The Adventures of Roderick Random, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter XXV

The behaviour of Mr. Morgan — his pride, displeasure, and generosity — the economy of our mess described — Thomson’s further friendship — the nature of my duty explained — the situation of the sick

While he was thus discoursing to me, we heard a voice on the cockpit ladder pronounce with great vehemence, in a strange dialect, “The devil and his dam blow me from the top of Monchdenny, if I go to him before there is something in my pelly. Let his nose be as yellow as saffron, or as plue as a pell (look you), or as green as a leek, ’tis all one.” To this declaration somebody answered, “So it seems my poor messmate must part his cable for want of a little assistance. His foretopsail is loose already; and besides the doctor ordered you to overhaul him; but I see you don’t mind what your master says.” Here he was interrupted with, “Splutter and cons! you lousy tog, who do you call my master? Get you gone to the doctor, and tell him my birth, and education, and my abilities; and moreover, my behaviour is as good as his, or any shentleman’s (no disparagement to him,) in the whole world. Cot pless my soul I does he think, or conceive, or imagine, that I am a horse, or an ass, or a goat, to trudge backwards and forwards, and upwards and downwards, and by sea and by land; at his will and pleasure? Go your ways, you rapscallion, and tell Doctor Atkins that I desire and request that he will give a look upon the tying man, and order something for him, if he be dead or alive, and I will see him take it by and by, when my craving stomach is satisfied, look you.” At this, the other went away, saying, “that if they should serve him so when he was dying, by God he would be foul of them in the other world.” Here Mr. Thompson let me know, that the person we heard was Mr. Morgan, the first mate, who was just come on board from the hospital, whither he had attended some of the sick in the morning; at the same time I saw him come into the berth. He was a short thick man, with a face garnished with pimples, a snub nose turned up at the end, an excessive wide mouth, and little fiery eyes, surrounded with skin puckered up in innumerable wrinkles. My friend immediately made him acquainted with my case; when he regarded me with a very lofty look, but without speaking, set down a bundle he had in his hand, and approached the cupboard, which, when he had opened, he exclaimed in a great passion, “Cot is my life, all the pork is gone, as I am a Christian!” Thompson then gave him to understand, that, as I had been brought on board half famished, he could do no less than to entertain me with what was in the locker, and the rather as he had bid the steward enter me in the mess. Whether this disappointment made Mr. Morgan more peevish than usual, or he really thought himself too little regarded by his fellow mate, I know not, but after some pause, he went on in this manner: “Mr. Thompson, perhaps you do not use me with all the good manners, and complaisance, and respect (look you,) that becomes you, because you have not vouchsafed to advise with me in this affair. I have in my time (look you,) been a man of some weight, and substance, and consideration, and have kept house and home, and paid scot and lot, and the king’s taxes; ay, and maintained a family to boot. And moreover, also, I am your senior, and your older, and your petter, Mr. Thompson.” “My elder, I’ll allow you to be, but not my better!” cried Thompson, with some heat. “Cot is my Saviour, and witness too,” said Morgan, with great vehemence, “that I am more elder, and therefore more petter by many years than you.” Fearing this dispute might be attended with some bad consequence, I interposed, and told Mr. Morgan I was very sorry for having been the occasion of any difference between him and the second mate; and that, rather than cause the least breach in their good understanding, I would eat my allowance to myself, or seek admission into some other company. But Thompson, with more spirit than discretion (as I thought), insisted upon my remaining where he had appointed me; and observed that no man, possessed of generosity and compassion, would have any objection to it, considering my birth and talents, and the misfortunes I had of late so unjustly undergone.

This was touching Mr. Morgan on the right key, who protested with great earnestness, that he had no objection to my being received in the mess; but only complained that the ceremony of asking his consent was not observed. “As for a sheltenman in distress,” said he, shaking me by the hand, “I lofe him as I lofe my own powels: for, Cot help me! I have had vexations enough upon my own pack.” And as I afterwards learned, in so saying, he spoke no more than what was true; for he had been once settled in a very good situation in Glamorganshire, and was ruined by being security for an acquaintance. All differences being composed, he untied his bundle, which consisted of three bunches of onions, and a great lump of Cheshire cheese, wrapped up in a handkerchief: and, taking some biscuit from the cupboard, fell to with a keen appetite, inviting us to share of the repast. When he had fed heartily on his homely fare, he filled a large cup, made of a cocoa-nut shell, with brandy, and, drinking it off, told us, “Prandy was the best menstruum for onions and sheese.” His hunger being appeased, he began to be in better humour; and, being inquisitive about my birth, no sooner understood that I was descended of a good family, than he discovered a particular good-will to me on that account, deducing his own pedigree in a direct line from the famous Caractacus, king of the Britons, who was first the prisoner, and afterwards the friend of Claudius Caesar. Perceiving how much I was reduced in point of linen, he made me a present of two good ruffled shirts, which, with two more of check which I received from Mr. Thompson, enabled me to appear with decency.

Meanwhile the sailor, whom Mr. Morgan had sent to the doctor, brought a prescription for his messmate, which when the Welshman had read, he got up to prepare it, and asked, “if the man was dead or alive.” “Dead!” replied Jack; “if he was dead, he would have no occasion for doctor’s stuff. No, thank God, death han’t as yet boarded him. But they have been yard-arm and yard-arm these three glasses.” “Are his eyes open,” continued the mate. “His starboard eye,” said the sailor, “is open, but fast jammed in his head: and the haulyards of his under jaw have given way.” “Passion of my heart!” cried Morgan, “the man is as pad as one would desire to be! Did you feel his pulses!” To this the other replied with “Anan!” Upon which this Cambro Briton, with great earnestness and humanity, ordered the tar to run to his messmate, and keep him alive till he should come with the medicine, “and then,” said he, “you shall peradventure pehold what you shall see.”

The poor fellow, with great simplicity, ran to the place where the sick man lay, but in less than a minute returned with a woful countenance, and told us his comrade had struck. Morgan, hearing this, exclaimed, “Mercy upon my salvation! why did you not stop him till I came?” “Stop him!” said the other; “I hailed him several times, but he was too far on his way, and the enemy had got possession of his close quarters; so that he did not mind me.” “Well, well,” said he, “we all owe heaven a teath. Go your ways, you ragamuffin, and take an example and a warning, look you, and repent of your misteets.” So saying, he pushed the seaman out of the berth.

While we entertained us with reflections suitable to this event, we heard the boatswain pipe to dinner; and immediately the boy belonging to our mess ran to the locker, from whence he carried off a large wooden platter, and, in a few minutes, returned with it full of boiled peas, crying “Scaldings” all the way as he came. The cloth, consisting of a piece of an old sail, was instantly laid, covered with three plates, which by the colour I could with difficulty discern to be metal, and as many spoons of the same composition, two of which were curtailed in the handles, and the other abridged in the lip. Mr. Morgan himself enriched this mess with a lump of salt butter scooped from an old gallipot, and a handful of onions shorn, with some pounded pepper. I was not very much tempted with the appearance of this dish, of which, nevertheless, my messmates ate heartily, advising me to follow their example, as it was banyan day and we could have no meat till next noon, But I had already laid in sufficient for the occasion, and therefore desired to be excused: expressing a curiosity to know the meaning of banyan day. They told me, that, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the ship’s company had no allowance of meat, and that these meagre days were called banyan days, the reason of which they did not know; but I have since learned they take their denomination from a sect of devotees in some parts of the East Indies, who never taste flesh.

After dinner Thompson led me round the ship, showed me the different parts, described their uses, and, as far as he could, made me acquainted with the particulars of the discipline and economy practised on board. He then demanded of the boatswain a hammock for me, which was slung in a very neat manner by my friend Jack Rattlin; and, as I had no bed-clothes, procured credit for me with the purser, for a mattress and two blankets. At seven o’clock in the evening Morgan visited the sick, and, having ordered what was proper for each, I assisted Thompson in making up his prescriptions: but when I followed him with the medicines into the sick berth, or hospital, and observed the situation of the patients, I was much less surprised that people should die on board, than that a sick person should recover. Here I saw about fifty miserable distempered wretches, suspended in rows, so huddled one upon another, that not more than fourteen inches space was allotted for each with his bed and bedding; and deprived of the light of the day, as well as of fresh air; breathing nothing but a noisome atmosphere of the morbid steams exhaling from their own excrements and diseased bodies, devoured with vermin hatched in the filth that surrounded them, and destitute of every convenience necessary for people in that helpless condition.

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