“My good assistant will tell you about Ottilie.”
“Our reverend superior leaves it to me to write to you of Ottilie, partly because, with her ways of thinking about it, it would be painful to her to say what has to be said; partly, because she herself requires some excusing, which she would rather have done for her by me.
“Knowing, as I did too well, how little able the good Ottilie was to show out what lies in her, and what she is capable of, I was all along afraid of this public examination. I was the more uneasy, as it was to be of a kind which does not admit of any especial preparation; and even if it had been conducted as usual, Ottilie never can be prepared to make a display. The result has only too entirely justified my anxiety. She has gained no prize; she is not even amongst those whose names have been mentioned with approbation. I need not go into details. In writing, the letters of the other girls were not so well formed, but their strokes were far more free. In arithmetic, they were all quicker than she; and in the more difficult problems, which she does the best, there was no examination. In French, she was outshone and out-talked by many; and in history she was not ready with her names and dates. In geography, there was a want of attention to the political divisions; and for what she could do in music there was neither time nor quiet enough for her few modest melodies to gain attention. In drawing she certainly would have gained the prize; her outlines were clear, and the execution most careful and full of spirit; unhappily, she had chosen too large a subject, and it was incomplete.
“After the pupils were dismissed, the examiners consulted together, and we teachers were partially admitted into the council. I very soon observed that of Ottilie either nothing would be said at all, or if her name was mentioned, it would be with indifference, if not absolute disapproval. I hoped to obtain some favor for her by a candid description of what she was, and I ventured it with the greater earnestness, partly because I was only speaking my real convictions, and partly because I remembered in my own younger years finding myself in the same unfortunate case. I was listened to with attention, but as soon as I had ended, the presiding examiner said to me very kindly but laconically, ’We presume capabilities: they are to be converted into accomplishments. This is the aim of all education. It is what is distinctly intended by all who have the care of children, and silently and indistinctly by the children themselves. This also is the object of examinations, where teachers and pupils are alike standing their trial. From what we learn of you, we may entertain good hopes of the young lady, and it is to your own credit also that you have paid so much attention to your pupil’s capabilities. If in the coming year you can develop these into accomplishments, neither yourself nor your pupil shall fail to receive your due praise.’