The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter XXVIII.

Peregrine is overtaken by Mr. Gauntlet, with whom he fights a Duel, and contracts an intimate Friendship — He arrives at the Garrison, and finds his Mother as implacable as ever — He is insulted by his Brother Gam, whose Preceptor he disciplines with a Horsewhip.

In order to expel the melancholy images that took possession of his fancy, at parting from his mistress, he called in the flattering ideas of those pleasures he expected to enjoy in France; and before he had rode ten miles, his imagination was effectually amused. While he thus prosecuted his travels by anticipation, and indulged himself in all the insolence of hope, at the turning of a lane he was all of a sudden overtaken by Emilia’s brother on horseback, who told him he was riding the same way, and should be glad of his company. This young gentleman, whether prompted by personal pique, or actuated with zeal for the honour of his family, had followed our hero, with the view of obliging him to explain the nature of his attachment to his sister.

Peregrine returned his compliment with such disdainful civility as gave him room to believe that he suspected his errand; and therefore, without further preamble, he declared his business in these words: “Mr. Pickle, you have carried on a correspondence with my sister for some time, and I should be glad to know the nature of it.” To this question our lover replied, “Sir, I should be glad to know what title you have to demand that satisfaction?”—“Sir,” answered the other, “I demand it in the capacity of a brother, jealous of his own honour, as well as of his sister’s reputation; and if your intentions are honourable, you will not refuse it.”—“Sir,” said Peregrine, “I am not at present disposed to appeal to your opinion for the rectitude of my intentions: and I think you assume a little too much importance, in pretending to judge my conduct.”—“Sir,” replied the soldier, “I pretend to judge the conduct of every man who interferes with my concerns, and even to chastise him, if I think he acts amiss.”—“Chastise!” cried the youth, with indignation in his looks, “sure you dare not apply that term to me?”—“You are mistaken,” said Godfrey; “I dare do anything that becomes the character of a gentleman.”—“Gentleman, God wot!” replied the other, looking contemptuously at his equipage, which was none of the most superb, “a very pretty gentleman, truly!”

The soldier’s wrath was inflamed by this ironical repetition, the contempt of which his conscious poverty made him feel; and he called his antagonist presumptuous boy, insolent upstart, and with other epithets, which Perry retorted with great bitterness. A formal challenge having passed between them, they alighted at the first inn, and walked into the next field, in order to decide their quarrel by the sword. Having pitched upon the spot, helped to pull off each other’s boots, and laid aside their coats and waistcoats, Mr. Gauntlet told his opponent, that he himself was looked upon in the army as an expert swordsman, and that if Mr. Pickle had not made that science his particular study, they should be upon a more equal footing in using pistols. Peregrine was too much incensed to thank him for his plain dealing, and too confident of his own skill to relish the other’s proposal, which he accordingly rejected: then, drawing his sword, he observed, that were he to treat Mr. Gauntlet according to his deserts, he would order his man to punish his audacity with a horsewhip. Exasperated at this expression, which he considered as an indelible affront, he made no reply, but attacked his adversary with equal ferocity and address. The youth parried his first and second thrust, but received the third in the outside of his sword-arm. Though the wound was superficial, he was transported with rage at sight of his own blood, and returned the assault with such fury and precipitation, that Gauntlet, loath to take advantage of his unguarded heat, stood upon the defensive. In the second lounge, Peregrine’s weapon entering a kind of network in the shell of Godfrey’s sword, the blade snapped in two, and left him at the mercy of the soldier, who, far from making an insolent use of the victory he had gained, put up his Toledo with great deliberation, like a man who had been used to that kind of reencounters, and observed that such a blade as Peregrine’s was not to be trusted with a man’s life: then advising the owner to treat a gentleman in distress with more respect for the future, he slipped on his boots, and with sullen dignity of demeanour stalked back to the inn.

Though Pickle was extremely mortified at his miscarriage in this adventure, he was also struck with the behaviour of his antagonist, which affected him the more, as he understood that Godfrey’s fierte had proceeded from the jealous sensibility of a gentleman declined into the vale of misfortune. Gauntlet’s valour and moderation induced him to put a favourable construction on all those circumstances of that young soldier’s conduct, which before had given him disgust. Though in any other case he would have industriously avoided the least appearance of submission, he followed his conqueror to the inn with a view of thanking him for his generous forbearance, and of soliciting his friendship and correspondence.

Godfrey had his foot in the stirrup to mount, when Peregrine, coming up to him, desired he would defer his departure for a quarter of an hour, and favour him with a little private conversation. The soldier, who mistook the meaning of the request, immediately quitted his horse, and followed Pickle into a chamber, where he expected to find a brace of pistols loaded on the table: but he was very agreeably deceived, when our hero, in the most respectful terms, acknowledged his noble deportment in the field, owned that till then he had misunderstood his character, and begged that he would honour him with his intimacy and correspondence.

Gauntlet, who had seen undoubted proofs of Peregrine’s courage, which had considerably raised him in his esteem, and had sense enough to perceive that this concession was not owing to any sordid or sinister motive, embraced his offer with demonstrations of infinite satisfaction. When he understood the terms on which Mr. Pickle was with his sister, he proffered his service in his turn, either as agent, mediator, or confidant: nay, to give this new friend a convincing proof of his sincerity, he disclosed to him a passion which he had for some time entertained for his cousin Miss Sophy, though he durst not reveal his sentiments to her father, lest he should be offended at his presumption, and withdraw his protection from the family.

Peregrine’s generous heart was wrung with anguish, when he understood that this young gentleman, who was the only son of a distinguished officer, had carried arms for the space of five years, without being able to obtain a subaltern’s commission, though he always had behaved with remarkable regularity and spirit, and, acquired the friendship and esteem of all the officers under whom he had served. He would, at that time, with the utmost pleasure, have shared his finances with him; but as he would not run the risk of offending the young soldier’s delicacy of honour by a premature exertion of his liberality, he resolved to insinuate himself into an intimacy with him, before he would venture to take such freedoms; and with that view pressed Mr. Gauntlet to accompany him to the garrison, where he did not doubt of having influence enough to make him a welcome guest. Godfrey thanked him very courteously for his invitation, which he said he could not immediately accept; but promised, if he would favour him with a letter, and fix the time at which he proposed to set out for France, he would endeavour to visit him at the commodore’s habitation, and from thence give him a convoy to Dover. This new treaty being settled, and a dossil of lint, with a snip of plaster, applied to our adventurer’s wound, he parted from the brother of his dear Emilia, to whom and his friend Sophy he sent his kindest wishes; and having lodged one night upon the road, arrived next day in the afternoon at the garrison, where he found all his friends in good health, and overjoyed at his return.

The commodore, who was by this time turned of seventy, and altogether crippled by the gout, seldom went abroad; and as his conversation was not very entertaining, had but little company within doors; so that his spirits must have quite stagnated, had not they been kept in motion by the conversation of Hatchway, and received at different times a wholesome fillip from the discipline of his spouse, who, by the force of pride, religion, and Cognac, had erected a most terrible tyranny in the house. There was such a quick circulation of domestics in the family, that every suit of livery had been worn by figures of all dimensions. Trunnion himself had long before this time yielded to the torrent of her arbitrary sway, though not without divers obstinate efforts to maintain his liberty; and now, that he was disabled by his infirmities, when he used to bear his empress singing the loud Orthyan song among the servants below, he would often in whispers communicate to the lieutenant hints of what he would do if so be as how he was not deprived of the use of his precious limbs. Hatchway was the only person whom the temper of Mrs. Trunnion respected, either because she dreaded his ridicule, or looked upon his person with eyes of affection. This being the situation of things in the garrison, it is not to be doubted that the old gentleman highly enjoyed the presence of Peregrine, who found means to ingratiate himself so effectually with his aunt, that while he remained at home, she seemed to have exchanged the disposition of a tigress for that of a gentle kid; but he found his own mother as implacable, and his father as much henpecked, as ever.

Gamaliel, who now very seldom enjoyed the conversation of his old friend the commodore, had some time ago entered into an amicable society, consisting of the barber, apothecary, attorney, and exciseman of the parish, among whom he used to spend the evening at Tunley’s, and listen to their disputes upon philosophy and politics with great comfort and edification, while his sovereign lady domineered at home as usual, visited with pomp in the neighbourhood, and employed her chief care in the education of her darling son Gam, who was now in the fifteenth year of his age, and so remarkable for his perverse disposition, that, in spite of his mother’s influence and authority, he was not only hated, but also despised, both at home and abroad. She had put him under the tuition of the curate, who lived in the family, and was obliged to attend him in all his exercises and excursions. This governor was a low-bred fellow, who had neither experience nor ingenuity, but possessed a large fund of adulation and servile complaisance, by which he had gained the good graces of Mrs. Pickle, and presided over all her deliberations in the same manner as his superior managed those of Mrs. Trunnion.

He had one day rode out to take the air with his pupil, who, as I have already observed, was odious to the poor people, for having killed their dogs and broken their inclosures, and, on account of his hump, distinguished by the title of My Lord, when in a narrow lane they chanced to meet Peregrine on horseback. The young squire no sooner perceived his elder brother, for whom he had been instructed to entertain the most inveterate grudge, than he resolved to insult him en passant, and actually rode against him from gallop. Our hero, guessing his aim, fixed himself in his stirrups, and by a dexterous management of the reins avoided the shock in such a manner as that their legs only should encounter; by which means my lord was tilted out of his saddle, and in a twinkling laid sprawling in the dirt. The governor, enraged at the disgrace of his charge, advanced with great insolence and fury, and struck at Peregrine with his whip. Nothing could be more agreeable to our young gentleman than this assault, which furnished him with an opportunity of chastising an officious wretch, whose petulance and malice he had longed to punish. He therefore, spurring up his horse towards his antagonist, overthrew him in the middle of a hedge. Before he had time to recollect himself from the confusion of the fall, Pickle alighted in a trice, and exercised his horsewhip with such agility about the curate’s face and ears, that he was fain to prostrate himself before his enraged conqueror, and implore his forbearance in the most abject terms. While Peregrine was thus employed, his brother Gam had made shift to rise and attack him in the rear; for which reason, when the tutor was quelled, the victor faced about, snatched the weapon out of his hand, and having broken it to pieces, remounted his horse and rode off, without deigning to honour him with any other notice.

The condition in which they returned produced infinite clamour against the conqueror, who was represented as a ruffian who had lain in ambush to make away with his brother, in whose defence the curate was said to have received those cruel stripes that hindered him from appearing for three whole weeks in the performance of his duty at church. Complaints were made to the commodore, who, having inquired into the circumstances of the affair, approved of what his nephew had done, adding, with many oaths, that provided Peregrine had been out of the scrape, he wished Crook-back had broken his neck in the fall.

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