The Sussex Country Doctor. 129
of a very happy circle, and drew into it young, middle-aged, old—male and female—all who chose to come. And few could resist the charm of his manners—the liveliness of his conversation—the pleasant play of his features. Not that he was a handsome man—far from it. His features were homely, but full of tender sensibilities, and they always kept tune with his thoughts. A deaf man might almost have held converse with him by watching the flash of his eye and the quick play of his mouth. Children would gaze upon him with open eyes that did not wander as he talked about what they could not understand, in tones which they liked to listen to, and which held in check for a time their natural restlessness. There was a spell in his manner which, whether he unbent himself to them—and he often did so—or whether he soared into regions beyond their comprehension, held them in rapt attention.
With all his attractive qualities for society, Dr. Verral delighted in the joys of his own home. Few kept a more liberal or hospitable table. Hospitality in those days—and especially in the country, where travelling was difficult, and visitors were rare—was a more common virtue in England than it is now-a-days. The table might not be so richly decorated or loaded with such delicacies; but it was rich in a wholesome abundance, and the house was flung open with a freedom that is unknown in these days. Where, now-a-days, a man in the position of Dr. Verral—that is, the Doctor of the Parish—gives one dinner to his friends—upon a sumptuous scale, doubtless, and with a show and heat and crowding that make half the guests ill, and at an expense that impoverishes the host for the remainder of the year—the old-fashioned Doctor would give twenty—thirty—" parties." Nay, in the case of a man like Dr. Verral, so sought after and so ready to give pleasure, it was almost " open house" all the year round. His family was large, and additions to it did not seem to make much difference in the provision to be made for every-day wants. There were pupils, too, and sometimes in-door patients—nearly always friends—his own, or his sons' or K