Imágenes de páginas

of many voices in his ears, the contrast between the comfort and happiness he had lately enjoyed with his mother at Mulberry Lawn, and the hard, practical, and somewhat gloomy aspect of the scene before him, cast a chill over him, and made him feel more sad and lonely than he would have liked to confess. He had been already more than a year at the college, and was generally very happy and contented there. At his first entrance he had expected to suffer grievously from homesickness; but the novelty of everything about him, and the strong resolution he had formed not to give way to unmanly regrets, had helped to carry him through the first few days, and then he had been as merry as any of his schoolfellows, having naturally an excellent fund of good spirits. But now he could not overcome a feeling of depression; he had had such a short spell with his mother since her return, and the time had passed so quickly, and he had nothing before him but months of application to his books (for which he had never had any particular liking), and then either a discreditable failure, or if success, a success which would, in its consequences, be even more distressing and distasteful. His visits to the docks, the sight and even the smell of the shipping, and his occasional conversations with the sailors, had revived his passion for the sea, and had made him feel at the time that it would be impossible for him to follow any other calling than that of a sailor. And now he had engaged to do his utmost to disable and disqualify himself for such a profession. He was resolved to do his duty, and to make it his pleasure also, if practicable; but just now, on the day of his return to the college, he could not overcome a feeling of distress, and almost of despair

, at the prospect before him; and as he paced to and fro in the dusky playground, where a few boys were sauntering about in groups with their hands in their pockets, and their hearts, like his own, far away, his

eyes filled with tears, of which, however, he took care that

[ocr errors]

no one should know anything but himself. Rousing himself from his reverie, he drew out a book which he had been studying in the train, and endeavoured to concentrate his thoughts upon it. This was the best remedy he could think of for low spirits, this the most practical and effectual method of combating all discontented thoughts and impulses. While he was thus engaged a hand was laid upon his shoulder, and turning he saw his old friend and tutor, Mr. Grantly.

“ Bookwork already, Howard ?” he said. “You are not very sorry, then, that the holidays are over, I conclude ?"

Tom did not answer. “Not sorry to return to Abbotscliff, at all events, I hope ?” Still he did not reply. “What have you been doing during the vacation ?”

Tom told him of the pleasant visit he had had at Brakeley, but could not get any further just then.

“I am glad you have enjoyed yourself.”

After a time Tom was able to speak of his mother, and of the loss they had both sustained; and Mr. Grantly was so kind, and sympathised so entirely with his trouble, that he was led to enter more fully than he otherwise would have done into his own plans and prospects. He wanted some one to talk to, and it was a relief to him to open his heart to Mr. Grantly.

“You give up the idea of going to sea, then?” said his tutor.

“I suppose so—for the present.”
“That is right. You will find a better opening.”
“I don't think so, Mr. Grantly."

“ You will have other tastes and ambitions as you grow older.”

"No," he said, promptly; "I shall never like anything else so well.”

Are you sure of that ? ”

[ocr errors]

“Quite sure. I shall try to like whatever I have to do, of course; but I think Captain Broad was right when he said I was made for the sea. The pilot said the same. A born sailor,'

' he called me.”

"Well,” said Mr. Grantly, "we shall see what you think and say about it a few months hence. It will do you no harm to read for this scholarship, provided you do not overdo it. I do not think you could stand so much brain-work as some of our boys; you are too excitable. Those hard-headed north-country fellows will have an advantage over you. Very likely you will not persevere with it, but you can try. I confess, however, that, as a rule, I think it is a good thing that boys who have a strong leaning to any profession, and stick to it as they grow older, should be allowed their choice. It is often an indication of what they are most fit for. I always thought you would be a sailor. I can hardly fancy you anything else."

“Do you think, then, that it is not advisable for me to go in for this scholarship ?”

" I should be sorry to offer you any discouragement.”

For one moment only Tom had felt a thrill of hope at the opinion which Mr. Grantly had expressed. He was accustomed to look up to him as an authority on most points, but especially on any subject connected with the school. It was evident, he thought, that Mr. Grantly would not advise him to attempt that close and constant study which would be necessary for him if he were to compete for the scholarship, nor yet to do violence to his nautical instincts. Why should he persevere in a course which was not suited to him? But the next instant the thought of all that had passed on the subject with his mother, and of the earnest manner in which he had himself weighed it in all its bearings, recurred to his mind; and as Mr. Grantly turned away to speak to another boy, Tom Howard opened his book again and began to read more steadily than before. He had

made up his mind—not hastily, but after full considerationto follow the path of duty, and he would not turn aside from it. He considered himself bound to persevere. He had, it was true, made no promise, but the decision at which he had arrived was a kind of pledge to himself, and that was sufficient. He would be true to himself; and all the more because everything and everybody seemed to be in league to tempt and argue him out of his fidelity.

It was a busy term for all the boys, both in school and out, but for none more so than for Tom Howard. The evenings were long, and afforded good opportunity for study. The weather was often wet and gloomy, and there was but little inducement to go out. There was football on half-holidays, compulsory, but Tom was excused after the first few weeks as not being equal to violent exercise, and was allowed to go for a walk instead : though it was not intended that he should carry a Latin book with him to read as he sauntered along, or that he should stand still for half an hour at a time on the seashore drawing mathematical figures upon the sand, and comparing their angles. There was a glee club also requiring frequent practices, but Tom was not musical, and preferred Jim Bowley's song of the sea-sarpent to more finished compositions. So if he attended any of the performances or concerts he generally went to sleep, having somehow or other acquired an unpleasant habit of lying awake at night. The “naturals”” club was in abeyance at this season, but some strange specimens were added to it by the untiring zeal of the Swallow and others. Tom did not respond to the invitations he received to go in search of “objects," or to assist in arranging collections. To him the term

” was almost literally all work and no play; and it was no wonder that his mother and Mrs. Beverley thought him looking thin and pale when he returned to Mulberry Lawn for the Christmas holidays. He was much more sedate and much older too in every way, considering that he had been absent only about three months. He had got on well with his work, however, and was beginning almost to think that he should have a fair chance of gaining the scholarship. The idea gave him sometimes more pain than pleasure, but he endeavoured to dismiss all future consequences from his mind. “Do your duty," Captain Broad had said when he parted from him in the Channel “Do your duty as honestly and truly as you can, and leave the rest to Providence.” He remembered also the seaman's maxim which he had heard in the pilot's boat: “When you are not sartin about your course, don't run afore the wind, but beat up agen it. Why and wherefore ? 'Cause it's easier always to go wrong than right; so don't choose the easiest.” That was Tom Howard's rule with respect to the scholarship.



[ocr errors]

There is serious strife
In the contentions of a scholar's life;
Not all the mind's attention, care, distress,

Nor diligence itself, ensure success.-Crabbe.
He Christmas holidays were not particularly lively for

Tom Howard, though it was a source of infinite pleasure to him to be with his mother again, as he had spent only a few days with her since her return from India. Mrs. Howard was still making her home with the Beverleys. She had been paying visits elsewhere, but had returned there for Christmas. There was still something wrong between the Darvilles and the Beverleys. Miss Beverley had not yet forgiven her suitor for not taking her into his confidence on the subject of his anxieties and cares; or, if she had forgiven him, she did not tell

« AnteriorContinuar »