THE WRONG WOMAN IN THE WRONG PLACE.
Give me again my hollow tree,
My crust of bread, and liberty.
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse—Pope.
The new cook’s first compliment to Charlotte was, ’Upon my word, you are a genteel young woman, I dare say you have a lot of sweethearts.’
The indignant denial of the Lady of Eschalott was construed into her being ‘sly,’ and Mrs. Cook promised herself to find her out.
Those were not happy days with the little maiden. The nurse looked down on her, and the cook filled the kitchen with idlers, whose looks and speeches were abhorrent to her. Sometimes the woman took offence at her for being high; at others, she forced on her advice upon her dress, or tried to draw out confidences either on lovers or the affairs of the family. Charlotte was sadly forlorn, and shut herself up in her pantry, or in her own little attic with Jane’s verbenas which cook had banished from the kitchen, and lost her sorrows in books hired at the library. She read, and dreamt, created leisure for reading, lived in a trance, and awoke from it to see her work neglected, reproach herself, and strain her powers to make up for what was left undone. Then, finding her efforts failing, she would be distressed and melancholy, until a fresh novel engrossed her for a time, and the whole scene was enacted over again.
Still, it was not all idleness nor lost ground. The sense of responsibility was doing her good, she withstood the cook’s follies, and magnanimously returned unopened a shining envelope of Mr. Delaford’s. At Christmas, when Mr. and Mrs. Frost went to pay a visit at Beauchastel, and the cook enjoyed a course of gaieties, the only use she made of her liberty was to drink tea once with Mrs. Martha, and to walk over to Marksedge to see old Madison, who was fast breaking, and who dictated to her his last messages to his grandson.
James and Isabel spent a pleasant lively Christmas with their hospitable old friends, and James returned full of fresh vigour and new projects. His first was to offer his assistance to the Vicar, so as to have a third service on the Sunday; but there were differences of opinion between them, and his proposal was received so ungraciously, that a coolness arose, which cut him off from many openings for usefulness.
However, he had enough to occupy him in his own department, the school. He was astonished at his boys’ deficiency in religious instruction, and started a plan for collecting them for some teaching for an hour before morning service. Mr. Calcott agreed with him that nothing could be more desirable, but doubted whether the parents would compel their sons to attend, and advised James to count the cost, doubting whether, in the long run, he would be able to dispense with one day of entire rest. This was the more to be considered, since James expended a wonderful amount of energy in his teaching, did his utmost to force the boys on, in class and in private, drilled his usher, joined in the games, and gave evening lectures on subjects of general information.