvantage but that of occurring too late. He projected a thousand salutary schemes of deportment, but, like other projectors, he never had interest enough with the ministry of his passions to bring any of them to bear. He had, in the heyday of his gallantry received a letter from his friend Gauntlet with a kind postscript from his charming Emilia; but it arrived at a very unseasonable juncture, when his imagination was engrossed by conquests that more agreeably flattered his ambition; so that he could not find leisure and inclination, from that day, to honour the correspondence which he himself had solicited. His vanity had, by the time, disapproved of the engagement he had contracted in the rawness and inexperience of youth; suggesting, that he was born to such an important figure in life, as ought to raise his ideas above the consideration of any such middling connections, and fix his attention upon objects of the most sublime attraction. These dictates of ridiculous pride had almost effaced the remembrance of his amiable mistress, or at least so far warped his morals and integrity, that he actually began to conceive hopes of her altogether unworthy of his own character and her deserts.

Meanwhile, being destitute of a toy for the dalliance of his idle hours, he employed several spies, and almost every day made a tour of the public places in person, with a view of procuring intelligence of Mr. Hornbeck, with whose wife he longed to have another interview. In this course of expectation had he exercised himself a whole fortnight, when, chancing to be at the Hospital of the Invalids with a gentleman lately arrived from England, he no sooner entered the church than he perceived his lady, attended by her spouse, who at sight of our hero changed colour and looked another way, in order to discourage any communication between them. But the young man, who was not so easily repulsed, advanced with great assurance to his fellow-traveller, and taking him by the hand, expressed his satisfaction at this unexpected meeting; kindly upbraiding him for his precipitate retreat from Chantilly. Before Hornbeck could make any reply he went up to his wife, whom he complimented in the same manner; assuring her, with some significant glances, he ass extremely mortified that she had put it out of his power to pay his respects to her on his first arrival at Paris; and then, turning to her husband, who thought proper to keep close to him in this conference, begged to know where he could have the honour of waiting upon him; observing at the same time, that he himself lived a l’Academie de Palfrenier.

Mr. Hornbeck, without making any apology for his elopement on the road, thanked Mr. Pickle for his complaisance in a very cool and disobliging manner; saying that as he intended to shift his lodgings in a day or two, he could not expect the pleasure of seeing him, until he should he settled, when he would call at the academy, and conduct him to his new habitation.

Pickle, who was not unacquainted with the sentiments of this jealous gentleman, did not put much confidence in his promise, and therefore made divers efforts to enjoy a little private conversation with his wife; but he was baffled in all his attempts by the indefatigable vigilance of her keeper, and reaped no other immediate pleasure from this accidental meeting, than that of a kind squeeze while he handed her into the coach. However, as he had been witness to some instances of her invention, and was no stranger to the favourable disposition of her heart, he entertained some faint hopes of profiting by her understanding, and was not deceived in his expectation; for the very next forenoon, a Savoyard called at the academy, and put the following billet in his hand:—

“Coind Sur — Heaving the playsure of meating with you at the osspital of awilheads, I take this lubbertea of latin you know, that I lotch at the hottail de May cong dangle rouy Doghouseten, with two postis at the gait, naytheir of um very hole, ware I shall be at the windore, if in kais you will be so good as to pass that way at sicks a cloak in the heavening when Mr. Hornbeck goes to the Calf hay de Contea. Prey for the loaf of Geesus keep this from the nolegs of my hussban, ells he will make me leed a hell upon urth. — Being all from, deer Sur,
your most umbell servan wile “Deborah Hornbeck.”

Our young gentleman was ravished at the receipt of this elegant epistle, which was directed, A Monsr. Monsr. Pickhell, a la Gaddamme de Paul Freny, and did not fail to obey the summons at the hour of assignation; when the lady, true to her appointment, beckoned him up-stairs, and he had the good fortune to be admitted unseen.

After the first transports of their mutual joy at meeting, she told him, that her husband had been very surly and cross ever since the adventure at Chantilly, which he had not yet digested; that he had laid severe injunctions upon her to avoid all commerce with Pickle, and even threatened to shut her up in a convent for life, if ever she should discover the least inclination to renew that acquaintance; that she had been cooped up in her chamber since her arrival at Paris, without being permitted to see the place, or indeed any company, except that of her landlady, whose language she did not understand; so that her spirit being broken, and her health impaired, he was prevailed upon some days ago to indulge her in a few airings, during which she had seen the gardens of the Luxembourg, the Tuileries, and Palais Royal, though at those times when there was no company in the walks; and that it was in one of those excursions she had the happiness of meeting with him. Finally, she gave him to understand, that rather than continue longer in such confinement with the man whom she could not love, she would instantly give him the slip, and put herself under the protection of her lover.

Rash and unthinking as this declaration might be, the young gentleman was so much of a gallant, that he would not balk the lady’s inclinations; and too infatuated by his passion to foresee the consequences of such a dangerous step: he therefore, without hesitation, embraced the proposal; and the coast being clear, they sallied out into the street, where Peregrine, calling a fiacre, ordered the coachman to drive them to a tavern; but knowing it would not be in his power to conceal her from the search of the lieutenant de police, if she should remain within the walls of Paris, he hired a remise, and carried her that same evening to Villejuif, about four leagues from town, where he stayed with her all night; and having boarded her on a genteel pension, and settled the economy of his future visits, returned next day to his own lodgings.

While he thus enjoyed his success, her husband endured the tortures of the damned. When he returned from the coffee-house, and understood that his wife had eloped, without being perceived by any person in the family, he began to rave and foam with rage and jealousy; and, in the fury of distraction, accused the landlady of being an accomplice in her escape, threatening to complain of her to the commissaire. The woman could not conceive how Mrs. Hornbeck, who she knew was an utter stranger to the French language, and kept no sort of company, could elude the caution of her husband, and find any refuge in a place where she had no acquaintance, and began to suspect the lodger’s emotion was no other than an affected passion to conceal his own practices upon his wife, who had perhaps fallen a sacrifice to his jealous disposition. She therefore spared him the trouble of putting his menaces into execution by going to the magistrate, without any further deliberation, and giving an account of what she knew concerning this mysterious affair, with certain insinuations against Hornbeck’s character, which she represented as peevish and capricious to the last degree.

While she thus anticipated the purpose of the plaintiff, her information was interrupted by the arrival of the party himself, who exhibited his complaint with such evident marks of perturbation, anger, and impatience, that the commissaire could easily perceive that he had no share in the disappearance of his wife, and directed him to the lieutenant de police, whose province it is to take cognizance of such occurrences. This gentleman, who presides over the city of Paris, having heard the particulars of Hornbeck’s misfortune, asked if he suspected any individual person as the seducer of his yoke-fellow; and when he mentioned Peregrine as the object of his suspicion, granted a warrant and a detachment of soldiers, to search for and retrieve the fugitive.

The husband conducted them immediately to the academy where our hero lodged; and having rummaged the whole place, to the astonishment of Mr. Jolter, without finding either his wife or the supposed ravisher, accompanied them to all the public-houses in the Faubourg, which having examined also without success, he returned to the magistrate in a state of despair, and obtained a promise of his making such an effectual inquiry, that in three days he should have an account of her, provided she was alive, and within the walls of Paris.

Our adventurer, who had foreseen all this disturbance, was not at all surprised when his governor told him what had happened, and conjured him to restore the woman to the right owner, with many pathetic remonstrances touching the heinous sin of adultery, the distraction of the unfortunate husband, and the danger of incurring the resentment of an arbitrary government, which, upon application being made would not fail of espousing the cause of the injured. He denied, with great effrontery, that he had the least concern in the matter, pretended to resent the deportment of Hornbeck, whom he threatened to chastise for his scandalous suspicion, and expressed his displeasure at the credulity of Jolter, who seemed to doubt the veracity of his asseveration.

Notwithstanding this confident behaviour, Jolter could not help entertaining doubts of his sincerity, and, visiting the disconsolate swain, begged he would, for the honour of his country, as well as for the sake of his own reputation, discontinue his addresses to the lieutenant de police, and apply to the British ambassador, who, by dint of friendly admonitions, would certainly prevail upon Mr. Pickle to do him all the justice in his power, if he was really the author of the injury he had sustained. The governor urged this advice with the appearance of so much sympathy and concern, promising to co-operate within his influence in his behalf, that Hornbeck embraced the proposal, communicated his purpose to the magistrate, who commended the resolution as the most decent and desirable expedient he could use, and then waited upon his excellency, who readily espoused his cause, and sending for the young gentleman that same evening, read him such a lecture in private, as extorted a confession of the whole affair. Not that he assailed him with sour and supercilious maxims, or severe rebuke; because he had penetration enough to discern that Peregrine’s disposition was impregnable to all such attacks; but he first of all rallied him on his intriguing genius; then, in a humorous manner, described the distraction of the poor cuckold, who he owned was justly punished for the absurdity of his conduct; and lastly, upon the supposition that it would be no great effort in Pickle to part with such a conquest, especially after it had been for some time possessed, represented the necessity and expediency of restoring her, not only out of regard to his own character and that of his nation, but also with a view to his ease, which would in a little time be very much invaded by such an incumbrance, that in all probability would involve him in a thousand difficulties and disgusts. Besides, he assured him that he was already, by order of the lieutenant de police, surrounded with spies, who would watch all his motions, and immediately discover the retreat in which he had disposed his prize. These arguments, and the frank familiar manner in which they were delivered — but, above all, the last consideration — induced the young gentleman to disclose the whole of his proceedings to the ambassador; and he promised to be governed by his direction, provided the lady should not suffer for the step she had taken, but, be received by her husband with due reverence and respect. These stipulations being agreed to, he undertook to produce her in eight-and-forty hours; and, taking coach, immediately drove to the place of her residence, where he spent a whole day and night in convincing her of the impossibility of their enjoying each other in that manner; then, returning to Paris, he delivered her into the hands of the ambassador, who, having assured her that she might depend upon his friendship and protection, in case she should find herself aggrieved by the jealous temper of Mr. Hornbeck, restored her to her legitimate lord, whom he counselled to exempt her from that restraint which in all probability had been the cause of her elopement, and endeavour to conciliate her affection by tender and respectful usage.

The husband behaved with great humility and compliance, protesting that his chief study should be to contrive parties for her pleasure and satisfaction. But no sooner did he regain possession of his stray sheep, than he locked her up more closely than ever; and after having revolved various schemes for her reformation, determined to board her in a convent, under the inspection of a prudent abbess, who should superintend her morals, and recall her to the paths of virtue which she had forsaken. With this view, he consulted an English priest of his acquaintance, who advised him to settle her in a monastery at Lisle, that she might be as far as possible from the machinations of her lover, and gave him a letter of recommendation to the superior of a certain convent in that place, for which Mr. Hornbeck set out in a few days with his troublesome charge.

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