To Sir WATKIN PHILLIPS, Bart. of Jesus college, Oxon.
When I wrote you by last post, I did not imagine I should be tempted to trouble you again so soon: but I now sit down with a heart so full that it cannot contain itself; though I am under such agitation of spirits, that you are to expect neither method nor connexion in this address—We have been this day within a hair’s breadth of losing honest Matthew Bramble, in consequence of a cursed accident, which I will endeavour to explain.—In crossing the country to get into the post road, it was necessary to ford a river, and we that were a-horseback passed without any danger or difficulty; but a great quantity of rain having fallen last night and this morning, there was such an accumulation of water, that a mill-head gave way, just as the coach was passing under it, and the flood rushed down with such impetuosity, as first floated, and then fairly overturned the carriage in the middle of the stream—Lismahago and I, and the two servants, alighting instantaneously, ran into the river to give all the assistance in our power.—Our aunt, Mrs Tabitha, who had the good fortune to be uppermost, was already half way out of the coach window, when her lover approaching, disengaged her entirely; but, whether his foot slipt, or the burthen was too great, they fell over head and ears in each others’ arms. He endeavoured more than once to get up, and even to disentangle himself from her embrace, but she hung about his neck like a mill-stone (no bad emblem of matrimony), and if my man had not proved a stanch auxiliary, those two lovers would in all probability have gone hand in hand to the shades below—For my part, I was too much engaged to take any cognizance of their distress.—I snatched out my sister by the hair of the head, and, dragging her to the bank, recollected that my uncle had, not yet appeared—Rushing again into the stream, I met Clinker hauling ashore Mrs Jenkins, who looked like a mermaid with her hair dishevelled about her ears; but, when I asked if his master was safe, he forthwith shook her from him, and she must have gone to pot, if a miller had not seasonably come to her relief.—As for Humphry, he flew like lightning, to the coach, that was by this time filled with water, and, diving into it, brought up the poor ’squire, to all appearance, deprived of life—It is not in my power to describe what I felt at this melancholy spectacle—it was such an agony as baffles all description! The faithful Clinker, taking him up in his arms, as if he had been an infant of six months, carried him ashore, howling most piteously all the way, and I followed him in a transport of grief and consternation—When he was laid upon the grass and turned from side to side, a great quantity of water ran out at his mouth, then he opened his eyes, and fetched a deep sigh. Clinker perceiving these signs of life, immediately tied up his arm with a garter, and, pulling out a horse-fleam, let him blood in the farrier stile.—At first a few drops only issued from the orifice, but the limb being chafed, in a little time the blood began to flow in a continued stream, and he uttered some incoherent words, which were the most welcome sounds that ever saluted my ear. There was a country inn hard by, the landlord of which had by this time come with his people to give their assistance.—Thither my uncle being carried, was undressed and put to bed, wrapped in warm blankets; but having been moved too soon, he fainted away, and once more lay without sense or motion, notwithstanding all the efforts of Clinker and the landlord, who bathed his temples with Hungary water, and held a smelling-bottle to his nose. As I had heard of the efficacy of salt in such cases, I ordered all that was in the house to be laid under his head and body; and whether this application had the desired effect, or nature of herself prevailed, he, in less than a quarter of an hour, began to breathe regularly, and soon retrieved his recollection, to the unspeakable joy of all the by-standers. As for Clinker, his brain seemed to be affected.—He laughed, and wept, and danced about in such a distracted manner, that the landlord very judiciously conveyed him out of the room. My uncle, seeing me dropping wet, comprehended the whole of what had happened, and asked if all the company was safe?—Being answered in the affirmative, he insisted upon my putting on dry clothes; and, having swallowed a little warm wine, desired he might be left to his repose. Before I went to shift myself, I inquired about the rest of the family—I found Mrs Tabitha still delirious from her fright, discharging very copiously the water she had swallowed. She was supported by the captain, distilling drops from his uncurled periwig, so lank and so dank, that he looked like Father Thames without his sedges, embracing Isis, while she cascaded in his urn. Mrs Jenkins was present also, in a loose bed gown, without either cap or handkerchief; but she seemed to be as little compos mentis as her mistress, and acted so many cross purposes in the course of her attendance, that, between the two, Lismahago had occasion for all his philosophy. As for Liddy, I thought the poor girl would have actually lost her senses. The good woman of the house had shifted her linen, and put her into bed; but she was seized with the idea that her uncle had perished, and in this persuasion made a dismal out-cry; nor did she pay the least regard to what I said, when I solemnly assured her he was safe. Mr Bramble hearing the noise, and being informed of her apprehension, desired she might be brought into his chamber; and she no sooner received this intimation, than she ran thither half naked, with the wildest expression of eagerness in her countenance—Seeing the ’squire sitting up in the bed, she sprung forwards and throwing her arms about his neck, exclaimed in a most pathetic tone, ‘Are you—Are you indeed my uncle—My dear uncle!—My best friend! My father!—Are you really living? or is it an illusion of my poor brain!’ Honest Matthew was so much affected, that he could not help shedding tears, while he kissed her forehead, saying, ‘My dear Liddy, I hope I shall live long enough to shew how sensible I am of your affection—But your spirits are fluttered, child—You want rest—Go to bed and compose yourself’—‘Well, I will (she replied) but still methinks this cannot be real—The coach was full of water—My uncle was under us all—Gracious God!—You was under water—How did you get out;—tell me that? or I shall think this is all a deception’—‘In what manner I was brought out, I know as little as you do, my dear (said the ’squire); and, truly, that is a circumstance of which I want to be informed.’ I would have given him a detail of the whole adventure, but he would not hear me until I should change my clothes; so that I had only time to tell him, that he owed his life to the courage and fidelity of Clinker: and having given him this hint, I conducted my sister to her own chamber.
This accident happened about three o’clock in the afternoon, and in little more than an hour the hurricane was all over; but as the carriage was found to be so much damaged, that it could not proceed without considerable repairs, a blacksmith and wheelwright were immediately sent for to the next market-town, and we congratulated ourselves upon being housed at an inn, which, though remote from the post-road, afforded exceeding good lodging. The women being pretty well composed, and the men all a-foot, my uncle sent for his servant, and, in the presence of Lismahago and me, accosted him in these words—‘So, Clinker, I find you are resolved I shan’t die by water—As you have fished me up from the bottom at your own risque, you are at least entitled to all the money that was in my pocket, and there it is’—So saying, he presented him with a purse containing thirty guineas, and a ring nearly of the same value—‘God forbid! (cried Clinker), your honour shall excuse me—I am a poor fellow, but I have a heart O! if your honour did but know how I rejoice to see—Blessed be his holy name, that made me the humble instrument—But as for the lucre of gain, I renounce it—I have done no more than my duty—No more than I would have done for the most worthless of my fellow-creatures—No more than I would have done for captain Lismahago, or Archy Macalpine, or any sinner upon earth—But for your worship, I would go through fire as well as water’—‘I do believe it, Humphry (said the ’squire); but as you think it was your duty to save my life at the hazard of your own, I think it is mine to express the sense I have of your extraordinary fidelity and attachment—I insist upon your receiving this small token of my gratitude; but don’t imagine that I look upon this as an adequate recompence for the service you have done me—I have determined to settle thirty pounds a-year upon you for life; and I desire these gentlemen will bear witness to this my intention, of which I have a memorandum in my pocketbook.’ ‘Lord make me thankful for all these mercies! (cried Clinker, sobbing), I have been a poor bankrupt from the beginning—your honour’s goodness found me, when I was—naked when I was—sick and forlorn—I understand your honour’s looks—I would not give offence—but my heart is very full—and if your worship won’t give me leave to speak,—I must vent it in prayers to heaven for my benefactor.’ When he quitted the room, Lismahago said, he should have a much better opinion of his honesty, if he did not whine and cant so abominably; but that he had always observed those weeping and praying fellows were hypocrites at bottom. Mr Bramble made no reply to this sarcastic remark, proceeding from the lieutenant’s resentment of Clinker having, in pure simplicity of heart, ranked him with M’Alpine and the sinners of the earth—The landlord being called to receive some orders about the beds, told the ’squire that his house was very much at his service, but he was sure he should not have the honour to lodge him and his company. He gave us to understand that his master who lived hard by, would not suffer us to be at a public house, when there was accommodation for us at his own; and that, if he had not dined abroad in the neighbourhood he would have undoubtedly come to offer his services at our first arrival. He then launched out in praise of that gentleman, whom he had served as butler, representing him as a perfect miracle of goodness and generosity. He said he was a person of great learning, and allowed to be the best farmer in the country:—that he had a lady who was as much beloved as himself, and an only son, a very hopeful young gentleman, just recovered from a dangerous fever, which had like to have proved fatal to the whole family; for, if the son had died, he was sure the parents would not have survived their loss—He had not yet finished the encomium of Mr Dennison, when this gentleman arrived in a post-chaise, and his appearance seemed to justify all that had been said in his favour. He is pretty well advanced in years, but hale, robust, and florid, with an ingenuous countenance, expressive of good sense and humanity. Having condoled with us on the accident which had happened, he said he was come to conduct us to his habitation, where we should be less incommoded than at such a paultry inn, and expressed his hope that the ladies would not be the worse for going thither in his carriage, as the distance was not above a quarter of a mile. My uncle having made a proper return to this courteous exhibition, eyed him attentively, and then asked if he had not been at Oxford, a commoner of Queen’s college? When Mr Dennison answered, ‘Yes,’ with some marks of surprise—‘Look at me then (said our squire) and let us see if you can recollect the features of an old friend, whom you have not seen these forty years.’—The gentleman, taking him by the hand, and gazing at him earnestly,—‘I protest (cried he), I do think I recall the idea of Matthew Loyd of Glamorganshire, who was student of Jesus.’ ‘Well remembered, my dear friend, Charles Dennison (exclaimed my uncle, pressing him to his breast), I am that very identical Matthew Loyd of Glamorgan.’ Clinker, who had just entered the room with some coals for the fire, no sooner heard these words, than throwing down the scuttle on the toes of Lismahago, he began to caper as if he was mad, crying—‘Matthew Loyd of Glamorgan!—O Providence!—Matthew Loyd of Glamorgan!’—Then, clasping my uncle’s knees, he went on in this manner—‘Your worship must forgive me—Matthew Loyd of Glamorgan!—O Lord, Sir! I can’t contain myself!—I shall lose my senses’—‘Nay, thou hast lost them already, I believe (said the ’squire, peevishly), prithee, Clinker, be quiet—What is the matter?’—Humphry, fumbling in his bosom, pulled out an old wooden snuff-box, which he presented in great trepidation to his master, who, opening it immediately, perceived a small cornelian seal, and two scraps of paper—At sight of these articles he started, and changed colour, and casting his eye upon the inscriptions—‘Ha!—how!—what! where (cried he) is the person here named?‘ Clinker, knocking his own breast, could hardly pronounce these words—‘Here—here—here is Matthew Loyd, as the certificate sheweth—Humphry Clinker was the name of the farrier that took me ‘prentice’—‘And who gave you these tokens?’ said my uncle hastily—‘My poor mother on her death-bed’—replied the other—‘And who was your mother?’ ‘Dorothy Twyford, an please your honour, heretofore bar-keeper at the Angel at Chippenham.’—‘And why were not these tokens produced before?’ ‘My mother told me she had wrote to Glamorganshire, at the time of my birth, but had no answer; and that afterwards, when she made enquiry, there was no such person in that county.’ ‘And so in consequence of my changing my name and going abroad at that very time, thy poor mother and thou have been left to want and misery—I am really shocked at the consequence of my own folly.’—Then, laying his hand on Clinker‘s head, he added, ‘Stand forth, Matthew Loyd—You see, gentlemen, how the sins of my youth rise up in judgment against me—Here is my direction written with my own hand, and a seal which I left at the woman’s request; and this is a certificate of the child‘s baptism, signed by the curate of the parish.’ The company were not a little surprised at this discovery, upon which Mr Dennison facetiously congratulated both the father and the son: for my part, I shook my new-found cousin heartily by the hand, and Lismahago complimented him with the tears in his eyes, for he had been hopping about the room, swearing in broad Scotch, and bellowing with the pain occasioned by the fall of the coalscuttle upon his foot. He had even vowed to drive the saul out of the body of that mad rascal: but, perceiving the unexpected turn which things had taken, he wished him joy of his good fortune, observing that it went very near his heart, as he was like to be a great toe out of pocket by the discovery—Mr Dennison now desired to know for what reason my uncle had changed the name by which he knew him at Oxford, and our ’squire satisfied him, by answering to this effect—‘I took my mother’s name, which was Loyd, as heir to her lands in Glamorganshire; but when I came of age, I sold that property, in order to clear my paternal estate, and resumed my real name; so that I am now Matthew Bramble of Brambleton-hall in Monmouthshire, at your service; and this is my nephew, Jeremy Melford of Belfield, in the county of Glamorgan.’ At that instant the ladies entering the room, he presented Mrs Tabitha as his sister, and Liddy as his niece. The old gentleman saluted them very cordially, and seemed struck with the appearance of my sister, whom he could not help surveying with a mixture of complacency and surprize—‘Sister (said my uncle), there is a poor relation that recommends himself to your good graces—The quondam Humphry Clinker is metamorphosed into Matthew Loyd; and claims the honour of being your carnal kinsman—in short, the rogue proves to be a crab of my own planting in the days of hot blood and unrestrained libertinism.’ Clinker had by this time dropt upon one knee, by the side of Mrs Tabitha, who, eyeing him askance, and flirting her fan with marks of agitation, thought proper, after some conflict, to hold out her hand for him to kiss, saying, with a demure aspect, ‘Brother, you have been very wicked: but I hope you’ll live to see the folly of your ways—I am very sorry to say the young man, whom you have this day acknowledged, has more grace and religion, by the gift of God, than you with all your profane learning, and repeated opportunity—I do think he has got the trick of the eye, and the tip of the nose of my uncle Loyd of Flluydwellyn; and as for the long chin, it is the very moral of the governor’s—Brother, as you have changed his name pray change his dress also; that livery doth not become any person that hath got our blood in his veins.’—Liddy seemed much pleased with this acquisition to the family.—She took him by the hand, declaring she should always be proud to own her connexion with a virtuous young man, who had given so many proofs of his gratitude and affection to her uncle.—Mrs. Winifred Jenkins, extremely fluttered between her surprize at this discovery, and the apprehension of losing her sweet-heart, exclaimed in a giggling tone,—‘I wish you joy Mr Clinker—Floyd—I would say—hi, hi, hi!—you’ll be so proud you won’t look at your poor fellow servants, oh, oh, oh!’ Honest Clinker owned he was overjoyed at his good fortune, which was greater than he deserved—‘But wherefore should I be proud? (said he) a poor object conceived in sin, and brought forth in iniquity, nursed in a parish workhouse, and bred in a smithy. Whenever I seem proud, Mrs Jenkins, I beg of you to put me in mind of the condition I was in, when I first saw you between Chippenham and Marlborough.’
When this momentous affair was discussed to the satisfaction of all parties concerned, the weather being dry, the ladies declined the carriage; so that we walked all together to Mr Dennison’s house, where we found the tea ready prepared by his lady, an amiable matron, who received us with all the benevolence of hospitality. The house is old fashioned and irregular, but lodgeable and commodious. To the south it has the river in front, at the distance of a hundred paces; and on the north, there is a rising ground covered with an agreeable plantation; the greens and walks are kept in the nicest order, and all is rural and romantic. I have not yet seen the young gentleman, who is on a visit to a friend in the neighbourhood, from whose house he is not expected ’till to-morrow.
In the mean time, as there is a man going to the next market town with letters for the post, I take this opportunity to send you the history of this day, which has been remarkably full of adventures; and you will own I give you them like a beef-steak at Dolly’s, hot and hot, without ceremony and parade, just as they come from the recollection of
Yours, J. MELFORD