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Chapter 86

Peregrine receives a letter from Hatchway, in consequence of which he repairs to the Garrison, and performs the last Offices to his Aunt — He is visited by Mr. Gauntlet, who invites him to his Marriage.

In this circle of amusements our hero’s time was parcelled out, and few young gentlemen of the age enjoyed life with greater relish, notwithstanding those intervening checks of reason, which served only to whet his appetite for a repetition of the pleasures she so prudently condemned; when he received the following letter, by which he was determined to visit his estate in the country:

Cousin Pickle,— I hope you are in a better trim than your aunt, who hath been fast moored to her bed these seven weeks, by several feet of under-water lodging in her hold and hollop, whereby I doubt her planks are rotted, so that she cannot choose but fall to pieces in a short time. I have done all in my power to keep her tight and easy, and free from sudden squalls that might overstrain her. And here have been the doctors, who have scuttled her lower deck, and let out six gallons of water. For my own part, I wonder how the devil it came there; for you know as how it was a liquor she never took in. But as for those fellows the doctors, they are like unskilful carpenters, that in mending one leak make a couple; and so she fills again apace. But the worst sign of all is this here, she won’t let a drop of Nantz go between the combings of her teeth, and has quite lost the rudder of her understanding, whereby she yaws woundily in her speech palavering about some foreign part called the New Geereusalem, and wishing herself in a safe berth in the river Geordun. The parson, I must say, strives to keep her steady, concerning the navigation of her soul, and talks very sensibly of charity and the poor, whereof she hath left a legacy of two hundred pounds in her will. And here has been Mr. Gamaliel and your brother my lord, demanding entrance at the gate, in order to see her; but I would not suffer them to come aboard, and pointed my patereroes, which made them sheer off. Your sister, Mrs. Clover, keeps close watch upon her kinswoman, without ever turning in, and a kind-hearted young woman it is. I should be glad to see you at the garrison, if the wind of your inclination sits that way; and mayhap it may be a comfort to your aunt, to behold you alongside of her, when her anchor is apeak. So no more at present, but rests your friend and humble servant to command, “John Hatchway.”

Next morning, after the receipt of this epistle, Peregrine, in order to manifest his regard to his aunt, as well as his friendship for honest Jack, set out on horseback for their habitation, attended by Pipes, who longed to see his old messmate; but before he had reached the garrison, Mrs. Hatchway had given up the ghost, in the threescore and fifth year of her age. The widower seemed to bear his loss with resignation, and behaved very decently upon the occasion, though he did not undergo those dangerous transports of sorrow, which some tender-hearted husbands have felt at the departure of their wives. The lieutenant was naturally a philosopher, and so well disposed to acquiesce in the dispensations of Providence, that in this, as well as in every other emergency of his life, he firmly believed, that everything which happened was for the best.

Peregrine’s task, therefore, was not so great in comforting him, as in consoling his own sister, who, with great poignancy and sincerity of grief, lamented the death of the only relation with whom she had maintained any intimacy of correspondence; for her mother was as implacable as ever, in her enmity against her and Peregrine, and rather more determined in her rancour; that which was originally a sudden transport of indignation, being by this time settled into a confirmed inveteracy of hate. As for Gam, who was now dignified by the country people with the appellation of the young squire, he still acted in the capacity of minister to the caprice and vengeance of his mother, taking all opportunities of disturbing Julia’s peace, slandering her reputation, and committing outrages against the tenants and domestics of her husband, who was a man of quiet and timorous disposition.

But the chief amusement of young Pickle, in his later years, was the chase, in which he acquired some renown by his intrepidity and remarkable figure, which improved every day in deformity; insomuch, as to suggest a ludicrous scheme of revenge to a gentleman in the neighbourhood. Having been affronted by the insolence of Crookback, he clothed a large baboon that was in his possession, in a dress that resembled the hunting equipage of Gam; and ordering the animal to be set astride, and tied upon the back of his keenest hunter, turned them out one day after the hounds. The horse in a little time outstripping all the rest in the field, the rider was mistaken for Gam by the whole company, who saluted him as he passed with a halloo, observing, that the squire had his usual good luck, in being better mounted than his neighbours. Pickle afterwards appearing in his own person, created great astonishment in the spectators, one of whom asked if he had split himself in twain, and pointed out his representative, who was, by this time, almost up with the hounds. Upon which the identical Gam went in pursuit of the impostor. When he overtook him, he was so much enraged at the counterfeit, that he attacked the baboon whip in hand, and, in all probability, would have sacrificed him to his resentment, had not he been prevented by the other fox-hunters. They interposed, in order to make up the difference betwixt two brothers of the sport, and were equally surprised and diverted when they distinguished the quality of Crookback’s antagonist, which they rescued from his rage, and reconveyed to its master.

Peregrine, at the request of his friend Jack, took charge of his aunt’s funeral, to which his parents were invited, though they did not think proper to appear, or pay the least regard to his solicitations, when he desired permission to wait upon them in person. Nevertheless, old Gamaliel, at the instigation of his wife, afterwards obtained an order from Doctors’ Commons, obliging Hatchway to produce the will of his wife, on the supposition that she had bequeathed to him some part of the money, which, he knew, was at her own disposal. But from this step he reaped no other satisfaction than that of finding himself altogether neglected by the testatrix, who had left all her effects to her husband, except one thousand pounds, with her jewels, to Julia’s daughter, the benefaction mentioned in the lieutenant’s letter, and some inconsiderable legacies to her favourite domestics.

A few days after the interment of this good lady, our hero was agreeably surprised with a visit from his friend Godfrey, who had come to England in consequence of that promotion which he owed to his interest, though the soldier himself placed it to the credit of a certain courtier who had formerly promised to befriend him, and now finding his advancement unowned, very modestly arrogated the merit of it to himself. He communicated his good-fortune to Pickle, who complimented him upon it as an event of which he had no precognition; and at the same time told him, that, in consequence of his preferment, his cousin at Windsor had consented to his being immediately united in the bands of wedlock with his lovely Sophy; that the wedding-day was already fixed; and that nothing would be wanting to his happiness, if Peregrine would honour the nuptials with his presence.

Our hero accepted the invitation with great eagerness, when he learned that Emilia would be there in quality of bridesmaid; and now repeated what he had formerly written to his friend, namely, that he was not only willing, but extremely impatient to atone for his mad behaviour to that young lady, by laying himself and his whole fortune at her feet. Godfrey thanked him for his honourable intention, and promised to use his influence, and that of Sophy, in his behalf, though he seemed dubious of their success, on account of his sister’s delicacy which could not pardon the least shadow of disrespect. He owned, indeed, he was not certain that she would appear in the same company with Pickle; but, as she made no stipulation on that score, he would interpret her silence in the most favourable manner, and keep her in ignorance of his design, until she should find it too late to retract with any decency. The hope of seeing and conversing with Emilia, and perhaps of being reconciled to her, after having suffered so much and so long from her displeasure, raised a tumult of ideas in his breast, and produced a strange inquietude of joy and perturbation. Gauntlet having stayed with him a few days, and signified the time appointed for his spousals, took his leave, in order to prepare for the occasion; while Peregrine, with his friend Hatchway, made a tour among his acquaintance in the country, with a view of sounding their inclinations touching a project which he had lately conceived, of offering himself as a candidate for a certain borough in the neighbourhood, at the ensuing election for members of parliament.

This scheme, which was suggested to him by one of his quality patrons, would have succeeded according to his wish, had the election taken place immediately; but, before that happened, his interest was overbalanced by some small accidents that will be recorded in the sequel. In the meantime, he repaired to Windsor on the eve of his friend’s marriage, and understood from Godfrey that it was with the utmost difficulty he and Sophy could prevail upon his sister to be present at the wedding. when she was informed that her lover was invited; and that her consent had not been obtained until they had promised, on the part of Peregrine, that he should not renew the old topic, nor even speak to her in the style of a former acquaintance.

Our young gentleman was nettled at this preliminary, to which, however, he said he would adhere; and so well did he think himself fortified with pride and resentment, that he resolved to behave towards her with such indifference, as would, he hoped, mortify her vanity, and thereby punish her for the implacability of her disposition. Armed with these sentiments, he was next day introduced by Godfrey to the bride, who received him with her usual sweetness of temper and affability; and Emilia being present, he saluted her with a distant bow, which she acknowledged with a cold courtesy, and an aspect of ice. Though this deportment confirmed his displeasure, her beauty undermined his resolution; he thought her charms infinitely improved since their last parting, and a thousand fond images recurring to his imagination, he felt his whole soul dissolving into tenderness and love.

In order to banish those dangerous ideas, he endeavoured to enter into a gay conversation with Sophy, on the subject of the approaching ceremony; but his tongue performed its office awkwardly, his eyes were attracted towards Emilia, as if they had been subject to the power of fascination; in spite of all his efforts, a deep sigh escaped from his bosom, and his whole appearance indicated anxiety and confusion. The bridegroom, perceiving his condition, abridged the visit, and having conducted his companion to his own lodgings, expressed his concern at having been the innocent occasion of his uneasiness, by exposing him to the sight of Emilia, which he perceived had given him pain. Peregrine, who had by this time recollected the dictates of his pride, assured him, that he was very much mistaken in the cause of his disorder, which was no other than a sudden qualm, to which he had been for some time subject; and to show him how philosophically he could bear the disdain of Emilia, which, with all deference to her conduct, he could not help thinking a little too severe, he desired, as the bridegroom had made preparation for a private ball in the evening, that he would provide him with an agreeable partner; in which case he would exhibit undoubted proofs of the tranquility of his heart. “I was in hopes,” answered Godfrey, “of being able, with the assistance of Sophy, to make up matters between you and my sister, and for that reason kept her unengaged to any other gentleman for the night; but since she was so peevishly obstinate, I shall take care to accommodate you with a very handsome young lady, whose partner will not be sorry to exchange her for Emilia.”

The thoughts of having an opportunity to coquette with another woman, under the eye of this implacable mistress, supported his spirits during the ceremony, which put Gauntlet in possession of his heart’s desire; and, by means of this cordial, he found himself so undisturbed at dinner, though he sat opposite to his fair enemy, that he was able to pass some occasional jokes upon the new-married couple, with some appearance of mirth and good-humour. Nor did Emily any otherwise seem affected by his presence, than by excepting him from the participation of those genial regards which she distributed to the rest of the company. This easiness of behaviour on her side reinforced his resolution, by giving him pretence to call her sensibility in question; for he could not conceive how any woman of acute feelings could sit unmoved in presence of a man with whom she had such recent and intimate connection; not considering that she had much more reason to condemn his affectation of unconcern, and that her external deportment might, like his own, be an effort of pride and resentment.

This contest, in point of dissimulation, continued till night, when the company was paired for dancing, and Peregrine began the ball by walking a minuet with the bride; then he took out the young lady to whom he was recommended by Gauntlet, being very well pleased to see that her person was such as might have inspired even Emily herself with jealousy, though, at the same time, he perceived his mistress coupled with a gay young officer, whom, with all due deference to his own qualifications, he considered as no despicable rival. However, he himself first began hostilities, by becoming all of a sudden particular with his partner, whom he forthwith assailed with flattering compliments, that soon introduced the subject of love, upon which he expatiated with great art and elocution, using not only the faculty of speech, but also the language of the eyes, in which he was a perfect connoisseur.

This behaviour soon manifested itself to the whole assembly, the greatest part of whom believed that he was in good earnest captivated by the charms of his partner; while Emilia, penetrating into his design, turned his own artillery upon himself, by seeming to listen with pleasure to the addresses of his rival, who was no novice in the art of making love. She even affected uncommon vivacity, and giggled aloud at every whisper which he conveyed into her ear, insomuch that she, in her turn, afforded speculation to the company, who imagined the young soldier had made a conquest of the bridegroom’s sister. Pickle himself began to cherish the same opinion, which gradually invaded his good-humour, and at length filled his bosom with rage. He strove to suppress his indignation, and called every consideration of vanity and revenge to his aid. He endeavoured to wean his eyes from the fatal object that disturbed him, but they would not obey his direction and command. He wished himself deprived of all sensation, when he heard her laugh, and saw her smile upon the officer; and, in the course of country-dancing, when he was obliged to join hands with her, the touch thrilled through all his nerves, and kindled a flame within him which he could not contain. In a word, his endeavours to conceal the situation of his thoughts were so violent, that his constitution could not endure the shock; the sweat ran down his forehead in a stream, the colour vanished from his cheeks, his knees began to totter, and his eyesight to fail; so that he must have fallen at his full length upon the floor, had not he retired very abruptly into another room, where he threw himself upon a couch, and fainted.

In this condition he was found by his friend, who, seeing him withdraw with such symptoms of disorder, followed him thither; and, when he recovered the use of his faculties, pressed him to make use of a bed in that house, rather than expose himself in the night air, by going home to his own lodgings; but not being able to prevail upon him to accept the offer, he wrapped him up in a cloak, and, conducting him to the inn where he lodged, helped him to undress and go to bed, where he was immediately seized with a violent fit of the ague. Godfrey behaved with great tenderness, and would have actually borne him company all night, notwithstanding the circumstances of his own situation, had not his friend insisted upon his returning to the company, and making his apology to his partner for his sudden departu............

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