Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 45

[+] | [-] | reset

Letter XLV

To Sir WATKIN PHILLIPS, Bart. of Jesus college, Oxon.


The very day after I wrote my last, Clinker was set at liberty. As Martin had foretold, the accuser was himself committed for a robbery, upon unquestionable evidence. He had been for some time in the snares of the thief-taking society; who, resenting his presumption in attempting to incroach upon their monopoly of impeachment, had him taken up and committed to Newgate, on the deposition of an accomplice, who has been admitted as evidence for the king. The postilion being upon record as an old offender, the chief justice made no scruple of admitting Clinker to bail, when he perused the affidavit of Mr Mead, importing that the said Clinker was not the person that robbed him on Blackheath; and honest Humphry was discharged. When he came home, he expressed great eagerness to pay his respects to his master, and here his elocution failed him, but his silence was pathetic; he fell down at his feet and embraced his knees, shedding a flood of tears, which my uncle did not see without emotion. He took snuff in some confusion; and, putting his hand in his pocket, gave him his blessing in something more substantial than words — 'Clinker (said he), I am so well convinced, both of your honesty and courage, that I am resolved to make you my life-guardman on the highway.'

He was accordingly provided with a case of pistols, and a carbine to be flung a-cross his shoulders; and every other preparation being made, we set out last Thursday, at seven in the morning; my uncle, with the three women in the coach; Humphry, well mounted on a black gelding bought for his use; myself a-horseback, attended by my new valet, Mr Dutton, an exceeding coxcomb, fresh from his travels, whom I have taken upon trial — The fellow wears a solitaire, uses paint, and takes rappee with all the grimace of a French marquis. At present, however, he is in a ridingdress, jack-boots, leather breeches, a scarlet waistcoat, with gold binding, a laced hat, a hanger, a French posting-whip in his hand, and his hair en queue.

Before we had gone nine miles, my horse lost one of his shoes; so that I was obliged to stop at Barnet to have another, while the coach proceeded at an easy pace over the common. About a mile short of Hatfield, the postilions, stopping the carriage, gave notice to Clinker that there were two suspicious fellows a-horseback, at the end of a lane, who semed waiting to attack the coach. Humphry forthwith apprised my uncle, declaring he would stand by him to the last drop of his blood; and unflinging his carbine, prepared for action. The 'squire had pistols in the pockets of the coach, and resolved to make use of them directly; but he was effectually prevented by his female companions, who flung themselves about his neck, and screamed in concert — At that instant, who should come up at a hand-gallop, but Martin, the highway-man, who, advancing to the coach, begged the ladies would compose themselves for a moment then, desiring Clinker to follow him to the charge, he pulled a pistol out of his bosom, and they rode up together to give battle to the rogues, who, having fired at a great distance, fled across the common. They were in pursuit of the fugitives when I came up, not a little alarmed at the shrieks in the coach, where I found my uncle in a violent rage, without his periwig, struggling to disentangle himself from Tabby and the other two, and swearing with great vociferation. Before I had time to interpose, Martin and Clinker returned from the pursuit, and the former payed his compliments with great politeness, giving us to understand, that the fellows had scampered off, and that he believed they were a couple of raw 'prentices from London. He commended Clinker for his courage, and said, if we would give him leave, he would have the honour to accompany us as far as Stevenage, where he had some business.