“Armine,” said Mr. Ogilvie, “I never let my friends come into my parish without getting work out of them. I have a request to make you.”
“I’m afraid I am not equal to much,” said Armine, not graciously.
“This is not much. We have a lame boy here for the winter, son to a cabinet maker in London. His mind is set on being a pupil-teacher, and he is a clever, bright fellow, but his chance depends on his keeping up his work. I have been looking over his Latin and French, but I have not time to do so properly, and it would be a great kindness if you would undertake it.”
“Can’t he go to school?” said Armine, not graciously.
“It is much too far off. Now he is only round the corner here.”
“My going out is so irregular,” said Armine, not by any means as he would have accepted a behest of Petronella’s.
“He could often come here. Or perhaps the Infanta would fetch and carry. He is with an uncle, a fisherman, and the wife keeps a little shop. Stagg is the name. They are very respectable people, but of a lower stamp than this lad, and he is rather lost for want of companionship. The London doctors say his recovery depends on sea air for the winter, so here he is, and whatever you can do for him will be a real good work.”
“What is the name?” asked Mrs. Brownlow.
“Stagg. It is over a little grocery shop. You must ask for Percy Stagg.”
Perhaps Armine suspected the motive to be his own good, for he took a dislike to the idea at once.
“Percy Stagg!” he began, as soon as Mr. Ogilvie was gone. “What a detestable conjunction, just showing what the fellow must be. And to have him on my hands.”
“I thought you liked teaching?” said his mother.
“As if this would be like a Woodside boy!”
“Yes,” said Babie; I don’t suppose he will carry onions and lollipops in his pockets, nor put cockchafers down on one’s book.”
“Babie, that was only Ted Stokes!”
“And I should think he might have rather cleaner hands, and not leave their traces on every book.”
“He’ll do worse!” said Armine. “He will be vulgarly stuck up, and excruciate me with every French word he attempts to pronounce.”
“But you’ll do it, Armie?” said his mother.
“Oh, yes, I will try if it be possible to make anything of him, when I am up to it.”
Armine was not “up to it” the next day, nor the next. The third was very fine, and with great resignation, he sauntered down to Mrs. Stagg’s.
Percy turned out to be a quiet, gentle, pale lad of fourteen, without cockney vivacity, and so shy that Armine grew shyer, did little but mark the errors in his French exercise, hear a bit of reading, and retreat, bemoaning the hopeless stupidity of his pupil.
A few days later Mr. Ogilvie asked the lame boy how he was getting on.
“Oh, sir,” brightening, “the lady is so kind. She does make it so plain in me.”