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WING FOLD AND HIS WIFE.
Thomas Wingfold closed his book, replaced it in his pocket, got down from the stile, turned his face toward home, crossed field after field, and arrived just in time to meet his wife as she came down the stair to breakfast.
"Have you had a nice walk, Thomas?" she asked.
"Indeed I have!" he answered. "Almost from the first I was right out in the open."--His wife knew what he meant.--"Before the sun came up", he went on, "I had to go in, and come out at another door; but I was soon very glad of it. I had met a fellow who, I think, will pluck his feet out of the mud before long."
"Have you asked him to the rectory?"
"Shall I write and ask him?"
"No, my wife. For one thing, you can't: I don't know his name, and I don't know what he is, or where he lives. But we shall meet again soon."
"Then you have made an appointment with him!"
"No, I haven't. But there's an undertow bringing us on to each other. It would spoil all if he thought I threw a net for him. I do mean to catch him if I can, but I will not move till the tide brings him into my arms. At least, that is how the thing looks to me at present. I believe enough not to make haste. I don't want to throw salt on any bird's tail, but I do want the birds to come hopping about me, that I may tell them what I know!"
As near as he could, Wingfold recounted the conversation he had had with Richard.
"He was a fine-looking fellow," he said, "--not exactly a gentleman, but not far off it; little would make him one. He looked a man that could do things, but I did not satisfy myself as to what might be his trade. He showed no sign of it, or made any allusion to it. But he was more at home in the workshop of his own mind than is at all usual with fellows of his age."
"It must," said Helen, "be old Simon Armour's grandson! I have heard of him from several quarters; and your description would just fit him. I know somebody that could tell you about him, but I wish I know anybody that could tell us about her--I mean Miss Wylder."
"I like the look of that girl!" said the parson warmly, "What makes you think she could tell us about my new acquaintance?"
"Only an impertinent speech of that little simian, Vixen Lestrange. I forget what she said, but it left the impression of an acquaintance between Bab, as she called her, and some working fellow the child could not bear."
"The enmity of that child is praise. I wonder how the Master would have treated her! He could not have taken her between his knees, and said whosoever received her received him! A child-mask with a monkey inside it will only serve a sentimental mother to talk platitudes about!"
"Don't be too hard on the monkeys, Tom!" said his wife. "You don't know what they may turn out to be, after all!"
"Surely it is not too hard on the monkeys to call them monkeys!"
"No; but when the monkey has already begun to be a child!"
"There is the whole point! Has the monkey always begun to be a child when he gets the shape of a child?--Miss Wylder is not quite so seldom in church now, I think!"
"I saw her there last Sunday. But I'm afraid she wasn't thinking much about what you were saying--she sat with such a stony look in her eyes! She did seem to come awake for one moment, though!"
"I could hardly take my eyes off her, my heart was so drawn to her. There was a mingling of love and daring, almost defiance, in her look, that seemed to say, 'If you are worth it--if you are worth it--then through fire and water!' All at once a flash lighted up her lovely child-face--and what do you think you were at the moment saying?--that the flower of a plant was deeper than the root of it: that was what roused her!"
"And I, when I found what I had said, thought within myself what a fool I was to let out things my congregation could not possibly understand!--But to reach one is, in the end, to reach all!"
"I must in honesty tell you, however," pursued Mrs. Wingfold, "that the next minute she looked as far off as before; nor did she shine up once again that I saw."
"I will be glad, though," said Wingfold, "because of what you tell me! It shows there is a window in her house that looks in my direction: some signal may one day catch her eye! That she has a character of her own, a real one, I strongly suspect. Her mother more than interests me. She certainly has a fine nature. How much better is a fury than a fish! You cannot be downright angry save in virtue of the love possible to you. The proper person, who always does and says the correct thing--well, I think that person is almost sure to be a liar. At the same time, the contradictions in the human individual are bewildering, even appalling!--Now I must go to my study, and think out a thing that's bothering me!--By the way,"--he always said that when he was going to make her a certain kind of present; she knew what was coming--"here's something for you--if you can read it! I had just scribbled it this morning when the young man came up. I made it last night. I was hours awake after we went to bed!"
This is what he gave her:--
A SONG IN THE NIGHT.
A brown bird sang on a blossomy tree, Sang in the moonshine, merrily, Three little songs, one, two, and three, A song for his wife, for himself, and me.
He sang for his wife, sang low, sang high, Filling the moonlight that filled the sky, "Thee, thee, I love thee, heart alive! Thee, thee, thee, and thy round eggs five!"
He sang to himself, "What shall I do With this life that thrills me through and through! Glad is so glad that it turns to ache! Out with it, song, or my heart will break!"
He sang to me, "Man, do not fear Though the moon goes down, and the dark is near; Listen my song, and rest thine eyes; Let the moon go down that the sun may rise!"
I folded me up in the heart of his tune, And fell asleep in the sinking moon; I woke with the day's first golden gleam, And lo, I had dreamed a precious dream!
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