« 上一页继续 »
her existence was removed, soon found some small ones to put in its place.
A week or so before the departure to the new home, two new dresses arrived as a present for Pen. "It's very kind of Mr. Bertram to send me these so soon," thought Pen. "It would have been disagreeable to have to wear my old things after we get to Ivy House. The other things I want I suppose will come afterwards."
Pen's notions were very grand, and had grown very much grander since she had been obliged to keep them so much in check. She did not care to wear anything that she considered at all shabby, which, she foolishly imagined, made people think they were poor, in Pen's eyes a great humiliation. Now although Mr. Bertram was quite willing that she should have all that her mother deemed necessary, he was extremely anxious that she should be trained to be careful, and considerate, for an extravagant, vain girl was what he very much disliked.
Pen finding Mr. Bertram very kind, and supposing that he was rich, had believed that she needed only to ask to have. She was, therefore, not a little disappointed and annoyed to find that she was not to be allowed to use her own judgment in the matter at all, that the clothing provided for her was plain and useful, but not of the smart stylish description that some of her schoolfellows displayed-much to her admiration and envy. She had thought she should be able to compete with and perhaps outshine them, and she was wofully disappointed, considering herself very unkindly treated, and resenting it accordingly.
Mrs. Manners, the principal of the school, unconsciously fostered this feeling. She was a kindhearted, but not a very discriminating woman. Pen was somewhat of a favourite, and was often allowed to go into Mrs. Manners' private sittingroom, to prepare a difficult lesson, or render some little assistance to Mrs. Manners herself. On these occasions Mrs. Manners would often talk to Pen very pleasantly and agreeably, and it naturally happened that she asked her how she liked her new home.
"Pretty well," Pen replied. "It is much nicer than before."
"I thought probably you would have been taking masters this term,or at any rate joined the dancing,” Mrs. Manners remarked.
"I think it was because the term had begun," Pen replied. "I heard mamma saying that it would be a pity to join after the term had commenced, as I should lose some of the lessons."
"I should not have thought that would have mattered," Mrs. Manners said to her suggestively.
"I shouldn't either," said Pen, who was very much afraid of being thought mean, "but that's Mr. Bertram's way."
"Some people are so," Mrs. Manners returned. "Of course, they are quite right to do as they think best."
"But I am sure Mrs. Manners thought he was very mean," Pen said to herself, "and so he is, or he would have let me have one of those pretty new bonnets that suit me So. Lots of girls have hats and bonnets too."
"Do you know, Pen, what I heard Mrs. Manners say the other day," one of the girls said to her. "She was talking in French to mademoiselle, but I understood her. She said you didn't dress so much better, as she had expected you would, which surprised her, for she understood that Mr. Bertram was very weli off."
"I don't believe she said anything of the sort," Pen cried indignantly, but the words rankled in her mind nevertheless. Of course the girl had exaggerated Mrs. Manners' remarks, which were that Pen's parents were bringing her up very carefully, and though she believed Mr. Bertram was very well off, she was always neatly and carefully dressed, but nothing more.
Thus Pen found that she was still to have some annoyances and vexations in her life, whereas she had imagined that when the struggle with narrow means was ended, every trouble would vanish. In some ways she considered she was worse off now than before, for formerly when she grumbled and was miserable her mother would sympathise with and console, her, but now her mother would not see that she had any cause for complaint, but was always telling her how extremely grateful she ought to be.
"That's all very well," grumbled Pen to herself. "Of course mamma joins in with everything Mr. Bertram approves, even when it is against me. It isn't the same thing at all as having one's own father."
So Pen got into the way of separating herself in thought from those who really had her welfare most deeply at heart, as young people often do, resisting every effort made in her behalf because they did not commend themselves to her fancy. Of course trouble came of it, as it always must.
Pen did not find that she got on so much better with her schoolfellows as she had expected, and for this she owed Mr. and Mrs. Bertram a grudge. It was her plain dresses, her meagre allowance of pocket-money, anything and everything but her own fault.
So the girl got into a somewhat melancholy, miserable way of being always alone-separate
from her schoolfellows, separate from her home folk-and this continual moping had a bad effect upon her studies. Now and then she could rouse herself and work extremely well, displaying great ability and pleasing all her teachers; but more often than not she would come to her lessons in an apathetic, nonchalant sort of way, as if it were no matter whether she did them or not, and then naturally they were ill done.
She was preparing for a drawing-lesson one day, when she found she had forgotten to bring her pencils to school. "Have you a pencil you can lend me?" she asked of her next companion.
"Where are your own-you always forget to give things back, Pen," the girl replied, hesitatingly.
"You have a case full," returned Pen crossly, "so even if you did take one home and leave it behind, you'd still have plenty. I am only allowed one of each sort at a time."
"Well, if you want more why don't you buy them out of your pocket-money?" the other girl asked, innocently enough, but Pen, thinking this was a hint at her small allowance, put on an offended face and turned away to another girl.
"I have only one to spare," little Ella on the other side replied. "It's rather fine. Will it do?"
It must," Pen replied, ungraciously.
"Mr. Hardy won't allow you to use that!" exclaimed one of the girls opposite. "It's only fit for drawing cobwebs."
"Then I'd better draw cobwebs," replied Pen, carelessly.
"There's one just by the window-a beauty— look at the sun shining on it!" cried little Ella, whereupon all the girls tittered.
Pen was in a perverse mood, and because the girls tittered she determined to draw the cobweb. Very deliberately she folded a small piece of paper and began sketching, looking backwards from the suspended cobweb to the paper, with the air of a great artist. All the girls sat watching her movements curiously.
The cobweb was, as Ella had said, an unusually perfect one. In a few minutes Pen had sketched it in with sure delicate touches of a very fine pencil, and passed it round, listening with a sort of careless indifference to the various remarks passed upon her work.
"I don't like it being in the middle of the paper," said one of the girls, folding back the margin all round. "Wouldn't it be a good idea for a Christmas card like that? See, it looks now as if it were hung from the corners of the card. Anybody could draw it, you know. I shall do one for a card."
Just at this moment the drawing-master entered,
"Pen Giffard,” replied several voices.
"Very well, Miss Pen," he added. "I hope you will do as well at your lesson as you can do away from it."
Pen was much relieved. She had expected at least a bad mark for spoiling her pencil before the lesson began.
After the afternoon's work, the master went into an unoccupied class-room for a cup of tea; Pen, having occasion to fetch a book, came suddenly upon Mr. Hardy, showing her cobweb to Mrs. Manners.
"There is a great deal of taste in the way it is hung across the paper," he was saying. "To seize upon a cobweb and make a picture of it is to my mind a flash of genius-which, you know, picks up what lies at its feet."
"Hush!" Mrs. Manners signed, perceiving that Pen was standing in the doorway enraptured.
"It wasn't lying at my feet, it was hanging near the window," said Pen, too delighted to refrain from joining in.
"Ah, that is metaphorical," exclaimed the master, which as Pen did not understand, she took for additional praise.'
"It is not only the choice of a cobweb," Mr. Hardy continued, when Pen had gone again, "but the way it is put on the paper, the folding back of the margin-all shows the appreciation of effect in a high degree. Yet I have never observed that Miss Giffard had this great appreciation before. Her work is good, but nothing extraordinary. I shall watch her progress with interest."
In the meantime, Pen had gone home highly elated. "Poor old grandpapa said I was a genius, I remember," she said to herself. He said I was very clever, but I wonder what they mean by being a genius. I don't quite understand that."
"What is the meaning of genius ?” she asked one day of Mr. Bertram.
"Well, that is a very difficult question to answer, Pen," he replied, "because different people give different meanings to the word. A genius, I suppose, is a person who can do some one thing much better than other people."
"Oh, yes, I think that must be it," Pen replied, contentedly.
A day or two afterwards she asked Mrs. Manners the same question; and this was her explanation :--
a passing envy, and Mrs. Bertram, who was accustomed to hear plenty of grumbling, began to con
"Well," said that lady, "when a person can do a thing without any trouble, when it comes naturally as it were, he is called a genius-gratulate herself with the thought that Pen was
and a genius can do a thing better without teaching than a dull person can after years of training."
"Better and better," thought Pen. "It must be very nice to be a genius and do things without any trouble. It is a grand thing to be a genius, I suppose," she added aloud.
'Oh, yes es!" replied Mrs. Manners. "All the world runs after genius when it is once discovered, though generally it is hidden for years, and only discovered suddenly. Some of the greatest geniuses have lived obscurely, and been very poor, no one suspecting that they were different from those around them, and then, all of a sudden, they have done some clever thing that surprised people, and grown famous, and rich, and run after in no time. Some writer says genius hides itself in obscure places."
"I suppose," said Pen, "that genius is born in people?"
“Oh, yes,” Mrs. Manners replied; "there is no doubt about that. A genius does a thing as it were by nature, just the same as you or I walk, or talk, or eat."
Both Pen and Mrs. Manners had forgotten that two, at least, of these accomplishments have to be acquired with patience and much difficulty.
However, Pen had learnt enough to please her. The possession of genius was the most enviable thing in the world. Those who had it were rich, famous, happy, highly esteemed, and everything that was desirable-a life of roses-for there was nothing to be done. No hard dreary drudgery; genius supplied all that. The genius, whatever it was, came of itself. Pen had twice been called a genius, and surely there must be some truth in what two different people had said. She had only to wait patiently, she thought.
CHAPTER III.—AN INJUDICIOUS FRIEND.
EN had always been fond of reading, but recently she had developed a perfect passion for it; and what was more strange was that Mr. Bertram found his shelves denuded of his best authors-works that few girls of Pen's age would favour; yet it was always Pen who had borrowed them.
Pen had taken up a new idea, and was vastly interested in it--so much so, that she quite forgot to fret about her plain dresses and many restrictions. Rosa Bell's new silver bracelets, and Edith Morrison's splendid white feather, only filled her with
really beginning to see the wisdom of submitting to the opinion of those who considered such matters not only unnecessary, but even harmful.
But Pen, although in a new fashion, was still self-absorbed. She was devouring her stepfather's books to find out all she could about genius and geniuses. She found a great deal she could not understand, some little that did not please her, and a fair proportion that fell in with her own ideas.
Many men and women of genius she found had been poor and unnoticed in their youth, dressing shabbily, and even enduring real privations. Pen looked upon her hardships in the matter of luxuries as part and parcel of her genius-ship, and she was not always sure whether she ought not to have even greater hardships; however, she had had a time of real privation, and she consoled herself with the reflection that it might not be necessary to have continued poverty. One thing rather exercised her mind. There seemed to be a general opinion in the books she read that the poverty and hardships of their lives had a great deal to do with producing the genius. How that could be Pen could not quite see, but if there were any truth in it, it was a very disagreeable fact, and Pen was almost divided in her mind as to whether she would not rather have a comfortable easy life than be a genius. Pen was not singular in being blind to her own motives and thoughts. After all, it was the craving for ease and indulgence that was at the bottom of her desire to be great and rich; and if Pen could only have known it, no greater proof was needed to show that genius was not in her.
However, Pen was certainly unconscious of that fact, nor would she have believed it if it had been most clearly proved to her. There is no convincing a person against their will, and Miss Pen carefully ignored, or failed to comprehend anything that ran counter to her notions. She took great care to note that Addison had said the productions of a genius, however full of faults, were preferable to the most careful work of an inferior mind—at least, that was the way she read it. Somewhere else she read that genius was an aptitude received from nature for excelling in any one thing; and this sentence she learned by heart, as well as several others.
What direction Pen's genius was to take she had not herself decided yet. It appeared that people might possess genius and be quite unconscious of it, so this did not trouble her.
Mr. Hardy watching Pen's progress in drawing, was a little disappointed. She certainly displayed
The grand idea had not had time to die a natural death when fresh misfortunes fell upon her home-folk. Mr. Bertram was taken very ill, and lay for some time between life and death. Pen was grieved both for his sake and her mother's. Mr.
Bertram had shown her much kindness, and now that there was the possibility of losing him, Pen began to see how much they all owed to him. To go back to the old life he had taken them from seemed to be the most miserable of ideas. Apart from this, Pen was really deeply sorry to see him reduced in a few short weeks to a mere shadow of his former self, unable to enjoy any of the pleasures of life, and cooped up, week after week, in the same
room-a kind of ordeal that Pen was quite sure she would not have been able to bear half so patiently as he did.,
Mr. Bertram so far recovered as to be able to sit up in an invalid chair, but beyond this he seemed to make no progress, and Pen saw that he was very anxious about himself, and that always after the doctor's visit both he and Mrs. Bertram seemed for a time downcast.
Both seemed to have some secret burden, for Pen remarked that though they were generally cheerful when together, each seemed depressed and anxious when she happened to see them alone.
"What makes you look so dull, mamma?" Pen asked one evening. "Mr. Bertram is much better than he was a month ago."
"But no better than he was three weeks ago," Mrs. Bertram replied. He just turned the corner, and there he has stayed. I am very full of anxiety, Pen."
"I think you always did take things rather hard," Pen replied. "Of course he must go on getting better. No one ever heard of a person beginning to recover and sticking half-way!"
"If what I fear is the matter, there will be no real recovery," Mrs. Bertram replied sadly; "but I hope I may be mistaken. Dr. Longhurst is coming from town to-day; we may know more then."
"I am sure mamma goes half-way to meet trouble," thought Pen, as she strapped up her school-books and put on her hat. "She is one of those amiable, nervous people. I am sure when she married Mr. Bertram she looked more as if she were going to be hanged. Yet she has been happy enough."
In this light way Pen endeavoured to dismiss the subject from her mind. Once or twice during the morning, however, she remembered Mrs. Bertram's words, and then she wondered what Dr. Longhurst would say.
At the end of the morning, Mrs. Manners sent for her to come to her private room. "How is Mr. Bertram," she asked. "And is it quite decided that they will leave England?"
"Leave England?" asked Pen, in blank astonish
"Haven't they told you? I wonder at that," said Mrs. Manners kindly, "especially as it so deeply concerns you."
"Mamma hasn't mentioned a word to me. How unkind of her!" cried Pen, indignantly.
"I ought not to have mentioned it either, perhaps," Mrs. Manners continued, "but now I have hinted at it, there is no object in keeping it
a secret. I think, though, you had better not speak of it to any one else, or say that you heard it from me. Of course, had I supposed you did not know, I should have been more discreet."
"I don't think it can ever have been seriously thought of, or they would certainly have told me," returned Pen, who did not at all like the appearance of having been so completely ignored.
"It was seriously thought of, I know," said Mrs. Manners, "for Mrs. Bertram spoke to me of the possibility of removing you at the end of the term. I urged upon her the advisability of leaving you here, but she did not seem at all to like the idea. I suppose you are very useful at home with little Willie, who, Mrs. Bertram tells me, is so delicate, and requires so much amusing. No doubt Mrs. Bertram would require your help with him on the voyage, as Mr. Bertram is such an invalid, but it is hard upon you, at your age, to be carried away from all educational advantages, and have to give up your time to a child who, after all, is not your own brother."
Pen began to feel herself a bitterly-injured individual. Mrs. Manners had unconsciously brought before her eyes a most desolate picture of a faraway uncivilised land, where she could only sink into a domestic drudge, have no companions but her little brother, no occupation but to amuse him, no opportunity of doing or seeing anything that she cared about.
"I would willingly have kept you here," said Mrs. Manners kindly. "I have always taken a great interest in you, and I do think it hard for you to leave me now after all this time."
"You are very kind," said Pen gratefully, feeling more than ever that it must be a hard fate Mrs. Manners was so anxious to save her from.
"Well, your case is not an ordinary one," Mrs. Manners continued. "I never before heard of a child having both a stepmother and a stepfather, and this has given me a special interest in you."
Words-words-words-how much or how little they may mean. Mrs. Manners meant nothing more than to tell Pen that she felt a friendly interest in her, yet she opened a whole flood of thought, which was to lead Pen no one knows whither. It was a positive fact that Pen had never before thought of herself in the light of an orphan, or of her kind young stepmother as any other than a real parent. But from this hour all that was changed. The fact had been borne in upon her mind that she had no real kith and kin, and with the revelation came a change in all her sentiments towards those who had so cherished her.
(To be continued.)