The Ghost of Lady Hobby

In the days of the first Queen Elizabeth, there lived at Bisham Abbey a proud and beautiful lady. She was proud of her face and figure, proud of her beautiful clothes and jewels, proud of her own ancient lineage and that of the man into whose family she had married. In fact, she was proud of everything except her little son, the next Hobby in the line. Of him she could not be proud, for though he was as healthy and sturdy a little boy as any mother could have wished, the truth was that he was a dullard at his lessons, and seemed not to be able to learn at all.

This grieved his proud mother beyond all reason. She simply could not understand how it could possibly be that a son of hers should not be as good at his books as he was bright and skilful at his outdoor games and sports. She made up her mind, after trying many tutors for him, to teach him herself; for it seemed plain to her that the reason for his backwardness was that he would not, and not that he could not, learn. Very well, he should be made to learn, and if he did not, then he should be severely punished with strap and rod. She herself would be his mentor, and nothing should prevail upon her to relent until her son was as much the equal of his peers in learning as he was in every other gentlemanly pursuit.

So poor Hobby’s ordeal began. Day after day he sat at his lessons with his stern mother as tutor, while the Thames ran sweetly through the meadows of his prison, and his friends played and fished there in the sunshine. For every failure, the hours of his schooling were lengthened; for every mistake, extra work was given; for every disobedience, the rod or the strap were applied without mercy, in order to make him try harder, and do better.

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