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The Adventures of Roderick Random

Chapter 6
I make great progress in my Studies--am caressed by Everybody--my female Cousins
take notice of me-I reject their Invitation-they are incensed, and conspire against me-am
left destitute by a Misfortune that befalls my Uncle-Gawky's Treachery-my Revenge
As I was now capable of reflection, I began to consider my precarious situation; that I
was utterly abandoned by those whose duty it was to protect me: and that my sole
dependence was on the generosity of one man, who was not only exposed by his
profession to continual dangers, which might one day deprive me of him for ever; but
also (no doubt) subject to those vicissitudes of disposition which a change of fortune
usually creates, or which a better acquaintance with the world might produce; for I
always ascribed his benevolence to the dictates of a heart as yet undebauched by a
commerce with mankind. Alarmed at these considerations, I resolved to apply myself
with great care to my studies, and enjoy the opportunity in my power: this I did with such
success that, in the space of three years, I understood Greek very well, was pretty far
advanced in the mathematics, and no stranger to moral and natural philosophy: logic I
made no account of; but, above all things, I valued myself on my taste in the belles
lettres, and a talent for poetry, which had already produced some pieces that had met
with a favourable reception. These qualifications, added to a good face and shape,
acquired the esteem and acquaintance of the most considerable people in town, and I
had the satisfaction to find myself in some degree of favour with the ladies; an
intoxicating piece of good fortune to one of my amorous complexion! which I obtained,
or at least preserved, by gratifying their propensity to scandal, in lampooning their rivals.
Two of my female cousins lived in this place, with their mother, since the death of their
father, who left his whole fortune equally divided between them; so that, if they were not
the most beautiful, they were at least the richest toasts in town; and received daily the
addresses of all the beaux and cavaliers of the country. Although I had hitherto been
looked upon by them with the most supercilious contempt, my character now attracted
their notice so much that I was given to understand I might be honoured with their
acquaintance, if I pleased.
The reader will easily perceive that this condescension either flowed from the hope of
making my poetical capacity subservient to their malice, or at least of screening
themselves from the lash of my resentment, which they had effectually provoked. I
enjoyed this triumph with great satisfaction, and not only rejected their offer with disdain,
but in all my performances, whether satire or panegyric, industriously avoided
mentioning their names, even while I celebrated those of their intimates: this neglect
mortified their pride exceedingly and incensed them to such a degree that they were
resolved to make me repent of my indifference. The first stroke of their revenge
consisted in their hiring a poor collegian to write verses against me, the subject of which
was my own poverty, and the catastrophe of my unhappy parents; but, besides the
badness of the composition (of which they themselves were ashamed), they did not find