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The Journal by E. V. Lucas

 

It was the custom in Mr. Pemberton's family for the children and their governess, Miss Lambert, to assemble in the parlour every Saturday evening that she might read a journal of their behaviour during the past week in the presence of their father and mother. Those who were conscious of having acted rightly longed for the time of examination, as they were sure not only of receiving applause, but also of being admitted as guests to supper, when an agreeable entertainment was provided for them.

The countenances of the guilty were easily distinguished. Gladly would they have avoided the eye of their parents on these occasions, but that was not allowed; they were obliged to appear. Indeed, their attendance constituted part of their punishment.

Mr. and Mrs. Pemberton always invited company to be present when they had received an intimation from Miss Lambert that no faults were registered in the journal, which frequently happened, as they were children of docile dispositions, though sometimes they acted without consideration. Several ladies in the neighbourhood took particular pleasure in bringing their sons and daughters to be spectators of those joyful evenings.

After the journal was read, rewards were bestowed on those who had deserved them. Supper was then served up, which generally consisted of dried fruits, milk, with blanc-mange, jellies, etc., placed with great taste by Miss Pemberton, who was always required to set out the table on those nights.

The repast being over, the time was spent pleasantly, either in cheerful conversation, or some amusement suitable to the festivity of the occasion.

Charlotte Somenors, one of their intimate companions, was frequently invited to partake of their pleasure on a happy Saturday, for so they termed those days when none of them had reason to be oppressed by the fear of punishment.

The last time she attended one of those meetings I requested her to give me an account of the transactions of the evening, with which I was so much pleased that I committed it to writing, lest the circumstances should escape my memory; and as I suppose it is likely to amuse my young readers, and at the same time to furnish them with instructive examples, I transcribe it for their use. The company being met, Miss Lambert introduced her pupils—Caroline, Emma, Lucy, and George—after which she sat down and began to read as follows:

'It is with great pleasure I recall the events of the last few days. Although they will not present a perfect model of virtue and obedience, they at least prove that the dear children entrusted to my care are willing to repair the faults which they have inadvertently committed. I trust that the errors which this journal records will be considered as wholly effaced by the repentance and confessions they have occasioned.

'Monday.—Morning lessons particularly well attended. George learned a hymn of Mrs. Barbauld's at his own request. A dispute arose between the two young ladies in the afternoon on the subject of choosing a walk.

'Miss Pemberton was desirous of winding along the banks of the river, as far as the church, that she might see the fine new monument raised to the memory of Lady Modish. Her sisters insisted on going to the next village, as they wanted to buy muslin for a doll's frock. After some little altercation on each side Caroline, with affectionate condescension, gave way to her sisters' inclination, though, as eldest, she had the right of choice, saying she could see the monument another time. I thought her conduct deserved a reward; therefore, after purchasing the articles her sisters wanted, I indulged her by extending our walk to the church.

'Tuesday.—George came running in out of breath to show me a birds'-nest he had just taken. It belonged to the blackbirds that used to amuse us with their song in the grove. “Alas! George, you have robbed my favourite birds of their eggs. We shall no longer be charmed with their warbling; they will droop, and perhaps die of grief.”

'“The gardener told me where to find the nest. He lifted me up to take it, and I thought there was no harm in it, as the young ones were not hatched, and intended to make my sisters a present of the eggs.”

'The young ladies cried out with one voice that they never could accept a gift procured by such cruelty, and desired him to make haste and replace it where he found it.

'At first he was reluctant to comply with this proposal, but after I had convinced him of the affection of the old ones, even towards their eggs, and the pains it had cost them to build the nest, he repented that he had taken it, and was as desirous as any of us that it should be returned to its former situation. He has now the satisfaction of daily watching the solicitude and tenderness of the hen, which sits close, and we hope will hatch in a few days.

'Wednesday.—I was surprised on entering Lucy's apartment to hear her command Betty in a very imperious tone to wash out all her doll's linen immediately.

'The poor girl remonstrated that she had a great deal of business to do, and should have no time; but that she would wash it the first opportunity with pleasure. Lucy repeated her commands, and would receive no excuse. When she saw me she blushed, conscious that her behaviour would not meet my approbation. I sent Betty downstairs, and explained to Lucy the impropriety of such conduct. “Gentleness to inferiors,” said I, “is the mark of a good understanding, as well as of a sweet disposition. Servants are our fellow-creatures. Though situated less fortunately than ourselves, are we to increase the unhappiness of their lot by the tyranny of our treatment towards them? Circumstances may change. Your father may become poor, and you may be reduced to the conditions of a servant. Consider how unkind harsh words would appear to you, and never say that to a domestic which would wound you in their situation. Merit is confined to no rank. Betty is a worthy young woman, and entitled to your respect as well as tenderness, for the many kind offices she performs for you. What a helpless being would you be without her assistance! She makes your clothes, and aids you to put them on; she nurses you when you are sick, and attends you on all occasions. Can you forget the obligations you owe her, and command her with haughtiness? There is but one way to repair your fault. You have insulted her; ask her forgiveness.”

'“That I will do most willingly,” replied Lucy. “I love Betty, and should be very sorry to have said anything to vex her. I spoke without reflection.”

'She ran downstairs directly and made a proper apology to Betty, and I have the pleasure to add has since bought a pretty ribbon with her pocket-money, which she has given her as a token of her regards.

'Thursday.—Emma is extremely fond of keeping animals of different kinds in a domestic state, and I laid no restraint upon this inclination whilst I observed her attentive to supply the daily wants of each. On Thursday morning I had the mortification to find her bird-cages dirty, and the glasses for food and water almost empty. I made no remark, but proceeded to the room where she keeps her silk-worms. The trays were filled with dead leaves, which the poor insects crawled over, vainly endeavouring to find a piece sufficiently moist to satisfy their craving appetite. From thence I went to the rabbits, and found them without victuals, and so hungry that they had begun to gnaw the belts of the hutches. I inquired for Emma, but was some time before I could discover where she was. At length I found her very busy in making a garden with her brother George, so much taken up with her new employment that she had totally forgotten to clean or feed her poor prisoners. When I told her the situation they were in she shed tears and reproached herself with great neglect. She did not lose a moment in making all the reparation in her power, but immediately left the garden that had so much engrossed her thoughts and supplied her dumb family with suitable food and attendance. This circumstance afforded me an opportunity of expressing my sentiments on depriving birds of their liberty, and confining them in cages, a custom I cannot approve, as it not only subjects them to suffer much when they are first caught, but frequently exposes them to a cruel death from the negligence of those who have the care of them.

[Illustration: George was despatched to desire one of the servants to bring a basket, in which we carried the poor sufferer.—Page 179.]

'Cowper has written some pleasing lines on a goldfinch starved to death in a cage, which Emma has learned by heart, and will repeat when I have finished reading. Her concern was so great for her carelessness that she offered to let her birds fly, and turn the rabbits out on the common. Pleased with her intention to do right, I gave her high commendations; but informed her that they were rendered unable to provide for themselves by being kept in a state of confinement, and therefore even liberty would be a barbarous gift to them now. Punctuality in supplying them with everything necessary was the only kindness that can be shown to them, since they have forgotten the habits of their state of Nature. She has been very exact since this conversation in feeding and cleaning them, and does everything in her power to make amends for their loss of freedom.

'Friday.—As we were walking through the meadows Caroline observed something white lying near a hedge. Curiosity tempted us to approach it. As we drew near we found it was a young lamb almost dead, by some accident abandoned by its dam. Its helpless condition called forth our pity, and we consulted how we should contrive to carry it home. After much deliberation George was despatched to desire one of the servants to bring a basket, in which we carried the poor sufferer. Cold and hunger were its principal disorders, which were soon relieved by the assiduity of my humane companions. We chafed it by the fire, whilst another prepared bread and milk, that it might suck through a quill. Caroline could not sleep, lest the lamb should suffer for want of food, but rose several times in the night to give it nourishment. Such kind treatment soon restored it to health. It is decorated with a blue ribbon about its neck, and is already become a general favourite.

'Saturday.—George has been so much taken up in playing with the lamb this morning that he has suffered himself to be called three times to attend Mr. Spicer, his writing-master, before he made any reply, and when he did come, I am sorry to say that the blots in his copy-book showed that his attention was not fixed upon his employment. After some reproof he acknowledged his fault, and wrote another copy in his very best manner.

'I have now finished the account of the most remarkable transactions of this week, and though I am sensible that it exposes the levity and thoughtlessness of my pupils, I flatter myself that there are some marks in the disposition of each which promise improvement and more caution for the time to come.'

 
 
 

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