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Chaptear 99

He is surprised with the Appearance of Hatchway and Pipes, who take up their Habitation in his Neighbourhood, contrary to his Inclination and express Desire.

Being now regularly initiated in the mysteries of the Fleet, and reconciled in some measure to the customs of the place, he began to bear the edge of reflection without wincing; and thinking it would be highly imprudent in him to defer any longer the purposes by which only he could enjoy any ease and satisfaction in his confinement, he resolved to resume his task of translating, and every week compose an occasional paper, by way of revenge upon the minister, against whom he had denounced eternal war. With this view, he locked himself up in his chamber, and went to work with great eagerness and application, when he was interrupted by a ticket porter, who, putting a letter in his hand, vanished in a moment, before he had time to peruse the contents.

Our hero, opening the billet, was not a little surprised to find a bank-note for fifty pounds, enclosed in a blank sheet of paper; and, having exercised his memory and penetration on the subject of this unexpected windfall, had just concluded, that it could come from no other hand than the lady who had so kindly visited him a few days before, when his ears were suddenly invaded by the well-known sound of that whistle which always hung about the neck of Pipes, as a memorial of his former occupation. This tune being performed, he heard the noise of a wooden leg ascending the stair; upon which he opened his door, and beheld his friend Hatchway, with his old shipmate at his back.

After a cordial shake of the hand, with the usual salutation of, “What cheer, cousin Pickle?” honest Jack seated himself without ceremony; and casting his eyes around the apartment, “Split my top-staysail,” said he, with an arch sneer, “you have got into a snug berth, cousin. Here you may sit all weathers, without being turned out to take your watch, and no fear of the ship’s dragging her anchor. You han’t much room to spare, ’tis true: an’ I had known as how you stowed so close, Tom should have slung my own hammock for you, and then you mought have knocked down this great lubberly hurricane house. But, mayhap, you turn in double, and so you don’t choose to trust yourself and your doxy to a clue and canvas.”

Pickle bore his jokes with great good-humour, rallied him in his turn about the dairy-maid at the garrison; inquiring about his friends in the country, asked if he had been to visit his niece, and, finally, expressed a desire of knowing the cause of his journey to London. The lieutenant satisfied his curiosity in all these particulars; and, in answer to the last question, observed that, from the information of Pipes, understanding he was land-locked, he had come from the country in order to tow him into the offing. “I know not how the wind sets,” said he, “but if so be as three thousand pounds will bring you clear of the cape, say the word, and you shan’t lie wind-bound another glass for want of the money.”

This was an offer which few people in our hero’s situation would have altogether refused, especially as he had all the reason in the world to believe, that, far from being a vain unmeaning compliment, it was the genuine tribute of friendship, which the lieutenant would have willingly, ay, and with pleasure, paid. Nevertheless, Peregrine peremptorily refused his assistance, though not without expressing himself in terms of acknowledgment suitable to the occasion. He told him, it would be time enough to make use of his generosity, when he should find himself destitute of all other resource. Jack employed all his rhetoric, with a view of persuading him to take this opportunity to procure his own enlargement; and, finding his arguments ineffectual, insisted upon his accepting an immediate supply for his necessary occasions; swearing with great vehemence, that he would never return to the garrison, unless he would put him upon the footing of any other tenant, and receive his rent accordingly.

Our young gentleman as positively swore, that he never would consider him in that light; remonstrating, that he had long ago settled the house upon him for life, as a pledge of his own esteem, as well as in conformity with the commodore’s desire; and beseeching him to return to his usual avocations, protested that, if ever his situation should subject him to the necessity of borrowing from his friends, Mr. Hatchway should be the first man to whom he would apply himself for succour. To convince him that this was not the case at present, he produced the bank-note which he had received in the letter, together with his own ready money; and mentioned some other funds, which he invented extempore, in order to amuse the lieutenant’s concern. In the close of this expostulation, he desired Pipes to conduct Mr. Hatchway to the coffee-house, where he might amuse himself with the newspaper for half an hour; during which he would put on his clothes, and bespeak something for dinner, that they might enjoy each other’s company as long as his occasions would permit him to stay in that place.

The two sailors were no sooner gone, than he took up the pen, and wrote the following letter, in which he enclosed the bank-note to his generous benefactress:

Madam,— Your humanity is not more ingenious than my suspicion. In vain you attempt to impose upon me by an act of generosity, which no person on earth but your ladyship is capable of committing. Though your name was not subscribed on the paper, your sentiments were fully displayed in the contents, which I must beg leave to restore, with the same sense of gratitude, and for the same reasons I expressed when last I had the honour to converse with you upon this subject. Though I am deprived of my liberty by the villainy and ingratitude of mankind, I am not yet destitute of the other conveniences of life; and therefore beg to be excused for incurring an unnecessary addition to that load of obligation you have already laid upon, madam, your ladyship’s most devoted, humble servant,
“Peregrine Pickle.”

Having dressed himself, and repaired to the place of appointment, he despatched this epistle by the hands of Pipes, who was ordered to leave it at her ladyship’s house, without staying for an answer; and in the meantime gave directions for dinner, which he and his friend Hatchway ate very cheerfully in his own apartment, after he had entertained him with a sight of all the curiosities in the place. During their repast, Jack repeated his kind offers to our adventurer, who declined them with his former obstinacy, and begged he might be no more importuned on that subject; but if he insisted upon giving some fresh proofs of his friendship, he might have an opportunity of exhibiting it in taking Pipes under his care and protection; for nothing affected him so much as his inability to provide for such a faithful adherent.

The lieutenant desired he would give himself no trouble upon that score; he being, of his own accord, perfectly well disposed to befriend his old shipmate, who should never want while he had a shilling to spare. But he began to drop some hints of an intention to fix his quarters in the Fleet, observing, that the air seemed to be very good in that place, and that he was tired of living in the country. What he said did not amount to a plain declaration, and therefore Peregrine did not answer it as such, though he perceived his drift; and took an opportunity of describing the inconveniences of the place, in such a manner as, he hoped, would deter him from putting such an extravagant plan in execution.

This expedient, however, far from answering the end proposed, had a quite contrary effect, and furnished Hatchway with an argument against his own unwillingness to quit such a disagreeable place. In all probability, Jack would have been more explicit with regard to the scheme he had proposed, if the conversation had not been interrupted by the arrival of Cadwallader, who never failed in the performance of his diurnal visit. Hatchway, conjecturing that this stranger might have some private business with his friend, quitted the apartment, on pretence of taking a turn; and meeting Pipes at the door, desired his company to the Bare, by which name the open space is distinguished; where, during a course of perambulation, these two companions held a council upon Pickle, in consequence of which it was determined, since he obstinately persisted to refuse their assistance, that they should take lodgings in his neighbourhood, with a view of being at hand to minister unto his occasions, in spite of his false delicacy, according to the emergency of his affairs.

This resolution being taken, they consulted the bar-keeper of the coffee-house about lodging, and she directed them to the warden; to whom the lieutenant, in his great wisdom, represented himself as a kinsman to Peregrine, who, rather than leave that young gentleman by himself to the unavoidable discomforts of a prison, was inc............

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