teaching. Leaving out of the question her own unwillingness to part with him, in
her solitary position, she was especially anxious that he should not be thrown
among strangers by being sent to school. Her darling project was to bring him up
privately at home, and to keep him, as he advanced in years, from all contact with
the temptations and the dangers of the world.
With these objects in view, her longer sojourn in her own locality (where the
services of the resident clergyman, in the capacity of tutor, were not obtainable)
must come to an end. She had made inquiries, had heard of a house that would
suit her in Mr. Brock's neighborhood, and had also been told that Mr. Brock
himself had formerly been in the habit of taking pupils. Possessed of this
information, she had ventured to present herself, with references that vouched for
her respectability, but without a formal introduction; and she had now to ask
whether (in the event of her residing in the neighborhood) any terms that could be
offered would induce Mr. Brock to open his doors once more to a pupil, and to
allow that pupil to be her son.
If Mrs. Armadale had been a woman of no personal attractions, or if Mr. Brock
had been provided with an intrenchment to fight behind in the shape of a wife, it
is probable that the widow's journey might have been taken in vain. As things
really were, the rector examined the references which were offered to him, and
asked time for consideration. When the time had expired, he did what Mrs.
Armadale wished him to do--he offered his back to the burden, and let the mother
load him with the responsibility of the son.
This was the first event of the series; the date of it being the year eighteen
hundred and thirty-seven. Mr. Brock's memory, traveling forward toward the
present from that point, picked up the second event in its turn, and stopped next at
the year eighteen hundred and forty-five.
The fishing-village on the Somersetshire coast was still the scene, and the
characters were once again--Mrs. Armadale and her son.
Through the eight years that had passed, Mr. Brock's responsibility had rested on
him lightly enough. The boy had given his mother and his tutor but little trouble.
He was certainly slow over his books, but more from a constitutional inability to
fix his attention on his tasks than from want of capacity to understand them. His
temperament, it could not be denied, was heedless to the last degree: he acted
recklessly on his first impulses, and rushed blindfold at all his conclusions. On the
other hand, it was to be said in his favor that his disposition was open as the day;
a more generous, affectionate, sweet-tempered lad it would have been hard to find
anywhere. A certain quaint originality of character, and a natural healthiness in all
his tastes, carried him free of most of the dangers to which his mother's system of
education inevitably exposed him. He had a thoroughly English love of the sea
and of all that belongs to it; and as he grew in years, there was no luring him away
from the water-side, and no keeping him out of the boat-builder's yard. In course
of time his mother caught him actually working there, to her infinite annoyance
and surprise, as a volunteer. He acknowledged that his whole future ambition was
to have a yard of his own, and that his one present object was to learn to build a
boat for himself. Wisely foreseeing that such a pursuit as this for his leisure hours