Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 47

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The poor clothier's torments had already begun: he retired, roaring with pain, to his own chamber; the oil was swallowed, and the doctor sent for; but before he arrived, the miserable patient had made such discharges upwards and downwards, that nothing remained to give him further offence; and this double evacuation, was produced by imagination alone; for what he had drank was genuine wine of Bourdeaux, which the lawyer had brought from Scotland for his own private use. The clothier, finding the joke turn out so expensive and disagreeable, quitted the house next morning, leaving the triumph to Micklewhimmen, who enjoyed it internally without any outward signs of exultation — on the contrary, he affected to pity the young man for what he had suffered; and acquired fresh credit from this shew of moderation.

It was about the middle of the night, which succeeded this adventure, that the vent of the kitchen chimney being foul, the soot took fire, and the alarm was given in a dreadful manner. Every body leaped naked out of bed, and in a minute the whole house was filled with cries and confusion — There was two stairs in the house, and to these we naturally ran; but they were both so blocked up, by the people pressing one upon another, that it seemed impossible to pass, without throwing down and trampling upon the women. In the midst of this anarchy, Mr Micklewhimmen, with a leathern portmanteau on his back, came running as nimble as a buck along the passage; and Tabby in her underpetticoat, endeavouring to hook him under the arm, that she might escape through his protection, he very fairly pushed her down, crying, 'Na, na, gude faith, charity begins at hame!' Without paying the least respect to the shrieks and intreaties of his female friends, he charged through the midst of the crowd, overturning every thing that opposed him; and actually fought his way to the bottom of the Stair-case — By this time Clinker had found a ladder by which he entered the window of my uncle's chamber, where our family was assembled, and proposed that we should make our exit successively by that conveyance. The 'squire exhorted his sister to begin the descent; but, before she could resolve, her woman, Mrs Winifred Jenkins, in a transport of terror, threw herself out at the window upon the ladder, while Humphry dropped upon the ground, that he might receive her in her descent — This maiden was just as she had started out of bed, the moon shone very bright, and a fresh breeze of wind blowing, none of Mrs Winifred's beauties could possibly escape the view of the fortunate Clinker, whose heart was not able to withstand the united force of so many charms; at least I am much mistaken, if he has not been her humble slave from that moment — He received her in his arms, and, giving her his coat to protect her from the weather, ascended again with admirable dexterity.

At that instant, the landlord of the house called out with an audible voice, that the fire was extinguished, and the ladies had nothing further to fear: this was a welcome note to the audience, and produced an immediate effect; the shrieking ceased, and a confused sound of expostulation ensued. I conducted Mrs Tabitha and my sister to their own chamber, where Liddy fainted away; but was soon brought to herself. Then I went to offer my services to the other ladies, who might want assistance — They were all scudding through the passage to their several apartments; and as the thoroughfair was lighted by two lamps, I had a pretty good observation of them in their transit; but as most of them were naked to the smock, and all their heads shrowded in huge nightcaps, I could not distinguish one face from another, though I recognized some of their voices — These were generally plaintive; some wept, some scolded, and some prayed — I lifted up one poor old gentlewoman, who had been overturned and sore bruised by a multitude of feet; and this was also the case with the lame person from Northumberland, whom Micklewhimmen had in his passage overthrown, though not with impunity, for the cripple, in falling, gave him such a good pelt on the head with his crutch, that the blood followed.