So accomplished a person as the reader must have seen at once
that I made away with Timothy in order to give his little vests
and pinafores and shoes to David, and, therefore, dear sir or
madam, rail not overmuch at me for causing our painter pain.
Know, too, that though his sympathy ran free I soon discovered
many of his inquiries to be prompted by a mere selfish desire to
save his boy from the fate of mine. Such are parents.
He asked compassionately if there was anything he could do for
me, and, of course, there was something he could do, but were I
to propose it I doubted not he would be on his stilts at once,
for already I had reason to know him for a haughty, sensitive
dog, who ever became high at the first hint of help. So the
proposal must come from him. I spoke of the many little things
in the house that were now hurtful to me to look upon, and he
clutched my hand, deeply moved, though it was another house with
its little things he saw. I was ashamed to harass him thus, but
he had not a sufficiency of the little things, and besides my
impulsiveness had plunged me into a deuce of a mess, so I went on
distastefully. Was there no profession in this age of specialism
for taking away children's garments from houses where they were
suddenly become a pain? Could I sell them? Could I give them to
the needy, who would probably dispose of them for gin? I told
him of a friend with a young child who had already refused them
because it would be unpleasant to him to be reminded of Timothy,
and I think this was what touched him to the quick, so that he
made the offer I was waiting for.
I had done it with a heavy foot, and by this time was in a rage
with both him and myself, but I always was a bungler, and, having
adopted this means in a hurry, I could at the time see no other
easy way out. Timothy's hold on life, as you may have
apprehended, was ever of the slightest, and I suppose I always
knew that he must soon revert to the obscure. He could never
have penetrated into the open. It was no life for a boy.
Yet now, that his time had come, I was loath to see him go. I
seem to remember carrying him that evening to the window with
uncommon tenderness (following the setting sun that was to take
him away), and telling him with not unnatural bitterness that he
had got to leave me because another child was in need of all his
pretty things; and as the sun, his true father, lapt him in its
dancing arms, he sent his love to a lady of long ago whom he
called by the sweetest of names, not knowing in his innocence
that the little white birds are the birds that never have a
mother. I wished (so had the phantasy of Timothy taken
possession of me) that before he went he could have played once
in the Kensington Gardens, and have ridden on the fallen trees,
calling gloriously to me to look; that he could have sailed one
paper-galleon on the Round Pond; fain would I have had him chase
one hoop a little way down the laughing avenues of childhood,
where memory tells us we run but once, on a long summer-day,
emerging at the other end as men and women with all the fun to
pay for; and I think (thus fancy wantons with me in these
desolate chambers) he knew my longings, and said with a boy-like
flush that the reason he never did these things was not that he
was afraid, for he would have loved to do them all, but because
he was not quite like other boys; and, so saying, he let go my
finger and faded from before my eyes into another and golden
ether; but I shall ever hold that had he been quite like other
boys there would have been none braver than my Timothy.
I fear I am not truly brave myself, for though when under fire,
so far as I can recollect, I behaved as others, morally I seem to
be deficient. So I discovered next day when I attempted to buy
David's outfit, and found myself as shy of entering the shop as
any Mary at the pawnbroker's. The shop for little garments seems
very alarming when you reach the door; a man abruptly become a
parent, and thus lost to a finer sense of the proprieties, may be
able to stalk in unprotected, but apparently I could not.
Indeed, I have allowed a repugnance to entering shops of any
kind, save my tailor's, to grow on me, and to my tailor's I fear
I go too frequently.
So I skulked near the shop of the little garments, jeering at
myself, and it was strange to me to reflect at, say, three
o'clock that if I had been brazen at half-past two all would now
To show what was my state, take the case of the very gentleman-
like man whom I detected gazing fixedly at me, or so I thought,
just as I had drawn valiantly near the door. I sauntered away,
but when I returned he was still there, which seemed conclusive
proof that he had smoked my purpose. Sternly controlling my
temper I bowed, and said with icy politeness, "You have the
advantage of me, sir."
"I beg your pardon," said he, and I am now persuaded that my
words turned his attention to me for the first time, but at the
moment I was sure some impertinent meaning lurked behind his
"I have not the pleasure of your acquaintance," I barked.
"No one regrets it more than I do," he replied, laughing.
"I mean, sir," said I, "that I shall wait here until you retire,"
and with that I put my back to a shop-window.
By this time he was grown angry, and said he, "I have no
engagement," and he put his back to the shop-window. Each of us
was doggedly determined to tire the other out, and we must have
looked ridiculous. We also felt it, for ten minutes afterward,
our passions having died away, we shook hands cordially and
agreed to call hansoms.
Must I abandon the enterprise? Certainly I knew divers ladies
who would make the purchases for me, but first I must explain,
and, rather than explain it has ever been my custom to do
without. I was in this despondency when a sudden recollection of
Irene and Mrs. Hicking heartened me like a cordial, for I saw in
them at once the engine and decoy by which David should procure
You must be told who they were.