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Among the sufferers during the bloody reign of Robespierre, was Mad. de Rosier, a lady of good family, excellent understanding, and most amiable character. Her husband, and her only son, a promising young man of about fourteen, were dragged to the horrid prison of the Conciergerie, and their names, soon afterward, appeared in the list of those who fell a sacrifice to the tyrant's cruelty. By the assistance of a faithful domestic, Mad. de Rosier, who was destined to be the next victim, escaped from France, and took refuge in England--England!--that generous country, which, in favour of the unfortunate, forgets her national prejudices, and to whom, in their utmost need, even her "_natural enemies_" fly for protection. English travellers have sometimes been accused of forgetting the civilities which they receive in foreign countries; but their conduct towards the French emigrants has sufficiently demonstrated the injustice of this reproach.
Mad. de Rosier had reason to be pleased by the delicacy of several families of distinction in London, who offered her their services under the name of gratitude; but she was incapable of encroaching upon the kindness of her friends. Misfortune had not extinguished the energy of her mind, and she still possessed the power of maintaining herself honourably by her own exertions. Her character and her abilities being well known, she easily procured recommendations as a preceptress. Many ladies anxiously desired to engage such a governess for their children, but Mrs. Harcourt had the good fortune to obtain the preference.
Mrs. Harcourt was a widow, who had been a very fine woman, and continued to be a very fine lady; she had good abilities, but, as she lived in a constant round of dissipation, she had not time to cultivate her understanding, or to attend to the education of her family; and she had satisfied her conscience by procuring for her daughters a fashionable governess and expensive masters. The governess whose place Mad. de Rosier was now to supply, had quitted her pupils, to go abroad with a lady of quality, and Mrs. Harcourt knew enough of the world to bear her loss without emotion;--she, however, stayed at home one whole evening, to receive Mad. de Rosier, and to introduce her to her pupils. Mrs. Harcourt had three daughters and a son--Isabella, Matilda, Favoretta, and Herbert. Isabella was about fourteen; her countenance was intelligent, but rather too expressive of confidence in her own capacity, for she had, from her infancy, been taught to believe that she was a genius. Her memory had been too much cultivated; she had learned languages with facility, and had been taught to set a very high value upon her knowledge of history and chronology. Her temper had been hurt by flattery, yet she was capable of feeling all the generous passions.
Matilda was a year younger than Isabella; she was handsome, but her countenance, at first view, gave the idea of hopeless indolence; she did not learn the French and Italian irregular verbs by rote as expeditiously as her sister, and her impatient preceptress pronounced, with an irrevocable nod, that Miss Matilda was _no_ genius. The phrase was quickly caught by her masters, so that Matilda, undervalued even by her sister, lost all confidence in herself, and with the hope of success, lost the wish for exertion. Her attention gradually turned to dress and personal accomplishments; not that she was vain of her beauty, but she had more hopes of pleasing by the graces of her person than of her mind. The timid, anxious blush, which Mad. De Rosier observed to vary in Matilda's countenance, when she spoke to those for whom she felt affection, convinced this lady that, if Matilda were _no_ genius, it must have been the fault of her education. On sensibility, all that is called genius, perhaps, originally depends: those who are capable of feeling a strong degree of pain and pleasure may surely be excited to great and persevering exertion, by calling the proper motives into action.
Favoretta, the youngest daughter, was about six years old. At this age, the habits that constitute character are not formed, and it is, therefore, absurd to speak of the character of a child six years old. Favoretta had been, from her birth, the plaything of her mother and of her mother's waiting-maid. She was always produced, when Mrs. Harcourt had company, to be admired and caressed by the fashionable circle; her ringlets and her lively nonsense were the never-failing means of attracting attention from visitors. In the drawing-room, Favoretta, consequently, was happy, always in high spirits, and the picture of good humour; but, change the scene, and Favoretta no longer appeared the same person: when alone, she was idle and spiritless; when with her maid or with her brother and sisters, pettish and capricious. Her usual play-fellow was Herbert, but their plays regularly ended in quarrels--quarrels in which both parties were commonly in the wrong, though the whole of the blame necessarily fell upon Herbert, for Herbert was neither caressing nor caressed. Mrs. Grace, the waiting-maid, pronounced him to be the plague of her life, and prophesied evil of him, because, as she averred, if she combed his hair a hundred times a day, it would never be fit to be seen; besides this, she declared "there was no managing to keep him out of mischief," and he was so "thick-headed at his book," that Mrs. Grace, on whom the task of teaching him his alphabet had, during the negligent reign of the late governess, devolved, affirmed that he never would learn to read like any other young gentleman. Whether the zeal of Mrs. Grace for his literary progress were of service to his understanding, may be doubted; there could be no doubt of its effect upon his temper; a sullen gloom overspread Herbert's countenance, whenever the shrill call of "Come and say your task, Master Herbert!" was heard; and the continual use of the imperative mood--"Let that alone, _do_, Master Herbert!"--"Don't make a racket, Master Herbert!"--"Do hold your tongue and sit still where I bid you, Master Herbert!" operated so powerfully upon this young gentleman, that, at eight years old, he partly fulfilled his tormentor's prophecies, for he became a little surly rebel, who took pleasure in doing exactly the contrary to every thing that he was desired to do, and who took pride in opposing his powers of endurance to the force of punishment. His situation was scarcely more agreeable in the drawing-room than in the nursery, for his mother usually announced him to the company by the appropriate appellation of _Roughhead_; and Herbert _Roughhead_ being assailed, at his entrance into the room, by a variety of petty reproaches and maternal witticisms upon his uncouth appearance, became bashful and awkward, averse from _polite_ society, and prone to the less fastidious company of servants in the stable and the kitchen. Mrs. Harcourt absolutely forbade his intercourse with the postilions, though she did not think it necessary to be so strict in her injunctions as to the butler and footman; because, argued she, "children will get to the servants when one's from home, and it is best that they should be with such of them as one can trust. Now Stephen is quite a person one can entirely depend upon, and he has been so long in the family, the children are quite used to him, and safe with him."
How many mothers have a Stephen, on whom they can entirely depend!
Mrs. Harcourt, with politeness, which in this instance supplied the place of good sense, invested Mad. de Rosier with full powers, as the preceptress of her children, except as to their religious education; she stipulated that Catholic tenets should not be instilled into them. To this Mad. de Rosier replied--"that children usually follow the religion of their parents, and that proselytes seldom do honour to their conversion; that were she, on the other hand, to attempt to promote her pupils' belief in the religion of their country, her utmost powers could add nothing to the force of public religious instruction, and to the arguments of those books which are necessarily put into the hands of every well-educated person."
With these opinions, Mad. de Rosier readily promised to abstain from all direct or indirect interference in the religious instruction of her pupils. Mrs. Harcourt then introduced her to them as "a friend, in whom she had entire confidence, and whom she hoped and believed they would make it their study to please."
Whilst the ceremonies of the introduction were going on, Herbert kept himself aloof, and, with his whip suspended over the stick on which he was riding, eyed Mad. de Rosier with no friendly aspect: however, when she held out her hand to him, and when he heard the encouraging tone of her voice, he approached, held his whip fast in his right hand, but very cordially gave the lady his left to shake.
"Are you to be my governess?" said he: "you won't give me very long tasks, will you?"
"Favoretta, my dear, what has detained you so long?" cried Mrs. Harcourt, as the door opened, and as Favoretta, with her hair in nice order, was ushered into the room by Mrs. Grace. The little girl ran up to Mad. de Rosier, and, with the most caressing freedom, cried,--
"Will you love me? I have not my red shoes on to-day!"
Whilst Mad. de Rosier assured Favoretta that the want of the red shoes would not diminish her merit, Matilda whispered to Isabella--"Mourning is very becoming to her, though she is not fair;" and Isabella, with a look of absence, replied--"But she speaks English amazingly well for a French woman."
Mad. de Rosier did speak English remarkably well; she had spent some years in England, in her early youth, and, perhaps, the effect of her conversation was heightened by an air of foreign novelty. As she was not hackneyed in the common language of conversation, her ideas were expressed in select and accurate terms, so that her thoughts appeared original, as well as just.
Isabella, who was fond of talents, and yet fonder of novelty, was charmed, the first evening, with her new friend, more especially as she perceived that her abilities had not escaped Mad. de Rosier. She displayed all her little treasures of literature, but was surprised to observe that, though every shining thing she said was taken notice of, nothing dazzled the eyes of her judge; gradually her desire to talk subsided, and she felt some curiosity to hear. She experienced the new pleasure of conversing with a person whom she perceived to be her superior in understanding, and whose superiority she could admire, without any mixture of envy.
"Then," said she, pausing, one day, after having successfully enumerated the dates of the reigns of all the English kings, "I suppose you have something in French, like our Gray's Memoria Technica, or else you never could have such a prodigious quantity of dates in your head. Had you as much knowledge of chronology and history, when you were of my age, as--as--"
"As you have?" said Mad. de Rosier: "I do not know whether I had at your age, but I can assure you that I have not now."
"Nay," replied Isabella, with an incredulous smile, "but you only say that from modesty."
"From vanity, more likely."
"Vanity! impossible--you don't understand me."
"Pardon me, but you do not understand _me_."
"A person," cried Isabella, "can't, surely, be vain--what we, in English, call vain--of _not_ remembering any thing."
"Is it, then, impossible that a person should be what you, in English, call vain, of _not_ remembering what is useless? I dare say you can tell me the name of that wise man who prayed for the art of forgetting."
"No, indeed, I don't know his name; I never heard of him before: was he a Grecian, or a Roman, or an Englishman? can't you recollect his name? what does it begin with?"
"I do not wish either for your sake or my own, to remember the name; let us content ourselves with the wise man's sense, whether he were a Grecian, a Roman, or an Englishman: even the first letter of his name might be left among the useless things--might it not?"
"But," replied Isabella, a little piqued, "I do not know what you call useless."
"Those of which you can make no use," said Mad. de Rosier, with simplicity.
"You don't mean, though, all the names, and dates, and kings, and Roman emperors, and all the remarkable events that I have learned by heart?"
"It is useful, I allow," replied Mad. de Rosier, "to know by heart the names of the English kings and Roman emperors, and to remember the dates of their reigns, otherwise we should be obliged, whenever we wanted them, to search in the books in which they are to be found, and that wastes time."
"Wastes time--yes; but what's worse," said Isabella, "a person looks so awkward and foolish in company, who does not know these things--things that every body knows."
"And that every body is supposed to know," added Mad. de Rosier.
"_That_ never struck me before," said Isabella, ingenuously; "I only remembered these things to repeat in conversation."
Here Mad. de Rosier, pleased to observe that her pupil had caught an idea that was new to her, dropped the conversation, and left Isabella to apply what had passed. Active and ingenious young people should have much left to their own intelligent exertions, and to their own candour.
Matilda, the second daughter, was at first pleased with Mad. de Rosier, because she looked well in mourning; and afterwards she became interested for her, from hearing the history of her misfortunes, of which Mad. de Rosier, one evening, gave her a simple, pathetic account. Matilda was particularly touched by the account of the early death of this lady's beautiful and accomplished daughter; she dwelt upon every circumstance, and, with anxious curiosity, asked a variety of questions.
"I think I can form a perfect idea of her now," said Matilda, after she had inquired concerning the colour of her hair, of her eyes, her complexion, her height, her voice, her manners, and her dress--"I think I have a perfect idea of her now!"
"Oh no!" said Mad. de Rosier, with a sigh, "you cannot form a perfect idea of my Rosalie from any of these things; she was handsome and graceful; but it was not her person--it was her mind," said the mother, with a faltering voice: her voice had, till this instant, been steady and composed.
"I beg your pardon--I will ask you no more questions," said Matilda.
"My love," said Mad. de Rosier, "ask me as many as you please--I like to think of _her_---I may now speak of her without vanity--her character would have pleased you."
"I am sure it would," said Matilda: "do you think she would have liked me or Isabella the best?"
"She would have liked each of you for your different good qualities, I think: she would not have made her love an object of competition, or the cause of jealousy between two sisters; she could make herself sufficiently beloved, without stooping to any such mean arts. She had two friends who loved her tenderly; they knew that she was perfectly sincere, and that she would not flatter either of them--you know _that_ is only childish affection which is without esteem. Rosalie was esteemed _autant qu'aimée_."
"How I should have liked such a friend! but I am afraid she would have been so much my superior, she would have despised me--Isabella would have had all her conversation, because she knows so much, and I know nothing!"
"If you know that you know nothing," said Mad. de Rosier, with an encouraging smile, "you know as much as the wisest of men. When the oracle pronounced Socrates to be the wisest of men, he explained it by observing, 'that he knew himself to be ignorant, whilst other men,' said he, 'believing that they know every thing, are not likely to improve.'"
"Then you think I am likely to improve?" said Matilda, with a look of doubtful hope.
"Certainly," said Mad. de Rosier: "if you exert yourself, you may be any thing you please."
"Not any thing I please, for I should please to be as clever, and as good, and as amiable, and as estimable, too, as your Rosalie--but that's impossible. Tell me, however, what she was at my age--and what sort of things she used to do and say--and what books she read--and how she employed herself from morning till night."
"That must be for to-morrow," said Mad. de Rosier; "I must now show Herbert the book of prints that he wanted to see."
It was the first time that Herbert had ever asked to look into a book. Mad. de Rosier had taken him entirely out of the hands of Mrs. Grace, and finding that his painful associations with the sight of the syllables in his dog's-eared spelling-book could not immediately be conquered, she prudently resolved to cultivate his powers of attention upon other subjects, and not to return to syllabic difficulties, until the young gentleman should have forgotten his literary misfortunes, and acquired sufficient energy and patience to ensure success.
"It is of little consequence," said she, "whether the boy read a year sooner or later; but it is of great consequence that he should love literature."
"Certainly," said Mrs. Harcourt, to whom this observation was addressed; "I am sure you will manage all those things properly--I leave him entirely to you--Grace quite gives him up: if he read by the time we must think of sending him to school I shall be satisfied--only keep him out of my way," added she, laughing, "when he is stammering over that unfortunate spelling-book, for I don't pretend to be gifted with the patience of Job."
"Have you any objection," said Mad. de Rosier, "to my buying for him some new toys?"
"None in the world---buy any thing you will--do any thing you please--I give you carte blanche," said Mrs. Harcourt.
After Mad. de Rosier had been some time at Mrs. Harcourt's, and had carefully studied the characters, or, more properly speaking, the habits of all her pupils, she took them with her one morning to a large toy-shop, or rather warehouse for toys, which had been lately opened, under the direction of an ingenious gentleman, who had employed proper workmen to execute rational toys for the rising generation.
When Herbert entered "the rational toy-shop," he looked all around, and, with an air of disappointment, exclaimed, "Why, I see neither whips nor horses! nor phaetons, nor coaches!"--"Nor dressed dolls!" said Favoretta, in a reproachful tone--"nor baby houses!"--"Nor soldiers--nor a drum!" continued Herbert.--"I am sure I never saw such a toy-shop," said Favoretta; "I expected the finest things that ever were seen, because it was such a new _great_ shop, and here are nothing but vulgar-looking things--great carts and wheel-barrows, and things fit for orange-women's daughters, I think."
This sally of wit was not admired as much as it would have been by Favoretta's flatterers in her mother's drawing-room:--her brother seized upon the very cart which she had abused, and dragging it about the room, with noisy joy, declared he had found out that it was better than a coach and six that would hold nothing; and he was even satisfied without horses, because he reflected that he could be the best horse himself; and that wooden horses, after all, cannot gallop, and they never mind if you whip them ever so much: "you must drag them along all the time, though you make _believe_," said Herbert, "that they draw the coach of themselves; if one gives them the least push, they tumble down on their sides, and one must turn back, for ever and ever, to set them up upon their wooden legs again. I don't like make-believe horses; I had rather be both man and horse for myself." Then, whipping himself, he galloped away, pleased with his centaur character.
When the little boy in Sacontala is offered for a plaything "_a peacock of earthenware, painted with rich colours_," he answers, "_I shall like the peacock if it can run and fly--not else_." The Indian drama of Sacontala was written many centuries ago. Notwithstanding it has so long been observed, that children dislike useless, motionless playthings, it is but of late that more rational toys have been devised for their amusements.
Whilst Herbert's cart rolled on, Favoretta viewed it with scornful eyes; but at length, cured by the neglect of the spectators of this fit of disdain, she condescended to be pleased, and spied a few things worthy of her notice. Bilboquets, battledores, and shuttlecocks, she acknowledged were no bad things--"And pray," said she, "what are those pretty little baskets, Mad. de Rosier? And those others, which look as if they were but just begun? And what are those strings, that look like mamma's bell cords?--and is that a thing for making laces, such as Grace laces me with? And what are those cabinets with little drawers for?"
Mad. de Rosier had taken notice of these little cabinets--they were for young mineralogists; she was also tempted by a botanical apparatus; but as her pupils were not immediately going into the country, where flowers could be procured, she was forced to content herself with such things as could afford them employment in town. The making of baskets, of bell-ropes, and of cords for window-curtains, were occupations in which, she thought, they might successfully employ themselves. The materials for these little manufactures were here ready prepared; and only such difficulties were left as children love to conquer. The materials for the baskets, and a little magnifying glass, which Favoretta wished to have, were just packed up in a basket, which was to serve for a model, when Herbert's voice was heard at the other end of the shop: he was exclaiming in an impatient tone, "I must and I will eat them, I say." He had crept under the counter, and, unperceived by the busy shopman, had dragged out of a pigeon-hole, near the ground, a parcel, wrapped up in brown paper: he had seated himself upon the ground, with his back to the company, and, with patience worthy of a better object, at length untied the difficult knot, pulled off the string, and opened the parcel. Within the brown paper there appeared a number of little packets, curiously folded in paper of a light brown. Herbert opened one of these, and finding that it contained a number of little round things which looked like comfits, he raised the paper to his mouth, which opened wide to receive them. The shopman stopping his arm, assured him that they were "_not good to eat_;" but Herbert replied in the angry tone, which caught Mad. de Rosier's ear. "They are the seeds of radishes, my dear," said she: "if they be sown in the ground, they will become radishes; then they will be fit to eat, but not till then. Taste them now, and try." He willingly obeyed; but put the seeds very quickly out of his mouth, when he found that they were not sweet. He then said "that he wished he might have them, that he might sow them in the little garden behind his mother's house, that they might be fit to eat some time or other."
Mad. de Rosier bought the radish-seeds, and ordered a little spade, a hoe, and a watering-pot, to be sent home for him. Herbert's face brightened with joy: he was surprised to find that any of his requests were granted, because Grace had regularly reproved him for being troublesome whenever he asked for any thing; hence he had learned to have recourse to force or fraud to obtain his objects. He ventured now to hold Mad. De Rosier by the gown: "Stay a little longer," said he; "I want to look at every thing:" his curiosity dilated with his hopes. When Mad. de Rosier complied with his request to "stay a little longer," he had even the politeness to push a stool towards her, saying, "You'd better sit down; you will be tired of standing, as some people say they are;--but I'm not one of them. Tell 'em to give me down that wonderful thing, that I may see what it is, will you?"
The wonderful thing which had caught Herbert's attention was a dry printing press. Mad. de Rosier was glad to procure this little machine for Herbert, for she hoped that the new associations of pleasure which he would form with the types in the little compositor's stick, would efface the painful remembrance of his early difficulties with the syllables in the spelling-book. She also purchased a box of models of common furniture, which were made to take to pieces, and to be put together again, and on which the names of all the parts were printed. A number of other useful toys tempted her, but she determined not to be too profuse: she did not wish to purchase the love of her little pupils by presents; her object was to provide them with independent occupations; to create a taste for industry, without the dangerous excitation of continual variety.
Isabella was delighted with the idea of filling up a small biographical chart, which resembled Priestley's; she was impatient also to draw the map of the world upon a small silk balloon, which could be filled with common air, or folded up flat at pleasure.
Matilda, after much hesitation, said she had decided in her mind, just as they were going out of the shop. She chose a small loom for weaving riband and tape, which Isabella admired, because she remembered to have seen it described in "Townsend's Travels:" but, before the man could put up the loom for Matilda, she begged to have a little machine for drawing in perspective, because the person who showed it assured her that it required _no sort of genius_ to draw perfectly well in perspective with this instrument.
In their way home, Mad. de Rosier stopped the carriage at a circulating library. "Are you going to ask for the novel we were talking of yesterday?" cried Matilda.
"A novel!" said Isabella, contemptuously: "no, I dare say Mad. de Rosier is not a novel-reader."
"Zeluco, sir, if you please," said Mad. de Rosier. "You see, Isabella, notwithstanding the danger of forfeiting your good opinion, I have dared to ask for a novel."
"Well, I always understood, I am sure," replied Isabella, disdainfully, "that none but trifling, silly people were novel-readers."
"Were readers of trifling, silly novels, perhaps you mean," answered Mad. de Rosier, with temper; "but I flatter myself you will not find Zeluco either trifling or silly."
"No, not Zeluco, to be sure," said Isabella, recollecting herself; "for now I remember Mr. Gibbon, the great historian, mentions Zeluco in one of his letters; he says it is the best philosophical romance of the age. I particularly remember _that_, because somebody had been talking of Zeluco the very day I was reading that letter; and I asked my governess to get it for me, but she said it was a novel--however, Mr. Gibbon calls it a philosophical romance."
"The name," said Mad. de Rosier, "will not make such difference to _us_; but I agree with you in thinking, that as people who cannot judge for themselves are apt to be misled by names, it would be advantageous to invent some new name for philosophical novels, that they may no longer be contraband goods--that they may not be confounded with the trifling, silly productions, for which you have so just a disdain."
"Now, ma'am, will you ask," cried Herbert, as the carriage stopped at his mother's door--"will you ask whether the man has brought home my spade and the watering-pot? I know you don't like that I should go to the servants for what I want; but I'm in a great hurry for the spade, because I want to dig the bed for my radishes before night: I've got my seeds safe in my hand."
Mad. de Rosier, much pleased by this instance of obedience in her impatient pupil, instantly inquired for what he wanted, to convince him that it was possible he could have his wishes gratified by a person who was not an inhabitant of the stable or the kitchen. Isabella might have registered it in her list of remarkable events, that Herbert, this day, was not seen with the butler, the footman, or the coachman. Mad. de Rosier, who was aware of the force of habit, and who thought that no evil could be greater than that of hazarding the integrity of her little pupils, did not exact from them any promise of abstaining from the company of the servants, with whom they had been accustomed to converse; but she had provided the children with occupations, that they might not be tempted, by idleness, to seek for improper companions; and, by interesting herself with unaffected good-nature in their amusements, she endeavoured to give them a taste for the sympathy of their superiors in knowledge, instead of a desire for the flattery of inferiors. She arranged their occupations in such a manner, that, without watching them every instant, she might know what they were doing, and where they were; and she showed so much readiness to procure for them any thing that was reasonable, that they found it the shortest method to address their petitions to her in the first instance. Children will necessarily delight in the company of those who make them happy; Mad. de Rosier knew how to make her pupils contented, by exciting them to employments in which they felt that they were successful.
"Mamma! mamma! dear mamma!" cried Favoretta, running into the hall, and stopping Mrs. Harcourt, who was dressed, and going out to dinner, "do come into the parlour, to look at my basket, my beautiful basket, that I am making _all_ myself."
"And _do_, mother, or some of ye, come out into the garden, and see the bed that I've dug, with my own hands, for my radishes--I'm as hot as fire, I know," said Herbert, pushing his hat back from his forehead.
"Oh! don't come near me with the watering-pot in your hand," said Mrs. Harcourt, shrinking back, and looking at Herbert's hands, which were not as white as her own.
"The carriage is but just come to the door, ma'am," said Isabella, who next appeared in the hall; "I only want you for one instant, to show you something that is to hang up in your dressing-room, when I have finished it, mamma; it is really beautiful."
"Well, don't keep me long," said Mrs. Harcourt, "for, indeed, I am too late already."
"Oh, no! indeed you will not be too late, mamma--only look at my basket," said Favoretta, gently pulling her mother by the hand into the parlour.--Isabella pointed to her silk globe, which was suspended in the window, and, taking up her camel-hair pencil, cried, "Only look, ma'am, how nicely I have traced the Rhine, the Po, the Elbe, and the Danube; you see I have not finished Europe; it will be quite another looking thing, when Asia, Africa, and America are done, and when the colours are quite dry."
"Now, Isabella, pray let her look at my basket," cried the eager Favoretta, holding up the scarcely begun basket--"I will do a row, to show you how it is done;" and the little girl, with busy fingers, began to weave. The ingenious and delicate appearance of the work, and the happy countenance of the little workwoman, fixed the mother's pleased attention, and she, for a moment, forgot that her carriage was waiting.
"The carriage is at the door, ma'am," said the footman.
"I must be gone!" cried Mrs. Harcourt, starting from her reverie. "What am I doing here? I ought to have been away this half-hour--Matilda!--why is not she amongst you?"
Matilda, apart from the busy company, was reading with so much earnestness, that her mother called twice before she looked up.
"How happy you all look," continued Mrs. Harcourt; "and I am going to one of those terrible _great_ dinners--I shan't eat one morsel; then cards all night, which I hate as much as you do, Isabella--pity me, Mad. de Rosier!--Good bye, happy creatures!"--and with some real and some affected reluctance, Mrs. Harcourt departed.
It is easy to make children happy, for one evening, with new toys and new employments; but the difficulty is to continue the pleasure of occupation after it has lost its novelty: the power of habit may well supply the place of the charm of novelty. Mad. de Rosier exerted herself, for some weeks, to invent occupations for her pupils, that she might induce in their minds a love for industry; and when they had tasted the pleasure, and formed the habit of doing _something_, she now and then suffered them to experience the misery of having nothing to do. The state of _ennui_, when contrasted with that of pleasurable mental or bodily activity, becomes odious and insupportable to children.
Our readers must have remarked that Herbert, when he seized upon the radish-seeds in the rational toy-shop, had not then learned just notions of the nature of property. Mad. de Rosier did not, like Mrs. Grace, repeat ineffectually, fifty times a day--"Master Herbert, don't touch that!" "Master Herbert, for shame!" "Let that alone, sir!" "Master Herbert, how dare you, sir!" but she prudently began by putting forbidden goods entirely out of his reach: thus she, at least, prevented the necessity for perpetual, irritating prohibitions, and diminished with the temptation the desire to disobey; she gave him some things for his _own_ use, and scrupulously refrained from encroaching upon his property: Isabella and Matilda followed her example, in this respect, and thus practically explained to Herbert the meaning of the words _mine_ and _yours_. He was extremely desirous of going with Mad. de Rosier to different shops, but she coolly answered his entreaties by observing, "that she could not venture to take him into any one's house, till she was sure that he would not meddle with what was not his own." Herbert now felt the inconvenience of his lawless habits: to enjoy the pleasures, he perceived that it was necessary to submit to the duties of society; and he began to respect "_the rights of things and persons_." When his new sense of right and wrong had been sufficiently exercised at home, Mad. de Rosier ventured to expose him to more dangerous trials abroad; she took him to a carpenter's workshop, and though the saw, the hammer, the chisel, the plane, and the vice, assailed him in various forms of temptation, his powers of forbearance came off victorious.
[Footnote 1: Blackstone]
"To _bear_ and _forbear_" has been said to be the sum of manly virtue: the virtue of forbearance in childhood must always be measured by the pupil's disposition to activity: a vivacious boy must often have occasion to forbear more, in a quarter of an hour, than a dull, indolent child in a quarter of a year.
"May I touch this?"--"May I meddle with that?" were questions which our prudent hero now failed not to ask, before he meddled with the property of others, and he found his advantage in this mode of proceeding. He observed that his governess was, in this respect, as scrupulous as she required that he should be, and he consequently believed in the truth and _general_ utility of her precepts.
The coachmaker's, the cooper's, the turner's, the cabinet-maker's, even the black ironmonger's and noisy tinman's shop, afforded entertainment for many a morning; a trifling gratuity often purchased much instruction, and Mad. de Rosier always examined the countenance of the workman before she suffered her little pupils to attack him with questions. The eager curiosity of children is generally rather agreeable than tormenting to tradesmen, who are not too busy to be benevolent; and the care which Herbert took not to be troublesome pleased those to whom he addressed himself. He was delighted, at the upholsterer's, to observe that his little models of furniture had taught him how several things were _put together_, and he soon learned the workmen's names for his ideas. He readily understood the use of all that he saw, when he went to a bookbinder's, and to a printing-office, because, in his own printing and bookbinder's press, he had seen similar contrivances in miniature.
Prints, as well as models, were used to enlarge his ideas of visible objects. Mad. de Rosier borrowed the Dictionnaire des Arts et des Métiers, Buffon, and several books, which contained good prints of animals, machines, and architecture; these provided amusement on rainy days. At first she found it difficult to fix the attention of the boisterous Herbert and the capricious Favoretta. Before they had half examined one print, they wanted to turn over the leaf to see another; but this desultory, impatient curiosity she endeavoured to cure by steadily showing only one or two prints for each day's amusement. Herbert, who could but just spell words of one syllable, could not read what was written at the bottom of the prints, and he was sometimes ashamed of applying to Favoretta for assistance;--the names that were printed upon his little models of furniture he at length learned to make out. The _press was obliged to stand still_ when Favoretta, or his friend, Mad. de Rosier, were not at hand, to tell him, letter by letter, how to spell the words that he wanted to print. He, one evening, went up to Mad. de Rosier, and, with a resolute face, said, "I must learn to read."
"If any body will be so good as to teach you, I suppose you mean," said she, smiling.
[Footnote 2: Vide Rousseau.]
"Will _you_ be so good?" said he: "perhaps you could teach me, though Grace says 'tis very difficult; I'll do my best."
"Then I'll do _my_ best too," said Mad. de Rosier.
The consequences of these good resolutions were surprising to Mrs. Grace. Master Herbert was quite changed, she observed; and she wondered why he would never read when she took so much pains with him for an hour every day to hear him his task. "Madame de What d'ye call her," added Mrs. Grace, "need not boast much of the hand she has had in the business: for I've been by at odd times, and watched her ways, whilst I have been dressing Miss Favoretta, and she has been hearing you your task, Master Herbert."
"She doesn't call it my task--I hate that word."
"Well, I don't know what she calls it; for I don't pretend to be a French governess, for my part; but I can read English, Master Herbert, as well as another; and it's strange if I could not teach my mother tongue better than an emigrant. What I say is, that she never takes much pains one way or the other; for by the clock in mistress's dressing-room, I minuted her twice, and she was five minutes at one time, and not above seven the other. Easy earning money for governesses, nowadays. No tasks!--no, not she!--Nothing all day long but play--play--play, laughing and running, and walking, and going to see all the shops and sights, and going out in the coach to bring home radishes and tongue-grass, to be sure--and every thing in the house is to be as she pleases, to be sure. I am sure my mistress is too good to her, only because she was born a lady, they say. Do, pray, Master Herbert, stand still, whilst I comb your hair, unless that's against your new governess's commandments."
"I'll comb my own hair, Grace," said Herbert, manfully. "I don't like one word you have been saying; though I don't mind any thing you, or any body else, can say against _my friend_. She is my friend--and she has taught me to read, I say, without bouncing me about, and shaking me, and Master Herbert_ing_ me for ever. And what harm did it do the coach to bring home my radishes? My radishes are come up, and she shall have some of them. And I like the sights and shops she shows me;--but she does not like that I should talk to you; therefore, I'll say no more; but good morning to you, Grace."
Herbert, red with generous passion, rushed out of the room, and Grace, pale with malicious rage, turned towards the other door that opened into Mrs. Harcourt's bedchamber, for Mad. de Rosier, at this moment, appeared.--"I thought I heard a great noise?"--"It was only Master Herbert, ma'am, that _won't never_ stand still to have his hair combed--and says he'll comb it for himself--I am sure I wish he would."
Mad. de Rosier saw, by the embarrassed manner and stifled choler of Mrs. Grace, that the whole truth of the business had not been told, and she repented her indiscretion in having left Herbert with her even for a few minutes. She forbore, however, to question Herbert, who maintained a _dignified_ silence upon the subject; and the same species of silence would also become the historian upon this occasion, were it not necessary that the character of an intriguing lady's maid should, for the sake both of parents and children, be fully delineated.
Mrs. Grace, offended by Mad. de Rosier's success in teaching her former pupil to read; jealous of this lady's favour with her mistress and with the young ladies; irritated by the bold defiance of the indignant champion who had stood forth in his _friend's_ defence, formed a _secret_ resolution to obtain revenge. This she imparted, the very same day, to her confidant, Mrs. Rebecca. Mrs. Rebecca was the favourite maid of Mrs. Fanshaw, an acquaintance of Mrs. Harcourt. Grace invited Mrs. Rebecca to drink tea with her. As soon as the preliminary ceremonies of the tea-table had been adjusted, she proceeded to state her grievances.
"In former times, as nobody knows better than you, Mrs. Rebecca, I had my mistress's ear, and was all in all in the house, with her and the young ladies, and the old governess; and it was I that was to teach Master Herbert to read; and Miss Favoretta was almost constantly from morning to night, except when she was called for by company, with me, and a sweet little well-dressed creature always, you know, she was."
"A sweet little creature, indeed, ma'am, and I was wondering, before you spoke, not to see her in your room, as usual, to-night," replied Mrs. Rebecca.
"Dear Mrs. Rebecca, you need not wonder at that, or any thing else that's wonderful, in our present government above stairs, I'll assure you; for we have a new French governess, and new measures. Do you know, ma'am, the coach is ordered to go about at all hours, whenever she pleases _for to_ take the young ladies out, and she is quite like my mistress. But no one can bear two mistresses, you know, Mrs. Rebecca; wherefore, I'm come to a resolution, in short, that either she or I shall quit the house, and we shall presently see which of us it must be. Mrs. Harcourt, at the upshot of all things, must be conscious, at the bottom of her heart, that, if she is the elegantest dresser about town, it's not all her own merit."
"Very true indeed, Mrs. Grace," replied her complaisant friend; "and what sums of money her millinery might cost her, if she had no one clever at making up things at home! You are blamed by many, let me tell you, for doing so much as you do. Mrs. Private, the milliner, I know from the best authority, is not your friend: now, for my part, I think it is no bad thing to have friends _abroad_, if one comes to any difficulties at home. Indeed, my dear, your attachment to Mrs. Harcourt quite blinds you--but, to be sure, you know your own affairs best."
"Why, I am not for changing when I am well," replied Grace: "Mrs. Harcourt is abroad a great deal, and hers is, all things considered, a very eligible house. Now, what I build my hopes upon, my dear Mrs. Rebecca, is this--that ladies, like some people who have been beauties, and come to _make themselves up_, and wear pearl powder, and false auburn hair, and twenty things that are not to be advertised, you know, don't like quarrelling with those that are in the secret--and ladies who have never made a _rout_ about governesses and _edication_, till lately, and now, perhaps, only for fashion's sake, would upon a pinch--don't you think--rather part with a French governess, when there are so many, than with a favourite maid who knows her ways, _and has_ a good taste in dress, which so few can boast?"
"Oh, surely! surely!" said Mrs. Rebecca; and having tasted Mrs. Grace's crême-de-noyau, it was decided that war should be declared against _the governess_.
Mad. de Rosier, happily unconscious of the machinations of her enemies, and even unsuspicious of having any, was, during this important conference, employed in reading Marmontel's Silvain, with Isabella and Matilda. They were extremely interested in this little play; and Mrs. Harcourt, who came into the room whilst they were reading, actually sat down on the sofa beside Isabella, and, putting her arm round her daughter's waist, said--"Go on, love; let me have a share in some of your pleasures--lately, whenever I see you, you all look the picture of happiness--Go on, pray, Mad. de Rosier."
"It was I who was reading, mamma," said Isabella, pointing to the place over Mad. de Rosier's shoulder--
Une femme douce et sage A toujours tant d'avantage! Elle a pour elle en partage L'agrément, et la raison.'"
"Isabella," said Mrs. Harcourt, from whom a scarcely audible sigh had escaped--"Isabella really reads French almost as well as she does English."
"I am improved very much since I have heard Mad. de Rosier read," said Isabella.
"I don't doubt _that_, in the least; you are, all of you, much improved, I think, in every thing;--I am sure I feel very much obliged to Mad. de Rosier."
Matilda looked pleased by this speech of her mother, and affectionately said, "I am glad, mamma, you like her as well as we do--Oh, I forgot that Mad, de Rosier was by--but it is not flattery, however."
"You see you have won all their hearts"--_from me_, Mrs. Harcourt was near saying, but she paused, and, with a faint laugh, added--"yet you see I am not jealous. Matilda! read those lines that your sister has just read; I want to hear them again."
Mrs. Harcourt sent for her work, and spent the evening at home. Mad. de Rosier, without effort or affectation, dissipated the slight feeling of jealousy which she observed in the mother's mind, and directed towards her the attention of her children, without disclaiming, however, the praise that was justly her due. She was aware that she could not increase her pupils' real affection for their mother, by urging them to sentimental hypocrisy.
Whether Mrs. Harcourt understood her conduct this evening, she could not discover--for politeness does not always speak the unqualified language of the heart--hut she trusted to the effect of time, on which persons of integrity may always securely rely for their reward. Mrs. Harcourt gradually discovered that, as she became more interested in the occupations and amusements of her children, they became more and more grateful for her sympathy; she consequently grew fonder of domestic life, and of the person who had introduced its pleasures into her family.
That we may not be accused of attributing any miraculous power to our French governess, we shall explain the natural means by which she improved her pupils.
We have already pointed out how she discouraged, in Isabella, the vain desire to load her memory with historical and chronological facts, merely for the purpose of ostentation. She gradually excited her to read books of reasoning, and began with those in which reasoning and amusement are mixed. She also endeavoured to cultivate her imagination, by giving her a few well-chosen passages to read, from the best English, French, and Italian poets. It was an easier task to direct the activity of Isabella's mind, than to excite Matilda's dormant powers. Mad. de Rosier patiently waited till she discovered something which seemed to please Matilda more than usual. The first book that she appeared to like particularly was, "Les Conversations d'Emilie:" one passage she read with great delight aloud; and Mad. de Rosier, who perceived by the manner of reading it that she completely understood the elegance of the French, begged her to try if she could translate it into English: it was not more than half a page. Matilda was not terrified at the length of such an undertaking: she succeeded, and the praises that were bestowed upon her translation excited in her mind some portion of ambition.
Mad. de Rosier took the greatest care in conversing with Matilda, to make her feel her own powers: whenever she used good arguments, they were immediately attended to; and when Matilda perceived that a prodigious memory was not essential to success, she was inspired with courage to converse unreservedly.
An accident pointed out to Mad. de Rosier another resource in Matilda's education. One day Herbert called his sister Matilda to look at an ant, which was trying to crawl up a stick; he seemed scarcely able to carry his large white load in his little forceps, and he frequently fell back, when he had just reached the top of the stick. Mad. de Rosier, who knew how much of the art of instruction depends upon seizing the proper moments to introduce new ideas, asked Herbert whether he had ever heard of the poor snail, who, like this ant, slipped back continually, as he was endeavouring to climb a wall twenty feet high.
"I never heard of that snail; pray tell me the story," cried Herbert.
"It is not a story--it is a question in arithmetic," replied Mad. de Rosier. "This snail was to crawl up a wall twenty feet high; he crawled up five feet every day, and slipped hack again four feet every night: in how many days did he reach the top of the wall?"
"I love questions in arithmetic," exclaimed Matilda, "when they are not too difficult!" and immediately she whispered to Mad. de Rosier the answer to this easy question.
Her exclamation was not lost;--Mad. de Rosier determined to cultivate her talents for arithmetic. Without fatiguing Matilda's attention by long exercises in the common rules, she gave her questions which obliged her to _think_, and which excited her to reason and to invent; she gradually explained to her pupil the relations of numbers, and gave her rather more clear ideas of the nature and use of the common rules of arithmetic than she had acquired from her writing-master, who had taught them only in a technical manner. Matilda's confidence in herself was thus increased. When she had answered a difficult question, she could not doubt that she had succeeded; this was not a matter that admitted of the uncertainty which alarms timid tempers. Mad. de Rosier began by asking her young arithmetician questions only when they were by themselves--but by and by she appealed to her before the rest of the family. Matilda coloured at first, and looked as if she knew nothing of the business; but a distinct answer was given at last, and Isabella's opinions of her sister's abilities rose with amazing rapidity, when she heard that Matilda understood decimal fractions.
"Now, my dear Matilda," said Mad. de Rosier, "since you understand what even Isabella thinks difficult, you will, I hope, have sufficient confidence in yourself to attempt things which Isabella does not think difficult."
Matilda shook her head--"I am not Isabella yet," said she.
"No!" cried Isabella, with generous, sincere warmth; "but you are much superior to Isabella: I am certain that I could not answer those difficult questions, though you think me so quick--and, when once you have learned any thing, you never forget it; the ideas are not superficial," continued Isabella, turning to Mad. de Rosier; "they have depth, like the pins in mosaic work."
Mad. de Rosier smiled at this allusion, and, encouraged by her smile, Isabella's active imagination immediately produced another simile.
"I did not know my sister's abilities till lately--till you drew them out, Mad. de Rosier, like your drawing upon the screen in sympathetic inks;--when you first produced it, I looked, and said there was nothing; and when I looked again, after you had held it to the fire for a few moments, beautiful colours and figures appeared."
Mad. de Rosier, without using any artifice, succeeded in making Isabella and Matilda friends, instead of rivals, by placing them, as much as possible, in situations in which they could mutually sympathize, and by discouraging all painful competition.
With Herbert and Favoretta she pursued a similar plan. She scarcely ever left them alone together, that she might not run the hazard of their quarrelling in her absence. At this age children have not sufficient command of their tempers--they do not understand the nature of society and of justice: the less they are left together, when they are of unequal strength, and _when they have not any employments in which they are mutually interested_, the better. Favoretta and Herbert's petty, but loud and violent disputes, had nearly ceased since these precautions had been regularly attended to. As they had a great deal of amusement in the few hours which they spent together, they grew fond of each other's company: when Herbert was out in his little garden, he was impatient for the time when Favoretta was to come to visit his works; and Favoretta had equal pleasure in exhibiting to her brother her various manufactures.
Mad. de Rosier used to hear them read in Mrs. Barbauld's excellent little books, and in "Evenings at Home;" she generally told them some interesting story when they had finished reading, and they regularly seated themselves, side by side, on the carpet, opposite to her.
One day Herbert established himself in what he called his "_happy corner_," Favoretta placed herself close beside him, and Mad. de Rosier read to them that part of Sandford and Merton in which Squire Chace is represented beating Harry Sandford unmercifully because he refused to tell which way the hare was gone. Mad. de Rosier observed that this story made a great impression upon Herbert, and she thought it a good opportunity, whilst his mind was warm, to point out the difference between resolution and obstinacy. Herbert had been formerly disposed to obstinacy; but this defect in his temper never broke out towards Mad. de Rosier, because she carefully avoided urging him to do those things to which she knew him to be adverse; and she frequently desired him to do what she knew would be agreeable to him: she thought it best to suffer him gradually to forget his former bad habits and false associations, before she made any trial of his obedience; then she endeavoured to give him new habits, by placing him in new situations. She now resolved to address herself to his understanding, which she perceived had opened to reason.
He exclaimed with admiration, upon hearing the account of Harry Sandford's fortitude, "That's right!--that's right!--I am glad Harry did not tell that cruel Squire Chace which way the hare was gone. I like Harry for bearing to be beaten, _rather than speak a word when he did not choose it_. I love Harry, don't you?" said he, appealing to Mad. de Rosier.
"Yes, I like him very much," said Mad. de Rosier: "but not for the reason that you have just given."
"No!" said Herbert, starting up: "why, ma'am, don't you like Harry for saving the poor hare? don't you admire him for bearing all the hard blows, and for saying, when the man asked him afterward why he didn't tell which way the hare was gone, 'Because I don't choose to betray the unfortunate?'"
"Oh! don't you love him for that?" said Favoretta, rising from her seat; "I think Herbert himself would have given just such an answer, only not in such good words. I wonder, Mad. de Rosier, you don't like that answer!"
"I have never said that I did not like that answer," said Mad. de Rosier, as soon as she was permitted to speak.
"Then you _do_ like it? then you do like Harry?" exclaimed Herbert and Favoretta, both at once.
"Yes, I like that answer, Herbert; I like your friend Harry for saying that he did not choose to betray the unfortunate. You did not do _him_ justice or yourself, when you said just now that you liked Harry because he bore to be beaten rather than speak a word when he did not _choose it_."
Herbert looked puzzled.
"I mean," continued Mad. de Rosier, "that, before I can determine whether I like and admire any body for persisting in doing or in not doing any thing, I must hear their reasons for their resolution. 'I don't choose it,' is no reason; I must hear their reasons for choosing or not choosing it before I can judge."
"And I have told you the reason Harry gave for not choosing to speak when he was asked, and you said it was a good one; and you like him for his courage, don't you?" said Herbert.
"Yes," said Mad. de Rosier; "those who are resolute, when they have good reasons for their resolution, I admire; those who persist merely because _they choose it_, and who cannot, or will not, tell why they choose it, I despise."
"Oh, so do I!" said Favoretta: "you know, brother, whenever you say you don't choose it, I am always angry, and ask you why."
"And if you were not _always_ angry," said Mad. de Rosier, "perhaps _sometimes_ your brother would tell you why."
"Yes, that I should," said Herbert; "I always have a good reason to give Favoretta, though I don't always choose to give it."
"Then," said Mad. de Rosier, "you cannot always expect your sister to admire the justice of your decisions."
"No," replied Herbert; "but when I don't give her a reason, 'tis generally because it is not worth while. There can be no great wisdom, you know, in resolutions about trifles: such as, whether she should be my horse or I her horse, or whether I should water my radishes before breakfast or after."
"Certainly, you are right: there can be no great wisdom in resolutions about such trifles, therefore wise people never are obstinate about trifles."
"Do you know," cried Herbert, after a pause, "they used, before you came, to say that I was obstinate; but with you I have never been so, because you know how to manage me; you manage me a great deal more _cunningly_ than Grace used to do."
"I would not manage you more _cunningly_ than Grace used to do, if I could," replied Mad. de Rosier; "for then I should manage you worse than she did. It is no pleasure to me to govern you; I had much rather that you should use your reason to govern yourself."
Herbert pulled down his waistcoat, and, drawing up his head, looked with conscious dignity at Favoretta.
"You know," continued Mad. de Rosier, "that there are two ways of governing people--by reason and by force. Those who have no reason, or who do not use it, must be governed by force."
"I am not one of those," said Herbert; "for I hate force."
"But you must also love reason," said Mad. de Rosier, "if you would not be _one of those_."
"Well, so I do, when I hear it from _you_," replied Herbert, bluntly; "for you give me reasons that I can understand, when you ask me to do or not to do any thing: I wish people would always do so."
"But, Herbert," said Mad. de Rosier, "you must sometimes be contented to do as you are desired, even when I do not think it proper to give you my reasons;--you will, hereafter, find that I have good ones."
"I have found that already in a great many things," said Herbert; "especially about the caterpillar."
"What about the caterpillar?" said Favoretta.
"Don't you remember," said Herbert, "the day that I was going to tread upon what I thought was a little bit of black stick, and _she_ desired me not to do it, and I did not, and afterwards I found out that it was a caterpillar;--ever since that day I have been more ready, you know," continued he, turning to Mad. de Rosier, "to believe that you might be in the right, and to do as you bid me--you don't think me obstinate, do you?"
"No," said Mad. de Rosier.
"No! no!--do you hear that, Favoretta?" cried Herbert joyfully: "Grace used to say I was as obstinate as a mule, and she used to call me an ass, too: but even poor asses are not obstinate when they are well treated. Where is the ass, in the Cabinet of Quadrupeds, Favoretta, which we were looking at the other day? Oh, let me read the account to you, Mad. de Rosier. It is towards the middle of the book, Favoretta; let me look, I can find it in a minute. It is not long--may I read it to you?"
Mad. de Rosier consented, and Herbert read as follows:--"Much has been said of the stupid and stubborn disposition of the ass, but we are greatly inclined to suspect that the aspersion is ill-founded: whatever bad qualities of this kind he may sometimes possess, they do not appear to be the consequences of any natural defect in his constitution or temper, but arise from the manner used in training him, and the bad treatment he receives. We are the rather led to this assertion, from having lately seen one which experiences a very different kind of treatment from his master than is the fate of the generality of asses. The humane owner of this individual is an old man, whose employment is the selling of vegetables, which he conveys from door to door on the back of his ass. He is constantly baiting the poor creature with handfuls of hay, pieces of bread, or greens, which he procures in his progress. It is with pleasure we relate, for we have often curiously observed the old man's demeanour towards his ass, that he seldom carries any instrument of incitement with him, nor did we ever see him lift his hand to drive it on.
"Upon our observing to him that he seemed to be very kind to his ass, and inquiring whether he were apt to be stubborn, how long he had had him, &c., he replied, 'Ah, master, it is no use to be cruel, and as for stubbornness, I cannot complain, for he is ready to do any thing, and will go any where; I bred him myself, and have had him these two years: he is sometimes skittish and playful, and once ran away from me: you will hardly believe it, but there were more than fifty people after him to stop him, and they were not able to effect it, yet he turned back of himself, and never stopped till he run his head kindly into my breast.'
"The countenance of this individual is open, lively, and cheerful; his pace nimble and regular; and the only inducement used to make him increase his speed is that of calling him by name, which he readily obeys."
"I am not an ass," said Herbert, laughing, as he finished this sentence," but I think Mad. de Rosier is very like the good old man, and I always obey whenever she speaks to me. By the by," continued Herbert, who now seemed eager to recollect something by which he could show his readiness to obey--"by the by, Grace told me that my mother desired I should go to her, and have my hair combed every day; now I don't like it, but I will do it, because mamma desires it, and I will go this instant; will you come and see how still I can stand? I will show you that I am not obstinate."
Mad. de Rosier followed the little hero, to witness his triumph _over himself_. Grace happened to be with her mistress who was dressing.
"Mamma, I am come to do as you bid me," cried Herbert, walking stoutly into the room: "Grace, here's the comb;" and he turned to her the tangled locks at the back of his head. She pulled unmercifully, but he stood without moving a muscle of his countenance.
Mrs. Harcourt, who saw in her looking-glass what was passing, turned round, and said, "Gently, gently, Grace; indeed, Grace, you do pull that poor boy's hair as if you thought that his head had no feeling; I am sure, if you were to pull my hair in that manner, I could not bear it so well."
"Your hair!--Oh, dear ma'am, that's quite another thing--but Master Herbert's is always in such a tangle, there's no such thing as managing it." Again Mrs. Grace gave a desperate pull: Herbert bore it, looked up at Mad. de Rosier, and said, "Now, that was resolution, not obstinacy, you know."
"Here is your little obedient and patient boy," said Mad. de Rosier, leading Herbert to his mother, "who deserves to be rewarded with a kiss from you."
"That he shall have," said Mrs. Harcourt; "but why does Grace pull your hair so hard? and are not you almost able to comb your own hair?"
"Able! that I am. Oh, mother, I wish I might do it for myself."
"And has Mad. de Rosier any objection to it?" said Mrs. Harcourt.
"None in the least," said Mad. de Rosier; "on the contrary, I wish that he should do every thing that he can do for himself; but he told me that it was your desire that he should apply to Mrs. Grace, and I was pleased to see his ready obedience to your wishes: you may be very certain that, even in the slightest trifles, as well as in matters of consequence, it is _our_ wish, as much as it is our duty, to do exactly as you desire."
"My dear madame," said Mrs. Harcourt, laying her hand upon Mad. de Rosier's, with an expression of real kindness, mixed with her habitual politeness, "I am sensible of your goodness, but you know that in the slightest trifles, as well as in matters of consequence, I leave every thing implicitly to your better judgment: as to this business between Herbert and Grace, I don't understand it."
"Mother--" said Herbert.
"Madam," said Grace, pushing forward, but not very well knowing what she intended to say, "if you recollect, you desired me to comb Master Herbert's hair, ma'am, and I told Master Herbert so, ma'am, that's all."
"I do not recollect any thing about it, indeed, Grace."
"Oh dear, ma'am! don't you recollect the last day there was company, and Master Herbert came to the top of the stairs, and you was looking at the _organ's_ lamp, I said, 'Dear! Master Herbert's hair's as rough as a porcupine's;' and you said directly, ma'am, if you recollect, 'I wish you would make that boy's hair fit to be seen;' those _was_ your very words, ma'am, and I thought you meant always, ma'am."
"You mistook me, Grace," said Mrs. Harcourt, smiling at her maid's eager volubility: "in future, you understand, that Herbert is to be entire master of his own hair."
"Thank you, mother," said Herbert.
"Nay, my dear Herbert, thank Mad. de Rosier: I only speak in her name. You understand, _I am sure_, Grace, now," said Mrs. Harcourt, calling to her maid, who seemed to be in haste to quit the room--"you, I hope, understand, Grace, that Mad. de Rosier and I are always of one mind about the children; therefore you need never be puzzled by contradictory orders--hers are to be obeyed."
Mrs. Harcourt was so much pleased when she looked at Herbert, as she concluded this sentence, to see an expression of great affection and gratitude, that she stooped instantly to kiss him.
"Another kiss! two kisses to-day from my mother, and one of her own accord!" exclaimed Herbert joyfully, running out of the room to tell the news to Favoretta.
"That boy has a heart," said Mrs. Harcourt, with some emotion; "you have found it out for me, Mad. de Rosier, and I thank you."
Mad. de Rosier seized the propitious moment to present a card of invitation, which Herbert, with much labour, had printed with his little printing-press.
"What have we here?" said Mrs. Harcourt, and she read aloud--
'Mr. Herbert Harcourt's love to his dear mother, and, if she be not engaged this evening, he should be exceedingly glad of her company, to meet Isabella, Matilda, Favoretta, and Mad. de Rosier, who have promised to sup with him upon his own radishes to-night. They are all very impatient for _your_ answer.'"
"My answer they shall have in an instant," said Mrs. Harcourt:--"why, Mad. de Rosier, this is the boy who could neither read nor spell six months ago. Will you be my messenger?" added she, putting a card into Mad. de Rosier's hand, which she had written with rapidity:--
"Mrs. Harcourt's love to her dear little Herbert; if she had a hundred other invitations, she would accept of his."
"Bless me!" said Mrs. Grace, when she found the feathers, which she had placed with so much skill in her mistress's hair, lying upon the table half an hour afterward--"why, I thought my mistress was going out!"
Grace's surprise deprived her even of the power of exclamation, when she learned that her mistress stayed at home to sup with Master Herbert upon radishes. At night she listened with malignant curiosity, as she sat at work in her mistress's dressing-room, to the frequent bursts of laughter, and to the happy little voices of the festive company who were at supper in an adjoining apartment.
"This will never do!" thought Grace; but presently the laughter ceased, and listening attentively, she heard the voice of one of _the young ladies_ reading. "Oh ho!" thought Grace, "if it comes to reading, Master Herbert will soon be asleep."--But though it had _come to reading_, Herbert was, at this instant, broad awake.
At supper, when the radishes were distributed, Favoretta was very impatient to taste them; the first which she tasted was _hot_, she said, and she did not quite like it.
"_Hot_!" cried Herbert, who criticized her language, in return for her criticism upon his radishes, "I don't think you can call a radish _hot_--it is cold, I think: I know what is meant by tasting sweet, or sour, or bitter."
"Well," interrupted Favoretta, "what is the name for the taste of this radish which bites my tongue?"
"_Pungent_," said Isabella, and she eagerly produced a quotation in support of her epithet--
"'And _pungent_ radish biting infant's tongue.'"
"I know for once," said Matilda, smiling, "where you met with that line, I believe: is it not in Shenstone's Schoolmistress, in the description of the old woman's neat little garden?"
"Oh! I should like to hear about that old woman's neat little garden," cried Herbert.
"And so should I," said Mrs. Harcourt and Mad. de Rosier. Isabella quickly produced the book after supper, and read the poem.
Herbert and Favoretta liked the old woman and her garden, and they were much interested for the little boy, who was whipped for having been gazing at the pictures on the horn-book, instead of learning his lesson; but, to Isabella's great mortification, they did not understand above half of what she read--the old English expressions puzzled them.
"You would not be surprised at this, my dear Isabella," said Mad. de Rosier, "if you had made as many experiments upon children as I have. It is quite a new language to them; and what you have just been reading is scarcely intelligible to me, though you compliment me so much upon my knowledge of the English language." Mad. de Rosier took the book, and pointed to several words which she had not understood--such as "eftsoons," "_Dan_ Phoebus," and "_ne_ and _y_," which had made many lines incomprehensible.
Herbert, when he heard Mad. de Rosier confess her ignorance, began to take courage, and came forward with his confessions.
"_Gingerbread y rare_," he thought, was some particular kind of gingerbread; and "_Apples with cabbage net y covered o'er_" presented no delightful image to his mind, because, as he said, he did not know what the word _netycovered_ could mean.
These mistakes occasioned some laughter; but as Herbert perceived that he was no longer thought stupid, he took all the laughter with good humour, and he determined to follow, in future, Mad. de Rosier's example, in pointing out the words which were puzzling.
Grace was astonished, at the conclusion of the evening, to find Master Herbert in such high spirits. The next day she heard sounds of woe, sounds agreeable to her wishes--Favoretta crying upon the stairs. It had been a rainy morning: Favoretta and Herbert had been disappointed in not being able to walk out; and after having been amused the preceding evening, they were less disposed to bear disappointment, and less inclined to employ themselves than usual. Favoretta had finished her little basket, and her mother had promised that it should appear at the dessert; but it wanted some hours of dinner-time; and between the making and the performance of a promise, how long the time appears to an impatient child! how many events happen which may change the mind of the promiser!
Mad. de Rosier had lent Favoretta and Herbert, for their amusement, the first number of "The Cabinet of Quadrupeds," in which there are beautiful prints; but, unfortunately, some dispute arose between the children. Favoretta thought her brother looked too long at the hunchbacked camel; he accused her of turning over leaves before she had half seen the prints; but she listened not to his just reproaches, for she had caught a glimpse of the royal tiger springing upon Mr. Munro, and she could no longer restrain her impatience. Each party began to pull at the book; and the camel and the royal tiger were both in imminent danger of being torn in pieces, when Mad. de Rosier interfered, parted the combatants, and sent them into separate rooms, as it was her custom to do, whenever they could not agree together.
Grace, the moment she heard Favoretta crying, went up to the room where she was, and made her tiptoe approaches, addressing Favoretta in a tone of compassion, which, to a child's unpractised ear, might appear, perhaps, the natural voice of sympathy. The sobbing child hid her face in Grace's lap; and when she had told her complaint against Mad. de Rosier, Grace comforted her for the loss of the royal tiger by the present of a queen-cake. Grace did not dare to stay long in the room, lest Mad. de Rosier should detect her; she therefore left the little girl, with a strict charge "not to say a word of the queen-cake to her governess."
Favoretta kept the queen-cake, that she might divide it with Herbert; for she now recollected that she had been most to blame in the dispute about the prints. Herbert absolutely refused, however, to have any share of the cake, and he strongly urged his sister to return it to Grace.
Herbert had, _formerly_, to use his own expression, been accused of being fond of eating, and so, perhaps, he was; but since he had acquired other pleasures, those of affection and employment, his love of eating had diminished so much, that he had eaten only one of his own radishes, because he felt more pleasure in distributing the rest to his mother and sisters.
It was with some difficulty that he prevailed upon Favoretta to restore the queen-cake: the arguments that he used we shall not detail, but he concluded with promising, that, if Favoretta would return the cake, he would ask Mad. de Rosier, the next time they passed by the pastrycook's shop, to give them some queen-cakes--"and I dare say she will give us some, for she is much more _really_ good-natured than Grace."
Favoretta, with this hope of a future queen-cake, in addition to all her brother's arguments, at last determined to return Grace's present--"Herbert says I had better give it you back again," said she, "because Mad. de Rosier does not know it."
Grace was somewhat surprised by the effect of Herbert's oratory, and she saw that she must change her ground. The next day, when the children were walking with Mad. de Rosier by a pastrycook's shop, Herbert, with an honest countenance, asked Mad. de Rosier to give Favoretta and him a queen-cake. She complied, for she was glad to find that he always asked frankly for what he wanted; and yet that he bore refusals with good humour.
Just as Herbert was going to eat his queen-cake, he heard the sound of music in the street; he went to the door, and saw a poor man who was playing on the dulcimer--a little boy was with him, who looked extremely thin and hungry--he asked Herbert for some halfpence.
"I have no money of my own," said Herbert, "but I can give you this, which is my own."
Mad. de Rosier held his hand back, which he had just stretched out to offer his queen-cake; she advised him to exchange it for something more substantial; she told him that he might have two buns for one queen-cake. He immediately changed it for two buns, and gave them to the little boy, who thanked him heartily. The man who was playing on the dulcimer asked where Herbert lived, and promised to stop at his door to play a tune for him, which he seemed to like particularly.
Convinced by the affair of the queen-cake that Herbert's influence was a matter of some consequence in the family, Mrs. Grace began to repent that she had made him her enemy, and she resolved, upon the first convenient occasion, to make him overtures of peace--overtures which, she had no doubt, would be readily accepted.
One morning she heard him sighing and groaning, as she thought, over some difficult sum, which Mad. de Rosier had set for him; he cast up one row aloud several times, but could not bring the total twice to the same thing. When he took his sum to Mad. de Rosier, who was dressing, he was kept waiting a few minutes at the door, because Favoretta was not dressed. The young gentleman became a little impatient, and when he gained admittance his sum was wrong.
"Then I cannot make it right," said Herbert, passionately.
"Try," said Mad. de Rosier; "go into that closet by yourself, and try once more, and perhaps you will find that you _can_ make it right."
Herbert knelt down in the closet, though rather unwillingly, to this provoking sum.
"Master Herbert, my dear," said Mrs. Grace, following him, "will you be so good as to go for Miss Favoretta's scissors, if you please, which she lent you yesterday?--she wants 'em, my dear."
Herbert, surprised by the unusually good-natured tone of this request, ran for the scissors, and at his return, found that his difficult sum had been cast up in his absence; the total was written at the bottom of it, and he read these words, which he knew to be Mrs. Grace's writing--"Rub out my _figurs_, and write them in your own." Herbert immediately rubbed out Mrs. Grace's figures with indignation, and determined to do the sum for himself. He carried it to Mad. de Rosier--it was wrong: Grace stared, and when she saw Herbert patiently stand beside Mad. de Rosier and repeat his efforts, she gave up all idea of obtaining any influence over him.
"Mad. de Rosier," said she to herself, "has bewitched 'em all; I think it's odd one can't find out her art!"
Mrs. Grace seemed to think that she could catch the knack of educating children, as she had surreptitiously learnt, from a fashionable hairdresser, the art of dressing hair. Ever since Mrs. Harcourt had spoken in such a decided manner respecting Mad. de Rosier, her maid had artfully maintained the greatest appearance of respect for that lady, in her mistress's presence, and had even been scrupulous, to a troublesome extreme, in obeying _the governess's orders_; and by a studied show of attachment to Mrs. Harcourt, and much alacrity at her toilette, she had, as she flattered herself, secured a fresh portion of favour.
One morning Mrs. Harcourt found, when she awoke, that she had a headache, and a slight feverish complaint. She had caught cold the night before in coming out of a warm assembly-room. Mrs. Grace affected to be much alarmed at her mistress's indisposition, and urged her to send immediately for Dr. X----. To this Mrs. Harcourt half consented, and a messenger was sent for him. In the meantime Mrs. Harcourt, who had been used to be much attended to in her slight indispositions, expressed some surprise that Mad. de Rosier, or some of her children, when they heard that she was ill, had not come to see her.
"Where is Isabella? where is Matilda? or Favoretta? what is become of them all? do they know I am ill, Grace?"
"Oh dear! yes, ma'am; but they're all gone out in the coach, with Mad. de Rosier."
"All?" said Mrs. Harcourt.
"All, I believe, ma'am," said Grace; "though, indeed, I can't pretend to be sure, since I make it my business not to scrutinize, and to know as little as possible of what's going on in the house, lest I should seem to be too particular."
"Did Mad. de Rosier leave any message for me before she went out?"
"Not with me, ma'am."
Here the prevaricating waiting-maid told barely the truth in words: Mad. de Rosier had left a message with the footman in Grace's hearing.
"I hope, ma'am," continued Grace, "you weren't disturbed with the noise in the house early this morning?"
"What noise?--I heard no noise," said Mrs. Harcourt.
"No noise! dear ma'am, I'm as glad as can possibly be of that, at any rate; but to be sure there was a great racket. I was really afraid, ma'am, it would do no good to your poor head."
"What was the matter?" said Mrs. Harcourt, drawing back the curtain.
"Oh! nothing, ma'am, that need alarm you--only music and dancing."
"Music and dancing so early in the morning!--Do, Grace, say all you have to say at once, for you keep me in suspense, which, I am sure, is not good for my head."
"La, ma'am, I was so afraid it would make you angry, ma'am--that was what made me so backward in mentioning it; but, to be sure, Mad. de Rosier, and the young ladies, and Master Herbert, I suppose, thought you couldn't hear, because it was in the back parlour, ma'am."
"Hear what? what was in the back parlour?"
"Only a dulcimer man, ma'am, playing for the young ladies."
"Did you tell them I was ill, Grace?"
It was the second time Mrs. Harcourt had asked this question. Grace was gratified by this symptom.
"Indeed, ma'am," she replied, "I did make bold to tell Master Herbert, that I was afraid you would hear him jumping and making such an uproar up and down the stairs; but to be sure, I did not say a word to the young ladies--as Mad. de Rosier was by, I thought she knew best."
A gentle knock at the door interrupted Mrs. Grace's charitable animadversions.
"Bless me, if it isn't the young ladies! I'm sure I thought they were gone out in the coach."
As Isabella and Matilda came up to the side of their mother's bed, she said, in a languid voice--
"I hope, Matilda, my dear, you did not stay at home on my account--Is Isabella there? What book has she in her hand?"
"Zeluco, mamma--I thought, perhaps, you would like to hear some more of it--you liked what I read to you the other day."
"But you forget that I have a terrible headache--Pray don't let me detain either of you, if you have any thing to do for Mad. de Rosier."
"Nothing in the world, mamma," said Matilda; "she is gone to take Herbert and Favoretta to Exeter Change."
No farther explanation could take place, for, at this instant, Mrs. Grace introduced Dr. X----. Now Dr. X---- was not one of those complaisant physicians who flatter ladies that they are very ill when they have any desire to excite tender alarm.
After satisfying himself that his patient was not quite so ill as Mrs. Grace had affected to believe, Dr. X---- insensibly led from medical inquiries to general conversation: he had much playful wit and knowledge of the human heart, mixed with a variety of information, so that he could with happy facility amuse and interest nervous patients, who were beyond the power of the solemn apothecary.
The doctor drew the young ladies into conversation by rallying Isabella upon her simplicity in reading a novel openly in her mother's presence; he observed that she did not follow the example of the famous Serena, in "The Triumphs of Temper." "Zeluco!" he exclaimed, in an ironical tone of disdain: "why not the charming 'Sorrows of Werter,' or some of our fashionable hobgoblin romances?"
Isabella undertook the defence of her book with much enthusiasm--and either her cause, or her defence, was so much to Dr. X.----'s taste, that he gradually gave up his feigned attack.
After the argument was over, and every body, not excepting Mrs. Harcourt, who had almost forgotten her headache, was pleased with the vanquished doctor, he drew from his pocket-book three or four small cards; they were tickets of admittance to Lady N----'s French reading parties.
Lady N---- was an elderly lady, whose rank made literature fashionable amongst many, who aspired to the honour of being noticed by her. She was esteemed such an excellent judge of manners, abilities, and character, that her approbation was anxiously courted, more especially by mothers who were just introducing their daughters into the world. She was fond of encouraging youthful merit; but she was nice, some thought fastidious, in the choice of her young acquaintance.
Mrs. Harcourt had been very desirous that Isabella and Matilda should be early distinguished by a person, whose approving voice was of so much consequence in fashionable as well as in literary society; and she was highly flattered by Dr. X----'s prophecy, that Isabella would be a great favourite of this "nice judging" lady--"Provided," added he, turning to Isabella, "you have the prudence not to be always, as you have been this morning, victorious in argument."
"I think," said Mrs. Harcourt--after the doctor had taken his leave--"I think I am much better--ring for Grace, and I will get up."
"Mamma," said Matilda, "if you will give me leave, I will give my ticket for the reading party to Mad. de Rosier, because, I am sure, it is an entertainment she will like particularly--and, you know, she confines herself so much with us--"
"I do not wish her to confine herself _so_ much, my dear, I am sure," said Mrs. Harcourt, coldly, for, at this instant, Grace's representations of the morning's music and dancing, and some remains of her former jealousy of Mad. de Rosier's influence over her children's affections, operated upon her mind. Pride prevented her from explaining herself further to Isabella or Matilda--and though they saw that she was displeased, they had no idea of the reason. As she was dressing, Mrs, Harcourt conversed with them about the books they were reading. Matilda was reading Hogarth's Analysis of Beauty; and she gave a distinct account of his theory.
Mrs. Harcourt, when she perceived her daughter's rapid improvement, felt a mixture of joy and sorrow.
"My dears," said she, "you will all of you be much superior to your mother--but girls were educated, in my days, quite in a different style from what they are now."
"Ah! there were no Mad. de Rosiers then," said Matilda, innocently.
"What sort of a woman was your mother, mamma?" said Isabella, "my grandmother, mamma?"
"She--she was a very good woman."
"Was she sensible?" said Isabella.
"Matilda, my dear," said Mrs. Harcourt, "I wish you would see if Mad. de Rosier has returned--I should be very glad to speak with her, for one moment, if she be not engaged."
Under the veil of politeness, Mrs. Harcourt concealed her real feelings, and declaring to Mad. de Rosier that she did not feel in spirits, or sufficiently well, to go out that evening, she requested that Mad. de Rosier would go, in her stead, to a dinner, where she knew her company would be particularly acceptable.--"You will trust me, will you, with your pupils for one evening?" added Mrs. Harcourt.
The tone and manner in which she pronounced these words revealed the real state of her mind to Mad. de Rosier, who immediately complied with her wishes.
Conscious of this lady's quick penetration, Mrs. Harcourt was abashed by this ready compliance, and she blamed herself for feelings which she could not suppress.
"I am sorry that you were not at home this morning," she continued, in a hurried manner--"you would have been delighted with Dr. X----; he is one of the most entertaining men I am acquainted with--and you would have been vastly proud of your pupil there," pointing to Isabella; "I assure you, she pleased me extremely."
In the evening, after Mad. de Rosier's departure, Mrs. Harcourt was not quite so happy as she had expected. They who have only seen children in picturesque situations, are not aware how much the duration of this domestic happiness depends upon those who have the care of them. People who, with the greatest abilities and the most anxious affection, are unexperienced in education, should not be surprised or mortified if their first attempts be not attended with success. Mrs. Harcourt thought that she was doing what was very useful in hearing Herbert read; he read with tolerable fluency, but he stopped at the end of almost every sentence to weigh the exact sense of the words. In this habit he had been indulged, or rather encouraged, by his preceptress; but his simple questions, and his desire to have every word precisely explained, were far from amusing to one who was little accustomed to the difficulties and misapprehensions of a young reader.
Herbert was reading a passage, which Mad. de Rosier had marked for him, in Xenophon's Cyropaedia. With her explanations, it might have been intelligible to him. Herbert read the account of Cyrus's judgment upon the two boys, who had quarrelled about their great and little coats, much to his mother's satisfaction, because he had understood every word of it, except the word _constituted_.
"_Constituted judge_--what does that mean, mamma?"
"Made a judge, my dear: go on."
"I saw a judge once, mamma, in a great wig--had Cyrus a wig, when he was con--const!--made a judge?"
Isabella and Mrs. Harcourt laughed at this question; and they endeavoured to explain the difference between a Persian and an English judge.
Herbert with some difficulty separated the ideas, which he had so firmly associated, of a judge and a great wig; and when he had, or thought he had, an abstract notion of a judge, he obeyed his mother's repeated injunctions of "Go on--go on." He went on, after observing that what came next was not marked by Mad. de Rosier for him to read.
Cyrus's mother says to him: _"Child, the same things are not accounted just with your grandfather here, and yonder in Persia."_ At this sentence Herbert made a dead stop; and, after pondering for some time, said, "I don't understand what Cyrus's mother meant--what does she mean by _accounted just_?--_Accounted_, Matilda, I thought meant only about casting up sums?"
"It has another meaning, my dear," Matilda mildly began.
"Oh, for Heaven's sake, spare me!" exclaimed Mrs. Harcourt; "do not let me hear all the meanings of all the words in the English language. Herbert may look for the words that he does not understand, in the dictionary, when he has done reading. Go on, now, pray; for," added she, looking at her watch, "you have been half an hour reading half a page: this would tire the patience of Job."
Herbert, perceiving that his mother was displeased, began in the same instant to be frightened; he hurried on as fast as he could, without understanding one word more of what he was reading; his precipitation was worse than his slowness: he stumbled over the words, missed syllables, missed lines, made the most incomprehensible nonsense of the whole; till, at length, Mrs. Harcourt shut the book in despair, and soon afterward despatched Herbert, who was also in despair, to bed. At this catastrophe, Favoretta looked very grave, and a general gloom seemed to overspread the company.
Mrs. Harcourt was mortified at the silence that prevailed, and made several ineffectual attempts to revive the freedom and gaiety of conversation:--"Ah!" said she to herself, "I knew it would be so;--they cannot be happy without Mad. de Rosier."
Isabella had taken up a book. "Cannot you read for our entertainment, Isabella, my dear, as well as for your own?" said her mother: "I assure you, I am as much interested always in what you read to me, as Mad. de Rosier herself can be."
"I was just looking, mamma, for some lines, that we read the other day, which Mad. de Rosier said she was sure you would like. Can you find them, Matilda? You know Mad. de Rosier said that mamma would like them, because she has been at the opera."
"I have been at a great many operas," said Mrs. Harcourt, dryly; "but I like other things as well as operas--and I cannot precisely guess what you mean by _the_ opera--has it no name?"
"Medea and Jason, ma'am."
"The _ballet_ of Medea and Jason. It's a very fine thing, certainly; but one has seen it so often. Read on, my dear."
Isabella then read a passage, which, notwithstanding Mrs. Harcourt's inclination to be displeased, captivated her ear, and seized her imagination.
"Slow out of earth, before the festive crowds, On wheels of fire, amid a night of clouds, Drawn by fierce fiends, arose a magic car, Received the queen, and, hov'ring, flamed in air. As with raised hands the suppliant traitors kneel, And fear the vengeance they deserved to feel;"They are admirable lines, indeed!" exclaimed Mrs. Harcourt.
"Thrice, with parch'd lips, her guiltless babes she press'd, And thrice she clasp'd them to her tortured breast. Awhile with white uplifted eyes she stood, Then plunged her trembling poniards in their blood. Go, kiss your sire! go, share the bridal mirth! She cried, and hurl'd their quiv'ring limbs on earth. Rebellowing thunders rock the marble tow'rs, And red-tongucd lightnings shoot their arrowy show'rs: Earth yawns!--the crashing ruin sinks!--o'er all Death with black hands extends his mighty pall."
"I knew, mamma, you would like them," said Isabella; "and I'm sure I wish I had seen the ballet too."
"You were never at an opera," said Mrs. Harcourt, after Isabella had finished reading; "should you, either of you, or both, like to go with me to-night to the opera?"
"To-night, ma'am!" cried Isabella, in a voice of joy.
"To-night, mamma!" cried Matilda, timidly; "but you were not well this morning."
"But I am very well, now, my love; at least quite well enough to go out with you--let me give you some pleasure. Ring for Grace, my dear Matilda," added Mrs. Harcourt, looking at her watch, "and do not let us be sentimental, for we have not a moment to lose--we must prevail upon Grace to be as quick as lightning in her operations."
Grace was well disposed to be quick--she was delighted with what she called _the change of measures_;--she repeated continually, in the midst of their hurried toilette--
"Well, I am so glad, young ladies, you're going out with your _mamma_, at last--I never saw my mistress look so well as she does to-night."
Triumphant, and feeling herself to be a person of consequence, Grace was indefatigably busy, and Mrs. Harcourt thought that her talkative zeal was the overflowing of an honest heart.
After Mrs. Harcourt, with Isabella and Matilda, were gone to the opera, Favoretta, who had been sent to bed by her mother, because she was in the way when they were dressing, called to Grace to beg that she would close the shutters in her room, for the moon shone upon her bed, and she could not go to sleep.
"I wish mamma would have let me sit up a little longer," said Favoretta, "for I am not at all sleepy."
"You always go to bed a great deal earlier, you know, miss," said Grace, "when your governess is at home; I would let you get up, and come down to tea with me, for I'm just going to take my late dish of tea, to rest myself, only I dare not let you, because--"
"Because, miss, you remember how you served me about the queen-cake."
"But I do not want you to give me any queen-cake; I only want to get up for a little while," said Favoretta.
"Then get up," said Grace: "but don't make a noise, to waken Master Herbert."
"Do you think," said Favoretta, "that Herbert would think it wrong?"
"Indeed, I don't think at all about what he thinks," said Mrs. Grace, tossing back her head, as she adjusted her dress at the glass; "and, if you think so much about it, you'd better lie down again."
"Oh! I can't lie down again," said Favoretta; "I have got my shoes on--stay for me, Grace--I'm just ready."
Grace, who was pleased with an opportunity of indulging this little girl, and who flattered herself that she should regain her former power over Favoretta's undistinguishing affections, waited for her most willingly. Grace drank her _late_ dish of tea in her mistress's dressing-room, and did every thing in her power to humour "her sweet Favoretta."
Mrs. Rebecca, Mrs. Fanshaw's maid, was summoned; she lived in the next street. She was quite overjoyed, she said, at entering the room, to see Miss Favoretta--it was an age since she had a sight or a glimpse of her.
We pass over the edifying conversation of those two ladies--Miss Favoretta was kept awake, and in such high spirits by flattery, that she did not perceive how late it was--she begged to stay up a little longer, and a little longer.
Mrs. Rebecca joined in these entreaties, and Mrs. Grace could not refuse them; especially as she knew that the coach would not go for Mad. de Rosier till after her mistress's return from the opera.
The coachman had made this arrangement for his own convenience, and had placed it entirely to the account of his horses.
Mrs. Grace depended, rather imprudently, upon the coachman's arrangement; for Mad. de Rosier, finding that the coach did not call for her at the hour she had appointed, sent for a chair, and returned home, whilst Grace, Mrs. Rebecca, and Favoretta, were yet in Mrs. Harcourt's dressing-room.
Favoretta was making a great noise, so that they did not hear the knock at the door.
One of the housemaids apprised Mrs. Grace of Mad. de Rosier's arrival. "She's getting out of her chair, Mrs. Grace, in the hall."
Grace started up, put Favoretta into a little closet, and charged her not to make the least noise _for her life_.--Then, with a candle in her hand, and a treacherous smile upon her countenance, she sallied forth to the head of the stairs, to light Mad. de Rosier.--"Dear ma'am! my mistress will be _so_ sorry the coach didn't go for you in time;--she found herself better after you went--and the two young ladies are gone with her to the opera."
"And where are Herbert and Favoretta?"
"In bed, ma'am, and asleep, hours ago.--Shall I light you, ma'am, this way, to your room?"
"No," said Mad. de Rosier; "I have a letter to write: and I'll wait in Mrs. Harcourt's dressing-room till she comes home."
"Very well, ma'am. Mrs. Rebecca, it's only Mad. de Rosier.--Mad. de Rosier, it's only Rebecca, Mrs. Fanshaw's maid, ma'am, who's here very often when my mistress is at home, and just stepped out to look at the young ladies' drawings, which my mistress gave me leave to show her the first time she drank tea with me, ma'am."
Mad. de Rosier, who thought all this did not concern her in the least, listened to it with cold indifference, and sat down to write her letter.
Grace fidgeted about the room, as long as she could find any pretence for moving any thing into or out of its place; and, at length, in no small degree of anxiety for the prisoner she had left in the closet, quitted the dressing-room.
As Mad. de Rosier was writing, she once or twice thought that she heard some noise in the closet; she listened, but all was silent; and she continued to write, till Mrs. Harcourt, Isabella, and Matilda, came home.
Isabella was in high spirits, and began to talk, with considerable volubility, to Mad. de Rosier about the opera.
Mrs. Harcourt was full of apologies about the coach; and Matilda rather anxious to discover what it was that had made a change in her mother's manner towards Mad. de Rosier.
Grace, glad to see that they were all intent upon their own affairs, lighted their candles expeditiously, and stood waiting, in hopes that they would immediately leave the room, and that she should be able to release her prisoner.
Favoretta usually slept in a little closet within Mrs. Grace's room, so that she foresaw no difficulty in getting her to bed.
"I heard!--did not _you_ hear a noise, Isabella?" said Matilda.
"A noise!--No; where?" said Isabella, and went on talking alternately to her mother and Mad. de Rosier, whom she held fast, though they seemed somewhat inclined to retire to rest.
"Indeed," said Matilda, "I did hear a noise in that closet."
"Oh dear, Miss Matilda," cried Grace, getting between Matilda and the closet, "it's nothing in life but a mouse."
"A mouse, where?" said Mrs. Harcourt.
"Nowhere, ma'am," said Grace; "only Miss Matilda was hearing noises, and I said they must be mice."
"There, mamma! there! that was not a mouse, surely!" said Matilda. "It was a noise louder, certainly, than any mouse could make."
"Grace is frightened," said Isabella, laughing.
Grace, indeed, looked pale and terribly frightened.
Mad. de Rosier took a candle, and walked directly to the closet.
"Ring for the men," said Mrs. Harcourt.
Matilda held back Mad. de Rosier; and Isabella, whose head was now just recovered from the opera, rang the bell with considerable energy.
"Dear Miss Isabella, don't ring so;--dear ma'am, don't be frightened, and I'll tell you the whole truth, ma'am," said Grace to her mistress; "it's nothing in the world to frighten any body--it's only Miss Favoretta, ma'am."
"Favoretta!" exclaimed every body at once, except Mad. de Rosier, who instantly opened the closet door, but no Favoretta appeared.
"Favoretta is not here," said Mad. de Rosier.
"Then I'm undone!" exclaimed Grace; "she must have got out upon the leads." The leads were, at this place, narrow, and very dangerous.
"Don't scream, or the child is lost," said Mad. de Rosier.
Mrs. Harcourt sank down into an arm-chair. Mad. de Rosier stopped Isabella, who pressed into the closet.
"Don't speak, Isabella--Grace, go into the closet--call Favoretta--hear me, quietly," said Mad. de Rosier, steadily, for Mrs. Grace was in such confusion of mind, that she was going to call upon the child, without waiting to hear what was said to her.--"Hear me," said Mad. de Rosier, "or _you are_ undone--go into the closet without making any bustle--call Favoretta, gently; she will not be frightened, when she hears only your voice."
Grace did as she was ordered, and returned from the closet in a few instants, with Favoretta. Grace instantly began an exculpatory speech, but Mrs. Harcourt, though still trembling, had sufficient firmness to say, "Leave us, Grace, and let me hear the truth from the child."
Grace left the room. Favoretta related exactly what had happened, and said that when she heard all their voices in the dressing-room, and when she heard Matilda say there's a noise, she was afraid of being discovered in the closet, and had crept out through a little door, with which she was well acquainted, that opened upon the leads.
Mrs. Harcourt now broke forth into indignant exclamations against Grace. Mad. de Rosier gently pacified her, and hinted that it would be but just to give her a fair hearing in the morning.
"You are always yourself! always excellent!" cried Mrs. Harcourt; "you have saved my child--we none of us had any presence of mind, but yourself."
"Indeed, mamma, I _did_ ring the bell, however," said Isabella.
With much difficulty those who had so much to say, submitted to Mad. de Rosier's entreaty of "Let us talk of it in the morning." She was afraid that Favoretta, who was present, would not draw any salutary moral from what might be said in the first emotions of joy for her safety. Mad. de Rosier undressed the little girl herself, and took care that she should not be treated as a heroine just escaped from imminent danger.
The morning came, and Mrs. Grace listened, with anxious ear, for the first sound of her mistress's bell--but no bell rang; and, when she heard Mrs. Harcourt walking in her bedchamber, Grace augured ill of her own fate, and foreboded the decline and fall of her empire.
"If my mistress can get up and dress herself without me, it's all over with me," said Grace; "but I'll make one trial." Then she knocked with her most obliging knock at her mistress's door, and presented herself with a Magdalen face--"Can I do any thing for you, ma'am?"
"Nothing, I thank you, Grace. Send Isabella and Matilda."
Isabella and Matilda came, but Mrs. Harcourt finished dressing herself in silence, and then said--
"Come with me, my dear girls, to Mad. de Rosier's room. I believe I had better ask her the question that I was going to ask you. Is she up?"
"Yes, but not dressed," said Matilda; "for we have been reading to her."
"And talking to her," added Isabella; "which, you know, hinders people very much, mamma, when they are dressing."
At Mad. de Rosier's door they found Herbert, with his slate in his hand, and his sum ready cast up.
"May I bring this little man in with me?" said Mrs. Harcourt to Mad. de Rosier--"Herbert, shake hands with me," continued his mother: "I believe I was a little impatient with you and your Cyrus last night; but you must not expect that every body should be as good to you as this lady has been;" leading him up to Mad. de Rosier.
"Set this gentleman's heart at ease, will you?" continued she, presenting the slate, upon which his sum was written, to Mad. de Rosier. "He looks the picture, or rather the reality, of honesty and good humour this morning, I think. I am sure that he has not done any thing that he is ashamed of."
Little Herbert's countenance glowed with pleasure at receiving such praise from his mother; but he soon checked his pride, for he discovered Favoretta, upon whom every eye had turned, as Mrs. Harcourt concluded her speech.
Favoretta was sitting in the furthest corner of the room, and she turned her face to the wall when Herbert looked at her; but Herbert saw that she was in disgrace. "Your sum is quite right, Herbert," said Mad. de Rosier.
"Herbert, take your slate," said Matilda; and the young gentleman had at length the politeness to relieve her outstretched arm.
"Send him out of the way," whispered Mrs. Harcourt.
"Go out of the room, Herbert, my dear," said Mad. de Rosier, who never made use of artifices upon any occasion to get rid of children--"go out of the room, Herbert, my dear: for we want to talk about something which we do not wish that you should hear."
Herbert, though he was anxious to know what could be the matter with Favoretta, instantly withdrew, saying, "Will you call me again when you've done talking?"
"We can speak French," added Mad. de Rosier, looking at Favoretta, "since we cannot trust that little girl in a room by herself; we must speak in a language which she does not understand, when we have any thing to say that we do not choose she should hear."
"After all this preparation," said Mrs. Harcourt, in French, "my little mouse will make you laugh; it will not surprise or frighten you, Matilda, quite so much as the mouse of last night. You must know that I have been much disturbed by certain noises."
"More noises!" said Matilda, drawing closer, to listen.
"More noises!" said Mrs. Harcourt, laughing; "but the noises which disturbed my repose were not heard in the dead of the night, just as the clock struck twelve--the charming hour for being frightened out of one's wits, Matilda: my noises were heard in broad daylight, about the time
'When lap-dogs give themselves the rousing shake.'
Was not there music and dancing here, early yesterday morning, when I had the headache, Isabella?"
"Yes, mamma," said Isabella: "Herbert's dulcimer-boy was here! We call him Herbert's dulcimer-boy, because Herbert gave him two buns the other day;--the boy and his father came from gratitude, to play a tune for Herbert, and we all ran and asked Mad. de Rosier to let him in."
"We did not know you had the headache, mamma," said Matilda, "till after they had played several tunes, and we heard Grace saying something to Herbert about racketing upon the stairs--he only ran up stairs once for my music-book; and the moment Grace spoke to him, he came to us, and said that you were not well; then Mad. de Rosier stopped the dulcimer, and we all left off dancing, and we were very sorry Grace had not told us sooner that you were ill: at that time it was ten--nearly eleven o'clock."
"Grace strangely misrepresented all this," said Mrs. Harcourt: "as she gave her advice so late, I am sorry she gave it at all; she prevented you and Isabella from the pleasure of going out with Mad. de Rosier."
"We prevented ourselves--Grace did not prevent us, I assure you, mamma," said Isabella, eagerly: "we wished to stay at home with you--Herbert and Favoretta were only going to see the royal tiger."
"Then you did not stay at home by Mad. de Rosier's desire."
"No, indeed, madam," said Mad. de Rosier, who had not appeared in any haste to justify herself; "your children always show you affection by their own desire, never by mine: your penetration would certainly discover the difference between attentions prompted by a governess, and those which are shown by artless affection."
"My dear madam, say no more," said Mrs. Harcourt, holding out her hand: "you are a real friend."
Mad. de Rosier now went to call Herbert, but on opening the door, Mrs. Grace fell forward upon her face into the room; she had been kneeling with her head close to the key-hole of the door; and, probably, the sound of her own name, and a few sentences now and then spoken in English, had so fixed her attention, that she did not prepare in time for her retreat.
"Get up, Grace, and walk in, if you please," said Mrs. Harcourt, with much calmness; "we have not the least objection to your hearing our conversation."
"Indeed, ma'am," said Grace, as soon as she had recovered her feet, "I'm above listening to any body's conversations, except that when one hears one's own name, and knows that one has enemies, it is but natural to listen in one's own defence."
"And is that all you can do, Grace, in your own defence?" said Mrs. Harcourt.
"It's not all I can _say_, ma'am," replied Grace, pushed to extremities; and still with a secret hope that her mistress, _upon a pinch, would not part with a favourite maid_: "I see I'm of no further use in the family, neither to young or old--and new comers have put me quite out of favour, and have your ear to themselves--so, if you please, ma'am, I had better look out for another situation."
"If you please, Grace," said Mrs. Harcourt.
"I will leave the house this instant, if you think proper, ma'am."
"If you think proper, Grace," said her mistress, with immovable philosophy.
Grace burst into tears: "I never thought it would come to this, Mrs. Harcourt--_I_, that have lived so long such a favourite!--but I don't blame you, madam; you have been the best and kindest of mistresses to me; and, whatever becomes of me, to my dying words, I shall always give you and the dear young ladies the best of characters."
"The character we may give _you_, Grace, is of rather more consequence."
"Every thing that I say and do," interrupted the sobbing Grace, "is _vilified_ and misinterpreted by those who wish me ill. I--"
"You have desired to leave me, Grace; and my desire is that you should leave me," said Mrs. Harcourt, with firmness. "Mad. de Rosier and I strictly forbade you to interfere with any of the children in our absence; you have thought proper to disregard these orders; and were you to stay longer in my house, I perceive that you would teach my children first to disobey, and afterward to deceive me."
Grace, little prepared for this calm decision, now in a frightened, humble tone, began to make promises of reformation; but her promises and apologies were vain; she was compelled to depart, and every body was glad to have done with her.
Favoretta, young as she was, had already learned from this cunning waiting-maid habits of deceit which could not be suddenly changed. Mad. de Rosier attempted her cure, by making her feel, in the first place, the inconveniences and the disgrace of not being trusted. Favoretta was ashamed to perceive that she was the only person in the house who was watched: and she was heartily glad when, by degrees, she had opportunities allowed her of obtaining a character for truth, and all the pleasures and all the advantages of confidence.
Things went on much better after the gnome-like influence of Mrs Grace had ceased; but we must now hasten to introduce our readers to Mrs. Fanshaw. Mrs. Fanshaw was a card-playing lady, who had been educated at a time when it was not thought necessary for women to have any knowledge, or any taste for literature. As she advanced in life, she continually recurred to the maxims as well as to the fashions of her youth; and the improvements in modern female education she treated as dangerous innovations. She had placed her daughter at a boarding-school in London, the expense of which was its chief recommendation; and she saw her regularly at the Christmas and Midsummer holidays. At length, when Miss Fanshaw was about sixteen, her prudent mother began to think that it was time to take her from school, and to introduce her into the world. Miss Fanshaw had learned to speak French passably, to read a _little_ Italian, to draw _a little_, to play tolerably well upon the piano-forte, and to dance as well as many other young ladies. She had been sedulously taught a sovereign contempt of whatever was called _vulgar_ at the school where she was educated; but, as she was profoundly ignorant of every thing but the routine of that school, she had no precise idea of propriety; she only knew what was thought vulgar or genteel at Suxberry House; and the authority of Mrs. Suxberry (for that was the name of her schoolmistress) she quoted as incontrovertible upon all occasions. Without reflecting upon what was wrong or right, she decided with pert vivacity on all subjects; and firmly believed that no one could know or could learn any thing who had not been educated precisely as she had been. She considered her mother as an inferior personage, destitute of genteel accomplishments: her mother considered her as a model of perfection, that could only have been rendered thus thoroughly accomplished by _the most expensive masters_--her only fear was, that her dear Jane should be rather too _learned_.
Mrs. Harcourt, with Isabella and Matilda, paid Mrs. Fanshaw a visit, as soon as they heard that her daughter was come home.
Miss Fanshaw, an erect stiffened figure, made her entrée; and it was impossible not to perceive that her whole soul was intent upon her manner of holding her head and placing her elbows, as she came into the room. Her person had undergone all the ordinary and extraordinary tortures of back-boards, collars, stocks, dumbbells, &c. She looked at Isabella and Matilda with some surprise and contempt during the first ten minutes after her entrance; for they were neither of them seated in the exact posture which she had been instructed to think the only position in which a _young lady_ should sit in company. Isabella got up to look at a drawing; Miss Fanshaw watched every step she took, and settled it in her own mind that Miss Harcourt did not walk as if she had ever been at Suxberry House. Matilda endeavoured to engage the figure that sat beside her in conversation; but the figure had no conversation, and the utmost that Matilda could obtain was a few monosyllables pronounced with affected gravity; for at Suxberry House this young lady had been taught to maintain an invincible silence when produced to strangers; but she made herself amends for this constraint, the moment she was with her companions, by a tittering, gossiping species of communication, which scarcely deserves the name of conversation.
Whilst the silent Miss Fanshaw sat so as to do her dancing-master strict justice, Mrs. Fanshaw was stating to Mrs. Harcourt the enormous expense to which she had gone in her daughter's education. Though firm to her original doctrine, that women had no occasion for learning--in which word of reproach she included all literature--she nevertheless had been convinced, by the unanimous voice of fashion, that accomplishments were _most desirable for young ladies_--desirable, merely because they were fashionable; she did not, in the least, consider them as sources of independent occupation.
Isabella was struck with sudden admiration at the sight of a head of Jupiter which Miss Fanshaw had just finished, and Mrs. Harcourt borrowed it for her to copy; though Miss Fanshaw was secretly but decidedly of opinion, that no one who had not learned from the drawing-master at Suxberry House could copy this head of Jupiter with any chance of success.
There was a pretty little netting-box upon the table which caught Matilda's eye, and she asked the silent figure what it was made of. The silent figure turned its head mechanically, but could give no information upon the subject. Mrs. Fanshaw, however, said that she had bought the box at the Repository for ingenious works, and that the reason she chose it was because Lady N---- had recommended it to her.
"It is some kind of new manufacture, her ladyship tells me, invented by some poor little boy that she patronizes; her ladyship can tell you more of the matter, Miss Matilda, than I can," concluded Mrs. Fanshaw; and, producing her netting, she asked Mrs. Harcourt, "if she had not been vastly notable to have got forward so fast with her work."
The remainder of the visit was spent in recounting her losses at the card-table, and in exhortation to Mrs. Harcourt to send Miss Isabella and Matilda to finish their education at Suxberry House.
Mrs. Harcourt was somewhat alarmed by the idea that her daughters would not be equal to Miss Fanshaw in accomplishments but, fortunately for Mad. de Rosier and herself, she was soon induced to change her opinion by farther opportunities of comparison.
In a few days her visit was returned. Mrs. Harcourt happened to mention the globe that Isabella was painting: Miss Fanshaw begged to see it, and she went into Mrs. Harcourt's dressing-room, where it hung. The moment she found herself with Isabella and Matilda, _out of company_, the silent figure became talkative. The charm seemed to be broken, or rather reversed, and she began to chatter with pert incessant rapidity.
"Dear me," said she, casting a scornful glance at Matilda's globe, "this is vastly pretty, but we've no such thing at Suxberry House. I wonder Mrs. Harcourt didn't send both of you to Suxberry House--every body sends their daughters, who can afford it, now, to Suxberry House; but, to be sure, it's very expensive--we had all silver forks, and every thing in the highest style, and Mrs. Suxberry keeps a coach. I assure you she's not at all like a schoolmistress, and she thinks it very rude and vulgar of any body to call her a schoolmistress. Won't you ask your mamma to send you, if it's only for the name of it, for one year, to Suxberry House?"
"No," said Matilda; "we are so happy under the care of Mad. de Rosier."
"Ah, dear me! I forgot--mamma told me _you'd got_ a new French governess lately--our French teacher, at Suxberry House, was so strict, and so cross, if one made a mistake in the tenses: it's very well for you your governess is not cross--does she give you very hard exercises?--let me look at your exercise book, and I'll tell you whether it's the right one--I mean _that_ we used to have at Suxberry House."
Miss Fanshaw snatched up a book, in which she saw a paper, which she took for a French exercise.
"Come, show it me, and I'll correct the faults for you, before your governess sees it, and she'll be so surprised!"
"Mad. de Rosier has seen it," said Matilda;--but Miss Fanshaw, in a romping manner, pulled the paper out of her hands. It was the translation of a part of "Les Conversations d'Emilie," which we formerly mentioned.
"La!" said Miss Fanshaw, "we had no such book as this at Suxberry House."
Matilda's translation she was surprised to find correct.
"And do you write themes?" said she--"We always wrote themes once every week, at Suxberry House, which I used to hate of all things, for I never could find any thing to say--it made me hate writing, I know;--but that's all over now; thank goodness, I've done with themes, and French letters, and exercises, and translations, and all those plaguing things; and now I've left school for ever, I may do just as I please--that's the best of going to school; it's over some time or other, and there's an end of it; but you that have a governess and masters at home, you go on for ever and ever, and you have no holidays either; and you have no out-of-school hours; you are kept _hard at it_ from morning till night: now I should hate that of all things. At Suxberry House, when we had got our task done, and finished with the writing-master and the drawing-master, and when we had practised for the music-master, and _all that_, we might be as idle as we pleased, and do what we liked out of school-hours--you know that was very pleasant: I assure you, you'd like being at Suxberry House amazingly."
Isabella and Matilda, to whom it did not appear the most delightful of all things to be idle, nor the most desirable thing in the world to have their education finished, and then to lay aside all thoughts of farther improvement, could not assent to Miss Fanshaw's concluding assertion. They declared that they did not feel any want of holidays; at which Miss Fanshaw stared: they said that they had no tasks, and that they liked to be employed rather better than to be idle; at which Miss Fanshaw laughed, and sarcastically said, "You need not talk to me as if your governess were by, for I'm not a tell-tale--I shan't repeat what you say."
Isabella and Matilda, who had not two methods of talking, looked rather displeased at this ill-bred speech.
"Nay," said Miss Fanshaw, "I hope you aren't affronted _now_ at what I said; when we are by ourselves, you know, one says just what comes into one's head. Whose handsome coach is this, pray, with a coronet?" continued she, looking out of the window: "I declare it is stopping at your door; do let us go down. I'm never afraid of going into the room when there's company, for we were taught to go into a room at Suxberry House; and Mrs. Suxberry says it's very vulgar to be ashamed, and I assure you it's all custom. I used to colour, as Miss Matilda does, every minute; but I got over it before I had been long at Suxberry House."
Isabella, who had just been reading "A Father's Legacy to his Daughters," recollected at this instant Dr. Gregory's opinion, "that when a girl ceases to blush, she has lost the most powerful charm of beauty." She had not, however, time to _quote_ this in Matilda's defence; for Miss Fanshaw ran down stairs, and Isabella recollected, before she overtook her, that it would not be polite to remind her of her early loss of charms.
Lady N---- was in the coach which had excited Miss Fanshaw's admiration; and this young lady had a glorious opportunity of showing the graces that she had been taught at so much expense, for the room was full of company. Several morning visitors had called upon Mrs. Harcourt, and they formed a pretty large circle, which Miss Fanshaw viewed upon her entrance with a sort of studied assurance.
Mrs. Fanshaw watched Lady N----'s eye as her daughter came into the room; but Lady N---- did not appear to be much struck with the second-hand graces of Suxberry House; her eye passed over Miss Fanshaw, in search of something less affected and more interesting.
Miss Fanshaw had now resumed her _company face_ and attitude; she sat in prudent silence, whilst Lady N---- addressed her conversation to Isabella and Matilda, whose thoughts did not seem to be totally engrossed by their own persons.
Dr. X---- had prepared this lady to think favourably of Mad. de Rosier's pupils, by the account which he had given her of Isabella's remarks upon Zeluco.
A person of good sense, who has an encouraging countenance, can easily draw out the abilities of young people, and from their manner of listening, as well as from their manner of speaking, can soon form a judgment of their temper and understanding.
Miss Fanshaw, instead of attending with a desire to improve herself from sensible conversation, sat with a look as absent as that of an unskilful actress, whilst the other performers are engaged in their parts.
There was a small book-case, in a recess, at the farthest end of the room, and upon a little table there were some books, which Isabella and Matilda had been reading with Mad. de Rosier. Mrs. Fanshaw looked towards the table, with a sarcastic smile, and said--
"You are great readers, young ladies, I see: may we know what are your studies?"
Miss Fanshaw, to show how well she could walk, crossed the room, and took up one of the books.
"'Alison upon Taste'--that's a pretty book, I dare say--but la! what's this, Miss Isabella? 'A Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments'--dear me! that must be a curious performance--by a smith! a common smith!"
Isabella, good-naturedly, stopped her from farther absurd exclamations by turning to the title-page of the book and showing her the words _"Adam Smith."_
"Ah! _A_ stands for _Adam!_ very true--I thought it was _a_ smith," said Miss Fanshaw.
"Well, my dear," said her mother, who had quickness enough to perceive that her daughter had made some mistake, by the countenances of the company, but who had not sufficient erudition to know what the mistake could be--"well, my dear, and suppose it was _a_ smith, there's nothing extraordinary in that--nothing extraordinary in a smith's writing a book nowadays,--why not a common blacksmith, as well as a common ploughman?--I was asked, I know, not long ago, to subscribe _to_ the poems of a common ploughman."
"The Ayrshire ploughman?" said Lady N----.
"Yes, they called him so, as I recollect, and I really had a mind to put my name down, for I think I saw your ladyship's amongst the subscribers."
"Yes, they are beautiful poems," said Lady N----.
"So I understand--there are some vastly pretty things in his collection--but one hears of so many good things coming out every day," said Mrs. Fanshaw, in a plaintive voice. "In these days, I think, every body writes--"
"And reads," said Lady N----.
"And reads," said Mrs. Fanshaw. "We have learned ladies now, wherever one goes, who tell one they never play at cards--I am sure they are very bad company. Jane," said she, turning to her daughter, "I hope you won't take it into your head to turn out a reading lady!"
"Oh dear, no!" said Miss Fanshaw: "we had not much time for reading at Suxberry House, we were so busy with our masters;--we had a charming English master though, to teach us elocution, because it's so fashionable now to read loud well. Mrs. Harcourt, _isn't it odd_ to read English books to a French governess?" continued this young lady, whose constrained taciturnity now gave way to a strong desire to show herself off before Lady N----. She had observed that Isabella and Matilda had been listened to with approbation, and she imagined that, when she spoke, she should certainly eclipse them. Mrs. Harcourt replied to her observation, that Mad. de Rosier not only read and spoke English remarkably well, but that she had also a general knowledge of English literature.
"Oh! here are some French books," said Miss Fanshaw, taking down one out of the book-case--"'Journal Étranger'--dear me! are you translating _of_ this, Miss Isabella?"
"No," said Mrs. Harcourt; "Madame de Rosier brought it down stairs yesterday, to show us an essay of Hume's on the study of history, which is particularly addressed to women; and Mad. de Rosier says that it is not to be found in several of the late editions of Hume's Essays--she thought it singular that it should be preserved in a French translation."
"There is," said Isabella, "an entertaining account in that essay of a lady who asked Hume to lend her some novels! He lent her Plutarch's Lives, which she thought very amusing, till she found out that they were true. As soon as she came to the names of Caesar and Alexander, she returned the books."
Mrs. Fanshaw was surprised that Lady N---- begged to look at this essay; and was much disappointed to observe that the graceful manner in which Miss Fanshaw presented the book to her ladyship escaped notice.
"Pray, Miss Matilda, is that a drawing?" said Mrs. Fanshaw, in hopes of leading to a more favourable subject.
"Oh, dear me! do pray favour us with a sight of it!" cried Miss Fanshaw, and she eagerly unrolled the paper, though Matilda assured her that it was not a drawing.
It was Hogarth's print of a country dance, which was prefixed to his "Analysis of Beauty."
"It is the _oddest_ thing!" exclaimed Miss Fanshaw, who thought every thing _odd_ or _strange_ which she had not seen at Suxberry house. Without staying to observe the innumerable strokes of humour and of original genius in the print, she ran on--"La! its hardly worth any one's while, surely, to draw such a set of vulgar figures--one hates low humour." Then, in a hurry to show her taste for dress, she observed that "people, formerly, must have had no taste at all;--one can hardly believe such things were ever worn."
Mrs. Fanshaw, touched by this reflection upon the taste of former times, though she seldom presumed to oppose any of her daughter's opinions, could not here refrain from saying a few words in defence of sacks, long waists, and whalebone stays, and she pointed to a row of stays in the margin of one of these prints of Hogarth.
Miss Fanshaw, who did not consider that, with those who have a taste for propriety in manners, she could not gain any thing by a triumph over her mother, laughed in a disdainful manner at her mother's "_partiality for stays_," and _wondered_ how any body could think long waists becoming.
"Surely, any body who knows any thing of drawing, or has any taste for an antique figure, must acknowledge the present fashion to be most graceful." She appealed to Isabella and Matilda.
They were so much struck with the impropriety of her manner towards her mother, that they did not immediately answer; Matilda at length said, "It is natural to like what we have been early used to;" and, from unaffected gentleness, eager to prevent Miss Fanshaw from further exposing her ignorance, she rolled up the print; and Lady N----, smiling at Mrs. Harcourt, said, "I never saw a print more _gracefully_ rolled up in my life." Miss Fanshaw immediately rolled up another of the prints, but no applause ensued.
At the next pause in the conversation, Mrs. Fanshaw and her daughter took their leave, seemingly dissatisfied with their visit.
Matilda, just after Mrs. Fanshaw left the room, recollected her pretty netting-box, and asked Lady N---- whether she knew any thing of the little boy by whom it was made.
Her ladyship gave such an interesting account of him, that Matilda determined to have her share in relieving his distress.
Matilda's benevolence was formerly rather passive than active; but from Mad. de Rosier she had learned that sensibility should not be suffered to evaporate in sighs, or in sentimental speeches. She had also learnt that economy is necessary to generosity; and she consequently sometimes denied herself the gratification of her own tastes, that she might be able to assist those who were in distress.
She had lately seen a beautiful print of the king of France taking leave of his family; and, as Mad. de Rosier was struck with it, she wished to have bought it for her; but she now considered that a guinea, which was the price of the print, might be better bestowed on this poor, little, ingenious, industrious boy; so she begged her mother to send to the repository for one of his boxes. The servants were all busy, and Matilda did not receive her box till the next morning.
[Footnote 3: By Egginton.]
Herbert was reading to Mad. de Rosier when the servant brought the box into the room. Favoretta got up to look at it, and immediately Herbert's eye glanced from his book: in spite of all his endeavours to command his attention, he heard the exclamations of "Beautiful!--How smooth!--like tortoise-shell!--What can it be made of?"
"My dear Herbert, shut the book," said Mad. de Rosier, "if your head be in that box. Never read one moment after you have ceased to attend."
"It is my fault," said Matilda; "I will put the box out of the way till he has finished reading."
When Herbert had recalled his wandering thoughts, and had fixed his mind upon what he was about, Mad. de Rosier put her hand upon the book--he started--"Now let us see the _beautiful_ box," said she.
After it had passed through Favoretta and Herbert's impatient hands, Matilda, who had scarcely looked at it herself, took it to the window, to give it a sober examination. "It is not made of paper, or pasteboard, and it is not the colour of tortoise-shell," said Matilda: "I never saw any thing like it before; I wonder what it can be made of?"
Herbert, at this question, unperceived by Matilda, who was examining the box very earnestly, seized the lid, which was lying upon the table, and ran out of the room; he returned in a few minutes, and presented the lid to Matilda. "I can tell you one thing, Matilda," said he, with an important face--"it is an animal--an animal substance, I mean."
"Oh, Herbert," cried Matilda, "what have you been doing?--you have blackened the corner of the box."
"Only the least bit in the world," said Herbert, "to try an experiment. I only put one corner to the candle that Isabella had lighted to seal her letter."
"My dear Herbert, how could you burn your sister's box?" expostulated Madame de Rosier: "I thought you did not love mischief."
"Mischief!--no, indeed; I thought you would be pleased that I remembered how to distinguish animal from vegetable substances. You know, the day that my hair was on fire, you told me how to do that; and Matilda wanted to know what the box was made of; so I tried."
"Well," said Matilda, good-naturedly, "you have not done me much harm."
"But another time," said Mad. de Rosier, "don't burn a box that costs a guinea to try an experiment; and, above all things, never, upon any account, take what is not your own."
The corner of the lid that had been held to the candle was a little warped, so that the lid did not slide into its groove as easily as it did before. Herbert was disposed to use force upon the occasion; but Matilda with difficulty rescued her box by an argument which fortunately reached his understanding in time enough to stop his hand.
"It was the heat of the candle that warped it," said she: "let us dip it into boiling water, which cannot be made _too_ hot, and that will, perhaps, bring it back to its shape."
The lid of the box was dipped into boiling-water, and restored to its shape. Matilda, as she was wiping it dry, observed that some yellow paint, or varnish, came off, and in one spot, on the inside of the lid, she discovered something like writing.
"Who will lend me a magnifying glass?"
Favoretta produced hers.
"I have kept it," said she, "a great, _great_ while, ever since we were at the Rational Toy-shop."
"Mad. de Rosier, do look at this!" exclaimed Matilda--"here are letters quite plain!--I have found the name, I do believe, of the boy who made the box!" and she spelled, letter by letter, as she looked through the magnifying glass, the words Henri-Montmorenci.
Mad. de Rosier started up; and Matilda, surprised at her sudden emotion, put the box and magnifying glass into her hand. Madame de Rosier's hand trembled so much that she could not fix the glass.
"Je ne vois rien--lisez--vite!--ma chère amie--un mot de plus!" said she, putting the glass again into Matilda's hand, and leaning over her shoulder with a look of agonizing expectation.
The word _de_ was all Matilda could make out--Isabella tried--it was in vain--no other letters were visible.
"_De_ what?--_de_ Rosier!--it must be! my son is alive!" said the mother.
Henri-Montmorenci was the name of Mad. de Rosier's son; but when she reflected for an instant that this might also be the name of some other person, her transport of joy was checked, and seemed to be converted into despair.
Her first emotions over, the habitual firmness of her mind returned. She sent directly to the repository--no news of the boy could there be obtained. Lady N---- was gone, for a few days, to Windsor; so no intelligence could be had from her. Mrs. Harcourt was out--no carriage at home--but Mad. de Rosier set out immediately, and walked to Golden-square, near which place she knew that a number of French emigrants resided. She stopped first at a bookseller's shop; she described the person of her son, and inquired if any such person had been seen in that neighbourhood.
The bookseller was making out a bill for one of his customers, but struck with Mad. de Rosier's anxiety, and perceiving that she was a foreigner by her accent, he put down his pen, and begged her to repeat, once more, the description of her son. He tried to recollect whether he had seen such a person--but he had not. He, however, with true English good-nature, told her that she had an excellent chance of finding him in this part of the town, if he were in London--he was sorry that his shopman was from home, or he would have sent him with her through the streets near the square, where he knew the emigrants chiefly lodged;--he gave her in writing a list of the names of these streets, and stood at his door to watch and speed her on her way.
She called at the neighbouring shops--she walked down several narrow streets, inquiring at every house, where she thought that there was any chance of success, in vain. At one a slip-shod maid-servant came to the door, who stared at seeing a well-dressed lady, and who was so bewildered, that she could not, for some time, answer any questions; at another house the master was out; at another, the master was at dinner. As it got towards four o'clock, Mad. de Rosier found it more difficult to obtain civil answers to her inquiries, for almost all the tradesmen were at dinner, and when they came to the door, looked out of humour, at being interrupted, and disappointed at not meeting with a customer. She walked on, her mind still indefatigable:--she heard a clock in the neighbourhood strike five--her strength was not equal to the energy of her mind--and the repeated answers of, "We know of no such person"--"No such boy lives here, ma'am," made her at length despair of success.
One street upon her list remained unsearched--it was narrow, dark, and dirty;--she stopped for a moment at the corner, but a porter, heavily laden, with a sudden "By your leave, ma'am!" pushed forwards, and she was forced into the doorway of a small ironmonger's shop. The master of the shop, who was weighing some iron goods, let the scale go up, and, after a look of surprise, said--
"You've lost your way, madam, I presume--be pleased to rest yourself--it is but a dark place;" and wiping a stool, on which some locks had been lying, he left Mad. de Rosier, who was, indeed, exhausted with fatigue, to rest herself, whilst, without any officious civility, after calling his wife from a back shop, to give the lady a glass of water, he went on weighing his iron and whistling.
The woman, as soon as Mad. de Rosier had drunk the water, inquired if she should send for a coach for her, or could do any thing to serve her.
The extreme good-nature of the tone in which this was spoken seemed to revive Mad. de Rosier; she told her that she was searching for an only son, whom she had for nearly two years believed to be dead: she showed the paper on which his name was written: the woman could not read--her husband read the name, but he shook his head--"he knew of no lad who answered to the description."
Whilst they were speaking, a little boy came into the shop with a bit of small iron wire in his hand, and, twitching the skirt of the ironmonger's coat to attract his attention, asked if he had any such wire as that in his shop. When the ironmonger went to get down a roll of wire, the little boy had a full view of Mad. de Rosier. Though she was naturally disposed to take notice of children, yet now she was so intent upon her own thoughts that she did not observe him till he had bowed several times just opposite to her.
"Are you bowing to me, my good boy?" said she--"you mistake me for somebody else; I don't know you;" and she looked down again upon the paper, on which she had written the name of her son.
"But, indeed, ma'am, I know _you_," said the little boy: "aren't you the lady that was with the good-natured young gentleman, who met me going out of the pastry-cook's shop, and gave me the two buns?"
Mad. de Rosier now looked in his face; the shop was so dark that she could not distinguish his features, but she recollected his voice, and knew him to be the little boy belonging to the dulcimer man.
"Father would have come again to your house," said the boy, who did not perceive her inattention--"Father would have come to your house again, to play the tune the young gentleman fancied so much, but our dulcimer is broken."
"Is it? I am sorry for it," said Mad. de Rosier. "But can you tell me," continued she to the ironmonger, "whether any emigrants lodge in the street to the left of your house?" The master of the shop tried to recollect: she again repeated the name and description of her son.
"I know a young French lad of that make," said the little dulcimer boy.
"Do you?--Where is he? Where does he lodge?" cried Mad. de Rosier.
"I am not speaking as to his name, for I never heard his name," said the little boy; "but I'll tell you how I came to know him. One day lately--"
Mad. de Rosier interrupted him with questions concerning the figure, height, age, eyes, of the French lad.
The little dulcimer boy, by his answers, sometimes made her doubt, and sometimes made her certain, that he was her son.
"Tell me," said she, "where he lodges; I must see him immediately."
"I am just come from him, and I'm going back to him with the wire; I'll show the way with pleasure; he is the best-natured lad in the world; he is mending my dulcimer; he deserves to be a great gentleman, and I thought he was not what he seemed," continued the little boy, as he walked on, scarcely able to keep before Mad. de Rosier.
"This way, ma'am--this way--he lives in the corner house, turning into Golden-square." It was a stationer's.
"I have called at this house already," said Mad. de Rosier; but she recollected that it was when the family were at dinner, and that a stupid maid had not understood her questions. She was unable to speak, through extreme agitation, when she came to the shop: the little dulcimer boy walked straight forward, and gently drew back the short curtain that hung before a glass door, opening into a back parlour. Mad. de Rosier sprang forward to the door, looked through the glass, and was alarmed to see a young man taller than her son; he was at work; his back was towards her.
When he heard the noise of some one trying to open the door, he turned and saw his mother's face! The tools dropped from his hands, and the dulcimer boy was the only person present who had strength enough to open the door.
How sudden! how powerful is the effect of joy! The mother, restored to her son, in a moment felt herself invigorated--and, forgetful of her fatigue, she felt herself another being. When she was left alone with her son, she looked round his little workshop with a mixture of pain and pleasure. She saw one of his unfinished boxes on the window-seat, which served him for a work-bench; his tools were upon the floor. "These have been my support," said her son, taking them up: "how much am I obliged to my dear father for teaching me early how to use them!"
"Your father!" said Mad. de Rosier--"I wish he could have lived to he rewarded as I am! But tell me your history, from the moment you were taken from me to prison: it is nearly two years ago,--how did you escape? how have you supported yourself since? Sit down, and speak again, that I may be sure that I hear your voice."
"You shall hear my voice, then, my dear mother," said her son, "for at least half an hour, if that will not tire you. I have a long story to tell you. In the first place, you know that I was taken to prison; three months I spent in the Conciergerie, expecting every day to be ordered out to the guillotine. The gaoler's son, a boy about my own age, who was sometimes employed to bring me food, seemed to look upon me with compassion; I had several opportunities of obliging him: his father often gave him long returns of the names of the prisoners, and various accounts, to copy into a large book; the young gentleman did not like this work; he was much fonder of exercising as a soldier with some boys in the neighbourhood, who were learning the national exercise; he frequently employed me to copy his lists for him, and this I performed to his satisfaction: but what completely won his heart was my mending the lock of his fusil. One evening he came to me in a new uniform, and in high spirits; he was just made a captain, by the unanimous voice of his corps; and he talked of _his_ men, and _his_ orders, with prodigious fluency; he then played _his_ march upon his drum, and insisted upon teaching it to me; he was much pleased with my performance, and, suddenly embracing me, he exclaimed, 'I have thought of an excellent thing for you; stay till I have arranged the plan in my head, and you shall see if I am not a great general.' The next evening he did not come to me till it was nearly dusk; he was in his new uniform; but out of a bag which he brought in his hand, in which he used to carry his father's papers, he produced his old uniform, rolled up into a surprisingly small compass. 'I have arranged every thing,' said he; 'put on this old uniform of mine--we are just of a size--by this light, nobody will perceive any difference: take my drum and march out of the prison slowly; beat my march on the drum as you go out; turn to the left, down to the Place de ----, where I exercise my men. You'll meet with one of my soldiers there, ready to forward your escape.' I hesitated; for I feared that I should endanger my young general; but he assured me that he had taken his precautions so '_admirably_,' that even after my escape should be discovered, no suspicion would fall upon him. 'But, if you delay,' cried he, 'we are both of us undone.' I hesitated not a moment longer, and never did I change my clothes so expeditiously in my life: I obeyed my little captain exactly, marched out of the prison slowly, playing deliberately the march which I had been taught; turned to the left, according to orders, and saw my punctual guide waiting for me on the Place de ----, just by the broken statue of Henry the Fourth.
"'Follow me, fellow-citizen,' said he, in a low voice; 'we are not all Robespierres.'"
Most joyfully I followed him. We walked on, in silence, till at length we came to a narrow street, where the crowd was so great that I thought we should both of us have been squeezed to death. I saw the guillotine at a distance, and I felt sick.
"'Come on,' said my guide, who kept fast hold of me; and he turned sharp into a yard, where I heard the noise of carts, and the voices of muleteers. 'This man,' said he, leading me up to a muleteer, who seemed to be just ready to depart, 'is my father; trust yourself to him.'
"I had nobody else to trust myself to. I got into the muleteer's covered cart; he began a loud song; we proceeded through the square where the crowd were assembled. The enthusiasm of the moment occupied them so entirely, that we were fortunately disregarded. We got out of Paris safely: I will not tire you with all my terrors and escapes. I, at length, got on board a neutral vessel, and landed at Bristol. Escaped from prison, and the fear of the guillotine, I thought myself happy; but my happiness was not very lasting. I began to apprehend that I should be starved to death; I had not eaten for many hours. I wandered through the bustling streets of Bristol, where every body I met seemed to be full of their own business, and brushed by me without seeing me. I was weak, and I sat down upon a stone by the door of a public-house.
"A woman was twirling a mop at the door. I wiped away the drops with which I was sprinkled by this operation. I was too weak to be angry; but a hairdresser, who was passing by, and who had a nicely powdered wig poised upon his hand, was furiously enraged, because a few drops of the shower which had sprinkled me reached the wig. He expressed his anger half in French and half in English; but at last I observed to him in French, that the wig was still '_bien poudrée_'--this calmed his rage; and he remarked that I also had been _horribly_ drenched by the shower. I assured him that this was a trifle in comparison with my other sufferings.
"He begged to hear my misfortunes, because I spoke French; and as I followed him to the place where he was going with the wig, I told him that I had not eaten for many hours; that I was a stranger in Bristol, and had no means of earning any food. He advised me to go to a tavern, which he pointed out to me--'The Rummer;'--he told me a circumstance, which convinced me of the humanity of the master of the house.
[Footnote 4: During Christmas week it is the custom in Bristol to keep a cheap ordinary in taverns: the master of the Rummer observed a stranger, meanly dressed, who constantly frequented the public table. It was suspected that he carried away some of the provision, and a waiter at length communicated his suspicions to the master of the house. He watched the stranger, and actually detected him putting a large mince-pie into his pocket. Instead of publicly exposing him, the landlord, who judged from the stranger's manner that he was not an ordinary pilferer, called the man aside as he was going away, and charged him with the fact, demanding of him what could tempt him to such meanness. The poor man immediately acknowledged that he had for several days carried off precisely what he would have eaten himself for his starving wife, but he had eaten nothing. The humane, considerate landlord gently reproved him for his conduct, and soon found means to have him usefully and profitably employed.]
"I resolved to apply to this benevolent man. When I first went into his kitchen, I saw his cook, a man with a very important face, serving out a large turtle. Several people were waiting with covered dishes, for turtle soup and turtle, which had been bespoken in different parts of the city. The dishes, as fast as they were filled, continually passed by me, tantalizing me by their savoury odours. I sat down upon a stool near the fire--I saw food within my reach that honesty forbade me to touch, though I was starving: how easy is it to the rich to be honest! I was at this time so weak, that my ideas began to be confused--my head grew dizzy---I felt the heat of the kitchen fire extremely disagreeable to me. I do not know what happened afterward; but when I came to myself, I found that I was leaning against some one who supported me near an open window: it was the master of the house. I do not know why I was ashamed to ask him for food; his humanity, however, prevented me. He first gave me a small basin of broth, and afterwards a little bit of bread, assuring me, with infinite good nature, that he gave me food in such small quantities, because he was afraid that it would hurt me to satisfy my hunger at once--a worthy, humane physician, he said, had told him, that persons in my situation should be treated in this manner. I thanked him for his kindness, adding, that I did not mean to encroach upon his hospitality. He pressed me to stay at his house for some days, but I could not think of being a burden to him, when I had strength enough to maintain myself.
"In the window of the little parlour, where I ate my broth, I saw a novel, which had been left there by the landlord's daughter, and in the beginning of this book was pasted a direction to the circulating library in Bristol. I was in hopes that I might earn my bread as a scribe. The landlord of the Rummer told me that he was acquainted with the master of the library, and that I might easily procure employment from him on reasonable terms.
"Mr. S----, for that was the name of the master of the library, received me with an air of encouraging benevolence, and finding that I could read and write English tolerably well, he gave me a manuscript to copy, which he was preparing for the press. I worked hard, and made, as I fancied, a beautiful copy; but the printers complained of my upright French hand, which they could not easily decipher:--I began to new-model my writing, to please the taste of my employers; and as I had sufficient motives to make me take pains, I at last succeeded. I found it a great advantage to be able to read and write the English language fluently; and when my employers perceived my education had not been neglected, and that I had some knowledge of literature, their confidence in my abilities increased. I hope you will not think me vain if I add, that I could perceive my manners were advantageous to me. I was known to be a gentleman's son; and even those who set but little value upon _manners_ seemed to be influenced by them, without perceiving it. But, without pronouncing my own eulogium, let me content myself with telling you my history.
"I used often, in carrying my day's work to the printer's, to pass through a part of the town of Bristol which has been allotted to poor emigrants, and there I saw a variety of little ingenious toys, which were sold at a high price, or at a price which appeared to me to be high. I began to consider that I might earn money by invention, as well as by mere manual labour; but before I gave up any part of my time to my new schemes, I regularly wrote as much each day as was sufficient to maintain me. Now it was that I felt the advantage of having been taught, when I was a boy, the use of carpenters' tools, and some degree of mechanical dexterity. I made several clumsy toys, and I tried various unsuccessful experiments, but I was not discouraged. One day I heard a dispute near me about some trinket--a toothpick-case, I believe--which was thought by the purchaser to be too highly priced; the man who made it repeatedly said, in recommendation of the toy--'Why, sir, you could not know it from tortoise-shell.'
"I, at this instant, recollected to have seen, at the Rummer, a great heap of broken shells, which the cook had thrown aside, as if they were of no value. Upon inquiry, I found that there was part of the inside shell which was thought to be useless--it occurred to me that I might possibly make it useful. The good-natured landlord ordered that all this part of the shells should be carefully collected and given to me. I tried to polish it for many hours in vain. I was often tempted to abandon my project--there was a want of _finish_, as the workmen call it, in my manufacture, which made me despair of its being saleable. I will not weary you with a history of all my unsuccessful processes; it was fortunate for me, my dear mother, that I remembered one of the principles which you taught me when I was a child, that it is not _genius_, but perseverance, which brings things to perfection. I persevered, and though I did not bring my manufacture to _perfection_, I actually succeeded so far as to make a very neat-looking box out of my refuse shells. I offered it for sale--it was liked: I made several more, and they were quickly sold for me, most advantageously, by my good friend, Mr. S----. He advised me to make them in the shape of netting-boxes; I did so, and their sale extended rapidly.
"Some benevolent lady, about this time, raised a subscription for me; but as I had now an easy means of supporting myself, and as I every day beheld numbers of my countrymen, nearly in the condition in which I was when I first went to the Rummer, I thought it was not fit to accept of the charitable assistance, which could be so much better bestowed upon others. Mr. S---- told me, that the lady who raised the contribution, so far from being offended, was pleased by my conduct in declining her bounty, and she undertook to dispose of as many of my netting-boxes as I could finish. She was one of the patronesses of a repository in London, which has lately been opened, called the 'Repository for Ingenious Works.' When she left Bristol, she desired Mr. S---- to send my boxes thither.
"My little manufacture continued to prosper--by practice I grew more and more expert, and I had no longer any fears that I should not be able to maintain myself. It was fortunate for me that I was obliged to he constantly employed: whenever I was not actually at hard work, whenever I had leisure for reflection, I was unhappy.
"A friend of Mr. S----, who was going to London, offered to take me with him--I had some curiosity to see this celebrated metropolis, and I had hopes of meeting with some of my friends amongst the emigrants in this city--amongst all the emigrants at Bristol there was not one person with whom I had been acquainted in France.
"Impelled by these hopes, I quitted Bristol, and arrived a few weeks ago in London. Mr. S---- gave me a direction to a cabinet-maker in Leicester Fields, and I was able to pay for a decent lodging, for I was now master of what appeared to me a large sum of money--seven guineas.
"Some time after I came to town, as I was returning from a visit to an emigrant, with whom I had become acquainted, I was stopped at the corner of a street by a crowd of people--_a mob_, as I have been taught to call it, since I came to England--who had gathered round a blind man, a little boy, and a virago of a woman, who stood upon the steps before a print-shop door. The woman accused the boy of being a thief. The boy protested that he was innocent, and his ingenuous countenance spoke strongly in his favour. He belonged to the blind man, who, as soon as he could make himself heard, complained bitterly of the damage which had been done to his dulcimer. The mob, in their first fury, had broken it. I was interested for the man but more for the boy. Perhaps, said I to myself, he has neither father nor mother!
"When the woman, who was standing yet furious at the shop-door, had no more words for utterance, the little boy was suffered to speak in his own defence. He said, that, as he was passing by the open window of the print-shop, he put his hand in to give part of a bun which he was eating to a little dog, who was sitting on the counter, near the window; and who looked thin and miserable, as if he was half-starved. 'But,' continued the little boy, 'when I put the bun to the dog's mouth, he did not eat it; I gave him a little push to make him mind me, and he fell out of the window into my hands; and then I found that it was not a real dog, but only the picture of a dog, painted upon pasteboard. The mistress of the shop saw the dog in my hand, and snatched it away, and accused me of being a thief; so then, with the noise she made, the chairmen, who were near the door, came up, and the mob gathered, and our dulcimer was broken, and I'm very sorry for it.' The mistress of the print-shop observed, in a loud and contemptuous tone, 'that all this must be a lie, for that _such a one as_ he could not have buns to give away to dogs!'--Here the blind man vindicated his boy, by assuring us that 'he came honestly by the bun--that two buns had been given to him about an hour before this time by a young gentleman, who met him as he was coming out of a pastry-cook's shop.' When the mob heard this explanation, they were sorry for the mischief they had done to the blind man's dulcimer; and, after examining it with expressions of sorrow, they quietly dispersed. I thought that I could perhaps mend the dulcimer, and I offered my services; they were gladly accepted, and I desired the man to leave it at the cabinet-maker's, in Leicester Fields, where I lodged. In the meantime the little boy, whilst I had been examining the dulcimer, had been wiping the dirt from off the pasteboard dog, which, during the fray, had fallen into the street--'Is it not like a real dog?' said the boy, 'Was it not enough to deceive any body?'
"It was, indeed, extremely like a _real_ dog--like my dog, Caesar, whom I had taken care of from the time I was five years old, and whom I was obliged to leave at our house in Paris, when I was dragged to prison. The more I looked at this pasteboard image, the more I was convinced that the picture must have been drawn from the life. Every streak, every spot, every shade of its brown coat I remembered. Its extreme thinness was the only circumstance in which the picture was unlike my Caesar. I inquired from the scolding woman of the shop how she came by this picture--'Honestly,' was her laconic answer; but when I asked whether it were to be sold, and when I paid its price, the lady changed her tone; no longer considering me as the partisan of the little boy, against whom she was enraged, but rather looking upon me as a customer, who had paid too much for her goods, she condescended to inform me that the dog was painted by one of the _poor_ French emigrants, who lived in her neighbourhood. She directed me to the house, and I discovered the man to be my father's old servant Michael. He was overjoyed at the sight of me; he was infirm, and unequal to any laborious employment; he had supported himself with great difficulty by painting toys, and various figures of men, women, and animals, upon pasteboard. He showed me two excellent figures of French poissardes, and also a good cat, of his doing;--but my Caesar was the best of his works.
"My lodgings at the cabinet-maker's were too small to accommodate Michael; and yet I wished to have him with me, for he seemed so infirm as to want assistance. I consequently left my cabinet-maker, and took lodgings with this stationer; he and his wife are quiet people, and I hope poor Michael has been happier since he came to me; he has, however, been for some days confined to his bed, and I have been so busy, that I have not been able to stir from home. To-day the poor little boy called for his dulcimer; I must own that I found it a more difficult job to mend it than I had expected. I could not match the wire, and I sent the boy out to an ironmonger's a few hours ago. How little did I expect to see him return with--my mother!"
We shall not attempt to describe the alternate emotions of joy and sorrow which quickly succeeded each other in Mad. de Rosier's heart, while she listened to her son's little history. Impatient to communicate her happiness to her friends, she took leave hastily of her beloved son, promising to call for him early the next day. "Settle all your business to-night," said she, "and I will introduce you to _my_ friends to-morrow. _My_ friends, I say proudly--for I have made friends since I came to England; and England, amongst other commodities excellent in their kind, produces incomparable friends--friends in adversity. _We_ know their value. Adieu: settle all your affairs here expeditiously."
"I have no affairs, no business, my dear mother," interrupted Henry, "except to mend the dulcimer, as I promised, and that I'll finish directly. Adieu, till to-morrow morning! What a delightful sound!"
With all the alacrity of benevolence he returned to his work, and his mother returned to Mrs. Harcourt's. It was nearly eight o'clock before she arrived at home. Mrs. Harcourt, Isabella, and Matilda, met her with inquiring eyes.
"She smiles," said Matilda; and Herbert, with a higher jump than he had ever been known to make before, exclaimed, "She has found her son!--I am sure of it!--I knew she would find him."
"Let her sit down," said Matilda, in a gentle voice.
Isabella brought her an excellent dish of coffee; and Mrs. Harcourt, with kind reproaches, asked why she had not brought her son _home_ with her. She rang the bell with as much vivacity as she spoke, ordered her coach to be sent instantly to Golden-square, and wrote an order, as she called it, for his coming _immediately_ to her, quitting all dulcimers and dulcimer boys, under pain of his mother's displeasure. "Here, Mad. de Rosier," said she, with peremptory playfulness, "countersign my order, that I may be sure of my prisoner."
Scarcely were the note and carriage despatched, before Herbert and Favoretta stationed themselves at the window, that they might be ready to give the first intelligence. Their notions of time and distance were not very accurate upon this occasion; for before the carriage had been out of sight ten minutes, they expected it to return; and they exclaimed, at the sight of every coach that appeared at the end of the street, "Here's the carriage!--Here he is!" But the carriages rolled by continually, and convinced them of their mistakes.
Herbert complained of the dull light of the lamps, though the street was remarkably well lighted; and he next quarrelled with the glare of the flambeaux, which footmen brandished behind carriages that were unknown to him. At length a flambeau appeared with which he did not quarrel. Herbert, as its light shone upon the footman, looked with an eager eye, then put his finger upon his own lips, and held his other hand forcibly before Favoretta's mouth, for now he was certain. The coach stopped at the door--Mad. de Rosier ran down stairs--Mrs. Harcourt and all the family followed her--Herbert was at the coach door before Henri de Rosier could leap out, and he seized his hand with the familiarity of an old acquaintance.
The sympathy of all her joyful pupils, the animated kindness with which Mrs. Harcourt received her son, touched Mad. de Rosier with the most exquisite pleasure. The happiness that we are conscious of having deserved is doubly grateful to the heart.
Mrs. Harcourt did not confine her attentions within the narrow limits of politeness--with generous eagerness she exerted herself to show her gratitude to the excellent governess of her children. She applied to the gentleman who was at the head of the academy for the education of the sons of French emigrants, and recommended Henri de Rosier to him in the strongest terms.
In the meantime Lady N----, who had been warmly interested in Mad. de Rosier's favour, and more by what she had seen of her pupils, wrote to her brother, who was at Paris, to request that he would make every possible inquiry concerning the property of the late Comte de Rosier. The answer to her letter informed her that Mad. de Rosier's property was restored to her and to her son by the new government of France.
Mrs. Harcourt, who now foresaw the probability of Mad. de Rosier's return to France, could not avoid feeling regret at the thoughts of parting with a friend to whom her whole family was sincerely attached. The plan of education which had been traced out remained yet unfinished, and she feared, she said, that Isabella and Matilda might feel the want of their accomplished preceptress. But these fears were the best omens for her future success: a sensible mother, in whom the desire to educate her family has once been excited, and who turns the energy of her mind to this interesting subject, seizes upon every useful idea, every practical principle, with avidity, and she may trust securely to her own persevering cares. Whatever a mother learns for the sake of her children, she never forgets.
The rapid improvement of Mrs. Harcourt's understanding since she had applied herself to literature, was her reward, and her excitement to fresh application. Isabella and Matilda were now of an age to be her companions, and her taste for domestic life was confirmed every day by the sweet experience of its pleasures.
"You have taught me your value, and now you are going to leave me," said she to Mad. de Rosier. "I quarrelled with the Duke de la Rochefoucault for his asserting, that in the misfortunes of our best friends there is always something that is not disagreeable to us; but I am afraid I must stand convicted of selfishness, for in the good fortune of my best friend there is something that I cannot feel to be perfectly agreeable."
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