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Chapter 28

Peregrine is overtaken by Mr. Gauntlet, with whom he fights a Duel, and contracts an intimate Friendship — He arrives at the Garrison, and finds his Mother as implacable as ever — He is insulted by his Brother Gam, whose Preceptor he disciplines with a Horsewhip.

In order to expel the melancholy images that took possession of his fancy, at parting from his mistress, he called in the flattering ideas of those pleasures he expected to enjoy in France; and before he had rode ten miles, his imagination was effectually amused. While he thus prosecuted his travels by anticipation, and indulged himself in all the insolence of hope, at the turning of a lane he was all of a sudden overtaken by Emilia’s brother on horseback, who told him he was riding the same way, and should be glad of his company. This young gentleman, whether prompted by personal pique, or actuated with zeal for the honour of his family, had followed our hero, with the view of obliging him to explain the nature of his attachment to his sister.

Peregrine returned his compliment with such disdainful civility as gave him room to believe that he suspected his errand; and therefore, without further preamble, he declared his business in these words: “Mr. Pickle, you have carried on a correspondence with my sister for some time, and I should be glad to know the nature of it.” To this question our lover replied, “Sir, I should be glad to know what title you have to demand that satisfaction?”—“Sir,” answered the other, “I demand it in the capacity of a brother, jealous of his own honour, as well as of his sister’s reputation; and if your intentions are honourable, you will not refuse it.”—“Sir,” said Peregrine, “I am not at present disposed to appeal to your opinion for the rectitude of my intentions: and I think you assume a little too much importance, in pretending to judge my conduct.”—“Sir,” replied the soldier, “I pretend to judge the conduct of every man who interferes with my concerns, and even to chastise him, if I think he acts amiss.”—“Chastise!” cried the youth, with indignation in his looks, “sure you dare not apply that term to me?”—“You are mistaken,” said Godfrey; “I dare do anything that becomes the character of a gentleman.”—“Gentleman, God wot!” replied the other, looking contemptuously at his equipage, which was none of the most superb, “a very pretty gentleman, truly!”

The soldier’s wrath was inflamed by this ironical repetition, the contempt of which his conscious poverty made him feel; and he called his antagonist presumptuous boy, insolent upstart, and with other epithets, which Perry retorted with great bitterness. A formal challenge having passed between them, they alighted at the first inn, and walked into the next field, in order to decide their quarrel by the sword. Having pitched upon the spot, helped to pull off each other’s boots, and laid aside their coats and waistcoats, Mr. Gauntlet told his opponent, that he himself was looked upon in the army as an expert swordsman, and that if Mr. Pickle had not made that science his particular study, they should be upon a more equal footing in using pistols. Peregrine was too much incensed to thank him for his plain dealing, and too confident of his own skill to relish the other’s proposal, which he accordingly rejected: then, drawing his sword, he observed, that were he to treat Mr. Gauntlet according to his deserts, he would order his man to punish his audacity with a horsewhip. Exasperated at this expression, which he considered as an indelible affront, he made no reply, but attacked his adversary with equal ferocity and address. The youth parried his first and second thrust, but received the third in the outside of his sword-arm. Though the wound was superficial, he was transported with rage at sight of his own blood, and returned the assault with such fury and precipitation, that Gauntlet, loath to take advantage of his unguarded heat, stood upon the defensive. In the second lounge, Peregrine’s weapon entering a kind of network in the shell of Godfrey’s sword, the blade snapped in two, and left him at the mercy of the soldier, who, far from making an insolent use of the victory he had gained, put up his Toledo with great deliberation, like a man who had been used to that kind of reencounters, and observed that such a blade as Peregrine’s was not to be trusted with a man’s life: then advising the owner to treat a gentleman in distress with more respect for the future, he slipped on his boots, and with sullen dignity of demeanour stalked back to the inn.

Though Pickle was extremely mortified at his miscarriage in this adventure, he was also struck with the behaviour of his antagonist, which affected him the more, as he understood that Godfrey’s fierte had proceeded from the jealous sensibility of a gentleman declined into the vale of misfortune. Gauntlet’s valour and moderation induced him to put a favourable construction on all those circumstances of that young soldier’s conduct, which before had given him disgust. Though in any other case he would have industriously avoided the least appearance of submission, he followed his conqueror to the inn with a view of thanking him for his generous forbearance, and of soliciting his friendship and correspondence.

Godfrey had his foot in the stirrup to mount, when Peregrine, coming up to him, desired he would defer his departure for a quarter of an hour, and favour him with a little private conversation. The soldier, who mistook the meaning of the request, immediately quitted his horse, and followed Pickle into a chamber, where he expected to find a brace of pistols loaded on the table: but he was very agreeably deceived, when our hero, in the most respectful terms, acknowledged his noble deportment in the field, owned that till then he had misunderstood his character, and begged that he would honour him with his intimacy and correspondence.

Gauntlet, who had seen undoubted proofs of Peregrine’s courage, which had considerably raised him in his esteem, and had sense enough to perceive that this concession was not owing to any sordid or sinister motive, embraced his offer with demonstrations of infinite satisfaction. When he understood the terms on which Mr. Pickle was with his sister, he proffered his service in his turn, either as agent, mediator, or confidant: nay, to give this new friend a convincing proof of his sincerity, he disclosed to him a passion which he had for some time entertained for his cousin Miss Sophy, though he durst not reveal his sentiments to her father, lest he should be offended at his presumption, and withdraw his protection from the family.

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