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Chapter 98

Pickle seems tolerably well reconciled to his Cage; and is by the Clergyman entertained with the Memoirs of a Noted Personage, whom he sees by accident in the Fleet.

The knight had scarce finished his narrative, when our hero was told, that a gentleman in the coffee-room wanted to see him; and when he went thither, he found his friend Crabtree, who had transacted all his affairs, according to the determination of the preceding day; and now gave him an account of the remarks he overheard, on the subject of his misfortune; for the manner of the arrest was so public and extraordinary, that those who were present immediately propagated it among their acquaintance, and it was that same evening discoursed upon at several tea and card tables, with this variation from the truth, that the debt amounted to twelve thousand, instead of twelve hundred pounds. From which circumstance it was conjectured, that Peregrine was a bite from the beginning, who had found credit on account of his effrontery and appearance, and imposed himself upon the town as a young gentleman of fortune. They rejoiced, therefore, at his calamity, which they considered as a just punishment for his fraud and presumption, and began to review certain particulars of his conduct, that plainly demonstrated him to be a rank adventurer, long before he had arrived at this end of his career.

Pickle, who now believed his glory was set for ever, received this intelligence with that disdain which enables a man to detach himself effectually from the world, and, with great tranquility, gave the misanthrope an entertaining detail of what he had seen and heard since their last parting. While they amused themselves in this manner over a dish of coffee they were joined by the parson, who congratulated our hero upon his bearing mischance with such philosophic quite, and began to regale the two friends with some curious circumstances relating to the private history of the several prisoners, as they happened to come in. At length a gentleman entered; at sight of whom the clergyman rose up, and saluted him with a most reverential bow, which was graciously returned by the stranger, who, with a young man that attended him, retired to the other end of the room. They were no sooner out of hearing, than the communicative priest desired his company to take particular notice of this person to whom he had paid his respects. “That man,” said he, “is this day one of the most flagrant instances of neglected virtue which the world can produce. Over and above a cool discerning head, fraught with uncommon learning and experience, he is possessed of such fortitude and resolution, as no difficulties can discourage, and no danger impair; and so indefatigable in his humanity, that even now, while he is surrounded with such embarrassments as would distract the brain of an ordinary mortal, he has added considerably to his encumbrances, by taking under his protection that young gentleman, who, induced by his character, appealed to his benevolence for redress of the grievances under which he labours from the villainy of guardian.”

Peregrine’s curiosity being excited by this encomium, asked the name of this generous patron, of which when he was informed, “I am no stranger,” said he, “to the fame of that gentleman, who has made a considerable noise in the world, on account of that great cause he undertook in defence of an unhappy orphan; and, since he is a person of such an amiable disposition, I am heartily sorry to find that his endeavours have not met with that successful issue which their good fortune in the beginning seemed to promise. Indeed, the circumstance of his espousing that cause was so uncommon and romantic and the depravity of the human heart so universal, that some people, unacquainted with his real character, imagined his views were altogether selfish; and some were not wanting, who affirmed he was a mere adventurer. Nevertheless, I must do him the justice to own, I have heard some of the most virulent of those who were concerned on the other side of the question, bear testimony in his favour, observing, that he was deceived into the expense of the whole, by the plausible story which at first engaged his compassion. Your description of his character confirms me in the same opinion, though I am quite ignorant of the affair; the particulars of which I should be glad to learn, as well as the genuine account of his own life, many circumstances of which are by his enemies, I believe, egregiously misrepresented.”

“Sir,” answered the priest, “that is a piece of satisfaction which I am glad to find myself capable of giving you. I have had the pleasure of being acquainted with Mr. M— from his youth, and everything which I shall relate concerning him, you may depend upon as a fact which hath fallen under my own cognizance, or been vouched upon the credit of undoubted evidence. “Mr. M—‘s father was a minister of the established church of Scotland, descended from a very ancient clan, and his mother nearly related to a noble family in the northern part of that kingdom. While the son was boarded at a public school, where he made good progress in the Latin tongue, his father died, and he was left an orphan to the care of an uncle, who, finding him determined against any servile employment, kept him at school, that he might prepare himself for the university, with a view of being qualified for his father’s profession.

“Here his imagination was so heated by the warlike achievements he found recorded in the Latin authors, such as Caesar, Curtius, and Buchanan, that he was seized with an irresistible thirst of military glory, and desire of trying his fortune in the army. His Majesty’s troops taking the field, in consequence of the rebellion which happened in the year seventeen hundred and fifteen, this young adventurer, thinking no life equal to that of a soldier, found means to furnish himself with a fusil and bayonet, and, leaving the school, repaired to the camp near Stirling with a view of signalizing himself in the field, though he was at that time but just turned of thirteen. He offered his service to several officers, in hope of being enlisted in their companies; but they would not receive him, because they rightly concluded, that he was some schoolboy broke loose, without the knowledge or consent of his relations. Notwithstanding this discouragement, he continued in camp, curiously prying into every part of the service; and such was the resolution conspicuous in him, even at such a tender age, that, after his small finances were exhausted, he persisted in his design; and, because he would not make his wants known, actually subsisted for several days on hips, haws, and sloes, and other spontaneous fruits, which he gathered in the woods and fields. Meanwhile, he never failed to be present, when any regiment or corps of men were drawn out to be exercised and reviewed, and accompanied them in all their evolutions, which he had learned to great perfection, by observing the companies which were quartered in the place where he was at school. This eagerness and perseverance attracted the notice of many officers, who, after having commended his spirit and zeal, pressed him to return to his parents, and even threatened to expel him from the camp, if he would not comply with their advice.

“These remonstrances having no other effect than that of warning him to avoid his monitors, they thought proper to alter their behaviour towards him, took him into their protection, and even into their mess, and what, above all other marks of favour, pleased the young soldier most, permitted him to incorporate in the battalion, and take his turn of duty with the other men. In this happy situation he was discovered by a relation of his mother, who was a captain in the army, and who used all his authority and influence in persuading M— to return to school; but, finding him deaf to his admonitions and threats, he took him under his own care, and, when the army marched to Dumblane, left him at Stirling with express injunctions to keep himself within the walls.

“He temporized with his kinsman, fearing that, should he seem refractory, the captain would have ordered him to be shut up in the castle. Inflamed with the desire of seeing a battle, his relation no sooner marched off the ground, than he mixed in with another regiment, to which his former patrons belonged, and proceeded to the field, where he distinguished himself, even at that early time of life, by his gallantry, in helping to retrieve a pair of colours belonging to M— n’s regiment; so that, after the affair, he was presented to the duke of Argyll, and recommended strongly to Brigadier Grant, who invited him into his regiment, and promised to provide for him with the first opportunity. But that gentleman in a little time lost his command upon the duke’s disgrace, and the regiment was ordered for Ireland, being given to Colonel Nassau, whose favour the young volunteer acquired to such a degree, that he was recommended to the king for his ensigncy, which in all probability he would have obtained, had not the regiment been unluckily reduced.

“In consequence of this reduction, which happened in the most severe season of the year, he was obliged to return to his own country, through infinite hardships, to which he was exposed from the narrowness of his circumstances. And continuing still enamoured of a military life, he entered into the regiment of Scots Greys, at that time commanded by the late Sir James Campbell, who, being acquainted with his family and character, encouraged him with a promise of speedy preferment. In this corps he remained three years, during which he had no opportunity of seeing actual service, except at the affair of Glensheel; and this life of insipid quiet must have hung heavy upon a youth of M—‘s active disposition, had not he found exercise for the mind, in reading books of amusement, history, voyages, and geography, together with those that treated of the art of war, ancient and modem, for which he contracted such an eager appetite, that he used to spend sixteen hours a day in this employment. About that time he became acquainted with a gentleman of learning and taste, who observing his indefatigable application, and insatiable thirst after knowledge, took upon himself the charge of superintending his studies; and, by the direction of such an able guide, the young soldier converted his attention to a more solid and profitable course of reading. So inordinate was his desire of making speedy advances in the paths of learning, that within the compass of three months, he diligently perused the writings of Locke and Malebranche, and made himself master of the first six and of the eleventh and twelfth books of Euclid’s Elements. He considered Puffendorf and Grotius with uncommon care, acquired a tolerable degree of knowledge in the French language, and his imagination was so captivated with the desire of learning, that, seeing no prospect of a war, or views of being provided for in the service, he quitted the army, and went through a regular course of university education. Having made such progress in his studies, he resolved to qualify himself for the church, and acquired such a stock of school divinity, under the instructions of a learned professor at Edinburgh, that he more than once mounted the rostrum in the public hall, and held forth with uncommon applause. But being discouraged from a prosecution of his plan, by the unreasonable austerity of some of the Scotch clergy, by whom the most indifferent and innocent words and actions were often misconstrued into levity and misconduct, he resolved to embrace the first favourable opportunity of going abroad, being inflamed with the desire of seeing foreign countries; and actually set out for Holland, where, for the space of two years, he studied the Roman law, with the law of nature and nations, under the famous professors Tolieu and Barbeyrac.

“Having thus finished his school education, he set out for Paris, with a view to make himself perfect in the French language, and learn such useful exercises, as might be acquired with the wretched remnant of his slender estate, which was by that time reduced very low. In his journey through the Netherlands, he went to Namur, and paid his respects to Bishop Strickland and General Collier, by whom he was received with great civility, in consequence of letters of recommendation, with which he was provided from the Hague; and the old general assured him of his protection and interest for a pair of colours, if he was disposed to enter into the Dutch service. Though he was by that time pretty well cured of his military quixotism, he would not totally decline the generous proffer, for which he thanked him in the most grateful terms, telling the general that he would pay his duty to him on his return from France, and then, if he could determine upon re-engaging in the army, should think himself highly honoured in being under his command.

“After a stay of two months in Flanders, he proceeded to Paris, and, far from taking up his habitation in the suburbs of St. Germain, according to the custom of English travellers, he hired a private lodging on the other side of the river, and associated chiefly with French officers, who, their youthful sallies being over, are allowed to be the politest gentlemen of that kingdom. In this scheme he found his account so much, that he could not but wonder at the folly of his countrymen, who lose the main scope of their going abroad, by spending their time and fortune idly with one another.

“During his residence in Holland, he had made himself acquainted with the best authors in the French language, so that he was able to share in their conversation; a circumstance from which he found great benefit; for it not only improved him in his knowledge of that tongue, but also tended to the enlargement of his acquaintance, in the course of which he contracted intimacies in some families of good fashion, especially those of the long robe, which would have enabled him to pass his time very agreeably, had he been a little easier in point of fortune. But his finances, notwithstanding the most rigid economy, being in a few months reduced to a very low ebb, the prospect of indigence threw a damp upon all his pleasures, though he never suffered himself to be thereby in any degree dispirited; being in that respect of so happy a disposition, that conscious poverty or abundance made very slight impressions upon his mind. This consumption of his cash, however, involved him in some perplexity, and he deliberated with himself, whether he should return to General Collier, or repair to London, where he might possibly fall into some business not unbecoming a gentleman; though he was very much mortified to find himself incapable of gratifying an inordinate desire which possessed him of making the grand tour, or, at least, of visiting the southern parts of France.

“While he thus hesitated between different suggestions, he was one morning visited by a gentleman who had sought and cultivated his friendship, and for whom he had done a good office, in supporting him with spirit against a brutal German, with whom he had an affair of honour. This gentleman came to propose a party for a fortnight, to Fontainebleau, where the court then was; and the proposal being declined by M— with more than usual stiffness, his friend was very urgent to know the reason of his refusal, and at length, with some confusion, said, ‘Perhaps your finances are low?’ M— replied, that he had wherewithal to defray the expense of his journey to London, where he could be furnished with a fresh supply; and this answer was no sooner made, than the other taking him by the hand, ‘My dear friend,’ said he, ‘I am not unacquainted with your affairs, and would have offered you my credit long ago, if I had thought it would be acceptable; even now, I do not pretend to give you money, but desire and insist upon it, that you will accept of the loan of these two pieces of paper, to be repaid when you marry a woman with a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, or obtain an employment of a thousand a year.’ So saying, he presented him with two actions of above two thousand livres each.

“M— was astonished at this unexpected instance of generosity, in a stranger, and, with suitable acknowledgment, peremptorily refused to incur such an obligation; but at length he was, by dint of importunity and warm expostulation, prevailed upon to accept one of the actions, on condition that the gentleman would take his note for the sum; and this he absolutely rejected, until M— promised to draw upon him for double the value or more, in case he should at any time want a further supply. This uncommon act of friendship and generosity, afterwards had an opportunity to repay tenfold, though he could not help regretting the occasion, on his friend’s account. That worthy man having, by placing too much confidence in a villainous lawyer, and a chain of other misfortunes, involved himself and his amiable lady in a labyrinth of difficulties, which threatened the total ruin of his family, M— felt the inexpressible satisfaction of delivering his benefactor from the snare.

“Being thus reinforced by the generosity of his friend, M— resolved to execute his former plan of seeing the south of France, together with the sea-ports of Spain, as far as Cadiz, from whence he proposed to take a passage for London by sea; and, with this view, sent forward his trunks by the diligence to Lyons, determined to ride post, in order to enjoy a better view of the country, and for the conveniency of stopping at those places where there was anything remarkable to be seen or inquired into. While he was employed in taking leave of his Parisian friends, who furnished him with abundant recommendation, a gentleman of his own country, who spoke little or no French, hearing of his intention, begged the favour of accompanying him in his expedition. With this new companion, therefore, he set out for Lyons, where he was perfectly well received by the intendant and some of the best families of the place, in consequence of his letters of recommendation; and, after a short stay in that city, proceeded down the Rhone to Avignon, in what is called the coche d’eau; then visiting the principal towns of Dauphiny, Languedoc, and Provence, he returned to the delightful city of Marseilles, where he and his fellow-traveller were so much captivated by the serenity of the air, the good-nature and hospitality of the sprightly inhabitants, that they never dreamed of changing their quarters during the whole winter and part of the spring: here he acquired the acquaintance of the Marquis d’Argens, attorney-general in the parliament of Aix, and of his eldest son, who now makes so great a figure in the literary world; and when the affair of Father Girard and Mademoiselle Cadiere began to make a noise, he accompanied these two gentlemen to Toulon, where the marquis was ordered to take a precognition of the facts.

“On his return to Marseilles, he found a certain noble lord of great fortune, under the direction of a Swiss governor, who had accommodated him with two of his own relations, of the same country, by way of companions, together with five servants in his train. They being absolute strangers in the place, M— introduced them to the intendant, and several other good families, and had the good fortune to be so agreeable to his lordship, that he proposed and even pressed him to live with him in England as a friend and companion, and to take upon him the superintendence of his affairs, in which case he would settle upon him four hundred a year for life.

“This proposal was too advantageous to be slighted by a person of no fortune, or fixed establishment: he therefore made no difficulty of closing with it; but, as his lordship’s departure was fixed to a short day, and he urged him to accompany him to Paris, and from thence to England, M— thought it would be improper and indecent to interfere with the office of his governor, who might take umbrage at his favour, and therefore excused himself from a compliance with his lordship’s request, until his minority should be expired, as he was within a few months of being of age. However, he repeated his importunities so earnestly, and the governor joined in the request with such appearance of cordiality, that he was prevailed upon to comply with their joint desire; and in a few days set out with them for Paris, by the way of Lyons. But, before they had been three days in the city, M— perceived a total change in the behaviour of the Swiss and his two relations, who, in all probability, became jealous of his influence with his lordship; and he no sooner made this discovery, than he resolved to withdraw himself from such a disagreeable participation of that young nobleman’s favour. He, therefore, in spite of all his lordship’s entreaties and remonstrances, quitted him for the present, alleging, as a pretext, that he had a longing desire to see Switzerland and the banks of the Rhine, and promising to meet him again in England.

“This his intention being made known to the governor and his friends, their countenances immediately cleared up, their courtesy and complaisance returned, and they even furnished him with letters for Geneva, Lausanne, Bern, and Soleures; in consequence of which he met with unusual civilities at these places. Having made this tour with his Scotch friend, who came up to him before he left Lyons, and visited the most considerable towns on both sides of the Rhine, and the courts of the electors Palatine, Mentz, and Cologne, he arrived in Holland; and from thence, through the Netherlands, repaired to London, where he found my lord just returned from Paris.

“His lordship received him with expressions of uncommon joy, would not suffer him to stir from him for several days, and introduced him to his relations. M— accompanied his lordship from London to his country seat, where he was indeed treated with great friendship and confidence, and consulted in everything; but the noble peer never once made mention of the annuity which he had promised to settle upon him, nor did M— remind him of it, because he conceived it was his affair to fulfil his engagements of his own accord. M— being tired of the manner of living at this place, made an excursion to Bath, where he stayed about a fortnight, to partake of the diversions, and, upon his return, found his lordship making dispositions for another journey to Paris.

“Surprised at this sudden resolution, he endeavoured to dissuade him from it; but his remonstrances were rendered ineffectual by the insinuations of a foreigner who had come over with him, and filled his imagination with extravagant notions of pleasure, infinitely superior to any which he could enjoy while he was in the trammels and under the restraints of a governor. He, therefore, turned a deaf ear to all M—‘s arguments, and entreated him to accompany him in the journey; but this gentleman, foreseeing that a young man, like my lord, of strong passions, and easy to be misled, would, in all probability, squander away great sums of money, in a way that would neither do credit to himself, or to those who were concerned with him, resisted all his solicitations, on pretence of having business of consequence at London; and afterwards had reason to be extremely well pleased with his own conduct in this particular.

“Before he set out on this expedition, M—, in justice to himself, reminded him of the proposal which he had made to him at Marseilles, desiring to know if he had altered his design in that particular; in which case he would turn his thoughts some other way, as he would not in the least be thought to intrude or pin himself upon any man. My lord protested in the most solemn manner, that he still continued in his former resolution, and, again beseeching him to bear him company into France, promised that everything should be settled to his satisfaction upon their return to England. M—, however, still persisted in his refusal, for the above-mentioned reasons, and, though he never heard more of the annuity, he nevertheless continued to serve his lordship with his advice and good offices ever after; particularly in directing his choice to an alliance with a lady of eminent virtue, the daughter of a noble lord, more conspicuous for his shining parts than the splendour of his titles; a circumstance upon which he always reflected with particular satisfaction, as well on account of the extraordinary merit of the lady, as because it vested in her children a considerable part of that great estate, which of right belonged to her grandmother, and afterwards put him in a way to retrieve his estate from a heavy load of debt he had contracted. When my lord set out on his Paris expedition, the money M— had received from his generous friend at Paris was almost reduced to the last guinea. He had not yet reaped the least benefit from his engagements with his lordship; and, disdaining to ask for a supply from him, he knew not how to subsist, with any degree of credit, till his return.

“This uncomfortable prospect was the more disagreeable to him, as, at that time of life, he was much inclined to appear in the gay world, had contracted a taste for plays, operas, and other public diversions, and acquired an acquaintance with many people of good fashion, which could not be maintained without a considerable expense. In this emergency, he thought he could not employ his idle time more profitably than in translating, from foreign languages, such books as were then chiefly in vogue; and upon application to a friend, who was a man of letters, he was furnished with as much business of that kind as he could possibly manage, and wrote some pamphlets on the reigning controversies of that time, that had the good fortune to please. He was also concerned in a monthly journal of literature, and the work was carried on by the two friends jointly, though M— did not at all appear in the partnership. By these means he not only spent his mornings in useful exercise but supplied himself with money for what the French call the menus plaisirs, during the whole summer. He frequented all the assemblies in and about London, and considerably enlarged his acquaintance among the fair sex.

“He had, upon his first arrival in England, become acquainted with a lady at an assembly not far from London; and though, at that time, he had no thoughts of extending his views farther than the usual gallantry of the place, he met with such distinguishing marks of her regard in the sequel, and was so particularly encouraged by the advice of another lady, with whom he had been intimate in France, and who was now of their parties, that he could not help entertaining hopes of making an impression upon the heart of his agreeable partner, who was a young lady of an ample fortune and great expectations. He therefore cultivated her good graces with all the assiduity and address of which he was master, and succeeded so well in his endeavours, that, after a due course of attendance, and the death of an aunt, by which she received an accession of fortune to the amount of three and twenty thousand pounds, he ventured to declare his passion, and she not only heard him with patience and approbation, but also replied in terms adequate to his warmest wish.

“Finding himself so favourably received, he pressed her to secure his happiness by marriage; but, to this proposal, she objected the recency of her kinswoman’s death, which would have rendered such a step highly indecent, and the displeasure of her other relations, from whom she had still greater expectations, and who, at that time, importuned her to marry a cousin of her own, whom she could not like. However, that M— might have no cause to repine at her delay, she freely entered with him into an intimacy of correspondence; during which nothing could have added to their mutual felicity, which was the more poignant and refined, from the mysterious and romantic manner of their enjoying it; for, though he publicly visited her as an acquaintance, his behaviour on these occasions was always so distant, respectful, and reserved, that the rest of the company could not possibly suspect the nature of their reciprocal attachment; in consequence of which they used to have private interviews, unknown to every soul upon earth, except her maid, who was necessarily entrusted with the secret.

“In this manner they enjoyed the conversation of each other for above twelve months, without the least interruption; and though the stability of Mr. M—‘s fortune depended entirely upon their marriage, yet as he perceived his mistress so averse to it, he never urged it with vehemence, nor was at all anxious on that score, being easily induced to defer a ceremony, which, as he then thought, could in no shape have added to their satisfaction, though he hath since altered his sentiments. Be that as it will, his indulgent mistress, in order to set his mind at ease in that particular, and in full confidence of his honour, insisted on his accepting a deed of gift of her whole fortune, in consideration of her intended marriage; and, after some difficulty, he was prevailed upon to receive this proof of her esteem, well knowing that it would still be in his power to return the obligation. Though she often entreated him to take upon himself the entire administration of her finances, and upon divers occasions pressed him to accept of large sums, he never once abused her generous disposition, or solicited her for money, except for some humane purpose, which she was always more ready to fulfil than he to propose.

“In the course of this correspondence, he became acquainted with some of her female relations, and, among the rest, with a young lady, so eminently adorned with all the qualifications of mind and person, that, notwithstanding all his philosophy and caution, he could not behold and converse with her, without being deeply smitten with her charms. He did all in his power to discourage this dangerous invasion in the beginning, and to conceal the least symptom of it from her relation; he summoned all his reflection to his aid, and, thinking it would be base and dishonest to cherish any sentiment repugnant to the affection which he owed to a mistress who had placed such unlimited confidence in him, he attempted to stifle the infant flame, by avoiding the amiable inspirer of it. But the passion had taken too deep a root in his heart to be so easily extirpated; his absence from the dear object increased the impatience of his love: the intestine conflict between that and gratitude deprived him of his rest and appetite. He was, in a short time, emaciated by continual watching, anxiety, and want of nourishment, and so much altered from his usual cheerfulness, that his mistress, being surprised and alarmed at the change, which, from the symptoms, she judged was owing to some uneasiness of mind, took all imaginable pains to discover the cause. In all probability it did not escape her penetration; for she more than once asked if he was in love with her cousin; protesting that, far from being an obstacle to his happiness, she would, in that case, be an advocate for his passion. However, this declaration was never made without manifest signs of anxiety and uneasiness, which made such an impression upon the heart of M—, that he resolved to sacrifice his happiness, and even his life, rather than take any step which might be construed into an injury or insult to a person who had treated him with such generosity and goodness.

“In consequence of this resolution, he formed another, which was to go abroad, under pretence of recovering his health, but in reality to avoid the temptation, as well as the suspicion of being inconstant; and in this design he was confirmed by his physician, who actually thought him in the first stage of a consumption, and therefo............

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