Charlotte returned home in high glee. She at this juncture considered shorthand as one of the most useful, and decidedly the most interesting of acquirements; and she continued to exercise herself in it all the rest of the day. She was exceedingly pleased at being able already to write two or three words which neither her sister nor even her father could decipher. For three successive mornings Charlotte punctually kept her appointment with Mr. Henderson; but on the fourth she sent a shabby excuse to her kind master; and, if the truth must be told, he from that time saw no more of his scholar. Now the cause of this desertion was twofold: first, and principally, her zeal for shorthand, which for the last eight-and-forty hours had been sensibly declining in its temperature, was, on the above morning, within half a degree of freezing point; and, second, a new and far more arduous and important undertaking had by this time suggested itself to her mind. Like many young persons of desultory inclinations, Charlotte often amused herself with writing verses; and it now occurred to her that an abridged history of England in verse was still a desideratum in literature. She commenced this task with her usual diligence; but was somewhat discouraged in the outset by the difficulty of finding a rhyme to Saxon, whom she indulged the unpatriotic wish that the Danes had laid a tax on. But, though she got over this obstacle by a new construction of the line, she found these difficulties occur so continually that she soon felt a more thorough disgust at this employment than at the preceding one. So the epic stopped short, some hundred years before the Norman conquest. Difficulty, which quickens the ardor of industry, always damps, and generally extinguishes, the false zeal of caprice and versatility.
Charlotte’s next undertaking was, to be sure, a rapid descent from the last in the scale of dignity. She now thought, that, by working very hard during the remainder of the time, she should be able to accomplish a patch-work counterpane, large enough for her own little tent bed; and the ease of this employment formed a most agreeable contrast in her mind with the extreme difficulty of the last. Accordingly, as if commissioned with a search warrant, she ransacked all her mother’s drawers, bags, and bundles in quest of new pieces; and these spoils proving very insufficient, she set off to tax all her friends, and to tease all the linen drapers in the town for their odds and ends, urging that she wanted some particularly. As she was posting along the street on this business, she espied at a distance a person whom she had no wish to encounter, namely, old Mr. Henderson. To avoid the meeting she crossed over. But this maneuver did not succeed; for no sooner had they come opposite to each other, than, to her great confusion, he called out across the street, in his loud and tremulous voice, and shaking his stick at her, “How d’ye do, Miss Shorthand? I thought how it would be! Oh, fie! Oh, fie!”