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He was very grubby, and all about his dark grey eyes there were the marks made by his dirty fingers where he had rubbed away the tickling tears. The brownish red dust of the Devon lanes had darkened his delicate white skin, and matted his shiny yellow curls.

As to his hands, with their fat little fingers, with every joint showing a pretty dimple, they looked white and clean, but that was due to the fact that he was sitting in a bed of moss by the roadside, where the water came trickling down from the red rocks above, and dabbling and splashing the tiny pool, till the pearly drops hung among his dusty curls, and dotted, as if with jewels, the ragged old blue jersey shirt which seemed to form his only garment.

This did not fit him, in spite of its elasticity, for it was what a dealer would have called “man’s size,” and the wearer was about two and a half, or at the most three; but the sleeves had been cut so that they only reached his elbows, and the hem torn off the bottom and turned into a belt or sash, which was tied tightly round the little fellow’s waist, to keep the jersey from slipping off.

Consequently the plump neck was bare, as were his dirty little legs, with their dimpled, chubby knees.

While he splashed and dabbled the water, the sun flashed upon the drops, some of which jewelled the spreading ferns which drooped over the natural fount, and even reached as high as the delicate leafage of stunted overhanging birch, some of whose twigs kept waving in the soft summer breeze, and sweeping against the boy’s curly hair.

When the little fellow splashed the water, and felt it fly into his face, he laughed—burst after burst of silvery, merry laughter; and in the height of his enjoyment he threw back his head, his ruddy lips parted, and two rows of pearly teeth flashed in the bright sunshine.

As dirty a little grub as ever made mud-pies in a gutter; but the water, the ferns, moss, and flowers around were to his little soul the most delightful of toys, and he seemed supremely happy.

After a time he grew tired of splashing the water, and, drawing one little foot into his lap, he pursed up his lips, an intent frown wrinkled his shining forehead, and he began, in the most serio-comic manner, to pick the row of tiny toes, passing a chubby finger between them to get rid of the dust and grit.

All this while the breeze blew, the birch-tree waved, and the flowers nodded, while from out of a clump of ling and rushes there came, at regular intervals, a low roar like the growl of a wild beast.

Fiction & Literature
July 15
Library of Alexandria

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