The Adventures of Roderick Random, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter LXVI

I am invited to the Villa of a Spanish Don, where we went with an English Gentleman, and make a very interesting discovery — we leave Buenos Ayres, and arrive at Jamaica

Our ship being freed from the disagreeable lading of negroes, to whom, indeed, I had been a miserable slave since our leaving the coast of Guinea, I began to enjoy myself, and breathe with pleasure the pure air of Paraguay, this part of which is reckoned the Montpelier of South America, and has obtained, on account of its climate, the name of Buenos Ayres. It was in this delicious place that I gave myself entirely up to the thoughts of my dear Narcissa, whose image still kept possession of my breast, and whose charms, enhanced by absence, appeared to my imagination, if possible, more engaging than ever! I calculated the profits of my voyage, which even exceeded my expectation; resolved to purchase sinecure upon my arrival in England, and if I should find the squire as averse to me as ever, marry his sister by stealth; and in case our family should increase, rely on the generosity of my uncle, who was by this time worth a considerable sum.

While I amused myself with these agreeable projects, and the transporting thoughts of enjoying Narcissa, we were very much caressed by the Spanish gentlemen, who frequently formed parties of pleasure for our entertainment, in which we made excursions a good way into the country. Among those who signalised themselves by their civility to us, was one Don Antonio de Ribera, a very polite young gentleman, with whom I had contracted an intimate friendship, who invited us one day to his country house, and, as a further inducement to our compliance, promised to procure for us the company of an English Signor, who had been settled in those parts many years. and acquired the love and esteem of the whole province by his affability, good sense, and honourable behaviour.

We accepted his invitation, and set out for his villa, where we had not been longer than an hour, when the person arrived in whose favour I had been so much prepossessed. He was a tall man, remarkably well shaped, of a fine mieu and appearance, commanding respect, and seemed to be turned of forty; the features of his face were saddened with a reserve and gravity, which in other countries would have been thought the effect of melancholy; but here appeared to have been contracted by his commerce with the Spaniards, who are remarkable for that severity of countenance. Understanding from Don Antonio that we were his countrymen, he saluted us all round very complacently, and fixing his eyes attentively on me, uttered a deep sigh. I had been struck with a profound veneration for him at his first coming into the room; and no sooner observed this expression of his sorrow, directed, as it were, in a particular manner to me, that my heart took part in his grief; I sympathised involuntarily and sighed in my turn. Having asked leave of our entertainer, he accosted us in English, professed his satisfaction at seeing so many of his countrymen in such a remote place, and asked the captain, who went by the name of Signor Thoma, from what part of Britain he had sailed and whither he was bound. My uncle told him that we had sailed from the River Thames, and were bound for the same plane by the way of Jamaica, where we intended to take in a lading of sugar.

Having satisfied himself in these and other particulars about the state of the war, he gave us to understand, that he had a longing desire to revisit his native country, in consequence of which he had already transmitted to Europe the greatest part of his fortune in neutral bottoms, and would willingly embark the rest of it with himself in our ship, provided the captain had no objection to such a passenger. My uncle very prudently replied, that for his part he should be glad of his company, if he could procure the consent of the governor, without which he durst not take him on board, whatever inclination he had to oblige him. The gentleman approved of his discretion, and telling him that there would be no difficulty in obtaining the connivance of the governor, who was his good friend, shifted the conversation to another subject.

I was overjoyed to hear his intention, and already interested myself so much in his favour that, had he been disappointed, I should have been very unhappy. In the course of our entertainment, he eyed me with uncommon attachment, I felt a surprising attraction towards him; when he spoke, I listened with attention and reverence; the dignity of his deportment filled me with affection and awe; and, in short, the emotions of my soul, in presence of this stranger, were strong and unaccountable.

Having spent the best part of the day with us, he took his leave, telling Captain Thoma, that he should hear from him in a short time. He was no sooner gone than I asked a thousand questions about him of Don Antonio, who could give me no other satisfaction than that his name was Don Rodrigo, that be had lived fifteen or sixteen years in these parts, was reputed rich, and supposed to have been unfortunate in his younger years, because he was observed to nourish a pensive melancholy, even from the time of his first settlement among them; but that nobody had ventured to inquire into the cause of his sorrow, in consideration of his peace, which might suffer in the recapitulation of his misfortunes.

I was seized with an irresistible desire of knowing the particulars of his fate, and enjoyed not an hour of repose during the whole night, by reason of the eager conceptions that inspired me with regard to his story, which I resolved (if possible) to learn. Next morning, while we were at breakfast, three mules, richly caparisoned, arrived with a message from Don Rodrigo, desiring our company, and that of Don Antonio, at his house, which was situated about ten miles further up in the country. I was pleased with this invitation, in consequence of which we mounted the mules which he had provided for us, and alighted at his house before noon. Here we were splendidly entertained by the generous stranger, who still seemed to show a particular regard for me, and after dinner made me a present of a ring, set with a beautiful amethyst, the production of that country, saying, at the same time, that he was once blessed with a son, who, had he lived, would have been nearly of my age. This observation, delivered with a profound sigh, made my heart throb with violence: a crowd of confused ideas rushed upon my imagination, which, while I endeavoured to unravel, my uncle perceived my absence of thought, and tapping me on the shoulder, said, “Oons, are you asleep, Rory?” Before I had time to reply, Don Rodrigo, with uncommon eagerness of voice and look, pronounced, “Pray, captain, what is the young gentleman’s name?” “His name,” said my uncle, “is Roderick Random.” “Gracious Powers! “ cried the stranger, starting up-“And his mother’s?” “His mother,” answered the captain, amazed, “was called Charlotte Bowling.” “O bounteous Heaven!” exclaimed Don Rodrigo, springing across the table, and clasping me in his arms, “my son! my son! have I found thee again? do I hold thee in my embrace, after having lost and despaired of seeing thee so long?” So saying, he fell upon my neck, and wept aloud with joy; while the power of nature operating strongly in my breast. I was lost in rapture, and while he pressed me to his heart, let fall a shower of tears in his bosom. His utterance was choked up a good while by the agitation of his soul; at length he broke out into “Mysterious Providence! — O my dear Charlotte, there yet remains a pledge of our love! and such a pledge! — so found! O infinite Goodness, let me adore thy all-wise decrees!” Having thus expressed himself, he kneeled upon the floor, lifted up his eyes and hands to heaven, and remained some minutes in silent ecstacy of devotion. I put myself in the same posture, adored the all-good Dispenser in a prayer of mental thanksgiving: and when his ejaculation was ended, did homage to my father, and craved his paternal blessing. He hugged me again with unutterable fondness, and having implored the protection of Heaven upon my head, raised me from the ground, and presented me as his son to the company, who wept in concert over this affecting scene. Among the rest, my uncle did not fail to discover the goodness and joy of his heart. Albeit unused to the melting mood, he blubbered with great tenderness, and wringing my father’s hand, cried, “Brother Random, I’m rejoiced to see you — God be praised for this happy meeting!” Don Rodrigo, understanding that he was his brother-in-law, embraced him affectionately, saying, “Are you my Charlotte’s brother? Alas! unhappy Charlotte! but why should I repine? we shall meet again, never more to part! Brother, you are truly welcome. Dear son, I am transported with unspeakable joy! This day is a jubilee — my friends and servants shall share my satisfaction.”

While he dispatched messengers to the gentlemen in the neighbourhood, to announce this event, and gave orders for a grand entertainment, I was so much affected with the tumults of passion, which assailed me on this great, sudden, and unexpected occasion, that I fell sick, fevered, and in less than three hours became quite delirious: so that the preparations were countermanded, and the joy of the family converted into grief and despair. Physicians were instantly called, I was plentifully blooded in the foot, my lower extremities were bathed in a decoction of salutiferous herbs: in ten hours after I was taken ill I enjoyed a critical sweat, and next day felt the remains of the distemper, but an agreeable lassitude, which did not hinder me from getting up. During the progress of this fever, which, from the term or its duration, is called ephemera, my father never once quitted my bedside, but administered the prescriptions of the physicians with the most pious care; while Captain Bowling manifested his concern by the like attendance. I no sooner found myself delivered from this disease, than I bethought myself of my honest friend Strap; and resolving to make him happy forthwith in the knowledge of my good fortune, told my father in general, that I had been infinitely obliged to this faithful adherent, and begged he would indulge me so far as to send for him, without letting him know my happiness, until he could receive an account of it from my own mouth.

My request was instantly complied with, and a messenger with a spare mule despatched to the ship, carrying orders from the captain to the mate, to send the steward by the bearer. My health being, in the meantime, re-established, and my mind composed I began to relish this important turn of my fortune, in reflecting upon the advantages with which it must be attended; and, as the idea of my lovely Narcissa always joined itself to every scene of happiness I could imagine, I entertained myself now with the prospect of possessing her in that distinguished sphere to which she was entitled by her birth and qualifications. Having often mentioned her name while I was deprived of my senses, my father guessed that there was an intimate connection between us, and discovering the picture which hung in my bosom by ribbon, did not doubt that it was the resemblance of my amiable mistress. In this belief he was confirmed by my uncle, who told him that it was the picture of a young woman, to whom I was under promise of marriage. Alarmed at this piece of information, Don Rodrigo took the first opportunity of questioning me about the particulars of this affair, which when I had candidly recounted, he approved of my passion, and promised to contribute all in his power towards its success. Though I never doubted his generosity, I was transported on this occasion, and throwing myself at his feet, told him, he had now completed my happiness, for, without the possession or Narcissa I should be miserable among all the pleasures of life. He raised me with a smile of paternal fondness; said he knew what it was to be in love; and observed that, if he had been as tenderly beloved by his father as I was by mine, he should not now perhaps have cause — Here he was interrupted by a sigh, the tear rushed into his eye, suppressed the dictates of his grief, and the time being opportune, desired me to relate the passages of my life, which my uncle had told him were manifold and surprising. I recounted the most material circumstances of my fortune, to which he listened with wonder and attention, manifesting from time to time the different emotions which my different situations may be supposed to have raised in a parent’s breast; and, when my detail was ended, blessed God for the adversity I had undergone, which, he said, enlarged the understanding, improved the heart, steeled the constitution, and qualified a young man for all the duties and enjoyments of life much better than any education which affluence could bestow.

When I had thus satisfied his curiosity, I discovered an inclination to hear the particulars of his story, which he gratified by beginning with his marriage, and proceeded to the day of his disappearing, as I have related in the first part of my memoirs. “Careless of life,” continued he, “ and unable to live in a place where every object recalled the memory of my dear Charlotte, whom I had lost through the barbarity of an unnatural parent, I took my leave of you, my child, then an infant, with a heart full of unutterable woe, but little suspecting that my father’s unkindness would have descended to my innocent orphan; and setting out alone at midnight for the nearest seaport, early next morning got on board a ship, bound, as I had heard, for France; and, bargaining with the master for my passage, bade a long adieu to my native country, and put to sea with the first fair wind. The place of our destination was Granville, but we had the misfortune to run upon a ridge of rocks near the Island of Alderney, called the Caskets, where the sea running high, the ship went to pieces, the boat sunk alongside, and every soul on board perished, except myself, who, by the assistance of a grating got ashore on the coast of Normandy. I went directly to Caen, where I was so lucky as to meet with a count, whom I had formerly known in my travels; with this gentleman I set out for Paris, where I was recommended by him and other friends, as tutor to a young nobleman, whom I accompanied to the court of Spain. There we remained a whole year, at the end of which my pupil being recalled by his father, I quitted my office, and stayed behind, by the advice of a certain Spanish grandee, who took me into his protection, and introduced me to another nobleman, who was afterwards created viceroy of Peru. He insisted on my attending, him to his government of the Indies, where, however, by reason of my religion, it was not in his power to make my fortune any other way than by encouraging me to trade, which I had not long prosecuted when my patron died, and I found myself in the midst of strangers, without one friend to support or protect me. Urged by this consideration, I sold my effects, and removed to this country, the governor of which, having been appointed by the viceroy, was my intimate acquaintance. Here has heaven prospered my endeavours, during a residence of sixteen years, in which my tranquillity was never invaded but by the remembrance of your mother, whose death I have in secret mourned without ceasing, and the reflection of you, whose fate I could never learn notwithstanding all my inquiries by means of my friends in France, who, after the most strict examination, could give me no other account than that you went abroad six years ago, and was never after heard of. I could not rest satisfied with this imperfect information, and, though my hope of finding you was but languid, resolved to go in quest of you in person; for which purpose, I have remitted to Holland the value of twenty thousand pounds, and am in possession of fifteen thousand more, with which I intended to embark myself on board of Captain Bowling, before I discovered this amazing stroke of Providence, which, you may be sure, has not altered my intention.”

My father, having entertained us with this agreeable sketch of his life, withdrew, in order to relieve Don Antonio, who, in his absence, had done the honours of his house; and I was just dressed for my appearance among the guests, when Strap arrived from the ship.

He no sooner entered the grand apartment in which I was, and saw the magnificence of my apparel, than his speech was lost in amazement, and he gaped in silence at the objects that surrounded him. I took him by the hand, observed that I had sent for him to be a witness and sharer of my happiness, and told him I had found a father. At these words he started, and, after having continued some minutes with his mouth and eyes wide open, cried, “Ah! — odd, I know what! go thy ways, poor Narcissa, and go thy ways somebody else — well — Lord, what a thing is love! God help us! are all our mad pranks and protestations come to this? And have you fixed your habitation in this distant land? God prosper you — I find we must part at last — for I would not leave my poor carcase so far from my native home, for all the wealth of the universe!” With these ejaculations, he began to sob and make wry faces; upon which I assured him of his mistake, both in regard to my staying in Paraguay, and informed him, as briefly as I could, of the great event that had happened. Never was rapture more ludicrously expressed than in the behaviour of this worthy creature, who cried, laughed, whistled, sung, and danced, all in a breath. His transport was scarce over, when my father entered, who no sooner understood that this was Strap, than he took him by the hand, saying, “Is this the honest man who befriended you so much in your distress? You are welcome to my house, and I will soon put it in the power of my son to reward you for your good offices in his behalf; in the meantime go with us and partake of the repast that is provided.” Strap, wild as he was with joy, would by no means accept of the proffered honour, crying, “God forbid! I know my distance — your worship shall excuse me.” And Don Rodrigo, finding his modesty invincible, recommended him to his major-domo, to be treated with the utmost respect; while he carried me in a large saloon, where I was presented to a numerous company, who loaded me with compliments and caresses, and congratulated my father in terms not proper for me to repeat.

Without specifying the particulars of our entertainment, let it suffice to say, it was at the same time elegant and sumptuous, and the rejoicings lasted two days; after which, Don Rodrigo settled his affairs, converted his effects into silver and gold, visited and took leave of all his friends, who were grieved at his departure, and honoured me with considerable presents; and, coming on board of my uncle’s ship, with the first fair wind we sailed from the Rio de la Plata, and in two months came safe to an anchor in the harbour of Kingston, in the Island of Jamaica.

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