Read CHAPTER XIX - The “Green-eyed Monster” Awakes of My Brave and Gallant Gentleman, free online book, by Robert Watson, on ReadCentral.com.

Rita had just had her first real lesson in English. Already, but without giving her the reason why, except that it was incorrect, I had taught her never to say “ain’t” and “I seen”; also that “Gee,” “Gosh” and “you bet your life” were hardly ladylike expressions. She now understood that two negatives made a positive and that she should govern her speech accordingly.

She was an apt pupil; so anxious to improve her way of talking that mine was not a task, it was merely the setting of two little feet on a road and saying, “This is your way home,” and those two little feet never deviated from that road for a single moment, never side-stepped, never turned back to pick up the useless but attractive words she had cast from her as she travelled.

How I marvelled at the great difference the elimination of a few of the most common of her slangy and incorrect expressions and the substitution of plain phrases in their places made in her diction! Already, it seemed to me as if she understood her English and had been studying it for years.

How easy it was, after all, I fancied, as I followed my train of thought, for one, simply by elimination, to become almost learned in the sight of his fellow men!

But now Rita had been introduced to the whys and wherefores in their simplest forms, so that she should be able, finally, to construct her thoughts for herself, word by word and phrase by phrase, into rounded and completed sentences.

At the outset, I had told her how the greatest writers in English were not above reading and re-reading plain little Grammars such as she was then studying, also that the favourite book of some of the most famous men the world ever knew, a book which they perused from cover to cover, year in and year out, as they would their family Bible, was an ordinary standard dictionary.

I gave Rita her thin little Grammar and a note book in which to copy her lessons, and she slipped these into her bosom, hugging them to her heart and laughing with pleasure.

She put out her hands and grasped mine, then, in her sweet, unpremeditated way, she threw her arms round my neck and drew my lips to hers.

Dear little girl! How very like a child she was! A creature of impulse, a toy in the hands of her own fleeting emotions!

“Say! George, I just got to hug you sometimes,” she cried, “you are so good to me.”

She stood back and surveyed me as if she were trying to gauge my weight and strength.

As it so happened, that was exactly what she was doing.

“You aren’t scared of our Joe, are you?” she asked.

“No!” I laughed. “What put that funny question into your head?”

She became serious.

“Well, if I thought you were, I wouldn’t come back for any more Grammar.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Joe’s not very well pleased about it. Guess he thinks nobody should be able to speak better’n he can.”

“Oh! never mind Joe,” I exclaimed. “He’ll come round, and your grand-dad’s consent is all you need anyway.”

“Sure! But I know, all the same, that Joe’s got it in for you. He hasn’t forgot the words you and he had.”

“When did you see him last, Rita?”

“He was in to-day. Wanted to know where I was going. Grand-dad told him, then Joe got mad. Says you’re ‘too damned interfering.’ Yes! Joe said it. He said to Grand-dad, ‘You ain’t got no right lettin’ that kid go over there. Girls ain’t got any business learnin’ lessons off’n men.’

“Grand-dad said, ’Aw! forget it, Joe. She’s got my permission, so let that end it. George Bremner’s all right.’

“The settlers are arranging for a teacher up here next summer. Why can’t she wait till then and get her lessons from a reg’lar professional, and no gol-durned amatoor,’ said Joe.

“‘See here, Mister man!’ I said, ’you’re sore, that’s your trouble. But I’m not going to be bullied by you, so there. I’m through with you, Joe Clark; and, what’s more, you needn’t take any interest in me any more. I can look after myself.’

“He gripped my arm. It’s black and blue yet. See!

“‘You ain’t goin’,’ said he, madder’n ever.

“‘Yes! I am,’ I said.

“’If you go, by God, I’ll kill that son-of-a-gun. Watch me! I ain’t forgot him, though maybe he’s fool enough to think I have.’

“Then he got kind of soft.

“‘Don’t you go, Rita.’

“‘Why?’ I asked.

“‘Because I don’t want you to.’

“‘That’s no reason,’ I said.

“I’ll send you to a school in Vancouver this winter, if you’ll wait,’ he coaxed.

“You see, George, Joe ain’t half bad sometimes. But I was scared he might think I was givin’ in.

“‘Don’t want your schooling. It’s too late,’ said I. ’I’ve arranged for myself, Joe Clark, so there.’

“I ran out and left him.

“He’s pretty mad, but I don’t care any more, now you’re goin’ to help me with this grammar.

“You’re sure you’re not scared of Joe?” she repeated.

“I have a strong right arm,” I declared, “and I have been taught to look after myself.”

I went down to the boat with her, and as she was stepping in she caught me by the shirt sleeve.

“You and Joe aren’t goin’ to fight, George? Promise me you won’t fight.”

“I could not promise that, little girl, for I cannot control the future. But I promise you that I shall not seek any quarrel with Joe. But, if he insulted you, for instance, or tried to commit a bodily violence on me, I would fight him without any hesitation. Wouldn’t that be the right thing to do, Rita?”

Her head nodded wistfully. “Yes! Guess it would,” she whispered, as I pushed her boat out into the water where the darkness swallowed it up.