OR, THE LITTLE FEMALE ACADEMY (1749)
by Sarah Fielding
There lived in the northern parts of England, a gentlewoman who undertook the education of young ladies; and this trust she endeavoured faithfully to discharge, by instructing those committed to her care in reading, writing, working, and in all proper forms of behaviour. And though her principal aim was to improve their minds in all useful knowledge; to render them obedient to their superiors, and gentle, kind, and affectionate to each other; yet did she not omit teaching them an exact neatness in their persons and dress, and a perfect gentility in their whole carriage.
This gentlewoman, whose name was Teachum, was the widow of a clergyman, with whom she had lived nine years in all the harmony and concord which forms the only satisfactory happiness in the married state. Two little girls (the youngest of which was born before the second year of their marriage was expired) took up a great part of their thoughts; and it was their mutual design to spare no pains or trouble in their education.
Mr. Teachum was a very sensible man, and took great delight in improving his wife; as she also placed her chief pleasure in receiving his instructions. One of his constant subjects of discourse to her was concerning the education of children: so that, when in his last illness his physicians pronounced him beyond the power of their art to relieve him, he expressed great satisfaction in the thought of leaving his children to the care of so prudent a mother.
Mrs. Teachum, though exceedingly afflicted by such a loss, yet thought it her duty to call forth all her resolutions to conquer her grief, in order to apply herself to the care of these her dear husband's children. But her misfortunes were not here to end: for within a twelvemonth after the death of her husband, she was deprived of both her children by a violent fever that then raged in the country; and, about the same time, by the unforeseen breaking of a banker, in whose hands almost all her fortune was just then placed, she was bereft of the means of her future support.
The Christian fortitude with which (through her husband's instructions) she had armed her mind, had not left it in the power of any outward accident to bereave her of her understanding, or to make her incapable of doing what was proper on all occasions. Therefore, by the advice of all her friends, she undertook what she was so well qualified for; namely, the education of children. But as she was moderate in her desires, and did not seek to raise a great fortune, she was resolved to take no more scholars than she could have an eye to herself without the help of other teachers; and instead of making interest to fill her school, it was looked upon as a great favour when she would take any girl. And as her number was fixed to nine, which she on no account would be prevailed on to increase, great application was made, when any scholar went away, to have her place supplied; and happy were they who could get a promise for the next vacancy.
Mrs. Teachum was about forty years old, tall and genteel in her person, though somewhat inclined to fat. She had a lively and commanding eye, insomuch that she naturally created an awe in all her little scholars; except when she condescended to smile, and talk familiarly to them; and then she had something perfectly kind and tender in her manner. Her temper was so extremely calm and good, that though she never omitted reprehending, and that pretty severely, any girl that was guilty of the smallest fault proceeding from an evil disposition; yet for no cause whatsoever was she provoked to be in a passion; but she kept up such a dignity and authority, by her steady behavior, that the girls greatly feared to incur her displeasure by disobeying her commands; and were equally pleased with her approbation, when they had done anything worthy her commendation.
At the time of the ensuing history, the school (being full) consisted of the nine following young ladies:
Miss JENNY PEACE. Miss NANNY SPRUCE. Miss SUKEY JENNETT. Miss BETTY FORD. Miss DOLLY FRIENDLY. Miss HENNY FRET. Miss LUCY SLY. Miss POLLY SUCKLING. Miss PATTY LOCKIT.
The eldest of these was but fourteen years old, and none of the rest had yet attained their twelfth year.
AN ACCOUNT OF A FRAY,
BEGUN AND CARRIED ON FOR THE SAKE OF AN APPLE: IN WHICH ARE SHOWN THE SAD EFFECTS OF RAGE AND ANGER.
It was on a fine summer's evening when the school-hours were at an end, and the young ladies were admitted to divert themselves for some time, as they thought proper, in a pleasant garden adjoining to the house, that their governess, who delighted in pleasing them, brought out a little basket of apples, which were intended to be divided equally amongst them; but Mrs. Teachum being hastily called away (one of her poor neighhours having had an accident which wanted her assistance), she left the fruit in the hands of Miss Jenny Peace, the eldest of her scholars, with a strict charge to see that every one had an equal share of her gift.
But here a perverse accident turned good Mrs. Teachum's design of giving them pleasure into their sorrow, and raised in their little hearts nothing but strife and anger: for, alas! there happened to be one apple something larger than the rest, on which the whole company immediately placed their desiring eyes, and all at once cried out, 'Pray, Miss Jenny, give me that apple.' Each gave her reasons why she had the best title to it: the youngest pleaded her youth, and the eldest her age; one insisted on her goodness, another from her meekness claimed a title to preference; and one, in confidence of her strength, said positively, she would have it; but all speaking together, it was difficult to distinguish who said this, or who said that.
Miss Jenny begged them all to be quiet, but in vain; for she could not be heard: they had all set their hearts on that fine apple, looking upon those she had given them as nothing. She told them they had better be contented with what they had, than be thus seeking what it was impossible for her to give to them all. She offered to divide it into eight parts, or to do anything to satisfy them; but she might as well have been silent; for they were all talking and had no time to hear. At last as a means to quiet the disturbance, she threw this apple, the cause of their contention, with her utmost force over a hedge into another garden, where they could not come at it.
At first they were all silent, as if they were struck dumb with astonishment with the loss of this one poor apple, though at the same time they had plenty before them.
But this did not bring to pass Miss Jenny's design: for now they all began again to quarrel which had the most right to it, and which ought to have had it, with as much vehemence as they had before contended for the possession of it; and their anger by degrees became so high, that words could not vent half their rage; and they fell to pulling of caps, tearing of hair, and dragging the clothes off one another's backs: though they did not so much strike, as endeavour to scratch and pinch their enemies.
Miss Dolly Friendly as yet was not engaged in the battle; but on hearing her friend Miss Nanny Spruce scream out, that she was hurt by a sly pinch from one of the girls, she flew on this sly pincher, as she called her, like an enraged lion on its prey; and not content only to return the harm her friend had received, she struck with such force, as felled her enemy to the ground. And now they could not distinguish between friend and enemy; but fought, scratched, and tore, like so many cats, when they extend their claws to fix them in their rival's heart.
Miss Jenny was employed in endeavouring to part them.
In the midst of this confusion appeared Mrs. Teachum, who was returning in hopes to see them happy with the fruit she had given them; but she was some time there before either her voice or presence could awaken them from their attention to the fight; when on a sudden they all faced her, and fear of punishment began now a little to abate their rage. Each of the misses held in her right hand, fast clenched, some marks of victory; for they beat and were beaten by turns. One of them held a little lock of hair torn from the head of her enemy; another grasped a piece of a cap, which, in aiming at her rival's hair, had deceived her hand, and was all the spoils she could gain; a third clenched a piece of an apron; a fourth, of a frock. In short, everyone unfortunately held in her hand a proof of having been engaged in the battle. And the ground was spread with rags and tatters, torn from the backs of the little inveterate combatants.
Mrs. Teachum stood for some time astonished at the sight; but at last she enquired of Miss Jenny Peace, who was the only person disengaged, to tell her the whole truth, and to inform her of the cause of all this confusion.
Miss Jenny was obliged to obey the commands of her governess; though she was so good natured that she did it in the mildest terms; and endeavoured all she could to lessen, rather than increase, Mrs. Teachum's anger. The guilty persons now began all to excuse themselves as fast as tears and sobs would permit them.
One said, 'Indeed, madam, it was none of my fault; for I did not begin; for Miss Sukey Jennett, without any cause in the world (for I did nothing to provoke her), hit me a great slap in the face, and made my tooth ache; the pain DID make me angry; and then, indeed, I hit her a little tap; but it was on her back; and I am sure it was the smallest tap in the world and could not possibly hurt her half so much as her great blow did me.'
'Law, miss!' replied Miss Jennett, 'how can you say so? when you know that you struck me first, and that yours was the great blow, and mine the little tap; for I only went to defend myself from your monstrous blows.'
Such like defences they would all have made for themselves, each insisting on not being in fault, and throwing the blame on her companion; but Mrs. Teachum silenced them by a positive command; and told them, that she saw they were all equally guilty, and as such would treat them.
Mrs. Teachum's method of punishing I never could find out. But this is certain, the most severe punishment she had ever inflicted on any misses, since she had kept a school, was now laid on these wicked girls, who had been thus fighting, and pulling one another to pieces, for a sorry apple.
The first thing she did was to take away all the apples; telling them, that before they had any more instances of such kindness from her, they should give her proofs of their deserving them better. And when she had punished them as much as she thought proper, she made them all embrace one another, and promise to be friends for the future; which, in obedience to her commands, they were forced to comply with, though there remained a grudge and ill-will in their bosoms; every one thinking she was punished most, although she would have it, that she deserved to be punished least; and they continued all the sly tricks they could think on to vex and tease each other.
A DIALOGUE BETWEEN MISS JENNY PEACE AND MISS SUKEY JENNETT;
WHEREIN THE LATTER IS AT LAST CONVINCED OF HER OWN FOLLY IN BEING SO QUARRELSOME; AND, BY HER EXAMPLE, ALL HER COMPANIONS ARE BROUGHT TO SEE AND CONFESS THEIR FAULT.
The next morning Miss Jenny Peace used her utmost endeavours to bring her schoolfellows to be heartily reconciled, but in vain: for each insisted on it, that she was not to blame; but that the whole quarrel arose from the faults of others. At last ensued the following dialogue between Miss Jenny Peace and Miss Sukey Jennett, which brought about Miss Jenny's designs; and which we recommend to the consideration of all our young readers.
MISS JENNY. Now pray, Miss Sukey, tell me, what did you get by your contention and quarrel about that foolish apple?
MISS SUKEY. Indeed, ma'am, I shall not answer you; I know that you only want to prove, that you are wiser than I, because you are older. But I don't know but some people may understand as much at eleven years old as others at thirteen: but, because you are the oldest in the school, you always want to be tutoring and governing. I don't like to have more than one governess; and if I obey my mistress, I think that is enough.
MISS JENNY. Indeed, my dear, I don't want to govern you, nor to prove myself wiser than you; I only want that instead of quarrelling, and making yourself miserable, you should live at peace and be happy. Therefore, pray do answer my question, whether you get anything by your quarrel?
MISS SUKEY. No I cannot say I got anything by it: for my mistress was angry, and punished me; and my hair was pulled off, and my clothes torn in the scuffle; neither did I value the apple; but yet I have too much spirit to be imposed on. I am sure I had as good a right to it as any of the others; and I would not give up my right to anyone.
MISS JENNY. But don't you know, Miss Sukey, it would have shown much more spirit to have yielded the apple to another, than to have fought about it? Then indeed you would have proved your sense; for you would have shown, that you had too much understanding to fight about a trifle. Then your clothes had been whole, your hair not torn from your head, your mistress had not been angry, nor had your fruit been taken away from you.
MISS SUKEY. And so, miss, you would fain prove, that it is wisest to submit to everybody that would impose upon one? But I will not believe ii, say what you will.
MISS JENNY. But is not what I say true? If you had not been in the battle, would not your clothes have been whole, your hair not torn, your mistress pleased with you, and the apples your own?
Here Miss Sukey paused for some time: for as Miss Jenny was in the right and had truth on her side, it was difficult for Miss Sukey to know what to answer. For it is impossible, without being very silly, to contradict truth; and yet Miss Sukey was so foolish, that she did not care to own herself in the wrong; though nothing could have been so great a sign of her understanding.
When Miss Jenny saw her thus at a loss for an answer, she was in hopes of making her companion happy; for, as she had as much good nature as understanding, that was her design. She therefore pursued her discourse in the following manner:
MISS JENNY. Pray, Miss Sukey, do answer me one question more. Don't you lie awake at nights, and fret and vex yourself, because you are angry with your school-fellows? Are not you restless and uneasy, because you cannot find a safe method to be revenged on them, without being punished yourself? Do tell me truly, is not this your case?
MISS SUKEY. Yes it is. For if I could but hurt my enemies, without being hurt myself, it would be the greatest pleasure I could have in the world.
MISS JENNY. Oh fie, Miss Sukey! What you have now said is wicked. Don't you consider what you say every day in your prayers'? And this way of thinking will make you lead a very uneasy life. If you would hearken to me, I could put you into a method of being very happy, and making all those misses you call your enemies, become your friends.
MISS SUKEY. You could tell me a method, miss? Do you think I don't know as well as you what is fit to be done? I believe I am as capable of finding the way to be happy, as you are of teaching me.
Here Miss Sukey burst into tears, that anybody should presume to tell her the way to be happy.
MISS JENNY. Upon my word, my dear, I don't mean to vex you; but only, instead of tormenting yourself all night in laying plots to revenge yourself, I would have you employ this one night in thinking of what I have said. Nothing will show your sense so much, as to own that you have been in the wrong. Nor will anything prove a right spirit so much as to confess your fault. All the misses will be your friends, and perhaps follow your example. Then you will have the pleasure of having caused the quiet of the whole school; your governess will love you; and you will be at peace in your mind, and never have any more foolish quarrels, in which you all get nothing but blows and uneasiness.
Miss Sukey began now to find, that Miss Jenny was in the right, and she herself in the wrong; but yet she was so proud she would not own it. Nothing could be so foolish as this pride; because it would have been both good and wise in her to confess the truth the moment she saw it. However, Miss Jenny was so discreet as not to press her any farther that night; but begged her to consider seriously on what she had said, and to let her know her thoughts the next morning and then left her.
When Miss Sukey was alone she stood some time in great confusion. She could not help seeing how much hitherto she had been in the wrong; and that thought stung her to the heart. She cried, stamped, and was in as great an agony as if some sad misfortune had befallen her. At last, when she had somewhat vented her passion by tears, she burst forth into the following speech:
'It is very true what Miss Jenny Peace says; for I am always uneasy. I don't sleep in quiet because I am always thinking, either that I have not my share of what is given us, or that I cannot be revenged on any of the girls that offend me. And when I quarrel with them, I am scratched and bruised; or reproached. And what do I get by all this? Why, I scratch, bruise, and reproach them in my turn. Is not that gain enough? I warrant I hurt them as much as they hurt me. But then indeed, as Miss Jenny says, if I could make these girls my friends, and did not wish to hurt them, I certainly might live a quieter, and perhaps a happier, life. But what then, have I been always in the wrong all my lifetime? for I always quarrelled and hated everyone who had offended me. Oh! I cannot bear that thought! It is enough to make me mad! when I imagined myself so wise and so sensible, to find out that I have been always a fool. If I think a moment longer about it, I shall die with grief and shame. I must think myself in the right; and I will too. But, as Miss Jenny says, I really am unhappy; for I hate all my schoolfellows; and yet I dare not do them any mischief; for my mistress will punish me severely if I do. I should not so much mind that neither; but then those I intend to hurt will triumph over me, to see me punished for their sakes. In short, the more I reflect, the more I am afraid Miss Jenny is in the right; and yet it breaks my heart to think so.'
Here the poor girl wept so bitterly, and was so heartily grieved, that she could not utter one word more; but sat herself down, reclining her head upon her hand, in the most melancholy posture that could be; nor could she close her eyes all night, but lay tossing and raving with the thought how she should act, and what she should say to Miss Jenny the next day.
When the morning came, Miss Sukey dreaded every moment, as the time drew nearer when she must meet Miss Jenny. She knew it would not be possible to resist her arguments; and yet shame for having been in fault overcame her.
As soon as Miss Jenny saw Miss Sukey with her eyes cast down, and confessing, by a look of sorrow, that she would take her advice, she embraced her kindly; and, without giving her the trouble to speak, took it for granted, that she would leave off quarreling, be reconciled to her schoolfellows, and make herself happy.
Miss Sukey did indeed stammer out some words, which implied a confession of her fault; but they were spoke so low they could hardly be heard; only Miss Jenny, who always chose to look at the fairest side of her companions' actions, by Miss Sukey's look and manner guessed her meaning.
In the same manner did this good girl, Jenny, persuade, one by one, all her schoolfellows to be reconciled to each with sincerity and love.
Miss Dolly Friendly, who had too much sense to engage the battle for the sake of an apple, and who was provoked to strike a blow only for friendship's sake, easily saw the truth of what Miss Jenny said; and was therefore presently convinced, that the best part she could have acted for her friend, would have been to have withdrawn her from the scuffle.
A SCENE OF LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP, QUITE THE REVERSE OF THE BATTLE,
WHEREIN ARE SHOWN THE DIFFERENT EFFECTS OF LOVE AND GOODNESS FROM THOSE ATTENDING ANGER, STRIFE, AND WICKEDNESS: WITH THE LIFE OF MISS JENNY PEACE.
After Miss Jenny had completed the good work of making all her companions friends, she drew them round her in a little arbour, in that very garden which had been the scene of their strife, and consequently of their misery; and then spoke to them the following speech; which she delivered in so mild a voice, that it was sufficient to charm her hearers into attention, and to persuade them to be led by her advice, and to follow her example in the paths of goodness.
'My dear friends and schoolfellows, you cannot imagine the happiness it gives me to see you thus all so heartily reconciled. You will find the joyful fruits of it. Nothing can show so much sense as thus to own yourselves in fault; for could anything have been so foolish as to spend all your time in misery, rather than at once to make use of the power you have of making yourselves happy? Now if you will use as many endeavours to love as you have hitherto done to hate each other, you will find that every one amongst you, whenever you have anything given you, will have double, nay, I may say eight times (as there are eight of you) the pleasure, in considering that your companions are happy. What is the end of quarrels, but that everyone is fretted and vexed, and no one gains anything! Whereas by endeavouring to please and love each other, the end is happiness to ourselves, and joy to everyone around us. I am sure, if you will speak the truth, none of you have been so easy since you quarrelled, as you are now you are reconciled. Answer me honestly, if this is not truth.'
Here Miss Jenny was silent, and waited for an answer. But the poor girls, who had in them the seeds of goodwill to each other, although those seeds were choked and overrun with the weeds of envy and pride; as in a garden the finest strawberries will be spoiled by rank weeds, if care is not taken to root them out; these poor girls, I say, now struck with the force of truth, and sorry for what they had done, let drop some tears, which trickled down their cheeks, and were signs of meekness, and sorrow for their fault. Not like those tears which burst from their swollen eyes, when anger and hatred choked their words, and their proud hearts laboured with stubbornness and folly; when their skins reddened, and all their features were changed and distorted by the violence of passion, which made them frightful to the beholders, and miserable to themselves;— No! Far other cause had they now for tears, and far different were the tears they shed; their eyes, melted with sorrow for their faults, let fall some drops, as tokens of their repentance; but, as soon as they could recover themselves to speak, they all with one voice cried out, 'Indeed, Miss Jenny, we are sorry for our fault, and will follow your advice; which we now see is owing to your goodness.'
Miss Jenny now produced a basket of apples, which she had purchased out of the little pocket-money she was allowed, in order to prove, that the same things may be a pleasure or a pain, according as the persons to whom they are given are good or bad.
These she placed in the midst of her companions, and desired them to eat, and enjoy themselves; and now they were so changed, that each helped her next neighbour before she would touch any for herself; and the moment they were grown thus good natured and friendly, they were as well-bred, and as polite, as it is possible to describe.
Miss Jenny's joy was inexpressible, that she had caused this happy change; nor less was the joy of her companions, who now began to taste pleasures, from which their animosity to each other had hitherto debarred them. They all sat looking pleased on their companions; their faces borrowed beauty from the calmness and goodness of their minds; and all those ugly frowns, and all that ill-natured sourness, which when they were angry and cross were but too plain in their faces, were now entirely fled; jessamine and honeysuckles surrounded their seats, and played round their heads, of which they gathered nosegays to present each other with. They now enjoyed all the pleasure and happiness that attend those who are innocent and good.
Miss Jenny, with her heart overflowing with joy at this happy change, said, 'Now, my dear companions, that you may be convinced what I have said and done was not occasioned by any desire of proving myself wiser than you, as Miss Sukey hinted while she was yet in her anger, I will, if you please, relate to you the history of my past life; by which you will see in what manner I came by this way of thinking; and as you will perceive it was chiefly owing to the instructions of a kind mamma, you may all likewise reap the same advantage under good Mrs. Teachum, if you will obey her commands, and attend to her precepts. And after I have given you the particulars of my life, I must beg that every one of you will, some day or other, when you have reflected upon it, declare all that you can remember of your own; for, should you not be able to relate anything worth remembering as an example, yet there is nothing more likely to amend the future part of anyone's life, than the recollecting and confessing the faults of the past.'
All our little company highly approved of Miss Jenny's proposal, and promised, in their turns, to relate their own lives; and Miss Polly Suckling cried out, 'Yes indeed, Miss Jenny, I'll tell all when it comes to my turn; so pray begin, for I long to hear what you did, when you was no bigger than I am now.' Miss Jenny then kissed little Polly, and said she would instantly begin.
But as in the reading of any one's story, it is an additional pleasure to have some acquaintance with their persons; and as I delight in giving my little readers every pleasure that is in my power; I shall endeavour, as justly as I can, by description, to set before their eyes the picture of this good young creature: and in the same of every one of our young company, as they begin their lives.
THE DESCRIPTION OF MISS JENNY PEACE.
Miss Jenny Peace was just turned of fourteen, and could be called neither tall nor short of her age; but her whole person was the most agreeable that can be imagined. She had an exceeding fine complexion, with as much colour in her cheeks as is the natural effect of perfect health. Her hair was light brown, and curled in so regular and yet easy a manner, as never to want any assistance from art. Her eyebrows (which were not of that correct turn as to look as if they were drawn with a pencil) and her eyelashes were both darker than her hair; and the latter being very long, gave such a shade to her eyes as made them often mistaken for black, though they were only a dark hazel. To give any description of her eyes beyond the colour and size, which was perfectly the medium, would be impossible; except by saying they were expressive of everything that is amiable and good; for through them might be read every single thought of the mind; from whence they had such a brightness and cheerfulness, as seemed to cast a lustre over her whole face. She had fine teeth, and a mouth answering to the most correct rules of beauty; and when she spoke (though you were at too great a distance to hear what she said) there appeared so much sweetness, mildness, modesty and good nature, that you found yourself filled more with pleasure than admiration in beholding her. The delight which everyone took in looking on Miss Jenny was evident in this, that though Miss Sukey Jennett and Miss Patty Lockit were both what may be called handsomer girls (and if you asked any persons in company their opinion, they would tell you so) yet their eyes were a direct contradiction to their tongues, by being continually fixed on Miss Jenny; for, while she was in the room, it was impossible to fix them anywhere else. She had a natural ease and gentility in her shape; and all her motions were more pleasing, though less striking than what is commonly acquired by the instruction of dancing masters.
Such was the agreeable person of Miss Jenny Peace, who, in her usual obliging manner, and with an air pleasing beyond my power to express, at the request of her companions began to relate the history of her life, as follows:
THE LIFE OF MISS JENNY PEACE.
'My father dying when I was but half a year old, I was left to the care of my mamma, who was the best woman in the world, and to whose memory I shall ever pay the most grateful honour. From the time she had any children, she made it the whole study of her life to promote their welfare, and form their minds in the manner she thought would best answer her purpose of making them both good and happy; for it was her constant maxim, that goodness and happiness dwelt in the same bosoms, and were generally found to life so much together, that they could not easily be separated.
'My mother had six children born alive; but could preserve none beyond the first year, except my brother, Harry Peace, and myself. She made it one of her chief cares to cultivate and preserve the most perfect love and harmony between us. My brother is but a twelvemonth older than I; so that, till I was six years old (for seven was the age in which he was sent to school) he remained at home with me; in which time we often had little childish quarrels; but my mother always took care to convince us of our error in wrangling and fighting about nothing, and to teach us how much more pleasure we enjoyed whilst we agreed. She showed no partiality to either, but endeavoured to make us equal in all things, any otherwise than that she taught me I owed a respect to my brother as the eldest.
'Before my brother went to school, we had set hours appointed us, in which we regularly attended to learn whatever was thought necessary for our improvement; my mamma herself daily watching the opening of our minds, and taking great care to instruct us in what manner to make the best use of the knowledge we attained. Whatever we read she explained to us, and made us understand, that we might be the better for our lessons. When we were capable of thinking, we made it so much a rule to obey our parent, the moment she signified her pleasure, that by that means we avoided many accidents and misfortunes; for example: my brother was running one day giddily round the brink of a well; and if he had made the least false step, he must have fallen to the bottom, and been drowned; my mamma, by a sign with her finger that called him to her, preserved him from the imminent danger he was in of losing his life; and then she took care that we should both be the better for this little incident, by laying before us how much our safety and happiness, as well as our duty, were concerned in being obedient.
'My brother and I once had a quarrel about something as trifling as your apple of contention; and, though we both heartily wished to be reconciled to each other, yet did our little hearts swell so much with stubbornness and pride, that neither of us would speak first; by which means we were so silly as to be both uneasy, and yet would not use the remedy that was in our own power to remove that uneasiness. My mamma found it out, and sent for me into her closet, and said, "She was sorry to see her instructions had no better effect on me; for," continued she, "indeed, Jenny, I am ashamed of your folly, as well as wickedness, in thus contending with your brother." A tear, which I believe flowed from shame, started from my eyes at this reproof; and I fixed them on the ground, being too much overwhelmed with confusion to dare to lift them up on mamma. On which she kindly said, "She hoped my confusion was a sign of my amendment. That she might indeed have used another method, by commanding me to seek a reconciliation with my brother; for she did not imagine I was already so far gone in perverseness, as not to hold her commands as inviolable; but she was willing, for my good, first to convince me of my folly." As soon as my confusion would give me leave to speak, on my knees I gave her a thousand thanks for her goodness, and went immediately to seek my brother. He joyfully embraced the first opportunity of being reconciled to me; and this was one of the pleasantest hours of my life. This quarrel happened when my brother came home at a breaking-up, and I was nine years old.
'My mamma's principal care was to keep up a perfect amity between me and my brother. I remember once, when Harry and I were playing in the fields, there was a small rivulet stopped me in my way. My brother, being nimbler and better able to jump than myself, with one spring leaped over, and left me on the other side of it; but seeing me uneasy that I could not get over to him, his good nature prompted him to come back and to assist me; and, by the help of his hand, I easily passed over. On this my good mamma bid me remember how much my brother's superior strength might assist me in his being my protector; and that I ought to return to use my utmost endeavours to oblige him; and that then we should be mutual assistants to each other throughout life. Thus everything that passed was made use of to improve my understanding and amend my heart.
'I believe no child ever spent her time more agreeably than I did; for I not only enjoyed my own pleasures, but also those of others. And when my brother was carried abroad, and I was left at home, that HE was pleased, made me full amends for the loss of any diversion, the contentions between us (where our parent's commands did not interfere) were always exerted in endeavours each to prefer the other's pleasures to our own. My mind was easy and free from anxiety; for as I always took care to speak truth, I had nothing to conceal from my mamma, and consequently had never any fears of being found in a lie. For one lie obliges us to tell a thousand others to conceal it; and I have no notion of any conditions being so miserable, as to live in a continual fear of detection. Most particularly, my mamma instructed me to beware of all sorts of deceit; so that I was accustomed, not only in words to speak truth, but also not to endeavour by any means to deceive.
'But though the friendship between my brother and me was so strongly cultivated, yet we were taught, that lying for each other, or praising each other when it was not deserved, was not only a fault, but a very great crime; for this, my mamma used to tell us, was not love, but hatred; as it was encouraging one another in folly and wickedness. And though my natural disposition inclined me to be very tender of everything in my power, yet was I not suffered to give way even to THIS in an unreasonable degree. One instance of which I remember.
'When I was about eleven years old, I had a cat that I had bred up from a little kitten, that used to play round me, till I had indulged for the poor animal a fondness that made me delight to have it continually with me wherever I went; and, in return for my indulgence, the cat seemed to have changed its nature, and assumed the manner that more properly belongs to dogs than cats; for it would follow me about the house and gardens, mourn for my absence, and rejoice at my presence. And, what was very remarkable, the poor animal would, when fed by my hand, lose that caution which cats are known to be possessed of, and eat whatever I gave it, as if it could reflect that I meant only its good, and no harm could come from me.
'I was at last so accustomed to see this little Frisk (for so I called it) playing round me, that I seemed to miss part of myself in its absence. But one day the poor little creature followed me to the door; when a parcel of schoolboys coming by, one of them catched her up in his arms, and ran away with her. All my cries were to no purpose; for he was out of sight with her in a moment, and there was no method to trace his steps. The cruel wretches, for sport, as they called it, hunted it the next day from one to the other, in the most barbarous manner; till at last it took shelter in that house that used to be its protection, and came and expired at my feet.
'I was so struck with the sight of the little animal dying in that manner, that the great grief of my heart overflowed at my eyes, and I was for some time inconsolable.
'My indulgent mamma comforted without blaming me, till she thought I had sufficient time to vent my grief; and then, sending for me into her chamber, spoke as follows:
'"Jenny, I have watched you ever since the death of your little favourite cat; and have been in hopes daily, that your lamenting and melancholy on that account would be at an end. But I find you still persist in grieving, as if such a loss was irreparable. Now, though I have always encouraged you in all sentiments of good nature and compassion; and am sensible, that where those sentiments are strongly implanted, they will extend their influence even to the least animal; yet you are to consider, my child, that you are not to give way to any passions that interfere with your duty; for whenever there is any contention between your duty and your inclinations, you must conquer the latter, or become wicked and contemptible. If, therefore, you give way to this melancholy, how will you be able to perform your duty towards me, in cheerfully obeying my commands, and endeavouring, by your lively prattle and innocent gaiety of heart, to be my companion and delight? Nor will you be fit to converse with your brother, whom (as you lost your good papa when you were too young to know that loss) I have endeavoured to educate in such a manner, that I hope he will be a father to you, if you deserve his love and protection. In short, if you do not keep command enough of yourself to prevent being ruffled by every accident, you will be unfit for all the social offices of life, and be despised by all those whose regard and love are worth your seeking. I treat you, my girl, as capable of considering what is for your own good; for though you are but eleven years of age, yet I hope the pains I have taken in explaining all you read, and in answering all your questions in search of knowledge, has not been so much thrown away, but that you are more capable of judging, than those unhappy children are, whose parents have neglected to instruct them. And therefore, farther to enforce what I say, remember, that repining at any accident that happens to you, is an offence to that God to whom I have taught you daily to pray for all the blessings you can receive, and to whom you are to return humble thanks for every blessing."
'"I expect therefore, Jenny, that you now dry up your tears, and resume your usual cheerfulness. I do not doubt but your obedience to me will make you at least put on the appearance of cheerfulness in my sight. But you will deceive yourself, if you think that is performing your duty; for if you would obey me as you ought, you must try heartily to root from your mind all sorrow and gloominess. You may depend upon it, this command is in your power to obey; for you know I never require anything of you that is impossible."
'After my mamma had made this speech, she went out to take a walk in the garden, and left me to consider of what she had said.
'The moment I came to reflect seriously, I found it was indeed in my power to root all melancholy from my heart, when I considered it was necessary, in order to perform my duty to God, to obey the best of mothers, and to make myself a blessing and a cheerful companion to her, rather than a burden, and the cause of her uneasiness, by my foolish melancholy.
'This little accident, as managed by my mamma, has been a lesson to me in governing my passions ever since.
'It would be endless to repeat all the methods this good mother invented for my instruction, amendment, and improvement. It is sufficient to acquaint you, that she contrived that every new day should open to me some new scene of knowledge; and no girl could be happier than I was during her life. But, alas! when I was thirteen years of age, the scene changed. My dear mamma was taken ill of a scarlet fever. I attended her day and night whilst she lay ill, my eyes starting with tears to see her in that condition; and yet I did not dare to give my sorrows vent, for fear of increasing her pain.'
Here a trickling tear stole from Miss Jenny's eyes. She suppressed some rising sobs that interrupted her speech, and was about to proceed in her story, when, casting her eyes on her companions, she saw her sorrow had such an effect upon them all, that there was not one of her hearers who could refrain from shedding a sympathising tear. She therefore thought it was more strictly following her mamma's precepts to pass this part of her story in silence, rather than to grieve her friends; and having wiped away her tears, she hastened to conclude her story; which she did as follows:
'After my mamma's death, my Aunt Newman, my father's sister, took the care of me; but being obliged to go to Jamaica, to settle some affairs relating to an estate she is possessed of there, she took with her my Cousin Harriet, her only daughter, and left me under the care of the good Mrs. Teachum till her return. And since I have been here, you all know as much of my history as I do myself.'
As Miss Jenny spoke these words, the bell summoned them to supper into the presence of their governess, who having narrowly watched their looks ever since the fray, had hitherto plainly perceived, that though they did not dare to break out again into an open quarrel, yet their hearts had still harboured unkind thoughts of one another. She was surprised NOW, as she stood at a window in the hall that overlooked the garden, to see all her scholars walk towards her hand in hand, with such cheerful countenances, as plainly showed their inward good humour. And as she thought proper to mention to them her pleasure in seeing them thus altered, Miss Jenny Peace related to her governess all that had passed in the arbour, with their general reconciliation. Mrs. Teachum gave Miss Jenny all the applause due to her goodness, saying, she herself had only waited a little while, to see if their anger would subside, and love take its place in their bosoms, without her interfering again; for THAT she certainly should otherwise have done, to have brought about what Miss Jenny had so happily effected.
Miss Jenny thanked her governess for her kind approbation, and said, that if she would give them leave, she would spend what time she was pleased to allow them from school in this little arbour, in reading stories, and such things as she should think a proper and innocent amusement.
Mrs. Teachum not only gave leave, but very much approved of this proposal; and desired Miss Jenny, as a reward for what she had already done, to preside over these diversions, and to give her an account in what manner they proceeded. Miss Jenny promised in all things to be guided by good Mrs. Teachum. And now, soon after supper, they retired to rest, free from those uneasy passions which used to prevent their quiet; and as they had passed the day in pleasure, at night they sunk in soft and sweet repose.
THE FIRST DAY AFTER THEIR REPENTANCE; AND, CONSEQUENTLY, THE FIRST DAY OF THE HAPPINESS OF MISS JENNY PEACE AND HER COMPANIONS.
Early in the morning, as soon as Miss Jenny arose, all her companions flocked round her; for they now looked on her as the best friend they had in the world; and they agreed, when they came out of school, to adjourn into their arbour, and divert themselves till dinner-time; which they accordingly did. When Miss Jenny proposed, if it was agreeable to them to hear it, to read them a story which she had put in her pocket for that purpose; and as they now began to look upon her as the most proper person to direct them in their amusements, they all replied, What was most agreeable to her would please them best. She then began to read the following story, with which we shall open their first day's amusement.
THE STORY OF THE CRUEL GIANT BARBARICO, THE GOOD GIANT BENEFICO,
AND THE LITTLE PRETTY DWARF MIGNON.
A great many hundred years ago, the mountains of Wales were inhabited by two giants; one of whom was the terror of all his neighbours and the plague of the whole country. He greatly exceeded the size of any giant recorded in history; and his eyes looked so fierce and terrible, that they frightened all who were so unhappy as to behold them.
The name of this enormous wretch was Barbarico. A name which filled all who heard it with fear and astonishment. The whole delight of this monster's life was in acts of inhumanity and mischief; and he was the most miserable as well as the most wicked creature that ever yet was born. He had no sooner committed one outrage, but he was in agonies till he could commit another; never satisfied, unless he could find an opportunity of either torturing or devouring some innocent creature. And whenever he happened to be disappointed in any of his malicious purposes, he would stretch his immense bulk on the top of some high mountain, and groan, and beat the earth, and bellow with such a hollow voice, that the whole country heard and trembled at the sound.
The other giant, whose name was Benefico, was not so tall and bulky as the hideous Barbarico. He was handsome, well proportioned, and of a very good-natured turn of mind. His delight was no less in acts of goodness and benevolence than the other's was in cruelty and mischief. His constant care was to endeavour if possible to repair the injuries committed by this horrid tyrant, which he had sometimes an opportunity of doing; for though Barbarico was much larger and stronger than Benefico, yet his coward mind was afraid to engage with him, and always shunned a meeting; leaving the pursuit of any prey, if he himself was pursued by Benefico: nor could the good Benefico trust farther to this coward spirit of his base adversary, than only to make the horrid creature fly; for he well knew that a close engagement might make him desperate; and fatal to himself might be the consequence of such a brutal desperation; therefore he prudently declined any attempt to destroy this cruel monster, till he should gain some sure advantage over him.
It happened on a certain day, that as the inhuman Barbarico was prowling along the side of a craggy mountain overgrown with brambles and briery thickets, taking most horrid strides, rolling his ghastly eyes around in quest of human blood, and having his breast tortured with inward rage and grief, that he had been so unhappy as to live one whole day without some act of violence, he beheld, in a pleasant valley at a distance, a little rivulet winding its gentle course through rows of willows mixed with flowery shrubs. Hither the giant hasted; and being arrived, he gazed about to see if in this sweet retirement any were so unhappy as to fall within his power; but finding none, the disappointment set him in a flame of rage, which, burning like an inward furnace, parched his throat. And now he laid him down on the bank, to try if in the cool stream, that murmured as it flowed, he could assuage or slack the fiery thirst that burnt within him.
He bent him down to drink; and at the same time casting his baleful eyes towards the opposite side, he discovered within a little natural arbour formed by the branches of a spreading tree, within the meadow's flowery lawn, the shepherd Fidus and his loved Amata.
The gloomy tyrant no sooner perceived this happy pair, than his heart exulted with joy; and, suddenly leaping up on the ground, he forgot his thirst, and left the stream untasted. He stood for a short space to view them in their sweet retirement; and was soon convinced that, in the innocent enjoyment of reciprocal affection, their happiness was complete. His eyes, inflamed with envy to behold such bliss, darted a fearful glare; and his breast swelling with malice and envenomed rage, he with gigantic pace approached their peaceful seat.
The happy Fidus was at that time busy in entertaining his loved Amata with a song which he had that very morning composed in praise of constancy; and the giant was now within one stride of them, when Amata, perceiving him, cried out in a trembling voice, 'Fly, Fidus, fly, or we are lost for ever; we are pursued by the hateful Barbarico!' She had scarce uttered these words, when the savage tyrant seized them by the waist in either hand, and holding up to his nearer view, thus said: 'Speak, miscreants; and, if you would avoid immediate death, tell me who you are, and whence arises that tranquility of mind, which even at a distance was visible in your behaviour.'
Poor Fidus, with looks that would have melted the hardest heart, innocently replied, that they were wandering that way without designing offence to any creature on earth. That they were faithful lovers; and, with the consent of all their friends and relations, were soon to be married; therefore he entreated him not to part them.
The giant now no sooner perceived, from the last words of the affrighted youth, what was most likely to give them the greatest torment, than with a spiteful grin which made his horrible face yet more horrible, and in a hollow voice, as loud as thunder, he tauntingly cried out, 'Ho-hoh! You'd not be parted, would you? For once I'll gratify thy will, and thou shalt follow this thy whimpering fondling down my capatious maw.' So saying, he turned his ghastly visage on the trembling Amata who, being now no longer able to support herself under his cruel threats, fainted away, and remained in his hand but as a lifeless corpse. When lifting up his eyes towards the hill on the opposite side, he beheld Benefico coming hastily towards him. This good giant having been that morning informed that Barbarico was roaming in the mountains after prey, left his peaceful castle, in hopes of giving protection to whatever unfortunate creature should fall into the clutches of this so cruel a monster.
Barbarico, at the sight of the friendly Benefico, started with fear; for although in bulk and stature he was, as we have said, the superior: yet that cowardice, which ever accompanies wickedness, now wrought in him in such a manner that he could not bear to confront him, well knowing the courage and fortitude that always attend the good and virtuous; and therefore instantly putting Fidus into the wallet that hung over his shoulder, he flung the fainting Amata, whom he took to be quite expired, into the stream that ran hard by, and fled to his cave, not daring once to cast his eyes behind him.
The good Benefico perceiving the monster's flight, and not doubting but he had been perpetrating some horrid mischief, immediately hastened to the brook; where he found the half-expiring Amata floating down the stream, for her clothes had yet borne her up on the surface of the water. He speedily stepped in and drew her out, and taking her in his arms, pressed her to his warm bosom; and in a short space perceiving in her face the visible marks of returning life, his heart swelled with kind compassion, and he thus bespoke the tender maid: 'Unhappy damsel, lift up thy gentle eyes, and tell me by what hard fate thou hast fallen into the power of that barbarous monster, whose savage nature delights in nothing but ruin and desolation. Tremble not thus, but without fear or terror behold one who joys in the thought of having saved thee from destruction, and will bring thee every comfort his utmost power can procure.'
The gentle Amata was now just enough recovered to open her eyes: but finding herself in a giant's arms, and still retaining in her mind the frightful image of the horrid Barbarico, she fetched a deep sigh, crying out in broken accents, 'Fly, Fidus, fly;' and again sunk down upon the friendly giant's breast. On hearing these words, and plainly seeing by the anguish of her mind that some settled grief was deeply rooted at her heart, and therefore despairing to bring her to herself immediately, the kind Benefico hastened with her to his hospitable castle; where every imaginable assistance was administered to her relief, in order to recover her lost sense, and to reconcile her to her wretched fate.
The cruel Barbarico was no sooner arrived at his gloomy cave, than he called to him his little page; who, trembling to hear the tyrant now again returned, quickly drew near to attend his stern commands: when drawing out of the wallet the poor Fidus, more dead than alive, the monster cried out, 'Here, caitiff, take in charge this smoothed-faced miscreant; and, d'ye hear me? see that his allowance be no more than one small ounce of mouldy bread and half a pint of standing water, for each day's support, till his now blooming skin be withered, his flesh be wasted from his bones, and he dwindle to a meagre skeleton.' So saying he left them, as he hoped, to bewail each other's sad condition. But the unhappy Fidus, bereft of his Amata, was not to be appalled by any of the most horrid threats; for now his only comfort was the hopes of a speedy end to his miserable life, and to find a refuge from his misfortunes in the peaceful grave. With this reflection the faithful Fidus was endeavouring to calm the inward troubles of his mind, when the little page, with looks of the most tender compassion, and in gentle words, bid him be comforted, and with patience endure his present affliction; adding that he himself had long suffered the most rigorous fate, yet despaired not but that one day would give them an opportunity to free themselves from the wicked wretch, whose sole delight was in others' torments. 'As to his inhuman commands,' continued he, 'I will sooner die than obey them; and in a mutual friendship perhaps we may find some consolation, even in this dismal cave.'
This little page the cruel Barbarico had stolen from his parents at five years old; ever since which time he had tortured and abused him, till he had now attained the age of one-and-twenty. His mother had given him the name of Mignon; by which name the monster always called him, as it gratified his insolence to make use of that fond appellation whilst he was abusing him, only when he said Mignon he would in derision add the word Dwarf; for, to say the truth, Mignon was one of the least men that was ever seen, though at the same time one of the prettiest: his limbs, though small, were exactly proportioned; his countenance was at once sprightly and soft; and whatever his head thought, or his heart felt, his eyes by their looks expressed; and his temper was as sweet as his person was amiable. Such was the gentle creature Barbarico chose to torment. For wicked giants, no less than wicked men and women, are constantly tormented at the appearance of those perfections in another, to which they themselves have no pretensions.
The friendship and affection of Fidus and Mignon now every day increased; and the longer they were acquainted, the mere delight they took in each other's company. The faithful Fidus related to his companion the story of his loved Amata, whilst the tender Mignon consoled his friend's inward sorrows, and supplied him with necessaries, notwithstanding the venture he run of the cruel tyrant's heavy displeasure. The giant ceased not every day to view the hapless Fidus, to see if the cruelty of his intentions had in any degree wrought its desired effect; but perceiving in him no alteration, he now began to be suspicious that the little Mignon had not punctually obeyed his savage command. In order therefore to satisfy his wicked curiosity, he resolved within himself narrowly to watch every occasion these poor unhappy captives had of conversing with each other. Mignon, well knowing the implacable and revengeful disposition of this barbarous tyrant, had taken all the precautions imaginable to avoid discovery; and therefore generally sought every opportunity of being alone with Fidus, and carrying him his daily provisions at those hours he knew the giant was most likely to be asleep.
It so befell that, on a certain day, the wicked giant had, as was his usual custom, been abroad for many hours in search of some unhappy creature on whom to glut his hateful inhumanity; when, tired with fruitless roaming, he returned to his gloomy cave, beguiled of all his horrid purposes; for he had not once that day espied so much as the track of man, or other harmless animal, to give him hopes even to gratify his rage or cruelty; but now raving with inward torment and despair, he laid him down upon his iron couch, to try if he could close his eyes and quiet the tumultuous passions of his breast. He tossed and tumbled and could get no rest, starting with fearful dreams, and horrid visions of tormenting furies.
Meanwhile the gentle Mignon had prepared a little delicate repast, and having seen the monster lay himself at length, and thinking now that a fit occasion offered in which to comfort and refresh his long-expecting friend, was hastening with it to the cell where the faithful Fidus was confined. At the fatal moment the giant, rearing himself up on his couch, perceived the little Mignon just at the entrance of the cell; when calling to him in a hollow voice, that dismally resounded through the cave, he so startled the poor unhappy page, that he dropped the cover from his trembling hand and stood fixed and motionless as a statue.
'Come hither, Mignon, caitiff, dwarf,' said then the taunting homicide: but the poor little creature was so thunderstruck he was quite unable to stir one foot. Whereat the giant, rousing himself from off his couch, with one huge stride reached out his brawny arm, and seized him by the waist; and, pointing to the scattered delicates, cried out, 'Vile miscreant! is it thus thou hast obeyed my orders? Is this the mouldy bread and muddy water, with which alone it was my command thou shouldst sustain that puny mortal? But I'll—' Here raising him aloft, he was about to dash him to the ground, when suddenly revolving in his wicked thoughts, that if at once he should destroy his patient slave, his cruelty to him must also have an end, he paused—and then recovering, he stretched out his arm, and bringing the little trembler near his glaring eyes, he thus subjoins: 'No; I'll not destroy thy wretched life; but thou shalt waste thy weary days in a dark dungeon, as far remote from the least dawn of light as from thy loved companion. And I myself will carefully supply you both so equally with mouldy bread and water, that each by his own sufferings shall daily know what his dear friend endures.' So saying, he hastened with him to his deepest dungeon; and having thrust him in, he doubly barred the iron door. And now again retiring to his couch, this new-wrought mischief, which greatly gratified his raging mind, soon sunk him down into a sound and heavy sleep. The reason this horrid monster had not long ago devoured his little captive (for he thought him a delicious morsel) was, that he might never want an object at hand to gratify his cruelty. For though extremely great was his voracious hunger, yet greater still was his desire of tormenting; and oftentimes when he had teased, beat, and tortured the poor gentle Mignon, so as to force from him tears, and sometimes a soft complaint, he would, with a malicious sneer, scornfully reproach him in the following words: 'Little does it avail to whine, to blubber, or complain; for, remember, abject wretch,
I am a giant, and I can eat thee: Thou art a dwarf, and thou canst not eat me.'
When Mignon was thus alone, he threw himself on the cold ground, bemoaning his unhappy fate. However, he soon recollected that patience and resignation were his only succour in this distressful condition; not doubting but that, as goodness cannot always suffer, he should in time meet with some unforeseen deliverance from the savage power of the inhuman Barbarico.
Whilst the gentle Mignon was endeavouring to comfort himself in his dungeon with these good reflections, he suddenly perceived, at a little distance from him, a small glimmering light. Immediately he rose from the ground, and going towards it, found that it shone through a little door that had been left at jar, which led him to a spacious hall, wherein the giant hoarded his immense treasures. Mignon was at first dazzled with the lustre of so much gold and silver, and sparkling jewels as were there heaped together. But casting his eyes on a statue that was placed in the middle of the room, he read on the pedestal, written in very small letters, the following verses:
Wouldst thou from the rage be free Of the tyrant's tyranny, Loose the fillet which is bound Twice three times my brows around; Bolts and bars shall open fly, By a magic sympathy. Take him in his sleeping hour; Bind his neck and break his pow'r. Patience bids, make no delay: Haste to bind him, haste away.
Mignon's little heart now leapt for joy, that he had found the means of such a speedy deliverance; and eagerly climbing up the statue, he quickly unbound the magic fillet; which was no sooner done, but suddenly the bolts and bars of the brazen gates through which the giant used to pass to this his treasury, were all unloosed, and the folding-doors of their own accord flew open, grating harsh thunder on their massy hinges. At the same instant, stretched on his iron couch in the room adjoining to the hall, the giant gave a deadly groan. Here again the little Mignon's trembling heart began to fail; for he feared the monster was awakened by the noise, and that he should now suffer the cruellest torments his wicked malice could invent. Wherefore for a short space he remained clinging round the statue, till he perceived that all again was hushed and silent; when, getting down, he gently stole into the giant's chamber, where he found him still in a profound sleep.
But here, to the great mortification of Miss Jenny's attentive hearers, the hour of entertaining themselves being at an end, they were obliged to leave the poor little Mignon in the greatest distress and fright lest the giant should awake before he could fulfil the commands of the oracle, and to wait for the remainder of the story till another opportunity.
In the evening, as soon as school was over, the little company again met in their arbour, and nothing could be greater than their impatience to hear the event of Mignon's hazardous undertaking. Miss Dolly Friendly said that if the poor little creature was destroyed, she should not sleep that night. But they all joined in entreating Miss Jenny to proceed; which she did in the following manner:
A CONTINUATION OF THE STORY OF THE GIANTS.
Now, thought Mignon, is the lucky moment to fulfil the instructions of the oracle. And then cautiously getting up the side of the couch, with trembling hands he put the fillet round the monster's neck, and tied it firmly in a threefold knot; and again softly creeping down, he retired into a corner of the room to wait the wished event. In a few minutes the giant waked; and opening his enormous eyes, he glared their horrid orbs around (but without the least motion of his head or body) and spied the little Mignon where he lay, close shrinking to avoid his baleful sight.
The giant no sooner perceived his little page at liberty, but his heart sorely smote him, and he began to suspect the worst that could befall; for, recollecting that he had carelessly left open the little door leading from the dungeon to the great hall wherein was placed the fatal magic statue, he was now entirely convinced that Mignon had discovered the secret charm on which his power depended; for he already found the magic of the fillet round his neck fully to operate, his sinews all relax, his joints all tremble; and when he would by his own hand have tried to free himself, his shivering limbs he found refused obedience to their office. Thus bereft of all his strength, and well nigh motionless, in this extremity of impotence he cast about within himself by what sly fraud (for fraud and subtlety were now his only refuge) he best might work upon the gentle Mignon to lend his kind assistance to unloose him. Wherefore with guileful words and seeming courtesy, still striving to conceal his cursed condition, he thus bespake his little captive:
'Come hither Mignon; my pretty gentle boy, come near me. This fillet thou has bound around my neck, to keep me from the cold, gives me some pain. I know thy gentle nature will not let thee see thy tender master in the least uneasiness, without affording him thy cheerful aid and kind relief. Come hither, my dear child, I say, and loose the knot which in thy kind concern (I thank thee for thy care) thou hast tied so hard, it somewhat frets my neck.'
These words the insidious wretch uttered in such a low trembling tone of voice, and with such an affectation of tenderness, that the little page, who had never before experience from him any such kind of dialect, and but too well knew his savage nature to believe that anything but guile or want of power could move him to the least friendly speech, or kind affection, began now strongly to be persuaded that all was as he wished, and that the power of the inhuman tyrant was at an end. He knew full well, that if the giant had not lost the ability of rising from the couch, he should ere now too sensibly have felt the sad effects of his malicious resentment, and therefore boldly adventured to approach him, and coming near the couch, and finding not the least effort in the monster to reach him, and from thence quite satisfied of the giant's total incapacity of doing farther mischief, he flew with raptures to the cell where Fidus lay confined.
Poor Fidus all this time was quite disconsolate; nor could he guess the cause why his little friend so long had kept away; one while he thought the giant's stern commands had streightened him of all subsistence; another while his heart misgave him for his gentle friend, lest unawares his kind beneficence towards him had caused him to fall a sacrifice to the tyrant's cruel resentment. With these and many other like reflections the unhappy youth was busied, when Mignon, suddenly unbarred the cell, flew to his friend, and eagerly embraced him, cried out, 'Come Fidus, haste, my dearest friend; for thou and all of us are from this moment free. Come and behold the cruel monster, where he lies, bereft of all his strength. I cannot stay to tell thee now the cause; but haste, and thou shall see the dreadful tyrant stretched on his iron couch, deprived of all his wicked power. But first let us unbar each cell, wherein is pent some wretched captive, that we may share a general transport for this our glad deliverance.'
The faithful Fidus, whose heart had known but little joy since he had lost his loved Amata, now felt a dawning hope that he might once more chance to find her, if she had survived their fatal separation; and, without one word of answer, he followed Mignon to the several cells, and soon released all the astonished captives.
Mignon first carried them to behold their former terror, now, to appearance, almost a lifeless corpse; who on seeing them all surround his couch, gave a most hideous roar, which made them tremble, all but the gentle Mignon, who was convinced of the impotence of his rage, and begged them to give him their attendance in the hall; where they were no sooner assembled than he showed them the statue, read them the oracle, and told them every circumstance before related.
They now began to bethink themselves of what method was to be taken to procure their entire liberty; for the influence of the magic fillet extended only to the gates of the hall; and still they remained imprisoned within the dismal cave; and though they knew from the oracle, as well as from what appeared, that the monster's power was at an end, yet still were they to seek the means of their escape from this his horrid abode. At length Mignon again ascended the couch to find the massy key, and spying one end of it peep out from under the pillow, he called to Fidus, who first stepped up to his friend's assistance; the rest by his example quickly followed; and now, by their united force, they dragged the ponderous key from under the monster's head; and then descending they all went to the outer door of the cave, where, with some difficulty, they set wide open the folding iron gates.
They now determined to dispatch a messenger to the good Benefico with the news, which they knew would be so welcome to him and all his guests, and with one voice agreed that Fidus should bear the joyful tidings; and then returned to observe the monster, and to wait the coming of Benefico. The nimble Fidus soon reached the giant's dwelling, where, at a little distance from the castle, he met the good Benefico with a train of happy friends, enjoying the pleasures of the evening, and the instructive and cheerful conversation of their kind protector. Fidus briefly told his errand; and instantly Benefico, with all his train, joyfully hastened to behold the wonders he had related; for now many hearts leapt for joy, in hopes of meeting some friend of whom they had been bereft by the cruelty of the savage Barbarico.
They were not long before they arrived at the horrid cave, where Benefico, proceeding directly to the monster's chamber, suddenly appeared to him at the side of his couch. Barbarico, on seeing him, gave a hideous yell, and rolled his glaring eyes in such a manner as expressed the height of rage and envious bitterness.
Benefico, turning to all the company present, thus spoke, 'How shall I enough praise and admire the gentle Mignon for having put in my power to justice on this execrable wretch, and freeing you all from an insufferable slavery, and the whole country from their terror?' Then reaching the monster's own sword, which hung over his couch, his hand yet suspended over the impious tyrant, he thus said, 'Speak, wretch, if yet the power of speech is left thee; and with thy latest breath declare, what advantage hast thou found of all thy wicked life?'
Barbarico well knew that too bad had been that life, to leave the least room for hope of mercy; and therefore, instead of an answer, he gave another hideous yell, gnashing his horrid teeth, and again rolling his ghastly eyes on all around.
Benefico seeing him thus impenitent and sullen, lifted on high the mighty sword, and with one blow severed his odious head from his enormous body.
The whole assembly gave a shout for joy; and Benefico holding in his hand the monster's yet grinning head, thus addressed his half-astonished companions: 'See here, my friends, the proper conclusion of a rapacious cruel life. But let us hasten from this monster's gloomy cave; and on the top of one of our highest mountains, fixed on a pole, will I set up this joyful spectacle, that all the country round may know themselves at liberty to pursue their rural business or amusements, without the dread of any annoyance from a devouring vile tormentor. And when his treasures, which justly all belong to the good patient Mignon, are removed, we will shut up the mouth of this abominable dwelling; and, casting on the door a heap of earth, we'll hope, in time, that both place and remembrance of this cruel savage may in time be lost.'
Every one readily cried out, that to Benefico, the good Benefico, alone belonged the tyrant's treasures; that Benefico should ever be, as heretofore, their governor, their father, and their kind protector.
The beneficent heart of the good giant was quite melted with this their kind confidence and dependence upon him, and assured them, he should ever regard them as his children: and now, exulting in the general joy that must attend the destruction of this savage monster, when the whole country should find themselves freed from the terror his rapine and desolation, he sent before to his castle, to give intelligence to all within that happy place of the grim monster's fall, and little Mignon's triumph; giving in charge to the harbinger of these tidings, that it should be his first and chiefest care to glad the gentle bosom of a fair disconsolate (who kept herself retired and pent up within her own apartment) with the knowledge that the inhuman monster was no more; and that henceforth sweet peace and rural innocence might reign in all their woods and groves. The hearts of all within the castle bounded with joy, on hearing the report of the inhuman monster's death, and the deliverance of all his captives, and with speedy steps they hastened to meet their kind protector; nor did the melancholy fair one, lest she should seem unthankful for the general blessing, refuse to join the train.
It was not long after the messenger that Benefico, and those his joyful friends, arrived: but the faithful Fidus alone, of all this happy company, was tortured with the inward pangs of a sad grief he could not conquer, and his fond heart remained still captivated to a melting sorrow: nor could even the tender friendship of the gentle Mignon quite remove, though it alleviated, his sadness; but the thoughts of his loved lost amata embittered every joy, and overwhelmed his generous soul with sorrow.
When the company from the castle joined Benefico, he declared to them in what manner their deliverance was effected; and, as a general shout of joy resounded through the neighbouring mountains, Fidus, lifting up his eyes, beheld in the midst of the multitude, standing in a pensive posture, the fair disconsolate. Her tender heart was at the instant overflowing in soft tears, caused by a kind participation of their present transport, yet mixed with the deep sad impression of a grief her bosom was full fraught with. Her face, at first, was almost hid by her white handkerchief, with which she wiped away the trickling drops, which falling, had bedewed her beauteous cheeks: but as she turned her lovely face to view the joyful conquerors, and to speak a welcome to her kind protector, what words can speak the raptures, the astonishment, that swelled the bosom of the faithful youth, when in this fair disconsolate he saw his loved, his constant, his long-lost Amata! Their delighted eyes in the same instant beheld each other, and, breaking on each side from their astonished friends, they flew like lightning into each other's arms.
After they had given a short account of what had passed in their separation, Fidus presented to his loved Amata the kind, the gentle Mignon, with lavish praises of his generous friendship, and steady resolution, in hazarding his life by disobeying the injunctions of the cruel tyrant. No sooner had Amata heard the name of Mignon, but she cried out, 'Surely my happiness is now complete, and all my sorrows, by this joyful moment, are more than fully recompensed; for, in the kind preserver of my Fidus, I have found my brother. My mother lost her little Mignon when he was five years old; and pining grief, after some years vain search, ended her wretched life.'
The generous hearts of all who were present shared the raptures of the faithful Fidus, the lovely Amata, and gentle Mignon, on this happy discovery; and in the warmest congratulations they expressed their joy.
Benefico now led all the delighted company into his castle, where freedom was publicly proclaimed; and every one was left a liberty either to remain there with Benefico, or, loaded with wealth sufficient for their use, to go where their attachments or inclinations might invite them.
Fidus, Amata, and the little Mignon, hesitated not one moment to declare their choice of staying with the generous Benefico.
The nuptials of the faithful Fidus, and his loved Amata, were solemnized in the presence of all their friends.
Benefico passed the remainder of his days in pleasing reflections on his well-spent life.
The treasures of the dead tyrant were turned into blessings by the use they were now made of: little Mignon was loved and cherished by all his companions. Peace, harmony and love reigned in every bosom; dissension, discord, and hatred were banished from this friendly dwelling; and that happiness, which is the natural consequence of goodness, appeared in every cheerful countenance throughout the castle of the good Benefico; and as heretofore affright and terror spread itself from the monster's hateful cave, so now from this peaceful castle was diffused tranquility and joy through all the happy country round.
Thus ended the story of the two giants: and Miss Jenny being tired with reading, they left the arbour for that night, and agreed to meet there again the next day.
As soon as they had supped, Mrs. Teachum sent for Miss Jenny Peace into her closet, and desired an exact account from her of this their first day's amusement, that she might judge from thence how far they might be trusted with the liberty she had given them.
Miss Jenny showed her governess the story she had read; and said, 'I hope, madam, you will not think it an improper one; for it was given me by my mamma; and she told me, that she thought it contained a very excellent moral.'
Mrs. Teachum, having looked it over, thus spoke: 'I have no objection, Miss Jenny, to your reading any stories to amuse you, provided you read them with the proper disposition of mind not to be hurt by them. A very good moral may indeed be drawn from the whole, and likewise from almost every part of it; and as you had this story from your mamma, I doubt not but you are very well qualified to make the proper remarks yourself upon the moral of it to your companions. But here let me observe to you (which I would have you communicate to your little friends) that giants, magic, fairies, and all sorts of supernatural assistances in a story, are only introduced to amuse and divert: for a giant is called so only to express a man of great power; and the magic fillet round the statue was intended only to show you, that by patience you will overcome all difficulties. Therefore, by no means let the notion of giants or magic dwell upon your minds. And you may farther observe, that there is a different style adapted to every sort of writing; and the various sounding epithets given to Barbarico are proper to express the raging cruelty of his wicked mind. But neither this high-sounding language, nor the supernatural contrivances in this story, do I so thoroughly approve, as to recommend them much to your reading; except, as I said before, great care is taken to prevent your being carried away, by these high-flown things, from that simplicity of taste and manners which it is my chief study to inculcate.'
Here Miss Jenny looked a little confounded; and, by her down-cast eye, showed a fear that she had incurred the disapprobation, if not the displeasure, of her governess: upon which Mrs. Teachum thus proceeded:
'I do not intend by this, my dear, to blame you for what you have done; but only to instruct you how to make the best use of even the most trifling things: and if you have any more stories of this kind, with an equal good moral, when you are not better employed, I shall not be against your reading them; always remembering the cautions I have this evening been giving you.'
Miss Jenny thanked her governess for her instructions, and kind indulgence to her, and promised to give her an exact account of their daily amusements; and, taking leave, retired to her rest.
TUESDAY. THE SECOND DAY.
That Miss Jenny's meeting with her companions in the morning, after school, she asked them how they liked the history of the giants? They all declared they thought it a very pretty diverting story. Miss Jenny replied, though she was glad they were pleased, yet she would have them look farther than the present amusement: 'for,' continued she, 'my mamma always taught me to understand what I read; otherwise, she said, it was to no manner of purpose to read ever so many books, which would only stuff my brain, without being any improvement to my mind.'
The misses all agreed, that certainly it was of no use to read, without understanding what they read; and began to talk of the story of the giants, to prove they could make just remarks on it.
Miss Sukey Jennett said, 'I am most pleased with that part of the story where the good Benefico cuts off the monster's head, and puts an end to his cruelty, especially as he was so sullen he would not confess his wickedness; because, you know, Miss Jenny, if he had had sense enough to have owned his error, and have followed the example of the good giant, he might have been happy.'
Miss Lucy Sly delivered the following opinion: 'My greatest joy was whilst Mignon was tying the magic fillet round the monster's neck, and conquering him.'
'Now I (said Miss Dolly Friendly) am most pleased with that part of the story, were Fidus and Amata meet the reward of their constancy and love, when they find each other after all their sufferings.'
Miss Polly Suckling said, with some eagerness, 'My greatest joy was in the description of Mignon; and to think that it should be in the power of that little creature to conquer such a great monster.'
Miss Patty Lockit, Miss Nanny Spruce, Miss Betty Ford, and Miss Henny Fret, advanced no new opinions; but agreed some to one, and some to another, of those that were already advanced. And as every one was eager to maintain her own opinion, an argument followed, the particulars of which I could never learn: only thus much I know, that it was concluded by Miss Lucy Sly, saying, with an air and tone of voice that implied more anger than had been heard since the reconciliation, that she was sure Miss Polly Suckling only liked that part about Mignon, because she was the least in the school; and Mignon being such a little creature, put her in mind of herself.
Miss Jenny Peace now began to be frighted, lest this contention should raise another quarrel; and therefore begged to be heard before they went any farther. They were not yet angry enough to refuse hearing what she had to say: and then Miss Jenny desired them to consider the moral of the story, and what use they might make of it, instead of contending which was the prettiest part: 'For otherwise,' continued she, 'I have lost my breath in reading to you; and you will be worse, rather than better, for what you have heard. Pray observe, that Benefico's happiness arose entirely from his goodness: he had less strength, and less riches, than the cruel monster; and yet, by the good use he made of what he possessed, you see how he turned all things to his advantage. But particularly remember, that the good little Mignon, in the moment that he was patiently submitting to his sufferings, found a method of relieving himself from them, and of overcoming a barbarous monster, who had so cruelly abused him.
'Our good governess last night not only instructed me in this moral I am now communicating to you, but likewise bid me warn you by no means to let the notion of giants or magic to dwell upon your minds; for by a giant is meant no more than a man of great power; and the magic fillet round the head of the statue was only intended to teach you, that by the assistance of patience you may overcome all difficulties.
'In order therefore to make what you read of any use to you, you must not only think of it thus in general, but make the application to yourselves. For when (as now) instead of improving yourselves by reading, you make what you read a subject to quarrel about, what is this less than being like the monster Barbarico, who turned his very riches to a curse? I am sure it is not following the example of Benefico, who made everything a blessing to him. Remember, if you pinch and abuse a dog or cat, because it is in your power, you are like the cruel Monster, when he abused the little Mignon, and said,
I am a giant, and I can eat thee; Thou art a dwarf, and thou canst not eat me.
'In short, if you will reap any benefit from this story towards rendering you happy, whenever you have any power, you must follow the example of the giant Benefico, and do good with it: and when you are under any sufferings, like Mignon, you must patiently endure them till you can find a remedy: then, in one case, like Benefico, you will enjoy what you possess; and, in the other, you will in time, like Mignon, overcome your sufferings: for the natural consequence of indulging cruelty and revenge in the mind, even where there is the highest power to gratify it, is misery.'
Here Miss Sukey Jennet interrupted Miss Jenny, saying, that she herself had experienced the truth of that observation in the former part of her life: for she never had known either peace or pleasure, till she had conquered in her mind the desire of hurting and being revenged on those who she thought did not by their behaviour show the same regard for her, that her own good opinion of herself made her think she deserved. Miss Jenny then asked her, if she was willing to lead the way to the rest of her companions, by telling her past life? She answered, she would do it with all her heart; and, by having so many and great faults to confess, she hoped she should, by her true confessions, set them an example of honesty and ingenuity.
THE DESCRIPTION OF MISS SUKEY JENNETT.
Miss Sukey Jennett, who was next in years to Miss Jenny Peace, was not quite twelve years old; but so very tall of her age, that she was within a trifle as tall as Miss Jenny Peace; and, by growing so fast, was much thinner: and though she was not really so well made, yet, from an assured air in her manner of carrying herself, she was called much the genteelest girl. There was, on first view, a great resemblance in their persons. Her face was very handsome, and her complexion extremely good; but a little more inclined to pale than Miss Jenny's. Her eyes were a degree darker, and had a life and fire in them which was very beautiful: but yet her impatience on the least contradiction often brought a fierceness into her eyes, and gave such a discomposure to her whole countenance, as immediately took off your admiration. But her eyes had now, since her hearty reconciliation with her companions, lost a great part of their fierceness; and with great mildness, and an obliging manner, she told her story as follows:
THE LIFE OF MISS SUKEY JENNETT.
'My mamma died when I was so young that I cannot remember her; and my papa marrying again within half a year after her death, I was chiefly left to the care of an old servant, that had lived many years in the family. I was a great favourite of hers, and in everything had my own way. When I was but four years old, if ever anything crossed me, I was taught to beat it, and be revenged of it, even though it could not feel. If I fell down and hurt myself, the very ground was to be beat for hurting the sweet child: so that, instead of fearing to fall, I did not dislike it; for I was pleased to find, that I was of such consequence, that everything was to take care that I came by no harm.
'I had a little playfellow, in a child of one of my papa's servants, who was to be entirely under my command. This girl I used to abuse and beat, whenever I was out of humour; and when I had abused her, if she dared to grumble, or make the least complaint, I thought it the greatest impudence in the world; and, instead of mending my behaviour to her, I grew very angry that she should dare to dispute my power: for my governess always told her, that she was but a servant's girl, and I was a gentleman's daughter; and that therefore she ought to give way to me; for that I did her great honour in playing with her. Thus I thought the distance between us was so great, that I never considered that she could feel: but whilst I myself suffered nothing, I fancied everything was very right; and it never once came into my head, that I could be in the wrong.
'This life I led till I came to school, when I was eleven years old. Here I had nobody in my power; for all my schoolfellows thought themselves my equals: so that I could only quarrel, fight, and contend for everything: but being liable to be punished, when I was trying to be revenged on any of my enemies, as I thought them, I never had a moment's ease or pleasure, till Miss Jenny was so good to take the pains to convince me of my folly, and made me be reconciled to you, my dear companions.'
Here Miss Sukey ceased; and Miss Jenny smiled with pleasure, at the thoughts that she had been the cause of her happiness.
Mrs. Teachum being now come into the arbour, to see in what manner her little scholars passed their time, they all rose up and do her reverence. Miss Jenny gave her an account how they had been employed; and she was much pleased with their innocent and useful entertainment; but especially with the method they had found out of relating their past lives. She took little Polly Suckling by the hand, and bidding the rest follow, it being now dinner time, she walked towards the house, attended by the whole company.
Mrs. Teachum had a great inclination to hear the history of the lives of all her little scholars: but she thought, that being present at those relations might be a balk to the narration, as perhaps they might be ashamed freely to confess their past faults before her; and therefore, that she might not be any bar in this case to the freedom of their speech, and yet might be acquainted with their stories (though this was not merely a vain curiosity, but a desire by this means to know their different dispositions), she called Miss Jenny Peace to her parlour after dinner, and told her, she would have her get the lives of her companions in writing, and bring them to her; and Miss Jenny readily promised to obey her commands.
In the evening our little company again met in their charming arbour; where they were no sooner seated, with that calmness and content which now always attended them, than the cries and sobs of a child, at a little distance from their garden, disturbed their tranquility.
Miss Jenny, ever ready to relieve the distressed, ran immediately to the place whence the sound seemed to come, and was followed by all her companions: when, at a small distance from Mrs. Teachum's garden-wall, over which from the terrace our young company looked, they saw, under a large spreading tree, part of the branches of which shaded a seat at the end of that terrace, a middle-aged woman beating a little girl, who looked to be about eight years old, so severely, that it was no wonder her cries had reached their arbour.
Miss Jenny could not forbear calling out to the woman, and begging her to forbear: and little Polly Suckling cried as much as the girl, and desired she might not be beat any more. The woman, in respect to them, let the child go; but said, 'Indeed, young ladies, you don't know what a naughty girl she is: for though you now see me correct her in this manner, yet am I in all respects very kind to her, and never strike her but for lying. I have tried all means, good and bad, to break her of this vile fault; but hitherto all I have done has been in vain: nor can I ever get one word of truth out of her mouth. But I am resolved to break her of this horrid custom, or I cannot live with her: for though I am but poor, yet I will breed up my child to be honest, both in word and deed.'
Miss Jenny could not but approve of what the poor woman said. However, they all joined in begging forgiveness for the girl this time, provided she promised amendment for the future: and then our little society returned to their arbour.