He has also his cabinet counsellors in the village, with whom he is very busy just now, preparing for the May-day ceremonies. Among these is the village tailor, a pale-faced fellow, that plays the clarionet in the church choir; and; being a great musical genius, has frequent meetings of the band at his house, where they “make night hideous” by their concerts. He is, in consequence, high in favour with Master Simon; and, through his influence, has the making, or rather marring, of all the liveries of the Hall; which generally look as though they had been cut out by one of those scientific tailors of the Flying Island of Laputa, who took measure of their customers with a quadrant. The tailor, in fact, might rise to be one of the moneyed men of the village, were he not rather too prone to gossip, and keep holidays, and give concerts, and blow all his substance, real and personal, through his clarionet; which literally keeps him poor, both in body and estate. He has for the present thrown by all his regular work, and suffered the breeches of the village to go unmade and unmended, while he is occupied in making garlands of party-coloured rags, in imitation of flowers, for the decoration of the May-pole.
Another of Master Simon’s counsellors is the apothecary, a short and rather fat man, with a pair of prominent eyes, that diverge like those of a lobster. He is the village wise man; very sententious, and full of profound remarks on shallow subjects. Master Simon often quotes his sayings, and mentions him as rather an extraordinary man; and even consults him occasionally, in desperate cases of the dogs and horses. Indeed, he seems to have been overwhelmed by the apothecary’s philosophy, which is exactly one observation deep, consisting of indisputable maxims, such as may be gathered from the mottoes of tobacco-boxes. I had a specimen of his philosophy, in my very first conversation with him; in the course of which he observed, with great solemnity and emphasis, that “man is a compound of wisdom and folly;” upon which Master Simon, who had hold of my arm, pressed very hard upon it, and whispered in my ear “That’s a devilish shrewd remark!”
There will be no mosse stick to the stone of Sisiphus, no grasse hang on the heeles of Mercury, no butter cleave on the bread of a traveller. For as the eagle at every flight loseth a feather, which maketh her bauld in her age, so the traveller in every country loseth some fleece, which maketh him a beggar in his youth, by buying that for a pound which he cannot sell again for a penny—repentance.
Among the worthies of the village that enjoy the peculiar confidence of Master Simon, is one who has struck my fancy so much that I have thought him worthy of a separate notice. It is Slingsby, the schoolmaster, a thin, elderly man, rather threadbare and slovenly, somewhat indolent in manner, and with an easy, good-humoured look, not often met with in his craft. I have been interested in his favour by a few anecdotes which I have picked up concerning him.