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Chapter 25

He receives a Letter from his Aunt, breaks with the Commodore, and disobliges the Lieutenant, who, nevertheless, undertakes his Cause.

Meanwhile he quitted the youth in high dudgeon, and that same evening despatched a letter for Mrs. Trunnion, which was dictated by the first transports of his passion, and of course replete with severe animadversions on the misconduct of his pupil. In consequence of this complaint, it was not long before Peregrine received an epistle from his aunt, wherein she commemorated all the circumstances of the commodore’s benevolence towards him, when he was helpless and forlorn, deserted and abandoned by his own parents; upbraided him for his misbehaviour, and neglect of his tutor’s advice; and insisted upon his breaking off an intercourse with that girl who had seduced his youth, as he valued the continuance of her affection and her husband’s regard.

As our lover’s own ideas of generosity were extremely refined, he was shocked at the indelicate insinuations of Mrs. Trunnion, and felt all the pangs of an ingenuous mind that labours under obligations to a person whom it contemns. Far from obeying her injunction, or humbling himself by a submissive answer to her reprehension, his resentment buoyed him up above every selfish consideration: he resolved to attach himself to Emilia, if possible, more than ever; and although he was tempted to punish the officiousness of Jolter, by recriminating upon his life and conversation, he generously withstood the impulse of his passion, because he knew that his governor had no other dependence than the good opinion of the commodore. He could not, however, digest in silence the severe expostulations of his aunt; to which he replied by the following letter, addressed to her husband:—

“Sir,— Though my temper could never stoop to offer nor, I believe, your disposition deign to receive, that gross incense which the illiberal only expect, and none but the base-minded condescend to pay; my sentiments have always done justice to your generosity, and my intention scrupulously adhered to the dictates of my duty. Conscious of this integrity of heart, I cannot but severely feel your lady’s unkind (I will not call it ungenerous) recapitulation of the favours I have received; and, as I take it for granted that you knew and approved of her letter, I must beg leave to assure you, that, far from being swayed by menaces and reproach, I am determined to embrace the most abject extremity of fortune, rather than submit to such dishonourable compulsion. When I am treated in a more delicate and respectful manner, I hope I shall behave as becomes,— Sir, your obliged
“P. Pickle.”

The commodore, who did not understand those nice distinctions of behaviour, and dreaded the consequence of Peregrine’s amour, against which he was strangely prepossessed, seemed exasperated at the insolence and obstinacy of this adopted son; to whose epistle he wrote the following answer, which was transmitted by the hands of Hatchway, who had orders to bring the delinquent along with him to the garrison:—

“Hark ye, child,— You need not bring your fine speeches to bear upon me: you only expend your ammunition to no purpose. Your aunt told you nothing but truth; for it is always fair and honest to be above-board, d’ye see. I am informed as how you are in chase of a painted galley, which will decoy you upon the flats of destruction, unless you keep a better look-out and a surer reckoning than you have hitherto done; and I have sent Jack Hatchway to see how the land lies, and warn you of your danger: if so be as you will put about ship, and let him steer you into this harbour, you shall meet with a safe berth and friendly reception; but if you refuse to alter your course you cannot expect any farther assistance from yours as you behave,
“Hawser Trunnion.”

Peregrine was equally piqued and disconcerted at the receipt of this letter, which was quite different from what he had expected; and declared in a resolute tone to the lieutenant, who brought it, that he might return as soon as he pleased, for he was determined to consult his own inclination, and remain for some time longer where he was.

Hatchway endeavoured to persuade him, by all the arguments which his sagacity and friendship could supply, to show a little more deference for the old man, who was by this time rendered fretful and peevish by the gout, which now hindered him from enjoying himself as usual, who might, in his passion, take some step very much to the detriment of the young gentleman, whom he had hitherto considered as his own son. Among other remonstrances, Jack observed that mayhap Peregrine had got under Emilia’s hatches, and did not choose to set her adrift; and that if that was the case, he himself would take charge of the vessel, and see her cargo safely delivered; for he had a respect for the young woman, and his needle pointed towards matrimony; and as, in all probability, she could not be much the worse for the wear, he would make shift to scud through life with her under an easy sail.

Our lover was deaf to all his admonitions, and, having thanked him for this last instance of his complaisance, repeated his resolution of adhering to his first purpose. Hatchway, having profited so little by mild exhortations: assumed a more peremptory aspect, and plainly told him that he neither could nor would go home without him; so he had best make immediate preparation for the voyage.

Peregrine made no other reply to this declaration than by a contemptuous smile, and rose from his seat in order to retire; upon which the lieutenant started up, and, posting himself by the door, protested, with some menacing gestures, that he would not suffer him to run a-head neither. The other, incensed at his presumption in attempting to detain him by force, tripped up his wooden leg, and laid him on his back in a moment; then walked deliberately towards the park, in order to indulge his reflection, which at that time teemed with disagreeable thoughts. He had not proceeded two hundred steps when he heard something blowing and stamping behind him; and, looking back, perceived the lieutenant at his heels, with rage and indignation in his countenance. This exasperated seaman, impatient of the affront he had received, and forgetting all the circumstances of their former intimacy, advanced with great eagerness to his old friend, saying, “Look ye, brother, you’re a saucy boy, and if you was at sea, I would have your backside brought to the davit for your disobedience; but as we are on shore, you and I must crack a pistol at one another: here is a bra............

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