HotFreeBooks.com
The Barbadoes Girl - A Tale for Young People
by Mrs. Hofland
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

THE

BARBADOES GIRL.

A Tale for Young People.

BY MRS. HOFLAND.

AUTHOR OF

THE CLERGYMAN'S WIDOW; THE SISTERS; BLIND FARMER; AFFECTIONATE BROTHERS; ELLEN THE TEACHER; GOOD GRANDMOTHER; MERCHANT'S WIDOW; ETC., ETC., ETC.

* * *

The indulgence of passion makes bitter work for repentance, and produces a feeble old age. BACON.

As violent contrary winds endanger a ship, so it is with turbulent emotions in the mind; whereas such as are favourable awaken the understanding, keep in motion the will, and make the whole man more vigorous. ADDISON.

* * *

A NEW EDITION, REVISED.

BOSTON: CHASE AND NICHOLS, 43 WASHINGTON STREET. 1863.

* * * * *



THE BARBADOES GIRL.

CHAPTER I.

As Mr. Harewood was one evening sitting with his wife and children, he told them that he expected soon to receive among them the daughter of a friend, who had lately died in the West Indies.

Mr. Harewood's family consisted of his wife, two sons, and a daughter: the eldest, named Edmund, was about twelve years of age; Charles, the second, was scarcely ten; and Ellen, the daughter, had just passed her eighth birthday: they were all sensible, affectionate children, but a little different in disposition, the eldest being grave and studious, the second lively and active, and as he was nearer to Ellen's age, she was often inclined to romp with him, when she should have minded her book; but she was so fond of her mamma, and was educated with such a proper sense of the duty and obedience she owed her, that a word or a look never failed to restrain the exuberance of her spirits.

Children are alike naturally curious and fond of society; the moment, therefore, Mr. Harewood mentioned their expected guest, every one had some question to ask respecting her; but as Ellen's was uttered with most mildness and modesty, she was first answered; and her brother Charles, taking this hint, listened quietly to the following conversation, not joining in it, till he felt that he had a right to do so, from having practised a forbearance that cost him some effort.

Ellen.—Pray, papa, what is this little girl's name, and how old is she?

Father.—She is called Matilda Sophia Hanson: her father was a man of good fortune, and she is an only child; I believe, however, his affairs are in an unsettled state, as her mother is under the necessity of remaining some time in the country, in order to settle them. It is at her earnest request that I have been prevailed upon to accept the charge of her daughter. I believe she is about a year younger than you; but as the growth of people in warm countries is more rapid than in this, I expect to see her quite as tall and forward as you, Ellen.

Ellen.—But, dear papa, how will she get here from a place on the other side of the globe? I mean, who will bring her? for I know, of course, that she must come in a ship.

Father.—She will be attended by a negro servant, who has always waited upon her; and who will return after she is safely landed, I suppose.

Ellen.—Poor thing! how she will cry when she leaves her own dear mamma, when she is to cross the wide sea! and then again, when she parts with her good nurse; I dare say she will kiss her very fondly, though she is a black.

Charles.—Oh, she will forget her sorrow when she sees so many things that are quite new to her. I'm afraid she'll think Ellen, and us boys, very silly, ignorant creatures, compared to her, who has seen so much of the world: upon my word, we must be all upon our good behaviour.

Father.—I hope you will behave well, not merely from conscious inferiority, but because you would be both impolite and unkind, if you omitted any thing in your power that could render a stranger happy, who is so entirely thrown upon our protection—one, too, who has lost a fond father, and is parted from a tender mother.

Edmund.—But, papa, as Miss Hanson is coming to England for education, and is yet very young, surely Charles must be wrong in supposing that she is wiser, or, I ought to say, better informed, than we are, since it is utterly improbable that she should have had the benefit of such instructions as we have enjoyed.

Father.—True, my dear; but yet she will, of course, be acquainted with many things to which you are necessarily entire strangers, although I must remark that Charles's expression, "she has seen much of the world," is not proper; for it is only applied to people who have mixed much with society—not to those whose travels have shown them only land and water. However, coming from a distant country, a society very different from ours, and people to whom you are strangers, she cannot fail to possess many ideas and much knowledge which are unknown to you; I therefore hope her residence with us for a time will prove mutually advantageous; but if the advantage should prove to be on your side, I trust you will never abuse it by laughing, or in any way insulting and teazing your visitant; such conduct would ensure most serious displeasure.

Mother.—It would prove them not only very ignorant, and deficient in the education which even savages give their children, but prove that they were devoid of that spirit of courtesy which is recommended in the Scriptures, and which every Christian child will nourish in his heart and display in his manners: the same holy apostle, who inculcated the highest doctrines of his Divine Master, says also—"Be affable, be courteous, bearing one with another."

The children for a few moments looked very serious, and each appeared to be inwardly making some kind of promise or resolution to themselves respecting the expected stranger: at length, Ellen, looking up, said to her mamma, with great earnestness—"Indeed, mamma, I will love Miss Hanson as much as if she were my sister, if she will permit me to do it."

"You had better say, Ellen, that you will be as kind to her as if she were your sister; for until we know more of her, it is not possible for us to promise so much; nor is it advisable to give our hearts at first sight, even to those who have yet stronger claims upon our good will and friendly services."

Mr. Harewood added his approbation of this sentiment, for he knew it was one that could not be repeated too often to young people, who are ever apt to take up either partialities or prejudices too strongly, and whose judgment has ever occasion for the attempering lessons of experience.



CHAPTER II.

At length the long-wished-for day arrived, and the young foreigner made her appearance in the family of Mr. Harewood. She was a fine, handsome-looking girl, and though younger in fact, was taller and older-looking than Ellen, but was not nearly so well shaped, as indolence, and the habit of being carried about instead of walking, had occasioned her to stoop, and to move as if her limbs were too weak to support her.

The kindness and politeness with which she was received in the family of Mr. Harewood, did not appear to affect the Barbadoes girl in any other way than to increase that self-importance which was evidently her characteristic; and even the mild, affectionate Ellen, who had predisposed her heart to love her very dearly, shrunk from the proud and haughty expression which frequently animated her features, and was surprised to hear her name her mamma with as much indifference as if she were a common acquaintance; for Ellen did not know that the indulgence of bad passions hardens the heart, and renders it insensible to those sweet and tender ties which are felt by the good and amiable, and which constitute their highest happiness.

In a very short time, it became apparent that passion and peevishness were also the traits of this unfortunate child, who had been indulged in the free exercise of a railing tongue, and even of a clawing hand, towards the numerous negro dependants that swarmed in her father's mansion, over whom she had exercised all the despotic sovereignty of a queen, with the capriciousness of a petted child, and thereby obtained a habit of tyranny over all whom she deemed her inferiors, as appeared from the style in which she now conducted herself constantly towards the menials of Mr. Harewood's family, and not unfrequently towards the superiors.

For a few days Mr. Harewood bore with this conduct, and only opposed it with gentleness and persuasion; but as it became evident that this gentleness emboldened the mistaken child to proceed to greater rudeness, he commenced a new style of treatment, and the English education of Matilda, so far as concerned that most important part of all education, the management of the temper, in the following manner:

On the family being seated at the dinner-table, Miss Hanson called out, in a loud and angry tone, "Give me some beer!"

Mr. Harewood had previously instructed the servant who waited upon them how to act, in case he was thus addressed; and in consequence of his master's commands, the man took no notice whatever of this claim upon his attention.

"Give me some beer!" cried she again, in so fierce a manner that the boys started, and poor Ellen blushed very deeply, not only from the sense of shame which she felt for the vulgarity of the young lady's manners, but from a kind of terror, on hearing such a shrill and threatening voice.

The servant still took no notice of her words, though he did not do it with an air of defiance, but rather as if it were not addressed to him.

The little angry child muttered, loud enough to be heard—"What a fool the wretch is!" but as nobody answered what was in fact addressed to no one, she was at length compelled to look for redress to Mrs. Harewood, whom, regarding with a mixture of rage and scorn, she now addressed—"Pray, ma'am, why don't you tell the man to give me some beer? I suppose he'll understand you, though he seems a fool, and deaf."

"My children are accustomed to say—'Please, Thomas, give me some beer;' or, 'I'll thank you for a little beer;' and the loud rude manner in which you spoke, probably astonished and confused him. As, however, I certainly understand you, I will endeavour to relieve you.—Pray, Thomas, be so kind as to give Miss Hanson some beer," said Mrs. Harewood.

Thomas instantly offered it; but the little girl cried out in a rage—"I won't have it—no! that I won't, from that man: I'll have my own negro to wait—that I will!—Must I say please to a servant? must a nasty man in a livery be kind to me?—no! no! no! Zebby, Zebby, I say, come here!"

The poor black woman, hearing the loud tones of her young lady, to which she had been pretty well used, instantly ran into the room, before Mr. Harewood had time to prevent it, and very humbly cried out—"What does Missy please wanty?"

"Some beer, you black beetle!"

"Is, Missy," said the poor woman, with a sigh, reaching the beer from Thomas with a trembling hand, as if she expected the glass to be thrown in her face.

Charles had with great difficulty refrained from laughter on the outset of this scene; but indignation now suffused his countenance. The young vixen was an acute observer, and, had she not been cruelly neglected, might have been a sensible child. It instantly struck her, that his features disputed her right; and, determined not to endure this from any one, she instantly threw the beer in the face of poor Zebby, saying—"There's that for you, madam."

It was not in the forbearance of the children to repress their feelings; even Edmund exclaimed—"What a brute!"

Ellen involuntarily started up, and hid her face in her mother's lap, while Charles most good-naturedly offered his handkerchief to the aggrieved Zebby, kindly condoling with her on her misfortune.

Mr. Harewood now, for the first time, spoke.—"Zebby," said he, in a calm but stern tone, "it is my strict command, that so long as you reside under my roof, you never give that young lady any thing again, nor hold any conversation with her: if you disobey my commands, I shall be under the necessity of discharging you."

The young lady checked herself, and for a moment looked alarmed; but recovering, she said—"She is not yours, and you sha'n't discharge her: she is my own slave, and I will do what I please with her; poor papa bought her for me, as soon as I was born, and I'll use her as I please."

"But you know your mamma told you, that as soon as she arrived in England she would be free, and might either return or remain, as she pleased. Now it so happens that she is much pleased with my family, and having a sincere regard for your mother, she this morning requested Mrs. Harewood to engage her in any service she could undertake: convinced that she was worthy our protection, we have done this, and therefore all your claims upon her are over."

The little girl, bursting into a passionate flood of tears, ran out of the room.

Poor Zebby, courtesying, said—"Sir, me hopes you will have much pity on Missy—she was spoily all her life, by poor massa—her mamma good, very good; and when Missy pinch Zebby, and pricky with pin, then good mississ she be angry; but massa say only—'Poo! poo! she be child—naughty tricks wear off in time.' He be warm man himself."

The poor negro's defence affected the little circle, and Mr. Harewood observing it, said—"You perceive, my dear children, that this child is in fact far more an object of compassion than blame, for she has been permitted to indulge every bad propensity of her nature, and their growth has destroyed that which was good; of course, her life has been unhappy in itself, yet punishment has not produced amendment. Poor thing! how many of the sweetest pleasures of existence are unknown to her! She is a stranger to the satisfaction of obliging others, and to the consciousness of overcoming herself, which, I trust, you all know to be an inestimable blessing. I truly pity her; but I am compelled to treat her as if I blamed her only; I am obliged to be harsh, in order that I may be useful, and give pain to produce ease."

In about an hour, finding that no one approached, and feeling the want of the dinner her shameful rudeness and petulance had interrupted, and which she had but just begun, Matilda came down stairs, with the air of a person who is struggling to hide, by effrontery, the chagrin she is conscious of deserving: no person took any notice of her entrance, and all appearance of the good meal she wanted was removed. There was a certain something in the usually-smiling faces of the heads of the mansion that acted as a repellent to her, and she sat for some time silent; but at length she spoke to Ellen, who, from her gentle meekness, was ever easy of access, and whom, intending to mortify, she accosted thus—"Nelly, did you eat my chicken?"

Charles burst into a loud laugh, as Ellen, who had never heard herself thus addressed, for a moment looked rather foolish; on which he answered for her, with a somewhat provoking sauciness of countenance—"No, Matty, she did not eat your chicken."

"My name is not Matty—it is Matilda Sophia, and you are a great booby for calling me so; but Nelly, or Nell, is short for Ellen, and by one of those names I shall call her, whenever I choose, if it be only to vex you."

"Perhaps, too, you will choose to prick her, and pinch her, Miss Matilda Sophia Hanson?" answered Charles, sneeringly, drawing out her name as long and as pompously as it was possible.

"Fie, Charles!" said Edmund; "I am sure you act as if you had forgotten all that papa told us about Miss Hanson."

Charles, after a moment's thought, acknowledged that he was wrong, very, very wrong.

Matilda was much struck with this; she was well aware that, under the same circumstances, she should have said much more than he had, and she was curious as to what had been said of her, which could have produced this effect on a boy generally so vivacious and warm-tempered as Charles. After cogitating upon it some time, she at length concluded that Mr. Harewood had endeavoured to impress on the minds of his family the consequence she possessed, as an only child and a great heiress; and although he had appeared so lately to act under a very different impression, yet it was very possible that he had only done so because he was out of temper himself, and, now his mind was become tranquil again, he had repented of his conduct, and been anxious to prevent his children from following his example in this respect.

The more Matilda thought of this, the more fully she fixed it in her mind as an article of belief; but yet there was something in the calm, firm tones of Mr. Harewood, when he spoke to her, and in his present open, yet unbending countenance, when he happened to cast his eyes towards her, which rendered her unsatisfied with the answer she thus gave her own internal inquiries; and although she had been exceedingly angry with him, for presuming to speak to her, she yet felt as if his esteem, and indeed his forgiveness, were necessary for her happiness; and her pride, thus strengthened, contended with her fears and consciousness of guilt and folly; and while she resolved inwardly to keep up her dignity with the young ones, she yet, from time to time, cast an anxious eye towards her new monitor.

In a short time, to Matilda's great relief, Mr. Harewood stepped into the library to get a book; and the children, in the hope that, when he returned, he would kindly indulge them, either by reading to them, or relating occasionally such anecdotes or observations as the work he read might furnish him with, left their seats, and pressed round the place where their parents were sitting.

Matilda did not like to be left alone, nor did she feel as if she had a right to be held as a child among the rest: again her pride and her repentance had a great struggle, and she knew not to which she should give the preference, for her heart swelled alike with pride and sorrow; she moved towards the same place, and sought, in the bustle of the moment, to divert the painful feeling which oppressed her.

In a few moments, Mr. Harewood was heard to shut the library-door; and as, of course, he might be expected to re-enter very soon, and would now be much nearer to her than he had been, and would certainly adopt some more decided kind of conduct and language towards her, Matilda became again extremely desirous of knowing what he really had said about her, and she two or three times essayed to speak; but a little remaining modesty, which was nearly all the good which her unhappy education had left her, prevented her, until she found that she had no time beyond the present instant left for satisfying her curiosity on so important a point, when, in a considerable flutter of spirits, she whispered to Ellen, but in a voice sufficiently articulate to be heard by others—"Pray what did your papa say of me?"

"That you were very much to be pitied."

"Pitied! Pray what am I to be pitied for?"

Ellen blushed very deeply: she could not answer a question which called down confusion on the head of her who asked it—one, too, whom she was inclined to love, and whose petulance towards herself, however unprovoked, she had already forgiven. She looked wistfully in the face of her mamma, who replied for her—"We all think you are much to be pitied, because you are evidently a poor, little, forlorn, ignorant child, without friends, and under the dominion of a cruel enemy, that renders you so frightful, it is scarcely possible for even the most humane people to treat you with kindness, or even endure you."

Matilda involuntarily started up, and examined herself in the looking-glass.—"If I had happened to be your own daughter, ma'am," she said, crying again, "you would not have thought me ugly; but because I come from Barbadoes, you don't like me; and it is cruel and wicked to treat me so. But I will go back—I will—I will."

"I wish most sincerely you had never come, for it is painful to me to witness the folly and sin you are guilty of; but, since you are here, I will endeavour to bear with you, until I have found a good school to send you to. If you would give yourself time to consider, you would know that the enemy I spoke of is your own temper, which would render even perfect beauty hideous; you know very well that I received you with the greatest kindness, and that you have outraged that kindness. But I can forgive you, because I see that you are a silly child, who fancies herself of importance; whereas children, however they may be situated, are poor dependent creatures."

Matilda answered only by a scornful toss of her head, and uttering the word—"Dependent!"

"Edmund," said Mrs. Harewood, taking no notice of her insolent look, "you are a strong healthy boy, forward in your education, capable of reflection, and decidedly superior, not only in age, but wisdom, to any other in the room; answer me candidly, as if you were speaking to a boy like yourself—Do you feel it possible so to conduct yourself, that, if you were left alone in the world, you could be happy and independent?"

"My dear mamma," said Edmund, "you must be laughing at me; a pretty figure I should cut, if I were to set up for a man, without any one to advise me how to act, to tell me when I was wrong, and to manage every thing for me! how could I do right without my papa, or some proper guardian? and how could I be happy without you, mamma?"

As Edmund spoke, he threw his arms round his mother; and the others followed his example, saying—"No, no, we could do nothing without you and dear papa; pray do stay with us, and make us good."

As they spoke, the tears were in their eyes, and Matilda was affected: she remembered the tenderness of her own mother, and how often she had turned a deaf ear to her expostulations. She was convinced that these children, at this very time, enjoyed a sweeter pleasure than she had ever experienced from the gratification of her desires, and she even longed to confess her folly, and gain her share of Mrs. Harewood's caresses; but pride still struggled in her heart; and though her reason was convinced of the truth, that children are indeed dependent on their friends for all that renders life valuable, yet her temper still got the better, and she resolutely held her tongue, though she ceased to look haughty and ill-humoured.



CHAPTER III.

This interesting display of natural feelings was interrupted by the hasty re-entrance of Mr. Harewood, followed by Betty, the housemaid, who, in entering the door in a hurry, had fallen down a step, and hurt her forehead, and was now brought forward by her good master, to claim the assistance of her kind and skilful mistress.

The children were full of concern and condolence with Betty, and with great tenderness shrunk when they saw their mamma bathe her forehead with vinegar, as they knew it must smart exceedingly: and Ellen could not help saying—"How good Betty is! she never says oh!"

"No, Miss," said Betty, "I know your mamma does it for my good; and though she gives me some pain, yet she saves me from a great deal more."

In a few minutes, Betty declared the smarting was quite gone; and the children were so glad, that Matilda began to think, though they were foolish, yet they were certainly happy, and she wished she could feel as happy as they did.

When Betty was gone, the tea came in, and Mrs. Harewood ordered a large plate of toast, as she recollected Matilda's scanty dinner. Thomas once handed it all round, and Mr. Harewood then said—"Set it down; when the children want it, they will ask you for it."

All the children remembered poor Matilda's wants, and in order that she might have plenty, without any more being ordered, or any thing in reference to the past being mentioned, with true delicacy of feeling, forbore to eat any more, so that Matilda could not repeat their words in asking, which she now determined to do. She was very hungry, and the toast looked very tempting, as it stood before the fire.

Matilda looked at the toast, and then at the footman; her cheek glowed, her eye was subdued, but her tongue did not move. Thomas, however, handed her the toast, and she then articulately said—"Thank you."

This was heard, but no notice was taken; they knew that much false shame attends the first efforts to subdue pride and passion, and they feared lest even approbation should be misconstrued.

In order to divert the general attention, Mrs. Harewood said—"I forgot to ask Betty what made her run in such a hurry as to occasion her accident, for I gave her leave to go out, and stay till nine o'clock, and it is only seven now, I believe."

"I believe, madam," said Thomas, very respectfully, "she came home in haste, because her sister has twins; and as you promised her some caudle, she came to tell the cook to make it, and likewise to get some little matter of clothing, from her own clothes, for the baby that is unprovided."

"Poor woman!" said Mrs. Harewood; "we must all help; this little stranger has a claim on us."

Ellen clapped her hands—"Oh, mamma, may I make it a nightcap?"

"Yes, my dear; I will get some old linen, and cut out a few things, after tea."

"I will give you a crown, my dear," said Mr. Harewood; "as I cannot assist in sewing, I must help to buy needles and thread."

"And I will give you a shilling, mamma," said Edmund, "if you please."

"Oh dear," said Charles, "I am very sorry, but I have only fourpence, because I spent all my money on my new kite; but if that will do any good, mamma——"

"It will do good, Charles, and I will not grieve you by refusing it, because I see you are sorry that you have no more, which will teach you another time to be provident, and then you will not be under the necessity of giving your last farthing, or refusing to be charitable, when such a case occurs again."

Ellen handed Charles's fourpence to her mamma; and as she did so, she put a sixpence between the pence, so as not to be seen by Matilda, lest it should seem like a reproach to her; and as she slipped the whole into her mother's hand, she said—"I hope, mamma, you will be so good as to let Miss Hanson make a little cap for the baby?"

"I don't like to sew," said Matilda, rising; "at least not such things as these: I think a bit of calico to wrap the pickaninnies in is the best, and I'll give that to buy some with."

As she spoke she threw half-a-guinea on the table, with the air of one desirous of exhibiting both generosity and wealth, and looked round with an eye that asked for admiration.

No notice was taken. Mrs. Harewood opening her own purse, took out half-a-crown, and then counted all that she had got. In doing it, Ellen perceived not her sixpence, and she then, with modesty, but without any shame, said—"I believe my sixpence must have slipped down."

"I did not know you gave me one, child."

"Yes, but she did, for I saw her," said Mr. Harewood, "though she was not aware that I did. She gave it in silence, not from affectation, but a kind motive towards one who could not appreciate it; but we will say no more on this point. Ellen, you have gratified your father: I see in your conduct the germ of a gentlewoman, and, what is infinitely more precious, of a Christian."

Ellen sprung to her father's arms, and in his affectionate kiss found a rich reward.

For a moment, Matilda thought to herself, what a piece of work is here about sixpence, while they take no notice at all of a bright golden half-guinea! but still her understanding combated this thought, for she knew that all the present company saw beyond the surface, and estimated the gift according to the spirit of the donor.

Betty now came in, and Mrs. Harewood gave her the money, telling her to buy some frocks with it. Observing the servant eye the half-guinea, she said—"That was the gift of Miss Hanson; she is very rich, it seems, and gives out of her abundance. I am sure you will be grateful to her; but if your fellow-servants, Betty, should spare, out of the little time they have, enough to assist you in the making of these things, they will be the best friends you meet with; for labour is much greater charity than money."

Betty replied, that she was much obliged to all her friends, both above and below, and especially to poor Zebby, who had offered, with her lady's leave, to sit up all night with her sister.

"She has not only my leave, but my approbation, especially as your accident has rendered you unable. Tell Zebby I will spare her for a week, on this truly charitable occasion."

With many thanks, Betty withdrew, and Ellen was soon, like her mamma, busy with her needle. Mr. Harewood, drawing a celestial globe towards him, began to give his sons some instruction, which interested them exceedingly; all were employed, all happy, but Matilda, whose uneasiness was in fact considerably augmented by the idea of Zebby leaving the house; for though she used her ill, she had a regard for her, the extent of which she was not aware of till now that her heart was a little softened, and her judgment enlightened, by the transactions of the day.

After fidgeting about for some time, she at length took up a needle and threaded it, and then drawing more timidly towards Mrs. Harewood, she said—"I don't mind if I do sew a little bit."

Eager to seize upon any good symptom, Mrs. Harewood gave her a little cap, carefully doubled down, saying—"You see this is double; in these countries, the babies, or pickaninnies, as you call them, must be kept warm."

"I called that woman's twins pickaninnies, because I thought she was poor—a kind of servant; we do not call white children so—only little negroes."

"They are all the same with us, and will be so with you, I hope, by and by; indeed they always were with sensible good people. But, Matilda, what long stitches you are taking! I shall have all your work to pick out again."

"I believe I cannot sew, indeed."

"So it appears; nor can you play a tune, nor read a French lesson, nor write, nor draw: poor little girl! you have a great deal to learn: but, however, keep up your spirits; if you are diligent and tractable, you will conquer all your difficulties; humility and industry will enable you to learn every thing."

"How very strange it is," said Matilda to herself, "that these people appear to pity me, instead of envying me, as they used to do in Barbadoes, and as I thought they would do here! besides, they are not angry with me, even when they find fault with me, and they seem to wish me to be good for the sake of being happy."

These thoughts somewhat soothed the perturbed bosom of the poor child until the hour of rest, when the remembrance of the good-tempered negro's destination rose to her mind, and she lamented her absence, and blamed her exceedingly for leaving her to go after a woman she had never seen in her life: but the next day, it was apparent that the lesson she had received was not lost upon her; she appeared ashamed of her ignorance, and willing to learn; and as all her young friends were very willing to instruct her, in whatever they had the power, she soon began to make some progress in her education; she was a child of good capacity, and, when roused to exertion, unusually quick; and being at an age when the mind expands quickly, it was no wonder that she soon gave evident marks of improvement. It was observed, that as her mind became enlightened, her manners were softened, and her petulance less obtrusive, though she was seen to suffer daily from the habitual violence of her temper, and the disposition to insolence, which unchecked power is so apt to foster in young minds.

Mrs. Harewood found the care of Matilda greatly increase her task of managing her family, as one naughty child frequently makes another, by raising up a spirit of contention and ill-humour; and Charles was so frequently led into sallies of passion, or tempted to ridicule the fault in his new companion, that his parents often lamented that they had accepted such a burdensome charge: but when they saw any symptoms of improvement in her, they were ever happy to foster the good seed; and in the consciousness that they were not only raising up a human mind to virtue and happiness, but preparing an immortal soul for heaven, they thought little of their own trouble, and were even truly thankful that she had been intrusted to their careful examination and affectionate discipline.



CHAPTER IV.

At the end of the week, Zebby came home, according to appointment; and having paid her respects to her excellent lady, she ran up stairs, and entered the apartment where the two young ladies were getting the tasks assigned them by Mrs. Harewood. When Matilda first beheld her she had a great inclination to embrace her, for her heart bounded towards the only creature she had been acquainted with from her cradle; but she suddenly checked herself, and pretended to continue her reading; but Ellen spoke to her kindly, though she told her that she was so situated, as not to be able to chat at present.

Zebby comprehended this, and would have withdrawn; but not to have a single word from her, whom in her heart, she still considered as her young mistress, the faithful creature could not endure; after waiting some minutes in vain, she dropped a second humble courtesy, and said—"How you do, Missy? me very glad see you larn booky, but me hopes you spare one look, one wordy, for poor Zebby; me go away one long weeky, to nurse white man baby, pretty as you, Missy."

"Yes," said Matilda, reproachingly, "you went away and left me very willingly, though it was to wait on a person you never saw before."

"Ah, Missy! you no lovee me, and poor white woman lovee me much. You makee beer spit in my face—she givee me tea-gruel out of her own cup. You callee me black beetle—she callee me good girly, good nursy, good every ting."

Matilda gave a deep sigh; she well remembered that it was on the very day of her outrage that Zebby had quitted her, and in her altered sense of justice, she could not help seeing the truth of the poor negro's statement; she looked up, with an ingenuous sense of error depicted on her countenance, and said—"I am sorry, Zebby, that I used you so ill, but I will never do it again."

The poor African was absolutely astonished, for never had the voice of concession been heard from the lips of Matilda before, even to her own parents; and the idea of her humility and kindness in this acknowledgment so deeply affected the faithful creature, that, after gazing at her in admiration for a moment, she burst into tears, and then clasping her hands, she exclaimed, in a broken manner—"Oh, tankee God! tankee God! pretty Missy be good girly at last! her lovee her good mamma—her pity poor negro—her go up stair when her die. Oh, me be so glad! great God lovee my dear Missy now!"

Matilda felt the tears suffuse her own eyes, as the kind heart of her late faithful slave thus gave vent to its natural and devout emotions; and she gave her hand to Zebby, who kissed it twenty times. Ellen was so delighted with this proof of good disposition in Matilda, and with the honest effusions of the poor negro, that she could not forbear gratifying her own affectionate little heart, by running to tell her dear mamma, who truly rejoiced in every proof of Matilda's amendment, and doubted not but it would prove the forerunner of virtue, in a child who appeared convinced of her faults, and desirous of improving herself.

It was now near Christmas, and Mrs. Harewood was inquiring for a boarding-school where she could place Miss Hanson. She would have preferred to keep her at home, and have a governess, who might attend to the instructions necessary both for her and Ellen; but the bad temper and insolent airs of Matilda had prevented this, as Mrs. Harewood could not bear the idea of subjecting an amiable young person, whom she designed for that situation, to be tormented with such a girl. She knew that, in schools, two faults seldom fail to be cured: these are impertinence, or insolence, and affectation—one rendering a person disagreeable, the other ridiculous; and every member in the community of which a school consists, is ready to assist the ruler in punishing the one, and laughing at the other.

One morning, when Matilda got out of bed, she went to look whether the morning was fine, and the moment she got to the window, eagerly cried out, in great surprise—"Ellen, Ellen! get up this moment, and come to the window; the whole world is covered with white! and see, there are thousands and thousands of little white feathers coming from the skies, as if the angels were emptying feather-beds upon the earth."

"It snows," said Ellen, calmly; "I recollect my papa told us you had never seen it snow."

"What is snow?"

"We will ask Edmund; he can tell you much better than I can."

The surprising appearance thus witnessed, induced Matilda to hasten down stairs, where Edmund was writing his Latin exercise.—"Do pray tell me," she cried, "what snow is, and why I never saw it before?"

"Snow," said Edmund, "is nothing but drops of rain, which, in passing through the cold air, become congealed or frozen. If you take this pretty light substance into your warm hand, it will melt and become a rain-drop again."

As Edmund spoke, he opened the window a very little way, caught some snow, and showed her the effect he spoke of.

"But why did I never see this in Barbadoes?"

"Because Barbadoes lies nearer to the sun than England, and is much warmer, even in winter; therefore the rain-drops never pass through that region of cold air which freezes them in northern climates. If you were to go farther north, you would find still more snow and ice, the same I saw you looking at yesterday. I will lend you a little book, where you will see a description of a palace of ice, and of whole mountains of snow, called Glaciers; and, if you please, I will show you that part of the globe, or earth, in which those effects begin to take place. But, my dear Ellen, pray lend Matilda your tippet, for she looks as much frozen as the snow; she must take great care of herself in this cold climate."

Ellen threw the pinafore she was going to put on over the neck of the shuddering Matilda, and then ran nimbly before them towards the globe, on which Edmund was going to lecture, neither of them looking in Matilda's face; but Charles, who just then happened to enter, perceived that silent tears were coursing each other down her cheek. His compassion was moved; he apprehended that the cold, which he felt himself to be severe, had made her ill, and he inquired what was the matter with her, in a tone of real commiseration.

"I am so—so very ignorant," said Matilda, sobbing.

"Oh, that's it!" cried Charles, gaily; "then you and I may shake hands, for I am ignorant too."

"Oh no, European children know every thing, but I am little better than a negro; I find what your mamma said was very true—I know nothing at all."

"Dear Matilda, how can you say so?" said Edmund; "though you have not read as much as we have, yet you have seen a great deal more than any of us, and you are the youngest of the company, you know. Consider, you have crossed the Atlantic Ocean, seen groves of orange-trees and spices grow, and the whole process of sugar-making. You know the inside of a ship as well as a house, and we never saw any thing better than a sloop, or sailed any where but on the Thames."

"Besides," said Charles, "you have seen monkeys and parrots, and many other creatures, in their own country, and many curious fish on your voyage. Oh, you understand natural history much better than we do."

"And if you understand nothing at all," added Ellen, kindly pressing her hand, "mamma says it is only wilful ignorance that is blameable."

Matilda wept still more while the children thus tried to comfort her. This distressed them all; but they rejoiced to see their parents enter the room, persuaded that they would be able to comfort her better, and Ellen instantly besought their attention to the subject by relating as much of the foregoing conversation as was necessary.

"No, no, it is not exactly that I am crying for," said Matilda, interrupting her; "it is because I have been so very naughty, and you are all so—so—so——"

"So what, my dear?" said Mr. Harewood, drawing her towards him, and placing her by his side, in the same manner he was accustomed to let Ellen stand, when she was much in his favour.

The action, however kindly meant, for a time redoubled her tears; and the children, understanding their mamma's look, withdrew to the room where they usually breakfasted, without the least symptom of discontent, although they perceived their mamma fill a cup of tea for Matilda at her own table.

When they were gone, and the little girl had somewhat recovered, Mr. Harewood whispered her—"Did you mean to say, my dear, that my children were so clever, or so proud, or so what?"

"Oh, sir, they are so good! that was what I wanted to say; for there was Edmund who always looked so grave, and was poring over his books, he talked to me quite kindly, and never made the least game of me, for all I must look like a fool in his eyes, who has seen the snow all his life. And then Charles, who is so full of fun and nonsense, and who I always thought could not abide me, he spoke to me as if he was sorry for me, and made it out that we were both ignorant alike; and when I remembered how I had looked at them, and behaved to them, I felt as if my heart would break. Ellen is always so good, that I did not think so much of her kindness, but nobody knows——"

Again the repentant girl wept, and at length with difficulty proceeded—"Nobody knows how dearly I love her, and you too."

She received the kindest assurances from both Mr. and Mrs. Harewood of their affection, and that they fully believed she would conquer her bad temper, now she saw how much it was not only her duty, but happiness to do so; and Mr. Harewood assured her that he had no doubt, but in the course of a few years, he should see her as sensible, good, and well-informed, as his own children.

"And then I shall not be an object of pity, sir?"

"No, you will be one of affection and esteem."

"Oh, I doubt that must never, never be!"

"Never despair; though you have many battles with yourself, yet never relinquish the hope of final conquest, and be assured you will find every victory easier than the last. When you find pride rising in your heart, think on your ignorance, and it will make you humble; and when you are inclined to be angry with those around you, remember what you have this day confessed respecting their kindness, and it will make you bear with the present vexation; and if at any time you are discomfited in any pursuit, either of virtue or knowledge, recollect what I now say, that, with many faults, yet you have some merit, and may therefore reasonably hope to attain more."

"Have I indeed?" said the now-humbled girl.

"Yes, you have an inquiring mind, which is one great step towards the attainment of knowledge, and you are sincere and open-hearted, which enables your friends to see what is the real bent of your disposition, and to give you the advice really necessary; and I hope, with this groundwork of good, you will be a very different girl when your mother again sees you."

Mr. Harewood left Matilda quieted, but deeply impressed by what he had said.



CHAPTER V.

From this time, Matilda felt as if her heart was lightened of a heavy load, and she looked up to Mr. and Mrs. Harewood as friends, whom it was her duty to obey and her privilege to love; and to the children, as brothers, whose pleasures were as dear to her as her own; and the warmth and openness of her temper naturally led her to display more than usual friendship, wherever she professed it at all. Happily, with all her faults, she was neither mean, artful, nor deceitful; so that the worst part of her disposition lay open to the observation of those good friends, who, like skilful physicians, only wounded to cure her.

The errors of Matilda were those which never fail to attach to extreme indulgence—pride, impetuosity, haughtiness, insolence, and idleness. Accustomed to consider all around her as born for her use and amusement, she commanded where she should have entreated, and resisted where she ought to have obeyed; but when she found that her wealth, power, and consequence were unknown, or utterly disregarded, and that she could only be esteemed for her good qualities, even her self-love tended to cure her of her idleness; and instead of drawling out—"Zebby, bring me this," "You fool, fetch me the other," she administered to her own wants, and obtained her wishes at so much less expense than she had once thought possible, that even her own convenience taught her the wisdom of waiting upon herself. She imputed the change, which could not fail to be remarked, to the climate—and unquestionably it is more easy and pleasant to be active in a cold country, than a hot one; but her friends were well aware that the change in her mind was greater than that of her country, and they forwarded this happy effect, by rendering the studies in which she engaged as delightful to her as possible, in order that, by prosecuting them, she might become less liable to rest her happiness on the vain pomp, useless show, and tyrannical power, which were wont to delight her.

As, however, all bad habits are slowly eradicated, and it by no means follows that even the error we have lamented and acknowledged should be so torn from the heart that no traces remain, so it would happen, from time to time, that Matilda would fly into violent passions with the servants around her, as with her young companions; and even when these were suppressed, she was apt to give herself airs of importance, and descant on the privileges she enjoyed in her own country, where she was fanned when she was hot, by slaves upon their knees, and borne about in a stately palanquin; where the most exquisite fruits were continually presented to court her palate, and the most costly dresses that money could procure purchased to please her; where every slave trembled at her anger, or rejoiced in her smile; and where she would one day return to reign as absolute as an empress.

"Well," said Ellen, one night, as this conversation took place in the play-room, "I must own I should like to live at Barbadoes for one thing—I should like to set all the slaves at liberty, and dress their little children, and make all happy; as to all the other good things and grand things, I really think we have quite sufficient of them at home; for I suppose there are no more books nor charities in your country than ours, Matilda; and surely there can be no greater pleasure in this world, than reading the 'Parent's Assistant,' and giving clothes and food to poor children when they are really hungry and starving?"

"Certainly not," cried Charles; "depend upon it, Ellen, England is the finest land in the world; and though I should like to see oranges and pine-apples grow, I confess, and the poor slaves at their merry meeting, all dancing away, with their woolly heads and white teeth, as happy as princes, yet, depend upon it, there is nothing else half so beautiful as with us. England is unquestionably the most beautiful, excellent, rich, delightful country upon the globe."

As Charles spoke, he fixed his eyes upon Edmund; for although the ardour of his spirits rendered him a great dealer in positive assertions, he was yet so conscious of his inferiority in knowledge to his eldest brother, that he seldom felt satisfied with them, unless they were stamped by his brother's approbation.

Edmund, in answer to his appealing eye, said—"I am as well convinced as you can be, Charles, that England combines more advantages than any other country, and that we either have in ourselves, or obtain from other countries, whatever is most worthy of possession; and the two good things which Ellen considers the greatest pleasures of existence, are undoubtedly to be had here in perfection; but I must own I should like to see Barbadoes prodigiously, for a property which none of you have yet mentioned."

"What, have not I mentioned it?" said Matilda.

"No, Matilda; you have been so much taken up with fine verandas, grand dinners, kneeling slaves, luxurious palanquins, orange groves, and delicious sweetmeats, that you have never once boasted of your pure air, and the glories of your evening sky, where all the planets shine with such a glowing lustre, that, Mr. Edwards tells us, Venus is there a kind of moon, in the light she sheds upon the earth, and those stars which are scarcely to be discerned here, are beheld in that enchanting air as bright as the stars of Orion with us."

"Well," cried Charles, "that must all be because Barbadoes, and the other West India islands, are so much nearer the sun, and I cannot say I have any desire to be in such a hot neighbourhood."

"No, Charles, that is not the reason; for although it is the fact, yet you cannot suppose that their difference can be perceptible, in that respect, to those heavenly bodies which appear to resemble only diamond sparks, from their immense distance. The brilliancy of which I speak arises from the greater purity of the air: we frequently see objects here through a kind of veil, which, though too thin to be perceptible, has yet its effect upon all objects: in some cases it alters, or rather bestows, a colour which does not properly belong to them; frequently impairs their form and beauty, but sometimes adds to their sublimity, and invests them with imposing greatness, proportioned to the obscurity with which they are enveloped."

"I don't understand all that Edmund says," observed Ellen, "but I should be glad to know whether something is not the matter with the sun when it looks copper-colour like the lid of a stewpan; because in summer-time, I remember, when we were out in the fields, it used to be bright golden yellow, so glorious and full of shine, as it were, that looking at it, even for a moment, made my eyes ache, and thousands of black and green spots to come into them."

"My dear Ellen, though you did not understand all the words I used, it is yet plain you did comprehend the sense, as you have brought forward an example of this effect of the atmosphere, which we all witness every day; the fogs and exhalations through which we view the sun are the cause of that dingy appearance you remark: and even in the summer-time, as the sun descends, you may perceive he becomes more and more red and dark as he approaches the horizon. I have therefore no doubt but the veil, or vapoury substance, of which I speak, is but a little distance from the earth; for I observe, that as the sun rises into the heavens, he grows more brilliant from surmounting this veil."

"Did you find this out of yourself, Edmund?"

"I noticed it one day to papa, and he explained it; he told me, too, that all the beautiful variety of colours which we observe in the setting sun must be imputed to this cause; he taught me at the same time to distinguish shadows in the water by reflection, and those which are refracted, and many other things, which rendered me much more delighted with the country than I had ever been before, and more fond of dear papa for taking the trouble to inform me."

"Well then," said Ellen, "when we go down to Richmond next summer, you must explain every thing to us, and we will love you better than ever, dear Edmund; and I will say the Ode to Eton College to you in my very best manner; perhaps Matilda will be able to say it before then, and——"

"Go on, Ellen."

"I want to know—we want to know what it means in that poem, where it says,

'Grateful Science still adores Her Henry's holy shade.'

What is a holy shade, Edmund?"

"It is a poetical expression, my dear, meaning that we of the present day are grateful to the founder, Henry the Sixth, who was a religious, and probably a learned man, although very unfortunate as a king."

"Oh," cried Ellen, "I remember all about him; he was deposed by Edward the Fourth, whose two sons were afterwards murdered in the Tower by their wicked uncle, Richard the Third."

"I remember that," said Matilda, timidly, yet with that kind of pleasure which indicated a sense of approaching her superior in knowledge, and being sensible that this was the only kind of superiority worth possessing.

Scarcely, however, had she spoken, when Charles, throwing himself into a theatrical attitude, exclaimed—"Ay! but do you remember the man that looked like him—to this same Henry, 'Who drew Priam's curtains in the dead of night, and would have told him half his Troy was burnt?'"

"No, indeed," said both the girls, staring.

Charles burst into a loud laugh at their innocent surprise at his violent gesticulation and grimace.

"I know what you mean," said Ellen, rather poutingly; "yes, I know it very well, though I don't choose to talk about things of that kind, because I have always been told that none but ignorant and foolish people did so."

"But I entreat you," said Charles, "to tell me what you think I mean, for I am sure you surprise me now as much as I did you."

"Why, I suppose Henry's holy shade means spirit, and it was that which drew Priam's curtains in the dead of night, (or which he thought did,) though it was probably only the housemaid."

Again Charles burst into an immoderate fit of laughter, exclaiming—"Housemaid! admirable! upon my word, Ellen, you have found a personage in the old king's establishment Homer never thought of."

"I never read Homer," said Ellen, simply.

"No, child, you need not tell us that," continued Charles, most provokingly continuing to laugh, until poor Ellen was completely disconcerted, and looked in the face of Edmund with such an appealing air, that he assumed a look of much more serious remonstrance than was usual as he thus addressed his brother—"You may laugh as long as you please, sir, but your whole conduct in this affair has shown so much less knowledge, as well as good sense, than Ellen herself has displayed, that really I should not wonder if a moment's recollection made you cry as heartily as you now laugh."

"Indeed!" said Charles, suddenly stopping.

"Yes, indeed! In the first place, there can be surely no doubt but you and I have read a great deal more than the girls, and could at any time puzzle and distress them by various quotations; but when they make inquiries to increase their own stock of knowledge, it is our duty, and ought to be our pleasure, to give them information, not confusion, which you evidently intended to do; besides, it is rude, almost inhuman, to oppress any person, even by the possession of that which is in itself praiseworthy; and as the end of all conversation is, or ought to be, improvement, a person who in any manner checks the spirit of inquiry and free discussion, hinders that end. We all know that English history is all that Ellen has dipped into, and in the little she presumed to utter on the subject, she was perfectly correct; whereas you, in your exhibition of more reading, made a palpable error, since Homer names maids repeatedly as belonging to the palace, and we cannot doubt their being employed as our housemaids are, since their offices are often particularized."

"A mighty piece of work, truly," said Charles, "for just quoting two lines of Shakspeare!"

"No, no, Charles, 'tis not for the quotation, but the manner, and you cannot but see yourself how erroneous an idea was taken up in consequence; how often does papa say people can never be too plain and simple, too downright and unequivocal, in their explanations to children, otherwise they plant words rather than ideas in their minds, and create a confusion which it may take many a year of after-thought to unravel?"

"I was very foolish," said Charles, looking at Ellen with the air of one that wondered how it had been possible to give pain to that little gentle heart, which sought only to bestow pleasure on all around it. He was about to speak, but before he had time, his fond sister had read his heart, and throwing her arms around his neck, she exclaimed—"I know you meant nothing, dear Charles; no, I know you didn't; only you are so fond of being funny."

The eyes of Charles did indeed now twinkle with a tear; and Matilda, who was quick to discern, and acute in all her feelings, was much affected. When they retired, she revolved all the conversation in her mind; she saw clearly that virtue and knowledge were the only passports to happiness; and the remembrance of her mother's desire to teach her various things, which she had either shunned from idleness, or rejected with insolence and ill-humour, rose to her mind; and the unhappy indulgence of her father appeared to her in far different colours to what she had ever beheld it. She became frequently disturbed, and full of painful reflection; yet she evidently took much pains in attaining knowledge of the task assigned her, and in conquering those risings of temper which were become inherent in her mind. Notwithstanding her frequent fits of abstraction, in which it was evident some great grief was uppermost in her mind, yet, as her nature led her to be communicative, and she was never subject to be sullen, the family did not press her to reveal her trouble, thinking that at the proper time she would repose confidence in them; and accordingly, as she sat one day alone with Mrs. Harewood, the following conversation took place between them.



CHAPTER VI.

Matilda, after a long silence, in which she was endeavouring, but in vain, to arrange her ideas and calm the incessant beating of her heart, said, timidly and abruptly, with her eyes fixed on the carpet—"Do you think, ma'am, that if Ellen had ever been very, very naughty and saucy to you, who are so good to her, that you could ever really in your heart forgive her?"

"I certainly should consider it my duty to punish her for her disobedience, by withholding my usual expressions of love and my general indulgences from her; but I should undoubtedly forgive her, because, in the first place, God has commanded me to forgive all trespasses, and in the second, my heart would be drawn naturally towards my own child."

"But surely, dear Mrs. Harewood, it is worse for an own child to behave ill to a parent than any other person?"

"Undoubtedly, my dear, for it unites the crime of ingratitude to that of disobedience; besides, it is cruel and unnatural to be guilty of insolence and hard-heartedness towards the hand which has reared and fostered us all our lives—which has loved us in despite of our faults—watched over our infancy—instructed our childhood—nursed us in sickness, and prayed for us before we could pray for ourselves."

"My mamma has done all this for me a thousand times," cried Matilda, bursting into tears of bitter contrition, which, for some time, Mrs. Harewood suffered to flow unrestrained; at length she checked herself, but it was only to vent her sorrow by self-accusation—"Oh, ma'am! you cannot think how very ill I have behaved to my dear, dear mother—I have been saucy to her, and bad to every body about me; many a time have I vexed her on purpose; and when she scolded me, I was so pert and disobedient—you can form no idea how bad I was. If she spoke ever so gently to me, I used to tell my papa she had been scolding me, and then he would blame her and justify me; and many a time I have heard deep sighs, that seemed to come from the very bottom of her heart, and the tears would stand in her sweet eyes as she looked at me. Oh, wicked, wicked child that I was, to grieve such a good mamma! and now we are parted such a long, long way, and I cannot beg her pardon—I cannot show her that I am trying to be good; perhaps she may die, as poor papa did, and I shall never, never see her more."

The agonies of the repentant girl, as this afflictive thought came over her mind, arose to desperation; and Mrs. Harewood, who felt much for her, endeavoured to bestow some comfort upon her; but poor Matilda, who was ever violent, even in her better feelings, could not, for a long time, listen to the kind voice of her consoler—she could only repeat her own faults, recapitulate all the crimes she had been guilty of, and display, in all their native hideousness, such traits of ill-humour, petulance, ungovernable fury, outrageous passion, and vile revenge, as are the natural offspring of the human heart, when its bad propensities are matured by indulgence, particularly in those warm countries, where the mind partakes the nature of the soil, and slavery in one race of beings gives power to all the bad passions of another.

At length the storm of anguish so far gave way, that Mrs. Harewood was able to command her attention, and she seized this precious season of penitence and humility to imprint the leading truths of Christianity, and those plain and invaluable doctrines which are deducible from them, and evident to the capacity of any sensible child, without leading from the more immediate object of her anxiety; as Mrs. Harewood very justly concluded, that if she saw her error as a child, and could be brought to conquer her faults as such, it would include every virtue to be expected at her time of life, and would lay the foundation of all those which we estimate in the female character.

"Oh," cried Matilda, sobbing, "if I could kneel at her feet, if I could humble myself lower than the lowest negro to my dear mamma, and once hear her say she forgave me, I could be comforted; but I do not like to be comforted without this; I am angry at myself, and I ought to be angry."

"But, my dear little girl," replied Mrs. Harewood, "though you cannot thus humble yourself in your body, yet you are conscious that you are humbled in your mind, and that your penitence will render you guarded for the time to come; and let it be your consolation to know, though your mother is absent, the ears of your heavenly Father are ever open to your sorrows; and that, if you lament your sins to him, he will assuredly accept your repentance, and dispose the heart of your dear mother to accept it also. I sincerely pity you, not as heretofore, for your folly, but for your sorrow; and in order to enable you to comprehend what I mean by repenting before God, I will compose you a short prayer, which will both express your feelings, and remind you of your duty towards yourself and your mother."

Matilda received this act of kindness from her good friend with real gratitude; and when she had committed it to memory, and adopted it in addressing Almighty God, she found her spirits revive, with the hope that she should one day prove worthy of that kind parent, whom, when she lived with her, she was too apt to slight and disobey. As her judgment became more enlightened, she saw more clearly into the errors of her past education, and became perfectly aware that the love of her too-indulgent father had been productive of innumerable pains, as well as faults. She found herself much more happy now than she had ever been in her life; yet she had never so few indulgences—she had no slaves to wait on her, no little black children to execute her commands and submit to her temper; she was not coaxed to the dainties of a luxurious table, nor had costly clothes spread before her to court her choice, nor any foolish friend to repeat all she said, as if she were a prodigy of wit and talent; and all these things, she well remembered, were accorded to her as a kind of inheritance in Barbadoes; but, along with them, she remembered having violent passions, in which she committed excesses, for which she afterwards felt keen remorse, because she saw how they wounded her mother, and shamed even her doting father—ill-humour and low spirits, that rendered every thing irksome to her, and many pains and fevers, from which she was now entirely free; and she found, in the conversation, books, and instructions of her young friends, amusement to which nothing she had enjoyed before would bear comparison; for what in life is so delightful as knowledge, except the sense of having performed some particular benefit to our fellow-creatures?



CHAPTER VII.

It will be readily supposed that, with the hopes now entertained of Matilda's conduct, Mrs. Harewood did not hesitate to provide the governess we have spoken of, and accordingly Miss Campbell was soon established in the family.

She found Matilda rapid in her ideas, persevering in her pursuits, but prone to resentment on every trifling occasion, and still subject to finding herself cause for repentance. On these occasions Miss Campbell conducted herself with composure and dignity, as if she considered a petulant child below the notice of a sensible woman: by this means the pride of the culprit was humbled; she was taught to retread her first steps, and perceive that she was an insignificant being, obliged to the suffrage of her friends, and only capable of being valuable in proportion to her docility and amiable conduct.

Mrs. Harewood had been accustomed to give her children the treat of a ball at Christmas; but on this year she put it off until midsummer, partly because she was afraid, in so large a party, and with such various dispositions, Matilda might not be able to conduct herself with perfect propriety during a whole evening, and partly because she wished her to learn to dance; for although this was, in her eyes, a very secondary accomplishment, when compared to solid knowledge, yet, as a healthful and innocent amusement, and called for in order to form the person in that station of life in which Matilda was likely to move, she desired to see her acquire at least as much of it as would preserve her from the appearance of awkwardness. It was an object of anxiety with this truly maternal friend to save her from all unnecessary mortification, at the same time she earnestly desired to see her tractable, humble, and gentle.

Time now passed away pleasantly, for all were occupied, and therefore happy: the idle are subject to many errors, and therefore many sorrows, from which the busy are exempt.

The good governess studied the temper and disposition of her pupils, and drew them forth in the happiest manner; not by making exhibitions of their attainments to others, but by showing them what was necessary to themselves for their improvement. She considered the work of education as sowing good seed, which shall spring up with vigour in advancing life, in proportion to the depth of the soil and its preparation for receiving it.

Whilst Miss Campbell inculcated those branches of polite learning which give a grace to virtue, she was still more desirous of inculcating virtue itself, by grafting it on religious principle, and that "fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom."

The children of Mrs. Harewood had been taught, from their earliest days, that prudence and charity must go hand in hand; but it remained for Miss Campbell to impress this salutary truth on the mind of Matilda, who was naturally very generous, but debased that feeling by ostentation, and ever sought to indulge it with a vain and hurtful profusion, until she became enlightened by her young preceptress, who likewise, in many other points, regulated those desires in her pupils which blend good and evil, and require a firm and delicate management. She was very solicitous to render them active, both personally and mentally, knowing that the health of both body and mind depends upon their due exercise, and that a taste for study is yet perfectly compatible with those various exertions to which the duties of a woman always call her, in whatever sphere she may have occasion to move.

Miss Campbell wished to save her pupils alike from that perpetual fidgetiness, which renders so many females unable to amuse themselves for a single hour, unless their hands, feet, and tongue are employed, and that pertinacious love of reading, which renders them utterly unable to enter into the common claims of society, while a new story is perused, or a new study developed; she considered these errors as diseases in the mental habit it was her duty to prevent or eradicate, since they must be ever inconsistent with general duty and individual happiness.

Time passed—the vacation arrived, and the young people had the pleasure of all meeting again. Matilda was nearly as glad as Ellen to see Edmund and Charles, who, on their own parts, were much improved, and delighted to find the girls so. Matilda was in every respect altered, and although she had not Ellen's sweetness of temper, yet she had greatly conquered her propensity to passion, was very obliging in her general manners, and considerate to her inferiors, and attached to Ellen, her governess, and Mr. and Mrs. Harewood, with a tenderness and gratitude that was very amiable and even affecting.



CHAPTER VIII.

One day, when Edmund and Charles had been at home about a week, the latter ran eagerly into the sitting-parlour, crying out—"Oh, mamma! there is Betty's sister down stairs, with the poor little twins in her arms, which were born just when Matilda came; they have short frocks now, but I perceive they have no shoes: suppose we young ones subscribe, and buy them some, poor things! there is my eighteen-penny piece for shoes, mamma—shoes, and hats too, if we can raise money enough."

Mrs. Harewood could not help smiling at Charles's eagerness, as she remembered the useful mortification he had experienced the last time his charity was called upon; and as she took up the money, she observed to him—"I am glad to see this, Charles; it is a proof you are more provident than you used to be; and, with your propensity to spending, it requires no little effort to save, in a large school, where there are always many temptations. I think your proposal is a very good one; and whilst I am collecting the money, pray step down stairs, and tell Betty to bring up the little innocents—we shall all be glad to see them."

Charles flew out of the room, and in less than a minute returned with the mother, carrying a babe in each arm. She was a very decent woman, the widow of a soldier, who died before his poor children were born; she now endeavoured to maintain herself and them by taking in washing, together with the pay of the parish, which, although small, she received very thankfully, and managed very carefully.

"Look, mamma! what pretty little feet they have," cried Ellen; "I am sure Charles was a good boy to think about shoes for them—was it not very kind of him, Matilda? because you know little boys seldom love little babies so much as girls do."

Matilda answered "yes," mechanically, for her mind was abstracted, and affected by the remembrance this scene was calculated to inspire. Mrs. Harewood, feeling for her evident embarrassment, sent the poor woman down stairs to take some refreshment, and then laid a three-shilling piece, as her own share of the contribution, besides Charles's subscription on the table.

Edmund laid a shilling on the table, saying—"If more is wanted, I will give you another with great pleasure: I hope, mamma, you know that I will?"

"Yes, Edmund, I do know that you will do any thing in your power, for you are regular and prudent, as well as a kind-hearted boy, and therefore have always got something to spare for the wants of others; I perceive, too, that you have the good sense to examine the nature of the claim made upon you, and that you give accordingly; you are aware, and I wish all the young ones to be so likewise, that this, although an act of charity, is not called for by any immediate distress; it is not one of those cases which wring the heart and drain the purse, for the poor woman is neither unprovided with lodgings nor food, and we ought always to keep something for the sake of sufferers of that description: I wish you, children, to be free and liberal, for we are told in the scriptures that 'God loveth a cheerful giver;' but, in order to render you also frequent givers, you must be prudent ones."

"I have only one shilling in the world," said Ellen, laying it on the table.

"Then sixpence is as much as you ought to give," said Mrs. Harewood, giving her a sixpence in change, when, observing that she took it with an air of reluctance, she said—"My dear Ellen, be satisfied; you are a little girl, and have not half your brother's allowance, you know—it is sufficient."

While this was passing, Matilda had been fumbling in her pocket, and blushing excessively; her mind was full of painful recollections, yet fraught with gleams of satisfaction; but she wished very much to do two very contrary things, and whilst she still hesitated, Miss Campbell said—"Here is another sixpence, ma'am, which I will take, and give you an eighteen-pence, as I wish to give you a shilling, with Edmund's proviso."

"But," said Matilda, with a mixture of eagerness and hesitation, "then there will be no change for me, and I wish to give the same as Ellen; don't I want change, ma'am? I—I believe I do."

There was, in this confusion, and the blush which deepened in her cheek, a something which showed Mrs. Harewood a great deal of what was passing in the mind of this self-convicted, but compassionate and ingenuous girl. Mrs. Harewood took her shilling, and returned her sixpence, which she evidently received with pain, but an effort to smile, as Ellen had done, in return for the smile of her mamma.

After a short pause, Mrs. Harewood said—"Well, Matilda, your delicacy is now satisfied—you have not affected any display of humanity, or ostentatious exhibition of wealth, in order to humble your young friends; but I perceive your heart is not satisfied; that heart is really interested in these babes, and, conscious that it is in your power to do more, you are mortified at stopping short of your own wishes and their wants."

"Oh dear, ma'am," replied Matilda, "you have read all the thoughts of my heart, (at least all but one,) and if you think it right, and Ellen will not think me proud, I will indeed be very glad if you will accept a crown for my subscription."

"I shall receive it with pleasure; and I can venture to assure you, that my children will neither feel envy, anger, nor any other emotion, except joy, at seeing the little objects of their care benefited, and you happy; for they have been taught only to value such actions, according to the motive in one party, and their usefulness to the other: but, Matilda, if it is not a very great secret, I should be glad to know what that one other thought in your heart was, which I did not guess, upon this occasion?"

Matilda did not find this question so easy of reply as Mrs. Harewood had expected it to be; she blushed and hung down her head; but, on perceiving that Mrs. Harewood was going to release her from all necessity of reply, she struggled to conquer what she deemed a weakness in herself, and answered thus—"Why, my dear madam, I was thinking what a little proud, stubborn, ill-behaved girl I was, at the time when these twins were born, and we first made a subscription for this poor woman; I remembered, too, how miserable I was, and altogether how much I had to lament, and I felt as if I could like to do something, to prove how thankful I am to God for bringing me into a family like yours, where every day of my life I may learn something good, and where I have been a great deal more happy than ever I was before, even in the house with my own parents."

Matilda stopped a moment, as if she thought her confession had perhaps infringed on her duty; but recollecting that all her past sorrow had been laid to the proper account, which was her own bad temper and pride, she again proceeded in it.

"When I thought on these things, I came close up to you; but my heart beat so quick, I could not speak, or else I had a guinea in my hand, the last my dear mamma gave me, and I wished very much to give you that; but then the memory of my foolish pride, the last time, came again into my mind—I became ashamed, and determined in all things to be guided by Ellen, who is almost a year older than I, and a great deal better."

"No, no—not better," said Ellen, warmly; and even her brothers, who loved her very dearly, struck with the same admiration of Matilda's frankness and generosity, exclaimed—"You are as good as Ellen now, Matilda—indeed you are!"

Mrs. Harewood, tenderly kissing her, assured her of her approbation, saying—"All you have said, my dear, tends decidedly to prove that your mind is indeed properly impressed with your duty both towards God and man, and that you have the most sincere desire to conquer those faults which you have already greatly amended; therefore I am determined to permit you to exercise your benevolence, in the most extensive manner that your heart could wish, knowing, as I do, that your fortune is fully equal to any act of charity, and that your good mamma will not fail to approve of it."

"Thank you, thank you, dear Mrs. Harewood! oh, you are my English mother, and I love you much more than any other person in the world, except my Barbadoes mamma."

The children eagerly crowded round their mother's chair, to hear what the good news was, which promised to benefit Sally, and make Matilda happy.

"I know," said Mrs. Harewood, "that the purchase of a mangle would set up the poor woman in her profession as a washerwoman, and enable her to earn at least ten shillings a-week more. It was my intention to purchase one for her myself at Christmas; but I could not do it before, as my charity-purse has been very much run upon lately. When Mr. Harewood comes in, I will ask for the money, and to-morrow we will all go in the coach, and see Matilda purchase it: but, my dear girl, suppose you just step and inform the poor woman of your intention, which I am certain you had rather do without witnesses; it will not only increase her pleasure, but enable her to prepare her apartment for such a noble and useful piece of furniture."

Matilda left the room, but returned almost immediately.

"You have been very quick," said Ellen, in rather a murmuring voice; "I wanted to know what she said and how she looked when you told her the good news."

"I did not speak to her myself—I commissioned Zebby to do it, for I knew it would give her quite as much pleasure as the poor woman herself could receive; and surely she has a right to receive every good I can bestow, as a slight atonement for the pain I have so very frequently given her."

Scarcely had Matilda given this proof of consideration and amiable feeling, when Sally and Zebby rushed into the room together, followed by Betty, who was truly grateful for the kindness thus bestowed on her sister.

Sally, with tears of joy, thanked her young benefactress; her words were few, but they were those of respect and thankfulness, and showed she was deeply sensible of the benefit she experienced.

Poor Zebby, delighted with the goodness of her young mistress, audibly expressed her pleasure, with all the characteristic warmth of her country, and not a little proud of those virtues which she fancied she had assisted to nurture.—"Oh," cried she, "dis be my own beautiful Missy own goodness; she makee joy in her mamma heart; she makee poor negro all happy—singee and dancee every body; no more whip, massa Buckraman—every body delight—every body glad—every body good Christian, when Missy go back!"

The spontaneous effusion of joy, uttered by this daughter of nature, affected all the party, and the joyful bustle had not subsided when Mr. Harewood entered. On being informed of the cause, he gave his full assent, and produced the money necessary for the purchase of the mangle.

The following day was pleasantly employed in arranging the poor woman's new acquisition; and when Matilda saw her grateful, happy countenance, and learned the manner in which the machine would be worked, and its usefulness in smoothing linen, she felt the value of a useful life, and a sense of her own importance, distinct from the idle consequence which is the result of vanity and pride, but perfectly compatible with the self-distrust and true humility which was now happily taking a deep root in her young mind.

Mrs. Harewood was gratified in perceiving such results of her maternal care for Matilda: still she did not relax in her vigilance; for she well knew, that along with corn will spring up tares in every young mind, and that the virtue of one day does not exempt from the vice of another, during the years of early life; and there were still many points in which the errors of her Barbadoes education were but too visible, and which called for the pruning hand of a sensible and pious friend.



CHAPTER IX.

The foolish indulgence of Mr. Hanson had in no respect been more injurious to his only daughter, than in the unrestrained permission to eat whatever she liked, and as much of it as she could swallow.

On arriving at Mr. Harewood's, she found herself at a loss for many of the sweet and rich dishes she had been accustomed to eat of at her father's luxurious table; for although theirs was very well served, it consisted generally of plain and wholesome viands. Under these circumstances, Matilda made what she considered very poor dinners, and she endeavoured to supply her loss by procuring sweet things and trash, through the medium of Zebby, who, in this particular, was more liable to mislead her than any other person, because she knew to what she had been used, having frequently waited upon her, when the little gormandizer had eaten the whole of any delicacy which happened to be provided for the company.

Mrs. Harewood took great pains to correct this evil, especially on Ellen's account; for as Matilda was not covetous, she was ever ready to share with her only companion the raisins and almonds, figs, gingerbread, biscuits, or comfits, which she was continually munching; and this Mrs. Harewood had a particular objection to, not only because it is bad for the health, and lays the foundation for innumerable evils in the constitution, but because it renders young people hateful in their appearance, since nothing can be more unladylike or disagreeable, than the circumstance of being called to speak when the mouth is full, or displaying the greediness of their appetite, by cramming between meals, stealing out of a room to fill the mouth in the passage, or silently moving the jaws about, and being obliged to blush with shame when caught in such disgraceful tricks.

In order to guard against this habit, Mrs. Harewood positively forbade her servants from bringing any thing of the kind into the house; but poor Zebby, from habit, still obeyed her young Missy, and, besides, she had no idea that the enjoyments of fortune were good for any thing else than to pamper the appetite; so that it was a long time before she could be brought to desist from so pernicious a practice. As, however, the mind of Matilda strengthened, and she began to employ herself diligently in those new branches of education now imparted to her, she insensibly became weaned from this bad practice; and at length, inspired with a sincere desire to imitate her young friends, she broke herself entirely from this disgusting habit, and willingly adopted, in every thing, the simple wholesome fare partaken by her young friends.

It was undoubtedly owing to this temperance that she preserved her health, and even enjoyed it more than ever, notwithstanding the change of climate; but, alas! the good sense, resolution, and forbearance she thus acted with, was not followed by the humble companion of her voyage.

The change Zebby experienced in Mr. Harewood's comfortable kitchen, from the simple food to which, as a slave, she had been accustomed in the West Indies, was still greater, though in an exactly contrary line, than that of her young lady. Zebby soon learned to eat of the good roast and boiled she sat down to, and exchanged the simple beverage of water for porter and beer, in consequence of which she became much disordered in her health; and when Mrs. Harewood prescribed a little necessary physic, as her mild persuasions were enforced by no threat, and the prescription appeared to the unenlightened negro a kind of punishment she had no inclination to endure, there was no getting her to swallow the bitter but salutary potion.

Zebby had been a long time feverish and subject to headaches, when the circumstance mentioned in the last chapter took place, which so exhilarated her spirits, that she declared she would be the first person who should use the new mangle which "her pretty Missy givee poor Sally."

It is well known that the negroes are naturally averse to bodily labour, and that, although their faithfulness and affection render them capable of enduring extreme hardship and many privations, yet they are rarely voluntarily industrious; and it was therefore a proof of Zebby's real kindness, that she thus exerted herself.

Unhappily, a mode of labour entirely new to her, and, in her present sickly state, requiring more strength than she possessed, although, had she used it freely some time before, it would have done her good, was now too much for her, and she came home complaining, in doleful accents, that "poor Zebby have achies all over—is sometimes so hot as Barbadoes, sometimes so cold as London."

Mrs. Harewood was well aware that the good-tempered negro was seized with fever, and she sent immediately for her apothecary, who confirmed her fears, and prescribed for her; but as there was no getting her to swallow medicine, he was obliged to bleed her, and put a blister on her head, which, however, did not prevent her from becoming delirious for several days.

Poor Zebby was, at this time, troubled with the most distressing desire to return to Barbadoes, and all her ravings were to this purpose; and they were naturally very affecting to Matilda, who never heard them without being a little desirous of uniting her own wishes to behold her native country, especially when she heard it coupled with the name of that only, and now fondly-beloved parent, from whom she was so far separated, and her tears flowed freely when she visited the bedside of the poor African. But her sorrow increased exceedingly when she learned the danger in which poor Zebby stood, and found that her death was daily expected by all around; bitter indeed were the tears she then shed, and she would have given the world to have recalled those hasty expressions, angry blows, and capricious actions, which had so often afflicted her humble attendant, whose fidelity, love, humility, and services, she now could fully estimate, and whose loss she would deeply deplore.

Mrs. Harewood endeavoured to comfort her under this affliction, by leading her to view the consolations which religion offers to the afflicted in general, and she explained the nature of that beneficent dispensation whereby the learned and the ignorant, the poor and the rich, the slave and his master, are alike brought to receive salvation as the free gift of God, through the mediation of our merciful Redeemer; and comforted her with the hope, that although poor Zebby's mind was but little enlightened, and her faith comparatively uninformed, yet as, to the best of her knowledge, she had been devout and humble, resting her claims for future happiness on that corner-stone, "the goodness of God in Christ Jesus," so there was no reason to fear that she would not leave this world for a far better, for "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

Matilda's mind was deeply impressed with this holy and happy consolation, but yet she could not help lamenting her own loss, in one whom she no longer considered her slave, and little better than a beast of burden, but as her countrywoman, her friend, the partaker of that precious faith by which alone the most wise, wealthy, and great, can hope to inherit the kingdom of heaven; and she could not help praying for her restoration to health, with all the fervour of which her heart was capable; and many a promise mingled with her prayer, that, if it pleased God to restore her, she would never treat her ill again: and these promises she likewise repeated to Mrs. Harewood and her governess.

Neither of these ladies lost the opportunity thus offered, of impressing on her mind the duties which every woman, whatever may be her rank or situation in life, does indeed owe to those whom Providence hath placed under her. They explained, in particular, the necessity of forbearance in point of manners, and of consideration in her daily employments—"If," said the good mistress, "I ring the bell twice or thrice, where once would answer every purpose, provided I gave myself the trouble of considering what I really wanted, I not only waste my servant's time, which would supply my wants, and therefore injure myself in one sense, but I waste the strength which is her only means of subsistence, and I awaken that vexation of temper, which, although perhaps suppressed before me, will yet rankle in her bosom, and probably induce her to commit some injury on my property, which is an actual sin in her: thus my folly leads to her guilt, and the very least mischief that can accrue is her unhappiness; for who can be happy whose temper is perpetually ruffled by the cruel thoughtlessness of those who have the absolute disposal of their time, their talents, and, in a great measure, their dispositions?"

"Depend upon it," added Miss Campbell, "that as we are assured in the Scriptures, that 'for every idle word we shall be brought to account,' so, in a particular manner, must we be judged for all those idle words and actions which have inflicted on any of our fellow-creatures pains we have no right to bestow, or tempted them to sins they had no inclination to follow; the petty tyrannies of our whims, changes, and fancies—of our scoldings, complainings, peremptory orders, and causeless contradictions, will all one day swell that awful list of sins, of which it may be truly said, 'we cannot answer one in a thousand.'"

When Miss Campbell ceased speaking, Ellen, who, although not affected so violently as Matilda, had yet felt much for Zebby's situation, and was seriously desirous of profiting by all she heard, said in a low voice—"I will do every thing for myself—I will never trouble Susan, or Betty, or any body."

Mrs. Harewood knew the bent of her daughter's mind, and that although, from the sweetness of her temper and the mildness of her manners, she was not likely to fall into Matilda's errors, there were others of an opposite class, from which it was necessary to guard her; she therefore added—"Although consideration and kindness are certainly the first duties to be insisted upon in our conduct, yet there are others of not less importance. It is the place of every mistress to exact obedience to reasonable commands and the execution of all proper services. If she does not do this, she deserts her own station in society, defeats the intentions she was called to fulfil, and which made her the guide and guardian, not the companion and fellow-server, of her servants. In abandoning them to their own discretion, she lays upon them a burden which, either from ignorance or habit, they are probably unequal to endure, since it is certain that many truly respectable persons in this class have been only so while they were under the controlling eye or leading mind of their superiors. Besides, all uncommon levity of manners, like all unbecoming freedom in conversation, more frequently arises from weakness or idleness in the parties, and ought to be guarded against in our conduct, as never failing to be degradatory to ourselves, and very far from beneficial to those they affect to serve: it is possible to be very friendly, yet very firm; to be gentle, yet resolute, and at once a fellow-Christian and a good master to those whom Providence hath rendered our dependants."

Ellen listened to this with attention, and endeavoured to understand and apply it; but both she and Matilda continued to pay the most affectionate attentions to poor Zebby, whose disorder in a few days took a more favourable turn than could have been expected, although the delirium did not immediately subside, but rather affected her general temper, which, under its influence, appeared as remarkably unpleasant and tormenting to herself and all around, as it was formerly kind and obliging.

This period was indeed trying to Matilda, who was by no means sufficiently confirmed in her virtuous resolutions, or good habits, to endure reproaches where she merited thanks, even in a case where she was aware of deranged intellect and real affection, either of which ought to have led her to endure the wild sallies and troublesome pettishness of the suffering negro. It must however be allowed, that if she did not do all she ought, she yet did more than could have been once expected, and very greatly increased the esteem and approbation of her friends.

Matilda, when she was not influenced by the bodily indolence which was natural to her as a West-Indian, and which was rather a misfortune than her fault, was apt to be too active and bustling for the stillness required in a sick chamber; and whatever she did, was done with a rapidity and noisiness, more in unison with her own ardent desire of doing good, than the actual welfare of the person she sought to relieve; whereas Ellen never for a moment lost sight of that gentle care and considerate pity, which was natural to a mind attuned to tenderness from its very birth; and many a time would she say—"Hush, Matilda! don't speak so loud; have a care how you shut the door," &c.

One day they both happened to go in just as the nurse was going to give the patient a basin of broth—"Let me give it her," said Matilda; "you know she always likes me to give her any thing."

"Sometimes she does, when she knows you; but her head wanders to-day sadly."

"Never mind," replied Matilda, in her hurrying manner, and taking the broth from the woman in such a way that the basin shook upon the plate; on which Ellen said—"Have a care, the broth seems very hot; indeed, too hot for Zebby to take."

Matilda fancied this caution an indirect attack upon her care, and she went to the bedside immediately, and bolting up to the patient, who was sitting, raised by pillows, she offered the broth to her, saying—"Come, Zebby, let me feed you with this nice food—it will do you good."

The warm fume of the basin was offensive to the invalid—"Me no likee brothies," said she; and as it was not instantly removed, she unhappily pushed away the plate, and turned the scalding contents of the basin completely into the bosom of poor Matilda, as she reclined towards her.

Shrieking with pain, and stamping with anger, Matilda instantly cried out that she was murdered, and the wretch should be flayed alive.

Ellen, shocked, terrified, and truly sorry, called out in an agony—"Mamma, dear mamma, come here this moment! poor Matilda is scalded to death!"

The nurse, the servants, and Mrs. Harewood herself, were in a few moments with the sufferer; and the latter, although she despatched the footman for a surgeon, did not for a moment neglect the assistance and relief in her own power to bestow; she scraped some white lead[1] into a little thick cream, and applied it with a feather all over the scalded parts; and in a very short time the excruciating pain was relieved, and the fire so well drawn out by it, that when the surgeon arrived he made no change in the application, but desired it might be persisted in, and said—"He had no doubt of a cure being speedily obtained, if the patient were calm."

[1] The author has found this prescription very efficacious in various cases of scalds.

During the former part of this time, Matilda continued to scream incessantly, with the air of a person whose unmerited and intolerable sufferings gave a right to violence; and even when she became comparatively easy, she yet uttered bitter complaints against Zebby, as the cause of the mischief; never taking into consideration her own share of it, nor recollecting that she acted both thoughtlessly and stubbornly in neglecting the advice of Ellen; and that although her principal motive was the endeavour to benefit Zebby, yet there was a deficiency in actual kindness, when she offered her broth it was impossible for the poor creature to taste. Such, however, was the commiseration for her injury felt by all those around her, that no one would, in the moment of her punishment, say a word that could be deemed unkind; and soothings, rather than exhortations, were all that were uttered.

At length the storm was appeased; Matilda, declaring herself much easier, was laid upon the sofa, and a gentle anodyne being given to her, she closed her eyes, and if she did not sleep, she appeared in a state of stupor, which much resembled sleep. It so happened, that the hot liquid had, in falling, thrown many drops upon her face, which gave her so much pain at the moment, that she thought she was scalded much worse than she really was, as did those around her; but Ellen, as she watched her slumbers, now perceived that this was a very transient injury, and she observed to her mamma, that she hoped Matilda's good looks would not be spoiled by the accident, at least that her beauty would be restored before her mother's arrival from the West Indies.

"Before that time," returned Mrs. Harewood, "I trust Matilda will have attained such a degree of mental beauty, as would render the total destruction of her personal beauty a trifling loss, in comparison, to the eye of a thinking and good mother, such as I apprehend Mrs. Hanson to be."

"But surely, mamma, it is a good thing to be handsome? I mean, if people happen to be handsome, it is a pity they should lose their beauty."

"It is, my dear, to a certain degree a pity; for a pretty face, like a pleasant prospect, gives pleasure to the beholder, and leads the mind to contemplate the great Author of beauty in his works, and rejoice in the perfection every where visible in nature. The possessors of beauty may, however, so often spare it with advantage to themselves and their near connections, that the loss of it, provided there is neither sickness, nor any very disgusting appearance, left behind, does not appear to me a very great misfortune."

"But surely, mamma, people may be both very pretty and very good?"

"Undoubtedly, my dear; but such are the temptations handsome people are subject to, that they are much more frequently to be pitied than envied; yet envy from the illiberal and malicious seldom fails to pursue them; and when they are neither vain nor arrogant, generally points them out as both."

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse