"No! Sterne's Uncle Toby, and that worthy uncle pronounced precisely the same words, while setting free a mosquito that annoyed him, but which he thought himself at liberty to _thee_ and _thou_: 'Go, poor devil,' he said to it, 'the world is large enough to contain us, thee and me!'"
"An honest man, that Uncle Toby!" replied Cousin Benedict. "Is he dead?"
"I believe so, indeed," retorted Captain Hull, gravely, "as he has never existed!"
And each began to laugh, looking at Cousin Benedict.
Thus, then, in these conversations, and many others, which invariably bore on some point of entomological science, whenever Cousin Benedict took part, passed away long hours of this navigation against contrary winds. The sea always fine, but winds which obliged the schooner to tack often. The "Pilgrim" made very little headway toward the east--the breeze was so feeble; and they longed to reach those parts where the prevailing winds would be more favorable.
It must be stated here that Cousin Benedict had endeavored to initiate the young novice into the mysteries of entomology. But Dick Sand had shown himself rather refractory to these advances. For want of better company the savant had fallen back on the negroes, who comprehended nothing about it. Tom, Acteon, Bat, and Austin had even finished by deserting the class, and the professor found himself reduced to Hercules alone, who seemed to him to have some natural disposition to distinguish a parasite from a thysanuran.
So the gigantic black lived in the world of coleopteras, carnivorous insects, hunters, gunners, ditchers, cicindelles, carabes, sylphides, moles, cockchafers, horn-beetles, tenebrions, mites, lady-birds, studying all Cousin Benedict's collection, not but the latter trembled on seeing his frail specimens in Hercules' great hands, which were hard and strong as a vise. But the colossal pupil listened so quietly to the professor's lessons that it was worth risking something to give them.
While Cousin Benedict worked in that manner, Mrs. Weldon did not leave little Jack entirely unoccupied; She taught him to read and to write. As to arithmetic, it was his friend Dick Sand who inculcated the first elements.
At the age of five, one is still only a little child, and is perhaps better instructed by practical games than by theoretical lessons necessarily a little arduous.
Jack learned to read, not in a primer, but by means of movable letters, printed in red on cubes of wood. He amused himself by arranging the blocks so as to form words. Sometimes Mrs. Weldon took these cubes and composed a word; then she disarranged them, and it was for Jack to replace them in the order required.
The little boy liked this manner of learning to read very much. Each day he passed some hours, sometimes in the cabin, sometimes on the deck, in arranging and disarranging the letters of his alphabet.
Now, one day this led to an incident so extraordinary, so unexpected, that it is necessary to relate with some detail.
It was on the morning of February 9th, Jack, half-lying on the deck, was amusing himself forming a word which old Tom was to put together again, after the letters had been mixed. Tom, with his hand over his eyes so as not to cheat, as he agreed, would see nothing, and did see nothing of the work of the little boy.
Of these different letters, about fifty in number, some were large, others small. Besides, some of these cubes carried a figure, which taught the child to form numbers as well as to form words.
These cubes were arranged on the deck, and little Jack was taking sometimes one, sometimes another, to make a word--a truly great labor.
Now, for same moments, Dingo was moving round the young child, when suddenly it stopped. Its eyes became fixed, its right paw was raised, its tail wagged convulsively. Then, suddenly throwing itself on one of the cubes, it seized it in its mouth and laid it on the deck a few steps from Jack.
This cube bore a large letter--the letter S.
"Dingo, well Dingo!" cried the little boy, who at first was afraid that his S was swallowed by the dog.