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and was considered a creditable specimen of that gentleman's efficiency as a tutor. The Medlicotts knew something already of the Barsacs (the family mentioned by the Dean), through Mrs. Mountjoy, who was connected with them by marriage. They were wealthy people in the wine-trade, resident at Hereford, and would probably be civil and perhaps useful to Reuben, for the sake of the Dean.
The expense, however, was a grave consideration, for the Vicar's mode of living was of the simplest, and there was no very large margin for retrenchment. However, every practicable reduction was resolved on, and a variety of presents (marking the interest which his friends took in him), materially diminished the cost of the boy's outfit. Mrs. Mountjoy would gladly have contributed handsomely to so important an object as her nephew's education, but Mrs. Medlicott was always averse to receiving assistance from her more prosperous sister, with whom she was not indeed upon the most cordial terms. As to the Dean, he was generous enough of his advice, which he tendered, as we have seen, with much more freedom than delicacy ; but though he had a large income, as good as that of some bishoprics, and was also a widower with his children disposed of, he was the last person in the world to whom the Medlicotts would have applied, even in a case of serious embarrassment. Not that he was a grasping, or illiberal man either, for he had done bountiful things in his time, though apt to diminish the effect of a kindness, by an inconsiderate and harsh manner of doing it. But the fact was that Doctor Wyndham was one instance, among a thousand others, of a rich man who was always more or less involved in pecuniary difficulties. He was afflicted with an ungovernable mania for building, which, perhaps, has involved more men in embarrassed circumstances than any other passion, except gaming. His propensities in this way were very well known to his relations and friends, but not the extent to which he indulged them. Commencing with villas he advanced to terraces, and from terraces his passion was beginning to transport him to more spacious projects of crescents and squares. As to the houses in his own immediate possession, of which he had several, besides his ecclesiastical residences, he was always altering, enlarging, or entirely remodelling them. Indeed he never could pass a night in any house, whether his own or a friend's, without planning its reconstruction, or alterations still more expensive. Bricks and mortar, in short, never left him the command of a fifty-pound note, and when his pockets were drained to the last shilling, he borrowed with as much spirit as he engaged in his other enterprises.
At the very moment when Mr. Medlicott was what is termed “ hard up” for a small sum of money to meet the first expense of his son's schooling, his seemingly opulent father-in-law was actually in the neighbourhood, without the knowledge of his relations, negotiating a loan of several thousand pounds from a wealthy citizen of Chichester.
The Medlicotts discovered this by the merest accident only a few days before Reuben left home for Hereford. The Vicar, in fact, wanted a sum of twenty pounds at the moment.
“ Probably,” said Mrs. Medlicott, “ Mr. Cox could accommodate you."
“ With much less difficulty,” said the Vicar, “ than I shall have in asking him.”
Matthew Cox was a remarkable man of his class, and a steady friend of Mr. Medlicott, as he was of many a worthy man besides in his city and neighbourhood. He had carried on the trade of a tobacconist in Chichester for many a year, until having made a considerable fortune there, he extended his business to London, where his shop in the Poultry was well known in the early part of the present century. At a later period of our story we shall make the acquaintance of this fine specimen of the British tradesman; it is sufficient to add here that he was wealthy, influential, benevolent, and liberal. As a tobacconist he was chiefly celebrated for his snuff, with which the bishop of the diocese filled his box weekly, and which it was even said had made his Majesty George III. sneeze upon the throne. Matthew had married a quakeress, a relation of Hannah Hopkins, the schoolmistress already mentioned ; this, indeed, was the origin of his acquaintance with the Vicar, and of his early knowledge of Reuben, who had few older recollections than his infant sports with Mary Hopkins, Hannah's daughter, among the canisters.
“I have a mind to ride into town this evening,” said the Vicar.
He mounted a steady mare he had, and Reuben, (who had weighty business in town with his trunkmaker and his tailor,) inounted his small pony, and rode into Chichester with his father.
It was a charming zig-zag ride, alternately sunny and shady, from the Vicarage to the part of Chichester where Mr. Medlicott's affairs led him. There is probably now a much straighter road; nay, in all likelihood a railway, which if the present incumbent of Underwood prefers to a succession of green lanes, he would probably also prefer a station-house for his residence to the picturesque parsonage described in the foregoing chapter.
Mr. Cox was in London. This the Vicar learned, without entering his shop, from another devoted friend of his, Mr. Broad, the cutler, who was in his usual place at that hour of the evening, on a stone bench, under a canopy of laburnums, immediately opposite to the tobacconist's, and not far from his own house.
“ This very afternoon, to Lunnun, sir,” said the cutler, jumping up to salute Mr. Medlicott and his son, which he did in a manner which nobody could see for the first time without being 'extremely diverted. He was a little fellow, about fifty, of a dry yellow complexion, and as brisk as a bee. He wore a white hat, an enormous mass of white cravat, a swallow-tailed blue body coat, the skirts of which almost touched the ground, and breeches of nankeen, with long strings of buff ribbon dangling at the knees. His stockings were white, and his shoes had steel buckles, so that altogether it was a neat costume, although a queer one. When he saluted the Vicar, he twitched off his hat with one hand, revealing a powdered head of hair, carefully brushed up into a peak, like the top of the Jungfrau; whilst at the same time, with the other hand under the skirts of his coat, he performed the oddest possible antic by way of a bow.
For so small a rate in aid as the Vicar wanted, Mr. Broad suited his purpose as well as anybody else; so while Reuben trotted off to the places where his little affairs led him, Mr. Medlicott transacted his business with the cutler, and that having been settled, the Vicar desired to know what news was stirring in Chichester.
"I presume,” said Mr. Broad, “your reverence knows that the Dean is in the neighbourhood.” “No, indeed, I did not,” said the Vicar ;
we know very little of the Dean's motions; he comes and goes like the wind, I think. He is staying, I presume, with Oldport as usual."
Mr. Oldport was a Canon of Chichester, and an old chum and crony of Dean Wyndharn's.
“So I am informed,” said Mr. Broad.
Have you seen the Dean ?" said Mr. Medlicott. “ I saw him no later than yesterday, sir, at Mat Cox's; they were transacting business together, and I was called in to witness the signing of the papers.”
Building is not to be carried on without money,” said the Vicar, with a smile and a sagacious nod to Mr. Broad.
“ I'm afraid the Dean is very deep in the mortar," said the cutler.
“Do you say so ?" said Mr. Medlicott.
“ Matthew has advanced him five thousand pounds, sir ;-a large sum, sir, five thousand pounds."
It appeared even larger to the Vicar than it did to the cutler, but he made no remark, and changed the subject of conversation by asking Mr. Broad whether he bad had any argument with the Dean on politics, or anything of that kind. Reuben had now rejoined them, being just in time to hear a curious illustration of his grandfather's character, rendered still more singular by the oddity of the narrator's appearance and gestures.
"The Dean had no argument with me, sir,” said Mr. Broad; “ but he had a grand one with Matthew Cox; they had a battle royal in Mat's shop, sir.”
“ Were you present ?"
“ Aye, that I was, sir; and so was old Hannah Hopkins; it was all about the coronation oath; the Dean said that if the King was to consent to an act for admitting Roman Catholics to sit in Parliament, he would be guilty of flat perjury, and ought to lose his ears, sir, as well as forfeit his throne. He thumped the counter, sir, till the snuff flew out of the canisters, and made Mrs. Hopkins and her daughter sneeze and run out of the shop; but they were frightened, too, I believe, by the Dean's loud voice and the way he thumped the counter.”
Well,” said the Vicar,“ and what did Matthew say?"
“ Mat was very respectful, sir, as he always is to people above him, and to the clergy particularly; but he was very firm also, and stood up for his own opinions like an honest man; he kept his temper, sir, which I am sorry to say the Dean did not; for he ended with calling Mat a Papist, and went away without so much as wishing him a civil good morning."
“Was this before the pecuniary transaction, or after it ?" inquired Mr. Medlicott, with his modicum of dry humour twinkling in his eye.
“ After it, sir, after it; the Dean, sir, had the five thousand pounds, (or the order for the money, which was just as good,) in his pocket, sir, at the moment he was abusing Mat, and calling him twenty Papists."
“That was too bad,” said Mr. Medlicott, looking at his watch, and extending his hand to Mr. Broad to bid him a good evening.
The sun had set before the Vicar and Reuben were on the road home again through the winding lanes. The Vicar mused, the greater part of the way, upon the strange peculiarities and contrasts of his father-in-law's character, while Reuben, trotting by his side, speculated on the capacity of his new trunk for holding his clothes and his books, and packed and repacked it twenty times over in his busy imagination.
THE NIGHT BEFORE REUBEN WENT TO SCHOOL: HOW HIS HAIR WAS
OUT, AND WHO WAS THE HAIR-CUTTER.
The Dean was indeed the guest of Canon Oldport at the time, as Mr. Broad and the Vicar supposed. The Canon was an old bachelor, who had a tolerably good library, and kept only too good a table; for, between the sedentary habits of the student and the bon-vivant, he had generally two fits of the gout in the year; while, in the intervals, he was so afflicted with corns, that, in fact, he might be said to pass his whole life in his elbow-chair. Accordingly, being passionately fond of gossip and conversation, he was always delighted when a neighbour, or old college acquaintance dropped in to dine, or spend a few days with him. His greatest friend was Wyndham, and yet the Dean was so troublesome a guest that the Canon was generally as well pleased when he left his house as when he came to it. The Dean turned every house he entered topsy-turvy; but he provoked Oldport most by his unceremonious way of tumbling about his books, which kept the Canon in a continual fret, particularly as the Dean never restored a volume to its place, so that his friend was continually hobbling after him, to keep his library in order.
One evening, while the Dean continued Oldport's guest, it suddenly occurred to him to pay the Medlicotts a visit; and accordingly, leaving the Canon to drink his wine alone, (the thing of all others least agreeable to him,) Dr. Wyndham took up his huge gold-headed cane, and strode across the fields to the Vicarage. He was a man of huge frame and gladiatorial muscle.