The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter CIV.

Peregrine holds a Consultation with his Friends, in consequence of which he bids Adieu to the Fleet — He arrives at his Father’s House, and asserts his Right of Inheritance.

Nor did our hero keep the misanthrope in ignorance of this happy turn of fortune. Pipes was despatched to the senior, with a message requesting his immediate presence; and he accordingly appeared, in obedience to the summons, growling with discontent for having been deprived of several hours of his natural rest. His mouth was immediately stopped with the letter, at which he “smiled horribly a ghastly grin;” and, after a compliment of gratulation, they entered into close divan, about the measures to be taken in consequence of this event.

There was no room for much debate. It was unanimously agreed that Pickle should set out with all possible despatch for the garrison, to which Gauntlet and Hatchway resolved to attend him. Pipes was accordingly ordered to prepare a couple of post-chaises, while Godfrey went to procure bail for his friend, and provide them with money for the expense of the expedition; but not before he was desired by Peregrine to conceal this piece of news from his sister, that our youth might have an opportunity to surprise her in a more interesting manner, after he should have settled his affairs.

All these previous steps being taken, in less than an hour our hero took his leave of the Fleet, after he had left twenty guineas with the warden for the relief of the poor prisoners, a great number of whom conveyed him to the gate, pouring forth prayers for his long life and prosperity; and he took the road to the garrison, in the most elevated transports of joy, unallayed with the least mixture of grief at the death of a parent whose paternal tenderness he had never known. His breast was absolutely a stranger to that boasted storyn, or instinct of affection, by which the charities are supposed to subsist.

Of all the journeys he had ever made, this, sure, was the most delightful. He felt all the ecstasy that must naturally be produced in a young man of his imagination, from such a sudden transition in point of circumstance, he found himself delivered from confinement and disgrace, without being obliged to any person upon earth for his deliverance; he had it now in his power to retort the contempt of the world in a manner suited to his most sanguine wish; he was reconciled to his friend, and enabled to gratify his love, even upon his own terms; and saw himself in possession of a fortune more ample than his first inheritance, with a stock of experience that would steer him clear of all those quicksands among which he had been formerly wrecked.

In the middle of their journey, while they halted at an inn for a short refreshment and change of horses, a postilion running up to Peregrine in the yard, fell at his feet, clasped his knees with great eagerness and agitation, and presented to him the individual face of his old valet-de-chambre. The youth perceiving him in such an abject garb and attitude, commanded him to rise and tell the cause of such a miserable reverse in his fortune. Upon which Hadgi gave him to understand, that he had been ruined by his wife, who, having robbed him of all his cash and valuable effects, had eloped from his house with one of his own customers, who appeared in the character of a French count, but was in reality no other than an Italian fiddler; that, in consequence of this retreat, he, the husband, was disabled from paying a considerable sum which he had set apart for his wine merchant, who being disappointed in his expectation, took out an execution against his effects; and the rest of his creditors following his example, hunted him out of house and home. So that, finding his person in danger at London, he had been obliged to escape into the country, skulking about from one village to another, till, being quite destitute of all support, he had undertaken his present office, to save himself from starving.

Peregrine listened with compassion to his lamentable tale, which too well accounted for his not appearing in the Fleet, with offers of service to his master in distress; a circumstance that Pickle had all along imputed to his avarice and ingratitude. He assured him, that, as he had been the means of throwing in his way the temptation to which he fell a sacrifice, he would charge himself with the retrieval of his affairs. In the meantime, he made him taste of his bounty, and desired him to continue in his present employment until he should return from the garrison, when he would consider his situation, and do something for his immediate relief.

Hadgi attempted to kiss his shoe, and wept, or affected to weep, with sensibility at this gracious reception; he even made a merit of his unwillingness to exercise his new occupation, and earnestly begged that he might be allowed to give immediate attendance upon his dear master, from whom he could not bear the thoughts of a second parting. His entreaties were reinforced by the intercession of his two friends, in consequence of which the Swiss was permitted to follow them at his own leisure, while they set forward after a slight repast, and reached the place of their destination before ten o’clock at night.

Peregrine, instead of alighting at the garrison, rode straightway to his father’s house; and no person appearing to receive him, not even a servant to take care of his chaise, he dismounted without assistance. Being followed by his two friends, he advanced into the hall, where perceiving a bell-rope, he made immediate application to it in such a manner as brought a couple of footmen into his presence. After having reprimanded them, with a stern look, for their neglect in point of attendance, he commanded them to show him into an apartment; and as they seemed unwilling to yield obedience to his orders, asked if they did not belong to the family?

One of them, who took upon himself the office of spokesman, replied with a sullen air, that they had been in the service of old Mr. Pickle, and now that he was dead, thought themselves bound to obey nobody but their lady, and her son Mr. Gamaliel. This declaration had scarce proceeded from his mouth, when our hero gave them to understand, that since they were not disposed to own any other master, they must change their quarters immediately. He ordered them to decamp without further preparation; and, as they still continued restive, they were kicked out of doors by the captain and his friend Hatchway. Squire Gam, who overheard everything that passed, and was now more than ever inflamed with that rancour which he had sucked with his mother’s milk, flew to the assistance of his adherents, with a pistol in each hand, bellowing “Thieves! Thieves!” with great vociferation, as if he had mistaken the business of the strangers, and actually believed himself in danger of being robbed. Under this pretence he discharged a piece at his brother, who luckily escaped the shot, closed with him in a moment, and, wresting the other pistol from his grip, turned him out into the courtyard, to the consolation of his two dependents.

By this time, Pipes and the two postilions had taken possession of the stables, without being opposed by the coachman and his deputy, who quietly submitted to the authority of their new sovereign. But the noise of the pistol had alarmed Mrs. Pickle, who, running downstairs, with the most frantic appearance, attended by two maids and the curate, who still maintained his place of chaplain and ghostly director in the family, would have assaulted our hero with her nails, had not she been restrained by her attendants. Though they prevented her from using her hands, they could not hinder her from exercising her tongue, which she wagged against him with all the virulence of malice. She asked, if he were come to butcher his brother, to insult his father’s corpse, and triumph in her affliction? She bestowed upon him the epithets of spendthrift, jail-bird, and unnatural ruffian; she begged pardon of God for having brought such a monster into the world; accused him of having brought his father’s grey hairs with sorrow to the grave; and affirmed, that were he to touch the body, it would bleed at his approach.

Without pretending to refute the articles of this ridiculous charge, he allowed her to ring out her alarm; and then calmly replied, that if she did not quietly retire to her chamber, and behave as became a person in her present situation, he should insist upon her removing to another lodging without delay; for he was determined to be master in his own family. The lady, who, in all probability, expected that he would endeavour to appease her with all the tenderness of filial submission, was so much exasperated at his cavalier behaviour, that her constitution could not support the transports of her spirits; and she was carried off by her women in a fit, while the officious clergyman was dismissed after his pupil, with all the circumstances of disgrace.

Our hero having thus made his quarters good, took possession of the best apartment in the house, and sent notice of his arrival to Mr. Clover, who, with his wife, visited him in less than an hour, and was not a little surprised to find him so suddenly settled in his father’s house. The meeting of Julia and her brother was extremely pathetic. She had always loved him with uncommon tenderness, and looked upon him as the ornament of her family; but she had heard of his extravagances with regret, and though she considered the stories that were circulated at his expense, as the malicious exaggerations of his mother and her darling son, her apprehension had been grievously alarmed by an account of his imprisonment and distress, which had been accidentally conveyed to that country by a gentleman from London, who had been formerly of his acquaintance; she could not, therefore, without the most tender emotions of joy, see him, as it were, restored to his rightful inheritance, and re-established in that station of life which she thought he could fill with dignity and importance.

After their mutual expressions of affection, she retired to her mother’s chamber, with a view to make a second offer of her service and attendance, which had been already rejected with scorn since her father’s death; while Peregrine consulted his brother-in-law about the affairs of the family, so far as they had fallen within his cognizance and observation. Mr. Clover told him, that, though he was never favoured with the confidence of the defunct, he knew some of his intimates, who had been tampered with by Mrs. Pickle, and even engaged to second the remonstrances by which she had often endeavoured to persuade her husband to settle his affairs by a formal will; but that he had from time to time evaded their importunities with surprising excuses of procrastination, that plainly appeared to be the result of invention and design, far above the supposed pitch of his capacity; a circumstance from which Mr. Clover concluded, that the old gentleman imagined his life would not have been secure, had he once taken such a step as would have rendered it unnecessary to the independence of his second son. He moreover observed, that, in consequence of this information, he no sooner heard of Mr. Pickle’s death, which happened at the club, than he went directly with a lawyer to his house, before any cabal or conspiracy could be formed against the rightful heir; and, in presence of witnesses provided for the purpose, sealed up all the papers of the deceased, after the widow had, in the first transports of her sorrow and vexation, fairly owned, that her husband had died intestate.

Peregrine was extremely well satisfied with this intelligence, by which all his doubts were dispelled; and, having cheerfully supped with his friends on a cold collation, which his brother-in-law had brought in his chariot, they retired to rest, in different chambers, after Julia had met with another repulse from her capricious mother, whose overflowing rage had now subsided into the former channel of calm inveteracy. Next morning the house was supplied with some servants from the garrison, and preparations were made for the funeral of the deceased. Gam having taken lodgings in the neighbourhood, came with a chaise and cart to demand his mother, together with his own clothes, and her personal effects. Our hero, though he would not suffer him to enter the door, allowed his proposal to be communicated to the widow, who eagerly embraced the opportunity of removing, and was, with her own baggage, and that of her beloved son, conveyed to the place which he had prepared for her reception. Thither she was followed by her woman, who was desired by Peregrine to assure her mistress, that, until a regular provision could be settled upon her, she might command him, in point of money, or any other accommodation in his power.

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