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Chapter 8

Preparations are made for the Commodore’s Wedding, which is delayed by an Accident that hurried him the Lord knows whither.

The fame of this extraordinary conjunction spread all over the county; and, on the day appointed for their spousals, the church was surrounded by an inconceivable multitude. The commodore, to give a specimen of his gallantry, by the advice of his friend Hatchway, resolved to appear on horseback on the grand occasion, at the head of all his male attendants, whom he had rigged with the white shirts and black caps formerly belonging to his barge’s crew; and he bought a couple of hunters for the accommodation of himself and his lieutenant. With this equipage, then, he set out from the garrison for the church, after having despatched a messenger to apprise the bride that he and his company were mounted. She got immediately into the coach, accompanied by her brother and his wife, and drove directly to the place of assignation, where several pews were demolished, and divers persons almost pressed to death, by the eagerness of the crowd that broke in to see the ceremony performed. Thus arrived at the altar, and the priest in attendance, they waited a whole half-hour for the commodore, at whose slowness they began to be under some apprehension, and accordingly dismissed a servant to quicken his pace. The valet having ridden something more than a mile, espied the whole troop disposed in a long field, crossing the road obliquely, and headed by the bridegroom and his friend Hatchway, who, finding himself hindered by a hedge from proceeding farther in the same direction, fired a pistol, and stood over to the other side, making an obtuse angle with the line of his former course; and the rest of the squadron followed his example, keeping always in the rear of each other, like a flight of wild geese.

Surprised at this strange method of journeying, the messenger came up, and told the commodore that his lady and her company expected him in the church, where they had tarried a considerable time, and were beginning to be very uneasy at his delay, and therefore desired he would proceed with more expedition. To this message Mr. Trunnion replied, “Hark ye, brother, don’t you see we make all possible speed? go back, and tell those who sent you, that the wind has shifted since we weighed anchor, and that we are obliged to make very short trips in tacking, by reason of the narrowness of the channel; and that as we be within six points of the wind, they must make some allowance for variation and leeway.”—“Lord, sir!” said the valet, “what occasion have you to go zig-zag in that manner? Do but clap spurs to your horses, and ride straight forward, and I’ll engage yea shall be at the church-porch in less than a quarter of an hour.”-“What? right in the wind’s eye?” answered the commodore; “ahey! brother, where did you learn your navigation? Hawser Trunnion is not to be taught at this time of day how to lie his course, or keep his own reckoning. And as for you, brother, you best know the trim of your own frigate.”

The courier, finding he had to do with people who would not be easily persuaded out of their own opinions, returned to the temple, and made a report of what he had seen and heard, to the no small consolation of the bride, who had begun to discover some signs of disquiet. Composed, however, by this piece of intelligence, she exerted her patience for the space of another half-hour, during which period, seeing no bridegroom arrive, she was exceedingly alarmed; so that all the spectators could easily perceive her perturbation, which manifested itself in frequent palpitations, heart-heavings, and alterations of countenance, in spite of the assistance of a smelling-bottle which she incessantly applied to her nostrils.

Various were the conjectures of the company on this occasion: some imagined he had mistaken the place of rendezvous, as he had never been at church since he first settled in that parish; others believed he had met with some accident, in consequence of which his attendants had carried him back to his own house; and a third set, in which the bride herself was thought to be comprehended, could not help suspecting that the commodore had changed his mind. But all these suppositions, ingenious as they were, happened to be wide of the true cause that detained him, which was no other than this: the commodore and his crew had, by dint of turning, almost weathered the parson’s house that stood to windward of the church, when the notes of a pack of hounds unluckily reached the ears of the two hunters which Trunnion and the lieutenant bestrode. These fleet animals no sooner heard the enlivening sound, than, eager for the chase, they sprang away all of a sudden, and strained every nerve to partake of the sport, flew across the fields with incredible speed, overleaped hedges and ditches, and everything in their way, without the least regard to their unfortunate riders. The lieutenant, whose steed had got the heels of the other, finding it would be great folly and presumption in him to pretend to keep the saddle with his wooden leg, very wisely took the opportunity of throwing himself off in his passage through a field of rich clover, among which he lay at his ease; and seeing his captain advancing, at full gallop, hailed him with the salutation of “What cheer? Ho!” The commodore, who was in infinite distress, eyeing him askance as he passed, replied, with a faltering voice, “0, d — ye!— you are safe at an anchor. I wish to God I were as fast moored.”

Nevertheless, conscious of his disabled heel, he would not venture to try the experiment which had succeeded so well with Hatchway but resolved to stick as close as possible to his horse’s back, until Providence should interpose in his behalf. With this view he dropped his whip, and with his right hand laid fast hold on the pommel, contracting every muscle in his body to secure himself in the seat, and grinning most formidably in consequence of this exertion. In this attitude he was hurried on a considerable way, when all of a sudden his view was comforted by a five-bar gate that appeared before him, as he never doubted that there the career of his hunter must necessarily end. But, alas! he reckoned without his host. Far from halting at this obstruction, the horse sprang over it with amazing agility, to the utter confusion and disorder of his owner, who lost his hat and periwig in the leap, and now began to think, in good earnest, that he was actually mounted on the back of the devil. He recommended himself to God; his reflections forsook him; his eyesight and all his other senses failed; he quitted the reins, and fastening by instinct on the mane, was in this condition conveyed into the midst of the sportsmen, who were astonished at the sight of such an apparition. Neither was their surprise to be wondered at, if we reflect on the figure that presented itself to their view. The commodore’s person was at all times an object of admiration; much more so on this occasion, when every singularity was aggravated by the circumstances of his dress and disaster.

He had put on, in honour of his nuptials, his best coat of blue broad-cloth, cut by a tailor of Ramsgate, and trimmed with five dozen of brass buttons large and small; his breeches were of the same piece, fastened at the knees with large bunches of tape; his waistcoat was of red plush lappelled with green velvet, and garnished wi............

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