Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/203

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A RAGGED SCHOOL MASTER

quite gladly, after his hard day's work ; and it was so very nice to see the welcome all the people gave him, but especially the children. He told us such an interesting story about a pupil of his, a very desperate bad character, about 16, who gambled in school, and only came with the avowed intention of having "a lark," i.e., pouring out the ink, and upsetting the forms. At last this schoolmaster spoke to him, told him he had no children of his own, and that he should be one to him, if he would. The boy was deeply touched. He always sat by the master and studied hard. To quote Mr. S., "I assure you, and I'm not ashamed to own it, he distanced me out and out. He was a first-rate mathematician ; he solved some of the greatest problems of the age (?). 'There, old 'un,' he used to say, showing me his slate in triumph, ' do you know anything about that ? '"

"And what became of him at last ? " we asked. " He died at twenty-one," Mr. S. answered, his eyes filling with tears as he went on "He died a peaceful and triumphant Christian. My wife and I never left his bed for three days and nights. That's his portrait; he'd long promised it to me, and on the Thursday (he died on Tuesday) he said, ; Old fellow, if you don't have it now, you'll never Jiave it.' I never could break him of his rough way of speaking. He'd come in here to the last and say, ' Well, old 'un, have you got anything to eat ? ' He wanted to come over from his father's house, and die in my easy chair ; and the little wife and I would have given him his wish. But the doctor forbade it. Yes, I do miss him."

Maggie Yarnall is now on her voyage to England, which gives me the faintest most precious hope that Mary Harris may possibly come to London.