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Chapter 60

Hornbeck is informed of his Wife’s Adventure with Peregrine, for whom he prepares a Stratagem, which is rendered ineffectual by the Information of Pipes — The Husband is ducked for his Intention, and our Hero apprehended by the Patrol.

There was another person, however, still ungained; and that was no other than her footman, whose secrecy our hero attempted to secure in the morning by a handsome present, which he received with many professions of gratitude and devotion to his service; yet this complaisance was nothing but a cloak used to disguise the design he harboured of making his master acquainted with the whole transaction. Indeed this lacquey had been hired, not only as a spy upon his mistress, but also as a check on the conduct of the governante, with promise of ample reward if ever he should discover any sinister or suspicious practices in the course of her behaviour. As for the footman whom they had brought from England, he was retained in attendance upon the person of his master, whose confidence he had lost by advising him to gentle methods of reclaiming his lady, when her irregularities had subjected her to his wrath.

The Flemish valet, in consequence of the office he had undertaken, wrote to Hornbeck by the first post, giving an exact detail of the adventure at Versailles, with such a description of the pretended brother as left the husband no room to think he could be any other person than his first dishonourer; and exasperated him to such a degree, that he resolved to lay an ambush for this invader, and at once disqualify him from disturbing his repose, by maintaining further correspondence with his wife.

Meanwhile the lovers enjoyed themselves without restraint, and Peregrine’s plan of inquiry after his dear unknown was for the present postponed. His fellow-travellers were confounded at his mysterious motions, which filled the heart of Jolter with anxiety and terror. This careful conductor was fraught with such experience of his pupil’s disposition, that he trembled with the apprehension of some sudden accident, and lived in continual alarm, like a man that walks under the wall of a nodding tower. Nor did he enjoy any alleviations of his fears, when, upon telling the young gentleman that the rest of the company were desirous of departing for Antwerp, he answered, they were at liberty to consult their own inclinations; but, for his own part, he was resolved to stay in Brussels a few days longer. By this declaration the governor was confirmed in the opinion of his having some intrigue upon the anvil. In the bitterness of his vexation, he took the liberty of signifying his suspicion, and reminding him of the dangerous dilemmas to which he had been reduced by his former precipitation.

Peregrine took his caution in good part, and promised to behave with such circumspection as would screen him from any troublesome consequences for the future: but, nevertheless, behaved that same evening in such a manner as plainly showed that his prudence was nothing else than vain speculation. He had made an appointment to spend the night, as usual, with Mrs. Hornbeck; and about nine o’clock hastened to her lodgings, when he was accosted in the street by his old discarded friend Thomas Pipes, who, without any other preamble, told him, that for all he had turned him adrift, he did not choose to see him run full sail into his enemy’s harbour, without giving him timely notice of the danger. “I’ll tell you what,” said he; “mayhap you think I want to curry favour, that I may be taken in tow again; if you do, you have made a mistake in your reckoning. I am old enough to be laid up, and have to keep my planks from the weather. But this here is the affair: I have known you since you were no higher than a marlinspike, and shouldn’t care to see you deprived of your rigging at these years; whereby I am informed by Hornbeck’s man, whom I this afternoon fell in with by chance, as how his master has got intelligence of your boarding his wife, and has steered privately into this port with a large complement of hands, in order, d’ye see, to secure you while you are under the hatches. Now, if so be as how you have a mind to give him a salt eel for his supper, here am I, without hope of fee or reward, ready to stand by you as long as my timbers will stick together: and if I expect any recompense, may I be bound to eat oakum and drink bilge-water for life.”

Startled at this information, Peregrine examined him upon the particulars of his discourse with the lacquey; and when he understood that Hornbeck’s intelligence flowed from the canal of his Flemish footman, he believed every circumstance of Tom’s report, thanked him for his warning, and, after having reprimanded him for his misbehaviour at Lisle, assured him that it should be his own fault if ever they should part again. He then deliberated with himself whether or not he should retort the purpose upon his adversary; but when he considered that Hornbeck was not the aggressor, and made that unhappy husband’s case his own, he could not help quitting his intention of revenge; though, in his opinion, it ought to have been executed in a more honourable manner, and therefore he determined to chastise him for his want of spirit. Nothing surely can be more insolent and unjust than this determination, which induced him to punish a person for his want of courage to redress the injury which he himself had done to his reputation and peace; and yet this barbarity of decision is authorised by the opinion and practice of mankind.

With these sentiments he returned to the inn,............

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