′So you were out in the rain last night, father, in your beautiful new great-coat,′ said Caleb′s daughter.
′In my beautiful new great-coat,′ answered Caleb, glancing towards a clothes-line in the room, on which the sack-cloth garment previously described, was carefully hung up to dry.
′How glad I am you bought it, father!′
′And of such a tailor, too,′ said Caleb. ′Quite a fashionable tailor. It′s too good for me.′
The Blind Girl rested from her work, and laughed with delight.
′Too good, father! What can be too good for you?′
′I′m half-ashamed to wear it though,′ said Caleb, watching the effect of what he said, upon her brightening face; ′upon my word! When I hear the boys and people say behind me, "Hal-loa! Here′s a swell!" I don′t know which way to look. And when the beggar wouldn′t go away last night; and when I said I was a very common man, said "No, your Honour! Bless your Honour, don′t say that!" I was quite ashamed. I really felt as if I hadn′t a right to wear it.′
Happy Blind Girl! How merry she was, in her exultation!
′I see you, father,′ she said, clasping her hands, ′as plainly, as if I had the eyes I never want when you are with me. A blue coat— ′
′Bright blue,′ said Caleb.
′Yes, yes! Bright blue!′ exclaimed the girl, turning up her radiant face; ′the colour I can just remember in the blessed sky! You told me it was blue before! A bright blue coat—′
′Made loose to the figure,′ suggested Caleb.
′Made loose to the figure!′ cried the Blind Girl, laughing heartily; ′and in it, you, dear father, with your merry eye, your smiling face, your free step, and your dark hair—looking so young and handsome!′
′Halloa! Halloa!′ said Caleb. ′I shall be vain, presently!′
′I think you are, already,′ cried the Blind Girl, pointing at him, in her glee. ′I know you, father! Ha, ha, ha! I′ve found you out, you see!′
How different the picture in her mind, from Caleb, as he sat observing her! She had spoken of his free step. She was right in that. For years and years, he had never once crossed that threshold at his own slow pace, but with a footfall counterfeited for her ear; and never had he, when his heart was heaviest, forgotten the light tread that was to render hers so cheerful and courageous!
Heaven knows! But I think Caleb′s vague bewilderment of manner may have half originated in his having confused himself about himself and everything around him, for the love of his Blind Daughter. How could the little man be otherwise than bewildered, after labouring for so many years to destroy his own identity, and that of all the objects that had any bearing on it!
′There we are,′ said Caleb, falling back a pace or two to form the better judgment of his work; ′as near the real thing as sixpenn′orth of halfpence is to sixpence. What a pity that the whole front of the house opens at once! If there was only a staircase in it, now, and regular doors to the rooms to go in at! But that′s the worst of my calling, I′m always deluding myself, and swindling myself.′
′You are speaking quite softly. You are not tired, father?′
′Tired!′ echoed Caleb, with a great burst of animation, ′what should tire me, Bertha? _I_ was never tired.
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