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"My Novel" — Volume 01

WIDOW.—"Well, sir, and you are kind to say it,—but so he is."

PARSON.—"He reads uncommonly well, he writes tolerably; he is the best lad in the whole school at his Catechism and in the Bible lessons; and I assure you, when I see his face at church, looking up so attentively, I fancy that I shall read my sermon all the better for such a listener!"

WIDOW (wiping her eyes with the corner of her apron).—"'Deed, sir, when my poor Mark died, I never thought I could have lived on as I have done. But that boy is so kind and good, that when I look at him sitting there in dear Mark's chair, and remember how Mark loved him, and all he used to say to me about him, I feel somehow or other as if my good man smiled on me, and would rather I was not with him yet, till the lad had grown up, and did not want me any more."

PARSON (looking away, and after a pause).—"You never hear anything of the old folks at Lansmere?"

"'Deed, sir, sin' poor Mark died, they han't noticed me nor the boy; but," added the widow, with all a peasant's pride, "it isn't that I wants their money; only it's hard to feel strange like to one's own father and mother!"

PARSON.—"You must excuse them. Your father, Mr. Avenel, was never quite the same man after that sad event which—but you are weeping, my friend, pardon me; your mother is a little proud; but so are you, though in another way."

WIDOW.—"I proud! Lord love ye, sir, I have not a bit o' pride in me! and that's the reason they always looked down on me."

PARSON.—"Your parents must be well off; and I shall apply to them in a year or two on behalf of Lenny, for they promised me to provide for him when he grew up, as they ought."

WIDOW (with flashing eyes).—"I am sure, sir, I hope you will do no such thing; for I would not have Lenny beholden to them as has never given him a kind word sin' he was born!"

The parson smiled gravely, and shook his head at poor Mrs. Fairfield's hasty confutation of her own self-acquittal from the charge of pride; but he saw that it was not the time or moment for effectual peace-making in the most irritable of all rancours,—namely, that nourished against one's nearest relations. He therefore dropped the subject, and said, "Well, time enough to think of Lenny's future prospects; meanwhile we are forgetting the haymakers. Come."

The widow opened the back door, which led across a little apple orchard into the fields.

PARSON.—"You have a pleasant place here; and I see that my friend Lenny should be in no want of apples. I had brought him one, but I have given it away on the road."

WIDOW.—"Oh, sir, it is not the deed,—it is the will; as I felt when the squire, God bless him! took two pounds off the rent the year he—that is, Mark—died."

PARSON.—"If Lenny continues to be such a help to you, it will not be long before the squire may put the two pounds on again."

"Yes, sir," said the widow, simply; "I hope he will."

"Silly woman!" muttered the parson. "That's not exactly what the schoolmistress would have said. You don't read nor write, Mrs. Fairfield; yet you express yourself with great propriety."

"You know Mark was a schollard, sir, like my poor, poor sister; and though I was a sad stupid girl afore I married, I tried to take after him when we came together."


They were now in the hayfield, and a boy of about sixteen, but, like most country lads, to appearance much younger than he was, looked up from his rake, with lively blue eyes beaming forth under a profusion of brown curly hair.

Leonard Fairfield was indeed a very handsome boy,—not so stout nor so ruddy as one would choose for the ideal of rustic beauty, nor yet so delicate in limb and keen in expression as are those children of cities, in whom the mind is cultivated at the expense of the body; but still he had the health of the country in his cheeks, and was not without the grace of the city in his compact figure and easy movements. There was in his physiognomy something interesting from its peculiar character of innocence and simplicity. You could see that he had been brought up by a woman, and much apart from familiar contact with other children; and such intelligence as was yet developed in him was not ripened by the jokes and cuffs of his coevals, but fostered by decorous lecturings from his elders, and good-little-boy maxims in good-little-boy books.

PARSON.—"Come hither, Lenny. You know the benefit of school, I see: it can teach you nothing better than to be a support to your mother."

LENNY (looking down sheepishly, and with a heightened glow over his face).—"Please, sir, that may come one of these days."

PARSON.—"That's right, Lenny. Let me see! why, you must be nearly a man. How old are you?"

Lenny looks up inquiringly at his mother.

PARSON.—"You ought to know, Lenny: speak for yourself. Hold your tongue, Mrs. Fairfield."

LENNY (twirling his hat, and in great perplexity).—"Well, and there is Flop, neighbour Dutton's old sheep-dog. He be very old now."

PARSON.—"I am not asking Flop's age, but your own."

LENNY.—"'Deed, sir, I have heard say as how Flop and I were pups together. That is, I—I—"

For the parson is laughing, and so is Mrs. Fairfield; and the haymakers, who have stood still to listen, are laughing too. And poor Lenny has quite lost his head, and looks as if he would like to cry.

PARSON (patting the curly locks, encouragingly).—"Never mind; it is not so badly answered, after all. And how old is Flop?"

LENNY.—"Why, he must be fifteen year and more.."

PARSON.—"How old, then, are you?"

LENNY (looking up, with a beam of intelligence).—"Fifteen year and more."

Widow sighs and nods her head.

"That's what we call putting two and two together," said the parson. "Or, in other words," and here be raised his eyes majestically towards the haymakers—"in other words, thanks to his love for his book, simple as he stands here, Lenny Fairfield has shown himself capable of INDUCTIVE RATIOCINATION."

At those words, delivered /ore rotundo/, the haymakers ceased laughing; for even in lay matters they held the parson to be an oracle, and words so long must have a great deal in them. Lenny drew up his head proudly.

"You are very fond of Flop, I suppose?"

"'Deed he is," said the widow, "and of all poor dumb creatures."

"Very good. Suppose, my lad, that you had a fine apple, and that you met a friend who wanted it more than you, what would you do with it?"

"Please you, sir, I would give him half of it."

The parson's face fell. "Not the whole, Lenny?"

Lenny considered. "If he was a friend, sir, he would not like me to give him all."

"Upon my word, Master Leonard, you speak so well that I must e'en tell the truth. I brought you an apple, as a prize for good conduct in school. But I met by the way a poor donkey, and some one beat him for eating a thistle, so I thought I would make it up by giving him the apple. Ought I only to have given him the half?"

Lenny's innocent face became all smile; his interest was aroused. "And did the donkey like the apple?"

"Very much," said the parson, fumbling in his pocket; but thinking of Leonard Fairfield's years and understanding, and moreover observing, in the pride of his heart, that there were many spectators to his deed, he thought the meditated twopence not sufficient, and he generously produced a silver sixpence.

"There, my man, that will pay for the half apple which you would have kept for yourself." The parson again patted the curly locks, and after a hearty word or two with the other haymakers, and a friendly "Good-day" to Mrs. Fairfield, struck into a path that led towards his own glebe.

He had just crossed the stile, when he heard hasty but timorous feet behind him. He turned, and saw his friend Lenny.

LENNY (half-crying, and holding out the sixpence).—"Indeed, sir, I would rather not. I would have given all to the Neddy."

PARSON.—"Why, then, my man, you have a still greater right to the sixpence."

LENNY.—"No, sir; 'cause you only gave it to make up for the half apple. And if I had given the whole, as I ought to have done, why, I should have had no right to the sixpence. Please, sir, don't be offended; do take it back, will you?"