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His new home.
The place to which the good people carried the gift of the earthquake--carried him with much anxiety and more exultation--had no very distinctive features. It had many fields in grass, many in crop, and some lying fallow--all softly undulating. It had some trees, and everywhere hedges dividing fields whose strange shapes witnessed to a complicated history, of which few could tell anything. Here and there in the hollows between the motionless earth-billows, flowed, but did not seem to flow, what they called a brook. But the brooks there were like deep soundless pools without beginning or end. There was no life, no gaiety, no song in them, only a sullen consent to exist. That at least is how they impress one accustomed to real brooks, lark-like, always on the quiver, always on the move, always babbling and gabbling and gamboling, always at their games, always tossing their pebbles about, and telling them to talk. A man that loved them might say there was more in the silence of these, than in the speech of those; but what silence can be better than a song of delight that we are, that we were, that we are to be! The stillness may be full of solemn fish, mysterious as itself, and deaf with secrets; but blessed is the brook that lets the light of its joy shine.
Dull as the place must seem in this my description, it was the very country for the boy. He would come into more contact with its modest beauty in a day than some of us would in a year. Nobody quite knows the beauty of a country, especially of a quiet country, except one who has been born in it, or for whom at least childhood and boyhood and youth have opened door after door into the hidden phases of its life. There is no square yard on the face of the earth but some one can in part understand what God meant in making it; while the same changeful skies canopy the most picturesque and the dullest landscapes; the same winds wake and blow over desert and pasture land, making the bosoms of youth and age swell with the delight of their blowing. The winds are not all so full as are some of delicious odours gathered as they pass from gardens, fields, and hill-sides; but all have their burden of sweetness. Those that blew upon little Clare were oftener filled with the smell of farmyards, and burning weeds, and cottage-fires, than of flowers; but never would one of such odours revisit him without bringing fresh delight to his heart. Its mere memorial suggestion far out on the great sea would wake the old child in the man. The pollards along the brooks grew lovely to his heart, and were not the less lovely when he came to understand that they were not so lovely as God had meant them to be. He was one of those who, regarding what a thing is, and not comparing it with other things, descry the thought of God in it, and love it; for to love what is beautiful is as natural as to love our mothers.
The parsonage to which his new father and mother brought him was like the landscape--humble. It was humble even for a parsonage--which has no occasion to be fine. For men and women whose business it is to teach their fellows to be true and fair, and not covet fine things, are but hypocrites, or at best intruders and humbugs, if they want fine things themselves. Jesus Christ did not care about fine things. He loved every lovely thing that ever his father made. If any one does not know the difference between fine things and lovely things, he does not know much, if he has all the science in the world at his finger-ends.
One good thing about the parsonage was, that it was aid, and the swallows had loved it for centuries. That way Clare learned to love the swallows--and they are worth loving. Then it had a very old garden, nearly as old-fashioned as it was old, and many flowers that have almost ceased to be seen grew in it, and did not enjoy their lives the less that they were out of fashion. All the furniture in the house was old, and mostly shabby; it was possible, therefore, to love it a little. Who on earth could be such a fool as to love a new piece of furniture! One might prize it; one might admire it; one might like it because it was pretty, or because it was comfortable; but only a silly woman whose soul went to bed on her new sideboard, could say she loved it. And then it would not be true. It is impossible that any but an old piece of furniture should be loved.
His father and mother had a charming little room made for him in the garret, right up among the swallows, who soon admitted him a member of their society--an honorary member, that is, who was not expected to fly with them to Africa except he liked. His new parents did this because they saw that, when he could not be with them, he preferred being by himself; and that moods came upon him in which he would steal away even from them, seized with a longing for loneliness. In general, next to being with his mother anywhere, he liked to be with his father in the study. If both went out, and could not take him with them, he would either go to his own room, or sit in the study alone. It was a very untidy room, crowded with books, mostly old and dingy, and in torn bindings. Many of them their owner never opened, and they suffered in consequence; a few of them were constantly in his hands, and suffered in consequence. All smelt strong of stale tobacco, but that hardly accounts for the fact that Clare never took to smoking. Another thing perhaps does--that he was always too much of a man to want to look like a man by imitating men. That is unmanly. A boy who wants to look like a man is not a manly boy, and men do not care for his company. A true boy is always welcome to a true man, but a would-be man is better on the other side of the wall.
His mother oftenest sat in a tiny little drawing-room, which smelt of withered rose-leaves. I think it must smell of them still. I believe it smelt of them a hundred years before she saw the place. Clare loved the smell of the rose-leaves and disliked the smell of the tobacco; yet he preferred the study with its dingy books to the pretty drawing-room without his mother.
There was a village, a very small one, in the parish, and a good many farm-houses.
Such was the place in which Clare spent the next few years of his life, and there his new parents loved him heartily. The only thing about him that troubled them, besides the possibility of losing him, was, that they could not draw out the tiniest smile upon his sweet, moonlight-face.
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