Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 52

[+] | [-] | reset

Clinker was so incensed at Dutton, whom he considered as the cause of her disgrace, that he upbraided him severely for having turned the poor woman's brain. The other affected to treat him with contempt, and mistaking his forbearance for want of courage, threatened to horse-whip him into good manners. Humphry then came to me, humbly begging I would give him leave to chastise my servant for his insolence — 'He has challenged me to fight him at sword's point (said he); but I might as well challenge him to make a horse-shoe, or a plough iron; for I know no more of the one than he does of the other. — Besides, it doth not become servants to use those weapons, or to claim the privilege of gentlemen to kill one another when they fall out; moreover, I would not have his blood upon my conscience for ten thousand times the profit or satisfaction I should get by his death; but if your honour won't be angry, I'll engage to gee 'en a good drubbing, that, may hap, will do 'en service, and I'll take care it shall do 'en no harm.' I said, I had no objection to what he proposed, provided he could manage matters so as not to be found the aggressor, in case Dutton should prosecute him for an assault and battery.

Thus licensed, he retired; and that same evening easily provoked his rival to strike the first blow, which Clinker returned with such interest that he was obliged to call for quarter, declaring, at the same time, that he would exact severe and bloody satisfaction the moment we should pass the border, when he could run him through the body without fear of the consequence. — This scene passed in presence of lieutenant Lismahago, who encouraged Clinker to hazard a thrust of cold iron with his antagonist. 'Cold iron (cried Humphry) I shall never use against the life of any human creature; but I am so far from being afraid of his cold iron, that I shall use nothing in my defence but a good cudgel, which shall always be at his service.' In the mean time, the fair cause of this contest, Mrs Winifred Jenkins, seemed overwhelmed with affliction, and Mr Clinker acted much on the reserve, though he did not presume to find fault with her conduct.

The dispute between the two rivals was soon brought to a very unexpected issue. Among our fellow-lodgers at Berwick, was a couple from London, bound to Edinburgh, on the voyage of matrimony. The female was the daughter and heiress of a pawnbroker deceased, who had given her guardians the slip, and put herself under the tuition of a tall Hibernian, who had conducted her thus far in quest of a clergyman to unite them in marriage, without the formalities required by the law of England. I know not how the lover had behaved on the road, so as to decline in the favour of his inamorata; but, in all probability, Dutton perceived a coldness on her side, which encouraged him to whisper, it was a pity she should have cast affections upon a taylor, which he affirmed the Irishman to be. This discovery completed her disgust, of which my man taking the advantage, began to recommend himself to her good graces, and the smooth-tongued rascal found no difficulty to insinuate himself into the place of her heart, from which the other had been discarded — Their resolution was immediately taken. In the morning, before day, while poor Teague lay snoring a-bed, his indefatigable rival ordered a post-chaise, and set out with the lady for Coldstream, a few miles up the Tweed, where there was a parson who dealt in this branch of commerce, and there they were noosed, before the Irishman ever dreamt of the matter. But when he got up at six o'clock, and found the bird was flown, he made such a noise as alarmed the whole house. One of the first persons he encountered, was the postilion returned from Coldstream, where he had been witness to the marriage, and over and above an handsome gratuity, had received a bride's favour, which he now wore in his cap — When the forsaken lover understood they were actually married, and set out for London; and that Dutton had discovered to the lady, that he (the Hibernian) was a taylor, he had like to have run distracted. He tore the ribbon from the fellow's cap, and beat it about his ears. He swore he would pursue him to the gates of hell, and ordered a post-chaise and four to be got ready as soon as possible; but, recollecting that his finances would not admit of this way of travelling, he was obliged to countermand this order.