Chapter 20

Silver gray - Good word for everybody - A remarkable youth - Clients - Grades in society - The archdeacon - Reading the Bible.

‘I AM afraid that I have not acted very wisely in putting this boy of ours to the law,’ said my father to my mother, as they sat together one summer evening in their little garden, beneath the shade of some tall poplars.

Yes, there sat my father in the garden chair which leaned against the wall of his quiet home, the haven in which he had sought rest, and, praise be to God, found it, after many a year of poorly- requited toil; there he sat, with locks of silver gray which set off so nobly his fine bold but benevolent face, his faithful consort at his side, and his trusty dog at his feet - an eccentric animal of the genuine regimental breed, who, born amongst red coats, had not yet become reconciled to those of any other hue, barking and tearing at them when they drew near the door, but testifying his fond reminiscence of the former by hospitable waggings of the tail whenever a uniform made its appearance - at present a very unfrequent occurrence.

‘I am afraid I have not done right in putting him to the law,’ said my father, resting his chin upon his gold- headed bamboo cane.

‘Why, what makes you think so?’ said my mother.

‘I have been taking my usual evening walk up the road, with the animal here,’ said my father; ‘and, as I walked along, I overtook the boy’s master, Mr. S-. We shook hands, and, after walking a little way farther, we turned back together, talking about this and that; the state of the country, the weather, and the dog, which he greatly admired; for he is a good-natured man, and has a good word for everybody, though the dog all but bit him when he attempted to coax his head; after the dog, we began talking about the boy; it was myself who introduced that subject: I thought it was a good opportunity to learn how he was getting on, so I asked what he thought of my son; he hesitated at first, seeming scarcely to know what to say; at length he came out with "Oh, a very extraordinary youth, a most remarkable youth indeed, captain!" "Indeed," said I, "I am glad to hear it, but I hope you find him steady?" "Steady, steady," said he, "why, yes, he’s steady, I cannot say that he is not steady." "Come, come," said I, beginning to be rather uneasy, "I see plainly that you are not altogether satisfied with him; I was afraid you would not be, for, though he is my own son, I am anything but blind to his imperfections; but do tell me what particular fault you have to find with him; and I will do my best to make him alter his conduct." "No fault to find with him, captain, I assure you, no fault whatever; the youth is a remarkable youth, an extraordinary youth, only - " As I told you before, Mr. S- is the best-natured man in the world, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that I could get him to say a single word to the disadvantage of the boy, for whom he seems to entertain a very great regard. At last I forced the truth from him, and grieved I was to hear it; though I must confess that I was somewhat prepared for it. It appears that the lad has a total want of discrimination.’

‘I don’t understand you,’ said my mother.

‘You can understand nothing that would seem for a moment to impugn the conduct of that child. I am not, however, so blind; want of discrimination was the word, and it both sounds well, and is expressive. It appears that, since he has been placed where is, he has been guilty of the grossest blunders; only the other day, Mr. S- told me, as he was engaged in close conversation with one of his principal clients, the boy came to tell him that a person wanted particularly to speak with him; and, on going out, he found a lamentable figure with one eye, who came to ask for charity; whom, nevertheless, the lad had ushered into a private room, and installed in an arm-chair, like a justice of the peace, instead of telling him to go about his business - now what did that show, but a total want of discrimination?’

‘I wish we may never have anything worse to reproach him with,’ said my mother.

‘I don’t know what worse we could reproach him with,’ said my father; ‘I mean of course as far as his profession is concerned; discrimination is the very keystone; if he treated all people alike, he would soon become a beggar himself; there are grades in society as well as in the army; and according to those

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