The Man HTML version

3. Harold
Squire Norman had a clerical friend whose rectory of Carstone lay some thirty miles from
Normanstand. Thirty miles is not a great distance for railway travel; but it is a long drive.
The days had not come, nor were they ever likely to come, for the making of a railway
between the two places. For a good many years the two men had met in renewal of their
old University days. Squire Norman and Dr. An Wolf had been chums at Trinity,
Cambridge, and the boyish friendship had ripened and lasted. When Harold An Wolf had
put in his novitiate in a teeming Midland manufacturing town, it was Norman's influence
which obtained the rectorship for his friend. It was not often that they could meet, for An
Wolf's work, which, though not very exacting, had to be done single-handed, kept him to
his post. Besides, he was a good scholar and eked out a small income by preparing a few
pupils for public school. An occasional mid-week visit to Normanstand in the slack time
of school work on the Doctor's part, and now and again a drive by Norman over to the
rectory, returning the next day, had been for a good many years the measure of their
meeting. Then An Wolf's marriage and the birth of a son had kept him closer to home.
Mrs. An Wolf had been killed in a railway accident a couple of years after her only child
had been born; and at the time Norman had gone over to render any assistance in his
power to the afflicted man, and to give him what was under the circumstances his best
gift, sympathy. After an interval of a few years the Squire's courtship and marriage, at
which his old friend had assisted, had confined his activities to a narrower circle. The last
time they had met was when An Wolf had come over to Norcester to aid in the burial of
his friend's wife. In the process of years, however, the shadow over Norman's life had
begun to soften; when his baby had grown to be something of a companion, they met
again. Norman, 'who had never since his wife's death been able to tear himself, even for a
night, away from Normanstand and Stephen, wrote to his old friend asking him to come
to him. An Wolf gladly promised, and for a week of growing expectation the Squire
looked forward to their meeting. Each found the other somewhat changed, in all but their
old affection.
An Wolf was delighted with the little Stephen. Her dainty beauty seemed to charm him;
and the child, seeming to realise what pleasure she was giving, exercised all her little
winning ways. The rector, who knew more of children than did his, friend, told her as she
sat on his knee of a very interesting person: his own son. The child listened, interested at
first, then enraptured. She asked all kinds of questions; and the father's eyes brightened as
he gladly answered the pretty sympathetic child, already deep in his heart for her father's
sake. He told her about the boy who was so big and strong, and who could run and leap
and swim and play cricket and football better than any other boy with whom he played.
When, warmed himself by the keen interest of the little girl, and seeing her beautiful
black eyes beginning to glow, he too woke to the glory of the time; and all the treasured
moments of the father's lonely heart gave out their store. And the other father, thrilled
with delight because of his baby's joy with, underlying all, an added pleasure that the
little Stephen's interest was in sports that were for boys, looked on approvingly, now and
again asking questions himself in furtherance of the child's wishes.