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6. Easter.

GOETHE makes Easter bells and anthems awaken memories of youth in Faust's world-weary heart, and save him from the suicide he meditated. It is a beautifully true conception. To a northern, at all events, whose Easter falls in spring—and southern experiences cannot obliterate old associations—what other festival is so suggestive of the spring of life? Easter Holidays! How the old words recall old times and feelings! When we entered the gloomy tunnel of the school “half” on a bleak January “Black Monday,” Midsummer glimmered far away at the other end almost a mythical vacation; but midway the bright shaft of Easter broke the blackness, and cheered us on our melancholy journey. Michaelmas was not nearly so trustworthy a resting-place as Easter. There was no inviolable sanctity in Michaelmas. School during Michaelmas did not appear a contradiction in terms, an absolute impossibility. A crusty master might take it into his crabbed old head to cheat us of our Michaelmas, but the sourest despot that ever flogged would never have dared to nobble Easter for gerund-grinding purposes. Mutiny would instantly have reared her Hydra-heads, laughed at the shaking of the rod, snapt the cane in sunder, and hurled the manifestly crack-brained tyrant from his leather-covered throne. If we spent Easter at home, what a glorious week of sight-seeing it was! There are no such pantomimes, learned pigs, and panoramas now! And the back of the half-year being fairly broken by the recess—Midsummer having emerged from the mists of mythology, and become a veritable next stage, we could go tearlessly, hopefully back to school. (How hard it is to believe—and yet so it was—that our papas and mammas thought life then as dull as we think it now!). Easter at school was scarcely a less pleasant time. How jolly we were when we “put away books” on the Thursday afternoon, with the consciousness that, for a whole week to come, Euripides and Euclid, Bland and Bonnycastle, Virgil and Walkinghame, should no more have dominion over us! What a row we kicked up in the bed-rooms that night! With what comically perplexed countenances the ushers came out of their rooms and regarded


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the said riot: scandalised by the tumult, and yet afraid to stop it—not being aware how far their authority extended in such a semi-Saturnalian season! How cheeky we were when they advised us to make a little less noise! Much we cared for their advice. What a queer, quiet, happy day Good Friday was—a Sunday with church, indeed, but no catechism, in the morning, and rounders instead of Greek Testament in the afternoon! What a magnificent scamper over the country we had on Easter Monday, at hare and hounds—spring buds on the hedges, starlike primroses and pale anemones in cool clusters round the mossy tree-roots, birds singing merrily in the sunny air, and all our hearts in unison with the gushing joy, the rich yet pure and peaceful promise of the year! Ah, me! for the time when simple pleasures pleased, and we thought that each leaf of life would be more brightly emblazoned than the last we turned: not knowing that the preface only is illuminated. Where now is the boisterous band that made the old Fives Wall echo with its mirth? Some in the churchyard, some in the deep sea, and all who still survive have also outlived their buoyancy and innocence of heart. How the tints of character as well as canvas tone down—become, in course of time, what painters call absorbed. Remembering the glowing colours of his youth, haven't you often found it difficult to believe in the identity of a friend whom you meet, after long severance, a mud-hued mass of the prosy matter-of-fact of middle age? It is fortunate if he be not a blacker thing. And you yourself, counting your birthdays as a tramp weary of the dusty road counts milestones, don't you sometimes wonder whether the soul you've got be really that which animated the happy child called by your name long, long ago? Be not so anxious, my little man, to exchange Geometry for Grief—Latin Syntax, alas! for loathsome Sin. Schooltime was the real holiday, and now that we have sloughed the satchel we are or ever at school. Thank God! Breaking-up Day must come at last, and when we go home for that vacation, we “go home for good.”

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