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were over, my school-days had come to a close, and on the morrow I was going home " for good.”
I was walking alone in one of the alleys of the large garden, looking at one of my prizes, a splendid green and gold volume, entitled, “ Letters to a Young Lady on her Entrance into the World.” And somehow the chain of thought lengthened itself out most incomprehensibly; I went back to the early days of my residence at Agenoria House, and I began forthwith to take an involuntary and impartial retrospect of my school-life, that was already almost a thing of the past.
Tranquil as it had been in outward seeming, it had been far from happy; there had always been a skeleton in some hidden cupboard; always a Mordecai at my gates. I had given general satisfaction to my friends and to my governesses; I had grown up by no means a beauty, but yet a very nice-looking girl, with abundance of bright, curling brown hair, dark grey eyes, and white, clear skin, and round, rosy cheeks; a nose the least bit snub, a broad chin, and a large mouth, saved me entirely from the dangerous distinction of being really pretty. My father, too, had become richer, and occupied a higher position than in my childish days; and I knew that I was going to make my début with advantages superior to those which the greater part of my school-fellows would be likely to enjoy. My father lived now in a handsome, square, stone-built house, surrounded on all sides by a well-kept garden ; there was a smooth-shaven lawn, with a splendid copper
beech in the midst thereof; there was a broad carriage-drive, a paddock, and a dozen trees in a corner, supposed to be a shrubbery. Moreover, we kept two maid-servants and a man, and my mother was proud of her pony-phaeton, and of her silver forks—not much to be proud of, you will say. No, not much at any time, for equipage and appointments are poor things to glory in, whether they be in the positive or in the superlative degree; but even supposing that carriages, and plate, and their usual concomitants, are things to make much of, there seems, I dare say, very little to boast of in the "one-horse shay,” as some of our neighbours unkindly called the phaeton, and the dozen silver forks, that always came out with the finger-glasses and the table-napkins, on festal occasions.
Yes; but things are altered of late years; a taste for expense and luxury has been gradually growing upon us; and what was considered quite sufficient and highly genteel, in by-gone times, would now be voted, even by the classes we consider far beneath us, inconvenient, sordid, rough, and vulgar.
My father, too, was churchwarden, and latterly a magistrate, both very honourable offices in those days, as, I doubt not, they still are; only, churchwardens and magistrates, like authors and philosophers, were not so numerous then as now, and the public brain possessed and cultivated the organ of veneration much more largely than is commonly the case in our times.
But to return to my retrospect. I had always
been going to be so happy, and yet never attaining the ultimatum of my desires. I am one of those who possess the sweet but perilous gift of loving to excess. Even in childhood I loved passionately or not at all ; and on this tender, nay, sacred point, I had been sorely wounded several times during my schooldays. It seemed, even then, to be my lot “ to make idols, and to find them clay, and to bewail that worship,” and a very painful, wearying lot I found it.
How deeply I loved those on whom I set my childish and my youthful affections! How my heart yearned for their love; and how unsatisfactory were all other sources of joy, if that which I so intensely desired were withheld! Oh! if I had but known there was One waiting to fill that aching heart with a peace that passeth all understanding—with a bliss that grows ever purer and fuller, until it receives its consummation in the world where “sorrow and sighing shall flee away!"
In one way or another, I was continually disappointed in these my girlish friendships; I could fill a little book with their histories; and with the narrations of the wrongs I suffered in reality and in imagination: but I am afraid, though it might be very amusing, it would scarcely he profitable ; and I hold that our lightest reading ought to be to some good purpose.
My first love was Nelly Leigh, a charming little class-mate of my own age; I never left her side if I could help it; I shared with her everything I had; and if I could have undergone all her punish
ments—for she was a wild little pussy, always in some kind of scrape-and if I could have transferred to her all my own good marks and rewards, I would willingly have done so. For a few weeks I fancied my affection was fully returned; but at the quarter there was a new arrival, a certain Louisa Mortimer, who gradually insinuated herself into Nelly's good graces, while I was quietly and heartlessly discarded.
All the girls said “it was a shame!” and “if they were Milly Kendrick, they wouldn't care a straw about such a changeable, fickle, good-for-nothing little thing." But I did care, nevertheless; I sorrowed so much, that my studies were neglected, and I got into trouble; and for a little while my health suffered, and I felt sure I should never be happy any more.
Time, the consoler, however, laid his kindly hand on these early wounds, and they bled less and less, till they healed over, and I felt the anguish no longer; but they did not close without a scar, that remained for many and many a day after I had resigned myself to be neglected and unloved by Nelly Leigh. Poor Nelly Leigh ! her dear friends at Agenoria House were countless, their names were legion; and at last it became a rule to warn every new comer against the advances of that winning, ooaxing, fickle Nelly Leigh. She grew up to be a coquette and a flirt; rumour blazoned about her conquests, for she was very lovely to look upon, and an heiress to boot, and she sang like a nightingale; and rumour declared that breaking hearts
was her pastime; but at last—I don't know howher own heart was broken, and she died in the flower of her age. I saw her grave the other day ; a poor, neglected, forlorn place it was, in a little churchyard on the southern coast, where she went as a last resource for lengthening out the weary days of a wasted, blighted life.
My next beloved friend was Jane Temple, the cleverest girl in the school. I loved her from the day of her arrival; she was so well-bred, so accomplished, and she knew so many things; and oh, unexampled honour and felicity! I was for a whole half-year her chosen and especial friend. We studied together, of course; we learned duetts together; we worked the same embroidery patterns; we were Hermia and Helena. And one thing I unquestionably owe to Jane Temple—and if she is living I hope she may read these pages, and know it; I have no idea where she is, but I believe she married and went to Australia—to her I owe my love of study, and habits of perseverance, which, till the period of my intimacy with her, were certainly undeveloped, if indeed they existed at all.
For one half-year I enjoyed without let or hindrance the friendship of Jane Temple. Then we separated for the holidays, and during the five weeks of our absence from Hammersmith, we corresponded as often as our finances and postal arrangements, unblest by Rowland Hill, would permit; I know that I counted the hours till we should meet again. For several reasons, which it is unnecessary to specify