The Adventures of Roderick Random, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter XXI

Squire Gawky comes to lodge with my master — is involved in a troublesome affair, out of which he is extricated by me — he marries my master’s daughter — they conspire against me — I am found guilty of theft, discharged — deserted by my friends, I hire a room in St. Gile’s — where, by accident, I find the lady to whom I paid my addresses in a miserable condition — I relieve her

When I enjoyed myself at large in this temper of mind, Lavement let his first floor to my countryman and acquaintance, Squire Gawky, who by this time had got a lieutenancy in the army, and such a martial ferocity in his appearance that I was afraid he would remember what happened between us in Scotland, and atone for his breach of appointment then by his punctuality now; but whether he had actually forgot me, or was willing to make me believe so, he betrayed not the least symptom of recognition at sight of me, and I remained quite cured of my apprehension; though I had occasion not long after to be convinced, that howsoever his externals might be altered, he was at bottom the same individual Gawky, whom I have already described. For coming home late one night from the house of a patient, I heard a noise in the street, and as I approached. perceived two gentlemen in custody, of three watchmen. The prisoners, who were miserable, disfigured with dirt, complained bitterly of the loss of their hats and wigs; and one of them, whom by his tongue I know to be a Scotchman, lamented most piteously, offering a guinea for his liberty, which the watchman refused, alleging that one of his companions was wounded grievously, and that he must stand to the consequence. My prejudice in favour of my native country was so strong, that I could not bear to see anybody belonging to it in distress, and therefore, with one blow of my faithful cudgel, knocked down the watchman who had hold of the person for whom I was chiefly concerned. He was no sooner disengaged, than he betook himself to his heels, and left me to maintain the dispute as I should think proper; and, indeed, I came off but scurvily, for, before I could avail myself of my speed, I received a blow on the eye, from one of the other two, that had well nigh deprived me of the use of that organ. However, I made shift to get home, where I was informed of Captain Gawky’s being robbed and abused by a company of footpads, and was ordered by my master to prepare an emollient glyster and paregoric draught, in order to allay and compose the ferment of his spirits, occasioned by the barbarous treatment he had undergone, while he took twelve ounces of blood from him immediately.

When I inquired into the particulars of this adventure, and understood by the servant that he came in just before me, without hat and wig, I made no scruple of believing him to be the person I had released, and was confirmed in my belief upon hearing his voice, to which (before that event) I had long been a stranger.

My eye being considerably swelled and inflamed, I could not reflect upon my enterprise without cursing my own folly, and even resolving to declare the truth the truth of the whole story in order to be revenged on the cowardly wretch for whom I had suffered: accordingly, next day after he had told, in presence of my master, his wife and daughter, who came to him, a thousand lies concerning the prowess he had shown in making his escape, I ventured to explain the mystery, and, calling in the evidence of my contused eye, upbraided him with cowardice and ingratitude. Gawky was so astonished at this that he could not answer one word, and the rest of the company stared at one another; till at length my mistress reprimanded me for my insolent behaviour, and threatened to turn me away for my presumption. Upon which, Gawky (having recollected himself) observed, as the young man might have mistaken another person for him, he could forgive his insinuations, more especially as he seemed to have suffered for his incivility; but advised me to be more certain in my conjectures for the future, before I ventured to publish them to the prejudice of any man. Miss applauded the Captain’s generosity in pardoning one who had so villainously aspersed him, and I began to imagine her praise was not at all disinterested. But the apothecary, who perhaps had more penetration or less partiality than his wife and daughter, differed from them in their sentiments of the matter, and expressed himself to me in the shop in this manner: “Ah mon pauvre Roderique! you have more of de veracite dan of de prudence — bot mine vife and dater be diablement sage, and Monsieur le Capitaine un fanfaron, pardieu!”

This eulogium on his wife and daughter, though spoken ironically by him, was nevertheless literally just; by espousing the cause of Gawky, the one obliged a valuable lodger, and the other acquired a husband at a juncture when one was absolutely necessary. The young lady insinuated herself so artfully into the affection of this new lodger, that in less than a fortnight, on pretence of going to the play, they drove away together to the Fleet, where they were married; and in the morning came home, where they asked her father’s and mother’s blessing. The prudent parents, notwithstanding the precipitation with which the match was carried on, did not think fit to refuse their approbation; for the apothecary was not ill pleased to find his daughter married to a young man of a good prospect, who had not mentioned one syllable on the article of her dowry; and his wife was rejoiced at being rid of a rival and a spy upon her. Whatever face Gawky put on the matter, my discovery of the adventure before related, and the reproaches I vented against him, had stung him to the soul, and cherished the seeds of enmity so strongly in his breast, that he imparted his indignation to his wife, who being as desirous as himself to accomplish the ruin of one that not only slighted her caresses, but was able on any occasion to discover particulars not at all advantageous to her character, readily joined in a conspiracy against me, which (had it taken effect as they expected) would infallibly have brought me to an ignominious death.

My master having several times missed large quantities of medicines, of which I could give no account, at last lost all patience, and in plain terms taxed me with having embezzled them for my own use. As I could only oppose my single asseveration to his suspicion, he told me one day, “Your vord not be give me de satisfaction — me find necessaire to chercher for my medicine; pardonnez moi — il faut chercber — me demand le clef of your coffre a cette heure.” Then raising his voice to conceal the fright he was in lest I should make any opposition, he went on, “Oui! I charge you rendez le clef of your coffre — moi — si, moi qui vous parle.” I was fired with so much resentment and disdain at this accusation, that I burst into tears, which he took for a sign of guilt; and pulling out my key, told him he might satisfy himself immediately, though he would not find it so easy to satisfy me for the injury my reputation had suffered from his unjust suspicion. He took the key and mounted up to my chamber, attended by the whole family, saying, “Eh bien, nous verrons — nous verrons.” But what was my horror and amazement, when, opening my chest, he pulled out a handful of the very things that were missing, and pronounced, “Ah, ha, vous etes bienvenu — mardy, Mons. Roderique, you be fort innocent!” I had not power to utter one word in my own vindication, but stood motionless and silent, while everybody present made their respective remarks on what appeared against me. The servants said they were sorry for my misfortune, and went away repeating, “Who would have thought it?” My mistress took occasion from this detection to rail against the practice of employing strangers in general; and Mrs. Gawky, after having observed that she never had a good opinion of my fidelity, proposed to have me carried before the justice and committed to Newgate immediately. Her husband was actually upon the stairs in his way for a constable, when Mr. Lavement knowing the cost ant trouble of a prosecution to which he must bind himself, and at the same time dreading lest some particulars of my confession might affect his practice, called out. “Restez, mon fils! restez, it be veritablement one grand crime which dis pauvre diable have committed — bot peut-etre de good God give him de penitence, and me vill not have upon mine head de blood of one sinner.” The captain and his lady used all the Christian arguments their zeal could suggest to prevail upon the apothecary to pursue me to destruction, and represented the injustice he did to the community of which he was a member, in letting a villain escape, who would not fail of doing more mischief in the world when he should reflect on his coming off so easily now; but their eloquence made no impression on my master, who turning to me said, “Go, miserable, go from mine house quick, quick! — and make reparation for your mauvaise actions.” By this time my indignation had roused me from the stupefaction in which I had hitherto remained and I began in this manner:— “Sir, appearances I own condemn me; but you are imposed upon as much as I am abused: I have fallen a sacrifice to the rancour of that scoundrel” (pointing to Gawky) “who has found means to convey your goods hither, that the detection of them might blast my reputation, and accomplish my destruction. His hatred to me is owing to a consciousness of his having wronged me in my own country — for which injury he in a cowardly manner, refused me the satisfaction of a gentleman; he knows, moreover, that I am no stranger to his dastardly behaviour in this town, which I have recounted before, and he is unwilling that such a testimony of his ingratitude and pusillanimity should live upon the earth; for this reason he is guilty of the most infernal malice to bring about my ruin. And I am afraid, madam (turning to Mrs. Gawky) you have too easily entered into the sentiments of your husband. I have often found you my enemy, and am well acquainted with the occasion of your being so, which I don’t at present think proper to declare; but I would advise you, for your own sake, not to drive me to extremity.” This address enraged her so much that with a face as red us scarlet and the eyes of a fury, she strutted up to me and putting her hands in her side, spat in my face, saying, I was a scandalous villain, but she defied my malice; and that unless her papa would not prosecute me like a thief as I was, she would not stay another night under his roof. At the same time, Gawky assuming a big look, told me, he scorned what lies I could invent against him; but that, if I pretended to asperse his wife, he would put me to death, To this threat I answered, “I wish I could meet with thee in a desert, that I might have an opportunity of punishing thee for thy perfidy towards me, and rid the world of such a rascal. What hinders me this moment,” said I, seizing an old bottle that stood by, “from doing myself that justice?” I had no sooner armed myself in this manner, than Gawky and his father-in-law retired in such a hurry, that the one overturned the other, and they rolled together down stairs, while my mistress swooned away with fear, and her daughter asked if I intended to murder her. I gave her to understand, that nothing was farther from my intention, that I would leave her to the stings of her own conscience; but was firmly resolved to slit her husband’s nose, whenever fortune should offer a convenient opportunity. Then going down stairs, I met Lavement coming up trembling with the pestle in his hand, and Gawky behind armed with his sword, pushing him forward. I demanded a parley: and having assured him of my pacific disposition, Gawky exclaimed, “Ah, villain! you have killed my dear wife.” And the apothecary cried, “Ah, coquin! vere is my shild?” “The lady,” said I, “is above stairs, unhurt by me, and will, a few months hence, I believe reward your concern.” Hero she called to them, and desired they would let the wretch go, and trouble themselves no further about him. To which request her father consented, observing, nevertheless, that my conversation was ‘very mysterious.’

Finding it impossible to vindicate my innocence, I left the house immediately, and went to the schoolmaster, with an intention of clearing myself to him, and asking his advice with regard to my future conduct; but, to my inexpressible vexation, he was gone to the country, where he would stay two or three days. I returned with a design of consulting some acquaintance I had acquired in the neighbourhood; but my story had taken air through the officiousness of the servants, and not one of my friends would vouchsafe me a hearing. Thus I found myself, by the iniquity of mankind, in a much more deplorable condition than ever: for though I had been formerly as poor, my reputation was without blemish, and my health unimpaired till now; but at present my good name was lost, my money gone, my friends were alienated, my body was infected by an odious distemper; and my faithful Strap, who alone could yield me pity and assistance, absent I knew not where.

The first resolution I could take in this melancholy conjuncture, was to remove my clothes to the house of the person with whom I had formerly lodged, where I remained two days in hopes of getting another place by the interest of Mr. Concordance, to whom I made no doubt of being able to vindicate my character; but in this supposition I reckoned without my best, for Lavement took care to be beforehand with me; and when I attempted to explain the whole affair to the schoolmaster, I found him so prepossessed against me, that he would scarce hear me to an end; but when I had finished my justification, shook his head, and beginning with his usual exclamation said, “That won’t go down with me. I am very sorry I should have the misfortune of being concerned in the affair, but, however, shall be more cautious for the future. I will trust no man from henceforward — no, not my father who begat me, nor the brother who lay with me in my mother’s womb: should Daniel rise from the dead, I would think him an impostor; and were the genius of truth to appear, would question its veracity!” I told him, that one day it was possible he might be convinced of the injury I had suffered, and repent of his premature determination. To which remark he answered, the proof of my innocence would make his bowels vibrate with joy; “but till that shall happen,” continued he, “I mast beg to have no manner of connection with you — my reputation is at stake. I shall be looked upon as your accomplice and abettor — people will say Jonathan Wild was but a type of me-boys will hoot at me as I pass along; and the cinder-wenches belch forth reproaches wafted in a gale impregnated with gin: I shall be notorious — the very butt of slander, and sink of infamy!” I was not in a humour to relish the climax of expressions upon which this gentleman valued himself in all his discourses; but, without any ceremony, took my leave, cursed with every sentiment of horror which my situation could suggest. I considered, however, in the intervals of my despondence, that I must, in some shape suit my expense to my calamitous circumstances, and with that view hired an apartment in a garret near St. Giles’s, at the rate of nine-pence per week.

I one day, when I sat in this solitary retreat musing upon the unhappiness of my fate, was alarmed by a groan that issued from s chamber contiguous to mine, into which I immediately ran, and found a woman stretched on a miserable truckle bed, without any visible signs of life. Having applied a smelling bottle to her nose, the blood began to revisit her cheeks, and she opened her eyes; but, good heaven! what were the emotions of my soul, when I discovered her to be the same individual lady who had triumphed over my heart, and to whose fate I had almost been inseparably joined! Her deplorable situation filled my breast with compassion. She knew me immediately; and, straining me gently in her arms, shed a torrent of tears, which I could not help increasing. At length, casting a languishing look at me, she pronounced with a feeble voice, “Dear Mr. Random, I do not deserve this concern at your hands: I am a vile creature, who had a base design upon your person — suffer me, to expiate that, and all my other crimes, by a miserable death, which will not fail to overtake me in a few hour.” I encouraged her as much as I could, told her I forgave all her intentions with regard to me; and that, although my circumstances were extremely low, I would share my last farthing with her. I begged in the meantime to know the immediate cause of that fit from which she had just recovered, and said, I would endeavour by my skill to prevent any more such attacks. She seemed very much affected with this expression, took my hand, and pressed it to her lips, saying, “You are too generous! I wish I could live to express my gratitude — but alas! I perish for want.” Then shutting her eyes, she relapsed into another swoon. Such extremity of distress must have waked the most obdurate heart to sympathy and compassion; what effect then must it have had on mine, that was naturally prone to every tender passion? I ran downstairs, and sent my landlady to a chemist’s shop for some cinnamon water, while I, returning to this unfortunate creature’s chamber, used all the means in my power to bring her to herself; this aim with much difficulty I accomplished, and made her drink a glass of the cordial to recruit her spirits: then I prepared a little mulled red vine and a toast, which having taken, she found herself thoroughly revived, and informed me, that she had not tasted food for eight and forty hours before. As I was impatient to know the occasion and nature of her calamity, she gave me to understand, that she was a woman of the town by profession; that in the course of her adventures she found herself dangerously infected with a distemper, to which all of her class are particularly subject; that her malady gaining ground every day, she became loathsome to herself and offensive to others: when she resolved to retire to some obscure corner where she might be cured with as little noise and expense as possible; that she had accordingly chosen this place of retreat, and put herself into the hands of an advertising doctor, who having fleeced her of all the money she had, or could procure, left her three days ago in a worse condition than that in which he found her; that except the clothes on her back, she had pawned or sold everything that belonged to her to satisfy that rapacious quack, and quiet the clamour of her landlady, who still persisted in her threats to turn her out into the street. After having moralised upon these particulars, I proposed that she should lodge in the same room with me, an expedient that would save some money: and assured her, I would undertake to cure her as well as my own, during which she should partake of all the conveniences that I could afford to myself. She embraced my offer with unfeigned acknowledgment, and I began to put it in practice immediately. I found her not only an agreeable companion, whose conversation greatly alleviated my chagrin, but also a careful nurse, who served me with the utmost fidelity and affection. One day, while I testified my surprise that a woman of her beauty, good sense, and education (for she had a large portion of each), could be reduced to such an infamous and miserable way of life, she answered with a sigh, “These very advantages were the cause of my undoing.” This remarkable reply inflamed my curiosity to such a degree, that I begged she would favour me with the particulars of her story, and she complied in these words.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00