Our house had been rebuilt from the foundations by my father. It was square-built and very ugly, but it was in such excellent repair that one could never indulge a more lawless fancy towards any chink or cranny about it than a desire to “point” the same with a bit of mortar.
Why it was that my ancestor, who built the old house, and who was not a bit better educated or farther-travelled than my father, had built a pretty one, whilst my father built an ugly one, is one of the many things I do not know, and wish I did.
From the old sketches of it which my grandfather painted on the parlour handscreens, I think it must have been like a larger edition of the farm; that is, with long mullioned windows, a broad and gracefully proportioned doorway with several shallow steps and quaintly-ornamented lintel; bits of fine work and ornamentation about the woodwork here and there, put in as if they had been done, not for the look of the thing, but for the love of it, and whitewash over the house-front, and over the apple-trees in the orchard.
That was what our ancestor’s home was like; and it was the sort of house that became Walnut-tree Academy, where Jem and I went to school.
Sable:—“Ha, you! A little more upon the dismal (forming their countenances); this fellow has a good mortal look, place him near the corpse; that wainscoat face must be o’ top of the stairs; that fellow’s almost in a fright (that looks as if he were full of some strange misery) at the end of the hall. So—but I’ll fix you all myself. Let’s have no laughing now on any provocation.”—The Funeral, STEELE.
At one time I really hoped to make the acquaintance of the old miser of Walnut-tree Farm. It was when we saved the life of his cat.
He was very fond of that cat, I think, and it was, to say the least of it, as eccentric-looking as its master. One eye was yellow and the other was blue, which gave it a strange, uncanny expression, and its rust-coloured fur was not common either as to tint or markings.
How dear old Jem did belabour the boy we found torturing it! He was much older and bigger than we were, but we were two to one, which we reckoned fair enough, considering his size, and that the cat had to be saved somehow. The poor thing’s forepaws were so much hurt that it could not walk, so we carried it to the farm, and I stood on the shallow doorsteps, and under the dial, on which was written—
and the old miser came out, and we told him about the cat, and he took it and said we were good boys, and I hoped he would have asked us to go in, but he did not, though we lingered a little; he only put his hand into his pocket, and very slowly brought out sixpence.
“No, thank you,” said I, rather indignantly. “We don’t want anything for saving the poor cat.”