‘What does it matter about Herr Schliefer?’ Jill would say, in a sort of fury. ’I like him a hundred times better than I do that mincing little poll-parrot of a Madame Blanchard: she is odious, and I hate her, and I hate Fraeulein too. It is not the lessons I mind; one has to learn lessons all one’s life; it is being shut up like a bird in a cage when one’s wings are ready for flight. I should like to fly away from this room, from Fraeulein, from the whole of the horrid set; it makes me cross, wicked, to live like this, and all your sugar-plums will do me no good. Go away, Sara; you do not understand as Ursula does, it makes me feel bad to see you standing there, looking so pretty and happy, and just laughing at me.’
‘Of course I laugh at you, Jocelyn, when you behave like a baby,’ returned Sara, trying to be severe, only her dimples betrayed her. ’Well, as you are so cross, I shall go away. There is the chocolate I promised you. Ta-ta.’ And Sara put down the bonbonniere on the table and walked out of the room.
I was not surprised to see Jill push it away. No one understood the poor child but myself; she was precocious, womanly, for her age; she had twenty times the amount of brains that Sara possessed, and she was starving on the education provided for her.
To dance and drill and write dreary German exercises, when one is thirsting to drink deeply at the well of knowledge; to go round and round the narrow monotonous course that had sufficed for Sara’s moderate abilities, like the blind horse at the mill, and never to advance an inch out of the beaten track, this was simply maddening to Jill’s sturdy intellect. She often told me how she longed to attend classes, to hear lectures, to rub against full-grown minds.
’Now. Me-ess Jocelyn, we will do a little of ze Wallenstein, by the immortal Schiller. Hold up the head, and leave off striking the table with your elbows.’ Jill would give a droll imitation of Fraeulein, and end with a groan.
’What does she know-about Schiller? She cannot even comprehend him. She is dense,—utterly dense and stupid; but because she knows her own language and has a correct deportment she is fit to teach me.’ And Jill ground her little white teeth in impotent wrath. Jill always appeared to me like an infant Pegasus in harness; she wanted to soar,—to make use of her wings,—and they kept her down. She was not naturally gay, like Sara, though her health was good, and she was as powerful as a young Amazon. Her nature was more sombre and took colour from her surroundings.
She was like a child in the sunshine; plenty of life and movement distracted her from interior broodings and made her joyous; when she was riding with the young ladies from Miss Dugald’s, she would be as merry as the others.