Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Miss Crump

To return to myself, things went on very much the same with me as well as I can remember. I was very unhappy, very ill-managed, and very naughty. At Brighton I used to be taken out walking on the parade with my hands tied behind me, terrified out of my wits by Miss Nicholson's declaring it was ten to one we should meet a policeman. At home my usual punishment was being put for a time into a large, deep, old-fashioned bath that was in one corner of the schoolroom, before which hung curtains, so that I was partially in the dark. I was continually put between the doors and often whipped. Still, I had a sort of affection for Miss N., for when I heard she was going I spoke with dismay of a " nasty new governess." I suppose I was afraid of falling out of the frying-pan into the fire. I remember blurting out before Miss Nicholson at dinner, appealing to Mamma : " Miss Nicholson's going to be married, isn't she ? " I was instantly squashed, and can only hope she didn't hear, for such was the cause of her departure. It blew up, however, and she went to Australia to be governess in the family of the Bishop of Tasmania. Leonie was succeeded by Amelie Jacquard, a very nice Swiss girl, who remained some time with us. . .

Miss Nicholson was succeeded by a pretty, gentle, little lady with the unfortunate name of Miss Crump, who came to Hagley in October 1848. By that time there were six of us, Georgie being the youngest. I well remember her arrival. We were sitting on our high chairs sewing, and in an agony of shyness, when she walked into the room, with a pleasant smile. I remember how very short I thought her arm was at tea, after tall Miss Nicholson's, which could reach everything on the table.

Palmy days now dawned upon me in the way of in¬dulgence at lessons, etc. The next morning Miss Crump completely won my heart by her leniency over the first lesson I repeated to her. But Miss N.'s rod of iron was better than Miss Crump's broken reed of government. We had quite our own way with her, for she soon grew passionately fond of us and let us get the upper hand. The only punishment she ever dreamt of inflicting was setting us lines of poetry to learn by heart, and these we never thought of doing unless she kept us up to it, really never thinking of the deceit of such conduct. We " shirked " duties, and became untruthful, disobedient, and self-conceited. Nevertheless we were very fond of her, and I believe sinned more from thoughtlessness than from deliberate intention, for I know I was by no means devoid of serious thoughts of religion and being very good, and I find in an old letter of Meriel's that we had talks with Miss Crump about our faults. But we were not much the better practically for all that, and I must say, as I think of my conduct then, I feel inclined to hate myself. For many things there was no excuse, for Mamma had taught us our Bible when we were very little, and Papa as we grew older ; and we had them always to help us by their example as well as training. I remember complacently setting myself down as unselfish because I let Mamma take some little trifle of mine to give as a present, without being cross, and I was certainly happy in the conviction. I did not think of my greediness and deceit, my nasty temper with the others, and all the other faults which spring from selfishness.

I had a severe conscience prick once, however, in spite of my general self-satisfaction. For a long time I had been in the habit of going from my lessons on some pretext, for the mere purpose of dawdling about on the stairs. This I one day confessed with deep repentance, and I rather think I became more scrupulous. . . .

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