The Adventures of Roderick Random, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter LX

I am visited by Freeman, with whom I appear in Public, and am caressed-am sent for by Lord Quiverwit, whose Presence I quit flung — Narcissa is carried off by her Brother — I intend to pursue him, and am dissuaded by my Friend — engage in Play, and lose all my Money — set out for London — try my Fortune at the Gaming Table without success — receive a letter from Narcissa — bilk my Tailor

While I entertained myself with these reflections, the news of the duel, being communicated by some unknown channel, spread all over the town. I was visited by Freeman, who testified his surprise at finding me; for it was told, that Lord Quiverwit being dead of his wounds, I had absconded, in order to avoid the cognizance of the law. I asked, if people guessed the occasion of the quarrel; and, understanding it was attributed to his lordship’s resentment of my reply in the Long Room, confirmed that conjecture, glad to find Narcissa unsuspected. My friend, after I had assured him that my antagonist was in no danger, wished me joy of the event, than which, he said, nothing could happen more opportunely to support the idea he had given of my character to his friends, among whom he had been very assiduous in my behalf.

On the strength of this assurance, I went with him to the coffee-house, where I was saluted by a great many of those very persons who had shunned me the preceding day; and I found everybody making merry with the story of Melinda’s French gallant. While I remained in this place, I received a message from Lord Quiverwit, desiring, if I were not engaged, to see me at his house.

Thither I immediately repaired, and was conducted to an apartment where I was received by his lordship in bed. When we were left by ourselves, he thanked me in very polite terms for having used the advantage fortune had given me over him with such moderation, and asked pardon for any offence his resentment might have prompted him to commit. “I would willingly,” said he, “make you my friend; but, as it is impossible for me to divest myself of my passion for Narcissa, I am too well convinced of your sentiments, to think we shall ever agree on that subject. I took the liberty, therefore, of sending for you, in order to own candidly, that I cannot help opposing your success with that young lady; though, at the same time I promise to regulate my opposition by the dictates of justice and honour. This, however, I think proper to advertise you of, that she has no independent fortune; and, if you should even succeed in your addresses, you will have the mortification to see her reduced to indigence, unless you have wherewithal to support her — and I am credibly informed of your incapacity that way — nay, I will confess, that, urged by this consideration, I have actually sent notice to her brother of the progress I suspect you have made in her affection, and desired him to take his precautions accordingly.” Alarmed and provoked at this information, I told his lordship, that I did not see how he could reconcile that piece of conduct with his profession of open dealing, and flung away from him in a passion.

As I walked homeward, in hope of hearing from my mistress as usual by means of Miss Williams, I was surprised with the waving of a handkerchief from the window of a coach-and-six that passed by me at full speed: and upon further observation, I saw a servant on horseback riding after it, who, I knew by his livery, belonged to the squire. Thunderstruck with this discovery, the knowledge of my misfortune rushed all at once upon my reflection! I guessed immediately that the signal was made by the dear hand of Narcissa, who, being hurried away in consequence of Lord Quiverwit’s message to her brother, had no other method of relating her distress, and imploring my assistance. Frantic with this conjecture, I ran to my lodgings, snatched my pistols, and ordered Strap to get post-horses, with such incoherence of speech and disorder, that the poor valet, terrified with the suspicion of another duel, instead of providing what I desired, went forthwith to Freeman, who, being informed of my behaviour, came straight to my apartment, and conjured me so pathetically to make him acquainted with the cause of my uneasiness, that I could not refuse telling him my happiness was fled with Narcissa, and that I must retrieve her or perish. He represented the madness of such an undertaking, and endeavoured to divert me from it with great strength of friendship and reason. But all his arguments would have been ineffectual, had he not put me in mind of the dependence I ought to have on the love of Narcissa, and the attachment of her maid, who could not fail of finding opportunities to advertise me of their situation; and at the same time demonstrated the injury my charmer’s reputation must suffer from my precipitate retreat. I was convinced and composed by these considerations: I appeared in public with an air of tranquillity, was well received by the best company in town, and, my misfortune taking air, condoled accordingly: while I had the satisfaction of seeing Melinda so universally discountenanced that she was fain to return to London, in order to avoid the scoffs and censure of the ladies at Bath. But, though the hope of hearing from the darling of my soul supported my spirits a little while, I began to be very uneasy, when, at the end of several weeks I found that expectation disappointed. In short, melancholy and despondence took possession of my soul; and, repining at that providence which, by acting the stepmother towards me, kept me from the fruition of my wishes, I determined, in a fit of despair, to risk all I had at the gaming table, with a view of acquiring a fortune sufficient to render me independent for life; or of plunging myself into such a state of misery, as would effectually crush every ambitious hope that now tortured my imagination.

Actuated by this fatal resolution, I engaged in play, and, after some turns of fortune found myself, at the end of three days, worth a thousand pounds; but it was not my intention to stop there, for which cause I kept Strap ignorant of my success, and continued my career until I was reduced to five guineas, which I would have hazarded also, had I not been ashamed to fall from a bet of two hundred pounds to such a petty sum.

Having thus executed my scheme, I went home, amazed to find myself so much at ease, and informed my friend Strap of my mischance with such calmness, that he, imagining I joked, affected to receive the tidings with great equanimity. But both he and I found ourselves mistaken very soon. I had misinterpreted my own stupidity into deliberate resignation, and he had reason to believe me in earnest when he saw me next morning agitated with the most violent despair, which he endeavoured to alleviate with all the consolation in his power.

In one of my lucid intervals, however, I charged him to take a place in the stage coach for London; and, in the meantime, paid my debts in Bath, which amounted to thirty shillings only. Without taking leave of my friends, I embarked, Strap having the good fortune to find a return horse, and arrived in town, without having net with anything remarkable on the road. While we crossed Bagshot Heath, I was seized with a sort of inclination to retrieve my fortune, by laying passengers under contribution in some such place. My thoughts were so circumstanced at this time, that I should have digested the crime of robbery, so righteously had I concerted my plan, and ventured my life in the execution, had I not been deterred by reflecting upon the infamy that attends detection.

The apartment I formerly lived in being unengaged, I took possession of it, and next day went in quest of Banter, who received me with open arms, in expectation of having his bond discharged to his liking: but when he understood what had happened, his countenance changed of a sudden, and he told me, with a dryness of displeasure peculiar to himself, that, if he were in my place, he would put it out of fortune’s power to play him such another trick, and be avenged of his own indiscretion at once. When I desired him to explain his meaning, he pointed to his neck, raised himself on his tiptoes, and was going away without any further ceremony, when I put him in mind of my indigence, and demanded the five guineas I had formerly lent him. “Five guineas?” cried he; “zounds! had you acted with common prudence, you might have had twenty thousand in your pocket by this time. I depended upon five hundred from you, as much as if I had had notes for it in the bank; and by all the rules of equity, you are indebted to me for that sum.” I was neither pleased nor convinced by this computation, and insisted on my right with such determined obstinacy, that he was fain to alter his ton, and appease my clamour by assuring me, that he was not master of five shillings. Society in distress generally promotes good understanding among people; from being a dun I descended to be a client, and asked his advice about repairing my losses. He counselled me to have recourse again to the gaming table, where I succeeded so well before, and put myself in a condition by selling my watch. I followed his directions, and, having accommodated him with a few pieces, went to the place, where I lost every shilling.

Then I returned to my lodgings full of desperate resolution, and having made Strap acquainted with my fate, ordered him to pawn my sword immediately, that I might be enabled to make another effort. This affectionate creature no sooner understood my purpose, than, seized with insupportable sorrow at the prospect of my misery, he burst into tears, and asked what I proposed to do after the small sum he could raise on the sword should be spent. “On my own account” said he, “I am quite unconcerned; for, while God spares me health and these ten fingers, I can earn a comfortable subsistence anywhere; but what must become of you, who have less humility to stoop, and more appetites to gratify?” Here I interrupted him, by saying, with a gloomy aspect, I should never want a resource while I had a loaded pistol in possession. Stupified with horror at this dreadful insinuation, he stood mute for some time and then broke out into “God of his infinite mercy enable you to withstand that temptation of the devil! Consider your immortal soul — there’s no repentance in the grave! O Lord! that we ever should have come to this! Are we not enjoined to resign ourselves to the will of Heaven? — where is your patience? — Durum patientia frango — you are but a young man — there may be many good things in store for you — accidit in puncto quo non speratur in anno — remember your uncle, Mr. Bowling; perhaps he is now on his voyage homeward, pleasing himself with the hopes of seeing and relieving you; nay, peradventure, he has already arrived, for the ship was expected about this time.” A ray of hope shot athwart my soul at this suggestion; I thanked my friend for this seasonable recollection, and, after having promised to take no resolution till his return, dismissed him to Wapping for intelligence.

In his absence I was visited by Banter, who, being informed of my bad luck at play, told me that fortune would probably be one day weary of persecuting me. “In the meantime,” said he, “here’s a letter for you, which I received just now inclosed in one from Freeman.” I snatched it with eagerness, and knowing the superscription to be of Narcissa’s handwriting, kissed it with transport, and, having opened it, read,

“It is with great difficulty that I have stolen, from the observation of those spies who are set over me, this opportunity of telling you, that I was suddenly carried away from Bath by my brother, who was informed of our correspondence by Lord Quiverwit whom, I since understand, you have wounded in a duel on my account. As I am fully convinced of your honour and love, I hope I shall never hear of such desperate proofs of either for the future. I am so strictly watched that it will be impossible for you to see me, until my brother’s suspicion shall abate, or Heaven contrive some other unforeseen event in our behalf. In the meantime, you may depend on the constancy and affection of
“Your own Narcissa.

“P. S. Miss Williams, who is my fellow prisoner, desires to be remembered to you. We are both in good health, and only in pain for you, especially as it will be impracticable for you to convey any message or letter to the place of our confinement; for which reason. pray desist from the attempt, that, by miscarrying, might prolong our captivity.
“N—.”

This kind letter afforded me great consolation: I communicated it to Banter, and, at the same time, showed him her picture: he approved of her beauty and good sense, and could not help owning that my neglect of Miss Snapper was excusable, when such a fine creature engrossed my attention.

I began to be reconciled to my fate, and imagined, that, if I could contrive means of subsisting until my uncle should arrive, in case he were not already at home, he would enable me to do something effectual in behalf of my love and fortune; I therefore consulted Banter about a present supply, who no sooner understood that I had credit, with a tailor, than he advised me to take off two or three suits of rich clothes, and convert them into cash, by selling them at half-price to a salesman in Monmouth Street. I was startled at this proposal, which I thought savoured a little of fraud; he rendered it palatable, by observing that, in a few months, I might be in a condition to do everybody justice; and, in the meantime, I was acquitted by the honesty of my intention. I suffered myself to be persuaded by his salvo, by which my necessity, rather than my judgment, was convinced; and, when I found there were no accounts of the ship in which my uncle embarked, actually put the scheme in practice, and raised by it five-and-twenty guineas, paying him for his advice with the old five.

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