The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter XLV.

The Painter is persuaded to accompany Pickle to a Masquerade in Woman’s Apparel —-Is engaged in a troublesome Adventure, and, with his Companion, conveyed to the Bastille.

The painter, at the request of Pickle, who had a design upon the count’s sense of hearing, favoured the company with the song of Bumper Squire Jones, which yielded infinite satisfaction to the baron, but affected the delicate ears of the Italian in such a manner, that his features expressed astonishment and disquiet; and by his sudden and repeated journeys to the door, it plainly appeared, that he was in the same predicament with those who, as Shakespeare observes, “when the bagpipe sings in the nose, cannot contain their urine for affection.”

With a view, therefore, of vindicating music from such a barbarous taste. Mr. Pallet had no sooner performed his task, than the count honoured his friends with some favourite airs of his own country, which he warbled with infinite grace and expression, though he had not energy sufficient to engage the attention of the German, who fell fast asleep upon his couch, and snored so loud, as to interrupt, and totally annul, this ravishing entertainment; so that they were fain to have recourse again to the glass, which made such innovation upon the brain of the physician, that he sang divers odes of Anacreon. to a tune of his own composing, and held forth upon the music and recitative of the ancients with great erudition; while Pallet, having found means to make the Italian acquainted with the nature of his profession, harangued upon painting with wonderful volubility, in a language which (it was well for his own credit) the stranger did not understand.

At length the doctor was seized with such a qualm, that he begged Peregrine to lead him to his chamber; and the baron, being waked, retired with the count. Peregrine, being rendered frolicsome with the wine he had drunk, proposed that he and Pallet should go to a masquerade, which he recollected was to be given that night. The painter did not want curiosity and inclination to accompany him, but expressed his apprehension of losing him in the ball; an accident which could not fail to be very disagreeable, as he was an utter stranger to the language and the town. To obviate this objection, the landlady, who was of their council, advised him to appear in a woman’s dress, which would lay his companion under the necessity of attending him with more care, as he could not with decency detach himself from the lady whom he should introduce; besides, such a connection would hinder the ladies of pleasure from accosting and employing their seducing arts upon a person already engaged.

Our young gentleman foreseeing the abundance of diversion in the execution of this project, seconded the proposal with such importunity and address, that the painter allowed himself to be habited in a suit belonging to the landlady, who also procured for him a mask and domino, while Pickle provided himself with a Spanish dress. In this disguise, which they put on about eleven o’clock, did they, attended by Pipes, set out in a fiacre for the ball-room, into which Pickle led this supposititious female, to the astonishment of the whole company, who had never seen such an uncouth figure in the appearance of a woman.

After they had taken a view of all the remarkable masks, and the painter had been treated with a of glass of liqueur, his mischievous companion gave him the slip; and, vanishing in an instant, returned with another mask and a domino over his habit, that he might enjoy Pallet’s perplexity, and be at hand to protect him from insult. The poor painter, having lost his guide, was almost distracted with anxiety, and stalked about the room, in quest of him, with such huge strides and oddity of gesture, that he was followed by a whole multitude, who gazed at him as a preternatural phenomenon. This attendance increased his uneasiness to such a degree, that he could not help uttering a soliloquy aloud, in which he cursed his fate for having depended upon the promise of such a wag; and swore, that if once he was clear of this scrape, he would not bring himself into such a premunire again for the whole kingdom of France.

Divers petit-maitres, understanding the mask was a foreigner, who in all probability could not speak French, made up to him in their turns, in order to display their wit and address, and teased him with several arch questions, to which he made no other reply than “No parly Francy. D— your chattering! Go about your business, can’t ye.” Among the masks was a nobleman, who began to be very free with the supposed lady, and attempted to plunge his hand into her bosom: hut the painter was too modest to suffer such indecent treatment; and when the gallant repeated his efforts in a manner still more indelicate, lent him such a box on the ear, as made the lights dance before him, and created such a suspicion of Pallet’s sex, that the Frenchman swore he was either a male or a hermaphrodite, and insisted upon a scrutiny, for the sake of his own honour, with such obstinacy of resentment, that the nymph was in imminent danger, not only of being exposed, but also undergoing severe chastisement, for having made so free with the prince’s ear; when Peregrine, who saw and overheard everything that passed, thought it was high time to interpose; and accordingly asserted his pretensions to the insulted lady, who was overjoyed at this proof of his protection.

The affronted gallant persevered in demanding to know who she was, and our hero as strenuously refused to give him that satisfaction: so that high words ensued; and the prince threatening to punish his insolence, the young gentleman, who was not supposed to know his quality, pointed to the place where his own sword used to hang, and, snapping his fingers in his face, laid hold on the painter’s arm, and led him to another part of the room, leaving his antagonist to the meditations of his own revenge.

Pallet, having chid his conductor for his barbarous desertion, made him acquainted with the difficulty in which he had been involved; and flatly telling him he would not put it in his power to give him the slip again, held fast by his arm during the remaining part of the entertainment, to the no small diversion of the company, whose attention was altogether engrossed in the contemplation of such an awkward, ungainly, stalking apparition. At last Pickle, being tired of exhibiting this raree-show, complied with the repeated desires of his companion, and handed her into the coach; which he himself had no sooner entered, than they were surrounded by a file of musqueteers, commanded by an exempt, who, ordering the coach-door to be opened, took his place with great deliberation, while one of his detachment mounted the box, in order to direct the driver.

Peregrine at once conceived the meaning of this arrest, and it was well for him that he had no weapon wherewith to stand upon his defence; for such was the impetuosity and rashness of his temper, that, had he been armed, he would have run all risks rather than surrender himself to any odds whatever; but Pallet, imagining that the officer was some gentleman who had mistaken their carriage for his own, desired his friend to undeceive the stranger; and when he was informed of the real state of their condition, his knees began to shake, his teeth to chatter, and he uttered a most doleful lamentation, importing his fear of being carried to some hideous dungeon of the Bastille, where he should spend the rest of his days in misery and horror, and never see the light of God’s sun, nor the face of a friend; but perish in a foreign land, far removed from his family and connexions. Pickle d — d him for his pusillanimity; and the exempt hearing a lady bemoan herself so piteously, expressed his mortification at being the instrument of giving her such pain, and endeavoured to console them by representing the lenity of the French government, and the singular generosity of the prince, by whose order they were apprehended.

Peregrine, whose discretion seemed to forsake him on all such occasions, exclaimed, with great bitterness, against the arbitrary administration of France, and inveighed, with many expressions of contempt, against the character of the offended prince, whose resentment, far from being noble, he mid, was pitiful, ungenerous, and unjust. To this remonstrance the officer made no reply, but shrugged up his shoulders in silent astonishment at the hardiesse of the prisoner; and the fiacre was just on the point of setting out, when they heard the noise of a scuffle at the back of the coach, and the voice of Tom Pipes pronouncing, “I’ll be d — d if I do.” This trusty attendant had been desired by one of the guards to descend from his station in the rear; but as he resolved to share his master’s fate, he took no notice of their entreaties, until they were seconded by force; and that he endeavoured to repeal with his heel, which he applied with such energy to the jaws of the soldier, who first came in contact with him, that they emitted a crashing sound like a dried walnut between the grinders of a Templar in the pit. Exasperated at this outrage, the other saluted Tom’s posteriors with his bayonet, which incommoded him so much that he could no longer keep his post, but, leaping upon the ground, gave his antagonist a chuck under the chin, and laid him upon his back, then skipping over him with infinite agility, absconded among the crowd of coaches, till he saw the guard mount before and behind upon his master’s fiacre, which no sooner set forward, than he followed at a small distance, to reconnoitre the place where Peregrine should be confined. After having proceeded slowly through many windings and turnings to a part of Paris, in which Pipes was an utter stranger, the coach stopped at a great gate, with a wicket in the middle, which, being opened at the approach of the carriage, the prisoners were admitted; and, the guard returning with the fiacre, Tom determined to watch in that place all night, that, in the morning, he might make such observations as might be conducive to the enlargement of his master.

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