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Chapter 49

Nor is the Physician sacred from his Ridicule — They reach Arras, where our Adventurer engages in Play with two French Officers, who, next Morning, give the Landlord an interesting Proof of their Importance.

The doctor remained sullen and dejected during the whole journey: not but that he attempted to recover his importance by haranguing upon the Roman highways, when Mr. Jolter desired the company to take notice of the fine pavement upon which they travelled from Paris into Flanders; but Pallet, who thought he had now gained the ascendency over the physician, exerted himself in maintaining the superiority he had acquired, by venting various sarcasms upon his self-conceit and affectation of learning, and even tittering puns and conundrums upon the remarks which the republican retailed. When he talked of the Flaminian Way, the painter questioned if it was a better pavement than the Fleminian Way on which they travelled: and the doctor having observed, that this road was made for the convenience of drawing the French artillery into Flanders, which was often the seat of war, his competitor in wit replied, with infinite vivacity, “There are more great guns than the French king knows of drawn along this causeway, doctor.”

Encouraged by the success of these efforts, which tickled the imagination of Jolter, and drew smiles (as he imagined) of approbation from our hero, he sported in many other equivoques of the same nature; and at dinner, told the physician, that he was like the root of the tongue, as being cursedly down in the mouth.

By this time, such was the animosity subsisting between these quondam friends, that they never conversed together, except with a view of exposing each other to the ridicule or contempt of their fellow-travellers. The doctor was at great pains to point out the folly and ignorance of Pallet in private to Peregrine, who was often conjured in the same manner by the painter, to take notice of the physician’s want of manners and taste. Pickle pretended to acquiesce in the truth of their mutual severity, which, indeed, was extremely just; and. by malicious insinuations blew up their contention, with a view of bringing it to open hostility. But both seemed so averse to deeds of mortal purpose, that for a long time his arts were baffled, and he could not spirit them up to any pitch of resentment higher than scurrilous repartee.

Before they reached Arras, the city gates were shut, so that they were obliged to take up their lodgings at an indifferent house in the suburbs, where they found a couple of French officers, who had also rode post from Paris so far on their way to Lisle. These gentlemen were about the age of thirty, and their deportment distinguished by such an air of insolence, as disgusted our hero, who, nevertheless, accosted them politely in the yard, and proposed that they should sup together. They thanked him for the honour of his invitation, which, however, they declined upon pretence of having ordered something for themselves; but promised to wait upon him and his company immediately after their repast.

This they accordingly performed; and, after having drunk a few glasses of Burgundy, one of them asked, if the young gentleman would, for pastime, take a hand at quadrille. Peregrine easily divined the meaning of this proposal, which was made with no other view than that of fleecing him and his fellow-travellers; for he well knew to what shifts a subaltern in the French service is reduced, in order to maintain the appearance of a gentleman, and had reason to believe that most of them were sharpers from their youth: but, as he depended a good deal upon his own penetration and address, he gratified the stranger’s desire; and a party was instantly formed of the painter, the physician, the proposer, and himself, the other officer having professed himself utterly ignorant of the game; in the course of the play, he took his station at the back of Pickle’s chair, which was opposite to his friend, on pretence of amusing himself with seeing his manner of conducting the cards. The youth was not such a novice but that he perceived the design of this palpable piece of behaviour, which, notwithstanding, he overlooked for the present, with a view of flattering their hopes in the beginning, that they might be the more effectually punished by their disappointment in the end.

The game was scarce begun, when, by the ............

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