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BOOK TIIE THIRD.
“ 'Tis the Philosopher, the Orator, the Poet, whom we may compare to some firstrate vessel, which launches out into the wile sea, and with a proud motion insnlts the encountering surges. We are of the small-craft, or galley kind. We move chiefly by starts and bounds. according as our motion is by freqnent intervals renewed. We have no great adventure in view, nor can tell certainly whither we are bound. We undertake no mighty voyage by help of stars or compass, but row from creek to creek, keep up a coasting trade, and are titted only for fair weather and the summer season."--Shuj. tesbury's Churacteristics.
Tuis brief book is an interlude between school and college. Returned to quiet Underwood, we shall make the acquaintance of some very disagreeable, impertinent, meddling and unconscionable people, happy in the name of Pigwidgeon, the only pleasant thing about them. They were none of Reuben's friends: his parents brought them upon himhis mother by being so clever a woman, his father by being so easy a
In short, the Medlicotts were Pigwidgeoned, and we are not to pity them, for they brought the Pigwidgeoning on themselves. Pigwidgeoning will prove to be a social usage, nearly akin to sponging, although you will hardly find the word in the books of synonymes. Much is to be said against the practice, much also in its defence and favour; in particu. lar how it leads to the development of numerous Christian graces and excellencies of the human character. Doth it not put into daily practice the noble virtue of self-abasement? Is not the spirit of martyrdom as much evinced in suffering the snubs and rubs, and all the thousand ills that sponging is heir to, as in roasting like Latimer, or being fried like St. Lawrence! There are men of such exemplary fortitude as to submit to be roasted themselves for the sake of a roast sirloin, and make themselves the butt of the company for a glass or two of wine. What infinite mortifications abroad does not such a man endure, nay court, which he might easily escape by dining selfishly at home upon a muiton chopp Can the spirit of self-devotion descend lower, or should we not rather ask, can this noble spirit be conceived to soar higher than this? To enter ungreeted, to depart amidst general satisfaction, to feel that he is the guest by sufferance of one who is a host of necessity, to know that an evil eye follows every motion of his fork, to feel that a bailiff or tax-gatherer would receive a more cordial welcome, would make ambrosia itself bitter, and turn a very cup of nectar sour. How then shall we ever enough admire the brave race which encounters these manifold evils undismayed. How strong must be their social yearnings ? How great the warmth within, that counteracts the frigid look, the wintry reception, the cold shoulder i How genial the glow of that self-hospitality which sustains them in the arctic regions abroad, to penetrate which they leave the temperate climate of their own fire-sides with a gallantry like that of our Parrys and our Franklins.
But this will be found not only a book of tribulations but a book of travels. There is no room in the Welch inns with our friends the Medlicotts, the Hopkinses, the Primroses, and Winnings. Reuben must have his travelling physician, too, for he travels for health, while the rest travel for pleasure-except the Vicar, indeed, with whom it is a matter of necessity, being turned out of his house, and in the condition of the badger whose hole has been seized by the fox, or of the eagle, whose unguarded nest the speaking weasel has invaded. Reuben is popular in the principality, where he learns the Welch tongue and the Welch harp, and breaks the hearts of the Welch maidens. As to his own, it is again in some slight danger; we shall now detect the winged mischief lurking in a plump Quaker's bonnet to launch another of his frivolous bolts at the boy's heart; for there are hazards incidental to learning the guttural Welch as well as the liquid Italian in company with a fair young friend -perils not less formidable perhaps than sitting for one's picture. Yet nothing serious is immediately to be apprehended; Reuben will probably reach Cambridge heart-whole.
OBAPTER OF RETROSPECTS.-REUBEN IS BORED; HIS PARENTS ARE
LEAVING the subject of our history for a short time to the tender care of Mrs. Reeves and the skill of Dr. Page, the physician of the neighbourhood, we fly back to Underwood with the alarming news of Reuben's illness; and having arrived there it will not be amiss to put the reader briefly in possession of what had been doing at the Vicarage since we left it to go to school.
People of passive character often exercise surprising influence in domestic life, just as the most yielding substances, such as a snail or a branch of fern, will often leave their stamps for many centuries in the solid rock. Thus the absence of Reuben from home made a serious change at Underwood. The Vicar, becoming more and more absorbed in his pinks and strawberries, having no further motive to keep up his Greek and Latin, was less a companion for his wife than ever, and the little fund of wit he possessed would have become rusty indeed but for the occasional burnishing he gave it when he met a pleasant party at Mrs. Winning's, or chatted with Hannah Hopkins, or a brother parson, beneath the walnut-tree, or under the mahogany.
Mrs. Medlicott's spirits had been deeply affected by the separation from her son, and she missed, even more than her husband, the favourite and engrossing occupation of twelve anxious years. But she had more consolations and resources than her spouse. In the first place she had the solace of continually writing to her son, and receiving his dutiful and minute letters; then her mind (you know) if it had any fault, was only too richly caparisoned; and, lastly, she possessed in a very strong degree that womanly yearning towards her species, which made solitude absolutely intolerable to her, particularly in the prosecution of her intellectual pursuits. She had long been an ardent phrenologist, but now she cultivated that subject with redoubled spirit, pronouncing it decidedly one of the inductive sciences, and questioning whether Dr. Spurzheim was not as illustrious a philosopher as Sir Isaac Newton. Her great ally in the prosecution of her craniological studies was a certain slovenly, sycophantic, gossipping apothecary, of the name of Pigwidgeon, father to that interesting youth whose attempt to appropriate a certain cake belonging to Reuben was related in an early chapter. This Mr. Pigwidgeon had some reputation for skill, and would have had more business if he had not been so painfully negligent of his personal appearance, and so addicted to sponging upon his patients.
He had a tincture of learning, just enough to pass for erudition with people who were not erudite, and being conceited in proportion to his real ignorance, he was inordinately vain of his acquaintance and intimacy with Mrs. Medlicott, though the run of the kitchen was that which he still more valued. A few years had made considerable change in the personal appearance of his son Theodore; he looked as much a booby as ever, but he was tall
, had good features, a fresh florid complexion, abundance of black hair, and lively boisterous spirits, which made him an insufferable bore to all who were not for some reason or another excessively partial to him. The father had already announced his intention to make a physician of him, and to show what a natural genius he had for that profession, Mr. Theodore Pigwidgeon never heard a complaint or disease mentioned, but he had a trick of exclaiming—“I wonder what's good for that." The apothecary pronounced the measurements of the lad's cranium magnificent, and of course predicted for him a career of the nost dazzling description, while the little public of Underwood, on the contrary, relied upon Lavater's system more than Spurzheim's, and the effect of the father's over-weeningness was that the son got only more generally laughed at, and went in derision by the name of “the Doctor.” Mrs. Medlicott was one of the few who took young Pigwidgeon's part; but commanding intellects are the most tolerant of mental inferiority in those about them; besides the apothecary never pretended that the Doctors developments were altogether equal to Reuben's, which might have excited a mother's jealousy. Between Mr. Pigwidgeon, indeed, and Mrs. Medlicott, the great bond of union was the inexhaustible subject of Reuben's skull. Mr. Pigwidgeon had long ago taken its measurements in due form, with the brass gauge or craniometer, which he always carried about him in one pocket of his coat, to balance the stethoscope which he carried in the other, and had made an exact inventory of the organs, a copy of which Mrs. Medlicott possessed, and nobody can conceive what a comfort it was to her, when the head itself was no longer pear her. But with Pigwidgeon junior she had other and wider associations; her profound study of the mind enabled her to discover that his seeming obtuseness was only the temporary dormancy of very respectable talents, if not of actual genius, and the next step brought her to the point of feeling that it was her duty to awaken that somnolent state of the brain of so nice a young man into life and activity. Thus her didactic abilities came into play again, just when she was beginning to fear that her maternal mission was concluded. She now had somebody, or rather something to lecture and belecture as before; and dull, or rather dormant as the Doctor's faculties were, he was not insensible to the honour of being the pupil or fellow-student of the Minerva-like matron, who laid herself out to improve and develope him.
The first occasion upon which Reuben noticed the growing domestication of the Pigwidgeons at the Vicarage, was once upon returning home for the vacation, in the beginning of the dogdays. His father happened not to be at home on his arrival, but his mother seeing him approach, bustled out to receive him, and after tenderly embracing him on the little close-shaven lawn, led him into the cool shady room where she had been sitting, and where Reuben, not without some surprise, found the apothecary's son, with whom he had never been on intimate terms, and whom
of late years he had never heard mentioned without ridicule. Reuben was always shy, and young Pigwidgeon was nothing short of a lout in his manners. The meeting was anything but cordial, nor were matters much improved when Mrs. Medlicott went about her domestic affairs, and left the young men to “entertain one another."
Reuben hardly knew whether it was his office to amuse Pigwidgeon, or Pigwidgeon's to amuse him ; Reuben was at home certainly, but really the other looked very much at home too, to judge from his unceremonious dress, and the graceful New-England freedom with which he had extended his kubber length upon the only sofa in the room.
Pigwidgeon yawned and said it was a hot day.
The former expressed his surprise that Reuben did not wear a broad-leafed straw hat like his own, as everybody did in the country.
Reuben said he had not got one, at which capital jest Pigwidgeon laughed in his facetious way, ho, ho, ho, &c.
“How many boys are there at the school ?"
of them ever sick ?" “Sometimes; there was one boy very bad with the croup when I left.”
“I wonder what is good for that,” said the Doctor.
The conversation ended as it had begun, with Pigwidgeon yawning freely, after which he got on his legs, and said he would go and have some strawberries, at the same time politely inviting Reuben to have some too.
When Mrs. Medlicott returned she found her son where she had left him, and looked displeased that he had not accompanied Pigwidgeon to the strawberry beds. She took that opportunity of letting Reuben know the lively interest she felt in the young man, and expressed an anxiety that they should become friends and companions.
Reuben made a dutiful effort to like Pigwidgeon, because his mother was anxious about it, but friendship will obey a mother no better than love. The thing was not to be done. It was out of the question to take an interest in him, unless you were engaged, as Mrs. Medlicott was, in developing his faculties.
The enjoyment of several vacations was marred to Reuben by the almost daily presence of a booby whom he despised, but