"Thank you, uncle. But you can't do me any good. What if this should
be the true way of things? It is better to know it, if it is."
"Disease couldn't make a sun in the heavens. But it could make a man
blind, that he could not see it."
"I don't understand you."
"Never mind. It's of no consequence whether you do or not. When you
see light again, you will believe in it. For light compels faith."
"I believe in you, uncle; I do."
"Thank you, my dear. Good-bye."
I went round by the stables, and there found the colonel, talking to
his groom. He had returned already from his call, and the Bloomfields
were coming. I met Percy next, sauntering about, with a huge cigar in
"The Bloomfields are coming to dinner, Mr. Percy," I said.
"Who are they?"
"The schoolmaster and his wife."
"Just like that precious old uncle of mine! Why the deuce did he ask
_me_ this Christmas? I tell you what, Mr. Smith - I can't stand
it. There's nothing, not even cards, to amuse a fellow. And when my
mother comes, it will be ten times worse. I'll cut and run for it."
"Oh! no, you won't," I said. But I heartily wished he would. I confess
the insincerity, and am sorry for it.
"But what the devil does my mother want, coming here?"
"I haven't the pleasure of knowing your mother, so I cannot tell what
the devil she can want, coming here."
He walked away.
The Christmas dinner.
Mr. and Mrs. Bloomfield arrived; the former a benevolent, grey-haired
man, with a large nose and small mouth, yet with nothing of the
foolish look which often accompanies such a malconformation; and the
latter a nice-looking little body, middle-aged, rather more; with
half-grey curls, and a cap with black ribbons. Indeed, they were both
in mourning. Mr. Bloomfield bore himself with a kind of unworldly
grace, and Mrs. Bloomfield with a kind of sweet primness. The
schoolmaster was inclined to be talkative; nor was his wife behind
him; and that was just what we wanted.
"I am sorry to see you in mourning," said the colonel to Mr.
Bloomfield, during dessert. "I trust it is for no near relative."
"No relative at all, sir. But a boy of mine, to whom, through God's
grace, I did a good turn once, and whom, as a consequence, I loved
"Tell Colonel Cathcart the story, James," said his wife. "It can do no
harm to anybody now; and you needn't mention names, you know. You
would like to hear it, wouldn't you, sir?"
"Very much indeed," answered the colonel.
"Well, sir," began the schoolmaster, "there's not much in it to you, I
fear; though there was a good deal to him and me. I was usher in a
school at Peckham once. I was but a lad, but I tried to do my duty;
and the first part of my duty seemed to me, to take care of the
characters of the boys. So I tried to understand them all, and their
ways of looking at things, and thinking about them.
"One day, to the horror of the masters, it was discovered that a watch
belonging to one of the boys had been stolen. The boy who had lost it
was making a dreadful fuss about it, and declaring he would tell the
police, and set them to find it. The moment I heard of it, my
suspicion fell, half by knowledge, half by instinct, upon a certain
boy. He was one of the most gentlemanly boys in the school; but there
was a look of cunning in the corner of his eye, and a look of greed in
the corner of his mouth, which now and then came out clear enough to
me. Well, sir, I pondered for a few moments what I should do. I wanted
to avoid calling any attention to him; so I contrived to make the
worst of him in the Latin class - he was not a bad scholar - and so keep
him in when the rest went to play. As soon as they were gone, I took
him into my own room, and said to him, 'Fred, my boy, you knew your
lesson well enough; but I wanted you here. You stole Simmons's
"You had better mention no names, Mr. Bloomfield," interrupted his
"I beg your pardon, my dear. But it doesn't matter. Simmons was eaten
by a tiger, ten years ago. And I hope he agreed with him, for he never
did with anybody else I ever heard of. He was the worst boy I ever
knew. - 'You stole Simmons's watch. Where is it?' He fell on his knees,
as white as a sheet. 'I sold it,' he said, in a voice choked with
terror. 'God help you, my boy!' I exclaimed. He burst out crying.
'Where did you sell it?' He told me. 'Where's the money you got for
it?' 'That's all I have left,' he answered, pulling out a small
handful of shillings and halfcrowns. 'Give it me,' I said. He gave it
me at once. 'Now you go to your lesson, and hold your tongue.' I got a
sovereign of my own to make up the sum - I could ill spare it, sir, but
the boy could worse spare his character - and I hurried off to the
place where he had sold the watch. To avoid scandal, I was forced to
pay the man the whole price, though I daresay an older man would have
managed better. At all events, I brought it home. I contrived to put
it in the boy's own box, so that the whole affair should appear to
have been only a trick, and then I gave the culprit a very serious
talking-to. He never did anything of the sort again, and died an
honourable man and a good officer, only three months ago, in India. A
thousand times over did he repay me the money I had spent for him, and
he left me this gold watch in his will - a memorial, not so much of his
fault, as of his deliverance from some of its natural consequences."
The schoolmaster pulled out the watch as he spoke, and we all looked
at it with respect.
It was a simple story and simply told. But I was pleased to see that
Adela took some interest in it. I remembered that, as a child, she had
always liked better to be told a story than to have any other
amusement whatever. And many a story I had had to coin on the spur of
the moment for the satisfaction of her childish avidity for that kind
of mental bull's-eye.
When we gentlemen were left alone, and the servants had withdrawn,
Mr. Bloomfield said to our host:
"I am sorry to see Miss Cathcart looking so far from well, colonel. I
hope you have good advice for her."
"Dr. Wade has been attending her for some time, but I don't think he's
doing her any good."
"Don't you think it might be well to get the new doctor to see her?
He's quite a remarkable man, I assure you."
"What! The young fellow that goes flying about the country in boots
"Well, I suppose that is the man I mean. He's not so very young
though - he's thirty at least. And for the boots and breeches - I asked
him once, in a joking way, whether he did not think them rather
unprofessional. But he told me he saved ever so much time in open
weather by going across the country. 'And,' said he, 'if I can see
patients sooner, and more of them, in that way, I think it is quite
professional. The other day,' he said, 'I was sent for, and I went
straight as the crow flies, and I beat a little baby only by five
minutes after all.' Of course after that there was nothing more to
"He has very queer notions, hasn't he?"
"Yes, he has, for a medical man. He goes to church, for instance."
"I don't count that a fault."
"Well, neither do I. Rather the contrary. But one of the profession
here says it is for the sake of being called out in the middle of the
"Oh! that is stale. I don't think he would find that answer. But it is
a pity he is not married."
"So it is. I wish he were. But that is a fault that may be remedied
some day. One thing I know about him is, that when I called him in to
see one of my boarders, he sat by his bedside half an hour, watching
him, and then went away without giving him any medicine."
"I don't see the good of that. What do you make of that? I call it
"He said to me: 'I am not sure what is the matter with him. A wrong
medicine would do him more harm than the right one would do him
good. Meantime he is in no danger. I will come and see him to-morrow
morning.' Now I liked that, because it showed me that he was thinking
over the case. The boy was well in two days. Not that that indicates
much. All I say is, he is not a common man."
"I don't like to dismiss Dr. Wade."
"No; but you must not stand on ceremony, if he is doing her no good.
You are judge enough of that."
I thought it best to say nothing; but I heartily approved of all the
honest gentleman said; and I meant to use my persuasion afterwards, if
necessary, to the same end; for I liked all he told about the new
doctor. I asked his name.
"Mr. Armstrong," answered the schoolmaster.
"Armstrong - " I repeated. "Is not that the name of the new curate?"
"To be sure. They are brothers. Henry, the doctor, is considerably
younger than the curate."
"Did the curate seek the appointment because the doctor was here
"I suppose so. They are much attached to each other."
"If he is at all equal as a doctor to what I think his brother is as a
preacher, Purleybridge is a happy place to possess two such healers,"
"Well, time will show," returned Mr. Bloomfield.
All this time Percy sat yawning, and drinking claret. When we joined
the ladies, we found them engaged in a little gentle chat. There was
something about Mrs. Bloomfield that was very pleasing. The chief
ingredient in it was a certain quaint repose. She looked as if her
heart were at rest; as if for her everything, was right; as if she had
a little room of her own, just to her mind, and there her soul sat,
looking out through the muslin curtains of modest charity, upon the
world that went hurrying and seething past her windows. When we
"I was just beginning to tell Miss Cathcart," she said, "a curious
history that came under my notice once. I don't know if I ought
though, for it is rather sad."
"Oh! I like sad stories," said Adela.
"Well, there isn't much of romance in it either, but I will cut it
short now the gentlemen are come. I knew the lady. She had been
married some years. And report said her husband was not overkind to
her. All at once she disappeared, and her husband thought the worst of
her. Knowing her as well as I did, I did not believe a word of it. Yet
it was strange that she had left her baby, her only child, of a few
months, as well as her husband. I went to see her mother directly I
heard of it, and together we went to the police; and such a search as
we had! We traced her to a wretched lodging, where she had been for
two nights, but they did not know what had become of her. In fact,
they had turned her out because she had no money. Some information
that we had, made us go to a house near Hyde Park. We rang the
bell. Who should open the door, in a neat cap and print-gown, but the
poor lady herself! She fainted when she saw her mother. And then the
whole story came out. Her husband was stingy, and only allowed her
very small sum for housekeeping; and perhaps she was not a very good
manager, for good management is a gift, and everybody has not got
it. So she found that she could not clear off the butcher's bills on
the sum allowed her; and she had let the debt gather and gather, till
the thought of it, I believe, actually drove her out of her mind for
the time. She dared not tell her husband; but she knew it must come
out some day, and so at last, quite frantic with the thought of it,
she ran away, and left her baby behind her."
"And what became of her?" asked Adela.
"Her husband would never hear a word in her favour. He laughed at her
story in the most scornful way, and said he was too old a bird for
that. In fact, I believe he never saw her again. She went to her
mother's. She will have her child now, I suppose; for I hear that the
wretch of a husband, who would not let her have him, is dead. I
daresay she is happy at last. Poor thing! Some people would need stout
hearts, and have not got them."
Adela sighed. This story, too, seemed to interest her.
"What a miserable life!" she said.
"Well, Miss Cathcart," said the schoolmaster, "no doubt it was. But
every life that has to be lived, can be lived; and however impossible
it may seem to the onlookers, it has its own consolations, or, at
least, interests. And I always fancy the most indispensable thing to a
life is, that it should be interesting to those who have it to
live. My wife and I have come through a good deal, but the time when
the life looked hardest to others, was not, probably, the least
interesting to us. It is just like reading a book: anything will do if
you are taken up with it."
"Very good philosophy! Isn't it, Adela?" said the colonel.
Adela cast her eyes down, as if with a despairing sense of rebuke, and
did not reply.
"I wish you would tell Miss Cathcart," resumed the schoolmaster to his
wife, "that little story about the foolish lad you met once. And you
need not keep back the little of your own history that belongs to
it. I am sure the colonel will excuse you."
"I insist on hearing the whole of it," said the colonel, with a smile.
And Mrs. Bloomfield began.
Let me say here once for all, that I cannot keep the tales I tell in
this volume from partaking of my own peculiarities of style, any more
than I could keep the sermon free of such; for of course I give them
all at second hand; and sometimes, where a joint was missing, I have
had to supply facts as well as words. But I have kept as near to the
originals as these necessities and a certain preparation for the press
would permit me.
Mrs. Bloomfield, I say, began:
"A good many years ago, now, on a warm summer evening, a friend, whom
I was visiting, asked me to take a drive with her through one of the
London parks. I agreed to go, though I did not care much about it. I
had not breathed the fresh air for some weeks; yet I felt it a great
trouble to go. I had been ill, and my husband was ill, and we had
nothing to do, and we did not know what would become of us. So I was
anything but cheerful. I _knew_ that all was for the best, as my good
husband was always telling me, but my eyes were dim and my heart was
troubled, and I could not feel sure that God cared quite so much for
us as he did for the lilies.
"My friend was very cheerful, and seemed to enjoy everything; but a
kind of dreariness came over me, and I began comparing the loveliness
of the summer evening with the cold misty blank that seemed to make up
my future. My wretchedness grew greater and greater. The very colours
of the flowers, the blue of the sky, the sleep of the water, seemed to
push us out of the happy world that God had made. And yet the children
seemed as happy as if God were busy making, the things before their
eyes, and holding out each thing, as he made it, for them to look at.
"I should have told you that we had two children then."
"I did not know you had any family," interposed the colonel.
"Yes, we had two then. One of them is now in India, and the other was
not long out of heaven. - Well, I was glad when my friend stopped the
carriage, and got out with the children, to take them close to the
water's edge, and let them feed the swans. I liked better to sit in
the carriage alone - an ungrateful creature, in the midst of causes for
thankfulness. I did not care for the beautiful things about me; and I
was not even pleased that other people should enjoy them. I listlessly
watched the well-dressed ladies that passed, and hearkened
contemptuously to the drawling way in which they spoke. So bad and
proud was I, that I said in my heart, 'Thank God! I am not like them
yet!' Then came nursemaids and children; and I did envy the servants,
because they had work to do, and health to do it, and wages for it
when it was done. The carriage was standing still all this time, you
know. Then sickly-looking men passed, with still more sickly-looking
wives, some of them leading a child between them. But even their faces
told of wages, and the pleasure of an evenings walk in the park. And
now I was able to thank God that they had the parks to walk in. Then
came tottering by, an old man, apparently of eighty years, leaning on
the arm of his grand-daughter, I supposed - a tidy, gentle-looking
maiden. As they passed, I heard the old man say: 'He maketh me to lie
down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.' And
his quiet face looked as if the fields were yet green to his eyes, and
the still waters as pleasant as when he was a little child.
"At last I caught sight of a poor lad, who was walking along very
slowly, looking at a gay-coloured handkerchief which he had spread out
before him. His clothes were rather ragged, but not so ragged as
old. On his head was what we now call a wide-awake. It was very limp
and shapeless; but some one that loved him had trimmed it with a bit
of blue ribbon, the ends of which hung down on his shoulder. This gave
him an odd appearance even at a distance. When he came up and I could
see his face, it explained everything. There was a constant smile
about his mouth, which in itself was very sweet; but as it had nothing
to do with the rest of the countenance, the chief impression it
conveyed was of idiotcy. He came near the carriage, and stood there,
watching some men who were repairing the fence which divided the road
from the footpath. His hair was almost golden, and went waving about
in the wind. His eye was very large and clear, and of a bright
blue. But it had no meaning in it. He would have been very handsome,
had there been mind in his face; but as it was, the very regularity of
his unlighted features made the sight a sadder one. His figure was
young; but his face might have belonged to a man of sixty.
"He opened his mouth, stuck out his under jaw, and stood staring and
grinning at the men. At last one of them stopped to take breath, and,
catching sight of the lad, called out:
"'Why, Davy! is that you?'
"'Ya-as, it be,' replied Davy, nodding his head.
"'Why, Davy, it's ever so long since I clapped eyes on ye!' said the
man. 'Where ha' ye been?'
"'I 'aint been nowheres, as I knows on.'
"'Well, if ye 'aint been nowheres, what have ye been doing? Flying
"Davy shook his head sorrowfully, and at the same time kept on
"'I 'aint got no kite; so I can't fly it.'
"'But you likes flyin' kites, don't ye?' said his friend, kindly.
"'Ya-as,' answered Davy, nodding his head, and rubbing his hands, and
laughing out. 'Kites is such fun! I wish I'd got un.'
"Then he looked thoughtfully, almost moodily, at the man, and said:
"'Where's _your_ kite? I likes kites. Kites is friends to me.'
"But by this time the man had turned again to his work, and was busy
driving a post into the ground; so he paid no attention to the lad's
"Why, Mrs. Bloomfield," interrupted the colonel, "I should just like
you to send out with a reconnoitring party, for you seem to see
everything and forget nothing."
"You see best and remember best what most interests you, colonel; and
besides that, I got a good rebuke to my ingratitude from that poor
fellow. So you see I had reason to remember him. I hope I don't tire
you, Miss Cathcart."
"Quite the contrary," answered our hostess.
"By this time," resumed Mrs. Bloomfield, "another man had come up. He
had a coarse, hard-featured face; and he tried, or pretended to try,
to wheel his barrow, which was full of gravel, over Davy's toes. The
said toes were sticking quite bare through great holes in an old pair
of woman's boots. Then he began to tease him rather roughly. But Davy
took all his banter with just the same complacency and mirth with
which he had received the kindliness of the other man.
"'How's yer sweetheart, Davy?' he said.
"'Quite well, thank ye,' answered Davy.
"'What's her name?'
"'Ha! ha! ha! I won't tell ye that.'
"'Come now, Davy, tell us her name.'
"'Don't be a fool.'
"'I aint a fool. But I won't tell you her name.'
"'I don't believe ye've got e'er a sweetheart. Come now.'
"'I have though.'
"'I don't believe ye.'
"'I have though. I was at church with her last Sunday.'
"Suddenly the man, looking hard at Davy, changed his tone to one of
surprise, and exclaimed:
"'Why, boy, ye've got whiskers! Ye hadn't them the last time I see'd
ye. Why, ye _are_ set up now! When are ye going to begin to shave?
Where's your razors?'
"''Aint begun yet,' replied Davy. 'Shall shave some day, but I 'aint
got too much yet.'
"As he said this, he fondled away at his whiskers. They were few in
number, but evidently of great value in his eyes. Then he began to
stroke his chin, on which there was a little down visible - more like
mould in its association with his curious face than anything of more
healthy significance. After a few moments' pause, his tormentor began
"'Well, I can't think where ye got them whiskers as ye're so fond
of. Do ye know where ye got them?'
"Davy took out his pocket-handkerchief, spread it out before him, and
"'Yaas; to be sure I do,' he said at last.
"'Ye do?' growled the man, half humorously, half scornfully.
"'Yaas,' said Davy, nodding his head again and again.
"'Did ye buy 'em?'
"'Noa,' answered Davy; and the sweetness of the smile which he now
smiled was not confined to his mouth, but broke like light, the light
of intelligence, over his whole face.
"'Were they gave to ye?' pursued the man, now really curious to hear
what he would say.
"'Yaas,' said the poor fellow; and he clapped his hands in a kind of
"'Why, who gave 'em to ye?'
"Davy looked up in a way I shall never forget, and, pointing up with
his finger too, said nothing.
"'What do ye mean?' said the man. 'Who gave ye yer whiskers?'
"Davy pointed up to the sky again; and then, looking up with an
earnest expression, which, before you saw it, you would not have
thought possible to his face, said,
"'Who?' shouted the man.
"'Blessed Father,' Davy repeated, once more pointing upwards.
"'Blessed Father!' returned the man, in a contemptuous tone; 'Blessed
Father! - I don't know who _that_ is. Where does he live? I never heerd
"Davy looked at him as if he were sorry for him. Then going closer up
to him, he said:
"'Didn't you though? He lives up there' - again pointing to the
sky. 'And he is so kind! He gives me lots o' things.'
"'Well!' said the man, 'I wish he'd give me thing's. But you don't
look so very rich nayther.'
"'Oh! but he gives me lots o' things; and he's up there, and he gives
everybody lots o' things as likes to have 'em.'
"'Well, what's he gave you?'
"'Why, he's gave me some bread this mornin', and a tart last night - he
"And the boy nodded his head, as was his custom, to make his assertion
"'But you was sayin' just now, you hadn't got a kite. Why don't he
give you one?'
"'_He'll_ give me one fast 'nuff,' said Davy, grinning again, and
rubbing his hands.
"Miss Cathcart, I assure you I could have kissed the boy. And I hope I
felt some gratitude to God for giving the poor lad such trust in Him,
which, it seemed to me, was better than trusting in the
three-per-cents, colonel; for you can draw upon him to no end o' good
things. So Davy thought anyhow; and he had got the very thing for the
want of which my life was cold and sad, and discontented. Those words,
_Blessed Father_, and that look that turned his vacant face, like
Stephen's, into the face of an angel, because he was looking up to the
same glory, were in my ears and eyes for days. And they taught me, and
comforted me. He was the minister of God's best gifts to me. And to
how many more, who can tell? For Davy believed that God did care for
his own children.
"Davy sauntered away, and before my friend came back with the
children, I had lost sight of him; but at my request we moved on
slowly till we should find him again. Nor had we gone far, before I
saw him sitting in the middle of a group of little children. He was
showing them the pictures on his pocket-handkerchief. I had one
sixpence in my purse - it was the last I had, Mr. Smith."
Here, from some impulse or other, Mrs. Bloomfield addressed me.
"But I wasn't so poor but I could borrow, and it was a small price to
give for what I had got; and so, as I was not able to leave the
carriage, I asked my friend to take it to him, and tell him that
Blessed Father had sent him that to buy a kite. The expression of
childish glee upon his face, and the devout God bless you, Lady, upon
his tongue, were strangely but not incongruously mingled.
"Well, it was my last sixpence then, but here I and my husband are,