The Altar Steps eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 477 pages of information about The Altar Steps.

“And it’s so wonderful to be back here,” went on Mrs. Lidderdale, “with everything looking just the same.  As for Mark, he’s so happy that—­Mark, do tell grandfather how much you’re enjoying yourself.”

Mark gulped several times, and finally managed to mutter a confirmation of his mother’s statement.

“And he’s already made friends with Cass Dale.”

“He’s intelligent but like his father he thinks he knows more than he does,” commented Parson Trehawke.  “However, he’ll make quite a good companion for this young gentleman.”

As soon as breakfast was over Mark rushed out to join Cass Dale, who sitting crosslegged under an ilex-tree was peeling a pithy twig for a whistle.



For six years Mark lived with his mother and his grandfather at Nancepean, hearing nothing of his father except that he had gone out as a missionary to the diocese of some place in Africa he could never remember, so little interested was he in his father.  His education was shared between his two guardians, or rather his academic education; the real education came either from what he read for himself in his grandfather’s ancient library of from what he learnt of Cass Dale, who was much more than merely informative in the manner of a sixpenny encyclopaedia.  The Vicar, who made himself responsible for the Latin and later on for the Greek, began with Horace, his own favourite author, from the rapid translation aloud of whose Odes and Epodes one after another he derived great pleasure, though it is doubtful if his grandson would have learnt much Latin if Mrs. Lidderdale had not supplemented Horace with the Primer and Henry’s Exercises.  However, if Mark did not acquire a vocabulary, he greatly enjoyed listening to his grandfather’s melodious voice chanting forth that sonorous topography of Horace, while the green windows of the study winked every other minute from the flight past of birds in the garden.  His grandfather would stop and ask what bird it was, because he loved birds even better than he loved Horace.  And if Mark was tired of Latin he used to say that he wasn’t sure, but that he thought it was a lesser-spotted woodpecker or a shrike or any one of the birds that experience taught him would always distract his grandfather’s attention from anything that he was doing in order that he might confirm or contradict the rumour.  People who are much interested in birds are less sociable than other naturalists.  Their hobby demands a silent and solitary pursuit of knowledge, and the presence of human beings is prejudicial to their success.  Parson Trehawke found that Mark’s company was not so much of a handicap as he would have supposed; on the contrary he began to find it an advantage, because his grandson’s eyes were sharp and his observation if he chose accurate:  Parson Trehawke, who was growing old, began to rely upon his help.  It was only when Mark was tired of listening to the translation of Horace that he called thrushes shrikes:  when he was wandering over the cliffs or tramping beside his grandfather across the Rhos, he was severely sceptical of any rarity and used to make short work of the old gentleman’s Dartford warblers and fire-crested wrens.

Project Gutenberg
The Altar Steps from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.