The Adventures of Roderick Random, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter III

My Mother’s Brother arrives — relieves me — a Description of him — he goes along with me to the House of my Grandfather — is encountered by his Dogs — defeats them, after a bloody Engagement — is admitted to the old Gentleman — a Dialogue between them

About this time my mother’s only brother, who had been long abroad, lieutenant of a man-of-war, arrived in his own country; where being informed of my condition, he came to see me, and out of his slender finances not only supplied me with what necessaries I wanted for the present, but resolved not to leave the country until he had prevailed on my grandfather to settle something handsome for the future. This was a task to which he was by no means equal, being entirely ignorant, not only of the judge’s disposition, but also of the ways of men in general, to which his education on board had kept him an utter stranger.

He was a strong built man, somewhat bandy legged, with a neck like that of a bull, and a face which (you might easily perceive) had withstood the most obstinate assaults of the weather. His dress consisted of a soldier’s coat altered for him by the ship’s tailor, a striped flannel jacket, a pair of red breeches spanned with pitch, clean gray worsted stockings, large silver buckles that covered three-fourths of his shoes, a silver-laced hat, whose crown overlooked the brims about an inch and a half, black bobwig in buckle, a check shirt, a silk handkerchief, a hanger, with a brass handle, girded to his thigh by a furnished lace belt, and a good oak plant under his arm. Thus equipped, he set out with me (who by his bounty made a very decent appearance) for my grandfather’s house, where we were saluted by Jowler and Caesar, whom my cousin, young master, had let loose at our approach. Being well acquainted with the inveteracy of these curs, I was about to betake myself to my heels, when my uncle seized me with one hand, brandished his cudgel with the other, and at one blow laid Caesar sprawling on the ground; but, finding himself attacked at the same time in the rear by Jowler, and fearing Caesar might recover, he drew his hanger, wheeled about, and by a lucky stroke severed Jowler’s head from his body. By this time, the young foxhunter and three servants, armed with pitchforks and flails, were come to the assistance of the dogs, whom they found breathless upon the field; and my cousin was so provoked at the death of his favourites, that he ordered his attendants to advance, and take vengeance on their executioner, whom he loaded with all the curses and reproaches his anger could suggest. Upon which my uncle stepped forwards with an undaunted air, at the sight of whose bloody weapons his antagonists fell back with precipitation, when he accosted their leader thus:

“Lookee, brother, your dogs having boarded me without provocation, what I did was in my own defence. So you had best be civil, and let us shoot a head, clear of you.”

Whether the young squire misinterpreted my uncle’s desire of peace, or was enraged at the fate of his hounds beyond his usual pitch of resolution, I know not; but he snatched a flail from one of his followers, and came up with a show of assaulting the lieutenant, who, putting himself in a posture of defence, proceeded thus: “Lookee, you lubberly son of a w — e, if you come athwart me, ‘ware your gingerbread work. I’ll be foul of your quarter, d — n me.”

This declaration, followed by a flourish of his hanger, seemed to check the progress of the young gentleman’s choler, who, looking behind him, perceived his attendants had slunk into the house, shut the gate, and left him to decide the contention by himself.

Here a parley ensued, which was introduced by my cousin’s asking, “Who the devil are you? What do you want? Some scoundrel of a seaman, I suppose, who has deserted and turned thief. But don’t think you shall escape, sirrah — I’ll have you hang’d, you dog, I will. Your blood shall pay for that of my two hounds, you ragamuffin. I would not have parted with them to save your whole generation from the gallows, you ruffian, you!” “None of your jaw, you swab — none of your jaw,” replied my uncle, “else I shall trim your laced jacket for you. I shall rub you down with an oaken towel, my boy, I shall.” So saying, he sheathed his hanger, and grasped his cudgel. Meanwhile the people of the house being alarmed, one of my female cousins opened a window, and asked what was the matter. “The matter!” answered the lieutenant; “no great matter, young woman; I have business with the old gentleman, and this spark, belike, won’t allow me to come alongside of him,” that’s all. After a few minutes pause we were admitted, and conducted to my grandfather’s chamber through a lane of my relations, who honoured me with very significant looks as I passed along. When we came into the judge’s presence my uncle, after two or three sea-bows, expressed himself in this manner; “Your servant, your servant. What cheer, father? what cheer? I suppose you don’t know me — mayhap you don’t. My name is Tom Bowling, and this here boy, you look as if you did not know him neither; ’tis like you mayn’t. He’s new rigged, i’faith; his cloth don’t shake in the wind so much as it wont to do. “Tis my nephew, d’y see, Roderick Random — your own flesh and blood, old gentleman. Don’t lay a-stern, you dog,” pulling me forward. My grandfather (who was laid up with the gout) received this relation, after his long absence, with that coldness of civility which was peculiar to him; told him he was glad to see him, and desired him to sit down. “Thank ye, thank ye, sir, I had as lief stand,” said my uncle; “for my own part, I desire nothing of you; but, if you have any conscience at all, do something for this poor boy, who has been used at a very unchristian rate. Unchristian do I call it? I am sure the Moors in Barbary have more humanity than to leave their little ones to want. I would fain know why my sister’s son is more neglected than that there fair-weather Jack” (pointing to the young squire, who with the rest of my cousins had followed us into the room). “Is not he as near akin to you as the other? Is he not much handsomer and better built than that great chucklehead? Come, come, consider, old gentleman, you are going in a short time to give an account of your evil actions. Remember the wrongs you did his father, and make all the satisfaction in your power before it be too late. The least thing you can do is to settle his father’s portion on him” The young ladies, who thought themselves too much concerned to contain themselves any longer, set up their throats all together against my protector — “Scurvy companion — saucy tarpaulin — rude, impertinent fellow, did he think to prescribe to grandpapa? His sister’s brat had been too well taken care of. Grandpapa was too just not make a difference between an unnatural, rebellious son and his dutiful, loving children, who took his advice in all things;” and such expressions were vented against him with great violence; until the judge at length commanded silence. He calmly rebuked my uncle for his unmannerly behaviour, which he said he would excuse on account of his education: he told him he had been very kind to the boy, whom he had kept at school seven or eight years, although he was informed he made no progress in his learning but was addicted to all manner of vice, which he rather believed, because he himself was witness to a barbarous piece of mischief he had committed on the jaws of his chaplain. But, however, he would see what the lad was fit for, and bind him apprentice to some honest tradesman or other, provided he would mend his manners, and behave for the future as became him.” The honest tar (whose pride and indignation boiled within him) answered my grandfather, that it was true he had sent him to school, but it had cost him nothing, for he had never been at one shilling expense to furnish him with food, raiment, books, or other necessaries; so that it was not much to be wondered at, if the boy made small progress; and yet whoever told him so was a lying, lubberly rascal, and deserved to be keel-haul’d; for thof he (the lieutenant) did not understand those matters himself, he was well informed as how Rory was the best scholar of his age in all the country; the truth of which he would maintain, by laying a wager of his whole half-year’s pay on the boy’s head — with these words he pulled out his purse, and challenged the company: “Neither is he predicted to vice, as you affirm, but rather, left like a wreck, d’ye see, at the mercy of the wind and weather, by your neglect, old gentleman. As for what happened to your chaplain, I am only sorry that he did not knock out the scoundrel’s brains instead of his teeth. By the Lord, if ever I come up with him, he had better be in Greenland, that’s all. Thank you for your courteous offer of binding the lad apprentice to a tradesman. I suppose you would make a tailor of him — would you? I had rather see him hang’d, d’ye see. Come along, Rory, I perceive how the land lies, my boy — let’s tack about, i’faith — while I have a shilling you shan’t want a tester. B’we, old gentleman; you’re bound for the other world, but I believe damnably ill-provided for the voyage.” Thus ended our visit; and we returned to the village, my uncle muttering curses all the way against the old shark and the young fry that surrounded him.

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