Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers
There was now visible a house or houses-for the building spread
far-with many windows, and lights burning in some; we went up
a broad pebbly path, splashing wet, and were admitted at a door;
then the servant led me through a passage into a room with a fire,
where she left me alone.
I stood and warmed my numbed fingers over the blaze, then I
looked round; there was no candle, but the uncertain light from the
hearth showed, by intervals, papered walls, carpet, curtains,
shining mahogany furniture: it was a parlour, not so spacious or
splendid as the drawing-room at Gateshead, but comfortable
enough. I was puzzling to make out the subject of a picture on the
wall, when the door opened, and an individual carrying a light
entered; another followed close behind.
The first was a tall lady with dark hair, dark eyes, and a pale and
large forehead; her figure was partly enveloped in a shawl, her
countenance was grave, her bearing erect.
‘The child is very young to be sent alone,’ said she, putting her
candle down on the table. She considered me attentively for a
minute or two, then further added‘She had better be put to bed
soon; she looks tired: are you tired?’ she asked, placing her hand
on my shoulder.
‘A little, ma’am.’ ‘And hungry too, no doubt: let her have some
supper before she goes to bed, Miss Miller. Is this the first time you
have left your parents to come to school, my little girl?’ I explained
to her that I had no parents. She inquired how long they had been
dead: then how old I was, what was my name, whether I could
read, write, and sew a little: then she touched my cheek gently
with her forefinger, and saying, ‘She hoped I should be a good
child,’ dismissed me along with Miss Miller.
The lady I had left might be about twenty-nine; the one who went
with me appeared some years younger: the first impressed me by
her voice, look, and air.
Miss Miller was more ordinary; ruddy in complexion, though of a
careworn countenance; hurried in gait and action, like one who
had always a multiplicity of tasks on hand: she looked, indeed,
what I afterwards found she really was, an under-teacher. Led by
her, I passed from compartment to compartment, from passage to
passage, of a large and irregular building; till, emerging from the
total and somewhat dreary silence pervading that portion of the
house we had traversed, we came upon the hum of many voices,
and presently entered a wide, long room, with great deal tables,
two at each end, on each of which burnt a pair of candles, and
seated all round on benches, a congregation of girls of every age,
from nine or ten to twenty. Seen by the dim light of the dips, their