The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter LII.

An Adventure happens to Pipes, in consequence of which he is dismissed from Peregrine’s Service — The whole Company set out for Ghent, in the Diligence — Our Hero is captivated by a Lady in that Carriage — Interests her spiritual Director in his behalf.

The doctor being fairly engaged on the subject of the ancients, would have proceeded the Lord knows how far, without hesitation, had not he been interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Jolter, who, in great confusion, told them that Pipes, having affronted a soldier, was then surrounded in the street, and certainly would be put to death if some person of authority did not immediately interpose in his behalf.

Peregrine no sooner learned the danger of his trusty squire, than, snatching up his sword, he ran down-stairs, and was followed by the chevalier, entreating him to leave the affair to his management. Within ten yards of the door they found Tom, with his back to a wall, defending himself with a mopstick against the assault of three or four soldiers, who, at sight of the Maltese cross, desisted from the attack, and were taken into custody by order of the knight. One of the aggressors, being an Irishman, begged to be heard with great importunity before he should be sent to the guard; and, by the mediation of Pickle, was accordingly brought into the hotel with his companions, all three bearing upon their heads and faces evident marks of their adversary’s prowess and dexterity. The spokesman, being confronted with Pipes, informed the company that, having by accident met with Mr. Pipes, whom he considered as his countryman, though fortune had disposed of them in different services, he invited him to drink a glass of wine, and accordingly carried him to a cabaret, where he introduced him to his comrades; but in the course of the conversation, which turned upon the power and greatness of the kings of France and England, Mr. Pipes had been pleased to treat his most Christian Majesty with great disrespect; and when he, the entertainer, expostulated with him in a friendly manner about his impolite behaviour, observing, that he, being in the French service, would be under the necessity of resenting his abuse if he did not put a stop to it before the other gentlemen of the cloth should comprehend his meaning; he had set them all three at defiance, dishonoured him in particular with the opprobrious epithet of rebel to his native king and country, and even drunk, in broken French, to the perdition of Louis and all his adherents; that, compelled by this outrageous conduct, he, as the person who had recommended him to their society, had, in vindication of his own character, demanded of the delinquent, who, on pretence of fetching a sword, had gone to his lodging, from whence he all of a sudden sallied upon them with the mopstick, which he employed in the annoyance of them all without distinction, so that they were obliged to draw in their own defence.

Pipes, being questioned by his master with regard to the truth of this account, owned that every circumstance was justly represented; saying, he did not value their cheese-toasters a pinch of oakum; and that if the gentleman had not shot in betwixt them, he would have trimmed them to such a tune, that they should not have had a whole yard to square. Peregrine reprimanded him sharply for his unmannerly behaviour, and insisted upon his asking pardon of those he had injured upon the spot: but no consideration was efficacious enough to produce such concession; to this command he was both deaf and dumb; and the repeated threats of his master had no more effect than if they had been addressed to a marble statue. At length, our hero, incensed at his obstinacy, started up, and would have chastised him with manual operation, had not he been prevented by the chevalier, who found means to moderate his indignation so far that he contented himself with dismissing the offender from his service; and after having obtained the discharge of the prisoners, gave them a louis to drink, by way of recompense for the disgrace and damage they had sustained.

The knight, perceiving our young gentleman very much ruffled at this accident, and reflecting upon the extraordinary deportment and appearance of his valet, whose hair had by this time adopted a grizzled hue, imagined he was some favourite domestic, who had grown gray in the service of his master’s family, and that, of consequence, he was uneasy at the sacrifice he had made. Swayed by this conjecture, he earnestly solicited in his behalf; but all he could obtain, was a promise of re-admitting him into favour on the terms already proposed, or at least on condition that he should make his acknowledgment to the chevalier, for his want of reverence and respect for the French monarch.

Upon this condescension the culprit was called up-stairs, and made acquainted with the mitigation of his fate; upon which he said, he would down on his marrow-bones to his own master, but would be d — d before he would ask pardon of e’er a Frenchman in Christendom. Pickle, exasperated at this blunt declaration, ordered him out of his presence, and charged him never to appear before his face again; while the officer in vain employed all his influence and address to appease his resentment, and about midnight took his leave with marks of mortification at his want of success.

Next day the company agreed to travel through Flanders in the diligence, by the advice of Peregrine, who was not without hope of meeting with some adventure or amusement in that carriage; and Jolter took care to secure places for them all; it being resolved that the valet-de-chambre and the doctor’s man should attend the vehicle on horseback; and as for the forlorn Pipes, he was left to reap the fruits of his own stubborn disposition, notwithstanding the united efforts of the whole triumvirate, who endeavoured to procure his pardon.

Every previous measure being thus taken, they set out from Lisle about six in the morning, and found themselves in the company of a female adventurer, a very handsome young lady, a Capuchin, and a Rotterdam Jew. Our young gentleman, being the first of this society that entered, surveyed the stranger with an attentive eye, and seated himself immediately behind the beautiful unknown, who at once attracted his attention. Pallet, seeing another lady unengaged, in imitation of his friend, took possession of her neighbourhood; the physician paired with the priest, and Jolter sat down by the Jew.

The machine had not proceeded many furlongs, when Pickle, accosting the fair incognita, congratulated himself upon his happiness, in being the fellow-traveller of so charming a lady. She, without the least reserve or affectation, thanked him for his compliment; and replied, with a sprightly air, that now they were embarked in one common bottom, they must club their endeavours to make one another as happy as the nature of their situation would permit them to be. Encouraged by this frank intimation, and captivated by her fine black eyes and easy behaviour, he attached himself to her from that moment; and, in a little time, the conversation became so particular, that the Capuchin thought proper to interfere in the discourse in such a manner as gave the youth to understand that he was there on purpose to superintend her conduct. He was doubly rejoiced at this discovery, in consequence of which he hoped to profit in his addresses, not only by the young lady’s restraint, that never fails to operate in behalf of the lover, but also by the corruptibility of her guardian, whom he did not doubt of rendering propitious to his cause. Flushed with these expectations, he behaved with uncommon complacency to the father, who was charmed with the affability of his carriage, and on the faith of his generosity abated of his vigilance so much, that our hero carried on his suit without further molestation; while the painter, in signs and loud bursts of laughter, conversed with his dulcinea, who was perfectly well versed in these simple expressions of satisfaction, and had already found means to make a dangerous invasion upon his heart.

Nor were the governor and physician unemployed, while their friends interested themselves in this agreeable manner. Jolter no sooner perceived the Hollander was a Jew, than he entered into an investigation of the Hebrew tongue, in which he was a connoisseur; and the doctor at the same time attacked the mendicant on the ridiculous maxims of his order, together with the impositions of priestcraft in general, which, he observed, prevailed so much among those who profess the Roman Catholic religion.

Thus coupled, each committee enjoyed their own conversation apart, without any danger of encroachment; and all were so intent upon their several topics, that they scarce allowed themselves a small interval in viewing the desolation of Menin, as they passed through that ruined frontier. About twelve o’clock they arrived at Courtray, where the horses are always changed, and the company halt an hour for refreshment. Here Peregrine handed his charmer into an apartment, where she was joined by the other lady; and on pretence of seeing some of the churches in town, put himself under the direction of the Capuchin, from whom he learned that the lady was wife to a French gentleman, to whom she had been married about a year, and that she was now on her journey to visit her mother, who lived in Brussels, and was at that time laboured under a lingering distemper, which, in all probability, would soon put a period to her life. He then launched out in praise of her daughter’s virtue and conjugal affection; and, lastly, told him, that he was her father-confessor, and pitched upon to be her conductor through Flanders, by her husband, as well as his wife, placed the utmost confidence in his prudence and integrity.

Pickle easily comprehended the meaning of this insinuation, and took the hint accordingly. He tickled the priest’s vanity with extraordinary encomiums upon the disinterested principles of his order, which were detached from all worldly pursuits, and altogether devoted to the eternal salvation of mankind. He applauded their patience, humility, and learning, and lavished a world of praise upon their talent in preaching, which, he said, had more than once operated so powerfully upon him, that had he not been restrained by certain considerations which he could not possibly waive, he should have embraced their tenets, and begged admission into their fraternity: but, as the circumstances of his fate would not permit him to take such a salutary measure for the present, he entreated the good father to accept a small token of his love and respect, for the benefit of that convent to which he belonged. So saying. he pulled out a purse of ten guineas, which the Capuchin observing, turned his head another way, and, lifting up his arm, displayed a pocket almost as high as his collar-bone, in which he deposited the money.

This proof of affection for the order produced a sudden and surprising effect upon the friar. In the transport of his zeal he wrung this semi-convert’s hand, showered a thousand benedictions upon his head, and exhorted him, with the tears flowing from his eyes, to perfect the great work which the finger of God had begun in his heart; and, as an instance of his concern for the welfare of his precious soul, the holy brother promised to recommend him strenuously to the pious admonitions of the young woman under his care, who was a perfect saint upon earth, and endowed with a peculiar gift of mollifying the hearts of obdurate sinners. “0 father!” cried the hypocritical projector, who by this time perceived that his money was not thrown away, “if I could be favoured but for one half hour with the private instruction of that inspired devotee, my mind presages, that I should be a strayed sheep brought back into the fold, and that I should find easy entrance at the gates of heaven! There is something supernatural in her aspect: I gaze upon her with the most pious fervour, and my whole soul is agitated with tumults of hope and despair!”

Having pronounced this rhapsody with transport half natural and half affected, the priest assured him, that these were the operations of the Spirit, which must not be repressed; and comforted him with the hope of enjoying the blessed interview which he desired, protesting, that, as far as his influence extended, his wish should be that very evening indulged. The gracious pupil thanked him for his benevolent concern, which he swore should not be squandered upon an ungrateful object; and the rest of the company interrupting the conversation, they returned in a body to the inn, where they dined all together, and the ladies were persuaded to be our hero’s guests.

As the subjects on which they had been engaged before dinner were not exhausted, each brace resumed their former theme when they were replaced in the diligence. The painter’s mistress finished her conquest, by exerting her skill in the art of ogling, accompanied by frequent bewitching sighs and some tender French songs, that she sang with such pathetic expression, as quite melted the resolution of Pallet, and utterly subdued his affection. And he, to convince her of the importance of her victory, gave a specimen of his own talents, by entertaining her with that celebrated English ditty, the burden of which begins with, “The pigs they lie with their a — s bare.”

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