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not allow him to sit down when the House ordered him to do so in a voice of thunder, led him to retain his seat to the last, in defiance of the loudest complaints from his constituents.
Probably few remained now of the once numerous band of believers in his genius, who expected great exploits in statesmanship from him. Perhaps his mother, perhaps friend Harvey, still hoped against hope; but if they did, they must have been almost the only people who did so. It was still possible, of course, that he had not hit upon the true sphere for his abilities. All the paths to eminence had not yet been explored ; there were still roads to fame and fortune remaining to be travelled.
He was forty: a serious age; too late to become a physician, the only learned profession he had not yet turned his mind to. The
army and the navy were out of the question for an apostle of
peace, as he was. It was easier to see that something must be done, than to decide what the something was; for it was clear he could not live like a gentleman, and bring up his family respectably, by philosophical gardening, or as a gentleman farmer either.
In fact, his finances were much embarrassed just now, between his parliamentary and agricultural speculations; very little remained of the handsome legacy Mr. Broad had left him ; it was as much as he could do to retain his godson in his service ; and it was a great relief to him when M. Beauvoisin volunteered to leave him, for the purpose of going on the stage with his sister, who had already adopted that profession.
In this uneasy state of affairs, an incident occurred which promised first to give the Vicar a lift in the world, but ended in doing that service for his son, who, in truth, wanted it more.
When Madame Beauvoisin became an actress she assumed the name of Charmette, and by that name she was already extremely popular on the London boards, in nearly the same walk in which Vestris was so brilliant and successful. Mr. Medlicott went to London expressly to see her. The Wyndhams were in town, and the Primroses with them, of course. Reuben secured a private box, and all the party, except the Bishop, went to see Charmette. They found her equal to her reputation; she sang with great spirit, but it was more as an actress she shone, than as a vocalist.
“ And who is Charmette ?" said Mrs. Wyndham, observing that Reuben talked of her to his aunt as of an old acquaint“Who is she!” repeated Reuben ; “you have surely heard of her ?”
“In the newspapers only.”
“Ah! I see you have forgotten a certain essay by an old acquaintance of yours, -an inexperienced young author,-an essay on shoemakers of genius! Now I have brought things to your memory.”
“Perfectly!" said Mrs. Wyndham, laughing; “I shall never forget Adolphe and the pink satin shoe, and his theory of feet, which I suspect was more yours than his.”
“Malle. Charmette is his sister.”
“ You don't tell me so! I trust she is not as great an object of interest with you as her brother was formerly ?"
“ What would Mary say to that ?” said Mrs. Primrose.
The curtain now rose again, and when it fell, the second piece was over.
“ What is the hour ?" asked Mrs. Wyndham, anxiously.
“Oh, dear! and the House will be up early to-night, on account of the ball at St. James's.”
The Primroses and Mrs. Wyndham hurried away, but Mr. Medlicott remained to see the third piece, in which Charmette was also to appear. She observed him in the course of her performance, and before it was over a slip of paper, with a few words in pencil, was put into his hands, inviting him to supper at her lodgings, to meet Henry Winning and De Tabley.
Charmette received him with the most enchanting cordiality. She had evidently at length discovered where her true force lay; everything about her was brilliant, her apartments, her servants, her table,--all the creation of her own energy and genius.
Beside Winning and De Tabley, she expected another guest that night, who, when he came, proved to be another of Reuben's old friends, Master Turner, still fresh and as well able to enjoy life as ever.
The supper was so agreeable, that it was near three o'clock when the party broke up. Master Turner and Mr. Medlicott went away together, and the former, laying his hand on Reuben's shoulder, made precisely the same speech he had made more than once so many years before. 6 The Lord Chancellor told me that the best sermon he ever heard in his life was one your father preached before him at Chichester.”
At breakfast the next morning with the Primroses, Reuben, after making a full confession of bis dissipated proceedings on the previous night, mentioned the old Master's odd repetition of what the head of the law bad said ever so long ago about his father's sermon.
“I think,” said Mrs. Primrose, “since the Chancellor thought so highly of your father, he might have given him a living before this, or, at least, done something for his family.”
" The probability is,” said Hyacinth, that the Chancellor never thought of the subject since he made the remark which Turner so absurdly repeats every time we meet.”
"He might surely remind the Chancellor of the circumstance," she replied ; " something good might come of it."
“ But the misfortune is,” said Reuben, laughing, “that the sermon was one of my grandfather's, so that my father would hardly think of accepting a living, if it was offered him under such peculiar circumstances.”
"That would be rare Quixotism," said the chaplain. "Let us ask Mr. Turner to dinner at all events on an early day,” said his wife, when her nephew was gone; "he is intimate with the Chancellor, and I think he would say a word in season to oblige me."
This was done. The Primroses had a little dinner of six in a few days, including Master Turner, Winning, and Mrs. Wyndham; the Bishop happening to dine at Lambeth.
“With the greatest pleasure imaginable," said the Master; “I'll probably have an opportunity to-morrow, after divine service at the Temple; the subject will be extremely apropos to a sermon from Benson.”
A week elapsed, and nothing was heard from the Master in Chancery. Mrs. Primrose then had a note from him, requesting her to send him the Vicar's address. This was quite enough to set the hearts of his friends beating.
The Vicar received a letter with the great seal on it; at least if it was not the actual great seal, it was the greatest that had ever been seen in the parish of Underwood.
After puzzling himself to write a becoming answer, he gave it up, and protested it would save bim time and trouble to go up bimself to London. He came up to town accordingly, waited on the Chancellor the first thing he did, and after astonishing his Lordship by declining a much better living than Underwood, he entertained him by a narrative of the circumstances which led to his preaching a sermon of Bishop Wyndham's composition.
“ Mr. Medlicott,” said the Chancellor, “I respect your frankness as much as I admire your humour; you deserve a better living for your sincerity than I had it in my power to offer you for your preaching, but this is the best thing now at my disposal, and you will permit me to press you to withdraw your refusal, though dictated by so nice a sense of honour.”
" I am sensible of your goodness, my lord,” replied the Vicar; “but the very subject of the sermon I had the honour of preaching before you so many years ago would make my acceptance of your generous offer an act of peculiar and glaring inconsistency.”
“Let me see," said the Chancellor, “it was upon the nature and office of conscience. I well remember a fine comparison of an accusing conscience to the statue of Juno in an ancient temple, which stared full upon her worshippers wherever they stood, and even when they had passed by, seemed to follow them with her eye
still.” “Yes, my lord,” said the Vicar, “my life would not be worth a week's purchase with that terrible eye upon me, as it would infallibly be, if I owed my preferment to another man's deserts."
This occurred in the Chancellor's chamber. He was in his robes, on the point of stepping into court. There was no time for further discourse, had there been occasion for it. The Chancellor shook his hand cordially, and in a few minutes was absorbed in the intricacies of a case, which had probably already ruined a couple of generations.
The Vicar went from the Chancellor direct to Pall Mall, where he found his son and the Primroses, who saw him enter with astonishment, but immediately guessed the reason of his journey to London.
" What are you, sir ?” cried Hyacinth, warmly greeting him.
you have not yet seen the Chancellor.” The Vicar then told his story, which variously affected his audience; Hyacinth was exceedingly displeased at what he considered an excess of scrupulosity : Reuben was delighted that his father had done exactly what he declared he would have done himself: Mrs. Primrose sometimes agreed with her husband, sometimes with her nephew; sometimes she was at a loss what to think or what to say, a natural and not unusual state of the feminine understanding.
MR. MEDLICOTT IN OFFICE.
“But surely,” said Mrs. Wyndham, “there are other good things besides livings in the Chancellor's gift; perhaps while his heart is warm, he might be induced to do something for Reuben.”
“I protest,” said Mrs. Primrose; “I'll give Master Turner another hint."
“ Give him another dinner,” said De Tabley.
“I should not wonder," said the chaplain, “if we have found out at last the situation in life that my clever and accomplished friend is best adapted for, a jolly sinecure under the Crown, like De Tabley's, one of those rosy bowers about the Court, or wellfeathered nests at Somerset House, or Greenwich Hospital, where, blessed with emolument and unperplexed with duty, a man has time to think, which nothing interrupts like the hurry of business ; and leisure to dine, which nothing spoils like the thought of to-morrow morning.”
De Tabley never liked to be considered a sinecurist, and said he “knew of no such rosy bowers and cosy nests as Primrose spoke of. All non-officials talked in the same strain. He wished his friend Hyacinth would only try a week's duty in the Comptrollership of the Navy Victualling Department."
“Will you take the Bishop's chaplaincy for the same time ?” replied Hyacinth.
De Tabley shook his head, laughed, and said " he had no doubt that was a post of considerable difficulty.”
“ You have no notion of it," said the other; “ but when uncle Tom goes to school, the business will not be so heavy."
The Vicar meanwhile was paying his respects to the Bishop, whom he now saw for the first time since his elevation to the bench. Tom was rolling on the floor of the study, very busy, like a true “chip of the old block,” building castles with the blue-books, and enlarging and altering them with parliamentary papers of all kinds. His cot with the purple velvet curtains stood in a corner, but he was now too great a fellow to sleep in it, and only used it as a general receptacle for the toys and bonbons with which he was loaded by all his acquaintances, especially by the wives of the Shrewsbury clergy.