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11. Some Affairs Of The Heart
Little Miss Peecher, from her little official dwelling-house, with its little windows
like the eyes in needles, and its little doors like the covers of school-books, was
very observant indeed of the object of her quiet affections. Love, though said to
be afflicted with blindness, is a vigilant watchman, and Miss Peecher kept him on
double duty over Mr Bradley Headstone. It was not that she was naturally given
to playing the spy--it was not that she was at all secret, plotting, or mean--it was
simply that she loved the irresponsive Bradley with all the primitive and homely
stock of love that had never been examined or certificated out of her. If her
faithful slate had had the latent qualities of sympathetic paper, and its pencil
those of invisible ink, many a little treatise calculated to astonish the pupils would
have come bursting through the dry sums in school-time under the warming
influence of Miss Peecher's bosom. For, oftentimes when school was not, and
her calm leisure and calm little house were her own, Miss Peecher would commit
to the confidential slate an imaginary description of how, upon a balmy evening
at dusk, two figures might have been observed in the market-garden ground
round the corner, of whom one, being a manly form, bent over the other, being a
womanly form of short stature and some compactness, and breathed in a low
voice the words, 'Emma Peecher, wilt thou be my own?' after which the womanly
form's head reposed upon the manly form's shoulder, and the nightingales tuned
up. Though all unseen, and unsuspected by the pupils, Bradley Headstone even
pervaded the school exercises. Was Geography in question? He would come
triumphantly flying out of Vesuvius and Aetna ahead of the lava, and would boil
unharmed in the hot springs of Iceland, and would float majestically down the
Ganges and the Nile. Did History chronicle a king of men? Behold him in pepper-
and-salt pantaloons, with his watch-guard round his neck. Were copies to be
written? In capital B's and H's most of the girls under Miss Peecher's tuition were
half a year ahead of every other letter in the alphabet. And Mental Arithmetic,
administered by Miss Peecher, often devoted itself to providing Bradley
Headstone with a wardrobe of fabulous extent: fourscore and four neck-ties at
two and ninepence-halfpenny, two gross of silver watches at four pounds fifteen
and sixpence, seventy-four black hats at eighteen shillings; and many similar
The vigilant watchman, using his daily opportunities of turning his eyes in
Bradley's direction, soon apprized Miss Peecher that Bradley was more
preoccupied than had been his wont, and more given to strolling about with a
downcast and reserved face, turning something difficult in his mind that was not
in the scholastic syllabus. Putting this and that together--combining under the
head 'this,' present appearances and the intimacy with Charley Hexam, and
ranging under the head 'that' the visit to his sister, the watchman reported to Miss
Peecher his strong suspicions that the sister was at the bottom of it.