« ZurückWeiter »
the stranger's first words conveyed an injunction to the lady of the house, “ to take care that no grinning Frenchman had the ordering of his Betsy's feet. If she must learn to dance, let her be taught by an honest Englishman.” After which declaration, kissing the little girl very tenderly, the astounding papa took his departure.
Poor Betsy! there she sate, the tears trickling down her cheeks, little comforted by the kind notice of the governess and the English teacher, and apparently insensible to the silent scorn of her new companions. For my own part, I entertained towards her much of that pity which results from recent experience of the same sort of distress,
“A fellow-feeling makes us wondrous kind. I was a little girl myself, abundantly shy and awkward, and I had not forgotten the heart-tug of leaving home, and the terrible loneliness of the first day at school. Moreover, I suspected that in one respect she was much more an object of compassion than myself ; I believed her to be motherless : so when I thought nobody was looking or listening, I made some girlish advances towards acquaintanceship, which she was still too shy or too miserable to return, so that, easily repelled myself, as a bashful child is, our intercourse came to nothing. With my elders and betters--the cancan, who ruled the school -Betsy stood, if possible, lower than ever. They had had the satisfaction to discover not only that he lived in the Borough, but that her father (horror of horrors !) was an eminent cheesefactor !—a seller of Stilton! That he was very rich, and had a brother an alderman, rather made matters worse. Poor Betsy only escaped being sent to Coventry by the lucky circumstance of her going that metaphorical journey of her own accord, and never under any temptation speaking to anybody one unnecessary word.
As far as her lessons went, she was, from the false indulgence with which she had been treated, very backward for her age. Our school was, however, really excellent as a place of instruction; so no studies were forced upon her, and she was left to get acquainted with the house and its ways, and to fall into the ranks as she could.
For the present she seemed to have attached herself to Mdlle. Rose, attracted probably by the sweetness of her
countenance, her sadness, and her silence. Her speech could not have attracted Betsy, for in common with many of her exiled countryfolk, she had not, in nearly ten years' residence in England, learned to speak five English words. But something had won her affection. She had, on first being called by the governess, from the dark corner in which she had ensconsed herself, crept to the side of the young
Frenchwoman, had watched her as he wove her straw plaits, had attempted the simple art with some discarded straws that lay scattered upon the floor; and when Mademoiselle so far roused herself as to show her the proper way, and to furnish her with the material, she soon became a most efficient assistant in this branch of industry.
No intercourse took place between them. Indeed, as I have said, none was possible, since neither knew a word of the other's language. Betsy was Silence personified ; and poor Malle. Rose, always pensive and reserved, was now more than ever dejected and oppressed. An opportunity of returning to France had opened to her and was passing away. She herself was too young to be included in the list of emigrants, and interest had been made with the First Consul for the re-admission of her venerable parents, and perhaps for the ultimate recovery of some property still unsold. But her grandfather was so aged, and her grandmother so sickly, that the expenses of a voyage and a journey, then very formidable to the old and the infirm, were beyond her means, beyond even her hopes. So she sighed over her straw-plaiting, and submitted.
In the meantime the second Saturday arrived, and with it a summons home to Betsy, who, for the first time gathering courage to address our good governess, asked “if she might be trusted with the bonnet Malle. Rose had just finished, to show her aunt—she knew she would like to buy that bonnet, because Mademoiselle had been so good as to let her assist in plaiting it.” How she came to know that they were for sale nobody could tell ; but our kind governess ordered the bonnet to be put into the carriage, told her the price—(no extravagant one)-called her a good child, and took leave of her till Monday.
Two hours after, Betsy and her father reappeared in the schoolroom. “Ma’amselle,” said he, bawling as loud as he could, with the view, as we afterwards conjectured, of making
her understand him—“Ma’amselle, I have no great love for the French, whom I take to be our natural enemies. But you're a good young woman; you've been kind to my Betsy, and have taught her how to make your fallals; and moreover you're a good daughter, and so's my Betsy. She says that she thinks you're fretting because you can't manage to take your grandfather and grandmother back to France again ; so as you let her help you in that other handiwork, why you must let her help you in this.” Then throwing a heavy purse into her lap, catching his little daughter up in his arms, and hugging her to the honest breast where she hid her tears and her blushes, he departed, leaving poor Malle. Rose too much bewildered to speak, or to comprehend the happiness that had fallen upon her, and the whole school the better for the lesson.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF DRAMATIC AUTHORS.
PASSION FOR THE DRAMA.
COLLEY CIBBER-RICHARD CUMBERLAND.
OF all literary fascinations there is none like that of the Drama, written or acted. None that begins so early, or that lasts so long.
With regard to actors, it is a sort of possession by evil spirits. Boys and girls from the schoolroom, and the counting-house, the shop-board, or the college, rush upon the stage, forsaking home and comfort, and the thousand realities of life, in chase of the phantom, Fame. And in authorship, the passion, although not perhaps so common, is hardly less engrossing, or less destructive. The “Honeymoon,” one of the most delightful of modern comedies, was the seventh play presented by poor Tobiu to different managers. He died, I believe, the very same night that it was performed with unrivalled success, certainly before the intelligence of its triumph could reach him. Gerald Griffin was even less fortunate. Gisippus" was rejected on all hands, and only produced after his death, and after the destruction of his other tragedies, to secure for
its author a posthumous reputation. Many, no doubt, more unfortunate still, have died and left no name; and many may still exist, dragging after them a weary weight of hope deferred, and genius unrecognised.
I have some right to talk of the love of the drama, the passionate, absorbing, worshipping love, since it took possession of me at the earliest age, and clung to me long. Nay, I am not even now absolutely sure, that if the Cruvellis and the Viardots would but say instead of sing,-if we might but see in tragedy the dramatic power lavished upon opera, I might not be simple enough to take up once more my
old enthusiasm, and haunt the theatres at sixty-five ! Luckily, the age is a musical age, and there is small danger that any Queen of Song should exchange her notes for words—especially in a country where the notes of a prima donna are synonymous with bank-notes.
The first play I remember to have seen was in a barntragedy, of course—the tragedy dear to heroes of the buskin, and no less dear to their youthful auditors, “Richard the Third.” Ah ! I should have asked nothing better than to see Richard murdered in that barn every night! Then came other playgoings more legitimate ; and readings of Shakespeare by bits, and here and there, I scarcely know how or when. For it may be reckoned amongst the best and dearest of our English privileges, that we are all more or less educated in Shakespeare ; that the words and thoughts of the greatest of poets are, as it were, engrafted into our minds, and must, to a certain extent, enrich and fructify the most barren stock. Shakespeare came to me I cannot tell how. But my first great fit of dramatic reading was, I am ashamed to say, of very questionable origin : a stolen pleasure ; and therefore-alas ! for our poor sinful human nature !—therefore by very far more dear.
This is the story.
My childhood was, as I have elsewhere said, a very happy one ; scarcely less happy in the great London school where I passed the five years between ten years old and fifteen, than at home: to tell the truth, I was well nigh as much spoilt in one place as in the other ; but as I was a quiet and orderly little girl, and fell easily into the rules of the house, there was no great harm done, either to me or to the school discipline.
One exception, however, did exist, both to my felicity and to my obedience, and that one might be comprised in the single word—Music.
How my father, who certainly never knew the tune of “God save the King” from that of the other national air, “Rule, Britannia," came to take into his head so strong a fancy to make me an accomplished musician I could never rightly understand, but that such a fancy did possess him I found to my sorrow! From the day I was five years old, he stuck me up to the piano, and, although teacher after teacher had discovered that I had neither ear, nor taste, nor application, he continued fully bent upon my learning it. By the time my London education commenced, it had assumed the form of a fixed idea.
The regular master employed in the school was Mr. Hook (father of Theodore), then a popular composer of Vauxhall songs, and an instructor of average ability. A large smoothfaced man he was, good-natured and civil spoken; but failing, as in my case everybody else had failed, to produce the slightest improvement, my father, not much struck by his appearance or manner, decided as usual that the fault lay with the teacher; and happening one day to fall in with a very clever little German professor, who was giving lessons to two of my schoolfellows, he at once took me from the tuition of Mr. Hook, and placed me under that of Herr Schuberl, who, an impatient, irritable man of genius, very speedily avenged the cause of his rival music-master, by dismissing in her turn the unlucky pupil.
Things being in this unpromising state, I began to entertain some hope that my musical education would be given up altogether. In this expectation I did injustice to my father's pertinacity. This time he threw the blame upon the instrument; and, because I could make nothing after eight years' thumping upon the pianoforte, resolved that I should become a great performer upon the harp.
It so happened that our school-house (the same, by the way, in which poor Miss Landon passed the greater part of her life), forming one angle of an irregular octagon place, was so built that the principal reception-room was connected with the entrance-hall by a long passage and two double doors. This room, fitted up with nicely-bound books, con