“Charlotte Ann Wood,” said Miss Darley; “writes very pretty poems.”
“Oh!—And the pink one, three seats from her? Looks bright; anything in her?”
“Emma Dean,—day-scholar,—Squire Dean’s daughter,—nice girl,—second medal last year.”
The master asked these two questions in a careless kind of way, and did not seem to pay any too much attention to the answers.
“And who and what is that,” he said,—“sitting a little apart there,—that strange, wild-looking girl?”
This time he put the real question he wanted answered;—the other two were asked at random, as masks for the third.
The lady-teacher’s face changed;—one would have said she was frightened or troubled. She looked at the girl doubtfully, as if she might hear the master’s question and its answer. But the girl did not look up;—she was winding a gold chain about her wrist, and then uncoiling it, as if in a kind of reverie.
Miss Darley drew close to the master and placed her hand so as to hide her lips. “Don’t look at her as if we were talking about her,” she whispered softly; “that is Elsie Venner.”
An old-fashioned descriptive chapter.
It was a comfort to get to a place with something like society, with residences which had pretensions to elegance, with people of some breeding, with a newspaper, and “stores” to advertise in it, and with two or three churches to keep each other alive by wholesome agitation. Rockland was such a place.
Some of the natural features of the town have been described already. The Mountain, of course, was what gave it its character, and redeemed it from wearing the commonplace expression which belongs to ordinary country-villages. Beautiful, wild, invested with the mystery which belongs to untrodden spaces, and with enough of terror to give it dignity, it had yet closer relations with the town over which it brooded than the passing stranger knew of. Thus, it made a local climate by cutting off the northern winds and holding the sun’s heat like a garden-wall. Peachtrees, which, on the northern side of the mountain, hardly ever came to fruit, ripened abundant crops in Rockland.
But there was still another relation between the mountain and the town at its foot, which strangers were not likely to hear alluded to, and which was oftener thought of than spoken of by its inhabitants. Those high-impending forests,—“hangers,” as White of Selborne would have called them,—sloping far upward and backward into the distance, had always an air of menace blended with their wild beauty. It seemed as if some heaven-scaling Titan had thrown his shaggy robe over the bare, precipitous flanks of the rocky summit, and it might at any moment slide like a garment flung carelessly on the nearest chance-support, and, so sliding, crush the village out of being, as the Rossberg when it tumbled over on the valley of Goldau.