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Chapter 36

He makes a fruitless Attempt in Gallantry — Departs for Boulogne, where he spends the evening with certain English Exiles.

Having thus yielded to the hand of power, he inquired if there was any other English company in the house; when, understanding that a gentleman and lady lodged in the next apartment, and had bespoke a post-chaise for Paris, he ordered Pipes to ingratiate himself with their footman, and, if possible, learn their names and condition, while he and Mr. Jolter, attended by the lacquey, took a turn round the ramparts, and viewed the particulars of the fortification.

Tom was so very successful in his inquiry, that when his master returned he was able to give him a very satisfactory account of his fellow-lodgers, in consequence of having treated his brother with a bottle of wine. The people in question were a gentleman and his lady lately arrived from England, in their way to Paris. The husband was a man of good fortune, who had been a libertine in his youth, and a professed declaimer against matrimony. He wanted neither sense nor experience, and piqued himself in particular upon his art of avoiding the snares of the female sex, in which he pretended to be deeply versed; but, notwithstanding all his caution and skill, he had lately fallen a sacrifice to the attractions of an oyster-wench, who had found means to decoy him into the bands of wedlock; and, in order to evade the compliments and congratulations of his friends and acquaintance, he had come so far on a tour to Paris, where he intended to initiate his spouse in the beau monde. In the mean time, he chose to live upon the reserve, because her natural talents had as yet received but little cultivation; and he had not the most implicit confidence in her virtue and discretion, which, it seems, had like to have yielded to the addresses of an officer at Canterbury, who had made shift to insinuate himself into her acquaintance and favour.

Peregrine’s curiosity being inflamed by this information, he lounged about the yard, in hopes of seeing the dulcinea who had captivated the old bachelor; and at length observing her at a window, took the liberty of bowing to her with great respect. She returned the compliment with a curtsy, and appeared so decent in her dress and manner, that unless he had been previously informed of her former life and conversation, he never would have dreamt that her education was different from that of other ladies of fashion; so easy is it to acquire that external deportment on which people of condition value themselves so much. Not but that Mr. Pickle pretended to distinguish a certain vulgar audacity in her countenance, which in a lady of birth and fortune would have passed for an agreeable vivacity that enlivens the aspect, and gives poignancy to every feature; but as she possessed a pair of fine eyes, and a clear complexion overspread with a glow of health, which never fails of recommending the owner, he could not help gazing at her with desire, and forming the design of making a conquest of her heart. With this view, he sent his compliments to her husband whose name was Hornbeck, with an intimation that he proposed to set out the next day for Paris, and as he understood that he was resolved upon the same journey, he should be extremely glad of his company on the road, if he was not better engaged. Hornbeck, who in all probability did not choose to accommodate his wife with a squire of our hero’s appearance, sent a civil answer to his message, professing infinite mortification at his being unable to embrace the favour of this kind offer, by reason of the indisposition of his wife, who, he was afraid, would not be in a condition for some days to bear the fatigue of travelling.

This rebuff, which Peregrine ascribed to the husband’s jealousy, stifled his project in embryo: he ordered his French servant to take a place for himself in the diligence, where all his luggage was stowed, except a small trunk, with some linen and other necessaries, that was fixed upon the post-chaise which they hired of the landlord; and early next morning he and Mr. Jolter departed from Calais, attended by his valet-de-chambre and Pipes on horseback. They proceeded without any accident as far as Boulogne, where they breakfasted, and visited old Father Graham, a Scottish gentleman of the governor’s acquaintance, who had lived as a Capuchin in that place for the space of threescore years, and during that period conformed to all the austerities of the order with the most rigorous exactness, being equally remarkable for the frankness of his conversation, the humanity of his disposition, and the simplicity of his manners. From Boulogne they took their departure about noon; and as they proposed to sleep that night at Abbeville, commanded the postilion to drive with extra ordinary speed. Perhaps it was well for his cattle that the axletree gave way and the chaise of course overturned, before they had travelled one-third part of the stage.

This accident compelled them to return to the place from whence they had set out; and as they could not procure another conveyance, they found themselves under the necessity of staying till their chaise could be refitted. Understanding that this operation would detain them a whole day, our young gentleman had recourse to his patience, and demanded to know what they could have for dinner; the garcon or waiter, thus questioned, vanished in a moment, and immediately they were surprised with the appearance of a strange figure, which, from the extravagance of its dress and gesticulation, Peregrine mistook for a madman of the growth of France. This phantom (which, by the bye, happened to be no other than the cook) was a tall, long-legged, meagre, swarthy fellow, that stooped very much; his cheek-bones were remarkably raised, his nose bent into the shape and size of a powder-horn, and the sockets of his eyes as raw round the edges as if the skin had been pared off. On his head he wore a handkerchief, which had once been white, and now served to cover the upper part of a black periwig, to which was attached a bag at least a foot square, with a solitaire and rose that stuck upon each side of his ear; so that he looked like a criminal on the pillory. His back was accommodated with a linen waistcoat, his hands adorned with long ruffles of the same piece, his middle was girded by an apron, tucked up, that it might not conceal his white silk stockings, rolled; and at his entrance he brandished a bloody weapon full three feet in length.

Peregrine, when he first saw him approach in this menaci............

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