William's Hobby

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Uncle George was William's godfather, and he was intensely interested in William's upbringing. It was an interest with which William would gladly have dispensed. Uncle George's annual visit was to William a purgatory only to be endured by a resolutely philosophic attitude of mind and the knowledge that sooner or later it must come to an end. Uncle George had an ideal of what a boy should be, and it was a continual grief to him that William fell so short of this ideal. But he never relinquished his efforts to make William conform to it.

His ideal was a gentle boy of exquisite courtesy and of intellectual pursuits. Such a boy he could have loved. It was hard that fate had endowed him with a godson like William. William was neither quiet nor gentle, nor courteous nor intellectual—but William was intensely human.

The length of Uncle George's visit this year was beginning to reach the limits of William's patience. He was beginning to feel that sooner or later something must happen. For five weeks now he had (reluctantly) accompanied Uncle George upon his morning walk, he had (generally unsuccessfully) tried to maintain that state of absolute quiet that Uncle George's afternoon rest required, he had in the evening listened wearily to Uncle George's stories of his youth. His usual feeling of mild contempt for Uncle George was beginning to give way to one which was much stronger.

"Now, William," said Uncle George at breakfast, "I'm afraid it's going to rain to-day, so we'll do a little work together this morning, shall we? Nothing like work, is there? Your Arithmetic's a bit shaky, isn't it? We'll rub that up. We love our work, don't we?"

William eyed him coldly.

"I don't think I'd better get muddlin' up my school work," he said. "I shouldn't like to be more on than the other boys next term. It wouldn't be fair to them."

Uncle George rubbed his hands.

"That feeling does you credit, my boy," he said, "but if we go over some of the old work, no harm can be done. History, now. There's nothing like History, is there?"

William agreed quite heartily that there wasn't.

"We'll do some History, then," said Uncle George briskly. "The lives of the great. Most inspiring. Better than those terrible things you used to waste your time on, eh?"

The "terrible things" had included a trumpet, a beloved motor hooter, and an ingenious instrument very dear to William's soul that reproduced most realistically the sound of two cats fighting. These, at Uncle George's request, had been confiscated by William's father. Uncle George had not considered them educational. They also disturbed his afternoon's rest.

Uncle George settled himself and William down for a nice quiet morning in the library. William, looking round for escape, found none. The outside world was wholly uninviting. The rain came down in torrents. Moreover, the five preceding weeks had broken William's spirits. He realised the impossibility of evading Uncle George. His own family were not sympathetic. They suffered from him considerably during the rest of the year and were not sorry to see him absorbed completely by Uncle George's conscientious zeal.

So Uncle George seated himself slowly and ponderously in an arm-chair by the fire.

"When I was a boy, William," he began, leaning back and joining the tips of his fingers together, "I loved my studies. I'm sure you love your studies, don't you? Which do you love most?"

"Me?" said William. "I like shootin' and playin' Red Injuns."

"Yes, yes," said Uncle George impatiently, "but those aren't studies, William. You must aim at being gentle."

"It's not much good bein' gentle when you're playin' Red Injuns," said William stoutly. "A gentle Red Injun wun't get much done."

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