John Halifax, Gentleman, by Dinah Craik

Chapter 3

When I was young, and long after then, at intervals, I had the very useless, sometimes harmful, and invariably foolish habit of keeping a diary. To me, at least, it has been less foolish and harmful than to most; and out of it, together with much drawn out of the stores of a memory, made preternaturally vivid by a long introverted life, which, colourless itself, had nothing to do but to reflect and retain clear images of the lives around it — out of these two sources I have compiled the present history.

Therein, necessarily, many blank epochs occur. These I shall not try to fill up, but merely resume the thread of narration as recollection serves.

Thus, after this first day, many days came and went before I again saw John Halifax — almost before I again thought of him. For it was one of my seasons of excessive pain; when I found it difficult to think of anything beyond those four grey-painted walls; where morning, noon, and night slipped wearily away, marked by no changes, save from daylight to candle-light, from candle-light to dawn.

Afterwards, as my pain abated, I began to be haunted by occasional memories of something pleasant that had crossed my dreary life; visions of a brave, bright young face, ready alike to battle with and enjoy the world. I could hear the voice that, speaking to me, was always tender with pity — yet not pity enough to wound: I could see the peculiar smile just creeping round his grave mouth — that irrepressible smile, indicating the atmosphere of thorough heart-cheerfulness, which ripens all the fruits of a noble nature, and without which the very noblest has about it something unwholesome, blank, and cold.

I wondered if John had ever asked for me. At length I put the question.

Jael “thought he had — but wasn’t sure. Didn’t bother her head about such folk.”

“If he asked again, might he come up-stairs?”

“No.”

I was too weak to combat, and Jael was too strong an adversary; so I lay for days and days in my sick room, often thinking, but never speaking, about the lad. Never once asking for him to come to me; not though it would have been life to me to see his merry face — I longed after him so.

At last I broke the bonds of sickness — which Jael always riveted as long and as tightly as she could — and plunged into the outer world again.

It was one market-day — Jael being absent — that I came down-stairs. A soft, bright, autumn morning, mild as spring, coaxing a wandering robin to come and sing to me, loud as a quire of birds, out of the thinned trees of the Abbey yard. I opened the window to hear him, though all the while in mortal fear of Jael. I listened, but caught no tone of her sharp voice, which usually came painfully from the back regions of the house; it would ill have harmonised with the sweet autumn day and the robin’s song. I sat, idly thinking so, and wondering whether it were a necessary and universal fact that human beings, unlike the year, should become harsh and unlovely as they grow old.

My robin had done singing, and I amused myself with watching a spot of scarlet winding down the rural road, our house being on the verge where Norton Bury melted into “the country.” It turned out to be the cloak of a well-to-do young farmer’s wife riding to market in her cart beside her jolly-looking spouse. Very spruce and self-satisfied she appeared, and the market-people turned to stare after her, for her costume was a novelty then. Doubtless, many thought as I did, how much prettier was scarlet than duffle grey.

Behind the farmer’s cart came another, which at first I scarcely noticed, being engrossed by the ruddy face under the red cloak. The farmer himself nodded good-humouredly, but Mrs. Scarlet-cloak turned up her nose. “Oh, pride, pride!” I thought, amused, and watched the two carts, the second of which was with difficulty passing the farmer’s, on the opposite side of the narrow road. At last it succeeded in getting in advance, to the young woman’s evident annoyance, until the driver, turning, lifted his hat to her with such a merry, frank, pleasant smile.

Surely, I knew that smile, and the well-set head with its light curly hair. Also, alas! I knew the cart with relics of departed sheep dangling out behind. It was our cart of skins, and John Halifax was driving it.

“John! John!” I called out, but he did not hear, for his horse had taken fright at the red cloak, and required a steady hand. Very steady the boy’s hand was, so that the farmer clapped his two great fists, and shouted “Bray-vo!”

But John — my John Halifax — he sat in his cart, and drove. His appearance was much as when I first saw him — shabbier, perhaps, as if through repeated drenchings; this had been a wet autumn, Jael had told me. Poor John! — well might he look gratefully up at the clear blue sky today; ay, and the sky never looked down on a brighter, cheerier face, the same face which, whatever rags it surmounted, would, I believe, have ennobled them all.

I leaned out, watching him approach our house; watching him with so great pleasure that I forgot to wonder whether or no he would notice me. He did not at first, being busy over his horse; until, just as the notion flashed across my mind that he was passing by our house — also, how keenly his doing so would pain me — the lad looked up.

A beaming smile of surprise and pleasure, a friendly nod, then all at once his manner changed; he took off his cap, and bowed ceremoniously to his master’s son.

For the moment I was hurt; then I could not but respect the honest pride which thus intimated that he knew his own position, and wished neither to ignore nor to alter it; all advances between us must evidently come from my side. So, having made his salutation, he was driving on, when I called after him,

“John! John!”

“Yes, sir. I am so glad you’re better again.”

“Stop one minute till I come out to you.” And I crawled on my crutches to the front door, forgetting everything but the pleasure of meeting him — forgetting even my terror of Jael. What could she say? even though she held nominally the Friends’ doctrine — obeyed in the letter at least, ‘Call no man your master’— what would Jael say if she found me, Phineas Fletcher, talking in front of my father’s respectable mansion with the vagabond lad who drove my father’s cart of skins?

But I braved her, and opened the door. “John, where are you?”

“Here” (he stood at the foot of the steps, with the reins on his arm); “did you want me?”

“Yes. Come up here; never mind the cart.”

But that was not John’s way. He led the refractory horse, settled him comfortably under a tree, and gave him in charge to a small boy. Then he bounded back across the road, and was up the steps to my side in a single leap.

“I had no notion of seeing you. They said you were in bed yesterday.” (Then he HAD been inquiring for me!) “Ought you to be standing at the door this cold day?”

“It’s quite warm,” I said, looking up at the sunshine, and shivering.

“Please go in.”

“If you’ll come too.”

He nodded, then put his arm round mine, and helped me in, as if he had been a big elder brother, and I a little ailing child. Well nursed and carefully guarded as I had always been, it was the first time in my life I ever knew the meaning of that rare thing, tenderness. A quality different from kindliness, affectionateness, or benevolence; a quality which can exist only in strong, deep, and undemonstrative natures, and therefore in its perfection is oftenest found in men. John Halifax had it more than any one, woman or man, that I ever knew.

“I’m glad you’re better,” he said, and said no more. But one look of his expressed as much as half-a-dozen sympathetic sentences of other people.

“And how have you been, John? How do you like the tan-yard? Tell me frankly.”

He pulled a wry face, though comical withal, and said, cheerily, “Everybody must like what brings them their daily bread. It’s a grand thing for me not to have been hungry for nearly thirty days.”

“Poor John!” I put my hand on his wrist — his strong, brawny wrist. Perhaps the contrast involuntarily struck us both with the truth — good for both to learn — that Heaven’s ways are not so unequal as we sometimes fancy they seem.

“I have so often wanted to see you, John. Couldn’t you come in now?”

He shook his head, and pointed to the cart. That minute, through the open hall-door, I perceived Jael sauntering leisurely home from market.

Now, if I was a coward, it was not for myself this time. The avalanche of ill-words I knew must fall — but it should not fall on him, if I could help it.

“Jump up on your cart, John. Let me see how well you can drive. There — good-bye, for the present. Are you going to the tan-yard?”

“Yes — for the rest of the day.” And he made a face as if he did not quite revel in that delightful prospect. No wonder!

“I’ll come and see you there this afternoon.”

“No?”— with a look of delighted surprise. “But you must not — you ought not.”

“But I WILL!” And I laughed to hear myself actually using that phrase. What would Jael have said?

What — as she arrived just in time to receive a half-malicious, half-ceremonious bow from John, as he drove off — what that excellent woman did say I have not the slightest recollection. I only remember that it did not frighten and grieve me as such attacks used to do; that, in her own vernacular, it all “went in at one ear, and out at t’other;” that I persisted in looking out until the last glimmer of the bright curls had disappeared down the sunshiny road — then shut the front door, and crept in, content.

Between that time and dinner I sat quiet enough even to please Jael. I was thinking over the beautiful old Bible story, which latterly had so vividly impressed itself on my mind; thinking of Jonathan, as he walked “by the stone Ezel,” with the shepherd-lad, who was to be king of Israel. I wondered whether he would have loved him, and seen the same future perfection in him, had Jonathan, the king’s son, met the poor David keeping his sheep among the folds of Bethlehem.

When my father came home he found me waiting in my place at table. He only said, “Thee art better then, my son?” But I knew how glad he was to see me. He gave token of this by being remarkably conversible over our meal — though, as usual, his conversation had a sternly moral tone, adapted to the improvement of what he persisted in considering my “infant” mind. It had reference to an anecdote Dr. Jessop had just been telling him — about a little girl, one of our doctor’s patients, who in some passionate struggle had hurt herself very much with a knife.

“Let this be a warning to thee, my son, not to give way to violent passions.” (My good father, thought I, there is little fear.) “For, this child — I remember her father well, for he lived at Kingswell here; he was violent too, and much given to evil ways before he went abroad — Phineas, this child, this miserable child, will bear the mark of the wound all her life.”

“Poor thing!” said I, absently.

“No need to pity her; her spirit is not half broken yet. Thomas Jessop said to me, ‘That little Ursula —’”

“Is her name Ursula?” And I called to mind the little girl who had tried to give some bread to the hungry John Halifax, and whose cry of pain we heard as the door shut upon her. Poor little lady! how sorry I was. I knew John would be so infinitely sorry too — and all to no purpose — that I determined not to tell him anything about it. The next time I saw Dr. Jessop I asked him after the child, and learned she had been taken away somewhere, I forgot where; and then the whole affair slipped from my memory.

“Father,” said I, when he ceased talking — and Jael, who always ate her dinner at the same time and table as ourselves, but “below the salt,” had ceased nodding a respectful running comment on all he said —“Father?”

“Well, my son.”

“I should like to go with thee to the tan-yard this afternoon.”

Here Jael, who had been busy pulling back the table, replacing the long row of chairs, and resanding the broad centre Sahara of the room to its dreary, pristine aridness, stopped, fairly aghast with amazement.

“Abel — Abel Fletcher! the lad’s just out of his bed; he is no more fit to —”

“Pshaw, woman!” was the sharp answer. “So, Phineas, thee art really strong enough to go out?”

“If thou wilt take me, father.”

He looked pleased, as he always did when I used the Friends’ mode of phraseology — for I had not been brought up in the Society; this having been the last request of my mother, rigidly observed by her husband. The more so, people said, as while she lived they had not been quite happy together. But whatever he was to her, in their brief union, he was a good father to me, and for his sake I have always loved and honoured the Society of Friends.

“Phineas,” said he (after having stopped a volley of poor Jael’s indignations, beseechings, threats, and prognostications, by a resolute “Get the lad ready to go”)—“Phineas, my son, I rejoice to see thy mind turning towards business. I trust, should better health be vouchsafed thee, that some day soon —”

“Not just yet, father,” said I, sadly — for I knew what he referred to, and that it would never be. Mentally and physically I alike revolted from my father’s trade. I held the tan-yard in abhorrence — to enter it made me ill for days; sometimes for months and months I never went near it. That I should ever be what was my poor father’s one desire, his assistant and successor in his business, was, I knew, a thing totally impossible.

It hurt me a little that my project of going with him today should in any way have deceived him; and rather silently and drearily we set out together; progressing through Norton Bury streets in our old way, my father marching along in his grave fashion, I steering my little carriage, and keeping as close as I could beside him. Many a person looked at us as we passed; almost everybody knew us, but few, even of our own neighbours, saluted us; we were Nonconformists and Quakers.

I had never been in the town since the day I came through it with John Halifax. The season was much later now, but it was quite warm still in the sunshine, and very pleasant looked the streets, even the close, narrow streets of Norton Bury. I beg its pardon; antiquaries hold it a most “interesting and remarkable” place: and I myself have sometimes admired its quaint, overhanging, ornamented house-fronts — blackened, and wonderfully old. But one rarely notices what has been familiar throughout life; and now I was less struck by the beauty of the picturesque old town than by the muddiness of its pathways, and the mingled noises of murmuring looms, scolding women, and squabbling children, that came up from the alleys which lay between the High Street and the Avon. In those alleys were hundreds of our poor folk living, huddled together in misery, rags, and dirt. Was John Halifax living there too?

My father’s tan-yard was in an alley a little further on. Already I perceived the familiar odour; sometimes a not unpleasant barky smell; at other times borne in horrible wafts, as if from a lately forsaken battle-field. I wondered how anybody could endure it — yet some did; and among the workmen, as we entered, I looked round for the lad I knew.

He was sitting in a corner in one of the sheds, helping two or three women to split bark, very busy at work; yet he found time to stop now and then, and administered a wisp of sweet hay to the old blind mare, as she went slowly round and round, turning the bark mill. Nobody seemed to notice him, and he did not speak to anybody.

As we passed John did not even see us. I asked my father, in a whisper, how he liked the boy.

“What boy? — eh, him? — Oh, well enough — there’s no harm in him that I know of. Dost thee want him to wheel thee about the yard? Here, I say, lad — bless me! I’ve forgot thy name.”

John Halifax started up at the sharp tone of command; but when he saw me he smiled. My father walked on to some pits where he told me he was trying an important experiment, how a hide might be tanned completely in five months instead of eight. I stayed behind.

“John, I want you.”

John shook himself free of the bark-heap, and came rather hesitatingly at first.

“Anything I can do for you, sir?”

“Don’t call me ‘sir’; if I say ‘John,’ why don’t you say ‘Phineas’?”

And I held out my hand — his was all grimed with bark-dust.

“Are you not ashamed to shake hands with me?”

“Nonsense, John.”

So we settled that point entirely. And though he never failed to maintain externally a certain gentle respectfulness of demeanour towards me, yet it was more the natural deference of the younger to the elder, of the strong to the weak, than the duty paid by a serving-lad to his master’s son. And this was how I best liked it to be.

He guided me carefully among the tan-pits — those deep fosses of abomination, with a slender network of pathways thrown between — until we reached the lower end of the yard. It was bounded by the Avon only, and by a great heap of refuse bark.

“This is not a bad place to rest in; if you liked to get out of the carriage I’d make you comfortable here in no time.”

I was quite willing; so he ran off and fetched an old horserug, which he laid upon the soft, dry mass. Then he helped me thither, and covered me with my cloak. Lying thus, with my hat over my eyes, just distinguishing the shiny glimmer of the Avon running below, and beyond that the green, level Ham, dotted with cows, my position was anything but unpleasant. In fact, positively agreeable — ay, even though the tan-yard was close behind; but here it would offend none of my senses.

“Are you comfortable, Phineas?”

“Very, if you would come and sit down too.”

“That I will.”

And we then began to talk. I asked him if he often patronised the bark-heap, he seemed so very much at home there.

“So I am,” he answered, smiling; “it is my castle — my house.”

“And not unpleasant to live at, either.”

“Except when it rains. Does it always rain at Norton Bury?”

“For shame, John!” and I pointed to the bluest of autumn skies, though in the distance an afternoon mist was slowly creeping on.

“All very fine now, but there’s a fog coming over Severn; and it is sure to rain at nightfall. I shall not get my nice little bit of October evening.”

“You must spend it within doors then.” John shook his head. “You ought; it must be dreadfully cold on this bark-heap after sunset.”

“Rather, sometimes. Are you cold now? Shall I fetch — but I haven’t anything fit to wrap you in, except this rug.”

He muffled it closer round me; infinitely light and tender was his rough-looking boy’s hand.

“I never saw anybody so thin as you; thinner much since I saw you. Have you been very, very ill, Phineas? What ailed you?”

His anxiety was so earnest, that I explained to him what I may as well explain here, and dismiss, once for all; the useless topic, that from my birth I had been puny and diseased; that my life had been a succession of sicknesses, and that I could hope for little else until the end.

“But don’t think I mind it; John;” for I was grieved to see his shocked and troubled look. “I am very content; I have a quiet home, a good father, and now I think and believe I have found the one thing I wanted — a good friend.”

He smiled, but only because I did. I saw he did not understand me. In him, as in most strong and self-contained temperaments, was a certain slowness to receive impressions, which, however, being once received, are indelible. Though I, being in so many things his opposite, had none of this peculiarity, but felt at once quickly and keenly, yet I rather liked the contrary in him, as I think we almost always do like in another those peculiarities which are most different from our own. Therefore I was neither vexed nor hurt because the lad was slow to perceive all that he had so soon become, and all that I meant him to become, to me. I knew from every tone of his voice, every chance expression of his honest eyes, that he was one of those characters in which we may be sure that for each feeling they express lies a countless wealth of the same, unexpressed, below; a character the keystone of which was that whereon is built all liking and all love — DEPENDABLENESS. He was one whom you may be long in knowing, but whom the more you know the more you trust; and once trusting, you trust for ever.

Perhaps I may be supposed imaginative, or, at least, premature in discovering all these characteristics in a boy of fourteen; and possibly in thus writing of him I may unwittingly be drawing a little from after-experience; however, being the truth, let it stand.

“Come,” said I, changing the conversation, “we have had enough of me; how goes the world with you? Have you taken kindly to the tan-yard? Answer frankly.”

He looked at me hard, put both his hands in his pockets, and began to whistle a tune.

“Don’t shirk the question, please, John. I want to know the real truth.”

“Well, then, I hate the tan-yard.”

Having relieved his mind by this ebullition, and by kicking a small heap of tan right down into the river, he became composed.

“But, Phineas, don’t imagine I intend to hate it always; I intend to get used to it, as many a better fellow than I has got used to many a worse thing. It’s wicked to hate what wins one’s bread, and is the only thing one is likely to get on in the world with, merely because it’s disagreeable.”

“You are a wise lad of your age, John.”

“Now don’t you be laughing at me.” (But I was not, I was in solemn earnest). “And don’t think I’m worse than I am; and especially that I’m not thankful to your good father for giving me a lift in the world — the first I ever really had. If I get one foot on the ladder, perhaps I may climb.”

“I should rather believe so,” answered I, very confidently. “But you seem to have thought a good deal about these sort of things.”

“Oh, yes! I have plenty of time for thinking, and one’s thoughts travel fast enough lying on this bark-heap — faster than indoors. I often wish I could read — that is, read easily. As it is, I have nothing to do but to think, and nothing to think of but myself, and what I should like to be.”

“Suppose, after Dick Whittington’s fashion, you succeeded to your master’s business, should you like to be a tanner?”

He paused — his truthful face betraying him. Then he said, resolutely, “I would like to be anything that was honest and honourable. It’s a notion of mine, that whatever a man may be, his trade does not make him — he makes his trade. That is — but I know I can’t put the subject clear, for I have not got it clear in my own head yet — I’m only a lad. However, it all comes to this — that whether I like it or not, I’ll stick to the tanning as long as I can.”

“That’s right; I’m so glad. Nevertheless”— and I watched him as he stood, his foot planted firmly, no easy feat on the shifting bark-heap, his head erect, and his mouth close, but smiling —“Nevertheless, John, it’s my opinion that you might be anything you liked.”

He laughed. “Questionable that — at least at present. Whatever I may be, I am just now the lad that drives your father’s cart, and works in your father’s tan-yard — John Halifax, and very much at your service, Mr. Phineas Fletcher.”

Half in fun, half in earnest, he uncovered his fair locks, with a bow so contradictory to the rest of his appearance, that I involuntarily recalled the Greek Testament and “Guy Halifax, Gentleman.” However, that could be no matter to me, or to him either, now. The lad, like many another, owed nothing to his father but his mere existence — Heaven knows whether that gift is oftenest a curse or a boon.

The afternoon had waned during our talk; but I was very loth to part with my friend. Suddenly, I thought of asking where his home was.

“How do you mean?”

“Where do you live? where do you take your meals and sleep?”

“Why, as to that, I have not much time for eating and drinking. Generally I eat my dinner as I go along the road, where there’s lots of blackberries by way of pudding — which is grand! Supper, when I do get it, I like best on this bark-heap, after the men are away, and the tan-yard’s clear. Your father lets me stay.”

“And where is your lodging, then? Where do you sleep?”

He hesitated — coloured a little. “To tell the truth — anywhere I can. Generally, here.”

“What, out-of-doors?”

“Just so.”

I was much shocked. To sleep out-of-doors seemed to me the very lowest ebb of human misery: so degrading, too — like a common tramp or vagabond, instead of a decent lad.

“John, how can you — why do you — do such a thing?”

“I’ll tell you,” said he, sitting down beside me in a dogged way, as if he had read my thoughts, guessed at my suspicions, and was determined to show that he feared neither — that he would use his own judgment, and follow his own will, in spite of anybody. “Look here. I get three shillings a week, which is about fivepence a day; out of that I eat threepence — I’m a big, growing lad, and it’s hard to be hungry. There’s twopence left to pay for lodging. I tried it once — twice — at the decentest place I could find, but —” here an expression of intolerable disgust came over the boy’s face —“I don’t intend to try that again. I was never used to it. Better keep my own company and the open air. Now you see.”

“Oh, John!”

“Nay — there’s no need to be sorry. You don’t know how comfortable it is to sleep out of doors; and so nice to wake in the middle of the night and see the stars shining over your head.”

“But isn’t it very cold?”

“No — not often. I scoop out a snug little nest in the bark and curl up in it like a dormouse, wrapped in this rug, which one of the men gave me. Besides, every morning early I take a plunge and a swim in the stream, and that makes me warm all day.”

I shivered — I who feared the touch of cold water. Yet there with all his hardships, he stood before me, the model of healthy boyhood. Alas! I envied him.

But this trying life, which he made so light of, could not go on. “What shall you do when winter comes?”

John looked grave. “I don’t know: I suppose I shall manage somehow — like the sparrows,” he answered, perceiving not how apposite his illustration was. For truly he seemed as destitute as the birds of the air, whom ONE feedeth, when they cry to Him.

My question had evidently made him thoughtful; he remained silent a good while.

At last I said: “John, do you remember the woman who spoke so sharply to you in the alley that day?”

“Yes. I shall never forget anything which happened that day,” he answered, softly.

“She was my nurse once. She is not such a bad woman, though trouble has sharpened her temper. Her biggest boy Bill, who is gone off for a soldier, used to drive your cart, you know.”

“Yes?” said John, interrogatively; for I was slow in putting forth my plans — that is, as much of them as it was needful he should know.

“Sally is poor — not so very poor, though. Your twopence a night would help her; and I dare say, if you’ll let me speak to her, you might have Bill’s attic all to yourself. She has but one other lad at home: it’s worth trying for.”

“It is indeed. You are very kind, Phineas.” He said no more words than these — but their tone spoke volumes.

I got into my little carriage again, for I was most anxious not to lose a day in this matter. I persuaded John to go at once with me to Sally Watkins. My father was not to be seen; but I ventured to leave word for him that I was gone home, and had taken John Halifax with me: it was astonishing how bold I felt myself growing, now that there was another beside myself to think and act for.

We reached Widow Watkins’ door. It was a poor place — poorer than I had imagined; but I remembered what agonies of cleanliness had been inflicted on me in nursery days; and took hope for John.

Sally sat in her kitchen, tidy and subdued, mending an old jacket that had once been Bill’s, until, being supplanted by the grand red coat, it descended upon Jem, the second lad. But Bill still engrossed the poor mother’s heart — she could do nothing but weep over him, and curse “Bonyparty.” Her mind was so full of this that she apparently failed to recognise in the decent young workman, John Halifax, the half-starved lad she had belaboured with her tongue in the alley. She consented at once to his lodging with her — though she looked up with an odd stare when I said he was “a friend” of mine.

So we settled our business, first all together, then Sally and I alone, while John went up to look at his room. I knew I could trust Sally, whom I was glad enough to help, poor woman! She promised to make him extra-comfortable, and keep my secret too. When John came down she was quite civil to him — even friendly.

She said it would really be a comfort to her, that another fine, strapping lad should sleep in Bill’s bed, and be coming in and out of her house just like her poor dear boy.

I felt rather doubtful of the resemblance, and indeed half-angry, but John only smiled.

“And if, maybe, he’d do a hand’s turn now and then about the kitchen — I s’pose he bean’t above it?”

“Not a bit!” said John Halifax, pleasantly.

Before we left I wanted to see his room; he carried me up, and we both sat down on the bed that had been poor Bill’s. It was nothing to boast of, being a mere sacking stuffed with hay — a blanket below, and another at top; I had to beg from Jael the only pair of sheets John owned for a long time. The attic was very low and small, hardly big enough “to whip a cat round,” or even a kitten — yet John gazed about it with an air of proud possession.

“I declare I shall be as happy as a king. Only look out of the window!”

Ay, the window was the grand advantage; out of it one could crawl on to the roof, and from the roof was the finest view in all Norton Bury. On one side, the town, the Abbey, and beyond it a wide stretch of meadow and woodland as far as you could see; on the other, the broad Ham, the glittering curve of Severn, and the distant country, sloping up into “the blue bills far away.” A picture, which in its incessant variety, its quiet beauty, and its inexpressibly soothing charm, was likely to make the simple, everyday act of “looking out o’ window,” unconsciously influence the mind as much as a world of books.

“Do you like your ‘castle,’ John?” said I, when I had silently watched his beaming face; “will it suit you?”

“I rather think it will!” he cried in hearty delight. And my heart likewise was very glad.

Dear little attic room! close against the sky — so close, that many a time the rain came pattering in, or the sun beating down upon the roof made it like a furnace, or the snow on the leads drifted so high as to obscure the window — yet how merry, how happy, we have been there! How often have we both looked back upon it in after days!

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06