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to send the boy to school with this ridiculous head of hair; why, his school-fellows will use him for a Pope's head.”
“ It is too long," said the Vicar. Mrs. Medlicott herself could not dispute it. The hair was the colour of her own to the nicest shade, which perhaps was one of the causes of the favour in which she held, and the care with which she had cherished it.
“ Is there no hair-cutter in the village, eh ?” pursued the Doctor, looking furiously at the golden locks.
“Not nearer than Chichester," said Mrs. Medlicott, “indeed I should have had it cut before, but now it is too late.”
“Too late, fudge! why don't you cut it yourself ?"
"Oh, father," said Mrs. Medlicott, laughing, “I should be a very awkward coiffeuse : I wouldn't undertake it for the world.”
“ Undertake it! Where's the difficulty ? hand me a pair of scissors ; I'm a capital hair-cutter; I always cut my own at College-hand me those scissors, boy.” Imagine a Roman dictator, Furius Camillus for instance, issuing his orders.
Reuben smiled, coloured, glanced at his mother, then looked fearfully at his grandfather, and finally handed the scissors. It was the affair of a moment. You know the sound that sharp steel makes passing through masses of crisp curls.
“Now don't, dear father ; don't,” cried Mrs. Medlicott, jumping up and running round the table. "I'll do it myself, -don't father, don't,—you might have allowed me.”
The bright hair was tumbling on the floor in bunches, while the mother was thus interceding for it idly, for her father's huge hands wielded the shears as ruthlessly as those of Atropos.
The Vicar was pleased, but he enjoyed his satisfaction in silence. As to Reuben, he was man enough to have borne the loss of his superfluous ringlets, for in truth they were an incumbrance and inconvenience to him; but when he saw that his mother was really agitated and vexed at his grandfather's violent proceedings, the tears stood in his eyes, and it was with some difficulty he prevented them from joining his hair on the carpet.
The Vicar accompanied the dignitary for about a mile of the way back to the house were he was quartered, the latter walking with immense strides, talking volubly and vehemently all the time; and the former a short-winded pursy little man, trying ineffectually to keep the pace, and equally unsuccessful in his efforts to take part in the conversation. At length they came to a point where the Dean was to cross a stile to take a short cut through the fields; and here he suddenly missed some pa
pers, no less important than a sermon which he was to preach in the Cathedral of Chichester the following Sunday. The papers ought to have been in his hat; and as they were not there, the probability was that they were in the pond, or well, in the Vicar's garden.
“ Have you ducks ?" cried the Dean, astride on the stile.
“ Well, there's one well in the world,” said the Dean : at least that realises the old proverb, and you may now boast, Medlicott, that you have got it in your garden."
“ I'll recover the sermon," said the Vicar; “it won't be a dry discourse at all events.”
“ I make you a present of it,” said the Dean. « Preach it to the people of Underwood.”
I'll take you at your word, sir," said the Vicar, " and the present is very acceptable, for I have been so engrossed by sending Reuben to school, that I have had no time to compose a sermon of my own for next Sunday.”
Mrs. Medlicott and her son had strolled forth also to enjoy the remnant of a beautiful evening more agreeably in the fresh air, and neighbouring fields, than in the feverish atmosphere of a room, which had been twice heated by the steam of the teakettle, and the presence of a great controversial divine. Mrs. Medlicott had of course many prudent maternal cautions to impress, and many sage injunctions to impose upon the young adventurer who was about to quit her side for the first time; and Reuben, on his part, had promises to make, resolutions to form, and projects, enterprises, visions, speculations, hopes, and dreams to communicate. One of the pledges now exacted by Mrs. Medlicott, with the greatest earnestness, was that the boy would not over-tax his strength by too much anxiety to improve himself, or even to please his parents ; he was young, and there was time enough before him for all the purposes of life; he was highly intellectual—she might venture now to tell him so- -and the drudgery, which with inferior faculties might be indispensable, was in his case not only needless, but was calculated to defeat the very object of study.
“But there will be time enough for everything,” said Reuben ; “I need not forget my French, or my German, or my geology, or my botany, or anything you have taught me, mother; although I promise you I will attend chiefly to my school business, and not neglect my health."
6. That is all that I ask, my love," said the tall matron, looking down with maternal pride upon her son through her blue spectacles, and bitterly sighing when she missed his hyacinthine curls.
" I should not be happy, mother," pursued Reuben, “if I were to feel myself forgetting anything you have had the trouble of teaching me.”
“My dear boy,” said his mother, after a pause, during which she collected herself for one of her speeches, “ now that I am satisfied
you will be prudent, believe me I do not want to disguise from you the immeasurable extent of the field of human knowledge, and the innumerable provinces of the mind, (for really they are innumerable,) in which the triumphs of literature and science are to be won. I have often told you-have I not? I think I have—the opinion I entertain of the vast capacity of our intellects, and my conviction that there is infinitely more than enough room in your brain, for example, Reuben, or in mine, for all the learning that ever was acquired, and all the sciences that ever were invented. Our minds, my dear, you must never forget, are not only immortal, but infinite. When you have read Locke's Essays and Browne's Philosophy of the Mind, you will have clearer notions of what immortality and infinity mean. There is nothing so important, dear Reuben, as to have clear and precise ideas upon every subject; but to return to what I was saying, I am inclined to believe that Plato, the divine Plato, held pretty much the same opinions that I have expressed, or tried to express, on the vastness and variety of the human capacity. I have really sometimes thought of comparing the human mind to an infinite kaleidoscope."
“I long to read Plato,” said Reuben.
" He is a glorious writer and philosopher,” said the blue lady ; “ you will study him at College.”
“Not till then,” said Reuben, with a sigh ; " but tell me, mother," he added, “ was my grandfather so very dull at school as he says he was! Was he a Goth, and a Visigoth ?"
“ Your grandfather, my dear," said Mrs. Medlicott, smiling, " like most very energetic men, sometimes speaks in a strain of exaggeration ; you must receive his statements, therefore, cum grano, or with a grain of allowance for this peculiar feature in his idiosyncracy ;-no, my dear, he was, I believe, one of the very cleverest boys at Harrow, though idle and refractory perhaps at times, which accounts for the experience he told you he bad of the sererities of academic discipline.” Here a winged beetle gave Mrs. Medlicott a bob in the face, and brought her prematurely to a stop.
"I will make it my study, mother, to resemble him," said Pienben, solemnly.
“ Not in being idle and refractory, I hope,” said Mrs. Medlicott, smiling ;—she was seldom so jocular—" but who is this approaching us ? it has grown so dark that we shall scarcely have light to get home. Those coleopterous insects are exceedingly annoying : it is owing, you may remember, to the peculiar structure of their visual organs.”
The personage thus dimly descried in the twilight, was the Vicar, who, while he accompanied them back to the glebe, informed them of the watery doom of the Doctor's papers. Mrs. Medlicott was greatly excited at the thought of the possible loss of any production of her father's, and her excitement was caught by Reuben, who ran forward with impetuosity to procure a lantern from the kitchen, to guide them to the well, where indeed the papers were found floating, as was anticipated, just where they had tumbled out of the shovel-hat. Mrs. Medlicott, berself, took possession of them, and dried them carefully with her handkerchief, and afterwards at the kitchen fire, before she went to bed. The Vicar entertained a momentary design of sitting up to read the sermon, of which he was now the owner, but whether it was the reflection that it was his own property, or that he was unaccustomed to reading by candlelight, he gave up the task after nodding over it for a few minutes, and retired to his pillow likewise.
We shall not hear of this sermon again for some years. When it came to the point, the Vicar found it no easy matter to reconcile it with his conscience to palm his father-in-law's learning and eloquence upon his parishioners as his own.
MRS. MEDLICOTT BORROWS MRS. WINNING'S FRENCH MAID.
LEAVES HOME, AND OTHER IMPORANT INCIDENTS. All the incidents of that evening made a deep impression on the mind of young Reuben,—the sudden panic flight of the old Quaker and her daughter,—the cutting of his hair by his rude and eccentric grandfather,—the rescue of the sermon from drowning, but his last walk and conversation with his mother more than all the rest.
The boy loved his mother with more than ordinary tenderness; they had indeed been fellow-students more than pupil and preceptress, and his attachment to her was almost identified with his ardour for the various studies into which she had not very discreetly initiated him. The worst of such instruction was that his lights were taken upon most subjects from one whose own mind was far from being luminous enough to undertake the enlightenment of others. Mrs. Medlicott was not at all more logicai in her habits of reasoning, or precise in her notions, than the large majority of woman-kind, although the range of her reading was so general and so ambitious. Her understanding at the brightest was but a sort of shining mist. The knowledge she possessed, or what she called knowledge, was nine parts out of ten either an affair of the memory, or the imagination. These were also, of course, the provinces of Reuben's intellect, which had been most industriously cultivated; so that in his case, unquestionably, it would have been better if the old routine of instruction had been adhered to, and if the white paper, to which Locke compares the human mind before the reception of ideas, had not been so extensively scrawled over with hieroglyphics, by the hand of a vain self-opinionated woman. Let a woman, however, be ever so blue, she is still a woman. She does not put off her own sex, when she encroaches on the prerogatives and pursuits of ours. Of this Reuben's mother now afforded a remarkable example. Among many other subjects of maternal solicitude which harassed the mind of Mrs. Medlicott that night, the
rape of her son's locks was not forgotten, and the uncouth figure he now made haunted her imagination, and even disturbed her rest. She was apprehensive of making matters worse if she tried with her own hands to mend them, but was there no other resource ? Must Reuben actually go to school with that shocking head of hair, looking as if he had been trimmed with a hatchet, as Charon in Lucian was accustomed to trim the beards of the philosophers ? Reuben's departure stood fixed for a late hour on the following day, so there was time left for a little management, if she could only think what to do. There is nothing like thinking perseveringly and doggedly when you are in a dilemma. Things are very desperate when nothing comes of persevering dogged thinking. Mrs. Medlicott thought so long