Page:My Life and Loves.djvu/31

This page has been validated.
7
CHILDHOOD DAYS.

ing myself up till my chin was above the bar, and repeating this till one evening Vernon found I could do it thirty times running: his praise made me proud.

About this time, when I was ten or so, we were all brought together in Carrickfergus; my brothers and sisters then first became living, individual beings to me. Vernon was going to a bank as a clerk, and was away all day. Willie, six years older than I was, Annie four years my senior, and Chrissie two years my junior, went to the same day-school, though the girls went to the girls' entrance and had women teachers. Willie and I were in the same class; though he had grown to be taller than Vernon, I could beat him in most of the lessons. There was, however, one important branch of learning, in which he was easily the best in the school. The first time I heard him recite "The Battle of Ivry" by Macaulay, I was carried off my feet. He made gestures and his voice altered so naturally that I was lost in admiration.

That evening my sisters and I were together and we talked of Willie's talent. My eldest sister was enthusiastic, which I suppose stirred envy and emulation in me, for I got up and imitated him, and to my sisters' surprise I knew the whole poem by heart. "Who taught you?" Annie wanted to know, and when she heard that I had learned it just from hearing Willie recite it once, she was astonished and must have told our teacher, for the next afternoon he asked me to follow Willie and told me I was very good. From this time on, the reciting class was my chief education. I learned every boy's piece and could imitate them all perfectly, except one redheaded rascal who could recite the "African Chief" better than anyone else, better even than the master. It was pure melodrama; but Red-head was a born actor and swept us all away by the realism of his impersonation.