The Adventures of Roderick Random, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter XII

Captain Weazel challenges Strap, who declines the Combat — an Affair between the Captain and me — the Usurer is fain to give Miss Jenny five Guineas for a Release — we are in Danger of losing a Meal — the Behaviour of Weazel, Jenny, and Joey, on that Occasion — an Account of Captain Weazel and his Lady — the Captain’s Courage tried — Isaac’s mirth at the Captain’s Expense

Next morning I agreed to give the master of the waggon ten shillings for my passage to London, provided Strap should be allowed to take my place when I should be disposed to walk. At the same time I desired him to appease the incensed captain, who had entered the kitchen with a drawn sword in his hand, and threatened with many oaths to sacrifice the villain who attempted to violate his bed; but it was to no purpose for the master to explain the mistake, and assure him of the poor lad’s innocence, who stood trembling behind me all the while: the more submission that appeared in Strap, the more implacable seemed the resentment of Weazel, who swore he must either fight him or he would instantly put him to death. I was extremely provoked at this insolence, and told him, it could not be supposed that a poor barber lad would engage a man of the sword at his own weapon; but I was persuaded he would wrestle or box with him. To which proposal Strap immediately gave assent, by saying, “he would box with him for a guinea.” Weazel replied with a look of disdain, that it was beneath any gentleman of his character to fight like a porter, or even to put himself on a footing, in any respect, with such a fellow as Strap. “Odds bodikins!” cries Joey, “sure, coptain, yaw would not commit moorder! Here’s a poor lad that is willing to make atonement for his offence; and an that woan’t satisfie yaw, offers to fight yaw fairly. And yaw woan’t box, I dare say, he will coodgel with yaw. Woan’t yaw, my lad?” Strap, after some hesitation, answered, “Yes, yes, I’ll cudgel with him.” But this expedient being also rejected by the captain, I began to smell his character, and, tipping Strap the wink, told the captain that I had always heard it said, the person who receives a challenge should have the choice of the weapons; this therefore being the rule in point of honour, I would venture to promise on the head of my companion, that he would even fight Captain Weazel at sharps; but it should be with such sharps as Strap was best acquainted with, namely, razors. At my mentioning razors: I could perceive the captain’s colour change while Strap, pulling me by the sleeve, whispered with great eagerness: “No, no, no; for the love of God, don’t make any such bargain.” At length, Weazel, recovering himself, turned towards me, and with a ferocious countenance asked, “Who the devil are you? Will you fight me?” With these words, putting himself in a posture, I was grievously alarmed at seeing the point of a sword within half a foot of my breast; and, springing to one side, snatched up a spit that stood in the chimney-corner, with which I kept my formidable adversary at bay, who made a great many half-longes, skipping backward at every push, till at last I pinned him up in a corner, to the no small diversion of the company. While he was in this situation his wife entered, and, seeing her husband in these dangerous circumstances, uttered a dreadful scream: in this emergency, Weazel demanded a cessation, which was immediately granted; and at last was contented with the submission of Strap, who, falling on his knees before him, protested the innocence of his intention, and asked pardon for the mistake he had committed. This affair being ended without bloodshed, we went to breakfast, but missed two of our company, namely, Miss Jenny and the usurer. As for the first, Mrs. Weazel informed us, that she had kept her awake all night with her groans; and that when she rose in the morning, Miss Jenny was so much indisposed that she could not proceed on her journey. At that instant, a message came from her to the master of the waggon, who immediately went into her chamber, followed by us all. She told him in a lamentable tone, that she was afraid of a miscarriage, owing to the fright she received last night from the brutality of Isaac; and, as the event was uncertain, desired the usurer might be detained to answer for the consequence. Accordingly, this ancient Tarquin was found in the waggon, whither he had retired to avoid the shame of last night’s disgrace, and brought by force into her presence. He no sooner appeared than she began to weep and sigh most piteously, and told us, if she died, she would leave her blood upon the head of that ravisher. Poor Isaac turned up his eyes and hands to heaven, prayed that God would deliver him from the machinations of that Jezebel; and assured us, with tears in his eyes, that his being found in bed with her was the result of her own invitation. The waggoner, understanding the case, advised Isaac to make it up, by giving her a sum of money: to which advice he replied with great vehemence, “A sum of money! — a halter for the cockatrice!” “Oh! ’tis very well,” said Miss Jenny; “I see it is in vain to attempt that flinty heart of his by fair means. Joey, be so good as to go to the justice, and tell him there is a sick person here, who wants to see him on an affair of consequence.” At the name of justice Isaac trembled, and bidding Joey stay, asked with a quavering voice, “What she would have? She told him that, as he had not perpetrated his wicked purpose, she would be satisfied with a small matter. And though the damage she might sustain in her health might be irreparable, she would give him a release for a hundred guineas.” “A hundred guineas!” cried he in an ecstacy, “a hundred furies! Where should a poor old wretch like me have a hundred guineas? If I had so much money, d’ya think I should be found travelling in a waggon, at this season of the year?” “Come, come” replied Jenny, “none of your miserly artifice here. You think I don’t know Isaac Rapine, the money-broker, in the Minories. Ah! you old rogue! many a pawn have you had of me and my acquaintance, which was never redeemed.” Isaac, finding it was in vain to disguise himself, offered twenty shillings for a discharge, which she absolutely refused under fifty pounds: at last, however, she was brought down to five, which he paid with great reluctancy, rather than be prosecuted for a rape. After which accommodation, the sick person made a shift to get into the waggon, and we set forward in great tranquillity; Strap being accommodated with Joey’s horse, the driver himself choosing to walk. The morning and forenoon we were entertained with an account of the valour of Captain Weazel, who told us he had once knocked down a soldier that made game of him; tweaked a drawer by the nose, who found fault with his picking his teeth with a fork, at another time; and that he had moreover challenged a cheesemonger, who had the presumption to be his rival: for the truth of which exploits he appealed to his wife. She confirmed whatever he said, and observed, “The last affair happened that very day on which I received a love-letter from Squire Gobble, and don’t you remember, my dear, I was prodigiously sick that very night with eating ortolans, when my Lord Diddle took notice of my complexion’s being altered, and my lady was so alarmed that she had well nigh fainted?” “Yes, my dear,” replied the captain, “you know my lord said to me, with a sneer, “Billy, Mrs. Weazel is certainly breeding. “And I answered cavalierly, “My lord, I wish I could return the compliment. “Upon which the whole company broke out into an immoderate fit of laughter; and my lord, who loves a repartee dearly, came round and bussed me.” We travelled in this manner five days, without interruption or meeting anything worth notice: Miss Jenny, who soon recovered her spirits, entertaining us every day with diverting songs, of which she could sing a great number; and rallying her own gallant, who, notwithstanding, would never be reconciled to her. On the sixth day, while we were about to sit down to dinner, the innkeeper came and told us, that three gentlemen, just arrived, had ordered the victuals to be carried to their apartment, although he had informed them that they were bespoke by the passengers in the waggon. To which information they had replied, “the passengers in the waggon might be d — d, their betters must be served before them; they supposed it would be no hardship on such travellers to dine upon bread and cheese for one day.” This was a terrible disappointment to us all; and we laid our heads together how to remedy it; when Miss Jenny observed that Captain Weazel, being by profession a soldier, ought in this case to protect and prevent us from being insulted. But the Captain excused himself, saying, he would not for all the world be known to have travelled in a waggon! swearing at the same time, that could he appear with honour, they should eat his sword sooner than his provision. Upon this declaration, Miss Jenny, snatching his weapon, drew it, and ran immediately into the kitchen, where she threatened to put the cook to death if be did not send the victuals into our chamber immediately. The noise she made brought the three strangers down, one of whom no sooner perceived her than he cried, “Ha! Jenny Ramper! what the devil brought thee hither?” “My dear Jack Rattle!” replied she, running into his arms, “is it you? Then Weazel may go to hell for a dinner — I shall dine with you.”

They consented to this proposal with a great deal of joy; and we were on the point of being reduced to a very uncomfortable meal, when Joey, understanding the whole affair, entered the kitchen with a pitchfork in his hand, and swore he would be the death of any man who should pretend to seize the victuals prepared for the waggon. The menace had like to have produced fatal consequences; the three strangers drawing their swords, and being joined by their servants, and we ranging ourselves on the side of Joey; when the landlord, interposing, offered to part with his own dinner to keep the peace, which was accepted by the strangers; and we sat down at table without any further molestation. In the afternoon, I chose to walk along with Joey, and Strap took my place. Having entered into a conversation with this driver, I soon found him to be a merry, facetious, good-natured fellow, and withal very arch; he informed me, that Miss Jenny was a common girl upon the town, who, falling into company with a recruiting officer, he carried her down in the stage coach from London to Newcastle, where he bad been arrested for debt, and was now in prison; upon which she was fain to return to her former way of life, by this conveyance. He told me likewise, that one of the gentleman’s servants, who were left at the inn, having accidentally seen Weazel, immediately knew him, and acquainted Joey with some particulars of his character. That he had served my Lord Frizzle in quality of valet-de-chambre many years, while be lived separate from his lady; but, upon their reconciliation, she expressly insisted upon Weazel’s being turned off, as well as the woman he kept: when his lordship, to get rid of them both with a good grace, proposed that he should marry his Mistress, and he would procure a commission for him in the army: this expedient was agreed to, and Weazel is now, by his lordship’s interest, ensigned in — ‘s regiment. I found he and I had the same sentiments with regard to Weazel’s courage, which he resolved to put to the trial, by alarming the passengers with the cry of a ‘highwayman!’ as soon as a horseman should appear.

This scheme we put in practice, towards the dusk, when we descried a man on horseback approaching us. Joey had no sooner intimated to the people in the waggon, that he was afraid we should be all robbed than a general consternation arose: Strap jumped out of the waggon, and hid himself behind a hedge. The usurer put forth ejaculations, and made a rustling among the straw, which made us conjecture he had hid something under it. Mrs. Weazel, wringing her hands uttered lamentable cries: and the captain, to our great amazement, began to snore; but this artifice did not succeed; for Miss Jenny, shaking him by the shoulder, bawled out, “Sdeath! captain, is this a time to snore, when we are going to be robbed? Get up for shame, and behave like a soldier and man of honour!” Weazel pretended to be in a great passion for being disturbed, and swore he would have his nap out if all the highwaymen in England surrounded him. “D— n my blood! what are you afraid of?” continued he; at the same time trembling with such agitation that the whole carriage shook. This singular piece of behaviour incensed Miss Ramper so much that she cried, “D— n your pitiful soul, you are as arrant a poltroon, as ever was drummed out of a regiment. Stop the waggon, Joey — let me out, and by G— d, if I have rhetoric enough, the thief shall not only take your purse, but your skin also.” So saying she leaped out with great agility. By this time the horseman came up and happened to be a gentleman’s servant well known to Joey, who communicated the scheme, and desired him to carry it on a little further, by going into the waggon, and questioning those within. The stranger, consenting for the sake of diversion, approached it, and in a terrible tone demanded, “Who have we got here?” Isaac replied, with a lamentable voice, “Here’s a poor miserable sinner, who has got a small family to maintain, and nothing in the world wherewithal, but these fifteen shillings which if you rob me of we must all starve together.” “Who’s that sobbing in the other corner?” said the supposed highwayman. “A poor unfortunate woman,” answered Mrs. Weazle, upon whom I beg you, for Christ’s sake, to have compassion.” “Are you maid or wife,” said he. “Wife, to my sorrow,” said she. “Who, or where is your husband?” continued he. “My husband,” replied Mrs. Weazel, is an officer in the army and was left sick at the last inn where we dined.” “You must be mistaken, madam,” said he, “for I myself saw him get into the waggon this afternoon. But pray what smell is that? Sure your lapdog has befouled himself; let me catch hold of the nasty cur, I’ll teach him better manners.” Here he laid hold of one of Weazel’s legs, and pulled him out from under his wife’s petticoat, where he had concealed himself. The poor trembling captain, being detected in his inglorious situation, rubbed his eyes, and affecting to wake out of sleep, cried, “What’s the matter? What’s the matter?” “The matter is not much,” answered the horseman; “I only called in to inquire after your health, and so adieu, most noble captain.” He clapped spurs to his horse, and was out of sight in a moment.

It was some time before Weazel could recollect himself, but at length reassuming the big look, he said, “D— n the fellow! why did he ride away before I had time to ask him how his lord and lady do I? Don’t you remember Tom, my dear?” addressing himself to his wife. “Yes,” replied she, “I think I do remember something of the fellow, but you know I seldom converse with people of his station.” “Hey-day!” cried Joey, “do yaw knaw the young mon, coptain?” “Know him,” said Weazel, “many a time has he filled a glass of Burgundy for me, at my Lord Trippett’s table.” “And what may his name be, coptain?” said Joey. “His name! — his name,” replied Weazel, “is Tom Rinser.” “Waunds,” cried Joey, “a has changed his own neame then! for I’se lay a wager he was christened John Trotter.” This observation raised a laugh against the captain, who seemed very much disconcerted; when Isaac broke silence, and said, “It is no matter who or what he was, since he has not proved the robber we suspected, and we ought to bless God for our narrow escape.” “Bless God,” said Weazel, “bless the devil! for what? Had he been a highwayman, I should have eaten his blood, body, and guts, before he had robbed me, or any one in this diligence.” “Ha, ha, ha,” cried Miss Jenny, “I believe you will eat all you kill, indeed, captain.” The usurer was so well pleased at the event of this adventure, that he could not refrain from being severe, and took notice that Captain Weazel seemed to be a good Christian, for he had armed himself with patience and resignation, instead of carnal weapons; and worked out his salvation with fear and trembling. This piece of satire occasioned a great deal of mirth at Weazel’s expense, who muttered a great many oaths, and threatened to cut Isaac’s throat. The usurer, taking hold of this menace, said, “Gentlemen and ladies, I take you all to witness, that in my life is in danger from this bloody-minded officer; I’ll have him bound over to the peace.” This second sneer produced another laugh against him, and he remained crestfallen during the remaining part of our journey.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30