The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter CII.

Peregrine reconciles himself to the Lieutenant, and renews his Connection with Society — Divers Plans are projected in his behalf, and he has occasion to exhibit a remarkable Proof of Self-denial.

The captain, with reluctance, yielded the preference in this particular to Jack, who was immediately invited to a conference, by a note subscribed with Pickle’s own hand. He was found at the prison-gate waiting for Gauntlet, to know the issue of his negotiation. He no sooner received this summons, than he set all his sails, and made the best of his way to his friend’s apartment; being admitted by the turnkey, in consequence of Peregrine’s request, communicated by the messenger who, carried the billet. Pipes followed close in the wake of his shipmate; and, in a few minutes after the note had been despatched, Peregrine and Gauntlet heard the sound of the stump, ascending the wooden staircase with such velocity, that they at first mistook it for the application of drumsticks to the head of an empty barrel. This uncommon speed, however, was attended with a misfortune; he chanced to overlook a small defect in one of the steps, and his prop plunging into a hole, he fell backwards, to the imminent danger of his life. Tom was luckily at his back, and sustained him in his arms, so as that he escaped without any other damage than the loss of his wooden leg, which was snapped in the middle, by the weight of his body in falling; and such was his impatience, that he would not give himself the trouble to disengage the fractured member. Unbuckling the whole equipage in a trice, he left it sticking in the crevice, saying, a rotten cable was not worth heaving up, and, in this natural state of mutilation, hopped into the room with infinite expedition.

Peregrine, taking him cordially by the hand, seated him upon one side of his bed; and, after having made an apology for that reserve of which he had so justly complained, asked if he could conveniently accommodate him with the loan of twenty guineas. The lieutenant, without opening his mouth, pulled out his purse; and Pipes, who overheard the demand, applying the whistle to his lips, performed a loud overture, in token of his joy. Matters being thus brought to an accommodation, our hero told the captain, that he should be glad of his company at dinner, with their common friend Hatchway, if he would in the meantime leave him to the ministry of Pipes; and the soldier went away for the present, in order to pay a short visit to his uncle, who at that time languished in a declining state of health, promising to return at the appointed hour.

The lieutenant, having surveyed the dismal appearance of his friend, could not help being moved at the spectacle, and began to upbraid him with his obstinate pride, which, he swore, was no better than self-murder. But the young gentleman interrupted him in the course of his moralizing, by telling him he had reasons for his conduct, which, perhaps, he would impart in due season; but, at present, his design was to alter that plan of behaviour, and make himself some amends for the misery he had undergone. He accordingly sent Pipes to redeem his clothes from the pawnbroker’s wardrobe, and bespeak something comfortable for dinner. When Godfrey came back, he was very agreeably surprised to see such a favourable alteration in his externals; for, by the assistance of his valet, he had purified himself from the dregs of his distress, and now appeared in a decent suit, with clean linen, while his face was disencumbered of the hair that overshadowed it, and his apartment prepared for the reception of company.

They enjoyed their meal with great satisfaction, entertaining one another with a recapitulation of their former adventures at the garrison. In the afternoon, Gauntlet taking his leave, in order to write a letter to his sister, at the desire of his uncle who, finding his end approaching, wanted to see her without loss of time, Peregrine made his appearance on the Bare, and was complimented on his coming abroad again, not only by his old messmates, who had not seen him for many weeks, but by a number of those objects whom his liberality had fed, before his funds were exhausted. Hatchway was, by his interest with the warden, put in possession of his former quarters, and Pipes despatched to make inquiry about Crabtree at his former lodging, where he learned that the misanthrope, after a very severe fit of illness, was removed to Kensington Gravel-pits, for the convenience of breathing a purer air than that of London.

In consequence of this information, Peregrine, who knew the narrowness of the old gentleman’s fortune, next day desired his friend Gauntlet to take the trouble of visiting him, in his name, with a letter, in which he expressed great concern for his indisposition, gave him notice of the fortunate intelligence he had received from the Downs, and conjured him to make use of his purse, if he was in the least hampered in his circumstances. The captain took coach immediately, and set out for the place, according to the direction which Pipes had procured.

Cadwallader, having seen him at Bath, knew him again at first sight; and, though reduced to a skeleton, believed himself in such a fair way of doing well, that he would have accompanied him to the Fleet immediately, had he not been restrained by his nurse, who was, by his physician, invested with full authority to dispute and oppose his will in everything that she should think prejudicial to his health; for he was considered, by those who had the care of him, as an old humourist, not a little distempered in his brain. He inquired particularly about the sailors, who, he said, had deterred him from carrying on his usual correspondence with Pickle, and been the immediate cause of his indisposition, by terrifying him into a fever. Understanding that the breach between Pickle and Hatchway was happily cemented, and that he was no longer in any danger from the lieutenant’s resentment, he promised to be at the Fleet with the first convenient opportunity; and, in the meantime, wrote an answer to Peregrine’s letter, importing, that he was obliged to him for his offer, but had not the least occasion for his assistance.

In a few days, our adventurer recovered his vigour, complexion, and vivacity; he mingled again in the diversions and parties of the place; and he received, in a little time, the money he had lent upon bottomry, which, together with the interest, amounted to upwards of eleven hundred pounds. The possession of this sum, while it buoyed up his spirits, involved him in perplexity. Sometimes he thought it was incumbent on him, as a man of honour, to employ the greatest part of it in diminishing the debt for which he suffered; on the other hand, he considered that obligation effaced, by the treacherous behaviour of his creditor, who had injured him to ten times the value of the sum; and, in these sentiments, entertained thoughts of attempting his escape from prison, with a view of conveying himself, with the shipwreck of his fortune, to another country, in which he might use it to better advantage.

Both suggestions were attended with such doubts and difficulties, that he hesitated between them, and for the present laid out a thousand pounds in stock, the interest of which, together with the fruits of his own industry, he hoped, would support him above want in his confinement, until something should occur that would point out the expediency of some other determination. Gauntlet still insisted upon having the honour of obtaining his liberty, at the expense of taking up his notes to Gleanum, and exhorted him to purchase a commission with part of the money which he had retrieved. The lieutenant affirmed, that it was his privilege to procure the release of his cousin Pickle, because he enjoyed a very handsome sum by his aunt, which of right belonged to the young gentleman, to whom he was, moreover, indebted for the use of his furniture, and for the very house that stood over his head; and that, although he had already made a will in his favour, he should never be satisfied, nor easy in his mind, so long as he remained deprived of his liberty, and wanted any of the conveniences of life.

Cadwallader, who by this time assisted at their councils, and was best acquainted with the peculiarity and unbending disposition of the youth, proposed, that, seeing he was so averse to obligations, Mr. Hatchway should purchase of him the garrison with its appendages, which, at a moderate price, would sell for more money than would be sufficient to discharge his debts; that, if the servile subordination of the army did not suit his inclinations, he might, with his reversion, buy a comfortable annuity, and retire with him to the country, where he might live absolutely independent, and entertain himself, as usual, with the ridiculous characters of mankind.

This plan was to Pickle less disagreeable than any other project which as yet had been suggested; and the lieutenant declared himself ready to execute his part of it without delay; but the soldier was mortified at the thoughts of seeing his assistance unnecessary, and eagerly objected to the retirement, as a scheme that would blast the fairest promises of fame and fortune, and bury his youth and talents in solitude and obscurity. This earnest opposition on the part of Gauntlet hindered our adventurer from forming any immediate resolution, which was also retarded by his unwillingness to part with the garrison upon any terms, because he looked upon it as a part of his inheritance, which he could not dispose of without committing an insult upon the memory of the deceased commodore.

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