The Adventures of Roderick Random, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter LXVII

I visit my old Friend Thompson — we set sail for Europe — meet with an odd Adventure — arrive in England — I ride across the Country from Portsmouth to Sussex — converse with Mrs. Sagely, who informs me of Narcissa’s being in London — in consequence of this Intelligence, I proceed to Canterbury — meet with my old friend Morgan — arrive in London — visit Narcissa — introduce my Father to be — he is charmed with her good sense and beauty — we come to a Determination of demanding her Brother’s Consent to our Marriage

I inquired, as soon as I got ashore, about my generous companion, Mr. Thompson, and hearing that he lived in a flourishing condition upon the estate left him by his wife’s father, who had been dead some years, I took horse immediately, with the consent of Don Rodrigo, who had heard me mention him with great regard, and in a few hours reached the place of his habitation.

I should much wrong the delicacy of Mr. Thompson’s sentiments to say barely he was glad to see me: he felt all that the most sensible and disinterested friendship could feel on this occasion, introduced me to his wife, a very amiable young lady, who had already blessed him with two fine children, and being as yet ignorant of my circumstances, frankly offered me the assistance of his purse and interest. I thanked him for his generous intention, and made him acquainted with my situation, on which he congratulated me with great joy, and, after I had stayed with him a whole day and night, accompanied me back to Kingston, to wait upon my father, whom he invited to his house. Don Rodrigo complied with his request, and, having been handsomely entertained during the space of a week, returned extremely well satisfied with the behaviour of my friend and his lady, to whom, at parting, he presented a very valuable diamond ring, as a token of his esteem. During the course of my conversation with Mr. Thompson, he gave me to understand, that his old commander Captain Oakum was dead some months, and that, immediately after his death, a discovery had been made of some valuable effects that he had feloniously secreted out of a prize by the assistance of Dr. Mackshane, who was now actually in prison on that account, and, being destitute of friends, subsisted solely on the charity of my friend, whose bounty he had implored in the most abject manner, after having been the barbarous occasion of driving him to that terrible extremity on board of The Thunder, which we have formerly related. Whatsoever this wretch had been guilty of, I applauded Mr. Thompson’s generosity towards him in his distress, which wrought so much upon me also, that I sent him ten pistoles, in such a private manner that he could never know his benefactor.

While my father and I were caressed among the gentlemen on shore, Captain Bowling had written to his owners, by the packet, which sailed a few days after our arrival, signifying his prosperous voyage hitherto, and desiring them to insure his ship and cargo homeward bound: after which precaution he applied himself so heartily to the task of loading his ship that, with the assistance of Mr. Thompson, she was full in less than six weeks. This kind gentleman likewise procured for Don Rodrigo bills upon London for the greatest part of his gold and silver, by which means it was secured against the risk of the seas and the enemy; and, before we sailed, supplied us with such large quantities of all kinds of stock, that not only we, but the ship’s company, fared sumptuously during the voyage.

Everything being ready, we took our leave of our kind entertainers, and, going on board at Port Royal, set sail for England on the first day of June. We beat up to windward, with fine easy weather, and one night believing ourselves near Cape Tiberon, lay to, with an intention to wood and water next morning in the bay. While we remained in this situation, a sailor, having drunk more new rum than he could carry, staggered over board, and, notwithstanding all the means that could be used to preserve him, went to the bottom, and disappeared. About two hours after this melancholy accident happened, as I enjoyed the cool air on the quarter-deck, I heard a voice rising, as it were, out of the sea and calling, “Ho, the ship ahoy!” Upon which one of the men upon the forecastle cried, “I’ll be d — n’d if that an’t Jack Marlinspike, who went overboard!” Not a little surprised at this event, I jumped into the boat that lay alongside, with the second mate and four men, and rowing towards the place from whence the voice (which repeated the hail) seemed to proceed, we perceived something floating upon the water. When we had rowed a little further, we discerned it to be a man riding upon a hencoop, who, seeing us approach, pronounced with a hoarse voice, “D— n your bloods! why did you not answer when I hailed?” Our mate, who was a veritable seaman, hearing his salute, said, “By G — my lads, this is none of our man. This is the devil — pull away for the ship.” The fellows obeyed his command without question, and were already some fathoms on our return, when I when I insisted on their taking up the poor creature, and prevailed upon them to go back to the wreck, which when we came near the second time, and signified our intention, we received an answer of “Avast, avast — what ship, brother?” Being satisfied in this particular, he cried, “D— n the ship, I was in hopes it had been my own — where are you bound?” We satisfied his curiosity in this particular too; upon which he suffered himself to be taken on board, and, after having been comforted with a dram, told us, he belonged to the Vesuvio man-of-war, upon a cruise off the island of Hispaniola; that he had fallen overboard four-and-twenty hours ago, and the ship being under sail, they did not choose to bring to, but tossed a hencoop overboard for his convenience, upon which he was in good hopes of reaching the Cape next morning: howsomever, he was as well content to be aboard of us because he did not doubt that we should meet his ship, and if he had gone ashore in the bay, he might have been taken prisoner by the French. My uncle and father were very much diverted with the account of this fellow’s unconcerned behaviour; and in two days, meeting with the Vesuvio, as he expected, sent him on board of her, according to his desire.

Having beat up successfully the windward passage, we stretched to the northward, and falling in with a westerly wind, in eight weeks arrived in the soundings, and in two days after made for the Lizard. It is impossible to express the joy I felt at the sight of English ground! Don Rodrigo was not unmoved, and Strap shed tears of gladness. The sailors profited by our satisfaction, the shoe that was nailed to the mast being quite filled with our liberality. My uncle resolved to run up into the Downs at once, but the wind shifting when we were abreast of the Isle of Wight, he was obliged to turn into St. Helen’s, and come to Spithead, to the great mortification of the crew, thirty of whom were immediately pressed on board a man-of-war.

My father and I went ashore immediately at Portsmouth, leaving Strap with the captain to go round with the ship and take care of our effects; and I discovered so much impatience to see my charming Narcissa, that my father permitted me to ride across the country to her brother’s house; while he should hire a post-chaise for London, where he would wait for me at a place to which I directed him.

Fired with all the eagerness of passion, I took post that very night, and in the morning reached an inn about three miles from the squire’s habitation; here I remained till next morning, allaying the torture of my impatience with the rapturous hope of seeing that divine creature after an absence of eighteen months, which, far from impairing, had raised my love to the most exalted pitch! Neither were my reflections free from apprehensions: that something intervened in spite of all my hope, and represented her as having yielded to the importunity of her brother and blessed the arms of a happy rival. My thoughts were even maddened with the fear of her death; and, when I arrived in the dark at the house of Mrs. Sagely, I had not for some time courage to desire admittance, lest my soul should be shocked with dismal tidings. At length, however, I knocked, and no sooner certified the good gentlewoman of my voice than she opened the door, and received me with the most affectionate embrace, that brought tears into her aged eyes: “For heaven’s sake, dear mother,” cried I, “tell me bow is Narcissa? is she the same that I left her?” She blessed my ears with saying, “She is as beautiful, in as good health, and as much yours as ever.” Transported at this assurance, I begged to know if I could not see her that very night, when this sage matron gave me to understand that my mistress was in London, and that things were strangely altered in the squire’s house since my departure; that he had been married a whole year to Melinda, who at first found means to wean his attention so much from Narcissa, that he became quite careless of that lovely sister, comforting himself with the clause in his father’s will, by which she should forfeit her fortune, by marrying without his consent: that my mistress, being but indifferently treated by her sister-in-law, had made use of her freedom some months ago, and gone to town, where she was lodged with Miss Williams, in expectation of my arrival; and had been pestered with the addresses of Lord Quiverwit, who, finding her heart engaged, had fallen upon a great many shifts to persuade her that I was dead; but, finding all his artifices unsuccessful, and despairing of gaining her affection, he had consoled himself for her indifference, by marrying another lady some weeks ago, who had already left him on account of some family uneasiness. Besides this interesting information, she told me there was not a great deal of harmony between Melinda and the squire, who was so much disgusted at the number of gallants who continued to hover about her even after her marriage, that he had hurried her down into the country, much against her own inclination, where their mutual animosities had risen to such a height, that they preserved no decency before company or servants, but abused one another in the grossest terms.

This good old gentlewoman, to give me a convincing proof of my dear Narcissa’s unalterable love, gratified me with a sight of the last letter she had favoured her with, in which I was mentioned with so much honour, tenderness, and concern, that my soul was fired with impatience, and I determined to ride all night, that I might have it the sooner in my power to make her happy. Mrs. Sagely, perceiving my eagerness, and her maternal affection being equally divided between Narcissa and me, begged leave to remind me of the sentiments with which I went abroad, that would not permit me for any selfish gratification to prejudice the fortune of that amiable young lady, who must entirely depend upon me, after having bestowed herself in marriage. I thanked her for her kind concern, and as briefly as possible described my flourishing situation, which afforded this humane person infinite wonder and satisfaction. I told her, that now I had an opportunity to manifest my gratitude for the many obligations I owed, I would endeavour to make her old age comfortable and easy; as a step to which I proposed she should come and live with Narcissa and me. This venerable gentlewoman was so much affected with my words, that the tears ran down her ancient cheeks; she thanked heaven that I had not belied the presages she had made, on her first acquaintance with me; acknowledging my generosity, as she called it, in the most elegant and I pathetic expressions; but declined my proposal, on account of her attachment to the dear melancholy cottage where she had so peacefully consumed her solitary widowhood. Finding her immovable on this subject, I insisted on her accepting a present of thirty guineas, and took my leave, resolving to accommodate her with the same sum annually, for the more comfortable support of the infirmities of old age.

Having rode all night, I found myself at Canterbury in the morning, where I alighted to procure fresh horses; and, as I walked into the inn, perceived an apothecary’s on the other side of the street, with the name of Morgan over the door; alarmed at this discovery, I could not help thinking that my old messmate had settled in this place, and upon inquiry found my conjecture true, and that he was married lately to a widow in that city, by whom he had got three thousand pounds. Rejoiced at this intelligence, I went to his shop as soon as it was open, and found my friend behind the counter, busy in preparing a clyster. I saluted him at entrance, with, “Your servant, Mr. Morgan.” Upon which he looked at me, and replying, “Your most humble servant, good sir,” rubbed his ingredients in the mortar without any emotion. “What,” said I, “Morgan, have you forgot your old messmate?” At these words he looked up again, and starting, cried, “As Cot is my — sure it cannot — yes, by my salfation, I pelieve it is my dear friend Mr. Rantom.” He was no sooner convinced of my identity, than he threw down the pestle, overset the mortar, and jumping over the board, swept up the contents with his clothes, flew about my neck, hugged me affectionately, and daubed me all over with turpentine and the yolks of eggs which he had been mixing when I came in. Our mutual congratulations being over, he told me, that he found himself a widower upon his return from the West Indies; that he had got interest to be appointed surgeon of a man-of-war, in which capacity he had served some years, until he married an apothecary’s widow, with whom he now enjoyed a pretty good sum of money, peace, and quiet, and an indifferent good trade. He was very desirous of hearing my adventures, which I assured him I had not time to relate, but told him in general, my circumstances were very good, and that I hoped to see him when I should not be in such a hurry as at present. He insisted, however, on my staying breakfast, and introduced me to his wife, who seemed to be a decent sensible woman, pretty well stricken in years. In the course of our conversation, he showed the sleeve-buttons I had exchanged with him at our parting in the West Indies, and was not a little proud to see that I had preserved his with the same care. When I informed him of Mackshane’s condition, he seemed at first to exult over his distress; but, after a little recollection, said, “Well, he has paid for his malice; I forgife him, and may Cot forgife him likewise.” He expressed great concern for the soul of Captain Oakum, which he believed was now gnashing its teeth; but it was some time before I could convince him of Thompson’s being alive, at whose good fortune, nevertheless, he was extremely glad.

Having renewed our protestations of friendship, I bade the honest Welshman and his spouse farewell, and, taking post-horses, arrived at London that same night, where I found my father in good health, to whom I imparted what I had learned of Narcissa. This indulgent parent approved of my intention of marrying her, even without fortune, provided her brother’s consent could not be obtained; promised to make over to me in a few days a sufficiency to maintain her in a fashionable manner and expressed a desire of seeing this amiable creature, who had captivated me so much. As I had not slept the night before, and was besides fatigued with my journey, I found myself under a necessity of taking some repose, and went to bed accordingly: next morning, about ten o’clock, took a chair, and according to Mrs. Sagely’s directions, went to my charmer’s lodgings, and inquired for Miss Williams. I had not waited in the parlour longer than a minute, when this young woman entered, and no sooner perceived me, than she shrieked and ran backward: but I got between her and the door, and clasping her in my arms, brought her to herself with an embrace. “Good heaven,” cried she, “Mr. Random, is it you indeed? My mistress will run distracted with joy.” I told her, it was from an apprehension that my sudden appearance might have had some bad effect on my dear Narcissa, that I had desired to see her first, in order to concert some method of acquainting her mistress gradually with my arrival. She approved of my conduct, and, after having yielded to the suggestions of her own friendship, in asking if my voyage had been successful, charged herself with that office, and left me glowing with desire of seeing and embracing the object of my love. In a very little time I heard some body coming down the stairs in haste, and the voice of my angel pronounce, with an eager tone, “O heaven! is it possible! where is he?” How were my faculties aroused at this well known sound! and how was my soul transported when she broke in upon my view in all the bloom of ripened beauty! Grace was in all her steps, heaven in her eye, in every gesture dignity and love! You, whose souls are susceptible of the most delicate impressions, whose tender bosoms have felt the affecting vicissitudes of love, who have suffered an absence of eighteen long months from the dear object of your hope, and found at your return the melting fair as kind and constant as your heart can wish, do me justice on this occasion, and conceive what unutterable rapture possessed us both, while we flew into each other’s arms! This was no time for speech: locked in a mutual embrace, we continued some minutes in a silent trance of joy! When I thus encircled all my soul held dear — while I hung over her beauties — beheld her eyes sparkle, and. every feature flush with virtuous fondness — when I saw her enchanting bosom heave with undissembled rapture, and knew myself the happy cause — heavens! what was my situation! I am tempted to commit my paper to the flames, and to renounce my pen for ever, because its most ardent and lucky expression so poorly describes the emotions of my soul. “O adorable Narcissa!” cried I, “O miracle of beauty, love and truth! I at last fold thee in my arms! I at last can call thee mine! No jealous brother shall thwart our happiness again; fortune hath at length recompensed me for all my sufferings, and enabled me to do justice to my love.” The dear creature smiled ineffably charmingly, and, with a look of bewitching tenderness, said, “and shall we never art again?” “Never,” I replied, “thou wondrous pattern of all earthly perfection! never, until death shall divide us! By this ambrosial kiss, a thousand times more fragrant than the breeze that sweeps the orange grove, I never more will leave thee!”

As my first transport abated, my passion grew turbulent and unruly. I was giddy with standing on the brink of bliss, and all my virtue and philosophy were scarce sufficient to restrain the inordinate sallies of desire. Narcissa perceived the conflict within me, and with her usual dignity of prudence, called off my imagination from the object in view, and with eager expressions of interested curiosity, desired to know the particulars of my voyage. In this I gratified her inclination, bringing my story down to the present hour. She was infinitely surprised at the circumstance of finding my father, which brought tears into her lovely eyes. She was transported at hearing that approved of my flame, discovered a longing desire of being introduced to him, congratulated herself and me upon my good fortune, and observed, that this great and unexpected stroke of fate seemed to have been brought about by the immediate direction of Providence. Having entertained ourselves some hours with the genuine effusions of our souls, I obtained her consent to complete my happiness as soon as my father should judge it proper; and, applying with my own hands a valuable necklace, composed of diamonds and amethysts set alternately, which an old Spanish lady at Paraguay had presented me with, I took my leave, promising to return in the afternoon with Don Rodrigo. When I went home, this generous parent inquired very affectionately about the health of my dear Narcissa, to whom, that I might be the more agreeable, he put into my hand a deed, by which I found myself in possession of fifteen thousand pounds, exclusive of the profits of my own merchandise, which amounted to three thousand more. After dinner I accompanied him to the lodgings of my mistress, who, being dressed for the occasion, made a most dazzling appearance. I could perceive him struck with her figure, which I really think was the most beautiful that ever was created under the sun. He embraced her tenderly, and told her he was proud of having a son who had spirit to attempt, and qualifications to engage the affections of such a fine lady. She blushed at this compliment, and, with eyes full of the softest lauguishment turned upon me, said, she should have been unworthy of Mr. Random’s attention, had she been blind to his extraordinary merit. I made no other answer than a low bow. My father, sighing, pronounced, “Such was once my Charlotte;” while the tear rushed into his eye, and the tender heart of Narcissa manifested itself in two precious drops of sympathy, which, but for his presence, I would have kissed away. Without repeating the particulars of our conversation, I shall only observe, that Don Rodrigo was as much charmed with her good sense as with her appearance, and she was no less pleased with his understanding and polite address. It was determined that he should write to the squire, signifying his approbation of my passion for his sister, and offering a settlement, which he should have no reason to reject; and that, if he should refuse the proposal, we would crown our mutual wishes without any further regard to his will.

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