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I, Millicent Kendrick, am going to write the story of my own life, or rather some passages in it, in the hope that it will be useful to the young people who may read these pages; for you too, dear friends, are wanting, and aiming, and longing to be happy; and as there is but one veritable happiness, and a thousand imitations, you may take warning from the life experience of one, who has trodden the path of mortality -as it seems to her—almost to its close.
My childhood, as far I can remember it, was exceedingly common-place. I was not a prodigy, either of beauty, or quickness, or goodness, or naughtiness. My parents belonged to what is now called the upper middle-class of society: they were certainly not poor; but they were by no means rich enough to warrant a lavish expenditure of their means; and I, one of six children, knew little of indulgences, and still less of harshness, neglect, or privation. And yet I suppose I was tolerably happy, and believed my home to be the most favoured spot in all the world; I know I did, in after days.
I was ten years old, when I first became distinctly conscious of the strong, yearning desire of my soul after happiness; and here is my first experience of a search that has occupied the greater part of my life.
I was sent to school near London; and though at first the bare idea of leaving home and going among strangers was inexpressibly painful, I soon recovered my cheerfulness, and grew quite contented with my lot. I remember the journey in the inside of the “Eagle" coach, under the special protection of the
guard; the arrival at the inn, where I found Miss Cecilia Johnson waiting to take charge of me and of my luggage; the reaching Hammersmith in the. chilly dusk of a January evening; the alighting at Agenoria House, and reading on the large brass door-plate, by the rays of the moon, “The Misses Johnson's Establishment."
My governess took me by the hand, and led me up the door-step, and presently we were ushered in by a trim waiting-maid, and uproariously greeted by a small black and tan spaniel, who barked and grinned at me in most savage fashion, and almost upset Miss Cecilia — who was of very diminutive stature -by leaping upon her, in token of his satisfaction at her return. Then I was introduced to Miss Johnson, and Miss Lucretia Johnson, and Mademoiselle Girardot, the French governess; and finally I was taken up-stairs, by a tall, sallow girl, who eyed me from head to foot, as if I had been an Aztec, or the “infant Sappho.” There I was shown my bed, and instructed to put my bonnet away in a long, dark closet, where hung, at least, twenty more bonnets, and informed that the getting-up bell rang at six o'clock, and that no talking was permitted in the bed-rooms-intelligence which in no way contributed to my satisfaction.
My introduction to the school-room was truly appalling ; forty girls were sitting at tea at two long tables, and they all surveyed me with the closest attention. The fire seemed about half a mile from my seat, and the feeble light of the dip candles
scarcely penetrated to my end of the table, where a mug of milk and water, and two huge slices of bread and butter, were assigned me, as my portion of the repast. After tea, lessons were learned, and no word was permitted to be spoken; and as the meal had passed in unbroken silence, and as I could not suppose that conversation would be tolerated in schoolhours, I was quite puzzled to know when our tongues would be allowed their natural licence.
Then came supper – bread and treacle, which I had always abominated, and toast and water, which gave me the idea of its having been prepared by the cask; and then prayers, which were something entirely new to me; and then undressing in an atmosphere that made me shiver, by the rays of a rushlight, placed in a stand of lantern-like construction ; and, lastly, my pillow, by the side of one of my school-fellows, who never spoke to me, and whom I did not venture to address—where I cried myself to sleep, 'in true orthodox fashion.
The next day, however, made a wonderful difference to my feelings; I had recovered the fatigue of my journey; and the hot bread and milk at breakfast revived me considerably. By-and-by, I had my place in class assigned me; I was told to take possession of certain new books; and in due time I fraternized with some of the girls, and loved them amazingly; and, somehow, I did not care about little hardships, as many children do, for I had never been petted at home, and there was so much to learn, and so many duties to perform, and so many ardent friendships to cultivate, that I really found no time to be miserable; and, in my first letter home, written a fortnight after my arrival, I informed “my dear parents” that I was “quite well, and very happy, and trusting to improve my advantages to the utmost of my ability."
I do not recollect much about that, my first half-year at Agenoria House ; sometimes I was idle, and sometimes I was diligent; sometimes I was punished, and sometimes I was praised; for the most part, the months passed uneventfully away, though I formed many new habits, gained many new ideas, and acquired a tolerable stock of miscellaneous information.
The last few weeks of the half-year, however, I studied with unwonted care and application; for a spirit of contest possessed me the moment we began to prepare for our semi-annual examination. In a few days I stood at the head of my class, and received encomiums from my governesses. Miss Johnson displayed the elaborate sampler I had just finished ; Miss Cecilia praised my improvement in writing, and handed to Miss Lucretia the neatly-ruled accountbook, where my sums, up to long division, were entered; and Mademoiselle bore witness to the superior correctness of the French exercise, which had been given to the whole class, as a test of progress.
Already I was supremely happy; but on the breaking-up night, when there was a ball and a concert, I was wildly elate : even now, I have not ceased
wondering that I did not commit some awful solecism, some dreadful breach of rules, that would have cast me down “from a seventh heaven into a snowwreath.”
I was attired in a white muslin frock, with a blue sash, and shoes of the same cerulean hue; I danced a minuet amidst universal applause; I played “The Guaracha” and “In my cottage near a wood,” without a single mistake; and, to crown all, there was a grand supper-custards, jam tarts, and lemonade. And afterwards, when we mingled freely with the company, I was praised yet more highly for my dancing, and extolled for my playing, and flattered about my rosy cheeks and my pretty flaxen curls; till my head grew dizzy with applause, and I became greedy of compliments for which I had never cared before; and I said to myself, as I stood a little apart, watching the festive scene, “This is being happy !”
I dare say all this seems very childish; but I am writing of childish days, and I cannot omit it, because I am conscious that my search after happiness really began that very evening. I then, for the first time, distinctly recognized the need of happiness; and I laid down, in my childish mind, my first schemes for attaining that which seemed to me clearly the chief end of existence. Of course my standard, and the way I was to reach it, were proportionate to my juvenile experience. · Well! the evening came to a close, the guests departed, and we were ordered off to bed without