you over a dinner-table, you would think ‘Does the man take me for a


The return of Eric from his walk checked the tide of Arthur’s eloquence,

and, after a few minutes’ talk on more conventional topics, we took our

leave. Lady Muriel walked with us to the gate. “You have given me much

to think about,” she said earnestly, as she gave Arthur her hand.

“I’m so glad you came in!” And her words brought a real glow of pleasure

into that pale worn face of his.

On the Tuesday, as Arthur did not seem equal to more walking, I took a

long stroll by myself, having stipulated that he was not to give the

whole day to his books, but was to meet me at the Hall at about

tea-time. On my way back, I passed the Station just as the

afternoon-train came in sight, and sauntered down the stairs to see it

come in. But there was little to gratify my idle curiosity: and, when

the train was empty, and the platform clear, I found it was about time

to be moving on, if I meant to reach the Hall by five.

As I approached the end of the platform, from which a steep irregular

wooden staircase conducted to the upper world, I noticed two passengers,

who had evidently arrived by the train, but who, oddly enough, had

entirely escaped my notice, though the arrivals had been so few.

They were a young woman and a little girl: the former, so far as one

could judge by appearances, was a nursemaid, or possibly a

nursery-governess, in attendance on the child, whose refined face,

even more than her dress, distinguished her as of a higher class than

her companion.

The child’s face was refined, but it was also a worn and sad one, and

told a tale (or so I seemed to read it) of much illness and suffering,

sweetly and patiently borne. She had a little crutch to help herself

along with: and she was now standing, looking wistfully up the long

staircase, and apparently waiting till she could muster courage to

begin the toilsome ascent.

There are some things one says in life–as well as things one

does–which come automatically, by reflex action, as the physiologists

say (meaning, no doubt, action without reflection, just as lucus is

said to be derived ‘a non lucendo’). Closing one’s eyelids, when

something seems to be flying into the eye, is one of those actions,

and saying “May I carry the little girl up the stairs?” was another.

It wasn’t that any thought of offering help occurred to me, and that

then I spoke: the first intimation I had, of being likely to make that

offer, was the sound of my own voice, and the discovery that the offer

had been made. The servant paused, doubtfully glancing from her charge

to me, and then back again to the child. “Would you like it, dear?”

she asked her. But no such doubt appeared to cross the child’s mind:

she lifted her arms eagerly to be taken up. “Please!” was all she

said, while a faint smile flickered on the weary little face. I took

her up with scrupulous care, and her little arm was at once clasped

trustfully round my neck.

[Image…The lame child]

She was a very light weight–so light, in fact, that the ridiculous

idea crossed my mind that it was rather easier going up, with her in

my arms, than it would have been without her: and, when we reached the

road above, with its cart-ruts and loose stones–all formidable obstacles

for a lame child–I found that I had said “I’d better carry her over

this rough place,” before I had formed any mental connection between

its roughness and my gentle little burden. “Indeed it’s troubling you

too much, Sir!” the maid exclaimed. “She can walk very well on the flat.”

But the arm, that was twined about my neck, clung just an atom more

closely at the suggestion, and decided me to say “She’s no weight,

really. I’ll carry her a little further. I’m going your way.”

The nurse raised no further objection: and the next speaker was a

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Categories: Carroll, Lewis