Primus





Primus is my brother's eldest son, and he once spent his Easter

holidays with me. I did not want him, nor was he anxious to come, but

circumstances were too strong for us, and, to be just to Primus, he did

his best to show me that I was not in his way. He was then at the age

when boys begin to address each other by their surnames.



I have said that I always took care not to know how much tobacco I

smoked in a week, and therefore I may be hinting a libel on Primus when

I say that while he was with me the Arcadia disappeared mysteriously.

Though he spoke respectfully of the Mixture--as became my nephew--he

tumbled it on to the table, so that he might make a telephone out of

the tins, and he had a passion for what he called snipping cigars.

Scrymgeour gave him a cigar-cutter which was pistol-shaped. You put the

cigar end in a hole, pull the trigger, and the cigar was snipped. The

simplicity of the thing fascinated Primus, and after his return to

school I found that he had broken into my Cabana boxes and snipped

nearly three hundred cigars.






As soon as he arrived Primus laid siege to the heart of William John,

captured it in six hours, and demoralized it in twenty-four. We, who had

known William John for years, considered him very practical, but Primus

fired him with tales of dark deeds at old Poppy's--which was Primus's

handy name for his preceptor--and in a short time William John was so

full of romance that we could not trust him to black our boots. He and

Primus had a scheme for seizing a lugger and becoming pirates, when

Primus was to be captain, William John first lieutenant, and old Poppy a

prisoner. To the crew was added a boy with a catapult, one Johnny Fox,

who was another victim of the tyrant Poppy, and they practised walking

the plank at Scrymgeour's window. The plank was pushed nearly half-way

out at the window, and you walked up it until it toppled and you were

flung into the quadrangle. Such was the romance of William John that he

walked the plank with his arms tied, shouting scornfully, by request,

Captain Kidd, I defy you! ha, ha! the buccaneer does not live who

will blanch the cheeks of Dick, the Doughty Tar! Then William John

disappeared, and had to be put in poultices.



While William John was in bed slowly recovering from his heroism, the

pirate captain and Johnny Fox got me into trouble by stretching a string

across the square, six feet from the ground, against which many tall

hats struck, to topple in the dust. An improved sling from the Lowther

Arcade kept the glazier constantly in the inn. Primus and Johnny Fox

strolled into Holborn, knocked a bootblack's cap off, and returned with

lumps on their foreheads. They were observed one day in Hyde Park--whither

it may be feared they had gone with cigarettes--running after sheep,

from which ladies were flying, while street-arabs chased the pirates,

and a policeman chased the street-arabs. The only book they read was the

Comic History of Rome, the property of Gilray. This they liked so much

that Primus papered the inside of his box with pictures from it. The

only authors they consulted me about were two big swells called

Descartes and James Payn, of whom Primus discovered that the one could

always work best in bed, while the other thought Latin and Greek a

mistake. It was the intention of the pirates to call old Poppy's

attention to these gentlemen's views.






Soon after Primus came to me I learned that his schoolmaster had given

him a holiday task. All the fellows in his form had to write an essay

entitled My Holidays, and How I Turned Them to Account, and to send

it to their preceptor. Primus troubled his head little about the task

while the composition of it was yet afar off; but as his time drew

near he referred to it with indignation, and to his master's action

in prescribing it as a low trick. He frightened the housekeeper into

tears by saying that he would not write a line of the task, and, what

was more, he would cheek his master for imposing it; and I also

heard that he and Johnny had some thought of writing the essay in

a form suggested by their perusal of the Comic History of Rome.

One day I found a paper in my chambers which told me that the task was

nevertheless receiving serious consideration. It was the instructions

given by Primus's master with regard to the essay, which was to be in

the form of a letter, and not less than five hundred words in length.

The writer, it was suggested, should give a general sketch of how he was

passing his time, what books he was reading, and how he was making the

home brighter. I did not know that Primus had risen equal to the

occasion until one day after his departure, when I received his epistle

from the schoolmaster, who wanted me to say whether it was a true

statement. Here is Primus's essay on his holidays and how he made the

home brighter:






RESPECTED SIR:--I venture to address you on a subject of jeneral

interest to all engaged in education, and the subject I venture to

address you on is, 'My Hollidays and How I Turned Them to Account.'

Three weeks and two days has now elapsed since I quitted your scholastic

establishment, and I quitted your scholastic establishment with tears

in my eyes, it being the one of all the scholastic establishments I

have been at that I loved to reside in, and everybody was of an amiable

disposition. Hollidays is good for making us renew our studdies with

redoubled vigor, the mussels needing to be invigorated, and I have not

overworked mind and body in my hollidays. I found my uncle well, and

drove in a handsome to the door, and he thought I was much improved both

in appearance and manners; and I said it was jew to the loving care

of my teacher making improvement in appearance and manners a pleasure

to the youth of England. My uncle was partiklarly pleased with the

improvement I had made, not only in my appearance and manners, but also

in my studies; and I told him Casear was the Latin writer I liked best,

and quoted '_veni, vidi, vici_,' and some others which I regret I

cannot mind at present. With your kind permission I should like to write

you a line about how I spend my days during the hollidays; and my first

way of spending my days during the hollidays is whatsoever my hands find

to do doing it with all my might; also setting my face nobly against

hurting the fealings of others, and minding to say, before I go to

sleep, 'Something attempted, something done, to earn a night's repose,'

as advised by you, my esteemed communicant. I spend my days during the

hollidays getting up early, so as to be down in time for breakfast, and

not to give no trouble. At breakfast I behave like a model, so as to set

a good example; and then I go out for a walk with my esteemed young

friend, John Fox, whom I chose carefully for a friend, fearing to

corrupt my morals by holding communications with rude boys. The J. Fox

whom I mentioned is esteemed by all who knows him as of a unusually

gentle disposition; and you know him, respected sir, yourself, he being

in my form, and best known in regretble slang as 'Foxy.' We walks in

Hyde Park admiring the works of nature, and keeps up our classics

when we see a tree by calling it 'arbor' and then going through the

declensions; but we never climbs trees for fear of messing the clothes

bestowed upon us by our beloved parents in the sweat of their brow;

and we scorns to fling stones at the beautiful warblers which fill the

atmosfere with music. In the afternoons I spend my days during the

hollidays talking with the housekeeper about the things she understands,

like not taking off my flannels till June 15, and also praising the

matron at the school for seeing about the socks. In the evening I devote

myself to whatever good cause I can think of; and I always take off my

boots and put on my slippers, so as not to soil the carpet. I should

like, respected sir, to inform you of the books I read when my duties

does not call me elsewhere; and the books I read are the works of

William Shakespeare, John Milton, Albert Tennyson, and Francis Bacon.

Me and John Fox also reads the 'History of Rome,' so as to prime

ourselves with the greatness of the past; and we hopes the glorious

examples of Romulus and Remus, but especially Hannibal, will sink into

our minds to spur us along. I am desirous to acquaint you with the way

I make my uncle's home brighter; but the 500 words is up. So looking

forward eagerly to resume my studdies, I am, respected sir, your

dilligent pupil.





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