IF Cuthbert Lloyd had
been born in the time of our great grandfathers, instead of a little
later than the first half of the present century, the gossips would
assuredly have declared that the good fairies had had it all their own
way at his birth.
To begin with, he was a particularly fine handsome baby; for did not all
the friends of the family say so? In the second place, he was an only
son, which meant that he had no big brothers to bully him. Next, his
birthplace was the stirring seaport of Halifax, where a sturdy,
energetic boy, such as Cuthbert certainly gave good promise of being,
need never lack for fun or adventure. Finally, he had plenty of
relations in the country to whom he might go in the summer time to learn
the secrets and delights of country life.
Now, when to all these advantages are added two fond but sensible
parents in comfortable circumstances, an elder sister who loved little
Cuthbert with the whole strength of her warm unselfish heart, and a
pleasant home in the best part of the city, they surely make us as fine
a list of blessings as the most benevolent fairy godmother could
reasonably have been expected to bestow.
And yet there was nothing about Master Cuthbert’s early conduct to
indicate that he properly appreciated his good fortune. He was not half
as well-behaved a baby, for instance, as red-headed little Patsey Shea,
who, a few days after his first appearance, brought another hungry mouth
to the already over-populated cottage of the milkwoman down in
Hardhand’s lane. As he grew older, it needed more whippings than the sum
total of his own chubby fingers and toes to instil into him a proper
understanding of parental authority. Sometimes his mother, who was a
slight small woman, stronger of mind than of body, would feel downright
discouraged about her vigorous, wilful boy, and wonder,
half-despairingly, if she were really equal to the task of bringing him
up in the way he should go.
Cuthbert was in many respects an odd mixture. His mother often said that
he seemed more like two boys of opposite natures rolled into one, than
just one ordinary boy. When quite a little chap, he would at one time be
as full of noise, action, and enterprise as the captain of an ocean
steamer in a gale, and at another time be as sedate, thoughtful, and
absent-minded as the ancient philosopher who made himself famous by
walking into a well in broad daylight.
Cuthbert, in fact, at the age of three, attracted attention to himself
in a somewhat similar way. His mother had taken him with her in making
some calls, and at Mrs. Allen’s, in one of his thoughtful moods, with
his hands clasped behind him, he went wandering off unobserved.
Presently he startled the whole household by tumbling from the top to
the bottom of the kitchen stairs, having calmly walked over the edge in
an absorbed study of his surroundings.
The other side of his nature was brilliantly illustrated a year later.
Being invited to spend the day with a playmate of his own age, he built
a big fire with newspapers in the bath room, turned on all the taps,
pretending that they were the hydrants, and then ran through the hall,
banging a dustpan and shouting “fire” at the top of his voice.
“He is such a perfect ‘pickle,’ I hardly know what to do with him,
Robert,” said Mrs. Lloyd to her husband, with a big sigh, one evening at
“Don’t worry, my dear, don’t worry. He has more than the usual amount of
animal spirits, that is all. Keep a firm hand on him and he’ll come out
all right,” answered Mr. Lloyd, cheeringly.
“It’s easy enough to say, ‘Keep a firm hand on him,’ Robert, but my hand
gets pretty tired sometimes, I can assure you. I just wish you’d stay at
home for a week and look after Bert, while I go to the office in your
place. You’d get a better idea of what your son is like than you can by
seeing him for a little while in the morning and evening.”
“Thank you, Kate, I’ve no doubt you might manage to do my work at the
office, and that my clients would think your advice very good; but I ’m
no less sure that I would be a dismal failure in doing your work at
home" responded Mr. Lloyd, with a smile, adding, more seriously:
“Anyway, I have too much faith in your ability to make the best of Bert
to think of spoiling your good work by clumsy interference.”
“It’s a great comfort to have you put so much faith in me,” said Mrs.
Lloyd, with a grateful look, “for it’s more than Bert does sometimes.
Why, he told me only this morning that he thought I wasn’t half as good
to him as Frankie Clayton’s mother is to him, just because I wouldn’t
let him have the garden hose to play fireman with.”
“Just wait until he’s fifteen, my dear,” returned Mr. Lloyd, “and if he
doesn’t think then that he has one of the best mothers in the world,
why—I’ll never again venture to prophesy, that’s all. And here comes my
little man to answer for himself,” as the door opened suddenly and Bert
burst in, making straight for his father. “Ha! ha! my boy, so your
mother says you ’re a perfect pickle. Well, if you ’re only pickled in a
way that will save you from spoiling, I shall be satisfied, and I think
your mother may be, too.”
Mrs. Lloyd laughed heartily at the unexpected turn thus given to her
complaint; and Bert, seeing both his parents in such good humour, added
a beaming face on his own account, although, of course, without having
the slightest idea as to the cause of their merriment.
Climbing up on his father’s knee, Bert pressed a plump cheek lovingly
against the lawyer’s brown whiskers and looked, what indeed he was, the
picture of happy content.
“What sort of a man are you going to make, Bert?” asked Mr. Lloyd,
quizzingly, the previous conversation being still in his mind.
“I’m going to be a fireman,” replied Bert, promptly; “and Frankie’s
going to be one too.”
“And why do you want to be a fireman, Bert?”
“Oh, because they wear such grand clothes and can make such a noise
without anybody telling them to shut up,” answered Bert, whose knowledge
of firemen was based upon a torchlight procession of them he had seen
one night, and their management of a fire that had not long before taken
place in the near neighbourhood, and of which he was a breathless
Mr. Lloyd could not resist laughing at his son’s naive reply, but there
was no ridicule in his laugh, as Bert saw clearly enough, and he was
encouraged to add:
“Oh, father, please let me be a fireman, won’t you?”
“We’ll see about it, Bert. If we can’t find anything better for you to
do than being a fireman, why we’ll try to make a good fireman of you,
that’s all. But never mind about that now; tell me what was the best fun
you had to-day.” Thus invited, Bert proceeded to tell after his own
fashion the doings of the day, with his father and mother an attentive
It was their policy to always manifest a deep interest in everything
Bert had to tell, and in this way they made him understand better
perhaps than they could otherwise have done how thoroughly they
sympathised with him in both the joys and sorrows of his little life.
They were determined that the most complete confidence should be
established between them and their only boy at the start, and Bert never
appeared to such advantage as when, with eyes flashing and graphic
gestures, he would tell about something wonderful in his eyes that had
happened to him that afternoon.
By the time Bert had exhausted his budget and been rewarded with a lump
of white sugar, the nurse appeared with the summons to bed, and after
some slight demur he went off in good humour, his father saying, as the
door closed upon him:
“There’s not a better youngster of his age in Halifax, Kate, even if he
hasn’t at present any higher ambition than to be a fireman.”