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Page 9

2. II.

When Mr. Churchill entered his study, he
found the lamp lighted, and his wife waiting for
him. The wood fire was singing on the hearth
like a grasshopper in the heat and silence of a
Summer noon; and to his heart the chill autumnal
evening became a Summer noon. His wife
turned towards him with looks of love in her joyous
blue eyes; and in the serene expression of
her face he read the Divine beatitude, “Blessed
are the pure in heart.”

No sooner had he seated himself by the fireside
than the door was swung wide open, and on the
threshold stood, with his legs apart, like a miniature
colossus, a lovely, golden boy, about three
years old, with long, light locks, and very red
cheeks. After a moment's pause, he dashed forward
into the room with a shout, and established


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himself in a large arm-chair, which he converted
into a carrier's wagon, and over the back of which
he urged forward his imaginary horses. He was
followed by Lucy, the maid of all work, bearing
in her arms the baby, with large, round eyes,
and no hair. In his mouth he held an India rubber
ring, and looked very much like a street-door
knocker. He came down to say good night, but
after he got down, could not say it; not being
able to say any thing but a kind of explosive
“Papa!” He was then a good deal kissed and
tormented in various ways, and finally sent off to
bed blowing little bubbles with his mouth,—Lucy
blessing his little heart, and asseverating that nobody
could feed him in the night without loving
him; and that if the flies bit him any more she
would pull out every tooth in their heads!

Then came Master Alfred's hour of triumph
and sovereign sway. The fire-light gleamed on
his hard, red cheeks, and glanced from his liquid
eyes, and small, white teeth. He piled his wagon
full of books and papers, and dashed off to town
at the top of his speed; he delivered and received
parcels and letters, and played the postboy's
horn with his lips. Then he climbed the
back of the great chair, sang “Sweep ho!” as


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from the top of a very high chimney, and, sliding
down upon the cushion, pretended to fall asleep
in a little white bed, with white curtains; from
which imaginary slumber his father awoke him by
crying in his ear, in mysterious tones,—

“What little boy is this!”

Finally he sat down in his chair at his mother's
knee, and listened very attentively, and for the
hundredth time, to the story of the dog Jumper,
which was no sooner ended, than vociferously
called for again and again. On the fifth repetition,
it was cut as short as the dog's tail by Lucy, who,
having put the baby to bed, now came for Master
Alfred. He seemed to hope he had been forgotten,
but was nevertheless marched off to bed,
without any particular regard to his feelings, and
disappeared in a kind of abstracted mood, repeating
softly to himself his father's words,—

“Good night, Alfred!”

His father looked fondly after him as he went
up stairs, holding Lucy by one hand, and with the
other rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

“Ah! these children, these children!” said
Mr. Churchill, as he sat down at the tea-table;
“We ought to love them very much now, for we
shall not have them long with us!”


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“Good heavens!” exclaimed his wife, “what
do you mean? Does any thing ail them? Are
they going to die?”

“I hope not. But they are going to grow up,
and be no longer children.”

“O, you foolish man! You gave me such a

“And yet it seems impossible that they should
ever grow to be men, and drag the heavy artillery
along the dusty roads of life.”

“And I hope they never will. That is the
last thing I want either of them to do.”

“O, I do not mean literally, only figuratively.
By the way, speaking of growing up and growing
old, I saw Mr. Pendexter this evening, as I came

“And what had he to say?”

“He told me he should preach his farewell
sermon to-morrow.”

“Poor old man! I really pity him.”

“So do I. But it must be confessed he is a
dull preacher; and I dare say it is as dull work
for him as for his hearers.”

“Why are they going to send him away?”

“O, there are a great many reasons. He
does not give time and attention enough to his


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sermons and to his parish. He is always at work
on his farm; always wants his salary raised; and
insists upon his right to pasture his horse in the
parish fields.”

“Hark!” cried his wife, lifting up her face in
a listening attitude.

“What is the matter?”

“I thought I heard the baby!”

There was a short silence. Then Mr. Churchill

“It was only the cat in the cellar.”

At this moment Lucy came in. She hesitated
a little, and then, in a submissive voice, asked
leave to go down to the village to buy some ribbon
for her bonnet. Lucy was a girl of fifteen,
who had been taken a few years before from an
Orphan Asylum. Her dark eyes had a gypsy
look, and she wore her brown hair twisted round
her head after the manner of some of Murillo's
girls. She had Milesian blood in her veins, and
was impetuous and impatient of contradiction.

When she had left the room, the school-master
resumed the conversation by saying,—

“I do not like Lucy's going out so much in
the evening. I am afraid she will get into trouble.
She is really very pretty.”


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Then there was another pause, after which he

“My dear wife, one thing puzzles me exceedingly.”

“And what is that?”

“It is to know what that man does with all the
old boots he picks up about the village. I met
him again this evening. He seemed to have as
many feet as Briareus had hands. He is a kind
of centipede.”

“But what has that to do with Lucy?”

“Nothing. It only occurred to me at the
moment; and I never can imagine what he does
with so many old boots.”