MAY MERTON FINDS A FRIEND.
I ENTERED Madame's room
with no little trepidation, and saw my poor little school-fellow
sitting on a stool. She did not exhibit any violent grief, but
there was a painfully forlorn expression about her always wistful
face; and though she did not cry, she would neither eat nor take any
notice of our caresses.
When the school-bell rang, Madame sent me down; for I was of
no use. The teachers inquired after the poor child, and one of
them said, that though she was very sorry for the poor ayah, she
thought her removal was by no means to be regretted on the child's
account; because as long as that foreign woman was about her, she
would never have thoroughly settled at school, nor attached herself
to those who had the responsibility of her teaching. I could
not tell how this might be, but I thought that, even to a child, it
must be a terrible thing to lose the only person whom she deeply
loved, and with whom she was thoroughly at home. I hoped she
would now begin to attach herself to us, and soon get over the loss
of her ayah.
But from day to day, when I saw her, she was still pining and
fretting, sometimes moping on her little stool, sometimes crying in
Massey's arms, and constantly becoming thinner and paler, losing her
appetite, and refusing to do as she was bid.
At first Madame hoped she would soon forget her grief, but
when three or four weeks had passed away, and still the tiny face
grew thin, and the little sorrowful voice was heard wailing in the
night, she became seriously unhappy about the child; for she was too
young to be reasoned with, too ill to be punished, and too far away
from her parents to be sent home. Sometimes they would take
her out for a drive, or think to amuse her by bringing her down into
the garden, but after taking a few steps she would put her wasted
hand to her side, and say in a piteous voice, 'It hurts here; it
always hurts here,' and beg to be taken in again. Her medical
attendant said it was extremely bad for her to fret and cry.
He assured Madame he could do nothing for her unless she was kept
calm and cheerful; an easy thing to say, but difficult to
accomplish, for every dose of medicine cost a contention and a
passion of tears that almost exhausted her feeble frame; and though
she was tempted with many dainties, she could hardly eat enough to
Madame was accustomed to be implicitly obeyed, and scarcely
knew how to deal with this poor infant, who set her authority
utterly at naught, and was not to be flattered or caressed into
submission. She had not been well brought up, and though when
in health she had yielded to an influence that kept the boldest
spirits in order, she now ceased to care for praise or blame, and
all her original wilfulness came back again.
Madame was evidently quite wretched, and was losing
confidence in herself altogether. She caused each teacher in
turn to try her powers with the child, then she called in the elder
girls, and encouraged them to exert themselves to make the little
sufferer take her medicine. But all was of no avail; low fever
came on, and life seemed actually to depend on a docility that it
was quite hopeless to expect from her.
Yet the wilfulness of a little child does not alienate
affection. There was still something sweet in the baby
resentment that blamed 'all the cruel ladies' for taking away her
mamma and her nurse. The little voice, in all its sorrow, was
still silvery and touching, and the wistful features were still
pretty, though marred by tears and illness.
It was about this time that Miss Black came among us, but, as
I have said before, her coming attracted little attention; our
thoughts, when not occupied with the child, were all given to
Caroline. Miss Black always inquired with great interest about
the poor little creature, but Madame never thought of asking her to
come and see her, because she was a stranger.
One night, when we were all quite unhappy about our little
school-fellow, I was called in to see if I could make her take her
food by talking Hindustani to her. I did not succeed, but as
Madame did not desire me to withdraw, I sat by the bed thinking how
mournful all this was, and wishing there was something more useful
for me to do than snuffing the candle which stood on a small table
Poor little child! I remember her wailing voice as she
sat half-upright in her bed, peevishly refusing either to take her
supper or to lie down and sleep, when the door into our bedroom was
softly pushed open, and Miss Black came in, with a long white
I thought she came to see what she could do to help us, but
apparently it was not the case. Miss Black did not look at us,
but at something soft that lay upon her arm, and she swept close up
to the bed without saying a word. Madame, utterly dispirited,
was weeping behind the curtain. The child paused in her low
cry, arrested by the sight of the stranger, and said, 'Who's that,
with her best frock on?'
'I've got something so pretty here,' said Miss Black, still
looking down upon her arm; 'I don't know whether I shall show it to
anybody.' She seemed to consider, and in the meantime the
child regarded her with fixed and wondering attention.
'If I knew of any very good child, perhaps I should show
these little things to her,' said Miss Black, pretending to talk to
'Wee, wee, wee!' cried the things on her arm.
'But I daresay nobody wants to see them,' she continued.
'I want to see them,' said the child, checking a long sob.
'Ah!' said Miss Black, 'they seem very hungry, poor little
'Oh! do show them to me,' sobbed the child; and when Miss
Black took up two tiny kittens by the neck, set them on the bed, and
let them creep towards her, she was so delighted that she began to
laugh, and try to feed them with some of the bread and milk which
she had been vainly implored to eat for her supper.
'Oh! they cannot eat bread,' said Miss Black quietly, 'they
are too young; but when we have emptied the saucer, they shall have
some milk in it.'
She sat by the child and supported her feeble frame.
'Now, then,' she said, 'let us eat this,' and she held the spoon to
the child's mouth, which was opened half unconsciously; for Miss
Black had begun to relate a wonderful story about four white kittens
who lived in a hay-loft. The child listened with rapt
attention till the supper was eaten, when the tale came to a sudden
conclusion; then some milk was poured into the saucer, and the real
kittens were fed.
When they had lapped every drop of the milk, Miss Black
produced a little basket and a piece of flannel, in which she let
the child help to place these playthings that had appeared so
'Now then,' she said, let us put them on the table, and you
shall sit on my knee, and peep at them, while Miss West shakes up
the pillow, and makes the bed all smooth and comfortable.'
No objection was made to this arrangement, but the little
wasted arms were held out, and the child, almost too weak now to
rise, tried to creep away from the pillows to her new friend,
suffering herself to be nursed and fondled till she could be placed
comfortably in her bed again. Then, indeed, her face changed,
and she said in a piteous tone, 'But I don't want you to go away.
I want you to get into my bed. Will you?'
Miss Black darted a glance at Madame, who nodded assent.
'O yes!' she said. 'I should like to sleep in your pretty bed
'And I may see the kittens to-morrow?'
'O yes!' repeated Miss Black, lying down beside the child,
whose chest still heaved every now and then with a deep sob, but who
was so completely wearied and faint for want of sleep, and the
comfort-cherishing that children so much require, that now she was
with some one who could manage her, she fell at once into a deep
sleep, and her little wayward face began to look calm and almost
Madame had kept completely in the background from the moment
of Miss Black's entrance, and when she saw that the child would soon
be asleep, she made a sign to me to remain perfectly still.
She looked so happy, when at length she came up to the bed, and
shading the candle with her hand, drew back the curtain, and saw her
poor little pupil fast asleep.
'Ah! this has been a terrible anxiety to me,' she murmured,
and then she stooped and kissed Miss Black, a thing I had never
seen her do to any pupils but the little ones. 'I am greatly
indebted to you, my dear,' I heard her say; 'you have relieved me
from great dread for this desolate child.'
Miss Black cautiously turned her face upon the pillow the
child's long curls were spread somewhat forlornly across her
forehead, she parted them with her soft hand; the little creature
was in a most healing slumber, and she said, 'I would take the
greatest care of her, Madame, if you would take some rest.
Will you trust me?'
Madame could not make up her mind to leave the room, but she
dismissed me to mine, and took possession of the other bed in the
nursery. She was soon asleep, and the door being left ajar, I
could see distinctly the little child and her new nurse, and I
wondered what it was that had given Miss Black such ascendency.
I do not think anything more transpired than what I have narrated,
and all her art seemed to have consisted in first surprising and
But at fifteen one does not reason much, nor spend the
precious midnight hours in any abstract speculations. I fell
asleep, and did not wake till we were called, when I found the door
shut between us, and was not told anything about the child till
after breakfast, when Belle waylaid a maid-servant as she came down
stairs, and heard from her that the physician had already paid his
visit; that he thought the child better, though extremely weak, and
had as usual requested that she might be kept as cheerful as
But about ten minutes before the first school-bell rang, Miss
Quain desired me to carry Miss Black's exercise-book and some ink
into the nursery, as 'Madame had given her leave to write her
exercise there. I went up and saw the little patient lying in
bed, looking decidedly better, and listening to a story,
― a story, namely, concerning a
young cock-sparrow, of rebellious turn of mind, who would insist
upon hopping under a hand glass, which a gardener had propped up
with a piece of wood. His mother, in forcible and affecting
language, had entreated him not to enter that dangerous place; but
this deluded bird, when she was not looking, went in. The
gardener came and shut the glass, and the sparrow was obliged to sit
inside, peeping through the glass and flapping his wings, with
nothing to eat, while his good, obedient brothers and sisters had
some little ants and some juicy caterpillars for their dinner.
This story, though it does not sound probable, nor of very
absorbing interest, was precisely suited to the infantine listener,
who remarked concerning the sparrow, that if he would not do as he
was bid, it served him quite right to be shut in there; and then,
while I was assisting Miss Black with her toilette, she tried to
make further acquaintance with her new friend by asking what her
'Oh, I have such a long name,' said Miss Black, that I don't
think such a little girl as you could say it; my name is Christiana
'Say it again,' asked the child.
The name was repeated, and, after pondering it silently for
awhile, the child said distinctly, in her sweet treble voice, 'Miss
Christiana Frances, will you say my little name now? May
Merton is my name.'
'Little May Merton, I love you very much,' said Miss Black. '
'And will you sleep in my bed to-night, Miss Christiana
Frances?' pleaded the little creature.
'O yes, if you are good,' replied Miss Black, who well knew
that Madame would be too happy to permit it.
'I am good,' said the child, glancing towards an empty
medicine glass; 'and you said you would tell me another story.'
But this other story, my readers, I regret that I cannot lay before
you, though it was doubtless of surpassing interest; for the bell
rang, and I left little May to the companionship of her
I feel that I have passed over the first appearance of Miss
Black among us, as if it had been a matter of very small importance.
It seemed to be so in the first instance, for though she
could easily make her way among children, she was particularly
reserved intentionally reserved among us; but as she is to play
a somewhat important part in the little scenes which I am about to
describe, I will try to give a sketch of her appearance and manner.
She was rather older than most school-girls, being nearly
seventeen years of age. She had only come into the house for
the sake of learning accomplishments, and was treated more like a
parlour boarder than a mere pupil, though she slept in our room, and
took her music and German lessons with us. Her appearance was
elegant and agreeable, perhaps somewhat pretty. I speak of her
as I saw her at first, for afterwards affection clothed her
deservedly with many charms. She was very womanly in manner
and character, and looked quite grown up, though she had a slender,
girlish figure. The hair and complexion were extremely fair,
yet she had black eyebrows, which met, and gave her sometimes, when
she was deep in thought, a severe expression. There was a
certain self-possession and calm about her which was not altogether
free from pride, and which made us, from the first, fond of
contrasting her character with that of Caroline, who was so winning
and engaging, and who could refuse a kindness in a manner more
flattering than the simple gravity with which Miss Black would grant
Caroline seemed often bent on pleasing and winning all
suffrages for herself. Miss Black was never trying to please,
though she was often trying to do good. Moreover, she was
deeply affectionate; it seemed to be as essential to her happiness
to find people on whom she could lavish her care and attentive love,
as it was to Caroline to excite and receive the affection of others.
Caroline was clever, Miss Black was intellectual, and by far
the most gifted pupil that Madame had ever received; but in spite of
the difference in their age, she was not equal to Caroline in that
peculiar tact, and that superior knowledge of character, by which
this singular young creature obtained for herself so much power.
Caroline always chose the most acceptable species of flattery to
bestow on each school-fellow whom she wished to influence, and found
the readiest way to their hearts, without yielding in return
one-half of the affection that she received.
'Oh, what a name!' exclaimed Caroline, when I told her Miss
Black's Christian name; for we, school-girl like, had tried to find
it out, but had not hitherto succeeded.
'Christiana reminds me of the Pilgrim's Progress. I
shall always feel inclined to address her in antiquated fashion.
Prithee, good Christiana, lend me thy French Dictionary.'
'But Frances is a pretty name,' I observed; 'and she says
that is the name she is called by.'
'I shall always call her by both,' said Caroline 'Christiana
is a moral name, and Frances is an intellectual name. She is a
perfect mass of morality and cleverness, far too much so for my
taste "stuffed with honourable parts," as that old gentleman
'You don't mean Shakspere?' I exclaimed.
'I mean the man whose scenes and things we read sometimes,
and whose picture has a turn-down collar yes, Shakspere, to be
sure; I thought at first it was Chaucer, but now I remember it
isn't. Well, if the said Christiana Frances likes to sit up in
the nursery with May, telling stories of cock-robins, instead of
cultivating the acquaintance of her equals, I have nothing to say
against it, I am sure.'
'No,' I remarked; 'you always said, that as far as you were
concerned, any one might patronize May who was willing.'
IN looking back
on those days which followed the illness of little May, I can
scarcely recall her image without that of Miss Black; 'My Miss
Christiana Frances,' as May always called her.
Madame, at Miss Black's own request, permitted her to take up
her abode in the nursery, as her bedroom; and shortly afterwards my
bed also was moved there, and a friendship gradually grew between
us, which enabled me to appreciate and love her character.
Those were happy days for May and me. My old friends,
with the exception of Belle, had all left The Willows; and some of
the new-comers often made me extremely uncomfortable, by quizzing
me, and laughing at me, if ever they found me indulging my love of
reading, or secretly studying any subject, by myself. Frances,
on the contrary, used to encourage and help me; and when I
complained of the teazing I endured, she used to sympathize with me,
though it evidently surprised her that I should care for it.
When she saw me hardly beset by Caroline and the elder girls, she
would sometimes enter the lists with me, and turn the tables upon my
tormentors; for she had considerable wit, and used to adopt the
quaint language which Caroline had sometimes addressed her in,
because of her name, and use it much more drolly than any of her
About this time four of the girls, myself among them, formed
a club, which we called, 'Them Mental Improvement Club,' a
childish thing, no doubt, but well meant, and for which we used to
write original articles in prose and poetry. When Caroline
discovered this club, she was very merciless upon us, partly, no
doubt, pretty dunce, because she could not write well enough (as we
were pleased to think) to be worthy of a place in it.
The club sometimes met in the coach-house, sometimes in a
bedroom, in short, anywhere that seemed to offer a safe asylum from
the ridicule of those who were not members. But I am bound, as
a faithful historian, to say that the 'mental improvers,' as
Caroline called us, were so made game of, and, metaphorically
speaking, so hunted down by her, that they were on the point of
dissolving, when one day a certain picture was discovered pinned to
the head of Caroline's bed. This picture was duly headed in
old English letters, 'Third Meeting of the Mental Improvers, with
Miss C. B., as Aquarius, pouring cold water on the concern.'
In the centre of the picture were four girls huddled together, and
reading from a paper. The unknown artist had expended a great
deal of trouble in making the figures extremely sweet and pretty.
Standing over them, with a huge watering-pot, was a ludicrous and
hideous caricature of Aquarius, with a face so like Caroline's, that
it was impossible to mistake it. A certain air of malice was
imparted to the features of Aquarius, as the streams of water came
pouring down, which by no means impaired the likeness.
Poor Caroline was deeply disgusted at the highly unflattering
likeness of herself; perhaps she was still more annoyed at the
beauty of the four girls seated on the ground. Their dress and
hair were represented as by no means disordered by the shower (for
artists will take liberties with nature and possibility); on the
contrary, the general air of Aquarius reminded one of the most dirty
and common-looking of little maids-of-all-work. Underneath
were these words:
'C. B. returns thanks to her friends and the public
for their distinguished patronage, and hopes, by unwearied efforts
to merit its continuance. N.B. Shower-baths gratis
every Wednesday afternoon.'
Wednesday afternoon was the time when we met. We all
thought in our inmost hearts that there was but one person in the
house who was artist enough to have made this really clever drawing.
No one said who she thought it was; and when she whom we suspected,
knocked at the door and came through the bedroom of the second class
with May in her arms, and a countenance of settled gravity, we were
a little puzzled. However, we never asked for any explanation;
for the members of the club would have felt it something like
vanity, to take for granted that those lovely young creatures on the
ground were meant for them; and as for Caroline, she was much too
politic openly to betray any anger; that would have been to admit
that she acknowledged the likeness and the character.
It was soon evident to all the school that Caroline
considered Miss Black in the light of a rival, though, as the latter
was remarkably independent, and scarcely ever interfered with
others, there was for a long time time very little opportunity for
In the meantime little May got quite well, and grew plump and
rosy, though she was still so extremely small, that the girls used
to say they thought all her growth went into her hair; rather an
unscientific way, perhaps, of accounting for her infantine
proportions. Her hair was of very unusual length and beauty,
and I well remember that when we used to pass our fingers through
the loose curls and straighten them, they would reach to the hem of
Pretty little May, she was always a pet amongst us, and so
light that it required no great strength to carry her about.
Frances spent many an hour that winter in carrying her out in the
garden, when the sun shone. Though cheerful and well now, she
was very tender, and easily fatigued; but endowed with a spirit and
a will strong enough for a creature five times her size.
Her improvement, under the care of Frances, was surprising,
and there was something extremely pretty and almost touching, in the
confiding way in which she gave her whole heart to her. Her
devotion was fully repaid, for we all felt that Frances loved this
morsel of a child more than all the rest of the household put
together. She was certainly an engaging and desirable little
plaything, and we all, including Caroline, liked to amuse ourselves
with her now and then, when she was well and good-tempered; but we
always gave her back to Frances when we were tired of her, as the
person to whom she naturally belonged, and whose duty it was to
attend to her. Her kindness to May was soon looked upon even
by Madame as a kind of duty. Yet I must do her the justice to
say that she did not tire of it. All the trouble she took in
teaching, cherishing, dressing, playing with, and telling stories to
'her child,' seemed to cost her very little effort. She was
systematically good to little May, not only when she was droll and
tractable, but when she was naughty, troublesome, and cross, as all
children are at times.
Some of the girls used to wonder how Frances could bestow so
much trouble on the child: I never did. I used to think of a
speech made to me a few months before, by a little cousin of mine.
'I think,' said this child, with grave contempt 'I think I shall
dig a hole and bury my doll.'
'Poor thing!' said I, 'what has she done?'
'Why,' replied the child, in a sharp tone of injured feeling,
'she's no use at all. I'm always saying, "How do you do?" to
her, and she she never says, "Very well, thank you."'
Now little May was a doll that could say, 'Very well, thank
you.' She was by no means a passive plaything.
If Frances left the door open, she invariably ran out, and
had to be brought back laughing and shrieking. If Frances left
her ink in an accessible place, May would dip a pen into it; and if
a drawing was at hand, May would put some finishing touches to it;
if not, she would wipe the pen on her pinafore. If she saw
Frances at work, she would seat herself beside her, on her mora
(stool), and quietly taking a needle and a long thread from the
cushion, would lift up some small article, such as a lace collar or
a pinafore, and begin to stitch through and through it, drawing up
the thread till the whole was one shapeless mass of crumples and
tangles, like a particularly bad ball; then she would proudly hand
it up to the unconscious Frances, exclaiming, 'There, I've mended
him, I want another to do.'
Frances obtained for herself the privilege, as she considered
it, of always being allowed to put May to bed; and before carrying
her up-stairs, she used to take off her shoes and socks, and warm
the child's tiny feet in her hands by the schoolroom fire. Oh,
the brushing and smoothing that those long, silky curls required; no
one but Frances would have found any pleasure in such a task; and
then, when she had tucked up her little charge and kissed her, she
always told her a story out of the Bible before she went away.
It was astonishing how much of scriptural incident and character the
child soon acquired in this way, and how many hymns and texts she
learned almost spontaneously. Indeed, it was not wonderful
that Frances should have taught her best that in which she took the
deepest interest, religion. She had none of that false shame
which prevents so many school-girls from daring to profess any
interest in this most important of all subjects, even when they feel
it strongly, and are unhappy at their own want of courage which
leads them to conceal it. The girls became aware that Frances
thought a good deal on matters that concerned the soul, just as
easily and quickly as they did that Frances wished to be a good
German scholar; for though neither fact was announced, both were
evident to any one with the slightest observation.
Little May reaped the benefit of this openness, which had a
most salutary effect in the school, and the more so, as it was not
inconsistent with that natural reserve which Frances seldom laid
aside. She quietly admitted her religious impressions, but she
never enlarged upon them.
Many a delightful evening in the spring-time, when I have
entered our bedroom, I have seen little May lying in her pretty bed,
and Frances reclining beside her, with her cheek on the same pillow,
telling those evening stories till the child gradually closed her
eyes and fell asleep in the broad daylight.
May had been at school about eight months, when one morning
Caroline received a letter by the Indian mail, from Mrs. Merton.
She gave a message to little May from her mamma, but it amounted to
little more than her best love, and that of the child's father.
Caroline, however, read the letter with deep interest and a
heightened colour, which gave us the impression that there was
something more than usual in it. School-time was at hand, so
we could hear nothing about it then; but we did not doubt that
Caroline, who was eminently sociable in disposition, and completely
unable to keep a secret, would tell us the contents of the letter
when she had an opportunity.
It was as we had expected. After school, Caroline was
walking in the orchard, conning her letter, when she met little
Nannette coming out of the hop-garden with an armful of cow-parsley
for her rabbits; and she sent her to us, to ask if we would join
her. There were six of us together, and we forthwith went and
found Caroline under a great apple-tree, seated upon the moss,
reading her letter. The tree was thick with pink flowers, the
sky was very blue above, and the orchard was full of bees that had
come out to rifle the blossoms.
The day, though remarkably clear and sunny, was somewhat
cold. We were all clad in the large shepherd's-plaid shawls,
which were our garden wear during the cold months; and as we wished
to hear the letter comfortably, we began when we arrived, to make a
kind of tent for ourselves, taking off three of these scarf-shawls,
and tying one end of each to a long hop-pole, which we then stuck
into the ground, making the whole safe and warm by laying stones to
steady the ends which were on the ground. Having thus erected
a shelter of the most desirable kind, with its back to the wind, its
opening to the sun, a beautiful tree overhead, and a pretty view of
the hop-plantation before us, we collected a quantity of dry leaves,
and carefully packed ourselves among them like birds in a nest,
covering up the whole community with the other four shawls.
Caroline then began her communication in these words: 'Sir Aimias
Merton is dead.'
'Dead! That old bachelor dead, of whom we had heard
such strange things. Who lived all his days in his own lodge,
hoarding his money. Who made his housekeeper give him half of
what she got by showing the house. Who refused his young
brother money enough to buy his commission; and who had been known
to make only one present, a present of an old mourning-ring to the
said brother's bride, muttering that he hoped there would not be a
large family, to eat him out of house and home!'
'Yes,' Caroline said, 'he was dead, and his brother had come
into the estate, and the whole of his princely fortune. Sir
Aimias had heard that living was remarkably cheap at Smyrna, and he
had actually set out and walked the greater part of the way to that
somewhat outlandish city, and no doubt done the remainder of the
journey with due regard to economy. He had lived there very
comfortably, because very cheaply, for some months, till he was
taken ill of a fever, and so died.'
'But does Mrs. Merton tell you all this?' asked one of the
'Not exactly in the words I have used, my dear,' said
Caroline, laughing. 'She says: "Our brother took a pedestrian
tour across Europe, and then made his way down to Smyrna;" that is a
respectful way of saying that he tramped, as the policemen
called it, part of the way, and begged perhaps (who knows?), the
'What a change for Mrs. Merton!'
'And what a change for the Baronet! Mrs. Merton says
they are both coming back directly, and she hopes they shall reach
England by the beginning of the Midsummer holidays.' Here
'And they will go to live in that beautiful house,' said one
of us; 'that house which poor Sir Aimias kept in such fine order,
but never occupied himself.'
'Yes,' said Caroline, 'and Mrs. Merton says she shall have
May and me to spend the holidays there with her.'
'May and me!'it sounded rather odd; I thought, not a
'I wonder whether they will let May return to school,'
remarked Belle l'Estrange.
'Not likely,' said another; 'and what a grief that will be to
'Oh, Frances is going to leave soon herself,' interrupted
Caroline hastily; 'she will only stay till Christmas.'
'Does Mrs. Merton say anything about inviting Frances also to
stay with her?' I inquired.
'How should she,' replied Caroline, incautiously, 'when she
never heard her name?'
'Never heard her name!' I exclaimed; 'why, I thought you
wrote often to Mrs. Merton, Caroline.'
Caroline turned her head till her bright eyes rested upon me.
There was something deliberate in the action; and she conveyed a
good deal of tranquil surprise into her survey, which was perhaps
intended to punish me for my audacity; and certainly abashed me
greatly, and made me blush up to the roots of my hair, and feel that
I had not a word to say for myself.
'I used to write occasionally, just to tell Mrs. Merton that
May was well,' said she, speaking slowly, and with an air of
distaste and languor. 'It was a trouble, of course, but I did
it; sometimes I put in the names of her primers, and the pot-hooks
she was doing; but I have not much time for writing, and no talent
for it, as you mental improvers have; and of course I cannot
give sketches of scenes, and occupations, and characters here, as
Sophia can; and besides, I had no reason to think they would be
interesting, if I could.'
It was pretty evident, then, that Caroline, in writing to
Mrs. Merton, had never even mentioned the name of Frances; and
though we were always inclined to take the very best view we
possibly could of everything that Caroline did, there was an awkward
silence now, which Belle at length broke, by charitably remarking,
'Of course, Cary, dear, you could not have known how soon Mrs.
Merton was coming home.'
Caroline gladly caught at this straw, and cleverly turned it
to her advantage.
'Of course not,' she said gaily, and with her own fascinating
smile; 'but Sophia seems to expect people to have prescience.
Ah! my little presidentess of the "mental improvers," you show a
marvellous partisanship; you are quite in the interest of the female
pilgrim. You think I ought to have given the exact pedigree
and description of Frances, in person, mind, and manners, just as
I should have done, if had known that she was so soon to meet
She looked under my hat as she said it, and I do not know how
it was, but I certainly felt as if I had done something foolish; and
when she laughed and kissed me, I was so much ashamed that I could
not help turning away my face.
I turned it towards the entrance of our little tent, and
there I saw in the distance Frances walking between the hop-poles,
carrying little May. She also was enveloped in her scarf of
shepherd's plaid, and she had wound it gipsy-like about herself and
the child, so that only the merry little face peeped out over her
shoulder, for she was carrying her pick-a-pack; and I shall not soon
forget how pretty they looked as they came towards us, through the
lengthening perspective of the hop-poles.
May had the sweetest little voice possible; Frances had
taught her to sing several simple songs, and used to sing second to
her; now her high childish notes, so clear and pretty, sounded like
fairy bells in the air, while the deep tones of Frances' contralto
voice, though fine, were not so audible at that distance.
'Pretty little May,' said Caroline, in a regretful tone; 'how
seldom one has an opportunity of getting her to play with! I
think Frances really does usurp her rather too much.'
I cannot describe how much this speech grated upon my
feelings. Frances had never refused to give up the child when
any of the girls had wished to play with her; but seldom had
Caroline wished for her, for she was not naturally fond of children.
'I could not think where you all were,' exclaimed Frances,
stopping before the opening of our tent.
'No,' said May, repeating her words; 'we could not tink
where you all were.'
'Comical little parrot,' said Caroline; 'just put her down,
Frances, and let her come in here.'
'Yes; I want to get into that funny little house,' said May.
Accordingly Frances began to unwind herself and the child, and
finally set her down in the very midst of us, all warm and rosy
after her ride.
'Take care of her,' said Frances, addressing us generally,
'and mind she does not get her feet damp in coming home.'
'I'll carry her in,' said Caroline.
'Very well, if you will undertake her, I shall go,' remarked
Frances; 'for I am rather behind-hand with my German.'
So Frances nodded, and went her way; little May was left with
us, and very droll and amusing she was, till she began to grow tired
of the tent, and then she said she wanted to go in, she wanted to
find her Miss Christiana Frances.
'What do you want with her?' said Caroline; 'look at me, am
not I quite as pretty as Frances?'
May laughed scornfully, as if quite amused at the notion that
any one could be so pretty as Frances. 'No,' she said, 'you're
not half such a pretty lady. I want to go.'
Though she was a mere baby, Caroline was evidently annoyed at
this uncomplimentary speech.
'I hope a certain individual does not try to set this little
thing against me,' she said, in a doubtful tone.
'The idea!' I exclaimed, almost as scornfully as little May
had done; 'how can you lend your mind to such a wild fancy,
Caroline? Why should she try to set her against any one; she
is quite above it; and besides, the child of course prefers
her so infinitely to any of us, that I am sure she never has the
slightest cause for any feeling of jealousy.'
'You are warm, my little Sophia,' said Caroline; but this
time I did not feel ashamed.
'Besides, Caroline,' observed one of our school fellows, who
was by no means aware of the dangerous ground she was treading on,
'why, above all people, should she try to set her against you, who
never interfere with her by any chance, never want to have the
child, and scarcely ever take any notice of her?'
'Pooh!' said Caroline, impatiently.
'I want to go,' repeated May, who was now patting Caroline's
cheek, by way of attracting her attention.
'I want my Miss Christiana Frances; and she said she would
open the drawer to-day, and let me look in it.'
'What drawer?' inquired Caroline.
Upon this I explained that May had often asked to see her
ayah's gowns, bangles, etc., but that Madame had not permitted this
hitherto; now her leave had been obtained, and Frances was going to
show them to her.
'Oh,' said Caroline, whose natural disinclination to trouble
herself with children was still strong within her, though she
evidently wished just now, for obvious reasons, to stand well with
little May. Well, I suppose I must take this child in, as I
promised;' and she rose, half reluctantly, saying, with a
half-smile, 'What little plagues children are!'
'And so is ladies great plagues,' exclaimed May; and then,
delighted with her repartee, she repeated it with fits of baby
laughter; and was carried off by Caroline, vociferating that ladies
were great plagues.
I do not know that she was more droll and shrewd than many
children of her age, but as she certainly was not much more than
half their size, she seemed incomparably more so; and to hear such a
little atom bandy jokes with us, as she often did, was one of the
most comical things possible.
SO little May was
carried off by Caroline, and we stayed awhile longer in our tent,
the day being a half-holiday. I remember that we discussed the
motives and conduct of Caroline in having avoided the mention of
Frances as a friend to May, in writing to the child's mother; and
that most of us excused her, or attempted to show that it was purely
accidental this silence. After awhile we dispersed, the others
to their birds in the coach-house, and I to my room, still called
the nursery; on entering I found Caroline and little May there, and
to my surprise saw that the chest of drawers, which contained the
ayah's possessions, had been opened, and that the contents were some
of them scattered on the chairs, the floor, and the beds. May,
with a wistful expression, which I had not seen on her face for a
long time, was gazing earnestly into an open drawer, and Caroline
was curiously examining the different articles.
'How did you get these drawers opened?' I exclaimed.
'Oh, they are quite common locks,' said Caroline. 'I
took a key from one of the drawers of the other chest and put it in,
and it opened without any difficulty.'
'But will Frances like your showing the things while she is
away?' I inquired. 'I know that Madame gave her the key, with
many directions about showing the things very cautiously, for fear
of exciting the child.'
Caroline looked a little alarmed, but answered, 'Then if
Frances expects to be present when they are shown, she should not
keep the poor child waiting so long. Madame gave her the key
as soon as morning lessons were over, and she has left the child,
and does not come to open the drawers; so as the little creature
said she wished to see themII undertook to show them to her.'
I replied that Frances was in the school-room, doing a German
exercise, and probably did not know that May was come in; and I
wondered that Caroline should not have called Frances, rather than
have at once obeyed the caprice of the child, who was, I observed,
though saying nothing, in highest state of excitement, the very
state that Madame vas solicitous by all possible means to avoid.
'I cannot get these things over my hands,' said Caroline, who
had taken up the silver bangles that the ayah had worn; what small
hands and wrists that woman must have had!'
I drew near and looked at the white muslin banyans or
jackets; the wide paunjammahs, which form part of the dress of her
order, and are sometimes made, as they were in this instance, of
rich Benares silk, the curious tortoise-shell combs, which she had
worn in her hair, and the long scarfs or veils of muslin which she
used to throw over her head and shoulders. I saw also the Soam
pebbles, the small silver pawn-box that she had used; for she was
very, very fond of chewing pawn, the rosare, or fringed cotton
quilt, on which she had sat while engaged in shampooing her little
beebee, a purse full of rupees, many strings of cowries, a small
six-sided box, made of straw, and ornamented at the top with a
representation of the cheel, or Brahminee kite, beautifully wrought
on it, also in straw; this box was filled with strange little pieces
of metal, of various shapes and sizes, and I supposed them to be
Besides all these things, and many more, which I have
forgotten, there were lying on the beds some beautiful jindilly
muslins, gauzes, pieces of striped Benares silk, small Indian scarfs,
grass handkerchiefs, Delhi shawls, pieces of kinquab (a superb kind
of Indian silk), a Trichinopoly chain, a Bombay workbox, chains,
bracelets, agates, and gold and coral ornaments, which had doubtless
been given into the care of the faithful ayah, for the child's use
as she grew older.
I know not what visions of infancy, or what distinct
recollections of the dead ayah and her distant parents, the sight of
these things may have awakened in the breast of little May, but she
continued to gaze at them like one fascinated, till Caroline
happened to say, 'What a curious smell there is about everything
that comes from the East! it is not sandalwood. What is it?'
'I do not know,' I replied; 'but I noticed it about all May's
clothes at first, and the ayah seemed always to waft it as she
walked. It must be some kind of spice.'
Caroline had put on a Benares silk slip of widely striped
silk, she had drawn round her one of the Indian shawls, it looked
very well on her slender form, and she was just completing her
costume, by fastening a muslin veil on her head, when the child,
attracted by our voices, turned round, and starting at the sight of
her, laughed at first, and held out her arms, but in another moment
she was evidently frightened, and began to scream most violently.
Caroline, who did not know how thoroughly the child was
excited, hoped to quiet her with a few kisses, and when these
failed, she first scolded, then entreated, but all to no purpose;
then being afraid of being seen by Madame, whose approval of what
she had done was doubtful, she ran to the drawers, flung them open,
and began to throw in the costly articles which she had so
unceremoniously taken from their concealment; but her purpose was
not wholly accomplished when Frances, attracted by the screams of
her nursling, flew into the room, and breathlessly demanded to know
what was the matter.
Caroline, discovered dressed in this strange costume, in
another person's room, and proving herself so unfit for the office
she had taken upon herself, was so angry, and so ashamed of her
ridiculous position, that she would not say a word, and I was
obliged to explain the matter as well as I could in the interval of
little May's piercing screams.
'I did not know you had brought May in,' said Frances, rather
coldly, and at the same time drawing the key from her pocket.
Caroline neither looked at her nor made any answer. 'I was
perfectly ready to show these drawers to her,' she continued; and
then added firmly, 'May, if you are not quiet I shall be exceedingly
'Poor little thing!' exclaimed Caroline, indignantly; 'how
can you speak so crossly to her? don't you see that she cannot
help sobbing? she has no power to prevent it.'
'Yes, she has,' said Frances, addressing herself more to the
child than to Caroline, and speaking steadily, but not unkindly.
'May can stop, and she must; she will be extremely ill if she goes
on screaming in this way. May, do you hear me?'
The child, awed by the unusual manner and expression of
Frances, tried to do as she was bid, and would no doubt have
succeeded, being assisted by her surprise, if Caroline had not
murmured some excuses, remarking, most injudiciously, 'She may stop
for a moment, but she is sure to begin again. I know she
Of course, upon this the child did begin again, and Frances
instantly took her up, carried her out of the room, and shut the
door behind her.
There was both indignation and dignity in her manner as she
did this, and if Caroline felt herself reproved, it was probably no
more than Frances intended.
'Insolence!' exclaimed Caroline, 'insolence! What right
has she to assume those miserable airs of superiority over me,
carrying off May as if my presence was improper for her, and
treating me like an ignorant child? Insolence! but I will
have her yet I'll have her back again, even if I have to appeal to
Madame. Frances, indeed; what is she that she is to thwart me,
and get the upper hand in everything? I will enter the lists
with her, and we shall soon see who will win. May shall be my
child again before she is a fortnight older.' And, to my great
surprise, she burst into a passion of tears, and hurried to little
May's bed, laying her head down on the pillow, sobbing and covering
her beautiful eyes with the ayah's muslin veil.
I did not at all suppose that she was serious when she spoke
of appealing to Madame, and of having the little May back again, for
she was too indolent, I thought, to desire seriously a charge that
was sure to be so troublesome; I therefore looked on her speech as
an outbreak of mingled indignation, mortification, and passion.
And, when she threw herself on the bed, I could not help feeling
amused; for I thought it childish in her to have a fit of crying,
and show her temper so openly, because she had been vexed.
Most of the girls, I thought, would have been too proud for such an
exhibition; and I looked on very composedly, wondering what would be
done next, till presently the pretty way in which she bemoaned
herself, wishing she had never come to this place this sorrowful
place where it was never really warm, and where the people were as
cold as the weather; where no one understood her, and no one really
loved her; declaring that she was the most unhappy person possible,
and that no half-holiday had ever before been so sorrowful, worked
on my feelings to such a degree, that before I knew what I was
about, I was at her side, begging her to be comforted, and was
caressing her, quite forgetting whether she was right or wrong, and
was lifting up her face, and entreating her to be comforted.
'You used to love me before Frances came,' sobbed Caroline,
'but now now you always take part with her.'
I was so completely beguiled, that I thought of nothing but
how to comfort her, and only answered that I loved both very much,
and hoped she would forget this little scene, and be friendly
Caroline laid her head on my bosom, and, after a great great
deal more comforting, caressing, was induced to rise, dry her eyes,
and smile again. She stood up, and with my help, divested
herself of the rich silken petticoat, the Indian shawl, and the
ayah's veil, which she had fastened on with some long silver pins,
probably intended for that purpose. Then she walked to the
glass to arrange her hair, still looking very pensive; but her first
remark, on seeing herself therein reflected, struck me as so very
irrelevant, and so completely beneath the dignity of such a heroine
in distress as she had just been enacting, that I could not help
bursting into a sudden laugh.
'Well, I don't look much worse for my crying fit,' was the
remark in question; 'but if I were Frances, I would never cry at all
it really swells up her eyelids, and makes her nose so red, that
she looks quite ugly after it. What can you be laughing at,
'I cannot help it.'
'You are not laughing at me, surely? you are, I believe!
What is the reason?tell me, this instant, you little quiz.'
'Because as people are not supposed to cry if they can help
it, or unless they are really in sorrow, it seemed so droll to
suppose that they consider whether it will be unbecoming or not, and
'Ah! one ought to be more cautious what one says to you,
presidentess; such a straightforward, simple person as myself cannot
get on with you at all; you are always weighing and criticising.
This glass hangs in a very bad light!'
'Caroline, I want to say something to you.'
'Well, say it, then.'
'You think I observe my friends too closely. I must
tell you something that I have observed about you.'
'If it is an agreeable thing, you may.'
'But it is not an agreeable thing altogether, yet as it
concerns me as well as yourself, I must tell you, because not
telling it sometimes makes me feel as if I were deceitful.'
'Does it make you feel as if you were blushing violently?
because you are.'
'Well, I do not care; I shall tell you notwithstanding.'
'I agree with you that you are deceitful, presidentess; for
you say you don't care, and you do. You shan't tell me.'
So saying, Caroline walked up to me, and laying her hands on my
shoulders, looked into my eyes and laughed, repeating, 'You shall
not tell me; I dare you to it.'
'You have a habit,' I began; but Caroline quickly stopped my
mouth by clapping her hand upon it, exclaiming, 'Oh, you tiresome
girl, I cannot bear your scruples, and your principles, and your
things; you must have caught them of Frances; you were such a
charming little creature before she came.'
She would not remove her hand till I ceased to make attempts
at speaking, and then she pathetically begged me to help her in
putting away the Indian articles, which I accordingly began to do,
and they supplied us with conversation till the last shawl was
folded, and the last jewel carefully put away. Then Caroline
sat down on the side of the bed with an air of the deepest
consideration, and said to me, 'After all, presidentess, I think I
have a curiosity to hear what you meant to tell me.'
'Perhaps it was that you are, in my opinion, a very
'Perhaps it was no such thing; come, tell me, for I like you
to talk confidentially to me as you used to do before that Frances
came. I think there is no one in the house that I feel so fond
of as I do of you.'
'Oh, but you said that to Belle yesterday, that very same
thing; for she repeated it to me in great triumph.'
Caroline laughed, and answered, not a whit abashed: 'Well, I
daresay I felt very fond of her when I said it; but now I want to
hear this; tell me, only mind it is not to be anything
'In that case, I am to invent something to tell you, I
suppose; for I told you what I did mean to say was disagreeable.'
'It really is very provoking of you to tease me in this way,'
said Caroline, earnestly, 'when you know that I never can sleep at
night if anything puzzles me.'
I saw she was determined to be told, but my courage failed
me, for I felt more strongly than I had ever done before that
Caroline would never forgive me if I really let her see what grave
faults I had perceived in her character; strange to say, I also felt
more than ever those nameless attractions which had drawn me to her
from the first.
'Come, begin,' she exclaimed, drawing me towards her, and
making me sit by her on the little bed. 'I know it is
something agreeable after all; and if it is not, I shall be in such
She spoke in joke, but did not think how soon it would be
true in earnest.
'I did not like to tell you,' I began, 'because we have been
so affectionate and friendly just now; it was only this, that you
have a habit of making out, at least you seem to take for granted,
whenever we show you how much we love you you have a habit, you '
'Well, come to the point,' said Caroline, laughing, and don't
'Why, you seem to take for granted,' I exclaimed, with a
mighty effort, 'that if people love others, they must needs think
them perfect; you think when we are affectionate, at least when I
am, that I entirely approve of what you may have been doing that I
think you quite in the right.'
'If you do love me, you must think me right,' said
Caroline. 'You must take my part in your mind. No one
can love me, and yet see faults in me.'
'Do you see no faults in me?' I ventured to inquire.
'O yes!' was the frank rejoinder, 'but then that's
different. I see faults sometimes, no doubt.'
'But I, loving you more than you love me, ought not to see
any in you; is that it?' I asked.
Caroline laughed again; but I had, perhaps, come so near to
what she had meant, when she made that incautious speech, that she
felt embarrassed, and only repeated that she had always accustomed
to have people like her, and not see her faults; and she was sure if
I loved her I could not see them.
'But,' I said, 'I beg your pardon, I often see them and yet
sometimes for want of courage, and sometimes because you appear to
expect it, and often remark that a friend is always
short-sighted to defects, I have let you think I considered you
quite right when I have blamed you in my heart; and you are often so
affectionate to me that I am sure you do not know what I sometimes
'If I understand you aright,' said Caroline, 'I suppose this
is your way of telling me that you do not care for me as much as you
have often pretended to do.'
'If you think so,' I replied, 'you do not understand me at
It was one of Caroline's peculiarities to be remarkably
sensitive to blame; she could not bear to be found fault with in the
most trivial matter. She now looked surprised, and even
coloured, a thing that rarely occurred with her. 'I don't
know what you mean,' she said, 'unless you give me an instance.'
I answered, in some trepidation, 'I thought it wrong in you
to express a determination to get May away from Frances, yet I tried
to comfort you when you were so vexed, and you thought, I believe,
that I approved.'
Caroline had pushed me slightly from her, and withdrew her
arm as I began to speak; and the moment I was done, 'Express a
determination!' she repeated, passionately. 'Yes, I do express
a determination; I will strive with Frances, by all means, open and
underhand; she shall not treat me as she has done for nothing.
May, I will have. Frances may do without her as well as she
The point in discussion was already lost sight of between us,
and the old grievance recurred to. 'Then you will be very
wrong, and very unkind,' I exclaimed, in great heat. 'You will
be more than unkind, you will be wicked.'
'Wicked!' cried Caroline, starting up with sparkling eyes.
'What do you dare to say? What do you mean? How unkind?
'It would be wicked,' I repeated, 'because it would be
stealing.' I said this word in a very low tone.
Caroline caught it up sarcastically, and repeated it with a
bitter laugh. 'Stealing! as if that tiresome, plain,
uninteresting child was worth stealing.'
'The more unkind, then,' I exclaimed, 'if you think so, to
steal her from Frances, to whom she is so lovely, so interesting,
and so precious. I say, it will be stealing, and if you do it
intentionally, as you say you mean to do, it will be quite as
wicked, and quite as mean, as it would be to steal one of those
Indian shawls, or to steal May's diamond locket that her papa left
'Insolent girl! Insolent creature!' cried Caroline,
drawing herself up to her full height, and looking down on me as I
sat nervously on the side of the bed. 'And so, I suppose indeed
I can have no doubt,' she added with ineffable scorn, 'that this
conversation this pleasing and affectionate conversation, will be
repeated to Frances Frances, whom you can esteem no doubt of it
at all. I hope you will not forget to mention that you
yourself confessed to being deceitful, and if you will also say that
I quite agree with you, it will add to the obligation.'
'I shall not mention a word of it,' I replied, swelling with
pride and mortification; 'it has been strictly confidential, and I
can only wish now, very sincerely, that it might have ended
Caroline was walking about the room in such a passion as I
had never seen her in, though she was naturally of a very excitable
disposition; her eyes sparkled, her cheeks were suffused with
crimson, her whole figure seemed to dilate; and she replied, in a
tone of the bitterest contempt, that, for her part, she wondered how
such a conversation could end otherwise than by a cessation of all
friendliness on the part of the injured party; that she was
thankful for this dιnouement,
and for the avowal of my sentiments; adding, in a very galling
manner, that she had quite long enough nourished a serpent in her
bosom; 'and as to this strictly confidential conversation,' she
repeated, 'it may be kept to yourself for a time; but I mistake you
and your sincerity very much if Frances does not know the whole of
it within a week.'
'I shall not repeat a word of it to her, either now or at any
future time,' I repeated, passionately.
'As you please,' Caroline began, and paused suddenly in her
excited pacing of the chamber; presently adding, more calmly, though
still in an angry tone, 'I never asked you to make such a solemn
and deliberate promise; but since you have thought proper to
do so, of your own accord, I suppose you have some reason for it.'
As she went on with this sentence, she spoke more slowly, and
with unusual emphasis, as if she wished fully to impress on my mind
that I had made this promise, and also as if its importance to
herself unfolded itself more and more. I was forcibly struck
by this change, and this sudden coolness, where there had been so
much passion. I perceived that now she had this promise she
was quite at her ease, and it pained me inexpressibly to perceive
that no part of her excitement and agitation had arisen from her
quarrel with me, and this unceremonious breaking up of our
friendship, but only from the fear of my, repeating her words; and I
was so vexed, and so heart-sore, at the utter loss of her affection,
that though I could now esteem her less than ever, I could not help
shedding some very bitter tears when I saw her take up a fan, and
walk about near the windows to cool herself, then go to the glass,
smooth her hair, and arrange her ribbons with elaborate care, and
finally walk out of the room without deigning to bestow on me one
look or one word.
Many sorrowful feelings combined to make me glad to remain
alone for awhile after Caroline had left me; I reproached myself for
the clumsy way in which I had managed my part in the conversation,
and wept with wounded affection, and perhaps also injured pride,
and, like Caroline, I thought this was the most miserable
half-holiday I had ever passed. At length, when the redness
that Caroline had spoken of was faded from my features, I stole
down-stairs, and perceiving, through the staircase window, that most
of the girls were still in the garden, I took my way to the
schoolroom, that I might be alone, and there I saw what?
Why, Caroline and Frances sitting together, doing a piece of
bead-work, and talking in the most amicable manner possible!
Remarkable sight! I was too bashful to come close, but
sat down at the first desk. Caroline had perhaps made some
kind of apology to Frances; for the latter looked pleased, and
little May sat at her feet, quite happy again, and trying to thread
some very large beads, but continually scattering them, and
scrambling under the table to pick them up. At last, taking
advantage of a pause in the discourse, she leaned against Frances's
knee, and exclaimed, without any preface, 'But when is she to come?
she is such a long time coming.'
'I told you,' said Frances, 'that she should come whenever
you could count a hundred, without making a mistake.'
'Will she have blue eyes?' proceeded May; 'will she have blue
eyes, Miss Christiana Frances?'
'Blue eyes and flaxen hair,' replied Frances, 'and two little
pink shoes that will take on and off.'
'Oh! I do want her so much.'
'What is the child talking of?' asked Caroline.
'Of a wax doll that I have promised her when she can count a
hundred, for she has been very idle lately; and when she has learned
this one thing, not before, I shall give her the doll for a reward.'
'Not before,' sighed little May; 'and her frock is to be a
white frock, Miss Christiana Frances? Oh! I wish she
would come to-night.'
Frances smiled. 'Well, begin then,' she said, 'one,
two, three, and if you go on properly to a hundred she shall come
to-night.' By this she convinced me that the doll was already
in her possession, and ready to be given at a moment's notice.
I am very much mistaken if the same idea did not strike Caroline,
for she also smiled and said, 'I never should have patience
to keep back anything that I was teased for.' This she said in
French, and Frances answered, 'I have passed my word.'
May began to count, Frances took her up on her knees; the
little creature laid her head on her bosom as on a place of tried
security, and when she reached sixteen she stopped, and had to be
prompted, and then Frances discovered that her feet were cold, and
took off her shoes to warm them, and a great deal of kissing and
caressing went on between them; upon seeing which, a cloud passed
over Caroline's brow.
'Let me warm them for you,' she presently said.
'Oh, no, thank you!' said Frances; 'I could not think of
troubling you.' She spoke exactly as she might have done if
May had been her sister, her natural charge. Now, May, go on.'
'Shall she come, then, when I can count up to trenty?'
pleaded the child.
Frances shook her head.
'But mayn't she come, if I kiss you a great many times?' said
May suddenly, as if a bright idea had struck her.
'She may come when you can count a hundred,' repeated
'Then I will do it right, Miss Christiana Frances,'
exclaimed May, with a mighty sigh, and she immediately counted up to
nineteen without once stopping even to take breath.
All the remainder of that evening Caroline was particularly
friendly to Frances. The next day Madame, having occasion to
drive into the town, invited Caroline and another of the pupils to
accompany her. I happened to hear Madame ask them whether they
wished her to buy anything; for, when this was the case, she always
chose to know it beforehand.
I was standing close to Madame at the time, holding her
gloves, and therefore I could not fail to hear the answers; one I
have forgotten, the other struck me forcibly, it was Caroline's, and
given in a particularly low voice: 'She wished to buy a doll,' she
I REMARKED, at
the conclusion of my last chapter, that Madame drove away in the
pony-chaise with Caroline, and I soon forgot my speculations about
the doll, which the latter had expressed a wish to purchase.
How did I contrive so easily to forget a thing in its nature so
interesting? Why, my dear readers, I think at this distance of
time I can venture to confide to you, that having then reached the
ripe age of fifteen, I was deeply engaged in the writing of a grand
epic poem, upon which I worked on all holidays and half-holidays.
Some of my school-fellows gave me their select opinions upon
it, when I afterwards read it to them in the hayloft, over the place
where our caged birds were kept; they said they thought it very
fine; they also said they did not exactly understand it; I am happy
to say that I had the strength of mind to burn it shortly after
On this half-holiday, as the pony-chaise disappeared, I crept
into the said hayloft, and then taking out my pocket ink glass and
my little folio, began to write; and was deep in the distressing
scenes of the death of my hero, whom I was causing to die in the
most affecting manner, weeping abundantly myself over the cruelty of
his enemies, and quite sobbing at the noble courage and resignation
that I was making him display, when I thought I heard the least
possible creaking behind me, and the least possible soupηon
of a gentle titter.
Perched as I was upon the square-cut blocks of hay, crying
piteously, so that the tears blotted my page, my bonnet lying beside
me, and the whole loft radiant with dusty sunbeams, could anything
be more ridiculous than my position, or, unfortunately, more
conspicuous, if any of the girls were watching me from the top of
the ladder-like stairs? To say that I blushed till the very
back of my neck was rosy, would but half describe my glowing shame.
I did not dare to turn round, and was almost wishing that my
noble hero had never been invented, when suddenly, 'All hands pass
pocket-handkerchiefs?' cried a voice that I knew, 'to dry the Muse's
We were reading just then in class the history of the last
naval war, and used to adopt its sea phrases as well as we could.
Instantly a pocket-handkerchief, rolled up like a bail,
struck me on the back; another flew over my head; more, more; there
were eight of them flying about me; and after this shower the owners
rushed in pell-mell, and flung themselves on the hay in convulsions
of laughter some had their shoes in their hands, having taken them
off below that they might ascend more gently; some kissed and
apologized; some with mock gravity wiped my cheeks, and then tried
to read the blotted manuscript, adroitly substituting pieces of the
Italian grammar where it baffled their efforts at deciphering.
They were all in ecstasies at my discovered absurdity; and as
for me, when the first moments of shame were over, I laughed more
than any of them, and was extremely anxious to disavow my poetic
fervour, and to make humble apologies for having deserted those
gifted spirits, my school-fellows, for the sake of writing verses in
We went into the garden and amused ourselves in various ways,
till the afternoon suddenly clouding, we betook ourselves to the
house; the elder girls withdrew to the dining-parlour; the little
ones to the schoolroom, and I only of the upper class went with
them, for I was helping them to make a tiny grotto, which was to be
presented to Madame on her birthday, and the shells for which we
sorted on the window-sills of this long room,
We were all kneeling on the floor, sedulously intent on our
sorting, with the exception of little May, whom Frances had just
sent in, and who was playing about the room, jumping over the
hassocks, when the pony-chaise drove up, and immediately after
Caroline came in, with a large silver-paper parcel in her hand.
Now I have before adverted to the fact that I was at that
time remarkably small for my years; consequently, when Caroline
glanced round, I can scarcely doubt that she overlooked my
individual presence, only thinking that all the little ones were
there at their play, for I have since believed that if she had seen
me, she would have used more caution in what she said.
She was blooming with air and exercise, and her lovely hazel
eyes sparkled as if she were excited. 'Where is May?' she
Several fingers pointed under the table, and presently out
crept May, shaking back her extremely long curls, and bearing a
hassock in her arms. The little creature was flushed with the
effort. Caroline smiled pleasantly on her, and said, 'Where do
you think I have been, you tiny thing?'
May answered, in a matter-of-fact way, that she knew.
'Oh, then, you don't want to hear anything about it?'
observed Caroline; 'nor to be told what I have got in this parcel?'
May, upon this, put down the hassock, and came close to where
Caroline had seated herself on a form.
'You cannot guess what is inside there?' asked Caroline,
laying her hand upon the softly rustling paper.
'I can guess,' cried an eager looker-on from the window-seat.
'And I am sure I know,' exclaimed another. The folded toy was
as lovely a doll as ever enriched the eyes of a little mortal.
'Look at it,' said Caroline, 'I will just undo a piece of the
paper.' She did so, and displayed a flaxen-haired beauty, with
smiling red lips, and gay blue eyes.
'A doll!' said May, gravely laying one finger on its face, in
her own peculiarly infantine manner.
'She is nearly as tall as you are,' said Caroline; 'I wonder
who she is for?'
'I wonder who she is for?' repeated the fascinated child,
looking down on the doll's face.
'Well, I will tell you,' replied Caroline; 'here, take her,
she is for you.'
May looked at her, and then putting her hands behind her,
said wistfully, 'My doll's not coming today, because I didn't count
a hundred; perhaps she's coming to-morrow.'
'This is your doll,' persisted Caroline, laughing; 'is she
not a beauty?'
'But I only did it right up to eighty-one,' said the child;
'and my Miss Christiana Frances said my doll might not come till
'You silly little thing,' said Caroline, colouring and
laughing; 'look, this is a doll that I am going to give you; it is a
present from me; when you can count a hundred, Miss Christiana
Frances can give you another doll, if she likes, but this is yours
now here, I bought it for you; kiss me and take it.'
May seemed now to understand, and with a rapturous laugh she
sprung to Caroline, and threw her arms about her neck and kissed
her. Caroline took her up and gave her the great doll, and
praised it, pointing out its beauty and its good qualities.
The child blushed for joy. 'Are you sure she is my doll?' she
exclaimed; 'and what will Miss Christiana Frances say?'
Caroline made an impatient gesture, and replied Miss Black
can give you a doll when she likes, May, and I can give you one when
I like: it does not at all matter to me what other people do; and
look, here is something more for you: so saying, she produced a
paper of sugared almonds. 'There,' she continued, 'these are
for you, all for you, because you are the youngest little girl in
the school, and you are my little pet. Kiss me.'
May readily did as she was desired, and forthwith opened the
tempting paper, and began to eat an almond.
'Nannette has a pocket in her best frock,' she observed to
her new friend.
'Would you like to have one in your frock to keep your
almonds in?' asked Caroline.
'O yes!' replied May, confidingly; 'and I shall ask my Miss
Chris-tiana Frances to make me a little pocket, and perhaps she
will, if I'm good.'
'If you're good! poor little thing,' said Caroline, with
ill-timed pity; 'well, May, I will make you a pocket, for little
girls cannot always be good.''
'No,' said May, simply; 'I wasn't good when I sucked the
'What paints?' asked Caroline.
'Those little paints in my Miss Chris-tiana's box; I thought
they were chocolates, and I bit them.'
'Yes, and she made her lips all blue,' said Nannette,
breaking into the conversation, 'and when Massey washed her, the
soap got into her mouth.'
This cheering conclusion to the affair being brought forward,
May observed, in a deeply reflective tone, 'I shall not suck the
paints any more.'
Caroline laughed. 'Well, May,' she said, 'you may go
and fetch my work-box, and I will make you a pocket now.'
May's delight was very great. She ran for the box, and
a little pocket was set in hand instantly Caroline talking
pleasantly while at work about the doll, and how she would make a
frock and a hat for her, while May prattled in a confiding way that
she had not shown her before.
'There,' she said, when the pocket was sewed in, 'now,
whenever you want anything, little one, you may come to me, and I
daresay I shall be able to do it for you.'
'Yes,' said May, 'when my Miss Chris-tiana Frances hasn't
time:' and then, indicating the kind of thing she generally wanted
doing, she said, 'Can you play at Loto, and draw cats and two little
kittens, Miss Baker; and can you draw pigs with curly tails?'
'Oh, I can do a great many things for little girls who love
me,' said Caroline.
'I love you,' responded May.
'Are you sure you do?' asked Caroline.
'O yes, I love you very much indeed to-day,' replied the
frank little creature, and added, 'I didn't love you any of the
'Do you love me as much as Miss Christiana Frances?' asked
May laughed as if she considered the question absurd, but
presently said, in a consoling tone, 'I can't yet, but perhaps I
'You small oddity!' said Caroline, 'do you remember seeing
that pretty little locket that I wear sometimes?'
'O yes,' answered the child. 'You mean that one that I
opened when I saw it in your box, and you slapped me, and said I
wasn't to touch it.'
This was rather an awkward recollection, but Caroline passed
it on, and said, 'If I thought you really did love me, I would put a
little piece of your hair in it; would you like that?'
May replied that she should, qualifying the admission though
by stipulating that she was to cut off the lock of hair herself, and
she was to see it put behind the little bit of glass! To this
Caroline assented, taking out whatever may have been in the locket
before, and tying the shining morsel of May's wavy hair with a piece
of gold thread.
I felt a good deal of indignation throughout this scene, and
it never occurred to me that Caroline was unconscious of my
presence, till one of the little ones happening to appeal to me by
name about a shell, she uttered an exclamation of astonishment and
annoyance, and instantly started up and left the room. She had
not been gone two minutes, when Frances entered, and May rushing up
to her, with one hand in her new pocket, and her great doll under
the other arm, burst forth into a confused speech, with no stops,
and very little sense in it, but full of delight and exultation.
'What is it, my little darling?' said Frances, looking down
on the small face which was quite suffused with blushes of delight
'I didn't count a hundred,' said May, in a great hurry, 'but
Miss Baker gave me my doll, and she said I was to keep it, and she
said it was mine, and I've got a pocket that Miss Baker made, and
please will you have one of my sugared almonds, Miss Christiana
Frances took the doll, and I have seldom seen a face change
more than hers did, when the truth dawned upon her. She was
very keen-sighted and quick-witted, and it seemed (if I am not
mistaken) to strike her at once that Caroline was trying to supplant
her in the affections of her little favourite. She coloured
exceedingly her surprise and pain were evident but little May,
who, in the midst of her delighted excitement, seemed to have
preserved a kind of suspicion that this doll might possibly be
forfeited to the higher powers, and that she had not come quite
honestly by it after all, sobbed out in a half crying tone: 'I
didn't ask for her; Miss Baker said I might keep her; she said she
bought her for me.' Then Frances controlled herself, and
giving back the doll to May, who was stretching up her arms for it,
said, 'Yes, she is your doll, and you are to keep her, if Miss Baker
gave her to you, my little May.'
'And will you kiss me, and may I sit on your knee?' said the
child, still aware that something was wrong.
'My little treasure!' said Frances, with a sigh of
inexpressible regret; but she sat down and took up the child and her
doll, sitting silent and deep in thought, while May descanted on the
many perfections of her present, and while she related how Miss
Baker had shut up a bit of her hair in that funny little box, and
she had looked at it behind the glass.
Frances was evidently pained and hurt. She made no
reply to the child's prattlings; but when the girls came in, as they
shortly did, to tea, Frances turned to Caroline, and said to her in
French, 'I thought you were quite aware, Miss Baker, that I had got
a doll ready for May; indeed, I believe I had told you so.'
She spoke coldly, and with some hauteur. Caroline answered
with no less, 'No, I was never told so.'
'But the subject was alluded to, and half explained in your
presence,' I could not help saying; 'and you remarked that if you
had had such a toy in your possession, you could not have kept it
back from a child.'
'We all know, Sophia, that you have a most excellent memory,'
said Caroline, and she said it in such a way as to imply a reproach
as if I had been in the habit of using my memory against my
schoolfellows. She continued: 'If Frances is really so much
attached to the child as she professes to be, I cannot understand
why she is otherwise than pleased at her having a toy given her.
It seems to me selfish to wish that no one but herself should give
'I have no such wish,' said Frances, with some heat.
The other girls looked on surprised.
'It is not only that I think you might have chosen a present
which would not have made mine valueless,' said Frances, but that
part of my influence is overthrown by it, and my reward made nothing
worth trying for. Besides,' she continued, 'it is difficult
for me to think that your present was accidentally the same as my
'Indeed,' replied Caroline, with provoking calm; 'well, I
hope the poor child at least will be pleased with her doll, for it
is evident that other people are not pleased; and, as Madame has
given you such unbounded authority over May, you had better mention
to her that my being fond of the child endangers your exclusive
right, and ask her to forbid my speaking to May, or even looking at
her: no doubt she will.'
'Caroline!' exclaimed Frances, surprised at this strange
speech. Come to me, my pet,' said Caroline to May, who, during
this French conversation, had been leaning against Frances; 'did
they let her stand all this time, and take no notice of her?'
May readily held out her arms, and seeing the locket hanging round
Caroline's neck, began to play with it and to relate to all whom it
might concern, how this was her hair, and how Miss Baker said she
should always wear it, even when she was grown up to be a lady.
There was a way in which these little things were said and
done that seemed greatly to pain Frances. Caroline patronized
May as if she was the most friendless little creature possible, with
no toys to play with, and no one to take pity on her; but the
teachers presently coming in to preside at the tea-table, put an end
to the conversation; and when I heard Caroline privately whispering
to May that she was to sit next her, I slipped into the place by
Frances, for I saw that May would not occupy it, and I hoped Frances
would not observe Caroline's acts, or at least that I should spare
her feelings, by preventing a discussion; but my intention was
frustrated by the little creature herself, who, running up to
Frances, said, in a supplicatory tone, 'Please may I sit next Miss
Baker to-night? She did ask me; she said I should not be any
'You may sit wherever you please, my dear,' said Frances,
gently. So little May ran round delighted, saying aloud, 'I
may, I may, Miss Baker; Miss Chris-tiana Frances says I may sit by
She was a privileged person, this little May, and allowed to
take many liberties of locomotion not permitted to her elders; but I
thought the triumph of having her was a little damped for Caroline
by the occasional reproofs of the English teacher, a personage who
by no means relished change and innovation. 'Miss Baker, I
will thank you to cut that crust, it is too hard for Miss Merton's
teeth.' 'Miss Baker, Miss Merton is spilling her milk.'
'Pray, Miss Baker, why is Miss Merton without her pinafore?' and so
Poor little May, I must needs pity her, when I remember the
siege that was laid to her baby heart, and the deterioration which
from day to day ensued in her behaviour from Caroline's unwise and
capricious indulgence: for this day proved only a sample of many
days that were to follow, and Caroline seemed to take positive
delight in doing all she could to destroy the influence of Frances,
to thwart her plans, and steal her cherished treasure.
In all things that gave trouble, May was still left to
Frances, and though she did not seem absolutely to fail in her
allegiance to her first friend, she was naturally attracted by the
presents, caresses, and petting of Caroline; and really it seemed as
if Frances herself was less kind than formerly, for if May became
tiresome and naughty from over-indulgence, Caroline would have no
more to do with her, so that Frances had the reproving of her faults
and childish ill-humours, and Caroline the rewarding of her good
Yet it was obvious to the least acute observer, that Caroline
was doing this for an object not for the love of the child; for
she was sometimes evidently fretted by the very presence and
caresses that she had courted. But Frances, who so deeply
loved the child, was pained to the heart for the slack hold that she
now had over her, and which was easily being withdrawn from her
not for May's own good, or even for the good of the withdrawer.
To Frances might have been applied the words of one of our
most celebrated modern writers: 'I was robbed for no one's
enrichment, but for the greater desolation of this world.'