The Boarding School Feast
by Eliza Leslie
"They hear a voice in every wind,
And snatch a fearful joy."
IT is a very common subject of complaint with boarding-school children
(and there is often sufficient foundation for it) that they are too much
restricted in their food, and that their diet is not only inferior in
quality to what it ought to be, but frequently deficient in quantity
also. There was certainly, however, no cause for any dissatisfaction of
this sort at Mrs. Middleton's boarding-school, in Philadelphia. The
table was in every respect excellent; and a basket of bread or biscuit,
and sometimes of gingerbread, was handed round to all the pupils, every
morning at eleven o'clock. Mrs. Middleton's young ladies were strangers
to the common boarding-school practice of coaxing or bribing the
servants to procure them cakes and tarts from the confectioners; for the
table was sufficiently supplied with those articles, made in such a
manner as to be agreeable to the taste without endangering the health;
and they were every day allowed some sort of fruit, of the best quality
the market could furnish.
At last, a young lady named Henrietta Harwood became a member of Mrs.
Middleton's seminary. Miss Harwood had been for several years a pupil of
one of those too numerous establishments, where the comfort of the
children is sacrificed to the vanity of a governess, who rests her
claims to encouragement principally on the merits of elegantly furnished
parlours, an expensive style of dress, frequent evening parties, and
occasional balls. In schools where outward show is the leading
principle, the internal economy is generally conducted on the most
parsimonious plan, and while the masters (who attend only at certain
hours) are such as are considered the most fashionable, the female
teachers that live in the house, are too often vulgar girls obtained at
a low salary, and who frequently are in league with the elder pupils in
ridiculing and plotting against the governess.
Most of the faults and follies that were likely to be acquired at a
show-boarding-school, Henrietta Harwood brought with her to the
excellent and well-conducted establishment of Mrs. Middleton: but she
had some redeeming qualities that made her rather a favourite with her
new companions, and disposed her governess to hope that all would come
right at last.
One evening, the elder young ladies were sitting very comfortably at
their different occupations, round the table in the front school-room.
The window-shutters were closed, a good fire was burning in the stove,
and Mrs. Middleton had just sent them a basket of apples, according to
her custom in the winter evenings. After finishing a very fine one,
Henrietta Harwood exclaimed—"Well—I wonder at myself for eating these
Miss Brownlow. Why, I am sure they are the very best Newtown pippins.
Henrietta. That is true, Brownie: but at Madame Disette's we had
something better of evenings than mere apples.
Miss Brownlow. What had you?
Henrietta. We had sometimes cheesecakes, and sometimes tarts; with
very frequently pound-cake and jumbles; and sometimes we had even little
mince-pies, and oyster-patties.
Miss Wilcox. O, delicious! What an excellent governess! How could you
ever consent to leave her? I thought Mrs. Middleton allowed us a great
many good things; but she does not send us cheesecakes and tarts of an
Henrietta. O, do not mistake! We might have gone without them all our
lives, before Madame Disette would have sent us any thing of the sort.
She did not even allow us apples of an evening, or a piece of bread
between breakfast and dinner. Why, one summer evening, she bought at the
door some common ice-cream, of a black man that was carrying it through
the streets in a tin pot; and when we thought that, for once, she had
certainly treated us, she charged the ice-cream in our quarter-bills.
No, no,—we got nothing from her, but stale bread; bad butter; sloppy
tea; coffee without taste or colour; skinny meat, half-cooked one day,
cold the next, and hashed or rather coddled the third. Then, for a
dessert, we were regaled with sour knotty apples in the winter,
worm-eaten cherries in the summer, and dry squashy pears in the autumn;
and once a week we had boiled rice, or baked bread and milk, by way of
pudding. Though after the scholars had eaten their allowance, and made
their curtsies and gone up to the school-room, she always had something
nice brought for herself, and her sister, and niece: and of which poor
Benson, the under teacher, was never invited to partake.
Miss Wilcox. But how did you get such nice things in the evening?
Henrietta. We bought them, to be sure: bought them with our own money.
That was the only way. When the little girls had all gone to bed, and
Madame Disette, and Madame Trompeur, and Mademoiselle Mensonge were
engaged in the parlour with their company, we all (that is, the first
class) subscribed something; and we commissioned the chambermaid to
bring us whatever we wanted from the confectioner's. O, what delightful
feasts we had!
Miss Thomson. Did Madame Disette never find you out?
Henrietta. O, no!—we laid our plans too cunningly. And Benson, the
teacher, was a good creature, and always joined our party; so we knew
she would not tell.
Miss Scott. I am sure we never could prevail on our teacher, Miss
Loxley, to be concerned in such things. She would think it so very
Henrietta. Well, we must take an opportunity when Miss Loxley is not
at home. Mrs. Middleton permits her to go out whenever she requests it.
She does not keep her so closely confined as Madame Disette did poor
Miss Scott. Mrs. Middleton has so much reliance on her elder pupils,
that she is not afraid to trust us sometimes without Miss Loxley. And
we, certainly, have never yet abused her confidence.
Henrietta. O, you are undoubtedly a most exemplary set! But you never
had one like me among you. I shall soon put a little spirit into you
all, and get you out of this strict-propriety sort of way. I do not
despair even of my friend Isabella Caldwell, the good girl of the
Isabella. Our way is a very satisfactory one. It is impossible for
boarding-school girls to be happier than we are. Our minds are not
exhausted with long and difficult lessons, and with studies beyond our
capacity. When school-hours are over, we have full time for recreation,
and are amply provided with the means of amusing ourselves. We have a
library of entertaining books; and we have liberty to divert ourselves
with all sorts of juvenile plays and games. Then how much attention is
paid to our health and our comforts, and how kindly and judiciously are
we treated in every respect! Certainly, we ought to think ourselves
Henrietta. Ay! so you are made to say in the letters which you write
home to your parents. All our French letters, at Madame Disette's were
written first by her niece Mademoiselle Mensonge; and the English
letters were manufactured by poor Benson; and then we copied them in our
very best hands, with a new pen at every paragraph. They were all nearly
the same; and told of nothing but the superabundant kindness and
liberality of Madame Disette, our high respect and esteem for Madame
Trompeur, her sister, and our vast affection for her amiable niece,
Mademoiselle Mensonge: together with our perfect health, and extreme
felicity. In every letter we grew happier and happier.
Miss Snodgrass. And were you not so in reality?
Henrietta. No, indeed,—all the happiness we had was of our own
making, for we derived none from any thing our governess did for us;
though we were obliged in our letters to call her our beloved Madame
Disette, and to express the most fervent hopes that we might one day
exactly resemble her; which, I am sure, was the last thing we could have
desired; for she was one of the ugliest women that I ever saw in my
Miss Thomson. But you might have wished to resemble her in mind and
Henrietta. Why, as to that, her mind was worse than her face, and her
manners we all thought absolutely ridiculous. Benson could mimic her
Miss Marley. I do not wonder that your parents took you away from such
Henrietta. The school was certainly bad enough. We had dirty,
uncomfortable chambers; scanty fires; a mean table, and all such
inconveniences. But then it was a very fashionable school; all the
masters were foreigners, and above all things there was a great point
made of our speaking French. We knew the common phrases perfectly well.
We could all say, Comment vous portez vous,—Je vous remerçie,—Il
,—Donnez-moi un epingle,—Lequel
aimez-vous mieux, le bleu ou le vert? and many other things equally
sensible and interesting. This was what was called French conversation,
and we were all able to join in it, after taking lessons in French a
very few quarters.
But after all, we had a great deal of fun, and that made up for every
thing. Madame Disette and her sister and niece, always hurried over the
school-business as fast as possible, that they might have time to pay
and receive visits; and every evening they were either out, or engaged
at home with company; so that we had nobody to watch us but poor Benson,
and none of us cared for her. And then we could make her do just as we
pleased. She only got seventy-five dollars a year, for which she was
obliged to perform all the drudgery of the school, even to washing and
dressing the little girls; putting them to bed; darning their stockings
and mending their clothes; besides doing all Madame Disette's plain
sewing. Poor Benson could not afford to dress half so well as the
chambermaid. So how could we have any respect for her? Even the servants
despised her, and never would do any thing she asked them.
Miss Snodgrass. Well, we all respect Miss Loxley. She gets a good
salary, dresses genteelly, is treated with proper consideration by
every one in the house, and we obey her just as we do Mrs. Middleton.
Henrietta. Yes, and for those very reasons, we never can ask her to
assist in any little private scheme of our own. Benson was certainly a
much more convenient person. But to resume our first subject—I do
really long for a feast.
Miss Roberts. Well,—Mrs. Middleton occasionally gives us a feast as
you call it; for instance, on the birth-day of the young lady who is
head of her class.
Henrietta. O, but then at these regular feasts Mrs. Middleton is
always present herself. I like to steal a little secret pleasure,
unsuspected by any one that would check it. Ah! you have never dealt in
mysteries; you know not how delightful they are. One half the enjoyment
is in planning and carrying on the plot. Come now, girls, let us get up
a little feast to-morrow evening. You know Miss Loxley will be out
again, as her aunt is still sick; and the French teacher always goes
home at dusk, as she does not sleep here.
Miss Watkins. But if Mrs. Middleton should discover us.
Henrietta. No. Her sister and brother-in-law are coming to spend the
evening with her, and to bring a lady and gentleman from Connecticut.
To-morrow is the very best night we can possibly have. Leave it all to
me, and I will engage that there shall be no discovery; and we will get
the little girls to bed very early, that we may have the longer time to
Several of the young ladies. O, indeed we are afraid!
Henrietta. Nonsense—I will answer for it that there shall be no cause
for fear. Why, we did these things fifty times at Madame Disette's, and
were never once detected. Come, I will lay down a dollar as the first
contribution towards the feast. Brownie, how much will you give?
Miss Brownlow. I will give half a dollar.
Miss Watkins. And I will give a dollar and a half. I have always
plenty of money.
Henrietta. Well done, Watty. And you Scotty, how much?
Miss Scott. A quarter of a dollar is all I have left.
Miss Wilcox. And I have only ten cents.
Henrietta. O, poor Coxey! But never mind, you shall have as large a
share of the good things as any of us, notwithstanding you can only
muster ten cents. And now, Snoddy?
Miss Snodgrass. Why, I will give a quarter of a dollar and eight
cents. I have another quarter of a dollar, but I wish to keep it to buy
a bottle of Cologne water.
Henrietta. Pho.—Try to live another week without the Cologne.
Miss Snodgrass. No indeed,—I never in my life had a bottle of Cologne
water all to myself, to use just as I pleased; and I really have set my
mind on it.
Henrietta. Well, we must try to do without Snoddy's other
quarter-dollar. Well, Bob, what say you?
Miss Roberts. I will give half a dollar.
Henrietta. O, Bob, Bob! You have more than that, I am sure.
Miss Roberts. Yes, I have another half dollar, but I wish to buy the
book of Fairy Tales you told me of.
Henrietta. O, never mind buying the Fairy Tales! I will tell you all
of them without charging for my trouble. Come now, be good and give the
whole dollar, and we will have an iced pound-cake.
Miss Roberts. Well, if you will certainly tell me all the Fairy
Henrietta. Every one of them; twice over if you choose. And now,
Miss Marley. I know all this is very improper.
Henrietta. Just for once in your life try how it seems to be improper.
Miss Marley. Well then for this time only—Here are three quarters of
Henrietta. Now, Tommy!
Miss Thomson. I have not resolution to resist. There are half a dollar
and twelve cents.
Henrietta. And now, Isabella Caldwell,—though last not least.
Isabella. Excuse me, Henrietta: my contribution will be far less than
that of any other young lady. In fact, nothing at all.
Henrietta. Nothing at all! Why Miss Caldwell, I did not expect this of
you! I always supposed you to be very generous.
Isabella. I wish to be generous whenever it is in my power.
Henrietta. Well, dear Isabella, if you have no money, we will not
press you. We shall be happy to have you at our little feast, even if
you do not contribute a cent towards it.
All. O, yes! We must not lose Isabella Caldwell.
Isabella. I am much obliged to you, my dear girls. But it is not the
want of money that prevents me from joining you. I have money. But I
wish not, on any terms, to belong to your party; and I shall retire to
my own room. In short, I do not think it right to be planning a feast
without the knowledge of Mrs. Middleton, who is so good and so indulgent
that it is a shame to deceive her.
Henrietta. Then I suppose. Miss Caldwell, you intend to betray us; to
disclose the whole plan to Mrs. Middleton?
Isabella. You insult me by such a suspicion. I appeal to all the young
ladies if they ever knew me guilty of telling tales, or repeating any
thing which might be a disadvantage to another.
All. O, no, no! Isabella is to be trusted. She will never betray us.
Henrietta. Then in plain terms, Miss Caldwell, I really think, if you
have money, you might spare a little for our feast.
Isabella. I want the whole of it for another purpose. And I shall get
no more before next week.
Henrietta. Well, this is very strange. I know you do not care for
finery, and that you never lay out your pocket-money in little articles
of dress. And as for books of amusement, it was but yesterday that your
father sent you a whole box full. I must say, that though you are
called generous—I cannot help thinking you a little—a very little—
Isabella. Mean, I suppose you would say.
Henrietta. Why, I must not exactly call you mean—But I cannot help
thinking you rather—meanish.
Isabella. I will not be called mean. My refusal proceeds from other
motives than you suppose.
Henrietta. Young ladies, I will be judged by you all. Is it natural
for a girl of fifteen, who likes cakes, and pastry, and every sort of
sweet thing, to be so very conscientious as to refuse to join in a
little bit of pleasure that can injure no one, that will never be
discovered, and that all her companions have assented to with few or no
scruples. No, no, Isabella, I believe that your only object in declining
to be one of our party, is to save your money.
Isabella. O, what injustice you do me!
Henrietta. Prove it to be injustice by joining us without further
Miss Watkins. Henrietta, we do not care for Isabella's money. Let her
keep it if she wishes. We can afford to entertain her as our guest. I
am sorry so much should have been said about it.
Isabella (taking her purse out of her bag.) There then; here are two
half-dollars. I will prove to you that I am neither mean nor selfish.
All. We will not take your money.
Isabella. Yes, take it.—Any thing rather than suspect me of what I do
not deserve. And now let me entreat, that in my presence nothing more
may be said of this feast. Change the subject, and talk of something
else. Or, rather, I will retire to bed, and leave you to make your
arrangements for to-morrow night.
The real reason why Isabella Caldwell was so unwilling to be a
contributor to the expense of the feast, was, that she had intended
appropriating her pocket-money to a much better purpose. Her allowance
was a dollar a week; and she knew that a coloured woman, named Diana,
(who had formerly been a servant in her father's family before they
removed to the country) was now struggling with severe poverty. Diana
was the widow of a negro sailor who had perished at sea, and she was the
mother of three children, all too small to put out, and whom she
supported by taking in washing. But during a long illness brought on by
overworking herself, she lost several of her customers who had given
their washing to others. Isabella had solicited Mrs. Middleton to allow
her to employ Diana, rather than the woman who then washed for the
school. Mrs. Middleton readily consented.
The weather had become very cold, and Isabella saw with regret that
Diana came to fetch and carry the clothes-bag without either coat or
cloak; nothing in fact to cover her shoulders but an old yellow cotton
shawl. Isabella pitied her extremely, and resolved in her own mind not
to lay out a cent of her money till she had saved enough to buy Diana a
cloak. Her father, who was a man of large fortune, had placed, at the
beginning of the year, a sum of money in Mrs. Middleton's hands to
defray Isabella's expenses, exclusive of her tuition; with directions to
give her every week a dollar to dispose of as she pleased.
Isabella had now been saving her money for four weeks, and had that
morning received her weekly allowance, which completed the sum necessary
to buy a good plaid cloak, and she had determined to go the following
morning and make the purchase, and to give it to Diana when she came to
take the clothes. Isabella had now the exact money; and that was the
reason she was so unwilling to devote any part of it to the expenses of
the feast. Beside which, she could not, in her heart, approve of any
species of pleasure that was to be enjoyed in secret, and kept from the
knowledge of her excellent governess. She felt the usual repugnance of
modest and benevolent people with regard to speaking of her own acts of
charity. This reluctance she, however, carried too far, when rather than
acknowledge that she was keeping her money to buy a cloak for her poor
washerwoman, she suffered herself to be prevailed on to give up part of
the sum, as an addition to the fund that was raising for the banquet.
She went to bed sadly out of spirits, and much displeased with herself.
She had seen at a store, just such a cloak as she wished to get for
Diana; and she had anticipated the delight and gratitude of the poor
woman on receiving it, and the comfort it would afford her during the
inclement season, and for many succeeding winters. "And now," thought
she, "poor Diana must go without a cloak, and the money will be wasted
in cakes and tarts; which, however nice they may be, will cause us no
further pleasure after we have once swallowed them. However, perhaps the
weather will be less severe to-morrow; and next week I shall have
another dollar, and I then will again be able to buy Diana the cloak. I
am sorry that I promised it to her when she was here last. I cannot bear
the idea of seeing her, and telling her that she must wait for the cloak
a week longer. I hope the weather will be mild and fine to-morrow."
But Isabella's hope was not realized; and when she rose in the morning,
she found it snowing very fast. The cold was intense. The ground had
been for several days already covered with a deep snow which had frozen
very hard. There was a piercing north-east wind; and, altogether, it was
the most inclement morning of the whole winter. Isabella hoped that
Diana would not come for the clothes that day, as the weather would be a
sufficient excuse; though the poor woman had never before been otherwise
than punctual. But in a short time, she saw Diana coming round the
corner, walking very fast, her arms wrapped in her shawl, and holding
down her head to avoid, as much as possible, the snow that was driving
in her face. "Ah!" thought Isabella, "she hopes to get the cloak this
dreadful morning, and to wear it home. How sadly she will be
disappointed! But I cannot see or speak to her." She then tied up her
clothes-bag, and desired the chambermaid to take it down and give it to
Diana, and tell her that she could not see her that morning.
Isabella could not forbear going again to the window; and she saw Diana
come up the area steps into the street, carrying the clothes-bag, and
looking disappointed. Isabella, with a heavy heart, watched her till she
turned the corner, shrinking from the storm, and shivering along in her
old thin shawl. "Oh!" thought Isabella, "how very badly the
confectionary will taste to me this evening, when I think that my
contribution towards it, has obliged me to break my promise to this poor
woman; and that it will cause her, for at least another week, to endure
all the sufferings of exposure to cold without sufficient covering."
Henrietta Harwood, as leader of the conspiracy, was extremely busy every
moment that she could snatch from the presence of Mrs. Middleton and the
teachers, in making arrangements for the feast of the evening. There was
a great deal of whispering and consulting, between her and the elder
girls, as to what they should have; and a great deal of talking on the
stairs to Mary the chambermaid; who, for the bribe of a quarter of a
dollar, had consented to procure for them whatever they wished, without
the knowledge of Mrs. Middleton. It was unanimously agreed that none of
the little girls were to be let into the secret, as their discretion
was not to be depended on; and there was much lamentation that the
bed-hour for the children was so late as eight o'clock. The little girls
all slept in one large room, and as soon as they had gone to be prepared
for bed, under the superintendence of Mary, Henrietta proposed that
herself and six other young ladies should volunteer to assist in
undressing them. "You know," said she, "there are eight of the children,
and if we each take a child and leave one to Mary, they can be got to
bed in an eighth part of the time that it will require for Mary to
attend to all of them herself. Just, you know, as they have quilting
frolics and husking frolics in the country, when a whole week's work is
accomplished in a few hours, by assembling a great many persons to join
This proposal was immediately assented to; and a committee of half a
dozen young ladies, with Henrietta at their head, adjourned to the
children's apartment. "Come, little chits," said Henrietta, "as it is a
cold night, we are going to have an undressing frolic, and to help Mary
to put you all to bed: for the sooner you are tucked up in your nests
the better it will be for you,—and for us too," she added in a low
voice aside to Miss Thomson. "Here, Rosalie Sunbridge," she continued,
"come to me, I will do the honours for you, as you are a sort of pet
The elder girls then began undressing the little ones with such violence
that strings snapped, buttons were jerked off, and stockings torn in the
process. The children wondered why the young ladies were seized with
such a sudden and unusual fit of kindness, and why they went so
energetically to work in getting them undressed and put to bed.
An altercation, however, ensued between Henrietta Harwood and Rosalie
Sunbridge, who declared that it was her mother's particular desire that
her hair behind should be curled in papers every night; a ceremony that
Henrietta proposed omitting, telling her that there was already
sufficient curl remaining in her hair to last all the next day, and
reminding her that there was no such trouble with the hair of the other
little girls. "That is because they have no hair to curl," replied
Rosalie; "you know that they are all closely cropped. But if you will
not roll up mine in papers, Miss Harwood, I would rather have Mary to
put me to bed, though you do call me your pet." "Well, well, hush, and
I will do it," said Henrietta; "but it shall be done in a new way
which saves a great deal of trouble, and makes very handsome curls when
the hair is opened out next morning." So saying, she snatched up a great
piece of coarse brown paper, and seizing the little girl's hind hair in
her hand, she rolled it all up in one large curl; Rosalie crying out at
the violence with which she pulled, and the other children laughing,
when it was done, at the huge knob, and telling Rosalie she had a
knocker at her back.
In a short time the night-gowns and night-caps were scrambled on, and
the children all deposited in their respective beds, and all hastily
kissed by their undressers; who hurried out of the room, anxious to
enter upon their anticipated delights.
"Now, good Mary, dear Mary," said Henrietta, "do tell me if you have got
every thing?" "Every thing, miss," replied Mary, "except the calves-foot
jelly; and the money fell short of that. But I have got the iced
pound-cake, and the mince pies, and the oyster patties, and the little
cocoa-nut puddings, and the bottle of lemon-syrup, and all the other
things. They are snug and safe in the market-basket in the
back-kitchen-closet; and nobody can never guess nothing about it."
Just at this moment the man-servant came to tell the young ladies that
Mrs. Middleton wished them all to go down into the front parlour to look
at some prints. These prints were the coloured engravings of Wall's
beautiful views on the Hudson, and which had just been purchased by Mrs.
Middleton's brother-in-law, who was going to leave the city the
following morning. At any other time the young ladies (at least those
who had a taste for drawing) would have been grateful for Mrs.
Middleton's kindness in allowing them an opportunity of looking at these
fine landscapes; but now every moment that detained them from the
feast, seemed like an hour. Henrietta murmured almost aloud; and they
all went down with reluctance, except Isabella Caldwell, who had made up
her mind not to partake of the banquet.
In the mean time, little Rosalie Sunbridge, who was a very cunning
child, and had a great deal of curiosity, suspected that something more
than usual was going on, from the alertness of the young ladies in
hurrying the children to bed. Her bed being nearest to the door, she
had overheard the elder girls in earnest consultation with the
chambermaid in the passage, and although she could not distinguish
exactly what was said, she understood that something very delightful was
to go on that evening in the front school-room. Having a great desire to
know precisely what was in agitation, she waited a short time till all
her companions were asleep; and then getting up softly, she opened one
of the shutters to let in a little light, as the storm had subsided and
there was a faint moon. She then got her merino coat, and put it on over
her night-gown, and covering her feet with her carpet moccasins that she
might make no noise in walking, she stole softly into the front
school-room, determined to watch all that went on.
Two lamps were burning on the table; but no person was in the room; the
young ladies having all gone down into the parlour to look at the
prints. Rosalie, by climbing on a chair, managed, with much difficulty,
to get on the upper shelf of a large closet; having hastily cleared a
space for herself to lie down in, among the books and rolls of maps.
Then pushing away the chair, she drew the closet-door nearly close;
leaving only a small crack, through which she could observe all that was
Presently, she saw Mary come cautiously into the room with a basket, and
taking out of it the materials for the feast, the girl arranged them all
to great advantage on the table. When this was accomplished, she went
down stairs; and immediately after, the young ladies, having looked
hastily at the prints, all came up, and expressed much satisfaction at
the inviting appearance of the banquet. Isabella lighted a small lamp,
and said she was going to bed.
"Why, Caldwell," exclaimed Henrietta, "are you absolutely in earnest?
What, after contributing to the expense of the feast, will you really
leave us before it begins, and go dismally to bed? See how nice every
"Every thing, indeed, looks nice," replied Isabella, "but still I have
no desire to partake of them. I am out of spirits, and I have other
reasons for not wishing to join your party." "Just take something before
you go," said Henrietta. "No," answered Isabella, "I feel as if I could
not taste a single article on the table."
She then withdrew to her room, and her companions took their seats and
began to regale themselves; Henrietta presiding at the head of the
table. They would have enjoyed their feast very much, only that,
notwithstanding their expected security, they were in continual dread of
being discovered. They started, and listened at every little noise;
fearing that Miss Loxley might possibly have returned, or that Mrs.
Middleton might possibly be coming up stairs.
"Really," said Henrietta, "it is a great pity that poor Isabella
Caldwell, after she gave her dollar with so much reluctance, should
refuse to take any share of our feast. Perhaps to-morrow she will think
better of it. Suppose we save something for her. I dare say she will
have no objection to eat some of these good things in the morning."
"Put by one of the little cocoa-nut puddings for her," said Miss Scott.
"And one of the mince pies," said another young lady. "And a large slice
of pound-cake," said a third. "And a bunch of white grapes," said a
Henrietta then selected some of the nicest articles of their banquet, to
offer to Isabella in the morning; and after some consultation, it was
concluded to deposit them, for the present, in the farthest corner of
the upper shelf of the closet; which upper shelf was only used as a
repository for old maps and old copy books, and waste paper, and with
these the things could be very conveniently covered. "Do not take a
light to the closet," said Miss Marley, "you may set something on fire.
If you stand on tiptoe and raise your arm as high as you can, you may
easily reach the upper shelf."
Henrietta accordingly walked to the closet; and was in the act of
shoving a mince-pie into a dark corner of the upper shelf, when suddenly
she gave a start and a shriek, and let fall the cocoa-nut pudding which
she held in her hand. "What is the matter?" exclaimed all the girls at
once. "Oh!" cried Henrietta, "when I reached up the mince-pie to the top
shelf, it was taken from me by a cold hand that met mine—I felt the
fingers." "Impossible," said some of the girls. "What could it actually
be?" cried others. Just then, Rosalie made a rustling among the loose
papers on the top shelf. "There it is again," screamed Henrietta. "Oh!"
cried Miss Watkins, "we have done very wrong to plot this feast in
secret, and something dreadful is going to happen to us as a
Another rustling set all the young ladies to screaming; and, with one
accord, they rushed towards the door, with such force as to overset the
table and all its contents. The lamps were broken and extinguished in
the fall; several of the girls were thrown down by the others; and the
shrieks were so violent that Mrs. Middleton heard them into the parlour,
where, her friends having left her, she was sitting with Miss Loxley,
who had just come in; and taking a light with them, the two ladies ran
up to the front school-room.
The scene which then presented itself transfixed them with astonishment.
The floor was strewed with the remains of the feast. The oil from the
shattered lamps was running among the cakes and pies, which were also
drenched with water from a broken pitcher; near which the bottle of
lemon-syrup was lying in fragments. The table was thrown down on its
side. Some of the young ladies were still prostrate on the floor, and
all were screaming. Rosalie (frightened at the uproar she had caused)
was on her hands and knees, looking out from the upper shelf of the
closet, and crying "O, take me down, take me down! somebody bring a
chair and take me down."
Isabella Caldwell, hearing the noise, had thrown on her flannel gown,
and ran also to see what was the matter. As soon as the surprise of Mrs.
Middleton would allow her to speak, she inquired the cause of all this
disturbance; but she could get no other answer than that there was some
horrible thing in the closet. "There is indeed something in the closet,"
said Mrs. Middleton, perceiving Rosalie. "Miss Sunbridge, how came you
up there, and in that dress? and what is the meaning of all this?"
The young ladies, having recovered from their terror when they found it
to be groundless, and Miss Loxley having taken down Rosalie, Henrietta
made a candid confession of the whole business. Acknowledging herself to
be the proposer and leader of the plot, she expressed her readiness to
submit to any punishment Mrs. Middleton might think proper to inflict on
her, but hoped that her governess would have the goodness to pardon all
the other young ladies; none of whom would have thought of a secret
feast, if she had not suggested it to them. "Above all," continued
Henrietta, "I must exculpate Isabella Caldwell, who declined going to
table with us or partaking of any thing, but retired to her bed; as may
be known by her being now in her night-clothes."
Mrs. Middleton was touched with the generosity of Henrietta Harwood, in
taking all the blame on herself to exonerate her companions; and as her
kind heart would not allow her to send any of her pupils to bed in the
anticipation of being punished the next day, she said, "Miss Harwood, I
will for this time permit your misdemeanour to go unpunished, but I
require a promise from you that it shall never be repeated. Make that
promise sincerely, and I feel assured that you will keep it."
"O, yes, indeed, dear madam!" sobbed Henrietta, "you are too kind; and I
cannot forgive myself for having persuaded my companions to join in a
plot which I knew you would disapprove."
"Go now to your beds," said Mrs. Middleton, "and I will send a servant
to clear away the disorder of this room. Rosalie, I see, has already
slipped off to hers."
Next morning, before school commenced, Mrs. Middleton addressed the
young ladies mildly but impressively, on the proceedings of the day
before. She dwelt on the general impropriety of all secret contrivances;
on the injury done to the integrity of the ignorant servant-girl, by
bribing her to deceive her employer; on the danger of making themselves
sick by eating such a variety of sweet things; and on the folly of
expending in those dainties, money which might be much better employed.
"That," said Henrietta, "was one of Isabella Caldwell's objections to
joining our feasting party. I am now convinced that she had in view some
more sensible manner of disposing of her money. I regret that she was
prevailed on to contribute her dollar, as she must have had an excellent
reason for her unwillingness; and she seemed really unhappy, and went to
bed without touching any of our good things."
"I can guess how it was," said Miss Loxley. "One very cold morning last
week, I met Diana, Miss Caldwell's washerwoman, going up stairs with the
clean clothes, and having nothing on her shoulders but an old cotton
shawl. I asked her if she had no cloak, and she replied that she had
not; but added, that Miss Isabella had been so kind as to promise her
one, which was to be ready for her when she came again. I suspect that
Miss Caldwell has been saving her money for the laudable purpose of
furnishing this poor woman with a cloak."
"Oh! no doubt she has," exclaimed Henrietta. "Why, dear Isabella, did
you not say so? and bad as I am, I would not have persisted in
persuading you out of your dollar."
"The woman, however, did not get her cloak," resumed Miss Loxley, "for I
again saw her without one, yesterday, though the weather had increased
"It is true," said Isabella. "The cloak was to have cost four dollars,
and after subscribing one dollar to the feast, I could not buy it; as I
had not then sufficient money."
Mrs. Middleton. Miss Harwood, had you often these feasts at Madame
Henrietta. Oh! very often, and as the teacher, Miss Benson, was always
one of the party, we managed so well, that Madame Disette never
discovered us. Or if she had any suspicion, she said nothing about it;
for after all, she cared very little what we did out of school-hours
provided that our proceedings cost her nothing.
Mrs. Middleton. You must not speak so disrespectfully of your former
governess. But I will explain to you that I care very much what you
do, even in your hours of recreation. It is when the business of the
school is over, and they are no longer in the presence of their
instructors, that girls are in the greatest danger of forming bad
habits, and imitating bad examples. All deceit, all tricks, are highly
unjustifiable. A little feast may seem in itself of small moment; but if
you persist in plotting little feasts, you will eventually be led on to
plot things of more importance, and which may lead to the worst
consequences. Then, as I always allow you as large a portion of sweet
things as comports with your health, it is the more reprehensible in you
to seek to procure them for yourselves, without my knowledge. Tell me
now, do any of you feel the better for last night's frolic?
Miss Thomson. O, no, no! Miss Watkins and Miss Roberts were sick all
night; and, indeed, none of us feel very well this morning.
Mrs. Middleton. I observed that you all had very little appetite for
Miss Brownlow. And then I had my new frock spoiled when I fell down
in the lamp-oil.
Miss Wilcox. And I got some lamp-oil into my mouth. I tasted it all
night. Even my nose was rubbed in it, as I lay struggling on the floor.
Miss Snodgrass. And I fell with my knees on half a dozen pieces of
orange, and stained my black silk frock, so that it is no longer fit to
Miss Marley. And I was thrown down with the back of my head on a
bunch of grapes, mashing them to a jelly.
Miss Scott. But my hair was so very sticky, with falling into the
lemon syrup, that I was obliged, this morning, to wash it all over with
Miss Roberts. And I put my foot into the bottom of the broken
pitcher, and cut my heel so that it bled through the stocking.
Miss Watkins. Still, nothing of this would have happened if Rosalie
Sunbridge had stayed in her bed. It was her hiding in the closet and
frightening us, that caused all the mischief.
Rosalie. I am sure I was punished enough for my curiosity; for when I
got on the closet-shelf I was obliged to lie so cramped that I was
almost stiff; and I was half dead with cold, notwithstanding I had put
on my merino coat. And then I was longing all the time for some of the
good things I saw you eating; so that when Miss Harwood came to hide the
mince-pie, I could not forbear taking it out of her hand. When I found
that you were all so terrified, I thought I would make a noise among the
loose papers to frighten you still more, supposing that you would all
quit the room; and that then I could come down from the shelf, and
regale myself awhile, before I stole back to-bed. I did not foresee that
you would overset the table in your flight, and make such a violent
noise. But I will never again attempt to pry into other people's
Mrs Middleton. I hope you never will. This feast, you see, has caused
nothing but discomfort, which is the case with all things that are in
themselves improper. Yet I think the greatest sufferer is Isabella
Caldwell's washerwoman, who has, in consequence, been disappointed of
Isabella. Next week, madam, when I receive my allowance, I hope to be
able to buy it for her.
Mrs. Middleton. You need not wait till next week. The poor woman shall
suffer no longer for a cloak. Here is a dollar in advance; and after
school, you can go out and purchase it, so that it may be ready for her
to-morrow when she brings home your clothes.
Isabella. Dear Mrs. Middleton, how much I thank you.
The young ladies having promised that they would attempt no more private
feasts, Mrs. Middleton kissed, and forgave them. After school, Isabella,
accompanied by Miss Loxley, went out and bought the plaid cloak, which
was sent home directly. Next day, she longed for Diana to arrive with
the clothes, that she might enjoy her pleasure on receiving so useful a
gift, but, to her great disappointment they were brought home by another
mulatto woman, who informed Isabella that she was Diana's next door
neighbour, and that poor Diana having taken a violent cold from being
out in the snow-storm, was now confined to her bed with the rheumatism.
"Ah!" thought Isabella, "perhaps if she had had this good warm cloak to
go home in, the day before yesterday, she might have escaped the
rheumatism. I see now that whenever we allow ourselves to be persuaded
to do a thing which we know to be wrong, evil is sure to come from it."
She desired the woman to wait a few minutes; and hastening to Mrs.
Middleton, begged that she would allow her to go and see poor Diana,
who, she feared was in great distress. Mrs. Middleton readily consented,
and had a basket filled with various things, which she gave to the woman
to carry with the plaid cloak to Diana. She sent by Isabella a bottle of
camphor, and some cotton wadding, for Diana's rheumatism, and a medicine
for her to take internally. Miss Loxley accompanied Isabella; and they
found Diana in bed and very ill, and every thing about her evincing
extreme poverty. Isabella engaged the woman to stay with Diana till she
got well, and to take care of her and her children, promising to pay her
for her trouble. When they returned and made their report to Mrs.
Middleton, she wrote a note to her physician, requesting him to visit
Diana and attend her as long as was necessary.
Next week, Henrietta Harwood, and the other young ladies, subscribed all
their allowance of pocket-money for the relief of Diana; who very soon
was well enough to resume her work. It is unnecessary to add that their
contribution to the support of the poor woman and her family, gave them
far more pleasure than they had derived from the unfortunate feast. They
never, of course, attempted another. And Henrietta Harwood, at Mrs.
Middleton's school, lost all the faults she had acquired at Madame