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Chapter 54

He makes another Effort to towards the Accomplishment of his Wish, which is postponed by a strange Accident.

He directed his valet-de-chambre, who was a thorough-paced pimp, to kindle some straw in the yard, and then pass by the door of her apartment, crying with a loud voice that the house was on fire. This alarm brought both ladies out of their chamber in a moment, and Peregrine, taking the advantage of their running to the street door, entered the room, concealed himself under a large table that stood in an unobserved corner. The nymphs, as soon as they understood the cause of his Mercury’s supposed affright, returned to their apartment, and, having said their prayers, undressed themselves, and went to bed. This scene, which fell under the observation of Pickle, did not at all contribute to the cooling of his concupiscence, but on the contrary inflamed him to such a degree, that he could scarce restrain his impatience, until, by her breathing deep, he concluded the fellow-lodger of his Amanda was asleep. This welcome note no sooner saluted his ears, than he crept to his charmer’s bedside, and placing himself on his knees, gently laid hold on her white hand, and pressed it to his lips. She had just begun to close her eyes, and enjoy the agreeable oppression of slumber, when she was roused by this rape, at which she started, pronouncing, in a tone of surprise and dismay, “My God! who’s that?”

The lover, with the most insinuating humility, besought her to hear him; vowing that his intention, in approaching her thus, was not to violate the laws of decency, or that indelible esteem which she had engraved on his heart; but to manifest his sorrow and contrition for the umbrage he had given, to pour forth the overflowings of his soul, and tell her that he neither could nor would survive her displeasure. These and many more pathetic protestations, accompanied with sighs and tears and other expressions of grief, which our hero had at command, could not fail to melt the tender heart of the Fleming, already prepossessed in favour of his qualifications. She sympathized so much with his affliction, as to weep in her turn, when she represented the impossibility of her rewarding his passion; and he, seizing the moment, reinforced his solicitations with such irresistible transports, that her resolution gave way, she began to breathe quick, expressed her fear of being overheard by the other lady, with an ejaculation of “O heavens! I’m undone,” suffered him, after a faint struggle, to make a lodgment upon the covered way of her bed. Her honour, however, was secured for the present, by a strange sort of knocking upon the wainscot, at the other end of the room, hard by the bed in which the female adventurer lay.

Surprised at this circumstance, the lady begged him for heaven’s sake to retreat, or her reputation would be ruined for ever; but when he represented to her, that her character would run a much greater risk if he should be detected in withdrawing, she consented, with great trepidation, to his stay, and they listened in silence to the sequel of the noise that alarmed them. This was no other than an expedient of the painter to awaken his dulcinea, with whom he had made an assignation, or at least interchanged such signals as he thought amounted to a firm appointment. His nymph, being disturbed in her first sleep, immediately understood the sound, and, true to the agreement, rose; and, unbolting the door, as softly as possible, gave him admittance; leaving it open for his more commodious retreat.

While this happy gallant was employed in disengaging himself from the deshabille in which he had entered, the Capuchin, suspecting that Peregrine would make another attempt upon his charge, had crept silently to the apartment in order to reconnoitre, lest the adventure should be achieved without his knowledge; a circumstance that would deprive him of the profits he might expect from his privity and concurrence. Finding the door unlatched, his suspicion was confirmed, and he made no scruple of creeping into the chamber on all four; so that the painter, having stripped himself to the shirt, in groping about for his dulcinea’s bed, chanced to lay his hand upon the shaven crown of the father’s head, which, by a circular motion, the priest began to turn round in his grasp, like a ball in a socket, to the surprise and consternation of poor Pallet, who, neither having penetration to comprehend the case, nor resolution to withdraw his fingers fr............

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