Joseph Andrews By Henry Fielding Book I: Chapters 14-15

CHAPTER XIV.

Being very full of adventures which succeeded each other at the inn.

It was now the dusk of the evening, when a grave person rode into the inn, and, committing his horse to the hostler, went directly into the kitchen, and, having called for a pipe of tobacco, took his place by the fireside, where several other persons were likewise assembled.

The discourse ran altogether on the robbery which was committed the night before, and on the poor wretch who lay above in the dreadful condition in which we have already seen him. Mrs Tow-wouse said, "She wondered what the devil Tom Whipwell meant by bringing such guests to her house, when there were so many alehouses on the road proper for their reception. But she assured him, if he died, the parish should be at the expense of the funeral." She added, "Nothing would serve the fellow's turn but tea, she would assure him." Betty, who was just returned from her charitable office, answered, she believed he was a gentleman, for she never saw a finer skin in her life. "Pox on his skin!" replied Mrs Tow-wouse, "I suppose that is all we are like to have for the reckoning. I desire no such gentlemen should ever call at the Dragon" (which it seems was the sign of the inn).

The gentleman lately arrived discovered a great deal of emotion at the distress of this poor creature, whom he observed to be fallen not into the most compassionate hands. And indeed, if Mrs Tow-wouse had given no utterance to the sweetness of her temper, nature had taken such pains in her countenance, that Hogarth himself never gave more expression to a picture.

Her person was short, thin, and crooked. Her forehead projected in the middle, and thence descended in a declivity to the top of her nose, which was sharp and red, and would have hung over her lips, had not nature turned up the end of it. Her lips were two bits of skin, which, whenever she spoke, she drew together in a purse. Her chin was peaked; and at the upper end of that skin which composed her cheeks, stood two bones, that almost hid a pair of small red eyes. Add to this a voice most wonderfully adapted to the sentiments it was to convey, being both loud and hoarse.

It is not easy to say whether the gentleman had conceived a greater dislike for his landlady or compassion for her unhappy guest. He inquired very earnestly of the surgeon, who was now come into the kitchen, whether he had any hopes of his recovery? He begged him to use all possible means towards it, telling him, "it was I the duty of men of all professions to apply their skill gratis for the relief of the poor and necessitous." The surgeon answered, "He should take proper care; but he defied all the surgeons in London to do him any good." — "Pray, sir," said the gentleman, "what are his wounds?" — "Why, do you know anything of wounds?" says the surgeon (winking upon Mrs Tow-wouse). — "Sir, I have a small smattering in surgery," answered the gentleman. — "A smattering — ho, ho, ho!" said the surgeon; "I believe it is a smattering indeed."

The company were all attentive, expecting to hear the doctor, who was what they call a dry fellow, expose the gentleman.

He began therefore with an air of triumph: "I I suppose, sir, you have travelled?" — "No, really, sir," said the gentleman. — "Ho! then you have practised in the hospitals perhaps?" — "No, sir." — "Hum! not that neither? Whence, sir, then, if I may be so bold to inquire, have you got your knowledge in surgery?" — "Sir," answered the gentleman, "I do not pretend to much; but the little I know I have from books." — "Books!" cries the doctor. "What, I suppose you have read Galen and Hippocrates!" — "No, sir," said the gentleman. — "How! you understand surgery," answers the doctor, "and not read Galen and Hippocrates?" — "Sir," cries the other, "I believe there are many surgeons who have never read these authors." — "I believe so too," says the doctor, "more shame for them; but, thanks to my education, I have them by heart, and very seldom go without them both in my pocket." — "They are pretty large books," said the gentleman. — "Aye," said the doctor, "I believe I know how large they are better than you." (At which he fell a winking, and the whole company burst into a laugh.)

The doctor pursuing his triumph, asked the gentleman, "If he did not understand physic as well as surgery." "Rather better," answered the gentleman. — "Aye, like enough," cries the doctor, with a wink. "Why, I know a little of physic too." — "I wish I knew half so much," said Tow-wouse, "I'd never wear an apron again." — "Why, I believe, landlord," cries the doctor, "there are few men, though I say it, within twelve miles of the place, that handle a fever better. Veniente accurrite morbo: that is my method. I suppose, brother, you understand Latin?" — "A little," says the gentleman. — "Aye, and Greek now, I'll warrant you: Ton dapomibominos poluflosboio Thalasses. But I have almost forgot these things: I could have repeated Homer by heart once." — "Ifags! the gentleman has caught a traytor," says Mrs Tow-wouse; at which they all fell a laughing.

The gentleman, who had not the least affection for joking, very contentedly suffered the doctor to enjoy his victory, which he did with no small satisfaction; and, having sufficiently sounded his depth, told him, "He was thoroughly convinced of his great learning and abilities; and that he would be obliged to him if he would let him know his opinion of his patient's case above-stairs." — "Sir," says the doctor, "his case is that of a dead man — the contusion on his head has perforated the internal membrane of the occiput, and divelicated that radical small minute invisible nerve which coheres to the pericranium; and this was attended with a fever at first symptomatic, then pneumatic; and he is at length grown deliriuus, or delirious, as the vulgar express it."

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