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“ I hope and trust so,” said the lady ; “I take a great interest in your son, indeed I do, Mr. Pigwidgeon; and you know I always said he had talent-it only wanted awakening.” She touched her forehead as she spoke, to show that she was still as great a phrenologist as ever, and knew the precise longitude and latitude of all the provinces of the understanding delineated upon the globe of the skull.
" It is only justice to say, ma'am, that you always did ; and time will tell,” answered Mr. Pigwidgeon.
“ At all events,” said Mrs. Medlicott, still further to prove the interest she continued to take in Dr. Pigwidgeon,“ he has friends to do something for him,-who knows, for instance, but Reuben himself may have it in his power to be of use to him one of these days ?”
The apothecary was as proud as he was shabby, and it is hard to describe how this most injudicious speech galled him. He tried to reply, but his voice stuck in his throat, with the irritation of bis feelings. The Vicar, however, who was equally displeased for different reasons, came to his relief with a sharp rebuke to his wife's arrogance, telling her that Reuben was just as likely to want Dr. Pigwidgeon's services as Dr. Pigwidgeon to want Reuben's. Mrs. Medlicott was forced, in common politeness, to admit that this was true; but in doing so, she committed herself again by broadly alluding to Reuben's parliamentary intentions——the subject, of all others, which she should not have touched
upon in the presence of the apothecary, the most notorious gossip in the whole county of Sussex. The Vicar tried to give her a little admonitory kick under the table, but he was on the opposite side, and his legs were too short to reach her.
Perhaps Mr. Pigwidgeon did not comprehend the allusion, broad as it was ; but whether he did or not, a dry cough was the only notice he took of Mrs. Medlicott's last observation, accompanying it with a request for a final cup of tea.
The conversation would now have ceased, if it had not suddenly occurred to Mr. Primrose that he had seen the name of a Dr. Pigwidgeon lately mentioned in one of the London newspapers in connection with a celebrated Irish borough. He immediately asked the apothecary whether his Dr. Pigwidgeon was identical with the gentleman who was up
for Blarney.” Never did Mrs. Medlicott lay her spectacles down with such nervous haste, as she did when the apothecary, glowing with paternal pride, and at the same time all shaking with excitement, answered,
“I have the honour, sir, to be father to that gentleman."
“ I trust the news is true," said the Vicar, frankly and goodnaturedly.
" It's true, and it's not true," said the apothecary.
“ That's an enigma we must beg of you to explain,” said the Vicar.
“ Excuse me,” said Mr. Pigwidgeon.
“ I was never so amazed in all my life," said Mrs. Medlicott. Everything she said that morning was mal-à-propos as possible.
“I see nothing so amazing in my son coming into Parliament, Madam," said the apothecary, regarding her bitterly and speaking in a sort of slow growl.
"Nothing whatever," said the Vicar, heartily ; " your son is a very eloquent man, we all know, and I don't see why he should bury his talent more than anybody else.”.
Mrs. Medlicott hastened to say something to the same effect (for, in truth, she had still some sparks left of her old intellectual tendresse for Theodore, and was pleased as well as astonished at what she had heard), but it was too late ; the apothe cary rose from the table, and after taking a profusion of snuff, followed the Vicar into his study to discuss the business, whatever it was, that brought him to the Vicarage that morning.
Page proposed a cigar to Primrose under the walnut-tree, and the proposition was gladly accepted, particularly as a mode of
escape from Mrs. Medlicott, who, if she had ceased twaddling about politics, would have infallibly commenced twaddling about something else. “Well
, what do you think of Mr. Pigwidgeon ?" said the Doctor, lighting his Havana.
“ He is a man,” said Mr. Primrose,“ take him for all in all, I trust I shall never see his like again. Can it be possible he is rich, he looks such a miserably poor devil ?"
“ A devil, but anything but a poor one,” said Page.
“What puts borough-mongering in the head of such a man as that?” said Hyacinth ; " I thought it was too high a species of jobbing for so low a fellow.”
“I'll tell you,” said the Doctor; “it is the only description of knavery he has not yet practised, and he wants to be perfect in every branch of the art."
It was a short colloquy, for it ended here. Before the half of their cigars was turned into smoke and ashes, they saw the
apothecary sneaking off through a door in the hedge; and the Vicar rejoined them, puffing and blowing. Short as his interview had been with bis visitor, it was evident something had occurred at once surprising and vexatious, and his friends were not long in ignorance of the truth.
" A pretty kettle of fish," quoth the Vicar, panting. It may have been remarked that was a favourite phrase of his.
“ What's the matter ?” asked the Doctor.
Why, that booby of a son of his is not going to stand for Blarney, after all,” replied the Vicar, still out of breath.
“ What is that to you, or to ine?” said Page.
“ But he is going to stand for Chichester—for Chichester against Reuben,” said the Vicar, almost in a scream, and staring at the Doctor energetically.
“ No!”—cried Page—“you don't say so !—that's too good.”
“ He came to solicit my vote and interest—he came to canvass me, sir.”
“ In earnest ?”—cried Page.
" Perfectly in earnest, and they are in the field before us, let me tell you; here's Dr. Pigwidgeon's address to the electors, actually in print," and he pulled out of his pocket as he spoke, a printed hand-bill, with which the apothecary had just presented him.
“ And Parliament was dissolved yesterday, and the writ will be down before you can say Jack Robinson,” continued Mr. Medlicott, recollecting by degrees all he had heard.
Doctor Page now jumped up, uttering a variety of exclamations, mingled with a few oaths of no very profane character, but mostly appeals to “ Jove and Jingo," "Lord Harry," and " All that's lovely;" ending by vigorously buttoning his coat, and heartily abusing the Vicar, Mr. Primrose, himself, and everybody, for passing their time lounging in the garden, smoking cigars, and chatting about a worthless old raven, when so much was to be done, and there was so little time to do it in.
“My wife was right, after all,” said the Vicar, looking a little ashamed of himself.
“ By the Lord Harry, she was, sir,” said the Doctor.
“That's always the case with my wife,” said the Vicar, “ the moment she is mentioned she is sure to appear.”
The news struck Mrs. Medlicott like a thunderbolt, and after inveighing against the ingratitude and presumption of her old pupil, in the strongest terms permissible to a woman's lips, she vented all the indignation she had remaining upon her husband, and by implication upon his friends, for being so remiss while the foe was so active.
Well, Madam, we shall do better in future,” said the Doctor.
“ Indeed I hope so, Dr. Page,” said Mrs. Medlicott, rather imperiously, “ there is work for everybody I was at mine early this morning. Here is an address which I have written for Reuben ;—you never thought of this, I venture to say, Mr. Medlicott.”
The Vicar stood aghast at the woman's presumption, while the Doctor and Mr. Primrose furtively exchanged looks of nearly equal alarm, well justified by the very bulk of the papers Mrs. Medlicott held in her hand, big enough, in fact, to be the manuscript of a pamphlet.
It was hard to know what to say, or what to do. The Vicar shrugged his shoulders, said the address was the most ticklish thing of all, and thought it ought to be left to Reuben himself, who would probably arrive in the course of the evening. Fortunately he got into an altercation with his wife upon this point, which enabled the Doctor and Mr. Primrose to consult together aside, as to the best course to take in the emergency, when they wisely resolved to accept the lady's composition, with as many compliments to its excellence as they could bestow, and having thus got it into their hands for instant publication, to slash it and hash it at their discretion, throwing all the blame upon somebody or another with sufficiently broad shoulders, Mr. Cox, for example, whose munificent subscription might seem to entitle him to take a liberty of the kind.
This course was, accordingly, adopted ; Mr. Primrose took upon him the task of eulogising the address, which he did with no economy of flattering expressions ; after which, the three men of the party got into the Doctor's little open carriage (the same old machine that had made the tour of Wales), and, at a rapid, electioneering pace, drove into the city.
MR. MEDLICOTT RECEIVES THE DEPUTATION.
THERE was never perhaps a queerer embassy than that which the liberal and enlightened electors of Chichester sent up to London, to overcome the modest reluctance of Mr. Reuben Medlicott to represent them in the British Parliament. With Mr. Broad, the head and front of the embassy, we are well acquainted already. Alderman Codd was almost as fat as he was facile, and Alderman Gosling, the third, was considered a droll fellow in his
corporation, a character which he sustained chiefly by puns and jokes upon his own not inappropriate name. This last worthy was accompanied by his son, a lad of some twelve years' pith, one of Mr. Medlicott's numerous godsons, and a Reuben into the bargain. The Alderman thought the present opportunity a good one to introduce this hopeful youth to the notice of his illustrious sponsor, and, to make him worthy to appear in such a presence, he had clothed him from head to foot in a new suit of sky-blue, which, decorated with a profusion of conical silver buttons, formed a very imposing holiday costume.
Mr. Medlicott had no fixed residence in the metropolis at this period, but led a sort of oscillating life, as became a man of genius, and suited a man of his circumstances, occasionally taking advantage of Lord Maudlin's house when he was out of town, but generally moving back and forwards between Mr. Trevor's convenient box at Hampstead and Friend Harvey's accommodating house in Gracechurch-street. Fortunately for the dignity of the present occasion, he happened to be quartered at Maudlin House in Cavendish-square, when Mr. Broad and his colleagues arrived to lay the representation of Chichester at his feet.
Poor Mary Medlicott, anxious as she was about what was going on, was in no condition at the time to take a very active part in the preparations to receive the embassy. There were palpable grounds for believing that she would soon present her husband with a third pledge of their mutual affection; a male it was devoutly hoped, to inherit the father's talents, and perpetuate his name and blood.
But Reuben was in no want of friends far more competent than his wife to lend him the sort of assistance he wanted in the present circumstances. He was now living on terms more inti