Until his ninth year the boy about whom this story is written lived
in a house which looked upon the square of a county town. The house
had once formed part of a large religious building, and the boy's
bedroom had a high groined roof, and on the capstone an angel
carved, with outspread wings. Every night the boy wound up his
prayers with this verse which his grandmother had taught him:
"Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
Bless the bed that I lie on.
Four corners to my bed,
Four angels round my head;
One to watch, one to pray,
Two to bear my soul away."
Then he would look up to the angel and say: "Only Luke is with
me." His head was full of queer texts and beliefs. He supposed the
three other angels to be always waiting in the next room, ready to
bear away the soul of his grandmother (who was bed-ridden), and
that he had Luke for an angel because he was called Theophilus,
after the friend for whom St. Luke had written his Gospel and the
Acts of the Holy Apostles. His name in full was Theophilus John
Raymond, but people called him Taffy.
Of his parents' circumstances he knew very little, except that
they were poor, and that his father was a clergyman attached to the
parish church. As a matter of fact, the Reverend Samuel Raymond was
senior curate there, with a stipend of ninety-five pounds a year.
Born at Tewkesbury, the son of a miller, he had won his way to a
servitorship at Christ Church, Oxford; and somehow, in the course
of one Long Vacation, had found money for travelling expenses to
join a reading party under the Junior Censor. The party spent six
summer weeks at a farmhouse near Honiton, in Devon. The farm
belonged to an invalid widow namedVenning, who let it be managed by
her daughter Humility and two paid labourers, while she herself sat
by the window in her kitchen parlour, busied incessantly with
lace-work of that beautiful kind for which Honiton is famous. He
was an unassuming youth; and although in those days servitors were
no longer called upon to black the boots of richer undergraduates,
the widow and her daughter soon divined that he was lowlier than
the others, and his position an awkward one, and were kind to him
in small ways, and grew to like him. Next year, at their
invitation, he travelled down to Honiton alone, with a box of
books; and, at twenty-two, having taken his degree, he paid them a
third visit, and asked Humility to be his wife. At twenty-four,
soon after his admission to deacon's orders, they were married. The
widow sold the small farm, with its stock, and followed to live
with them in the friary gate-house; this having been part of
Humility's bargain with her lover, if the word can be used of a
pact between two hearts so fond.
About ten years had gone since these things happened, and their
child Taffy was now past his eighth birthday.
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