Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Miss Pearson

In 1851 Miss Crump left us. She was quite inconsolable, and cried abundantly. We were very sorry, for we were fond of the gentle, affectionate little woman, though we used to wrangle and argue with her ; but it was high time that we should have a sterner hand over us. And this we certainly got in Miss Pearson. She was a woman of stern and upright mind, with a high and stern standard of duty, and little pity for those who did not reach it. Truth and openness were the first of human virtues with her. She had no mercy upon the equivocating habits that had grown upon us, and punished them relentlessly. She quickly won our affection, though it was ever greatly mixed with fear, and her influence over me was such that, though I knew her hatred of what was sly, I confessed many things to her, choosing rather to face her bitter indignation —for she would not allow that confession palliated the fault—than to have anything on my mind in the presence of her clear and unshrinking openness. Her character was indeed a noble one, though too stern ; and it was well for me to have my faults exposed to me with 1 an unsparing hand, though it cost me many times of almost despairing tears, and a good deal of bitter repentance.

If we had not had Mamma, perhaps Miss Pearson's management would not have answered as it did ; but there was no fear of our getting cowed and spirit-broken while we had that gentle and loving care always over us, though she interfered little directly between us and our governess. It was not long before Miss Pearson clung to Mamma with the whole affection of her earnest mind, and there is no one who so appreciates the exceeding beauty and perfection of Mamma's character as she does. Thus we were indeed blest, and gradually we learnt to aim at a higher standard, and to strive more earnestly against our faults. As I grew older, I trust I overcame the habit of untruthful¬ness, which, in fact, never came natural to me.

As to lessons, we did them in a peculiar way. Miss Pearson had wretched health and was often laid up ; moreover she was no advocate for great regularity, so we became very independent ; often heard each other our lessons, and wrote exercises and worked sums a good deal alone, and pretty much when we liked. But there was no more " shirking " now. Holidays were very rare, and it was seldom we were let off a lesson. I have often worked till bedtime, and always after tea, finishing what had been left undone. We learnt a good deal, for all we did was useful. I have mentioned my love of poetry ; it was very great. When I was quite little Mamma taught me several of the Hymns for little Children, and it used to be a great delight to me. The last of all, " So be it, Lord ; the prayers are prayed," I used to think nothing could come up to ; and to this day the beautiful little hymn has a particular charm to me. With Miss Pearson I learnt a good deal of poetry ; the " Christian Year," bits of Shakespeare and Milton, and long things out of a book of collections. . . .

We got daily fonder of Miss Pearson, and I believe improved in all essentials under her sway. We were both inclined to argue and answer again, but she squashed us at once, and it was gradually left off. At twelve years old I was a heedless tomboy of a child, the worry of the servants, and the ruthless destroyer of frocks. Nevertheless I had a curious mixture of religious feeling and poetical fancies. I wrote verses, and was fond of quotations in my letters, had plenty of warm-heartedness, and was quickly roused or touched. I'm afraid I was a sad handful to Miss Pearson, what with my carelessness and forgetfulness, and the underhand ways that cost me many tears, and her so many headaches, but which at length were, I trust, quite got rid of.

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