“Now my brothers call from the bay,
Now the great winds shoreward blow,
Now the salt tides seaward flow,
Now the wild white horses play,
Champ and chafe and toss in the spray,
Children dear, let us away!
This way, this way!”
The Forsaken Merman
The winter—the real winter, such as it is known up in that country—came on slowly that year. There was no snow and but little frost before Christmas. Fergus gained ground steadily, and his mother, who at first had dreaded the experiment of the bleak but bracing air, was so encouraged that she stayed on from week to week. And through these weeks there was never a half-holiday which the two boys did not spend together.
Gratian was learning much—more than even those who knew him best had full understanding of; much, much more than he himself knew.
“He is like a different child,” said the schoolmaster one day to the lady, when she had looked in as she was passing through the village; “if you had seen him a year ago; he seemed always dreaming or in the clouds. I really thought I should never succeed in teaching him anything. You have opened his mind.”
“His mind had begun to open before he ever saw me, Mr. Cornelius,” said Fergus’s mother with a smile. “It is like a flower—it asks nothing but to be allowed to grow. He is a very uncommon child—one could imagine that some specially happy influences surrounded him. He seems to take in and to feel interest in so many different things. I wonder what he will grow up.”
“Ah yes, ma’am,” said the schoolmaster with a sigh. “It is a pity to think of his being no more than his father before him. But yet, what can one do?”
“One would like at least to find out what he might be,” she said thoughtfully. “He will be a good man, whether he ever leaves the moors or not—of that I feel sure. And if it is his duty to stay in[Pg 134] this quiet corner of the world, I suppose we must not regret it.”
“I suppose not. I try to think so,” said the schoolmaster. But from something in his tone the lady suspected that he was looking back rather sadly on dreams, long ago past, of his own future—dreams which had never come to pass, and left him but the village schoolmaster.
And her sympathy with this half-understood disappointment made her think still more of Gratian. “Cornelius would live again in this child if he should turn out one of the great few,” she thought to herself.
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