Page images


berries. He was for gardening very much in the good old English way.

Reuben was a transcendental gardener, and among other extraordinary notions, he conceived the idea of cultivating certain species of flowering plants on the top of the house. For this purpose he went to the considerable expense of a new roof, with a very gentle slope to the south, which he then covered with a coating of soil of what he considered sufficient thickness and the proper composition for his purposes. Mr. Cox had a private opinion that as the house was his, he ought to have been consnlted before it was remodelled for so odd a purpose ; and both he and the Vicar suggested the possibility of the roof not proving strong enough to support the weight of the beds imposed on it, particularly as there was also a large leaden tank for water, not to speak of the occasional saturation of the earth with rain, and the corresponding increase of strain upon the rafters. Mr. Medlicott, however, was confident all was perfectly secure; he had not quite forgotten, he said, with an air of assumption, the mathematics he had read at Cambridge, and the strength of materials and doctrine of vertical pressure had been among the subjects to which his attention had there been directed. Upon this, the Vicar and the landlord drew in their horns and said no more, though the latter continued to harbour an unpleasant apprehension that the system of house-top gardening would break down sooner or later, with considerable injury to his property, if not more unpleasant consequences.

The life Mr. Medlicott led here, although eccentric, had a great many domestic comforts and social enjoyments. The place was picturesque; the operations going on had the attractions that rural operations always have; he had brought his library down; he was in the bosom of his family; some of his oldest associates were in his neighbourhood; upon the whole, except that his exchequer was low, and likely to be lower (which was, to be sure, a drawback), his position was by no means as unenviable as it was strange.

His wife, used to the country, and loving it, was many degrees a happier creature now, than she had been in her elegant little mansion in London. Now she was seldom daunted by moustache, or overawed by big-wigs. Moreover she was united to her mother, from whom it was marvellous how she ever tore herself. She was just such a comfort and a treasure to Reuben, as Mr. Cox had found in another member of the same religious community. Wherever Mary lived, her house shone


like a mirror, both within and without. Her kitchen was always a place to dine in; all her domestic arrangements were neatness itself

. The younger Mrs. Medlicott was at this time very generally admired: the consciousness of being the


of so distinguished a husband, communicated a dignity to her deportment; while her anxieties about his fame and prospects, as well as about her children, substituted an air of seriousness, almost of melancholy, for the excess of mirthfulness that formerly distinguished her. Both changes seemed to become her. She retained much of her primitive simplicity of costume, but its simplicity suited a style of beauty which had rather a tendency to the florid and exuberant, and Reuben took care to make up for the sobriety of the hues by the richness of the texture of her garments. As he was fond, however, of bright colours when pictorially combined, particularly in female dress, since he could not please his eye with them in that of his wife, he made himself compensation in the attire of two maidens who had been for some time in his service, and who opened his door and attended his table in gay boddices and petticoats, and ribbons of many a bright tint. Reuben's rural entertainments were generally more successful than his dinners in Piccadilly; and one of the circumstances that made them more agreeable was the absence of powdered footmen and black boys, and the substitution of those smiling girls, who glided and hovered about your chair, nimble as Hebe in handing a glass, and neat-handed as Phyllis at dressing a salad.

One of Mr. Medlicott's many amiable qualities was his vivid remembrance of old scenes and old acquaintanceships; of every little tie, however slight, that had once connected him with any one either in business or in pleasure. About a year after his union with Mary Hopkins, they had been prevailed on by Mrs. Wyndham to spend a short time with her at Westbury, where she occasionally went to manage matters, unaccompanied by the Bishop. There Reuben saw many a face he had formerly been familiar with ; and among others, very little impaired by time, were those of Dorothy the gardener's daughter, and Jenny the maid of the dairy, both looking out for services. Mrs. Wyndham gave them such excellent characters, that Mary Medlicott carried them

away with her back to town, and they had lived with her ever since, fully answering the promises made for them.

Mr. Primrose once amused himself by drawing a parallel, in the manner of Plutarch, between these two equally useful and

ornamental members of Mr. Medlicott's establishment. Dorothy was a Devonshire lass, born in the orchards : Jenny a Welchwoman; her rude forefathers were goatherds on week-days and Jumpers on Sundays. Jenny was red-and-white: Dorothy was all red. Jenny was rather tall than short: Lorothy rather short than tall. The eyes of the Devon lass were blue: those of the Welch maiden hazel. Dorothy liked work well, but diversion better : Jenny seemed as happy at work as she could possibly be at anything. Dorothy wore pink boddices and blue petticoats: Jenny wore the same hues in the opposite order. Some people fancied Dorothy more than Jenny : some, Jenny more than Dorothy. Both were good-humoured and in good case, and looked particularly well of a morning whitening the steps of Reuben Medlicott's door.

It is possible, that if Mr. Medlicott had been left to hiinself, or let alone, he would have devoted himself more beartily and thoroughly than he did to his original kind of life, which had indeed many fascinations for him. It did not even want the charm of notoriety, for he contrived to make his undertakings well known to the public not only by his lectures, but by papers in the “Gardener's Journal,” and by extensive correspondence with the most celebrated horticulturists in the kingdom. But the more ambitious of his friends and relatives had no notion of permitting a Pitt to sink into a Paxton. Harvey was wretched when Mr. Medlicott was out of his sight more than a week. Dr. Page wrote him short energetic letters, treating his cabbages with sovereign contempt. It was with difficulty Mrs. Primrose was restrained by her husband from sending him reproachful and stimulating letters ; while a certain blue demon, in the form of a tall matron, with spectacles of the same hue, was always at his elbow leading him into temptation, and tempting him to commit the very sin, of all others, which led the holy angels astray.

But no doubt there was also that within his own breast which kept continually reminding him that his mission was not yet fulfilled; there was always the

“Nescia virtus stare loco,"

and even if that voice had been mute, and that principle dormant, the occasional calls of the House, and injunctions of Mr. Speaker, would of themselves have been enough to give him a fillip

As member for Blarney he utterly failed to give satisfaction. He had consented to accept a jointship in the tail of the Liberator, but he performed as inefficiently as possible the duties of that office; forgot entirely that he was not an independant member, and absented himself from important divisions in defiance of priests and demagogues. The consequence was, that the power that brought him in had already threatened to turn him out, and angry letters had passed between him and the Irish Cleon, in which there was no question but that Mr. Medlicott got the worst of it.

In the hands of the Quakers he was always more pliable. Yielding to their earnest and united solicitations, he now promised to move a series of resolutions, with a view to pledge the House to the principles of the Peace Society. The very outline he gave of the propositions he intended to lay down produced not a little amusement. When the time was near at hand for making his motion, it was found to clash with arrangements for a debate upon a government measure of the greatest urgency. Mr. Medlicutt refused to give way. His friend Winning, now SolicitorGeneral, begged him to postpone it as a personal favour, but the influence of friend Harvey was too strong. Reuben, in fact, wanted the moral courage to do what his natural sense of decorum prompted. On the morning of the day fixed, out came the Times with a thunderer of the justest severity, launched at the peace-mongers and their Coryphæus. The old caricatures appeared in the shop-windows. Thor and the elephant were once more in every man's mouth, and under these propitious circumstances Mr. Medlicott rose to make a six hours speech upon a question almost too puerile for discussion in a debating society. The result need hardly be stated. Never did the folly of an individual bring down such speedy and crushing retribution upon his head. The smile grew into the laugh, the laugh changed to the cough, the cough passed into the groan, the groan rose and swelled into the shout-then laugh, cough, groan, shout, and all conceivable modes of expressing the determination of an assembly not to tolerate a speaker, were combined with a storm of noises that was fearful to hear. Long before the orator, who was as stubborn as he was rash, gave up the contest, his friend Winning left the house, so painful was it to him to witness the prostration of his old friend and schoolfellow.

Nor even with this amount of castigation did the unfortunate member for Blarney escape upon this occasion; for the minister, whose important motion had been kept waiting during this sad waste of public time, thought it his duty to make the strongest remarks

upon the system of persecuting the House with frivolous and vexatious declamation. “ The honourable member,” he said, makes

peace more formidable than war. He and the wild enthusiasts he represents lead us seriously to doubt whether peace is indeed so great a blessing as we have hitherto imagined it; we almost long for the roar of ordnance to silence this insufferable tongue-battery. We are told of the horrors of war, but at the present moment, after what we have witnessed to-night, I think the House has a much clearer idea of the horrors of peace. I will not call the honourable member an enemy to his country, but I will say that he has declared and levied peace against her. We shall henceforward associate peace with his harangues, and fly to the cannon's mouth to escape from his. What are the toils and troubles of war, of which the poets say so much, compared to the toil and trouble of sitting on these benches, condemned to the alternative of being deafened either by the honourable member himself

, or the overwhelming majority of this House, determined, and properly determined, not to hear him? I heartily congratulate the House upon having finally wrested the olive-branch from the honourable gentleman's hands, for a more formidable instrument for the dispatch of public business, in the fatal sense of that word, was never wielded in this or any other country.”




A THIRD caricature of Mr. Medlicott appeared the following day, representing him thrashing the Ministry with a huge olive-branch. He bought the engraving himself, and taking it down with him to Chichester, hung it on the walls of his breakfast-parlour, which had already in the same spirit of bravado and contempt for public opinion), been decorated with the previous illustrations of his career in the senate. However, he did little or nothing in parliament after this ; though the same obstinacy which would

« PreviousContinue »