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The kind reception old Mr. Medlicott met with from his venerable father-in-law affected him extremely.
The Bishop thought he had been over-scrupulous in refusing the living, but highly commended his probity and disinterestedness, and hoped it would soon be in his power to offer him something in Shrewsbury worth his acceptance. The Vicar then said he regretted it had not been suggested to the Chancellor to provide for Reuben in some way or other.
The Bishop looked surprised at this suggestion, and at first the Vicar thought he was displeased at it; he rose from his chair, swung himself about the room, puffed his cheeks, protruded his lower lip, assisted Tom in his building for a moment; then pulled out his enormous watch, like the clock of a church, said he must go down to the House of Lords, and desired the Vicar not to fail to dine with him between six and seven.
The Bishop went straight to the point, while Mrs. Primrose was beating about the bush, with her diplomatic notes to Master Turner. Reuben was nominated that very day to an appointment of high respectability in connection with the Court of Chancery; the salary from seven to eight hundred a year, with a little patronage attached, and perquisites that brought it up to nearly the clear thousand.
“I know the office well,” said De Tabley, one of the very best things going."
“Except that, I fear, it leads to nothing," said Mrs. Wyndham.
“ Leads to nothing !” exclaimed Hyacinth ; at the worst it leads Blackwall and Richmond."
" Is it compatible with Parliament ?" said Mrs. Primrose, aside to the Vicar.
“No, Catherine,” he replied, " and so much the better upon many accounts."
There was some little apprehension, for various reasons, on the part of several of his friends, that Mr. Medlicott would hesitate to accept the appointment, great as its advantages were ; in his embarrassed and critical circumstances nothing less than a splendid piece of good fortune. But, if he had his doubts, he kept them to himself, and upon the whole abandoned himself with wonderful resignation to the receipt of a handsome salary and the tranquil enjoyments of office.
The report at Chichester was that Reuben had joined the Cabinet. Alderman Cold met Mr. Pigwidgeon, and gave him an unctuous description of the emolument and dignity of the appointment. Mr. Medlicott, he understood, intended to give his friends a grand dinner,--turtle and venison and iced punch.
Mr. Pigwidgeon said he had no doubt the place was a rank sinecure, which ought to have been abolished long ago; but at the same time it was a wonderful come-down for a man who had cocked
up his nose so high as Mr. Medlicott. He was sincerely sorry to see it. There was his son who had scorned to accept anything under the government of an island. He was now his Excellency Sir Theodore Pigwidgeon, and could hang anybody he pleased in the island without judge or jury.
“ Be that as it may,” said the Alderman, “ turtle-soup is not a bad thing."
Why do you talk of turtle ?" said the Apothecary, “sure my son is in the place that turtle comes from."
One of the pleasant circumstances of Mr. Medlicott's new position was that it only involved personal attendance in term-time, so that it was not necessary to give up his gardening, or relinquish Mr. Cox's country-house, which he now held at a fair rent, but one which was never demanded nor paid. Another was the little patronage at his disposal. He was now enabled to provide for two of his godsons. Reuben Gosling was his first clerk and receiver of fees, with two hundred per annum ; Reuben Medlicott Robinson his second, with half that salary. The former was a smart forward young man, not only clever at arithmetic and book-keeping, but sharp at everything; his travels in America and Reuben's favour had made him inordinately conceited; he thought no girl could withstand his charms, and laid out the greater part of his salary on finery to render himself still more attractive. The latter was an industrious, quiet, timid boy, proud of nothing but his name; he thought Mr. Medlicott the greatest man living, and would willingly have died in his service, which Mr. Gosling would not have done.
It was curious to observe the different views which the relatives and friends of Reuben took of his present situation. His female friends in general were disposed to be uneasy lest the duties of his office should prove too severe for him; his wife was apprehensive of his suffering from mental anxiety ; Mrs. Primrose was more afraid of sedentary habits and indigestion ; Charmette warned him against corpulence; but his mother was haunted by errors of all sorts, particularly about his spirits and his lungs; she provoked the Vicar excessively by doubting whether, upon the whole, Reuben had acted wisely in accepting the place.
“ If there are twenty right views of any subject,” said the Vicar," and only one wrong one, a woman will infallibly take the latter."
“I don't mean to say,” said Mrs. Medlicott, “ that the situation his not its advantages.”
“ And you may safely trust himself for discovering its advantages,” said the Vicar.
There was one discovery, indeed, which Mr. Medlicott made before he was an official of three months' standing. This was the fact that, beyond signing his name a certain number of times in the day there was little or no duty which Mr. Gosling was not perfectly competent to discharge ; and he mentioned this to De Tabley in a tone of complaint, as if he had been betrayed into accepting that office by delusive representations.
De Tabley smiled, and said it was a singular complaint to make, even if the fact were so; but for his part, he added, he always found something to do in the Victualling Department, and he could hardly believe that in such a department as Chancery any place could be a complete sinecure. Why the very fleecing of the public to so great extent could not but be a work of considerable labour.
Reuben laughed at the word labour, as being ludicrously inapplicable to all the work done in the course of the week by himself and his godsons together.
“ You will find more to do, when you have been longer in the office, I speak from experience," said the other.
“Perhaps so,” said Reuben. De Tabley, indeed, was that kind of man who in truth would have been content if his office had been discharged of all duty whatever; he would never have quarrelled with it on that account. At the same time he was not only most attentive to such business as he had to do, but he made it seem ten times as great as it actually was, by his leisurely and ostentatious manner of transacting it. He perfectly understood the art of seeming wise and appearing busy. He never wrote a short memorandum ; his minutes took hours to read; he multiplied references, accumulated papers, used larger envelopes, greater seals, and more miles of red tape and green ribbon than anybody else in the public service. His table always suggested the idea of affairs the most numerous and weighty. He wrote all his private letters in office hours, upon official stationery, sealed them with official seals, and dispatched them by official messengers. There was always a difficulty about seeing him,
and he was never surprised reading a newspaper or a novel, smoking a cigar, lunching, or taking a siesta in his easy chair. Then he never left his office without carrying away with him a box of papers, or a couple of blue-books, which impressed the spectators with the belief that even his private hours were encroached on by his public employments. He kept the me sengers and junior clerks in a constant hurry and ferment, and by all these arts and contrivances, systematically practised, he convinced hundreds, and eventually persuaded himself, that he was a very hard-worked and meritorious public servant.
Business, however, grew so little upon Mr. Medlicott, that he had not only time enough on his hands to make long sojourns at Chichester, and pay occasional visits to his grandfather at Shrewsbury or Westbury, but ample leisure to renew his intercourse with bis Quaker friends, who continued to believe him the foremost man of the age, and stuck to him the more firmly because they considered him a martyr to the envy or stupidity of the House of Commons. He now became treasurer to the Peace Society at Harvey's solicitation : but this gave him no increase of trouble, for Mr. Gosling took all the labour on himself, received the money, kept the books, prepared the accounts, did everything in fact that was to be done with an
ease and cleverness that raised him still higher in his godfathcr’s good opinion.
With all Mr. Gosling's cleverness, however, Reuben found at the end of a year that the profits of his office were not so considerable as he had been led to expect. This was a more unpleasant discovery than the first he had made. When he mentioned it to De Tabley, the latter hoped he had an efficient and trustworthy clerk to receive the fees.
“ The cleverest fellow in Edgland,” said Mr. Medlicott, in everything connected with money; the best accountant, the best book-keeper; a most deserving and promising young man.
“I hope you audit his accounts, nevertheless," said his friend.
Perfectly unnecessary,” said Reuben ; “ he has such a luminous method of book-keeping that his accounts, in fact, audit themselves.”
The clever young man in question came in at the moment with some papers for his chief's signature.
" Is that your Receiver ?” said De Tabley, after having scrutinised the godson from top to toe with his eye-glass.
“I see," answered Reuben, "you are surprised to see him
rigged out so smartly. Poor fellow, dress is the only indulgence he allows himself.”
De Tabley was at Blackwall the following day, and noticed the Receiver at a table not far from his own, entertaining two companions at a regular white bait dinner. He mentioned this to Reuben, who thought it his duty to speak on the subject to bis godson. It was all a mistake. Mr. Reuben Gosling did not even know whether Blackwall was up the Thames or down the Thames. “ And as to white-bait, sir," said he, “ I do not know whether it is fish or fowl; I never tasted it in my life, and never hope to do so."
What could be more satisfactory ? Indeed, there never was ą public officer so happy in clerk or secretary, for Mr. Gosling soon showed him that by imitating his handwriting he could even save him the trouble of signing papers ; the consequence of which was that in the second year of his placemanship Mr. Medlicott scarcely showed his face three times in the purlieus of the Court of Chancery.
MR. MEDLICOTT RENOUNCES TIE ERRORS OF BEEF AND MUTTON.
It was at this period, or thereabouts, that the still sanguine and ambitious Mr. Medlicott, applying his versatile mind to new objects of interest, was converted (through the exertions of Harvey principally) to the doctrines and practices of the vegetarians. He expatiated publicly on the subject in the Hanover Square Rooms to large audiences, chiefly composed of hypochondriacs who had lost their confidence in Parr's pills, and the regular dreary old pack of London lecture-goers, the same sort of people who are now to be seen flocking to lectures on animal magnetism and electro-biology. In his garden at Chichester he now devoted himself almost exclusively to the culture of vegetables, and announced himself to the world as an epicurean of the true school, and the only real possessor of the elixir of life. This was the only absurdity in which Mr. Medlicott was ever countenanced by his grandfather. The Bishop, now very old, was not the less disposed to live upon that account; but was determined, on the contrary, to live as long as he could, partly because he was