Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 40

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Letter XL

To Dr LEWIS.

DEAR LEWIS,

The deceitful calm was of short duration. I am plunged again in a sea of vexation, and the complaints in my stomach and bowels are returned; so that I suppose I shall be disabled from prosecuting the excursion I had planned — What the devil had I to do, to come a plague hunting with a leash of females in my train? Yesterday my precious sister (who, by the bye, has been for some time a professed methodist) came into my apartment, attended by Mr Barton, and desired an audience with a very stately air — 'Brother (said she), this gentleman has something to propose, which I flatter myself will be the more acceptable, as it will rid you of a troublesome companion.' Then Mr Barton proceeded to this effect — 'I am, indeed, extremely ambitious of being allied to your family, Mr Bramble, and I hope you will see no cause to interpose your authority.' 'As for authority (said Tabby, interrupting him with some warmth), I know of none that he has a right to use on this occasion — If I pay him the compliment of making him acquainted with the step I intend to take, it is all he can expect in reason — This is as much as I believe he would do by me, if he intended to change his own situation in life — In a word, brother, I am so sensible of Mr Barton's extra ordinary merit, that I have been prevailed upon to alter my resolution of living a single life, and to put my happiness in his hands, by vesting him with a legal title to my person and fortune, such as they are. The business at present, is to have the writings drawn; and I shall be obliged to you, if you will recommend a lawyer to me for that purpose'

You may guess what an effect this overture had upon me; who, from the information of my nephew, expected that Barton was to make a formal declaration of his passion for Liddy; I could not help gazing in silent astonishment, alternately at Tabby, and her supposed admirer, who last hung his head in the most aukward confusion for a few minutes, and then retired on pretence of being suddenly seized with a vertigo — Mrs Tabitha affected much concern, and would have had him make use of a bed in the house; but he insisted upon going home, that he might have recourse of some drops, which he kept for such emergencies, and his innamorata acquiesced — In the mean time I was exceedingly puzzled at this adventure (though I suspected the truth) and did not know in what manner to demean myself towards Mrs Tabitha, when Jery came in and told me, he had just seen Mr Barton alight from his chariot at lady Griskin's door — This incident seemed to threaten a visit from her ladyship, with which we were honoured accordingly, in less than half an hour — 'I find (said she) there has been a match of cross purposes among you good folks; and I'm come to set you to rights' — So saying, she presented me with the following billet

'DEAR SIR,

I no sooner recollected myself from the extreme confusion I was thrown into, by that unlucky mistake of your sister, than I thought it my duty to assure you, that my devoirs to Mrs Bramble never exceeded the bounds of ordinary civility; and that my heart is unalterably fixed upon Miss Liddy Melford, as I had the honour to declare to her brother, when he questioned me upon that subject — Lady Griskin has been so good as to charge herself, not only with the delivery of this note, but also with the task of undeceiving Mrs Bramble, for whom I have the most profound respect and veneration, though my affection being otherwise engaged is no longer in the power of

Sir,
Your very humble servant,
RALPH BARTON.'