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Reuben was of the opposite opinion.
“It's a nice point,” said the Vicar, “but I shall probably have full time to consult the casuists, and consider it fully."
MR. MEDLICOTT MEETS ONE WHO IS AS VERSATILE AS HIMSELF.
REUBEN, returning to Cambridge, found that Primrose was flown. Hyacinth, though he had been so urgent with Reuben to embrace the profession of the law, seemed in no great hurry himself to enter it, for immediately after the appearance of his sketch of Dean Wyndham, he went abroad, and pursued his travels as far as Florence. Mrs. Mountjoy happened to be there at the time, which no doubt made the fair city on the Arno particularly agreeable to Hyacinth ; it contributed, indeed, he frankly acknowledged, more to his contentment, than the presence of the Medicean goddess herself, “ for which, I suppose,” he said, in one of his letters home, “ I shall be put down by your artists and artistic people as little better than a Hun.”
Reuben was greatly scandalised (as well became him) at the truant life his friend was leading, when he ought to have been almost as far advanced in his profession as Henry Winning. Primrose, indeed, seemed now to be carrying into practice one of the many little playful theories which he was in the habit of broaching from time to time, to exercise his wit, and lighten the weight of an idle hour. Among other things, he was wont to maintain that for rising in the world there was no better plan than to do nothing, provided you have once got a general reputation for talent.
“My notion is,” he used to argue, “ that it is better to rest on the character one has, than expose it to hazard, by continually giving envy something to carp at. The men that succeed best are those who contrive to get a little clique about them, who cry then up not for what they actually do, but what they could do if they would only take the trouble. In those cliques, which are often exceedingly influential, active talent makes a very poor figure by the side of reputed cleverness. I was once of Shakspeare's opinion, that perseverance • keeps honour bright;' but of
late I am much inclined to think that honour is in more danger of being sullied than burnished by scouring. There are so many ways of disparaging anything actually done, and turning it against the doer. Any blockhead, for example, can deny one's originality, and affirm that he met, elsewhere, everything one has said or written, or even that he himself supplied the hints or the materials. If talent cannot be denied, what is so easy as to shake the head, and cry-how indiscreet ! or come in with a 'yes, but that is all he can do.' But the most approved plan of all is, to exclaim, 'Ah, if such a one (the hero of the clique) had handled the subject, if such a one had spoken, or written on such a theme! On the whole I conclude,” said Primrose,
" that intellectual activity is more likely to injure a man than to serve him; I ain very
much disposed in future to be more tender of my capital than I have been, and live like a great many prosperous fellows about me, upon the interest of my reputation.”
This was precisely what Master Hyacinth seemed to be now actually doing, having fortunately, besides the interest of his reputation, the interest of a few thousand pounds to live on. Reuben was pained to see his friend so volatile, and had serious thoughts of writing him an admonitory letter--a step which it is to be regretted he did not take, as a remonstrance from him upon that particular subject would have certainly deserved a place among the curiosities of literature.
Primrose, however, was not the only acquaintance he had who stood much in need of a lecture on perseverance. As he was one day straying in the streets of Cambridge, probably moralising on this very point, he remarked a workman on a ladder painting an inscription over the door of a little shop, which seemed on the eve of being opened in some new line of business. While Reuben stood watching the operation, the name was completed, and to his astonishment it was ADOLPHE. Almost the next moment he had the pleasure of meeting his old acquaintance of Hereford again. Adolphe darted out of his shop, with a cigar in his mouth, not much changed, except that his moustache was larger, and his appearance that of a man who had been tossing about in this wicked world. Reuben was very happy to see the French shoemaker, and shook his hand cordially.
“Ah,” said Adolphe, “ you do not shake the hand like most of your countrymen; you give your hand as if your heart was in it. I am happy to meet you again : you were always a kind friend to me."
Reuben presumed he was about to set up again in his former trade.
“Ah, no! he was now in the book line: he had at length, after repeated trials, discovered the career that suited his talents and his tastes; he had found in himself two passions—he loved literature and he loved merchandise; the true career of everybody was the result of his passions: this was his theory, and it had made him what he now was,-a bookseller."
“ Where was mademoiselle his sister ? was she still living with Mrs. Winning ?”
“No, no; she was married, married to a distinguished comedian in London; she was settled in the world, and had a nice house at Bayswater."
“ I shall not fail to visit her whenever I go to town," said Reuben.
"She will be proud to be visited by Monsieur."
It was a fortunate rencontre for Adolphe. Reuben deserved to have had his portrait taken by the first sign-painter in England, and hung over the door of the new shop, to reward the extraordinary pains he took to have it opened with éclat. He canvassed for customers; he even wrote Adolphe's advertisements for the newspapers; advised him as to the stock of books he should purchase; and incidentally put his name to one or two bills which were passed to the houses in Paternoster-row by which the orders for the books were taken.
Mr. Medlicott was also Adolphe's first customer. The book was a pocket edition of the poetry of Milton. It was a memorable purchase. Soon applying it to its purposed use, he took it with him the same evening in one of his lonely saunterings, and the first verses that met his eye stung him to the quick. It was the beautiful sonnet “On being arrived at the age of twentythree :"
“How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stol'n on his wing my three and twentieth year!
It shall be still in strictest measure even
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heaven:
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great Task-master's eye.” He read a great mass of divinity for a few weeks following the reading of that sonnet; he plunged deep into biblical literature and Church history; mastered the elements of Hebrew, and began to wonder at the little interest he had hitherto taken in sacred studies. In fact, many a young man.is admitted to orders with a inuch scantier knowledge of divinity than Reuben acquired in this brief paroxysm of study. During a whole fortnight he never saw his protégé, the bookseller, except for an hour occasionally in the evening, when he would drop into his shop, by way of relaxation, or to inquire how the business was prospering. On one of these occasions, he found the lively young Frenchman sitting on his counter, playing the flageolet, just as he had found him at Hereford in the beginning of their acquaintance, when he traded in shoes. Some University men came in while Reuben was there; but, to his surprise, instead of asking for books, they inquired for cigars, and Adolphe supplied their wants from some boxes, which Reuben had not noticed before. There was a little theory ready to account for this union of trades. The literature of tobacco was very curious. Reuben thought it was possible it might be so; but he began to think, also, as he returned to his chambers, that his friend Adolphe was not much more constant to one pursuit than he was himself. The three-and-twentieth anniversary of the nativity of Reuben
The Vicar procured him a nomination to a curacy in Chichester. The Bishop of a neighbouring diocese, an excellent man, who had often been friendly to Mr. Medlicott, was soon to hold an ordination, and it was the earnest wish of Reuben's friends that he should sieze the opportunity, and present himself for admission into orders. But now came one of his fits of languor and indecision, unhappily much more frequent than his starts of energy and determination. He doubted the completeness of his preparation; there were many points on which he had not yet made up his mind; he had not examined himself with sufficient strictness and solemnity to discover whether he entertained that sincere desire for the pastoral office, and fitness for its duties, without which he had all along been resolved never to take the obligations of a clergyman upon him. In this there was some conscientiousness, but there was more indolence. The Vicar was morose; the Dean was violent, as usual, and intended
to write his grandson a philippic, but, being otherwise much occupied, he devolved the duty on Mrs. Wyndham, through whose mild medium the indignation of his grandfather reached Reuben in a very diluted form. A pile of letters on the subject lay on his table from the different members of his family. There were two or three from his mother; at first she had been disposed to blame him with some asperity, in common with his father, but her later epistles were in an altered tone. It appeared that she had come round to her son's opinion, that the delay of a year or so could be of little consequence, as he was still so young a man, and could easily employ the interval to so much advantage in the cultivation of pulpit oratory.
In the midst of all this to-do about ordination, (for the subject made a great noise at Underwood, though very little in the world at large, Mrs. Mountjoy had returned from the continent, and taken lodgings in London. Reuben shortly after went up to town to pass the season with her. This was his first visit to the great metropolis; and his mother trusted he would not neglect so good an opportunity for taking lessons in elocution from some of those experienced professors of that art, whose advertisements she had frequently observed in the public journals.