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Chapter 37

Proceeds for the Capital — Takes up his Lodging at Bernay, where he is overtaken by Mr. Hornbeck, whose Head he longs to fortify.

During this day’s expedition, Mr. Jolter took an opportunity of imparting to his pupil the remarks he had made upon the industry of the French as an undeniable proof of which he bade him cast his eyes around, and observe with what care every spot of ground was cultivated, and from the fertility of that province, which is reckoned the poorest in France, conceive the wealth and affluence of the nation in general. Peregrine, amazed as well as disgusted at this infatuation, answered that what he ascribed to industry was the effect of mere wretchedness; the miserable peasants being obliged to plough up every inch of ground to satisfy their oppressive landlords, while they themselves and their cattle looked like so many images of famine; that their extreme poverty was evident from the face of the country, on which there was not one inclosure to be seen, or any other object, except scanty crops of barley and oats, which could never reward the toil of the husbandman; that their habitations were no better than paltry huts; that in twenty miles of extent not one gentleman’s house appeared; that nothing was more abject and forlorn than the attire of their country people; that the equipage of their travelling chaises was infinitely inferior to that of a dung-cart in England; and that the postilion who then drove their carriage had neither stockings to his legs, nor a shirt to his back.

The governor, finding his charge so intractable resolved to leave him in the midst of his own ignorance and prejudice, and reserve his observations for those who would pay more deference to his opinion: and indeed this resolution he had often made, and as often broken in the transports of his zeal, that frequently hurried him out of the plan of conduct which in his cooler moments he had laid down. They halted for refreshment at Montreuil, and about seven in the evening arrived at a village called Bernay, where, while they waited for fresh horses, they were informed by the landlord that the gates of Abbeville were shut every night punctually at eight o’clock, so that it would be impossible for them to get admittance. He said there was not another place of entertainment on the road where they could pass the night; and therefore, as a friend, he advised them to stay at his house, where they would find the best of accommodation, and proceed upon their journey betimes in the morning.

Mr. Jolter, though he had travelled on that road before, could not recollect whether or not mine host spoke truth; but his remonstrance being very plausible, our hero determined to follow his advice, and being conducted into an apartment, asked what they could have for supper. The landlord mentioned everything that was eatable in the house; and the whole being engrossed for the use of him and his attendants, he amused himself, till such time as it should be dressed, in strolling about the house, which stands in a very rural situation. While he thus loitered away the time that hung heavy on his hands, another chaise arrived at the inn, and upon inquiry he found that the new-comers were Mr. Hornbeck and his lady. The landlord, conscious of his inability to entertain this second company, came and begged with great humiliation that Mr. Pickle would spare them some part of the victuals he had bespoken; but he refused to part with so much as the wing of a partridge, though at the same time he sent his compliments to the strangers, and giving them to understand how ill the house was provided for their reception, invited them to partake of his supper. Mr. Hornbeck, who was not deficient in point of politeness, and extremely well disposed for a relishing meal, which he had reason to expect from the savoury steam that issued from the kitchen, could not resist this second instance of our young gentleman’s civility, which he acknowledged in a message, importing that he and his wife would do themselves the pleasure of profiting by his courteous offer. Peregrine’s cheeks glowed when he found himself on the eve of being acquainted with Mrs. Hornbeck, of whose heart he had already made a conquest in imagination; and he forthwith set his invention at work, to contrive ............

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