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Chapter 27

They meet with a dreadful Alarm on the Road — Arrive at their Journey’s end — Peregrine is introduced to Emily’s Brother — These two young Gentlemen misunderstand each other — Pickle departs for the Garrison.

As they travelled at an easy rate, they had performed something more than one half of their journey, when they were benighted near an inn, at which they resolved to lodge; the accommodation was very good, they supped together with great mirth and enjoyment, and it was not till after he had been warned by the yawns of the ladies, that he conducted them to their apartment; where, wishing them good night, he retired to his own, and went to rest. The house was crowded with country-people who had been at a neighbouring fair, and now regaled themselves with ale and tobacco in the yard; so that their consideration, which at any time was but slender, being now overwhelmed by this debauch, they staggered into their respective kennels, and left a lighted candle sticking to one of the wooden pillars that supported the gallery. The flame in a little time laid hold on the wood, which was as dry as tinder; and the whole gallery was on fire, when Peregrine suddenly waked, and found himself almost suffocated. He sprang up in an instant, slipped on his breeches, and, throwing open the door of his chamber, saw the whole entry in a blaze.

Heavens! what were the emotions of his soul, when he beheld the volumes of flame and smoke rolling towards the room where his dear Emilia lay! Regardless of his own danger, he darted himself through the thickest of the gloom, when knocking hard, and calling at the same time to the ladies, with the most anxious entreaty to be admitted, the door was opened by Emilia in her shift, who asked, with the utmost trepidation, what was the matter? He made no reply, but snatching her up in his arms, like another Aeneas, bore her through the flames to a place of safety; where leaving her before she could recollect herself, or pronounce one word, but “Alas; my Cousin Sophy!” he flew back to the rescue of that young lady, and found her already delivered by Pipes, who having been alarmed by the smell of fire, had got up, rushed immediately to the chamber where he knew these companions lodged, and Emily being saved by her lover brought off Miss Sophy with the loss of his own shock-head of hair, which was singed off in his retreat.

By this time the whole inn was alarmed; every lodger, as well as servant, exerted himself, in order to stop the progress of this calamity: and there being a well-replenished horse-pond in the yard, in less than an hour the fire was totally extinguished, without having done any other damage than that of consuming about two yards of the wooden gallery.

All this time our young gentleman closely attended his fair charge, each of whom had swooned with apprehension; but as their constitutions were good, and their spirits not easily dissipated, when upon reflection they found themselves and their company safe, and that the flames were happily quenched, the tumult of their fears subsided, they put on their clothes, recovered their good humour, and began to rally each other on the trim in which they had been secured. Sophy observed that now Mr. Pickle had an indisputable claim to her cousin’s affection; and therefore she ought to lay aside all affected reserve for the future, and frankly avow the sentiments of her heart. Emily retorted the argument, putting her in mind, that by the same claim Mr. Pipes was entitled to the like return from her. Her friend admitted the force of the conclusion, provided she could not find means of satisfying his deliverer in another shape; and, turning, to the valet, who happened to be present, asked if his heart was not otherwise engaged. Tom, who did not conceive the meaning of the question, stood silent according to custom; and the interrogation being repeated, answered, with a grin, “Heart-whole as a biscuit, I’ll assure you, mistress.”—“What!” said Emilia, “have you never been in love, Thomas?”—“Yes, forsooth,” replied the valet without hesitation, “sometimes of a morning.”

Peregrine could not help laughing, and his mistress looked a little disconcerted at this blunt repartee: while Sophy, slipping a purse into his hand, told him there was something to purchase a periwig. Tom, having consulted his master’s eyes, refused the present, saying, “No, thank ye as much as if I did;” and though she insisted upon his putting it in his pocket, as a small testimony of her gratitude, he could not be prevailed upon to avail himself of her generosity; but following her to the other end of the room, thrust it into her sleeve without ceremony, exclaiming, “I’ll be d — d to hell if I do.” Peregrine, having checked him for his boorish behaviour, sent him out of the room, and begged that Miss Sophy would not endeavour to debauch the morals of his servant, who, rough and uncultivated as he was, had sense enough to perceive that he had no pretension to any such acknowledgment. But she argued, with great vehemence, that she should never be able to make acknowledgment adequate to the service he had done her, and that she should never be perfectly easy in her own mind until she found some opportunity of manifesting the sense she had of the obligation: “I do not pretend,” said she, “to reward Mr. Pipes; but I shall be absolutely unhappy, unless I am allowed to give him some token of my regard.”

Peregrine, thus earnestly solicited, desired, that since she was bent upon displaying her generosity, she would not bestow upon him any pecuniary gratification, but honour him with some trinket, as a mark of consideration; because he himself had such a particular value for the fellow, on account of his attachment and fidelity, that be should be sorry to see him treated on the footing of a common mercenary domestic. There was not one jewel in the possession of this grateful young lady, that she would not have gladly given as a recompense, or badge of distinction, to her rescuer; but his master pitched upon a seal ring of no great value that hung at her watch, and Pipes, being called in, had permission to accept that testimony of Miss Sophy’s favour. Tom received it accordingly with sundry scrapes; and, having kissed it with great devotion, put it on his little finger, and strutted off, extremely proud of his acquisition.

Emilia, with a most enchanting sweetness of aspect, told her lover that he had instructed her how to behave towards him; and taking a diamond ring from her finger, desired he would wear it for her sake. He received the pledge as became him, and presented another in exchange, which she at first refused, alleging that it would destroy the intent of her acknowledgment; but Peregrine assured her he had accepted her jewel, not as a proof of her gratitude, but as the mark of her love; and that if she refused a mutual token, he should look upon himself a............

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