The Adventures of Roderick Random, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter IV

My Grandfather makes his Will — our second Visit — he Dies — his Will is read in Presence of all his living Descendants — the Disappointment of my female Cousins — my Uncle’s Behaviour

A few weeks after our first visit, we were informed that the old judge, at the end of a fit of thoughtfulness, which lasted three days, had sent for a notary and made his will; that the distemper had mounted from his legs to his stomach, and, being conscious of his approaching end, be had desired to see all his descendants without exception. In obedience to this summons, my uncle set out with me a second time, to receive the last benediction of my grandfather: often repeating by the road, “Ey, ey, we have brought up the old hulk at last. You shall see — you shall see the effect of my admonition,” When we entered his chamber, which was crowded with his relations, we advanced to the bedside, where we found him in his last agonies, supported by two of his granddaughters, who sat on each side of him, sobbing most piteously, and wiping away the froth and slaver as it gathered on his lips, which they frequently kissed with a show of great anguish and affection. My uncle approached him with these words, “What! he’s not a-weigh. How fare ye? how fare ye, old gentleman? Lord have mercy upon your poor sinful soul!” Upon which, the dying man turned his languid eyes towards us, and Mr. Bowling went on — “Here’s poor Roy come to see you before you die, and to receive your blessing. What, man! don’t despair, you have been a great sinner, ’tis true, — what then? There’s a righteous judge above, an’t there? He minds me no more than a porpoise. Yes, yes, he’s a-going; the land crabs will have him, I see that! his anchor’s a-peak, i’faith.” This homely consolation scandalised the company so much, and especially the parson, who probably thought his province invaded, that we were obliged to retire into another room, where, in a few minutes, we were convinced of my grandfather’s decease, by a dismal yell uttered by the young ladies in his apartment; whither we immediately hastened, and found his heir, who had retired a little before into a closet, under pretence of giving vent to his sorrow, asking, with a countenance beslubbered with tears, if his grandpapa was certainly dead? “Dead!” (says my uncle, looking, at the body) “ay, ay, I’ll warrant him as dead as a herring. Odd’s fish! now my dream is out for all the world. I thought I stood upon the forecastle, and saw a parcel of carrion crows foul of a dead shark: that floated alongside, and the devil perching upon our spritsail yard, in the likeness of a blue bear — who, d’ye see jumped overboard upon the carcass and carried it to the bottom in his claws.” “Out upon thee, reprobate” cries the parson “out upon thee, blasphemous wretch! Dost thou think his honour’s soul is in the possession of Satan?” The clamour immediately arose, and my poor uncle, being, shouldered from one corner of the room to the other, was obliged to lug out in his own defence, and swear he would turn out for no man, till such time as he knew who had the title to send him adrift. “None of your tricks upon travellers,” said he; “mayhap old Bluff has left my kinsman here his heir: if he has, it will be the better for his miserable soul. Odds bob! I’d desire no better news. I’d soon make him a clear shin, I warrant you.” To avoid any further disturbance, one of my grandfather’s executors, who was present, assured Mr. Bowling, that his nephew should have all manner of justice; that a day should be appointed after the funeral for examining the papers of the deceased, in presence of all his relations; till which time every desk and cabinet in the house should remain close sealed; and that he was very welcome to be witness to this ceremony, which was immediately performed to his satisfaction. In the meantime, orders were given to provide mourning for all the relations, in which number I was included; but my uncle would not suffer me to accept of it, until I should be assured whether or no I had reason to honour his memory so far. During this interval, the conjectures of people, with regard to the old gentleman’s will, were various: as it was well known, he had, besides his landed estate, which was worth £700 per annum, six or seven thousand pounds at interest, some imagined that the whole real estate (which he had greatly improved) would go to the young man whom he always entertained as his heir; and that the money would be equally divided between my female cousins (five in number) and me. Others were of opinion, that, as the rest of the children had been already provided for, he would only bequeath two or three hundred pounds to each of his granddaughters, and leave the bulk of the sum to me, to atone for his unnatural usage of my father. At length the important hour arrived, and the will was produced in the midst of the expectants, whose looks and gestures formed a group that would have been very entertaining to an unconcerned spectator. But, the reader can scarce conceive the astonishment and mortification that appeared, when an attorney pronounced aloud, the young squire sole heir of all his grandfather’s estate, personal and real. My uncle, who had listened with great attention, sucking the head of his cudgel all the while, accompanied these words of the attorney with a stare, and whew, that alarmed the whole assembly. The eldest and pertest of my female competitors, who had been always very officious about my grandfather’s person, inquired, with a faltering accent and visage as yellow as an orange, “if there were no legacies?” and was answered, “None at all.” Upon which she fainted away. The rest, whose expectations, perhaps, were not so sanguine, supported their disappointment with more resolution, though not without giving evident marks of indignation, and grief at least as genuine as that which appeared in them at the old gentleman’s death. My conductor, after having kicked with his heel for some time against the wainscot, began: “So there’s no legacy, friend, ha! — here’s an old succubus; but somebody’s soul howls for it, d — n me!” The parson of the parish, who was one of the executors, and had acted as ghostly director to the old man, no sooner heard this exclamation than he cried out, “Avaunt, unchristian reviler! avaunt! wilt thou not allow the soul of his honour to rest in peace?” But this zealous pastor did not find himself so warmly seconded, as formerly, by the young ladies, who now joined my uncle against him, and accused him of having acted the part of a busybody with their grandpapa whose ears he had certainly abused by false stories to their prejudice, or else he would not have neglected them in such an unnatural manner. The young squire was much diverted with this scene, and whispered to my uncle, that if he had not murdered his dogs, he would have shown him glorious fun, by hunting a black badger (so he termed the clergyman). The surly lieutenant, who was not in a humour to relish this amusement, replied, “You and your dogs may be damn’d. I suppose you’ll find them with your old dad, in the latitude of hell. Come, Rory, — about ship, my lad, we must steer another course, I think.” And away we went.

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