The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter LXVII.

Sees his Sister happily married — Visits Emilia, who receives him according to his Deserts.

Her brother being of opinion, that Mr. Clover’s proposal was not to be neglected, especially as Julia’s heart was engaged in his favour, communicated the affair to his uncle, who, with the approbation of Mrs. Trunnion, declared himself well satisfied with the young man’s addresses, and desired that they might be buckled with all expedition, without the knowledge or concurrence of her parents, to whom (on account of their unnatural barbarity) she was not bound to pay the least regard. Though our adventurer entertained the same sentiments of the matter, and the lover, dreading some obstruction, earnestly begged the immediate condescension of his mistress, she could not be prevailed upon to take such a material step, without having first solicited the permission of her father; resolved, nevertheless, to comply with the dictates of her own heart, should his objections be frivolous or unjust.

Urged by this determination, her admirer waited upon Mr. Gamaliel at the public-house, and, with the appearance of great deference and respect, made him acquainted with his affection for his daughter, communicated the particulars of his fortune, with the terms of settlement he was ready to make; and in conclusion told him, that he would marry her without a portion. This last offer seemed to have some weight with the father, who received it with civility, and promised in a day or two to favour him with a final answer to his demand. He, accordingly, that same evening consulted his wife, who, being exasperated at the prospect of her daughter’s independency, argued with the most virulent expostulation against the match, as an impudent scheme of her own planning, with a view of insulting her parents, towards whom she had already been guilty of the most vicious disobedience. In short, she used such remonstrances, as not only averted this weak husband’s inclination from the proposal which he had relished before, but even instigated him to apply for a warrant to apprehend his daughter, on the supposition that she was about to bestow herself in marriage without his privity or consent.

The justice of peace to whom this application was made, though he could not refuse the order, yet, being no stranger to the malevolence of the mother, which, together with Gamaliel’s simplicity, was notorious in the county, he sent an intimation of what had happened to the garrison; upon which a couple of sentinels were placed on the gate, and at the pressing solicitation of the lover, as well as the desire of the commodore, her brother, and aunt, Julia was wedded without further delay, the ceremony being performed by Mr. Jolter, because the parish priest prudently declined any occasion of giving offence, and the curate was too much in the interest of their enemies to be employed in that office.

This domestic concern being settled to the satisfaction of our hero, he escorted her next day to the house of her husband, who immediately wrote a letter to her father, declaring his reasons for having thus superseded his authority; and Mrs. Pickle’s mortification was unspeakable.

That the new-married couple might be guarded against all insult, our young gentleman and his friend Hatchway, with their adherents, lodged in Mr. Clover’s house for some weeks; during which they visited their acquaintance in the neighbourhood, according to custom. When the tranquility of their family was perfectly established, and the contract of the marriage executed in the presence of the old commodore and his lady, who gave her niece five hundred pounds to purchase jewels and clothes, Mr. Peregrine could no longer restrain his impatience to see his dear Emily; and told his uncle, that next day he proposed to ride across the country, in order to visit his friend Gauntlet, whom he had not heard of for a long time.

The old gentleman, looking steadfastly in his face, “Ah! D— n your cunning!” said he, “I find the anchor holds fast! I did suppose as how you would have slipt your cable, and changed your berth; but, I see, when a young fellow is once brought up by a pretty wench, he may man his capstans and viol block, if he wool; but he’ll as soon heave up the Pike of Teneriffe, as bring his anchor aweigh! Odds heartlikins! had I known the young woman was Ned Gauntlet’s daughter, I shouldn’t have thrown out signal for leaving off chase.”

Our adventurer was not a little surprised to hear the commodore talk in this style; and immediately conjectured that his friend Godfrey had informed him of the whole affair. Instead of listening to this approbation of his flame, with those transports of joy which he would have felt, had he retained his former sentiments, he was chagrined at Trunnion’s declaration, and offended at the presumption of the young soldier, in presuming to disclose the secret with which he had entrusted him. Reddening with these reflections, he assured the commodore that he never had serious thoughts of matrimony; so that if any person had told him he was under any engagement of that kind, he had abused his ear; for he protested that he would never contract such attachments without his knowledge and express permission.

Trunnion commended him for his prudent resolution, and observed, that, though no person mentioned to him what promises had passed betwixt him and his sweetheart, it was very plain that he had made love to her, and therefore it was to be supposed that his intentions were honourable; for he could not believe he was such a rogue in his heart, as to endeavour to debauch the daughter of a brave officer, who had served his country with credit and reputation. Notwithstanding this remonstrance, which Pickle imputed to the commodore’s ignorance of the world, he set out for the habitation of Mrs. Gauntlet, with the unjustifiable sentiments of a man of pleasure, who sacrifices every consideration to the desire of his ruling appetite; and, as Winchester lay in his way, resolved to visit some of his friends who lived in that place. It was in the house of one of these that he was informed of Emilia’s being then in town with her mother; upon which he excused himself from staying to drink tea, and immediately repaired to their lodgings, according to the directions he had received.

When he arrived at the door, instead of undergoing that perturbation of spirits, which a lover in his interesting situation might be supposed to feel, he suffered no emotion but that of vanity and pride, favoured with an opportunity of self-gratification, and entered his Emilia’s apartment with the air of a conceited petit-maitre, rather than that of the respectful admirer, when he visits the object of his passion, after an absence of seventeen months.

The young lady, having been very much disobliged at his mortifying neglect of her brother’s letter, had summoned all her own pride and resolution to her aid; and, by means of a happy disposition, so far overcame her chagrin at his indifference, that she was able to behave in his presence with apparent tranquility and ease. She was even pleased to find he had, by accident, chosen a time for his visit when she was surrounded by two or three young gentlemen, who professed themselves her admirers. Our gallant was no sooner announced, than she collected all her coquetry, put on the gayest air she could assume, and contrived to giggle just as he appeared at the room door. The compliments of salutation being performed, she welcomed him to England in a careless manner, asked the news of Paris, and, before he could make any reply, desired one of the other gentlemen to proceed with the sequel of that comical adventure, in the relation of which he had been interrupted.

Peregrine smiled within himself at this behaviour, which, without all doubt, he believed she had affected to punish him for his unkind silence while he was abroad, being fully persuaded that her heart was absolutely at his devotion. On this supposition, he practised his Parisian improvements on the art of conversation, and uttered a thousand prettinesses in the way of compliment, with such incredible rotation of tongue, that his rivals were struck dumb with astonishment, and Emilia fretted out of all temper, at seeing herself deprived of the prerogative of the sex. He persisted, however, in this surprising loquacity, until the rest of the company thought proper to withdraw, and then contracted his discourse into the focus of love, which now put on a very different appearance from that which it had formerly worn. Instead of awful veneration, which her presence used to inspire, that chastity of sentiment, and delicacy of expression, he now gazed upon her with the eyes of a libertine, he glowed with the impatience of desire, talked in a strain that barely kept within the bounds of decency, and attempted to snatch such favours, as she, in the tenderness of mutual acknowledgments, had once vouchsafed to bestow.

Grieved and offended as she was, at this palpable alteration in his carriage, she disdained to remind him of his former deportment, and, with dissembled good-humour, rallied him on the progress he had made in gallantry and address. But, far from submitting to the liberties he would have taken, she kept her person sacred from his touch, and would not even suffer him to ravish a kiss of her fair hand; so that he reaped no other advantage from the exercise of his talents, during this interview, which lasted a whole hour, than that of knowing he had overrated his own importance, and that Emily’s heart was not a garrison likely to surrender at discretion.

At length his addresses were interrupted by the arrival of the mother, who had gone abroad to visit by herself; and the conversation becoming more general, he understood that Godfrey was at London, soliciting for a lieutenancy that had fallen vacant in the regiment to which he belonged; and that Miss Sophy was at home with her father.

Though our adventurer had not met with all the success he expected by his first visit, he did not despair of reducing the fortress, believing that in time there would be a mutiny in his favour, and accordingly carried on the siege for several days, without profiting by his perseverance; till, at length, having attended the ladies to their own house in the country, he began to look upon this adventure as time misspent, and resolved to discontinue his attack, in hopes of meeting with a more favourable occasion; being, in the meantime, ambitious of displaying in a higher sphere, those qualifications which his vanity told him were at present misapplied.

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