By degrees, as I acquired fluency and freedom in their language, and could make such application of its more nervous idioms as suited their case, the elder and more intelligent girls began rather to like me, in their way. I noticed that whenever a pupil had been roused to feel in her soul the stirring of worthy emulation or the quickening of honest shame, from that date she was won. If I could but once make their (usually large) ears burn under their thick glossy hair, all was comparatively well. By-and-by bouquets began to be laid on my desk in the morning. By way of acknowledgment for this little foreign attention, I used sometimes to walk with a select few during recreation. In the course of conversation it befell once or twice that I made an unpremeditated attempt to rectify some of their singularly distorted notions of principle; especially, I expressed my ideas of the evil and baseness of a lie. In an unguarded moment I chanced to say that, of the two errors, I considered falsehood worse than an occasional lapse in church attendance. The poor girls were tutored to report in Catholic ears whatever the Protestant teacher said. An edifying consequence ensued. Something—an unseen, an indefinite, a nameless something—stole between myself and these my best pupils. The bouquets continued to be offered, but conversation thenceforth became impracticable. As I paced the alleys or sat in the berceau, a girl never came to my right hand but a teacher, as if by magic, appeared at my left. Also, wonderful to relate, madame’s shoes of silence brought her continually to my back, as quick, as noiseless and unexpected, as some wandering zephyr.

The opinion of my Catholic acquaintance concerning my spiritual prospects was somewhat naïvely expressed to me on one occasion. A pensionnaire, to whom I had rendered some little service, exclaimed one day as she sat beside me,—

“Mademoiselle, what a pity you are a Protestant!”

“Why, Isabelle?”

“Parce que, quand vous serez morte, vous brûlerez tout de suite dans l’enfer.”


“Certainement que j’y crois: tout le monde le sait; et d’ailleurs le prêtre me l’a dit.”

Isabelle was an old, blunt little creature. She added, sotto voce,—

“Pour assurer votre salut là-haut, on ferait bien de vous brûler toute vive ici-bas.”

I laughed, as, indeed, it was impossible to do otherwise.

Has the reader forgotten Miss Ginevra Fanshawe? If so, I must be allowed to reintroduce that young lady as a thriving pupil of Madame Beck’s, for such she was. On her arrival in the Rue Fossette, two or three days after my sudden settlement there, she encountered me with very little surprise. She must have had good blood in her veins, for never was any duchess more perfectly, radically, unaffectedly nonchalante than she. A weak, transient amaze was all she knew of the sensation of wonder. Most of her other faculties seemed to be in the same flimsy condition. Her liking and disliking, her love and hate, were mere cobweb and gossamer; but she had one thing about her that seemed strong and durable enough, and that was her selfishness.

She was not proud; and—bonne d’enfants as I was—she would forthwith have made of me a sort of friend and confidante. She teased me with a thousand vapid complaints about school-quarrels and household economy. The cookery was not to her taste; the people about her, teachers and pupils, she held to be despicable, because they were foreigners. I bore with her abuse of the Friday’s salt fish and hard eggs, with her invective against the soup, the bread, the coffee, with some patience for a time; but at last, wearied by iteration, I turned crusty, and put her to rights—a thing I ought to have done in the very beginning, for a salutary setting down always agreed with her.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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