The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter LIII.

He makes some Progress in her Affections — Is interrupted by a Dispute between Jolter and the Jew — Appeases the Wrath of the Capuchin, who procures for him an interview with his fair Enslaver, in which he finds himself deceived.

Peregrine, meanwhile, employed all his insinuation and address in practising upon the heart of the Capuchin’s fair charge. He had long ago declared his passion, not in the superficial manner of a French gallant, but with all the ardour of an enthusiast. He had languished, vowed, flattered, kissed her hand by stealth, and had no reason to complain of his reception. Though, by a man of a less sanguine disposition, her particular complaisance would have been deemed equivocal, and perhaps nothing more than the effects of French breeding and constitutional vivacity; he gave his own qualifications credit for the whole, and with these sentiments carried on the attack with such unabating vigour, that she was actually prevailed upon to accept a ring, which he presented as a token of his esteem; and everything proceeded in a most prosperous train, when they were disturbed by the governor Israelite, who, in the heat of disputation, raised their voices, and poured forth such effusions of gutturals, as set our lover’s teeth on edge. As they spoke in a language unknown to every one in the carriage but themselves, and looked at each other with mutual animosity and rancour, Peregrine desired to know the cause of their contention; upon which Jolter exclaimed, in a furious tone, “This learned Levite, forsooth, has the impudence to tell me that I don’t understand Hebrew; and affirms that the word Benoni signifies “child of joy;” whereas, I can prove, and have already said enough to convince any reasonable man, that in the Septuagint it is rightly translated into ‘son of my sorrow.’”

Having thus explained himself to his pupil, he turned to the priest, with intention to appeal to his determination; but the Jew pulled him by the sleeve with great eagerness, saying, “For the love of God, be quiet: the Capuchin will discover who we are.” Joker, offended at this conjunction, echoed, “Who we are!” with great emphasis; and repeating nos poma natamus, asked ironically, to which of the tribes the Jew thought he belonged? The Levite, affronted at his comparing him to a ball of horse-dung, replied, with a most significant grin, “To the tribe of Issachar.” His antagonist, taking the advantage of his unwillingness to be known by the friar, and prompted by revenge for the freedom he had used, answered, in the French language, that the judgment of God was still manifest upon their whole race, not only in their being in the state of exiles from their native land, but also in the spite of their hearts and pravity of their dispositions, which demonstrate them to be the genuine offspring of those who crucified the Saviour of the world.

His expectation was, however, defeated: the priest himself was too deeply engaged to attend to the debates of other people. The physician, in the pride and insolence of his learning, had undertaken to display the absurdity of the Christian faith; having already, as he thought, confuted the Capuchin, touching the points of belief in which the Roman Catholics differ from the rest of the world. But not cemented with the imagined victory he bed gained, he began to strike at the fundamentals of religion; and the father, with incredible forbearance, suffered him to make very free with the doctrine of the Trinity: but, when he leveled the shafts of his ridicule at the immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin, the good man’s patience forsook him, his eyes seemed to kindle with indignation, he trembled in every joint, and uttered, with a loud voice, “You are an abominable — I will not call thee heretic, for thou art worse, if possible, than a Jew; you deserve to be inclosed in a furnace seven times heated; and I have a good mind to lodge an information against you with the governor of Ghent, that you may be apprehended and punished as an impious blasphemer.”

This menace operated like a charm upon all present. The doctor was confounded, the governor dismayed, the Levite’s teeth chattered, the painter astonished at the general confusion, the cause of which he could not comprehend, and Pickle himself, not a little alarmed, was obliged to use all his interest and assiduity in appeasing this son of the church, who, at length, in consideration of the friendship he professed for the young gentleman, consented to forgive what had passed, but absolutely refused to sit in contact with such a profane wretch, whom he looked upon as a fiend of darkness, sent by the enemy of mankind to poison the minds of weak people; so that, after having crossed himself. and uttered certain exorcisms, he insisted upon the doctor’s changing places with the Jew, who approached the offended ecclesiastic in an agony of fear.

Matters being thus compromised, the conversation flowed in a more general channel; and without the intervention of any other accident or bone of contention, the carriage arrived at the city of Ghent about seven in the evening. Supper being bespoken for the whole company, our adventurer and his friends went out to take a superficial view of the place, leaving his new mistress to the pious exhortations of her confessor, whom, as we have already observed, he had secured in his interest. This zealous mediator spoke so warmly in his commendation, and interested her conscience so much in the affair, that she could not refuse her helping hand to the great work of his conversion, and promised to grant the interview he desired.

This agreeable piece of intelligence, which the Capuchin communicated to Peregrine at his return, elevated his spirits to such a degree, that he shone at supper with uncommon brilliance, in a thousand sallies of wit and pleasantry, to the delight of all present, especially of his fair Fleming, who seemed quite captivated by his person and behaviour. The evening being thus spent to the satisfaction of all parties, the company broke up, and retired to their several apartments, where our lover, to his unspeakable mortification, learned that the two ladies were obliged to be in the same room, all the other chambers of the inn being pre-occupied. When he imparted this difficulty to the priest, that charitable father, who was very fruitful in expedients, assured him that his spiritual concerns should not be obstructed by such a slender impediment; and accordingly availed himself of his prerogative, by going into his daughter’s chamber when she was almost undressed, and leading her into his own, on pretence of administering salutary food for her soul. Having brought the two votaries together, he prayed for success to the operations of grace, and left them to their mutual meditations, after having conjured them in the most solemn manner to let no impure sentiments or temptations of the flesh interfere with the hallowed design of their meeting.

The reverend intercessor being gone, and the door fastened on the inside, the pseudo-convert, transported with his passion, threw himself at his Amanda’s feet; and begging she would spare him the tedious form of addresses, which the nature of their interview would not permit him to observe, began, with all the impetuosity of love, to make the most of the occasion. But whether she was displeased by the intrepidity and assurance of his behaviour, thinking herself entitled to more courtship and respect; or was really better fortified with chastity than he or his procurer had supposed her to be; certain it is, she expressed resentment and surprise at his boldness and presumption, and upbraided him with having imposed upon the charity of the friar. The young gentleman was really as much astonished at this rebuff, as she pretended to be at his declaration, and earnestly entreated her to consider how precious the moments were, and for once sacrifice superfluous ceremony to the happiness of one who adored her with such a flame as could not fail to consume his vitals, if she would not deign to bless him with her favour.

Notwithstanding all his tears, vows, and supplications, his personal accomplishments, and the tempting opportunity, all that he could obtain was an acknowledgment of his having made an impression upon her heart, which she hoped the dictates of her duty would enable her to erase. This confession he considered as a delicate consent; and, obeying the impulse of his love, snatched her up in his arms, with an intention of seizing that which she declined to give; when this French Lucretia, unable to defend her virtue any other way, screamed aloud; and the Capuchin, setting his shoulder to the door, forced it open, and entered in an affected ecstasy of amazement. He lifted up his hands and eyes, and pretended to be thunderstruck at the discovery he had made; then in broken exclamations, professed his horror at the wicked intention of our hero, who had covered such a damnable scheme with the mask of religion.

In short, he performed his cue with such dexterity, that the lady, believing him to be in earnest, begged he would forgive the stranger on account of his youth and education, which had been tainted by the errors of heresy; and he was on these considerations content to accept the submission of our hero; who, far from renouncing his expectations, notwithstanding this mortifying repulse, confided so much in his own talents, and the confession which his mistress had made, that he resolved to make another effort, to which nothing could have prompted him but the utmost turbulence of unruly desire.

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