Chapter 12Whereby the reader will be enabled to trace the further course of Miss Fanny Squeer's love, and to ascertain whether it ran smooth or otherwise.
IT WAS a fortunate circumstance for Miss Fanny Squeers, that when her worthy papa returned home on the night of the small tea-party, he was what the initiated term `too far gone `to observe the numerous tokens of extreme vexation of spirit which were plainly visible in her countenance. Being, however, of a rather violent and quarrelsome mood in his cups, it is not impossible that he might have fallen out with her, either on this or some imaginary topic, if the young lady had not, with a foresight and prudence highly commendable, kept a boy up, on purpose, to bear the first brunt of the good gentleman's anger; which, having vented itself in a variety of kicks and cuffs, subsided sufficiently to admit of his being persuaded to go to bed. Which he did with his boots on, and an umbrella under his arm.
The hungry servant attended Miss Squeers in her own room according to custom, to curl her hair, perform the other little offices of her toilet, and administer as much flattery as she could get up, for the purpose; for Miss Squeers was quite lazy enough (and sufficiently vain and frivolous withal) to have been a fine lady; and it was only the arbitrary distinctions of rank and station which prevented her from being one.
`How lovely your hair do curl tonight, miss!' said the handmaiden. `I declare if it isn't a pity and a shame to brush it out!'
`Hold your tongue!' replied Miss Squeers wrathfully.
Some considerable experience prevented the girl from being at all surprised at any outbreak of ill-temper on the part of Miss Squeers. Having a half-perception of what had occurred in the course of the evening, she changed her mode of making herself agreeable, and proceeded on the indirect tack.
`Well, I couldn't help saying, miss, if you was to kill me for it,' said the attendant, `that I never see nobody look so vulgar as Miss Price this night.'
Miss Squeers sighed, and composed herself to listen.
`I know it's very wrong in me to say so, miss,' continued the girl, delighted to see the impression she was making, `Miss Price being a friend of yourn, and all; but she do dress herself out so, and go on in such a manner to get noticed, that--oh--well, if people only saw themselves!'
`What do you mean, Phib?' asked Miss Squeers, looking in her own little glass, where, like most of us, she saw--not herself, but the reflection of some pleasant image in her own brain. `How you talk!'
`Talk, miss! It's enough to make a Tom cat talk French grammar, only to see how she tosses her head,' replied the handmaid.
`She does toss her head,' observed Miss Squeers, with an air of abstraction.
`So vain, and so very--very plain,' said the girl.
`Poor 'Tilda!' sighed Miss Squeers, compassionately.
`And always laying herself out so, to get to be admired,' pursued the servant. `Oh, dear! It's positive indelicate.'
`I can't allow you to talk in that way, Phib,' said Miss Squeers. `'Tilda's friends are low people, and if she don't know any better, it's their fault, and not hers.'
`Well, but you know, miss,' said Phoebe, for which name `Phib `was used as a patronising abbreviation, `if she was only to take copy by a friend--oh! if she only knew how wrong she was, and would but set herself right by you, what a nice young woman she might be in time!'
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