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Chapter 10

The Commodore being in some cases restive, his Lady has recourse to Artifice in the Establishment of her Throne — She exhibits Symptoms of Pregnancy, to the unspeakable joy of Trunnion, who, nevertheless, is balked in his expectation.

These innovations were not effected without many loud objections on his part; and divers curious dialogues passed between him and his yoke-fellow, who always came off victorious from the dispute; insomuch, that his countenance gradually fell: he began to suppress, and at length entirely devoured, his chagrin; the terrors of superior authority were plainly perceivable in his features; and in less than three months he became a thorough-paced husband. Not that his obstinacy was extinguished, though overcome. In some things he was as inflexible and mulish as ever; but then he durst not kick so openly, and was reduced to the necessity of being passive in his resentments. Mrs. Trunnion, for example, proposed that a coach and six should be purchased, as she could not ride on horseback, and the chaise was a scandalous carriage for a person of her condition. The commodore, conscious of his own inferior capacity in point of reasoning, did not think proper to dispute the proposal but lent a deaf ear to her repeated remonstrances, though they were enforced with every argument which she thought could soothe, terrify, shame or decoy him into compliance. In vain did she urge the excess of affection she had for him as meriting some return of tenderness and condescension: he was even proof against certain menacing hints she gave touching the resentment of a slighted woman; and he stood out against all the considerations of dignity or disgrace like a bulwark of brass. Neither was he moved to any indecent or unkind expressions of contradiction, even when she upbraided him with his sordid disposition, and put him in mind of the fortune and honour he had acquired by his marriage, but seemed to retire within himself, like a tortoise when attacked, that shrinks within its shell, and silently endured the scourge of her reproaches, without seeming sensible of the smart.

This, however, was the only point in which she had been baffled since her nuptials; and as she could by no means digest the miscarriage, she tortured her invention for some new plan by which she might augment her influence and authority. What her genius refused was supplied by accident; for she had not lived four months in the garrison, when she was seized with frequent qualms and retchings; in a word, she congratulated herself on the symptoms of her own fertility; and the commodore was transported with joy at the prospect of an heir of his own begetting.

She knew this was the proper season for vindicating her own sovereignty, and accordingly employed the means which nature had put in her power. There was not a rare piece of furniture or apparel for which she did not long; and one day, as she went to church, seeing Lady Stately’s equipage arrive, she suddenly fainted away. Her husband, whose vanity had never been so perfectly gratified as with this promised harvest of his own sowing, took the alarm immediately; and in order to prevent relapses of that kind, which might be attended with fatal consequence to his hope, gave her leave to bespeak a coach, horses, and liveries, to her own liking. Thus authorized, she in a very little time exhibited such a specimen of her own taste and magnificence as afforded speculation to the whole country, and made Trunnion’s heart quake within him; because he foresaw no limits to her extravagance which also manifested itself in the most expensive preparations for her lying-in.

Her pride, which had hitherto regarded the representative of her father’s house, seemed now to lose all that hereditary respect, and prompt her to outshine and undervalue the elder branch of her family. She behaved to Mrs. Pickle with a sort of civil reserve that implied a conscious superiority; and an emulation in point of grandeur immediately commenced between the two sisters. She every day communicated her importance to the whole parish, under pretence of taking the air in her coach, and endeavoured to extend her acquaintance among people of fashion. Nor was this an undertaking attended with great difficulty, for all persons whatever capable of maintaining a certain appearance, will always find admission into what is called the best company, and be rated in point of character according to their own valuation, without subjecting their pretensions to the smallest doubt or examination. In all her visits and parties she seized every opportunity of declaring her present condition, observing that she was forbid by her physicians to taste such a pickle, and that such a dish was poison to a woman in her way; nay, where she was on a footing of familiarity, she affected to make wry faces, and complained that the young rogue began to be very unruly, writhing herself into divers contortions, as if she had been grievously incommoded by the mettle of this future Trunnion. The husband himself did not behave with all the moderation that might have been expected. At the club he frequently mentioned this circumstance of his own vigour as a pretty successful feat to be performed by an old fellow of fifty-five, and confirmed the opinion of his strength by redoubled squeezes of the landlord’s hand, which never failed of extorting a satisfactory certificate of his might. When his companions drank to the Hans en kelder, or Jack in the low cellar, he could not help displaying an extraordinary complacence of............

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