LONG AGO AT BRAYCOMBE.
The Story of the White-Rock Cove—"to be written down all from the very beginning"—is urgently required by certain youthful petitioners, whose importunity is hard to resist; and the request is sealed by a rosy pair of lips from the little face nestling at my side, in a manner that admits of no denial.
"From the beginning;"—that very beginning carries me back to my own old school-room, in the dear home at Braycombe, when, as a little boy between nine and ten years old, I sat there doing my lessons.
It was on a Thursday morning, and, consequently, I was my mother's pupil. For whereas my tutor, a certain Mr. Glengelly, from our nearest town of Elmworth, used to come over on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the carrying forward of my education; my studies were, on the other days of the week, which I consequently liked much better, conducted under the gentle superintendence of my mother.
On this particular morning I was working with energy at a rule-of-three sum, being engaged in a sort of exciting race with the clock, of which the result was still doubtful. When, however, the little click, which meant, as I well knew, five minutes to twelve, sounded, I had attained my quotient in plain figures; a few moments more, and the process of fours into, twelves into, twenties into, had been accomplished; and just as the clock struck twelve I was able to hand up my slate triumphantly with my task completed.
"A drawn game, mamma!" I exclaimed, "between me and the clock;" and then with eager eyes I followed hers, as she rapidly ran over the figures which had cost me so much trouble, and from time to time relieved my mind by a quiet commentary: "Quite right so far;—No mistakes yet;—You have worked it out well."
Frisk, the intelligent, the affectionate, the well-beloved companion of my sports, and the recipient of many of my confidences, woke up from his nap, stretched himself, came and placed his fore-paws upon my knees, and, looking up in my face, spoke as plainly as if endowed with the capacity of expressing himself in human language, to this effect:—"I'm very glad you have finished your lessons; and glad, too, that I was able to sleep on a mat in the window, where the warm sunshine has made me extremely comfortable. But now your lessons are done, I hope you'll lose no time, but come out to play at once. I'm ready when you are."
And Frisk's tail wagged faster and faster when my mother's inspection of my sum was concluded, so that I could not help thinking he must have understood her when she said,—"There are no mistakes, Willie; you have been a good, industrious little boy this morning; you may go out to play with a light heart."
I did not need twice telling, but very soon put away all my books and maps, and the slate, with its right side carefully turned down, that it might not get rubbed, wiped the pens, placed my copy-book in the drawer, and presented myself for that final kiss with which my mother was wont to terminate our proceedings, and which was on this occasion accompanied by the remonstrance that I was getting quite too big a boy for such nonsense....