« EelmineJätka »
themselves with inspecting me, notwithstanding the entreaties of Amelia, who begged that I might be permitted to pass on to my seat, I cannot tell, had not a shrill voice from the further end of the long table reached their ears, in accents partly querulous, and partly imperious. For shame, mes Demoiselles !' said the voice just alluded to: • how. can you conduct yourself so impolite towards an etranger ? Permit de young lady to sit down, I do pray, I do entreat. Sit down, my little Miss. Ladies, do come to your tea.'
“On hearing these words, which proceeded from Madame de Roseau, a widow lady, from the French settlement of Chandanagore, who was teacher at the school, the young people all hastened to their places, and Miss Carrisforth led me on to my seat.
" For a few moments after we were seated, all was still, excepting the noise made by the servants; till suddenly a burst of laughter, which first proceeded from the two young ladies, Miss Atkins and Miss Chatterton, sat hy Madame de Roseau at the top of the table, and which was echoed by another party at the bottom, caused us to look up, in order that we might, if possible, be admitted into the secret. What is dat, mes Demoiselles ?' said Madame de Roseau; “what is de joke? where are your manners dis afternoon?'
“Notwithstanding this rebuke, the laughter continued, and I perceived that all joined in it, excepting Miss Carrisforth and Miss Beaumont; and, at length, it became So violent, that Miss Crawford, the English teacher, (who did not appear to be much fitter than the youngest child present to manage a school,) was thrown off her equilibrium, and joined heartily in the merriment.
“In the midst of this uproar, an alarm was raised, that Mrs. Patterson herself was coming; on which, all instantly became silent: but, on one of the kitmutgaurs accidentally overturning a plate of bread-and-butter, the mirth was renewed, though in a more smothered way, bursting out at intervals at different parts of the table like a running fire, and mingled with whisperings, none of which I could distinctly make out.
“ In the mean time, Miss Crawford, who was sensible, perhaps, that she had acted imprudently, called on those immediately about her to be quiet; and, addressing
herself familiarly to Miss Chatterton and Miss Atkins, said, You wicked girls! you are always getting me into a scrape.'
“By this time, the tea-things were removed, and the work-baskets put in their places. And now, ladies,' said Madame de Roseau, Miss Crawford shall read. Where is de book? I desire you will be attentif.'
“The book was produced, and all was quiet for a few minutes; Miss Carrisforth having put a piece of muslin into
my hands to hem. I thought it hard, however, to be obliged to sew the first evening: but I made no objection, although, instead of working with diligence, between each stitch I looked around me on one and another of my schoolfellows; and, at length, my eyes met those of a young lady about my own age, or perhaps older, though very small in stature, who sat directly opposite to me. There was something in the physiognomy of this girl, which, the moment I caught her eye, seemed to fix and fascinate me, as the cobra di capel, formerly described, had done in the gallery at Cawnpore. She was evidently, like myself, not wholly of European extraction; but her features were far from bad, and her large dark eyes were wonderfully expressive. But what they expressed I did not consider: I felt myself, however, strongly inclined to look at her, and was so entirely diverted by her from my work, that Miss Carrisforth spoke to me once or twice, and the last time, as I thought, in a manner very decided, before I could resume my employment.
• Shortly after this, there was some interruption in the reading, (I forget on what occasion,) and I took this opportunity to start some difficulty in going on with my work, and to call for a pair of scissars. Amelia checked me, though gently, for speaking so loud, and had already supplied me with what I wanted, when the young lady with whom I had been interchanging looks suddenly jumped up, ran round the table, and brought me her own scissars, begging me, in the most polite manner, to keep them as long as I wished.
“I was startled by Miss Carrisforth's manner on this occasion. She suddenly turned to the young lady, and, with a look and motion of the head which I thought severe, said, 'Gabrielle, take your scissars; I will provide
Miss Clara with all she may want:' adding, in a lower voice, and with a steady glance, under which the eye of the young lady fell, ‘Miss Lushington is under my care; I shall be obliged to you if you will not interfere with her.' So saying, she returned the scissars, and the young lady walked silently back to her chair. And there the matter would probably have ended, though perhaps not quite so soon my astonishment, had not a part of Amelia's address to Gabrielle been overheard by Miss Beaumont, who, reddening violently, instantly said, • My dear Gabrielle, lend me the scissars. I will be obliged to you, though Miss Carrisforth is too proud to lie under obligations to any one.'
" Whether Miss Carrisforth had observed what had passed between Miss Beaumout and Gabrielle, I could not discover; but it was certainly not lost upon the rest of the company, as was apparent, from every one, at the same time, looking up from their various occupations. No one, however, spoke, and the matter would, doubtless, have rested where it was, had Miss Beaumont been disposed to allow that it should do so.
“ The silence of Amelia seemed rather to have increased than diminished the anger of Miss Beaumont. She reddened excessively, her fine eyes flashed with indignation, and she further added, “You do not choose, Miss Carrisforth, to make any remark on what I said: but, notwithstanding your silence, I shall take the liberty of speaking my mind to you. I cannot bear to see the cold contempt with which you always treat little Gabrielle. I know but little of her, and she is nothing to me; but I hate injustice, I cannot endure to see any one ill used, and I really think, Amelia, that you are behaving very ill to the poor girl.'
think so, Julia,' replied Miss Carrisforth, calmly, you do right to speak. But perhaps you would have done better, had you kept your remarks for my private ear.'
"If the whole company had not seen the insolent manner in which you treated Gabrielle,' said Miss Beaumont, 'I might, perhaps, have done so: but when I witnessed this public affront to an inoffensive child, I could not help animadverting upon it thus publicly. And I again repeat, Miss Carrisforth, that I think you
ill to little Gabrielle just now; and I must plainly tell you, that I have more than once before been surprised at your conduct towards her.' So saying, she burst into a violent fit of crying.
« « Mademoiselle Beaumont is always de champion of de distressed,' said Madame de Roseau, now thinking it necessary to put in a word, de female Quixote, de friend of de unfortunate. Who so kind as Miss Beaumont?'
“ Fresh bursts of laughter followed this remark, laughter in which all joined but Amelia and Miss Beaumont, the former of whom looked grave; and the latter, getting up in haste, left the room, followed by Gabrielle.
“ As soon as Miss Beaumont had quitted the hall, Miss Chatterton exclaimed, “Well, well, this is capital! this is
fine! So the two saints - the two best friends have quarrelled: this is excellent! It won't be Chatterton against Atkins, as it used to be, you know, Atkins, when we quarrelled about our partners on dancingnights; but it will be Beaumont against Carrisforth. We must all take either one side or the other. I declare for Beaumont and little Gabrielle! I will uphold little Gabrielle! Don't you, Atkins ?'
"Yes, yes,' replied Miss Atkins, “I am for little Gabrielle; altogether for little Gabrielle.'
“New bursts of laughter now broke out on all sides, till Madame de Roseau, who looked much displeased, exclaimed, . Ecoutez; hearken, ladies; be silent, ladies. For shame, mes Demoiselles : what conduite is dis ? I shall tell Madame; I shall complain. Miss Crawford, cannot you use your autorité ? What is all dis, ladies?'
“The uproar now subsided into low whispers and smothered titters; while the young ladies wrote little notes on small slips of paper, and tossed them over the table to each other. Thus passed the time till we were summoned to bed.
“You may perhaps be surprised at the minuteness with which I have related these scenes: but it has pleased the Almighty to endow me with a very accurate memory, and, from childhood, I have been a minute observer of character; while in my aunt's house this habit was confirmed, my uncle being a man of clear and pene
trating insight into character, and one who did not con. ceal his opinions. But to return to my story.
“ As we were going up to bed, Amelia took my hand, and silently leading me through the crowd, conducted me to our own room. There finding a lamp burning, she directed me to undress myself, while, taking a small Bible from a drawer, she read aloud, sometimes pausing to make some short passing remarks on what she read.
“ In the mean time, a confused noise of laughing, running, and screaming, continually reached my ears from the neighbouring rooms, which made me more than once exclaim, in the midst of the reading, “What are those noises? what are they doing? what can they be about?'
“ Amelia replied to these questions, 0, nothing at all, Clara; never mind them: you may be thankful we have a room to ourselves.'
««0, but I should like to see what they are doing,' I answered.
"Clara,' she at length replied, don't be foolish; let them alone, and attend to what I read.'
“There was something in her manner which awed me, I scarcely knew wherefore, and I was silent. When she had finished her chapters, she came, and, kneeling by me, offered up a short prayer; after which, she directed me to get into bed. I had scarcely time to obey her, before the gill-mills, or jalousies of the door, near which my bed stood, and which opened into the next room, were raised, and Miss Atkins, whose bed was
lose to that door, on the other side, putting her mouth to the jalousies, said, ' Amelia Carrisforth, Amelia, I say, here's Beaumont in hysteric fits! Have you any salts?'
“Amelia looked for a smelling-bottle, and, going round my bed, she gave it through the door.
Won't you come and see her ?' said Miss Atkins. "I must not come into your room,' she replied. “What stuff and nonsense!' returned Miss Atkins.
“ Amelia made no answer, but returned to the dresssing-table.
“I could now distinctly hear the sobs of Miss Beaumont, and told Amelia that I did so.
“I am sorry that she afflicts herself so much,' she answered; but I can't help it.'