PAID IN HIS OWN COIN.
By Edward J. Goodman, Author of • Too Curious.'
VOL. 11.-CHAPTER XL GOVEBNESS AND PUPIL.
Very well pleased with himself and his afternoon's work was Mark Elliot as he left Mrs Fleming's house. In the first place, he had secured for Helen a pupil in whom he knew Bhe would take a peculiar interest, and for whose instruction she would certainly be well paid. Next, he felt that he was doing Mrs Fleming a valuable service in procuring such an excellent teacher as Helen for her troublesome daughter. Lastly —ah ! that last consideration was, perhaps, the most important of all in his eyes. Ho had already given the widow a hint, more than a hint—so he regarded it—that his affections were engaged, and Helen would do the rest. For he believed that before long she and Mrs Fleming must become fast friends, and perhaps in time Buch confidence would spring up between them that Helen herself might reveal to the widow the fact which he would have explained but for an accidental interruption. This, he thought, would be the best possible way of opening Mrs Fleming's eyes to the true state of his position, and he was glad of the opportunity which would relieve him of a painful embarrassment.
So it was with complete confidence in the excellence of his arrangements that he went to see Helen, eager to tell her the good news.
And good news it was, indeed, to her. Nothing had occurred since she last appeared on our scene tojimprovo her dark prospects. Debt was accumulating upon debt—apart from her father's liability to his publisher. Ralph had gone into lodgings, as he had resolved to do; she had still been unable to obtain any fresh engagements, and, indeed, expected soon to lose another set of pupils. Mr Copple, it is true, had not yet pressed her father for that payment of one hundred pounds, and nothing had been said to her by Mr Musgrave on the subject; but the terror of this claim and all that lav behind it hung over her by night and by day. The situation, in fact, was fast becoming desperate, and it was hardly to be wondered a"; that Dr Elliot, when he next called at Eden Villa, found his beloved in a state of unwonted depression. "You don't seem in very good spirits, dew," he said.
"No," Helen replied, with an effort of cheerfulness. "I am afraid lam beginning to drown in that ' sea of troubles' that we spoke of the other day. I don't want to worry you with my griefs and disappointments, Mark ; but really my difficulties are very, very great." "And 1 have come to your rescue," cried M»rk ; " I have good news for you." *'Good news!"
" Yes," he continued. " How would you Ike an engagement with Mrs Fleming, to train up her little vixen of a daughter in the way she should go ?"
" Oh, Mark !" exclaimed Helen joyfully ; " I should like that above all things," "More than I would," he grunted. "But, there—if you care to undertake the job, all you have to do is to go to Mrs Fleming and make arrangements with her accordingly. I promised her you would call." Helen was so delighted, so grateful, that she flew to her lover's arms, and embraced him affectionately there and then, " This is so good of you, dear Mark !" she said. "It will be such a great help to me, and, besides, I am longing to know Mrs Fleming. lam sure I shall like her, and I am confident that I shall make a success with that little termagant. Oh, Mark ! didn't I tell you that something pleasant must occur soon to lighten our troubles ?" " That you certainly did," replied Dr Elliot.
" And this will not be the end of it, you will see," Helen continued, " I really believe now that this is the beginning of a turn of luck—if you like to call it to —in our favor." Then she added, after a moment's pause : " You have not told Mrs Fleming that we are engaged, have you ?'' " N—no, I have not," he replied.
"Quite right. It is better so, perhaps," she said. " I dare say it will come out at last; but whether she knows of it or not doesn't much matter, does it ?"
It mattered, Dr Elliot thought, a great deal more than she supposed; but how could he tell her why he thought so ? His reply, perhaps, was more diplomatic than candid. " Of course," he said, " it cannot affect your position as Una's governess." " Not in the least," observed Helen.
So she called on Mrs Fleming without delay, and the two women were good friends in a few minutes, Helen found the widow to be all she expected, and, indeed, something more ; for she was in unwonted good spirits, and displayed none of those affected invalid airs which Dr Elliot had so often described. She, on her part, was delighted with Helen. Miss Musgrave, she thought, was such a perfect lady, so gentle, yet so dignified and self-possessed, and had nothing of that artificial manner, sometimes servile, sometimes assertive, which had been exhibited by other governesses with whom she had come in contact. Surely, she reflected, Miss Musgrave would be just the very teacher Una required. She agreed in a moment to Helen's terms, and, indeed, declared that she did not care what she paid her, if only Misa Musgrave could manage to get on with her troublesome daughter. It was also arranged that Helen Biould devote the whole morning of every week-day to Una's tution, as she found that this plan would fit in conveniently with her other engagements. As to what Una should be taught, and how she was to be taught, that her mother left entirely to Miss Musgrave's discretion, subject, she mentally reflected, to Miss Una's willingness to learn and obey or not, as she might think proper. After the two ladies had chatted for some time on this subject, Una was summoned for the purpose of being introduced to her new governess. That young lady made her first appearance before Helen in a character which she had carefully studied. She had not taken kindly to this proposal to place her once more under tutelage, and it was only the fact that her new teacher waa to be a lady recommended by Dr Elliot which reconciled her to the arrangement. If she refused to accept the services of Miss Musgrave, her mother argued, the doctor would, of course, be much offended, and Una did not like to offend Dr Elliot. So she resolved to face Miss Mnsgrave, and, at any rate, "see what she was like." But she was equally determined to maintain towards her what diplomatists call "an attitude of reserve." Thus she entered the room- with an air, not of aullenness or defiance but of great dignity, as she thought it, and greeted Helen with strict, but distant, politeness. Helen, however, soon, so to speak, took the chill off her manner. She received Una with such quiet and unaffected cordiality, and with such a sweet smile, addressing her in such agreeable tones, that she at once made a good impression on her new pupil, who soon came to the conclusion that Miss Musgrave " did not seem so bad as some of fiem." Then Helen carefully avoided the slightest reference to the subject of her undertaking, saying nothing about lessons, or duties, and the like, but gossiping about novels and plays and music, dress and parties, and trifles of that sort, as though she were a mere ordinary acquaintance. Both mother and daughter felt rather surprised at this line of action on Miss Musgrave's part, but they had already perceived that sho was a young lady who had a habit o c getting her own way in most things, even when it was only a question of guiding the course of a conversation. When Helen had left the house, Mrs Fleming somewhat timidly asked her daughter what she thought of the new governess, "Oh !" replied ¥na, "I dare say she will do, if she is always as civil as she was to day. But wait till she comes to lessons—then we shall see." She had not long to wait. Helen came the next morning, and was shown into a small room on the ground-floor, which was called the study. It was a cosy room, daintily furnished, like all the rest of the house, and in one corner was a bookcase stored with Una's educational books, whioh apparently had not been used for some time.
Una presented herself with a somewhat more gracious air than she had exhibited pn the occasion of her first appearance,
She was about to shake hands with her new instruotress, but the latter kissed her. Una received the salute a little coldly, as she thought it rather a liberty to take on such short acquaintance, and especially when Miss Musgrave had come "on business."
Helen began by asking Una how her mamma was, and making a remark or two about the weather, and other trifles, to which hor pupil replied briefly, but courteously enough. Una sat waiting for some little time, wondering that Miss Musgrave said nothing about lessons, and, indeed, as the governess did not seem inclined to open up this disagreeable subject, she thought at last that she might as well plunge into it herself at once, and got it over.
"I suppose you would like to see what books I have been studying, Miss Musgrave ?" said Una, rising. "Oh no, my dear," replied Hdlen cheerfully ; "notjust yet. You know this is only my first visit, and there will be plenty of time to talk about studies later on. For the present, let us chat about something else. Have you and your mamma been out much lately ?" Una did not quite like her proposal being put aside in this way; but it was a sort of reprieve, and Miss Musgrave's question was a tempting one. She loved to talk about the plays and concerts she had been to, and the sights she had seen in the company of her mother, and though she had not had much amusement of late, owing to the state of Mrs Fleming's health, she had ample 3tores of experience in the not very remote past to draw upon, and about them she was eloquent. Then they talked about novels, and much pleasant gossip arose out of such questions as " Have you read this?" or " Do you like that ?" and so on. Una told Miss Musgrave what a horror her mamma had of stories with anything " dreadful " in them, and how she had to examine them first for murders and disasters; and she drew a lively picture of her readings, and the occasional chance occurrence of some shocking episode which she had overlooked in her preliminary search, and which she said nearly scot her nervous parent "into fits." This gave rise to a great deal of laughter on both sides, and Una was highly pleased by her success in amusing her governess. In fact, the entire morning was devoted to this frivolous conversation, and no mention of lessons was made, Helen confessed that they had been " shockiDgly idle," but said they must really "get to work next time." Then she rose to go, and Una, not waiting to be kissed, pressed her lips almost affectionately on the cheek of her governes?, who left well satisfied with the beginning she had made. "Hike Una," she said to Dr Elliot in the evening, " and am certain I shall get on with her. But I don't expect to have a very easy task." " I should thiuk not, indeed," observed Mark, remembering the scenes he had witnessed or heard of.
Mrs Fleming was greatly surprised when Una told her how the morning had been spent. "What! no lessons':" she exlaimed.
" None whatever," replied her daughter "We did nothing but gossip and laugh about things. I never had such a fimny governess." And the recollection of this curiou3 interview had put Una into the very best of tempers. So that her mother was quite delighted with her, and Louise was astonished at being allowed to go unscolded all the rest of the day. The next morning Helen made her appearance once more, and, after a brief preliminary chat, said they must now proceed to " business." And it was with a much more cheerful spirit that Una began to collect her les3on-books with a view to show her governess what progress she had made in her various subjects of study. With regard to most of these, Helen asked very few questions, but left her pupil to supply such information as she thought proper to give. Geography ? She had got as far as a certain page indicated. Yes ; what next? History ? She had come to the reign of Charles I. in England, and to the Great Revolution in France, but had not advanced very far into the annals of modern ItalyandGermany. She rather liked history, especially the romantic part of it, and was glad to hear that Miss Musgrave had a way of teaching it that would make it very interesting. Arithmetic ? Oh ! she hated arithmetic. She had got only to the rule of three, and the rest looked horrid. "So it does, my dear," said Helen, " You have gone quite far enough, and we will only go over the same grouud again." This was very nice. Then Latin, She did not like Latin cither.
"I don't wonder at it," remarked her governess; " and we will not bother ourselves about Latin at all."
What! no Latin? That was delightful. How about modern languages ? French ? "Ah, mademoiselle," said Una, "vous savez bien que nous avons habiti la France, pendant qudques annces, et que j'y ai passe' plunieurs mots au couvent. Aussi deoraiaje parler le Francais presqu'aussi bien que V Anglais." This was quite enough to prove Una's proficiency in the French languago, for she spoke with fluency, and her accent was almost perfect. German she did not care much for. She would rather learn Italian, and Miss Musgrave said she should, if she preferred it; and Spanish, too, later on if she liked. How about her English grammar ? She seemed rather backward as regarded her knowledge of the rules of etymology and syntax ; but her reading was wonderful, and hero she had quite a triumph. It has already been stated how well, and even brilliantly, Una was accustomed to read novels to her mother, displaying not only admirable articulation and emphasis, but a power of expression that seemed to come naturally to her. She was delighted when Miss Musgrave asked her to give a specimen of this talent, and she fairly astonished her governess by her skill. "Ah, my dear," said Helen, "Ishallhave nothing to teach you in reading; but I shall ask you to give me a lesson or two sometimes.
This was flattering ; but even a greater triumph was in store for Una when Misß Musgrave asked her whether she ever learned passages of poetry or prose by heart. " I should rather think I do," replied Una, her eyes sparkling with delight. " I know pages and pages of Shakespeare, and Byron, and Moore, and Scott, and Tennyson, and Macaulay, and ever so many more. And I can do whole scenes out of the • School for Scandal' and the • Lady of Lyons,' and a lot of other plays. Would you like to hear me ?" "I would indeed," said Helen.
Then the girl sprang up from her chair, cleared a little space for herself at the farther end of the room opposite the window, and, snatching up Helen's scarf, which lay on the sofa, flung it over her shoulder, and assumed a pose full of grace. Instantly she plunged into the balcony scene from ' Romeo and Juliet,' throwing such fervor and expression into the tender and passionate lines, in which she was, as the actors say, " letter perfect," that Helen was fairly astonished. "The child," Bhe remarked mentally, "is a born actress. If she were in different circumstances she would make a fortune on the stage." "Well, my dear," she said when Una had finished her ecene, "you have given me quite a treat, and you must do so again when we have time. It is clear that elocution need not be part of your studies with me."
" But I may learn more poetry and bits out of plays, may I not, Miss Musgrave ?" " Certainly, by all means."
Thus so far all went very well indeed, and governess and pupil were equally pleased with each other. In certain departments Una was evidently a little " shaky, but Helen saw her way to get over these difficulties, which were by no means new to her, and in most other respects her task would be comparatively easy. Una, on her part, perceived that Miss Musgrave was disposed to give most attention to those studies which she herself preferred, and, as regards the rest, she expected to be " let down easily " by such an accommodating teacher. There was just one little detail that they had not yet dealt with. Helen had not seen any specimen of her pupil's writing. So she asked her to produce some of her exercise books, and Una's countenance, hitherto so bright and joyous, now fell a little, and it
was not with much alaority that she complied with her governess's request. She went to the bookcase, and took down a small pile of copy books, and examined them carefully, as though with an intention to select the best. These she brought to the table and laid bofore Helen, who opened them, and proceeded to examine their contents. If Una's accomplishments had surprised her in some particulars, these examples of her penmanship astonished her still more. But not so pleasantly. She was startled, almost shocked, at the sight of the slovenly, uncultivated scrawl which, in the case of Una's handwriting, stood for caligraphy. It was not so much a bad hand, or a schoolgirl's hand, aa that, apparently, of an almost illiterate person. There were mistakes in spelling here and there, though not of a very gross character. It was the handwriting itself that so surprised the governess. It was the writing of a servant girl before the days of board schools, and certainly such as a lady's-maid would be ashamed of.
Una could see that her governess was astonished at her want of skill in the penman's art, and sought to excuse her deficiency in this respect. " 1 know my writing is not very good," she said ; " but I have not practised much lately, and I don't like writing." "Ah! but, my dear," observed Helen gravely, " this is a very serious defect indeed, and we must mend it very promptly." "Yes," said Una, with a weary sigh, "I suppose I shall have to do some copies sometimes ; but never mind about that now, Miss Musgrave. Shut up those books, and hear me say some French poetry." This sort of address did not suit Helen at all. " Aha !" she thought, " now is coming a little tug-of-war." Notwithstanding her pupil'd request, she continued to inspect the exercise books, and to speak about them. " Your writing, Una dear," she said "is really very bad indeed, and that will not do. Every lady ought to write neatly and prettily, but this does not look like a lady's writing at all." " You don't mean to say, Miss Musgrave," exclaimed Un>, " that I am not a lady ?" "No, certainly not," replied Helen very quickly. "I say you don't write like a lady." '' That is not a very nice way of putting it," said Una snappishly. " That is not a very nice way of speaking to me, my dear," retorted Helen gravely, and looking steadily into her pupil's flushed face.
Una, catching her eye, dared not continue hostilities on this ground, so she reverted to the original matter at issue. "I don't like writing," she repeated, "and I don't think it matters much. Plenty of clever men, I have heard, write very badly indeed."
" We have nothing to do with that," said Helen. " You must write well, Una, and I will soon teach you how to do it." " Very well," replied the pupil rather sulkily, " I will try when the time comes." "I tluuk we had better begin now," said Helen. " There is nothing you are so deficient in, and the sooner wo put that little matter right the better." "I don't want to write now," exclaimed Una ; " there is plenty of time for that. I would rather begin with something else." " No, my dear," said Helen ; "you will have a writing lesson first. Please get a new copy book." Una's wrath had now risen to fever pitch. Never had she been spoken to in this way, and she did not intond to stand it. " I will not write," she cried. " You are not going to order me about like a slave, if you are my governess." " If you talk like that," said Helen rising from her chair, " then I am sorry to say I c-innot teach you any longer. I must go now to your mamma, and tell hor I shall have to give up the engagement." Then, gathering up her scarf and hat, she calmly walked to the door, obviously with the intention of being as good as her word. This brought Miss Una partially to her senses. She had already begun really to lil;«. her new governess, and the thought of losing her was not agreeable. "No, Miss Musgrave," she exclaimed, " please don't go. I will do my writing ; but not now. I will do it at any other time after my other lessons. That is what I always did."
" Excuse me, Miss Fleming," said Helen, " it is not just now a question of your writing. You have used language to mc which I cannot allow."
" What language ?'' asked Una in a some what softened ton<\
" You have said," replied Helen, " that I waa ' not going to order you about like a slave,' ami that is very improper." " I didn't mean it." whimpered Una, ''• But you said it." " Well—l - I'm very sorry." " That will not do. I expect a formal apology for such words." "lam fcure I have said enough." " I think not." " Well, what am I to say ?" " That I leave to you."
Una stood looking half penitent, half angry, while Helen remained still with her hand on the door. After a moment's reflection, the child moved a step towards her governess, and said: " Dear Miss Musgrave, I am very, very sorry I spoke in that way. Please forgive me, and I will never speak like that again." "That will dr>," said Helen. "And yon won't go, will you?" cried Una, now thoroughly subdued. "No," replied her governess; "I will not go if you will sit down and do your writing." Una said nothing, but walked straight to the bookcase, and finding a new copy book, returned with it to the table and took her seat before it. " What shall 1 write ?" she asked.
Helen had conquered. There was still a little ground-swell of anger in her pupil's breast, but Bhe was keeping it down as well as she could, and the effort was enough for Helen's purpose. She gave Una the necessary instructions coolly, and without the slightest reference to the recent scene, and continued the writing-lesson as though nothing had happened. It was not a very long lesson, for Helen "did not wish to tax her pupil's patience too far, and when she had covered a few pages under her direction, she said :
" That is better, and that will do for the preseat.' The remainder of the morning passed off without a hitch, and Helen was careful to render all other subjects of instruction as agreeable as possible. Even that much-dis-liked arithmetic she contrived to make attractive by means of easy problems, which taught Una nothing fresh, but practised her in what she knew already. At the end of the lesson, Una was quite effusive in her leave-taking. She threw her arms round Helen and kissed her again and again, saying: "I like you, dear Miss Musgrave. I like you very much indeed. I never had such a governess before, and I promise you I will always—always do what you tell me."
"And I like you, too, Una," replied Helen. "I never had a pupil I took so much interest in, for you are very clever, and can be very nice indeed. Good-bye, dear, till to-morrow. I am sure we shall be good friends."
" Well, how are you getting on with the termagant?" asked Mark Elliot in the evening. "Oh, capitally!" replied Helen. "I have broken her in already. We have had quite a little battle to-day; but I have come off victorious. Listen, and I will tell you all about it." (To be continued.)
Permanent link to this item
PAID IN HIS OWN COIN., Evening Star, Issue 7916, 25 May 1889, Supplement
PAID IN HIS OWN COIN. Evening Star, Issue 7916, 25 May 1889, Supplement
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