The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter XCIX.

He is surprised with the Appearance of Hatchway and Pipes, who take up their Habitation in his Neighbourhood, contrary to his Inclination and express Desire.

Being now regularly initiated in the mysteries of the Fleet, and reconciled in some measure to the customs of the place, he began to bear the edge of reflection without wincing; and thinking it would be highly imprudent in him to defer any longer the purposes by which only he could enjoy any ease and satisfaction in his confinement, he resolved to resume his task of translating, and every week compose an occasional paper, by way of revenge upon the minister, against whom he had denounced eternal war. With this view, he locked himself up in his chamber, and went to work with great eagerness and application, when he was interrupted by a ticket porter, who, putting a letter in his hand, vanished in a moment, before he had time to peruse the contents.

Our hero, opening the billet, was not a little surprised to find a bank-note for fifty pounds, enclosed in a blank sheet of paper; and, having exercised his memory and penetration on the subject of this unexpected windfall, had just concluded, that it could come from no other hand than the lady who had so kindly visited him a few days before, when his ears were suddenly invaded by the well-known sound of that whistle which always hung about the neck of Pipes, as a memorial of his former occupation. This tune being performed, he heard the noise of a wooden leg ascending the stair; upon which he opened his door, and beheld his friend Hatchway, with his old shipmate at his back.

After a cordial shake of the hand, with the usual salutation of, “What cheer, cousin Pickle?” honest Jack seated himself without ceremony; and casting his eyes around the apartment, “Split my top-staysail,” said he, with an arch sneer, “you have got into a snug berth, cousin. Here you may sit all weathers, without being turned out to take your watch, and no fear of the ship’s dragging her anchor. You han’t much room to spare, ’tis true: an’ I had known as how you stowed so close, Tom should have slung my own hammock for you, and then you mought have knocked down this great lubberly hurricane house. But, mayhap, you turn in double, and so you don’t choose to trust yourself and your doxy to a clue and canvas.”

Pickle bore his jokes with great good-humour, rallied him in his turn about the dairy-maid at the garrison; inquiring about his friends in the country, asked if he had been to visit his niece, and, finally, expressed a desire of knowing the cause of his journey to London. The lieutenant satisfied his curiosity in all these particulars; and, in answer to the last question, observed that, from the information of Pipes, understanding he was land-locked, he had come from the country in order to tow him into the offing. “I know not how the wind sets,” said he, “but if so be as three thousand pounds will bring you clear of the cape, say the word, and you shan’t lie wind-bound another glass for want of the money.”

This was an offer which few people in our hero’s situation would have altogether refused, especially as he had all the reason in the world to believe, that, far from being a vain unmeaning compliment, it was the genuine tribute of friendship, which the lieutenant would have willingly, ay, and with pleasure, paid. Nevertheless, Peregrine peremptorily refused his assistance, though not without expressing himself in terms of acknowledgment suitable to the occasion. He told him, it would be time enough to make use of his generosity, when he should find himself destitute of all other resource. Jack employed all his rhetoric, with a view of persuading him to take this opportunity to procure his own enlargement; and, finding his arguments ineffectual, insisted upon his accepting an immediate supply for his necessary occasions; swearing with great vehemence, that he would never return to the garrison, unless he would put him upon the footing of any other tenant, and receive his rent accordingly.

Our young gentleman as positively swore, that he never would consider him in that light; remonstrating, that he had long ago settled the house upon him for life, as a pledge of his own esteem, as well as in conformity with the commodore’s desire; and beseeching him to return to his usual avocations, protested that, if ever his situation should subject him to the necessity of borrowing from his friends, Mr. Hatchway should be the first man to whom he would apply himself for succour. To convince him that this was not the case at present, he produced the bank-note which he had received in the letter, together with his own ready money; and mentioned some other funds, which he invented extempore, in order to amuse the lieutenant’s concern. In the close of this expostulation, he desired Pipes to conduct Mr. Hatchway to the coffee-house, where he might amuse himself with the newspaper for half an hour; during which he would put on his clothes, and bespeak something for dinner, that they might enjoy each other’s company as long as his occasions would permit him to stay in that place.

The two sailors were no sooner gone, than he took up the pen, and wrote the following letter, in which he enclosed the bank-note to his generous benefactress:

Madam — Your humanity is not more ingenious than my suspicion. In vain you attempt to impose upon me by an act of generosity, which no person on earth but your ladyship is capable of committing. Though your name was not subscribed on the paper, your sentiments were fully displayed in the contents, which I must beg leave to restore, with the same sense of gratitude, and for the same reasons I expressed when last I had the honour to converse with you upon this subject. Though I am deprived of my liberty by the villainy and ingratitude of mankind, I am not yet destitute of the other conveniences of life; and therefore beg to be excused for incurring an unnecessary addition to that load of obligation you have already laid upon, madam, your ladyship’s most devoted, humble servant,
“Peregrine Pickle.”

Having dressed himself, and repaired to the place of appointment, he despatched this epistle by the hands of Pipes, who was ordered to leave it at her ladyship’s house, without staying for an answer; and in the meantime gave directions for dinner, which he and his friend Hatchway ate very cheerfully in his own apartment, after he had entertained him with a sight of all the curiosities in the place. During their repast, Jack repeated his kind offers to our adventurer, who declined them with his former obstinacy, and begged he might be no more importuned on that subject; but if he insisted upon giving some fresh proofs of his friendship, he might have an opportunity of exhibiting it in taking Pipes under his care and protection; for nothing affected him so much as his inability to provide for such a faithful adherent.

The lieutenant desired he would give himself no trouble upon that score; he being, of his own accord, perfectly well disposed to befriend his old shipmate, who should never want while he had a shilling to spare. But he began to drop some hints of an intention to fix his quarters in the Fleet, observing, that the air seemed to be very good in that place, and that he was tired of living in the country. What he said did not amount to a plain declaration, and therefore Peregrine did not answer it as such, though he perceived his drift; and took an opportunity of describing the inconveniences of the place, in such a manner as, he hoped, would deter him from putting such an extravagant plan in execution.

This expedient, however, far from answering the end proposed, had a quite contrary effect, and furnished Hatchway with an argument against his own unwillingness to quit such a disagreeable place. In all probability, Jack would have been more explicit with regard to the scheme he had proposed, if the conversation had not been interrupted by the arrival of Cadwallader, who never failed in the performance of his diurnal visit. Hatchway, conjecturing that this stranger might have some private business with his friend, quitted the apartment, on pretence of taking a turn; and meeting Pipes at the door, desired his company to the Bare, by which name the open space is distinguished; where, during a course of perambulation, these two companions held a council upon Pickle, in consequence of which it was determined, since he obstinately persisted to refuse their assistance, that they should take lodgings in his neighbourhood, with a view of being at hand to minister unto his occasions, in spite of his false delicacy, according to the emergency of his affairs.

This resolution being taken, they consulted the bar-keeper of the coffee-house about lodging, and she directed them to the warden; to whom the lieutenant, in his great wisdom, represented himself as a kinsman to Peregrine, who, rather than leave that young gentleman by himself to the unavoidable discomforts of a prison, was inclined to keep him company, till such time as his affairs could be put in order. This measure he the more anxiously desired to take, because the prisoner was sometimes subject to a disordered imagination, upon which occasion he stood in need of extraordinary attendance; and therefore he, the lieutenant, entreated the warden to accommodate him with a lodging for himself and his servant, for which he was ready to make any reasonable acknowledgment. The warden, who was a sensible and humane man, could not help applauding his resolution; and several rooms being at that time unoccupied, he put him immediately in possession of a couple, which were forthwith prepared for his reception.

This affair being settled to his satisfaction, he despatched Pipes for his portmanteau; and, returning to the coffee-house, found Peregrine, with whom he spent the remaining part of the evening. Our hero, taking it for granted that he proposed to set out for the garrison next day, wrote a memorandum of some books which he had left in that habitation, and which he now desired Jack to send up to town by the waggon, directed for Mr. Crabtree. He cautioned him against giving the least hint of his misfortune in the neighbourhood, that it might remain, as long as possible, concealed from the knowledge of his sister, who, he knew, would afflict herself immoderately at the news, nor reach the ears of the rest of his family, who would exult and triumph over his distress.

Hatchway listened to his injunctions with great attention, and promised to demean himself accordingly. Then the discourse shifted to an agreeable recapitulation of the merry scenes they had formerly acted together. And the evening being pretty far advanced, Peregrine, with seeming reluctance, told him that the gates of the Fleet would in a few minutes be shut for the night, and that there was an absolute necessity for his withdrawing to his lodging. Jack replied, that he could not think of parting with him so soon, after such a long separation; and that he was determined to stay with him an hour or two longer, if he should be obliged to take up his lodging in the streets. Pickle, rather than disoblige his guest, indulged him in his desire and resolved to give him a share of his own bed. A pair of chickens and asparagus were bespoke for supper, at which Pipes attended with an air of internal satisfaction; and the bottle was bandied about in a jovial manner till midnight, when the lieutenant rose up to take his leave, observing, that, being fatigued with riding, he was inclined to turn in. Pipes, upon this intimation, produced a lanthorn ready lighted; and Jack, shaking his entertainer by the hand, wished him good night, and promised to visit him again betimes in the morning.

Peregrine, imagining that his behaviour proceeded from the wine, which he had plentifully drunk, told him, that, if he was disposed to sleep, his bed was ready prepared in the room, and ordered his attendant to undress his master; upon which Mr. Hatchway gave him to understand, that he had no occasion to incommode his friend, having already provided a lodging for himself, and the young gentleman demanding an explanation, he frankly owned what he had done, saying, “You gave me such a dismal account of the place, that I could not think of leaving you in it without company.” Our young gentleman, who was naturally impatient of benefits, and foresaw that this uncommon instance of Hatchway’s friendship would encroach upon the plan which he had formed for his own subsistence, by engrossing his time and attention, so as that he should not be able to prosecute his labours, closeted the lieutenant next day, and demonstrated to him the folly and ill consequences of the step he had taken. He observed, that the world in general would look upon it as the effect of mere madness; and, if his relations were so disposed, they might make it the foundation for a statute of lunacy against him; that his absence from the garrison must be a very great detriment to his private affairs; and, lastly, that his presence in the Fleet would be a very great hindrance to Pickle himself, whose hope of regaining his liberty altogether depended upon his being detached from all company and interruption.

To these remonstrances Jack replied, that, as to the opinion of the world, it was no more to him than a rotten net-line; and if his relations had a mind to have his upper works condemned, he did not doubt but he should be able to stand the survey, without being declared unfit for service; that he had no affairs at the garrison, but such as would keep cold; and with regard to Pickle’s being interrupted by his presence, he gave him his word, that he would never come alongside of him, except when he should give him the signal for holding discourse. In conclusion, he signified his resolution to stay where he was, at all events, without making himself accountable to any person, whatsoever.

Peregrine seeing him determined, desisted from any further importunity; resolving, however, to tire him out of his plan by reserve and supercilious neglect; for he could not bear the thought of being so notoriously obliged by any person upon earth. With this view he quitted the lieutenant, upon some slight pretence; after having told him, that he could not have the pleasure of his company at dinner, because he was engaged with a particular club of his fellow-prisoners.

Jack was a stranger to the punctilios of behaviour, and therefore did not take this declaration amiss; but had immediate recourse to the advice of his counsellor, Mr. Pipes, who proposed, that he should go to the coffee-house and kitchen, and give the people to understand that he would pay for all such liquor and provisions as Mr. Pickle should order to be sent to his lodging. This expedient was immediately practised; and as there was no credit in the place, Hatchway deposited a sum of money, by way of security, to the cook and the vintner, intimating, that there was a necessity for taking that method of befriending his cousin Peregrine, who was subject to strange whims, that rendered it impossible to serve him any other way.

In consequence of these insinuations, it was that same day rumoured about the Fleet, that Mr. Pickle was an unhappy gentleman disordered in his understanding, and that the lieutenant was his near relation, who had subjected himself to the inconvenience of living in a jail, with the sole view of keeping a strict eye over his conduct. This report, however, did not reach the ears of our hero till the next day, when he sent one of the runners of the Fleet, who attended him, to bespeak and pay for a couple of pullets, and something else for dinner, to which he had already invited his friend Hatchway, in hope of being able to persuade him to retire into the country, after he had undergone a whole day’s mortification in the place. The messenger returned with an assurance, that the dinner should be made ready according to his directions, and restored the money, observing, that his kinsman had paid for what was bespoke.

Peregrine was equally surprised and disgusted at this information, and resolved to chide the lieutenant severely for his unseasonable treat, which he considered as a thing repugnant to his reputation. Meanwhile, he despatched his attendant for wine to the coffee-house, and finding his credit bolstered up in that place by the same means, was enraged at the presumption of Jack’s friendship. He questioned the valet about it with such manifestation of displeasure, that the fellow, afraid of disobliging such a good master, frankly communicated the story which was circulated at his expense. The young gentleman was so much incensed at this piece of intelligence, that he wrote a bitter expostulation to the lieutenant, where he not only retracted his invitation, but declared that he would never converse with him while he should remain within the place.

Having thus obeyed the dictates of his anger, he gave notice to the cook, that he should not have occasion for what was ordered. Repairing to the coffee-house, he told the landlord, that whereas he understood the stranger with the wooden leg had prepossessed him and others with ridiculous notions, tending to bring the sanity of his intellects in question, and, to confirm this imputation, had, under the pretence of consanguinity, undertaken to defray his expenses; he could not help, in justice to himself, declaring, that the same person was, in reality, the madman, who had given his keepers the slip; that, therefore, he, the landlord, would not find his account in complying with his orders, and encouraging him to frequent his house; and that, for his own part, he would never enter the door, or favour him with the least trifle of his custom, if ever he should for the future find himself anticipated in his payments by that unhappy lunatic.

The vintner was confounded at this retorted charge; and, after much perplexity and deliberation, concluded, that both parties were distracted; the stranger in paying a man’s debts against his will, and Pickle, in being offended at such forwardness of friendship.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00