Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 29

[+] | [-] | reset

So saying, he put a guinea into the hand of the poor fellow, who stood staring at him in silence, with his mouth wide open, till the landlord pushed him out of the room.

In the afternoon, as our aunt stept into the coach, she observed, with some marks of satisfaction, that the postilion, who rode next to her, was not a shabby wretch like the ragamuffin who had them into Marlborough. Indeed, the difference was very conspicuous: this was a smart fellow, with a narrow brimmed hat, with gold cording, a cut bob, a decent blue jacket, leather-breaches, and a clean linen shirt, puffed above the waist-band. When we arrived at the Castle, on Spin-hill, where we lay, this new postilion was remarkably assiduous in bringing in the loose parcels; and, at length, displayed the individual countenance of Humphry Clinker, who had metamorphosed himself in this manner, by relieving from pawn part of his own clothes, with the money he had received from Mr Bramble.

Howsoever pleased the rest of the company were with such a favourable change in the appearance of this poor creature it soured on the stomach of Mrs Tabby, who had not yet digested the affront of his naked skin — She tossed her nose in disdain, saying, she supposed her brother had taken him into favour, because he had insulted her with his obscenity: that a fool and his money were soon parted; but that if Matt intended to take the fellow with him to London, she would not go a foot further that way — My uncle said nothing with his tongue, though his looks were sufficiently expressive; and next morning Clinker did not appear, so that we proceeded without further altercation to Salthill, where we proposed to dine — There, the first person that came to the side of the coach, and began to adjust the footboard, was no other than Humphry Clinker — When I handed out Mrs Bramble, she eyed him with a furious look, and passed into the house — My uncle was embarrassed, and asked him peevishly, what had brought him hither? The fellow said, his honour had been so good to him, that he had not the heart to part with him; that he would follow him to the world's end, and serve him all the days of his life, without fee or reward.

Mr Bramble did not know whether to chide or laugh at this declaration — He foresaw much contradiction on the side of Tabby; and on the other hand, he could not but be pleased with the gratitude of Clinker, as well as with the simplicity of his character — 'Suppose I was inclined to take you into my service (said he) what are your qualifications? what are you good for?' 'An please your honour (answered this original) I can read and write, and do the business of the stable indifferent well — I can dress a horse, and shoe him, and bleed and rowel him; and, as for the practice of sow-gelding, I won't turn my back on e'er a he in the county of Wilts — Then I can make hog's puddings and hob-nails, mend kettles and tin sauce-pans.' — Here uncle burst out a-laughing; and inquired what other accomplishments he was master of — 'I know something of single-stick, and psalmody (proceeded Clinker); I can play upon the jew's-harp, sing Black-ey'd Susan, Arthur-o'Bradley, and divers other songs; I can dance a Welsh jig, and Nancy Dawson; wrestle a fall with any lad of my inches, when I'm in heart; and, under correction I can find a hare when your honour wants a bit of game.' 'Foregad! thou are a complete fellow (cried my uncle, still laughing) I have a good mind to take thee into my family — Prithee, go and try if thou can'st make peace with my sister — Thou ha'st given her much offence by shewing her thy naked tail.'

Clinker accordingly followed us into the room, cap in hand, where, addressing himself to Mrs Tabitha, 'May it please your ladyship's worship (cried he) to pardon and forgive my offences, and, with God's assistance, I shall take care that my tail shall never rise up in judgment against me, to offend your ladyship again. Do, pray, good, sweet, beautiful lady, take compassion on a poor sinner — God bless your noble countenance; I am sure you are too handsome and generous to bear malice — I will serve you on my bended knees, by night and by day, by land and by water; and all for the love and pleasure of serving such an excellent lady.'