It was not, on the whole, a happy experience. The boys who attended the school were from poor families and generally toughened by life in the inner city. I was a suburban kid who didn't fit in terribly well. I did like the classical architecture, the sprawling grounds, even the ritual of dressing in a uniform, shirt, tie, sweater, blazer - for class and meals.
The library in particular was an impressive structure - a classical Greek structure with high cielings and windows, multiple stories surrounding an open interior. The smell of that building in particular is something I remember, dusty and with that lovely book-smell.
The sky in Venice in grey today, and it's cool outside. It's finally Fall, thank god - the sweltering heat of the late summer was brutal and I hated it passionately. But today is more like the Fall I spent at Girard, and I remember the library in particular. The librarian, who was absolutely the ur-librarian from which all other librarians were cast; a middle-aged kindly but stern woman with a pearl necklace, sweater tied around her neck, and glasses on a chain around her neck, would read to us. Of course, I preferred to read on my own, but story time was okay too. We each took a rectangular piece of carpet and sat on the floor - a polished marble expanse with a persian rug an acre across. The librarian read to us, and for years I had this vague recollection that it was a story about a boy finding an alien creature of some sort, something to do with the moon.
I finally dug it up, it was "The Moonball" by Ursula Moray Williams. Described thus: It's alive! cries William, holding the moonball. How can it be? asks Gloria. It doesn't have nay mouth, or eyes, or anything! It's just a furry ball. But it is alive, William says. It's licking my hand? Ever since the children first found the mysterious moonball, it has made them happy. But now the Professor has taken the moonball away to study it. He won't give it back! And that's how the trouble starts.
Today would be a fine day to be in a magnificent 19th century palace of books, reading old science-fiction, I nearly think.