It was a theory of the little girls in the primary class that Madame Joubert would be much more lenient to their own little inevitabilities of bad conduct and lessons if Pupasse did not invariably comb her the wrong way every morning after prayers, by dropping something, or sniffling, or sneezing. Therefore, while they distractedly got together books, slates, and copy-books, their infantile eyes found time to dart deadly reproaches toward the corner of penitence, and their little lips, still shaped from their first nourishment, pouted anything but sympathy for the occupant of it.
Indeed, it would have been a most startling unreality to have ever entered Madame Joubert’s room and not seen Pupasse in that corner, on that stool, her tall figure shooting up like a post, until her tall, pointed bonnet d’ ane came within an inch or two of the ceiling. It was her hoop-skirt that best testified to her height. It was the period of those funnel-shaped hoop-skirts that spread out with such nice mathematical proportions, from the waist down, that it seemed they must have emanated from the brains of astronomers, like the orbits, and diameters, and other things belonging to the heavenly bodies. Pupasse could not have come within three feet of the wall with her hoop-skirt distended. To have forced matters was not to be thought of an instant. So even in her greatest grief and indignation, she had to pause before the three-legged black stool, and gather up steel after steel of her circumference in her hands behind, until her calico skirt careened and flattened; and so she could manage to accommodate herself to the limited space of her punishment, the circles drooping far over her feet as she stood there, looking like the costumed stick of a baby’s rattle.
Her thinness continued into her face, which, unfortunately, had nothing in the way of toilet to assist it. Two little black eyes fixed in the sides of a mere fence of a nose, and a mouth with the shape and expression of all mouths made to go over sharp-pointed teeth planted very far apart; the smallest amount possible of fine, dry, black hair—a perfect rat-tail when it was plaited in one, as almost all wore their hair. But sometimes Pupasse took it into her head to plait it in two braids, as none but the thick-haired ventured to wear it. As the little girls said, it was a petition to Heaven for “eau Quinquina.” When Marcelite, the hair-dresser, came at her regular periods to visit the hair of the boarders, she would make an effort with Pupasse, plaiting her hundred hairs in a ten-strand braid. The effect was a half yard of black worsted galloon; nothing more, or better. Had Pupasse possessed as many heads as the hydra, she could have “coiffe’d” them all with fools’ caps during one morning’s recitations. She entirely monopolized the “Daily Bee.” Madame Joubert was forced to borrow from “madame” the stale weekly “Courrier des Etats-Unis” for the rest of the room. From grammar, through sacred history, arithmetic,