Page images
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

A SchoolMISTRESS ought not to travel—

No, sir!

No, madam — except on the map. There, indeed, she may skip from a blue continent to a green one — cross a pink isthmus — traverse a Red, Black, or Yellow Sea—land in a purple island, or roam in an orange desert, without danger or indecorum. There she may ascend dotted rivers, sojourn at capital cities, scale alps, and wade through bogs, without soiling her shoe, rumpling her satin, or showing her ankle. But as to practical travelling, — real journeying and voyaging, — O, never, never, never !

How, sir! Would you deny to a Preceptress all the excursive pleasures of locomotion ?

By no means, miss. In the summer holidays, when the days are long, and the evenings are light, there is no objection to a little trip by the railway, -say to Weybridge or Slough, – provided always —

Well, sir?

That she goes by a special train, and in a first-class carriage.

Ridiculous !

Nay, madam, - consider her pretensions. She is little short of a divinity 1 — Diana, without the hunting ! — a modernized Minerval — the Representative of Womanhood in all its purity 1 – Eve, in full dress, with a finished education l—a Model of Morality 1– a Pattern of Propriety 1–the Fugle-woman of her Sex! As such she must be perfect. No medium performance — no ordinary goodgoing, like that of an eight-day clock or a Dutch dial — will suffice for the character. She must be as correct as a prize chronometer. She must be her own Prospectus personified. Spotless in reputation, immaculate in her dress, regular in her habits, refined in her manners, elegant in her carriage, nice in her taste, faultless in her phraseology, and in her mind like — like — Pray what, sir? Why, like your own chimney-ornament, madam, - a pure crystal fountain, sipped by little doves of alabaster. A sweet pretty comparison | Well, go on, sir! Now, look at travelling. At the best, it is a rambling, scrambling, shift-making, strange-bedding, irregular-mealing, foreign-habiting, helter-skelter, higgledy-piggledy sort of process. At the very least, a female must expect to be rumpled and dusted; perhaps draggled, drenched, torn, and roughcasted,—and if not bodily capsized or thrown a summerset, she is likely to have her straitest-laced prejudices upset, and some of her most orthodox opinions turned topsyturvy. An accident of little moment to other women, but to a schoolmistress productive of a professional lameness for life. Then she is certain to be stared at, jabbered at, maybe jeered at, and poked, pushed, and hauled at, by curious or officious foreigners, – to be accosted by perfect and imperfect strangers, —in short, she is liable to be revolted in her taste, shocked in her religious principles, disturbed in her temper, disordered in her dress, and deranged in her decorum. But you shall hear the sentiments of a Schoolmistress on the subject. O, a made-up letter | No, miss, – a genuine epistle, upon my literary honor. Just look at the writing, — the real copy-book running-hand, — not at uncrossed, – not an undotted, - not an illegitimate flourish of a letter, but each j and g and y turning up its tail like the pug dogs, after one regular established pattern. And pray observe her capitals. No sprawling K with a kicking leg, — no troublesome W making a long arm across its neighbor, and especially no great vulgar D unnecessarily sticking out its stomach. Her H, you see, seems to have stood in the stocks, her I to have worn a back-board, and even her S is hardly allowed to be crooked I


“PHoo! phoo! it's all banter,” exclaims the Courteous Reader.

Banter be hanged 1 replies the Courteous Writer. But possibly, my good sir, you have never seen that incomparable schoolmistress, Miss Crane, for a Miss she was, is, and would be, even if Campbell's Last Man were to offer to her for the preservation of the species. One sight of her were, indeed, as good as a thousand, seeing that nightly she retires into some kind of mould, like a jelly shape, and turns out again in the morning the same identical face and figure, the same correct, ceremonious creature, and in the same costume to a crinkle. But no, - you never can have seen that She-Mentor, stiff as starch, formal as a Dutch hedge, sensitive as a Daguerreotype, and so tall, thin, and upright, that, supposing the Tree of Knowledge to have been a poplar, she was the very Dryad to have fitted it ! Otherwise, remembering that unique image, all fancy and frost-work, - so incrusted with crisp and brittle particularities, – so bedecked allegorically with the primrose of prudence, the daisy of decorum, the violet of modesty, and the lily of purity, you would confess at once that such a Schoolmistress was as unfit to travel— unpacked—as a Dresden China figures

Excuse me, sir, but is there actually such a real personage?

Real | Are there real Natives — Real Blessings to Mothers — Real Del Monte shares, and Real Water at the Adelphi ? Only call her * * * * * instead of Crane, and she is a living, breathing, flesh and blood, skin and bone individuall Why, there are dozens, scores, hundreds of her Ex-Pupils, now grown women, who will instantly recognize their old Governess in the form with which, mixing up Grace and Gracefulness, she daily prefaced their rice-milk, batterpuddings, or raspberry-bolsters. As thus : —

“For what we are going to receive — elbows, elbows 1the Lord make us — backs in and shoulders down — truly thankful—and no chattering — amen.”


“BUT the letter, sir, the letter —” “O, I do so long,” exclaims one who would be a stout young woman if she did not wear a pinafore, —“O, I do so long to hear how a governess writes home !” io “The professional epistle,” adds a tall, thin Instructress, genteelly in at the elbows, but shabbily out at the fingers' ends; for she has only twenty pounds per annum, with five quarters in arrear. “The schoolmistress's letter,” cries a stumpy Teacher, — only a helper, but looking as important as if she were an educational coachwoman, with a team of her own, some five-andtwenty skittish young animals, without blinkers, to keep straight in the road of propriety. “The letter, sir,” chimes in a half-boarder, looking, indeed, as if she had only half-dined for the last half-year. “Come, the letter you promised us from that paragon, Miss Crane.” That’s true. Mother of the Muses, forgive me ! I had forgotten my promise as utterly as if it had never been made. If any one had furnished the matter with a file and a ropeladder, it could not have escaped more clearly from my remembrance. A loose tooth could not more completely have gone out of my head. A greased eel could not more thoroughly have slipped my memory. But here is the letter, sealed with pale blue wax, and a device of the Schoolmistress's own invention, — namely, a note of interrogation (?) with the appropriate motto of “An answer required.” And in token of its authenticity, pray observe that the cover is duly stamped, except that of the foreign postmark only the three last letters are legible, and yet even from these one may swear that the missive has come from Holland; yes, as certainly as if it smelt of Dutch cheese, pickle-herrings, and Schie * * * ! But hark to Governess

“MY DEAR Miss PARFITT, “Under the protection of a superintending Providence we have arrived safely at this place, which as you know is a seaport in the Dutch dominions — chief city Amsterdam.

“For your amusement and improvement I did hope to compose a journal of our continental progress, with such references to Guthrie and the School Atlas as might enable you to trace our course on the map of Europe. But unexpected vicissitudes of mind and body have totally incapacitated me for the pleasing task. Some social evening hereafter I may entertain our little juvenile circle with my locomotive miseries and disagreeables; but at present my nerves and feelings are too discomposed for the correct flow of an epistolary correspondence. Indeed, from the Tower-stair to Rotterdam I have been in one universal tremor and perpetual blush. Such shocking scenes and positions, that make one ask twenty times a day, is this decorum ?— can this be morals 2 But I must not anticipate. Suffice it, that, as regards foreign, travelling it is my painful conviction, founded on personal experience, that a woman of delicacy or refinement cannot go out of England without going out of herself!

“The very first step from an open boat up a windy shipside is an alarm to modesty, exposed as one is to the officious but odious attentions of the Tritons of the Thames. Nor is the steamboat itself a sphere for the preservation of self-respect. If there is any feature on which a British female prides herself, it is a correct and lady-like carriage. In that particular I quite coincide with Mrs. Chapone, Mrs. Hannah More, and other writers on the subject. But how, let me ask, - how is a dignified deportment to be maintained when one has to skip and straddle over cables, ropes, and other nautical hors d'oeuvres, – to scramble up and down impracticable stairs, and to clamber into inaccessible beds 2 Not to name the sudden losing one's centre of gravity, and falling in all sorts of unstudied attitudes on a sloppy and slippery deck. An accident that I may say reduces the elegant and the awkward female to the same level. You will be concerned, therefore, to learn that poor Miss Ruth had a fall, and in an unbecoming posture particularly distressing, — namely, by losing her footing on the cabin flight, and coming down with a destructive launch into the steward's pantry.

“For my own part, it has never happened to me within my remembrance to make a false step, or to miss a stair: there is a certain guarded carriage that preserves one from such sprawking dénouemens; but of course what the bard calls the “poetry

« PreviousContinue »