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house was a handsome puckah building, consisting of two stories, and standing in the centre of a walled garden. On each side of the house there was a thick cluster of trees; from the centre of each of these arose several exceedingly lofty palm trees, from which the place took its name; and to the right and left of the coach-ring in front were rows of aloes, plants much admired in Europe for their rarity and singularity, but which, from their extreme formality and the deep green of their leaves, convey, to the minds of those who have ceased to look on them with wonder, an idea of all that is mournful, dark, and sad.
“As our carriage wheeled into the compound, we put to flight a number of young ladies, who were at that time walking in the garden. Those are your future companions, Clara,' said my aunt, smiling, I hope that we have not frightened them away.'
“ While my aunt was speaking, I was engaged in looking at them, as they had gathered together at a small distance. They were dressed in white, had neither caps nor bonnets on their heads, and were most of them thin and extremely sallow; a few of them were mere children, but there were also many who appeared to be women grown, and some even past their earliest youth. As I stretched my neck out of the window to look at them, they laughed, particularly the elder ones, and spoke to each other, seemingly exciting fresh merriment by some remarks probably on me. I was a little disconcerted by this exhibition of bad manners; for, though ill-mannered myself, I was as keenly alive to disrespect in others as pride and ill-temper could make me. I had, however, only time to say to my aunt, How rude those girls are ! I hope Miss Carrisforth is not among them!' before the door of the carriage was opened, and we were ushered into the august presence of Mrs. Patterson.
But before I introduce you, my dear friend, to the presence of this lady, I must give you the promised description of her house, in order that you may have a view of every scene of the short, yet, perhaps, not uninteresting drama of your Clara's life; that life which I am sensible will be closed in a few months, but not, I trust, before she has been made, through the divine mercy, fit for that glory prepared for those who shall be saved.
“The school-house was, as I have already said, a large puckah building, encircled by open verandahs above and below; these verandahs being supported by handsome pillars. The roof of the house was flat, crowned with a parapet; the apartments were disposed into two large halls, the one looking towards the front, and the other to the garden, where a broad gravel walk, running round a stone tank, was itself inclosed at the back and sides with a thick shrubbery. On each side of these halls was a large centre room, and four smaller ones at the corners; the rooms above being laid out precisely in the same manner. The furniture of the apartments was handsome, especially that of the halls and chambers; and each young lady had her own bed, which was hung with musquito gauze. It was in the inmost hall that we first saw Mrs. Patterson: she was sitting on a sofa, conversing with a young lady of European extraction and fine exterior, who, as soon as she saw us, immediately left the room. I was hoping that this young lady might prove to be Miss Carrisforth, but was convinced to the contrary, by hearing Mrs. Patterson address her by the name of Beaumont.
“ Mrs. Patterson was the widow of an officer, and had, no doubt, had much difficulty in bringing her mind to that mode of life which her necessities had rendered inevitable. She had been undoubtedly very handsome, and she still retained much of that kind of majestic and commanding beauty which made every one who beheld her look upon her with awe. I immediately saw that my aunt was impressed with this feeling, for her usual volubility failed her in the presence of this lady, to whom she said very little more than was merely sufficient to recommend me to her care, and to request that I might, if it were perfectly convenient, be associated as much as possible with Miss Carrisforth; whose father, my aunt added, had sent by me a letter of recommendation to his daughter.
"• Miss Carrisforth,' replied Mrs. Patterson, has also received letter from her father on the same subject, and is prepared to be a friend to Miss Lushington. And indeed,' added Mrs. Patterson, you are happy, Miss Lushington, in having such a friend; and, if you will pernit her to be your director, you will find an ado
vantage which I could not promise you from the friendship of any other young person in my house.'
• This was much, very very much, for Mrs. Patterson to say, as I afterwards found that her sentiments were in general very impenetrable. My aunt was, however, evidently pleased to hear this character of my future friend, and begged the favour to be permitted to see Miss Carrisforth.
“The young lady was, accordingly, called; and, obeying the call immediately, she won every heart by her charming appearance.
She seemed to be full seventeen years old, a circumstance which made her more fit to be the director of a young person of my age than if she had been younger. Her person was lovely, her complexion being pale, without any tincture of sallowness; her eyes of dark blue were soft and expressive; her features were regular; her person was delicate; and her hair of a glossy brown. Her manner was neither forward nor bashful: it was affectionate, without being familiar; and orderly, without being dull.
“When she entered the room, and understood who I was, she walked directly up to me, took my hand, kissed my cheek, and assured my aunt, who spoke to her, that she would do all in her power to make me happy.
" • And good, too, Miss Carrisforth, you would say,' said my aunt, graciously, and looking with pleasure on the lovely young creature who stood before her, “if your modesty did not prevent.'
“ Miss Carrisforth bowed, but said no more. “My aunt then rose, and, kissing me, added, Clara,
with entire satisfaction ; you will let me know if you want any thing.' So saying, she departed; and Mrs. Patterson following her to the door, I was left with Miss Carrisforth, with whom I, no doubt, displayed, for some minutes, no small degree of that bashful awkwardness which is more or less common to all illbred children.
“When Mrs. Patterson was gone, Miss Carrisforth proposed shewing me my room, and for this purpose took me up stairs into a small corner apartment facing the front verandah, and containing two beds; the one standing close to the outer wall, and the other against a green jalousied door, which communicated with ano
I now leave
ther chamber, but which was closed by the bed. • There, Miss Clara,' said she, is your bed, (pointing to the one last mentioned,) and this is mine, (pointing to the other.) We may be very comfortable here if we please, and í trust that we shall be able in this place to devote our thoughts and conversation to improvement.'
“70! this is very nice!' I answered, suddenly recovering from my fit of bashfulness; and you are to be my companion! I am so glad of it. And how happy I am that my father chose this school, and you to be my friend, and nobody else! I am sure I should not have liked any one so well as I do you.' So saying, I remember that I threw my arms round her neck, and gave her twenty kisses before she had time to extricate herself from me, which she presently did, though in a manner sufficiently gentle. “O my dear child !' she said, • how
startled me! Why, what further will you be able to say to me, or how will you be able to express your
affection more strongly a year hence, when I have proved to you that I am really worthy of your love ?'
".0, now, Miss Carrisforth,' I said, 'you are making fun of me; I see you are.'
ass Do not call me Miss Carrisforth,' she replied; • call me Amelia.'
"Then you won't make fun of me, will you?' I said, hanging on her arm, accompanying my ungraceful mode of speaking with a motion no doubt equally awkward.
“My dear Clara,' Miss Amelia replied, “understand me once for all, that I dislike the habit of ridiculing, or, as you say, of making fun, of any one. I trust that I am too sensible of my own errors and defects, to presume to ridicule another person. If I see any thing amiss in you, my dear Clara, I will tell it you plainly and directly; and, to prove my sincerity, I shall now begin with you, and, therefore, beg you not to lavish upon me such tokens of regard as you just now did, till time has matured our friendship, and till you have more reason than you now have to be assured that I deserve your esteem.
"And must not I kiss you,' I said, “and call you a dear sweet creature ? for, indeed, I think you so.
""I don't doubt that you now feel all you express,
my dear Clara,' she replied. But I will candidly tell you, I would rather that you should prove your regard for me in another way.'
" I looked very keenly at my new friend; for I began to suspect that she was proud, or that she did not like me: but she took no notice of my sudden change of humour, and nothing more passed between us till we were summoned, by the ringing of a bell, to go down into the hall to tea. *I am now about,' said Amelia, to introduce you to your schoolfellows: you will be allowed to sit by
After tea, we shall either work or draw, while some one reads to us. You will, no doubt, enjoy this?'
«•I don't love plain work,' I answered. “Perhaps you would prefer drawing?' said Amelia.
I am not to learn to draw,' I replied. “«Not of a master, perhaps,' she added. “But your aunt could have no objection to my teaching you?'
“I made no answer: for the truth is, I did not like the thought of learning any thing new but dancing. I then followed her down into one of the halls, where the tea-things were neatly arranged. It was well lighted up, with many wall-shades and standing-shades, and the young ladies were all assembled, with two teachers, a French and an English one, who were seated at the top and bottom of the table. Several kitmutgaurs were busy at the side-table, preparing the tea. There was a great buzz in the hall as we entered, which was hushed as Amelia drew near the table, when all the company turned round to look at us. Several at once left their seats and gathered round me; and among this number I particularly distinguished Miss Beaumont, (who kissed me affectionately,) and two young ladies, who were no longer, as I thought, of an age to be grouped among schoolgirls, although their unsettled and disorderly manners evinced more levity than those of the youngest child in the room.
“ These young ladies, whom I shall call Atkins and Chatterton, were, as I afterwards found, parlour-boarders, or, rather, mere lodgers, who had the liberty of going in and out as they pleased, though at times they were obliged to submit in some degree to the control of the governess and teachers.
“How long these young ladies would have amused