Studies for Stories (4)

Home Up Poems Story of Doom Monitions Old Days Poetical Works Allerton and Dreux Allerton and Dreux Off the Skelligs Fated to be Free Sarah De Berenger Don John John Jerome A Moto Changed Stories Told to a Child A Sister's Bye-Hours Mopsa the Fairy Wonder Box Tales Sheet Music Sheet Music Reviews, etc. Main Index Site Search


 

[Previous Page]

 
CHAPTER IV.


THREE days had passed, days of deep anxiety and much exertion to Ann Salter and her mother.  The farmer had received greater injuries than had first appeared; but he was getting on favourably, and though entirely unused to illness, was very patient, excepting when the thought of his farm came into his head, and then he could not help showing the restlessness and harass of mind that oppressed him.

    After the first day and night, Mrs. Salter entirely recovered her self-possession, and was unwearied in her care of her husband; but more was required in his sick-room than could be done by one person; and his daughter sometimes found the various duties now devolving on her almost too much for her strength.  There was the servant to look after; for, as Mrs. Salter justly said of her, she had no headpiece, and though professing to understand a dairy, would spoil a whole churning of butter if she was not well attended to; then she loved to gossip outside the back-door with the farm-labourers, leaving the household work undone.

    'Ann, Ann,' Mrs. Salter would call gently down the stairs, 'Have you seen that Emmy has scalded the milk-pans?' or, 'Have you seen that Emmy has fed those turkeys?' or, 'Have you looked after Emmy, and made her kill those young cockerels ready for to-morrow's market?'  Sometimes the answer would be, 'No, mother; but I will see what she is about when I have weighed the butter for to-morrow,' or, 'When I have plucked the chickens — they are nearly finished.'  Sometimes it would be, 'No, mother; but I will scald the milk-pans myself, for the grains are just come, and Emmy is gone with them to feed the pigs.'

    Sometimes when Mrs. Salter came down for any little nicety which Ann had prepared for her father, she would sink into a chair, look admiringly at her daughter, and exclaim, with tender pride: 'Deary me, what a thing it is to have a daughter!  Here I come down and find everything done to my hands, and her stirring about as busy as a bee.  Ann, dear, I'm glad you haven't forgotten how to cook.'

    'O no, mother!' would be the cheerful answer, 'no fear of that.'

    'Ah!  I wish your dear father and me could afford to have you at home always.  Dick, you're pleased to have Ann at home, I know?'

    Dick, a great stupid youth of sixteen, his mother's pet when her daughter was away, would answer, shaking his fair hair and heavy head, 'I should rather expect so, mother.'

    Then Mrs. Salter would proceed to carry the little tray with its savoury contents to her husband, being dutifully followed by Dick, who would bear the salt or sugar, as the case might be, and who never would go up and see his father unless he had some such pretence for presenting himself; for he was very shy; and to walk up to his father's bed with no other object than to say, 'How do you feel yourself to-day, father?  I hope you're mending,' would have appeared to him a formidable and affecting ceremony.

    When they were gone, Ann Salter's face would cloud with involuntary anxiety, and, busy as she was, a number of moral reflections would crowd into her mind—reflections on being discontented with one's lot—reflections on the folly of not knowing when one was well off, and on the happy lot of a governess as compared with the housekeeper and factotum in a farm.  It was not that she did not love her parents and her brothers, not that she did not feel willing to exert herself, both strenuously and cheerfully, in their behalf, but that she perceived how much more carefully one eats bread in one's father's house, if he is poor, than in another man's house if he is rich.  In the Doctor's house she had none of the cares of providing; none of the anxieties of possession; her meal and her salary were assured to her.  Here she was anxious about every trifle that passed under her hand.  'If I spoil these cream cheeses, there is so much money lost that should have gone towards the rent.'  'If we cannot sell the poultry this week, how are we to pay the shoe-bill?'

    And then would come another set of reflections, which would run thus; Supposing that father does not get well enough to attend to the farm, and mother has to hire somebody to do it for him, then they will not be able to afford to keep Emmy; and what if I should be obliged to come home and do the work?  Of all my ten brothers, there is not one that can take father's place.  What a sad pity it is that those of every family who have the most energy, and can be worst spared, are those that go away!  There are Tom and James in Australia.  Then there are Will, and George, and Alick in Canada, doing very well, and Edward just gone out to them.  Well, here are Sam and Joe at home, only because father could not trust them out of his sight, poor fellows; and there is Dick, a mere spoilt child.  I see nothing for it but for me to give up my situation; and, oh, what a misfortune that will be!  I shall soon lose a great deal that I have learned, and, perhaps, become coarse with hard work, and low-spirited for want of sometimes hearing a little intellectual conversation.  I hope it will not be my duty to come home; I cannot bear the thought of it.

    'Your servant, Miss Ann,' said a man's voice behind her, as she was one day indulging in some such reflections as these.  Ann Salter turned suddenly, and encountered the blushing face of William Dobson.

    'I just took the liberty to come and inquire after Mr. Salter,' said the young man.

    'You are very good,' replied Ann Salter; 'my father is better to-day, but his arm is very painful.  Will you sit down?'

    William Dobson sat down; they were in the kitchen; Ann Salter had been stirring a pudding, and had one of her mother's aprons tied before her.  The consciousness of how different her dress and occupation were from anything he had seen in her before, made her blush with a not unnatural feeling of shame and shyness; but she was relieved when he said, 'I need not ask how you are, Miss Ann, for though you must have had a great deal of anxiety, I never saw you looking better: activity seems to suit you.'

    'I am very well, thank you,' she answered; and then thought within herself, 'Shall I go on stirring this pudding? or, shall I let it spoil because I am too proud to stir it before him?'  Good sense prevailed: she took up the spoon, and there was a long pause.  She did not think it her duty to find conversation, but quietly waited till her visitor spoke.  At last he said, 'I had a long letter from your brother Tom this morning, Miss Ann, and thinking you might not have heard this mail, I thought you would be glad to see it.'

    Ann Salter was glad.  Tom was her favourite brother, and she listened to his letter with delight.  'How pleased mother will be to hear it!' she observed.

    'He is going to write to her,' replied William Dobson.  'He says so in the postscript.'

    'Not on the old subject of our going to Australia, I hope,' exclaimed Ann Salter, hastily.

    'Why, yes, it is on that subject,' said William Dobson; 'and if you have anything to say against it to your parents, Miss Ann, perhaps I had better read what he says, and then you will have the start of your brother.  He says, "P. S.—I have half written a long letter to my mother, urging her to come out here; for I know if she was willing to leave the old place, my father would be heartily glad to begin life afresh over here.  It is of no use begging you to come, old fellow; you are too well off where you are; but if my family could come over, it would be the making of them, and I shall leave no stone unturned to get them to emigrate."'

    Ann Salter was silent.  She saw that her brother had unconsciously chosen a time for his letter when it was almost sure to prevail; and, much as she dreaded the notion of living at home, and working as she now did, the thought of going out to Australia was more unwelcome still.

    William Dobson continued: 'I do not think your mother would ever consent to go, Miss Ann, if she could not take you with her;' (very true, thought Ann Salter;) 'and I may say, as I've said before,' continued the young farmer, smoothing his hat with his sleeve, 'I may say if I could induce you to stay' — here he hesitated (I have known him all my life, thought Ann Salter) — 'I should think myself a very lucky fellow' (but then, AS FANNY SAID, he is not a gentleman, thought Ann Salter); 'and my mother would be equally pleased,' stammered out Mr. Dobson.  (But, to be sure, if Fanny could see me now, proceeded Ann Salter, she would not think me much like a gentlewoman.)  But whether she would have thought proper to make any answer to this speech will never now be known; for it was but just brought to a conclusion when Emmy, that roughest of mortals with the softest of names, rushed into the kitchen and exclaimed: 'Oh, Mr. Dobson and Miss Ann, here's Doctor Deane just driving up to the door, and that young lady, with a white veil, that he brought once before; and the parlour shutters are not opened, I quite forgot them; and the young brood of chickens that was hatched yesterday was a week, have got into the passage, and they are now sitting on the door-mat; and, if you please, am I to show the young lady into the kitchen?'

    Ann Salter stood a moment, unable to move.  That Fanny should see her with a checked apron tied before her, her sleeves tucked up, and she and Mr. Dobson both inhabiting a kitchen, was too much for her philosophy.  The first thing that occurred to her was to snatch up the pudding, and put it into the oven; and that done, a loud noise, as of a whole brood of chickens running into the kitchen, and their mother after them, forced her to turn round and encounter Fanny, who was entering in the wake of the poultry, and blushing quite as much as her friend Ann.

    'My uncle is gone up-stairs,' said Fanny, stooping to kiss Ann Salter, and he told me to come in here pray excuse the intrusion.'

    'Pray do not call it one,' was the reply; 'but sit down here if you have no objection, for I have no other place to ask you into to-day.'

    Fanny sat down.  Now, why cannot I feel at my ease thought poor Ann Salter.  'I am doing my duty; why cannot I be independent of other people's opinions?'

    Mr. Dobson had made his exit through another door.  Ann Salter took off her apron, and washed her hands, while Fanny talked on indifferent subjects, and ended some anecdotes of the children, by saying: 'Ah, dear Ann, it is such a trouble keeping the children in order; they do not respect me, you know, because they are aware of my deficiencies as compared with you.  But,' continued Fanny, looking about her, 'I know very well, dear that it will be a sad trial to you to come back again, so I ought not to be in any hurry about it.'

    'A sad trial,' echoed Ann Salter involuntarily.  'Oh, Fanny, how can you think so?  If my dear father was only well enough to be left, I should be so thankful to be with you again.'

    'Indeed!' said Fanny, with rather a blank face.

    'It was extremely good and kind of the doctor to let me come,' proceeded the governess, 'and it is my duty and my wish to be here; but, oh Fanny, I have changed my mind about a good many things since I left you; I now see how sinful and how discontented I was.'

    'You were sometimes a good deal depressed, dear,' said Fanny, recurring to the old word; 'but I think that was not unnatural.'

    'It was unnatural,' persisted Ann Salter, and it was wicked; but I am punished; for, oh Fanny, I am afraid I shall never go back to those happy duties and that pleasant house again.'  And here, having controlled her feelings as long as she could, the governess burst into a sudden fit of crying, and sobbed as if her heart would break.

    Fanny, always affectionate, was doubly so now.  She was not very acute nor very observant, but she saw on this occasion what was the real state of the case.  She even discovered that Ann Salter was ashamed of herself for some of those fine-lady airs which circumstances had so roughly compelled her to lay aside, and she congratulated herself on her cleverness in this respect.  'So you will really be glad to come back, dear Annie?' she exclaimed.  'Well, I am sure I shall be delighted when you can come; and, no doubt, that will be soon, for your father is getting better; and when you come we will keep journals again, and see how cheerful we can possibly be on all occasions, instead of feeling it to be rather a graceful and interesting thing to be depressed.'

    Ann Salter was very anxious to efface the appearance of redness about her eyes, lest her mother should see it, and ask the cause; so when she had looked at the pudding in the oven, she asked Fanny to come and walk with her in the garden.  There was a smoothly-clipped fruit hedge in this garden, and a row of cabbage-roses grew by it.  Ann Salter gathered some of their most lovely buds for Fanny, and then the two girls sat down in the alcove, which terminated the hedge, and where the farmer had spent many a pleasant summer evening in smoking his pipe.  Fanny thought this a very good opportunity for telling her friend of the conversation that she had held with her uncle on the words dependent and independent, and to her great joy the governess declared that she was quite of the Doctor's opinion.

    The two girls were then deep in conversation, and the governess had just been persuaded to say that she thought it possible her father might be well enough for her to return to her duties in a week, when they saw the Doctor coming along the grass walk towards them.  He looked business-like and thoughtful, and when he reached the arbour, he said, 'Sit still, young ladies.  Miss Salter, I have something to say to you that I am much more sorry to say than you will be to hear.'

    'Than I shall be to hear, sir?' was all Ann Salter could reply.

    'Yes, yes, indeed; I know that very well.  The fact is, your father has said to me several times, "I am ashamed to keep my dear girl away from her duties, and I am afraid it must put you to a good deal of inconvenience."  I have always answered, "I must wait till she is set at liberty; we must not quarrel with God's appointments."  Well, Miss Salter, your father, though he has no unfavourable symptoms, will require all your mother's time and attention for at least six weeks to come; and he yesterday asked me such direct questions that I felt bound to tell him so.  I was therefore, I confess, not surprised, when to-day he said to me that he felt his wife must have help, and he saw he must ask to have you set at liberty, for that you were your mother's right hand; and, in short, such a pleasure to your parents, so cheerful, and so evidently happy with them, that they rejoiced in the opportunity of keeping you, though the cause was a painful one.  So, Miss Salter, though it is with regret, I feel that I can do no less than give you your liberty; and I am rejoiced to find that you are so well pleased to be at home, for I had scarcely expected it would be so.'

    'Uncle,' said Fanny quietly, 'is the matter perfectly decided on?'

    'Perfectly, my dear; and I left Mr. and Mrs. Salter in high spirits to think how glad their daughter would be to hear the news.'

    Fanny, by a glance, directed her uncle's eyes to the face of his late governess.  It was pale, and altogether distressed.  She was making a great effort to take the news quietly, since it referred to a thing inevitable, and evidently not to be avoided.  The Doctor made a movement of impatience, as if he would have said, 'There is no understanding people; I always seem to be giving pain where I expected to give pleasure.'

    Miss Salter presently recovered herself, and said to him, 'I am much obliged to you, sir, for so kindly acceding to my father's wishes.  I hope you will meet with a superior governess to myself for the children, and I am very sensible of the advantages I had in your house.'

    But then she looked so pale and shocked that further congratulations were impossible, and, as condolences would have been out of place, Fanny only said, in rising to take leave, 'I shall come and see you as soon as I can, dear Annie, and I hope you will spend the day with me when you can; I shall be quite dull without you.'

    'You are very kind,' said the late governess, with a sigh, as she preceded them to the house.  Yet when they reached the door, saw the pony-chaise standing there, and Mrs. Salter, with a radiant face, waiting beside it, Fanny admired the self-command and good feeling with which, when the mother said, 'Well, Annie dear, have you heard the news?' the daughter instantly replied, with a smile, 'Yes, dear mother; and I hope you will find me a help in the house.'

    'That I shall,' exclaimed Mrs. Salter heartily; 'a help and a pleasure too; no fear of that.'

    As Fanny and her uncle drove away, the latter said, 'I suppose I never did thoroughly understand Miss Salter, and never shall.  Now, who would have supposed she did not wish to stay at home, after hearing her mother's account of her?  Besides, she always disliked a state of dependence, as she called it; at least, I was always given to understand so but women are quite incomprehensible.  I suppose that is their prerogative.'

    'I believe she has changed her mind, uncle, on that subject,' said Fanny.

    'Changed her mind!  Well, that is another of the prerogatives of her sex.  I really thought I could do no less than meet the old man's wishes; and I supposed, from what he said, that it was for the happiness of all parties.'

    'And so it will be, perhaps, uncle,' said Fanny, demurely.  'But, uncle, you are now in want of a Governess — are you not?'

    'To be sure I am, child.'

    'Suppose you try me,' said Fanny; 'for since you talked to me about my being dependent, and Annie being independent, I have often wanted to be independent too.'

    The Doctor was so astonished at this speech, that he actually stopped the pony-carriage, and stared at his niece for full a minute in mute surprise.  Fanny was put out of countenance by this, but only for the moment, and before the Doctor had recovered himself sufficiently to say a word, she added:—

    'It would be a very good thing for me, uncle; for you know I often feel dreadfully weary for want of something to do; and then it would keep the situation open for Ann Salter, who, in six months or so, may possibly be able to take it again.  And then, supposing such a thing, as that I ever had to earn my living, could I have a better preparation?'

    'All true, perfectly true, Fanny,' said the Doctor, laughing; 'but who would have expected to hear it from your lips?'

    'And why not?' persisted Fanny; 'they did not think me such a silly girl at school.'

    'Therefore, why should I? you mean.  My dear, I never thought you wanted sense; what you want is stability and independence of character.'

    'Then what can be better than for me to become independent!' asked Fanny.

    'My dear, don't play upon words; this is a serious matter if you are in earnest about it.'

    'Yes, I really am; for since you made me see that I had done harm to Annie by taking too many things for granted, I have wished very much to do her some kindness to make up for it — and here seems a way.  Besides, you know, uncle, if you could not afford to have a governess, it would be my duty to teach the children; and I assure you, uncle, I have thought a great deal since Annie left us, and I really think I had better have something to do.'

    'Well, well,' repeated the Doctor, 'here is another incomprehensible!  I find your sentiments very wise, Fanny, and I will give them my best attention; you are sure you did not pick them up from a book?'

    'Oh, no,' said Fanny gravely, 'I thought of them entirely myself, uncle.'

    'I shall have some further conversation with you, then, in the evening,' replied the Doctor, 'and after that I will decide.'


 
CHAPTER V.


WE left Fanny stepping out of the pony-carriage, just after her uncle's declaration that he would decide in the evening upon the important matter she had brought before him.

    'I do not see that it is so very important,' thought Fanny; 'I think it would cause my uncle a great deal more trouble to advertise or inquire for another governess, than to take me, whom he knows, and who am willing to do my best.  To be sure, I always thought it was rather a sad thing for Annie to be a governess, but then there would be no disadvantage in it to me.  I should not be among strangers, I should be doing it by my own free choice, I should suffer no loss of position, and then, if anything should happen to make it necessary that I should earn my living, I should have proved that I was capable of it.  Besides,' thought Fanny, 'here is an opportunity to do a real kindness; Annie longs to come back again, and by this voluntary act of mine I shall keep the situation open for her.'

    In the evening, when the children were gone to bed, and the Doctor and his niece were left alone, Fanny, who already in imagination had made the sacrifice of her time and pleasures for her friend, had come triumphantly through her difficulties, and seen Annie re-established in her old place, was very impatient for her uncle to begin to talk on this absorbing theme; but as he stood for some time on the rug, with his hands behind him, and his brows knit as if in deep thought, she did not like to speak.  At last, seeing his dark eyes intently fixed upon her, and reading in them the expression of an evident doubt, she could keep silence no longer, but exclaimed, 'Well, uncle, have you not decided yet?'

    'Yet!' said Doctor Deane, without removing his scrutinizing gaze.  'My dear, the advantage to yourself of some fixed occupation I have decided on; what remains to decide is, whether the proposed arrangement would be of equal advantage to me.'

    'To you, uncle?  Oh, you mean to the children — I think I know quite as much as Annie does; I have had an excellent education.'

    'Certainly, I have given you the best that I could afford; the question is, not whether you know enough, but whether you can impart what you know; not whether you are aware how children ought to behave, but whether you can make them do it.  I doubt very much, Fanny, whether you have the art of governing.  And then, again, how do you think you shall like early rising?'

    'Oh,' interrupted Fanny, 'I delight in the morning air — it is so balmy and healthy.'

    'In December and January?'

    'I — I forgot the cold weather, uncle; but it is so extremely warm now that surely I need not think of that.'

    'You had better think of all the disadvantages beforehand, and while you are not bound to undertake the work; for remember, that if you do begin it, I shall feel deeply disappointed and grieved if you throw it up.  It will be a very important step in your life.  It is "putting your hand to the plough."'

    'I did not think you would look upon it in that solemn light,' said Fanny humbly; 'and I always supposed it was my duty to try to be useful; and I thought it was my mission to teach the children, as they seemed to be left without a governess, and I was at hand with nothing to do.'

    'My dear, what you say is very sensible and very true; but I do not know whether the sentiments are your own, or whether you got them — like too many of your sentiments — from a story-book.  Now the heroine in a story-book, whatever arduous task she may undertake, and however many failures she may suffer from, is always blessed in the end with success.'

    Fanny reflected for a few minutes, as if turning over her favourite heroines in her mind, and then she said, thoughtfully, 'Very true, uncle;' and with deep blushes she added, 'but then she is never supposed to undertake her task in her own strength.'

    There was something very pretty in Fanny's guileless singleness of heart; it suited very well with her transparent complexion and fragile elegance.  Her uncle was silent for a moment, as if giving her further time to speak if she had more to say; but as she added nothing, he presently said, 'Your remark, my dear child, fully justifies me in looking on this matter in what you just now called a "solemn light."  It implies that you have, or that you will seek divine aid in carrying out your proposed task; that you have looked upon it in a religious point of view, as, indeed, all the duties of a Christian should be looked upon; everything, we are told, is to be done "in the name of the Lord Jesus."  Well, I consent, then, that you shall try what you can do; I hesitated at first, because I thought the feeling required to be brought strongly before you, that, "better it is that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay."'

    'I don't wish to deceive you,' said Fanny, 'my first wish was to keep the situation open for Annie, but I feel now that it is important to consider it in a religious light.  So, uncle, perhaps I had better not be too confident, and instead of undertaking the responsibility without a trial, may I try teaching the children for a month?'

    'Certainly, you may; and I hereby invest you with authority over them.  You must make them obey you—('if I can,' thought Fanny)—and I will support you in all your proper exercises of schoolroom discipline.'

    'Oh, Johnnie is the only one who will disobey.'

    'Yes, and as he has, in his own small person, twice the activity, and three times the acuteness, of the elder ones, be specially careful, my dear, not to give him the advantage over you, by getting out of temper, and saying irritating things; never lay yourself open to a repartee, and do not be tempted to answer one — some children are remarkably clever at a smart answer.  When he is in a very great fidget, and particularly inclined to be active, let your discipline be such as will help to spend his activity.  Send him down to the very bottom of the hop garden to fetch your book out of the arbour, and desire him, with gravity, to be quick; or, if you have forgotten to leave a book there, send him up to the top of the house for this or that trifle; for you must remember that, independently of the irksomeness of a task to many children, it is of itself quite a punishment to be obliged to sit still; and if you can relieve them by suffering to exercise their muscles a little, they are better able afterwards to give their minds to the book.'

    'Oh,' said Fanny, with open eyes, 'then, that is why you make Johnnie do so many errands?  I often remarked that he was almost always sent to fetch something down-stairs just before prayers, and I wondered why you had so many of the bibles kept at the top of the house, when they are wanted every day.'

    'Indeed, my dear; then now you know the reason.  I always call the child my errand-boy, and many a whipping these errands have saved him!  But I do not say this to you because I wish to save my child from any merited punishment, only because I wish him to be punished for his faults, and not for that activity of body which he has not yet strength of will enough to govern.  Now, I have no more to say, except that I look forward to great good to yourself, Fanny, as the result of this regular work; for I have often told you that anything which made you exert yourself would have a bracing effect, and the frequent exercise that you must now take with the children will be a great deal better for you than the tonic that I am often obliged to give you.'

    After this conversation Fanny retired to rest, and her new duties being fresh in her mind, she rose in the morning quite as early as her friend Annie Salter had ever been accustomed to do, and came downstairs looking cheerful and blooming.  Her uncle was already in the breakfast-room, and the three children with him; they had evidently been informed that cousin Fanny was going to be their governess, for the two little girls cast glances of inquiry at her, as if they half expected to see some change in her appearance to correspond with this accession of power over them and their destiny.  As for Johnnie, he preserved a steady gravity as long as his papa was in the room, but the Doctor going out shortly after, he took the opportunity to throw himself head over heels, and then dance round Fanny, cracking his knuckles, and exclaiming, 'Oh, jolly!'

    'It is very nearly prayer time,' said Fanny, remembering her uncle's advice; 'go and fetch the Bibles, Johnnie.'

    The young urchin, after two or three more gyrations, shot up-stairs like a meteor, making almost as much noise in his course, and was presently heard descending again, with an ecstasy of chuckles.  Fanny had intended to meet him at the door, and gravely to reprove him for making so much noise; but, before she could carry out her purpose, he was sprawling before her, having caught his foot in the door-mat and come down, a shower of books falling with him.

    He rose rather ruefully, and rubbed his elbows, and Fanny, who in other circumstances was the most likely girl in the world to have kissed and condoled, now contented herself with desiring him to pick up the books, and take some of them up again, remarking, that he had brought down twice as many as were wanted.  As if doubting whether this steady gravity could possibly proceed from cousin Fanny, his sometime playmate, occasionally his slave, and generally his confidante, the boy looked at her with an earnest, inquisitive expression, and finding that she did not laugh, he proceeded to pick up the books, and carry them slowly up-stairs again.

    That day was to Fanny a day of almost unclouded triumph.  Her duties being new, she gave her whole mind to them, and consequently performed them well; and the fear of failure being before her eyes, she never relaxed the dignified manner with which she had begun the day.  The little girls, almost always good and docile, surpassed themselves; and Johnnie himself forgot to fidget, in the absorbing wonder caused by Fanny's complete change of character.  As it was imperative to find some reason for it, he confided to his eldest sister his suspicion that the fairies had changed her in the night; but that little counsellor, remarking that, if this had been the case, the new Fanny would not have known the place where they left off reading yesterday, he was obliged to give up his theory, and bed-time came before he could think of another.

    As Fanny had been in the habit of hearing them read occasionally, and setting them lessons, which they said to her in a desultory way, the change, now that she had been formally declared to be their governess, was the more striking.  But even this novelty wore off in the course of three or four days, and just when the little girls had become accustomed to cousin Fanny, and had transferred to her all the deference with which they had formerly treated Miss Salter, Johnnie had begun to find the new yoke extremely irksome, and had set on foot some vigorous efforts towards throwing it off.  If it had not been that his opposition and restlessness kept her attention alive, Fanny would by this time have begun to feel the duties so easily performed a little wearisome.  The excitement was over, the interest of the experiment was quenched in its success; but now there was something to rouse her again, and under the stimulus of opposition, she reached the first day of her second week without acknowledging even to herself that playing the governess was not as amusing and exciting a game as she had anticipated before she tried it.

    But on that memorable morning, the first of the second week, Fanny took a step which from henceforth raised her into the place, in Johnnie's estimation, which Miss Salter had occupied, and entitled her to the same fitful obedience, and the same general attempts on his part to be a good boy and do his duty.  She inflicted a punishment which had been invented by Miss Salter, and tried with the happiest effect.  She called him by his name.

    'If the honourable gentleman does not apologize for his conduct,' said the late Speaker of the House of Commons, 'I shall be obliged to address him by his name!'  The terrified member immediately apologized most humbly.  It is almost certain that Miss Salter had never heard this anecdote, yet she had tried the same punishment on the members of her small house with the most successful results.  Each of the children had a pet name, and was always addressed by it — even the servants said Master Johnnie and Miss Kitty; but on certain solemn occasions, when there had been any open rebellion or grave fault, Miss Salter had been known to say, John Deane, or Catherine Deane, come with me; I feel obliged to tell your papa of your conduct,' — thereupon torrents of tears and protestations of amendment would ensue, and after some hesitation, the offending member would occasionally be forgiven, and after a period, longer or shorter according to the flagrance of the offence, be called Johnnie or Kitty again.  The youngest little girl, being a very timid, gentle child, had never been even threatened with this alarming punishment, and upon the two stronger-minded children it had been inflicted so seldom as to have lost none of its power by familiarity.

    Doctor Deane coming home that day about one o'clock, heard a loud sobbing in the schoolroom, the door of which he opened, and found Johnnie by himself, sitting with his slate on his knee, and continually blotting out his figures with his tears.  The two little girls had gone out for their walk with their governess.  What is the matter, Johnnie?' said the Doctor; 'have you been a naughty boy?'

    Johnnie, with a chorus of sobs, gave utterance thus to his grievance: 'Cousin Fanny called me—called me John Deane—and I hadn't done anything par—par—ti—cular.''

    'Serve you right!' exclaimed his father; 'I am sure you would not have been called John Deane if you had done nothing particular.'

    Hereupon finding that his father did not mean to take his part, the young culprit checked his sobs as well as he could, and addressed himself to his task, which was a very easy one; he, therefore, soon accomplished it, and when Fanny came in again, he was penitent, and asked her humbly to call him Johnnie again.

    Fanny felt that the wild creature was now subdued, and she wrote to Annie Salter that night, describing her triumph, and declaring that she found her task both easy and delightful.

    Alas! she had deprived it of all its interest!  Johnnie was now a good boy, that is to say, he did not consciously contend with her for the mastery, and in the main he desired to please and obey her.  She went on teaching till the end of the week, experiencing a degree of weariness and distaste that she could scarcely conceal.  She also dragged herself through the fourth week without openly showing her deep regret that she had been so urgent to be allowed to be a governess.  On the Sunday following it she did not feel well, neither did Johnnie.  She did not rise on Monday morning, and when Dr. Deane pronounced her to be suffering from a very mild attack of scarlatina, of which the children were all showing symptoms, Fanny was rather glad than otherwise.  'At any rate,' she thought, there will be no lessons to attend to this week;' and as both she and her pupils had taken the complaint in its very best form, and, though not allowed to rise, were feeling no pain, and little weakness, she did not alter her mind while the feverish symptoms lasted, but said to herself several times, 'Anything is better than that schoolroom!'


 
CHAPTER VI.

CONCLUSION.


WHILE Dr. Deane's governess was ill in bed, just a little ill, and able to appreciate the comforts of being petted, and watched, and waited on; and while her young pupils, with blankets folded on their chairs, were sitting up and eating chicken broth and other agreeable dainties, Ann Salter stopped at home, and tried hard to be happy there.  She felt that it was indeed unnatural to long to be away from her kindred, and that it was base to be ashamed of them and their want of refinement, when her own superior education, the nice dresses she had worn during her girlhood, as well as many a cake and cream cheese that had been sent her, to make her popular at school, were the result of their self-denial.  Many a time had her grandmother gone without a new gown, and many a time had her mother walked home from market, instead of taking the coach, in order that she might have and learn all that was suitable to make her independent, and might not be laughed at or slighted by the other pupils, because her clothes were more homely and old-fashioned than theirs.

    Ann Salter felt all this; she blessed the memory of her good old grandmother; and was very thankful to her mother, while, being a girl of real good sense, in spite of some little follies that she had given way to while in her situation as governess, she did not fail continually to keep before her mind, that as by the self-denial of others she had been made more refined and better informed than they were, it would be great ingratitude in her to shrink from their want of refinement and despise their ignorance.

    So she endeavoured not to blush when she saw her mother making out little bills for poultry, butter, and cream, which had been sent for by the neighbouring gentry; and spelling the articles and distributing the capital letters after the manner of the uneducated.  Sometimes she would say, 'Why not let me make out the bills, mother; you know I learnt accounts at school, and I could cast up the items in a very little time?'

    'Bless me, child,' the answer would be, 'I have made out the bills for forty years, and it's very seldom that there's a mistake in them.'

    'Mother,' the daughter once ventured to remark, you have spelt "guinea-fowl" without the "u;" shall I put it in?'

    'Why, what does it matter, child?  Ay, I see I have; I was always reckoned a very good speller, but I forget sometimes, though, I know.'

    'And let me mark out this second "t" in "apricot," mother; I wish you would let me write the bills, mother, I have nothing particular to do just now.'

    'No, child, I have so much stirring work to do, that I like the quiet of sitting down to my writing; it seems to rest my bones.'

    This argument was unanswerable; and after hearing it, Ann Salter went up to sit with her father, who, being a little better, had a talking fit upon him, and told her a vast number of somewhat queer stories, such as his own 'cronies' would have received with bursts of approving laughter.  There was nothing decidedly coarse in sentiment about them, but they were related with such a twang, and richness of provincial dialect, and embellished with so many broad jokes, that his daughter had difficulty in preserving her serenity of countenance, and a proper air of interest under the infliction of her father's wit.

    But she was sincerely trying to be useful and contented, therefore it was not wonderful that, without losing her own refinement of mind, she gradually became habituated to the manners and customs of home, and was able to hear her mother's bad grammar with tranquillity, and listen to her father's wit, oft-repeated, and always with loud laughter on his own part, as to a rather agreeable thing which showed that he was merry, and consequently improving in health.

    Also, in the course of a few weeks, Mr. Dobson's visits, which at first had been to her a matter of supreme indifference, began to interest her in a certain degree, insomuch, that when her father teased and laughed at her, she could not help blushing and feeling very uncomfortable.

    She had long ago made up her mind that she never would marry him, Fanny having mainly contributed to this decision, by remarking concerning him, that 'he was not a gentleman,' and having followed up the disparaging assertion by adding that he was not particularly good-looking and had a sheepish air.  She remembered this now, and sometimes felt angry with Fanny for having said it, and sometimes felt angry with herself for beginning to think otherwise.  But one day — one particularly fine day, a day that she often thought of afterwards — when her father, who could now sit up by the window, was comforting his heart by watching the loaded wains coming in from his harvest-fields, she saw him laughing quietly to himself as he looked out; and when she said, 'What amuses you, father?' he replied, to her confusion, 'Here's thy young man coming again.'

    'My young man, father? pray don't call him so,' she exclaimed involuntarily.

    'Well, well,' answered the accommodating parent, 'maybe he comes to see thy mother!'

    Ann Salter now recollected herself, and said with gravity, 'To whom are you alluding, father?'

    She said this without intending to amuse her father, far from it; and when he laughed till the tears ran down his face, she felt, at first, rather pettish; but laughter is infectious, and when the fanner, wiping his eyes, exclaimed, 'O child, thy little airs are like to be the death of me,' she could not help laughing too.  'To whom be I alluding? that's school language, I reckon,' he continued, 'but don't toss up thy little chin too high, for I'm afraid he is too much of a gentleman for the like of thee.'

    'Too much of a gentleman!' the word struck Ann Salter forcibly; what, did Fanny object to him as not a gentleman, and her father as too much a gentleman?

    'If you please, Miss, Mr. Dobson has stepped in to tea, and it is just upon five o'clock,' said Emily, appearing some time after, 'and your mother says you are to come down and make tea.'

    Mr. Dobson made himself very agreeable that evening; he was intelligent and well-educated, and though very gauche and shy, he could talk extremely well, when encouraged by an appearance of interest in the listener whom he most wished to please.  Ann Salter had never condescended to make the least reply to the speech he had stammered through, while she was in the kitchen mixing the pudding, and he had found no opportunity for repeating it.  The dreaded letter from Australia had arrived, and Mrs. Salter having said, that nothing in the world, not even a barn full of gold, should induce her to go over among those jumping kangaroos, he felt as if his hopes had received a great blow, for he had relied on her hesitating, and being only induced to stay if he could persuade her daughter to like him and settle in England.

    Now, whatever happened, she would not go; therefore Mr. Dobson felt low in his mind, as if his chief hold and hope had been taken from him.

    'Not if I was to have a barn full of gold,' repeated the worthy matron, as they discussed the matter that evening.

    'A barn full, mother!' said Ann Salter, 'you don't know what you are talking of; do you know I was reading the other day that all the gold that had been brought from the gold diggings since they were first worked, would go into an omnibus — a very small omnibus.'

    'Sure-ly,' said Mrs. Salter, amazed. 'Yes,' proceeded the daughter, 'and in the same book I read, that all the gold now coined and in circulation in the world would go into a room twenty-five feet square.'

    'Well!' said Mrs. Salter, 'I should judge that the man who wrote that book did not know much about gold; for I am sure, I must have had as much money through my hands as would fill our great oven.'

    'Not gold money, mother, surely?'

    'If it was not gold, it was gold's worth,' replied Mrs. Salter, warmly; 'what does it matter, whether it was gold or silver, so long as they give you the same quantity of gold for it, and so long as, whether you have it in gold or notes or silver, it is of the same value? — provided the bank you had the notes from, does not break,' she added after a moment's reflection.

    'But, mother,' Ann Salter began, 'that was not exactly what I meant.'

    'I don't think you exactly seem to know what you mean,' interrupted her mother with dignity, 'if you want to persuade me that twenty shillings and one sovereign are not the same thing? what do you say, Mr. Dobson?'

    Mr. Dobson hesitated and blushed; he did not want to offend the good woman, but her head was in a fog of misapprehension and a whirl of confusion; she saw at once, that both he and her daughter thought her wrong, and in a somewhat indignant state of mind she said that she was sure her poor dear husband must be wanting her, and she should go and sit with him.  Mr. Dobson must excuse her, and Ann might call her down at supper-time.

    So at supper-time Ann did call her down, but did not return with her to the parlour, preferring to remain with her father and read a chapter or two to him, as he lay somewhat restlessly in his bed.  Mrs. Salter had quite recovered her good humour when she descended, and she found Mr. Dobson in very good humour also; inclined to eat a plentiful supper, which was always agreeable to her, as she was naturally of a hospitable turn; and she found him also inclined to sit and listen, or at least silently to gaze at her while she told some of her longest stories respecting her husband's illness and her own poultry-yard.

    At last he rose; the moon was shining brilliantly in at the open door of the passage, and the white jessamine that was nailed against the door threw in a sweet perfume.  Young William Dobson looked up the narrow staircase, perhaps wondering whether Ann would come down, perhaps listening to the distant sound of a voice as it came indistinctly from an upper chamber.  He lingered so long at the door, that Mrs. Salter began to tell another story, and he leaned his back against the doorpost and listened, as it seemed, contentedly; all the time looking forth into the quiet farm-yard, where a group of cows lay still, chewing the cud, and an old grey horse stood fast sleep by the pond, and a flock of ducks, with their heads under their wings, all huddled together, looked soft and white as patches of snow in the moonshine.

    'Well, I must be going,' he said at last.

    'Must you, Mr. William?' replied his hostess; 'well, good-night; give my respects to your mother.'

    And a very pleasant young man he is, thought the matron; attentive to his elders, and sensible too; he knows when he hears a good story, and likes to listen to the end of it — not interrupt, as some folks do.

    The sound of a reader's voice had given place to the sound of a sleeper's snoring, when Mrs. Salter crept softly up-stairs, and Ann Salter stole lightly away to her own little room, and having shut the door, walked straight up to a certain box, and after lifting out certain neat ribbons and collars, drew from its depth her once cherished and now neglected journal.  She set down her candle on the little dressing-table, put her feet on a small wooden stool, and sat with this journal on her knee for some minutes before she opened it.

    'Too much of a gentleman!' she mentally ejaculated; 'what could make my father say that?  How strange it is that different people should see things in such different lights!  Well, perhaps father was right in one respect: William Dobson's father and grandfather were as well off and as respectable in their way as himself; but my grandfather was a labouring man by my mother's side, and my other grandfather could scarcely manage to read a chapter in the Bible, he had so little schooling.  Father could not have meant that I was not equal to him in education, for though he was sent to the grammar-school for years, and got on so well that the master wanted to persuade his father to send him to college, I am quite as well instructed as he, though I may not be so clever.'  A long pause.  Fanny certainly did try to set me against him, and I thought I did not care for him — certainly at one time I should not have cared if I had never seen him again — but I really — I really do not see that it is any business of Fanny's!  Let me see what it was that she said — Ah! "Tuesday, the 1st. — Went out to walk with the children.  What a sweet girl Fanny is! so refined, such a horror of everything second-rate; I think, however, she carries it a little too far; she thinks it quite a misfortune to have a low origin."  Nothing about it there.  "Wednesday, the 2d.—Mr. and Mrs. Greaves, Mrs. Sumners, and Captain Combermere dined here to-day, as well as the visitors staying in the house — no room for me at the table — had to dine with the children.  Fanny was distressed, and said, 'I daresay, dear, that being accustomed to good society, you feel keenly the dullness of your present life;' she was so sympathizing that I could not help shedding a few tears, — I did not say anything."  (Bah! you little goose, exclaimed the young reader, apostrophizing her former self, accustomed to good society, indeed!  You! when the only dinner company you had ever known was a couple or so of your father's grazier friends, who adjourned to the kitchen to smoke and drink beer, when they had devoured your mother's custards and roast pig.)  "Thursday, the 3d (Ah, here it is). — Took a walk with the children, and Fanny accompanied us to my great joy; we went down Balcombe Lane to see how the hops were growing, and just as we came near young William Dobson's garden, he passed on horseback, and made a low bow to me.  He looked very shy, I thought, and coloured a good deal.  As soon as he had passed out of hearing, Fanny exclaimed, Who could that man be, Annie?  Why, he actually bowed to you; how did you get acquainted with him?  He is not a gentleman, surely.  I said he was a very respectable farmer and miller; that I had known him a long time, and that we were then walking among his fields.  But surely, she said, he ought not to have taken the liberty of bowing — he cannot be a proper person for us to be acquainted with, — and I looked after him and noticed that he had on top-boots and corduroys, and that he did not look quite like a gentleman, though he rode very well.  'I am sure your friends would not approve of such an acquaintance,' said Fanny.  'I am sure they would not mind,' I answered; and she looked quite surprised; so it is evident that her notions of what is proper—(here a few words were scratched out)—and my father's differ widely.  Just then William Dobson turned his horse, and came up to us again, and spoke to me.  I was so vexed on account of Fanny's seeing it, that I hardly knew what he said, or what I answered; but I believe he asked if we would like to go through the gate of his hop-garden, down to Balcombe Bridge.  I think he said he had the key of the lower gate in his pocket, but I know I answered shortly and coldly, and he bowed again and went off, soon putting his horse into a gallop.  I did not mean to hurt his feelings, but really, he had no right to speak to me, particularly when I had a young lady with me, nor had he any occasion to assume that look of disappointment and misery that he put on.  Fanny says, she thinks he is a very sheepish-looking young man, and extremely awkward."'

    There this wise and truly feminine record ceased for that day.  Ann Salter read it carefully, and then, with great deliberation, tore it out and held it to the flame of the candle, which speedily consumed it.  She afterwards searched through the remainder of her journal, and tore out and burnt several pages of similar import; then, observing that there was a great smell of burning in the room, she cautiously opened the window, and straightway a gust of wind blew the tinder of her MS. suddenly all about her floor, and her snowy counterpane.  It occupied nearly half an hour to collect the bits and dispose of them safely; by this time her candle was nearly out, and she was obliged to undress by the light of the moon; but was scarcely in bed, when a shuffling noise in the passage arrested her attention: her mother was evidently making a progress through the house, trying to find out where the smell of burning came from.  She opened the door, saying, 'Annie, dear, did you see that the oven fire was well out afore you came to bed?'  Annie, blushing, confessed that the oven was innocent of this smell, and described how it originated.  Her mother withdrew.  She felt ashamed of herself; she knew what she had burnt were proofs of her folly, and she felt that burning them at that time of night were proofs of her inconsiderateness.  But she was young, she was tired, and she had been up since sunrise; so she shortly fell asleep, and forgot all about her journal, and even forgot the subject of it.

    And what, meanwhile, became of Fanny?  Why, Fanny got better, and somewhat languidly proposed to resume her duties, but Dr. Deane said neither she nor the children were well enough at present; and Fanny was secretly glad.  They were to go to the seaside for a month.  On hearing this, Fanny's joy was extreme, for school was not to be thought of till their return.  She was getting on very well, circumstances having assisted her; by the time they returned, Ann Salter would have been at home ten weeks.  Fanny had never proposed to keep the situation open for her more than six months.  Six months are twenty-five weeks—fifteen only would remain—and of those, three would be Christmas holidays.  Twelve weeks she could surely drag through; indeed, she should consider it a duty to do so, especially as her uncle had spoken of the matter in a religious light.  O yes, both duty and friendship demanded of her that the twelve weeks should be spent in the conscientious discharge of her school duties.

    The happy party set off for the seaside.  Fanny would have liked to call on Ann Salter beforehand, but the Doctor would not hear of it, as the complaint she had suffered from was infectious.  He established his niece and the children in a pretty cottage by the sea, with an elderly servant, and promised to come over and see them whenever time permitted.  At first, children and governess were extremely happy; their appetites were keener than usual, owing as much to recent illness as to sea air, and their meals alone were a source of pleasure.  Then there was the bathing, and the gathering of shells, and the climbing of cliffs, and the going out in boats; so that the days did not seem half long enough for all their enjoyments; but a fortnight passed over, and the weather became extremely cold and very wet, the evenings drew in rapidly, the leaves fell, sometimes it was too cold for them to bathe, and always it was too windy for them to row.  They had already found more shells than they could possibly carry home, and they could not go on the cliffs, which were slippery and dangerous.  They began to wish they had something to do.  Fanny bought them some calico at the one little shop which the place afforded, and cut out some doll's clothes for them to make she also bought some twine, that Johnnie might knit a large fishing-net, he having set his heart on catching a whale, in case one should visit the coast.  Such a thing having once happened, it might happen again, and it was as well to be prepared!

    But this work only kept the children good and contented for one long rainy day, and when they rose the next morning, and looking out, saw a rough sea, yellow with the sand that it was tearing up from the shore, all foaming and raging; and when they saw a black sky, only diversified by great driving clouds, from which the cold sloppy rain was falling, and splashing in torrents against windows and walls, they were very peevish, and said they would rather be at home learning their lessons in the schoolroom than stop indoors there all day, and do nothing.  Fanny made breakfast last as long as she could, and then she occupied them some time by choosing for the chapters which they daily read the longest she could find; then she had some letters written home to their papa, and was very particular about the writing and the spelling, but even these letters — her last resource — were finished by eleven o'clock, and now what was to be clone for the rest of the day?

    She did not know, and the children did not know.  There were no story-books, no toys, no lessons, no paint-boxes; nothing wanted putting to rights; there was nothing to do, nothing to make, and nothing even to spoil.

    Fanny escaped into her bedroom to consider what she should do with the children for the rest of the day, and while there, she heard unmistakable sounds, which testified that a game at romps was going on below; the children were jumping from the chairs, and rushing about the room, and shouting and laughing with the vehemence which often follows enforced quietude.  Fanny listened, and resolved to keep out of the way and ignore the noise; but she had nothing to do herself but to watch the racing drops chase one another over the panes, and the one fishing-boat at anchor rocking and tossing upon the restless foaming waves.

    'How dull it is!' thought Fanny.  'I declare I shall be glad to exchange this for the schoolroom.  What a noise the children make — how the floor shakes!'  Then Fanny read a few hymns, then she looked out again, and so she spent an hour.  At last — oh welcome sound!—she heard the clatter of knives and spoons, and a childish hurrah came up from below.  Fanny ventured to descend, and found the children quiet, room somewhat dusty, confidential servant making them put it neat, and beginning to lay the cloth.  Confidential servant, being a wise woman, was making a fuss about the untidiness of the room, and declaring that she could not bring in the dinner till the chairs had been dusted.  She produced some of those domestic inventions called 'dusters,' and the children diligently polished, and rubbed, and set in order, till the dinner was ready, when it was brought in with great parade, and for the next three-quarters of an hour great contentment reigned in the breasts of governess and pupils.  Confidential servant then proposed, that as it was very damp and chilly, and not likely to be any finer, there should be a fire 'laid' and lighted.  Fanny consented with pleasure, and the servant, who pitied her in her heart, made the operations of taking down the coloured shavings, clearing away several spiders'-webs, and laying down the chips and coals for the fire, last as long as she could.  The children, whose little hands were cold and red, were delighted to observe the operation, and sat some time, when it was lighted, warming themselves, and contented to do nothing while they basked in the heat.  Fanny's head ached after the noise of the morning, and she was very thankful for this respite from tumult; but it did not last long.  Shortly the loud lamentations began again, 'Nothing to do; nothing to play with; rains here all day — scarcely ever rains at home.'  'Wish we were at home; don't care about holidays.'  'Always rains on holidays.'  'Oh, you pushed me!'  'I didn't.'  'You did.  Cousin Fanny, Johnnie pushed me.'  'Oh you little tell-tale thing!'—another push, then a burst of angry tears.  'Johnnie, how dare you push your sister?  Come here, sir.'  Johnnie inveighed against his sister as a little coward; he hardly touched her.  'You did; you pushed me very hard.'  'I didn't,' followed by a chorus of sobs and indignant tears.  Then the most junior of the Deanes — always timid and inclined to tears — melted likewise, and wished she had her big doll to play with; her big doll whose eyes Johnnie poked in on his birth-day.

    Fanny was almost in despair, and very much inclined to cry too; when lo! her good genius, alias the confidential servant, marched in.  'If you please, Miss, would you like buttered toast for tea to-night?'

    'Yes, Martin; anything you please,' said Fanny, utterly dispirited.

    'Then, may I have the children in the kitchen to help to toast it, ma'am ?' said Martin, coolly; 'the kitchen here is as clean and quiet as the parlour, and they eat so much toast, that I had need of four hands instead of two if I am to toast it all.'

    'They may go and help you, then, Martin,' replied Fanny, smiling; and straightway the lamentations ceased, and the combatants, now good friends again, proceeded to the kitchen, where they amused themselves for more than an hour in toasting bread, and seeing the little culinary operations that Martin was conducting at the same time.

    Fanny was most thankful for this quiet hour, and as lessons were the only things she had to look to with hope as a means of passing the rainy days, she wrote home to her uncle, begging that a box of books might be sent, and some slates and maps.

    The next day was quite as wet and cheerless; the third day a letter arrived.  It informed Fanny that the books were packed, but as the Doctor was coming over himself on Saturday, it was thought best that he should bring them with him.  Oh, weary week! rain, and damp, and idleness shared its mornings, peevishness clouded its evenings.  Even the dinner and the tea did not afford the same pleasure as formerly — want of exercise taking away the keenness of appetite.

    Saturday came, however, at last, and was a very fine day; so lovely that all grief and discontent were forgotten, and governess and pupils sallied forth, in excellent temper and light spirits for a long ramble.

    The Doctor was not expected till the evening; therefore, as soon as the morning dinner was despatched, they set out on another expedition, and did not arrive at the cottage till so late, that the Doctor was there before them.  In arranging the specimens of shell and weed that they had brought home, and in hearing the little pieces of news from home, the evening passed very happily away, and it was not until all the children were in bed, that the painful fact was casually mentioned by the Doctor, that he had forgotten the box of books.  Fanny was terribly disappointed, but, as the weather was now fine again, she could only hope that it would remain so; and, in that case, she should not want the books.  But I do not intend to suspend my narrative for the sake of becoming a weather chronicler; suffice it to tell, that until the happy and much-desired day when Fanny found herself once more on the road home, the weather was sometimes fine and sometimes not fine, generally the latter; and the children and their governess reached it longing more for the schoolroom than ever they had longed for a holiday.  'Oh the delight of regularity and order!' thought Fanny, and, 'oh what a luxury it is to have something to do!'

    Fanny remained nearly in the same mind until the Christmas holidays; perhaps a continuance of somewhat dreary weather had something to do with it; perhaps the absence of visitors, and of exciting incidents, made it more easy for her to work cheerfully.  Be that as it may, she felt that her duties were not disagreeable now, principle having done much for her, and habit more.

    The first week of her Christmas holidays she greatly enjoyed.  The second week, strange to say, she began to feel the old dismal weariness that she had suffered at the seaside.  She had lost her former taste for silly story-books, and she was strong enough now not to find it any pleasure to lie half-dreaming on the sofa, with nothing in her hand but a little bit of crotchet-edging.  The third week she began to acknowledge to herself that she longed for the holidays to be over, and to perceive that she was now keeping school to please herself, and not to benefit her friend, of whom, by the bye, she saw unaccountably little; and the third week once over, her heart leaped for joy — she knew that now she had only one day of idleness left — three weeks and one day being the length of this recess.

    'Fanny, my dear, have you seen Ann Salter lately?' asked the Doctor, as they sat at breakfast on that last morning.

    'No, uncle; I have not seen her for a long while,' answered Fanny, 'and she has not replied to my last letter.'

    'I will take you over to see her to-day, if you wish it,' he continued; 'I shall have to pass her father's gate.  He is looking better than he has done for years, and is more active than ever, I think.'

    Fanny felt a pang of regret.  'Then, perhaps, Annie would like to come back to her situation now,' she presently said; 'and perhaps I ought to mention the subject to her, uncle.'

    'I am very well satisfied to go on as we are,' said the Doctor.

    'Thank you for saying so, uncle; but I took the situation expressly that it might be kept open for Annie; so it would not be fair to deprive her of it.'

    'What, are you in a hurry to be free again?'

    'O no,' said Fanny, almost in tears; 'but I do not wish to be ungenerous.'

    'Well, well!' replied the Doctor; 'Then tell Miss Salter that I shall be happy to see her here again tomorrow, if she likes.'

    Fanny had no question in her own mind that Annie would like to come back; and she did not notice the quiet smile with which her uncle spoke.

    She rose from table, and spent a few hours in seeing that everything in the schoolroom was neat and in its place.  'It is strange,' she thought, with her natural simplicity, 'that it is almost impossible to be contented for long together.  Every day I pray that I may be free from discontent, for it always seems to me a most unamiable vice; and yet I am constantly wishing things were different.  All the early part of the time that I taught the children I was longing for a change, and wishing I had not undertaken the task; then we went to the sea, and great part of that time I was pining and fretting to get home again; then there were a few happy weeks, and after that, these three uncomfortable weeks, when I have been wearied with wishing to have school again; and now, just as school is going to begin, Annie is to come back again, and take away my occupation.  I wonder whether other people are as discontented as myself.  I should think not.  They have aspirations, of course, as one may read in so many books, but they do not seem to be ever discontented.'

    Fanny did not know that SOMETIMES people call their discontent aspiration, as being a prettier word, and meaning a more respectable thing.

    After luncheon the pony-carriage came round to the door, and Fanny, well wrapped up, stepped into it.  The day had been cold, but still, and though its beauty was now over, the cold was scarcely felt, from the absence of wind.  Fanny did not dislike the drive, though, when they were within two miles of the farm, snow began to descend, and that so rapidly, that the ground was quite white in a very short time.  Fanny was set down at the door of the farm, and Ann Salter and Mrs. Salter met her, and hospitably conducted her in.  There was no fire in the parlour, for, as Mrs. Salter explained, they did not expect visitors in such weather, and her good man liked his meals best in the kitchen at that time of year.  'But,' said Mrs. Salter, 'I shall have it lighted directly, Miss Fanny, and I hope you'll take a cup of tea with Annie; for I know the Doctor will be at least an hour before he returns.'  In the meantime she made Fanny sit with her feet on the kitchen fender — and a very bright fender it was; the whole kitchen, indeed, was most clean and comfortable, and from its window you could see the snow coming down, and the church spire gradually getting a white mantle on its weather side.

    'I suppose he'll come to-night,' said Mrs. Salter, returning and addressing her daughter.

    Who he might be Mrs. Salter did not explain, but she presently bustled out again, leaving the two girls together; whereupon Fanny unfolded her tale, and invited Ann Salter, in her uncle's name, to come back again.

    Ann Salter did not say anything, but sat, looking rather foolish, while Fanny expressed her kind hope that the children would be found in good order, and perhaps improved; but when she added, 'And my uncle says, he shall be happy to see you as soon as you can return,' Ann Salter stammered out, 'I should be very happy, dear Fanny, only I am afraid — at least, I mean, I think Mr. Dobson wishes me to stop at home.'

    'Mr. Dobson?' repeated Fanny, quietly.

    'Yes,' said Ann Salter, more bravely, 'for as we are to be married at Easter, he wishes to see as much of me beforehand as he can.'

    Greatly to Ann Salter's relief, Fanny promptly replied, 'Married to Mr. Dobson, Annie?  Oh, I am so glad, so extremely glad.'

    'Are you, indeed?' exclaimed Ann Salter, greatly relieved.  'Well, Fanny, all my friends are glad, and say I have done rightly to accept his offer.  It is a great pleasure to my dear parents to have the prospect of my being settled in life — and — and besides, it is a pleasure to me.'

    Fanny murmured forth some congratulations.

    'I was almost afraid you would not like my marrying William Dobson,' Annie continued.  Fanny blushed violently, and answered, 'My uncle has said several times that he would be a very suitable husband for you, and if I ever thought otherwise, it was because I did not know any better.'  Whereupon the girls both laughed, and each secretly felt that a weight had been removed from her breast; for Ann Salter knew the day must come when Fanny must be told of her engagement; and Fanny knew she had used what influence she possessed against Mr. Dobson, and had long regretted having done so, for she half suspected that her friend had a preference for this worthy man; besides, now she could be governess to the children as long as she pleased!  So, in mutual confidence, and with many expressions of affection, the two girls passed the time, till Dr. Deane came back for Fanny, driving up to the door just as William Dobson walked up to it from the other side.  Thereupon Fanny was formally introduced to him, and, to Ann Salter's secret satisfaction, held out her hand very cordially to shake that of the 'man who was not a gentleman.'

    It was very cold, and it snowed very hard, but Fanny and her uncle were exceedingly merry under the great gig umbrella, as they drove home.

    'So now, I feel really like an independent woman, for I suppose, uncle, you will let me still be the children's governess?'

    'Yes, my dear, as long as you wish it.'

    'As long as I wish it, uncle?  Oh, I shall always wish it — having once tasted the pleasure of independence, I shall never like to be dependent again.'

    'I would not be too sure of that; perhaps, like the majority of your sex, you may promise, on due persuasion, that you will "honour and obey," and those little words once said, what becomes of independence then?'

    'I don't know,' said Fanny, demurely; 'I suppose it must be left behind for Dr. Deane's next governess.'

――――♦――――


 
THE STOLEN TREASURE.

CHAPTER I.

COMPANIONS AT THE WILLOWS.


I HAD been at school rather more than a year, when my class-fellows Margaret and Juliet left, and were succeeded by Caroline Baker, and after an interval of three months by Christiana Black, a girl of Scottish parentage, who was at first a deal good overlooked, owing to her retiring disposition.

    But perhaps another reason why she was overlooked was that the school generally took such a very great interest in Caroline, who presently was in everybody's confidence, and had something so engaging and fascinating about her that all the girls loved her, without precisely knowing why.  Caroline had not been among us a week before every one was ambitious to give her anything she took a fancy to, every one wanted to walk with her, the girls offered to change gardens with her if she showed the least preference for their gardens over her own, and the little ones were always persisting, each one, that it was her turn to sit next Miss Baker, or that she had been promised that she should help Miss Baker to put her drawers to rights.

    But the nature of the charm which so attracted us is not easy to define; and its cause, strange as it may seem, partly arose from what every one would acknowledge to be a defect.  She was capricious, and very changeable in her moods and fancies.  Never two days alike, she kept us constantly surprised; sometimes vehement and full of life, sometimes languid and gentle.  One day she was earnest, affectionate, or pensive, inviting confidence, and willing to give it; and the next, perhaps, wearily turning away from the exhibition of the loving interest that she had excited.

    She was about sixteen when she came to school, and was rather small and slender for her years.  Her appearance, when first presented to us by Madame, is so fresh in my memory, that in describing her I feel as if painting from the life.

    She was dressed in white, and wore a crimson shawl over her shoulders, for the weather was chilly, and she was a native of the West Indies.  She held her bonnet in her hand, and stood quite still, as we rose and walked up to her to be introduced.  She had small features, and was pretty; her shining hair, unusually abundant, and of a light brown colour, was a good deal brushed back from her face, in a style that was not common then, but which must have been comfortable in the hot climate she had come from.  Her eyes were of the same nut-brown hue as her hair, and had that peculiar clearness which causes one apparently to see far down into them; and the well-formed, narrow, black eye-brow gave a great deal of its expression to her face, being sometimes slightly elevated with an air of amusement or surprise, and sometimes suddenly pulled down, with a look of displeasure and gloom.

    I give this circumstantial account of her for the use of the physiognomist, and must add to it that she had a pretty mouth, which was dimpled, and almost infantine in its sweetness. She seemed to fancy herself greatly our superior; but there was something extremely engaging in the shy smile with which she looked at each as Madame named her, standing as she did, with her head a little thrown back, and with her eyelids not quite so far apart as we English-bred girls were accustomed to have them. In two or three days she discovered that her school-fellows were her equals; and in two or three more she found that, compared with most of them, she knew next to nothing; but she did not seem to feel this at all a degradation ; and the perfection of her manners, and her native elegance, caused the masters to treat her with as much consideration as they did the eldest pupil in the house.

    There was something about Caroline which caused her easily to win her way everywhere; even Madame was not always proof against her charming manner, and the teachers openly favoured her in her lessons, but that did not cause any jealousy, because she was every one's favourite.

    In the finest of the harvest weeks Caroline's birthday came, and she electrified the second class by declaring, the night before, that she intended to ask Madame for a holiday.  Now when an old colonel from India, coming to see his daughters, or the Bishop of passing through, had begged that his little girls might have a holiday to play with their school-fellows, it had always been graciously granted; but that a pupil should ask such a favour had never entered the mind of the eldest or the most daring.  When we assembled in the schoolroom, Caroline went up to Madame's table, and with a pretty gravity of manner informed her of the important fact, and inquired whether the school might have a holiday.  Madame was mute with astonishment, and all the classes were breathless through suspense.

    'Doubtless you have not been told, Miss Baker,' said Madame, recovering herself, 'that birthdays are not kept here.'

    Madame spoke in French; Caroline made no answer.  She had been informed of the fact, but it did not suit her to say so, and she continued to look at Madame, till, finding that the latter expected a reply, she said, in the sweetest tones of her winning voice, and in broken French, that Madame was so kind — so very kind — and — it was such a fine day.'

    'Is that all you have to say?' asked Madame, with a smile of amusement.

    'Madame,' said Caroline, taking to her mother tongue, and speaking with a plaintive sweetness that infinitely became her, 'I have looked in my French conversations, and there are no sentences in it that tell how to ask for a holiday.'

    Madame cast a penetrating glance on Caroline, which seemed to say, Is this simplicity, or the perfection of acting? and she evidently remained in doubt; but Caroline met the glance without blushing, and Madame, a little irritated at being so puzzled, escaped, for the moment, from a direct answer to the request by saying, with some asperity, 'I cannot possibly allow English to be spoken before me.'

    At this point it may be considered that the holiday was all but won, for though Madame was not pleased, she had condescended to parley, and Caroline was too clever to let her advantage slip away.  She answered in such broken French as made all the girls smile, bringing in the name of Madame's favourite pupil, and saying that if Madame would be pleased to let Mary l'Estrange ask for the holiday, she was sure Madame would find no faults in her French, and she would leave it to Mary to make an excuse for her if she had done wrong.

    Madame looked surprised; but she had allowed the conference to proceed, and did not wish to deny the holiday, having permitted us to hope for it.

    'Well,' she said more graciously, 'let Mary speak, then; but let it be fully understood, young ladies, that I am never to be asked for a holiday on a birthday again.'

    So Mary l'Estrange did, in respectful language, and in excellent French, ask for the holiday, and Madame told us we might shut up our books, and do as we pleased for the day.

    We all poured out to the lawn, and clustered about Caroline, the heroine of the day.  We sat down under the shade of the willow-trees and considered what we should do.  It was a sultry day, and the air was filled with tiny black flies like morsels of thread; the deep blue sky was pure and cloudless, and transparent waves appeared to chase one another over the roof of the house.  Miss Quain began to explain to us the nature of the phenomenon, but it was a holiday, so we scarcely cared to listen.  Caroline had never been so delighted with the weather.  It had not been warm enough to please a native of the warm south, and she proposed that we should all take a walk into the harvest-field to see the people gleaning — a sight she had never seen.  We did not think of objecting, but sent Nannette in to ask Madame's permission, which we presently obtained, together with a promise that we should have some fruit to take with us, and some bread and milk.

    I was specially excepted from the arrangement, not being thought strong enough to bear the noonday sun; but Madame gave me a little indulgence at home which reconciled me to the privation; and then, having seen pupils and teachers leave the house in high spirits, she took the opportunity to go out herself, telling Massey that she would not be home for some hours.

    I had been in the garden for a long time, and in returning to the house was surprised to see a black man walking on the gravel, with a fair English child in his arms.  He was dressed in wide white trousers, an ample white muslin turban, and a red calico jacket with a muslin one over it; and, to complete his costume, had a shawl tied about his waist, which formed both a petticoat and a scarf.

    I had not so far forgotten the scenes of my infancy (for I was born at Madras) as not to know that this was a Hindoo bearer, and that he was drowsily singing the child to sleep with words that I had heard before


'Niendee, baba, niendee.'
(Sleep, baby, sleep.)


    I stood listening to the song, remembering enough of Hindustani to make out that this Eastern nurse was informing his unconscious charge that his father was a burra Sahib (great man or lord), and that his mother was a burra Beebee (great lady), and that if the chota Sahib (little master) would be good enough to go to sleep, he would confer a lasting obligation on his bunda (slave).  While I still listened, Massey came out and said, 'Oh, Miss West! what an unfortunate thing it is that Madame should be out, for a lady and gentleman are here who particularly wish to see her.  They were not expected till to-morrow; and will you please to come in, miss, for they wish to see any of the young ladies that are at home.'

    I should have mentioned that a travelling-carriage stood at the door, and that servants were busy taking down boxes from it.

    I went into the drawing-room, and stood for a minute or two within the door unnoticed, looking at the group before me.

    There was an ayah (nurse) in the room.  She was richly dressed in shawls, silk petticoats, and fine muslin drapery, and wore gold bangles on her ankles and wrists.  She was holding some Indian toys in her hands, and looking attentively at a lady who was seated on a sofa near her, with a gentleman standing on one side of her, and a sweet little child on the other.

    This lady was tall and fair.  I noticed a peculiar quivering and trembling about her lips, as if she had great difficulty in controlling herself from weeping, and the gentleman, as he stood beside her, laid his hand on her shoulder, and said very gently and compassionately, 'Now, dearest, shall we kiss our little one, and' — I knew that the rest of the sentence should have been — 'and leave her;' but he did not say those words.  And the lady, whose lips were now firmly and steadily set together, did not answer a syllable, but kept gazing at the tiny child, with its white frock and pretty inquisitive face that looked up to her so shrewdly, and yet with such a wistful air, as if it was quite impossible for her to see or hear anything else.

    'Now, dearest,' said the gentleman again.

    The mother breathed quickly, and I shall never forget the agony of her brow; but she neither stirred nor took her eyes from the face of the child.

    'We cannot stay till Madame D. comes home,' said the husband. '

    'I know it,' she replied.

    'And we had fully decided to leave our child with her.'

    'Yes,' said the mother, quite firmly.

    'We are only called on to do it three days earlier than we had intended,' he proceeded.

    'All that,' she answered slowly, 'I acknowledge and know.'

    She appeared to speak like a person in a dream, and the attentive little child, with hands firmly pressed together, seemed to regard her with wondering gravity.

    The gentleman sighed, as if he infinitely dreaded the scene that must ensue.  Once more he said, 'Now, dearest,' and at the same moment he beckoned to the ayah, who, in obedience to some words that he spoke in Hindustani, came forward and took up the little child in her arms.

    Then the mother burst into tears, and begged for a few moments more, and took the child upon her knees, and began to caress her, and lament over her.  Poor little creature, she was far from understanding the real and terrible loss that she was about to undergo: and when the lady said, 'Does my darling know that poor mamma must go away?' she only nodded her little head, and said gravely, 'Yes;' and then began to occupy herself with her mother's rings.

    Just then the gentleman observed my presence, and came to lead me forward to his wife, asking me if I were one of the pupils.

    I said I was, and the lady held out her hand, and drew me towards her, asking hysterically whether I would be kind to her little child, and saying, 'I am sorry, so very sorry, that Cary should be out.  I did want to see her, and beg her to be kind to my little one, and be her school-mamma.'

    On this mention of Caroline, the gentleman began to tell me that he was an intimate friend of Major Baker's, and had been partly induced to bring his child to the Willows, in the hope that Cary would love her.

    I could not but declare that I thought Caroline would be extremely good and kind to her.  I fully participated in the feeling of attraction that we all felt towards Caroline, and I drew such a picture of her delightful qualities that the lady was evidently comforted, and, drawing me closer, made me kneel on a hassock beside her, and, with motherly tenderness, held my head with her hand against her bosom.  The other embraced her child, and through the glossy folds of her rich silk dress I could feel the troubled beating of her heart.

    But the dreaded moment was come; the gentleman, who looked as if he longed above all things to have this scene over, pulled out his watch, and the movement attracted the poor mother's notice, for she said something in a broken voice to the ayah, who, folding her hands submissively, made a low salaam.  I remembered enough of my first language to know that she was promising to be tender and attentive to the child.  Her speech was scarcely over when the father lifted up the little girl, and held her face to her mother's for a moment, then he kissed her himself, and put her hastily into the arms of her ayah, who hurried with her out of the room.

    The mother, after this last kiss, covered her face with her hands, and sat so still that I thought she was listening to the retreating footsteps of the ayah as she carried her treasure away.  When these were no longer audible, she looked up and said

    'Merton, I wish to go.'

    Massey then put on her shawl and veil, and when she had picked up a little Indian toy that her child had dropped on the carpet, and put it in her bosom, she gave her hand to her husband, who led her to the carriage.  A message of compliment and regret being left for Madame, and an assurance that she should receive a letter that same evening, they drove away, and I ran upstairs to look for the tiny pupil.


 
CHAPTER II.

MADAME'S NEW PUPIL.


I WAITED only till the sound of the carriage-wheels had died away, and then ran upstairs in search of the little girl.  I found her with her ayah, seated on the floor of a spare bedroom, with a number of toys strewed about in all directions.

    I understood that she was about four years old, but she was scarcely larger than most children at two.  She was rather pale, and excessively fair; a quantity of flaxen hair curled on her neck; she wore a white frock of Indian muslin, richly worked, and a gold chain, with a locket attached to it, encircled her throat.  Her toys, which consisted of ivory elephants richly gilded, models of soldiers and sepoys, bullock-carts, palanquins of gaudy colours, and curious carved balls, made her look, by their large size, all the more fairy-like and small.  Her pretty face was not infantine in its expression, and the air of command with which she ordered her ayah to set me a chair, would have been more suited to a reigning princess than to a child who was now to be for many years entirely under the dominion of strangers.

    I heard the ayah informing her that the 'Beebee Sahib' would soon be back again, and the little creature looked at her with a wistful expression of doubt, as if she suspected that these flattering words were too good to be true.  I asked her if she would kiss me, but this she positively refused to do; and then I asked her if she would come into the garden and have a nosegay, but she was an independent little creature, and when she had risen from the floor, and walked up to me, and examined me from head to foot, she declined this also, and then commanded her ayah to bring her bonnet, and carry her down into the 'compound,' by which she meant the garden or yard.  So I was left alone among her Indian toys till my school-fellows came in from their walk, with Caroline at their head.  Caroline was reading a letter, and looked very much disconcerted, but the other girls were laughing, and questioning her as to where the strange little child had come from that they had seen in the garden, with her foreign nurse.

    Miss l'Estrange had taken her up in her arms, but had received a slap in return from the tiny hand, together with peremptory orders to set her down again; and little Nannette had presented a paper of Sugar-plums, but the intractable infant had scattered them over the grass, and thrown away the paper.

    What she suspected, or why she was so averse to our companionship, we did not know; perhaps she felt herself in some manner wronged and deceived by her mother's absence, and had some childish glimmering of the truth, that she was at the mercy of strangers.

    Caroline had finished reading her letter.  'And so,' she exclaimed, giving a slight toss to her graceful head, 'and so Mrs. Merton expects me, or at least wishes me, to devote myself to this little female nabob.  Here is a long account of how she hopes I will always be a friend to the child.  Ridiculous! Am I to bear with all her whims, because ten years ago our fathers were in the same regiment?  And she shall always be grateful;—I dare say!  No, I never could bear children at such an early age.  If this had been a girl as old as myself, it might have been a different matter; but a spoilt baby like this, I wonder how she could be so absurd; and actually it seems that the child is sent here principally on papa's recommendation, and because I am here.  How tiresome! here she comes.'

    Here she came, indeed, in her ayah's arms, and Belle ran up to her, as girls will do to little children, and begged a kiss.

    'Do kiss me,' said Belle.  The child shook her head.

    'Why not?' asked Belle.

    'Because I don't like you,' said the little creature, in a sweet treble voice.

    'Not like me! why not?'

    'Because, because,' looking at her to find a reason, 'because you've got an ugly bonnet on.'

    'Well, kiss me, then,' said Caroline, a little tartly; 'look, I have no bonnet at all.'

    'No, I don't like you.'

    'Why not?'

    Another pause for reflection, and then in a pettish tone, 'Because you are a cross lady.'

    'There!' exclaimed Caroline triumphantly, 'did ever any one see such a capricious little thing?  Oh! very well; I don't at all want to kiss you.  Yes! the idea of my devoting myself to that child, and being her school-mamma.  I shall not think of it; any one who chooses may take her in hand.'

    'O Carry,' said Belle, 'it would be very little trouble indeed to be her school-mamma; she has this nurse of her own to attend to all her whims, and in school-hours she would be in a different class from yours.'

    'And she would go to bed long before you,' added Miss Ward.

    'That does not signify,' said Caroline; 'I do not consider that her mamma had any right to expect me to be more interested in her than I am in any of you.  I like to do kindness spontaneously but to have it represented that I ought to do it, takes away all the pleasure of it; makes it something that one is to be blamed for if one does not perform, but not to be praised for if one does!  So, Mrs. Merton, you must look somewhere else for your monthly accounts of the health and progress of this little spoilt pet — though to be sure it will be no great trouble just to write the letters.  I will do that, and I think it is enough for a person whom I have never seen.'

    'I cannot understand how you got this letter,' said Miss Ward; 'it seems to have followed the visit with marvellous rapidity.'

    'Oh, it was written here,' replied Caroline; 'when Mrs. Merton found that I was out, Massey says she sat down directly and wrote this, and said it was to be given to me on my return.'

    'Well, Carry,' said Belle, 'it is very flattering that she should consider your patronage of so much consequence for the child; don't you think so, Sophia?'

    'So flattering,' I replied, 'that I only wish some one would flatter me in the same way; I think it would make me quite devote myself to the little creature, though she may be rather spoilt at present.'

    'The fairy wishes to patronize another fairy!' exclaimed Caroline.

    Upon this the elder girls laughed, and Miss l'Estrange snatched me up in her arms, and in spite of my resistance persisted in carrying me about, caressing me and pretending to sing me to sleep, as nurses do to babies.

    I was very angry, though I could not help laughing; and when I had contrived to struggle down again, I informed my friend and patroness that now I was fourteen years and eight months old eight months, mind — so that I should soon be fifteen, and I did not choose to be carried about any longer.  My offended dignity might have induced me to march out of the room, if I had not been arrested by the sound of fits of infantine laughter, and, behold! the little stranger was pointing to us with her finger, and laughing till her pretty face and neck were tinged with carnation.  She evidently thought this little scene was got up for her special diversion, and cried out, 'Do it again, do it again, great tall lady.'

    It would, no doubt, have been repeated, in spite of my resistance, if a clear voice within the room had not arrested our attention.

    'Vhat do I see, ladies? for vhat do you teaze Miss Sophia?' said Madame.

    Her neat figure is still before me, the pale green ribbons and feather which adorned her tasteful bonnet, and which so many of her nation are fond of placing next to their rich brown skins and dark eyes; the delicate light shawl of mulberry colour, which she held so elegantly, and her rustling lilac silk dress.

    'Comment, what noise do I hear?' she exclaimed.

    Madame never attempted to speak English, excepting on a holiday, when she so far relaxed from her ordinary manner as even to joke with us.

    'So, La petite does not like to pass for a Fée,' she exclaimed; for what should she not?  Les fees — the fairies — are very pretty little things.'

    'Yes, Madame,' said Miss l'Estrange, 'much prettier than the Amazons.'

    Madame smiled, and looking up at the stately height of her pupil, replied with a French proverb which intimates that though little things are pretty, great things are sublime.  At this moment the group of girls parted, and showed, seated among her toys, the new arrival, and her submissive ayah.  The latter arose and made a graceful salaam, as if perceiving at once that this was the mistress of the house.

    Madame did not seem so much surprised as might have been expected; the fact was, she had met the travelling-carriage on its way to the railway, and had spent a short time with the parents at the station.

    'And for what are they shown into this dull apartment?' asked Madame.

    Dull it certainly was, for upper shutters of the room were closed, and the blinds drawn down; the bed was pinned up in brown holland covers and the carpets were rolled back into a corner.

    Madame desired us to open the shutters, and when the sunshine was let in, she sat down, and said, 'Come to me, little one.'

    The child arose and stood at her knees, answering several simple questions with that respect which Madame scarcely ever failed to inspire.  When she had done talking to her, she lifted her up and said, 'Kiss me.'  She was obeyed, and the little creature being set down again, looked at her attentively, and as if to inform her that the kiss had been given under protest, lisped out in the sweetest of silvery tones, 'But I don't love you.'

    'Do you know who I am?' said Madame, very gravely.

    'No,' said the child, hesitating.

    Madame told her, and added, 'Little girls never say that to me; little girls must be good in my house.'

    'Yes,' said the child, whose hands were clasped behind her.

    'You are going to be good?'

    'Yes.'

    'Then you may take hold of my hand, and come with me to see your pretty bed.'

    The little creature, in the most docile manner, did as she was bidden, only looking rather wistfully at her toys.  Madame, seeing this, made a sign to the ayah to bring them, and at the same time said, 'The ladies of the second class may follow also.'

    So we followed to our own large bed-room, beyond which was another wide room, hitherto unoccupied.  The door of this room, to which ours was a thoroughfare, was now open.  Massey was in it, and we found that it was fitted up like a nursery, indeed it had formerly been used as such; and it now contained a rocking-horse, some children's chairs, and two beds, one of which was adorned with muslin curtains, tied back by pink ribbons.

    Madame's French taste was very evident in all the decorations of this airy room; she now looked at it with much approval; so apparently did the child.

    'Is that a pretty bed?' asked Madame.

    'Yes,' said the little creature, with a delighted smile.

    'I told you to come up, ladies,' said Madame, turning towards us, 'to inform you that you have free leave from me to come in here and play with this dear little girl, so long as she is good, and you do not abuse the privilege.'

    She said this in French, but repeated something like it in English, for the benefit of the child.  I remember being struck at the time with the truth of what I had heard the elder girls say, namely, that in cases where Madame could secure obedience she was firmly determined to be obeyed; but that in cases where she could not, she would grant permission to do things that she would rather not have allowed, simply that none of the pupils might find themselves able to elude her vigilance or thwart her with impunity.

    I have said there was no entrance to this room but through ours, and as the ayah could not speak English, Madame perhaps thought we should have been induced, by the facilities offered, to come and play with the child.

    We were to go in whenever we pleased; so accordingly, that same night, as we were undressing, we were pleased to open the door softly and peep in.  There lay the little creature fast asleep in her embroidered night-dress, and there lay her ayah fast asleep also, not in the bed that had been prepared for her, but on the carpet at the foot of the child's bed, and rolled up in the checked table-cloth of red and blue that she had taken from its place.

    'I am glad Madame has said nothing to me about taking any particular notice of the child,' said Caroline; 'and I am sure when every one else is so much interested, there can be no need for my exerting myself.'

    I thought Caroline said this as if she felt somewhat injured by the notice taken of the little creature, and at first I remember feeling ashamed of myself and reproaching myself for the notice I had taken, as if it were a kind of treason to one in whom I had professed such an absorbing interest myself.  But afterwards I began to reflect that it would be unamiable in Caroline to have such feelings as I had imputed to her; consequently, as she was so very charming and so amiable, I decided that she had them not.

    So this matter passed.  I think it was on the 2d of August that the little pupil came to us, and for three weeks from that day she received every morning a short lesson from the English teacher, her ayah standing beside her.  She was perfectly good and docile in the school-room, but during play-hours she behaved just as she had done at first, declining to be caressed or played with by the elder girls, though she would sometimes amuse herself with Madame's two little girls, provided her ayah stood beside her the whole time.

    I could sometimes hear her talking to this devoted woman about her mamma: 'Would she soon come back?'

    'O yes, very soon.'

    'Would she come to-day?'

    'No, not to-day.'

    'Would she come to-morrow?'

    'Perhaps.'

    Alas! the poor Hindoo knew not the fault she was committing, and had not acquired enough English to be told of it.

    'I don't believe you,' said the little creature, when this happy to-morrow had been promised a great many times: and using her oriental imagery, she exclaimed, 'You have no straight words, you've got a whole country full of words in your heart, but they're all crooked ones!'

    The ayah smiled, and shaking up a pillow invited Missy Baba to go to sleep.  She was unwearied in her attendance and devoted in her love to the child; but about the beginning of September we all observed that one day she looked extremely heavy, and muttered and rocked herself as she sat on the ground.  Her eyes followed the child's movements with an air of unutterable regret, and Massey discovering that she was ill tried to make her go to bed; but she preferred to sit on the floor, and though she sighed often she did not complain.

    Very soon finding that she could neither move nor eat, Madame sent for a physician.  It was a piteous sight to see her sitting on the floor with her little nursling beside her, not able to make the physician understand the nature of her suffering, and quietly refusing to take his medicines.

    I was called to ask her what ailed her, but she did not answer, though she spoke to her pretty nursling when she babbled in her native tongue.

    Poor ayah, she was very patient, and the child, who refused to leave her, was carried away in her sleep to another room, but this was not till the poor woman was too ill to observe her absence.  Two days of gloom and anxiety followed, the child being hardly pacified and kept away from her ayah, by assurances that the least noise would make her worse.

    On the third morning Madame sent for me early to her own room, and on the way thither Massey told me that the ayah was dead.  Madame was then telling the poor desolate child of her loss, and wished me to be there because I could understand her when she spoke in her oriental tongue.



[Next Page]

 


[Home] [Up] [Poems] [Story of Doom] [Monitions] [Old Days] [Poetical Works] [Allerton and Dreux] [Allerton and Dreux] [Off the Skelligs] [Fated to be Free] [Sarah De Berenger] [Don John] [John Jerome] [A Moto Changed] [Stories Told to a Child] [A Sister's Bye-Hours] [Mopsa the Fairy] [Wonder Box Tales] [Sheet Music] [Sheet Music] [Reviews, etc.] [Main Index] [Site Search]

 

Correspondence should be sent to Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk