Miss Ophelia busied herself very earnestly on Sundays, teaching Topsy the catechism. Topsy had an uncommon verbal memory, and committed with a fluency that greatly encouraged her instructress.
“What good do you expect it is going to do her?” said St. Clare.
“Why, it always has done children good. It’s what children always have to learn, you know,” said Miss Ophelia.
“Understand it or not,” said St. Clare.
“O, children never understand it at the time; but, after they are grown up, it’ll come to them.”
“Mine hasn’t come to me yet,” said St. Clare, “though I’ll bear testimony that you put it into me pretty thoroughly when I was a boy."’
“Ah, you were always good at learning, Augustine. I used to have great hopes of you,” said Miss Ophelia.
“Well, haven’t you now?” said St. Clare.
“I wish you were as good as you were when you were a boy, Augustine.”
“So do I, that’s a fact, Cousin,” said St. Clare. “Well, go ahead and catechize Topsy; may be you’ll make out something yet.”
Topsy, who had stood like a black statue during this discussion, with hands decently folded, now, at a signal from Miss Ophelia, went on:
“Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the state wherein they were created.”
Topsy’s eyes twinkled, and she looked inquiringly.
“What is it, Topsy?” said Miss Ophelia.
“Please, Missis, was dat ar state Kintuck?”
“What state, Topsy?”
“Dat state dey fell out of. I used to hear Mas’r tell how we came down from Kintuck.”
St. Clare laughed.
“You’ll have to give her a meaning, or she’ll make one,” said he. “There seems to be a theory of emigration suggested there.”
“O! Augustine, be still,” said Miss Ophelia; “how can I do anything, if you will be laughing?”
“Well, I won’t disturb the exercises again, on my honor;” and St. Clare took his paper into the parlor, and sat down, till Topsy had finished her recitations. They were all very well, only that now and then she would oddly transpose some important words, and persist in the mistake, in spite of every effort to the contrary; and St. Clare, after all his promises of goodness, took a wicked pleasure in these mistakes, calling Topsy to him whenever he had a mind to amuse himself, and getting her to repeat the offending passages, in spite of Miss Ophelia’s remonstrances.
“How do you think I can do anything with the child, if you will go on so, Augustine?” she would say.
“Well, it is too bad,—I won’t again; but I do like to hear the droll little image stumble over those big words!”
“But you confirm her in the wrong way.”
“What’s the odds? One word is as good as another to her.”
“You wanted me to bring her up right; and you ought to remember she is a reasonable creature, and be careful of your influence over her.”