The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter LXXIX.

Peregrine sends a Message to Mrs. Gauntlet, who rejects his Proposal — He repairs to the Garrison.

At length, however, his constitution overcame his disease, though not before it had in a great measure tamed the fury of his disposition, and brought him to a serious consideration of his conduct. In this humiliation of his spirits, he reflected with shame and remorse upon his treachery to the fair, the innocent Emilia; he remembered his former sentiments in her favour, as well as the injunctions of his dying uncle; he recollected his intimacy with her brother, against which he had so basely sinned; and, revolving all the circumstances of her conduct, found it so commendable, spirited, and noble, that he deemed her an object of sufficient dignity to merit his honourable addresses, even though his duty had not been concerned in this decision. But, obligated as he was to make reparation to a worthy family, which he had so grossly injured, he thought he could not manifest his reformation too soon; and, whenever he found himself able to hold a pen, wrote a letter to Mrs. Gauntlet, wherein he acknowledged, with many expressions of sorrow and contrition, that he had acted a part altogether unbecoming a man of honour, and should never enjoy the least tranquility of mind, until he should have merited her forgiveness. He protested, that, although his happiness entirely depended upon the determination of Emilia, he would even renounce all hope of being blessed with her favour, if she could point out any other method of making reparation to that amiable young lady, but by laying his heart and fortune at her feet, and submitting himself to her pleasure during the remaining part of his life. He conjured her, therefore, in the most pathetic manner, to pardon him, in consideration of his sincere repentance, and to use her maternal influence with her daughter, so as that he might be permitted to wait upon her with a wedding ring, as soon as his health would allow him to undertake the journey.

This explanation being despatched by Pipes, who had, by this time, found his master, the young gentleman inquired about the couple whom he had so unfortunately pursued, and understood from his valet-de-chambre, who learned the story from their own mouths, that the lady was the only daughter of a rich Jew, and her attendant no other than his apprentice, who had converted her to Christianity, and married her at the same time; that this secret having taken air, the old Israelite had contrived a scheme to separate them for ever; and they being apprised of his intention, had found means to elope from his house, with a view of sheltering themselves in France, until the affair could be made up; that, seeing three men ride after them with such eagerness, they never doubted that the pursuers were her father, and some friends, or domestics, and on that supposition had fled with the utmost despatch and trepidation, until they had found themselves happily undeceived, at that very instant when they expected nothing but mischief and misfortune. Lastly, the Swiss gave him to understand, that, after having professed some concern for his deplorable situation, and enjoyed a slight refreshment, they had taken their departure for Dover, and, in all likelihood, were safely arrived at Paris.

In four-and-twenty hours after Pipes was charged with his commission, he brought back an answer from the mother of Emilia, couched in these words:—

Sir — I received the favour of yours, and am glad, for your own sake, that you have attained a due sense and conviction of your unkind and unchristian behaviour to poor Emy. I thank God, none of my children were ever so insulted before. Give me leave to tell you, sir, my daughter was no upstart, without friends or education, but a young lady, as well bred, and better born, than most private gentlewomen in the kingdom; and therefore, though you had no esteem for her person, you ought to have paid some regard to her family, which, no disparagement to you, sir, is more honourable than your own. As for your proposal, Miss Gauntlet will not hear of it, being that she thinks her honour will not allow her to listen to any terms of reconciliation; and she is not yet so destitute as to embrace an offer to which she has the least objection. In the meantime, she is so much indisposed, that she cannot possibly see company; so I beg you will not take the trouble of making a fruitless journey to this place. Perhaps your future conduct may deserve her forgiveness, and really, as I am concerned for your happiness, which you assure me depends upon her condescension, I wish with all my heart it may; and am, notwithstanding all that has happened, your sincere well-wisher. “Cecilia Gauntlet.”

From this epistle, and the information of his messenger, our hero learned, that his mistress had actually profited by his wild-goose chase, so as to make a safe retreat to her mother’s house. Though sorry to hear of her indisposition, he was also piqued at her implacability, as well as at some stately paragraphs of the letter, in which, he thought, the good lady had consulted her own vanity, rather than her good sense. These motives of resentment helped him to bear his disappointment like a philosopher, especially as he had now quieted his conscience, in proffering to redress the injury he had done; and, moreover, found himself, with regard to his love, in a calm state of hope and resignation.

A seasonable fit of illness is an excellent medicine for the turbulence of passion. Such a reformation had the fever produced on the economy of his thoughts, that he moralized like an apostle, and projected several prudential schemes for his future conduct. In the meantime, as soon as his health was sufficiently re-established, he took a trip to the garrison, in order to visit his friends; and learned from Hatchway’s own mouth, that he had broke the ice of courtship to his aunt, and that his addresses were now fairly afloat; though, when he first declared himself to the widow, after she had been duly prepared for the occasion, by her niece and the rest of her friends, she had received his proposal with a becoming reserve, and piously wept at the remembrance of her husband, observing, that she should never meet with his fellow.

Peregrine promoted the lieutenant’s suit with all his influence, and all Mrs. Trunnion’s objections to the match being surmounted, it was determined, that the day of marriage should be put off for three months, that her reputation might not suffer by a precipitate engagement. His next care was to give orders for erecting a plain marble monument to the memory of his uncle, on which the following inscription, composed by the bridegroom, actually appeared in golden letters:

Here lies,
Foundered in a fathom and half,
The shell
Formerly commander of a squadron
In his Majesty’s service,
Who broached to, at five P.M. Oct. 10,
In the year of his age threescore and nineteen.

He kept his guns always loaded,
And his tackle ready mann’d,
And never showed his poop to the enemy,
Except when he took her in tow;
But, His shot being expended, His match burnt out,
And his upper works decayed,
He was sunk by Death’s superior weight of metal.

He will be weighed again at the Great Day,
His rigging refitted, And his timbers repaired;
And, with one broadside,
Make his adversary strike in his turn.

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