Some Affairs Of The Heart

LITTLE Miss Peecher, from her little official dwelling-house, with its little windows like the eyes in needles, and its little doors like the covers of school-books, was very observant indeed of the object of her quiet affections. Love, though said to be afflicted with blindness, is a vigilant watchman, and Miss Peecher kept him on double duty over Mr Bradley Headstone. It was not that she was naturally given to playing the spy — it was not that she was at all secret, plotting, or mean — it was simply that she loved the irresponsive Bradley with all the primitive and homely stock of love that had never been examined or certificated out of her. If her faithful slate had had the latent qualities of sympathetic paper, and its pencil those of invisible ink, many a little treatise calculated to astonish the pupils would have come bursting through the dry sums in school-time under the warming influence of Miss Peecher’s bosom. For, oftentimes when school was not, and her calm leisure and calm little house were her own, Miss Peecher would commit to the confidential slate an imaginary description of how, upon a balmy evening at dusk, two figures might have been observed in the market-garden ground round the corner, of whom one, being a manly form, bent over the other, being a womanly form of short stature and some compactness, and breathed in a low voice the words, “Emma Peecher, wilt thou be my own?” after which the womanly form’s head reposed upon the manly form’s shoulder, and the nightingales tuned up. Though all unseen, and unsuspected by the pupils, Bradley Headstone even pervaded the school exercises. Was Geography in question? He would come triumphantly flying out of Vesuvius and Ætna ahead of the lava, and would boil unharmed in the hot springs of Iceland, and would float majestically down the Ganges and the Nile. Did History chronicle a king of men? Behold him in pepper-and-salt pantaloons, with his watch-guard round his neck. Were copies to be written? In capital B’s and H’s most of the girls under Miss Peecher’s tuition were half a year ahead of every other letter in the alphabet. And Mental Arithmetic, administered by Miss Peecher, often devoted itself to providing Bradley Headstone with a wardrobe of fabulous extent: fourscore and four neck-ties at two and ninepence-halfpenny, two gross of silver watches at four pounds fifteen and sixpence, seventy-four black hats at eighteen shillings; and many similar superfluities.

The vigilant watchman, using his daily opportunities of turning his eyes in Bradley’s direction, soon apprized Miss Peecher that Bradley was more preoccupied than had been his wont, and more given to strolling about with a downcast and reserved face, turning something difficult in his mind that was not in the scholastic syllabus. Putting this and that together — combining under the head ’this,” present appearances and the intimacy with Charley Hexam, and ranging under the head “that” the visit to his sister, the watchman reported to Miss Peecher his strong suspicions that the sister was at the bottom of it.

“I wonder,” said Miss Peecher, as she sat making up her weekly report on a half-holiday afternoon, “what they call Hexam’s sister?”

Mary Anne, at her needlework, attendant and attentive, held her arm up.

“Well, Mary Anne?”

“She is named Lizzie, ma’am.”

“She can hardly be named Lizzie, I think, Mary Anne,” returned Miss Peecher, in a tunefully instructive voice. “Is Lizzie a Christian name, Mary Anne?”

Mary Anne laid down her work, rose, hooked herself behind, as being under catechization, and replied: “No, it is a corruption, Miss Peecher.”

“Who gave her that name?” Miss Peecher was going on, from the mere force of habit, when she checked herself; on Mary Anne’s evincing theological impatience to strike in with her godfathers and her godmothers, and said: “I mean of what name is it a corruption?”

“Elizabeth, or Eliza, Miss Peecher.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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