Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 46

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When we arrived, there was a family of foreigners at the house, on a visit to this virtuoso, with whom they had been acquainted at the Spa; it was the count de Melville, with his lady, on their way to Scotland. Mr Burdock had met with an accident, in consequence of which both the count and I would have retired but the young gentleman and his mother insisted upon our staying dinner; and their serenity seemed to be so little ruffled by what had happened, that we complied with their invitation. The 'squire had been brought home over night in his post-chaise, so terribly belaboured about the pate, that he seemed to be in a state of stupefaction, and had ever since remained speechless. A country apothecary, called Grieve, who lived in a neighbouring village, having been called to his assistance, had let him blood, and applied a poultice to his head, declaring, that he had no fever, nor any other bad symptom but the loss of speech, if he really had lost that faculty. But the young 'squire said this practitioner was an ignorantaccio, that there was a fracture in the cranium, and that there was a necessity for having him trepanned without loss of time. His mother, espousing this opinion, had sent an express to York for a surgeon to perform the operation, and he was already come with his 'prentice and instruments. Having examined the patient's head, he began to prepare his dressings; though Grieve still retained his first opinion that there was no fracture, and was the more confirmed in it as the 'squire had passed the night in profound sleep, uninterrupted by any catching or convulsion. The York surgeon said he could not tell whether there was a fracture, until he should take off the scalp; but, at any rate, the operation might be of service in giving vent to any blood that might be extravasated, either above or below the dura mater. The lady and her son were clear for trying the experiment; and Grieve was dismissed with some marks of contempt, which, perhaps, he owed to the plainness of his appearance. He seemed to be about the middle age, wore his own black hair without any sort of dressing; by his garb, one would have taken him for a quaker, but he had none of the stiffness of that sect, on the contrary he was very submissive, respectful, and remarkably taciturn.

Leaving the ladies in an apartment by themselves, we adjourned to the patient's chamber, where the dressings and instruments were displayed in order upon a pewter dish. The operator, laying aside his coat and periwig, equipped himself with a night-cap, apron, and sleeves, while his 'prentice and footman, seizing the 'squire's head, began to place it in a proper posture. — But mark what followed. — The patient, bolting upright in the bed, collared each of these assistants with the grasp of Hercules, exclaiming, in a bellowing tone, 'I ha'n't lived so long in Yorkshire to be trepanned by such vermin as you;' and leaping on the floor, put on his breeches quietly, to the astonishment of us all. The Surgeon still insisted upon the operation, alleging it was now plain that the brain was injured, and desiring the servants put him into bed again; but nobody would venture to execute his orders, or even to interpose: when the 'squire turned him and his assistants out of doors, and threw his apparatus out at the window. Having thus asserted his prerogative, and put on his cloaths with the help of a valet, the count, with my nephew and me, were introduced by his son, and received with his usual stile of rustic civility; then turning to signor Macaroni, with a sarcastic grin, 'I tell thee what, Dick (said he), a man's scull is not to be bored every time his head is broken; and I'll convince thee and thy mother, that I know as many tricks as e'er an old fox in the West Riding.'

We afterwards understood he had quarrelled at a public house with an exciseman, whom he challenged to a bout at single stick, in which he had been worsted; and that the shame of this defeat had tied up his tongue. As for madam, she had shewn no concern for his disaster, and now heard of his recovery without emotion — She had taken some little notice of my sister and niece, though rather with a view to indulge her own petulance, than out of any sentiment of regard to our family. — She said Liddy was a fright, and ordered her woman to adjust her head before dinner; but she would not meddle with Tabby, whose spirit, she soon perceived, was not to be irritated with impunity. At table, she acknowledged me so far as to say she had heard of my father; though she hinted, that he had disobliged her family by making a poor match in Wales. She was disagreeably familiar in her enquiries about our circumstances; and asked, if I intended to bring up my nephew to the law. I told her, that, as he had an independent fortune, he should follow no profession but that of a country gentleman; and that I was not without hopes of procuring for him a seat in parliament — 'Pray cousin (said she), what may his fortune be?' When I answered, that, with what I should be able to give him, he would have better than two thousand a year, she replied, with a disdainful toss of her head, that it would be impossible for him to preserve his independence on such a paultry provision.