The Adventures of Roderick Random, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter LXVIII

My Father makes a present to Narcissa — the Letter is dispatched to her Brother — I appear among my Acquaintance — Banter’s Behaviour — the Squire refuses his Consent — my Uncle comes to Town — approves of my Choice — I am married — we meet the Squire and his Lady at the Play — our Acquaintance is courted

After having spent the evening to the satisfaction of all present, my father addressed himself thus to Narcissa. “Madam, give me leave to consider you hereafter as my daughter, in which capacity I insist upon your accepting this first instance of my paternal duty and affection.” With these words he put into her hand a bank note of five hundred pounds, which she no sooner examined, than with a low courtesy she replied. “Dear sir, though I have not the least occasion for this supply, I have too great a veneration for you to refuse this proof of your generosity and esteem, which I the more freely receive, because I already look upon Mr. Random’s interest as inseparably connected with mine.” He was extremely well pleased with her frank and ingenuous reply, upon which we saluted, and wished her good night. The letter, at my request, was dispatched to Sussex by an express, and in the meantime, Don Rodrigo, to grace my nuptials, hired a ready furnished house, and set up a very handsome equipage.

Though I passed the greatest part of the day with the darling of my soul, I found leisure sometimes to be among my former acquaintance, who were astonished at the magnificence of my appearance. Banter in particular was confounded at the vicissitudes of my fortune, the causes of which he endeavoured in vain to discover, until I thought fit to disclose the whole secret of my last voyage, partly in consideration of our former intimacy, and partly to prevent unfavourable conjectures, which he and others, in all probability, would have made in regard to my circumstances. He professed great satisfaction at this piece of news; and I had no cause to believe him insincere, when I considered that he would now look upon himself as acquitted of the debt he owed me, and at the same time flatter himself with the hopes of borrowing more. I carried him home to dinner with me, and my father liked his conversation so much, that, upon hearing his difficulties, he desired me to accommodate him for the present, and inquire, if he would accept of a commission in the army, towards the purchase of which he should willingly lend him money. Accordingly, I gave my friend an opportunity of being alone with me, when, as I expected, he told me that he was just on the point of being reconciled to an old rich uncle, whose heir he was, but wanted a few pieces for immediate expense, which he desired I would lend him and take my bond for the whole. His demand was limited to ten guineas; and when I put twenty in his hand, he stared at me for some moments; then, putting it into his purse, “Ay, — ’tis all one — you shall have the whole in a very short time.” When I had taken his note, to save the expense of a bond, I expressed some surprise that a fellow of his spirit should loiter away his time in idleness, and, asked why he did not choose to make his fortune in the army. “What,” said he, “throw away money upon a subaltern’s commission, and be under the command of a parcel of scoundrels, who have raised themselves above me by the most infamous practices. No, I love independency too well to sacrifice my life, health, and pleasure, for such a pitiful consideration.” Finding him adverse to this way of life, I changed the subject, and returned to Don Rodrigo, who had just received the following epistle from the squire:

“Sir, — Concerning a letter which I received, subscribed R. Random, this is the answer. As for you, I know nothing of you. Your son, or pretended son, I have seen; if he marries my sister, at his peril be it; I do declare that he shall not have one farthing of her fortune, which becomes my property, if she takes a husband without my consent. Your settlement, I do believe, is all a sham, and yourself no better than you should be; but if you had all the wealth of the Indies, your son shall never match in our family with the consent of
“Orson Topehall”

My father was not much surprised at this polite letter, after having heard the character of the author; and as for me, I was even pleased at his refusal, because I had now an opportunity of showing my disinterested love. By his permission I waited on my charmer: and having imparted the contents of her brother’s letter, at which she wept bitterly, in spite of all my consolation and caresses, the time of our marriage was fixed two days. During this interval, in which my soul was wound up to the last stretch of rapturous expectation, Narcissa endeavoured to reconcile some of her relations in town to her marriage with me; but, finding them all deaf to her remonstrances, either out of envy or prejudice, she told me with the most enchanting sweetness, while the tears bedewed her lovely cheeks, “Sure the world will no longer question your generosity when you take a poor forlorn beggar to your arms?” Affected with her sorrow, I pressed the fair mourner to my breast, and swore that she was more dear and welcome on that account, because she had sacrificed her friends and fortune to her love for me. My uncle, for whose character she had a great veneration, being by this time come to town, I introduced him to my bride; and, although he was not very much subject to refined sensations, he was struck dumb with admiration at her beauty. After having kissed and gazed at her for some time, he turned to me, saying. “Odds bobs, Rory! a notable prize indeed, finely built and gloriously rigged, i’faith! If she an’t well manned when you take the command of her, sirrah, you deserve to go to sea in a cockle shell. No offence, I hope, niece! you must not mind what I say, being (as the saying is) a plain seafaring man, thof mayhap I have as much regard for you as another.” She received him with great civility, told him she had longed a great while to see a person to whom she was so much indebted for his generosity to Mr. Random; that she looked upon him as her uncle, by which name she begged leave to call him for the future; and that she was very sure he could say nothing that would give her the least offence. The honest captain was transported at her courteous behaviour, and insisted upon giving her away at the ceremony, swearing that he loved her as well as if she was his own child, and that he would give two thousand guineas to the first fruit of our love, as soon as it would squeak. Everything being settled for the solemnisation of our nuptials, which were to be performed privately at my father’s house, the auspicious hour arrived, when Don Rodrigo and my uncle went in the coach to fetch the bride and Miss Williams: leaving me with a parson, Banter, and Strap, neither of whom had as yet seen my charming mistress. My faithful valet, who was on the rack of impatience to behold a lady of whom he had heard so much, no sooner understood that the coach was returned, than he placed himself at a window, to have a peep at her as she alighted; and, when he saw her, clapped his hands together, turned up the white of his eyes, and, with his mouth wide open, remained in a sort of ecstacy, which broke out into “O Dea certe! qualis in Eurotae ripis, aut per juga Cynthi exercet Diana choros?” The doctor and Banter were surprised to hear my man speak Latin; but when my father led Narcissa into the room, the object of their admiration was soon changed, as appeared in the countenances of both. Indeed, they must have been the most insensible of all beings, could they have beheld without emotion the divine creature that approached! She was dressed in a sack of white satin, embroidered on the breast with gold, the crown of her head was covered with a small French cap, from whence descended her beautiful hair in ringlets that waved upon her snowy neck, which dignified the necklace I bad given her; her looks glowed with modesty and love; and her bosom, through the veil of gauze that shaded it, afforded a prospect of Elysium! I received this inestimable gift of Providence as became me; and in a little time the clergyman did his office, my uncle, at his own earnest request, acting the part of a father to my dear Narcissa, who trembled very much, and had scarce spirits sufficient to support her under this great change of situation. Soon as she was mine by the laws or heaven and earth, I printed a burning kiss upon her lips; my father embraced her tenderly, my uncle hugged her with great affection, and I presented her to my friend Banter, who saluted her in a very polite manner; Miss Williams hung round her neck, and went plentifully; while Strap fell upon his knees, and begged to kiss his lady’s hand, which she presented with great affability. I shall not pretend to describe my own feelings at this juncture; let it suffice to say that having supped and entertained ourselves till ten o’clock, I cautioned my Narcissa against exposing her health by sitting up too late, and she was prevailed upon to withdraw with her maid to an apartment destined for us. When she left the room, her face overspread with a blush that set all my blood in a state of fermentation, and made every pulse beat with tenfold vigour! She was so cruel as to let me remain in this condition a full half-hour: when, no longer able to restrain my impatience, I broke from the company, burst into her chamber, pushed out her confidante, and locked the door, and found her — O heaven and earth! — a feast a thousand times more delicious than my most sanguine hopes presaged! But, let me not profane the chaste mysteries of Hymen. I was the happiest of men!

In the morning I was awaked by three or four drums, which Banter had placed under the window; upon which I withdrew the curtain, and enjoyed the unspeakable satisfaction of contemplating those angelic charms which were now in my possession! Beauty! which, whether sleeping or awake, shot forth peculiar graces! The light darting upon my Narcissa’s eyes, she awoke also, and recollecting her situation, hid her blushes in my bosom. I was distracted with joy! I could not believe the evidence of my senses, and looked upon all that had happened as the fictions of a dream! In the meantime my uncle knocked at the door, and bade me turn out, for I had had a long spell. I rose accordingly, and sent Miss Williams to her mistress, myself receiving the congratulation of Captain Bowling, who rallied me in his sea phrase with great success. In less than an hour, Don Rodrigo led my wife into breakfast, where she received the compliments of the company on her looks, which, they said, if possible, were improved by matrimony. As her delicate ears were offended with none of those indecent ambiguities which are too often spoken on such occasions, she behaved with dignity, unaffected modesty, and ease; and, as a testimony of my affection and esteem, I presented her, in presence of them all, with a deed, by which I settled the whole fortune I was possessed of on her and her heirs for ever. She accepted it with a glance of most tender acknowledgment, observed, that she could not be surprised at anything of this kind I should do, and desired my father to take the trouble of keeping it, saying, “Next to my own Mr. Random, you are the person in whom I ought to have the greatest confidence.” Charmed with her prudent and ingenuous manner of proceeding, he took the paper, and assured her that it should not lose its value while in his custody.

As we had not many visits to give and receive, the little time we stayed in town was spent in going to public diversions, where I have the vanity to think Narcissa was seldom eclipsed. One night, in particular, we sent our footman to keep one of the stage boxes, which we no sooner entered, than we perceived in the opposite box the squire and his lady, who seemed not a little surprised at seeing us. I was pleased at this opportunity of confronting them; the more, because Melinda was robbed of all her admirers by my wife, who happened that night to outshine her sister both in beauty and dress. She was piqued at Narcissa’s victory, tossed her head a thousand different ways, flirted her fan, looked at us with disdain, then whispered to her husband, and broke out into an affected giggle; but all her arts proved ineffectual, either to discompose Mrs. Random, or to conceal her own mortification, which at length forced her away long before the play was done. The news of our marriage being spread, with many circumstances to our disadvantage, by the industry of this malignant creature, a certain set of persons fond of scandal began to inquire into the particulars of my fortune, which they no sooner understood to be independent, than the tables were turned, and our acquaintance was courted as much as it had been despised before: but she had too much dignity of pride to encourage this change of conduct, especially in her relations, whom she could never be prevailed upon to see, after the malicious reports they had raised to her prejudice.

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