This account of twenty-four hours will stand for the whole of that first week of Bessie’s exile. Only the walks of an afternoon were varied. In company with dull, neuralgic Miss Foster the two pupils visited the famous stone-quarries above the town, out of which so many grand churches have been built; they compassed the shaded Cours; they investigated the museum, and Bessie was introduced to the pretty portrait of Charlotte Corday, in a simple cross-over white gown, a blue sash and mob-cap. Afterward she was made acquainted with a lady of royalist partialities, whose mother had actually known the heroine, and had lived through the terrible days of the Terror. Her tradition was that the portrait of Charlotte was imaginary, and, as to her beauty, delusive, and that the tragical young lady’s moving passion was a passion for notoriety. Bessie wondered and doubted, and began to think history a most interesting study.
For another “treat,” as Janey Fricker called it, they went on the Sunday to drink tea with Miss Foster at her mother’s. Mrs. Foster was a widow with ideas of gentility in poverty. She was a chirping, bird-like little woman, and lived in a room as trellised as a bird-cage. The house was on the site of the old ramparts, and the garden sloped to the fosse. A magnolia blossomed in it, and delicious pears, of the sort called “Bon chretiens,” ripened on gnarled trees. This week was, in fact, a beautiful little prelude to school life, if Bessie had but known it. But her appreciation of its simple pleasures came later, when they were for ever past. She remembered then, with a sort of remorse, laughing at Janey’s notion of a “treat.” Everything goes by comparison. At this time Bessie had no experience of what it is to live by inelastic rule and rote, to be ailing and unhappy, alone in a crowd and neglected. Janey believed in Mrs. Foster’s sun-baked little garden as a veritable pattern of Eden, but Bessie knew the Forest, she knew Fairfield, and almost despised that mingled patch of beauty and usefulness, of sweet odors and onions, for Mrs. Foster grew potherbs and vegetables amongst her flowers.
Thus Bessie’s first week of exile got over, and except for a sense of being hungry now and then, she did not find herself so very miserable after all.
SCHOOL-DAYS AT CAEN.
One morning Bessie Fairfax rose to a new sensation. “To-day the classes open, and there is an end of treats,” cried Janey Fricker with a despairing resignation. “You will soon see the day-scholars, and by degrees the boarders will arrive. Madame was to come late last night, and the next news will be of Miss Hiloe. Perhaps they will appear to-morrow. Heigh-ho!”