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the neighbourhood have got up one for the
removal of Rubens' Graces from the National
Gallery. Though how in the name of goodness
these Graces can injure the said old
ladies (whom they nowise resemble) IPleb-
Biddleeumbian as I amhave not yet been
able to make out!

In this sort of way, Pleb-Biddlecumb has
been jogging on ever since the Reformation.
But, I clearly perceive a change to be at hand.
The demon of intelligence is among us. Not
that we have much to fear from him, however,
as you will agree when I describe our
"Mutual Improvement " Society.

Some time ago, the neighbouring village of
South Slumms got a North of England curate
in among them. This gentleman arrived,
armed with a galvanic battery, an air pump,
microscopes, and other instruments of war.
At first, he kept himself perfectly quiet. But
he soon began to break outshowing hideous
chemical preparations to the farmers, which
he recommended as manureswith which
none of them would have anything to do.
Then, he delivered a lecture, at the schoolroom,
on the " circulation of the blood." This
threw the whole parish into a state of excitement,
for nobody knew that his blood did
anything in the circulating way, before. One
farmer wanted to know what his blood was
to him? But the intrepid curate persisted.
Week after week, he perched himself before a
large board, armed with a piece of chalk,
whereon he described the interior arrangements
of the entire parish (as a cottager remarked
to me with a look of admiration), and
demonstrated everything he chose. To say,
when he was disserting on the heart, that he
made a joke, applicable to his female audience,
thereon, is but to say that he was human.

This went on. The North of England
Curate became a greater and greater man. A
certain air of importance marked the savant.
Occasionally, he gave dim hints that the
mysteries of nature were not quite insoluble. No;
South Slumms might yet see. Here, he would
fall into a fit of musing before the wondering
rustics; and then, awaking suddenly, " exhaust"
a frog, with severe determination, and
look round, as much as to say, " what do you
think of that!"

At last, we in Pleb-Biddlecumb, in emulation
of the progress of South Slumms (which
we detest in our hearts), and in fulfilment of
a magnificent resolve to beat South Slumms
out of the field at one blow, and without any
preparation of ourselves, formed a "Mutual
Improvement Society." The rustics were to
assemble in the schoolroom, every Thursday
evening, to " converse." Our Curate; Mr.
Hobby, a retired doctor; and Squire Snubb,
took their seats. The villagers sat round
on benches, and everybody began to improve
himself, mutually, out of hand. I was there,
as a spectator. I am a mere, quiet, old
reading-man, who pass among the neighbours as
a harmless " natural."

Fancy the benches crowded with the
farmers, and fancy the graceful air of condescension
majestically blowing round the
curate and his friends, while the outsiders
look awfully on.

Curate. Pray, Mr. Snubb, have you, of late,
paid much attention to the phenomena of the
malady which has affected our potatoes?
(Rustics, understanding the word "potatoes"
prick up their ears.)

Squire Snubb. Some attention, sir

Curate. Atmospheric in origin; or a
leguminous decadence from unavoidable causes?

Squire (himself hazy as to clause last).
Atmospheric, I think.

Curate (to Respectable Farmer). What say
you, sir?

Respectable Farmer (very red about the ears).
I agree with the Squire, sir. (Rustics look
at each other male Rustics draw in their
legs)

Doctor Hobby. I remember, when I was
in practice, the case of a patient of mine being
seriously injured by eating potatoes. (Rustics
frightened.)

Curate. Since the disease, of course?

Doctor. Why, no

Omnes (not seeing at all what his remark has
to do with the subject). Exactly so!

Curate (Looking benevolently round). We
should all study those objects which have
anti-septic qualities. (Doctor nods knowingly.
Female rustic, who is timid, uses her pocket-
handkerchief largely).

And so the company go on to improve
themselves, and the poor country folks are
very puzzled and sleepy, and think the curate
and his friends have a " mortal lot o' larning
they have." There is something very
touching to a speculative man in seeing how
very anxious our labouring people are to get
knowledge, and what a reverence they have
for those who seem to possess it. But, down
in Pleb-Biddlecumb, our teachers (unlike the
North of England Curate, who has studied
the science of teaching) serve them as they do
the frogs they illustrateby pump the natural
air out of their life, to show the ingenuity of
their apparatusand leave them to gasp at
leisure!

I think (if ever I overcome my natural
bashfulness) I shall get up a petition to the
Directors of the Great Boreas Railway, for a
station near us. I wish somebody would only
persuade our neighbouring peer to pull down
his gamekeeper's lodge in those quarters, and
take to " preserving " his tenantry.

Now ready (with a copious Index,") Price Three Shillings,
THE FIRST VOLUME OF THE
HOUSEHOLD NARRATIVE OF
CURRENT EVENTS.

Being a complete Record of the events of the Year
EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY.

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