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from whose society in a limited rural circle there was no means of escaping. The vicar despised him too, and though little given to be satirical on his friends or his guests, could not help making himself merry now and then in a guarded way at Pigwidgeon's expense, particularly at his favourite exclamation — “I wonder what's good for that.” But neither father nor son had the moral courage to express their sentiments freely. They received the Pigwidgeons as a visitation of Providence, and submitted to it with as much fortitude as they could muster.
The only holidays Reuben thoroughly enjoyed were while Theodore Pigwidgeon was running the London hospitals, as the phrase is; but that stage in the young man's medical education only rendered him more ridiculous and offensive when he returned to Underwood after it. He returned wearing moustaches, turning down his skirt-collar, and talking of the eminent physicians and surgeons of the day, as if they were his playinates. Reuben marvelled how his father, easy as he was, tolerated such a creature, and as to his mother, who actually admired him, Reuben could only account for her conduct by believing her under the influence of some possession. He now seldom enjoyed a ramble in the fields with her, without the “ Doctor” accompanying or joining them. It was l'igwidgeon who helped her over the stiles, Pigwidgeon who arranged her shawl when it slipped from her shoulders, Pigwidgeon who held her spectacles when she was energetic, Pigwidgeon here, Pigwidgeon there, Pigwidgeon everywhere.
Then after the infliction of the son for the greater part of a day, would follow only too often the visitation of the father at the close of it. Evening came on anything but sweetly when it brought the apothecary with it, and he made himself particularly disagreeable to Reuben by volunteering an opinion that his chest was not strong, and that playing the trageolet was not good for him. His parents had not consented to his learning that instrument without consulting Mr. Pigwidgeon in the first instance. The apothecary had then made no objection, but when Reuben was at home, our Pill Garlic (who was generally meddling with people's lungs when he was not measuring their skulls) began to change his mind, and talk of sounding his chest with the stethoscope one of those days.
Reuben was sent for by his mother one morning, and found her seated under the walnut-tree, reading. The book was a scientific book on the Diseases of the Chest and Lungs, which the apothecary had lent to her.
The following dialogue then took place :
“What I am about to say,” she said, after preparing her voice and assuming a serious manner, “ is of considerable impor tance. Mr. Pigwidgeon, you must know, who is very friendly, extremely skilful, and very much attached to you, my dear Reuben, has been talking to me a good deal lately about the state of
chest.” “My chest, my dear mother!” exclaimed Reuben, not able to refrain from laughing.
Yes, my dear, he thinks your lungs are not quite as strong as he would wish them to be, and as he hopes to make them."
Reuben again smiled at the notion of anything being the matter with his lungs. Well he might; for nature had made him only too vigorous in that part of his constitution.
Mrs. Medlicott took off her spectacles, and said that medical men were not infallible of course, but that their opinions were not to be despised, particularly when it was manifest that their opinions were perfectly disinterested.
“ Let Mr. Pigwidgeon be ever so disinterested, mother, and ever so skilful, I am not the less satisfied that there's nothing amiss with my lungs. What could have put such a notion into his strange head ?”
“ I trust you are right, my dear Reuben ; but I hope you will not be obstinate on a matter of such vital importance. I am sure, Reuben, you would even make some little sacrifice to make my mind easy."
“I conclude, mother,” replied Reuben, “you wish me to submit to be stethoscoped; if so, you shall be gratified, although the prospect of undergoing that, or any other operation at Mr. Pigwidgeon's hands, is not the most agreeable in the world.”
" I was not alluding merely to the stethoscope," replied Mrs. Medlicott, a little drily; " Mr. Pigwidgeon has his doubts whether playing the flageolet is good for you."
"“ Really, mother," said Reuben, standing up, “this is too bad ; who asked his opinion on the subject ? When people want opinions on their lungs they don't consult country apothecaries."
“ Theodore fully concurs with him," said Mrs. Medlicott.
" Which, I am sure, mother,” cried Reuben, with unusual impatience," adds very little weight to his authority. Mr. Theodore Pigwidgeon is neither a doctor nor an apothecary-as
Mrs. Medlicott was greatly displeased at the tone taken by her son, but she commanded her feelings; and the interview ended by Reuben's amiable consent to have his chest examined, feeling, indeed, too confident in the soundness of his lungs to be apprehensive about the result.
There was one spot in the garden which Reuben in his imaginative boyhood had always thought the prettiest, and where it had been his wont in the days of domestic instruction often to establish himself in fine weather, with the birds warbling and hopping about him, the flowers scenting the air, and the butterflies sometimes perching on his books. There was a rustic bench fixed there, and a massive round table, of the same rough construction, which answered the purposes of study and occasionally those of tea. A few evenings after the conversation with his mother which we have just related, Reuben, entering this favourite spot, found his father and the apothecary there, sipping something, he knew not what, only that the drinking-vessels were not tea-cups. The sweet smell of the garden was lost in the
vapour of the negus or the toddy. His bower was turned into a sort of cabaret. The circular marks of the glasses were visible all over the rustic table, as you see them in the casinos and suburban tea-gardens.
When Reuben appeared, Mr. Pigwidgeon shuffled about, invited him to take a seat by his side—a civility which Reuben declined with the driest acknowledgment, for nobody ever sat by the side of the apothecary who could avoid it. He smelled of senna in the inorning, and of tobacco in the evening; besides he took snuff in enormous quantities, and scattered it about him so liberally in the act, that it was almost impossible to be in the same house with him without continually sneezing. Reuben was turning away to seek his mother, when she saved him that trouble by appearing at the moment, attended, as usual, by her medical student. Tea was ordered in the bower, and while it was preparing, the apothecary fumbled in his pockets, produced his stethoscope, and said it was a very good opportunity for making a little examination of Reuben's chest. Reuben submitted with as much patience as he could muster, while his mother stood by, looking on with the greatest interest and anxiety, and watching the apothecary's countenance, to try to find out what opinion he was forming as he proceeded with his soundings. The Vicar had taken up a newspaper, and paid no attention whatsoever to what was going forward. When Mr.
Pigwidgeon was done he pronounced the sort of ambiguous judgment so commonly pronounced by medical practitioners, that there was nothing, he hoped, decidedly wrong about the lungs, but that there were indications of weakness which he thought ought not to be neglected; he might, however, be mistaken, and, as two heads were better than one, he wished his son would take the stethoscope, and say what he thought on the subject. This was too much for Reuben's patience, amiable as he
When the Doctor, with his usual “ho, ho,” took the instrument and advanced to manipulate him, he repelled him with very little ceremony,
and the Vicar at the same time looking up from his paper, was evidently pleased to see an end put to operations which he considered absurd and superfluous.
Young Pigwidgeon himself seemed to mind the repulse exceedingly little ; his attention was strongly solicited at this moment by the cakes and the fruits with which the maids were spreading the tea-table, and he laid the stethoscope aside with a "ho! ho!" as he took it up; but the paternal vanity of the apothecary was visibly wounded, and he was as bitter as rhubarb the rest of the evening, though he was not less devoted than bis son to the repast before him. Indeed, even if the Doctor had been ever so angry with Reuben for the disrespect shown to his medical skill, the redoubled favours of Mrs. Medlicott would have amply compensated him, for she made him sit by her side, and, loading him at the same time with compliments and other sweets of a more substantial nature, effectually prevented him from falling the tenth of an inch in his own estimation.
Another circumstance, which occurred at a later period, and arose out of the incident just related, tended still more decidedly to generate a malignant feeling towards Reuben in the mind of the elder Pigwidgeon, though the animal interests he had in maintaining friendly relations with the Vicar and his family made bim very careful not to display his real sentiments. The magazine has been mentioned which Reuben and his friend Primrose established at Hereford. On the return of the former to school, after the annoyance which he had experienced from the apothecary and the stethoscope, he entertained his nimble-witted friend with an account of the affair, and gave him a description of Mr. Piywidgeon, which Primrose thought so comical that he made it the subject of an article in the next number of the periodical. The paper was entitled "A Portrait of a Country Apothecary," and, except that the name was changed, nobody who had ever seen the subject of it could, without extraordinary obtuseness, have mistaken the aim of the writer. The magazine went down to Underwood as usual, for Mrs. Medlicott had made Reuben promise to send it to her regularly. It was winter; dinner was over; the Vicar and his wife, the apothecary and his son, formed a small semicircle about the fire (not, however, to the exclusion of a table with a bottle of port upon it, and a plate of walnuts), when what should arrive but the packet from Hereford, with the last new number of the “Mirror,” for so the magazine was desig. pated. The apothecary was the first to petition most earnestly for a specimen of Master Reuben's essays in polite literature, but the paper entitled the "Country Apothecary,” looked so piquant that the Vicar said they must have that first, and the Pigwidgeons were equally anxious to have it.
The Doctor was the reader upon such occasions; he read as if he had a walnut in his mouth, and was not very punctilious about the stops, but Mrs. Medlicott said he read with feeling, and there was nobody to dispute her opinion. He had not read a couple of pages before the Medlicotts were horribly alive to the design of the paper; neither of them dared to look at the apothecary, or they might have seen by the contortions of his strange physiognomy that he too shrewdly guessed who had sat for the picture. Nor did they venture to stop the reader, much as they burned to do so, while he, being too dull to perceive anything in the world less palpable than a door-post, mouthed the libel upon his father to the last syllable, and laid the paper down with a protracted yawn, by way of a general critique, which was probably a very just one upon the performance.
The letters H. P. however were subscribed to the article ; that was the only comfort the Medlicotts had, for they did not entertain the slightest doubt that the apothecary had recognised his own image in the “Mirror.”
Let this be no disparagement to Mr. Pigwidgeon's merits as a hypocrite of considerable ability, or, perhaps, we should rather say, as a sensible man of the world, for he was never louder in his flatteries of Reuben than he was that same evening; and the better to mask what probably passsed in his mind, he made no change in his conduct, but continued to drop in at the Vicarage in his usual unceremonious fashion, to dine one day and sup another, just as if nothing had happened to hurt his feelings.
This state of things continued up to the period of Reuben's illness at his grandfather's country-house, when the paternal pride