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The Higher-Grade School II

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ONLY A GOVERNESS. I I invite people to my house precisely as I arrange bouquets, my dear," said Mrs John Grainger, suddenly looking up from the little ala- baster vase over which she had been busy for the last half hour. Some people always will insist on crowding themselves with celebrities-the lovely Miss This, the fascinating Mrs That, and distinguished So and So, like a bunch of tulips, with not so much as a leaf to tone them down, and then when the lions all get annoyed because they can't and won't admire each other-the lovely Miss This is pouting, and the distinguished So and So in sulks-dl3 poor little dis- appointed hostess doesn't know what to do. She has asked all the nicest people she knew, and she can't see why it is not pleasant. Now I ask my nobodies first, just as I arrange the epergne, so that the glories of the roses may shine forth more royally. First, my substantials-my wealthy papas, my useful and domestic young ladies, my quiet people, that fill up to the blanks and don't expect any extraordinary attention,and do the admiration' for two or three lions, who are sure to be gracious, and do their best, because they have plenty of room and admirers." Good laughed 1. Now, I know where I belong—among the quiet people that fill up the blanks and 'do the acimiration Eh, Mrs Grainger ?"' But not a whit disconcerted was that witty and wise little leader of fashion. My dear Miss Maxwell, how could you think such a thing ? I had hoped you would do me the justice to remember that some I asked out of pure selfishness, simply because they were my most valued friends." I hnped I received this somewhat sentimental avowal, aided as it was by a cambric handker- chief and a pair of expressive blue eyes, with a proper amount of innocence in my face; but in my heart I laughed. I had learned too long ago the estimation in which the world holds poor and plain old maids to be ruffled. If Mrs,Grainger invited me because she wished her son to marry the beauty and heiress, Belle Tarleton, and Belle would go nowhere without me, whom she had dubbed her little Mentor,that was Mrs Grainger, affair, not mine. I was there for my pleasure. I liked the old house, with its cool, wide halls and though it was so far from the beach that you could only hear, not see, the sea-I, who had no beaux, and was consequently not afraid of thick shoes or an unbecoming flush-could at any time wander off and feast my eyes on something as grey and restless as myself. Then, too, I loved Bella. Our friendship had existed since our school-days, when I, a member and an oracle of a senior class, had taken under the wings of my protection the shy, pale, awkward child who had ripened into that full, fair, stately brunette miracle of beauty—smooth-browed, large-eyed, indolently, faultlessly lovely, as she sat twisting the ends of her wrapper, with a look that I knew meant secret wrath and dis- content. And no wonder-for Arthur Grainger's con- duct was really unbearable. He had been as her shadow all the winter-his mother wished him to marry her. I was sure, and so he might have been, if he was not intolerably stupid, that Belle would not say nay. I have my own notions about men and matrimony, and am not prepared to say that a woman has arrived at the ne plus ultra of human happiness when she has achieved a husband but Belle loved him, and as Arthur Grainger was no worse and rather better than most men, I saw no reason why she should not have her toy. So there we were waiting expec- tant—I am not certain but manoeuvring also and the happy man without" rivals, a jealous young lady or an opposing mamma, sat by his beloved, talked, rode, and walked with her con- tinually, and let almost an entire season slip through his fingers without ever once proposing. It was too provoking. And I won't endure it," declared Bella, pas- sionately, to me. "Every one knows how matters are, and I actually appear to be waiting here till his lordship deigns to throw me the handkerchief. You needn't say a word, Belinda. I shall leave next Monday." Knowing the uselessness of all arguments, I did as I was told and said nothing. Not so Mrs Grainger. She expostulated with all the eloquence of which she was capable and finding Belle obdurate, lost no time in proclaiming the melancholy tidings—hoping, perhaps, to bring her son to his senses. He bad not, however, even the graca to start, and, whatever might have been his emotions, ate his meals with perfect calmness. "You see!" flashed Belle's eyes across the table to me. Mrs Grainger bit her lip and drank a cup of- coffee that done, she proposed our famous beach party-proposed, not discussed-she never did that others saved her the trouble. Ways and means were agitated over the coffee and toast till the important question, proving too lengthy to be settled within the limits of breakfast time, was carried into the drawing-room. We were to take provisions with us and spend the day. The matrons were to superintend the commissariat department; the younger ladies were to invent a style of dress which should be as becoming in the evening as on starting. "You and Miss Maxwell will ride with me, of course," said Arthur, who had been talking with much animation. My mother and the dowagers will take the carriage: Mr Galveston, I under- stand, takes the responsibility of the Misses Leigh Mr Hunter, Miss Manry the Messrs. Herbert, Mademoiselles Lloyd and Elliott, and-" That is all," said Mrs Grainger. Arthur's eyes wandered over to the bay window where the hem of a black skirt was just visible. "There is Miss Wood." There will be no room." "Why not?" My wagonette holds four, and I have only Miss Tarleton and Miss Maxwell. Why not let her go and take Valerie ? You keep that child too closely at her studies." Well, she migut sit with John on the box of the carriage, and I can hold Valerie, I suppose," hesitated Mrs Grainger, evidently surprised. There is no need of that. We have more than enough room in my waggonette," persisted Arthur. I looked straight at Belle, but she had not heard a word. She and Miss Elliott were talking over their dresses. As I turned away I caught sight of Miss Wood's pale face looking out from the curtains, and was absolutely electrified by its expression such powerful motion blazed in her eyes and trans- figured her face. Arthur saw it, too, and went hastily up to her. You will go?" he asked, with a look that Belle would have given her diamonds to receive. I could not catch her reply, it was so low and indistinct; but I saw vehement, almost angry de- nial written on her face. He bent his handsome head till his curls almost brushed her forehead. For my sake," I heard him urge. Bessie," called Belle at that iiKurient, do come up stairs there's a dear, good Mentor. I want to talk to you about the trimming ,011 that grey dress." I was vexed enough; for I wanted to see more of that unnoticed scene in the bay window. There was some mystery there worth my fathom- ing for Miss Wood, before Mr Grainger bent his proud head so humbly, was a pale little governess. « Why did Arthur wish her to go? Would she go? I asked myself again and again, while ostensibly listening to Belle, who had grown eloquent on the respective merits of dress materials. An hour settled all my doubts. When we went down to the door, amply prepared for an excur- sion, there was Miss Wood with Valerie (a shy child of ten or eleven years), to my intense chagrin, I confess, for I had already begun to fear and dislike her. Before I had scarcely looked at her; but I studied her face line for line-the broad brow; the large, puzzling brown eyes; the somewhat irregular features and pale, though not sickly, complexion; only to find myself baffled and repulsed, by a something looking out of her calm eyes that was past my reading. She was, and she was not, beautiful. She lacked fullness of contour, brilliancy of colour—I had had almost said expression, so absolutely Fitill and cold was her look and yet, that haunting, name- less grace, that very essence of beauty that we call "charm," was there, compelling even my admiration, and making me confess, low to myself, that Belle might find in her a formidable rival. Not so thought Belle, however, or rather she thought nothing at all about it. She was superb in that braided, tight-fitting, cocquettish grey dress of hers, and little garden hat, and she knew it. Arthur Grainger, if he had any eyes in his head, must have known it too and though she did stare when that gentleman, after helping her in, placed Miss Wood in the driving seat, also leaving Valerie and myself to occnpy the back, she wae too good-natured or too carless to manifest any other sign of surprise, and evidently forgot the whole matter a moment after in the far more important case of properly adjusting her wrap. The morning was cocl and bracing-the drive delightful—the horses in good condition Arthur unusually devoted and these elements being properly mixed with a little self-deception, Belle drank off such draughts of that frothy stuff called happiness that her spirits presently rose to the frolicsome degree and throwing oil all affecta- tion she came out in her most charming ph that of a careless, mirth-loving child. Not so I, sitting stiffly erect, and £ r' J Medusa herself. Through tiie aid of my B J acquired spectacles of jealousy, I saw that, tf>i'Jj Arthur talked to Belle, he looked to Miss >v^Jj who received his glances with a composure j made me want to box his ears. He was all at a tion to Belle—all soul for the governess- advised Belle to put on her cloitk, as the b- 3 met us dam]) and chill from the water, bu» i wrapped Miss Wood's cloak about her vitb saying a word. He stared, full at Belle with J cool and critical admiration of an artist; lie glances at Miss Wood, seizing the moment* looked away to let his eyes wander over her taking in every detail eagerly and passionl1<te. in short, the man was in loi-e-:iiid as surelV 3 my name was Belinda, and I was a confiriiij. maid, and always meant to be, unless the <* man should happen to come along—with little designing puss of a governess. It waS vexatious, after all the dresses Belle had that season. I really think he ought to been sued for breach of promise and madf pay for wounded affection and milliners'bills.^ to return to the rendezvous for our company airy villa, with light balconies and long wind, from whence you looked out full on the Clllqrt the house, in tine, of Arthur Grainger, bacbeljj the gossiping capital o £ innumerable tea-tatf and the most fallacious and slippery found, of the biggest air-castle 1 ever buiit. i have ways argued with that. Profound wisdom which I am distinguished: "Belle is the 01 young lady whom he. honours with his attend and if he doesn't mean anything by it, why the world has he built that house?" which, by by, was very much what Kate L'oyd said as •, danced up, swinging her hat and looking s (that was her forte) to where he stood on j steps, talking to Belle, holding Valerie by hand, and glancing as usual at that Miss Woe* A very pretty cage, Mr Grainger—but whe' the bird?" Arthur looked politely contemptuous. I don't understand you, Miss Lloyd." "No? Do you wish us to understand that built this lovely little Moorish affair only for T own special use?" Why not, Miss Kate?" Why not ? Hear the man ? he, a bachelolf being existing only by the sulferance of our passionate sex, entitied to no privileges whate —a sort of outcast to be brought into the fol a savage to be reclaimed-a nuisance, in sb. only to be endured on condition of his reform1 as soon as possible; that is, marrying the first j he can find silly enough to take him—he has audacity to ask me, why not ? Why, Mr Grain? a bachelor has no business to have a house at» "Granting that," rejoined Arthur, looking' tively at Belle,who hadgrown unaccountably. might there not be such a thing as provi^ your cage first, and catching your bird atlf wards ? We are told to first catch our hare.' Oh! but we are talking of hearts." "Very much the same thing." "Are they ? What do you think?'' turio suddenly on Miss Wood, standing by, silent, -0 apparently hardly listening. Really, I have never given the subject attention," returned that extraordinary little K son, with perfect coolness, and taking Valeria the hand she marched into the house. Arthur bit his lip. Miss Lloyd looked puzzle while Belle's large eyes dilated and: glared, the rich blood leaped up in her clear cheeks fade as suddenly away again into a dull, white. She saw at last. The day neither passed nor flew-it wortl away. Belle was piqued and much grieved- was scolding secretly, and Arthur seemedill ease. As a consequence, ill-humour, which) my opinion, is as contagious as the mea^' soon seized on the rest of the party, and it) hour or two ever one was sulking. The VI was too cold-the sun too hot-there were enough biscuits and too much chicken—the w thing was a bore, and an early return advisa Our wagonette chanced to be brought up fi Valerie and I took possession of the back s Miss Wood perched herself where she was befjj Belle was already in, looking cross and j»o5 and Arthur was coming down the steps 11 Belle's shawl, which she had forgotten, when y accidental movement on the part of some of others started the high-spirited horses, alrejS restive from the delay, and with one powfl*V spring that jerked the reins from the coaching they were tearing wildly down the road, malo straight for the beach. fJ A moment's work, and how it had changed' us all things. Already the petty strifes. ambitions of this life were fast fading and p1 in the light ot the eternity to which we il rushing so wildly. There had been a groan, aj we knew there were white faces and wrin^I hands behind us, but we knew there could be pursuit—that would be only to hasten our struction. We were quite helpless. Vaierie b fainted-Belle was filling the air with shrieks II cries for help. I sat frozen and apathetic ir the extremity of my terror. Only a few momeØ more, and the wagonette was swaying terribly the horses were growing wilder and still unmanageable. A stone, a tree by the road, possibility of a breaking axle, were all that II divided us from death. The white lines of waves came in sight. "The water, th"* water!" shrieked B Help oh, help quick mercy—mercy Do still," said Miss Wood, for the first ti moving since the horses started. "You frigbf them btill more with your senseless clamour." Belle answered by another shriek. Miss Wood looked at her with a mixture .pity and contempt, and holding with one hand the wagonette, with the other to unloose b shawl, and drawing it around her waist. Hold on as I do, by one hand," she turning again to Belle, and take the ends \1 the other." 1 Belle stared vacantly at her, but made no to obey her. The governess made a passionate gesture *1 the hand that held the shawl. Woman, don't you understand? It is for —I must got those reins, and I want both Can you reach them ?'' and she turned as well she could towards me. The moment before I had been stupidly belP less, but some inkling of her brave design 11 beginning to penetrate by benumbed brain, ol) with hope gained strength. With no swtl difficulty, tossed and thrown as we were by swaying of the vehicle, I seized and be) firmly the ends of the shawl, wedging myself the floor between the two seats. Then M'j Wood, cautiously at first, more boldly wards, when she found how firm was my gt kneeled and, leaning over, grasped for the rfl1*: trailing under the feet of the flying horses.. we flew towards the beach we caught a glimP' of Arthur riding towards us, his horse I)antit) and staggering, evidently hoping to turn tb horse, only a glimpse, and the water splas up around our wheels, and the surf sounded) our ears. 1 Still the .governess, no longer kneeling, bØ almost hanging over the wagonette, her xul eyes fairly blazing, struggled and and caught the reins, seizing one, and hold) it as though the muscles in her little ha?j_ were iron, now grasping the other and piJ'j itig on them with all her strength, careless tbn the shawl grew loose around her waste, as jj faint and dizzy, relaxed my hold once aim0*, dragged out headlong, growing of a deaths" white, as she felt her strength receding, but ne*e.j quitting her hold till—well, I don't know hotf' was, for I fainted as the wagonette turned oyer and the next thing I know I opened my eyes 0 half a dozen ladies with smelling bottles- el dishevelled, muddy, sitting on a pile of rubbish Mrs Grainger by her looking unutterable thlIl and Arthur Grainger kneeling on the sand, ki ing and calling that brazen governess tend^ names, as_ she opened her eyes, having imitat^ her superiors, and fainted likewise. Of cours after such shameful conduct," Belle said to fr. that evening, of course there is nothing left for him to marry the girl." And he did. —————————————-