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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Tobias George Smollett (1721–1771)

Captain Weazel and the Highwayman

From “Roderick Random”

I FOUND that Joey the driver and I had the same sentiments with regard to Captain Weazel’s courage, which we resolved to put to the trial by alarming the passengers with the cry of “A highwayman!” as soon as an horseman should appear.

This scheme we put in practice toward the dusk, when we descried a man on horseback approaching us. Joey had no sooner intimated to the people in the waggon that he was afraid we should all be robbed than a general consternation arose. Strap jumped out of the waggon and hid himself behind a hedge. The usurer Isaac put forth ejaculations, and made a rustling among the straw, which made us conjecture he had hid something under it. Mrs. Weazel, wringing her hands, uttered lamentable cries; and the captain, to our great amazement, began to snore. But this artifice did not succeed; for Miss Jenny, shaking him by the shoulder, bawled out, “’Sdeath! captain, is this time to snore, when we are going to be robbed? Get up, for shame, and behave like a soldier and a man of honour!” Weazel pretended to be in a great passion for being disturbed, and swore he would have his nap out if all the highwaymen in England surrounded him. “Damn my blood! what are you afraid of?” continued he, at the same time trembling with such agitation that the whole carriage shook. This singular piece of behaviour incensed Miss Ramper so much that she cried, “Damn your pitiful soul! you are as arrant a poltroon as ever was drummed out of a regiment! Stop the waggon, Joey. Let me get out, and, by God, if I have rhetoric enough, the thief shall not only take your purse, but your skin also!” So saying, she leaped out with great agility.

By this time the horseman came up with us, and happened to be a gentleman’s servant well known to Joey, who communicated the scheme, and desired him to carry it on a little further, by going up to the waggon and questioning those within. The stranger, consenting for the sake of diversion, approached it, and in a terrible tone demanded, “Who have we got here?” Isaac replied, with a lamentable voice, “Here’s a poor miserable sinner, who has got a small family to maintain, and nothing in the world wherewithal but these fifteen shillings, which if you rob me of we must all starve together.” “Who’s that sobbing in the other corner?” said the supposed highwayman. “A poor unfortunate woman,” answered Mrs. Weazel, “upon whom I beg you for Christ’s sake to have compassion.” “Are you maid or wife?” said he. “Wife, to my sorrow,” cried she. “Who or where is your husband?” continued he. “My husband,” replied Mrs. Weazel, “is an officer in the army, and was left sick at the last inn where we dined.” “You must be mistaken, madam,” said he, “for I myself saw him get into the waggon this afternoon. But pray, what odour is that? Smells like a dog.” Here he laid hold of one of Weazel’s legs, and pulled him out from under his wife’s petticoats, where he had concealed himself. The poor, trembling captain, being detected in this inglorious situation, rubbed his eyes, and affecting to wake out of sleep cried, “What’s the matter? What’s the matter?” “The matter is not much,” answered the horseman. “I only called in to inquire after your health; and so, adieu, most noble captain.” So saying, he clapped spurs to his horse, and was out of sight in a moment.

It was some time before Weazel could recollect himself, but at length reassuming the big look, he said, “Damn the fellow! why did he ride away before I had time to ask him how his lord and lady were? Don’t you remember Tom, my dear?” addressing himself to his wife. “Yes,” replied she, “I think I do remember something of the fellow; but you know I seldom converse with people of his station. “Hey-day,” cried Joey, “do yaw knaw the young mon, coptain?” “Know him?” said Weazel. “Many a time has he filled a glass of Burgundy for me at my lord Trippet’s table.” “And what may his neame be, coptain?” said Joey. “His name? His name,” replied Weazel, “is Tom Rinser.” “Waunds!” cried Joey, “a has changed his own neame, then! I’se lay a wager he was christened John Trotter.” This observation raised a laugh against the captain, who seemed very much disconcerted, when Isaac broke silence, and said, “It was no matter who or what he was, since he has not proved the robber we suspected. And we ought to bless God for our narrow escape.” “Bless God?” said Weazel. “Bless the devil! For had he been a highwayman, I should have eaten his blood, body, and guts before he had robbed me or any one in this diligence.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” cried Miss Jenny, “I believe you will eat all you kill indeed, captain.”

The usurer was so well pleased at the event of this adventure, that he could not refrain from being severe, and took notice that Captain Weazel seemed to be a good Christian, for he had armed himself with patience and resignation, instead of carnal weapons, and worked out his salvation with fear and trembling.