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Chapter 13

The Commodore takes Peregrine under his own care — The Boy arrives at the Garrison — Is strangely received by his own Mother — Enters into a Confederacy with Hatchway and Pipes, and executes a couple of waggish Enterprises upon his Aunt.

Trunnion having obtained this permission, that very afternoon despatched the lieutenant in a post-chaise to Keypstick’s house, from whence in two days he returned with our young hero, who being now in the eleventh year of his age, had outgrown the expectation of all his family, and was remarkable for the beauty and elegance of his person. His godfather was transported at his arrival, as if he had been actually the issue of his own loins: he shook him heartily by the hand, turned him round and round, surveyed him from top to bottom, bade Hatchway take notice how handsomely he was built; and squeezed his hand again, saying,—“D— ye, you dog, I suppose you don’t value such an old crazy son of a b — as me a rope’s end. You have forgot how I was wont to dandle you on my knee, when you was a little urchin no bigger than a davit, and played a thousand tricks upon me, burning my ‘bacco-pouches and poisoning my rumbo. O! d — ye, you can grin fast enough I see; I warrant you have learnt more things than writing and the Latin lingo.”

Even Tom Pipes expressed uncommon satisfaction on this joyful occasion; and, coming up to Perry, thrust forth his fore paw, and accosted him with the salutation of “What cheer, my young master? I am glad to see thee with all my heart.” These compliments being passed, his uncle halted to the door of his wife’s chamber, at which he stood hallooing, “Here’s your kinsman, Perry: belike you won’t come and bid him welcome.”—“Lord, Mr. Trunnion,” said she, “why will you continually harass me in this manner with your impertinent intrusion?”-“I harrow you!” replied the commodore: “‘sblood! I believe your upper works are damaged: I only came to inform you that here was your cousin, whom you have not seen these four long years; and I’ll be d — d if there is such another of his age within the king’s dominions, d’ye see, either for make or mettle: he’s a credit to the name, d’ye see: but, d — my eyes, I’ll say no more of the matter: if you come, you may; if you won’t, you may let it alone.”—“Well, I won’t come, then,” answered his yoke-fellow, “for I am at present more agreeably employed.”—“Oho! you are. I believe so too,” cried the commodore, making wry faces and mimicking the action of dram-drinking. Then, addressing himself to Hatchway, “Prithee, Jack,” said he, “go and try thy skill on that stubborn hulk: if anybody can bring her about, I know you wool.”

The lieutenant accordingly, taking his station at the door, conveyed his persuasion in these words: “What, won’t you turn out and hail little Perry? It will do your heart good to see such a handsome young dog; I’m sure he is the very moral of you, and as like as if he had been spit out of your own mouth, as the saying is: do show a little respect for your kinsman, can’t you?” To this remonstrance she replied, in a mild tone of voice, “Dear Mr. Hatchway, you are always teasing one in such a manner: sure I am, nobody can tax me with unkindness, or want of natural affection.” So saying, she opened the door, and, advancing to the hall where her nephew stood, received him very graciously and observed that he was the very image of her papa.

In the afternoon he was conducted by the commodore to the house of his parents; and, strange to tell, no sooner was he presented to his mother, than her countenance changed, she eyed him with tokens of affliction and surprise, and, bursting into tears, exclaimed her child was dead, and this was no other than an impostor whom they had brought to defraud her sorrow. Trunnion was confounded at this unaccountable passion, which had no other foundation than caprice and whim; and Gamaliel himself was so disconcerted and unsettled in his own belief, which began to waver, that he knew not how to behave towards the boy, whom his godfather immediately carried back to the garrison, swearing all the way that Perry should never cross their threshold again with his good-will. Nay, so much was he incensed at this unnatural and absurd renunciation, that he refused to carry on any further correspondence with Pickle, until he was appeased by his solicitations and submission, and Peregrine owned as his son and heir. But this acknowledgment was made without the privity of his wife, whose vicious aversion he was obliged, in appearance, to adopt. Thus exiled from his father’s house, the young gentleman was left entirely to the disposal of the commodore, whose affection for him daily increased, insomuch that he could scarcely prevail upon himself to part with him, when his education absolutely required that he should be otherwise disposed of.

In all probability, this extraordinary attachment was, if not produced, at least riveted by that peculiar turn in Peregrine’s imagination, which we have already observed; and which, during his residence in the castle, appeared in sundry stratagems he practised upon his uncle and aunt, under the auspices of Mr. Hatchway who assisted him in the contrivance and execution of all his schemes. Nor was Pipes exempted from a share in their undertakings; for, being a trusty fellow, not without dexterity in some cases, and altogether resigned to their will, they found him a serviceable instrument for their purpose, and used him accordingly.

The first sample of their art was exhibited upon Mrs. Trunnion. They terrified that good lady with strange noises when she retired to her devotion. Pipes was a natural genius in the composition of discords: he could imitate the sound produced by the winding of a jack, the filing of a saw, and the swinging of a malefactor hanging in chains; he could counterfeit the braying of an ass, the screeching of a night-owl, the caterwauling of cats, the howling of a dog, the squeaking of a pig, the crowing of a cock; and he had learned the war-whoop uttered by the Indians in North America. These talents were exerted successively, at different times and places, to the terror of Mrs. Trunnion, the discomposure of the commodore himself, and the consternation of all the servants in the castle. Peregrine, with a sheet over his clothes, sometimes tumbled before his aunt in the twilight, when her organs of vision were a little impaired by the cordial she had swallowed; and the boatswain’s mate taught him to shoe cats with walnut-shells, so that they made a most dreadful clattering in their nocturnal excursions.

The mind of Mrs. Trunnion was not a little disturbed by these alarms, which, in her opinion, portended the death of some principal person in the family; she redoubled her religious exercises, and fortified her spirits with fresh potations; nay, she began to take notice that Mr. Trunnion’s constitution was very much broken, and seemed dissatisfied when people observed that they never saw him look better. Her frequent visits to the closet, where all her consolation was deposited, inspired the confederates with a device which had like to have been attended with tragical consequences. They found an opportunity to infuse jalap in one of her case-bottles; and she took so largely of this medicine, that her constitution had well nigh sunk under the violence of its effect. She suffered a succession of fainting fits that reduced her to the brink of the grave, in spite of all the remedies that were administered by a physician, who was called in the beginning of her disorder.

After having examined the symptoms, he declared that the patient had been poisoned with arsenic, and prescribed only draughts and lubricating injections, to defend the coats of the stomach and intestines from the vellicating particles of that pernicious mineral; at the same time hinting, with a look of infinite sagacity, that it was not difficult to divine the whole mystery. He affected to deplore the poor lady, as if she was exposed to more attempts of the same nature; thereby glancing obliquely at the innocent commodore, whom the officious son of Aesculapius suspected as the author of this expedient, to rid his hands of a yoke-fellow for whom he was well known to have no great devotion. This impertinent and malicious insinuation made some impression upon the bystanders, and furnished ample field for slander to asperse the morals of Trunnion, who was represented through the whole district as a monster of barbarity. Nay, the sufferer herself, though she behaved with great decency and prudence, could not help entertaining some small diffidence of her husband; not that she imagined he had any design upon her life, but that he had been at pains to adulterate the brandy with a view of detaching her from that favourite liquor.

On this supposition, she resolved to act with more caution for the future, without setting on foot any inquiry about the affair; while the commodore, imputing her indisposition to some natural cause, after the danger was past, never bestowed a thought upon the subject; so that the perpetrators were quit of their fear, which, however, had punished them so effectually, that they never would hazard any more jokes of the same nature.

The shafts of their wit were now directed against the commander himself, whom they teased and terrified almost out of his senses. One day, while he was at dinner, Pipes came and told him that there was a person below that wanted to speak with him immediately, about an affair of the greatest importance, that would admit of no delay; upon which he ordered the stranger to be told that he was engaged, and that he must send up his name and business. To this demand he received for answer a message importing that the person’s name was unknown to him, and his business of such a nature, that it ............

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