The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter LXIV.

The Doctor exults in his Victory — They set out for Rotterdam, where they are entertained by two Dutch Gentlemen in a Yacht, which is overturned in the Maese, to the manifest hazard of the Painter’s Life — They spend the Evening with their Entertainers, and next Day visit a Cabinet of Curiosities.

Tom was accordingly ordered to administer to his occasions; and the conqueror, elated with his success, which he in a great measure attributed to his manner of attack, and the hymn which he howled, told Peregrine, that he was now convinced of the truth of what Pindar sung in these words, ossa de me pephileke Zeus atuzontai boan Pieridon aionta; for he had no sooner begun to repeat the mellifluent strains of that divine poet, than the wretch his antagonist was confounded, and his nerves unstrung.

On their return to the inn, he expatiated on the prudence and tranquility of his own behaviour, and ascribed the consternation of Pallet to the remembrance of some crime that lay heavy upon his conscience; for, in his opinion, a man of virtue and common sense could not possibly be afraid of death, which is not only the peaceful harbour that receives him shattered on the tempestuous sea of life, but also the eternal seal of his fame and glory, which it is no longer in his power to forfeit and forego. He lamented his fate, in being doomed to live in such degenerate days, when war is become a mercenary trade; and ardently wished, that the day would come, when he should have such an opportunity of signalizing his courage in the cause of liberty, as that of Marathon, where a handful of Athenians, fighting for their freedom, defeated the whole strength of the Persian empire. “Would to heaven!” said he, “my muse were blessed with an occasion to emulate that glorious testimony on the trophy in Cyprus, erected by Cimon, for two great victories gained on the same day over the Persians by sea and land; in which it is very remarkable, that the greatness of the occasion has raised the manner of expression above the usual simplicity and modesty of all other ancient inscriptions.” He then repeated it with all the pomp of declamation, and signified his hope, that the French would one day invade us with such an army as that which Xerxes led into Greece, that it might be in his power to devote himself, like Leonidas, to the freedom of his country.

This memorable combat being thus determined, and everything that was remarkable in Antwerp surveyed, they sent their baggage down the Scheldt to Rotterdam, and set out for the same place in a post-waggon, which that same evening brought them in safety to the banks of the Maese. They put up at an English house of entertainment, remarkable for the modesty and moderation of the landlord; and next morning the doctor went in person to deliver letters of recommendation to two Dutch gentlemen from one of his acquaintance at Paris. Neither of them happened to be at home when he called; so that he left a message at their lodgings, with his address; and in the afternoon, they waited upon the company, and, after many hospitable professions, one of the two invited them to spend the evening at his house.

Meanwhile they had provided a pleasure yacht, in which they proposed to treat them with an excursion upon the Maese. This being almost the only diversion that place affords, our young gentleman relished the proposal; and, notwithstanding the remonstrances of Mr. Jolter, who declined the voyage on account of the roughness of the weather, they went on board without hesitation, and found a collation prepared in the cabin. While they tacked to and fro in the river, under the impulse of a mackerel breeze, the physician expressed his satisfaction, and Pallet was ravished with the entertainment. But the wind increasing, to the unspeakable joy of the Dutchmen, who had now an opportunity of showing their dexterity in the management of the vessel, the guests found it inconvenient to stand upon deck, and impossible to sit below, on account of the clouds of tobacco smoke which rolled from the pipes of their entertainers, in such volumes as annoyed them even to the hazard of suffocation. This fumigation, together with the extraordinary motion of the ship, began to affect the head and stomach of the painter, who begged earnestly to be set on shore. But the Dutch gentlemen, who had no idea of his sufferings, insisted, with surprising obstinacy of regard, upon his staying until he should see an instance of the skill of the mariners; and, bringing him on deck, commanded the men to carry the vessel’s lee gunwale under water. This nicety of navigation they instantly performed, to the admiration of Pickle, the discomposure of the doctor, and terror of Pallet, who blessed himself from the courtesy of a Dutchman, and prayed to Heaven for his deliverance.

While the Hollanders enjoyed the reputation of this feat, and the distress of the painter, at the same time, the yacht was overtaken by a sudden squall, that overset her in a moment, and flung every man overboard into the Maese, before they could have the least warning of their fate, much less time to provide against the accident. Peregrine, who was an expert swimmer, reached the shore in safety; the physician, in the agonies of despair, laid fast hold on the trunk-breeches of one of the men, who dragged him to the other side; the entertainers landed at the bomb-keys, smoking their pipes all the way with great deliberation; and the poor painter must have gone to the bottom, had not he been encountered by the cable of a ship that lay at anchor near the scene of their disaster. Though his senses had forsaken him, his hands fastened by instinct on this providential occurrence, which he held with such a convulsive grasp, that, when a boat was sent out to bring him on shore, it was with the utmost difficulty that his fingers were disengaged. He was carried into a house, deprived of the use of speech, and bereft of all sensation; and, being suspended by the heels, a vast quantity of water ran out of his mouth. This evacuation being made, he began to utter dreadful groans, which gradually increased to a continued roar; and, after he had regained the use of his senses, he underwent a delirium that lasted several hours. As for the treaters, they never dreamed of expressing the least concern to Pickle or the physician for what had happened, because it was an accident so common as to pass without notice.

Leaving the care of their vessel to the seamen, the company retired to their respective lodgings, in order to shift their clothes; and in the evening our travellers were conducted to the house of their new friend, who, with a view of making his invitation the more agreeable, had assembled, to the number of twenty or thirty Englishmen, of all ranks and degrees, from the merchant to the periwig-maker’s prentice.

In the midst of this congregation stood a chafing-dish with live coals, for the convenience of lighting their pipes, and every individual was accommodated with a spitting-box. There was not a mouth in the apartment unfurnished with a tube, so that they resembled a congregation of chimeras breathing fire and smoke; and our gentlemen were fain to imitate their example in their own defence. It is not to be supposed that the conversation was either very sprightly or polite; that the whole entertainment was of the Dutch cast — frowzy and phlegmatic; and our adventurer, as he returned to his lodging, tortured with the headache, and disgusted with every circumstance of his treatment, cursed the hour in which the doctor had saddled them with such troublesome companions.

Next morning by eight o’clock, these polite Hollanders returned the visit, and, after breakfast, attended their English friends to the house of a person that possessed a very curious cabinet of curiosities, to which they had secured our company’s admission. The owner of this collection was a cheesemonger, who received them in a woollen nightcap, with straps buttoned under his chin. As he understood no language but his own, he told them, by the canal of one of their conductors, that he did not make a practice of showing his curiosities; but understanding that they were Englishmen, and recommended to his friends, he was content to submit them to their perusal. So saying, he led them up a dark stair, into a small room, decorated with a few paltry figures in plaster of Paris, two or three miserable landscapes, the skins of an otter, seal, and some fishes stuffed; and in one corner stood a glass case, furnished with newts, frogs, lizards, and serpents, preserved in spirits; a human foetus, a calf with two heads, and about two dozen of butterflies pinned upon paper.

The virtuoso having exhibited these particulars, eyed the strangers with a look soliciting admiration and applause; and as he could not perceive any symptom of either in their gestures or countenances, withdrew a curtain, and displayed a wainscot chest of drawers, in which, he gave them to understand, was something that would agreeably amuse the imagination. Our travellers, regaled with this notice, imagined that they would be entertained with the sight of some curious medals, or other productions of antiquity; but how were they disappointed, when they saw nothing but a variety of shells, disposed in whimsical figures, in each drawer! After he had detained them full two hours with a tedious commentary upon the shape, size, and colour of each department, he, with a supercilious simper, desired that the English gentlemen would frankly and candidly declare, whether his cabinet, or that of Mynheer Sloane, at London, was the most valuable. When this request was signified in English to the company, the painter instantly exclaimed, “By the Lard! they are not to be named of a day. And as for that matter, I would not give one corner of Saltero’s coffee-house at Chelsea for all the trash he hath shown.” Peregrine, unwilling to mortify any person who had done his endeavour to please him, observed, that what he had seen was very curious and entertaining; but that no private collection in Europe was equal to that of Sir Hans Sloane, which, exclusive of presents, had cost an hundred thousand pounds. The two conductors were confounded at this asseveration, which, being communicated to the cheesemonger, he shook his head with a significant grin; and, though he did not choose to express his incredulity in words, gave our hero to understand, that he did not much depend upon his veracity. From the house of this Dutch naturalist, they were draggled all round the city by the painful civility of their attendants, who did not quit them till the evening was well advanced, and then not till after they had promised to be with them before ten o’clock next day, in order to conduct them to a country house, situated in a pleasant village on the other side of the river.

Pickle was already so much fatigued with their hospitality, that, for the first time of his life, he suffered a dejection of spirits; and resolved, at any rate, to avoid the threatened persecution of to-morrow. With this view, he ordered his servants to pack up some clothes and linen in a portmanteau; and in the morning embarked, with his governor, in the treckskuyt, for the Hague, whither he pretended to be called by some urgent occasion, leaving his fellow-travellers to make his apology to their friends, and assuring them, that he would not proceed for Amsterdam without their society. He arrived at the Hague in the forenoon, and dined at an ordinary frequented by officers and people of fashion; where being informed that the princess would see company in the evening, he dressed himself in a rich suit of the Parisian cut, and went to court, without any introduction. A person of his appearance could not fail to attract the notice of such a small circle. The prince himself, understanding he was an Englishman and a stranger, went up to him without ceremony, and, having welcomed him to the place, conversed with him for some minutes on the common topics of discourse.

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