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Chapter 50

Peregrine moralizes upon their Behaviour, which is condemned by the Doctor, and defended by the Governor — They arrive in safety at Lisle, dine at an Ordinary, visit the Citadel — The Physician quarrels with a North Briton, who is put in Arrest.

These honourable adventurers being gone, Peregrine, who was present during the transaction, informed himself of the particulars from the mouth of the innkeeper himself, who took Heaven and the saints to witness, that he should have been a loser by their custom, even if the bill had been paid: because he was on his guard against their objections, and had charged every article at an under price: but such was the authority of officers in France, that he durst not dispute the least circumstance of their will; for, had the case come under the cognizance of the magistrate, he must, in course, have suffered by the maxims of their government, which never fail to abet the oppression of the army; and, besides, run the risk of incurring their future resentment, which would be sufficient to ruin him from top to bottom.

Our hero boiled with indignation at this instance of injustice and arbitrary power; and, turning to his governor, asked, if this too was a proof of the happiness enjoyed by the French people. Jolter replied, that every human constitution must, in some things, be imperfect and owned, that in this kingdom, gentlemen were more countenanced than the vulgar, because it was to be presumed that their own sentiments of honour and superior qualifications would entitle them to this pre-eminence, which had also a retrospective view to the merit of their ancestors, in consideration of which they were at first ennobled; but he affirmed, that the innkeeper had misrepresented the magistracy, which, in France, never failed to punish flagrant outrages and abuse, without respect of persons.

The painter approved of the wisdom of the French government, in bridling the insolence of the mob, by which, he assured them, he had often suffered in his own person; having been often bespattered by hackney-coachmen, jostled by draymen and porters, and reviled in the most opprobrious terms by the watermen of London, where he had once lost his bag and a considerable quantity of hair, which had been cut off by some rascal in his passage through Ludgate, during the Lord Mayor’s procession. On the other hand, the doctor with great warmth alleged, that those officers ought to suffer death, or banishment at least, for having plundered the people in this manner, which was so impudent and barefaced, as plainly to prove they were certain of escaping with impunity, and that they were old offenders in the same degree of delinquency. He said, that the greatest man in Athens would have been condemned to perpetual exile, and seen his estate confiscated for public use, had he dared in such a licentious manner to violate the rights of a fellow-citizen; and as for the little affronts to which a man may be subject from the petulance of the multitude, he looked upon them as glorious indications of liberty, which ought not to be repressed, and would at any time rejoice to find himself overthrown in a kennel by the insolence of a son of freedom, even though the fall should cost him a limb; adding, by way of illustration, that the greatest pleasure he ever enjoyed was in seeing a dustman wilfully overturn a gentleman’s coach, in which two ladies were bruised, even to the danger of their lives. Pallet, shocked at the extravagance of this declaration, “If that be the case,” said he, “I wish you may see every bone in your body broke by the first carman you meet in the streets of London.”

This argument being discussed, and the reckoning discharged without any deduction, although the landlord, in stating the articles, had an eye to the loss he had sustained by his own countrymen, they departed from Arras, and arrived in safety at Lisle, about two o’clock in the afternoon.

They had scarce taken possession of their lodgings, in a large hotel in the Grande Place, when the innkeeper gave them to understand, that he kept an ordinary below, which was frequented by several English gentlemen who resided in town, and that dinner was then set upon the table. Peregrine, who seized all opportunities of observing new characters, persuaded his company to dine in public; and they were accordingly conducted to the place, where they found a mixture of Scotch and Dutch officers, who had come from Holland to learn their exercises at the academy, and some gentlemen in the French service, who were upon garrison duty in the citadel. Among these last was a person about the age of fifty, of a remarkably genteel air and polite address, dignified with a Maltese cross, and distinguished by the particular veneration of all those who knew him. When he understood that Pickle and his friends were travellers, he accosted the youth in English, which he spoke tolerably well; and, as they were strangers, offered to attend them in the afternoon to all the places worth seeing in Lisle. Our hero thanked him for his excess of politeness, which, he said, was peculiar to the French nation; and, struck with his engaging appearance, industriously courted his conversation, in the course of which he learned that this chevalier was a man of good sense and great experience, that he was perfectly well acquainted with the greatest part of Europe, had lived some years in England, and was no stranger to the constitution and genius of that people.

Having dined, and ............

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