Adventures Among Books eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 217 pages of information about Adventures Among Books.

NOTE.—­I have said that Scott himself had seen one ghost, if not two, and heard a “warning.”  The ghost was seen near Ashestiel, on an open spot of hillside, “please to observe it was before dinner.”  The anecdote is in Gillis’s, “Recollections of Sir Walter Scott,” p. 170.  The vision of Lord Byron standing in the great hall of Abbotsford is described in the “Demonology and Witchcraft .”  Scott alleges that it resolved itself into “great coats, shawls, and plaids”—­a hallucination.  But Lockhart remarks ("Life,” ix. p. 141) that he did not care to have the circumstance discussed in general.  The “stirs” in Abbotsford during the night when his architect, Bullock, died in London, are in Lockhart, v. pp. 309-315.  “The noise resembled half-a-dozen men hard at work putting up boards and furniture, and nothing can be more certain than that there was nobody on the premises at the time.”  The noise, unluckily, occurred twice, April 28 and 29, 1818, and Lockhart does not tell us on which of these two nights Mr. Bullock died.  Such is the casualness of ghost story-tellers.  Lockhart adds that the coincidence made a strong impression on Sir Walter’s mind.  He did not care to ascertain the point in his own mental constitution “where incredulity began to waver,” according to his friend, Mr. J. L. Adolphus.

CHAPTER XVII:  THE BOY

As a humble student of savage life, I have found it necessary to make researches into the manners and customs of boys.  Boys are not what a vain people supposes.  If you meet them in the holidays, you find them affable and full of kindness and good qualities.  They will condescend to your weakness at lawn-tennis, they will aid you in your selection of fly-hooks, and, to be brief, will behave with much more than the civility of tame Zulus or Red Men on a missionary settlement.  But boys at school and among themselves, left to the wild justice and traditional laws which many generations of boys have evolved, are entirely different beings.  They resemble that Polynesian prince who had rejected the errors of polytheism for those of an extreme sect of Primitive Seceders.  For weeks at a time this prince was known to be “steady,” but every month or so he disappeared, and his subjects said he was “lying off.”  To adopt an American idiom, he “felt like brandy and water”; he also “felt like” wearing no clothes, and generally rejecting his new conceptions of duty and decency.  In fact, he had a good bout of savagery, and then he returned to his tall hat, his varnished boots, his hymn-book, and his edifying principles.  The life of small boys at school (before they get into long-tailed coats and the upper-fifth) is often a mere course of “lying-off”—­of relapse into native savagery with its laws and customs.

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