« AnteriorContinuar »
I was with your brother-what is his name?-Arthur? Yes, Master Arthur, to be sure. But I never saw anything of you, my dear; and I don't think I should have been very much inclined to scold you if I had, poor little body. No, I don't believe it was your fault at all."
So she talked on, knitting the while, and laughed heartily when she discovered the exaggerated idea I had formed of her poverty, and also at the story of Toby. Then the silk dress was exhibited, and much admired; and Mrs Barnes wanted me to take it home again, but Miss Barnes said no, she would keep it, though she would not promise to wear it herself; and she hoped I would come and see her again, and then perhaps we could settle together what should be done with it. Very soon after that the cab came to the door; and with many a kind word from my new friends, and exhortations to tell Father and Miss Hughes "all about it," I drove off once more. Tell them all about it! Yes, of course I should have to now, and that was an alarming prospect.
The drive passed all too quickly, and then came almost the worst part of that dreadful day-the arrival at home, the quick opening of the front door, the queer look on the faces of the servants, half relieved and half curious, the order that I was to go straight to my Father's study-an order that had never been addressed to me before, though often enough to Arthur. Perhaps he was finding out, I thought, that girls are rather like boys after all, and can be just as naughty, and want scolding and punishing too. At any rate, it was with a very frightened face that I knocked at his door, and on his quick, sharp "Come in," opened
"Could not help disobeying Miss Hughes and alarming the whole household about you? Disobeying me too, for you remember what I told you the other day. What am I to understand you 'could.not help,' Ethel ? and what is the meaning of this telegram? I insist upon knowing how and where you have spent the afternoon. Tell me the whole truth."
Oh, Father," I said, sobbing, "I always do tell the whole truth, I really, really do; ask Miss -I Hughes if I don't. But you never did want me to tell you anything before. But now I will. I do know it was very naughty to go out; but I didn't I didn't think about you're being frightened. And I thought there wouldn't be another chance."
"Chance of what? I don't understand you at all, Ethel. Don't cry, child. Try and tell me quietly."
please don't say it was running away."
Very well, Ethel, I am willing to believe that, since you meant to come back to tea, you did not consider it was running away. Now, try to behave sensibly, and tell me exactly what you have been doing. You say you thought the lady on whom Arthur threw the eggs was very poor. Well, what then?"
"Oh, Father, I helped too. And I thought we-I-ought to give her another."
"Another what?". "Another dress, Father; so I saved up."
"You saved up! Indeed, and how much did you save up?"
"There was what I had before, and my allowance, and what Miss Hughes gave me for marks, and the two pounds for finding Toby, -oh yes, and the shilling for my tooth-and that left a little over for cabs, of course I knew I should want cabs."
"Am I to understand, Ethel, that you have been planning this expedition for weeks past without saying a word of your intentions to any one?"
"Yes at least I didn't know just what day it would be-not till last Sunday, Father."
"When I furthered your plan by giving you the reward for finding Toby, I presume? But go on. You told no one what you meant to do? Did Arthur know of it?"
"Oh no, Father; Arthur would have laughed. I did tell Jane I wanted a silk dress, and she got it for me.
"Who is Jane the nurserymaid? Ah, I remember. Well, and did Jane know why you
wanted the silk dress?"
"I-I think she thought I wanted it for nurse."
"You let her think so? That was something very like deceit, Ethel."
"Oh, I didn't-I didn't mean to be deceitful, Father; but I did ask nurse what it ought to cost-I mean the silk dress-and she said you couldn't get one she would care to wear for less than £3but it did cost rather less-so I told Jane to get one nurse would care to wear."
"I understand. Then, knowing Miss Hughes would be out, you determined to convey your purchase to its destination this afternoon?"
"But it so happened that Miss Hughes forbade you to go out.” "Yes-she, she did. I knew— I knew it was very
"In spite of which, no sooner had her back been turned than you carried out your project. Answer me, Ethel."
"It-it's quite true," I sobbed.
"Very well. I think you know without being told what kind of conduct that was, and whether you have been as trustworthy, honourable, and obedient as I should wish my daughter to be. Now tell me without prevarication-no, Ethel, I do not mean that you are prevaricating now; I believe you are telling the truth, but I want to hear exactly what happened from the moment you left the house to the moment you came back."
With many sobs and interruptions I got the whole story out, and when it was finished we had a long, long talk together. When it was over, and I was on my way up-stairs, first to see Miss Hughes, and then to be put to bed, I felt I had found out two things about
Father in the first place, that he did know how to scold little girls; and in the second, that he could "understand things," if only one told them in the proper way. But of course it is a good deal easier to tell things to a person who scolds one than to somebody who does not seem to know anything about one at all. And Father and I somehow did know each other much better after that day. He said he would take me to see Mrs and Miss Barnes; and after that we used often to go out together, especially on half-holidays. Miss Hughes did not scold me at all that evening. She knew I had been with Father, and also how miserable I should have to be for having gone out when she had trusted to my honour not to. Of course hardly anything could make one so miserable as that, but it was very nearly as bad when she said she was so sorry she had not been able to make me trust her more. Father made me go to bed directly
after tea for three nights running. I believe it was the only punishment he knew, and I had taught him that. At any rate, I knew I deserved it quite well.
Miss Barnes kept her word about the silk dress: we settled together that it should be given to a very poor lady whom she knew, and who gave daily lessons, and wanted a nice tidy dress badly. I was a little bit disappointed that Miss Barnes could not wear it herself; but still, though very pretty, it was not quite the sort of dress she used to wear.
So that is the story of my dramatic effect. I have quite
made up my mind that I never want to produce another, for it is a great deal too disagreeable. Arthur laughed at me very much in the holidays; but what I shall always think very nice of him is that when he heard of what I had done, he sent me a sovereign to pay for his share in the dress. However, of course I did not take it.
LEICESTER SQUARE in the year seventeen hundred and seventyfour, and Leicester Square during this Jubilee year of our gracious lady Queen Victoria's reign, are, it need scarcely be said, two very distinct and different places.
The Leicester Square of to-day can hardly, even at a pinch, be termed an aristocratic resort or coveted place of abode. It has fallen somewhat low in its fortunes, is shady in its associations, and is apt to be looked askance upon by the prosperous and fortunate.
But the little square, a hundred years ago, was a pleasant spot, and a modish part of the town; held up its head with the best, and feared neither the light of the sun nor of the moon. It was not only a locality where fortune and fashion might not fear to meet, it was more,—it was absolutely a nucleus to attract beauty, youth, and rank, where the finest ladies and gentlemen of the period were fain to jostle and overrun each other, and in whose direction gallants braided and perfumed, and fair ones powdered and patched, might have been seen strutting and rustling and simpering, morning, noon, and night.
For these and such as these, however, it must be owned that all the attractions of the place were confined to one red-brick mansion, in and out of which they tripped unceasingly, eager not only to display their charms within, but to have them there reproduced, ready to be handed down to admiring and envious posterity; and it was in front of the portals of this modest dwelling, with its quaintly formal rows of small-paned windows, and
its broad, arched doorway, that there stood in the year above mentioned a youthful, palpitating figure, simply but elegantly clad, whose glowing cheek, restless movements, and eager demand for admittance, betrayed her to be on the very tiptoe of excitement and anticipation.
It was not, however, to take her place in front of the easel that the little maiden had come to visit the great portrait-painter. Another and a widely different aspiration filled her soul; and so portentous did its near realisation appear, that her tremulous fingers could scarce evoke a response from the massive knocker overhead, any more than could her quavering accents from the sober serving - man within ; while once she was admitted to the panelled hall, and was being escorted up the oaken stair, the moment seemed to the eyes of fancy and enthusiasm invested with a halo lifting it above the realms of reality.
Do not smile at her-it was a great moment. Awaiting his visitor, there stood one of the most gifted men of the age; and within a chamber hard by, a still more widely famous potentate remained, to whom the little rustic was presently conducted, and-could she believe her ears?—presented in terms to make any vain young head ring again. There, in short, Sir Joshua Reynolds laid the foundation- stone of a friendship between Hannah More and Samuel Johnson.
There are few but will sympathise with the emotions of the youthful Hannah on the occasion. Reared in obscurity, but all aglow with genius, and panting for dis
tinction in the world of thought and letters, what must not such an interview and such a welcome
have seemed to portend? Hitherto it had been the highest ambition of her heart to behold, and, if befriended by fate, to hearken to these two world-known celebrities from some safe and secure hidingplace in the dim background; and for this she had, she owned, entertained some sort of shadowy hope on arriving within the charmed circle of the metropolis some ten days previously, but little had she then dreamed of being so greeted face to face, and instead of being permitted simply to worship from afar, of finding herself the object of their paternal admiration and regard.
Johnson, the uncertain, autocratic, and at times morose and forbidding lion of the age, met his ardent young disciple not only with benignity, but with something like a burst of genuine tenderness. He was, we are told, in one of his best minds; good-humour glistened in his countenance: with one hand he stroked the feathers of a pet bird, a macaw of Sir Joshua's, which perched upon the other; and, with unexampled gallantry, he paid Sir Joshua's guest the unexpected and from him very real compliment of accosting her with one of her own verses. Could any courtly beau of the period have behaved more prettily?
Nor was the interview long in being followed up by another, little less pregnant and interesting. The very next day a call at Johnson's own house is thus recorded by Hannah's soberer but scarce less enthusiastic elder sister, who on that occasion accompanied her.
"Can you picture to yourself," wrote she to the home circle whom the two had left behind, on this their first rapturous flight into the great world
can you picture to yourself the beating of our hearts? Abyssinia's Dictionary's Johnson ! Rambler's, Idler's, and Irene's Johnson! Miss Reynolds, who went with us, told him of our exclamations on the road. He shook his scientific head at Hannah, and said she was 'a silly thing.' When our visit was over, he called for his hat (as it rained) to attend us down a very long entry to our coach, and not Rasselas more en cavalier." himself could have acquitted himself
The great man had not been in the parlour when the ladies had been shown in, upon seeing which, Miss Hannah, in spirits to be mischievous, had seated herself in the huge arm-chair by the fireplace, hoping, she had averred, to catch therefrom some ray of his genius. The flattery had been served up hot by her companions, on which the Doctor had laughed heartily, and informed her it was a chair on which he never sat!
Johnson afterwards spoke in such a fashion of the youthful aspirant, as procured her an immediate entry into that society where his word was law; and once launched, we can well believe she needed no supporting arms.
Hannah More was still a young woman, and also remarkably young for her years, when we thus behold her on the threshold of her fame. Let us take a brief retrospective glance over her preceding life dur-. ing childhood and girlhood.
Respectable as was her parentage, it by no means entitled her to any position in society-at anyrate, in the society she courted. Her father had indeed received Я learned education, with a view to his taking holy orders, but his early expectations had been defeated by the failure of a lawsuit, and he had been fain to accept the mastership of a foundation school in Gloucestershire, where he had