Page images
PDF
EPUB

taking. The Vicar's resource in every grief was his garden. He pulled his hat down over his face, and went forth to commune with an old raven he had of the name of Sirach. Mrs. Medlicott hurried to her room. Reuben mounted the top of the stage-coach with his eyes still red with weeping. The precise number of hours his journey occupied is not recorded; all that is certain is, that on the third day after leaving home he was duly enrolled as a scholar at Hereford, having in the course of the journey met with the usual varieties of ups and downs, rough and smooth, according as nature had diversified the country he travelled through, or the overseers of the roads had performed or neglected their duties.

BOOK THE SECOND

Mi perdonate, gentle master mine,
I am in ali affected as yourself;
Glad that you thus continue your resolve
To suck the sweets of sweei philosophy.
Only good master, while we do admire
This virtue, and this moral discipline,
Let's be no stoics, nor po stocks, I pray;
Or so devote to Aristotle's checks
As Ovid be an outcast quite abjured."

Taming of the Shreu.

ARGUMENT.

A man on first coming into the world is very much in the position of a minor whose affairs are altogether in the hands of his guardians and his lawyers; he has nothing at all to do with what he is most concerned in, but is entirely at the disposal and mercy of other people. We are not at liberty to choose our own fathers and mothers, or even our pastors and masters; and perhaps, on the whole it is so much the better-it is easy to imagine what would happen were such a privilege accorded us. Mr. Hudson, for instance, would probably have more sons than Priam of Troy; the Duke of Wellington would have a prodigious Christmas party at Strathfieldsay; and our gracious Queen would soon find herself in the same domestic difficulty with the notorious little old woman, who, whilom, lived in the shoe. Cobblers and curates would be childless, and infants of the most moderate ambition would be born with silver spoons in their mouths. These points are settled for us; and not only are we provided with ready-made parents, but with complete sets of relations, friends, and acquaintances, -—not made to any order of ours, and with respect to whom we have not so much as the melancholy choice of Hobson.

There is no help for this state of things any more than there is for our not being nearer neighbours to the sun than we are, or qualified to promenade our ceilings like the flies. It is the common law of the world as much as gravitation : we are free to grumble, but not at liberty to disobey.

Fortune is but another name for the infinite mass of circumstances in the midst of which we seem to be flung, like Bligh’s boat on the Pacific, or the infant Moses in his cradle of rushes upon the flood of the Nile. An unseen Providence steers the ark; but as far as regards the little crew himself, he is absolutely at the mercy of the current and the crocodiles. Or we may be said to be as molten metal poured into the mould of ten thousand pre-existing facts and relationships, all influencing us, and more or less, determining what manner of men we shall be. We take their form and pressure most submissively. There is no option but to take it.

Circumstance is like a she-bear who licks her cubs into shape. Some are licked too roughly, some too delicately; a few receive the proper moderate licking which forms the fine animal. After a certain period we come to be old enough to take a part in the process, and lick or educate ourselves; one energetic man in a hundred will recast himself altogether; the majority continue to the end of the story much what nurseries, schools and colleges, parents, pedagogues and priests, conspired to make them in life's introductory chapters.

The second book of our “poem unlimited,” contains something about learning, but a great deal more about love. More than one personage will be transported by that passion who ought to be thinking of graver things. When grandfathers fall in love, grandsons may well“ sigh like a furnace.” We shall presently (to employ again a former illustration) be spectators of some of the pantomimic changes of real life. With our eyes fixed on a grammar-school, we shall see it turned into a drawingroom; and the study of a grizzly old divine will be transformed with equal suddenness into a myrtle-Lower. Our Reuben is here advanced a stage on his journey nowhither; he extends his acquaintance with authors, adds largely to his stock of words, and commences an intimacy with a yonng lady, and to all other books prefers the Book of Beanty. The good old people of Chichester have a very imperfect notion of the sayings and doings of the gay young people at Hereford, or, indeed, of the gay old folk either. While one sort of instruction is liberally paid for, another is generously afforded gratis; for all that influences a man is part of his education; our friends and companions are unsalaried tutors ; the houses we frequent are so many academies of easy discipline; the girl we dance with imparts a great many new ideas ;-in short, what is the wide world but a seminary, where the youth of both sexes are promiscuously educated by mistresses as well as master's, and under the fan as well as the ferula.

In short, for a model-school (taking the world as it is), commend us to that kept by Professor Biron in the park of Navarre, where the scholars forswore their books when they took a vow of study: A man, however, may, like Reuben Medlicott, be at once amorous of books and studious of beauty. It would not be amiss if the sculptors of gems would sometimes give Cupid the beard of Plato, and transfer the wings and arrows of the profligate little god to the founder of the Academy.

CHAPTER I.

TIE SOHOOL AT HEREFORD. REUBEN RENEWS AN OLD INTIMAOY

AND MAKES SEVERAL NEW ACQUAINTANCES.

THERE was a modified system of fagging established, or permitted, in the school at Hereford where Reuben Medlicott was now a pupil. The aim of Mr. Brough, the principal, (a pompous, but kind man,) was to preserve the system itself without permitting the

gross abuses usually attending it, and in the main he was successful in effecting this object. Mr. Brough was a good schoolmaster, had some natural gift for teaching, and considerable sagacity in discovering the characters and measuring the capacities of his boys, taking their altitudes and sounding their depths, as he used to call it. He was not long in taking the measure of Reuben, with tolerable accuracy, and finding him a clever boy, rather deficient in force, and at the same time not of a very robust physical conformation, he considerately assigned him as vassal to his old friend Henry Winning—an arrangement very pleasant for Reuben, and one that gratified his parents extremely when they heard of it. Henry Winning was not only clever, but remarkable for steadiness and perseverance. He was also a brave, generous fellow, so that all apprehension of tyranny was soon banished from the mind of his new subject.

Reuben was on his knees unpacking his box of books the morning after his arrival, and Winning was standing over him, wondering in silence what the boy could want with so many more volumes than he had ever possessed himself. As Reuben placed them one after another on the floor, the other stooped and looked at their titles in succession. The first was a Latin Grammar, which was quite right; next came a Delectus, also indispensable. Then there appeared the Discourses of Sir Joshua Reynolds.

“ The Bodleian in a box,” said Winning: come we don't learn that at Finchley ;" and he pitched the Discourses aside.

“ I read it with my mother,” said Reuben, looking up timidly, and colouring.

“ An Arithmetic ?-no harm."
“ This is the History of France."

“ It will be no use here,” said Winning, “ we only read Roman and Grecian History."

66

Reuben coloured again,-—“It's only to keep up my

knowledge,” he said : “I learned it at home.”

· And it appears you learned Geology at home, too, Medlicott. Your mother must be omniscient. What is Geology ?pray enlighten me."

Winning was holding the book in his hand, turning the pages rather disdainfully, and smiling while he asked the question. The smile and expression of ridicule confused poor Reuben, and he gave a very confused account of the objects of Geology, very like one of his mother's precise definitions.

" It seems much the same as Geography," said the elder, “by your account of it. We do not neglect that at Finchley ; but, of course, we have nothing to do with anything but the ancient world--Attica, Asia Minor, the Islands in the Ægean Sea; we learn all about them of course.”

“ And nothing about America," cried Reuben, with subdued amazement, or the British dominions in India ?”

“ This is not a mercantile school, Medlicott; it's a classical school. We have nothing to do with America or India. I suppose they read about India in the East India College."

" That's very odd,” said Reuben. “I thought every part of the world was equally desserving of study."

" And perhaps you may be right in the abstract, Medlicott," said Winning, looking intently at his new acquaintance, and struck at once by his modesty and precocious enlargement of views; “ but we cannot learn everything at school, or anywhere else. Certain studies are appointed here, and it is expected that we shall devote ourselves to them, not perhaps exclusively, but at least so closely, that I can tell you, Medlicott

, there is not much time to do a great deal besides, unless we could manage to do without food, sleep, and cricket.”

“ Not much time, I dare say,” said Reuben, “ but you admit there is some: when I have a leisure moment I suppose I may read any of my books I please."

"Under my rule you may.-Now that's magnanimous, is it not ?" said Winning, “ for I can tell you, Medlicott, there are some men here, who, while I have been quietly looking over your motley library, would have weeded it without the least compunction, and consigned your French History, Botany, and Geology, Veneris marito,—do you know who that is ?”

Vulcan," replied Reuben promptly.
Winning now clapped him good-naturedly on the back,

« PreviousContinue »