Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 49

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Having seen this favourite steed properly accommodated in the stable, he sent up his compliments to the ladies, begging permission to thank them in person for the marks of concern they had shewn at his disaster in the court yard — As the 'squire said they could not decently decline his visit, he was shewn up stairs and paid his respects in the Scotch dialect, with much formality 'Leddies (said he), perhaps ye may be scandaleezed at the appearance of my heed made, when it was uncovered by accident; but I can assure you, the condition you saw it in, is neither the effects of diseases, nor of drunkenness: but an honest scar received in the service of my country.' He then gave us to understand, that having been wounded at Ticonderoga, in America, a party of Indians rifled him, scalped him, broke his scull with the blow of a tomahawk, and left him for dead on the field of battle; but that being afterwards found with signs of life, he had been cured in the French hospital, though the loss of substance could not be repaired; so that the scull was left naked in several places, and these he covered with patches.

There is no hold by which an Englishman is sooner taken than that of compassion — We were immediately interested in behalf of this veteran. Even Tabby's heart was melted; but our pity was warmed with indignation, when we learned, that in the course of two sanguinary wars, he had been wounded, maimed, mutilated, taken, and enslaved, without ever having attained a higher rank than that of lieutenant — My uncle's eyes gleamed, and his nether lip quivered, while he exclaimed, 'I vow to God, sir, your case is a reproach to the service — The injustice you have met with is so flagrant' — 'I must crave your pardon, sir (cried the other, interrupting him), I complain of no injustice — I purchased an ensigncy thirty years ago; and, in the course of service rose to a lieutenant, according to my seniority' — 'But in such a length of time (resumed the 'squire), you must have seen a great many young officers put over your head' — 'Nevertheless (said he), I have no cause to murmur — They bought their preferment with their money — I had no money to carry to market that was my misfortune; but no body was to blame' — 'What! no friend to advance a sum of money?' (said Mr Bramble) 'Perhaps, I might have borrowed money for the purchase of a company (answered the other); but that loan must have been refunded; and I did not chuse to incumber myself with a debt of a thousand pounds, to be payed from an income of ten shillings a-day.' 'So you have spent the best part of your life (cried Mr Bramble), your youth, your blood, and your constitution, amidst the dangers, the difficulties, the horrors and hardships of a war, for the consideration of three or four shillings a-day a consideration —' 'Sir (replied the Scot, with great warmth), you are the man that does me injustice, if you say or think I have been actuated by any such paltry consideration — I am a gentleman; and entered the service as other gentlemen do, with such hopes and sentiments as honourable ambition inspires — If I have not been lucky in the lottery of life, so neither do I think myself unfortunate — I owe to no man a farthing; I can always command a clean shirt, a mutton-chop, and a truss of straw; and when I die, I shall leave effects sufficient to defray the expence of my burial.'

My uncle assured him, he had no intention to give him the least offence, by the observations he had made; but, on the contrary, spoke from a sentiment of friendly regard to his interest — The lieutenant thanked him with a stiffness of civility, which nettled our old gentleman, who perceived that his moderation was all affected; for, whatsoever his tongue might declare, his whole appearance denoted dissatisfaction — In short, without pretending to judge of his military merit, I think I may affirm, that this Caledonian is a self-conceited pedant, aukward, rude, and disputacious — He has had the benefit of a school-education, seems to have read a good number of books, his memory is tenacious, and he pretends to speak several different languages; but he is so addicted to wrangling, that he will cavil at the clearest truths, and, in the pride of argumentation, attempt to reconcile contradictions — Whether his address and qualifications are really of that stamp which is agreeable to the taste of our aunt, Mrs Tabitha, or that indefatigable maiden is determined to shoot at every sort of game, certain it is she has begun to practice upon the heart of the lieutenant, who favoured us with his company to supper.

I have many other things to say of this man of war, which I shall communicate in a post or two; mean while, it is but reasonable that you should be indulged with some respite from those weary lucubrations of

Yours,
J. MELFORD
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, July 10.