“Ah dear delights,
that o’er my soul
On memory’s wing like shadows fly!
Ah flowers that Joy from Eden stole,
While Innocence stood laughing by.”—Coleridge.
“Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!” cried a young boy, as he capered vigorously about, and clapped his hands. “Papa and mamma will be home in a week now, and then we shall stay here a little time, and then, and then, I shall go to school.”
The last words were enunciated with immense importance, as he stopped his impromptu dance before the chair where his sober cousin Fanny was patiently working at her crochet; but she did not look so much affected by the announcement as the boy seemed to demand, so he again exclaimed, “And then, Miss Fanny, I shall go to school.”
“Well, Eric,” said Fanny, raising her matter-of-fact quiet face from her endless work, “I doubt, dear, whether you will talk of it with quite as much joy a year hence.”
“O ay, Fanny, that’s just like you to say so; you’re always talking and prophesying; but never mind, I’m going to school, so hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!” and he again began his capering,—jumping over the chairs, trying to vault the tables, singing and dancing with an exuberance of delight, till, catching a sudden sight of his little spaniel Flo, he sprang through the open window into the garden, and disappeared behind the trees of the shrubbery; but Fanny still heard his clear, ringing, silvery laughter, as he continued his games in the summer air.
She looked up from her work after he had gone, and sighed. In spite of the sunshine and balm of the bright weather, a sense of heaviness and foreboding oppressed her. Everything looked smiling and beautiful, and there was an almost irresistible contagion in the mirth of her young cousin, but still she could not help feeling sad. It was not merely that she would have to part with Eric, “but that bright boy,” thought Fanny, “what will become of him? I have heard strange things of schools; oh, if he should be spoilt and ruined, what misery it would be. Those baby lips, that pure young heart, a year may work sad change in their words and thoughts!” She sighed again, and her eyes glistened as she raised them upwards, and breathed a silent prayer.
She loved the boy dearly, and had taught him from his earliest years. In most things she found him an apt pupil. Truthful, ingenuous, quick, he would acquire almost without effort any subject that interested him, and a word was often enough to bring the impetuous blood to his cheeks, in a flush, of pride or indignation. He required the gentlest teaching, and had received it, while his mind seemed cast in such a mould of stainless honor that he avoided most of the faults to which children are prone. But he was far from blameless. He was proud to a fault; he well knew that few of his fellows had gifts like his, either of mind or person, and his fair face often showed a clear impression of his own superiority. His passion, too, was imperious, and though it always met with prompt correction, his cousin had latterly found it difficult to subdue. She felt, in a word, that he was outgrowing her rule. Beyond a certain age no boy of spirit can be safely guided by a woman’s hand alone.