The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter LXVI.

Peregrine delivers his Letters of Recommendation at London, and returns to the Garrison, to the unspeakable joy of the Commodore and his whole Family.

Now that our hero found himself on English ground, his heart dilated with the proud recollection of his own improvement since he left his native soil. He began to recognise the interesting ideas of his tender years; he enjoyed, by anticipation, the pleasure of seeing his friends in the garrison, after an absence of eighteen months; and the image of his charming Emily, which other less worthy considerations had depressed, resumed the full possession of his breast. He remembered, with shame, that he had neglected the correspondence with her brother, which he himself had solicited, and in consequence of which he had received a letter from that young gentleman, while he lived at Paris. In spite of these conscientious reflections. he was too self-sufficient to think he should find any difficulty in obtaining forgiveness for such sins of omission; and began to imagine that his passion would be prejudicial to the dignity of his situation, if it should not be gratified upon terms which formerly his imagination durst not conceive.

Sorry I am, that the task I have undertaken, lays me under the necessity of divulging this degeneracy in the sentiment of our imperious youth, who was now in the heyday of his blood, flushed with the consciousness of his own qualifications, vain of his fortune, and elated on the wings of imaginary expectation. Though he was deeply enamoured of Miss Gauntlet, he was far from proposing her heart as the ultimate aim of his gallantry, which, he did not doubt, would triumph over the most illustrious females of the land, and at once regale his appetite and ambition.

Meanwhile, being willing to make his appearance at the garrison equally surprising and agreeable, he cautioned Mr. Jolter against writing to the commodore, who had not heard of them since their departure from Paris, and hired a post-chaise and horses, for London. The governor, going out to give orders about the carriage, inadvertently left a paper book open upon the table; and his pupil, casting his eyes upon the page, chanced to read these words: “Sept. 15. Arrived in safety, by the blessing of God, in this unhappy kingdom of England. And thus concludes the journal of my last peregrination.” Peregrine’s curiosity being inflamed by this extraordinary conclusion he turned to the beginning, and perused several sheets of a diary such as is commonly kept by that class of people known by the denomination of travelling governors, for the satisfaction of themselves and the parents or guardians of their pupils, and for the edification and entertainment of their friends.

That the reader may have a clear idea of Mr. Jolter’s performance, we shall transcribe the transactions of one day, as he had recorded them; and that abstract will be a sufficient specimen of the whole plan and execution of the work.

“May 3. At eight o’clock, set out from Boulogne in a post-chaise: the morning hazy and cold. Fortified my stomach with a cordial. Recommended ditto to Mr. P. as an antidote against the fog. Mem. He refused it. The hither horse greased in the off-pastern of the hind leg. Arrived at Samers. Mem. This last was a post and a half, i.e. three leagues, or nine English miles. The day clears up. A fine champaign country, well stored with corn. The postillion says his prayers in passing by a wooden crucifix upon the road. Mem. The horses staled in a small brook that runs in a bottom, betwixt two hills. Arrived at Cormont. A common post. A dispute with my pupil, who is obstinate, and swayed by an unlucky prejudice. Proceed to Montreuil, where we dine on choice pigeons. A very moderate charge. No chamber-pot in the room, owing to the negligence of the maid. This is an ordinary post. Set out again for Nampont. Troubled with flatulences and indigestion. Mr. P. is sullen, and seems to mistake an eructation for the breaking of wind backwards. From Nampont depart for Bernay, at which place we arrive in the evening, and propose to stay all night. N.B. The two last a redouble posts, and our cattle very willing, though not strong. Sup on a delicate ragout and excellent partridges, in company with Mr. H. and his spouse. Mem. The said H. trod upon my corn by mistake. Discharge the bill, which is not very reasonable. Dispute with Mr. P. about giving money to the servant. He insists upon my giving a twenty-four sols piece, which is too much by two-thirds, in all conscience. N.B. She was a pert baggage, and did not deserve a liard.”

Our hero was so much disobliged with certain circumstances of this amusing and instructing journal, that, by way of punishing the author, he interlined these words betwixt two paragraphs, in a manner that exactly resembled the tutor’s handwriting:” Mem. Had the pleasure of drinking myself into a sweet intoxication, by toasting our lawful king, and his royal family, among some worthy English fathers of the Society of Jesus.”

Having taken this revenge, he set out for London, where he waited upon those noblemen to whom he had letters of recommendation from Paris; and was not only graciously received, but even loaded with caresses and proffers of service, because they understood he was a young gentleman of fortune, who, far from standing in need of their countenance or assistance, would make a useful and creditable addition to the number of their adherents. He had the honour of dining at their tables, in consequence of pressing invitations, and of spending several evenings with the ladies, to whom he was particularly agreeable, on account of his person, address, and bleeding freely at play.

Being thus initiated in the beau monde, he thought it was high time to pay his respects to his generous benefactor, the commodore; and, accordingly, departed one morning, with his train, for the garrison, at which he arrived in safety the same night. When he entered the gate, which was opened by a new servant that did not know him, he found his old friend, Hatchway, stalking in the yard, with a nightcap on his head, and a pipe in his mouth; and, advancing to him, took him by the hand before he had any intimation of his approach. The lieutenant, thus saluted by a stranger, stared at him in silent astonishment, till he recollected his features, which were no sooner known, than, dashing his pipe upon the pavement, he exclaimed, “Smite my cross-trees! th’art welcome to port”; and hugged him in his arms with great affection. He then, by a cordial squeeze, expressed his satisfaction at seeing his old shipmate, Tom, who, applying his whistle to his mouth, the whole castle echoed with his performance.

The servants, hearing the well-known sound, poured out in a tumult of joy; and, understanding that their young master was returned, raised such a peal of acclamation, as astonished the commodore and his lady, and inspired Julia with such an interesting presage, that her heart began to throb with violence. Running out in the hurry and perturbation of her hope, she was so much overwhelmed at sight of her brother, that she actually fainted in his arms. But from this trance she soon awaked; and Peregrine, having testified his pleasure and affection, went upstairs, and presented himself before his godfather and aunt. Mrs. Trunnion rose and received him with a gracious embrace, blessing God for his happy return from a land of impiety and vice, in which she hoped his morals had not been corrupted, nor his principles of religion altered or impaired. The old gentleman being confined to his chair, was struck dumb with pleasure at his appearance; and, having made divers ineffectual efforts to get up, at length discharged a volley of curses against his own limbs, and held out his hand to his godson, who kissed it with great respect.

After he had finished his apostrophe to the gout, which was the daily and hourly subject of his execrations, “Well, my lad,” said he, “I care not how soon I go to the bottom, now I behold thee safe in harbour again; and yet I tell a d — d lie; I would I could keep afloat until I should see a lusty boy of thy begetting. Odds my timbers! I love thee so well, that I believe thou art the spawn of my own body; though I can give no account of thy being put upon the stocks.” Then, turning his eyes upon Pipes, who by this time had penetrated into his apartment, and addressed him with the usual salutation of “What cheer?” “Ahey,” cried he, “are you there, you herring-faced son of a sea-calf? What a slippery trick you played your old commander! But come, you dog, there’s my fist; I forgive you, for the love you bear to my godson. Go, man your tackle, and hoist a cask of strong beer into the yard, knock out the bung, and put a pump in it, for the use of all my servants and neighbours; and, d’ye hear, let the patereroes be fired, and the garrison illuminated, as rejoicings for the safe arrival of your master. By the Lord! if I had the use of these d — d shambling shanks, I would dance a hornpipe with the best of you.”

The next object of his attention was Mr. Jolter, who was honoured with particular marks of distinction, and the repeated promise of enjoying the living in his gift, as an acknowledgment of the care and discretion with which he had superintended the education and morals of our hero. The governor was so affected by the generosity of his patron, that the tears ran down his cheeks, while he expressed his gratitude, and the infinite satisfaction he felt in contemplating the accomplishments of his pupil.

Meanwhile, Pipes did not neglect the orders he had received. The beer was produced, the gates were thrown open for the admission of all comers, the whole house was lighted up, and the patereroes were discharged in repeated volleys. Such phenomena could not fail to attract the notice of the neighbourhood. The club at Tunley’s were astonished at the report of the guns, which produced various conjectures among the members of that sagacious society. The landlord observed, that, in all likelihood, the commodore was visited by hobgoblins, and ordered the guns to be fired in token of distress, as he had acted twenty years before, when he was annoyed by the same grievance. The exciseman, with a waggish sneer, expressed his apprehension of Trunnion’s death, in consequence of which the patereroes might be discharged with an equivocal intent, either as signals of his lady’s sorrow or rejoicing. The attorney signified a suspicion of Hatchway’s being married to Miss Pickle, and that the firing and illuminations were in honour of the nuptials; upon which Gamaliel discovered some faint signs of emotion, and, taking the pipe from his mouth, gave it as his opinion, that his sister was brought to bed.

While they were thus bewildered in the maze of their own imaginations, a company of countrymen, who sat drinking in the kitchen, and whose legs were more ready than their invention, sallied out to know the meaning of these exhibitions. Understanding that there was a butt of strong beer abroach in the yard, to which they were invited by the servants, they saved themselves the trouble and expense of returning to spend the evening at the public-house, and listed themselves under the banner of Tom Pipes, who presided as director of this festival.

The news of Peregrine’s return being communicated to the parish, the parson, and three or four neighbouring gentlemen, who were well-wishers to our hero, immediately repaired to the garrison, in order to pay their compliments on this happy event, and were detained to supper. An elegant entertainment was prepared by the direction of Miss Julia, who was an excellent housewife; and the commodore was so invigorated with joy, that he seemed to have renewed his age. Among those who honoured the occasion with their presence, was Mr. Clover, the young gentleman that made his addresses to Peregrine’s sister. His heart was so big with his passion, that, while the rest of the company were engrossed by their cups, he seized an opportunity of our hero’s being detached from the conversation, and, in the impatience of his love, conjured him to consent to his happiness; protesting, that he would comply with any terms of settlement that a man of his fortune could embrace, in favour of a young lady who was absolute mistress of his affection.

Our youth thanked him very politely for his favourable sentiments and honourable intention towards his sister, and told him, that at present he saw no reason to obstruct his desire; that he would consult Julia’s own inclinations, and confer with him about the means of gratifying his wish; but, in the meantime, begged to be excused from discussing any point of such importance to them both. Reminding him of the jovial purpose on which they were happily met, he promoted such a quick circulation of the bottle, that their mirth grew noisy and obstreperous; they broke forth into repeated peals of laughter, without any previous incitement except that of claret. These explosions were succeeded by Bacchanalian songs, in which the old gentleman himself attempted to bear a share; the sedate governor snapped time with his fingers, and the parish priest assisted in the chorus with a most expressive nakedness of countenance. Before midnight they were almost all pinned to their chairs, as if they had been fixed by the power of enchantment; and, what rendered the confinement still more unfortunate, every servant in the house was in the same situation; so that they were fain to take their repose as they sat, and nodded at each other like a congregation of Anabaptists.

Next day Peregrine communed with his sister on the subject of her match with Mr. Clover, who, she told him, had offered to settle a jointure of four hundred pounds, and take her to wife without any expectation of a dowry. She moreover gave him to understand, that, in his absence, she had received several messages from her mother, commanding her to return to her father’s house; but that she had refused to obey these orders, by the advice and injunction of her aunt and the commodore, which were indeed seconded by her own inclination; because she had all the reason in the world to believe, that her mother only wanted an opportunity of treating her with severity and rancour. The resentment of that lady had been carried to such indecent lengths, that, seeing her daughter at church one day, she rose up, before the parson entered, and reviled her with great bitterness, in the face of the whole congregation.

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