The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter LXXIII.

Peregrine arrives at the Garrison, where he receives the last Admonitions of Commodore Trunnion, who next Day resigns his Breath, and is buried according to his own Directions — Some Gentlemen in the Country make a fruitless Attempt to accommodate Matters betwixt Mr. Gamaliel Pickle and his eldest Son.

About four o’clock in the morning our hero arrived at the garrison, where he found his generous uncle in extremity, supported in bed by Julia on one side, and Lieutenant Hatchway on the other, while Mr. Jolter administered spiritual consolation to his soul; and between whiles comforted Mrs. Trunnion, who, with her maid, sat by the fire, weeping with great decorum; the physician having just taken his last fee, and retired, after pronouncing the fatal prognostic, in which he anxiously wished he might be mistaken.

Though the commodore’s speech was interrupted by a violent hiccup, he still retained the use of his senses; and, when Peregrine approached, stretched out his hand with manifest signs of satisfaction. The young gentleman, whose heart overflowed with gratitude and affection, could not behold such a spectacle unmoved. He endeavoured to conceal his tenderness, which, in the wildness of his youth, and the pride of his disposition, he considered as a derogation from his manhood; but, in spite of all his endeavours, the tears gushed from his eyes, while he kissed the old man’s hand; and he was so utterly disconcerted by his grief, that, when he attempted to speak, his tongue denied its office; so that the commodore, perceiving his disorder, made a last effort of strength, and consoled him in these words:—“Swab the spray from your bowsprit, my good lad, and coil up your spirits. You must not let the toplifts of your heart give way, because you see me ready to go down at these years. Many a better man has foundered before he has made half my way; thof I trust, by the mercy of God, I shall be sure in port in a very few glasses, and fast moored in a most blessed riding; for my good friend Jolter hath overhauled the journal of my sins, and, by the observation he hath taken of the state of my soul, I hope I shall happily conclude my voyage, and be brought up in the latitude of heaven. Here has been a doctor that wanted to stow me chock full of physic; but, when a man’s hour is come, what signifies his taking his departure with a ‘pothecary’s shop in his hold? Those fellows come alongside of dying men, like the messengers of the Admiralty with sailing orders; but I told him as how I could slip my cable without his direction or assistance, and so he hauled off in dudgeon. This cursed hiccup makes such a rippling in the current of my speech, that mayhap you don’t understand what I say. Now, while the sucker of my wind-pump will go, I would willingly mention a few things, which I hope you will set down in the log-book of your remembrance, when I am stiff, d’ye see. There’s your aunt sitting whimpering by the fire; I desire you will keep her tight, warm, and easy in her old age, she’s an honest heart in her own way, and, thof she goes a little crank and humoursome, by being often overstowed with Nantz and religion, she has been a faithful shipmate to me, and I daresay she never turned in with another man since we first embarked in the same bottom. Jack Hatchway, you know the trim of her as well as e’er a man in England, and I believe she has a kindness for you; whereby, if you two will grapple in the way of matrimony, when I am gone, I do suppose that my godson, for love of me, will allow you to live in the garrison all the days of your life.”

Peregrine assured him, he would with pleasure comply with any request he should make in behalf of two persons whom he esteemed so much. The lieutenant, with a waggish sneer, which even the gravity of the situation could not prevent, thanked them both for their good-will, telling the commodore, he was obliged to him for his friendship, in seeking to promote him to the command of a vessel which he himself had worn out in the service; but that, notwithstanding, he should be content to take charge of her, though he could not help being shy of coming after such an able navigator.

Trunnion, exhausted as he was, smiled at this sally, and, after some pause, resumed his admonitions in this manner:—“I need not talk of Pipes, because I know you’ll do for him without any recommendation; the fellow has sailed with me in many a hard gale, and I’ll warrant him as stout a seaman as ever set face to the weather. But I hope you’ll take care of the rest of my crew, and not disrate them after I am dead, in favour of new followers. As for that young woman, Ned Gauntlet’s daughter, I’m informed as how she’s an excellent wench, and has a respect for you; whereby, if you run her on board in an unlawful way, I leave my curse upon you, and trust you will never prosper in the voyage of life. But I believe you are more of an honest man, than to behave so much like a pirate. I beg, of all love, you wool take care of your constitution, and beware of running foul of harlots, who are no better than so many mermaids, that sit upon rocks in the sea, and hang out a fair face for the destruction of passengers; thof I must say, for my own part, I never met with any of those sweet singers, and yet I have gone to sea for the space of thirty years. But howsomever, steer your course clear of all such brimstone b — s. Shun going to law, as you would shun the devil; and look upon all attorneys as devouring sharks, or ravenous fish of prey. As soon as the breath is out of my body, let minute guns be fired, till I am safe under ground. I would also be buried in the red jacket I had on when I boarded and took the Renummy. Let my pistols, cutlass, and pocket-compass be laid in the coffin along with me. Let me be carried to the grave by my own men, rigged in the black caps and white shirts which my barge’s crew were wont to wear; and they must keep a good look out, that none of your pilfering rascallions may come and heave me up again, for the lucre of what they can get, until the carcase is belayed by a tombstone. As for the motto, or what you call it, I leave that to you and Mr. Jolter, who are scholars; but I do desire, that it may not be engraved in the Greek or Latin lingos, and much less in the French, which I abominate, but in plain English, that, when the angel comes to pipe all hands, at the great day, he may know that I am a British man, and speak to me in my mother tongue. And now I have no more to say, but God in heaven have mercy upon my soul, and send you all fair weather, wheresoever you are bound.”

So saying, he regarded every individual around him with a look of complacency, and closing his eye, composed himself to rest, while the whole audience, Pipes himself not excepted, were melted with sorrow; and Mrs. Trunnion consented to quit the room, that she might not be exposed to the unspeakable anguish of seeing him expire.

His last moments, however, were not so near as they imagined. He began to doze, and enjoyed small intervals of ease, till next day in the afternoon; during which remissions, he was heard to pour forth many pious ejaculations, expressing his hope, that, for all the heavy cargo of his sins, he should be able to surmount the puttock-shrouds of despair, and get aloft to the cross-trees of God’s good favour. At last his voice sunk so low as not to be distinguished; and, having lain about an hour, almost without any perceptible signs of life, he gave up the ghost with a groan which announced his decease.

Julia was no sooner certified of this melancholy event, than she ran to her aunt’s chamber, weeping aloud; and immediately a very decent concert was performed by the good widow and her attendants. Peregrine and Hatchway retired till the corpse should be laid out; and Pipes having surveyed the body, with a face of rueful attention — “Well fare thy soul! old Hawser Trunnion,” said he: “man and boy I have known thee these five-and-thirty years, and sure a truer heart never broke biscuit. Many a hard gale hast thou weathered; but now thy spells are all over, and thy hull fairly laid up. A better commander I’d never desire to serve; and who knows but I may help to set up thy standing rigging in another world?”

All the servants of the house were affected with the loss of their old master; and the poor people in the neighbourhood assembled at the gate, and, by repeated howlings, expressed their sorrow for the death of their charitable benefactor. Peregrine, though he felt everything which love and gratitude could inspire on this occasion, was not so much overwhelmed with affliction as to be incapable of taking the management of the family into his own hands. He gave directions about the funeral with great discretion, after having paid the compliments of condolence to his aunt, whom he consoled with the assurance of his inviolable esteem and affection. He ordered a suit of mourning to be made for every person in the garrison, and invited all the neighbouring gentlemen to the burial, not even excepting his father and brother Gam, who did not, however, honour the ceremony with their presence; nor was his mother humane enough to visit her sister-in-law in her distress.

In the method of interment, the commodore’s injunctions were obeyed to a title; and at the same time our hero made a donation of fifty pounds to the poor of the parish, as a benefaction which his uncle had forgot to bequeath. Having performed these obsequies with the most pious punctuality, he examined the will, to which there was no addition since it had first been executed, adjusted the payment of all the legacies, and, being sole executor, took an account of the estate to which he had succeeded, which, after all deductions, amounted to thirty thousand pounds. The possession of such a fortune, of which he was absolute master, did not at all contribute to the humiliation of his spirit, but inspired him with new ideas of grandeur and magnificence, and elevated his hope to the highest pinnacle of expectation.

His domestic affairs being settled, he was visited by almost all the gentlemen of the county, who came to pay their compliments of congratulation on his accession to the estate; and some of them offered their good offices towards a reconciliation betwixt his father and him, induced by the general detestation which was entertained for his brother Gam, who was by this time looked upon by his neighbours as a prodigy of insolence and malice. Our young squire thanked them for their kind proposal, which he accepted; and old Gamaliel, at their entreaties, seemed very well disposed to any accommodation: but as he would not venture to declare himself before he had consulted his wife, his favourable disposition was rendered altogether ineffectual, by the instigations of that implacable woman; and our hero resigned all expectation of being reunited to his father’s house. His brother, as usual, took all opportunities of injuring his character, by false aspersions, and stories misrepresented, in order to prejudice his reputation; nor was his sister Julia suffered to enjoy her good fortune in peace. Had he undergone such persecution from an alien to his blood, the world would have heard of his revenge; but, notwithstanding his indignation, he was too much tinctured by the prejudices of consanguinity, to lift his arm in judgment against the son of his own parents; and this consideration abridged the term of his residence at the garrison, where he had proposed to stay for some months.

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