Page:A Voice from the Nile, and Other Poems. (Thomson, Dobell).djvu/21

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altogether unenviable one. The usual routine of school duty consists, I am told, in teaching the children for three hours in the forenoon, an equal time being devoted to the instruction of the adults in the afternoon. This leaves a good deal of time free for study or recreation, and there is plenty of evidence to show that Thomson made the best use possible of his leisure hours at this period.

During the time that he remained at the Asylum he spent his holidays at the home of a kind and liberal gentleman, an old friend of his father. From one of the daughters of this gentleman much of the information here embodied has been derived; and I will now quote from her account of him a very interesting passage:— "Being several years younger than James, I cannot recollect much about him as a boy, but I remember we always thought him wonderfully clever, very nice-looking, and very gentle, grave and kind. He was always most willing to attend to our whims, but my eldest sister was his especial favourite. Her will seemed always law to him. She was gay, as he was grave, but whatever Helen said or did won appreciation from him. . . . Previous to going (to Ireland) he earnestly requested that my sister might be allowed to correspond with him, a request which my parents thought it wiser to refuse. I was allowed, however, to do so, and although his letters came few and far between, I always welcomed and appreciated them. He used to endeavour to guide my tastes, and gave me good advice as to the books I should read, sending me Charlotte Bronte's 'Life and Letters,' Mrs.