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Chapter 14

He is also, by their device, engaged in an Adventure with the Exciseman, who does not find his Account in his own Drollery.

Howsomever preposterous and unaccountable that passion may be which prompts persons, otherwise generous and sympathizing, to afflict and perplex their fellow-creatures, certain it is, our confederates entertained such a large proportion of it, that not satisfied with the pranks they had already played, they still persecuted the commodore without ceasing. In the course of his own history, the particulars of which he delighted to recount, he had often rehearsed an adventure of deer-stealing, in which, during the unthinking impetuosity of his youth, he had been unfortunately concerned. Far from succeeding in that achievement, he and his associates had, it seems, been made prisoners, after an obstinate engagement with the keepers, and carried before a neighbouring justice of the peace, who used Trunnion with great indignity, and with his companions committed him to jail.

His own relations, and in particular an uncle on whom he chiefly depended, treated him during his confinement with great rigour and inhumanity and absolutely refused to interpose his influence in his behalf, unless he would sign a writing, obliging himself to go to sea within thirty days after his release, under the penalty of being proceeded against as a felon. The alternative was, either to undergo this voluntary exile, or remain in prison disowned and deserted by everybody, and, after all, suffer an ignominious trial, that might end in a sentence of transportation for life. He therefore, without much hesitation, embraced the proposal of his kinsman, and, as he observed, was, in less than a month after his discharge, turned adrift to the mercy of the wind and waves.

Since that period he had never maintained any correspondence with his relations, all of whom had concurred in sending him off; nor would he ever pay the least regard to the humiliations and supplications of some among them, who had prostrated themselves before him, on the advancement of his fortune: but he retained a most inveterate resentment against his uncle, who was still in being, though extremely old and infirm, and frequently mentioned his name with all the bitterness of revenge.

Perry being perfectly well acquainted with the particulars of this story, which he had heard so often repeated, proposed to Hatchway that a person should be hired to introduce himself to the commodore, with a supposititious letter of recommendation from this detested kinsman; an imposition that, in all likelihood, would afford abundance of diversion.

The lieutenant relished the scheme and young Pickle having composed an epistle for the occasion, the exciseman of the parish, a fellow of great impudence and some humour, in whom Hatchway could confide, undertook to transcribe and deliver it with his own hand, and also personate the man in whose favour it was feigned to be written. He, accordingly, one morning arrived on horseback at the garrison, two hours at least before Trunnion used to get up, and gave Pipes, who admitted him, to understand, that he had a letter from his master, which he was ordered to deliver to none but the commodore himself. This message was no sooner communicated, than the indignant chief (who had been waked for the purpose) began to curse the messenger for breaking his rest, and swore he would not budge till his usual time of turning out. This resolution being conveyed to the stranger, he desired the carrier to go back and tell him, he had such joyful tidings to impart, that he was sure the commodore would think himself amply rewarded for his trouble, even if he had been raised from the grave to receive them.

This assurance, flattering as it was, would not have been powerful enough to persuade him, had it not been assisted with the exhortations of his spouse, which never failed to influence his conduct. He therefore crept out of bed, though not without great repugnance; and wrapping himself in his morning gown, was supported down-stairs, rubbing his eye, yawning fearfully, and grumbling in the way. As soon as he popped his head into the parlour, the supposed stranger made divers awkward bows, and with a grinning aspect accosted him in these words: “Your most humble servant, most noble commodore! I hope you are in good health; you look pure and hearty; and if it was not for that misfortune of your eye, one would not desire to see a more pleasant countenance in a summer’s day. Sure as I am a living soul, one would take you to be on this side of threescore. Lord help us, I should have known you to be a Trunnion, if I had met with one in the midst of Salisbury Plain, as the saying is.”

The commodore, who was not at all in the humour of relishing such an impertinent preamble, interrupted him in this place, saying, with a peevish accent, “Pshaw! pshaw! brother, there’s no occasion to bowse out so much unnecessary gun; if you can’t bring your discourse to bear on the right subject, you had much better clap a stopper on your tongue, and bring yourself up, d’ye see; I was told you had something to deliver.”—“Deliver!” cried the waggish impostor, “odds heart! I have got something for you that will make your very entrails rejoice within your body. Here’s a letter from a dear and worthy friend of yours. Take, read it, and be happy. Blessings on his old heart! one would think he had renewed his age, like the eagle’s.” Trunnion’s expectation being thus raised, he called for his spectacles, adjusted them to his eye, took the letter, and being curious to know the subscription, no sooner perceived his uncle’s name, then he started back, his lip quivered, and he began to shake in every limb with resentment and ............

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