Page:My Life and Loves.djvu/32

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Never shall I forget how the boy rendered the words:

"Look, feast thy greedy eyes on gold,
Long kept for sorest need;
Take it, thou askest sums untold
And say that I am freed.

Take it; my wife the long, long day
Weeps by the cocoa-tree,
And my young children leave their play
And ask in vain for me."

I haven't seen or heard the poem these fifty odd years. It seems tawdry stuff to me now; but the boy's accents were of the very soul of tragedy and I realized clearly that I couldn't recite that poem as well as he did. He was inimitable. Every time his accents and manner altered; now he did these verses wonderfully, at another time those, so that I couldn't ape him; always there was a touch of novelty in his intense realization of the tragedy. Strange to say it was the only poem he recited at all well.

An examination came and I was first in the school in arithmetic and first too in elocution; Vernon even praised me, while Willie slapped me and got kicked on the shins for his pains. Vernon separated us and told Willie he should be ashamed of hitting one only half as big as he was. Willie lied promptly, saying I had kicked him first. I disliked Willie; I hardly know why, save that he was a rival in the school-life.

After this Annie began to treat me differently and now I seemed to see her as she was and was struck by her funny ways. She wished both Chrissie and myself to call her "Nita"; it was short for "Anita", she said, which was the stylish French way of pronouncing Annie. She hated "Annie"—it was "common and vulgar"; I couldn't make out why.