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Chapter 90

Peregrine commences Minister’s Dependant — Meets by Accident with Mrs. Gauntlet — And descends gradually in the Condition of Life.

This reception, favourable as it was, did not please Peregrine, who had too much discernment to be cajoled with general promises, at a time when he thought himself entitled to the most particular assurance. He accordingly signified his disgust to his introductor, giving him to understand, that he had laid his account with being chosen representative of one of those boroughs for which he had been sacrificed. His lordship agreed to the reasonableness of his expectation, observing, however, that he could not suppose the minister would enter upon business with him on his first visit; and that it would be time enough at his next audience to communicate his demand. Notwithstanding this remonstrance, our hero continued to indulge his suspicion and chagrin, and even made a point of it with his patron, that his lordship should next day make application on his behalf, lest the two seats should be filled up, on pretence of his inclinations being unknown. Thus importuned, my lord went to his principal, and returned with an answer, importing that his honour was extremely sorry that Mr. Pickle had not signified his request before the boroughs in question were promised to two gentlemen whom he could not now disappoint, with any regard to his own credit or interest; but, as several persons who would be chosen were, to his certain knowledge, very aged and infirm, he did not doubt that there would be plenty of vacant seats in a very short time, and then, the young gentleman might depend upon his friendship.

Peregrine was so much irritated at this intimation, that, in the first transports of his anger he forgot the respect he owed his friend, and in his presence inveighed against the minister, as a person devoid of gratitude and candour, protesting, that if ever an opportunity should offer itself, he would spend the whole remains of his fortune in opposing his measures. The nobleman having given him time to exhaust the impetuosity of his passion, rebuked him very calmly for his disrespectful expressions, which were equally injurious and indiscreet; assured him that this project of revenge, if ever put in execution, would redound to his own prejudice and confusion; and advised him to cultivate and improve, with patience and assiduity, the footing he had already obtained in the minister’s good graces.

Our hero, convinced of the truth, though not satisfied with the occasion of his admonitions, took his leave in a fit of sullen discontent, and began to ruminate upon the shattered posture of his affairs. All that now remained of the ample fortune he had inherited was the sum he had deposited in his lordship’s hands, together with fifteen hundred pounds he had ventured on bottomry, and the garrison, which he had left for the use and accommodation of the lieutenant; and, on the per contra side of his account, he was debtor for the supply he had received from the receiver-general, and the money for which he was bound in behalf of his friend; so that he found himself, for the first time of his life, very much embarrassed in his circumstances. For, of the first half-year’s interest of his ten thousand, which was punctually paid, he had but fourscore pounds in bank, without any prospect of a farther supply till the other term, which was at the distance of four long months. He seriously reflected upon the uncertainty of human affairs: the ship with his fifteen hundred pounds might be lost; the gentleman for whom he was security might miscarry in this, as well as in his former projects, and the minister might one day, through policy or displeasure, expose him to the mercy of his dependant, who was in possession of his notes.

These suggestions did not at all contribute to the ease of our adventurer’s mind, already ruffled by his disappointment. He cursed his own folly and extravagance, by which he was reduced to such an uncomfortable situation. He compared his own conduct with that of some young gentlemen of his acquaintance, who, while he was squandering away the best part of his inheritance, had improved their fortunes, strengthened their interest, and increased their reputation. He was abandoned by his gaiety and good-humour, his countenance gradually contracted itself into a representation of severity and care, he dropped all his amusements and the companions of his pleasure, and turned his whole attention to the minister, at whose levees he never failed to appear.

While he thus laboured in the wheel of dependence, with all that mortification which a youth of his pride and sensibility may be supposed to feel from such a disagreeable necessity, he one day heard himself called by name, as he crossed the park; and, turning, perceived the wife of Captain Gauntlet, with another lady. He no sooner recognized the kind Sophy, than he accosted her with his wonted civility and friendship; but his former sprightly air was metamorphosed into such austerity, or rather dejection of feature, that she could scarce believe her own eyes, and, in her astonishment, “Is it possible,” said she, “that the gay Mr. Pickle should be so much altered in such a short space of time!” He made no other reply to this exclamation, but by a languid smile; and asked how long she had been in town; observing, that he would have paid his compliments to her at her own lodgings, had he been favoured with the least intimation of her arrival. After having thanked him for his politeness, she told him, it was not owing to any abatement of her friendship and esteem for him, that she had omitted to give him that notice; but his abrupt departure from Windsor, and the manner in which he quitted Mr. Gauntlet, had given her just grounds to believe that they had incurred his displeasure; which suspicion was reinforced by his long silence and neglect from that period to the present time. She observed it was still farther confirmed, by his forbearing to inquire for Emilia and her brother: “judge, then,” said she, “if I had any reason to believe that you would be pleased to hear that I was in town. However, I will not detain you at present, because you seem to be engaged about some particular business; but, if you will favour me with your company at breakfast to-morrow, I shall be much pleased, and honoured to boot, by the visit.” So saying, she gave him a direction to her lodgings; and he took his leave, with a faithful promise of seeing her at the appointed time.

He was very much affected with this advance of Sophy, which he considered as an instance of her uncommon sweetness of temper; he felt strange longings of returning friendship towards Godfrey; and the remembrance of Emilia melted his heart, already softened with grief and mortification. Next day he did not neglect his engagement, and had the pleasure of enjoying a long conversation with this sensible young lady, who gave him to understand that her husband was with his regiment; and presented to him a fine boy, the first-fruits of their love, whom they had christened by the name of Peregrine, in memory of the friendship which had subsisted between Godfrey and our youth.

This proof of their regard, notwithstanding the interruption in their correspondence, made a deep impression upon the mind of our adventurer, who having made the warmest acknowledgments for this undeserved mark of respect, took the child in his arms, and almost devoured him with kisses, protesting before God, that he should always consider him with the tenderness of a parent. This was the highest compliment he could pay to the gentle Sophy, who again kindly chid him for his disdainful and precipitate retreat, immediately after her marriage; and expressed an earnest desire of seeing him and the captain reconciled. He assured her, nothing could give him greater satisfaction than such an event, to which he would contribute all that lay in his power, though he could not help looking upon himself as injured by Captain Gauntlet’s behaviour, which denoted a suspicion of his honour, as well as contempt for his understanding. The lady undertook for the concession of her husband, who, she told him, had been extremely sorry for his own heat, after Mr. Pickle’s departure, and would have followed him to the garrison, in order to solicit his forgiveness, had he not been restrained by certain punctilios, occasioned by some acrimonious expressions that dropped from Peregrine at the inn.

After having cleared up this misunderstanding, she proceeded to give an account of Emilia, whose behaviour, at that juncture, plainly indicated a continuance of affection for her first lover; and desired, that he would give her full powers to bring that matter also to an accommodation: “For I am not more certain of my own existence,” said she, “than that you are still in possession of my sister’s heart.” At this declaration, the tear started in his eye. But he shook his head, and declined her good offices, wishing that the young lady might be much more happy than ever he should be able to make her.

Mrs. Gauntlet, confounded at these expressions, and moved by the desponding manner in which they were delivered, begged to know if any new obstacle was raised, by some late change in his sentiments or situation. And he, in order to avoid a painful explanation, told her, that he had long despaired of being able to vanquish Emilia’s resentment, and for that reason quitted the pursuit, which he would never renew, howsoever his heart might suffer by that resolution; though he took Heaven to witness, that his love, esteem, and admiration of her, were not in the least impaired. But the true motive of his laying aside his design, was the consciousness of his decayed fortune, which, by adding to the sensibility of his pride, increased the horror of another repulse. She expressed her concern for this determination, both on his own account, and in behalf of Emilia, whose happiness, in her opinion, depended upon his constancy and affection; and she would have questioned him more minutely about the state of his affairs, had not he discouraged the inquiry, by seeking to introduce another subject of conversation.

After mutual protestations of friendship and regard, he promised to visit her often, during her residence in town; and took his leave in a strange perplexity of mind, occasioned by the images of love, intruding upon the remonstrances of carking care. He had some time ago forsaken those extravagant companions with whom he had rioted in the heyday of his fortune, and begun to consort with a graver and............

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