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“ Achilles had only Patroclus; Pylades only Orestes, and you have a troop it seems.
Who are they?"
Anybody else ?—you have not come to the end of the list.” “ Well, ind
ed, sir,” said Reuben, “ I had no notion how few friends I had, until I counted them.”
“ There is an important difference,” said the Dean, “ between friendships and intimacies. Intimacies are not friendships, but the tests of friendships. It is, unfortunately, only through intimacies we can discover how unworthy men are of possessing our friendship. We think we are deceived by our friends, when we have only discovered that they never were true friends at all.”
Two or three days passed in this manner, and then the Dean left Westbury as abruptly as he came there. One morning after breakfast, having curtly recommended Reuben to the care of Mrs. Reeves, he thrust all his papers and things that his pockets did not hold) into a carpet bag, grasped it by the lug, as a constable might do a thief, and strode away with the steps of Homer's Poseidon, to meet the coach for Hereford, which passed his gate at a certain well-known hour. Few ever deeply regretted the departure of Dean Wyndham. He usually left behind him the kind of feelings that people are conscious of when a storm has ceased which threatened to pull down their chimneys, and kept them awake the livelong night. The workmen were decidedly the happier when he was gone. Old Mrs. Reeves always tried to persuade herself that she was distressed upon such occasions, but in truth she was more comfortable in her master's absence, just because she was quieter; she expressed the exact state of her mind when she said that she “missed him very much,” for we miss many a thing that we have no wish to have back again in a hurry-a truth well known to widows in particular. Reuben alone would have been better pleased if his grandfather had protracted his stay. The Dean's company had the singular effect of banishing from his thoughts the very subject which it might have been supposed it was particularly calculated to encourage. Reuben was carried away and interested in spite of himself
, by a force and originality of character which, indeed, produced upon most people, a very strong impression. He was won too by the substantial kindness of the old gentleman's behaviour. In short he was more inclined upon the whole to gratitude than to resentment; he was probably too young to be furiously jealous; or perhaps it is not very easy or natural to be jealous of a man's grandfather.
In the way of rabbit shooting, our hero did as little as it was possible for him to do, for which there were several reasons, but the principal one was this,-his grandfather went away without giving him the gun he had promised him. This was a matter of less concern to the rabbits probably than it was to Reuben; but even to him it was of no great consequence, for he never had much enjoyment in any out-of-door occupation in which he had no associates. Had he made war upon the rabbits, therefore, it would probably have been over in a single campaign, and it is questionable if he would have killed a sufficient number of the enemy to entitle himself to the honours of a triumph. Failing the sports of the field, the resources at his command were the library, the workmen, and the society of the housekeeper. He was rather successful with Mrs. Reeves, because it was easy to be so,
you allowed her to be kind and attentive to you in her own fashion, tasted her gooseberry jams, pretended to give her dandelion tea a trial, and allowed her to go in and out and fidget about you, without snarling, or looking thunder at her. But Mrs. Reeves was not an Egeria with whom you could live in a cave or a desert. The silent library was more fascinating to Reuben, so he established himself there, and after some hours' deliberation commenced making a catalogue, and he labored so incessantly at this undertaking for several days, scarcely affording himself time for food and exercise, that Mrs. Reeves concluded it was a task set him by his grandfather, and never approached his table without heaving audible sighs and uttering various little ejaculations of a compassionate nature. At last he noticed these symptoms of mental uneasiness, and it was easy to bring the old lady to an explanation.
" It was a pity, so it was, to see so young a gentleman tied to the desk from morning till night, when it would do him so much more good to be diverting himself in the fields, or even assisting the haymakers in making the hay; she had heard stories of students growing double from moping too long over their books, and though her master was so old a man, few young men of the present day could do what he could do."
“ There is a great deal of sense in what you say,” said Reuben, “ and I'll take your advice this instant. I have been working unnecessarily hard, but from this day forth, while I remain here, I will be ruled by you and divide my time more equally between business and relaxation."
If you want to win an old woman's heart, let her advise you, and either take her advice, or leave her under the impression that you will take it. The latter will do nearly as well.
Reuben, however, actually followed Mrs. Reeves's suggestions, so that he was soon in the highest favour.
The works going on in the house now began to engage his attention, particularly when the weather was unfavourable for walking. It was not only amusing but instructive to watch the processes of the different mechanics, who were employed in the extensive alterations going forward. The first acquaintance he made was with the young carpenter, whom the Dean had taught to drive a nail at the cost of bruising one of his own. From this intelligent lad he picked up nearly as much of the trade as he could have done in the greater part of a seven years' apprenticeship. He gained the carpenter's affections by playing the flageolet, and he was repaid for his strains by being instructed in the use of the saw and the chisel. Indeed, the flageolet soon became a great source of enjoyment to all the workmen, without at all hindering their labours, and Reuben was often prevailed upon to station himself in a central position on the principal staircase, perched on the bannisters, or on one of the painter's ladders, so that the music might be distributed as equally as possible over the whole house. The most popular airs were the cheerful ones, but there was one of the glaziers, a pallid pensive young man, who always begged for something sentimental, and Reuben afterwards found the name of Fanny in straggling letters upon a pane in his bed-chamber, which had most probably been scratched there with his diamond by the love-lorn artisan.
One evening after he had done a good day's work at the catalogue, while Mrs. Reeves was making his tea—not the dandelion—the young carpenter came with an humble petition to Reuben. There was dancing going on in the farm-yard, but the lads and lasses had no music except the whistling of one of the ploughmen, and if Master Medlicott would come down with his flageolet, and play them a few tunes, he would make the assembly happy and grateful beyond all expression. Reuben was easily persuaded to do a good-natured thing, so he very cheerfully consented to improve the rustic orchestra. Mrs. Reeves was at first adverse, but she was soon brought round, and would even have gone to the ball herself, only for certain infirmities connected with her feet, which always indisposed her to walking.
The farm-yard presented a gay sight, and there never wss a happier throng assembled in any ball-room, than was assembled there that evening under a full moon, which with the rosy remains of daylight afforded the revellers as much illumination as they cared to have. The excitement was at its height when Reuben appeared with his instrument, and the homestead rang through all the sheds and offices with the praises of his good-nature, cleverness, and condescension. It is not very common to witness so harmonious a union of husbandry and handicraft as was witnessed on the occasion of this impromptu festivity, for the masons, painters, plumbers, and other workmen employed in the house, were mingled with the ploughboys, dairy maids, and haymakers ; the ball was opened by Reuben's friend, the carpenter, and Dorothy, the gardener's daughter, a full-blown rose of a girl, well able to dance down all the rest of the company, particularly the mechanical portion of it. Jenny, who held an office in the dairy, and was fair and mild as her own milk, danced with the chief of the masons; Molly, the under hen-wife, was led off by a plumber; Maria and Rebecca, two of the housemaids, consented to be the partners of a bell-hanger and a painter ; the rest paired off as they best could, and whether it was a reel, a jig, a country dance, or a fandango, there never tripped a merrier group on the best chalked floor in London, than our hero put into motion by the first breath of his flageolet, just as if it had been an electric machine with a system of wires attached to the heels of the dancers. Reuben climbed by a ladder to the flat summit of an unfinished hay-rick, and seating himself in that commanding position shed his toe-inspiring melody upon the animated crowd beneath him. The love-lorn glazier, who would not dance because his Fanny was far away, was a pensive spectator of the scene from the topmost step of a wooden staircase which led to a granary; and various urchins about the farm, who were either too untaught, or too unclad, to be admitted into the circle (for there are exclusives even in the farm-yard), climbed into the boughs of a great tree, where, concealed from view by the foliage, they nevertheless managed to make their presence sufficiently known by the shouts and loud laughter with which they hailed all the little mischances and fatalities, liberties and necessities, incidental to rustic gaiety and moonlight mirth.
In short, the jollity was of the most exuberant description ; nor, though the dance was not tipsy, was there wanting a supply of cider and brown ale from the neighbouring village to refresh the company, for the farm-people had clubbed half-a-crown to treat the tradesmen, and Reuben graciously contributed the same sum from the residue of his pocket-money, so that there was quite enough of the two beverages to promote innocent exhilaration, and noi enough to stimulate it beyond the bounds of propriety. The first tankard was voted unanimously to the obliging Orpheus of the evening, who, after a moderate libation, descended from the rick, and graciously bowing to the revellers, and making them a dainty little speech, but quite long enough for the occasion, with something in it to please everybody, lads and lasses, rustics and mechanics, withdrew from the yard amidst loud plaudits, and carrying all hearts along with him.
HOW REUBEN CELEBRATED HIS GRANDFATHER'S MARRIAGE.
It was a great step towards Reuben's complete recovery, when he became composed enough to converse with Mrs. Reeves upon his grandfather's singular marriage. Mrs. Reeves had long been anxious to have a palaver with him on the subject, but she did not know how an allusion to it by her might be taken, and this consideration had kept her silent. But it was not in the nature of woman to endure such restraint for ever, so when the housekeeper found that Reuben would not take the initiative, she determined to take it herself, and when she once began it was a task beyond the power of Reuben to stop her.
Well, wonders,” she thought, “ would never cease, and she did not know what the world would come to at last, for she remembered the time when gentlemen who were stricken in years, like her master, used to think of the burial-service more than the marriage-service. To be sure the Dean was hale and hearty, and a stout comely man for his years, but he was an old man nevertheless ; for she was not a young creature herself, but she remembered the first day she ever laid eyes upon him, when she was only a giddy girl, and he was not a young man at that time. She had served two mistresses, and she never thought to be called on to serve a third, but if it was the will of Heaven, she was prepared to submit.”