Tales of College Life/A Long-Vacation Vigil/Chapter 1

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THE Commemoration was just over. My mother and sister Nelly, who had never seen its glories, had been spending the week in Oxford, and were thoroughly fatigued with their severe round of sight-seeing and lionising. Like a dutiful son and brother, I had shown them everything that was worth looking at: had given them select breakfasts and luncheons in my rooms at Brazenface—promenaded with them in the Broad Walk on the Sunday—got them good places in the Theatre, where, indeed, Nelly had to blush in the front row, as one of "the ladies in pink"—procured them tickets for the Amateur Concert—taken them on to our college barge to see the Procession of Boats gone with them to Worcester College to see the Horticultural Show and the Fireworks—introduced them at the Ball in the Town Hall; and, in short, had generally acted as a walking catalogue to all the sights and notabilities of my Alma Mater. These were fatiguing pleasures to all; and I was not sorry when they had come comfortably to their end, and the spires and domes of Oxford had been left far behind us.

I had been anxiously looking forward to the Long Vacation, for the end of it would see me going in for my degree. What with boating, cricketing, and other summer idlenesses, I had put off reading so long, that at last I had come to the conclusion it would be better to lay aside books altogether till Term was over; and that in the quiet of the Long Vacation, I should have abundance of time for my reading. So I had laid this flattering unction to my soul, and, having thoroughly enjoyed the Term, I thought I could as thoroughly and easily settle down to work now that "the Long" had commenced. Big with this resolve, I went so far as to unpack my books and lay them upon my study-table; but the exertion seemed to exercise a weakening effect upon me, and I deemed it best to brace myself up for work by a dip in the sea, and to spend a few days at the quiet little watering-place of Westcliffe, whither my mother and sister had gone with all the juveniles. Finally, I resolved that I should be in the best trim for reading while enjoying the quiet and the sea-breeze; so I packed up some books, and determined to stay at Westcliffe some few weeks.

The next week, armed with my classical weapons, I made a descent on my family, who had taken up comfortable quarters at the Royal Hotel. Like many hotels in similar places, it was so constructed that it had private entrances for those families who might take a suite of rooms; and my mother had preferred this to the usual lodgings. The hotel was on the outside of the little town, fronting to the sea. For the first few days I got on very well; and I had just come to that point when I thought how jolly it would be, when I began work next Monday, to lie on the cliff, with a weed in my mouth, and get up Aristotle, and watch the sea-gulls skimming about, and the ships sinking in the distant west, when an event occurred, which, for a time put all my logic to flight.