“You are sharp-eyed, sir. My father says they were plain enough in his young days.”
“Is your father alive, then?”
“That he is, sir, and hearty too, though he seldom goes out of doors now. Will you go up stairs and see him? He’s past ninety, sir. He has plenty of stories to tell about the old place—before it began to fall to pieces like.”
“I won’t go to-day,” I said, partly because I wanted to be at home to receive any one who might call, and partly to secure an excuse for calling again upon the carpenter sooner than I should otherwise have liked to do. “I expect visitors myself, and it is time I were at home. Good morning.”
“Good morning, sir.”
And away home I went with a new wonder in my brain. The man did not seem unknown to me. I mean, the state of his mind woke no feeling of perplexity in me. I was certain of understanding it thoroughly when I had learned something of his history; for that such a man must have a history of his own was rendered only the more probable from the fact that he knew something of the history of his forefathers, though, indeed, there are some men who seem to have no other. It was strange, however, to think of that man working away at a trade in the very house in which such ancestors had eaten and drunk, and married and given in marriage. The house and family had declined together—in outward appearance at least; for it was quite possible both might have risen in the moral and spiritual scale in proportion as they sank in the social one. And if any of my readers are at first inclined to think that this could hardly be, seeing that the man was little, if anything, better than an infidel, I would just like to hold one minute’s conversation with them on that subject. A man may be on the way to the truth, just in virtue of his doubting. I will tell you what Lord Bacon says, and of all writers of English I delight in him: “So it is in contemplation: if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.” Now I could not tell the kind or character of this man’s doubt; but it was evidently real and not affected doubt; and that was much in his favour. And I couid see that he was a thinking man; just one of the sort I thought I should get on with in time, because he was honest— notwithstanding that unpleasant smile of his, which did irritate me a little, and partly piqued me into the determination to get the better of the man, if I possibly could, by making friends with him. At all events, here was another strange parishioner. And who could it be that he was like?
Visitors from the hall.
When I came near my own gate, I saw that it was open; and when I came in sight of my own door, I found a carriage standing before it, and a footman ringing the bell. It was an old-fashioned carriage, with two white horses in it, yet whiter by age than by nature. They looked as if no coachman could get more than three miles an hour out of them, they were so fat and knuckle-kneed. But my attention could not rest long on the horses, and I reached the door just as my housekeeper was pronouncing me absent. There were two ladies in the carriage, one old and one young.