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Chapter 74

The young Gentleman, having settled his domestic Affairs, arrives in London, and sets up a gay Equipage — He meets with Emilia, and is introduced to her Uncle.

His aunt, at the earnest solicitations of Julia and her husband, took up her quarters at the house of that affectionate kinswoman, who made it her chief study to comfort and cherish the disconsolate widow; and Jolter, in expectation of the living, which was not yet vacant, remained in garrison, in quality of land-steward upon our hero’s country estate. As for the lieutenant, our young gentleman communed with him in a serious manner, about the commodore’s proposal of taking Mrs. Trunnion to wife; and Jack, being quite tired of the solitary situation of a bachelor, which nothing but the company of his old commander could have enabled him to support so long, far from discovering aversion from the match, observed with an arch smile, that it was not the first time he had commanded a vessel in the absence of Captain Trunnion; and therefore, if the widow was willing, he would cheerfully stand by her helm, and, as he hoped the duty would not be of long continuance, do his endeavour to steer her safe into port, where the commodore might come on board, and take charge of her again.

In consequence of this declaration, it was determined that Mr. Hatchway should make his addresses to Mrs. Trunnion as soon as decency would permit her to receive them; and Mr. Clover and his wife promised to exert their influence on his behalf. Meanwhile, Jack was desired to live at the castle as usual, and assured, that it should be put wholly in his possession, as soon as he should be able to accomplish this matrimonial scheme.

When Peregrine had settled all these points to his own satisfaction, he took leave of all his friends, and, repairing to the great city, purchased a new chariot and horses, put Pipes and another lacquey into rich liveries, took elegant lodgings in Pall Mall, and made a most remarkable appearance among the people of fashion.

It was owing to this equipage, and the gaiety of his personal deportment, that common fame, which is always a common liar, represented him as a young gentleman who had just succeeded to an estate of five thousand pounds per annum, by the death of an uncle; that he was entitled to an equal fortune at the decease of his own father, exclusive of two considerable jointures, which would devolve upon him at the demise of his mother and aunt. This report, false and ridiculous as it was, he could not find in his heart to contradict. Not but that he was sorry to find himself so misrepresented; but his vanity would not allow him to take any step that might diminish his importance in the opinion of those who courted his acquaintance, on the supposition that his circumstances were actually as affluent as they were said to be. Nay, so much was he infatuated by this weakness, that he resolved to encourage the deception, by living up to the report; and accordingly engaged in the most expensive parties of pleasure, believing that, before his present finances should be exhausted, his fortune would be effectually made, by the personal accomplishments he should have occasion to display to the beau monde in the course of his extravagance. In a word, vanity and pride were the ruling foibles of our adventurer, who imagined himself sufficiently qualified to retrieve his fortune in various shapes, long before he could have any idea of want or difficulty. He thought he should have it in his power, at any time, to make a prize of a rich heiress, or opulent widow; his ambition had already aspired to the heart of a young handsome duchess dowager, to whose acquaintance he had found means to be introduced; or, should matrimony chance to be unsuitable to his inclinations, he never doubted, that, by the interest he might acquire among the nobility, he should be favoured with some lucrative post, that would amply recompense him for the liberality of his disposition. There are many young men who entertain the same expectations, with half the reason he had to be so presumptuous.

In the midst of these chimerical calculations, his passion for Emilia did not subside; but, on the contrary, began to rage with such an inflammation of desire, that her idea interfered with every other reflection, and absolutely disabled him from prosecuting the other lofty schemes which his imagination had projected. He therefore laid down the honest resolution of visiting her in all the splendour of his situation, in order to practise upon her virtue with all his art and address, to the utmost extent of his affluence and fortune. Nay, so effectually had his guilty passion absorbed his principles of honour, conscience, humanity, and regard for the commodore’s last words, that he was base enough to rejoice at the absence of his friend Godfrey, who, being then with his regiment in Ireland, could not dive into his purpose, or take measures for frustrating his vicious design.

Fraught with these heroic sentiments, he determined to set out for Sussex in his chariot and six, attended by his valet-de-chambre and two footmen; and as he was now sensible that in his last essay he had mistaken his cue, he determined to change his battery, and sap the fortress, by the most submissive, soft, and insinuating behaviour.

On the evening that preceded this proposed expedition, he went into one of the boxes at the playhouse, as usual, to show himself to the ladies; and reconnoitring the company through a glass (for no other reason but because it was fashionable to be purblind), perceived his mistress very plainly dressed, in one of the seats above the stage, talking to another young woma............

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