Page:My Life and Loves.djvu/29

This page has been validated.
5
CHILDHOOD DAYS.

thought it began about 13 or 14 and Wilde to my amazement set it as late as 16. Meredith alone was inclined to put it earlier.

"It shows sporadically", he said, "and sometimes before puberty".

I recalled the fact that Napoleon tells how he was in love before he was five years old with a school-mate called Giacominetta, but even Meredith laughed at this and would not believe that any real sex-feeling could show itself so early. To prove the point, I gave my experience as I have told it here, and brought Meredith to pause: "very interesting", he thought, "but peculiar!"

"In her abnormalities", says Goethe, "Nature reveals her secrets"; here is an abnormality, perhaps as such, worth noting.

I hadn't another sensation of sex till nearly six years later when I was eleven, since which time such emotions have been almost incessant.

My exaltation to the oldest class in arithmetic got me into trouble by bringing me into relations with the headmistress, Mrs. Frost, who was very cross and seemed to think that I should spell as correctly as I did sums. When she found I couldn't, she used to pull my ears and got into the habit of digging her long thumb-nail into my ear till it bled. I didn't mind the smart; in fact, I was delighted, for her cruelty brought me the pity of the elder girls who used to wipe my ears with their pocket-handkerchiefs and say that old Frost was a beast and a cat.

One day my father sent for me and I went with a petty officer to his vessel in the harbor: my right ear had bled on to my collar. As soon as my father noticed it and saw the older scars, he got angry and took me back to the school and told Mrs. Frost what he thought of her, and her punishments.