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.
The ’squire, having recollected and adjusted himself, was the first to laugh at his own situation: but it was not without difficulty, that Tabby’s arms could be untwisted from his neck; Liddy’s teeth chattered, and Jenkins was threatened with a fit as usual. I had communicated to my uncle the character of Martin, as it was described by the constable, and he was much struck with its singularity—He could not suppose the fellow had any design on our company, which was so numerous and well armed; he therefore thanked him, for the service he had just done them, said he would be glad of his company, and asked him to dine with us at Hatfield. This invitation might not have been agreeable to the ladies, had they known the real profession of our guest, but this was a secret to all, except my uncle and myself. Mrs Tabitha, however, would by no means consent to proceed with a case of loaded pistols in the coach, and they were forthwith discharged in complaisance to her and the rest of the women.
Being gratified in this particular, she became remarkably goodhumoured, and at dinner behaved in the most affable manner to Mr Martin, with whose polite address and agreeable conversation she seemed to be much taken. After dinner, the landlord accosting me in the yard, asked with a significant look, if the gentleman that rode the sorrel belonged to our company?—I understand his meaning, but answered no; that he had come up with us on the common, and helped us to drive away two fellows, that looked like highwaymen—He nodded three times distinctly, as much as to say, he knows his cue. Then he inquired, if one of those men was mounted on a bay mare, and the other on a chestnut gelding with a white streak down his forehead? and being answered in the affirmative, he assured me they had robbed three post-chaises this very morning—I inquired, in my turn, if Mr Martin was of his acquaintance; and, nodding thrice again, he answered, that he had seen the gentleman.
Before we left Hatfield, my uncle, fixing his eyes on Martin with such expression as is more easily conceived than described, asked, if he often travelled that road? and he replied with a look which denoted his understanding the question, that he very seldom did business in that part of the country. In a word, this adventurer favoured us with his company to the neighbourhood of Stevenage, where he took his leave of the coach and me, in very polite terms, and turned off upon a crossroad, that led to a village on the left—At supper, Mrs Tabby was very full in the praise of Mr Martin‘s good-sense and good-breeding, and seemed to regret that she had not a further opportunity to make some experiment upon his affection. In the morning, my uncle was not a little surprised to receive, from the waiter a billet couched in these words—
I could easily perceive from your looks, when I had the honour to converse with you at Hatfield, that my character is not unknown to you; and, I dare say you won’t think it strange, that I should be glad to change my present way of life, for any other honest occupation, let it be ever so humble, that will afford me bread in moderation, and sleep in safety—Perhaps you may think I flatter, when I say, that from the moment I was witness to your generous concern in the cause of your servant, I conceived a particular esteem and veneration for your person; and yet what I say is true. I should think myself happy, if I could be admitted into your protection and service, as house-steward, clerk, butler, or bailiff, for either of which places I think myself tolerably well qualified; and, sure I am, I should not be found deficient in gratitude and fidelity—At the same time, I am very sensible how much you must deviate from the common maxims of discretion, even in putting my professions to the trial; but I don’t look upon you as a person that thinks in the ordinary stile; and the delicacy of my situation, will, I know, justify this address to a heart warmed with beneficence and compassion—Understanding you are going pretty far north, I shall take an opportunity to throw myself in your way again, before you reach the borders of Scotland; and, I hope, by that time, you will have taken into consideration, the truly distressful case of,
honoured sir, your very humble, and devoted servant, EDWARD MARTIN
The ’squire, having perused this letter, put it into my hand, without saying a syllable; and when I had read it we looked at each other in silence. From a certain sparkling in his eyes, I discovered there was more in his heart, than he cared to express with his tongue, in favour of poor Martin; and this was precisely my own feeling, which he did not fail to discern, by the same means of communication—‘What shall we do (said he) to save this poor sinner from the gallows, and make him a useful member of the commonwealth; and yet the proverb says, Save a thief from the gallows, and he’ll cut your throat.’ I told him I really believed Martin was capable of giving the proverb the lie; and that I should heartily concur in any step he might take in favour of his solicitation. We mutually resolved to deliberate upon the subject, and, in the mean time, proceeded on our journey. The roads, having been broken up by the heavy rains in the spring, were so rough, that although we travelled very slowly, the jolting occasioned such pain, to my uncle, that he was become exceedingly peevish when we arrived at this place, which lies about eight miles from the postroad, between Wetherby and Boroughbridge.
Harrigate-water, so celebrated for its efficacy in the scurvy and other distempers, is supplied from a copious spring, in the hollow of a wild common, round which, a good many houses have been built for the convenience of the drinkers, though few of them are inhabited. Most of the company lodge at some distance, in five separate inns, situated in different parts of the commons, from whence they go every morning to the well, in their own carriages. The lodgers of each inn form a distinct society, that eat together; and there is a commodious public room, where they breakfast in disabille, at separate tables, from eight o’clock till eleven, as they chance or chuse to come in—Here also they drink tea in the afternoon, and play at cards or dance in the evening. One custom, however, prevails, which I looked upon as a solecism in politeness. The ladies treat with tea in their turns; and even girls of sixteen are not exempted from this shameful imposition—There is a public ball by subscription every night at one of the houses, to which all the company from the others are admitted by tickets; and, indeed, Harrigate treads upon the heels of Bath, in the articles of gaiety and dissipation—with this difference, however, that here we are more sociable and familiar. One of the inns is already full up to the very garrets, having no less than fifty lodgers, and as many servants. Our family does not exceed thirty-six; and I should be sorry to see the number augmented, as our accommodations won’t admit of much increase.
At present, the company is more agreeable than one could expect from an accidental assemblage of persons, who are utter strangers to one another—There seems to be a general disposition among us to maintain good-fellowship, and promote the purposes of humanity, in favour of those who come hither on the score of health. I see several faces which we left at Bath, although the majority are of the Northern counties, and many come from Scotland for the benefit of these waters—In such a variety, there must be some originals, among whom Mrs Tabitha Bramble is not the most inconsiderable—No place where there is such an intercourse between the sexes, can be disagreeable to a lady of her views and temperament—She has had some warm disputes at table, with a lame parson from Northumberland, on the new birth, and the insignificance of moral virtue; and her arguments have been reinforced by an old Scotch lawyer, in a rye periwig, who, though he has lost his teeth, and the use of his limbs, can still wag his tongue with great volubility. He has paid her such fulsome compliments, upon her piety and learning, as seem to have won her heart; and she, in her turn, treats him with such attention as indicates a design upon his person; but, by all accounts, he is too much of a fox to be inveigled into any snare that she can lay for his affection.
We do not propose to stay long at Harrigate, though, at present, it is our headquarters, from whence we shall make some excursions, to visit two or three of our rich relations, who are settled in this country.—Pray, remember me to all our friends of Jesus, and allow me to be still
Yours affectionately, J. MELFORD HARRIGATE, June 23.