Part 3 out of 6
below me. Another answered; the first voice was that of a man,
the second that of a woman; and a man and a woman I saw coming
slowly down the alley. Their forms were at first in shade, I
could but discern a dusk outline of each, but a ray of moonlight
met them at the termination of the walk, when they were under my
very nose, and revealed very plainly, very unequivocally, Mdlle.
Zoraide Reuter, arm-in-arm, or hand-in-hand (I forget which) with
my principal, confidant, and counsellor, M. Francois Pelet. And
M. Pelet was saying--
"A quand donc le jour des noces, ma bien-aimee?"
And Mdlle. Reuter answered--
"Mais, Francois, tu sais bien qu'il me serait impossible de me
marier avant les vacances."
"June, July, August, a whole quarter!" exclaimed the director.
"How can I wait so long?--I who am ready, even now, to expire at
your feet with impatience!"
"Ah! if you die, the whole affair will be settled without any
trouble about notaries and contracts; I shall only have to order
a slight mourning dress, which will be much sooner prepared than
the nuptial trousseau."
"Cruel Zoraide! you laugh at the distress of one who loves you so
devotedly as I do: my torment is your sport; you scruple not to
stretch my soul on the rack of jealousy; for, deny it as you
will, I am certain you have cast encouraging glances on that
school-boy, Crimsworth; he has presumed to fall in love, which he
dared not have done unless you had given him room to hope."
"What do you say, Francois? Do you say Crimsworth is in love
"Over head and ears."
"Has he told you so?"
"No--but I see it in his face: he blushes whenever your name is
mentioned." A little laugh of exulting coquetry announced Mdlle.
Reuter's gratification at this piece of intelligence (which was a
lie, by-the-by--I had never been so far gone as that, after all).
M. Pelet proceeded to ask what she intended to do with me,
intimating pretty plainly, and not very gallantly, that it was
nonsense for her to think of taking such a "blanc-bec" as a
husband, since she must be at least ten years older than I (was
she then thirty-two? I should not have thought it). I heard her
disclaim any intentions on the subject--the director, however,
still pressed her to give a definite answer.
"Francois," said she, "you are jealous," and still she laughed;
then, as if suddenly recollecting that this coquetry was not
consistent with the character for modest dignity she wished to
establish, she proceeded, in a demure voice: "Truly, my dear
Francois, I will not deny that this young Englishman may have
made some attempts to ingratiate himself with me; but, so far
from giving him any encouragement, I have always treated him
with as much reserve as it was possible to combine with civility;
affianced as I am to you, I would give no man false hopes;
believe me, dear friend." Still Pelet uttered murmurs of
distrust--so I judged, at least, from her reply.
"What folly! How could I prefer an unknown foreigner to you?
And then--not to flatter your vanity--Crimsworth could not bear
comparison with you either physically or mentally; he is not a
handsome man at all; some may call him gentleman-like and
intelligent-looking, but for my part--"
The rest of the sentence was lost in the distance, as the pair,
rising from the chair in which they had been seated, moved away.
I waited their return, but soon the opening and shutting of a
door informed me that they had re-entered the house; I listened
a little longer, all was perfectly still; I listened more than an
hour--at last I heard M. Pelet come in and ascend to his chamber.
Glancing once more towards the long front of the garden-house, I
perceived that its solitary light was at length extinguished; so,
for a time, was my faith is love and friendship. I went to bed,
but something feverish and fiery had got into my veins which
prevented me from sleeping much that night.
NEXT morning I rose with the dawn, and having dressed myself and
stood half-an-hour, my elbow leaning on the chest of drawers,
considering what means I should adopt to restore my spirits,
fagged with sleeplessness, to their ordinary tone--for I had no
intention of getting up a scene with M. Pelet, reproaching him
with perfidy, sending him a challenge, or performing other
gambadoes of the sort--I hit at last on the expedient of walking
out in the cool of the morning to a neighbouring establishment of
baths, and treating myself to a bracing plunge. The remedy
produced the desired effect. I came back at seven o'clock
steadied and invigorated, and was able to greet M. Pelet, when he
entered to breakfast, with an unchanged and tranquil countenance;
even a cordial offering of the hand and the flattering
appellation of "mon fils," pronounced in that caressing tone with
which Monsieur had, of late days especially, been accustomed to
address me, did not elicit any external sign of the feeling
which, though subdued, still glowed at my heart. Not that I
nursed vengeance--no; but the sense of insult and treachery lived
in me like a kindling, though as yet smothered coal. God knows I
am not by nature vindictive; I would not hurt a man because I can
no longer trust or like him; but neither my reason nor feelings
are of the vacillating order--they are not of that sand-like sort
where impressions, if soon made, are as soon effaced. Once
convinced that my friend's disposition is incompatible with my
own, once assured that he is indelibly stained with certain
defects obnoxious to my principles, and I dissolve the
connection. I did so with Edward. As to Pelet, the discovery
was yet new; should I act thus with him? It was the question I
placed before my mind as I stirred my cup of coffee with a
half-pistolet (we never had spoons), Pelet meantime being seated
opposite, his pallid face looking as knowing and more haggard
than usual, his blue eye turned, now sternly on his boys and
ushers, and now graciously on me.
"Circumstances must guide me," said I; and meeting Pelet's false
glance and insinuating smile, I thanked heaven that I had last
night opened my window and read by the light of a full moon the
true meaning of that guileful countenance. I felt half his
master, because the reality of his nature was now known to me;
smile and flatter as he would, I saw his soul lurk behind his
smile, and heard in every one of his smooth phrases a voice
interpreting their treacherous import.
But Zoraide Reuter? Of course her defection had cut me to the
quick? That stint; must have gone too deep for any consolations
of philosophy to be available in curing its smart? Not at all.
The night fever over, I looked about for balm to that wound also,
and found some nearer home than at Gilead. Reason was my
physician; she began by proving that the prize I had missed was
of little value: she admitted that, physically, Zoraide might
have suited me, but affirmed that our souls were not in harmony,
and that discord must have resulted from the union of her mind
with mine. She then insisted on the suppression of all repining,
and commanded me rather to rejoice that I had escaped a snare.
Her medicament did me good. I felt its strengthening effect when
I met the directress the next day; its stringent operation on the
nerves suffered no trembling, no faltering; it enabled me to face
her with firmness, to pass her with ease. She had held out her
hand to me--that I did not choose to see. She had greeted me
with a charming smile--it fell on my heart like light on stone.
I passed on to the estrade, she followed me; her eye, fastened on
my face, demanded of every feature the meaning of my changed and
careless manner. "I will give her an answer," thought I; and,
meeting her gaze full, arresting, fixing her glance, I shot into
her eyes, from my own, a look, where there was no respect, no
love, no tenderness, no gallantry; where the strictest analysis
could detect nothing but scorn, hardihood, irony. I made her
bear it, and feel it; her steady countenance did not change, but
her colour rose, and she approached me as if fascinated. She
stepped on to the estrade, and stood close by my side; she had
nothing to say. I would not relieve her embarrassment, and
negligently turned over the leaves of a book.
"I hope you feel quite recovered to-day," at last she said, in a
"And I, mademoiselle, hope that you took no cold last night in
consequence of your late walk in the garden."
Quick enough of comprehension, she understood me directly; her
face became a little blanched--a very little--but no muscle in
her rather marked features moved; and, calm and self-possessed,
she retired from the estrade, taking her seat quietly at a little
distance, and occupying herself with netting a purse. I
proceeded to give my lesson; it was a "Composition," i.e., I
dictated certain general questions, of which the pupils were to
compose the answers from memory, access to books being forbidden.
While Mdlle. Eulalie, Hortense, Caroline, &c., were pondering
over the string of rather abstruse grammatical interrogatories I
had propounded, I was at liberty to employ the vacant half hour
in further observing the directress herself. The green silk
purse was progressing fast in her hands; her eyes were bent upon
it; her attitude, as she sat netting within two yards of me, was
still yet guarded; in her whole person were expressed at once,
and with equal clearness, vigilance and repose--a rare union!
Looking at her, I was forced, as I had often been before, to
offer her good sense, her wondrous self-control, the tribute of
involuntary admiration. She had felt that I had withdrawn from
her my esteem; she had seen contempt and coldness in my eye, and
to her, who coveted the approbation of all around her, who
thirsted after universal good opinion, such discovery must have
been an acute wound. I had witnessed its effect in the momentary
pallor of her cheek-cheek unused to vary; yet how quickly, by
dint of self-control, had she recovered her composure! With what
quiet dignity she now sat, almost at my side, sustained by her
sound and vigorous sense; no trembling in her somewhat
lengthened, though shrewd upper lip, no coward shame on her
"There is metal there," I said, as I gazed. "Would that there
were fire also, living ardour to make the steel glow--then I
could love her."
Presently I discovered that she knew I was watching her, for she
stirred not, she lifted not her crafty eyelid; she had glanced
down from her netting to her small foot, peeping from the soft
folds of her purple merino gown; thence her eye reverted to her
hand, ivory white, with a bright garnet ring on the forefinger,
and a light frill of lace round the wrist; with a scarcely
perceptible movement she turned her head, causing her nut-brown
curls to wave gracefully. In these slight signs I read that the
wish of her heart, the design of her brain, was to lure back the
game she had scared. A little incident gave her the opportunity
of addressing me again.
While all was silence in the class--silence, but for the rustling
of copy-books and the travelling of pens over their pages--a leaf
of the large folding-door, opening from the hall, unclosed,
admitting a pupil who, after making a hasty obeisance, ensconced
herself with some appearance of trepidation, probably occasioned
by her entering so late, in a vacant seat at the desk nearest the
door. Being seated, she proceeded, still with an air of hurry
and embarrassment, to open her cabas, to take out her books; and,
while I was waiting for her to look up, in order to make out her
identity--for, shortsighted as I was, I had not recognized her at
her entrance--Mdlle. Reuter, leaving her chair, approached the
"Monsieur Creemsvort," said she, in a whisper: for when the
schoolrooms were silent, the directress always moved with velvet
tread, and spoke in the most subdued key, enforcing order and
stillness fully as much by example as precept: "Monsieur
Creemsvort, that young person, who has just entered, wishes to
have the advantage of taking lessons with you in English; she is
not a pupil of the house; she is, indeed, in one sense, a
teacher, for she gives instruction in lace-mending, and in little
varieties of ornamental needle-work. She very properly proposes
to qualify herself for a higher department of education, and has
asked permission to attend your lessons, in order to perfect her
knowledge of English, in which language she has, I believe,
already made some progress; of course it is my wish to aid her in
an effort so praiseworthy; you will permit her then to benefit by
your instruction--n'est ce pas, monsieur?" And Mdlle. Reuter's
eyes were raised to mine with a look at once naive, benign, and
I replied, "Of course," very laconically, almost abruptly.
"Another word," she said, with softness: "Mdlle. Henri has not
received a regular education; perhaps her natural talents are not
of the highest order: but I can assure you of the excellence of
her intentions, and even of the amiability of her disposition.
Monsieur will then, I am sure, have the goodness to be
considerate with her at first, and not expose her backwardness,
her inevitable deficiencies, before the young ladies, who, in a
sense, are her pupils. Will Monsieur Creemsvort favour me by
attending to this hint?" I nodded. She continued with subdued
"Pardon me, monsieur, if I venture to add that what I have just
said is of importance to the poor girl; she already experiences
great difficulty in impressing these giddy young things with a
due degree of deference for her authority, and should that
difficulty be increased by new discoveries of her incapacity, she
might find her position in my establishment too painful to be
retained; a circumstance I should much regret for her sake, as
she can ill afford to lose the profits of her occupation here."
Mdlle. Reuter possessed marvellous tact; but tact the most
exclusive, unsupported by sincerity, will sometimes fail of its
effect; thus, on this occasion, the longer she preached about the
necessity of being indulgent to the governess pupil, the more
impatient I felt as I listened. I discerned so clearly that
while her professed motive was a wish to aid the dull, though
well-meaning Mdlle. Henri, her real one was no other than a
design to impress me with an idea of her own exalted goodness and
tender considerateness; so having again hastily nodded assent to
her remarks, I obviated their renewal by suddenly demanding the
compositions, in a sharp accent, and stepping from the estrade, I
proceeded to collect them. As I passed the governess-pupil, I
said to her--
"You have come in too late to receive a lesson to-day; try to be
more punctual next time."
I was behind her, and could not read in her face the effect of my
not very civil speech. Probably I should not have troubled
myself to do so, had I been full in front; but I observed that
she immediately began to slip her books into her cabas again;
and, presently, after I had returned to the estrade, while I was
arranging the mass of compositions, I heard the folding-door
again open and close; and, on looking up, I perceived her place
vacant. I thought to myself, "She will consider her first attempt
at taking a lesson in English something of a failure;" and I
wondered whether she had departed in the sulks, or whether
stupidity had induced her to take my words too literally, or,
finally, whether my irritable tone had wounded her feelings. The
last notion I dismissed almost as soon as I had conceived it, for
not having seen any appearance of sensitiveness in any human face
since my arrival in Belgium, I had begun to regard it almost as a
fabulous quality. Whether her physiognomy announced it I could
not tell, for her speedy exit had allowed me no time to ascertain
the circumstance. I had, indeed, on two or three previous
occasions, caught a passing view of her (as I believe has been
mentioned before); but I had never stopped to scrutinize either
her face or person, and had but the most vague idea of her
general appearance. Just as I had finished rolling up the
compositions, the four o'clock bell rang; with my accustomed
alertness in obeying that signal, I grasped my hat and evacuated
IF I was punctual in quitting Mdlle. Reuter's domicile, I was at
least equally punctual in arriving there; I came the next day at
five minutes before two, and on reaching the schoolroom door,
before I opened it, I heard a rapid, gabbling sound, which warned
me that the "priere du midi" was not yet concluded. I waited the
termination thereof; it would have been impious to intrude my
heretical presence during its progress. How the repeater of the
prayer did cackle and splutter! I never before or since heard
language enounced with such steam-engine haste. "Notre Pere qui
etes au ciel" went off like a shot; then followed an address to
Marie "vierge celeste, reine des anges, maison d'or, tour
d'ivoire!" and then an invocation to the saint of the day; and
then down they all sat, and the solemn (?) rite was over; and I
entered, flinging the door wide and striding in fast, as it was
my wont to do now; for I had found that in entering with aplomb,
and mounting the estrade with emphasis, consisted the grand
secret of ensuring immediate silence. The folding-doors between
the two classes, opened for the prayer, were instantly closed; a
maitresse, work-box in hand, took her seat at her appropriate
desk; the pupils sat still with their pens and books before them;
my three beauties in the van, now well humbled by a demeanour of
consistent coolness, sat erect with their hands folded quietly on
their knees; they had given up giggling and whispering to each
other, and no longer ventured to utter pert speeches in my
presence; they now only talked to me occasionally with their
eyes, by means of which organs they could still, however, say
very audacious and coquettish things. Had affection, goodness,
modesty, real talent, ever employed those bright orbs as
interpreters, I do not think I could have refrained from giving a
kind and encouraging, perhaps an ardent reply now and then; but
as it was, I found pleasure in answering the glance of vanity
with the gaze of stoicism. Youthful, fair, brilliant, as were
many of my pupils, I can truly say that in me they never saw any
other bearing than such as an austere, though just guardian,
might have observed towards them. If any doubt the accuracy of
this assertion, as inferring more conscientious self-denial or
Scipio-like self-control than they feel disposed to give me
credit for, let them take into consideration the following
circumstances, which, while detracting from my merit, justify my
Know, O incredulous reader! that a master stands in a somewhat
different relation towards a pretty, light-headed, probably
ignorant girl, to that occupied by a partner at a ball, or a
gallant on the promenade. A professor does not meet his pupil to
see her dressed in satin and muslin, with hair perfumed and
curled, neck scarcely shaded by aerial lace, round white arms
circled with bracelets, feet dressed for the gliding dance. It
is not his business to whirl her through the waltz, to feed her
with compliments, to heighten her beauty by the flush of
gratified vanity. Neither does he encounter her on the
smooth-rolled, tree shaded Boulevard, in the green and sunny
park, whither she repairs clad in her becoming walking dress, her
scarf thrown with grace over her shoulders, her little bonnet
scarcely screening her curls, the red rose under its brim adding
a new tint to the softer rose on her cheek; her face and eyes,
too, illumined with smiles, perhaps as transient as the sunshine
of the gala-day, but also quite as brilliant; it is not his
office to walk by her side, to listen to her lively chat, to
carry her parasol, scarcely larger than a broad green leaf, to
lead in a ribbon her Blenheim spaniel or Italian greyhound. No:
he finds her in the schoolroom, plainly dressed, with books
before her. Owing to her education or her nature books are to
her a nuisance, and she opens them with aversion, yet her teacher
must instil into her mind the contents of these books; that mind
resists the admission of grave information, it recoils, it grows
restive, sullen tempers are shown, disfiguring frowns spoil the
symmetry of the face, sometimes coarse gestures banish grace from
the deportment, while muttered expressions, redolent of native
and ineradicable vulgarity, desecrate the sweetness of the voice.
Where the temperament is serene though the intellect be sluggish,
an unconquerable dullness opposes every effort to instruct.
Where there is cunning but not energy, dissimulation, falsehood,
a thousand schemes and tricks are put in play to evade the
necessity of application; in short, to the tutor, female youth,
female charms are like tapestry hangings, of which the wrong side
is continually turned towards him; and even when he sees the
smooth, neat external surface he so well knows what knots, long
stitches, and jagged ends are behind that he has scarce a
temptation to admire too fondly the seemly forms and bright
colours exposed to general view.
Our likings are regulated by our circumstances. The artist
prefers a hilly country because it is picturesque; the engineer a
flat one because it is convenient; the man of pleasure likes what
he calls "a fine woman"--she suits him; the fashionable young
gentleman admires the fashionable young lady--she is of his kind;
the toil-worn, fagged, probably irritable tutor, blind almost to
beauty, insensible to airs and graces, glories chiefly in certain
mental qualities: application, love of knowledge, natural
capacity, docility, truthfulness, gratefulness, are the charms
that attract his notice and win his regard. These he seeks, but
seldom meets; these, if by chance he finds, he would fain retain
for ever, and when separation deprives him of them he feels as if
some ruthless hand had snatched from him his only ewe-lamb. Such
being the case, and the ease it is, my readers will agree with me
that there was nothing either very meritorious or very marvellous
in the integrity and moderation of my conduct at Mdlle. Reuter's
pensionnat de demoiselles.
My first business this afternoon consisted in reading the list of
places for the month, determined by the relative correctness of
the compositions given the preceding day. The list was headed, as
usual, by the name of Sylvie, that plain, quiet little girl I
have described before as being at once the best and ugliest pupil
in the establishment; the second place had fallen to the lot of a
certain Leonie Ledru, a diminutive, sharp-featured, and
parchment-skinned creature of quick wits, frail conscience, and
indurated feelings; a lawyer-like thing, of whom I used to say
that, had she been a boy, she would have made a model of an
unprincipled, clever attorney. Then came Eulalie, the proud
beauty, the Juno of the school, whom six long years of drilling
in the simple grammar of the English language had compelled,
despite the stiff phlegm of her intellect, to acquire a
mechanical acquaintance with most of its rules. No smile, no
trace of pleasure or satisfaction appeared in Sylvie's nun-like
and passive face as she heard her name read first. I always felt
saddened by the sight of that poor girl's absolute quiescence on
all occasions, and it was my custom to look at her, to address
her, as seldom as possible; her extreme docility, her assiduous
perseverance, would have recommended her warmly to my good
opinion; her modesty, her intelligence, would have induced me to
feel most kindly--most affectionately towards her,
notwithstanding the almost ghastly plainness of her features, the
disproportion of her form, the corpse-like lack of animation in
her countenance, had I not been aware that every friendly word,
every kindly action, would be reported by her to her confessor,
and by him misinterpreted and poisoned. Once I laid my hand on
her head, in token of approbation; I thought Sylvie was going to
smile, her dim eye almost kindled; but, presently, she shrank
from me; I was a man and a heretic; she, poor child! a destined
nun and devoted Catholic: thus a four-fold wall of separation
divided her mind from mine. A pert smirk, and a hard glance of
triumph, was Leonie's method of testifying her gratification;
Eulalie looked sullen and envious--she had hoped to be first.
Hortense and Caroline exchanged a reckless grimace on hearing
their names read out somewhere near the bottom of the list; the
brand of mental inferiority was considered by them as no
disgrace, their hopes for the future being based solely on their
This affair arranged, the regular lesson followed. During a
brief interval, employed by the pupils in ruling their books, my
eye, ranging carelessly over the benches, observed, for the first
time, that the farthest seat in the farthest row--a seat usually
vacant--was again filled by the new scholar, the Mdlle. Henri so
ostentatiously recommended to me by the directress. To-day I had
on my spectacles; her appearance, therefore, was clear to me at
the first glance; I had not to puzzle over it. She looked young;
yet, had I been required to name her exact age, I should have
been somewhat nonplussed; the slightness of her figure might have
suited seventeen; a certain anxious and pre-occupied expression
of face seemed the indication of riper years. She was dressed,
like all the rest, in a dark stuff gown and a white collar; her
features were dissimilar to any there, not so rounded, more
defined, yet scarcely regular. The shape of her head too was
different, the superior part more developed, the base
considerably less. I felt assured, at first sight, that she was
not a Belgian; her complexion, her countenance, her lineaments,
her figure, were all distinct from theirs, and, evidently, the
type of another race--of a race less gifted with fullness of
flesh and plenitude of blood; less jocund, material, unthinking.
When I first cast my eyes on her, she sat looking fixedly down,
her chin resting on her hand, and she did not change her attitude
till I commenced the lesson. None of the Belgian girls would
have retained one position, and that a reflective one, for the
same length of time. Yet, having intimated that her appearance
was peculiar, as being unlike that of her Flemish companions, I
have little more to say respecting it; I can pronounce no
encomiums on her beauty, for she was not beautiful; nor offer
condolence on her plainness, for neither was she plain; a
careworn character of forehead, and a corresponding moulding of
the mouth, struck me with a sentiment resembling surprise, but
these traits would probably have passed unnoticed by any less
Now, reader, though I have spent more than a page in describing
Mdlle. Henri, I know well enough that I have left on your mind's
eye no distinct picture of her; I have not painted her
complexion, nor her eyes, nor her hair, nor even drawn the
outline of her shape. You cannot tell whether her nose was
aquiline or retrousse, whether her chin was long or short, her
face square or oval; nor could I the first day, and it is not my
intention to communicate to you at once a knowledge I myself
gained by little and little.
I gave a short exercise: which they all wrote down. I saw the
new pupil was puzzled at first with the novelty of the form and
language; once or twice she looked at me with a sort of painful
solicitude, as not comprehending: at all what I meant; then she
was not ready when the others were, she could not write her
phrases so fast as they did; I would not help her, I went on
relentless. She looked at me; her eye said most plainly, "I
cannot follow you." I disregarded the appeal, and, carelessly
leaning back in my chair, glancing from time to time with a
NONCHALANT air out of the window, I dictated a little faster. On
looking towards her again, I perceived her face clouded with
embarrassment, but she was still writing on most diligently; I
paused a few seconds; she employed the interval in hurriedly
re-perusing what she had written, and shame and discomfiture were
apparent in her countenance; she evidently found she had made
great nonsense of it. In ten minutes more the dictation was
complete, and, having allowed a brief space in which to correct
it, I took their books; it was with a reluctant hand Mdlle. Henri
gave up hers, but, having once yielded it to my possession, she
composed her anxious face, as if, for the present she had
resolved to dismiss regret, and had made up her mind to be
thought unprecedentedly stupid. Glancing over her exercise, I
found that several lines had been omitted, but what was written
contained very few faults; I instantly inscribed "Bon" at the
bottom of the page, and returned it to her; she smiled, at first
incredulously, then as if reassured, but did not lift her eyes;
she could look at me, it seemed, when perplexed and bewildered,
but not when gratified; I thought that scarcely fair.
SOME time elapsed before I again gave a lesson in the first
class; the holiday of Whitsuntide occupied three days, and on the
fourth it was the turn of the second division to receive my
instructions. As I made the transit of the CARRE, I observed, as
usual, the band of sewers surrounding Mdlle. Henri; there were
only about a dozen of them, but they made as much noise as might
have sufficed for fifty; they seemed very little under her
control; three or four at once assailed her with importunate
requirements; she looked harassed, she demanded silence, but in
vain. She saw me, and I read in her eye pain that a stranger
should witness the insubordination of her pupils; she seemed to
entreat order--her prayers were useless; then I remarked that she
compressed her lips and contracted her brow; and her countenance,
if I read it correctly, said--"I have done my best; I seem to
merit blame notwithstanding; blame me then who will." I passed
on; as I closed the school-room door, I heard her say, suddenly
and sharply, addressing one of the eldest and most turbulent of
"Amelie Mullenberg, ask me no question, and request of me no
assistance, for a week to come; during that space of time I will
neither speak to you nor help you."
The words were uttered with emphasis--nay, with vehemence--and a
comparative silence followed; whether the calm was permanent, I
know not; two doors now closed between me and the CARRE.
Next day was appropriated to the first class; on my arrival, I
found the directress seated, as usual, in a chair between the two
estrades, and before her was standing Mdlle. Henri, in an
attitude (as it seemed to me) of somewhat reluctant attention.
The directress was knitting and talking at the same time. Amidst
the hum of a large school-room, it was easy so to speak in the
ear of one person, as to be heard by that person alone, and it
was thus Mdlle. Reuter parleyed with her teacher. The face of
the latter was a little flushed, not a little troubled; there was
vexation in it, whence resulting I know not, for the directress
looked very placid indeed; she could not be scolding in such
gentle whispers, and with so equable a mien; no, it was presently
proved that her discourse had been of the most friendly tendency,
for I heard the closing words--
"C'est assez, ma bonne amie; a present je ne veux pas vous
Without reply, Mdlle. Henri turned away; dissatifaction was
plainly evinced in her face, and a smile, slight and brief, but
bitter, distrustful, and, I thought, scornful, curled her lip as
she took her place in the class; it was a secret, involuntary
smile, which lasted but a second; an air of depression succeeded,
chased away presently by one of attention and interest, when I
gave the word for all the pupils to take their reading-books. In
general I hated the reading-lesson, it was such a torture to the
ear to listen to their uncouth mouthing of my native tongue, and
no effort of example or precept on my part ever seemed to effect
the slightest improvement in their accent. To-day, each in her
appropriate key, lisped, stuttered, mumbled, and jabbered as
usual; about fifteen had racked me in turn, and my auricular
nerve was expecting with resignation the discords of the
sixteenth, when a full, though low voice, read out, in clear
"On his way to Perth, the king was met by a Highland woman,
calling herself a prophetess; she stood at the side of the ferry
by which he was about to travel to the north, and cried with a
loud voice, 'My lord the king, if you pass this water you will
never return again alive!'"--(VIDE the HISTORY OF SCOTLAND).
I looked up in amazement; the voice was a voice of Albion; the
accent was pure and silvery ; it only wanted firmness, and
assurance, to be the counterpart of what any well-educated lady
in Essex or Middlesex might have enounced, yet the speaker or
reader was no other than Mdlle. Henri, in whose grave, joyless
face I saw no mark of consciousness that she had performed any
extraordinary feat. No one else evinced surprise either. Mdlle.
Reuter knitted away assiduously; I was aware, however, that at
the conclusion of the paragraph, she had lifted her eyelid and
honoured me with a glance sideways; she did not know the full
excellency of the teacher's style of reading, but she perceived
that her accent was not that of the others, and wanted to
discover what I thought; I masked my visage with indifference,
and ordered the next girl to proceed.
When the lesson was over, I took advantage of the confusion
caused by breaking up, to approach Mdlle. Henri; she was standing
near the window and retired as I advanced; she thought I wanted
to look out, and did not imagine that I could have anything to
say to her. I took her exercise-book; out of her hand; as I
turned over the leaves I addressed her:--
"You have had lessons in English before?" I asked.
"No! you read it well; you have been in England?"
"Oh, no!" with some animation.
"You have been in English families?"
Still the answer was "No." Here my eye, resting on the flyleaf of
the book, saw written, "Frances Evan Henri."
"Your name?" I asked
My interrogations were cut short; I heard a little rustling
behind me, and close at my back was the directress, professing to
be examining the interior of a desk.
"Mademoiselle," said she, looking up and addressing the teacher,
"Will you have the goodness to go and stand in the corridor,
while the young ladies are putting on their things, and try to
keep some order?"
Mdlle. Henri obeyed.
"What splendid weather!" observed the directress cheerfully,
glancing at the same time from the window. I assented and was
withdrawing. "What of your new pupil, monsieur?" continued she,
following my retreating steps. "Is she likely to make progress
"Indeed I can hardly judge. She possesses a pretty good accent;
of her real knowledge of the language I have as yet had no
opportunity of forming an opinion."
"And her natural capacity, monsieur? I have had my fears about
that: can you relieve me by an assurance at least of its average
"I see no reason to doubt its average power, mademoiselle, but
really I scarcely know her, and have not had time to study the
calibre of her capacity. I wish you a very good afternoon."
She still pursued me. "You will observe, monsieur, and tell me
what you think; I could so much better rely on your opinion than
on my own; women cannot judge of these things as men can, and,
excuse my pertinacity, monsieur, but it is natural I should feel
interested about this poor little girl (pauvre petite); she has
scarcely any relations, her own efforts are all she has to look
to, her acquirements must be her sole fortune; her present
position has once been mine, or nearly so; it is then but natural
I should sympathize with her; and sometimes when I see the
difficulty she has in managing pupils, I reel quite chagrined. I
doubt not she does her best, her intentions are excellent; but,
monsieur, she wants tact and firmness. I have talked to her on
the subject, but I am not fluent, and probably did not express
myself with clearness; she never appears to comprehend me. Now,
would you occasionally, when you see an opportunity, slip in a
word of advice to her on the subject; men have so much more
influence than women have--they argue so much more logically than
we do; and you, monsieur, in particular, have so paramount a
power of making yourself obeyed; a word of advice from you could
not but do her good; even if she were sullen and headstrong
(which I hope she is not), she would scarcely refuse to listen to
you; for my own part, I can truly say that I never attend one of
your lessons without deriving benefit from witnessing your
management of the pupils. The other masters are a constant
source of anxiety to me; they cannot impress the young ladies
with sentiments of respect, nor restrain the levity natural to
youth: in you, monsieur, I feel the most absolute confidence;
try then to put this poor child into the way of controlling our
giddy, high-spirited Brabantoises. But, monsieur, I would add
one word more; don't alarm her AMOUR PROPRE; beware of inflicting
a wound there. I reluctantly admit that in that particular she
is blameably--some would say ridiculously--susceptible. I fear I
have touched this sore point inadvertently, and she cannot get
During the greater part of this harangue my hand was on the lock
of the outer door; I now turned it.
"Au revoir, mademoiselle," said I, and I escaped. I saw the
directress's stock of words was yet far from exhausted. She
looked after me, she would fain have detained me longer. Her
manner towards me had been altered ever since I had begun to
treat her with hardness and indifference: she almost cringed to
me on every occasion; she consulted my countenance incessantly,
and beset me with innumerable little officious attentions.
Servility creates despotism. This slavish homage, instead of
softening my heart, only pampered whatever was stern and exacting
in its mood. The very circumstance of her hovering round me like
a fascinated bird, seemed to transform me into a rigid pillar of
stone; her flatteries irritated my scorn, her blandishments
confirmed my reserve. At times I wondered what she meant by
giving herself such trouble to win me, when the more profitable
Pelet was already in her nets, and when, too, she was aware that
I possessed her secret, for I had not scrupled to tell her as
much: but the fact is that as it was her nature to doubt the
reality and under-value the worth of modesty, affection,
disinterestedness--to regard these qualities as foibles of
character--so it was equally her tendency to consider pride,
hardness, selfishness, as proofs of strength. She would trample
on the neck of humility, she would kneel at the feet of disdain;
she would meet tenderness with secret contempt, indifference she
would woo with ceaseless assiduities. Benevolence, devotedness,
enthusiasm, were her antipathies; for dissimulation and
self-interest she had a preference--they were real wisdom in her
eyes; moral and physical degradation, mental and bodily
inferiority, she regarded with indulgence; they were foils
capable of being turned to good account as set-offs for her own
endowments. To violence, injustice, tyranny, she succumbed--they
were her natural masters; she had no propensity to hate, no
impulse to resist them; the indignation their behests awake in
some hearts was unknown in hers. From all this it resulted that
the false and selfish called her wise, the vulgar and debased
termed her charitable, the insolent and unjust dubbed her
amiable, the conscientious and benevolent generally at first
accepted as valid her claim to be considered one of themselves;
but ere long the plating of pretension wore off, the real
material appeared below, and they laid her aside as a deception.
In the course of another fortnight I had seen sufficient of
Frances Evans Henri, to enable me to form a more definite opinion
of her character. I found her possessed in a somewhat remarkable
degree of at least two good points, viz., perseverance and a
sense of duty; I found she was really capable of applying to
study, of contending with difficulties. At first I offered her
the same help which I had always found it necessary to confer on
the others; I began with unloosing for her each knotty point, but
I soon discovered that such help was regarded by my new pupil as
degrading; she recoiled from it with a certain proud impatience.
Hereupon I appointed her long lessons, and left her to solve
alone any perplexities they might present. She set to the task
with serious ardour, and having quickly accomplished one labour,
eagerly demanded more. So much for her perseverance; as to her
sense of duty, it evinced itself thus: she liked to learn, but
hated to teach; her progress as a pupil depended upon herself,
and I saw that on herself she could calculate with certainty; her
success as a teacher rested partly, perhaps chiefly, upon the
will of others; it cost her a most painful effort to enter into
conflict with this foreign will, to endeavour to bend it into
subjection to her own; for in what regarded people in general the
action of her will was impeded by many scruples; it was as
unembarrassed as strong where her own affairs were concerned, and
to it she could at any time subject her inclination, if that
inclination went counter to her convictions of right; yet when
called upon to wrestle with the propensities, the habits, the
faults of others, of children especially, who are deaf to reason,
and, for the most part, insensate to persuasion, her will
sometimes almost refused to act; then came in the sense of duty,
and forced the reluctant will into operation. A wasteful expense
of energy and labour was frequently the consequence; Frances
toiled for and with her pupils like a drudge, but it was long ere
her conscientious exertions were rewarded by anything like
docility on their part, because they saw that they had power over
her, inasmuch as by resisting her painful attempts to convince,
persuade, control--by forcing her to the employment of coercive
measures--they could inflict upon her exquisite suffering.
Human beings--human children especially--seldom deny themselves
the pleasure of exercising a power which they are conscious of
possessing, even though that power consist only in a capacity to
make others wretched; a pupil whose sensations are duller than
those of his instructor, while his nerves are tougher and his
bodily strength perhaps greater, has an immense advantage over
that instructor, and he will generally use it relentlessly,
because the very young, very healthy, very thoughtless, know
neither how to sympathize nor how to spare. Frances, I fear,
suffered much; a continual weight seemed to oppress her spirits;
I have said she did not live in the house, and whether in her own
abode, wherever that might be, she wore the same preoccupied,
unsmiling, sorrowfully resolved air that always shaded her
features under the roof of Mdlle. Reuter, I could not tell.
One day I gave, as a devoir, the trite little anecdote of Alfred
tending cakes in the herdsman's hut, to be related with
amplifications. A singular affair most of the pupils made of it;
brevity was what they had chiefly studied; the majority of the
narratives were perfectly unintelligible; those of Sylvie and
Leonie Ledru alone pretended to anything like sense and
connection. Eulalie, indeed, had hit, upon a clever expedient
for at once ensuring accuracy and saving trouble; she had
obtained access somehow to an abridged history of England, and
had copied the anecdote out fair. I wrote on the margin of her
production "Stupid and deceitful," and then tore it down the
Last in the pile of single-leaved devoirs, I found one of several
sheets, neatly written out and stitched together; I knew the
hand, and scarcely needed the evidence of the signature "Frances
Evans Henri" to confirm my conjecture as to the writer's
Night was my usual time for correcting devoirs, and my own room
the usual scene of such task--task most onerous hitherto; and it
seemed strange to me to feel rising within me an incipient sense
of interest, as I snuffed the candle and addressed myself to the
perusal of the poor teacher's manuscript.
"Now," thought I, "I shall see a glimpse of what she really is; I
shall get an idea of the nature and extent of her powers; not
that she can be expected to express herself well in a foreign
tongue, but still, if she has any mind, here will be a reflection
The narrative commenced by a description of a Saxon peasant's
hut, situated within the confines of a great, leafless, winter
forest; it represented an evening in December; flakes of snow
were falling, and the herdsman foretold a heavy storm; he
summoned his wife to aid him in collecting their flock, roaming
far away on the pastoral banks of the Thone; he warns her that it
will be late ere they return. The good woman is reluctant to
quit her occupation of baking cakes for the evening meal; but
acknowledging the primary importance of securing the herds and
flocks, she puts on her sheep-skin mantle; and, addressing a
stranger who rests half reclined on a bed of rushes near the
hearth, bids him mind the bread till her return.
"Take care, young man," she continues, "that you fasten the door
well after us; and, above all, open to none in our absence;
whatever sound you hear, stir not, and look not out. The night
will soon fall; this forest is most wild and lonely; strange
noises are often heard therein after sunset; wolves haunt these
glades, and Danish warriors infest the country; worse things are
talked of; you might chance to hear, as it were, a child cry, and
on opening the door to afford it succour, a greet black bull, or
a shadowy goblin dog, might rush over the threshold; or, more
awful still, if something flapped, as with wings, against the
lattice, and then a raven or a white dove flew in and settled on
the hearth, such a visitor would be a sure sign of misfortune to
the house; therefore, heed my advice, and lift the latchet for
Her husband calls her away, both depart. The stranger, left
alone, listens awhile to the muffled snow-wind, the remote,
swollen sound of the river, and then he speaks.
"It is Christmas Eve," says he, "I mark the date; here I sit
alone on a rude couch of rushes, sheltered by the thatch of a
herdsman's hut; I, whose inheritance was a kingdom, owe my
night's harbourage to a poor serf; my throne is usurped, my crown
presses the brow of an invader; I have no friends; my troops
wander broken in the hills of Wales; reckless robbers spoil my
country; my subjects lie prostrate, their breasts crushed by the
heel of the brutal Dane. Fate! thou hast done thy worst, and now
thou standest before me resting thy hand on thy blunted blade.
Ay; I see thine eye confront mine and demand why I still live,
why I still hope. Pagan demon, I credit not thine omnipotence,
and so cannot succumb to thy power. My God, whose Son, as on
this night, took on Him the form of man, and for man vouchsafed
to suffer and bleed, controls thy hand, and without His behest
thou canst not strike a stroke. My God is sinless, eternal,
all-wise--in Him is my trust; and though stripped and crushed by
thee--though naked, desolate, void of resource--I do not
despair, I cannot despair: were the lance of Guthrum now wet
with my blood, I should not despair. I watch, I toil, I hope, I
pray; Jehovah, in his own time, will aid."
I need not continue the quotation; the whole devoir was in the
same strain. There were errors of orthography, there were
foreign idioms, there were some faults of construction, there
were verbs irregular transformed into verbs regular; it was
mostly made up, as the above example shows, of short and somewhat
rude sentences, and the style stood in great need of polish and
sustained dignity; yet such as it was, I had hitherto seen
nothing like it in the course of my professorial experience. The
girl's mind had conceived a picture of the hut, of the two
peasants, of the crownless king; she had imagined the wintry
forest, she had recalled the old Saxon ghost-legends, she had
appreciated Alfred's courage under calamity, she had remembered
his Christian education, and had shown him, with the rooted
confidence of those primitive days, relying on the scriptural
Jehovah for aid against the mythological Destiny. This she had
done without a hint from me: I had given the subject, but not
said a word about the manner of treating it.
"I will find, or make, an opportunity of speaking to her," I said
to myself as I rolled the devoir up; "I will learn what she has
of English in her besides the name of Frances Evans; she is no
novice in the language, that is evident, yet she told me she had
neither been in England, nor taken lessons in English, nor lived
in English families."
In the course of my next lesson, I made a report of the other
devoirs, dealing out praise and blame in very small retail
parcels, according to my custom, for there was no use in blaming
severely, and high encomiums were rarely merited. I said nothing
of Mdlle. Henri's exercise, and, spectacles on nose, I
endeavoured to decipher in her countenance her sentiments at the
omission. I wanted to find out whether in her existed a
consciousness of her own talents. "If she thinks she did a
clever thing in composing that devoir, she will now look
mortified," thought I. Grave as usual, almost sombre, was her
face; as usual, her eyes were fastened on the cahier open before
her; there was something, I thought, of expectation in her
attitude, as I concluded a brief review of the last devoir, and
when, casting it from me and rubbing my hands, I bade them take
their grammars, some slight change did pass over her air and
mien, as though she now relinquished a faint prospect of pleasant
excitement; she had been waiting for something to be discussed in
which she had a degree of interest; the discussion was not to
come on, so expectation sank back, shrunk and sad, but attention,
promptly filling up the void, repaired in a moment the transient
collapse of feature; still, I felt, rather than saw, during the
whole course of the lesson, that a hope had been wrenched from
her, and that if she did not show distress, it was because she
At four o'clock, when the bell rang and the room was in immediate
tumult, instead of taking my hat and starting from the estrade, I
sat still a moment. I looked at Frances, she was putting her
books into her cabas; having fastened the button, she raised her
head; encountering my eye, she made a quiet, respectful
obeisance, as bidding good afternoon, and was turning to
"Come here," said I, lifting my finger at the same time. She
hesitated; she could not hear the words amidst the uproar now
pervading both school-rooms; I repeated the sign; she approached;
again she paused within half a yard of the estrade, and looked
shy, and still doubtful whether she had mistaken my meaning.
"Step up," I said, speaking with decision. It is the only way of
dealing with diffident, easily embarrassed characters, and with
some slight manual aid I presently got her placed just where
wanted her to be, that is, between my desk and the window, where
she was screened from the rush of the second division, and where
no one could sneak behind her to listen.
"Take a seat," I said, placing a tabouret; and I made her sit
down. I knew what I was doing would be considered a very strange
thing, and, what was more, I did not care. Frances knew it also,
and, I fear, by an appearance of agitation and trembling, that
she cared much. I drew from my pocket the rolled-up devoir.
"This it, yours, I suppose?" said I, addressing her in English,
for I now felt sure she could speak English.
"Yes," she answered distinctly; and as I unrolled it and laid it
out flat on the desk before her with my hand upon it, and a
pencil in that hand, I saw her moved, and, as it were, kindled;
her depression beamed as a cloud might behind which the sun is
"This devoir has numerous faults," said I. "It will take you
some years of careful study before you are in a condition to
write English with absolute correctness. Attend: I will point
out some principal defects." And I went through it carefully,
noting every error, and demonstrating why they were errors, and
how the words or phrases ought to have been written. In the
course of this sobering process she became calm. I now went on:-
"As to the substance of your devoir, Mdlle. Henri, it has
surprised me; I perused it with pleasure, because I saw in it
some proofs of taste and fancy. Taste and fancy are not the
highest gifts of the human mind, but such as they are you possess
them--not probably in a paramount degree, but in a degree beyond
what the majority can boast. You may then take courage;
cultivate the faculties that God and nature have bestowed on you,
and do not fear in any crisis of suffering, under any pressure of
injustice, to derive free and full consolation from the
consciousness of their strength and rarity."
"Strength and rarity!" I repeated to myself; "ay, the words are
probably true," for on looking up, I saw the sun had dissevered
its screening cloud, her countenance was transfigured, a smile
shone in her eyes--a smile almost triumphant; it seemed to say--
"I am glad you have been forced to discover so much of my nature;
you need not so carefully moderate your language. Do you think I
am myself a stranger to myself? What you tell me in terms so
qualified, I have known fully from a child."
She did say this as plainly as a frank and flashing glance could,
but in a moment the glow of her complexion, the radiance of her
aspect, had subsided; if strongly conscious of her talents, she
was equally conscious of her harassing defects, and the
remembrance of these obliterated for a single second, now
reviving with sudden force, at once subdued the too vivid
characters in which her sense of her powers had been expressed.
So quick was the revulsion of feeling, I had not time to cheek
her triumph by reproof; ere I could contract my brows to a frown
she had become serious and almost mournful-looking.
"Thank you, sir," said she, rising. There was gratitude both in
her voice and in the look with which she accompanied it. It was
time, indeed, for our conference to terminate; for, when I
glanced around, behold all the boarders (the day-scholars had
departed) were congregated within a yard or two of my desk, and
stood staring with eyes and mouths wide open; the three
maitresses formed a whispering knot in one corner, and, close at
my elbow, was the directress, sitting on a low chair, calmly
clipping the tassels of her finished purse.
AFTER all I had profited but imperfectly by the opportunity I had
so boldly achieved of speaking to Mdlle. Henri; it was my
intention to ask her how she came to be possessed of two English
baptismal names, Frances and Evans, in addition to her French
surname, also whence she derived her good accent. I had
forgotten both points, or, rather, our colloquy had been so brief
that I had not had time to bring them forward; moreover, I had
not half tested her powers of speaking English; all I had drawn
from her in that language were the words "Yes," and "Thank you,
sir." "No matter," I reflected. "What has been left incomplete
now, shall be finished another day." Nor did I fail to keep the
promise thus made to myself. It was difficult to get even a few
words of particular conversation with one pupil among so many;
but, according to the old proverb, "Where there is a will, there
is a way;" and again and again I managed to find an opportunity
for exchanging a few words with Mdlle. Henri, regardless that
envy stared and detraction whispered whenever I approached her.
"Your book an instant." Such was the mode in which I often began
these brief dialogues; the time was always just at the conclusion
of the lesson; and motioning to her to rise, I installed myself
in her place, allowing her to stand deferentially at my side; for
I esteemed it wise and right in her case to enforce strictly all
forms ordinarily in use between master and pupil; the rather
because I perceived that in proportion as my manner grew austere
and magisterial, hers became easy and self-possessed--an odd
contradiction, doubtless, to the ordinary effect in such cases;
but so it was.
"A pencil," said I, holding out my hand without looking at her.
(I am now about to sketch a brief report of the first of these
conferences.) She gave me one, and while I underlined some errors
in a grammatical exercise she had written, I observed--
"You are not a native of Belgium?"
"Nor of France?"
"Where, then, is your birthplace?"
"I was born at Geneva."
"You don't call Frances and Evans Swiss names, I presume?"
"No, sir; they are English names."
"Just so; and is it the custom of the Genevese to give their
children English appellatives?"
"Non, Monsieur; mais--"
"Speak English, if you please."
"But" (slowly and with embarrassment) "my parents were not all
the two Genevese."
"Say BOTH, instead of 'all the two,' mademoiselle."
"Not BOTH Swiss: my mother was English."
"Ah! and of English extraction?"
"Yes--her ancestors were all English."
"And your father?"
"He was Swiss."
"What besides? What was his profession?"
"Ecclesiastic--pastor--he had a church."
"Since your mother is an Englishwoman, why do you not speak
English with more facility?"
"Maman est morte, il y a dix ans."
"And you do homage to her memory by forgetting her language.
Have the goodness to put French out of your mind so long as I
converse with you--keep to English."
"C'est si difficile, monsieur, quand on n'en a plus l'habitude."
"You had the habitude formerly, I suppose? Now answer me in your
"Yes, sir, I spoke the English more than the French when I was a
"Why do you not speak it now?"
"Because I have no English friends."
"You live with your father, I suppose?"
"My father is dead."
"You have brothers and sisters?"
"Do you live alone?"
"No--I have an aunt--ma tante Julienne."
"Your father's sister?"
"Is that English?"
"No--but I forget--"
"For which, mademoiselle, if you were a child I should certainly
devise some slight punishment; at your age--you must be two or
three and twenty, I should think?"
"Pas encore, monsieur--en un mois j'aurai dix-neuf ans."
"Well, nineteen is a mature age, and, having attained it, you
ought to be so solicitous for your own improvement, that it
should not be needful for a master to remind you twice of the
expediency of your speaking English whenever practicable."
To this wise speech I received no answer; and, when I looked up,
my pupil was smiling to herself a much-meaning, though not very
gay smile; it seemed to say, "He talks of he knows not what:" it
said this so plainly, that I determined to request information on
the point concerning which my ignorance seemed to be thus tacitly
"Are you solicitous for your own improvement?"
"How do you prove it, mademoiselle?"
An odd question, and bluntly put; it excited a second smile.
"Why, monsieur, I am not inattentive--am I? I learn my lessons
"Oh, a child can do that! and what more do you do?"
"What more can I do?"
"Oh, certainly, not much; but you are a teacher, are you not, as
well as a pupil?"
"You teach lace-mending?"
"A dull, stupid occupation; do you like it?"
"No--it is tedious."
"Why do you pursue it? Why do you not rather teach history,
geography, grammar, even arithmetic?"
"Is monsieur certain that I am myself thoroughly acquainted with
"I don't know; you ought to be at your age."
"But I never was at school, monsieur--"
"Indeed! What then were your friends--what was your aunt about?
She is very much to blame."
"No monsieur, no--my aunt is good--she is not to blame--she does
what she can; she lodges and nourishes me" (I report Mdlle.
Henri's phrases literally, and it was thus she translated from
the French). "She is not rich; she has only an annuity of twelve
hundred francs, and it would be impossible for her to send me to
"Rather," thought I to myself on hearing this, but I continued,
in the dogmatical tone I had adopted:--
"It is sad, however, that you should be brought up in ignorance
of the most ordinary branches of education; had you known
something of history and grammar you might, by degrees, have
relinquished your lace-mending drudgery, and risen in the world."
"It is what I mean to do."
"How? By a knowledge of English alone? That will not suffice;
no respectable family will receive a governess whose whole stock
of knowledge consists in a familiarity with one foreign
"Monsieur, I know other things."
"Yes, yes, you can work with Berlin wools, and embroider
handkerchiefs and collars--that will do little for you."
Mdlle. Henri's lips were unclosed to answer, but she checked
herself, as thinking the discussion had been sufficiently
pursued, and remained silent.
"Speak," I continued, impatiently; "I never like the appearance
of acquiescence when the reality is not there; and you had a
contradiction at your tongue's end."
"Monsieur, I have had many lessons both in grammar, history,
geography, and arithmetic. I have gone through a course of each
"Bravo! but how did you manage it, since your aunt could not
afford lo send you to school?"
"By lace-mending; by the thing monsieur despises so much."
"Truly! And now, mademoiselle, it will be a good exercise for
you to explain to me in English how such a result was produced by
"Monsieur, I begged my aunt to have me taught lace-mending soon
after we came to Brussels, because I knew it was a METIER, a
trade which was easily learnt, and by which I could earn some
money very soon. I learnt it in a few days, and I quickly got
work, for all the Brussels ladies have old lace--very precious
--which must be mended all the times it is washed. I earned
money a little, and this money I grave for lessons in the studies
I have mentioned; some of it I spent in buying books, English
books especially; soon I shall try to find a place of governess,
or school-teacher, when I can write and speak English well; but
it will be difficult, because those who know I have been a
lace-mender will despise me, as the pupils here despise me.
Pourtant j'ai mon projet," she added in a lower tone.
"What is it?"
"I will go and live in England; I will teach French there."
The words were pronounced emphatically. She said "England" as
you might suppose an Israelite of Moses' days would have said
"Have you a wish to see England?"
"Yes, and an intention."
And here a voice, the voice of the directress, interposed:-
"Mademoiselle Henri, je crois qu'il va pleuvoir; vous feriez
bien, ma bonne amie, de retourner chez vous tout de suite."
In silence, without a word of thanks for this officious warning,
Mdlle. Henri collected her books; she moved to me respectfully,
endeavoured to move to her superior, though the endeavour was
almost a failure, for her head seemed as if it would not bend,
and thus departed.
Where there is one grain of perseverance or wilfulness in the
composition, trifling obstacles are ever known rather to
stimulate than discourage. Mdlle. Reuter might as well have
spared herself the trouble of giving that intimation about the
weather (by-the-by her prediction was falsified by the event--it
did not rain that evening). At the close of the next lesson I
was again at Mdlle. Henri's desk. Thus did I accost her:--
"What is your idea of England, mademoiselle? Why do you wish to
Accustomed by this time to the calculated abruptness of my
manner, it no longer discomposed or surprised her, and she
answered with only so much of hesitation as was rendered
inevitable by the difficulty she experienced in improvising the
translation of her thoughts from French to English.
"England is something unique, as I have heard and read; my idea
of it is vague, and I want to go there to render my idea clear,
"Hum! How much of England do you suppose you could see if you
went there in the capacity of a teacher? A strange notion you
must have of getting a clear and definite idea of a country!
All you could see of Great Britain would be the interior of a
school, or at most of one or two private dwellings."
"It would be an English school; they would be English dwellings."
"Indisputably; but what then? What would be the value of
observations made on a scale so narrow?"
"Monsieur, might not one learn something by analogy?
An-echantillon--a--a sample often serves to give an idea of the
whole; besides, narrow and wide are words comparative, are they
not? All my life would perhaps seem narrow in your eyes--all the
life of a--that little animal subterranean--une taupe--comment
"Yes--a mole, which lives underground would seem narrow even to
"Well, mademoiselle--what then? Proceed."
"Mais, monsieur, vous me comprenez."
"Not in the least; have the goodness to explain."
"Why, monsieur, it is just so. In Switzerland I have done but
little, learnt but little, and seen but little; my life there was
in a circle; I walked the same round every day; I could not get
out of it; had I rested--remained there even till my death, I
should never have enlarged it, because I am poor and not skilful,
I have not great acquirements; when I was quite tired of this
round, I begged my aunt to go to Brussels; my existence is no
larger here, because I am no richer or higher; I walk in as
narrow a limit, but the scene is changed; it would change again
if I went to England. I knew something of the bourgeois of
Geneva, now I know something of the bourgeois of Brussels; if I
went to London, I would know something of the bourgeois of
London. Can you make any sense out of what I say, monsieur, or
is it all obscure?"
"I see, I see--now let us advert to another subject; you propose
to devote your life to teaching, and you are a most unsuccessful
teacher; you cannot keep your pupils in order."
A flush of painful confusion was the result of this harsh remark;
she bent her head to the desk, but soon raising it replied--
"Monsieur, I am not a skilful teacher, it is true, but practice
improves; besides, I work under difficulties; here I only teach
sewing, I can show no power in sewing, no superiority--it is a
subordinate art; then I have no associates in this house, I am
isolated; I am too a heretic, which deprives me of influence."
"And in England you would be a foreigner; that too would deprive
you of influence, and would effectually separate you from all
round you; in England you would have as few connections, as
little importance as you have here."
"But I should be learning something; for the rest, there are
probably difficulties for such as I everywhere, and if I must
contend, and perhaps: be conquered, I would rather submit to
English pride than to Flemish coarseness; besides, monsieur--"
She stopped--not evidently from any difficulty in finding words
to express herself, but because discretion seemed to say, "You
have said enough."
"Finish your phrase," I urged.
"Besides, monsieur, I long to live once more among Protestants;
they are more honest than Catholics; a Romish school is a
building with porous walls, a hollow floor, a false ceiling;
every room in this house, monsieur, has eyeholes and ear-holes,
and what the house is, the inhabitants are, very treacherous;
they all think it lawful to tell lies; they all call it
politeness to profess friendship where they feel hatred."
"All?" said I; "you mean the pupils--the mere children
--inexperienced, giddy things, who have not learnt to distinguish
the difference between right and wrong?"
"On the contrary, monsieur--the children are the most sincere;
they have not yet had time to become accomplished in duplicity;
they will tell lies, but they do it inartificially, and you know
they are lying; but the grown-up people are very false; they
deceive strangers, they deceive each other--"
A servant here entered:--
"Mdlle. Henri--Mdlle. Reuter vous prie de vouloir bien conduire
la petite de Dorlodot chez elle, elle vous attend dans le cabinet
de Rosalie la portiere--c'est que sa bonne n'est pas venue la
"Eh bien! est-ce que je suis sa bonne--moi?" demanded Mdlle.
Henri; then smiling, with that same bitter, derisive smile I had
seen on her lips once before, she hastily rose and made her exit.
THE young Anglo-Swiss evidently derived both pleasure and profit
from the study of her mother-tongue. In teaching her I did not,
of course, confine myself to the ordinary school routine; I made
instruction in English a channel for instruction in literature.
I prescribed to her a course of reading; she had a little
selection of English classics, a few of which had been left her
by her mother, and the others she had purchased with her own
penny-fee. I lent her some more modern works; all these she read
with avidity, giving me, in writing, a clear summary of each work
when she had perused it. Composition, too, she delighted in.
Such occupation seemed the very breath of her nostrils, and soon
her improved productions wrung from me the avowal that those
qualities in her I had termed taste and fancy ought rather to
have been denominated judgment and imagination. When I intimated
so much, which I did as usual in dry and stinted phrase, I looked
for the radiant and exulting smile my one word of eulogy had
elicited before; but Frances coloured. If she did smile, it was
very softly and shyly; and instead of looking up to me with a
conquering glance, her eyes rested on my hand, which, stretched
over her shoulder, was writing some directions with a pencil on
the margin of her book.
"Well, are you pleased that I am satisfied with your progress?" I
"Yes," said she slowly, gently, the blush that had half subsided
"But I do not say enough, I suppose?" I continued. "My praises
are too cool?"
She made no answer, and, I thought, looked a little sad. I
divined her thoughts, and should much have liked to have
responded to them, had it been expedient so to do. She was not
now very ambitious of my admiration--not eagerly desirous of
dazzling me; a little affection--ever so little--pleased her
better than all the panegyrics in the world. Feeling this, I
stood a good while behind her, writing on the margin of her book.
I could hardly quit my station or relinquish my occupation;
something retained me bending there, my head very near hers, and
my hand near hers too; but the margin of a copy-book is not an
illimitable space--so, doubtless, the directress thought; and she
took occasion to walk past in order to ascertain by what art I
prolonged so disproportionately the period necessary for filling
it. I was obliged to go. Distasteful effort--to leave what we
Frances did not become pale or feeble in consequence of her
sedentary employment; perhaps the stimulus it communicated to her
mind counterbalanced the inaction it imposed on her body. She
changed, indeed, changed obviously and rapidly; but it was for
the better. When I first saw her, her countenance was sunless,
her complexion colourless; she looked like one who had no source
of enjoyment, no store of bliss anywhere in the world; now the
cloud had passed from her mien, leaving space for the dawn of
hope and interest, and those feelings rose like a clear morning,
animating what had been depressed, tinting what had been pale.
Her eyes, whose colour I had not at first known, so dim were they
with repressed tears, so shadowed with ceaseless dejection, now,
lit by a ray of the sunshine that cheered her heart, revealed
irids of bright hazel--irids large and full, screened with long
lashes; and pupils instinct with fire. That look of wan
emaciation which anxiety or low spirits often communicates to a
thoughtful, thin face, rather long than round, having vanished
from hers; a clearness of skin almost bloom, and a plumpness
almost embonpoint, softened the decided lines of her features.
Her figure shared in this beneficial change; it became rounder,
and as the harmony of her form was complete and her stature of
the graceful middle height, one did not regret (or at least I did
not regret) the absence of confirmed fulness, in contours, still
slight, though compact, elegant, flexible--the exquisite turning
of waist, wrist, hand, foot, and ankle satisfied completely my
notions of symmetry, and allowed a lightness and freedom of
movement which corresponded with my ideas of grace.
Thus improved, thus wakened to life, Mdlle. Henri began to take a
new footing in the school; her mental power, manifested gradually
but steadily, ere long extorted recognition even from the
envious; and when the young and healthy saw that she could smile
brightly, converse gaily, move with vivacity and alertness, they
acknowledged in her a sisterhood of youth and health, and
tolerated her as of their kind accordingly.
To speak truth, I watched this change much as a gardener watches
the growth of a precious plant, and I contributed to it too, even
as the said gardener contributes to the development of his
favourite. To me it was not difficult to discover how I could
best foster my pupil, cherish her starved feelings, and induce
the outward manifestation of that inward vigour which sunless
drought and blighting blast had hitherto forbidden to expand.
Constancy of attention--a kindness as mute as watchful, always
standing by her, cloaked in the rough garb of austerity, and
making its real nature known only by a rare glance of interest,
or a cordial and gentle word; real respect masked with seeming
imperiousness, directing, urging her actions, yet helping her
too, and that with devoted care: these were the means I used,
for these means best suited Frances' feelings, as susceptible as
deep vibrating--her nature at once proud and shy.
The benefits of my system became apparent also in her altered
demeanour as a teacher; she now took her place amongst her pupils
with an air of spirit and firmness which assured them at once
that she meant to be obeyed--and obeyed she was. They felt they
had lost their power over her. If any girl had rebelled, she
would no longer have taken her rebellion to heart; she possessed
a source of comfort they could not drain, a pillar of support
they could not overthrow: formerly, when insulted, she wept;
now, she smiled.
The public reading of one of her devoirs achieved the revelation
of her talents to all and sundry; I remember the subject--it was
an emigrant's letter to his friends at home. It opened with
simplicity; some natural and graphic touches disclosed to the
reader the scene of virgin forest and great, New-World river
--barren of sail and flag--amidst which the epistle was supposed
to be indited. The difficulties and dangers that attend a
settler's life, were hinted at; and in the few words said on that
subject, Mdlle. Henri failed not to render audible the voice of
resolve, patience, endeavour. The disasters which had driven him
from his native country were alluded to; stainless honour,
inflexible independence, indestructible self-respect there took
the word. Past days were spoken of; the grief of parting, the
regrets of absence, were touched upon; feeling, forcible and
fine, breathed eloquent in every period. At the close,
consolation was suggested; religious faith became there the
speaker, and she spoke well.
The devoir was powerfully written in language at once chaste and
choice, in a style nerved with vigour and graced with harmony.
Mdlle. Reuter was quite sufficiently acquainted with English to
understand it when read or spoken in her presence, though she
could neither speak nor write it herself. During the perusal of
this devoir, she sat placidly busy, her eyes and fingers occupied
with the formation of a "riviere" or open-work hem round a
cambric handkerchief; she said nothing, and her face and
forehead, clothed with a mask of purely negative expression, were
as blank of comment as her lips. As neither surprise, pleasure,
approbation, nor interest were evinced in her countenance, so no
more were disdain, envy, annoyance, weariness; if that
inscrutable mien said anything, it was simply this--
"The matter is too trite to excite an emotion, or call forth an
As soon as I had done, a hum rose; several of the pupils,
pressing round Mdlle. Henri, began to beset her with compliments;
the composed voice of the directress was now heard:--
"Young ladies, such of you as have cloaks and umbrellas will
hasten to return home before the shower becomes heavier" (it was
raining a little), "the remainder will wait till their respective
servants arrive to fetch them." And the school dispersed, for it
was four o'clock.
"Monsieur, a word," said Mdlle. Reuter, stepping on to the
estrade, and signifying, by a movement of the hand, that she
wished me to relinquish, for an instant, the castor I had
"Mademoiselle, I am at your service."
"Monsieur, it is of course an excellent plan to encourage effort
in young people by making conspicuous the progress of any
particularly industrious pupil; but do you not think that in the
present instance, Mdlle. Henri can hardly be considered as a
concurrent with the other pupils? She is older than most of them,
and has had advantages of an exclusive nature for acquiring a
knowledge of English; on the other hand, her sphere of life is
somewhat beneath theirs; under these circumstances, a public
distinction, conferred upon Mdlle. Henri, may be the means of
suggesting comparisons, and exciting feelings such as would be
far from advantageous to the individual forming their object.
The interest I take in Mdlle. Henri's real welfare makes me
desirous of screening her from annoyances of this sort; besides,
monsieur, as I have before hinted to you, the sentiment of
AMOUR-PROPRE has a somewhat marked preponderance in her
character; celebrity has a tendency to foster this sentiment, and
in her it should be rather repressed--she rather needs keeping
down than bringing forward; and then I think, monsieur--it
appears to me that ambition, LITERARY ambition especially, is not
a feeling to be cherished in the mind of a woman: would not
Mdlle. Henri be much safer and happier if taught to believe that
in the quiet discharge of social duties consists her real
vocation, than if stimulated to aspire after applause and
publicity? She may never marry; scanty as are her resources,
obscure as are her connections, uncertain as is her health (for I
think her consumptive, her mother died of that complaint), it is
more than probable she never will. I do not see how she can rise
to a position, whence such a step would be possible; but even in
celibacy it would be better for her to retain the character and
habits of a respectable decorous female."
"Indisputably, mademoiselle," was my answer. "Your opinion
admits of no doubt;" and, fearful of the harangue being renewed,
I retreated under cover of that cordial sentence of assent.
At the date of a fortnight after the little incident noted above,
I find it recorded in my diary that a hiatus occurred in Mdlle.
Henri's usually regular attendance in class. The first day or
two I wondered at her absence, but did not like to ask an
explanation of it; I thought indeed some chance word might be
dropped which would afford me the information I wished to obtain,
without my running the risk of exciting silly smiles and
gossiping whispers by demanding it. But when a week passed and
the seat at the desk near the door still remained vacant, and
when no allusion was made to the circumstance by any individual
of the class--when, on the contrary, I found that all observed a
marked silence on the point--I determined, COUTE QUI COUTE, to
break the ice of this silly reserve. I selected Sylvie as my
informant, because from her I knew that I should at least get a
sensible answer, unaccompanied by wriggle, titter, or other
flourish of folly.
"Ou donc est Mdlle. Henri?" I said one day as I returned an
exercise-book I had been examining.
"Elle est partie, monsieur."
"Partie? et pour combien de temps? Quand reviendra-t-elle?"
"Elle est partie pour toujours, monsieur; elle ne reviendra
"Ah!" was my involuntary exclamation; then after a pause:--
"En etes-vous bien sure, Sylvie?"
"Oui, oui, monsieur, mademoiselle la directrice nous l'a dit
elle-meme il y a deux ou trois jours."
And I could pursue my inquiries no further; time, place, and
circumstances forbade my adding another word. I could neither
comment on what had been said, nor demand further particulars. A
question as to the reason of the teacher's departure, as to
whether it had been voluntary or otherwise, was indeed on my
lips, but I suppressed it--there were listeners all round. An
hour after, in passing Sylvie in the corridor as she was putting
on her bonnet, I stopped short and asked:--
"Sylvie, do you know Mdlle. Henri's address? I have some books
of hers," I added carelessly, "and I should wish to send them to
"No, monsieur," replied Sylvie; "but perhaps Rosalie, the
portress, will be able to give it you."
Rosalie's cabinet was just at hand; I stepped in and repeated the
inquiry. Rosalie--a smart French grisette--looked up from her
work with a knowing smile, precisely the sort of smile I had been
so desirous to avoid exciting. Her answer was prepared; she knew
nothing whatever of Mdlle. Henri's address--had never known it.
Turning from her with impatience--for I believed she lied and was
hired to lie--I almost knocked down some one who had been
standing at my back; it was the directress. My abrupt movement
made her recoil two or three steps. I was obliged to apologize,
which I did more concisely than politely. No man likes to be
dogged, and in the very irritable mood in which I then was the
sight of Mdlle. Reuter thoroughly incensed me. At the moment I
turned her countenance looked hard, dark, and inquisitive; her
eyes were bent upon me with an expression of almost hungry
curiosity. I had scarcely caught this phase of physiognomy ere
it had vanished; a bland smile played on her features; my harsh
apology was received with good-humoured facility.
"Oh, don't mention it, monsieur; you only touched my hair with
your elbow; it is no worse, only a little dishevelled." She
shook it back, and passing her fingers through her curls,
loosened them into more numerous and flowing ringlets. Then she
went on with vivacity :-
Rosalie, I was coming to tell you to go instantly and close the
windows of the salon; the wind is rising, and the muslin curtains
will be covered with dust."
Rosalie departed. "Now," thought I, "this will not do; Mdlle.
Reuter thinks her meanness in eaves-dropping is screened by her
art in devising a pretext, whereas the muslin curtains she speaks
of are not more transparent than this same pretext." An impulse
came over me to thrust the flimsy screen aside, and confront her
craft boldly with a word or two of plain truth. "The rough-shod
foot treads most firmly on slippery ground," thought I; so I
"Mademoiselle Henri has left your establishment--been dismissed,
"Ah, I wished to have a little conversation with you, monsieur,"
replied the directress with the most natural and affable air in
the world; "but we cannot talk quietly here; will Monsieur step
into the garden a minute?" And she preceded me, stepping out
through the glass-door I have before mentioned.
"There," said she, when we had reached the centre of the middle
alley, and when the foliage of shrubs and trees, now in their
summer pride, closing behind end around us, shut out the view of
the house, and thus imparted a sense of seclusion even to this
little plot of ground in the very core of a capital.
"There, one feels quiet and free when there are only pear-trees
and rose-bushes about one; I dare say you, like me, monsieur, are
sometimes tired of being eternally in the midst of life; of
having human faces always round you, human eyes always upon you,
human voices always in your ear. I am sure I often wish
intensely for liberty to spend a whole month in the country at
some little farm-house, bien gentille, bien propre, tout entouree
de champs et de bois; quelle vie charmante que la vie champetre!
N'est-ce pas, monsieur?"
"Cela depend, mademoiselle."
"Que le vent est bon et frais!" continued the directress; and
she was right there, for it was a south wind, soft and sweet. I
carried my hat in my hand, and this gentle breeze, passing
through my hair, soothed my temples like balm. Its refreshing
effect, however, penetrated no deeper than the mere surface of
the frame; for as I walked by the side of Mdlle. Reuter, my heart
was still hot within me, and while I was musing the fire burned;
then spake I with my tongue:--
"I understand Mdlle. Henri is gone from hence, and will not
"Ah, true! I meant to have named the subject to you some days
ago, but my time is so completely taken up, I cannot do half the
things I wish: have you never experienced what it is, monsieur,
to find the day too short by twelve hours for your numerous
"Not often. Mdlle. Henri's departure was not voluntary, I
presume? If it had been, she would certainly have given me some
intimation of it, being my pupil."
"Oh, did she not tell you? that was strange; for my part, I
never thought of adverting to the subject; when one has so many
things to attend to, one is apt to forget little incidents that
are not of primary importance."
"You consider Mdlle. Henri's dismission, then, as a very
"Dismission? Ah! she was not dismissed; I can say with truth,
monsieur, that since I became the head of this establishment no
master or teacher has ever been dismissed from it."
"Yet some have left it, mademoiselle?"
"Many; I have found it necessary to change frequently--a change
of instructors is often beneficial to the interests of a school;
it gives life and variety to the proceedings; it amuses the
pupils, and suggests to the parents the idea of exertion and
"Yet when you are tired of a professor or maitresse, you scruple
to dismiss them?"
"No need to have recourse to such extreme measures, I assure you.
Allons, monsieur le professeur--asseyons-nous; je vais vous
donner une petite lecon dans votre etat d'instituteur." (I wish I
might write all she said to me in French--it loses sadly by being
translated into English.) We had now reached THE garden-chair;
the directress sat down, and signed to me to sit by her, but I
only rested my knee on the seat, and stood leaning my head and
arm against the embowering branch of a huge laburnum, whose
golden flowers, blent with the dusky green leaves of a
lilac-bush, formed a mixed arch of shade and sunshine over the
retreat. Mdlle. Reuter sat silent a moment; some novel movements
were evidently working in her mind, and they showed their nature
on her astute brow; she was meditating some CHEF D'OEUVRE of
policy. Convinced by several months' experience that the
affectation of virtues she did not possess was unavailing to
ensnare me--aware that I had read her real nature, and would
believe nothing of the character she gave out as being hers--she
had determined, at last, to try a new key, and see if the lock of
my heart would yield to that; a little audacity, a word of truth,
a glimpse of the real. "Yes, I will try," was her inward
resolve; and then her blue eye glittered upon me--it did not
flash--nothing of flame ever kindled in its temperate gleam.
"Monsieur fears to sit by me?" she inquired playfully.
"I have no wish to usurp Pelet's place," I answered, for I had
got the habit of speaking to her bluntly--a habit begun in anger,
but continued because I saw that, instead of offending, it
fascinated her. She cast down her eyes, and drooped her eyelids;
she sighed uneasily; she turned with an anxious gesture, as if
she would give me the idea of a bird that flutters in its cage,
and would fain fly from its jail and jailer, and seek its natural
mate and pleasant nest.
"Well--and your lesson?" I demanded briefly.
"Ah!" she exclaimed, recovering herself, "you are so young, so
frank and fearless, so talented, so impatient of imbecility, so
disdainful of vulgarity, you need a lesson; here it is then: far
more is to be done in this world by dexterity than by strength;
but, perhaps, you knew that before, for there is delicacy as well
as power in your character--policy, as well as pride?"
"Go on." said I; and I could hardly help smiling, the flattery
was so piquant, so finely seasoned. She caught the prohibited
smile, though I passed my hand over my month to conceal it; and
again she made room for me to sit beside her. I shook my head,
though temptation penetrated to my senses at the moment, and once
more I told her to go on.
"Well, then, if ever you are at the head of a large
establishment, dismiss nobody. To speak truth, monsieur (and to
you I will speak truth), I despise people who are always making
rows, blustering, sending off one to the right, and another to
the left, urging and hurrying circumstances. I'll tell you what
I like best to do, monsieur, shall I?" She looked up again; she
had compounded her glance well this time--much archness, more
deference, a spicy dash of coquetry, an unveiled consciousness of
capacity. I nodded; she treated me like the great Mogul; so I
became the great Mogul as far as she was concerned.
"I like, monsieur, to take my knitting in my hands, and to sit
quietly down in my chair; circumstances defile past me; I watch
their march; so long as they follow the course I wish, I say
nothing, and do nothing; I don't clap my hands, and cry out
'Bravo! How lucky I am!' to attract the attention and envy of my
neighbours--I am merely passive; but when events fall out ill
--when circumstances become adverse--I watch very vigilantly; I
knit on still, and still I hold my tongue; but every now and
then, monsieur, I just put my toe out--so--and give the
rebellious circumstance a little secret push, without noise,
which sends it the way I wish, and I am successful after all, and
nobody has seen my expedient. So, when teachers or masters
become troublesome and inefficient--when, in short, the interests
of the school would suffer from their retaining their places--I
mind my knitting, events progress, circumstances glide past; I
see one which, if pushed ever so little awry, will render
untenable the post I wish to have vacated--the deed is done--the
stumbling-block removed--and no one saw me: I have not made an
enemy, I am rid of an incumbrance."
A moment since, and I thought her alluring; this speech
concluded, I looked on her with distaste. "Just like you," was
my cold answer. "And in this way you have ousted Mdlle. Henri?
You wanted her office, therefore you rendered it intolerable to
"Not at all, monsieur, I was merely anxious about Mdlle. Henri's
health; no, your moral sight is clear and piercing, but there you
have failed to discover the truth. I took--I have always taken a
real interest in Mdlle. Henri's welfare; I did not like her going
out in all weathers; I thought it would be more advantageous for
her to obtain a permanent situation; besides, I considered her
now qualified to do something more than teach sewing. I reasoned
with her; left the decision to herself; she saw the correctness
of my views, and adopted them."
"Excellent! and now, mademoiselle, you will have the goodness to
give me her address."
"Her address!" and a sombre and stony change came over the mien
of the directress. "Her address? Ah?--well--I wish I could
oblige you, monsieur, but I cannot, and I will tell you why;
whenever I myself asked her for her address, she always evaded
the inquiry. I thought--I may be wrong--but I THOUGHT her motive
for doing so, was a natural, though mistaken reluctance to
introduce me to some, probably, very poor abode; her means were
narrow, her origin obscure; she lives somewhere, doubtless, in
the 'basse ville.'"
"I'll not lose sight of my best pupil yet," said I, "though she
were born of beggars and lodged in a cellar; for the rest, it is
absurd to make a bugbear of her origin to me--I happen to know
that she was a Swiss pastor's daughter, neither more nor less;
and, as to her narrow means, I care nothing for the poverty of
her purse so long as her heart overflows with affluence."
"Your sentiments are perfectly noble, monsieur," said the
directress, affecting to suppress a yawn; her sprightliness was
now extinct, her temporary candour shut up; the little,
red-coloured, piratical-looking pennon of audacity she had
allowed to float a minute in the air, was furled, and the broad,
sober-hued flag of dissimulation again hung low over the citadel.
I did not like her thus, so I cut short the TETE-A-TETE and
NOVELISTS should never allow themselves to weary of the study of
real life. If they observed this duty conscientiously, they
would give us fewer pictures chequered with vivid contrasts of
light and shade; they would seldom elevate their heroes and
heroines to the heights of rapture--still seldomer sink them to
the depths of despair; for if we rarely taste the fulness of joy
in this life, we yet more rarely savour the acrid bitterness of
hopeless anguish; unless, indeed, we have plunged like beasts
into sensual indulgence, abused, strained, stimulated, again
overstrained, and, at last, destroyed our faculties for
enjoyment; then, truly, we may find ourselves without support,
robbed of hope. Our agony is great, and how can it end? We have
broken the spring of our powers; life must be all suffering--too
feeble to conceive faith--death must be darkness--God, spirits,
religion can have no place in our collapsed minds, where linger
only hideous and polluting recollections of vice; and time brings
us on to the brink of the grave, and dissolution flings us in--a
rag eaten through and through with disease, wrung together with
pain, stamped into the churchyard sod by the inexorable heel of
But the man of regular life and rational mind never despairs. He
loses his property--it is a blow--he staggers a moment; then, his
energies, roused by the smart, are at work to seek a remedy;
activity soon mitigates regret. Sickness affects him; he takes
patience--endures what he cannot cure. Acute pain racks him; his
writhing limbs know not where to find rest; he leans on Hope's
anchors. Death takes from him what he loves; roots up, and tears
violently away the stem round which his affections were twined--a
dark, dismal time, a frightful wrench--but some morning Religion
looks into his desolate house with sunrise, and says, that in
another world, another life, he shall meet his kindred again.
She speaks of that world as a place unsullied by sin--of that
life, as an era unembittered by suffering; she mightily
strengthens her consolation by connecting with it two ideas
--which mortals cannot comprehend, but on which they love to
repose--Eternity, Immortality; and the mind of the mourner, being
filled with an image, faint yet glorious, of heavenly hills all
light and peace--of a spirit resting there in bliss--of a day
when his spirit shall also alight there, free and disembodied--of
a reunion perfected by love, purified from fear--he takes
courage--goes out to encounter the necessities and discharge the
duties of life; and, though sadness may never lift her burden
from his mind, Hope will enable him to support it.
Well--and what suggested all this? and what is the inference to
be drawn therefrom? What suggested it, is the circumstance of my
best pupil--my treasure--being snatched from my hands, and put
away out of my reach; the inference to be drawn from it is--that,
being a steady, reasonable man, I did not allow the resentment,
disappointment, and grief, engendered in my mind by this evil
chance, to grow there to any monstrous size; nor did I allow them
to monopolize the whole space of my heart; I pent them, on the
contrary, in one strait and secret nook. In the daytime, too,
when I was about my duties, I put them on the silent system; and
it was only after I had closed the door of my chamber at night
that I somewhat relaxed my severity towards these morose
nurslings, and allowed vent to their language of murmurs; then,
in revenge, they sat on my pillow, haunted my bed, and kept me
awake with their long, midnight cry.
A week passed. I had said nothing more to Mdlle. Reuter. I had
been calm in my demeanour to her, though stony cold and hard.
When I looked at her, it was with the glance fitting to be
bestowed on one who I knew had consulted jealousy as an adviser,
and employed treachery as an instrument--the glance of quiet
disdain and rooted distrust. On Saturday evening, ere I left the
house, I stept into the SALLE-A-MANGER, where she was sitting
alone, and, placing myself before her, I asked, with the same
tranquil tone and manner that I should have used had I put the
question for the first time--
"Mademoiselle, will you have the goodness to give me the address
of Frances Evans Henri?"
A little surprised, but not disconcerted, she smilingly
disclaimed any knowledge of that address, adding, "Monsieur has
perhaps forgotten that I explained all about that circumstance
before--a week ago?"
"Mademoiselle," I continued, "you would greatly oblige me by
directing me to that young person's abode."
She seemed somewhat puzzled; and, at last, looking up with an
admirably counterfeited air of naivete, she demanded, "Does
Monsieur think I am telling an untruth?"
Still avoiding to give her a direct answer, I said, "It is not
then your intention, mademoiselle, to oblige me in this
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