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for his last Christmas holidays, he was seventeen, and his cousin Helen thirteen years of age; but though in years he was fully four her senior, in demeanour, in experience of life, and in knowledge of character she was double that number in advance of him. Being at that uncertain age usually denominated "awkward," he was by no means improved either in person or manners; having all a greyhound's bony length of limb, with none of the grace that characterises the canine creature, and being blessed with the thinness of flank so bepraised by hero describers, without the breadth of chest which is considered to be its fitting accompaniment. It was evident, from the ill-chosen and worsefitting habiliments that covered his ungainly person, that the “Seminary” was no school for the formation of taste; and the boy was besides painfully shy, dreading contact with young ladies morbidly, and conscious of but one bugbear more terrible that one being his conceited cousin Robert, of whose jibes and jeers he had for years been the unhappy victim.
This ingenious tormentor of one whose meck submission should have been his safeguard against persecution, was two years older than Edward, and was preparing for his examination as an army surgeon. He was idle, selfish, and given to an inordinate use of tobacco; added to which qualifications for failure he was better
up in Chaff than Chemistry, and came out far stronger in slang than in knowledge of surgical
The first greeting of this hopeful youth was in this wise:
“Well, Teddy, old fellow," he cried (while a cordial thump between the shoulders made the younger boy red all over), "you have been sparing the scissors
to some purpose this time, eh? Yellow hackle as I live! what will you take for your next clip?”
There was a general laugh at the expense of poor Edward's incipient manhood and deeply blushing face and ears; but Helen, bursting into the room at this trying moment, turned the crimson on his thin cheek to a flush of joy.
“Now, Robert,” she exclaimed, after a warm welcome to her cousin, “I won't have him teased, you great awkward soldier lout.” (She was not very discriminating in her expressions when roused.) "He is my friend, and he and I mean to be always together. Don't we, Eddy?" she added, turning her bright, cager face towards him.
“Oh, you do do you, you little flirt?” laughed Robert. “You will be as bad as the other girls by-andby --- only
only give you time, and I would not be the man in your way.”
“Wouldn't be indeed!” retorted the indignant Sarah; “I should like to know what girl ever looked at you." “Girls never do look oh, never
wouldn't do such a thing for the world,” cried the provoking Robert; upon which Sarah, fearing to be worsted in the war of words, prudently beat a retreat.
During this short colloquy, Helen had drawn the discomfited lad from the room, and in another moment was in the garden with him, pacing along the snowcovered walks, and (regardless of the cold) imparting to him with rapid utterance all she had done during his absence all she had read, and all she had committed to memory.
"And you, Eddy,” she asked, when her communications were at last ended, “what have
been about? Papa is afraid that
will never be successful in your examination; for he says it is so very hard, and that he fears you are too too idle to be the first."
She had hesitated in her choice of an adjective, and the one she fixed upon at last was felt to be as inappropriate as any that had previously occurred to her.
“My uncle is very kind to interest himself so much about me," said Edward; "but I have made up my mind not to pass that examination.”
“Come, that is good," shouted the ubiquitous Robert, as he darted upon them from behind the thick cover of a yew-hedge. “That really is good. But how about the examiners passing you ?”
“I mean I don't intend to try," said his victim meekly.
“Not try? Well, I must say I should like to be as great a man as you, and could choose what I'd be
would not I throw all the doctoring to the deuce, that's all! But I say! won't you have a proper wigging from the governor? I should like to know how you mean to get out of that.'
“I don't know. I shall be sorry to displease him; but I mean to pass an examination
your examination the one for the army.”
“And you think that easy, do you?” sneered Robert. “Why, what a muff you are! You've got a nomination for a clerkship a good hundred a year to begin with and you give it up, just because you're too idle or too stupid to try your luck.”
“Oh, go along, do," interposed Helen; "you don't know what we're talking about. I wish you would leave Eddy to me.”
Robert laughed as he walked off; and then the boy entered awkwardly on his explanation.
“Nellie,” he began, “do you know I have given up reading?"
“Given up reading! Good gracious, Eddy!”
“Yes, but only our reading. I used to think it a fine thing to know and remember what so many other fellows didn't. But one day I asked myself why I read all those books, and then I found it was all through vanity, and that, besides its doing no good, no one really liked me the better for all I knew; so I left off.”
“And what put it into your head that no one liked you the better for being clever?"
“Why, Nellie, you know that no one here, except you, ever did love me; and at school it was just the same, and how lonely I used to feel!” And tears stood in the lad's eyes at the recollection of the solitary hours he had passed.
“There now, you are going to cry!” exclaimed his unsentimental listener. “Now, that is being a spoon, Edward; I do believe you're a girl. Boys never cry. How stupid you are!”
“Am I? well I won't be again;" and he tried hard to smile. "But, dear Nellie, it is not so much my own stupidity, as some wise words I read one day, that have changed my mind and decided my course."
"Wise words, indeed! Very foolish ones I should say, if they have made you idle and dull, and satisfied
to be a mere nobody a stupid fellow like those one sees every day talking such nonsense!”
"Well, but hear the lines: I forget whose they are, but whoever wrote them is a wise man. speaking of those who have stored their memory with the sayings of great men, and who, after years of toil, have earned a name for knowledge above their fellows:
"When with much pains this boasted learning's got,
I knew then, Helen, why the fellows disliked and avoided me.”
“Yes, they were jealous: I can understand that."
“But why should one wish to make others jealous, Nellie, dear?" asked the boy, gently; "and why should one work for what can only gratify and be of benefit to oneself? Don't be afraid, however. I shall read hard, and study night and day, to prepare for the examination; and if I pass, and if I get an appointment to a regiment, why then I shall be independent, and, what is more, I may be able to benefit others. And won't I try to be of use? Heien, if you had but known my father! He was so good and unselfish, devoting himself entirely to the service of the sick and the wicked. He died of brain-fever, brought on by over-exertion; but even when his mind wandered, it was to scenes of bliss hereafter, where he would meet again the pardoned sinners, who through his ministering had learnt to seek for forgiveness above, and to lead better lives."
Helen's little hand stole softly into her cousin's as, with faltering voice, he told her of his dead father.