The Professor HTML version

Chapter 18
THE young Anglo-Swiss evidently derived both pleasure and profit from the study
of her mother-tongue. In teaching her I did not, of course, confine myself to the
ordinary school routine; I made instruction in English a channel for instruction in
literature. I prescribed to her a course of reading; she had a little selection of
English classics, a few of which had been left her by her mother, and the others
she had purchased with her own penny-fee. I lent her some more modern works;
all these she read with avidity, giving me, in writing, a clear summary of each
work when she had perused it. Composition, too, she delighted in. Such
occupation seemed the very breath of her nostrils, and soon her improved
productions wrung from me the avowal that those qualities in her I had termed
taste and fancy ought rather to have been denominated judgment and
imagination. When I intimated so much, which I did as usual in dry and stinted
phrase, I looked for the radiant and exulting smile my one word of eulogy had
elicited before; but Frances coloured. If she did smile, it was very softly and
shyly; and instead of looking up to me with a conquering glance, her eyes rested
on my hand, which, stretched over her shoulder, was writing some directions with
a pencil on the margin of her book.
"Well, are you pleased that I am satisfied with your progress?" I asked.
"Yes," said she slowly, gently, the blush that had half subsided returning.
"But I do not say enough, I suppose?" I continued. "My praises are too cool?"
She made no answer, and, I thought, looked a little sad. I divined her thoughts,
and should much have liked to have responded to them, had it been expedient
so to do. She was not now very ambitious of my admiration--not eagerly desirous
of dazzling me; a little affection--ever so little--pleased her better than all the
panegyrics in the world. Feeling this, I stood a good while behind her, writing on
the margin of her book. I could hardly quit my station or relinquish my occupation;
something retained me bending there, my head very near hers, and my hand
near hers too; but the margin of a copy-book is not an illimitable space--so,
doubtless, the directress thought; and she took occasion to walk past in order to
ascertain by what art I prolonged so disproportionately the period necessary for
filling it. I was obliged to go. Distasteful effort--to leave what we most prefer!
Frances did not become pale or feeble in consequence of her sedentary
employment; perhaps the stimulus it communicated to her mind counterbalanced
the inaction it imposed on her body. She changed, indeed, changed obviously
and rapidly; but it was for the better. When I first saw her, her countenance was
sunless, her complexion colourless; she looked like one who had no source of
enjoyment, no store of bliss anywhere in the world; now the cloud had passed
from her mien, leaving space for the dawn of hope and interest, and those
feelings rose like a clear morning, animating what had been depressed, tinting
what had been pale. Her eyes, whose colour I had not at first known, so dim
were they with repressed tears, so shadowed with ceaseless dejection, now, lit
by a ray of the sunshine that cheered her heart, revealed irids of bright hazel--