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Chapter 89

He is taken into the Protection of a great Man — Sets up for a Member of Parliament — Is disappointed in his Expectation, and finds himself egregiously outwitted.

Among these professed patrons, the greatest part of whom Peregrine saw through, there was one great personage, who seemed to support with dignity the sphere in which fortune had placed him. His behaviour to Pickle was not a series of grinning complaisance in a flat repetition of general expressions of friendship and regard. He demeaned himself with a seemingly honest reserve, in point of profession; his advances to Peregrine appeared to be the result of deliberation and experiment; he chid the young gentleman for his extravagance, with the authority of a parent, and the sincerity of a fast friend; and having, by gradual inquiries, made himself acquainted with the state of his private affairs, condemned his conduct with an air of candour and concern. He represented to him the folly and dangerous consequences of the profligate life in which he had plunged himself, counselled him with great warmth to sell off his race-horses, which would otherwise insensibly eat him up; to retrench all superfluous expense, which would only serve to expose him to the ridicule and ingratitude of those who were benefited by it; to lay out his money upon secure mortgages, at good interest; and carry into execution his former design of standing candidate for a borough, at the ensuing election for a new parliament; in which case this nobleman promised to assist him with his influence and advice; assuring him, that, if he could once procure a seat in the house, he might look upon his fortune as already made.

Our adventurer perceiving the wisdom and sanity of this advice, for which he made his acknowledgments to his generous monitor, protested that he would adhere to it in every particular, and immediately set about a reformation. He accordingly took cognizance of his most minute affairs, and, after an exact scrutiny, gave his patron to understand, that, exclusive of his furniture, his fortune was reduced to fourteen thousand three hundred and thirty pounds, in Bank and South-sea annuities, over and above the garrison and its appendages, which he reckoned at sixty pounds a year. He therefore desired, that, as his lordship had been so kind as to favour him with his friendship and advice, he would extend his generosity still farther, by putting him in a way of making the most advantage of his money. My lord said, that, for his own part, he did not choose to meddle in money matters; that Mr. Pickle would find abundance of people ready to borrow it upon land security; but that he ought to be extremely cautious in a transaction of such consequence; promising, at the same time, to employ his own steward in seeking out a mortgager to whom it might be safely lent.

This agent was accordingly set at work, and for a few days made a fruitless inquiry; so that the young gentleman was obliged to have recourse to his own intelligence, by which he got notice of several people of reputed credit, who offered him mortgages for the whole sum; but when he made a report of the particulars to his noble friend, his lordship started such doubts and objections relating to each, that he was deterred from entering into any engagements with the proposers; congratulating himself, in the meantime, on his good fortune, in being favoured with the advice and direction of such a sage counsellor. Nevertheless, he began to be impatient, after having unsuccessfully consulted all the money brokers and conveyancers about town, and resolved to try the expedient of a public advertisement. But he was persuaded by my lord to postpone that experiment, until every other method should have failed, because it would attract the attention of all the pettifoggers in London, who, though they might not be able to overreach, would infallibly harass and tease him out of all tranquility.

It was on the back of this conversation that Peregrine, chancing to meet the steward near his lord’s house, stopped him in the street, to give him an account of his bad luck; at which the other expressed some concern, and rubbing his chin with his hand, in a musing posture, told Pickle, there was a thought just come into his head, pointing out one way of doing his business effectually. The youth, upon this intimation, begged he would accompany him to the next coffee-house, in which having chosen a private situation, this grave manager gave him to understand, that a part of my lord’s estate was mortgaged, in consequence of a debt contracted by his grandfather, for provision to the younger children of the family; and that the equity of redemption would be foreclosed in a few months, unless the burden could be discharged. “My lord,” said he, “has always lived in a splendid manner, and, notwithstanding his ample fortune, together with the profits accruing from the posts he enjoys, he saves so little money, that, upon this occasion, I know he will be obliged to borrow ten thousand pounds to make up the sum that is requisite to redeem the mortgage. Now, certain I am, that, when his design comes to be known, he will be solicited on all hands by people desirous of lending money upon such undoubted security; and ’tis odds but he has already promised the preference to some particular acquaintance. However, as I know he has your interest very much at heart, I will, if you please, sound his lordship upon the subject, and in a day or two give you notice of my success.”

Peregrine, ravished with the prospect of settling this affair so much to his satisfaction, thanked the steward for his friendly hint and undertaking, which he assured him should be acknowledged by a more solid proof of his gratitude, provided the business could be brought to bear; and next day he was visited by this kind manager, with the happy news of his lordship’s having consented to borrow ten thousand pounds of his stock upon mortgage, at the interest of five per cent. This information he received as an instance of the singular esteem of his noble patron; and the papers being immediately drawn and executed, the money was deposited in the hands of the mortgager, who, in the hearing of the lender, laid strong injunctions on his steward to pay the interest punctually at quarter-day.

The best part of our hero’s fortune being thus happily deposited, and the agent gratified with a present of fifty pieces, he began to put his retrenching scheme in execution; all his servants, Pipes excepted, were discharged, his chariot and running horses disposed of, his housekeeping broken up, and his furniture sold by auction: nay, the heat of his disposition was as remarkable in this as any other transaction in his life; for every step of his saving project was taken with such eagerness, and even precipitation, that most of his companions thought he was either ruined or mad. But he answered all their expostulations with a string of prudent apophthegms, such as, “The shortest follies are the best”; “Better to retrench upon conviction than compulsion”; and divers other wise maxims, seemingly the result of experience and philosophic reflection. To such a degree of enthusiasm did his present economy prevail, that he was actually seized with the desire of amassing. And as he every day received proposals from those brokers whom he had employed, about the disposal of his cash, he at length ventured fifteen hundred pounds upon bottomry, being tempted by the excessive premium.

But it must be observed, for the honour of our adventurer, that this reformation did not at all interfere with the good qualities of his heart. He was still as friendly and benevolent as ever, though his liberality was more subject to the restraint of reason; and he might have justly pleaded, in vindication of his generosity, that he retrenched the superfluities in his own way of living, in order to preserve the power of assisting his fellow-creatures in distress. Numberless were the objects to which he extended his charity in private. Indeed, he exerted this virtue in secret, not only on account of avoiding the charge of ostentation, but also because he was ashamed of being detected in such an awkward unfashionable practice, by the censorious observers of this humane generation. In this particular, he seemed to confound the ideas of virtue and vice; for he did good, as other people do evil, by stealth; and was so capricious in point of behaviour, that frequently, in public, he wagged his tongue in satirical animadversions upon that poverty which his hand had in private relieved. Yet, far from shunning the acquaintance, or discouraging the solicitation of those who, he thought, wanted his assistance, he was always accessible, open, and complaisant to them, even when the haughtiness of his temper kept his superiors at a distance; and often saved a modest man the anguish and confusion of declaring himself, by penetrating into his necessity, and anticipating his request, in a frank offer of his purse and friendship. Not that he practised this beneficence to all the needy of his acquaintance without distinction; there is always a set of idle profligate fellows, who, having squandered away their own fortunes, and conquered all sense of honour and shame, maintain themselves by borrowing from those who have not yet finished the same career, and want resolution to resist their importunate demands. To these he was always inflexible; though he could not absolutely detach himself from their company, because, by dint of effrontery, and such of their original connections as they have been able to retain, they find admission to all places of fashionable resort.

Several unsuccessful attacks had been made upon his pocket by beggars of this class. One of the most artful of them, having one day joined him in the Mall, and made the usual observation on the weather, d — d all the fogs of London, and began a dissertation on the difference of air, preferring that of the country in which he was born to any climate under the sun. “Were you ever in Gloucestershire?” said he to Peregrine; who replying in the negative, he thus went on: “I have got a house there, where I should be glad to see you. Let us go down together during the Easter holidays; I can promise you good country fare and wholesome exercise; for I have everything within myself, and as good a pack of fox-hounds as any in the three kingdoms. I shan’t pretend to expatiate upon the elegance of the house, which to be sure is an old building; and these, you know, are generally cold, and not very convenient. But, curse the house! the dirty acres about it are the thing; and d — d fine parcel they are to be sure. If my old grandmother was dead — she can’t live another season, for she’s turned of fourscore, and quite worn out: nay, as for that matter, I believe I have got a letter in my pocket, giving an account of her being despaired of by the doctors. Let me see — No, d — it! I left it at home, in the pocket of another coat.”

Pickle, who, from the beginning of this harangue, saw its tendency, seemed to yield the most serious attention to what he said: breaking in upon it, every now and then, with the interjections, hum! ha! the deuce! and several civil questions, from which the other conceived happy omens of success; till perceiving they had advanced as far as the passage into St. James’s, the mischievous youth interrupted him all at once, saying, “I see you are for the end of the walk; this is my way.” With these words he took leave of the saunterer, who would have delayed his retreat, by calling to him aloud, that he had not yet described the situation of his castle. But Peregrine, without stopping, answered in the same tone, “Another time will do as well”; and in a moment disappeared, leaving the projector very much mortified with his disappointment; for his intention was to close the description with a demand of twenty pieces, to be repaid out of the first remittance he should receive from his estate.

It would have been well for our hero, had he always acted with the same circumspection. But he had his unguarded moments, in which he fell a prey to the unsuspecting integrity of his own heart. There was a person among the number of his acquaintances, whose conversation he particularly relished, because it was frank, agreeable, and fraught with many sensible observations upon the craft and treachery of mankind. This gentleman had made shift to discuss a very genteel fortune, though it was spent with taste and reputation, and now he was reduced to his shifts for the maintenance of his family, which consisted of a wife and child. Not that he was destitute of the necessaries of life, being comfortably supplied by the bounty of his frien............

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