“Why, to be sure, James,” the old woman answered, in a moderate voice, “I can’t say that I do; but I have lived almost through my threescore years and ten, and I have never heard of gooseberries growing on a thorn.”
“Haven’t you, though?” said James; “but then I have, or something pretty much like it; for I saw the gardener, over yonder, cutting off the head of a young pear-tree, and he told me he was going to make it bear apples.”
“Well,” said the mother, seemingly reconciled, “I know nothing of your new-fangled ways. I only know it was the finest thorn in the parish; but, to be sure, now they are more match-like and regular.”
I left a story half told. This may seem to be another, but it is in fact the same. James, in the Sussex-lane, and my friends in Montague-square, were engaged in the same task, and the result of the one would pretty fairly measure the successes of the other; both were contravening the order of nature, and pursuing their own purpose, without consulting the appointments of Providence.
Fanny was a girl of common understanding; such indeed as suitable cultivation might have matured into simple good sense; but from which her parents’ scheme of education could produce nothing but pretension that could not be supported, and an affectation of what could never be attained. Conscious of the want of all perceptible talent in her child, Mrs. A. from the first told the stories of talent opening late, and the untimely blighting of premature intellect; and, to the last, maintained the omnipotence of cultivation.
On every new proof of the smallness of her mind, another science was added to enlarge it. Languages, dead and living, were to be to her the keys of knowledge; but they unlocked nothing to Fanny but their own grammars and vocabularies, which she learned assiduously, without so much as wondering what they meant. The more dull she proved, the more earnestly she was plied. She was sent to school to try the spur of emulation; and brought home again for the advantage of more exclusive attention. And, as still the progress lagged, all feminine employ and childlike recreations were prohibited, to gain more time for study. It cannot be said that Fannny’s health was injured by the over action of her mind; for, having none, it could not be easily acted upon; but, by perpetual dronish application, and sacrifice of all external things for the furtherance of this scheme of mental cultivation, her physical energies were suppressed, and she became heavy, awkward, and inactive.
Fanny had no pleasure in reading, but she had a pride in having read; and listened, with no small satisfaction, to her mother’s detail of the authors she was conversant with; beyond her age, and, as some untalented ventured to suggest, not always suited to her years of innocence. The arcana of their pages were safe, however, and quite guiltless of her mind’s corruption. Fanny never thought, whatever she