Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

down the pen.

tomers about to take leave, and, hobbling into his shop (for he was infirm, though not gouty), hunted out a copy of his « Cambrian garland,” and, with a trembling hand and a bad pen, wrote on the title-page

“The gift of the Reverend Hugh Evans, an old poet, he paused for our hero to tell him what he should add.

To Reuben Medlicott, a lover of poetry,” said Reuben; and the inscription was completed accordingly.

“Very neat and very modest,” said the old man, as he laid

“ Modest on Reuben's part,” said the Vicar, when they were at some distance from the shop. “I cannot say so much for the modesty of Mr. Evans, in dubbing himself a poet so confidently."

“Yet he published anonymously, you observe," said Mrs. Medlicott.

“Probably," said Reuben, “when he published this volume of poems, he dreamed of afterwards producing something very superior, and never realised his expectations. But why, sir, did you not let the poor old gentleman know that you were a clergyman, like himself ?"

“Because he had told me his income, and he might have desired to know mine."

“ You need not to have been ashamed of it, father.”

“No," said the Vicar, smiling, “ two hundred a year is nothing to be ashamed of, but the Reverend Hugh Evans would have concluded me to be a second Dives, and the report might have reached the inn, and influenced the landlord in drawing out his bill.”

Before he left Aberystwith, Reuben took a very good sketch of the little book-shop, the ancient tree, and the group under it, the old man himself being, of course, the principal figure. The union of the pastoral and poetical character with the humble though congenial business of bookseller was skilfully managed ; at least, so thought those eminently impartial judges, the father and mother of the artist. But, indeed, Mrs. Hopkins and her daughter recognised the likeness the moment they saw the drawing, for at Barmouth the Medlicotts overtook them. The Doctor, who had been visiting an hospital, while the Medlicotts were visiting the bookseller, was not pleased when he saw the Welch grammar: he thought study of any kind unseasonable on an excursion of pleasure. But the name of the bookseller pleased him excessively when he heard it, for he was the first of the party to remember the pedagogue in “ The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

“ By Jove,” said Doctor Page, in great glee, “if the bookseller is so very old as you say, perhaps he is the very man who taught a distinguished ancestor of mine his hig, hag, hog."

" Aye,” said the Vicar, “ you bear a Shakspearian name also.” “ And very proud I am of it, I assure you,” said the Doctor.

Proceeding from Aberystwith to the Goat Inn at Barmouth, they were at breakfast the morning after their arrival, in a little room, looking out upon the sands, and adjoining another with the same aspect, but separated from them by too thin a partition to render it safe to speak in a loud tone, particularly if you were maligning your neighbours, or speaking ill of the powers that be. Voices were audible in the next apartment, which gave rise to some speculation as to the speakers, but presently,rang out the merry laugh of the young Quakeress, which removed all doubt upon the subject. In five minutes the two breakfasts were consolidated, and Hannah Hopkins was telling the Vicar a long sto to explain how the great object of her life, an excursion in North Wales, came to be realised, just when she and Mary were beginning to despair of ever accomplishing it.

The tourists, now a party of six, were not long without concerting a very nice plan of operations, for that day and several to follow it. But when breakfast was over, it was raining, and it rained very doggedly for several successive days.

The Vicar and his friend sat down equally doggedly to backgammon, Mrs. Medlicott had brought a volume of metaphysical sermons with her from her father's library ; Hannah Hopkins was soon engrossed by her everlasting knitting ; Reuben and Mary had no resource but the Welch grammar, and to it they went spiritedly in a corner.

“The climate is in your favour," said the Doctor to Reuben, during a pause in the game, upon the third day of the captivity at the Goat.

“Is the grammar difficult ?” asked the Vicar,—“vowels scarce, consonants plenty, eh !"

“Now don't set Mary Hopkins going," said Mrs. Medlicott.

“ Friend Thomas always makes my Mary laugh,” said old Hannah, looking gravely up from her needle.

say difficult, not as difficult as some other languages,” said Reuben, replying to his father's question. “At least there is no difficulty to stop us.”

“ It would be too bad to be stopped by the elements both indoors and out of doors," said the Vicar.

" Not

Mary laughed again,-and again the old woman raised her eyes solemnly from her work, but this time she addressed the Doctor.

"Dost thou consider laughing wholesome, friend Page ?" she inquired.

“I never had a patient that died of it,” replied Page, rattling the dice.

Mrs. Medlicott now pretended that she could not read, her husband and the doctor were so facetious, but the fact was (and her husband suspected it shrewdly) that the sermon was beyond her depth, and she was glad of an excuse to lay it down.

The back-gammon ceased soon after they had played twoand-twenty hits; it was time to think of luncheon.

The name of Jones was on the spoons. Mary Hopkins had been laughing all through the Principality, at the fertility of the race of Jones.

“ What a remarkable name it is,” said the Vicar,—“There is Inigo, the great architect; Sir William Jones, the orientalist; Paul, the celebrated pirate; Tom, the hero of the great novel.”

“Don't forget Davy,” said the Doctor.

Davy of the navy," said the Vicar.

“But Tom and Davy are ideal personages," said Mrs. Medlicott.

Davy an ideal personage!" cried the Doctor, “I am sorry to hear a clergyman's wife broach such a heresy."

Heresy reminds me of fire,” said the Vicar, “go, Reuben, and order one to be lighted.”

While Reuben was absent there was a little dry altercation between Mr. and Mrs Medlicott about the necessity for the fire.

“The fire would not be lighted half-an-hour before he would wish it extinguished again, and then, a fire at midsummer was so ridiculous."

“ It was better to be too warm than too cold," was the Vicar's rejoinder.

" It was like madness ordering a fire at that season of the year.”

“The thermometer, níy dear, ought to decide the question, and not the almanac."

For once he had the last word.

Mrs. Medlicott, however, rose from her seat, which was near the fire-place, and removed with great state and dignity to a chair at the window, where, after trying to no purpose to pene

[ocr errors]

trate the mystery of the hills through the clouds of vapour that shrouded them, she put on her spectacles, and made a similar effort at the Welch grammar, with not much greater success. As a last resource, she undertook a phrenological survey of the heads of the company, which occupied a considerable time, and would have occupied more, if the Doctor had not adroitly slipped out of the room, before his turn came, and, wet as it was, set out to explore the medical institutions.

CHAPTER VI.

HENRY WINNING AND HYACINTH PRIMROSE JOIN THE EXPEDITION.

MEANWHILE Reuben gave the order to a smiling maid at the bar, who passed it to a maid in the kitchen, where a numerous group, composed of travellers, servants, postboys, harpers, and miscellaneous hangers-on were collected in a confused circle round a capital fire; the travellers desirous of drying their clothes, and all clearly of opinion (in direct opposition to Mrs. Medlicott) that the heat of the dog-days in Great Britain occasionally stands in need of some artificial reinforcement.

" A fire for No. 3,” said Peggy Roberts.

“His reverence is chilly,” said somebody from the chimney

corner.

“ One of your country parsons, I suppose,” said a young man, one of those who were trying to dry themselves.

“ No, sir, an English gentleman,” said Peggy Roberts.
“ Parson Medligoat,” said a post-boy.

“Medlicott !" cried the young man who spoke before to another who was at his side; can it possibly be our Medlicott ?” Not

very likely."
“ Is the parson travelling alone ?”

“No, sir, he has an elderly lady and a young gentleman with him.”

“That tallies."
“The young gentleman, what is he like?”

A dozen voices burst forth immediately with as many commendations of Reuben.

He was the nicest young gentleman Peggy Roberts had ever “ And the civilest,” said the post-boy.

seen.

Jenny Jones had seen as handsome, but he was as handsome as any young man need be, and had the beautifullest head of hair in the world.

A third damsel vouched for his scholarship, for she was the chambermaid, and had found his room strewed over with books.

“Our friend, to a certainty,” said the young man who spoke first; “I wonder what can have brought the Medlicotts here; one would as soon have expected to have met the Greenwich pensioners mountaineering it."

“ Come away,” said the other.

“ We are pretty well roasted, and so I think is that quarter of mutton which I suspect is designed for our dinner.”

“I wish they had roasted the whole sheep; the higher I rise above the level of the sea, the more voracious I become. I think I could take the altitude of the mountains by my appetite.".

“Do so, then, while I dine," said Henry Winning, taking his seat at a table spread for them in a little room, which Peggy Roberts assured them commanded a magnificent prospect of a dozen hills, with names un pronounceable, save by Cambrian lips.

“On the contrary, dining is the basis of the calculation," said Hyacinth Primrose, separating as he spoke the leg from the loin of the roast quarter of mutton. “ Gulliver,” he added, must have brought this breed from Lilliput. Shall I send you the leg ?—the mutton gets smaller as we get hungrier.”

“No, help me to the loin; when I have disposed of that, if you want any assistance to manage the leg, let me know, and I shall be ready to support you."

The loin sufficed Winning, and Primrose left very little of the leg to adorn the sideboard the next morning.

Cheese and a glass of ale completed the repast.

“ In fact,” said Hyacinth, “the Welch sheep seem to be all lambs."

Perhaps it is with mutton as with men. There are men who continue children all their lives."

"Since we grow philosophical we way as well go and face Mrs. Medlicott, for I suppose it must be done.”

"It must," said Winning, rising reluctantly; “ but after what I said in the coach that unlucky night, I have nothing to expect but the coldest reception.”

“ You compared her to Minerva," said Primrose; "why

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »