LITTLE DAVY’S NEW HAT (1815)
Bloomfield’s story for children looks at first like the cautionary tales of the new generation of children’s writers on which it is modelled. In the Preface to the second edition, he acknowledges Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Priscilla Wakefield, Maria Edgeworth and Sarah Trimmer, among others: these were the didactic, moralizing authors whose tales were disliked by Blake, Coleridge and other Romantic poets for equating goodness with prudential self-interest and imagination with improper license. While Coleridge pointedly preferred the old folk tale Jack the Giant Killer to this new, pious, conformist, middle-class and female literature, Bloomfield takes the opposite view. In the Preface he notes that his mother, the village schoolmistress, taught him ‘to prize “Goody Two Shoes” for its excellent hits at superstition; and to read the “History of Jack the Giant Killer” for the purpose of remarking its abominable absurdities’. He had, he declared ‘never found cause to alter this early opinion’, and he larded his story of a poor village boy given charity by the well-to-do daughter of a wealthy farmer with maxims designed to teach morality, or at least the kind of conduct that polite people regarded as a sign of respectability.
Despite its occasional primness, The History of Little Davy’s New Hat, does not, in the end, read like the tales of Trimmer and Barbauld, because Bloomfield is able, as they were not, to represent rural life from the point of view of the poor labourers. Instead of exhorting the poor to reform, or regarding them as victims to be pitied, Bloomfield displays an intimate knowledge of their culture—and in particular of the many expedients they use to sustain family life, and give a loving upbringing to their children, in face of want so extreme that the slightest accident—the loss of a hat, the breaking of a teapot—is a major problem. Their poverty is quietly shown to be a result neither of their fecklessness nor their laziness, but of economic changes that have driven small farmers out of business while benefitting wealthy landowners (the inflated price of corn during the wartime economy). A major theme is the effect of poverty on dress, and of this on family self-esteem: little Davy is painfully aware that, because his parents cannot afford a hat, he does not look respectable; his father will not go to church because he knows his ragged dress will be mocked by the better-off gamekeeper who is clothed by the squire who employs him. Independence and self-belief is shown to be increasingly precarious: the servants of the wealthy are the only villagers who flourish. Food is another theme: Bloomfield gives us a close-up view of shortage when Davy’s family cannot accept the gift of a puppy because unable to feed it and when Davy, visiting the wealthy farm, thinks the bone thrown to a dog by a kitchen maid would have served for a joint for his whole family. In face of this want, Davy’s elder brother has enlisted in a regiment going to the highly dangerous West Indies: villagers are fodder for cannon or tropical disease; his mother is worn down by the worry that she will never see him again.
The tale is not, in the end, a tragedy, or a work of social realism like Wordsworth’s ‘Last of the Flock’. It records poverty from the inside but it also indulges a wish-fulfilment fantasy. Because little Davy is charming and naïve he is taken up by the kindly Miss Wideland who relieves the worst of the family’s poverty. Class difference and economic self-interest is overcome by feminine and maternal tenderness for the innocent child, who is to her as the puppy is to him, a winning example of youthful life that deserves care. The puppy is named Pity, and the name is significant: Bloomfield displaces onto the animal the emotional dynamic on which his rosy vision of rural harmony in the human village relies. By doing so, he avoids the appearance of condescension and the recognition of improbability. Wealthy farmers’ daughters’ acts of charity did not, as he knew from experience by 1815, successfully assuage poverty or restore harmony. Charitable donations involved demands for servile obedience to the ideology of the giver, as Bloomfield discovered in 1821 when the squire Thomas Lloyd Baker made a gift dependent upon Bloomfield’s going regularly to church and publicly disavowing radical politics (although he had never, in fact, avowed them). Parish relief, which Davy’s family also receives, in practice brought the likelihood of the workhouse.
Bloomfield wrote the tale in 1801 in London when the success of The Farmer’s Boy had lifted him and his extended family out of poverty and sweated labour; he published it in 1815, when living poverty-stricken in a Bedfordshire village to which he had retreated to reduce his expenses, his royalties having failed to provide for his own and his brothers’ families needs. Little Davy, that is, spoke of and was written from rural poverty: publication was an effort to stave off debts, just as, in the story, Mr Woodly goes to market to sell the brooms he has made, knowing his profits will be consumed by what he already owes. And if the story reflected Bloomfield’s own circumstances, it includes a Bloomfield figure: Grandfather Woodly is in poor health, as the author often was, and is a poet. He shows little Davy a ballad he has written (a ballad that Bloomfield had published in 1807: ‘The Butcher’s Horse and the Bees’). The story also includes another ballad, given by the kitchen maid to Davy’s mother as a broadside and sung at home. In this way it gives a rare glimpse as to how ballads and songs commonly circulated, in print and performance, among the rural population. Bloomfield’s ‘The Fakenham Ghost’ had itself been printed as a broadside and circulated in this manner.
The history of composition and publication is traceable in Bloomfield’s letters. On 30 November 1801 he told his brother George that ‘My present amusement is writing a Child’s Book “the History of Little Davy’s new hat,” dedicated to my Mother’ (Letter 70). On 31 January 1802 he sent the manuscript to George, for him to show to Capel Lofft (Letter 77) and then wrote to his sister asking for ‘your opinion upon it, as to its language and construction, is it too silly, or only simple enough for a young reader?’ (Letter 78; 31 January 1802). By 30 May 1802 he was happy enough with it to leave the manuscript at Devonshire House in Piccadilly, town house of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and social centre of the Whig party, including Charles James Fox who had admired The Farmer’s Boy (Letter 88).
For reasons we do not know, Bloomfield then left the tale unpublished for thirteen years. Perhaps his dispute with Lofft over patronly interference in his works made him reluctant to go to press (although he published several collections of poems in this interval). In 1810 his interest in the story revived as he basked in the attention of the sisters of Granville Sharp, Catharine Sharp and Mary Lloyd Baker. These friendly gentlewomen had invited him to accompany them on a tour of the river Wye in 1807; they acted as muses, fostering his verse by their friendly concern. A letter of 9–12 January 1810 (Letter 247) reveals that he had sent the manuscript to both sisters, and received comments from them. Responding to these comments, Bloomfield clarifies his own view of the tale:
By way of amusement I remark thus some of your judicious observations, the rest are replied to in the paper to Catharine
1. — Certainly never saw them or heard of them, let this teach you candour, and forgiveness, two things which some Criticks know very little about when they talk of immitations. 2. — This is very good—but as the tale is nearly all personified by Characters Catharine has only her share. 3. — See No. 5 in Catharine’s 7. — Mrs Woodly is, in many features, my Mother, and her Husband my Brother Isaac. 8. — I understand a fine Horse to mean in a degree a Spirited Horse. Ask Mr Baker. 9. — You have a better heart than belly, but how would a servant be justified in giving without orders Ask your sister Critick. 10. — Here I am beaten down flat, and by a Lady too! it is unanswerable. 11. — Gone to lock the Cupboard from whence she took Davy’s Cheese Cake, = N.B. Not a word about this adventure in Sister Critick!!!!! 13. — Very true—but the man here is in character, the woman not so much. See back to No. 7. 15. — Here you misunderstand me, by strange I did not mean that it was reprehensible or unnatural but the direct contrary, and only strange because it was unusual. 17. — Aye but mine was written years ago and what you allude to the other day—now if you were a true Critick i.e. troubled with a disorder calld the snarles, you would, (had Davy been publishd) have asserted that Robin thieved from David. 18. — This is true criticism because, because, of what? why because it is true. 19. — I must have pride here for the Father, but to the Boy it does not apply so as to signify what I mean. 20. — See here now! ‘two of a Trade &c.’ Miss S. kicks him out, and you keep in in! poor fellow!—I have no particular veneration for him and therefore hoping that you may make somthing of him, I leave him between you.—
Lacking the sisters’ letters and the manuscript, we do not know whether Bloomfield revised the text at this point.
It was in 1812 that Bloomfield first made efforts to bring the story to press, motivated by the collapse of Vernor and Hood and the resultant sale at discount, within the publishing trade, of volumes from which he might have received royalties. On 24 October he told his daughter he had tried to sell the copyright of the tale to Crosby (purchaser of part of the rights to his publications), without success (Letter 279). Only in late 1815 did the story finally appear in print, published in a 2 shilling octavo by Darton, Harvey and Darton, who specialized in stories and instructional books for children and who also published Priscilla Wakefield. They were also the printers. Bloomfield was not named as author, but the initials R.B. were placed at the end of the Preface. He recorded receiving copies in a letter of 15–17 December (Letter 299). Reviews were sparse but the Eclectic Review was complimentary, and wrote that ‘there are touches of nature in this rural tale, an artlessness of expression, and an air of intimacy with “the short and simple annals of the poor,” which sufficiently designate the author, whose initials, R. B. are affixed to the Preface: but the reader, to be pleased with it, must descend in feeling to the level of childhood and poverty, and fancy he is listening to the tones which had power in infancy to fix his attention to the most humble incidents of real life’ (NS 5 (1816), 76–77).
A second edition, which acknowledged Bloomfield’s authorship and was accompanied by a new preface, appeared in 1817, and a third in 1824.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
Trifling as the subject may appear to the young and the thoughtless, when a new book for children is introduced into a family it becomes the indispensable duty of parents, or their superintendents of the nursery, to know its contents. If it inculcates false principles, the pride of wealth, or, more particularly, superstition, let them, for mercy’s sake, use it for lighting the fire. This notion I imbibed forty years ago from my mother, a village school-mistress, and I have never found cause to alter this early opinion. It was then I was taught to prize ‘Goody Two Shoes’ for its excellent hits at superstition; and to read the ‘History of Jack the Giant Killer’ for the purpose of remarking its abominable absurdities.
In the year 1801 I wrote the following little story, for the purpose of trying its effects on the minds of my own children. I sunk the language to the level of their understandings, and succeeded beyond my expectation. After lying idle on my shelf for fourteen years, ‘Davy’ makes his appearance, to take his chance of pleasing more extensively. Perhaps the characters are too good—too perfect—for what we unfortunately see in real life; but that their poverty is not beyond truth, I am certain. The story is best adapted for village children; and will be most approved by those who promote good nature and charity.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION (1817)
The following little story has already been circulated very considerably, and I have to assure the reader that when it was first published, I had not the least idea of its being noticed by the regular reviewers; for I live in a sequestered corner, not very accessible to literary intelligence. I find, however, that they have condescended to notice it, and the only fault which I have seen pointed out by them, I have endeavoured to correct in this second edition, and feel a pleasure in doing it.
In the first instance, I felt a reluctance to subscribing my name as its author; but have since discovered that such reluctance arose from a feeling of vanity, or some other feeling quite as unjustifiable. I really believe that reviewers are as well employed in overlooking and censuring these minor efforts of literature, intended for a rising generation, as in some of their more abstruse and metaphysical disquisitions, which the readers of this story, for instance, will not be able to understand for these thirty years to come.
The longer I live, the more I am convinced of the importance of children’s books. The feeling seems to be universal; and I never talk with a man or woman of fifty years of age, without hearing that what they read in their infancy was very inferior to the juvenile publications of later days. Reader, ask yourself if this is not the case, and remember the exalted names of my betters, who have helped to turn, or perhaps have entirely turned, the scale in favour of your children and mine; and then, when you recollect the names of Dr. Watts, Mrs. Barbauld, Mrs. Trimmer, Mrs. Wakefield, Miss Edgeworth,  and many others, allow me, without any fear of shame, to sign myself,
February 27, 1817.
It was very dark—not a star to be seen; the wind blew cold, and large drops were falling from the trees, when Miss Wideland, returning home in her chaise through a dark lane, met a little boy alone. The young lady was alarmed, and cried: ‘Who are you? What are you?’ A voice answered: ‘It is Davy, ma’am.’ ‘Why, you quite frightened me, Davy. What can you be doing here at this time of night?’ ‘I am but just come out,’ said Davy, ‘to meet my mother, who is coming home from the shop.’ At that moment, looking closely at the boy, the lady, with much concern, said: ‘Why, bless the child, you have no hat on!’ ‘No, ma’am,’ answered he; ‘but my father says he will buy me a hat soon.’ ‘Poor boy!’ said she very tenderly, and stooping down gave him sixpence, though she could hardly see his little white face in the dark. Then bidding him stand out of the way of the wheels, she drove home slowly, thinking about Davy all the way.
Now, though the boy did not ride home, he went as speedily and as lightly as if he had, and opening the door in great haste, did not stop to shut it (a fault which little boys are often guilty of), but ran to his father, who was sitting by the fire, and holding out his hand said, very loud, and with his eyes wide open with joy. ‘Father, I have got sixpence!’ This stopped his father from scolding him, as he deserved, for leaving the door open on a cold night. At that moment his mother returning, said: ‘What! in the name of patience, are you so hot as to sit with the door open? This is your doings, Davy.’ But here again he succeeded in stopping any further remarks on that subject, by saying: ‘Mother, Miss Wideland has given me sixpence!’ ‘Has she, indeed?’ said the good woman; ‘she was always a kind girl. She has given your poor brother Will many a sixpence, before he went for a soldier. She will never be the poorer for it, I know.’ ‘I don’t know about that,’ said Davy; ‘but I know that I have got it.’ And here he was just unbuttoning his pocket, when his father put some further questions to him, saying: ‘How came the young lady to see you, Davy? And what did she say to you?’ ‘Why,’ said he, ‘I was in the lane, and I believe she gave it to me because I had no hat, for she said “Poor boy!”‘ ‘Ay, poor boy indeed,’ said his father and mother, both at the same time; ‘but we will buy you one soon, Davy.’ ‘I told her so, father,’ said Davy; ‘and this sixpence, you know, will help to buy it.’
Davy’s father and mother were very poor; and so was old Master Woodly, his grandfather, who lived with them, and whose hair was as white as snow. They got their living by making birchbrooms; but his grandfather was very feeble, and his father seldom well long together, so that they could hardly get bread, with all they could do. His mother wore a petticoat that was mended with pieces which did not exactly match; but she did not mind that so long as it was whole. One end of the house they lived in had fallen down, for want of timely repairs; but they had plenty of room for their family. The ground rose so high behind the house that the upper end of the garden was nearly as high as the chimney, and the grandfather, who was a sensible old man, and remembered a great deal, was fond of sitting there in an old wicker chair which he had made in his youth. The sun would shine pleasantly here, even on a winter’s day, and the hill kept the cold off behind. Here Davy would set off his hoop, and it would run, of itself, down to the back-door, and sometimes through the house into the road.
Miss Wideland’s father was a farmer, and kept a great many horses and cows, and two flocks of sheep; and all the stock of hay and corn, the produce of five hundred acres of land, was his own. Both Mr. and Mrs. Wideland were esteemed good-natured and condescending to every one, but all the poor neighbours said that Miss Wideland was the best in the family; for she would often beg of her mother for the skimmed milk for them, when the dairy-maid dare not part with it, because it was wanted for the hogs. Whether it is quite right to give milk to pigs, while poor children go without, I will not say; but it happened one morning that Davy got up earlier than usual, and being very hungry, he longed for a dish of milk for breakfast, for he was very fond of it. His mother told him that she had been herself, the evening before, to Mr. Wideland’s, but could get none, the dairy-maid saying she must not sell it. ‘I wanted a little milk as well as you, Davy, to make a pudding, for I am not very well; but I must make shift without it.’ ‘Shall I go and try?’ said Davy. ‘You go, child! What good can you do by going?’ ‘Why,’ said Davy, ‘I think if I can see Miss Wideland, mother, I can get some milk.’ He set off directly, with a pitcher that would hold about three pints, and began to whistle as soon as he got out at the door.
The pasture-ground he had to cross was covered with shining dew-drops, and he found that his feet, brushing in the grass, left a mark or track behind him; he accordingly tried to walk exactly straight to a tree at the bottom of the field, and thereby make a kind of furrow, as he had seen the men do at plough. He had pleased himself with walking very straight a long way when a large turkey-cock, with his red head and a loud gobbling noise, attacked him and drove him out of his path. Davy had nothing to defend himself with but his pitcher. He was half angry and half frightened, and would certainly have thrown his hat at him if he had had one; but he was forced to run away as fast as he could. As he crossed the farm-yard to the dairy, he had to go just by the parlour window, where Miss Wideland used to sit, and she happened to be there that morning. When Davy saw that she looked at him, he made a handsome bow—one of his best. His face had been washed, and his flaxen hair combed, before he set out. He was a very pretty boy, and, what is much better, he was, upon the whole, a very good boy. ‘Well, Davy, what do you want?’ said she, though she could pretty well guess his errand by his pitcher. Davy only held up his pitcher, and answered, ‘Ma’am, I have had no breakfast.’ He was ordered into the dairy, where he not only had his pitcher filled, but the maid gave him a handful of cheese-curd to eat as he went home.
The magpie which was kept at Mr. Wideland’s could talk almost anything, and would hop after strangers, and sometimes peck their heels, especially those of girls who had holes in their stockings. Davy was delighted to hear the bird ask him, ‘What’s o’clock?’ and then say, ‘Quick, quick, Jack.’ To enjoy this prating bird’s company the better, Davy walked backwards down the yard, and by so doing struck his pitcher against a post. A blow a little harder would have broken it; but idle talk, like that of the magpie, will sometimes put wise people off their guard. However, when he had got into the field again he thought himself safe, for the turkey-cock was gone. But here, as he strolled along under the hedge, he saw a long straight bough of elder, which would make very excellent whistles. Though he wanted his breakfast, he could not help stopping to cut this tempting bough, which he could as well have obtained at any other time. Most little country boys carry a knife in their pockets, though they are seldom very sharp. He set down his pitcher in the grass, and had but just cut the bough down when he saw Mr. Wideland’s sow and pigs come trotting down towards him. They soon surrounded his pitcher, and he thought it was all over with his breakfast. He halloed to them, and made great haste to get down; but in his haste let go his hold, and fell headlong into the ditch. The rustling he made in his fall frightened the pigs, and saved his milk. He went home, thinking about these misfortunes, for boys and girls, as well as men and women, know when they have done wrong. It was wrong to loiter and make whistles when he should have carried his milk home; and Davy’s heart told him that it would have served him right to have lost his breakfast. However, he carried home his milk and his elder too. His mother was highly pleased to see the pitcher full; but Davy was ashamed to relate all that had happened, and therefore only mentioned the turkey-cock and the cheese-curd.
After breakfast, Davy reminded his mother that now he had put the sixpence Miss Wideland had given him into his box on the top of the cupboard, it made just seventeen-pence halfpenny; for he had been saving his money a long time to buy a hat. His mother heard him with a mixture of pleasure and pain; for she knew, though Davy did not, that his box was empty. She had been forced to borrow Davy’s money to make up enough to buy a loaf, for Mr. Snapgroat at the shop had trusted her a few shillings during the winter, and would not trust any more. But it being now the middle of March, she had strong hopes of paying him, and of doing better, when the weather grew fine. She did not much like the baker’s bread from the shop, but though she had an oven in her own house it was not always that she could get flour; and it was because all their money went for bread and flour that the boy went bareheaded.
Old Master Woodly had been round the home-close for a walk, and had brought home a whole handful of primroses. The sight of these flowers always gives poor people a hint that winter is going, and that the hardships they endure will be less and less every day; and so it proved with this family. Davy had been to school but little, but his grandfather used to teach him to read and spell. They were sitting together on the bench at the door, and Davy was trying to spell three syllables when they heard the gate open at the top of the hill, and saw Miss Wideland gently walking down to the door. As she approached the grandfather bowed, rising from his seat; but Davy bowed as soon as he saw her, and two or three times afterwards. Just as Miss Wideland came to the door, Davy’s sister Jane, about three years old, fell over the threshold, and her mother, in trying to save her, let fall a favourite tea-pot, which she had used many years. This was a bad misfortune on that account, but Mrs. Woodly was not one of those who are in the habit of making troubles out of trifles.
The child’s forehead was bruised, but her brother, who loved her dearly, had been used to nursing her, and could always quiet her sooner than her mother. When all was hushed again, Miss Wideland came in and sat down; and old Master Woodly, following her, also sat down in his elbow-chair, and was so pleased to see the good young lady call upon them that he almost forgot the rheumatism in his shoulder, which had troubled him all the morning. They thanked her over and over again for the kindness she had shown to them and others in the parish; but she turned the discourse, and now cast a look of pity on poor Mrs. Woodly, who was turning and matching the fragments of her broken tea-pot. ‘Mrs. Woodly,’ said she, smiling, ‘let Davy go to the shop and choose another, and say that I will pay for it.’ He went instantly, and said he would bring a blue one. When the boy was gone, they all began to talk very freely, and Miss Wideland inquired of Mrs. Woodly when she heard from her son Will. This question made the poor woman low-spirited, for she had not heard of him for a whole twelvemonth.’But,’ said she, ‘I live in hopes that I shall see him again; only my husband says that Jamaica is a sad, unhealthy place.’ Here old Master Woodly said that he ‘had a brother once, a fine young man, who died there; but a great many came home, and why may not my grandson? If we could but have a peace, I should reckon upon seeing him again, old as I am.’ ‘Ay,’ said Mrs. Woodly, as she took a pinch of snuff, ‘but Heaven only knows when we shall have that blessing. I am sure the flour has been so dear, and they say it is because of the war, that I don’t know how we can live another half year as we have done this. I do so long for a bit of meat, when the butcher rides by with his basket! To be sure, my husband may be better now, as the spring comes on; and I always find a comfort in hoping, though my hopes are often disappointed.’ ‘And are you not able to buy meat?’ said Miss Wideland. ‘I hope you have had some allowance these hard times.’ ‘Why, I will tell you how it is, young lady,’ said the old man (for Mrs. Woodly was obliged to go after Jane); ‘the rich part of our parish call our broom-making a trade, and I believe we have had less help on that account. We tried to persuade our son to go and plead our cause to the farmers, but I verily believe he would starve first, though he never was much richer than he is now, which is not exactly the case with me. I once held a farm—’ While the old man was thus speaking, in came Davy with the tea-pot. ‘Here’s a nice blue one, mother! Mr. Snapgroat asked me if I broke the old one; but I told him you broke it yourself.’ They now made Davy be silent, and the old man went on with his story thus: ‘I was saying, miss, that I once held a farm; I did not live in this house, it is true; but the old man is now living in a workhouse, about ten miles off, who lived as a farmer in this very house. You see, miss, that it has been much larger than it is now.’ ‘Ay,’ said Davy, ‘and my mother says that the room where I sleep was the cheese-chamber.’ ‘Hold your tongue, boy,’ said his mother and grandfather; ‘it is very rude to talk while other people are speaking.’ Miss Wideland was much affected at what she heard, and, indeed, did not like to hear of troubles which she could not prevent; but promised that if they still found themselves distressed, and would tell her so, she would state their case to her father and the other farmers, and do all she could to help them. Mrs. Woodly wiped her eyes, and Davy looked as if he was going to make some remark about it; but at that moment he saw something stir in a bundle which the young lady held on her lap, and, without taking his eyes off, went close to see what it was.
‘What can it be alive in this handkerchief?’ thought Davy; ‘I should like to know.’
Miss Wideland saw that he had discovered something living, and could not help smiling to see him peeping round her bundle so closely. She told him to have patience, and she would show him what it was. ‘But,’ said she, ‘if your mother is so poor that she cannot afford to buy meat for her self, I doubt she can never afford to keep this poor little animal, which was just going to be drowned. I could not bear to see it go to the pond, so I brought it to your mother, to see if you could keep it amongst you. It is but a little creature; it will not eat much.’ She then untied the bundle, and set down a very handsome little puppy, and then they all looked at it with pity. And when it ran round the cat and barked, Davy was even more delighted than he had been with the sixpence. ‘O mother, we will keep it. I know my father will like it; I will go and fetch him.’ Away he ran to the shed, where his father was making brooms, and persuaded him to come in and see the puppy. His father, finding that Miss Wideland was there, came with him; but more to see the young lady who had been Davy’s friend, than to see the little dog. They all thus met together, and Mrs. Woodly and her husband both thought what pleasure they should have found in bringing out a mug of their own ale; but malt had been too dear for that for many months past, so they said nothing about it, but agreed with Davy that it was a very pretty dog. But when he talked of keeping it, his mother whispered to him that they had nothing to feed it with, and could not think of starving it, for that would be worse than drowning. Davy rubbed his head, and his eyes shone as he turned them from his mother, and without speaking another word, he went to Miss Wideland’s knee, and looking up, said, ‘Ma’am, will not you let me have some milk for the puppy every morning, if I come for it?’ ‘Yes, Davy,’ said she, ‘that I will; and some for your mother too, if she will keep the dog.’ ‘I will come, then,’ said he briskly: ‘I wonder if it will grow big enough to draw my turnip-cart, as Jack Greenway’s dog does. And oh, mother, what shall its name be?’ ‘Why,’ said she, ‘I think it ought to be Pity, for pity saved his life.’ So they all agreed to call him so, and to keep him for pity’s sake.
All this time they minded nothing but the boy and the puppy; but it was now time for Miss Wideland to tell what she called for, besides bringing the dog. She was going to a village about seven miles off, to visit her aunt; and she meant to go in her little chaise, and there being many gates to open, she wanted Davy to go with her, which would be a charming ride, she promising to take care of him, if his parents would let him go. They all said that he would be a very little footman; but they could not refuse her, for she had been very good to them. She was to go the next morning, and when she left them they promised that the boy should be ready. This was a longer journey than he had ever taken, and he kept thinking to himself what he should see—what shapes the trees, the fields, and bridges would be, which they might have to pass. In short, he dreamed all night of riding.
When the morning came he made himself as smart as he could, and was setting off, when he put his hand to his head! It was very odd that when it was agreed that he should go, neither Davy, nor his father nor mother, had thought of one thing, which was, that he had no hat to go in! They were all vexed, and could hardly help laughing at their own folly and forgetfulness. But Davy was not in a laughing mood, when his father declared that he could not go, and said at the same time: ‘You know, my boy, that I wish you had a hat; but wishing will not buy one, and I am sure I have no money.’ Davy cried heartily. Perhaps there is not a little boy in England who would not have cried, had he been in his place. But in the midst of his tears, he begged that they would let him go to Miss Wideland: ‘Perhaps,’ said he, ‘she will take me without a hat.’ His father said that, at any rate, he must go to Mr. Wideland’s, if it was only to say that he could not go the journey. ‘So I will then,’ answered Davy, and ran out of the house, wiping his eyes with the skirt of his coat. He went down the pasture-ground as quick as he had ever done in his life, and found the chaise at the door. The young lady was just going to step up, with the reins in her hand, saying, ‘Come, Davy, get up.’ But at that moment, she too bethought herself that the boy could not go seven miles from home bareheaded. What was to be done? All the old hats in the house were a great deal too big for him; even Abel Cloutham, the farmer’s boy, had a head as big again as Davy’s. But Abel’s head had grown a great deal, and he had upstairs an old cap, which he had made long ago out of a cat’s skin, with the hair on. He was ordered to bring it down; and when they had dusted it and knocked out the ear wigs, it was found to be just the size, and would make a very good shift. So up he got, and sat close by Miss Wideland, and the horse being very willing to go, they set off in good spirits. And well they might, for the trees began to show their new leaves, the air was mild, the sun shone delightfully, and in half an hour Davy found himself on strange ground, and began to ask a great many questions.
As Davy was not at all afraid to speak what he thought to his friend Miss Wideland, he made many remarks on what he passed by, and what he saw at a distance. They had to ride over a hill where they could see a long way round, and where Davy found that the world was much larger than he had thought it was. Amongst other things, they talked on the subject of hats; and Miss Wideland asked him how long he had been without one, and how it happened? ‘Why,’ said he, ‘I had a hat last summer. It was a pretty good one: it had but one hole in it, and I could have mended that. But Jack Greenway and I went to gather nuts, a long while ago, before the snow came, you know. We were got into the middle of the wood, and found a great many. We soon gathered our hats full, and we wanted to fill our pockets besides. So we set down our hats under a tree, and went from them to gather more, until I said it was time to go home; but Jack would not go. We stayed a little longer, and then it was almost night; and we went to look for our hats, but could not find the tree where we had left them. We both cried a little, because it grew darker, but were forced to make haste home without them. But we talked a great deal about it as we went along, and I believe Jack’s father beat him for it; but he soon got another hat, for his father keeps the Dragon, and gets more money than mine.’ ‘So you lost your nuts as well as your hat, Davy,’ said Miss Wideland. ‘Yes, ma’am,’ said he; ‘and I should not have had any supper, I believe, if my grandfather had not taken my part. My father said it was a sad affair, and that if I could not find it the next day I must go without a hat, and so I have ever since; for Jack and I went in the morning and searched about the wood, but could not find the tree where we had left them. Perhaps some other boys had found them, and some of them might want a hat as much as I have done since: and so my grandfather says.’ ‘And don’t your father sometimes take a stick to your back, Davy?’ ‘No, ma’am, only when he is very angry he talks to me, and tells me that I don’t love him, and will not hear me when I tell him that I do; and I am sure I do, for all that.’
While he was thus telling his story, they rode over a fine bridge, with a broad clear water beneath it, before a gentleman’s house. There happened to be a pleasure-boat with a sail spread, carrying a party of ladies, and a gentleman playing a clarionet. This was all new to Davy. He had never thought of such a thing as that the wind would blow people along upon the water. Miss Wideland told him that a ship on the great sea was moved in the same manner, and that some of them would carry a hundred great guns, and a thousand men. ‘And shall we see any such as we go along?’ said Davy. It was a simple question; but the first notion we get of things is very often simple enough. The chaise now rattled along a turnpike-road, and they met a fine regiment of horse soldiers. This was a noble sight, and Davy asked if his brother Will wore a coat like theirs. ‘No,’ said Miss Wideland, ‘your brother is a foot soldier, and is gone abroad in such a ship as we were talking about.’ Davy now looked across the country till his eyes ached; but Miss Wideland looked at nothing but a horseman coming down the hill before them; and though her footman pointed here and there at flocks, trees, and churches within sight, she took no notice of him or of what he said.
The gentleman soon met them. He was mounted on a beautiful bay horse, and no sooner came to the side of the chaise than he turned about and rode back with them; but hinted that perhaps Davy could ride his horse, and himself ride with the lady. But Miss Wideland would by no means trust Davy on so spirited an animal, for she had promised his parents to take care of him.
This gentleman’s name was Stanmore. He often leaned over the side of the chaise, and said he was very glad to meet her. He was a young man, and seemed as full of spirits as his horse. They rode very gently along for the last mile, and at length came to Mrs. Meadowly’s, which was the end of their journey, for this good lady was aunt to Miss Wideland. Mr. Stanmore was off his horse, and had lifted the young lady from the chaise, before any servant could come to wait on them. At last came Mrs. Meadowly’s man, old John Harrows, who took charge of the horses and carriage; and Mr. Stanmore led the young lady into the parlour, while Davy was sent into the kitchen to have some cake and warm ale.
The maid’s name was Betty. She was a kind-hearted, good servant, but liked to know as much as she could about every body. She was quite pleased with Davy’s little fair face, and gave him a stool by the fire, and then asked him a great many questions; as, how many brothers and sisters he had? how old he was? and then asked all she could about who that gentleman was who came riding with them? Davy said that they met that gentleman on the road. ‘And did you hear his name?’ said Betty. ‘Yes,’ answered Davy; ‘Miss Wideland called him Mr. Stanmore.’ ‘I thought so,’ said she; ‘I have heard something of him: I shall see him when I carry the dinner in. And did the lady speak kindly to him? What did she say?’ ‘I did not hear all that she said,’ answered Davy, ‘but she looked pleased.’
They were talking thus, when in came a dog of a monstrous size, and walked towards Davy, who got up from his seat; for, as he sat, the dog’s head was as high as his own, and he was sadly afraid of him. But Betty halloed: ‘Get out, you great beast, and take that with you!’ throwing down a large bone which had not been picked very clean. It was so large that Davy at first verily believed it to be a joint of meat; and when the dog was gone, said that his mother would have been glad of it. He told her that he had a dog at home, but it was not so big as that, and he hoped it never would be; but if he could get a bit of meat off that great dog’s dinner, he would carry it home for Pity. Betty gave him a bit directly, which he carefully put in his pocket.
There was time enough before dinner for Davy to take a walk, and Betty called the servant-boy to go with him, and show him about; but he no sooner came in than he stared like a fool. This Jack Bramble was an ill-mannerly and an ill-natured boy, and was laughing at Davy’s cap. He did not much mind Betty, or any one else, but called Davy Cat’s Head, and some other names, for which Betty threw the rolling-pin after him with all her might, which rattled on his head and shoulders as he shut the door, saying, ‘that it was a shame for a great boy like him to insult a little one, and a stranger too.’ Betty was very right, for of all ill-manners insulting a stranger is the worst. Davy, therefore, took a walk by himself, but was careful not to go out of sight of the house. When he returned he said he had been talking with two boys, who were keeping sheep upon the hill, and they had been disputing about the sheep, for they were not like Mr. Wideland’s sheep: these had white faces and no horns. The two boys would have it that their sheep were the best in England; but he did not believe they were better than Mr. Wideland’s. It was now dinner-time, and Betty could not stop to hear all he had to say.
When dinner was done in the parlour, Davy had his in the kitchen with Betty, and John Harrows, and Jack Bramble. The latter again began to laugh at Davy’s cap, which lay on the dresser; but he remembered the rolling-pin, and was soon quiet.
After they had dined, Betty, as she did her work, amused herself by singing a song which Davy had never heard before. It was quite new, she said, for she bought the ballad at the last fair; and when she learned from Davy that his brother Will was a soldier, and that his mother sung sometimes when his father was well, she gave him the ballad, and charged him to give it to his mother. Betty still kept singing and working, when in came Miss Wideland and took Davy by the hand and led him into the parlour to her aunt and Mr. Stanmore.’This is my footman,’ said she, ‘and I assure you he has more sense than many a clumsy boy of twice his size.’
Davy had to answer many questions, and after drinking half a glass of wine, had to give an account of what he had seen by the way, which he did, to the great amusement of the party. But he was not so happy as he would have been at home, and was glad to hear Miss Wideland say it was time to get the chaise ready, as she wished to be home by daylight. Mr. Stanmore gave him sixpence as he came out of the parlour, and Mrs. Meadowly gave him another, and a cheesecake to carry home for Jane; and when he went into the kitchen for his cap, Betty filled his coat-pockets with apples, and again charged him to give the ballad to his mother. With a heart as light as a feather, he took his seat in the chaise; and when Miss Wideland could get away from Mr. Stanmore, they drove off towards home.
The young lady returned by a different road to that by which they came; for they now passed through a large park, over the smooth grass for three miles together, where was many a beautiful clump of fir-trees, and many a herd of deer. As the chaise approached the deer, they ran into a cluster with such fantastic skips, that Davy observed they looked as if they were jumping for a wager. And now, indeed, the boy talked more and faster than he had done during his morning’s ride; and having learned part of the tune of Betty’s song, he was occasionally singing half the way home. Miss Wideland asked him if Betty had given him anything to drink in the kitchen.’Yes,’ said he, very innocently, ‘I had some small beer twice.’ ‘Then you are not tipsy?’ said she. ‘No, ma’am; only I am so very glad, that I can hardly help crying.’ They arrived at Mr. Wideland’s about sunset, and Davy went merrily up the pasture ground to tell his good fortune and his adventures to his parents.
‘Here I am, mother,’ said Davy, giving Jane her present, and placing his apples on the table; ‘and I have got something besides!’ Here he pulled out his money, when they all said, ‘We see you are here, but what have you got upon your head? You have not been in that cap, have you?’ ‘Yes, I have; and it is my own, too.’ They were highly delighted with the account he gave of his journey, and his mother made him tell all about Mr. Stanmore, for she knew nothing of him; but she found from Davy that Miss Wideland talked more to him than she did to her aunt; and asking him further, as to whether he had ever seen this Mr. Stanmore at Mr. Wideland’s, Davy said ‘No,’ but he thought Miss Wideland must have seen him before, because, as he turned back into the parlour to make a bow, he saw their two faces close together and Mr. Stanmore said ‘Get along, you rogue.’ Mrs. Woodly could not help smiling, but Davy went on saying: ‘I wonder if my grandfather was ever further from home than I have been to-day?’ In this manner did the poor boy express his pleasure, and it did their hearts good to find that he loved those who were kind to them as well as to himself. In the midst of his joy, the dog crept from under the stool in the corner, and put his feet upon his knee; when he directly bethought himself of the meat which Betty had given him, and Pity had a good supper. Old Master Woodly made the smoke fly faster than usual from his pipe, and said: ‘That’s a good boy; your father was just such another, only he was so stubborn with it.’ They now handled and looked at the cap, and all agreed that it would do well for a time, and that he must take care of it. Davy answered, ‘I like it well enough; but you know, father, it is not a new hat.’
This was very true, and his father assured him that he should have a hat at Brookside fair, where he should go with a load of brooms, in the month of May. This was a long time to look for; and besides, his mother said, with a deep sigh, she was afraid that Mr. Snapgroat would have most of that money for the bread they had been eating during the winter. However, she was not willing to vex Davy, and so said no more about it, but thought much of this young Mr. Stanmore, whom the boy had been speaking of; for she saw plainly of what amazing consequence it is to the poor to have their rich neighbours kind and tender-hearted.
Davy now sat considering to himself, as if he had not done all that he was bidden to do; then, fumbling in all his pockets, he pulled out the ballad, and said: ‘O mother, I have got something for you. Betty gave me this ballad, it is about a soldier; and she can sing a great deal louder than you. I wish you could hear her.’ His mother took the ballad, and began to read it aloud, but stopped in the middle, because it was about Soldier Will, and throwing it on the floor went hastily into the other room. The old man took up the ballad, and looked with utmost tenderness and concern on Mrs. Woodly. But Davy could not tell what to make of all this. He had often seen his mother cry, as he called it, when she was very much pleased; but he could not see anything in the song that could please her, unless it was about his brother Will.
The old man then read the ballad to them all, as follows; for Mrs. Woodly soon returned, and Davy was very quiet.
A little boy seldom cuts a more ridiculous figure than when he is tired and sleepy, and still objects to going to bed. Davy was not one of this sort. He was almost asleep before he could say his prayers, and his father being unwell, went to bed at the same time; but Mrs. Woodly had all her irons at the fire, (for this was Saturday night), and the old man sat up with her, and read several chapters of the book of Job, until both of them felt their minds quite easy and composed, and at a late hour retired to rest, offering up as pure and earnest a prayer as ever flowed from the patient or the good.
Sunday, a day of rest. A country village is still and quiet at all times; but on a Sunday morning it is still more peaceable. You do not hear the miller’s cart go by, nor the ploughman’s horses with their clinking chains, going to the field. Even the cowboys, though they drive the cows to and from the meadows, know better than to sing and halloo as they go. All the people, though they do not dress fine and gay, make themselves as clean as they can. Soon after breakfast the clerk of the parish goes by, with the great church key in his hand, and you soon hear the bells begin to chime. This is not heard as we hear it in great cities and towns, along with many other bells and other noises; but, as it comes only once a week, the sound is always pleasing, always new, and everybody knows what it means.
The Woodlys’ family lived at some distance from the church; but they heard the bells, and Davy and his grandfather set off together, as they always did. Mrs. Woodly was getting ready, and, as she put on her cap, and shook her clean apron, Mr. Woodly, who was reading the Bible, said, in a low voice, ‘Good Heaven deliver me from trouble.’ He had staid away from church several Sundays before, and did not mean to go now; but when his wife asked him to go with her, he said: ‘I can’t find the pleasure I used to do in going to church. I am sunk in poverty: I have no decent clothes. These times have ruined me, and I cannot be what I was; and though in my heart I despise the sneer of a fool, yet I know that the ’Squire’s gamekeeper, and some others, will let me know that they have better coats than mine, although perhaps not of their own buying.’
Mrs. Woodly was vexed to hear him talk so, though she knew what he said to be true, and still asked him tenderly to go with her, saying it would ease his mind; and at any rate would be better than sitting at home. But he still answered ‘No.’ ‘Well,’ said she, ‘I will go if it were only to pray for Peace, and that I may see my poor boy Will, before I die.’ At the sound of peace and his son’s name, he rose instantly from his seat, brushed his hat and shoes, and went to church with his wife. He was one of the psalm-singers, and there were several neighbours glad to see him; and he has often said since that he never sung better, nor felt more pleasure than he did that day.
The sun shone in at every window, and cheered the hearts of the people; and there was no noise, except some loud whispering amongst the boys, partly about Davy’s cap, which was handed from one end of the bench to the other; but the clerk soon set them to rights, for it is very rude and scandalous to talk at church.
The clergyman was an old gentleman who had known the family of the Woodlys for many years, and as he came through the church-yard, after service was over, he nodded to Mr. Woodly, and said he was very glad to see him so well, and to see him there, and asked after all his family. Just at this instant Will Haynes, the gamekeeper passed them, and gave a look of contempt and scorn on poor Woodly and his wife, who thus saw the wide difference between a wise man and a fool.
The greatest news in the churchyard to-day, was a whisper that Miss Wideland was going to be married, but nobody knew when.
A young woman whose name was Lydia Downs, walked part of the way home with Mrs. Woodly, and asked very earnestly after her son Will; for he had spent his Sundays, and all his leisure hours with Lydia, before he met with the party of recruits that took him from home, and persuaded him to be a soldier. Lydia said that the ’Squire, her master, believed that war would be over in six months, and, ‘Who knows,’ said she, ‘but he may come home again?’
It has already been said that Davy was to have a new hat at the fair in the month of May, and his father worked hard for many weeks, until the time was nearly come.
The load of brooms lay ready in the shed, but how was a cart to be had? Old John Headland was the only little farmer now left in the village, and he used a cart to do his work. He had brought up a large family, but they were all gone from him to seek their own living; he was, therefore, glad of the help of any of his neighbours in harvest time to get his corn in. A bargain was soon made, founded on that excellent old truth, that ‘one good turn deserves another.’ The little farmer lent his horses and cart to the broom-maker for the day, on condition that when his field of barley should be ripe the broommaker would come and help him to get it home.
Davy was to have gone with his father to the fair, but who can foresee what may happen to disappoint us when we expect a pleasure? Old Master Woodly about two days before the time was taken ill, and was forced to keep his bed; and how could Mrs. Woodly look after and attend a sick man and nurse Jane besides? So Davy had to stay at home to wait on his grandfather; and he did it cheerfully because he knew that had he himself been ill his grandfather would have waited on him.
His father drove away the cartload of brooms, and Davy sat down by his grandfather’s bedside, and as he heard his mother say something about going to the doctor’s for something to cure his grandfather, he did not expect his new hat.
The poor old man groaned and complained sadly, but still he found Davy a good companion, and made him read several parts of the Prayer Book and the Testament and told him where to look for them; for by this time the little fellow had learned to read well, because he was constantly trying. The old man told Davy many things which happened when he was a little boy, and seemed fond of talking of past times; and when Davy asked him how long it was ago, he was quite concerned to see the tears run down his grandfather’s cheeks while he answered: ‘How long ago, my boy? Why about sixty-five years! I had then brothers and sisters, but I have outlived them all, and here I am a trouble to your father and mother, but God’s will be done!’ Davy stood up by the bed and cried too, though he hardly knew what for. The old man said that his pains came so thick upon him they put him in mind of the horse that was stung to death by bees. Davy asked when that was, and where, and how long ago? Master Woodly told him to look in the bottom of his wig-box, and there he would find some verses he had made about it; ‘and,’ said he, ‘put the other pillow under my head, and I will read it to you; it may make me forget my pains a little while. This is a true story, Davy; for I assure you I saw the poor horse die.’
Butcher’s Horse and the Bees.
a village tragedy. 
While Davy was pitying the poor horse, and Master Woodly laying down the paper and groaning sadly, as before, in came Abel Cloutham, who lived at Mr. Wideland’s, and set down a basket containing a bottle of wine and a small chicken, saying that Mr. Stanmore was at their house, and had been talking about Davy; and, hearing that Master Woodly was ill, he and his young mistress had sent a little present, and desired to know how he did. ‘I do very badly,’ said the old man; ‘but they are very good, and I thank them.’ Then as he turned his face to the pillow, said, more softly: ‘I know this comes from that good soul, Miss Wideland; and, if I ever live to walk again, I will use the first strength I have to go down myself to thank her.’
Late at night Mr. Woodly came home, having left the cart and horses at neighbour Headland’s. He brought a phial of medicine from the doctor’s, which cost two shillings; and as two other such were taken by his father, he paid as much for them as would have bought the boy two new hats. But they had the pleasure to see the sick man grow better every day, and he was soon able to walk out, or to sit in his favourite chair at the top of the garden. Here he would listen to Davy’s chat, or sometimes sing psalms. It had a strange sound to sing psalms in the open air; but they had a blackbird, which always sung in the garden hedge, and linnets and thrushes without number, were within hearing, all singing from morning till night, and what was theirs but singing psalms? The hedges were white with the May-blossom, and you could not set your foot in the pasture without treading on a cowslip. The heart which could not rejoice at such a sight must surely be either very unhappy, very insensible, or very wicked.
Everything seemed to smile on this family once again. Thus the summer passed on, week after week, and nothing could give more pleasure than to see that the coming harvest was likely to bring a general blessing; and when it was ripe, even the farmers themselves said that finer crops had not been seen for many years.
The busy time of harvest soon began. Mr. Woodly, according to his bargain, helped neighbour Headland home with his barley, while Mrs. Woodly and Davy went every day to glean in such wheat-fields as were cleared along with all the poor women and children in the parish. Jane went too, and when she was sleepy was laid down on some sunny bank, where she slept as sound as in a bed. They got, during the harvest, a quantity of good corn, and had hopes of meeting the winter without such dread as they had felt before.
It was the talk amongst the gleaners that Miss Wideland was to be married when harvest was over, and that Mr. Stanmore was to have the farm which the ’Squire held, as the ’Squire was going to live in London. All this proved true, which is more than can always be said of tales told in the field or in the church-yard. Nobody liked Will Haynes, the gamekeeper: he was an insolent fellow, and they were glad he was going; nay, it was a certain fact that the ’Squire, his master, had not done so much good in the neighbourhood as his wealth and station enabled him to do, and such squires might as well live in London as anywhere else.
September was now come. The days grew shorter, and every face was tanned with the sun, but every heart was glad of the plenty which the earth afforded; and both the rich and the poor began to think of providing wood and furze to lay up for winter firing.
But the most particular thing which happened to the Woodlys’ family was this: Miss Wideland called one morning, and said that Mr. Stanmore would soon be their neighbour, and then he would take Davy to live with him, and would provide him in clothes, and teach him writing and figures; ‘and,’ said she, ‘I know Davy will be a good boy, because I have tried him.’ Mrs. Woodly thanked her, as we often do, more with our looks than our words; and Miss Wideland had a good mind to sit down and tell the poor woman all that was going on; but she did not, thinking, perhaps, that young women ought to hold their tongues on such occasions, for a wedding in a village is sure to be known time enough. Mrs. Woodly, therefore, who understood her meaning, only said: ‘I do believe that the gentleman is worthy of you, and I wish you a long life of happiness.’
Davy was not at home when the young lady called; but he was highly delighted when he heard that he was to live with his old friend Miss Wideland, and told his mother that he knew she was to be married on Wednesday morning, for he heard the maid say so. And so it proved; for the clergyman came to the church, and a gay company from Mr. Wideland’s, amongst whom was Mr. Stanmore, who was full of mirth and good-will, and the sensible, modest, Charlotte Wideland. Half the people in the parish were in the church-yard by the time the ceremony was over, and most of the young women curtsied and nodded, with as much freedom as they dared. The boys halloed and tumbled on the grass, and the men set the bells a-ringing. It was too late in the year to have flowers to strew in their path; but who would not rather have his path strewn with good wishes than with the sweetest flowers that ever grew?
Lydia Downs, though she lived in the ’Squire’s family, was not going with them to London, but had agreed to live at Mr. Stanmore’s; so that she only had a new master and mistress: but the ’Squire’s family were not going away until the middle of October. She knew that Davy was to live with her at Mr. Stanmore’s; but she thought much more of Will Woodly than she did of Davy.
About a fortnight after the marriage of Miss Wideland, Mr. Snapgroat brought a letter from the town, where he had been to buy goods for his shop. It was directed: ‘To Lydia Downs, at Peter Broughton’s, Esq.,’ and dated ‘Jamaica, June 10th, 1801.’
How rejoiced was she to find the truth and constancy of her lover!
The first words of the letter were the sweetest she had ever read in her life:
‘My Dear Lydia,
I write to you because you were the last person I saw who was dear to me when I left England. A vast and dangerous ocean rolls between us; yet, my dear girl, I hope to see you again. I shall never be happy till I do. If ever I should come home, and find you and my parents, and my poor old grandfather alive, I shall be crazy with joy. And though I have been a fool, and left you, may I hope, Lydia, that you will not marry another, until you are sure that I am dead! Sometimes amongst my comrades I forget for awhile that I am so far from home; but I am sure to think of you all when I am alone. If my relations are living tell them that if I could hear of peace, I should be almost sure of seeing them and you again, for our regiment is to return to England. I wish I could see you read this letter; I could then tell whether you still thought or cared for your old friend and true lover,
P.S. Tell my friends that I am well. A thousand blessings on you, my dear girl. If I write any more I shall cry, and my fellow-soldiers will laugh at me.’
If Will had really seen Lydia reading this letter, he must have been blind if he had not found that she remembered him truly. With her eyes full of tears she hastily put the letter into her bosom, and set off to Mrs. Woodly’s; but had to turn back for her bonnet, which she had forgot in her hurry. She then began her journey again, and, as people often run when they are pleased, so did Lydia; and when she got there was so out of breath that she could only say ‘Your son Will!’ But she soon gave Mr. Woodly the letter, who read it through, but was so much affected that he went into the yard and left them to themselves.
Mrs. Woodly then read it with all the tenderness of a mother; and old Master Woodly put on his spectacles, and read it again, and said, ‘I knew the boy would be true to you, Lydia; I knew he would! And we may very likely all see him again, and be happier than we have been.’
Lydia went home with a heart full of pleasure and expectation; and it was not more than ten days, as she waited at table, that she heard the news from London, that Peace was signed. The ’Squire read it himself, and as he had laid a wager upon how long the war would continue, and had now won it, he got up from table, and shouted as loud as he could. Lydia trembled all over; and, without stopping to consider who would fill her place, or wait on her master, directly left the room, and went as quick as before to Mrs. Woodly, who thanked God for the news, in a manner that would have moved a stone to have heard and seen her.
Davy, understanding that his brother Will was coming home, asked more questions than any of them had time to answer. They talked so loud that Pity barked along with them. The new-married Mrs. Stanmore now came, almost as fast as Lydia had done, and brought the same news; and said that the price of corn would fall, and they would have better times.
All this time Mr. Woodly was gone out, and nobody knew whither. The truth was that he had been overjoyed at what he heard, and had set out instantly to a little market-town at a distance of two miles to hear for a certainty whether it was true, and to buy something which he had long wanted for his boy Davy. While they were speaking of him, they saw him coming over a field at the distance of half a mile.
He soon came in and looked full of joy too; for he had there heard the news of peace, and had left the town all in an uproar. They thus all talked together, except old Master Woodly, who sat in his elbow-chair, and talked to himself, and perhaps enjoyed as much pleasure as any of them.
Mrs. Stanmore and Lydia stayed to talk over the good news as long as they could, and then left them as rich in happiness as any family in England.
It grew almost dark, and as Mr. Woodly had been walking, and they had dined long before, Davy took the bellows and made the fire roar; and his mother put two extra spoonsful of tea into the blue tea-pot, to make a comfortable cup. The fire shone cheerfully round upon the floor, and Davy began to ask what his father had been from home for, and what he had brought in that brown paper parcel under the table? His father answered: ‘Why, I have been, my boy, to please myself as well as you. I would not tell you anything of my going, for fear you should be disappointed, as you have been before.’ Here the old man said, slily, ‘Davy, I think I can guess what it is;’ and so said his mother. ‘Why, yes, father,’ said Mr. Woodly, ‘you may guess, and my wife too, for she knows how I had set my heart upon it; and you both know too, that the poor boy has been without a hat this twelvemonth. And while we were obliged to receive help of the parish, I should not have valued the hat if I could have bought it then, so much as I do now I buy it with my own money. Come here, Davy.’ Then, putting the Hat on the boy’s head, he seemed full as pleased as Davy himself. It was a conquest over poverty:—his heart glowed with a father’s pride; and, without some such pride, no father will buy new hats for his boys, nor will any boy try to be foremost in his learning. If, therefore, any good boy should read this story, and should have been very poor, and often disappointed, I earnestly advise him to have patience, and to remember Little Davy’s New Hat.
 [Note by Walter Bloomfield, 1878 edn:] I have heard my father say the incident upon which his uncle wrote these verses occurred at Sapiston, a small village on the Duke of Grafton’s estate, near Bury-St.-Edmund’s, Suffolk.—Walter Bloomfield BACK