`Phib,' rejoined Miss Squeers, with a stately air, `it's not proper for me to hear these comparisons drawn; they make 'Tilda look a coarse improper sort of person, and it seems unfriendly in me to listen to them. I would rather you dropped the subject, Phib; at the same time, I must say, that if 'Tilda Price would take pattern by somebody--not me particularly--'
`Oh yes; you, miss,' interposed Phib.
`Well, me, Phib, if you will have it so,' said Miss Squeers. `I must say, that if she would, she would be all the better for it.'
`So somebody else thinks, or I am much mistaken,' said the girl mysteriously.
`What do you mean?' demanded Miss Squeers.
`Never mind, miss,' replied the girl; `I know what I know; that's all.'
`Phib,' said Miss Squeers dramatically, `I insist upon your explaining yourself. What is this dark mystery? Speak.'
`Why, if you will have it, miss, it's this,' said the servant girl. `Mr John Browdie thinks as you think; and if he wasn't too far gone to do it creditable, he'd be very glad to be off with Miss Price, and on with Miss Squeers.'
`Gracious heavens!' exclaimed Miss Squeers, clasping her hands with great dignity. `What is this?'
`Truth, ma'am, and nothing but truth,' replied the artful Phib.
`What a situation!' cried Miss Squeers; `on the brink of unconsciously destroying the peace and happiness of my own 'Tilda. What is the reason that men fall in love with me, whether I like it or not, and desert their chosen intendeds for my sake?'
`Because they can't help it, miss,' replied the girl; `the reason's plain.' (If Miss Squeers were the reason, it was very plain.)
`Never let me hear of it again,' retorted Miss Squeers. `Never! Do you hear? 'Tilda Price has faults-- many faults--but I wish her well, and above all I wish her married; for I think it highly desirable--most desirable from the very nature of her failings--that she should be married as soon as possible. No, Phib. Let her have Mr Browdie. I may pity him, poor fellow; but I have a great regard for 'Tilda, and only hope she may make a better wife than I think she will.'
With this effusion of feeling, Miss Squeers went to bed.
Spite is a little word; but it represents as strange a jumble of feelings, and compound of discords, as any polysyllable in the language. Miss Squeers knew as well in her heart of hearts that what the miserable serving-girl had said was sheer, coarse, lying flattery, as did the girl herself; yet the mere opportunity of venting a little ill-nature against the offending Miss Price, and affecting to compassionate her weaknesses and foibles, though only in the presence of a solitary dependant, was almost as great a relief to her spleen as if the whole had been gospel truth. Nay, more. We have such extraordinary powers of persuasion when they are exerted over ourselves, that Miss Squeers felt quite highminded and great after her noble renunciation of John Browdie's hand, and looked down upon her rival with a kind of holy calmness and tranquillity, that had a mighty effect in soothing her ruffled feelings.
This happy state of mind had some influence in bringing about a reconciliation; for, when a knock came at the front-door next day, and the miller's daughter was announced, Miss Squeers betook herself to the parlour in a Christian frame of spirit, perfectly beautiful to behold.
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