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Chapter 101

He receives an unexpected Visit; and the Clouds of Misfortune begin to separate.

While he pined in this forlorn condition, with an equal abhorrence of the world and himself, Captain Gauntlet arrived in town in order to employ his interest for promotion in the army; and in consequence of his wife’s particular desire, made it his business to inquire for Peregrine, to whom he longed to be reconciled, even though at the expense of a slight submission. But he could hear no tidings of him, at the place to which he was directed; and, on the supposition that our hero had gone to reside in the country, applied himself to his own business, with intention to renew his inquiries, after that affair should be transacted. He communicated his demands to his supposed patron, who had assumed the merit of making him a captain, and been gratified with a valuable present on that consideration; and was cajoled with hopes of succeeding in his present aim by the same interest.

Meanwhile, he became acquainted with one of the clerks belonging to the War Office, whose advice and assistance, he was told, would be a furtherance to his scheme. As he had occasion to discourse with this gentleman upon the circumstances of his expectation, he learned that the nobleman, upon whom he depended, was a person of no consequence in the state, and altogether incapable of assisting him in his advancement. At the same time, his counsellor expressed his surprise that Captain Gauntlet did not rather interest in his cause the noble peer to whose good offices he owed his last commission.

This remark introduced an explanation, by which Godfrey discovered, to his infinite astonishment, the mistake in which he had continued so long with regard to his patron; though he could not divine the motive which induced a nobleman, with whom he had no acquaintance or connection, to interpose his influence in his behalf. Whatsoever that might be, he thought it was his duty to make his acknowledgment; and for that purpose went next morning to his house, where he was politely received, and given to understand that Mr. Pickle was the person to whose friendship he was indebted for his last promotion.

Inexpressible were the transports of gratitude, affection, and remorse that took possession of the soul of Gauntlet, when this mystery was unfolded. “Good Heaven!” cried he, lifting up his hands, “have I lived so long in a state of animosity with my benefactor? I intended to have reconciled myself at any rate before I was sensible of this obligation, but now I shall not enjoy a moment’s quiet until I have an opportunity of expressing to him my sense of his heroic friendship. I presume, from the nature of the favour conferred upon him in my behalf, that Mr. Pickle is well known to your lordship; and I should think myself extremely happy if you could inform me in what part of the country he is to be found; for the person with whom he lodged some time ago could give me no intelligence of his motions.”

The nobleman, touched with this instance of generous self-denial in Peregrine, as well as with the sensibility of his friend, lamented the unhappiness of our hero, while he gave Gauntlet to understand that he had been long disordered in his intellects, in consequence of having squandered away his fortune; and that his creditors had thrown him into the Fleet prison; but whether he still continued in that confinement, or was released from his misfortunes by death, his lordship did not know, because he had never inquired.

Godfrey no sooner received this intimation, than, his blood boiling with grief and impatience, he craved pardon for his abrupt departure; then quitting his informer on the instant, re-embarked in his hackney-coach, and ordered himself to be conveyed directly to the Fleet. As the vehicle proceeded along one side of the market, he was surprised with the appearance of Hatchway and Pipes, who stood cheapening cauliflowers at a green-stall, their heads being cased in worsted nightcaps, half covered with their hats, and a short tobacco-pipe in the mouth of each. He was rejoiced at sight of the two seamen, which he took for a happy omen of finding his friend. and, ordering the coachman to stop the carriage, called to the lieutenant by his name. Jack replying with an hilloah, looking behind him, and recognizing the face of his old acquaintance, ran up to the coach with great eagerness. Shaking the captain heartily by the hand, “Odds heart!” said he, “I am glad thou hast fallen in with us; we shall now be able to find the trim of the vessel, and lay her about on t’other tack. For my own part, I have had many a consort in my time, that is, in the way of good fellowship, and I always made a shift to ware ’em at one time or another. But this headstrong toad will neither obey the helm nor the sheet; and for aught I know, will founder where a lies at anchor.”

Gauntlet, who conceived part of his meaning, alighted immediately; and being conducted to the sailor’s lodging, was informed of everything that had passed between the lieutenant and Pickle. He, in his turn, communicated to Jack the discovery which he had made, with regard to his commission; at which the other gave no signs of surprise, but, taking the pipe from his mouth, “Why look ye, captain,” said he, “that’s not the only good turn you have owed him. That same money you received from the commodore as an old debt was all a sham, contrived by Pickle for your service; but a wool drive under his bare poles without sails and rigging, or a mess of provision on board, rather than take the same assistance from another man.”

Godfrey was not only amazed, but chagrined at the knowledge of this anecdote; which gave umbrage to his pride, while it stimulated his desire of doing something in return for the obligation. He inquired into the present circumstances of the prisoner; and understanding that he was indisposed, and but indifferently provided with the common necessaries of life, though still deaf to all offers of assistance, began to be extremely concerned at the account of this savage obstinacy and pride, which would, he feared, exclude him from the privilege of relieving him in his distress. However, he resolved to leave no expedient untried, that might have any tendency to surmount such destructive prejudice; and entering the jail, was directed to the apartment of the wretched prisoner. He knocked softly at the door, and, when it was opened, started back with horror and astonishment. The figure that presented itself to his view was the remains of his once happy friend; but so miserably altered and disguised, that his features were scarce cognisable. The florid, the sprightly, the gay, the elevated youth, was now metamorphosed into a wan, dejected, meagre, squalid spectre; the hollow-eyed representative of distemper, indigence, and despair. Yet his eyes retained a certain ferocity, which threw a dismal gleam athwart the cloudiness of his aspect, and he, in silence, viewed his old companion with a look betokening confusion and disdain. As for Gauntlet, he could not, without emotion, behold such a woeful reverse of fate, in a person for whom he entertained the noblest sentiments of friendship, gratitude, and esteem; his sorrow was at first too big for utterance, and he shed a flood of tears before he could pronounce one word.

Peregrine, in spite of his misanthropy, could not help being affected with this uncommon testimony of regard; but he strove to stifle his sensations. His brows contracted themselves into a severe frown; his eyes kindled into the appearance of live coals. He waved with his hand in signal ............

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