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Chapter 26

He becomes Melancholy and Despondent — Is favoured with the condescending Letter from his Uncle — Reconciles himself to his Governor, and sets out with Emilia and her Friend for Mrs. Gauntlet’s House.

Peregrine, fortified as he was with pride and indignation, did not fail to feel the smarting suggestions of his present situation: after having lived so long in an affluent and imperious manner, he could ill brook the thoughts of submitting to the mortifying exigencies of life. All the gaudy schemes of pomp and pleasure, which his luxuriant imagination had formed, began to dissolve; a train of melancholy ideas took possession of his thoughts; and the prospect of losing Emilia was not the least part of his affliction. Though he endeavoured to suppress the chagrin that preyed upon his heart, he could not conceal the disturbance of his mind from the penetration of that amiable young lady, who sympathized with him in her heart, though she could not give her tongue the liberty of asking the cause of his disorder; for, notwithstanding all the ardour of his addresses, he never could obtain from her the declaration of a mutual flame; because, though he had hitherto treated her with the utmost reverence of respect, he had never once mentioned the final aim of his passion. However honourable she supposed it to be, she had discernment enough to foresee that vanity or interest, co-operating with the levity of youth, might one day deprive her of her lover, and she was too proud to give him any handle of exulting at her expense. Although he was received by her with the most distinguished civility, and even an intimacy of friendship, all his solicitations could never extort from her an acknowledgment of love: on the contrary, being of a gay disposition, she sometimes coquetted with other admirers, that his attention thus whetted might never abate, and that he might see she had other resources in case he should flag in his affection.

This being the prudential plan on which she acted, it cannot be supposed that she would condescend to inquire into the state of his thoughts when she saw him thus affected; but she, nevertheless, imposed that task on her cousin and confidant, who, as they walked together in the park observed that he seemed to be out of humour. When this is the case, such a question generally increases the disease; at least it had that effect upon Peregrine, who replied somewhat peevishly, “I assure you, madam, you never were more mistaken in your observations.”—“I think so, too,” said Emilia, “for I never saw Mr. Pickle in higher spirits.” This ironical encomium completed his confusion: he affected to smile, but it was a smile of anguish, and in his heart he cursed the vivacity of both. He could not for his soul recollect himself so as to utter one connected sentence; and the suspicion that they observed every circumstance of his behaviour, threw such a damp on his spirits that he was quite overwhelmed with shame and resentment, when Sophy, casting her eyes towards the gate, said, “Yonder is your servant, Mr. Pickle, with another man who seems to have a wooden leg.” Peregrine started at this intelligence, and immediately underwent sundry changes of complexion, knowing that his fate, in a great measure, depended upon the information he would receive from his friend.

Hatchway, advancing to the company, after a brace of sea bows to the ladies, took the youth aside, and put the commodore’s letter into his hand, which threw him into such an agitation that he could scarce pronounce, “Ladies, will you give me leave?” When, in consequence of their permission, he attempted to open the billet, he fumbled with such manifest disorder, that his mistress, who watched his motions, began to think that there was something very interesting in the message; and so much was she affected with his concern, that she was fain to turn her head another way, and wipe the tears from her lovely eyes.

Meanwhile, Peregrine no sooner read the first sentence than his countenance, which before was overcast with a deep gloom, began to be lighted up, and every feature unbending by degrees, he recovered his serenity. Having perused the letter, his eyes sparkling with joy and gratitude, he hugged the lieutenant in his arms, and presented him to the ladies as one of his best friends. Jack met with a most gracious reception, and shook Emilia by the hand, telling her, with the familiar appellation of “old acquaintance” that he did not care how soon he was master of such another clean-going frigate as herself. The whole company partook of this favourable change that evidently appeared in our lover’s recollection, and enlivened his conversation with such an uncommon flow of sprightliness and good humour, as even made an impression on the iron countenance of Pipes himself, who actually smiled with satisfac............

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