God's Good Man (Chapter 2, page 1 of 17)


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Chapter 2

For a moment or two Walden found himself smitten by so strong a sense of the mere simple sensuous joy of living, that he could do no more than stand looking in silent admiration at the pretty group of expectant young creatures gathered round the Maypole, and huddled, as it were, under its cumbrous crown of dewy blossoms, which showed vividly against the clear sky, while the long streamers of red, white and blue depending from its summit, trailed on the daisy- sprinkled grass at their feet.

Every little face was familiar and dear to him. That awkward lad, grinning from ear to ear, with a particularly fine sprig of flowering hawthorn in his cap, was Dick Styles;--certainly a very different individual to Chaucer's knight, Arcite, but resembling him in so far that he had evidently gone into the woods early, moved by the same desire: "I hope that I some green here getten may!" That tiny girl, well to the front, with a clean white frock on and no hat to cover her tangle of golden curls, was Baby Hippolyta,--the last, the very last, of the seemingly endless sprouting olive branches of the sexton, Adam Frost. Why the poor child had been doomed to carry the name of Hippolyta, no one ever knew. When he, Walden, had christened her, he almost doubted whether he had heard the lengthy appellation aright, and ventured to ask the godmother of the occasion to repeat it in a louder voice. Whereupon 'Hip-po-ly-ta' was uttered in such strong tones, so thoroughly well enunciated, that he could no longer mistake it, and the helpless infant, screaming lustily, left the simple English baptismal font burdened with a purely Greek designation.

She was, however, always called 'Ipsie' by her playmates, and even her mother and father, who were entirely responsible for her name in the first instance, found it somewhat weighty for daily utterance and gladly adopted the simpler sobriquet, though the elders of the village generally were rather fond of calling her with much solemn unction: 'Baby Hippolyta,' as though it were an elaborate joke. Ipsie was one of the loveliest children in the village, and though she was only two-and-a-half years old, she was fully aware of her own charms. She was pushed to the front of the Maypole this morning, merely because she was pretty,--and she knew it. That was why she lifted the extreme edge of her short skirt and put it in her mouth, thereby displaying her fat innocent bare legs extensively, and smiled at the Reverend John Walden out of the uplifted corners of her forget-me-not blue eyes.

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