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Chapter 29

He projects a plan of Revenge, which is executed against the Curate.

Our hero, exasperated at the villainy of the curate, in the treacherous misrepresentation he had made of this encounter, determined to rise upon him a method of revenge, which should be not only effectual but also unattended any bad consequence to himself. For this purpose he and Hatchway, to whom he imparted his plan, went to the ale-house one evening, and called for an empty room, knowing there was no other but that which they had chosen for the scene of action. This apartment was a sort of a parlour that fronted the kitchen, with a window towards the yard, where after they had sat some time, the lieutenant found means to amuse the landlord in discourse, while Peregrine, stepping out into the yard, by the talent of mimickry, which he possessed in a surprising degree, counterfeited a dialogue between the curate and Tunley’s wife. This reaching the ears of the publican, for whose hearing it was calculated, inflamed his naturally jealous disposition to such a degree, that he could not conceal his emotion, but made a hundred efforts to quit the room; while the lieutenant, smoking his pipe with great gravity, as if he neither heard what passed nor took notice of the landlord’s disorder, detained him on the spot by a succession of questions, which he could not refuse to answer, though he stood sweating with agony all the time, stretching his neck every instant towards the window through which the voices were conveyed, scratching his head, and exhibiting sundry other symptoms of impatience and agitation. At length the supposed conversation came to such a pitch of amorous complaisance, that the husband, quite frantic with his imaginary disgrace, rushed out of the door crying, “Coming, sir;” but as he was obliged to make a circuit round one-half of the house, Peregrine had got in by the window before Tunley arrived in the yard.

According to the feigned intelligence he had received, he ran directly to the barn, in expectation of making some very extraordinary discovery; and having employed some minutes in rummaging the straw to no purpose, returned in a state of distraction to the kitchen, just as his wife chanced to enter at the other door. The circumstance of her appearance confirmed him in the opinion that the deed was done. As the disease of being henpecked was epidemic in the parish, he durst not express the least hint of his uneasiness to her, but resolved to take vengeance on the libidinous priest, who he imagined had corrupted the chastity of his spouse.

The two confederates, in order to be certified that their scheme had taken effect, as well as to blow up the flame which they had kindled, called for Tunley, in whose countenance they could easily discern his confusion. Peregrine, desiring him to sit down and drink a glass with them, began to interrogate him about his family, and, among other things, asked him how long he had been married to that handsome wife. This question, which was put with an arch significance of look, alarmed the publican, who began to fear that Pickle had overheard his dishonour; and this suspicion was not at all removed when the lieutenant, with a sly regard, pronounced “Tunley warn’t you noosed by the curate?” “Yes, is was,” replied the landlord, with an eagerness and perplexity of tone, as if he thought the lieutenant knew that thereby hang a tale: and Hatchway supported the suspicion by “Nay, as for that matter, the curate may be a very sufficient man in his way.” This transition from his wife to the curate convinced him that his shame was known to his guests; and, in the transport of his indignation, he pronounced with great emphasis, “A sufficient man! Odds heart! I believe they are all wolves in sheep’s clothing. I wish to God I could see the day, master, when there shall not be a priest, an exciseman, or a custom-house officer in the kingdom. As for that fellow of a curate, if I do catch him — It don’t signify talking — But, by the Lord!— Gentlemen, my service to you.”

The associates being satisfied, by these abrupt insinuations, that they had so far succeeded in their aim, waited with impatience two or three days in expectation of hearing that Tunley had fallen upon some method of being revenged for this imaginary wrong; but finding that either his invention was too shallow, or his inclination too languid, to gratify their desire of his own accord, they determined to bring the affair to such a crisis, that he should not be able to withstand the opportunity of executing his vengeance. With this view, they one evening hired a boy to run to Mr. Pickle’s house, and tell the curate that Mrs. Tunley being taken suddenly ill, her husband desired he would come immediately and pray with her. They had taken possession of a room in the house and Hatchway engaging the landlord in conversation, Peregrine, in his return from the yard, observed, as if by accident, that the parson was gone into the kitchen, in order, as he supposed, to catechise Tunley’s wife.

The publican started at this intelligence, and, under p............

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