Agnes Grey HTML version

3. A Few More Lessons
I ROSE next morning with a feeling of hopeful exhilaration, in spite of the
disappointments already experienced; but I found the dressing of Mary Ann was
no light matter, as her abundant hair was to be smeared with pomade, plaited in
three long tails, and tied with bows of ribbon: a task my unaccustomed fingers
found great difficulty in performing. She told me her nurse could do it in half the
time, and, by keeping up a constant fidget of impatience, contrived to render me
still longer. When all was done, we went into the schoolroom, where I met my
other pupil, and chatted with the two till it was time to go down to breakfast. That
meal being concluded, and a few civil words having been exchanged with Mrs.
Bloomfield, we repaired to the schoolroom again, and commenced the business
of the day. I found my pupils very backward, indeed; but Tom, though averse to
every species of mental exertion, was not without abilities. Mary Ann could
scarcely read a word, and was so careless and inattentive that I could hardly get
on with her at all. However, by dint of great labour and patience, I managed to
get something done in the course of the morning, and then accompanied my
young charge out into the garden and adjacent grounds, for a little recreation
before dinner. There we got along tolerably together, except that I found they had
no notion of going with me: I must go with them, wherever they chose to lead me.
I must run, walk, or stand, exactly as it suited their fancy. This, I thought, was
reversing the order of things; and I found it doubly disagreeable, as on this as
well as subsequent occasions, they seemed to prefer the dirtiest places and the
most dismal occupations. But there was no remedy; either I must follow them, or
keep entirely apart from them, and thus appear neglectful of my charge. To-day,
they manifested a particular attachment to a well at the bottom of the lawn, where
they persisted in dabbling with sticks and pebbles for above half an hour. I was in
constant fear that their mother would see them from the window, and blame me
for allowing them thus to draggle their clothes and wet their feet and hands,
instead of taking exercise; but no arguments, commands, or entreaties could
draw them away. If she did not see them, some one else did - a gentleman on
horseback had entered the gate and was proceeding up the road; at the distance
of a few paces from us he paused, and calling to the children in a waspish
penetrating tone, bade them 'keep out of that water.' 'Miss Grey,' said he, '(I
suppose it IS Miss Grey), I am surprised that you should allow them to dirty their
clothes in that manner! Don't you see how Miss Bloomfield has soiled her frock?
and that Master Bloomfield's socks are quite wet? and both of them without
gloves? Dear, dear! Let me request that in future you will keep them decent at
least!' so saying, he turned away, and continued his ride up to the house. This
was Mr. Bloomfield. I was surprised that he should nominate his children Master
and Miss Bloomfield; and still more so, that he should speak so uncivilly to me,
their governess, and a perfect stranger to himself. Presently the bell rang to
summon us in. I dined with the children at one, while he and his lady took their
luncheon at the same table. His conduct there did not greatly raise him in my
estimation. He was a man of ordinary stature - rather below than above - and