THE ADVENTURES OF PEREGRINE PICKLE
In which are included Memoirs of a Lady of Quality
By Tobias Smollett
An Account of Mr. Gamaliel Pickle—The Disposition of his Sister described—He yields to her Solicitations, and returns to the Country.
In a certain county of England, bounded on one side by the sea, and at the distance of one hundred miles from the metropolis, lived Gamaliel Pickle, esq.; the father of that hero whose fortunes we propose to record. He was the son of a merchant in London, who, like Rome, from small beginnings had raised himself to the highest honours of the city, and acquired a plentiful fortune, though, to his infinite regret, he died before it amounted to a plum, conjuring his son, as he respected the last injunction of a parent, to imitate his industry, and adhere to his maxims, until he should have made up the deficiency, which was a sum considerably less than fifteen thousand pounds.
This pathetic remonstrance had the desired effect upon his representative, who spared no pains to fulfil the request of the deceased: but exerted all the capacity with which nature had endowed him, in a series of efforts, which, however, did not succeed; for by the time he had been fifteen years in trade, he found himself five thousand pounds worse than he was when he first took possession of his father's effects; a circumstance that affected him so nearly, as to detach his inclinations from business, and induce him to retire from the world to some place where he might at leisure deplore his misfortunes, and, by frugality, secure himself from want, and the apprehensions of a jail, with which his imagination was incessantly haunted. He was often heard to express his fears of coming upon the parish; and to bless God, that, on account of his having been so long a housekeeper, he was entitled to that provision. In short, his talents were not naturally active, and there was a sort of inconsistency in his character; for, with all the desire of amassing which any citizen could possibly entertain, he was encumbered by a certain indolence and sluggishness that prevailed over every interested consideration, and even hindered him from profiting by that singleness of apprehension, and moderation of appetites, which have so frequently conduced to the acquisition of immense fortunes; qualities which he possessed in a very remarkable degree. Nature, in all probability, had mixed little or nothing inflammable in his composition; or, whatever seeds of excess she might have sown within him, were effectually stifled and destroyed by the austerity of his education.
The sallies of his youth, far from being inordinate or criminal, never exceeded the bounds of that decent jollity which an extraordinary pot, on extraordinary occasions, may be supposed to have produced in a club of sedate book-keepers, whose imaginations were neither very warm nor luxuriant. Little subject to refined sensations, he was scarce ever disturbed with violent emotions of any kind. The passion of love never interrupted his tranquility; and if, as Mr. Creech says, after Horace,
Not to admire is all the art I know; To make men happy, and to keep them so;
Mr. Pickle was undoubtedly possessed of that invaluable secret; at least, he was never known to betray the faintest symptom of transport, except one evening at the club, where he observed, with some demonstrations of vivacity, that he had dined upon a delicate loin of veal.
Notwithstanding this appearance of phlegm, he could not help feeling his disappointments in trade; and upon the failure of a certain underwriter, by which he lost five hundred pounds, declared his design of relinquishing business, and retiring to the country. In this resolution he was comforted and encouraged by his only sister, Mrs. Grizzle, who had managed his family since the death of his father, and was now in the thirtieth year of her maidenhood, with a fortune of five thousand pounds, and a large stock of economy and devotion.
These qualifications, one would think, might have been the means of abridging the term of her celibacy, as she never expressed any aversion to wedlock; but, it seems, she was too delicate in her choice, to find a mate to her inclination in the city: for I cannot suppose that she remained so long unsolicited; though the charms of her person were not altogether enchanting, nor her manner over and above agreeable. Exclusive of a very wan (not to call it sallow) complexion, which, perhaps, was the effects of her virginity and mortification, she had a cast in her eyes that was not at all engaging; and such an extent of mouth, as no art or affectation could contract into any proportionable dimension; then her piety was rather peevish than resigned, and did not in the least diminish a certain stateliness in her demeanour and conversation, that delighted in communicating the importance and honour of her family, which, by the bye, was not to be traced two generations back by all the power of heraldry or tradition.
She seemed to have renounced all the ideas she had acquired before her father served the office of sheriff; and the eye which regulated the dates of all her observation, was the mayoralty of her papa. Nay, so solicitous was this good lady for the support and propagation of the family name, that, suppressing every selfish motive, she actually prevailed upon her brother to combat with his own disposition, and even surmount it so far, as to declare a passion for the person whom he afterwards wedded, as we shall see in the sequel. Indeed, she was the spur that instigated him in all his extraordinary undertakings; and I question, whether he would or not have been able to disengage himself from that course of life in which he had so long mechanically moved, unless he had been roused and actuated by her incessant exhortations. London, she observed, was a receptacle of iniquity, where an honest, unsuspecting man was every day in danger of falling a sacrifice to craft; where innocence was exposed to continual temptations, and virtue eternally persecuted by malice and slander; where everything was ruled by caprice and corruption, and merit utterly discouraged and despised. This last imputation she pronounced with such emphasis and chagrin, as plainly denoted how far she considered herself as an example of what she advanced; and really the charge was justified by the constructions that were put upon her retreat by her female friends, who, far from imputing it to the laudable motives that induced her, insinuated, in sarcastic commendations, that she had good reason to be dissatisfied with a place where she had been so overlooked; and that it was certainly her wisest course to make her last effort in the country, where, in all probability, her talents would be less eclipsed, and her fortune more attractive.
Be this as it will, her admonitions, though they were powerful enough to convince, would have been insufficient to overcome the languor and vis inertiae of her brother, had she not reinforced her arguments, by calling in question the credit of two or three merchants, with whom he was embarked in trade.
Alarmed at these hints of intelligence, he exerted himself effectually; he withdrew his money from trade, and laying it out in Bank-stock, and India-bonds, removed to a house in the country, which his father had built near the sea-side, for the convenience of carrying on a certain branch of traffic in which he had been deeply concerned.
Here then Mr. Pickle fixed his habitation for life, in the six-and-thirtieth year of his age; and though the pangs he felt at parting with his intimate companions, and quitting all his former connections, were not quite so keen as to produce any dangerous disorder in his constitution, he did not fail to be extremely disconcerted at his first entrance into a scene of life to which he was totally a stranger. Not but that he met with abundance of people in the country, who, in consideration of his fortune, courted his acquaintance, and breathed nothing but friendship and hospitality; yet, even the trouble of receiving and returning these civilities was an intolerable fatigue to a man of his habits and disposition. He therefore left the care of the ceremonial to his sister, who indulged herself in all the pride of formality; while he himself, having made a discovery of a public-house in the neighbourhood, went thither every evening and enjoyed his pipe and can; being very well satisfied with the behaviour of the landlord, whose communicative temper was a great comfort to his own taciturnity; for he shunned all superfluity of speech, as much as he avoided any other unnecessary expense.
He is made acquainted with the Characters of Commodore Trunnion and his Adherents—Meets with them by Accident, and contracts an Intimacy with that Commander.
This loquacious publican soon gave him sketches of all the characters in the county; and, among others, described that of his next neighbour, Commodore Trunnion, which was altogether singular and odd. "The commodore and your worship," said he, "will in a short time be hand and glove, he has a power of money, and spends it like a prince—that is, in his own way—for to be sure he is a little humorsome, as the saying is, and swears woundily; though I'll be sworn he means no more harm than a sucking babe. Lord help us! it will do your honour's heart good to hear him tell a story, as how he lay alongside of the French, yard-arm and yard-arm, board and board, and of heaving grapplings, and stink-pots, and grapes, and round and double-headed partridges, crows and carters. Lord have mercy upon us! he has been a great warrior in his time, and lost an eye and a heel in the service. Then he does not live like any other Christian land-man; but keeps garrison in his house, as if he were in the midst of his enemies, and makes his servants turn out in the night, watch and watch as he calls it, all the year round. His habitation is defended by a ditch, over which he has laid a draw-bridge, and planted his court-yard with patereroes continually loaded with shot, under the direction of one Mr. Hatchway, who had one of his legs shot away while he acted as lieutenant on board the commodore's ship; and now, being on half-pay, lives with him as his companion. The lieutenant is a very brave man, a great joker, and, as the saying is, hath got the length of his commander's foot—though he has another favourite in the house called Tom Pipes, that was his boatswain's mate, and now keeps the servants in order. Tom is a man of few words, but an excellent hand at a song concerning the boatswain's whistle, hustle-cap, and chuck-farthing—there is not such another pipe in the county—so that the commodore lives very happy in his own manner; though he be sometimes thrown into perilous passions and quandaries, by the application of his poor kinsmen, whom he can't abide, because as how some of them were the first occasion of his going to sea. Then he sweats with agony at the sight of an attorney, just, for all the world, as some people have an antipathy to a cat: for it seems he was once at law, for striking one of his officers, and cast in a swinging sum. He is, moreover, exceedingly afflicted with goblins that disturb his rest, and keep such a racket in his house, that you would think (God bless us!) all the devils in hell had broke loose upon him. It was no longer ago than last year about this time, that he was tormented the livelong night by the mischievous spirits that got into his chamber, and played a thousand pranks about his hammock, for there is not one bed within his walls. Well, sir, he rang his bell, called up all his servants, got lights, and made a thorough search; but the devil a goblin was to be found. He had no sooner turned in again, and the rest of the family gone to sleep, than the foul fiends began their game anew. The commodore got up in the dark, drew his cutlass, and attacked them both so manfully, that in five minutes everything in the apartment went to pieces, The lieutenant, hearing the noise, came to his assistance. Tom Pipes, being told what was the matter, lighted his match, and going down to the yard, fired all the patereroes as signals of distress. Well, to be sure the whole parish was in a pucker: some thought the French had landed; others imagined the commodore's house was beset by thieves; for my own part, I called up two dragoons that are quartered upon me, and they swore, with deadly oaths, it was a gang of smugglers engaged with a party of their regiment that lies in the next village; and mounting their horses like lusty fellows, rode up into the country as fast as their beasts could carry them. Ah, master! These are hard times, when an industrious body cannot earn his bread without fear of the gallows. Your worship's father (God rest his soul!) was a good gentleman, and as well respected in this parish as e'er a he that walks upon neat's leather; and if your honour should want a small parcel of fine tea, or a few ankers of right Nantes, I'll be bound you shall be furnished to your heart's content. But, as I was saying, the hubbub continued till morning, when the parson being sent for, conjured the spirits into the Red Sea; and the house has been pretty quiet ever since. True it is, Mr. Hatchway makes a mock of the whole affair; and told his commander, in this very blessed spot, that the two goblins were no other than a couple of jackdaws which had fallen down the chimney, and made a flapping with their wings up and down the apartment. But the commodore, who is very choleric, and does not like to be jeered, fell into a main high passion, and stormed like a perfect hurricane, swearing that he knew a devil from a jackdaw as well as e'er a man in the three kingdoms. He owned, indeed, that the birds were found, but denied that they were the occasion of the uproar. For my own part, master, I believe much may be said on both sides of the question; though to be sure, the devil is always going about, as the saying is."
This circumstantial account, extraordinary as it was, never altered one feature in the countenance of Mr. Pickle, who, having heard it to an end, took the pipe from his mouth, saying, with a look of infinite sagacity and deliberation, "I do suppose he is of the Cornish Trunnions. What sort of a woman is his spouse?" "Spouse!" cried the other; "odds-heart! I don't think he would marry the queen of Sheba. Lack-a-day! sir, he won't suffer his own maids to be in the garrison, but turns them into an out-house every night before the watch is set. Bless your honour's soul, he is, as it were, a very oddish kind of a gentleman. Your worship would have seen him before now; for, when he is well, he and my good master Hatchway come hither every evening, and drink a couple of cans of rumbo a piece; but he has been confined to his house this fortnight by a plaguy fit of the gout, which, I'll assure your worship, is a good penny out of my pocket."
At that instant, Mr. Pickle's ears were saluted with such a strange noise, as even discomposed the muscles of his face, which gave immediate indications of alarm. This composition of notes at first resembled the crying of quails, and croaking of bull-dogs; but as it approached nearer, he could distinguish articulate sounds pronounced with great violence, in such a cadence as one would expect to hear from a human creature scolding through the organs of an ass; it was neither speaking nor braying, but a surprising mixture of both, employed in the utterance of terms absolutely unintelligible to our wondering merchant, who had just opened his mouth to express his curiosity, when the starting up at the well-known sound, cried, "Odd's niggers! there is the commodore with his company, as sure as I live," and with his apron began to wipe the dust off an elbow-chair placed at one side of the fire, and kept sacred for the ease and convenience of this infirm commander. While he was thus occupied, a voice, still more uncouth than the former, bawled aloud, "Ho! the house, a-hoy!" Upon which the publican, clapping a hand to each side of his head with his thumbs fixed to his ears, rebellowed in the same tone, which he had learned to imitate, "Hilloah." The voice again exclaimed, "Have you got any attorneys aboard?" and when the landlord replied, "No, no," this man of strange expectation came in, supported by his two dependents, and displayed a figure every way answerable to the oddity of his character. He was in stature at least six feet high, though he had contracted a habit of stooping, by living so long on board; his complexion was tawny, and his aspect rendered hideous by a large scar across his nose, and a patch that covered the place of one eye. Being seated in his chair, with great formality the landlord complimented him upon his being able to come abroad again; and having in a whisper communicated the name of his fellow-guest, whom the commodore already knew by report, went to prepare, with all imaginable despatch, the first allowance of his favourite liquor, in three separate cans (for each was accommodated with his own portion apart), while the lieutenant sat down on the blind side of his commander; and Tom Pipes, knowing his distance, with great modesty took his station in the rear.
After a pause of some minutes, the conversation was begun by this ferocious chief, who, fixing his eye upon the lieutenant with a sternness of countenance not to be described, addressed him in these words: "D— my eyes! Hatchway, I always took you to be a better seaman than to overset our chaise in such fair weather. Blood! didn't I tell you we were running bump ashore, and bid you set in the ice-brace, and haul up a wind?"—"Yes," replied the other, with an arch sneer, "I do confess as how you did give such orders, after you had run us foul of a post, so as that the carriage lay along, and could not right herself."—"I run you foul of a post!" cried the commander: "d— my heart! you're a pretty dog, an't you, to tell me so above-board to my face? Did I take charge of the chaise? Did I stand at the helm?"—"No," answered Hatchway; "I must confess you did not steer; but, howsomever, you cunned all the way, and so, as you could not see how the land lay, being blind of your larboard eye, we were fast ashore before you knew anything of the matter, Pipes, who stood abaft, can testify the truth of what I say."—"D— my limbs!" resumed the commodore, "I don't value what you or Pipes say a rope-yarn. You're a couple of mutinous—I'll say no more; but you shan't run your rig upon me, d— ye, I am the man that learnt you, Jack Hatchway, to splice a rope and raise a perpendicular."
The lieutenant, who was perfectly well acquainted with the trim of his captain, did not choose to carry on the altercation any further; but taking up his can, drank to the health of the stranger, who very courteously returned the compliment, without, however, presuming to join in the conversation, which suffered a considerable pause. During this interruption, Mr. Hatchway's wit displayed itself in several practical jokes upon the commodore, with whom he knew it was dangerous to tamper in any other way. Being without the sphere of his vision, he securely pilfered his tobacco, drank his rumbo, made wry faces, and, to use the vulgar phrase, cocked his eye at him, to the no small entertainment of the spectators, Mr. Pickle himself not excepted, who gave evident tokens of uncommon satisfaction at the dexterity of this marine p pantomime.
Meanwhile, the captain's choler gradually subsided, and he was pleased to desire Hatchway, by the familiar and friendly diminutive of Jack, to read a newspaper that lay on the table before him. This task was accordingly undertaken by the lame lieutenant, who, among paragraphs, read that which follows, with an elevation of voice which seemed to prognosticate something extraordinary: "We are informed, that Admiral Bower will very soon be created a British peer, for his eminent services during the war, particularly in his late engagement with the French fleet."
Trunnion was thunderstruck at this piece of intelligence: the ring dropped front his hand, and shivered into a thousand pieces; his eye glistened like that of a rattle-snake; and some minutes elapsed before he could pronounce, "Avast! overhaul that article again!"
It was no sooner read the second time, than, smiting the table with his fist, he started up, and, with the most violent emphasis of rage and indignation, exclaimed, "D— my heart and liver! 'tis a land lie, d'ye see; and I will maintain it to be a lie, from the sprit-sail yard to the mizen-top-sail haulyards! Blood and thunder! Will. Bower a peer of this realm! a fellow of yesterday, that scarce knows a mast from a manger! a snotty-nose boy, whom I myself have ordered to the gun, for stealing eggs out of the hen-coops! and I, Hawser Trunnion, who commanded a ship before he could keep a reckoning, am laid aside, d'ye see, and forgotten! If so be as this be the case, there is a rotten plank in our constitution, which ought to be hove down and repaired, d— my eyes! For my own part, d'ye see, I was none of your Guinea pigs: I did not rise in the service by parlamenteering interest, or a handsome b— of a wife. I was not over the bellies of better men, nor strutted athwart the quarter-deck in a laced doublet, and thingumbobs at the wrists. D— my limbs! I have been a hard-working man, and served all offices on board from cook's shifter to the command of a vessel. Here, you Tunley, there's the hand of a seaman, you dog."
So saying, he laid hold on the landlord's fist, and honoured him with such a squeeze, as compelled him to roar with great vociferation, to the infinite satisfaction of the commodore, whose features were a little unblended by this acknowledgment of his vigour; and he thus proceeded, in a less outrageous strain: "They make a d—d noise about this engagement with the French: but, egad! it was no more than a bumboat battle, in comparison with some that I have seen. There was old Rook and Jennings, and another whom I'll be d—d before I name, that knew what fighting was. As for my own share, d'ye see, I am none of those that hallo in their own commendation: but if so be that I were minded to stand my own trumpeter, some of those little fellows that hold their heads so high would be taken all aback, as the saying is: they would be ashamed to show their colours, d— my eyes! I once lay eight glasses alongside of the Flour de Louse, a French man-of-war, though her mettle was heavier, and her complement larger by a hundred hands than mine. You, Jack Hatchway, d— ye, what d'ye grin at! D'ye think I tell a story, because you never heard it before?"
"Why, look ye, sir," answered the lieutenant, "I am glad to find you can stand your own trumpeter on occasion; though I wish you would change the tune, for that is the same you have been piping every watch for these ten months past. Tunley himself will tell you he has heard it five hundred times."—"God forgive you! Mr. Hatchway," said the landlord, interrupting him; "as I am an honest man and a housekeeper, I never heard a syllable of the matter."
This declaration, though not strictly true, was extremely agreeable to Mr. Trunnion, who, with an air of triumph, observed, "Aha! Jack, I thought I should bring you up, with your gibes and your jokes: but suppose you had heard it before, is that any reason why it shouldn't be told to another person? There's the stranger, belike he has heard it five hundred times too; han't you, brother?" addressing himself to Mr. Pickle; who replying, with a look expressing curiosity, "No, never;" he thus went on: "Well, you seem to be an honest, quiet sort of a man; and therefore you must know, as I said before, I fell in with a French man-of-war, Cape Finistere bearing about six leagues on the weather bow, and the chase three leagues to leeward, going before the wind: whereupon I set my studding sails; and coming up with her, hoisted my jack and ensign, and poured in a broadside, before you could count three rattlins in the mizen shrouds; for I always keep a good look-out, and love to have the first fire."
"That I'll be sworn," said Hatchway: "for the day we made the Triumph you ordered the men to fire when she was hull-to, by the same token we below pointed the guns at a flight of gulls; and I won a can of punch from the gunner by killing the first bird."
Exasperated at this sarcasm, he replied, with great vehemence, "You lie, lubber! D— your bones! what business have you to come always athwart my hawse in this manner? You, Pipes, was upon deck, and can bear witness whether or not I fired too soon. Speak, you blood of a ——, and that upon the word of a seaman: how did the chase bear of us when I gave orders to fire?"
Pipes, who had hitherto sat silent, being thus called upon to give his evidence, after divers strange gesticulations, opened his mouth like a gasping cod, and with a cadence like that of the east wind singing through a cranny, pronounced, "Half a quarter of a league right upon our lee-beam."
"Nearer, you porpuss-faced swab," cried the commodore, "nearer by twelve fathom: but, howsomever, that's enough to prove the falsehood of Hatchway's jaw—and so, brother, d'ye see," turning to Pickle, "I lay alongside of the Flour de Louse, yard-arm and yard-arm, plying out great guns and small arms, and heaving in stink-pots, powder-bottles, and hand-grenades, till our shot was all expended, double-headed, partridge and grape: then we loaded with iron crows, marlin-spikes, and old nails; but finding the Frenchman took a good deal of drubbing, and that he had shot away all our rigging, and killed and wounded a great number of our men, d'ye see, I resolved to run him on board upon his quarter, and so ordered our grapplings to be got ready; but monsieur, perceiving what we were about, filled his topsails and sheered off, leaving us like a log upon the water, and our scuppers running with blood."
Mr. Pickle and the landlord paid such extraordinary attention to the rehearsal of this exploit, that Trunnion was encouraged to entertain them with more stories of the same nature; after which he observed, by way of encomium on the government, that all he had gained in the service was a lame foot and the loss of an eye. The lieutenant, who could not find in his heart to lose any opportunity of being witty at the expense of his commander, gave a loose to his satirical talent once more, saying,—"I have heard as how you came by your lame foot, by having your upper decks over-stowed with liquor, whereby you became crank, and rolled, d'ye see, in such a manner, that by a pitch of the ship your starboard heel was jammed in one of the scuppers; and as for the matter of your eye, that was knocked out by your own crew when the Lightning was paid off: there's poor Pipes, who was beaten into all the colours of the rainbow for taking your part, and giving you time to sheer off; and I don't find as how you have rewarded him according as he deserves."
As the commodore could not deny the truth of these anecdotes, however unseasonably they were introduced, he affected to receive them with good humour, as jokes of the lieutenant's own inventing; and replied, "Ay, ay, Jack, everybody knows your tongue is no slander; but, howsomever, I'll work you to an oil for this, you dog." So saying, he lifted up one of his crutches, intending to lay it gently across Mr. Hatchway's pate; but Jack, with great agility, tilted up his wooden leg, with which he warded off the blow, to the no small admiration of Mr. Pickle, and utter astonishment of the landlord, who, by the bye, had expressed the same amazement, at the same feet, at the same hour, every night, for three months before. Trunnion then, directing his eye to the boatswain's mate, "You, Pipes," said he, "do you go about and tell people that I did not reward you for standing by me, when I was bustled by these rebellious rapscallions? D— you, han't you been rated on the books ever since?"
Tom, who indeed had no words to spare, sat smoking his pipe with great indifference, and never dreamed of paying any regard to these interrogations; which being repeated and reinforced with many oaths, that, however, produced no effect, the commodore pulled out his purse, saying, "Here, you b— baby, here's something better than a smart ticket;" and threw it at his silent deliverer, who received and pocketed his bounty, without the least demonstration of surprise or satisfaction; while the donor, turning to Mr. Pickle, "You see, brother," said he, "I make good the old saying; we sailors get money like horses, and spend it like asses: come, Pipes, let's have the boatswain's whistle, and be jovial."
This musician accordingly applied to his mouth the silver instrument that hung at the button-hole of his jacket, by a chain of the same metal, and though not quite so ravishing as the pipe of Hermes, produced a sound so loud and shrill, that the stranger, as it were instinctively, stopped his ears, to preserve his organs of hearing from such a dangerous invasion. The prelude being thus executed, Pipes fixed his eyes upon the egg of an ostrich that depended from the ceiling, and without once moving them from that object, performed the whole cantata in a tone of voice that seemed to be the joint issue of an Irish bagpipe and a sow-gelder's horn: the commodore, the lieutenant, and landlord, joined in the chorus, repeating this elegant stanza:—
Bustle, bustle, brave boys! Let us sing, let us toil, And drink all the while, Since labour's the price of our joys.
The third line was no sooner pronounced, than the can was lifted to every man's mouth with admirable uniformity; and the next word taken up at the end of their draught with a twang equally expressive and harmonious. In short, the company began to understand one another; Mr. Pickle seemed to relish the entertainment, and a correspondence immediately commenced between him and Trunnion, who shook him by the hand, drank to further acquaintance, and even invited him to a mess of pork and pease in the garrison. The compliment was returned, good-fellowship prevailed, and the night was pretty far advanced, when the merchant's man arrived with a lantern to light his master home; upon which, the new friends parted, after a mutual promise of meeting next evening in the same place.
Mrs. Grizzle exerts herself in finding a proper Match for her Brother; who is accordingly introduced to the young Lady, whom he marries in due Season.
I have been the more circumstantial in opening the character of Trunnion, because he bears a considerable share in the course of these memoirs; but now it is high time to resume the consideration of Mrs. Grizzle, who, since her arrival in the country, had been engrossed by a double care, namely, that of finding a suitable match for her brother, and a comfortable yoke-fellow for herself.
Neither was this aim the result of any sinister or frail aggression, but the pure dictates of that laudable ambition, which prompted her to the preservation of the family name. Nay, so disinterested was she in this pursuit, that, postponing her nearest concern, or at least leaving her own fate to the silent operation of her charms, she laboured with such indefatigable zeal in behalf of her brother, that before they had been three months settled in the country, the general topic of conversation in the neighbourhood was an intended match between the rich Mr. Pickle and the fair Miss Appleby, daughter of a gentleman who lived in the next parish, and who though he had but little fortune to bestow upon his children, had, to use his own phrase, replenished their veins with some of the best blood in the country.
This young lady, whose character and disposition Mrs. Grizzle had investigated to her own satisfaction, was destined for the spouse of Mr. Pickle; and an overture accordingly made to her father, who, being overjoyed at the proposal, gave his consent without hesitation, and even recommended the immediate execution of the project with such eagerness, as seemed to indicate either a suspicion of Mr. Pickle's constancy, or a diffidence of his own daughter's complexion, which perhaps he thought too sanguine to keep much longer cool. The previous point being thus settled, our merchant, at the instigation of Mrs. Grizzle, went to visit his future father-in-law, and was introduced to the daughter, with whom he had, that same afternoon, an opportunity of being alone. What passed in that interview I never could learn, though from the character of the suitor, the reader may justly conclude that she was not much teased with the impertinence of his addresses. He was not, I believe, the less welcome for that reason: certain it is she made no objection to his taciturnity; and when her father communicated his resolution, acquiesced with the most pious resignation. But Mrs. Grizzle, in order to give the lady a more favourable idea of his intellects than his conversation could possibly inspire, resolved to dictate a letter, which her brother should transcribe and transmit to his mistress as the produce of his own understanding, and had actually composed a very tender billet for this purpose; yet her intention was entirely frustrated by the misapprehension of the lover himself, who, in consequence of his sister's repeated admonitions, anticipated her scheme, by writing, for himself, and despatching the letter one afternoon, while Mrs. Grizzle was visiting at the parson's.
Neither was this step the effect of his vanity or precipitation; but having been often assured by his sister that it was absolutely necessary for him to make a declaration of his love in writing, he took this opportunity of acting in conformity with her advice, when his imagination was unengaged or undisturbed by any other suggestion, without suspecting in the least that she intended to save him the trouble of exercising his own genius. Left, therefore, as he imagined, to his own inventions, he sat down, and produced the following morceau, which was transmitted to Miss Appleby, before his sister and counsellor had the least intimation of the affair:—
"Miss Sally Appleby.
"Madam,—Understanding you have a parcel of heart, warranted sound, to be disposed of, shall be pleased to treat for said commodity, on reasonable terms; doubt not, shall agree for same; shall wait on you for further information, when and where you shall appoint. This the needful from—Yours, etc.
This laconic epistle, simple and unadorned as it was, met with as cordial a reception from the person to whom it was addressed, as if it had been couched in the most elegant terms that delicacy of passion and cultivated genius could supply; nay, I believe, was the more welcome on account of its mercantile plainness; because when an advantageous match is in view, a sensible woman often considers the flowery professions and rapturous exclamations of love as ensnaring ambiguities, or, at best, impertinent preliminaries, that retard the treaty they are designed to promote; whereas Mr. Pickle removed all disagreeable uncertainty, by descending at once to the most interesting particular.
She had no sooner, as a dutiful child, communicated this billet-doux to her father, than he, as a careful parent, visited Mr. Pickle, and, in presence of Mrs. Grizzle, demanded a formal explanation of his sentiments with regard to his daughter Sally. Mr. Gamaliel, without any ceremony, assured him he had a respect for the young woman, and, with his good leave, would take her for better, for worse. Mr. Appleby, after having expressed his satisfaction that he had fixed his affections in his family, comforted the lover with the assurance of his being agreeable to the young lady; and they forthwith proceeded to the articles of the marriage-settlement, which being discussed and determined, a lawyer was ordered to engross them; the wedding-clothes were bought, and, in short, a day was appointed for the celebration of their nuptials, to which everybody of any fashion in the neighbourhood was invited. Among these, commodore Trunnion and Mr. Hatchway were not forgotten, being the sole companions of the bridegroom, with whom, by this time, they had contracted a sort of intimacy at their nocturnal rendezvous.
They had received a previous intimation of what was on the anvil, from the landlord, before Mr. Pickle thought proper to declare himself; in consequence of which, the topic of the one-eyed commander's discourse, at their meeting, for several evenings before, had been the folly and plague of matrimony, on which he held forth with great vehemence of abuse, leveled at the fair sex, whom he represented as devils incarnate, sent from hell to torment mankind; and in particular inveighed against old maids, for whom he seemed to entertain a singular aversion; while his friend Jack confirmed the truth of all his allegations, and gratified his own malignant vein at the same time by clenching every sentence with a sly joke upon the married state, built upon some allusion to a ship or sea-faring life. He compared a woman to a great gun loaded with fire, brimstone, and noise, which, being violently heated, will bounce and fly, and play the devil, if you don't take special care of her breechings. He said she was like a hurricane that never blows from one quarter, but veers about to all points of the compass. He likened her to a painted galley, curiously rigged, with a leak in her hold, which her husband would never be able to stop. He observed that her inclinations were like the Bay of Biscay; for why? because you may heave your deep sea lead long enough without ever reaching the bottom; that he who comes to anchor on a wife may find himself moored in d—d foul ground, and after all, can't for his blood slip his cable; and that, for his own part, though he might make short trips for pastime, he would never embark in woman on the voyage of life, he was afraid of foundering in the first foul weather.
In all probability, these insinuations made some impression on the mind of Mr. Pickle, who was not very much inclined to run great risks of any kind; but the injunctions and importunities of his sister, who was bent upon the match, overbalanced the opinion of his sea friends, who finding him determined to marry, notwithstanding all the hints of caution they had thrown out, resolved to accept his invitation, and honoured his nuptials with their presence accordingly.
The Behaviour of Mrs. Grizzle at the Wedding, with an Account of the Guests.
I hope it will not be thought uncharitable, if I advance, by way of conjecture, that Mrs. Grizzle, on this grand occasion, summoned her whole exertion to play off the artillery of her charms on the single gentlemen who were invited to the entertainment; sure I am, she displayed to the best advantage all the engaging qualities she possessed; her affability at dinner was altogether uncommon, her attention to the guests was superfluously hospitable, her tongue was sheathed with a most agreeable and infantine lisp, her address was perfectly obliging, and though conscious of the extraordinary capacity of her month, she would not venture to hazard a laugh, she modelled her lips into an enchanting simper, which played on her countenance all day long; nay, she even profited by that defect in her vision we have already observed, and securely contemplated those features which were most to her liking, while the rest of the company believed her regards were disposed in a quite contrary direction. With what humility of complaisance did she receive the compliments of those who could not help praising the elegance of the banquet; and how piously did she seize that opportunity of commemorating the honours of her sire, by observing that it was no merit in her to understand something of entertainments, as she had occasion to preside at so many, during the mayoralty of her papa!
Far from discovering the least symptom of pride and exultation when the opulence of her family became the subject of conversation, she assumed a severity of countenance; and, after having moralized on the vanity of riches, declared that those who looked on her as a fortune were very much mistaken; for her father had left her no more than a poor five thousand pounds, which, with what little she had saved of the interest since his death, was all she had to depend on: indeed, if she had placed her chief felicity in wealth, she should not have been so forward in destroying her own expectations, by advising and promoting the event at which they were now so happily assembled; but she hoped she should always have virtue enough to postpone any interested consideration, when it should happen to clash with the happiness of her friends. Finally, such was her modesty and self-denial that she industriously informed those whom it might concern, that she was no less than three years older than the bride; though had she added ten to the reckoning, she would have committed no mistake in point of computation.
To contribute as much as lay in her power to the satisfaction of all present, she in the afternoon regaled them with a tune on the harpsichord, accompanied with her voice, which, though not the most melodious in the world, I dare say, would have been equally at their service could she have vied with Philomel in song; and as the last effort of her complaisance, when dancing was proposed, she was prevailed on, at the request of her new sister, to open the ball in person.
In a word, Mrs. Grizzle was the principal figure in this festival, and almost eclipsed the bride; who, far from seeming to dispute the pre-eminence, very wisely allowed her to make the best of her talents; contenting herself with the lot to which fortune had already called her and which she imagined would not be the less desirable if her sister-in-law were detached from the family.
I believe I need scarce advertise the reader that, during this whole entertainment, the commodore and his lieutenant were quite out of their element; and this, indeed, was the case with the bridegroom himself, who being utterly unacquainted with any sort of polite commerce, found himself under a very disagreeable restraint during the whole scene.
Trunnion, who had scarce ever been on shore till he was paid off, and never once in his whole life in the company of any females above the rank of those who herd on the Point at Portsmouth, was more embarrassed about his behaviour than if he had been surrounded at sea by the whole French navy. He had never pronounced the word "madam" since he was born; so that, far from entering into conversation with the ladies, he would not even return the compliment, or give the least note of civility when they drank to his health, and, I verily believe, would rather have suffered suffocation than allowed the simple phrase—"your servant," to proceed from his mouth. He was altogether as inflexible with respect to the attitudes of his body; for, either through obstinacy or bashfulness, he sat upright without motion, insomuch that he provoked the mirth of a certain wag, who, addressing himself to the lieutenant, asked whether that was the commodore himself, or the wooden lion that used to stand at his gate?—an image, to which, it must be owned, Mr. Trunnion's person bore no faint resemblance.
Mr. Hatchway, who was not quite so unpolished as the commodore, and had certain notions that seemed to approach the ideas of common life, made a less uncouth appearance; but then he was a wit, and though of a very peculiar genius, partook largely of that disposition which is common to all wits, who never enjoy themselves except when their talents meet with those marks of distinction and veneration, which, in their own opinion, they deserve.
These circumstances being premised, it is not to be wondered at, if this triumvirate made no objections to the proposal, when some of the graver personages of the company made a motion for adjourning into another apartment, where they might enjoy their pipes and bottles, while the young folks indulged themselves in the continuance of their own favourite diversion. Thus rescued, as it were, from a state of annihilation, the first use the two lads of the castle made of their existence, was to ply the bridegroom so hard with bumpers, that in less than an hour he made divers efforts to sing, and soon after was carried to bed, deprived of all manner of sensation, to the utter disappointment of the bridemen and maids, who, by this accident, were prevented from throwing the stocking, and performing certain other ceremonies practised on such occasions. As for the bride, she bore this misfortune with great good humour, and indeed, on all occasions, behaved like a discreet woman, perfectly well acquainted with the nature of her own situation.
Mrs. Pickle assumes the Reins of Government in her own Family—Her Sister-in-law undertakes an Enterprise of great Moment, but is for some time diverted from her Purpose by a very interesting Consideration.
Whatever deference, not to say submission, she had paid to Mrs. Grizzle before she nearly allied to her family, she no sooner became Mrs. Pickle, than she thought it encumbent on her to act up to the dignity of the character; and, the very day after the marriage, ventured to dispute with her sister-in-law on the subject of her own pedigree, which she affirmed to be more honourable in all respects than that of her husband; observing that several younger brothers of her house had arrived at the station of lord-mayor of London, which was the highest pitch of greatness that any of Mr. Pickle's predecessors had ever attained.
This presumption was like a thunderbolt to Mrs. Grizzle, who began to perceive that she had not succeeded quite so well as she imagined, in selecting for her brother a gentle and obedient yoke-fellow, who would always treat her with that profound respect which she thought due to her superior genius, and be entirely regulated by her advice and direction: however, she still continued to manage the reins of government in the house, reprehending the servants as usual; an office she performed with great capacity, and in which she seemed to take singular delight, until Mrs. Pickle, on pretence of consulting her ease, told her one day she would take that trouble on herself, and for the future assume the management of her own family. Nothing could be more mortifying to Mrs. Grizzle than such a declaration; to which, after a considerable pause, and strange distortion of look, she replied: "I shall never refuse or repine at any trouble that may conduce to my brother's advantage."—"Dear madam," answered the sister, "I am infinitely obliged for your kind concern for Mr. Pickle's interest, which I consider as my own, but I cannot bear to see you a sufferer by your friendship; and, therefore, insist on exempting you from the fatigue you have borne so long."
In vain did the other protest that she took pleasure in the task: Mrs. Pickle ascribed the assurance to her excess of complaisance; and expressed such tenderness of zeal for her dear sister's health and tranquility, that the reluctant maiden found herself obliged to resign her authority, without enjoying the least pretext for complaining of her being deposed.
This disgrace was attended by a fit of peevish devotion that lasted three or four weeks; during which period she had the additional chagrin of seeing the young lady gain an absolute ascendency over the mind of her brother, who was persuaded to set up a gay equipage, and improve his housekeeping, by an augmentation in his expense, to the amount of a thousand a year at least: though his alteration in the economy of his household effected no change in his own disposition, or manner of life; for as soon as the painful ceremony of receiving and returning visits was performed, he had recourse to the company of his sea friends, with whom he spent the best part of his time. But if he was satisfied with his condition, the case was otherwise with Mrs. Grizzle, who, finding her importance in the family greatly diminished, her attractions neglected by all the male sex in the neighbourhood, and the withering hand of time hang threatening over her head, began to feel the horror of eternal virginity, and, in a sort of desperation, resolved at any rate to rescue herself from that reproachful and uncomfortable situation.
Thus determined, she formed a plan, the execution of which to a spirit less enterprising and sufficient than hers, would have appeared altogether impracticable: this was no other than to make a conquest of the commodore's heart, which the reader will easily believe was not very susceptible of tender impressions; but, on the contrary, fortified with insensibility and prejudice against the charms of the whole sex, and particularly prepossessed to the prejudice of that class distinguished by the appellation of old maids, in which Mrs. Grizzle was by this time unhappily ranked. She nevertheless took the field, and having invested this seemingly impregnable fortress, began to break ground one day, when Trunnion dined at her brother's, by springing certain ensnaring commendations on the honesty and sincerity of sea-faring people, paying a particular attention to his plate, and affecting a simper of approbation at everything which he said, which by any means she could construe into a joke, or with modesty be supposed to hear: nay, even when he left decency on the left hand, which was often the case, she ventured to reprimand his freedom of speech with a grin, saying, "Sure you gentlemen belonging to the sea have such an odd way with you." But all this complacency was so ineffectual, that, far from suspecting the true cause of it, the commodore, that very evening, at the club, in presence of her brother, with whom by this time he could take any manner of freedom, did not scruple to d— her for a squinting, block-faced, chattering p— kitchen; and immediately after drank "Despair to all old maids." The toast Mr. Pickle pledged without the least hesitation, and next day intimated to his sister, who bore the indignity with surprising resignation, and did not therefore desist from her scheme, unpromising as it seemed to be, until her attention was called off, and engaged in another care, which for some time interrupted the progress of this design.
Her sister had not been married many months, when she exhibited evident symptoms of pregnancy, to the general satisfaction of all concerned, and the inexpressible joy of Mrs. Grizzle, who, as we have already hinted, was more interested in the preservation of the family name than in any other consideration whatever. She therefore no sooner discovered appearances to justify and confirm her hopes, than, postponing her own purpose, and laying aside that pique and resentment she had conceived from the behaviour of Mrs. Pickle, when she superseded her authority; or perhaps, considering her in no other light than that of the vehicle which contained, and was destined to convey, her brother's heir to light, she determined to exert her uttermost in nursing, tending, and cherishing her during the term of her important charge. With this view she purchased Culpepper's Midwifery, which with that sagacious performance dignified with Aristotle's name, she studied with indefatigable care; and diligently perused the Complete Housewife, together with Quincy's Dispensatory, culling every jelly, marmalade, and conserve which these authors recommend as either salutary or toothsome, for the benefit and comfort of her sister-in-law, during her gestation. She restricted her from eating roots, pot-herbs, fruit, and all sorts of vegetables; and one day, when Mrs. Pickle had plucked a peach with her own hand, and was in the very act of putting it between her teeth, Mrs. Grizzle perceived the rash attempt, and running up to her, fell on her knees in the garden, entreating her, with tears in her eyes, to desist such a pernicious appetite. Her request was no sooner complied with, than recollecting, that if her sister's longing was balked, the child might be affected with some disagreeable mark or deplorable disease, she begged as earnestly that she would swallow the fruit, and in the mean time ran for some cordial water of her own composing, which she forced on her sister, as an antidote to the poison she had received.
This excessive zeal and tenderness did not fail to be very troublesome to Mrs. Pickle, who, having resolved divers plans for the recovery of her own ease, at length determined to engage Mrs. Grizzle in such employment as would interrupt that close attendance, which she found so teasing and disagreeable. Neither did she wait long for an opportunity of putting her resolution in practice. The very next day a gentleman happening to dine with Mr. Pickle, unfortunately mentioned a pine-apple, part of which he had eaten a week before at the house of a nobleman, who lived in another part of the country, at the distance of a hundred miles at least.
The name of this fatal fruit was no sooner pronounced, than Mrs. Grizzle, who incessantly watched her sister's looks, took the alarm, because she thought they gave certain indications of curiosity and desire; and after having observed that she herself could never eat pine-apples, which were altogether unnatural productions, extorted by the force of artificial fire out of filthy manure, asked, with a faltering voice, if Mrs. Pickle was not of her way of thinking? This young lady, who wanted neither slyness nor penetration, at once divined her meaning, and replied, with seeming unconcern, that for her own part she should never repine if there was no pine-apple in the universe, provided she could indulge herself with the fruits of her own country.
This answer was calculated for the benefit of the stranger, who would certainly have suffered for his imprudence by the resentment of Mrs. Grizzle, had her sister expressed the least relish for the fruit in question. It had the desired effect, and re-established the peace of the company, which was not a little endangered by the gentleman's want of consideration. Next morning, however, after breakfast, the pregnant lady, in pursuance of her plan, yawned, as it were by accident, full in the face of her maiden sister, who being infinitely disturbed by this convulsion, affirmed it was a symptom of longing, and insisted upon knowing the object in desire; when Mrs. Pickle affecting a smile told her she had eaten a most delicious pine-apple in her sleep. This declaration was attended with an immediate scream, uttered by Mrs. Grizzle, who instantly perceiving her sister surprised at the exclamation, clasped her in her arms, and assured her, with a sort of hysterical laugh, that she could not help screaming with joy, because she had it in her power to gratify her dear sister's wish; a lady in the neighbourhood having promised to send her, as a present, a couple of delicate pine-apples, which she would on that very day go in quest of.
Mrs. Pickle would by no means consent to this proposal, on pretence of sparing the other unnecessary fatigue; and assured her, that if she had any desire to eat a pine-apple, it was so faint, that the disappointment could produce no bad consequence. But this assurance was conveyed in a manner, which she knew very well how to adopt, that, instead of dissuading, rather stimulated Mrs. Grizzle to set out immediately, not on a visit to that lady, whose promise she herself had feigned with a view of consulting her sister's tranquility, but on a random Search through the whole country for this unlucky fruit, which was like to produce so much vexation and prejudice to her and her father's house.
During three whole days and nights did she, attended by a valet, ride from place to place without success, unmindful of her health, and careless of her reputation, that began to suffer from the nature of her inquiry, which was pursued with such peculiar eagerness and distraction, that everybody with whom she conversed, looked upon her as an unhappy person, whose intellects were not a little disordered.
Baffled in all her researches within the country, she at length decided to visit that very nobleman at whose house the officious stranger had been (for her) so unfortunately regaled, and actually arrived, in a post-chaise, at the place of his habitation, when she introduced her business as an affair on which the happiness of a whole family depended. By virtue of a present to his lordship's gardener, she procured the Hesperian fruit, with which she returned in triumph.
Mrs. Grizzle is indefatigable in gratifying her Sister's Longings—Peregrine is born, and managed contrary to the Directions and Remonstrances of his Aunt, who is disgusted upon that account, and resumes the Plan which she had before rejected.
The success of this device would have encouraged Mrs. Pickle to practise more of the same sort upon her sister-in-law, had she not been deterred by a violent fever which seized her zealous ally, in consequence of the fatigue and uneasiness she had undergone; which, while it lasted, as effectually conduced to her repose, as any other stratagem she could invent. But Mrs. Grizzle's health was no sooner restored, than the other, being as much incommoded as ever, was obliged, in her own defence, to have recourse to some other contrivance; and managed her artifices in such a manner, as leaves it at this day a doubt whether she was really so whimsical and capriccios in her appetites as she herself pretended to be; for her longings were not restricted to the demands of the palate and stomach, but also affected all the other organs of sense, and even invaded her imagination, which at this period seemed to be strangely diseased.
One time she longed to pinch her husband's ear; and it was with infinite difficulty that his sister could prevail upon him to undergo the operation. Yet this task was easy, in comparison with another she undertook for the gratification of Mrs. Pickle's unaccountable desire; which was no other than to persuade the commodore to submit his chin to the mercy of the big-bellied lady, who ardently wished for an opportunity of plucking three black hairs from his beard. When this proposal was first communicated to Mr. Trunnion by the husband, his answer was nothing but a dreadful effusion of oaths, accompanied with such a stare, and delivered in such a tone of voice, as terrified the poor beseecher into immediate silence; so that Mrs. Grizzle was fain to take the whole enterprise upon herself, and next day went to the garrison accordingly, where, having obtained entrance by means of the lieutenant, who, while his commander was asleep, ordered her to be admitted for the joke's sake, she waited patiently till he turned out, and then accosted him in the yard, where he used to perform his morning walk. He was thunderstruck at the appearance of a woman in a place he had hitherto kept sacred from the whole sex, and immediately began to utter an apostrophe to Tom Pipes, whose turn it was then to watch; when Mrs. Grizzle, falling on her knees before him, conjured him, with many pathetic supplications, to hear and grant her request, which was no sooner signified, than he bellowed in such an outrageous manner that the whole court re-echoed the opprobrious term b—, and the word damnation, which he repeated with surprising volubility, without any sort of propriety or connection; and retreated into his penetralia, leaving the baffled devotee in the humble posture she had so unsuccessfully chosen to melt his obdurate heart.
Mortifying as this repulse must have been to a lady of her stately disposition, she did not relinquish her aim, but endeavoured to interest the commodore's counsellors and adherents in her cause. With this view she solicited the interest of Mr. Hatchway, who, being highly pleased with a circumstance so productive of mirth and diversion, readily entered into her measures, and promised to employ his whole influence for her satisfaction; and as for the boatswain's mate, he was rendered propitious by the present of a guinea, which she slipped into his hand. In short, Mrs. Grizzle was continually engaged in this negotiation for the space of ten days, during which, the commodore was so incessantly pestered with her remonstrances, and the admonitions of his associates, that he swore his people had a design upon his life, which becoming a burden to him, he at last complied, and was conducted to the scene like a victim to the altar, or rather like a reluctant bear, when he is led to the stake amidst the shouts and cries of butchers and their dogs. After all, this victory was not quite so decisive as the conquerors imagined; for the patient being set, and the performer prepared with a pair of pincers, a small difficulty occurred: she could not for some time discern one black hair on the whole superficies of Mr. Trunnion's face, when Mrs. Grizzle, very much alarmed and disconcerted, had recourse to a magnifying-glass that stood upon her toilet; and, after a most accurate examination, discovered a fibre of a dusky hue, to which the instrument being applied, Mrs. Pickle pulled it up by the roots, to the no small discomposure of the owner, who, feeling the smart much more severe than he had expected, started up, and swore he would not part with another hair to save them all from damnation.
Mr. Hatchway exhorted him to patience and resignation; Mrs. Grizzle repeated her entreaties with great humility; but finding him deaf to all her prayers, and absolutely bent upon leaving the house, she clasped his knees, and begged for the love of God that he would have compassion upon a distressed family, and endure a little more for the sake of the poor infant, who would otherwise be born with a gray beard upon its chin. Far from being melted, he was rather exasperated by this reflection; to which he replied with great indignation, "D— you for a yaw-sighted b—! I'll be hanged, long enough before he has any beard at all:" so saying, he disengaged himself from her embraces, flung out at the door, and halted homewards with such surprising speed, that the lieutenant could not overtake him until he had arrived at his own gate; and Mrs. Grizzle was so much affected with his escape, that her sister, in pure compassion, desired she would not afflict herself, protesting that her own wish was already gratified, for she had plucked three hairs at once, having from the beginning been dubious of the commodore's patience.
But the labours of this assiduous kinswoman did not end with the achievement of this adventure: her eloquence or industry was employed without ceasing in the performance of other tasks imposed by the ingenious craft of her sister-in-law, who at another time conceived an insuppressible affection for a fricassee of frogs, which should be the genuine natives of France; so that there was a necessity for despatching a messenger on purpose to that kingdom; but as she could not depend upon the integrity of any common servant, Mrs. Grizzle undertook that province, and actually set sail in a cutter for Boulogne, from whence she returned in eight-and-forty hours with a tub full of those live animals, which being dressed according to art, her sister did not taste them, on pretence that her fit of longing was past: but then her inclinations took a different turn, and fixed themselves upon a curious implement belonging to a lady of quality in the neighbourhood, which was reported to be a great curiosity: this was no other than a porcelain chamber-pot of admirable workmanship, contrived by the honourable owner, who kept it for her own private use, and cherished it as a utensil of inestimable value.
Mrs. Grizzle shuddered at the first hint, she received of her sister's desire to possess this piece of furniture; because she knew it was not to be purchased; and the lady's character, which was none of the most amiable in point of humanity and condescension, forbad all hopes of borrowing it for a season: she therefore attempted to reason down this capricious appetite, as an extravagance of imagination which ought to be combated and repressed; and Mrs. Pickle, to all appearance was convinced and satisfied by her arguments and advice; but, nevertheless, could make use of no other convenience, and was threatened with a very dangerous suppression. Roused at the peril in which she supposed her to be, Mrs. Grizzle flew to the lady's house, and, having obtained a private audience, disclosed the melancholy situation of her sister, and implored the benevolence of her ladyship, who, contrary to expectation, received her very graciously, and consented to indulge Mrs. Pickle's longing. Mr. Pickle began to be out of humour at the expense to which he was exposed by the caprice of his wife, who was herself alarmed at this last accident, and for the future kept her fancy within bounds; insomuch, that without being subject to any more extraordinary trouble, Mrs. Grizzle reaped the long-wished fruits of her dearest expectation in the birth of a fine boy, whom her sister in a few months brought into the world.
I shall omit the description of the rejoicings, which were infinite on this important occasion, and only observe that Mrs. Pickle's mother and aunt stood godmothers, and the commodore assisted at the ceremony as godfather to the child, who was christened by the name of Peregrine, in compliment to the memory of a deceased uncle. While the mother confined to her bed, and incapable of maintaining her own authority, Mrs. Grizzle took charge of the infant baby double claim, and superintended, with surprising vigilance, the nurse and midwife in all the particulars of their respective offices, which were performed by her express direction. But no sooner was Mrs. Pickle in a condition to reassume the management of her own affairs, when she thought proper to alter certain regulations concerning the child, which had obtained in consequence of her sister's orders, directing, among other innovations, that the bandages with which the infant had been so neatly rolled up, like an Egyptian mummy, should be loosened and laid aside, in order to rid nature of all restraint, and give the blood free scope to circulate; and, with her own hands she plunged him headlong every morning into a tub full of cold water. This operation seemed so barbarous to the tender-hearted Mrs. Grizzle, that she not only opposed it with all her eloquence, shedding abundance of tears over the sacrifice when it was made; and took horse immediately, and departed for the habitation of an eminent country physician, whom she consulted in these words: "Pray, doctor, is it not both dangerous and cruel to be the means of letting a poor tender infant perish by sousing it in water as cold as ice?"—"Yes," replied the doctor, "downright murder, I affirm."—"I see you are a person of great learning and sagacity," said the other; "and I must beg you will be so good as to signify your opinion in your own handwriting." The doctor immediately complied with her request, and expressed himself upon a slip of paper to this purpose:—
"These are to certify whom it may concern, that I firmly believe, and it is my unalterable opinion, that who soever letteth an infant perish, by sousing it in cold water, even though the said water should not be so cold as ice, is in effect guilty of the murder of the said infant, as witness my hand, "Comfit Colocynth."
Having obtained this certificate, for which the physician was handsomely acknowledged, she returned, exalting, and hoping, with such authority, to overthrow all opposition. Accordingly, next morning, when her nephew was about to undergo his diurnal baptism, she produced the commission, whereby she conceived herself empowered to overrule such inhuman proceedings, but she was disappointed in her expectation, confident as it was; not that Mrs. Pickle pretended to differ in opinion from Dr. Colocynth, "for whose character and sentiments," said she, "I have such veneration, that I shall carefully observe the caution implied in this very certificate, by which, far from condemning my method of practice, he only asserts that killing is murder; an asseveration, the truth of which, it is to be hoped, I shall never dispute."
Mrs. Grizzle, who, sooth to say, had rather too superficially considered the clause by which she thought herself authorized, perused the paper with more accuracy, and was confounded at her own want of penetration. Yet, though she was confuted, she was by no means convinced that her objections to the cold bath were unreasonable; on the contrary, after having bestowed sundry opprobrious epithets on the physician, for his want of knowledge and candour, she protested in the most earnest and solemn manner the pernicious practice of dipping the child—a piece of cruelty which, with God's assistance, she should never suffer to be inflicted on her own issue; and washing her hands of the melancholy consequence that would certainly ensue, shut herself up in her closet to indulge her sorrow and vexation. She was deceived, however, in her prognostic. The boy, instead of declining in point of health, seemed to acquire fresh vigour from every plunge, as if he had been resolved to discredit the wisdom and foresight of his aunt, who in all probability could never forgive him for this want of reverence and respect. This conjecture is founded upon her behaviour to him in the sequel of his infancy, during which she was known to torture him more than once, when she had opportunities of thrusting pins into his flesh, without any danger of being detected. In short, her affections were in a little time altogether alienated from this hope of her family, whom she abandoned to the conduct of his mother, whose province it undoubtedly was to manage the nurture of her own child; while she herself resumed her operations upon the commodore, whom she was resoled at any rate to captivate and enslave. And it must be owned that Mrs. Grizzle's knowledge of the human heart never shone so conspicuous as in the methods she pursued for the accomplishment of this important aim.
Through the rough unpolished hulk that cased the soul of Trunnion, she could easily distinguish a large share of that vanity and self-conceit that generally predominate even in the most savage beast; and to this she constantly appealed. In his presence she always exclaimed against the craft and dishonest dissimulation of the world, and never failed of uttering particular invectives against those arts of chicanery in which the lawyers are so conversant, to the prejudice and ruin of their fellow-creatures; observing that in a seafaring life, as far as she had opportunities of judging or being informed, there was nothing but friendship, sincerity, and a hearty contempt for everything that was mean or selfish.
This kind of conversation, with the assistance of certain particular civilities, insensibly made an impression on the mind of the commodore, and the more effectual as his former prepossessions were built upon very slender foundations. His antipathy to old maids, which he had conceived upon hearsay, began gradually to diminish when he found they were not quite such infernal animals as they had been presented; and it was not long before he was heard to observe, at the club, that Pickle's sister had not so much of the core of b— in her as he had imagined. This negative compliment, by the medium of her brother, soon reached the ears of Mrs. Grizzle, who, thus encouraged, redoubled in her arts and attention; so that, in less than three months after, he in the same place distinguished her with the epithet of a d—d sensible jade.
Hatchway, taking the alarm at this declaration, which he feared foreboded something fatal to his interest, told his commander, with a sneer, that she had sense enough to bring him to under her stern; and he did not doubt but that such an old crazy vessel would be the better for being taken in tow. "But howsomever," added this arch adviser, "I'd have you take care of your upper-works; for if once you are made fast to her poop, egad! She'll spank it away, and make every beam in your body crack with straining."
Our she-projector's whole plan had like to have been ruined by the effect which this malicious hint had upon Trunnion, whose rage and suspicion being wakened at once, his colour changed from tawny to a cadaverous pale, and then shifting to a deep and dusky red, such as we sometimes observe in the sky when it is replete with thunder, he, after his usual preamble of unmeaning oaths, answered in these words:—"D— you, you jury-legg'd dog, you would give all the stowage in your hold to be as sound as I am; and as for being taken in tow, d'ye see, I'm not so disabled that I can lie my course, and perform my voyage without assistance; and, egad! no man shall ever see Hawser Trunnion lagging astern, in the wake of e'er a b— in Christendom."
Mrs. Grizzle, who every morning interrogated her brother with regard to the subject of his night's conversation with his friends, soon received the unwelcome news of the commodore's aversion to matrimony; and justly imputing the greatest part of his disgust to the satirical insinuations of Mr. Hatchway, resolved to level this obstruction to her success, and actually found means to interest him in her scheme. She had indeed, on some occasions, a particular knack at making converts, being probably not unacquainted with that grand system of persuasion which is adopted by the greatest personages of the age, and fraught with maxims much more effectual than all the eloquence of Tully or Demosthenes, even when supported by the demonstrations of truth; besides, Mr. Hatchway's fidelity to his new ally was confirmed by his foreseeing, in his captain's marriage, an infinite fund of gratification for his own cynical disposition. Thus, therefore, converted and properly cautioned, he for the future suppressed all the virulence of his wit against the matrimonial state; and as he knew not how to open his mouth in the positive praise of any person whatever, took all opportunities of excepting Mrs. Grizzle, by name, from the censures he liberally bestowed upon the rest of her sex. "She is not a drunkard, like Nan Castick, of Deptford," he would say; "not a nincompoop, like Peg Simper, of Woolwich; not a brimstone, like Kate Koddle, of Chatham; nor a shrew, like Nell Griffin, on the Point, Portsmouth" (ladies to whom, at different times, they had both paid their addresses); "but a tight, good-humoured, sensible wench, who knows very well how to box her compass; well-trimmed aloft, and well-sheathed alow, with a good cargo under her hatches." The commodore at first imagined this commendation was ironical; but, hearing it repeated again and again, was filled with astonishment at this surprising change in the lieutenant's behaviour; and, after a long fit of musing, concluded that Hatchway himself harboured a matrimonial design on the person of Mrs. Grizzle.
Pleased with this conjecture, he rallied jack in his turn, and one night toasted her health as a compliment to his passion—a circumstance which the lady learned next day by the usual canal of her intelligence; and interpreting as the result of his own tenderness for her, she congratulated herself on the victory she had obtained; and thinking it unnecessary to continue the reserve she had hitherto industriously affected, resolved from that day to sweeten her behaviour towards him with such a dash of affection as could not fail to persuade him that he had inspired her with a reciprocal flame. In consequence of this determination, he was invited to dinner, and while he stayed treated with such cloying proofs of her regard, that not only the rest of the company, but even Trunnion perceived her drift; and taking the alarm accordingly, could not help exclaiming, "Oho! I see how the land lies, and if I don't weather the point, I'll be d—d." Having thus expressed himself to his afflicted inamorata, he made the best of his way to the garrison, in which he shut himself up for the space of ten days, and had no communication with his friends and domestics but by looks, which were most significantly picturesque.
Divers Stratagems are invented and put in practice, in order to overcome the obstinacy of Trunnion, who, at length, is teased and tortured into the Noose of Wedlock.
This abrupt departure and unkind declaration affected Mrs. Grizzle so much, that she fell sick of sorrow and mortification; and after having confined herself to her bed for three days, sent for her brother, told him she perceived her end drawing near, and desired that a lawyer might be brought, in order to write her last will. Mr. Pickle, surprised at her demand, began to act the part of a comforter, assuring her that her distemper was not at all dangerous, and that he would instantly send for a physician, who would convince her that she was in no manner of jeopardy; so that there was no occasion at present to employ any officious attorney in such a melancholy task. Indeed, this affectionate brother was of opinion that a will was altogether superfluous at any rate, as he himself was heir-in-law to his sister's whole real and personal estate. But she insisted on his compliance with such determined obstinacy, that he could no longer resist her importunities; and, a arriving, she dictated and executed her will, in which she bequeathed to Commodore Trunnion one thousand pounds, to purchase a mourning ring, which she hoped he would wear as a pledge of her friendship and affection. Her brother, though he did not much relish this testimony of her love, nevertheless that same evening gave an account of this particular to Mr. Hatchway, who was also, as Mr. Pickle assured him, generously remembered by the testatrix.
The lieutenant, fraught with this piece of intelligence, watched for an opportunity; and as soon as he perceived the commodore's features a little unbended from that ferocious contraction they had retained so long, ventured to inform him that Pickle's sister lay at the point of death, and that she had left him a thousand pounds in her will. This piece of news overwhelmed him with confusion; and Mr. Hatchway, imputing his silence to remorse, resolved to take advantage of that favourable moment, and counselled him to go and visit the poor young woman, who was dying for love of him. But his admonition happened to be somewhat unseasonable. Trunnion no sooner heard him mention the cause of her disorder, than his morosity recurring, he burst out into a violent fit of cursing, and forthwith betook himself again to his hammock, where he lay, uttering, in a low growling tone of voice, a repetition of oaths and imprecations, for the space of four-and-twenty hours, without ceasing. This was a delicious meal to the lieutenant, who, eager to enhance the pleasure of the entertainment, and at the same the conduce to the success of the cause he had espoused, invented a stratagem, the execution of which had all the effect he could desire. He prevailed on Pipes, who was devoted to his service, to get on the top of the chimney, belonging to the commodore's chamber, at midnight, and lower down by a rope a bunch of stinking whitings, which being performed, he put a speaking-trumpet to his mouth, and hallooed down the vent, in a voice like thunder, "Trunnion! Trunnion! turn out and be spliced, or he still and be d—."
This dreadful note, the terror of which was increased by the silence and darkness of the night, as well as the cello of the passage through which it was conveyed, no sooner reached the ears of the astonished commodore, than turning his eyes towards the place from whence this solemn address seemed to proceed, he beheld a glittering object that vanished in an instant. Just as his superstitious fear had improved the apparition into some supernatural messenger clothed in shining array, his opinion was confirmed by a sudden explosion, which he took for thunder, though it was no other than the noise of a pistol fired down the chimney by the boatswain's mate, according to the instructions he had received; and he had time enough to descend before he was in any danger of being detected by his commodore, who could not for an hour recollect himself from the amazement and consternation which had overpowered his faculties.
At length, however, he got up, and rang his bell with great agitation. He repeated the summons more than once; but no regard being paid to this alarm, his dread returned with double terror, a cold sweat bedewed his limbs, his knees knocked together, his hair bristled up, and the remains of his teeth were shattered in pieces in the convulsive vibrations of his jaws.
In the midst of this agony he made one desperate effort, and, bursting open the door of apartment, bolted into Hatchway's chamber, which happened to be on the same floor. There he found the lieutenant in a counterfeit swoon, who pretended to wake from his trance in an ejaculation of "Lord have mercy upon us!" and being questioned by the terrified commodore with regard to what had happened, assured him he had heard the same voice and clap of thunder by which Trunnion himself had been discomposed.
Pipes, whose turn it was to watch, concurred in giving evidence to the same purpose; and the commodore not only owned that he had heard the voice, but likewise communicated his vision, with all the aggravation which his disturbed fancy suggested.
A consultation immediately ensued, in which Mr. Hatchway gravely observed that the finger of Heaven was plainly perceivable in those signals, and that it would be both sinful and foolish to disregard its commands, especially as the match proposed was, in all respects, more advantageous than any that one of his years could reasonably expect; declaring that for his own part he would not endanger his soul and body by living one day longer under the same roof with a man who despised the will of Heaven; and Tom Pipes adhered to the same pious resolution.
Trunnion's perseverance could not resist the number and diversity of considerations that assaulted it; he revolved in silence all the opposite motives that occurred to his reflection; and after having been, to all appearance, bewildered in the labyrinth of his own thoughts, he wiped the sweat from his forehead, and, heaving a piteous groan, yielded to their remonstrances in these words: "Well, since it must be so, I think we must ev'n grapple. But d— my eyes! 'tis a d—d hard case that a fellow of my years should be compelled, d'ye see, to beat up to windward all the rest of my life against the current of my own inclination."
This important article being discussed, Mr. Hatchway set out in the morning to visit the despairing shepherdess, and was handsomely rewarded for the enlivening tidings with which he blessed her ears. Sick as she was, she could not help laughing heartily at the contrivance, in consequence of which her swain's assent had been obtained, and gave the lieutenant ten guineas for Tom Pipes, in consideration of the part he acted in the farce.
In the afternoon the commodore suffered himself to be conveyed to her apartment, like a felon to execution, and was received by her in a languishing manner, and genteel dishabille, accompanied by her sister-in-law, who was, for very obvious reasons, extremely solicitous about her success. Though the lieutenant had tutored him touching his behaviour it this interview, he made a thousand wry faces before he could pronounce the simple salutation of "How d'ye?" to his mistress; and after his counsellor had urged him with twenty or thirty whispers, to each of which he had replied aloud, "D— your eyes, I won't," he got up, and halting towards the couch on which Mrs. Grizzle reclined in a state of strange expectation, he seized her hand and pressed it to his lips; but this piece of gallantry he performed in such a reluctant, uncouth, indignant manner, that the nymph had need of all her resolution to endure the compliment without shrinking; and he himself was so disconcerted at what he had done, that he instantly retired to the other end of the room, where he sat silent, and broiled with shame and vexation.
Mrs. Pickle, like a sensible matron, quitted the place, on pretence of going to the nursery; and Mr. Hatchway, taking the hint, recollected that he had left his tobacco-pouch in the parlour, whither he descended, leaving the two lovers to their mutual endearments. Never had the commodore found himself in such a disagreeable dilemma before. He sat in an agony of suspense, as if he every moment dreaded the dissolution of nature; and the imploring sighs of his future bride added, if possible, to the pangs of his distress. Impatient of this situation, he rolled his eye around in quest of some relief, and, unable to contain himself, exclaimed, "D—n seize the fellow and his pouch too! I believe he has sheered off, and left me here in the stays."
Mrs. Grizzle, who could not help taking some notice of this manifestation of chagrin, lamented her unhappy fate in being so disagreeable to him, that he could not put up with her company for a few moments without repining; and began in very tender terms to reproach him with his inhumanity and indifference. To this expostulation he replied, "Zounds! what would the woman have? Let the parson do his office when he wool: here I am ready to be reeved in the matrimonial block, d'ye see, and d— all nonsensical palaver." So saying, he retreated, leaving his mistress not at all disobliged at his plain dealing. That same evening the treaty of marriage was brought upon the carpet, and, by means of Mr. Pickle and the lieutenant, settled to the satisfaction of all parties, without the intervention of lawyers, whom Mr. Trunnion expressly excluded from all share in the business; making that condition the indispensable preliminary of the whole agreement. Things being brought to this bearing, Mrs. Grizzle's heart dilated with joy; her health, which, by the bye, was never dangerously impaired, she recovered as if by enchantment; and, a day being fixed for the nuptials, employed the short period of her celibacy in choosing ornaments for the celebration of her entrance into the married state.
Preparations are made for the Commodore's Wedding, which is delayed by an Accident that hurried him the Lord knows whither.
The fame of this extraordinary conjunction spread all over the county; and, on the day appointed for their spousals, the church was surrounded by an inconceivable multitude. The commodore, to give a specimen of his gallantry, by the advice of his friend Hatchway, resolved to appear on horseback on the grand occasion, at the head of all his male attendants, whom he had rigged with the white shirts and black caps formerly belonging to his barge's crew; and he bought a couple of hunters for the accommodation of himself and his lieutenant. With this equipage, then, he set out from the garrison for the church, after having despatched a messenger to apprise the bride that he and his company were mounted. She got immediately into the coach, accompanied by her brother and his wife, and drove directly to the place of assignation, where several pews were demolished, and divers persons almost pressed to death, by the eagerness of the crowd that broke in to see the ceremony performed. Thus arrived at the altar, and the priest in attendance, they waited a whole half-hour for the commodore, at whose slowness they began to be under some apprehension, and accordingly dismissed a servant to quicken his pace. The valet having ridden something more than a mile, espied the whole troop disposed in a long field, crossing the road obliquely, and headed by the bridegroom and his friend Hatchway, who, finding himself hindered by a hedge from proceeding farther in the same direction, fired a pistol, and stood over to the other side, making an obtuse angle with the line of his former course; and the rest of the squadron followed his example, keeping always in the rear of each other, like a flight of wild geese.