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appurtenances of royal state, using it, as people were wont to say, more as a “ Rosamond's Bower” than as a veritable palace.
My room, in which there were three pretty draperied French beds, and a charming dressing-table, all rosy pink and flowing white muslin, was at the end of the long gallery, and I was agreeably surprised to find that it contained every comfort, and almost every elegancy; so utterly unlike my sordid attic at Miss Willinghame's, wherein I am sure our own upper servants at home would have refused to repose themselves. I felt that I had flown from one extreme to another; certainly my father was an excellent judge.
In a few minutes the English governess tapped at my door; she was a very lovely young woman, with large blue eyes, chestnut locks, and a smile of indescribable sweetness and goodness. Had I been a distinguished guest, she could not have been more courteous; and while I was arranging my dress, she talked so pleasantly that I could hardly persuade myself she occupied the same position as that insufferable * Kimbie.” Then the tea-bell rang, and we hastened to the diningroom, where the girls were already assembled, and I was formally introduced and invited to take my seat at the right hand of the presiding lady, an interesting girl of my own age. We took it in turns to preside at breakfast and at the tea table, and we were sometimes called upon to carve; and we were taught how to dissect poultry and game comme il faut, and invited to assist Madame in the tasteful disposal of desert on grand occasions. Indeed, when company were to be entertained, we elder ones were invariably consulted and taken into confi lence, a practice of Madame’s which I think others of her profession would do well to imitate. No young lady leaving her establishment could ever be stigmatised as a "raw school-girl," a mere bread-and-butter miss."
Cold chicken and eggs were on the table, and they were pressed upon me because I had not dined; and the young ladies conversed freely during the repast, and I soon found myself in earnest conversation with a Miss Chamberlayne, who, like myself, was a recent arrival. There were no little girls--the youngest pupil was fourteen, and the eldest nearly twenty.
I was sure that I should like some of them very much. One lady particularly attracted my attention; she sat by Mademoiselle, and actually wore a widow's cap. Her face was exquisitely beautiful, reminding one of those portraits we sometimes see on the finest Sèvres china ; she was evidently under eighteen or nineteen, and I wondered whether she could possibly be a pupil. Her companions addressed her as “ Mrs. Barton,” and they spoke to her with perfect familiarity; still I thought she must be a former pupil, now a visitor among dear old friends, or perhaps boarding with Madame, being willing to pass the seclusion of her widowhood in her old home, and under the protection of her beloved governess. But when tea was over, and we all adjourned
to the schoolroom, books were produced, and she certainly began to study like the rest. I was fairly puzzled. I felt an irrepressible curiosity to know why she was there.
Later in the evening I heard her history from Miss Brooks, the English governess, who volunteered to show me the shrubberies and greenhouses. She was the daughter of a village schoolmaster, and a gentleman of birth and fortune had falleu in love with her while she was yet a child. He, thinking her quite too young for any engagement, and doubtful, too, of the prudence of his choice, forbore to declare himself, and while he tarried, a young man in her own position saw her and courted her, and in the short space of three months bore away in triumph his beautiful child-bride of sixteen.
In little more than twelve months she was a widow, just entered upon her eighteenth year, and the Honourable Mr. Clive, determining not to be distanced a second time, made haste to apply to her parents, declaring his attachment, and expressing a wish to be allowed to educate his future wife for the station he intended her to adorn. The parents were cordially compliant, and the girl-widow being appealed to, made not the slightest objection; so, after some further negotiation, she was placed at Madame Ollivier's for a term of two years, wherein it was intended that she should acquire all those graces and accomplishments that are supposed to be inseparable from a certain rank and condition. All this I was not told then; I merely heard that she had married very early, and that her education had been terribly neglected, and that being engaged to a gentleman of high rank, she wished to spend the two years of widowhood for which she had stipulated, in improving her mind.
That very night, however, I thought there was much that required improvement. The lovely widow was one of my room-mates, and while we were preparing for bed, and I was watching her, and almost worshipping her, and foolishly wishing I were like her, as she stood brushing out her luxuriant dark hair, we entered into conversation. She told me that she had not only been a wife but a mother, and my romantic little heart beat high with
sympathy towards this fair young creature, bereft so soon of all her earthly treasure," husband and child." I repeated to myself, almost tearfully, “poor, beautiful, young thing, and not yet eighteen!" But before the candle was out my enthusiasm was sadly diminished. She seemed to take quite a fancy to me, and the lady to whom the third bed in our room was appropriated being absent, there was every opportunity for a batch of delightful confidences. There was certainly no undue reticence about her-indeed, I wondered that she could talk so freely about those loved and lost ones with a perfect stranger ; but somehow confidence is always more or less flattering, and I listened with deepest interest while she informed me that her husband had died of consumption, that she had been very fond of him, but that now she loved dear Mr. Clive ten times more than she had ever loved poor Frank Barton—“poor in every sense of the word,” she added. Per. ceiving that Mr. Barton's name might be mentioned without the risk of reducing her to a state of extreme distress, or ensuring a wakeful night of weeping and mournful memories, I asked her how long her husband had departed this life.
“ A little more than four months," was the answer ; "he died in March, poor fellow! on the 21st.”
I could not help thinking that Mrs. Barton was, to say the least of it, highly indecorous. A widow four months and fiancée three months! I felt a little disgusted. Presently she resumed :-“And you know, dear, it was very hard to lose my little baby ; but it was weakly, and it would have given me no end of trouble even had I succeeded in rearing it-it inherited poor Frank's constitution, I fancy ; besides, Mr. Clive might never have proposed if I had been hampered” (and she said "'ampered”) with a child; neither could I very well have been here at school, and that would have been such a pity! So it all happened for the best, you see !"
Was it true that beautiful women were frequently, and as a rule, heartless ? I had heard someone say so! Certainly here was a woman of dazzling, faultless beauty, with no more heart than a cabbage; what heart she had, was purely physical ; like the cabbage's heart-it was given her for organic purposes, not as the seat of the affections! I went to sleep with a thorough contempt for poor Mrs. Barton, who, after all, was only a very commonplace young woman, lifted suddenly out of her proper station, with a romantic history, moreover, which she entirely failed to appreciate. Besides, I was under the common delusion that “first love" must be the love of woman's life! After a while I discovered my mistake. Meanwhile, I dreamed about the defunct Frank Barton, and I thought his ghost, all pallid, sorrowful, and reproachful, appeared at the bedside of his faithless wife.
THE NINTH OF NOVEMBER.
RAPIDLY and delightfully passed away our days at Cheverleigh Place. The rich summer deepened into a genial, mellow autumn, and autumn, in its turn, faded and paled before the chilling breath of the advancing winter. The woods in Richmond Park, where we walked almost daily, began to thin; the lawn and glades were strewn with sere and yellow leaves, and the Virginian creeper that mantled one grey gable of Madame Ollivier's house wore its most brilliant and dazzling hues. We worked hard, and the circle of our studies was wider and its course deeper than
ything to which I had ever been accustomed ; so far from being fore
most, as I had unfortunately been at Cannonstone House, I found that with my present associates I could only keep my place in class by the most untiring zeal and the most unflagging assiduity. With excellent teaching, liberal treatment, an almost inconceivable amount of freedom, and a beautiful country around us, we certainly had all the elements of happiness in our midst. Madame called us her children, and she treated us as if she were indeed our mother : we were under the kindest, gentlest, most lenient rule ; and yet no one ever ventured to transgress. Yes ! a happy circle we certainly were, as anyone who reads these pages, and recognises in Cheverleigh Place the school-home of her girlhood, will abundantly and heartily testify.
Where are they all now, I wonder! those companions of my youth? Madame Ollivier, I know, has long since passed away from the things of time; many a year has gone by since her sweet voice has been heard in the spacious halls and chambers of Cheverleigh Place. And I saw the marriage of Miss Brooks in the newspapers I know not how long ago. Mademoiselle set up a French establishment of her own, and is probably thriving to this day. But of “the girls" I know scarcely anything, only I believe the lovely, heartless M Barton in time became Mrs. Clive, and lived in great style somewhere in Belgravia. But whether the beautiful, haughty Louisa Chambers ever fulfilled the splendid destinies she so fondly anticipated; whether Ada Crichton, the genius of Cheverleigh Place, ever rivalled the fame of her illustrious namesake; whether Marian and Rosalie Jamieson were as happy as they expected to be in their Indian home; or whether sweet, gentle Lizzie Johnstone ever married the pale, poetical curate, to whom, even then, she was secretly affianced, I cannot tell. One and all, they have glided down the broad stream of life—those dear and pleasant companions of my seventeenth year—they have drifted far away from the particular current which is carrying me on, onward, ever onward, to the solemn shores of the great eternity!
As I am writing my own history, not that of my schoolfellows, I shall not tell you any stories, as I well might, of those brief, bright days of happy study under dear Madame's superintendence, but come straight to the day—which was one of the most memorable of my life—the day which was fated to be an era to which I always look back as to the passing away of old things and the commencement of entirely new experiences.
On the ninth of November of that year the first book of my life came to an abrupt termination ; its pages were turned over, and the volume was closed; childhood, still lingering in the girl, whose person, and whose mind also, was, in many of its aspects, so womanly, passed away for ever, and youth, restless, sanguine, soaring, and undaunted, took its place. I had, as far as worldly circumstances were concerned, lived a life of the most careless ease; about ways and means I had never for one moment
troubled myself, and now the time was come when all this must be changed. With the misty close of that dull, dim, November day, there dawned for
me an entirely new and unlooked-for phase of existence. It was Lord Mayor's Day, of course, and Monsieur Ollivier had promised to take the “country girls,” as we from the provinces were always slightingly styled, into the City, to see the pomp and show of the procession. How well I remember all about that day! our rising betimes, and our chilly toilet by candle-light, our lessons before breakfast, our dressing immediately afterwards for the expedition, that we might be ready for the early omnibus that passed our door, and our journey to town in the fog, that seemed likely to make the annual civic demonstration an affair of torchlight! Just, however, as we commenced our slow progress up Piccadilly, the sun burst forth from his heavy, grey shroud, and showed large, round and red, above the towers of Westminster Abbey, faintly looming across the Green Park and St. James's. Higher and higher he rose; the ruddy beams grew golden, the mists caught up hither and thither were scattered far and wide, and pale, yet serene, gleamed out the wintry London sky.
The omnibus set us down somewhere, I fancy, near the Strand; there were five of us, beside Monsieur, and we proceeded on foot through Temple Bar, up Fleet Street, past Bolt Court, with its Johnsonian memories, up Ludgate Hill
, across St. Paul's Churchyard, and down Cheapside and the Poultry, to the Mansion House, where we turned into King William Street, in search of the two windows that had been providently engaged for our special accommodation. Though I had driven several times into London I had never walked any distance through its streets, and it was a real treat to me to find myself in localities, the names of which were familiar, and even historic. I should infinitely have preferred wandering about the City all day to seeing the Show, which was, after all, the true object of our expedition. But that, of course, could not be; so we sat two mortal hours in a smoky room, over a glover and hosier's shop, watching the crowds in the street below, and impatiently waiting for the procession, which seemed in no great haste to dazzle our provincial eyes with the sight of its pomps and splendours. We were almost tired out when it came at last, and I am sure all who have witnessed the Lord Mayor's Show ou the ninth of November, and all who have never witnessed it, will agree with me when I say, I see no reason why I should occupy my time and theirs with any description of its semi-barbaric glories. Indeed, I am by no means certain whether my memory would serve me faithfully. I am not quite clear about anything, except that I saw the state coach, and my lord himself in his lace ruffles, which I could not bring myself to admire, on account of their dirty and rumpled appearance ; and as for the wonderful gold chain, I thought it looked as much like brass as anything else. And then we went up to the house-tops, out on the