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Chapter 23

After sundry unsuccessful Efforts, he finds means to come to an Explanation with his Mistress; and a Reconciliation ensues.

Peregrine, disconcerted at their sudden disappearance, stood for some minutes gaping in the street, before he could get the better of his surprise; and then deliberated with himself whether he should demand immediate admittance to his mistress, or choose some other method of application. Piqued at her abrupt behaviour, though pleased with her spirit, he set his invention to work, in order to contrive some means of seeing her: and in a fit of musing arrived at the inn, where he found his companions, whom he had left at the castle-gate. They had already made inquiry about the ladies; in consequence of which he learnt that Miss Sophy was daughter of a gentleman in town to which his mistress was related; that an intimate friendship subsisted between the two young ladies; that Emilia had lived almost a month with her cousin, and appeared at the last assembly, where she was universally admired: and that several young gentlemen of fortune had since that time teased her with addresses.

Our hero’s ambition was flattered, and his passion inflamed with this intelligence; and he swore within himself that he would not quit the spot until he should have obtained an undisputed victory over all his rivals.

That same evening he composed a most eloquent epistle, in which he earnestly entreated that she would favour him with an opportunity of vindicating his conduct: but she would neither receive his billet, nor see his messenger. Balked in this effort, he inclosed it in a new cover directed by another hand, and ordered Pipes to ride next morning to London, on purpose to deliver it at the post-office; that coming by such conveyance she might have no suspicion of the author, and open it before she should be aware of the deceit.

Three days he waited patiently for the effect of this stratagem, and, in the afternoon of the fourth, ventured to hazard a formal visit, in quality of an old acquaintance. But here too he failed in his attempt: she was indisposed, and could not see company. These obstacles served only to increase his eagerness: he still adhered to his former resolution; and his companions, understanding his determination, left him next day to his own inventions. Thus relinquished to his own ideas, he doubled his assiduity, and practised every method his imagination could suggest, in order to promote his plan.

Pipes was stationed all day long within sight of her door, that he might be able to give his master an account of her motions; but she never went abroad except to visit in the neighbourhood, and was always housed before Peregrine could be apprised of her appearance. He went to church with a view of attracting her notice, and humbled his deportment before her; but she was so mischievously devout as to look at nothing but her book, so that he was not favoured with one glance of regard. He frequented the coffee-house, and attempted to contract an acquaintance with Miss Sophy’s father, who, he hoped, would invite him to his house: but this expectation was also defeated. That prudent gentleman looked upon him as one of those forward fortune-hunters who go about the country seeking whom they may devour, and warily discouraged all his advances. Chagrined by so many unsuccessful endeavours, he began to despair of accomplishing his aim; and, as the last suggestion of his art, paid off his lodging, took horse at noon, and departed, in all appearance, for the place from whence he had come. He rode, but a few miles, and in the dusk of the evening returned unseen, alighted at another inn, ordered Pipes to stay within doors, and keeping himself incognito, employed another person as a sentinel upon Emilia.

It was not long before he reaped the fruits of his ingenuity. Next day in the afternoon he was informed by his spy that the two young ladies were gone to walk in the park, whither he followed them on the instant, fully determined to come to an explanation with his mistress, even in presence of her friend, who might possibly be prevailed upon to interest herself in his behalf.

When he saw them at such a distance that they could not return to town before he should have an opportunity of putting his resolution in practice, he mended his pace, and found means to appear before them so suddenly, that Emilia could not help expressing her surprise in a scream. Our lover, putting on a mien of humility and mortification, begged to know if her resentment was implacable; and asked why she had so cruelly refused to grant him the common privilege that every criminal enjoyed. “Dear Miss Sophy,” said he, addressing himself to her companion, “give me leave to implore your intercession with your cousin. I am sure you have humanity enough to espouse my cause, did you but know the justice of it; and I flatter myself that by your kind interposition I may be able to rectify that fatal misunderstanding which hath made me wretched.”—“ Sir,” said Sophy, “you appear like a gentleman, and I doubt not but your behaviour has been always suitable to your appearance; but you must excuse me from undertaking any such office in behalf of a person whom I have not the honour to know.”—“Madam,” answered Peregrine, “I hope Miss Emy will justify my pretensions to that character, notwithstanding the mystery of her displeasure, which, upon my honour, I cannot for my soul explain.”—“Lord! Mr. Pickle,” said Emilia, who had by this time recollected herself, “I never questioned your gallantry and taste; but I am resolved that you shall never have cause to exercise your talents at my expense; so that you tease yourself and me to no purpose. Come, Sophy, let us walk home again.”—“Good God! madam,” cried the lover, with great emotion, “why will you distract me with such barbarous indifference? Stay, dear Emilia!— I conjure you on my knees to stay and hear me. By all that is sacred, I was not to blame. You must have been imposed upon by some villain who envied my good fortune, and took some treacherous method to ruin my love.”

Miss Sophy, who possessed a large stock of good nature, and to whom her cousin had communicated the cause of her reserve, seeing the young gentleman so much affected with that disdain which she knew to be feigned, laid hold on Emilia’s sleeve, saying, with a smile, “Not quite so fast, Emily. I begin to perceive that this is a love-quarrel, and therefore there may be hopes of a reconciliation; for I suppose both parties are open to conviction.”—“For my own part,” cried Peregrine, with great eagerness, “I appeal to Miss Sophy’s decision. But why do I say appeal? Though I am conscious of having committed no offence, I am ready to submit to any penance, let it be never so rigorous, that my fair enslaver herself shall impose, provided it will entitle me to her favour and forgiveness at last.” Emily, well nigh overcome by this declaration, told him, that as she taxed him with no guilt, she expected no atonement, and pressed her companion to return to town. But Sophy, who was too indulgent to her friend’s real inclination to comply with her request, observed that the gentleman seemed so reasonable in his concessions, that she began to think her cousin was in the wrong, and felt herself disposed to act as umpire in the dispute.

Overjoyed at this condescension, Mr. Pickle thanked her in the most rapturous terms, and, in the transport of his expectation, kissed the hand of his kind mediatrix — a circumstance which had a remarkable effect on the countenance of Emilia, who did not seem to relish the warmth of his acknowledgment.

After many supplications on one hand, and pressing remonstrances on the other, she yielded at length, and, turning to her lover. while her face was overspread with blushes,—“Well, sir,” said she, “supposing I were to put the difference on that issue, how could you excuse the ridiculous letter which you sent to me from Winchester?” This expostulation introduced a discussion of the whole affair, in which all the circumstances were canvassed; and Emilia still affirmed, with great heat, that the letter must have been calculated to affront her; for she could not suppose the author was so weak as to design it for any other purpose.

Peregrine, who still retained in his memory the substance of this unlucky epistle, as well as the verses which were inclosed, could recollect no particular expression which could have justly given the least umbrage; and therefore, in the agonies of perplexity, begged that the whole might be submitted to the judgment of Miss Sophy, and faithfully promised to stand to her award. In short, this proposal was, with seeming reluctance, embraced by Emilia, and an appointment made to meet next day in the place, whither both parties were desired to come provided with their............

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