Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers
with which our hostess regarded us, as we satisfied our famished
appetites on the delicate fare she liberally supplied.
Tea over and the tray removed, she again summoned us to the fire;
we sat one on each side of her, and now a conversation followed
between her and Helen, which it was indeed a privilege to be
admitted to hear.
Miss Temple had always something of serenity in her air, of state
in her mien, of refined propriety in her language, which precluded
deviation into the ardent, the excited, the eager: something which
chastened the pleasure of those who looked on her and listened to
her, by a controlling sense of awe; and such was my feeling now:
but as to Helen Burns, I was struck with wonder.
The refreshing meal, the brilliant fire, the presence and kindness of
her beloved instructress, or, perhaps, more than all these,
something in her own unique mind, had roused her powers within
her. They woke, they kindled: first, they glowed in the bright tint
of her cheek, which till this hour I had never seen but pale and
bloodless; then they shone in the liquid lustre of her eyes, which
had suddenly acquired a beauty more singular than that of Miss
Temple’s-a beauty neither of fine colour nor long eyelash, nor
pencilled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance. Then
her soul sat on her lips, and language flowed, from what source I
cannot tell. Has a girl of fourteen a heart large enough, vigorous
enough, to hold the swelling spring of pure, full, fervid eloquence?
Such was the characteristic of Helen’s discourse on that, to me,
memorable evening; her spirit seemed hastening to live within a
very brief span as much as many live during a protracted existence.
They conversed of things I had never heard of; of nations and times
past; of countries far away; of secrets of nature discovered or
guessed at: they spoke of books: how many they had read! What
stores of knowledge they possessed! Then they seemed so familiar
with French names and French authors: but my amazement
reached its climax when Miss Temple asked Helen if she
sometimes snatched a moment to recall the Latin her father had
taught her, and taking a book from a shelf, bade her read and
construe a page of Virgil; and Helen obeyed, my organ of
veneration expanding at every sounding line. She had scarcely
finished ere the bell announced bedtime! no delay could be
admitted; Miss Temple embraced us both, saying, as she drew us
to her heart‘God bless you, my children!’ Helen she held a little
longer than me: she let her go more reluctantly; it was Helen her
eye followed to the door; it was for her she a second time breathed
a sad sigh; for her she wiped a tear from her cheek.