“Two hours and a half it is,” said Marco.
“Yes,” said Forester.
It resulted as Forester predicted. Marco, finding that Forester was disposed to be pleased with and to commend his efforts, made greater efforts every day, and, in the course of a week, he began to be a very respectable student. In the afternoon he used to ramble about, sometimes with Forester, and sometimes alone. He was very fond of fishing, and Forester used to allow him to go to certain parts of the river, where the water was not deep, alone, trusting to his word that he would confine himself strictly to the prescribed bounds.
The Log Canoe.
Every thing went on very prosperously, for a week or two, in the little study. Marco became more and more attentive to his studies, and more and more interested in them. He was often getting into little difficulties, it is true, and giving trouble to his uncle and aunt; but then he generally seemed sorry afterward for the trouble which he had thus occasioned, and he bore reproof, and such punishments as his cousin thought it necessary to inflict, with so much good-humor, that they all readily forgave him for his faults and misdemeanors.
One day, however, about a fortnight after he had commenced his studies, he got led away, through the influence of a peculiar temptation, into a rather serious act of transgression, which might have been followed by very grave consequences. The circumstances were these. He had commenced his studies as usual, after having received his half-hour’s instruction from Forester, and was in the midst of the process of reducing the fraction 504/756 to its lowest terms, when he happened to look out of the window and to see two boys climbing over a garden fence belonging to one of the neighbor’s houses, at a little distance in the rear of his uncle’s house. It was a very pleasant morning, and Marco had the window open; so he could see the boys very plainly. They stopped on the farther side of the fence which they had got over, and though they were partially concealed by the fence, yet Marco could plainly perceive that they were busily employed in doing something there, though he could not imagine what. He wished very much to go and see; but he knew that it would be in vain to make request for permission, and so he contented himself with watching them.
Just at this moment his uncle opened the door which led into the little study, and asked Forester if he would step into the office. Forester did so; and then, after a few minutes, he returned, put up his books, and said that he had got to go away, and that perhaps he should not be back till noon. Marco had often been left alone at his studies for a time, but never for a whole morning before. He knew that he was to go on with his work just as if Forester had remained. So Forester bade him good morning, and then went away.