The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter XXVII.

They meet with a dreadful Alarm on the Road — Arrive at their Journey’s end — Peregrine is introduced to Emily’s Brother — These two young Gentlemen misunderstand each other — Pickle departs for the Garrison.

As they travelled at an easy rate, they had performed something more than one half of their journey, when they were benighted near an inn, at which they resolved to lodge; the accommodation was very good, they supped together with great mirth and enjoyment, and it was not till after he had been warned by the yawns of the ladies, that he conducted them to their apartment; where, wishing them good night, he retired to his own, and went to rest. The house was crowded with country-people who had been at a neighbouring fair, and now regaled themselves with ale and tobacco in the yard; so that their consideration, which at any time was but slender, being now overwhelmed by this debauch, they staggered into their respective kennels, and left a lighted candle sticking to one of the wooden pillars that supported the gallery. The flame in a little time laid hold on the wood, which was as dry as tinder; and the whole gallery was on fire, when Peregrine suddenly waked, and found himself almost suffocated. He sprang up in an instant, slipped on his breeches, and, throwing open the door of his chamber, saw the whole entry in a blaze.

Heavens! what were the emotions of his soul, when he beheld the volumes of flame and smoke rolling towards the room where his dear Emilia lay! Regardless of his own danger, he darted himself through the thickest of the gloom, when knocking hard, and calling at the same time to the ladies, with the most anxious entreaty to be admitted, the door was opened by Emilia in her shift, who asked, with the utmost trepidation, what was the matter? He made no reply, but snatching her up in his arms, like another Aeneas, bore her through the flames to a place of safety; where leaving her before she could recollect herself, or pronounce one word, but “Alas; my Cousin Sophy!” he flew back to the rescue of that young lady, and found her already delivered by Pipes, who having been alarmed by the smell of fire, had got up, rushed immediately to the chamber where he knew these companions lodged, and Emily being saved by her lover brought off Miss Sophy with the loss of his own shock-head of hair, which was singed off in his retreat.

By this time the whole inn was alarmed; every lodger, as well as servant, exerted himself, in order to stop the progress of this calamity: and there being a well-replenished horse-pond in the yard, in less than an hour the fire was totally extinguished, without having done any other damage than that of consuming about two yards of the wooden gallery.

All this time our young gentleman closely attended his fair charge, each of whom had swooned with apprehension; but as their constitutions were good, and their spirits not easily dissipated, when upon reflection they found themselves and their company safe, and that the flames were happily quenched, the tumult of their fears subsided, they put on their clothes, recovered their good humour, and began to rally each other on the trim in which they had been secured. Sophy observed that now Mr. Pickle had an indisputable claim to her cousin’s affection; and therefore she ought to lay aside all affected reserve for the future, and frankly avow the sentiments of her heart. Emily retorted the argument, putting her in mind, that by the same claim Mr. Pipes was entitled to the like return from her. Her friend admitted the force of the conclusion, provided she could not find means of satisfying his deliverer in another shape; and, turning, to the valet, who happened to be present, asked if his heart was not otherwise engaged. Tom, who did not conceive the meaning of the question, stood silent according to custom; and the interrogation being repeated, answered, with a grin, “Heart-whole as a biscuit, I’ll assure you, mistress.”—“What!” said Emilia, “have you never been in love, Thomas?”—“Yes, forsooth,” replied the valet without hesitation, “sometimes of a morning.”

Peregrine could not help laughing, and his mistress looked a little disconcerted at this blunt repartee: while Sophy, slipping a purse into his hand, told him there was something to purchase a periwig. Tom, having consulted his master’s eyes, refused the present, saying, “No, thank ye as much as if I did;” and though she insisted upon his putting it in his pocket, as a small testimony of her gratitude, he could not be prevailed upon to avail himself of her generosity; but following her to the other end of the room, thrust it into her sleeve without ceremony, exclaiming, “I’ll be d — d to hell if I do.” Peregrine, having checked him for his boorish behaviour, sent him out of the room, and begged that Miss Sophy would not endeavour to debauch the morals of his servant, who, rough and uncultivated as he was, had sense enough to perceive that he had no pretension to any such acknowledgment. But she argued, with great vehemence, that she should never be able to make acknowledgment adequate to the service he had done her, and that she should never be perfectly easy in her own mind until she found some opportunity of manifesting the sense she had of the obligation: “I do not pretend,” said she, “to reward Mr. Pipes; but I shall be absolutely unhappy, unless I am allowed to give him some token of my regard.”

Peregrine, thus earnestly solicited, desired, that since she was bent upon displaying her generosity, she would not bestow upon him any pecuniary gratification, but honour him with some trinket, as a mark of consideration; because he himself had such a particular value for the fellow, on account of his attachment and fidelity, that be should be sorry to see him treated on the footing of a common mercenary domestic. There was not one jewel in the possession of this grateful young lady, that she would not have gladly given as a recompense, or badge of distinction, to her rescuer; but his master pitched upon a seal ring of no great value that hung at her watch, and Pipes, being called in, had permission to accept that testimony of Miss Sophy’s favour. Tom received it accordingly with sundry scrapes; and, having kissed it with great devotion, put it on his little finger, and strutted off, extremely proud of his acquisition.

Emilia, with a most enchanting sweetness of aspect, told her lover that he had instructed her how to behave towards him; and taking a diamond ring from her finger, desired he would wear it for her sake. He received the pledge as became him, and presented another in exchange, which she at first refused, alleging that it would destroy the intent of her acknowledgment; but Peregrine assured her he had accepted her jewel, not as a proof of her gratitude, but as the mark of her love; and that if she refused a mutual token, he should look upon himself as the object of her disdain. Her eyes kindled, and her cheeks glowed with resentment at this impudent intimation, which she considered as an unseasonable insult, and the young gentleman, perceiving her emotion, stood corrected for his temerity, and asked pardon for the liberty of his remonstrance, which he hoped she would ascribe to the prevalence of that principle alone, which he had always taken pride in avowing.

Sophy, seeing him disconcerted, interposed in his behalf, and chid her cousin for having practised such unnecessary affectation; upon which, Emilia, softened into compliance, held out her finger as a signal of her condescension. Peregrine put on the ring with great eagerness, and mumbled her soft white hand in an ecstasy which would not allow him to confine his embraces to that limb, but urged him to seize her by the waist, and snatch a delicious kiss from her love-pouting lips; nor would he leave her a butt to the ridicule of Sophy, on whose mouth he instantly committed a rape of the same nature: so that the two friends, countenanced by each other, reprehended him with such gentleness of rebuke, that he was almost tempted to repeat the offence.

The morning being now lighted up, and the servants of the inn on foot, he ordered some chocolate for breakfast, and at the desire of the ladies, sent Pipes to see the horses fed, and the chariot prepared, while he went to the bar, and discharged the bill.

These measures being taken, they set out about five o’clock, and having refreshed themselves and their cattle at another inn on the road, proceeded in the afternoon. Without meeting with any other accident, they safely arrived at the place of their destination, where Mrs. Gauntlet expressed her joy at seeing her old friend Mr. Pickle, whom, however, she kindly reproached for the long discontinuance of his regard. Without explaining the cause of that interruption, he protested that his love and esteem had never been discontinued, and that for the future he should omit no occasion of testifying how much he had her friendship at heart. She then made him acquainted with her son, who at that time was in the house, being excused from his duty by furlough.

This young man, whose name was Godfrey, was about the age of twenty, of a middling size, vigorous make, remarkably well-shaped, and the scars of the small-pox, of which he bore a good number, added a peculiar manliness to the air of his countenance. His capacity was good, and his disposition naturally frank and easy; but he had been a soldier from his infancy, and his education was altogether in the military style. He looked upon taste and letters as mere pedantry, beneath the consideration of a gentleman, and every civil station of life as mean, when compared with the profession of arms. He had made great progress in the gymnastic sciences of dancing, fencing, and riding; played perfectly well on the German flute; and, above all things valued himself upon a scrupulous observance of all the points of honour.

Had Peregrine and he considered themselves upon equal footing, in all probability they would have immediately entered into a league of intimacy and friendship: but this sufficient soldier looked upon his sister’s admirer as a young student raw from the university, and utterly ignorant of mankind; while Squire Pickle beheld Godfrey in the light of a needy volunteer, greatly inferior to himself in fortune, as well as every other accomplishment. This mutual misunderstanding could not fail of animosities. The very next day after Peregrine’s arrival, some sharp repartees passed between them in presence of the ladies, before whom each endeavoured to assert his own superiority. In these contests our hero never failed of obtaining the victory, because his genius was more acute, and his talents better cultivated, than those of his antagonist, who therefore took umbrage at his success, became jealous of his reputation, and began to treat him with marks of scorn and disrespect.

His sister saw, and, dreading the consequence of his ferocity, not only took him to task in private for his impolite behaviour, but also entreated her lover to make allowances for the roughness of her brother’s education. He kindly assured her, that whatever pains it might cost him to vanquish his own impetuous temper, he would, for her sake, endure all the mortifications to which her brother’s arrogance might expose him; and, after having stayed with her two days, and enjoyed several private interviews, during which he acted the part of a most passionate lover, he took his leave of Mrs. Gauntlet overnight, and told the young ladies be would call early next morning to bid them farewell. He did not neglect this piece of duty, and found the two friends and breakfast already prepared in the parlour. All three being extremely affected with the thoughts of parting, a most pathetic silence for some time prevailed, till Peregrine put an end to it by lamenting his fate, in being obliged to exile himself so long from the dear object of his most interesting wish. He begged, with the most earnest supplications, that she would now, in consideration of the cruel absence he must suffer, give him the consolation which she had hitherto refused; namely, that of knowing he possessed a place within her heart. The confidante seconded his request, representing that it was now no time to disguise her sentiments, when her lover was about to leave the kingdom, and might be in danger of contracting other connections, unless he was confirmed in his constancy, by knowing how far he could depend upon her love; and, in short, she was plied with such irresistible importunities, that she answered in the utmost confusion, “Though I have avoided literal acknowledgments, methinks the circumstances of my behaviour might have convinced Mr. Pickle that I do not regard him as a common acquaintance.”—“My charming Emily,” cried the impatient lover, throwing himself at her feet, “why will you deal out my happiness in such scanty portions? Why will you thus mince the declaration which would overwhelm me with pleasure, and cheer my lonely reflection, while I sigh amid the solitude of separation?” His fair mistress, melted by this image, replied, with the tears gushing from her eyes, “I’m afraid I shall feel that separation more severely than you imagine.” Transported at this flattering confession, he pressed her to his breast, and while her head reclined upon his neck, mingled his tears with hers in great abundance, breathing the most tender vows of eternal fidelity. The gentle heart of Sophy could not bear this scene unmoved: she wept with sympathy, and encouraged the lovers to resign themselves to the will of fate, and support their spirits with the hope of meeting again on happier terms. Finally, after mutual promises, exhortations, and endearments, Peregrine took his leave, his heart being so full that he could scarce pronounce the word Adieu! and, mounting his horse at the door, set out with Pipes for the garrison.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59