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Chapter 55

They depart from Ghent — Our Hero engages in a Political Dispute with his Mistress, whom he offends, and pacifies with Submission — He practises an Expedient to detain the Carriage at Alost, and confirms the Priest in his Interest.

Next day, about one o’clock, after having seen everything remarkable in town, and been present at the execution of two youths, who were hanged for ravishing a w —, they took their departure from Ghent in the same carriage which had brought them thither; and the conversation turning upon the punishment they had seen inflicted, the Flemish beauty expressed great sympathy and compassion for the unhappy sufferers, who, as she had been informed, had fallen victims to the malice of the accuser. Her sentiments were espoused by all the company, except the French lady of pleasure, who, thinking the credit of the sisterhood concerned in the affair, bitterly inveighed against the profligacy of the age, and particularly the base and villainous attempts of man upon the chastity of the weaker sex; saying, with a look of indignation directed to the painter, that for her own part she should never be able to manifest the acknowledgment she owed to Providence, for having protected her last night from the wicked aims of unbridled lust. This observation introduced a series of jokes at the expense of Pallet, who hung his ears, and sat with a silent air of dejection, fearing that, through the malevolence of the physician, his adventure might reach the ears of his wife. Indeed, though we have made shift to explain the whole transaction to the reader, it was an inextricable mystery to every individual in the diligence, because the part which was acted by the Capuchin was known to himself alone, and even he was utterly ignorant of Pickle’s being concerned in the affair; so that the greatest share of the painter’s sufferings were supposed to be the exaggerations of his own extravagant imagination.

In the midst of their discourse on this extraordinary subject, the driver told them that they were now on the very spot where a detachment of the allied army had been intercepted and cut off by the French: and, stopping the vehicle, entertained them with a local description of the battle of Melle. Upon this occasion, the Flemish lady, who, since her marriage, had become a keen partisan for the French, gave a minute detail of all the circumstances, as they had been represented to her by her husband’s brother, who was in the action. This account, which sunk the number of the French to sixteen, and raised that of the allies to twenty thousand men, was so disagreeable to truth, as well as to the laudable partiality of Peregrine, that he ventured to contradict her assertions, and a fierce dispute commenced, that not only regarded the present question, but also comprehended all the battles in which the Duke of Marlborough had commanded against Louis the Fourteenth. In the course of these debates, she divested the great general of all the glory he had acquired, by affirming, that every victory he gained was purposely lost by the French in order to bring the schemes of Madame de Maintenon into discredit; and, as a particular instance, alledged, that while the citadel of Lisle was besieged, Louis said, in presence of the Dauphin, that if the allies should be obliged to raise the siege, he would immediately declare his marriage with that lady; upon which, the son sent private orders to Marshal Boufflers to surrender the place.

This strange allegation was supported by the asseveration of the priest and the courtesan, and admitted as truth by the governor, who pretended to have heard it from good authority; while the doctor sat neutral, as one who thought it scandalous to know the history of such modern events. The Israelite, being a true Dutchman, himself under the banners of our hero, who, in attempting to demonstrate the absurdity and improbability of what they had advanced, raised such a hue and cry against himself, and, being insensibly heated in the altercation, irritated his Amanda to such a degree, that her charming eyes kindled with fury, and he saw great reason to think, that if he did not fall upon some method to deprecate her wrath, she would, in a twinkling, sacrifice all her esteem for him to her own zeal for the glory of the French nation. Moved by this apprehension, his ardour cooled by degrees, and he insensibly detached himself from the argument, leaving the whole care of supporting it to the Jew, who, finding himself deserted, was fain to yield at discretion; so that the French remained masters of the field, and their young heroine resumed her good humour.

Our hero having prudently submitted to the superior intelligence of his fair enslaver, began to be harassed with the fears of losing her for ever; and set his invention at work, to contrive some means of indemnifying himself for his assiduities, presents, and the disappointment he had already undergone. On pretence of enjoying a free air, he mounted the box, and employed his elocution and generosity with such success, that the driver undertook to disable the diligence from proceeding beyond the town of Alost for that day; and, in consequence of his promise, gently overturned it when they were but a mile short of that baiting-place. He had taken his measures so discreetly, that this accident was attended with no other inconvenience than a fit of fear that took possession of the ladies, an............

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