The Adventures of Roderick Random, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter XXXVI

A strange adventure — in consequence of which I am extremely happy — Crampley does me in offices with the Captain; but his malice is defeated by the good-nature and friendship of the surgeon — we return to Port Royal — our Captain gets the command of a larger ship, and is succeeded by an old man — Brayl is provided for — we receive orders to sail for England

When my patients were all in a fair way, my companion and commander, whose name was Brayl, carried me up the country to the house of a rich planter, with whom he was acquainted, where we were sumptuously entertained, and in the evening set out on our return to the ship. When we had walked about a mile by moonlight, we perceived a horseman behind us, who coming up, wished us good even, and asked which way we went? His voice, which was quite familiar to me, no sooner struck my ear, than in spite of all my resolution and reflection, my hair bristled up, and I was seized with a violent fit of trembling, which Brayl misinterpreting, bade me be under no concern. I told him he was mistaken in the cause of my disorder; and, addressing myself to the person on horseback said, “I could have sworn by your voice, that you were a dear friend of mine, if I had not been certain of his death.” To this address, after some pause, he replied, “There are many voices as well as faces that resemble one another; but, pray, what was your friend’s name.” I satisfied him in that particular, and gave a short detail of the melancholy fate of Thompson, not without many sighs and some tears. A silence ensued, which lasted some minutes, and then the conversation turned on different subjects, till we arrived at a house on the road, where the horseman alighted, and begged with so much earnestness that we would go in and drink a bowl of punch with him, that we could not resist. But, if I was alarmed at his voice, what must my amazement be, when I discovered by the light the very person of my lamented friend! Perceiving my confusion, which was extreme, he clasped me in his arms, and bedewed my face with tears. It was some time ere I recovered the use of my reason, overpowered with this event, and longer still before I could speak. So that all I was capable of was to return his embraces, and to mingle the overflowings of my joy with his; whilst honest Brayl, affected with the scene, wept as fast as either of us, and signified his participation of our happiness by hugging us both, and capering about the room like a madman. At length, I retrieved the use of my tongue, and cried, “Is it possible! you can be my friend Thompson? No certainly, alas! he was drowned; and I am now under the deception of a dream!” He was at great pains to convince me of his being the individual person whom I regretted, and bidding me sit down and compose myself, promised to explain his sudden disappearance from the Thunder, and to account for his being at present in the land of the living. This task he acquitted himself of, after I had drunk a glass of punch, and recollected my spirits, by informing us, that with a determination to rid himself of a miserable existence, he bad gone in the night-time to the head, while the ship was on her way, from whence he slipped down as softly as he could, by the bows into the sea, where, after he was heartily ducked, he began to repent of his precipitation; and, as he could swim very well, kept himself above water, in hopes of being taken up by some of the ships astern; that, in this situation, he hailed a large vessel, and begged to be taken in, but was answered that she was a heavy sailer, and therefore they did not choose to lose time by bringing to; however, they threw an old chest overboard for his convenience, and told him, that some of the ships astern would certainly save him; that no other vessel came within sight or cry of him for the space of three hours, during which time he had the mortification to find himself in the middle of the ocean alone, without other support or resting-place, but what a few crazy boards afforded; till at last be discerned a small sloop steering towards him, upon which he set up his throat, and had the good fortune to be heard and rescued from the dreary waste by their boat, which was hoisted out on purpose.

“I was no sooner brought on board,” continued he, “than I fainted, and, when I recovered my senses, found myself in bed, regaled with a most noisome smell of onions and cheese, which made me think at first that I was in my own hammock, alongside of honest Morgan, and that all which had passed was no more than a dream. Upon inquiry, I understood that I was on board of a schooner belonging to Rhode Island, bound for Jamaica, with a cargo of geese, pigs, onions, and cheese, and that the master’s name was Robertson, by birth a North Briton, whom I knew at first sight to be an old sohoolfellow of mine. When I discovered myself to him, he was transported with surprise and joy, and begged to know the occasion of my misfortune, which I did not think fit to disclose, because I knew his notions with regard to religion were very severe and confined; therefore contented myself with telling him I fell overboard by accident; but made no scruple of explaining the nature of my disagreeable station, and of acquainting him with my determined purpose never to return to the Thunder man-of-war. Although he was not of my opinion in that particular, knowing that I must lose my clothes and what pay was due to me, unless I went back to my duty; yet, when I described the circumstances of the hellish life I led under the tyrannic sway of Oakum and Mackshane; and, among other grievances, hinted a dissatisfaction at the irreligious deportment of my shipmates, and the want of the true presbyterian gospel doctrine; he changed his sentiments, and conjured me with great vehemence and zeal to lay aside all thought of rising in the navy; and, that he might show how much he had my interest at heart, undertook to provide for me in some shape or other, before he should leave Jamaica. This promise he performed to my heart’s desire, by recommending me to a gentleman of fortune, with whom I have lived ever since in quality of surgeon and overseer to his plantations. He and his lady are now at Kingston, so that I am, for the present, master of this house, to which, from my soul, I bid you welcome, and hope you will favour me with your company during the remaining part of the night.”

I needed not a second invitation; but Mr. Brayl, who was a diligent and excellent officer, could not be persuaded to sleep out of the ship; however, he supped with us, and, after having drank a, cheerful glass, set out for the vessel, which was not above three miles from the place, escorted by a couple of stout negroes, whom. Mr. Thompson ordered to conduct him. Never were two friends more happy in the conversation of each other than we, for the time it lasted. I related to him the particulars of our attempt upon Carthagena, of which he bad heard but an imperfect account; and he gratified me with a narration of every little incident of his life since we parted. He assured me, it was with the utmost difficulty he could resist his inclination of coming down to Port Royal, to see Morgan and me, of whom he had heard no tidings since the day of our separation: but that he was restrained by the fear of being detained as a deserter. He told me that, when he heard my voice in the dark, he was almost as much surprised as I was at seeing him afterwards: and, in the confidence of friendship, disclosed a passion he entertained for the only daughter of the gentleman with whom he lived, who, by his description, was a very amiable young lady, and did not disdain his addresses; that he was very much favoured by her parents; and did not despair of obtaining their consent to the match, which would at once render him independent of the world. I congratulated him on his good fortune, which he protested should never make him forget his friends; and, towards morning, we betook ourselves to rest.

Next day he accompanied me to the ship, where Mr. Brayl entertained him at dinner, and we having spent the afternoon together, he took his leave of us in the evening, after he had forced upon me ten pistoles, as a small token of his affection. In short, while he stayed here, we saw one another every day, and generally ate at the same table, which was plentifully supplied by him with all kinds of poultry, butcher’s meat, oranges, limes, lemons, pine-apples, Madeira wine, and excellent rum; so that this small interval of ten days was by far the most agreeable period of my life.

At length the Lizard arrived; and my patients being all fit for duty, they and I were ordered on board of her, where I understood from Mr. Tomlins that there was a shyness between the lieutenant and him on my account; the rancorous villain having taken the opportunity of my absence to fill the captain’s ears with a thousand scandalous stories to my prejudice; among other things affirming, that I had been once transported for theft, and that when I was in the Thunder man-of-war, I had been whipped for the same crime. The surgeon, on the other hand, having heard my whole story from my own mouth, defended me strenuously, and in the course of that good-natured office recounted all the instances of Crampley’s malice against me while I remained on board of that ship. Which declaration, while it satisfied the captain of my innocence, made the lieutenant as much my defender’s enemy as mine. The infernal behaviour of Crampley, with regard to me, added such fuel to his former resentment, that, at certain times, I was quite beside myself with the desire of revenge, and was even tempted to pistol him on the quarter-deck, though an infamous death must inevitably have been my reward. But the surgeon, who was my confidant, argued against such a desperate action so effectually, that I stifled the flame which consumed me for the present, and resolved to wait for a more convenient opportunity. In the meantime, that Mr. Tomlins might be the more convinced of the wrongs I suffered by this fellow’s slander, I begged he would go and visit Mr. Thompson, whose wonderful escape I had made him acquainted with, and inquire of him into the particulars of my conduct, while he was my fellow-mate.

This request the surgeon complied with, more through curiosity to see a person whose fate had been so extraordinary, than to confirm his good opinion of me, which he assured me was already firmly established. He therefore set out for the dwelling-place of my friend, with a letter of introduction from me; and being received with all the civility and kindness I expected, returned to the ship, not only satisfied with my character beyond the power of doubt or insinuation, but also charmed with the affability and conversation of Thompson, who loaded him and me with presents of fresh stock, liquors, and fruit. As he would not venture to come and see us on board, lest Cramplay should know and detain him; when the time of our departure approached, I obtained leave to go and bid him farewell. After we had vowed an everlasting friendship, he pressed upon me a purse, with four doubloons, which I refused as long as I could without giving umbrage; and, having cordially embraced each other, I returned on board, where I found a small box, with a letter directed for me, to the care of Mr. Tomlins. Knowing the superscription to be of Thompson’s handwriting, I opened it with some surprise, and learned that this generous friend, not content with loading me with the presents already mentioned, had sent, for my use and acceptance, half a dozen fine shirts, and as many linen waistcoats and caps, with twelve pair of new thread stockings. Being thus provided with money and all necessaries for the comfort of life, I began to look upon myself as a gentleman of some consequence, and felt my pride dilate a pace.

Next day we sailed for Port Royal, where we arrived safely with our prizes; and, as there was nothing to do on board, I went ashore, and having purchased a laced waistcoat, with some other clothes, at a sale, made a swaggering figure for some days among the taverns, where I ventured to play a little at hazard, and came off with fifty pistoles in my pocket. Meanwhile our captain was promoted to a ship of twenty guns, and the command of the Lizard given to a man turned of fourscore, who had been lieutenant since the reign of King William, and, notwithstanding his long service, would have probably died in that station, had he not applied some prize-money he had lately received, to make interest with his superiors. My friend Brayl was also made an officer about the same time, after he had served in quality of a midshipman and mate for five and twenty years. Soon after these alterations, the admiral pitched upon our ship to carry home dispatches for the ministry; and we set sail for England, having first scrubbed her bottom, and taken in provision and water for the occasion.

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