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

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Letter XLVII

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


The manner of living at Harrigate was so agreeable to my disposition, that I left the place with some regret — Our aunt Tabby would have probably made some objection to our departing so soon, had not an accident embroiled her with Mr Micklewhimmen, the Scotch advocate, on whose heart she had been practising, from the second day after our arrival — That original, though seemingly precluded from the use of his limbs, had turned his genius to good account — In short, by dint of groaning, and whining, he had excited the compassion of the company so effectually, that an old lady, who occupied the very best apartment in the house, gave it up for his case and convenience. When his man led him into the Long Room, all the females were immediately in commotion — One set an elbow-chair; another shook up the cushion; a third brought a stool; and a fourth a pillow, for the accommodation of his feet — Two ladies (of whom Tabby was always one) supported him into the dining-room, and placed him properly at the table; and his taste was indulged with a succession of delicacies, culled by their fair hands. All this attention he repaid with a profusion of compliments and benedictions, which were not the less agreeable for being delivered in the Scottish dialect. As for Mrs Tabitha, his respects were particularly addressed to her, and he did not fail to mingle them with religious reflections, touching free grace, knowing her bias to methodism, which he also professed upon a calvinistical model.

For my part, I could not help thinking this lawyer was not such an invalid as he pretended to be. I observed he ate very heartily three times a day; and though his bottle was marked stomachic tincture, he had recourse to it so often, and seemed to swallow it with such peculiar relish, that I suspected it was not compounded in the apothecary's shop, or the chemist's laboratory. One day, while he was earnest in discourse with Mrs Tabitha, and his servant had gone out on some occasion or other, I dexterously exchanged the labels, and situation of his bottle and mine; and having tasted his tincture, found it was excellent claret. I forthwith handed it about me to some of my neighbours, and it was quite emptied before Mr Micklewhimmen had occasion to repeat his draught. At length, turning about, he took hold of my bottle, instead of his own, and, filling a large glass, drank to the health of Mrs Tabitha. It had scarce touched his lips, when he perceived the change which had been put upon him, and was at first a little out of countenance. He seemed to retire within himself, in order to deliberate, and in half a minute his resolution was taken; addressing himself to our quarter, 'I give the gentleman credit for his wit (said he); it was a gude practical joke; but sometimes hi joci in seria ducunt mala — I hope for his own sake he has na drank all the liccor; for it was a vara poorful infusion of jallap in Bourdeaux wine; at its possable he may ha ta'en sic a dose as will produce a terrible catastrophe in his ain booels —'

By far the greater part of the contents had fallen to the share of a young clothier from Leeds, who had come to make a figure at Harrigate, and was, in effect a great coxcomb in his way. It was with a view to laugh at his fellow-guests, as well as to mortify the lawyer, that he had emptied the bottle, when it came to his turn, and he had laughed accordingly: but now his mirth gave way to his apprehension — He began to spit, to make wry faces, and writhe himself into various contorsions — 'Damn the stuff! (cried he) I thought it had a villainous twang — pah! He that would cozen a Scot, mun get oope betimes, and take Old Scratch for his counsellor —' 'In troth mester what d'ye ca'um (replied the lawyer), your wit has run you into a filthy puddle — I'm truly consarned for your waeful case — The best advice I can give you, in sic a delemma, is to send an express to Rippon for doctor Waugh, without delay, and, in the mean time, swallow all the oil and butter you can find in the hoose, to defend your poor stomach and intastines from the villication of the particles of the jallap, which is vara violent, even when taken in moderation.'